December 17, 2019 – Tuesday 3rd Week of Advent
Click here for the readings http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121719.cfm
In one of my vacations at home during Christmas when I was still a student, I found my father meticulously writing names of people I did not recognize. I asked what was that for. I actually thought first that that could have been a list for the “utang” to be collected. J But I was wrong. My father told me that he was re-tracing our family tree. He was remembering and writing down the names of our relatives and of our great-grand fathers and mothers as far as he could remember and keep a record of our family history.
I am not so fond of doing that. In fact, I am also quite indifferent towards looking and connecting with relatives. However, to my father, knowing and reconnecting with his past and even those people who have been part of who we are today as persons and family, is very important. My father told me funny stories about people whom he remembered as well as painful and shameful stories about some of those to whom we are related.
This particular encounter I had with my father and with our family tree reminds me of the significance of the Gospel that we have today. We have this long list of ancestors of Jesus all the way from Abraham to him. There are 42 generations divided into three. 14 generations from Abraham to David, and then another 14 generations from David to the Babylonian Exile and another 14 generations from the Babylonian exile to Jesus.
The numbers here are very important in the Biblical tradition. Fourteen is the equivalent of two “sevens.” Number 7 is believed to be a perfect number for the Hebrews. And having multiple number 7, is indeed, absolutely perfect!
However, as these generations have been recorded by Matthew in his Gospel, we are also made aware that there were people whose lives were scandalous in the family tree of Jesus.
Yes, we have been presented of a family tree that is not so good. Jesus’ lineage is not perfect and not wholesome at all. There was King David who raped Bathsheba and then later ordered to murder her husband. There was Judah who sold his own brother Joseph for money. There was Rahab, who was a prostitute. There was King Ahaz who burned his own son alive as a human sacrifice. There was another King, Joash, who committed idolatry against Yahweh and murdered people in the Temple area. And there was the once revered King Solomon who later on turned to be unfaithful to God by turning to gods and goddesses of his many wives.
What is good news about this now, when in fact, Jesus did not come from a “good” family?
With this kind of sin and imperfection, God is telling us something good about this. The family tree of Jesus is God’s statement to us that God indeed journeyed with us, in all our humanity, in all our sins and unfaithfulness. Jesus tells us that he fully embraces our humanity. God is not rejecting our imperfection but rather he allows our imperfection to be the very space for us to encounter him and to know him.
This tells us now that despite our sinfulness and weaknesses, our human family is blessed beyond our expectation. God unfolds himself and his graces upon us through our weaknesses and sins so that we too will recognize him fully in our hearts.
This Season of Advent is indeed a joyful season because it allows us to see once more not just our failures and sins but also to recognize how God unfolds his blessings and reveals his presence in our life.
Hence, we are called today to be welcoming also of the lights and shadows of our past, to be grateful of the painful and joyful events in our history, to praise the generosity of God for journeying and accompanying us until today.
May I invite you then, as we have looked into the family tree of Jesus, let us ask also the Lord to bring healing to our own family trees, to bring healing to any pain and shame that are haunting us until now and healing to broken relationships, and to bring freedom to our hearts and memories imprisoned by anger, hatred and indifference.
By allowing God to be more present in our individual lives and families, we may come to celebrate Christmas with gratitude and peace. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR