2019-12-22 Father Francois Beyrouti's Homily: "Jesus’s Exciting Genealogy."
This is the link to Sunday's homily: https://youtu.be/IsQHiHkmOwE
Jesus’s Exciting Genealogy.
Sunday, December 22, 2019 homily by Father François Beyrouti.
Hebrews 11:9-10, 32-40. Matthew 1:1-25.
Sunday Before the Nativity of our Lord. Genealogy of Christ.
The full readings and homily text are below.
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Father François Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th.
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
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Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews (11:9-10; 32-40).
Brethren, by faith, Abraham lived in the Land of the Promise as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the co-heirs of the same promise, for he was looking for the city with fixed foundations, of which city the architect and builder is God. And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barac, Samson, Jephthe, David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice, obtained the fulfillment of promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of sword, recovered strength from weakness, became valiant in battle, routed foreign armies. Women had their dead restored to them though resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to yield for their release in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others again suffered mockery and blows, even chains and jailings. They were stoned, cut to pieces, put to the question, killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, distressed, afflicted (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, mountains, caves and holes in the ground. And none of these, despite the positive witnessing of faith, received what was promised, for God has something better in store for us, so that they were not to reach their final perfection without us.
Gospel. Matthew 1:1-25 (Genealogy of Christ)
The book of the origin of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, Jacob begot Judah and his brethren. Judah begot Perez and Zarah whose mother was Thamar. Perez begot Hezron, Hezron begot Ram. And Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, Nahshon begot Salma. Salma begot Boaz of Rahab. Boaz begot Obed of Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, Jesse begot David the King. And David the King begot Solomon of the former wife of Uriah. Soloman begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, Abijah begot Asa. And Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, Joram begot Azariah. And Azariah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, Ahaz begot Ezechiah. And Ezehchiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, Amon begot Josiah. And Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brethren at the time of deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. And Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, Eliakim begot Azor. And Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, Achim begot Eliud. And Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, Matthan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, and of her was born Jesus, Who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations. And from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to Christ, fourteen generations. Now the origin of Christ was like this. When Mary His mother had been betrothed to Joseph, she was found, before they came together, to be with child by the Holy Spirit. But Joseph her husband, being a just man and not wishing to expose her to reproach, was thinking of putting her away privately. But while he was considering these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David, to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.” Now all this came to pass that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son; and they shall call his name Emmanuel;” which is interpreted, “God with us.” So Joseph, arising from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took Mary to be his wife. And he did not know her till she brought forth her firstborn son. And he called His name Jesus.
As you were listening to today’s Gospel reading, I’m sure you were thinking “This is the most exciting Gospel I have ever heard.”
What could be more exciting than finding out that “Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab, and Amminadab begot Nahshon?” Of course, things get even more exciting when we find out that “Nahshon begot Salma, and Salma begot Boaz and Boaz begot Obed.”
Weren’t you excited when you heard this? Maybe not so much.
Actually, when Matthew compiled this genealogy he was very excited and when people first heard it they too were very excited. Matthew spent many hours compiling this list. He also had to check with many people to make sure that the names and their relationship to each other are correct.
Perhaps today we have lost excitement for genealogies because most of us probably cannot name our great grandfather. Even if we were to name our ancestors, we would not really think there’s an important connection between them and us.
However, this genealogy is important because in the Old Testament, God became known to the larger world by the witness of those who believed in Him. In the midst of a variety of cultures, everyone believed in different kinds of gods. The difference in the Old Testament, is that the one and true God revealed Himself to people.
This is exciting because God is not an idea or a force. God makes Himself known through creation and nature, but more importantly through people. That is why the phrase “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” became a way to reinforce that God makes Himself known to many people in successive generations. Therefore, the Bible reveals who God is as the God of the universe and also emphasizes the personal nature of God who reveals Himself to each and every one of us.
This genealogy is very exciting because it is not intended to be an abstract list of names. It primarily emphasizes the important role God played in the life of all these people. This list also shows that God not only works in the past but is faithful to every generation. He remains faithful to generation after generation right down to our own generation. The God of our ancestors is not only a God who works wonders for others in the past, but is our God who works wonders for us when we respond to His blessings.
After reading this genealogy, our interest should be heightened and our curiosity should lead us to learn the story of each and ask how each responded to God. We can ask: “How did God appear to Abraham? And how did Abraham respond?” “How did God speak to Solomon? And how did Solomon respond?” “How did God guide David? And how did David respond?” Then we should ask: “How did God appear to Joseph and how did Joseph respond?” And “How did God appear to Mary and how did Mary respond?”
When we find the response story of each, this list becomes very exciting. No one on the list we read today was always perfect. They all had their doubts and some of them committed very serious sins. However, despite their imperfections, God remained faithful and kept revealing Himself in many ways to them and to their descendants. God never gave up on them and despite our imperfections God never gives up on us.
This daily and personal relationship is at the heart of who we are as believers. Unfortunately, sometimes we live as if God does not exist and as if His commandments are irrelevant and old-fashioned. We might think that our own priorities and commandments are more modern and relevant. However, when we accept that lying, anger, gossip, lust, stealing, and the variety of other sins are a normal part of our life and our modern culture, then the blessings of God that come as a result of love, patience, humility, and forgiveness will never be experienced.
We cannot expect God’s blessings when we are not living according to what we know is right and what we know is wrong. Sin has severe consequences which we can see in either the news or in the lives of some. The good news is that faithfulness to God has enormous positive consequences in the lives of so many men and women who live God’s daily blessings. Today’s genealogy list is exciting because it reminds us that God wants us to respond to His many blessings.
If Joseph did not respond in the way He did, Mary’s life would have been different. Despite difficulties, Joseph was courageous and responded positively to God’s direction when an angel appeared to him and said: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit;  she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
If Mary did not respond positively to God’s directions, then our lives would be radically different. Mary’s yes enabled, and we can even say allowed, Jesus to come into the world. In the Gospel of St. Luke we read: “The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end’” (Luke 1:30-33).
Mary could have said “yes” or she could have said “no.” It is indeed exciting that Mary’s response to the angel was: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary’s yes made it possible for the baby Jesus to be born. She loved that baby who in turn loved her and all of us enough to give us His life. She journeyed with Him throughout His times of joy and times of great suffering. Her faithfulness, her perseverance, and her courage finally enabled the mission of Jesus, the Messiah to be fulfilled through the cross and resurrection.
God had a special relationship with all the people in the genealogy list and everyone else who prepared for the coming Jesus. Some responded positively and some did not. It is exciting when we learn about their life and their varied responses to God. It is exciting to remind ourselves that the ancestors of Christ are not better than any of us. And it is even more exciting when we realize that we are also an integral part of Christ’s holy genealogy.
How well we respond to God and how seriously we take our faith will determine how exciting our life will really be.