Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Star and staff: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, December 15th, 2014
(Listen to this homily here).
This past summer I read my new favorite novel—Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace. It was a fascinating plot that paralleled the life of the main character—Ben-Hur—with Jesus. The main questions of the book—who was this Jesus from Nazareth? Was he the Messiah? What did this mean?
The story begins in a desert as the wise men were led by God to see the newborn King. Wallace portrayed in detail this journey, which captured my imagination in picturing how the real wise men followed the star.
Towards the beginning of the novel, the Jewish Sanhedrin was convoked due to the speculation about the arrival of the Messiah. They diligent searched the Scriptures to discern where the Messiah should have been born. The answer? Bethlehem.
While this book was fiction, we would agree that the Old Testament pointed to Bethlehem as the place of Jesus’ birth. The prophets especially nailed many features of Jesus’ life: he would be born of a virgin, of the tribe of Judah, of the line of David and would eventually suffer and die.
We heard one of these remarkable foreshadows this morning from the mysterious prophet Balaam: “A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.” Certainly the reference to a star makes sense when considering the star over Bethlehem. Additionally, the writers of the Old Testament saw such things as stars, the moon and sun as heavenly beings. This star—a heavenly being—would be coming to earth!
When a Jewish reader read the second part of this line, they would immediately think of Moses. Moses and Aaron used the staff to do miraculous deeds and lead God’s people out of Egypt. It was a symbol for priesthood, prophecy and leadership. Jesus fulfilled all three.
As Christmas approaches, the Church continues to give us Old Testament readings to point to Jesus Christ. Soak them in. Use them as fodder for prayer. The man the Old Testament pointed to is the same one that was born on Christmas.