Glory to Jesus Christ!
My friends, among the great sorrows of our day is the increasing number of people who simply lack connection with other people, on a personal level. There is a trend which has been called “atomization,” that is, an increasing trend for people to find themselves without a sense of community, be it by neighborhood, or friendship, or family.
Nature itself seeks to provide the most elemental community for us, for none of us a born without having a mother and a father. None of us are born without – physically speaking – a family.
By the sad effect of sin, even this most elemental building block of society, this most foundational connective relationship can fracture, fall apart, even cease to be. It can even be used toward evil ends and become a destructive relationship.
Now, that’s not a very cheerful thought; especially in a time in which even the secular world tries to turn its mind to thoughts of good cheer, of family, home, and hearth. And that’s all right. Perhaps not a cheerful thought, but on the other hand – let us the challenge that this atomization brings to us. And perhaps we might rise to that challenge.
As we come closer to the great celebration of our Lord’s Nativity, this second Sunday before that great feast, the Church calls all of us to remember and to celebrate the family of the Lord. In specific, we celebrate great ancient forefathers of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For, as we hear in the Gospels, our Lord Himself is true God and true man. And as true man, He is Himself both the new Adam and a son of Adam. A great and treasured mystery, to consider our Lord’s genealogy, to consider those men – and women – who were His forbears, who looked forward to and provided for the coming of the Redeemer. We see in them a line of very human people, living very human lives, ultimately dying very human deaths. And yet from them comes the Bringer of Salvation, He who triumphs over death itself.
For this is the manner in which grace often works: it takes nature – even our broken and sinful human nature – and elevates it, far beyond itself. Grace takes a broken nature and with it crafts a perfect super-nature. Grace elevates the humble, it turns tears of sorrow into joy, it holds the broken heart with tenderness and fills it with its own supernatural love.
So it is that from the genealogy of the ancients – flawed and broken men and women in their own right, yes, but still receptive and co-operative with divine grace – He who is the author of grace takes our nature unto Himself and is made man. God Himself becomes a member of the human family.
And, in so doing, in binding Himself by grace to the human family, He makes it also possible to be bound, one to another, by that same grace. To have community one with another, through Him, who is Communion Himself.
For while the sad result of sin is that our nature is fallen, our families are fractured, and our love has grown cold, the happy result of grace is that all of this can be repaired. And repaired in fashion even more wonderful than that from which it began.
We hear this in the Gospel reading today, don’t we? It’s a very appropriate reading for a day on which we contemplate the genealogical family of Him Who is God Himself. In the parable of the man making a great supper, we hear the words given by that man to his servants. He says: Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the feeble, and the blind, and the lame… Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
That is the Lord Himself speaking, right there. “Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled!”
Is there any place which seems more welcome, more stable, more right than a house which is filled?
We, who on account of our poverty, our feebleness, our blindness, our lameness find ourselves streets and lanes of the city, with seemingly no fixed abode, no family home, no means of earthly support… we today hear the words of the servants of the Master, who call us, who in fact compel us to come into the family of grace, to come to the feast of Him who has taken our nature to Himself, to fill the house of Him whom the entire universe could not contain. In a word: to come home.
The forefathers of God are our forefathers, too. For their family is our family. And no earthly failing can prevail against the familial bond of grace, the faith which we share, the hope which we each hold safe in our hearts, and the charity which binds us to each other and to Almighty God Himself.