Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Obedience Brings Liberation

There is a phrase that caught my eye when looking at the readings for tomorrow's daily Mass.  It's a strange one to my 21st century American mind.  "The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs"  In our culture a mace is either a weapon of war or a bottle of pepper spray designed to incapacitate an assailant.   I had to do some research because I was sure that neither of those accurately portrayed what this verse would have meant to the Jewish mind of the 5th century at Solomon's court.  

The Hebrew word, וּמְחֹקֵ֖ק (ū·mə·ḥō·qêq) is a word that means "ruler's staff" or "law giver."  That's an interesting connotation that scepter has but a deeper meaning.  We have this symbol of the Lion, the King of beasts.   We have the scepter of a ruler.   That symbol is easy to our minds.  What does the staff mean though?  If we look at the other parts of the bible, we see that Moses had a staff.  The "law giver" of course was Moses, he received the Law from God and gave it to the people.  Here we have this image of the King, the ruler of the people, the law giver... always being from Judah. 

That's an interesting thing to tie into the genealogy of the Gospel reading.  We could spend days unpacking all of the amazing things this teaches us.  First and foremost though it shows us something important to understand about Jesus Christ.  Jesus was a direct descendent of Judah.  This would have stood out immediately to those first century Jewish men and women who heard this genealogy.  They would have been looking for a Messiah to fit this requirement.  This prophecy of our first reading points to a coming King, one who is also a Shepherd,  and a prophet.   One to lead his people, guide them, and liberate them.  A shepherd leads with a staff.. a shepherd's crook, the guide and pull his sheep to where they need to be.

What does that mean to us?  How do we apply that to our lives?  We are approaching the octave that leads to Christmas day.   The purpose of these days is for us to take an even stronger look at our lives, at our faith, at our hearts.   Then to ask ourselves:  Is Jesus the ruler of our life?  Are our hearts completely open to our King?  Or are we holding out?  Is there anything standing in His way to come into our hearts.  We are born slaves to our sin.  Jesus comes to liberate us, to lead us as the new Moses out of the desert of sin, and into the promised land.  His kingdom will last forever.  Are you ready to stop trying to lead yourself and allow Him to lead you?  He came to be born to the world.  He came again to appear to his apostles.  He comes again every day to be born again into your heart and to be received in the Eucharist.  He will come again at the end of time to usher in an eternity of peace, love and joy.  Are you ready?

Next comes the challenge.  We are to be like our King.  We are to live to the best of our ability in a way that emulates the life of Christ himself.  Jesus comes to liberate others from sin, form oppression.  You and I are challenged to do the same.  Are you freeing others from that which holds them down?  Are you forgiving them so that they can move on with their lives?   Are you reaching out to the one born down by poverty and helping alleviate that stress by giving of your blessings?  Are you working for justice in the world, pointing with every action towards the Shepherd?  Or trying to do it all on your own?  With all the injustice in the world, all the bigotry, sexism, racial, social and political biases... there is no small amount of work to be done.  Let's not use Christmas to forget these things.. but to call our lives back to that.. by letting Christ be born in our heart, as our Shepherd, our High Priest, our King... to bring about His Kingdom here, as it is in Heaven.

His servant and yours,