Does anyone here like Mars bars? Gospels are sometimes like Mars bars: all soft and gooey on the inside. Others are as fun as grabbing onto a thorn Bush – or having to watch Parramatta play footy. Still others are like watching the Bulldogs play: no way, that is AMAZING, how did that happen? And then you have Gospels like today: and you wonder…how the flip is Father going to explain this one?
Actually its very easy. One reason for this list is to show how all human history was a preparation for Christmas. That Jesus isn’t some random myth thought up at the pub – but truly the Son of God who truly became a human being.
It is also a very clever literary device. The list acts like a bland background: you have all these repetitions, which means you notice much better the differences in some of the lines. An obvious thing which stands out out among the litany of men are the women. These women are interesting because they are not the perfect ancestors we would expect for the Son of God: the first was a prostitute, the second poorest of the poor, and the third cheated on her husband who then got murdered by her boyfriend. This should shock us – into understanding that we don’t have to be perfect before we are loved by God. We exist – therefore God loves us. God doesn’t leave us as we are – he expects us to allow him to make us perfect. But there is never, ever, ever a question about whether or not God loves us. This is the most important thing to remember in the holidays. Which brings me to some holiday advice.
One: get lots of exercise. Many spiritual problems are due to a lack of rest, eating and exercise. So gentlemen, get plenty of exercise: for a few hours each week go running, or swimming, or play footy, to the gym – or just walk for half an hour a day. It helps you unwind faster, sleep better, and strengthens your body and heart.
Two: Rest. Really rest. Now remember that rest is not the same thing as amusement. It’s true we need to zone out: so play your computer games, go fishing…but do it making sure you get lots of sleep. Some of you might say, but father, I want to get fit. Well getting lots of sleep is part of getting fit. And so I don’t just mean the last night before school starts. Normally it takes us a week before we start unwinding from all the stress and fatigue of the year: so rest yourselves, get to bed before midnight, so that you come back your best self – mentally and physically alert, a solid foundation upon which to be able to achieve what you want next year.
Three: Pray every day. This is not something alien to you: school life in general, and your RE teachers in particular, have been teaching you different forms of prayer, and more importantly have been praying with you. The school doesn’t just do this simply because it’s a Catholic school, and this is what Catholic schools do. It’s because life without God’s help is much harder – because spending time with God makes us more like him – wiser, more free, more beautiful, and far more fulfilled.
So you know what to do. Every morning pray a decade of the Rosary, or pray a little before the Eucharist – or pray the breastplate of St Patrick first thing when you wake up. Placing yourself in the presence of God each day will help protect you and keep you out of trouble; and it will help you be focussed on living your holidays in a way which builds you up and prepares you for next year.