Friday, December 17, 2010

A People Chosen for His Son

Going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land was not simply an occasion to travel to another country and see places but it was more of an opportunity to make a journey in time in the same way that we did when we heard proclaimed to us the genealogy of our Lord Jesus. The only difference is that in the proclamation of the genealogy, we heard faceless names. In the Holy Land, one appreciates the genealogy more because there, you see Jewish faces. When I was there, I realized the obvious: there are many Jews in Israel! It might sound funny but while I was there, it dawned on me that I was amongst the chosen People of God – the children of Abraham. Looking at the beautiful faces of the Jews, I thought to myself: Jesus looked like them, Our Lady looked like them. There was even an instance when I looked at a bearded Jew and I thought that I was looking at St. Joseph himself! It really helps to see Jewish faces because now I appreciate the genealogy by being able to associate names with faces.

The genealogy begins by calling Jesus as the Son of David, Son of Abraham. Being Son of David, Jesus belongs to a royal family. Being Son of Abraham, Jesus belongs to the Chosen Race. Being of the tribe of Judah, Jesus is a Jew. Pope Benedict says: “We affirm that ‘Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew and the Holy Land is the motherland of the Church’: the roots of Christianity are found in the Old Testament and Christianity constantly draws nourishment from these roots.” (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, 30 September 2010, 40.)

It is good to hear the genealogy every year during the Simbang Gabi because it enables us to get in touch with the roots of our religion. The genealogy makes us realize that the Father did not just create the world and then simply allow events to take a directionless course. In preparing the path towards the incarnation, “God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them.” (Verbum Domini, 42.) God chose a people not for their own sake but for the sake of his Son who will be born to them and be one of them. When we look at Jewish history, we realize that God guided this small nation through a very difficult journey: He led them through famine, through slavery, through a 40 year wandering in the desert, through wars, through exiles, through captivity, and through foreign oppression. Sometimes it is difficult to make sense of all these which happened to them. If Pope Benedict says that in the mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ the sacred Scriptures of the Jewish people have found their perfect fulfillment, it is also true to say that the long and difficult path that the Jewish history took finds its true significance in the same mystery of Jesus. It was to purify an entire nation and to help it receive the promised One that the events of Jewish history took place as they did. St. Paul acknowledged the blessing of the Jewish people: “as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers, for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable!” (Romans 11:17-24)

But this family tree does not end with Jesus, the Son of Mary. Rather, the Lord Jesus extends the branches of this tree so that the whole world may rest under its shade. “The Church of the Gentiles is like a wild olive shoot, grafted onto the good olive tree that is the people of the Covenant (cf. Romans 11:17-24).” (Verbum Domini, 43) In so doing, through Jesus, Son of Abraham and Son of David, God allows us to draw our nourishment from the same spiritual roots – he gives us access to the blessing of Abraham. He allows us to sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in his heavenly Kingdom.

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