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The Genealogy of Jesus

by Fr. Justin Ramos, O.Praem.


Listening to the genealogy of our Lord, with its long list of strange-sounding names, seems a bit tedious if not irrelevant to a generation of sound biters. Unfortunately, because of its length and because the names bear little to no significance to us, we miss the profound lessons that the genealogy teaches.

One significant detail of St. Matthew’s genealogy that merits our attention is that it traces our Lord’s line through the male heir. That is obvious, although it is peculiar that four women are mentioned—as unusual as it is remarkable.

Tamar was Judah’s Canaanite daughter-in-law who, through desperation and deceptiveness, prostituted herself with her father-in-law and bore one of our Lord’s ancestors. Rahab was no paragon of virtue either, yet she put her faith in God by protecting the two men Joshua had sent to spy out her city. She became the wife of Salmon and the mother of the godly Boaz—David’s great-great-grandfather. Then there is Ruth, the Moabite pagan who became the wife of Boaz and great-grandmother of King David. And we all know the infamous Bathsheba, who joined the Messianic line through adultery with King David.

God’s choosing to include these four women in His own pedigree gives us all reason to hope. If our Savior could descend from a line of sinners, beginning with our first parents, Adam and Eve, how could He not have mercy and save us?

The very first Advent began with Adam, and ever since then each subsequent generation has awaited, expected, longed, and hoped for the fulfillment of God’s promise for a Redeemer, the coming of the Messiah to save them from the poison of sin. And that Savior, Redeemer, and Messiah would spring up from Adam’s very loins and posterity.

As we approach once again the culmination of our Advent, as we commemorate God’s union with our human race, what shall we say to Him? What shall we bring to Him?

Perhaps a short story will help prompt your gift. This story is by the French authors Jerome and Jean Tharaud. It is found in Les contes de Noel, and it goes like this:

It was Bethlehem, the end of a long night. The star had just disappeared, and the last pilgrim had left the stable. The Virgin arranged the straw: at last the Child could sleep. But who can sleep the night of Christmas?

Gently the door opens, so gently that it seems more like the wind was pushing it than a hand. A woman appears on the threshold, covered with rags. She was so old and wrinkled that you would have thought her mouth was one more deep wrinkle in a face the color of dirt. A fearful chill came over Mary when she saw her, as if a malicious fairy had come into the room. Fortunately, Jesus was asleep. The ass and the ox placidly continued munching their hay, as if there was nothing unusual, as if they had known her forever. The Virgin didn’t take her eyes off her. The woman walked slowly, each step seeming to take centuries. She continued, the old woman, and approached the manger. Thank God, Jesus was still sleeping. How can one sleep on Christmas night?

Suddenly He opened His eyelids. His mother was completely astonished to see that the eyes of the old woman and His eyes were exactly the same, they both shone with the same hope. The old woman sank down on the straw. One hand disappeared into her rags, looking for something, taking ages to find it. Mary watched her closely, still concerned. The animals watched her too, but always without surprise, as if they knew beforehand what was going to happen.

Finally, after a long time, slowly, tiredly, the old woman pulled out of her clothes a little object hidden in her hand, and she gave it to the Child. After all the treasures of the wise men and the offerings of the shepherds, what could this present be? From where she was, Mary could not tell. She saw only the shoulders bowed down, the woman’s back, bent over from age, now bent over even more before the crib and the Child within it. The ox and the ass watched, and were not amazed. The woman stayed bowed before the Child a long time. Finally she arose, as if relieved from a great weight which had dragged her to the ground. Her shoulders were no longer bowed down; her head almost touched the low roof; her face seemed miraculously renewed, as if she was finding once more the vigor of her youth. She turned from the crib, smiled at Mary, and went out through the door into the dawning day.

Finally, Mary could see the mysterious present: an apple, a little apple, having within it all the sin of the world, given to the Baby Jesus by Eve—for it was her, the old woman, who had come to worship the Child born of her blood, who would save her from her sins—the apple of the original sin, and the sin of so many who would follow her. And the little red apple shone in the hands of the Child, as if it were the globe of the kingdom and the new world which had just been born with the King.

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