Gn 49:2,8-10; Ps 72:1-8,17; Mt 1:1-17
“O Sapientia: O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.”
All through Advent the liturgy has been asking us to consider the Psalmist’s question, “Who is the king of glory?” In these last eight days before the Nativity of the Christ we hear in the Magnificat antiphons the answer to this question of identity; these responses are called the “O Antiphons.” On this first day we hear that the King of Glory is the Wisdom of the Most High come to show his people the way. What way? The way of peace and justice shall be the way of the whole world. When he LORD endows the king and the king’s son with his justice. Then the afflicted ones shall be defended and the children of the poor will be saved. Then justice will blaze like the sun and profound peace until the moon fades. This is the expectation of all who keep Advent holy and dare to long for the fulfillment of God’s promise to David and his Son. Who is the Son of David, the true King of Glory? He is the promise of a dying patriarch, Jacob called Israel by the angel he defeated; this King of Glory is the lion’s whelp. “Who would dare rouse him?” Today’s gospel is always the same on the first day of the O Antiphons. Today we hear the genealogy of the Lord Jesus through Saint Joseph the husband of Mary. This text is so important to our Advent Meditation that the liturgy mandates a second reading of this genealogy at the mass of the vigil of Christmas. The wisdom of the liturgy invites us to come close and touch the Wisdom of the Most High made flesh and dwelling among us still.
All the sons of Israel are named in this chapter of Genesis; their father, Jacob, gives them a glimpse of their future glory as the descendants of Abraham, the father of faith. To his eldest son Judah we hear about the ancestor of the Lord Jesus through his legal father. Judah is to be praised by all his siblings. He will be victorious over all his foes and place his hand upon the neck of his enemies. All his brothers will recognize his dignity and bow down before him. His true dignity is foreseen in his descendant, Jesus the Son of God, Most High. The image of a lion, the king of beasts, provides a powerful metaphor of the Messiah. He will be like a lion recumbent, lying down and resting. He will have a scepter and a mace, symbols of power and dominion, not only over his siblings but also over all his brothers and sisters in the whole world. Who would dare rouse the king of beasts? Only those who know that his power and his glory are to serve and save the whole human race, we who know him dare to arouse him. Our God comes to save us through our history and our heritage as a people of the Covenant. His lion-like power is our strength, and we have no fear.
The names of the ancestors of the Lord Jesus are not easy to pronounce except for the women. We hear mentioned five women in this genealogy from Saint Matthew, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah, her name was Bathsheba. The fifth woman mentioned is His Mother, Mary. These women proclaim the truth of the gospel that the Father’s love is not limited by our limitations. Our sin and failure does not prevent God from being faithful and loving. Indeed, Our God comes to save us through this sometimes-unsavory line of ancestors. His Eternal Son becomes incarnate in a family of less than perfect people. Tamar his great, great, great…. grandmother posed as a prostitute so that her father-in-law would have a descendant through her. Rahab was herself a pagan and a prostitute, but she was faithful to the spies from Israel who reconnoitered the land and nearly got caught in Jericho. This dangerous act of kindness to God’s people won her lasting remembrance. Rahab and her entire household were saved when the walls came tumbling down. Likewise, Ruth was a Moabite widow who showed great loyalty to Naomi her mother-in-law and promised to make Naomi’s God, her God too. The only woman not mentioned by name, perhaps out of respect for David, was the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba by name. After they were married, Bathsheba had another son for David and his name was Solomon. This son of David and Bathsheba was called “wisest of all of the kings of the earth.” Solomon’s descendent, Jesus the Christ, is the New Solomon. His wisdom far surpasses that of his great, great, great…grandfather because he never let many wives steal his heart from the Father. The Wisdom of Solomon decayed into foolishness because his heart became the temple of idols out of love for his many foreign wives. Our Wise King, Jesus the Christ, has a heart for God alone a heart so filled with the Father’s love. This love we come to know as we come to know his Son, Jesus the Lord. It is the Father’s love for His Son that we come to share in the Holy Spirit, so that we, too, are filled with wisdom from on high.