“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces” ~ George Santayana
Fourteen. Fourteen generations.
Scripture tells us that there were fourteen generations from the time of Abraham to King David. Fourteen generations from the reign of David to the Babylonian exile. And from the Babylonian exile to the birth of Christ, you guessed it, another fourteen generations. Forty two all told.
Today’s Gospel (Matthew 1:1-17) details the lineage, the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. Many, myself included, may be prone to drift or nod off during this Gospel somewhere between Shealtiel and his son Zerubbabel. Or perhaps your imagination gets the better of you. After all, as is the case with many of those mentioned in the genealogy, all we really know about them is their name. Which one was the partier? Who had the sense of humor? Who could you count on when the chips were down?
Many questions come to mind actually. Why hasn’t the name ‘Boaz’ caught on? Can’t you just hear your favorite NFL Announcer talking about this ”dynamic and explosive young wide receiver for the Denver Broncos named Boaz Jackson“ as the camera shows the fleet-footed Boaz gliding towards the snow capped Mile High end zone, leaving three maybe even four Oakland Raiders or Kansas City Chiefs in his scorching wake? And with regard to Boaz’s betrothed, why has the name Ruth fallen out of favor? Growing up, I can recall three girls I knew named Ruth. If I put just a little more thought into it i could probably come up with one or two more. I don’t know even one today. Which of the men was the fun uncle who always showed up at the family wedding wearing the loud tie and bad toupee, equipped with side-splitting and colorful stories and off-color jokes? Was the first toupee made out of camel hair? If so, I wonder if John the Baptist sold them on the side? You get the idea.
Although we sometimes fail to give this reading the proper respect it deserves, in reality it is one of the more important passages. Family is one of the truly great gifts from God. Families are in some ways the compass that guides us, they are our inspiration to use the gifts that God gave us to the very best of our abilities and they are our comfort when we inevitably falter. To quote the great French Author Andre Maurois, “Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles in the cold.” Is it any wonder why the world hangs in such a tenuous state, what with the slow disintegration of the family structure Hardly.
Why 42 generations in total you may ask?Devotees of the Breviary might have the answer for you. In the Evening prayer, they recite that God’s divine plan “...is to be carried out, in Christ, in the fullness of time.” Yes, this is a God who humbled himself to share in our humanity.
With the Christmas Holiday Season upon us, families naturally reunite in order to share in the joy of the Season. Advent is a great time to examine those familial relationships that may be in need of mending. If you’ve done an injustice to a family member, apologize. If a family member has done an injustice to you, let it go. Advent is, after all, a penitential season as much as it is a joyful and hopeful one.
Strive to be that family member that brings harmony and happiness to your family. For as George Bernard Shaw once said, “a happy family is but an earlier heaven.”