The gospel readings for this week are about the unbelief of those you would expect to recognize Jesus, namely, the Jewish leaders and teachers in the temple, but they reject him. They also rejected John the Baptist before him. Yet, prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners believed in him and they also believed in John, Jesus says.
Faith in Jesus doesn’t come from having knowledge or holding places of privilege and power.
On Monday this year, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and so we miss the the wonderful reading from the Book of Numbers assigned for that day. It’s about Balaam, a foreign prophet, who’s offered handsome pay if he will put a curse on the tribes of Israel. Instead, Balaam, “whose eyes are true, who sees what God sees and knows what God knows,” blesses the tribes of Israel.
He promises a “star shall rise from Israel and a staff should appear from Jacob.”.
Even his donkey gets it right. He won’t take Balaam to the place where they want him to curse the Israelites. I guess that’s one reason a donkey appears at the manger in Bethlehem.
From December 17th onward, the Advent weekday readings at Mass turn to events immediately before the birth of Jesus. On this day we listen to his genealogy from Matthew’s gospel, beginning with Abraham and ending with Joseph, the husband of Mary. (Matthew 1, 1-17)
December 18th, we read the announcement of the angel to Joseph, “Son of David,” about the conception and birth of the Child. Joseph figures prominently in Matthew’s story of the birth of the Messiah. He will name him Jesus, because “he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1,19-25) In the first reading Jeremiah prophesies a return of God’s people to their own land. God’s promises to David will be fulfilled. (Jeremiah 23,5-9)
The gospels for the remaining weekdays of Advent are from Luke, who sets the stage for Jesus’ birth on a grand scale. Herod the Great rules in Palestine when the Angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah in the temple in Jerusalem. (December 19th) but the world is about to be changed.
We can’t put Zechariah among the temple priests and rulers who reject Jesus, but he ‘s a warning just the same that “good” people can also hesitate before the mystery of the Word made flesh.