Dec 6, 2005
The reading this morning is from Genesis 49, from the passage where each of the sons of Israel is prophecied over. Of Judah it is said: "He crouches like a lion recumbent, the king of beasts - who would dare rouse him?"
Then I flipped the Liturgy of the Hours 1,874 pages to discover St. Eusebius of Caesarea's commentary on Isaiah. He writes: "What does it mean to bear the good news but to preach to all nations, but first of all to cities of Judah, the coming of Christ on earth?"
We must not forget that our Christian faith is rooted in God's promise to the Jews. After the diaspora, only the tribe of Judah reassembled in Israel. They proved a mighty people, as the accounts of battles in Nehemiah and Maccabees attest. Who, indeed, would dare to rouse that lion?
Eusebius' answer is clear: the evangelists and apostles. They had been shown the Messiah; they knew the promise had been fulfilled. So they took their shepherds' staves and poked the lion, prodding it out of its slumber, saying, "Behold the lamb of God!"
Perhaps that's what Scripture means when it refers to the lion and the lamb in rest together: it's not some hippie rendition of world peace, but a powerful metaphor of Israel accepting Christ. It calls for a stiff-necked people to bow their heads and pray for God's blessing.