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A Name and a Family
Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph. Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile. After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations.
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, I thank you for the gift of faith. In this time of Advent, help me to increase my faith, my hope, and my love in a deeper and more personal relationship with you.
- A Name Means Something: To the contemporary reader a genealogy in Scripture may seem both pointless and boring. To identify a person today, it is usually sufficient to give both your first and last names. If more precision is needed, a birthdate or a social security number may be added. While a functioning administrative system to identify people is helpful, an assigned number tells me nothing about the person. A name does. In the Old Testament, someone’s name revealed something of the person. To know a person’s name gave you a certain power over that person. We still sense the importance of names even today. Who doesn’t like it when others remember his or her name? When we use someone’s name, the interaction becomes personal. God calls us by name.
- The Person Is Rooted in a Family: Family ushers the individual into relationship. Man, made in the image and likeness of God, primarily reflects the Trinity through familial relationships. I am the son of my parents. For us to be isolated individualists, independent from other people, was never part of God’s plan. When we are isolated from community, we are the most susceptible to Satan’s attacks. Genealogy, then, is that connection with one’s identity in a very profound way: it is your relationship with named persons from your past. You share their genetics, their familial culture, and, often, their values. Naturally, changes occur through the generations, but your past is a vitally important part of who you are. It is indicative that the Church considers the family, and not merely the individual, the primary unit of society. This is not contrary to an individual’s dignity; the family is the context in which that dignity is best expressed and protected.
- Jesus Joined Our Human Family: It is a tremendous truth to realize that God wanted to become a part of our flawed human family. As Cardinal Van Thuan wrote, many listed in Jesus’s genealogy were “idolaters, assassins, and people without morals.” He wanted to become one of us so that he could convert us from within (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). An ancient homily from Holy Saturday depicts Christ addressing Adam in the netherworld: “I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth… Rise.”
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, welcome to my imperfect human family. Enter into the life of my immediate, extended, and ecclesial families and sanctify us. Help us to place you at the center of our daily lives. Convert our hearts so that we may better prepare for the celebration of your birth.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace, I will tell my children or younger family members one family story.
For Further Reflection:
Family remains ‘fundamental unit of human society,’ says archbishop, by Beth Griffin, Catholic News Service, 2/19/13, https://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2013/family-remains-fundamental-unit-of-human-society-says-archbishop.cfm.
Fr. John Bullock, LC, works with Regnum Christi in Cincinnati, Ohio.