Thursday – Jesus' Genealogy
It's a long list, isn't it? A long list filled with unfamiliar names that are difficult to pronounce. We might feel tempted to merely skim through this section of the Gospel or even skip it altogether. But we shouldn't.
Why? Jesus' genealogy actually teaches us some important lessons.
1. God doesn't always choose the best, most upright people to serve Him. Just look at some of the men and women listed here. They were not saints during their earthly lives. Tamar tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her. Rahab was a prostitute. David slept with another man's wife and then had the poor fellow killed. Solomon gave in to the appeals of his many wives and started worshiping idols. Rehoboam was such a lousy king that he caused a permanent split between the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel. Yet God chose all of these people to be ancestors of His incarnate Son. There's hope for everybody.
2. Jesus stands as the climax of God's covenant family. Throughout the centuries, God has made covenants with His people, binding them to Him through oaths that created an ever-expanding family. Abraham and David, Jesus' direct ancestors, were recipients and mediators of these covenants. Jesus would take the covenant up a notch, expanding it (potentially) to include the entire world, but He was still very much a part of, and very much connected to, the salvation history that went before Him.
3. God both punishes and restores His people. Notice the mention of the Babylonian exile about two-thirds of the way through the genealogy. It serves as a reminder of what happens when God's people break their covenant oaths. They call down curses upon themselves. In other words, sins have consequences.
4. Ordinary, everyday people can play huge roles in God's plan. Did Abiud or Eleazar ever dream that they would be the ancestors of the Messiah? Almost certainly not. We know nothing much about these fellows, really. They lived their lives. They raised their families. They worked hard. And they ended up with a very important place in God's salvific project.
We could go on, but you get the idea. Every part of Scripture is packed with meaning and holds out a message (often more than one message) to us. So don't skip Jesus' genealogy! If you put in a little effort, you'll meet God even in a long list of names.
Friday – Run to Win
Are you on the path to victory in your spiritual life? Will you win the race of faith? Are your eyes set on the prize?
“Run so as to win,” St. Paul tells us in today's first reading. But this takes effort. Athletes, Paul reminds us, are disciplined people. They know their goal; they give up things that will hinder them from reaching it; and they endure all kinds of difficult training to help them on their way. If they do so much just to win a crown that will eventually droop and fade away, should we not be willing to do as much or even more to win a crown that will last forever?
That crown, of course, is the eternal life of Heaven, life in face-to-face intimacy with God. That is our goal, our prize, our victory. We ought to know it well and keep our eyes firmly set on it during the whole of our earthly race. We ought to be willing to give up whatever may hinder us from attaining that prize, especially sin and anything that could lead to sin. We ought to endure whatever kinds of training God has in store for us that will help us win the race, even if it is difficult and painful.
If we do this, we will reach the best prize ever; we will be wrapped in the arms of our loving God in heavenly bliss.
Saturday – A Tree and Its Fruit
A shabby little tree that looks like it's about ready to fall over can produce the most delicious of fruit. But a majestic tree that stands tall might bear only rotten fruit or perhaps no fruit at all. Don't judge by appearances alone. Look at what each tree, each person, actually does and presents to the world. As Jesus says, “...every tree is known by its own fruit.”