Wednesday December 17, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Advent
Reading (Genesis 49:2, 8-10) Gospel (St. Matthew 1:1-17)
In the first reading that we heard from the Book of Genesis, chapter 49, this is where Israel (Jacob) calls his twelve sons as he himself is dying and he is going to bless his sons. Normally, the blessing is expected to go to the firstborn son, but it did not because his firstborn son had done some pretty unfortunate things; so too, the second and the third. So the blessing actually went to the fourthborn son who was Judah. Judah was promised, among other things, that the scepter would never depart from Judah or the mace from between his legs. What that means is there is going to be a king, and the kingship is going to be within Judah. This is going to be something that will be passed on; it will be a generational thing. That is why the Church would give us then, for the Gospel reading, this genealogy to be able to show us – from the time of Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob, then Jacob blessing Judah and his sons, and then following right down the line – how this has been passed on, how this has been fulfilled in what was promised to Judah.
Now when we look at the way it is set out for us, we see that Saint Matthew breaks it up into three groups of fourteen generations each, showing us how God’s plan has been perfectly carried out. As one would go through this, day-by-day and year-by-year, you would not be able to see it; there would be no indication of what was happening. But as one would look back and count things up, suddenly you begin to see that there is a pattern, that the way God is working had a very specific purpose. So it is for us in our lives as well. We do not always see why God does what He does, but there is a purpose and there are patterns in the way that God works.
So we have the promise that this kingship shall never leave from Judah, and it never has. We know the fulfillment of the promise, as the angel Gabriel presented it to Our Lady, that Jesus would sit upon the throne of David His father, and that of His kingdom there would be no end. He is the King forever. He is the One Who lives forever. The mace has never left from between the legs of Judah because that kingship and that life is forever in fulfillment of the prophecy that God had made through the blessing that Israel gave to his son. One would never guess at that time, of course, but that is what it was going to be. Jesus is known in the Book of Revelation as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and that again is because of this prophecy from Genesis 49: “Judah, like a lion’s whelp, you have grown up on prey, my son” and talking about how he is “recumbent like a lion crouched in hiding”. And so, again, the one who is going to be coming forth from Judah is going to be like a lion. That is why Jesus would be known as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, to show that He is the One Who is the fulfillment of this particular prophecy that was made thousands of years before He was even born.
We see in God’s providence how everything is perfectly planned out. When you look through this list of people, there are some really wretched individuals that are in there. You would expect that if all of these promises are going to be fulfilled that God is going to protect everything, that He is going to make sure nothing is going to sully the lineage of Our Lord. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you look at some of the people in here and some of the things that they have done, it is pretty unfortunate – which can give all of us hope because, sinners as we are, we know that we too have done some pretty unfortunate things. Yet when you look at what God has brought out of this line, we have in there the righteous people like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; we have in there also King David, who really was not all that righteous in some of the things that he did, but was repentant; we have the two decent kings that were ever raised up in Israel after David; and we have Our Lady, Saint Joseph, and Jesus Himself. And so in the midst of something in which the vast majority of the people in there are pretty unfortunate, you have God raising up some extraordinary souls and God Himself placing Himself into that very line.
We see the mercy of God, that His promises remain. And the promises He made to us on the day that we were baptized still remain even if we have not fulfilled our promises to Him in the way that we should have fulfilled them. Yet now, if we repent and we get ourselves on the right track, we know that God is faithful even if we are not, and He has made the promises to us that we too are in this exact line that starts at Abraham and goes down to Jesus because we are members of Jesus Christ. So this is our ancestral heritage as well. We share in the kingship and we share in all of the promises that God has made – not only to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and David, but ultimately through Jesus – the promises of eternal life, the promises of His grace, the promises that He has made to each one of us that will never ever pass away because God is faithful to His promises. They may not always work themselves out the way that we think they should, they may not work themselves out in a way that appears logical at the time, but when we are able to look back we will see that in God’s providence everything worked out perfectly according to His set plan and design. What we need to do now is to trust Him in this, to trust His word, to trust His promises, and to turn our lives so that we are repentant and that we are living according to the promises we have made to Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.