God had appeared before. Jacob had wrestled with the angel. Abraham had these three strangers in the desert. David, the youngest, was chosen out of his many brothers. All of these were “types.” All pre-figured the fact that God would, in His Divinity, take on our humanity and become one with us. And so, all of these names may seem like just a jumble of stories all lumped together. But in actual fact, it establishes that Jesus had human ancestors; He was made part of our humanity. The conqueror’s victory would have had no effect if the battle had taken place outside of our condition.
There is also something rather curious about this rather Jewish genealogy. It was those five woman: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and of course, Mary. Now the first four: Tamar, Rahab…there is the little part about them being prostitutes, which is rather unusual. Ruth enticed and captured Boaz, and Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah. So there’s that whole situation, and some people believe that part of what God came to redeem was that sinfulness. Really, it has nothing to do with that at all. All of these women, except for Mary, were Gentiles; they were all pagans. Now God has invited all the nations into this redemption; it is not just for the Jews.
Something else about that list of names – about a third of those names are really good people. They had their foibles. David is considered one of the good people, but there is the whole story with him and the wife of Uriah, but all in all, David is the king. So all the good guys had their faults, but they were relatively good guys. One-third of the names is bad guys. Ahaz – you heard the story – he is not going to tempt God, but he is going to make an alliance with the pagans to see if he can save Israel that way. Ahaz trusted in himself and was defeated. The last third of the names are…we have no idea. So you can be a complete nobody on this list and yet you are an ancestor of the Messiah. So it does not matter what sin, it does not matter what nation, it does not matter whether you are known or not, whether you are successful or not, it does not matter…none of that matters anymore. What matters is that you have been chosen by God, redeemed by God, saved by God. The passion of the human person giving himself to Christ in God – that is what matters now.
So the question, the challenge, the invitation for the day is – is God here? This is where it begins; that whatever you do to the person next to you, you do to God. The question is: Are you willing to place your body, not just your mind, not just your emotions, not just your spirit, your body in His service. He did not just redeem our heads and minds; He redeems all of us; the glorified body comes with it. – are you willing to place your body in His power and control; are you willing to place your body where He asks you? Original sin make this difficult for us. Everything seems to be about us and what we want to do, what we accomplish. With God’s grace we can turn that around. We take up the redemption that turned us back towards Him; it’s not about us at all.
Life is about what He has accomplished, what He has made of us, how He has redeemed us and invested us with His Divine Nature. The prayer that we prayed at the very beginning of Mass had everything to do with the prayer that will be repeated again at the altar, prayed silently at ever mass: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” And at that moment, the deacon or the priest (if there’s no deacon), places a little bit of water in the wine; Great mystery, that water. Can you see it? No, it’s gone, it’s in there, mixed with the wine. Can you get it out? No, you cannot. Where is it, what part of the cup? No, it is just everywhere now. That is what He has done to us, His divinity, in our humanity. That is the reason for this list, this genealogy; that is why we celebrate all our ancestors, because He came to us, to take us, to lift us up out of our sin, to make us His.
So, it has begun, the end of Advent has begun. The days are approaching when we will celebrate the fact that God has taken flesh and lived among us, hidden in our flesh and gracing us with His goodness, kindness, mercy and love. It doesn’t matter where we are from or what we have done, or what sin; He gave us the remedy. It does determine us anymore. He has just simply made us His own.