MONDAY HOMILY: The Family of Jesus
God wants us to hear this litany every year. Why? What eternal truths does this long list of names communicate to us? How is the hearing of this list important for our salvation?
SUGAR LAND, TX (Catholic Online) It once fell to a young Dominican brother to read the Scripture during a community meal. The passage was the same as that from today's Gospel: the genealogy of Christ according to St. Matthew (Matthew 1:1-17). Being somewhat flustered by the prospect of reciting that long litany of Hebrew names, the brother approached his Novice Master.
"Father," he asked, "may I just skip over that list of names tomorrow, and get to the important stuff?"
"Dear brother," replied the master, "would you alter the Word of God for your own convenience?"
Knowing that "yes" was not the answer that the Novice Master expected, the brother dropped his suggestion and returned to his cell to practice his pronunciation.
Hearing a long list of names - this is also the Gospel reading for the Vigil of Christmas, by the way - may sound less than thrilling and far from engaging. However, like the religious brother of the story, our appreciation of the Word of God ought to transcend what seems to be convenient or immediately captivating. God speaks to us through this genealogy just as surely as He does in other parts of His revealed Word.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Scriptures contain "whatever [God] wanted written, and no more" (CCC, no. 106). And, "no less," we might add.
So God wants us to hear this litany every year. Why? What eternal truths does this long list of names communicate to us? How is the hearing of this list important for our salvation?
First, the genealogy in the Gospel according to St. Matthew affirms the humanity of Christ. The eternal Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, did not merely appear to possess a human body. He is fully and truly human, "like us in all things but sin" (Preface I of the Sundays in Ordinary Time; cf. Hebrews 4:15).
In the first centuries of the Christian era, the Church was deeply divided by false teachers who claimed that Jesus was not truly divine, that his humanity was not complete, or that his human appearance was only a kind of mirage. Addressing this assault on the truth of the faith required incredible focus and energy on the part of the Church's pastors.
The Creed which we recite every Sunday is the fruit of these efforts, and makes clear the constant doctrine of the Church, firmly held since the time of the apostles that Jesus Christ is true God and true man.
Second, the genealogy is a testament to the fact that Jesus is part of a human family. While it is true that this genealogy pertains to St. Joseph, and that Jesus' humanity comes solely through his Blessed Mother, it is also true that Jesus acquires his legal identity as a descendent of David through St. Joseph, who is his adoptive father. Under the Jewish Law, Jesus is part of the House of David because Joseph took Jesus into his household.
We are also part of a particular human family. We probably received the gift of faith through them. Unless we ...
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