Commentary on the Gospel of

Mike Cherney - Creighton University's Physics Department


The passage from Genesis has Jacob recognizing the rise of his son Judah to prominence. The Psalm offers the consideration of an earthly king as an agent of justice. Today’s Gospel is the genealogy of Jesus. This is how Matthew’s Gospel begins.


I enjoy watching “Finding Your Roots” on PBS. I have done some digging into my family tree. The presence of some members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints in that tree has made part of the process easier. Records indicate that some of the oral history has drifted away from the facts over the years. DNA testing has revealed the migration of those in my blood line were not quite as had been imagined. 


The first reading reminds us that those in your family are not necessarily the people that you would have chosen as friends or colleagues. The part of the story that has been left out considers why Judah inherits the birthright due to his older brothers (Reuben, Simeon, and Levi) having all committed serious transgressions beyond selling their brother Joseph into slavery.


When I reflect on where this Advent should be leading me, I find myself considering the meaning of the promise of justice in today’s Psalm. My first thought was this may be a type of Old Testament “eye for an eye” justice, but the details of the Psalm suggested aspects of the restorative justice of the New Testament, a justice that includes accountability, understanding and resolution, a justice that seeks to rebuild and heal. It seems to me that Jesus’ message focused on forgiveness and reconciliation more than keeping a “Santa’s” ledger of naughty and nice.


Advent seems to be a season to do something extra (as opposed to giving up something). Remembering those in need always comes to mind this time of year. This year I am seeing those in need in a sense beyond the financial. I cannot remember a time when I am sensing so much divisiveness about so many things. Rather than a time of preparation, I am seeing this Advent as potentially providing a time for healing. I know of family members who would not sit next to each other at the Thanksgiving table and to be completely honest there are certain relatives with whom I would prefer not to be in close quarters for an extended period of time. This Christmas season I started out small, finally reaching out with a Christmas card to a cousin with whom the family has not had contact for thirty years because he doctored the amount on a birthday check from my mother. (In some ways “banishment” was an easier alternative than seeking restorative justice.) I personally found that sending this card much more challenging than making the usual charitable contributions on Giving Tuesday. I do not know if I will get a response and if I do, what kind of response it will be. In any case, there would be no hope of change without someone first offering the olive branch. My prayer today considers Advent as a time for positive transformation.


Dear Lord,
I am often guilty of judging others without taking the time to understand.
Assist me in becoming aware of my own shortcomings and my own need for forgiveness.
Help me to use this season for the conversion of myself and my relationships.
Strengthen my resolve in addressing the harms to which I have been an indirect participant.
Prompt me with Your call to serve those in both physical and spiritual need.


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