Today’s Gospel account is from Matthew’s record of the genealogy of Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, is fully divine, while at the same time he is also fully human. Here Matthew presents the lineage of Jesus’ human line from Abraham to his foster father Joseph and his mother Mary. Jesus is part of a people and a family. If you go through this genealogy with a fine-tooth comb, there are gaps, but Matthew is more concerned with the line of faith than a strict historical account. Matthew also includes women in this listing, which is not common in ancient patriarchal societies. Looking at their stories in Scripture will also show that they were not at all the most virtuous, but more importantly, they played a significant part in God’s plan of salvation.
This is our heritage as well. We are spiritual Semites. Genealogies have become more popular in recent years as can be seen by the different advertisements for DNA test kits. The draw for these is that we want to belong, to be a part of. To understand who we are, we seek to understand where we have come from. To be able to go forward, we need to reach behind. Jesus was born in time, to the people of Judah, and is a part of the succession from Abraham and his clan, to the twelve tribes of Jacob, to the unified nation of Israel under David. Jesus continues to bring God’s movement of grace beyond a nation to a universal invitation for all.
Through our Baptism, we are part of the lineage of Jesus. We are not alone, no longer estranged, no longer separate, or on the peripheries. Yet many, even those who profess their belief in Christ, are missing his greatest gift of faith, which is developing a relationship with him now. Too many of us are Christian in name only.
We are now in the final two weeks of Advent. A good practice is to spend time drawing close to Jesus who made himself close to us in becoming one of us. Pope Francis can help. The Pope encountered a young man who told him that he didn’t believe in anything. He said, “I don’t have the gift of faith! What do you have to say to me?”
“Don’t be discouraged,” I said. “God loves you. Let yourself be gazed upon by him! Nothing else.”
May we too be willing to receive the gift of Jesus: “What is important is to find the way best suited for you to be with the Lord, and this everyone can do; it is possible for every state of life.” Pope Francis also offered these two questions to ponder: “Do I find time to remain in his presence, in silence, to be looked upon by him? Do I let his fire warm my heart” (Francis 2014, 16)?
We are never alone if we remember Jesus is present in our everyday experiences. We just need to be aware of his loving gaze, to rest in it, and then to return ours. We are also invited to embrace his radiating fire, his love to warm and expand our hearts. In doing each, we become more open to the gift of his presence in our lives. When we allow him to lead us to encounter one another and support each other in our weaknesses, we too will experience the love of the Holy Spirit shared between Father and Son.
Photo: San Francisco rainbow day after Thanksgiving last year.
Francis, Pope. The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2014.