Today's Gospel reading is probably the one consistently labeled “most boring.” Who wants to listen to a whole string of difficult-to-pronounce names that no one will ever remember anyway?
In spite of our aversion to this reading, however, it is extremely significant for several reasons.
1. This genealogy is Jesus' family history, and it shows that He, in His human nature, is a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David. He is the heir of the covenants God made with His human family over the centuries, and He is the One Who will fulfill all of these covenants with a New Covenant that will raise God's people to a level they could hardly imagine.
2. Jesus' family history contains a few unsavory characters. Judah, for instance, got his daughter-in-law, Tamar, pregnant with the twins Perez and Zerah. King David himself was no angel, and the genealogy mentions that Solomon's mother, Bathsheba, had once been the wife of Uriah, inviting us to remember that David slept with Bathsheba and got her pregnant while she was still married to her first husband. David then had Uriah killed so he could have Bathsheba for himself. Solomon's son Rehoboam was a wicked shyster whose corruption actually caused the northern tribes of Israel to split off from Judah and Benjamin, never to be reunited. All this goes to show that God can bring great good even out of great evil.
3. Some of the members of Jesus' family line were foreigners. Ruth, for instance, wasn't an Israelite at all. She was a Moabite, a descendent of one of Israel's traditional enemies. Yet, because of her loyalty to her mother-in-law, Naomi, she eventually married Boaz and became the grandmother of King David. God's reign is for all people.
4. Salvation history has been carefully planned by God. He is the One in charge of bringing His Messiah, His own Son, into the world. He did so in a particular, orderly way, and He does the same for us. He orders our lives, too, that all things may work out for good for those of us who love Him, no matter how bad things may seem at a particular time.
So listen closely to Jesus' genealogy and remember that it is yet another message about God's great love for His people.
Friday – The Righteous Shoot
He didn't seem like much of anyone at all, just another baby born to a poor couple from an obscure town. He grew up in a working class family, learning His trade from His carpenter father. His neighbors probably enjoyed Him and probably called Him a nice kid for His polite, obedient ways.
But they could never have guessed that the Son of Mary and Joseph was much more than He seemed. They could never have imagined that He was the righteous shoot prophesied by Jeremiah, the King Who would “reign and govern wisely,” Who would “do what is just and right in the land,” Who would save His people, Who would be called “The Lord our justice.” They would have thought any person crazy who suggested that this was Emmanuel, God with us, the long-awaited Messiah.
Mary and Joseph knew, though. They realized that their Son, Jesus, was Someone special. In time, others, too, would recognized that Jesus was indeed the One Whom the prophets had foretold, the One Who had come to save the whole world.
Saturday – How Shall I Know This?
Imagine Zechariah's surprise when the angel Gabriel appeared to him in the Temple to announce the birth of his son, John the Baptist. He must have been shocked. His wife, Elizabeth, was beyond childbearing age, and Zechariah himself was no spring chicken. They had long given up on the idea of having a child, and now there was this angel before him, telling him that Elizabeth was going to bear a son who would prepare the way for the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” What a shock!
Unfortunately, Zechariah didn't respond well to the angel's message. He didn't believe Gabriel. In fact, he challenged his angelic visitor: “How shall I know this?” Notice how Zechariah put himself at the center of that question. “How shall I know this?” He was not thinking about the wonderful news he has just received; he was thinking about his own lack of understanding. His focus was in the wrong place. He couldn't accept the mystery.
At that point, Gabriel identified himself, emphasizing that his words had come directly from God. He continued that because of Zechariah's lack of faith, he would remain speechless until the message was fulfilled. Zechariah had to learn his lesson the hard way, but he did learn it well, and after the birth of his son, he cried out to God in a prayer of great joy that still rings out every evening as the Church lifts up her voice in the Liturgy of the Hours. Zechariah's praise has become our praise.