Thursday December 18, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Advent
Reading (Jeremiah 23:5-8) Gospel (St. Matthew 1:18-25)
In yesterday’s reading from the Book of Genesis, we saw that when Israel gathered his sons together he blessed Judah, and we heard that there would be kings that would be coming from the line of Judah. Now we hear it more specifically. David, who is from the house and lineage of Judah, is going to have a righteous shoot raised up after him. It will be a king, which makes sense considering the royal lineage of David, but there is going to be one king in particular who is going to be raised up by God as this righteous shoot and in his days justice will flourish, the people will be brought back to their own land, and they will live in peace. Now, again, one would look just at the natural order of things and say, “Well, this must be one of the kings of Israel that is being talked about, one of the descendants of David; perhaps it was Josiah who worked some of the reforms or perhaps Hezekiah, the only two righteous kings who followed from David.” But it is not talking about one of them. Again, we see how God fulfills His promises in ways that are beyond what we can understand.
And so when we look at what the Gospel reading tells us, that Saint Joseph is of the house of David, and in fact he is addressed that way by the angel Gabriel: “Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary your wife into your home,” we see where the fulfillment of this promise is going to be coming. Mary also is from the same lineage. In ancient Israel, when a woman was with child outside of marriage, the moment that she crossed the threshold as an act of marriage into the house of the man that she was betrothed to, by law the child was legally adopted by the man to whom she was married from that point forward. So Jesus could legally and truly be called the son of Joseph. While not the son of Joseph, of course, by conception, He certainly is the son of Joseph by legal right. At the moment Our Lady crossed the threshold, Jesus became the son of Saint Joseph by adoption, and Saint Joseph was to give Him the name because Jesus would save His people from their sins.
But also He has gathered all of the children of Israel and indeed all of the children of the New Israel, those who were not part of the ancient Israel, not into one land as far as physical lands would be concerned, but rather He has brought us all into the Church, which is the kingdom of Jesus Christ. It is in the Church that we find our peace; it is in the Church that we have our security; it is in the Church that all the promises God made to Israel are being fulfilled. It is beyond what the people of ancient Israel could have ever imagined. Hearing the promise that God made, one would simply assume that when the exile was over there would be a new king that would be raised up and the people would be brought back to the land of Israel. But God had something much larger in mind, that is, that all of the peoples of the world would be brought into the New Israel, into the kingdom of God, which is the Church because the Church is Jesus Christ and all are united in Christ. That is our point of unity; that is where we are united in this life. But we are citizens of heaven, which is why the Church is where we will find our peace in this world, because the Church is of heaven but living in this world. Our focus has to be on heaven where we are all going to be gathered into one place. It will be Jew and Greek and slave and free, all are going to be one in Christ.
When we see how God is fulfilling His promises, again, we need to learn how to look in a much larger way than what it would seem on the surface because God’s promises are going to be fulfilled in each one of us in ways that we could never imagine. And so as we look forward to the coming of Our Lord at Christmas, as we prepare ourselves to receive Him, one of the problems is often that our scope is very narrow, that we look at Jesus in one way and we think that we have to have Him cubbyholed into that one area that we have decided He is to be. Well, because He is God and He is infinite, He cannot be cubbyholed at all, but rather He is all in all. He fills the world and the universe in all of its parts and He fills our hearts to overflowing. He is not just one little aspect of our lives, but rather He is our life and we need to allow Him to have the grandeur which is His. Not to give Him one little slice and say, “Because this is all that I understand of You, this is all that You can have of my life,” but rather to open our hearts wide and to let Him show us how He wants to be in our lives, not how we have decided because we do not understand any different, but because of His generosity, because of the wondrous way that He is going to fulfill His promises, a way that is far greater than we could ever ask or imagine when we are willing simply to allow ourselves to open our hearts to receive Him as He chooses to be received and as He desires to be received. Then we will see the glory of God reigning within each one of us because we will be living the promises that He has made, not as we think the promises should be fulfilled, but as He thinks the promises are to be fulfilled, what He had in mind when He made the promises, which are infinitely larger than we could ever imagine. And that will take place within our own hearts.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.