December 17, 2022
We get stories of our families mostly from our grandparents. It is truer especially if they are staying with us in our homes. We hear diverse stories of family members whom we did not have the chance to meet personally because they belonged to the older generation who went ahead of us. These stories of family members that we hear from our grandparents are also best told during family and clan reunions. Yes, we Filipinos are known to be clannish, which can be seen also in a positive sense, because it will enable us to look back and understand our family of origin better. The family tree normally is re-introduced to the younger generation during reunions to make them aware of their family of origin.
Retracing the family of origin is not something new or exclusive only for us Filipinos; it was also a practice during biblical times. In fact, our gospel reading for today from St. Matthew is about the genealogy of Jesus. It traces his family of origin up to the time of Abraham. Reading this pericope of the genealogy of Jesus might be a little bit boring if one were just to focus on the list of unfamiliar names. But the writer must have an important reason for including them in the gospel account.
In biblical times it was important to know where one came from or the family of origin for various reasons. Among them was to ascertain one’s Jewish identity. But it was not only about one’s identity; it had also to do with the land. For a person to inherit the land, it was required to present evidence that he descended from a particular tribe. The land was distributed to each of the twelve tribes when they settled down in Canaan. Thus, genealogy was the best way to provide clear evidence of one’s family of origin. Another reason would also be about service to the Temple since only the descendants of the tribe of Levi could serve as priests.
But in a very clever fashion, the author of Matthew’s gospel included the genealogy of Jesus to reveal a very striking point about the reality of human condition: that we are not all perfect, that is, there could be in our family of origin people who have checkered past. And that is exactly the case of Jesus, as presented in his genealogy. Examples would be King David who committed adultery, Jacob who deceived his father, and the four women – Tamar who pretended to be a prostitute to deceive his father-in-law, Rahab who was a prostitute, Ruth who was a Moabite and Bathsheba, the woman who was unlawfully taken by David. Yet despite their weaknesses God used them for the fulfillment of his promised salvation.
But above all, which is the deeper reason for Matthew to include the genealogy of Jesus, is to prove that he is truly the Messiah promised by God. For the Messiah would come from the lineage of King David.
What lessons then can we learn from the genealogy of Jesus? First, it is important to know our roots because it will help us understand who we are. The great Greek philosopher Socrates said, “Know thyself.” Knowing our family of origin is an important step to knowing ourselves. Second, never judge a person by his or her past actions because God may be using him or her for a purpose. Indeed, God can use even people with checkered past for a reason. Thus, it is always wise to be respectful to people even if we know something of his or her past. And third, truly, Jesus is the Messiah that we all longed for, a true descendant of King David. Thus, we celebrate the joy of Christmas because the Lord is with us!
Question: Why is the genealogy of Jesus important?