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Tuesday, third week of Advent

December 18, 2007

Blessed Tuesday!

O Lord of Lords
And Leader of the house of Israel
Who appeared to Moses in the bush’s flaming fire,
And gave to him the Law of Sinai
Come stretch out Your mighty hand to set us free

Revelation 17:14:
They will fight against the Lamb but the Lamb will conquer them, for He is the Lord of Lords
(see also Isaiah 11:4-5, 33:22, Genesis 3, Exodus 3, Exodus 19-20, Deuteronomy 10:17, I Timothy 6:16,
Psalm 136:3, Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:6)

Readings:
Jeremiah 23:5-8 (God will raise a righteous shoot to David to save His people)
Psalm 72: 1-2, 12-13, 18-19 “Justice shall flourish in His time, and fullness of peace forever”
+ Matthew 1:18-25 (an angel tells Joseph to take Mary as his wife, and he obeys)

“I will raise up a righteous shoot to David” (Jeremiah 23:5).

By the time God made this promise through the prophet Jeremiah, the days of righteous kings were over. David had been a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), despite his adultery/murder and need for repentance (II Samuel 11-12, 24). Solomon started so well (II Samuel 3:5-13), but then foreign wives turned his heart to idolatry (I Kings 11) and his subjects objected to his oppressive rule (I Kings 12:1-4). His sin led to civil war under his son’s reign, resulting in the division of the northern Kingdom of Israel from the southern Kingdom of Judah (I Kings 12). The northern Kingdom of Israel, completely cut off from the temple and the house of David, never did have a righteous king. Judah fared better, but the last good king had died while Jeremiah was still young. All the people had to look forward to was corruption leading to defeat and exile. The future was bleak indeed.

Into this darkest period of salvation history, God shone a ray of hope. He Himself will gather the remnant of His flock and bring them back. He will appoint shepherds who will shepherd them so that they will no longer fear and tremble; and none of them shall be missing (Jeremiah 23:3-4). He will raise up a righteous shoot from the house of David whose justice will safeguard security.

This in itself is a lesson for us. The Lord of Lords, invoked in today’s O Antiphon, gave us the Law at Sinai in order to free us from the law of sin and death. Sin destroys. However small, however justifiable it may seem at the time, it can only bear bad fruit. Lawlessness endangers everyone: the weak who are oppressed by the strong and the strong who are constant targets of revenge. Holiness saves. Justice (which, at its heart, is obedience to God and His law) uplifts all into the freedom of security. Instead of oppressing the weak, strong holy men sacrificially protect and provide for them. Instead of cursing and scheming against the strong, holy poor ones pray for and serve them.

In Joseph we have the first glimpse of the fulfillment of God’s promise. The night is far spent. The dark sky is beginning to brighten with the expectation of dawn. Joseph himself was both a just man and a son of David. He was strong in his leadership of Mary as her betrothed, and poor in his uncertainty over what to do about her pregnancy. He chose to protect her as best he knew how by divorcing her quietly. When God intervened through the angel’s message, Joseph lived up to his title of “just” by obeying at once, receiving Mary into his home as his wife.

It was through the obedience of this righteous son of David that Jesus, the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise, was spared the sorrow of being raised by a despised single parent, or even the horror of being stoned to death with her for adultery. Through his “yes” to God’s call to an extraordinary fatherhood, Joseph became a virgin father, a complement to Mary, Jesus’ virgin mother. As a real (although not biological) father, Joseph give Jesus a name, a family, a home, love, leadership, protection, nurture and education.

May we, like Joseph, “do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5), practising justice through active obedience to God.

For today’s treasure hunt, let’s look for Jesus in the greeting “Happy Holidays”. “Holidays” are literally “holy days”. These are indeed holy days…as the holy shoot of the house of David swells Mary’s womb, as we prepare our hearts in holiness to welcome Him…and holy days are happy days! So…Happy Holy Days!

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