17 December  
Mt 1:1-17

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor,  and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Severus of Antioch (+538) wrote: “Jesus is before the centuries and of one substance with the Father himself, from the standpoint of eternity. But by this genealogy he is also numbered among the families of humanity according to the flesh. For in truth, Christ became human without ceasing to be God, unaltered till the end of time.  This is why there is also mention of the ancient patriarchs in the lineage, the narrative and observation of the times and vicissitudes that are indeed proper to human history. Through all this Matthew made it clear that Christ participates in our human generation and in our nature. Otherwise some might claim that he appeared in illusion and in imagination only, rather than by becoming genuinely human. Think of what might have been said if none of this had been written?”

Indeed the first Christian heresy was Docetism, a belief that Jesus only appeared to be human, that he only appeared to be born, to suffer, to die.  The reaction to this heresy is already visible in the New Testament writings: “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands…” (1 Jn 1:1).  It was and is crucial to hold that Jesus was one of us, truly and fully human; that in fact is the real source of our hope.  He entered our life as it is, not as it should be (it doesn’t exist as it should be).  Severus mentioned “the ancient patriarchs in the lineage” of Jesus. 

That was the reputable side of Jesus’ ancestry.  He might also have mentioned the disreputable side.  Some of the names in that long list have a great deal of shock-value.  All human life is there: murder, treachery, incest, adultery, prostitution…. In the first list of fourteen names there are three women, an unusual feature: Tamar, Rahab and Ruth.  Tamar gave birth to twins by her father-in-law; Rahab was a prostitute, and Ruth was a Moabite, a foreigner.   In the second list of fourteen, there’s another woman, Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.  King David observed her bathing from the roof of his house, and invited her in and seduced her; then he had her husband killed, so that he could marry her.  At the end of the third section a fifth woman is mentioned: Mary the mother of Jesus.  It is an unedifying litany of names that leads us to Mary and Jesus.  This is the world they entered.  Nothing in the Scriptures encourages us to look at it with rose-coloured spectacles. 

 

 
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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 

 

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