17th Dec

The Church now silently selects its top liturgical gear as we move towards Christmas Eve. At Vespers we will sing the first of the Great O Antiphons, O Sapientia. At Mass the prayers and readings are tightly focused.

Today our text is from Genesis 49. Jacob in his old age asks his twelve sons to gather and gives each a blessing. Blessing and lineage are key intertwined themes in Genesis. In today’s reading we hear the blessing on Judah. It’s likely that the text was part of an oral tradition where the tribes would characterize each other by short sayings, often linked to the tribal name. Judah is given a lavish blessing. Using the imagery of a lion cub and a lioness Judah’s supremacy is promised. Judah will enjoy a period of prominence over the other tribes. Even the surrounding nations will be in Judah’s jurisdiction.

Nowadays it’s relatively easy for us to do research on our family trees. Deep in the human heart is the desire to know where we came from and how we connect to the world. Connection is why we are here. The Biblical writers set great store by being able to trace lineage. The biblical lineage is our lineage too. There is a sense in which we share spiritual DNA with all of the biblical characters.

As we move to the Gospel reading the focus is again on lineage. Matthew’s Gospel begins in way which most modern writers would counsel against: a long list of names, some complex and some unfamiliar. Matthew has a particular purpose. In his genealogy we see clearly the ability of God to ‘write straight with crooked lines’. God has used the twists and turns of each person’s story to fulfil his plan.

Spend some time today thinking about the people who have played a role in your faith journey. Thank God for these people.