In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Every year before Christmas we read the genealogy of Christ from St. Matthew's
Gospels, and for years I asked myself, why? Why have we got to read all these
names that mean so little to us, if anything at all? And then I became more
perceptive of what they convey to us.
For one thing, they are the people to whose family the Lord Jesus Christ belongs
through His humanity. They all are relatives of His, and this should be enough
for us to find their names deeply moving: Christ is of their blood, Christ is of
their family. Each of them, thinking of the Mother of God can say, 'She is a
child of our family', and of Christ, 'He also is a child of our family, although
He is our God, our Saviour, the very Divine Presence in our midst'. Furthermore,
some names stand out: names of Saints, heroes of the spirit, and names of
The Saints among them could well teach us what it means to believe; not simply
to have an intellectual faith, a world-outlook which coincides, as far as it is
able, with God's vision, but a faith which means a complete trust in God, an
unlimited faithfulness to Him, the readiness, because of what we know of God, to
give our lives for what He stands for, for what He is. In this context think of
Abraham whose faith was tested to the utmost. How difficult we find it to give
to God something of ours: but Abraham was asked to bring as a blood-offering his
own son - and he did not doubt God. And Isaac? He surrendered without
resistance, in perfect obedience to his father, and through him - to God.
We can remember the struggle of Jacob with the Angel in the darkness, as we at
times struggle for our faith, for our integrity, for our faithfulness, in the
darkness of the night, or the darkness of doubt, in the darkness that seizes us
at times on all sides.
But we can also learn something from those who in history, in the Bible, appear
to us as sinners. They were frail, this frailty conquered them, they had no
strength to resist the impulses of their bodies and of their souls, of the
complex passions of men. And yet - and yet, they believed in God passionately.
One of them was David, and one of his Psalms expresses it so well: "From the
deep I cry unto Thee .." From the depths of despair, of shame, from the depths
of his fall, from the depths of his alienation from God, from the darkest depths
of his soul he still cried to God. He does not hide from Him, he does not go
away from Him, it is to Him he comes with this desperate cry of a desperate man.
And others, men and women have this same concreteness as, for instance, Rahab
the harlot - and so many more.
Do we, when we are at the darkest point of life, when we are wrapped in all the
darkness that is within us - do we, from within this darkness turn to God and
say: It is to You, oh Lord, I cry! Yes - I am in darkness, but You are my God.
You are the God who created the light, and the darkness, and You are within the
darkness as You are within the blinding light; You are in death as You are in
life; You are in hell, as You are on the Throne; and from wherever I am I can
cry to You.
And then, there is a last thing I would like you to think about. To us these
people are names; of some of them we know a little from the Bible, about others
we know nothing. But they all were concrete human beings, men and women like us,
with all our frailty and all our hope, all the wavering of the will and all the
hesitations, all the incipient love that is so often marred, and yet remains
light and fire. They are concrete and real, and we can read their names with the
feeling, that, Yes - I don't know you, but you are one of those who are of the
family of Christ, concrete, real, who through all the vicissitudes of life,
inner and outer, belong to God. And we ourselves can try and learn, in the
concreteness of our lives, whether we are frail or strong at a given moment
still to be God's own.
So let us reflect on this genealogy, let us next time we come to hear it receive
it with a spark in our eyes, with a warm feeling in our hearts; but this will be
possible only to the extent to which Christ becomes more and more real to us and
when it is in Him, through Him that we discover them all - real, living, our own
and God's own. Amen.