We read the genealogy of Jesus as it appears at the beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel. I am sure that more jokes have been made about this passage of Scripture than have been leveled against all other passages combined. I have known priests and friars who will go out of their way to avoid this Gospel passage as well as those who will simply proclaim the last few verses.
For most of us, the patriarchs or first fourteen generations enumerated in the Gospel are better known than the kings or those enumerated in the second group of fourteen generations. However, no one will deny that we know little or nothing about the last fourteen generations. It is out of this list of unknowns that both Mary and Jesus appear. This is their human family history. The fact that the last fourteen generations are unknown to us highlights the fact that Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Simeon, and Hannah are all from the part of Israel that is identified as the remnant, the leftovers.
While we may know more about the patriarchs and matriarchs, the kings and queens of Israel, we also have to admit that some of these characters are rather disreputable. The list includes more than one prostitute, an adulterer, and a murderer to name but a few. Mary is born into the same human community in which we all find ourselves, and like Mary we can also probably point to one or the other black sheep in our family tree.
When we profess our faith and claim that Jesus is like us in all things but sin, we are simply acknowledging that he, like us, comes from the same flawed human family which brings with it the reputation of several less than savory characters. However, rather than diminish Jesus’ person, these characters really do just the opposite. Jesus was sent to save us. The presence of the black sheep in his family makes this a very tangible idea. If humanity had been perfect, there would be no need for salvation.
This feast is celebrated on September 8, exactly nine months after the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. As we keep this feast, let us once again give thanks for the gift of our Savior who, through his dying and rising, has restored access to God and made it possible for us to live forever.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator