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He was begotten

· ​Meditation ·

Matthew 1:1-17

In the time of waiting which can reawaken and purify our desire, we look to the Nativity of the Lord, listening to the first page of the Gospel according to Matthew. This begins with a series of names, some seemingly impronounceable, which unfold distant histories, which however are there to question us, to ask us to enter into communication with our own history, so that every event may find itself written down in the history of salvation.

Toros Roslin, “The Ancestors of Christ” (1262)

With the Incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth time finds its fulfilment: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). Advent (which means “coming”), invites us to live our waiting for the fulfilment of the promises, to renew our expectation of the Kingdom which comes, making us vigilant.

“The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1). In Jesus the Son history is recapitulated, each of his forebears is recognized as being of the “lineage of God”. The genealogy carries out the function of summing up, in an extremely condensed form, the whole of the history of salvation of the People of Israel from Abraham to Jesus, passing through the royal descendance of David.

In the Gospel according to Luke (who like Matthew records in his first chapter the “Gospels of the infancy”), we also find a genealogy which however goes back from Jesus to Adam to reach God (cf. Lk 3:23-28): Lukan universalism emphasizes that it is precisely in his humanity that Jesus is the Son of God.

Matthew chooses the Greek expression biblos gheneseos, moulded on the Jewish sefer toledot, “book of the generations”, hence also “history”: from remembering those who preceded and awaited him, begins the story of Jesus that will be told in the Gospel, a story which is Gospel, Good News.

“The book of the genealogyof Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1). Jesus is recognized as a son of Abraham, like every Jew, heir to the promises made to the fathers. And he is a son of David, called specifically by the title “king” (Mt 1:6). The Apostle Paul alludes to his being “descended from David according to the flesh” (Rom 1:3) and the prophets thought of the Messiah as “a shoot from the stump of Jesse” (Is 11:1), “a righteous branch” (Jer 23:5), and the last page of Revelation makes Jesus say: “I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star” (Rev 22:16).

The genealogy is divided into periods, each one of 14 generations: from Abraham to David, that is, the ascent of the Davidic Kingdom; from David to the Babylonian exile, the fall of the Kingdom; from the exile in Babylon to the Messianic restoration. If one considers that half the lunar cycle is 14 days, one can recognize the first ascendant phase followed by its waning (exile) and lastly the waxing phase of Messianic fullness.

It is curious to note that in the midst of so many male names women appear, who are normally left on the margins of history: Tamar, who succeeded in obtaining a descendence from Judah by a trick (cf. Gen 38); Rahab, the harlot of Jericho, who had offered hospitality to the explorers (cf. Josh 2); Ruth the Moabite, who had seduced Boaz. Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite with whom King David was so smitten (to the point that he committed adultery and had Uriah killed, cf. 2 Sam 11); lastly, Mary, the maiden of Nazareth.

Thus in the history of salvation not only does the royal lineage appear but indeed the multifarious mixture of life, tumultuous, fragile and “full of mistakes”, like the life we always have before us. Nor does the Evangelist fear also to record among the ancestors of Jesus signs of sin, of the disfigured human face: the first four women even through irregular unions have nevertheless contributed to the Messianic descendance. A full life is not a “perfect” life.

With Mary the divine intervention is highlighted to the maximum: we no longer read, as previously in the long series, that someone begot someone, but rather: “Mary of whom Jesus was born” (Mt 1:16), begotten by God.

God leads our history to completion. In ways unknown to us he also draws goodness from our hidden folds. Let us make room for him within us! 




St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 12, 2019