Tuesday, 3rd Week of Advent
Order of Malta, Federal Association, Baltimore Area
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen
Dec. 17, 2019
Fear and Hope
To tell you the truth, I’m glad that I didn’t have to read tonight’s Gospel! The “human” genealogy of Jesus as presented in St. Matthew’s Gospel begins with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then leads up to David, and from David makes its way to Joseph, the husband of Mary, and thence to Jesus. In between, the list of names reads like a who’s who – if you’re a Scripture scholar!
Even if some of these names do not immediate ring a bell for us, we nonetheless readily understand their importance. They represent the long Advent of the Jewish people, those who, for centuries, longed for the coming of the Messiah. They link Jesus to Abraham, “our father in faith” and to the royal lineage of David, from whose house the Messiah would arise. Indeed, Matthew’s genealogy is like “a family tree” that sums up ‘the hopes and fears of all the years” as Israel awaited its Savior.
In their journey through history, the Chosen People experienced much suffering – slavery in Egypt; wandering in the desert; attacks by numerous enemies; exile, and domination by a succession of foreign superpowers of the ancient world. Scattered throughout the Old Testament are laments over the plight of God’s people and psalms and oracles in which the sacred writers wonder out loud where God was to be found in the midst of their suffering, writers who pleaded that God fulfill his promise of deliverance. Yet in the midst of lament and bewilderment, the hope of Israel never dies. Even when many in Israel abandoned the worship of the true and living God and fell into the idolatry and customs and other forms of infidelity, there remained always a faithful remnant who lived in hope, who continued to trust that the Lord’s promise would come to pass.
The Dawn from on High
But let us take yet another look at the names that were read to us this evening. At first glance we might imagine that all those on that list were persons of flawless faith, sterling character, and impeccable ancestry. We could safely say that the record most of them left behind is mixed, something we should find consoling in our life’s journey, marked as it is by a series of lights by shadows. We should also be happy to note that there are Gentile names in this genealogy, indicating that Gentile blood flowed into David’s royal lineage. This too should be consoling because it signals that amid God’s special relationship with the Jewish people, his love extended to all of humanity, to people of every race and nation. Finally, we might note that, at the end of his genealogy, St. Matthew breaks from his pattern that “A became the father of B”. Instead, he introduces Joseph, “not as the biological father of Jesus”, but rather “as the husband of Mary.”
This last point is really significant because it means that Jesus was not merely one more person, however prominent, in a long line of people in Israel’s history who were influential, for weal or woe. Rather, there is an interruption in this royal line extending from Abraham to David and from David to Joseph. It is this precisely this “interruption” in the ebb and flow of history that the people of Israel and indeed all of humanity was longing for. This same “interruption” of human history should be the joy of our hearts. For while Jesus was born of the royal line of David, he was and is, in truth, the very Son of God, the Lord of lords and the King of kings. With his birth, the dawn from on high breaks upon us, the dawn of divine mercy, the dawn of our redemption!
The Meaning of Advent for Us
In Advent, we compress all the history represented by those names into a season that lasts less than four weeks. But these four weeks are not merely an abridged version of ancient Jewish history. Rather, this is a time when we re-live the events of salvation history, a time when we make our own the hopes and fears and longings of the Chosen People, represented by those named in Matthew’s genealogy. It is by entering into their longing for the coming of the Messiah that we prepare our own hearts to receive Christ anew at Christmas.
Yes, we do well not to short-circuit our Advent journey, not to bypass the fears and hopes of the people of Israel. For like them, we may find ourselves vacillating between hope and fear, amid the many worries, setbacks, disappointments, and trials of our lives, and indeed in the life of the Church itself. By experiencing the dauntless hope of those kept faith with God in the midst of wicked rulers, exile, foreign oppressors, and a failed dynasty – we gain the spiritual strength we need to hope against hope (see Rom. 4:18), we gain the spiritual strength we need to those missionary disciples who announce by word and deed that the Lord is near, that his light shines in the darkness and that the darkness will not overcome it. God never abandons us, God still loves his Church, and Jesus is with us until the end of the age.
Thus, by partaking of the longings of these ancient people for the Messiah, when the feast of Christmas dawns, may find ourselves to be “watchful in prayer” and “exultant in [God’s] praise”. And may God bless us and keep us always in his love!
 Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic (2010) p. 41
 Ibid, p. 41.
 Advent Preface II