In the very first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (MT 1:1-17), we read the long list of Jesus’ genealogy, lists of successive generations of names, many of which we find hard to pronounce. For the people at the time of Jesus, this list had great meaning. Identities were wrapped up in family names, and this list demonstrated that Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesse, David, and Solomon. Many of the prophecies regarding the Messiah were tied to his family of origin, so this genealogy also reveals that legitimacy of Jesus’ claims. After all, the Gospel of Matthew was written primarily to a Jewish community, and they would have clearly understood the importance of Jesus’ family heritage.
Another aspect of this list of names, is that it is full of saints and sinners. Great leaders and great sinners were all integral and part of the family history leading up to the birth of the Son of God. None of us choose our families, and neither did Jesus. His mother Mary had a real choice to make when she was visited by the Angel Gabriel. Mary could have rejected the message, but she instead chose to accept the life that God would give her. She lovingly said “yes” in a profound act of faith and hope-filled trust in God: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (NAB, LK 1:38) At these words, Mary’s womb became the Tabernacle of our Savior as the God-man Jesus was conceived. The Word of God became man through the words of a woman.
Father, I thank you for my family. We are also a mixture of saints and sinners, and although I did not choose them, they somehow chose me. I know that my life is a gift that came about through all of the historical circumstances, happenings, and choices that were made, generation after generation, from people I have never known, but without whom, I would not be here. My very DNA carries on the imprint of these now-forgotten souls. May they, and all the faithful departed, rest in your peace, and may I one day be reunited with them at the table of your Eternal Banquet in Heaven. Amen.