Dec 17, 2021: Weekdays of Advent from December 17 to 24

Introduction

The last eight days of Advent (December 17-24) are a time of intense preparation in anticipation of the birth of Christ. During this final stretch before Christmas, special readings are used for the weekday Masses, and the traditional “O Antiphons” are employed in the liturgy.

During these eight days, the Gospel readings cover all of Matthew Chapter 1 and Luke Chapter 1, sequentially; the first readings are selected thematically from various prophetic books of the Old Testament.

1st Reading – Genesis 49:2, 8-10

Jacob called his sons and said to them:
“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel, your father.

“You, Judah, shall your brothers praise–
your hand on the neck of your enemies;
the sons of your father shall bow down to you.
Judah, like a lion’s whelp,
you have grown up on prey, my son.
He crouches like a lion recumbent,
the king of beasts–who would dare rouse him?
The scepter shall never depart from Judah,
or the mace from between his legs,
While tribute is brought to him,
and he receives the people’s homage.”

Today’s first reading is an excerpt of the prophecy Jacob issued from his deathbed to his sons. Within the context of his impending death, Jacob imparts historical-prophetical blessings on each son.

This excerpt focuses on the tribe of Judah, showing its pride of place and establishing its connection with the future Messiah.

Jacob called his sons and said to them: “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel, your father.

The sons are sent for from their various employments to hear his final words and attend to their father’s death.

“You, Judah, shall your brothers praise – 

The Hebrew name for Judah, Yehudah, means “thanksgiving” or “praise.” God was praised for him (Genesis 29:35), praised by him, and praised in him; and therefore his brethren shall praise him.

Although Judah was not the firstborn, he is given the primacy his three older brothers have lost on account of their sins.

your hand on the neck of your enemies;

Jacob foretells that Judah and the tribe that bears his name will be successful in war, a prophecy that is most perfectly fulfilled in King David, a descendant of Judah.

the sons of your father shall bow down to you.

Another aspect of the prophecy that is fulfilled in King David. Remember, there was no monarchy in Jacob’s time. When Israel was later given a king, the monarchy was entailed in the line of Judah, just as Jacob foretold.

Judah, like a lion’s whelp, you have grown up on prey, my son. He crouches like a lion recumbent, the king of beasts – who would dare rouse him?

Likening Judah to a lion, the king of beasts, Jacob foretells the strength and courage of this tribe, qualifications for command and conquest.

Notice how Judah is described not as a lion rampant, tearing and raging, but to a lion recumbent, enjoying the satisfaction of his power and success, without vexing the others. This is to be truly great.

The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs,

Once the monarchy was established the line of Judah, it continued in perpetuity. This may seem quite natural to us today, but in ancient times kings were often hand-selected by divine commission, and not inherited from father to son.

while tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people’s homage.”

The translation “while tribute is brought to him” is based on a slight change in the Hebrew text, which, as it stands, would seem to mean, “until he comes to Shiloh.” A somewhat different reading of the Hebrew text would be, “until he comes to whom it belongs,” which has been traditionally understood in a messianic sense. In any case, the passage aims at the supremacy of the tribe of Judah and of the Davidic dynasty, and ultimately in the Messianic Son of David, Jesus Christ.

Gospel – Matthew 1:1-17

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile,
fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations.

Having just heard Jacob’s prophecy about the greatness of the line of Judah, we now shift to Saint Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, traced from Abraham through Judah and King David.

For the Jews and other Eastern peoples of nomadic origin, genealogy was of great importance because a person’s identity was especially linked to family and tribe; the place of birth was of secondary importance. In the case of the Jews, there is the added religious significance of belonging by blood to the chosen people.

The genealogy presented here not only shows Jesus’ human ancestry, it also indicates that salvation history has reached its culmination with the birth of the Son of God through the working of the Holy Spirit. The Advent of the Messiah is presented as the climax of Israel’s history.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,

Saint Matthew delivers a jolting revelation to his Jewish readers with this opening line. He announces that the long-awaited Messiah, who was promised by the prophets to restore the kingdom of David (late 11th century BC – 6th century AD), is none other than Jesus of Nazareth.

the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Note the mention of David first, before Abraham, despite the fact that Abraham came long before David and is the “father” of the Israelites. This shows a focus on identifying Jesus as the Messianic king foretold by the prophets as David’s heir.

Each of them, both Abraham and David, whether by the promise of the Lord or rank of birth, lived as a worthy predecessor in the line of Jesus Christ as to his existence in flesh. For the Lord had promised to Abraham, who by right of circumcision was the founding patriarch of the Jewish people, that from his seed all nations would be blessed. This was realized in Christ, who received his body from the line of Abraham … So also is David first among the tribe of Judah in the rank of king. And likewise God promised to this very tribe that the eternal king, Christ the Lord, would be born from the fruit of its womb. For David was the first king from the tribe of Judah, from which the Son of God received his flesh. [Chromatius, Tractate on Matthew, 1:1]

Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.

A direct link with our first reading.

Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.

It was unusual for women to be named in a genealogical list, and in naming women it’s odd that Matthew did not name Abraham’s wife Sarah or Isaac’s wife Rebekah, or Leah and Rachel, the mothers of the children of Israel.

In fact, the gospel writer goes out of his way to mention four foreign women who were each in some way involved in a scandalous past, as seen here with Tamar. She was a Canaanite woman who posed as a prostitute and deceived her father-in-law (Judah) into having sexual relations with her. The result of this incestuous union were the twins Perez and Zerah (Genesis 38).

These foreign women are one sign among many others of God’s design to save all of humankind, not just Israelites.

Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.

Another scandalous woman. Rahab was a prostitute of Jericho, a non-Jew, who sheltered the spies sent to scout out the promised land (Joshua 2). She and her household were spared when the Israelites took the city.

By mentioning sinful people, God’s ways are shown to be different from man’s. God sometimes carries out his plan of salvation by means of people whose conduct is unjust. God saves us, sanctifies us, and chooses us to do good despite our sins and infidelities — and he chose to leave evidence of this at various stages in the history of our salvation.

Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth.

Ruth was a Moabite woman (a foreigner from a people who were the descendants of an incestuous act) whose story is told in the book of Ruth.

Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king.

God made three promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3: land, a great nation, and blessings. The promise of a great nation was fulfilled in his descendant David.

David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.

The mother of Solomon was Bathsheba, another woman cloaked in controversy. She was an adulterous wife, a fact alluded to here by referring to her not by name, but as “the wife of Uriah.”

Uriah was a Hittite, and it is presumed that Bathsheba was also. She committed adultery with David, and when she became pregnant, David ordered Uriah into battle to be killed in an attempt to conceal their sin. The child of this adulterous relationship died and Solomon was conceived after David and Bathsheba married.

“It is significant how much our Lord’s temporal ancestry was connected with sinners and foreigners! These blots on the escutcheon of his human lineage suggest a pity for the sinful and for the strangers of the covenant. Both these aspects of his compassion would later be hurled against him as accusations: ‘he is a friend of sinners’; ‘he is a Samaritan.’ But the shadow of a stained past foretells his future love for the stained. Born of a woman, he was a man and could be one with all humanity; born of a Virgin, who was overshadowed by the Spirit and ‘full of grace,’ he would also be outside that current of sin which infected all men.” —Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph.

The successor of Abijah was not Asaph, but Asa (1 Chronicles 3:10). Matthew may have deliberately introduced Asaph (author of Psalms 73-83) to show the fulfillment of the promises of all the Old Testament.

Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat was actually the son of Asa (1 Kings 15:24).

Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos,

Some texts read “Amon.” Amon, son of Manasseh, was installed as king while an infant according to 2 Kings 21:18ff. The rendering of Amos for Amon is believed to be the result of an early confusion of the name of King Amon with the name of the prophet Amos.

Amos the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile.

The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and took the last Davidic king away into exile in 587-586 BC. This deportation to Babylon is described in 2 Kings 24-25. It fulfilled the prophets’ warnings to the people of Israel and their kings that they would be punished for their infidelity to the commandments of the Law of God, especially the first commandment.

At the time of Jesus’ birth, a Davidic king had not ruled God’s people since this event, a span of over 500 years. During that time, the holy prophets had promised that a Davidic Messiah was coming to liberate God’s people. For centuries, the people had been awaiting the coming of the promised king as they suffered under the domination of foreign powers (including the Romans, since 63 BC).

After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Note the careful construction of this verse: it does not state that Jesus was the son of Joseph, but rather that Joseph was the husband of Jesus’ mother.

Jewish genealogies followed the male line. Joseph, being Mary’s husband, was the legal father of Jesus. The legal father is on a par with the biological father as regards rights and duties.

In addition to Jesus’ Davidic heredity through Joseph, there is also is evidence that Mary also belonged to the House of David. It was quite common for people to marry within their clan, and several early church fathers testify to this: St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus, St. Justin, and Tertullian, who base their testimony on an unbroken oral tradition.

Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Matthew explains how this genealogy has been presented in a framework of three series, each consisting of fourteen links which show the progressive development of salvation history.

The list of fourteen generations is actually two sets of seven generations, seven being one of the “perfect” numbers, signifying fullness and perfection, especially spiritual perfection. It is also symbolic of the covenant. There are a total of six groups of seven from Abraham to Jesus, which means that Jesus starts the seventh group of seven, providing even more focus on the number of the covenant.

Matthew is underscoring his primary message: the covenant promises to David and Abraham had now been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. He is the promised King of a new, restored Israel.

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