FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
23 Dec 2012
Micah (writing about 725 BCE) was a younger contemporary of First Isaiah, but far from being a court prophet, Micah was a young man from the country who distrusted city folk. Jerusalem would fall to enemies from Mesopotamia because of the corruption of its rulers (3:9-12). It would eventually rise again under the leadership of a descendent of David born in the insignificant village of Bethlehem. He shall care for the people like a shepherd feeds his flock (the image of a country boy). He shall bring them through ages in safety and peace. I don’t know enough about this history to speak with any certainty, but I suspect this passage has had an enormous influence upon Christianity.
Most of the scholars I have read think this essay got its title accidentally because the outside of one ancient scroll bears the words, “To the Hebrews.” They think this was only an address, and the essay was not directed to Jews. I disagree. I and at least one scholar, Timothy Johnson, think it was written to Jewish Christians, not the original group in Jerusalem, but a group that has fled the destruction of Jerusalem and established a colony elsewhere. The author, probably an itinerant preacher, writes to strengthen the waning faith. He writes passionately about a suffering world saved by Christ. His essay established for the Church the doctrines that Jesus was (and is) our high priest and our only high priest, and at the same time our perfect sacrificial lamb. Our reading is taken from a passage in which he argues that the sacrifice of Jesus does away with the need for further sacrifices. It abolishes the cult rites practiced by Jews from ancient times.