The sacred authors of the New Testament searched through the Old Testament to find words and images they could adapt to explain their Christian faith.
One of the most useful Old Testament sources was the foretelling of the birth of a king or leader who would purify and reform the people, restoring Israel’s standing before God. These prophesies were almost always highly personalized, invoking specific details and crises prevailing at the prophet’s own time and circumstances.
Related to these birth stories, two spatial references were frequently invoked. One was the small town of Bethlehem and the other was the city of Jerusalem itself. Bethlehem was important because it was the birthplace of David who grew up to be the greatest king of Israel. In the prophets’ telling, the newborn king, so anxiously anticipated, was to be like David, even heralded as the son of David, but even greater. Being born in Bethlehem was to be one of the connections between David and the new king as David’s successor.
Our first reading this morning, from one of the Old Testament prophets, Micah, mentions Bethlehem and then goes on to describe how the new King will serve the people, restore the nation and ultimately bring peace to all the nations of the world.
We Christians go back to these Old Testament passages and understand them as a foretelling, describing the person of Jesus.
Our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews is a profound reflection on the significance of Christ. Jesus in the deepest core of his being determined to offer himself entirely for our salvation, that is, to do “the will of God.” This interior commitment, not any external conformity to religious laws or practices, is the source of grace for us.
—Walter Modrys SJ
This Sunday’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.