God Keeping His Promises

Dear Folks,

Our first reading from Isaiah 11 says, “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jessie.” A bit of background is in order.

God had promised there would always be a son of David on the throne of Israel (see 2 Samuel 7:10-17). He made this promise after David got the idea to build the temple. One

of the reasons that the temple was important to people was as a sign that God would continue to be with them. One of the ongoing issues in the Old Testament was people thinking that because the temple was there, God would support them no matter how much

they disobeyed (see Jeremiah 4:4-7 for example). What God was saying to David was their security would be based on God’s faithfulness, not on a temple of stone. It would also mean

that God could not be owned, and would be quite free to hold them to account for their behavior (see Psalm 50) Since Jessie was David’s father, this was the family tree of Jessie.

In 586 BC, the Babylonian exile began, and the kingship was ended. The family tree of Jessie was cut off. People felt the promise of God had been broken. “Will the Lord reject us forever, never again show favor? Has God’s mercy ceased forever? The promise to go

unfulfilled for future ages? Has God forgotten how to show mercy, in anger withheld his compassion? I conclude ‘My sorrow is this, the right hand of the Most High has abandoned us (Psalm 77:8-11).”

Of course, God had not forgotten them, and was at work. The Gospels emphasize that Jesus is descended from David (Matt 21:30-31; Luke 1:32 and other places), making clear that is

Jesus, the promise to David was being kept. This came at a time after many had lost hope, and it came in a way they did not expect.

Our Gospel from Matthew 3 shows the ministry of John the Baptist calling people to repentance and baptism. Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to get baptized, and not necessarily because they were ready to repent. There is a danger of thinking that piling up religious devotions keeps us on God’s good side. John got cranky at them and said, “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance (Matt 4:8).” Religious ritual and ceremony shows its value in our changed lives. God will keep His promises, but He also

calls us to keep ours.

Last Sunday I talked about the nationwide Catholic effort called Walking With Moms in Need (Walkingwithmoms.com). This is how the website describes it: “Walking with Moms in Need is a process through which Catholic parishes and communities “walk in the shoes” of local pregnant and parenting women in need. Everyone should know how to help moms in difficult circumstances. While not trying to turn Catholic parishes into pregnancy centers,

we can support local pregnancy centers where they exist, and we can also find and share other resources with pregnant and parenting women. And where there are few local resources, we can create our own, based on the gifts of the parish community!”

This is in keeping with the Church’s emphasis on helping those most in need, helping the most vulnerable, and supporting healthy families. It is about us fulfilling the promise of keeping Catholic teaching.

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, patron Saint of doctors, mothers, and unborn children, pray for us and for our nation. Help us be attentive to God’s presence in everyone, especially the

weakest and most vulnerable.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

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