This Sunday is the Sunday of the Genealogy of Jesus (Gospel: Mt. 1:1-25), the immediate preparation for the celebration of his nativity. It’s all the more immediate this year, since the last Sunday of Advent happens to fall on Christmas Eve. The long list of names of Old Testament figures may seem to be obscure or even irrelevant to many, but its purpose is important. Jesus must be known to be both true God and true
At the end of the genealogy, St Matthew divides salvation history into three stages: the time of the patriarchs and judges (from Abraham to David), the time of the kings (from David to the Babylonian exile), and the time of restoration (post-exilic Judaism to the coming of the Messiah). He begins the time of the kings with David and not Saul, even though Saul was the first king. Why is that? And why doesn’t Saul appear in the genealogy? As to the second question, the genealogy is only in the line of
It is clear from St Matthew’s arrangement of the genealogy into three sets of fourteen generations, that once these had been completed, the fullness of time, the kairos, the moment of unprecedented divine intervention into human history, had come.
Let us look briefly now at the second part of this Gospel, the angelic revelation of the incarnation to
But the angel clarified God’s will, revealing the utter uniqueness of this situation in words that the humble carpenter could not fully have comprehended: “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” Surely he would reflect on those few words for years to come. But whether or not he comprehended the incomprehensible, he knew how to obey. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” He could name the child and do whatever else God told him to do. The evangelist then reminds us of the fulfillment of a messianic prophecy about a virginal conception and the birth of a child who would be Emmanuel, God with us. In the original text, the child to be born in the time of the Prophet Isaiah would carry the name of Emmanuel, as a sign, a reminder that God is always with his people. But the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy—the Child of Mary—is Emmanuel, is God with us in person. No prophecy, no reminder: God Himself is with us in Jesus, the Son of Mary.
Finally, a brief note on a disputed word—one which is put forth by some as evidence against Mary’s perpetual virginity. The word is “until.” The text says that Joseph had no intercourse with Mary until she had borne a son. They assume (wrongly) that this implies that the chaste couple had intercourse after she had borne a son. If these events had occurred in
Let us now, as there is only a brief time between us and the celebration of Christ’s nativity, reflect on these mysteries: the full divinity and humanity of Christ, the gift of adoption as children of God through Him, the grace of the Holy Spirit and the angelic intervention in the lives of Mary and Joseph. And let us follow the example of St Joseph, who even without full knowledge, obeyed the word of God and assisted personally in the manifestation of the Savior to the world: “he did as the Lord commanded him… he called his name Jesus.”