R is for Royal Roots
Click here to see an overview of the readings/reflections for the next nine nights.
Setting the Scene
It’s easy to get lost in the sea of names presented to us in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, but if we take a moment to find out who Matthew’s primary audience was and notice some patterns within the text, then we can grasp what he was trying to convey in the prologue to his Gospel.
It’s good to know that Matthew’s primary audience was composed of Jews converting to Christianity. Much of his focus throughout the Gospel is to establish Jesus as the Messiah whom the Jews were waiting for, so it would make sense that Matthew highlights Jesus first as the son of David, then as the son of Abraham.
If you take a closer look at the names that Matthew lists, you’ll see:
- 3 groups
- Patriarchs: the first 14 names, beginning with Abraham
- Kings: the second 14 names, beginning with David
- Ordinary folks: the third 14 names, beginning with Jechoniah
- Of the four Old Testament women included, Tamar, Rahab and Ruth were not Israelites; Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife) was not married to an Israelite. And while the marriages of these women were unconventional/irregular (cf. Gen 38; Josh 2; Ruth 3 and 2 Sam 11), “the women themselves were the instruments of God in continuing the messianic line.”
Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
It’s funny. As big a role that family and genetics can play in shaping our lives, it’s probably the one major factor that we have no control over. We were born into a set of circumstances and inherited genetic traits that were in the making before we were even a thought in our parents’ minds.
The same can be said for those of us who were baptized into the Catholic church as infants. For many, our faith journey began as a decision made by our parents, who wanted to share the richness of their own faith family with a child that had been born into their own family. In the same way that they would chose what school would nourish our intellect and creativity, they chose the church in which our faith lives would (hopefully) thrive and flourish.
And so when we hear the genealogy being proclaimed tonight, the third night of Simbang Gabi, here’s what I hope you hear.
That as a baptized Christian, as someone who is now part of the genealogy of Christ, the names that you hear tonight are the names of your spiritual ancestors:
Ancestors who left the safety of their homes, familiar surroundings to follow wherever God would lead.
Ancestors who were the least likely to be chosen, the least likely to be noticed and yet were entrusted with the most by God.
Ancestors who came from all walks of life, royal and ordinary, who were flawed and imperfect, but who also left for us a legacy of bravery and faithfulness that God would always come through.
These are your roots. Tonight, may you recall the legacy of your ancestors that you might hear more clearly how God is asking you to play a part in bringing about the fullness of God’s reign here on earth.