On the Sunday before Christmas the Church commemorates the earthly ancestors of Christ from Abraham to Joseph. The long list of names brings into our mind not only the righteous men and women of the Old Testament, but their spiritual struggles as well. The hearing of Christ’s ancestors, which are our ancestors, is never just an exercise in biblical knowledge. Today’s commemorations have a purpose.
First of all we know they were real human beings, not just literary characters in a story, and these human beings were not perfect. Many, as the Holy Scriptures explain, struggled with following God. Many turned away from Him in doubt only to return later in repentance. Many were persecuted but all were honored by God ultimately being His earthly ancestors through Joseph the Betrothed of the Virgin Mary.
In much the same way, we can consider our own earthly ancestors, the founders of our St Nicholas Community and our American Archdiocese. These faithful men and women, coming mostly as immigrants seeking a better life, some never making it home to visit dying parents, never forgot their faith in God and His Church. We have all heard the stories of spongers and fishermen bringing donations from the docks directly to the Church so this beautiful Cathedral could be constructed in honor of St Nicholas and God’s protection. Much of our story is very similar to the stories of the holy men and women in today’s Gospel. They were not perfect, some turned away later to return, but all have been honored by God in this glorious Cathedral.
This year has been a unique struggle in the life of our Church. The global pandemic has caused us to question God in ways we never expected. The question of whether God would protect His people through the pandemic has not only been debated among Church leaders but even among closest family members. I imagine our debates and questions are similar to those during the deportation to Babylon we heard about in today’s Gospel. Would God stop the deportation? Would He stop the persecution? Would He protect His people from harm. Just replace the word deportation with pandemic and the struggle is the same.
In truth, God has always and will always be with His people in every struggle whether it is political like the deportation of the Jews or physical like our current pandemic. If we can learn anything from today’s Gospel, we can learn that struggles will be around every corner, and some will remain faithful while others fade away later hopefully to return. In the midst of all of it, God will be with us, as He has always been with us.