Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Third Saturday of Advent

St. John Paul II Shepherd’s Guild

December 17, 2022
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church
Keller, TX

Genesis 49:2, 8-10
Psalm 72:1-2, 3, 4ab, 7-8, 17
Matthew 1:1-17

“Justice shall flourish in His time, and fullness of peace forever.” When we look closely at the character and the behavior of the individuals listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David and the son of Abraham, we can see that this Psalm is not prayed because of the human excellence of an historical dynasty. In fact, each of these figures, especially the kings, committed sins, injustices, and failures that brought suffering and misery on their children and their children’s children.

David, a great warrior and king, also arranged for the murder of Uriah so that his sin with Uriah’s wife could be covered up by his taking her as his wife until Samuel called him to repentance. David was the father of Solomon, who the Scripture tells us was renowned for his wisdom, but who ultimately failed when he turned his back on God and began to commit idolatry by worshipping the false gods of his pagan wives.

Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, who was a horrible king whose tyranny over his people brought the kingdom to civil war and schism and conquest by foreign powers. Besides these examples, there is also the cowardice of Abraham, the cunning and dishonesty of Jacob, and the jealousy of Judah who with his other brothers sold his brother Joseph into slavery. These bad and sinful characters are only those about whom we learn in the Scripture; we can only wonder about the other figures in the genealogy whose names as relatives of Jesus are all we know of them.

Throughout the genealogy of Jesus, we read of how the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons. The misdeeds of one generation cause duress and problems for the next generation, whose own sins compound the problems and misery. We can see the truth about the cycle of sin within history, even the history of Jesus’ family tree. We can see that sin is hereditary in our human condition since it entered the world with the sin of our first parents in Eden. All of this manifests the truth and efficacy of God’s word spoken to Moses and recorded in the Book of Exodus: “The LORD, the LORD, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity, continuing his love for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin; yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but bringing punishment for their parents’ wickedness on children and children’s children to the third and fourth generation!”

While the genealogy of Jesus authenticates His identity as the Messiah because He is of the lineage of David, it also does more. Because He is also the Son of God, His mission is not just to save the historical kingdom of Israel. His is a universal and eternal mission that is not confined to the limits of time and place in history. He has come to save and to redeem Israel but also everyone in the entire world and not just of the first century. He has come to save and to redeem people of every age — those who have come before Him and those who have come after Him. Thus, the saving and redemptive sacrifice of Jesus on the cross now makes grace both given and hereditary when one is born into His Church through Baptism. “Justice shall flourish in His time, and fullness of peace forever.”

The eternal sacrifice of Jesus on the cross with His Resurrection both saves and redeems. These are not different words for the same action. To save means to snatch someone from imminent death and disaster. To redeem means to pay the ransom for a person enslaved or imprisoned and to restore that person to their proper relationship in the family and in society. Jesus’ loving, eternal, and perfect sacrifice does both — He saves sinners from certain and inevitable destruction, and He restores them to their proper relationship with God and within God’s family. So, at the Easter Vigil, the most important solemnity of the year, as the Church we can sing in the Exultet, “How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave, you gave away Your Son! Oh, Happy Fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”

It is the vocation and mission of a priest, by virtue of his ordination, to offer the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass that makes present the eternal sacrifice of Jesus. At ordination, the priest is configured to Jesus Christ as Head and Shepherd of His Church. He is configured to stand in the person of Christ in offering the Sacrifice of the Mass and to speak the words of Christ as his own, “this is my Body, this is my Blood.” The priest is configured at ordination to stand in the person of Christ and to absolve sins speaking the words of Christ as his own, “I absolve you.” In so doing, priests are entrusted with carrying out the work of Christ of saving sinners from imminent and eternal death and of redeeming them to their proper place in Christ’s family, the Church. Priests are the stewards of the treasures of salvation and redemption in the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

Our seminarians are engaged in priestly formation precisely for this configuration to Christ and His eternal mission of salvation and redemption to which Christ has called them. They are formed to know their own humanity and where they are wounded by sin and healed by grace, that in their lives and ministry all might perceive Christ and not their own egos. They are formed to know the humanity of all people that they might pastor them away from sin and restore their place in God’s mercy. They are formed to know and to understand how God has revealed Himself through the Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Tradition of the Gospel as handed down authentically from Christ by the Apostles and their successors, the bishops in communion with the Holy See. They are formed to know the full humanity of Christ by which God has chosen to save and to redeem His children created in His image and likeness. Only with the priestly ministry of well-formed men ordained and configured to Christ can we receive and share the grace of salvation and redemption paid for by the Blood of Christ’s loving sacrifice.

The genealogy shows what Christ accepted when He chose to become fully human. He embraced the human condition, offered it more than just healing but also perfection, completeness, fulfillment. We cannot receive the grace Christ offers without His priestly ministry present in our own time and place. Our seminarians agree to let go of their own lives and say before Christ the one High Priest: here I am, send me. Then we can truly proclaim as members of Christ’s one, holy, Catholic Church, “Justice shall flourish in His time, and fullness of peace forever.”

%d bloggers like this: