"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 Messiah, fourteen generations." (Matthew 1:17)
The above Scripture quote is at the end of one of my favorite passages in the Bible, Matthew 1:1-17, which is Matthew’s version of the genealogy of Jesus, and is read at the Vigil Mass at Christmas. Most of the genealogy seems rather boring, as Matthew writes, "So-and-so became the father of so-and-so," but if you look up some of these names in the Bible, you’ll find some very interesting situations. This passage appeals to me because it tells how God uses unlikely people to achieve His plan of salvation. It also tells how God has been with his people from its origins (Abraham to Jacob), through the peak of the Israelites’ power (David and Solomon), through the lowest point of Israel’s existence (Babylonian exile and Roman occupation), all the way to the coming of the Messiah. God has been with us through all the highs and lows and in-between times of our lives.
The genealogy also speaks to me of how the Son of God, in becoming one of us, became involved in all sorts of human relationships, first with Mary and Joseph, and then with the Apostles and others, notably Mary Magdalene, and Mary and Martha and Lazarus, and on to ourselves. At the birth of Jesus, the Son of God entered into a deep relationship with the world, in order to save it. Jesus’ birth challenges us to continue to work on the relationships we have, and be willing to develop new relationships with others. It seems right now that our world is caught up in division – among tribes, among countries, among factions within society and even in the church. It seems more important to separate ourselves from those who are different than to make any effort to work together for a greater good. But God has never separated Himself from us, even at our worst. Instead, He has been faithful, to the point of sacrificing Himself out of love for us!
For relationships to work, sacrifices have to be made. May the love expressed on the holy day of Christmas inspire us to make the sacrifices necessary to help build up the kingdom of God.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is the retreat director at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center in Detroit, Michigan