Homily, December 17
Today’s Gospel passage does more than offer us lots of names that are hard to pronounce, although it does do a pretty good job of that. The beginning of Matthew’s Gospel also gives a summary overview of the history of the faith of Israel. The genealogy is built around three crucial figures or points in their history: Abraham, King David, and the Babylonian Exile.
Now the first two are not surprising, Abraham and David. It all started with Abraham being called from his own country to enter the Promised Land. And with King David, they seemed to reach a high point, receiving from God not just a land but a great kingdom. But why was the Babylonian Exile so important? How could Israel see such a dark time in their history not just as a turning point but as a real blessing from God?
During the Exile, Israel lost everything. They lost their kingdom, their land, their Temple, and they even seemed to lose God. They were taken far away from the Promised Land. All the promises that God had made them seemed to be revoked. Had God gone back on His word? This presented a real challenge for them in their faith, but it also purified their faith like nothing else ever could. Only through the stripping away of so many other things that they had relied on could they realize how far God’s love was able to reach. Through the darkness of the Babylonian Exile, Israel realized that God was not confined to the Promised Land, but that He is present everywhere. He was not just the God of Israel, but He is the one true God of all the nations. God was with them not only in prosperity, but also in their darkest moments.