Man is a mystery

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Day 2, 17 December 2021
Genesis 49: 2, 8-10   ><]]]]'>  +  <'[[[[><   Matthew 1:1-17
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2019.

Today we officially start our countdown to Christmas as we enter the second phase of Advent when all readings and prayers beginning this December 17 to 24 will focus on the first coming of Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago.

And what a way to start this every year with Matthew’s gospel that begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ!

All four evangelists have their own style in addressing the two most important questions about Jesus, then and now: Who is Jesus? Where is he from? Both questions are inseparably linked that in the final analysis, they also apply very much with each one of us too!

Every person is a continuum – a work-in-progress who cannot be chopped or sliced like a sausage. Every person is a one whole made up of every minute and second and years from the very start of his existence in his/her mother’s womb. In fact, even before that when we see life in its entirety in the plan of God.

That is the meaning of the genealogy of Jesus Christ that speaks so well of our origins too, of who we are. Matthew uniquely started his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus not only to present the roots of Jesus in the past but also to tell us about him in the present and in the future.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nashon, Nashon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.

Matthew 1:1-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2019.

The genealogy of Jesus by Matthew tells us the beauty of every person, of each one a mystery, a gift of God wrapped in so many stories involving people and events who have shaped us, for better or for worse, always precious and valuable, never to be taken in parts but always as a whole.

Ever noticed that the more we get to know another person – whether as family member or friend – the more we realize we do not really know that much about him/her?

I always tell couples during their wedding how they must continue to get to know each other after marriage, to be always surprised by new things about each other as they mature in their love.

We cannot have a full grasp of every person in just one scoop or one flash. Every person is made up of years and years even before his existence with great probabilities and possibilities of what he/she can be in the future!

See how the Son of God is so much like every one of us with a not so perfect background. Though he is from the lineage of Abraham and David, the two most prominent figures in Israel’s history, we find so many kinks and quirks behind each name mentioned in his genealogy. It was on Abraham God fulfilled his promise to make him the “father of all nations” while it was on David’s line came the King of kings, Jesus Christ.

But, as we go into details of the genealogy, we find bizarre things like how Jacob stole the birthright of his elder brother Esau from their father Isaac to become the ancestor of Jesus. Jacob in turn had 12 sons but instead of passing on the “scepter” we heard in the first reading to Joseph who was most qualified of his sons, Judah was chosen to be the leader of his sons from whom the Christ would later come from.

Judah was not that good at all being a part of the sinister plot of his brothers in selling their youngest brother at that time, Joseph, to Egypt; then, he got his daughter-in-law Tamar pregnant after she pretended to be a prostitute when her husband died without leaving her a son. Judah was already old and could not give her a son to her husband to have a child; hence, Tamar devised a plan of pretending as a prostitute to lure Judah into her. And it worked – much to the shame of Judah and family!

If Tamar pretended to be a prostitute, one of the five women mentioned in the genealogy was actually a whore, Rahab. When Joshua sent spies into Jericho led by Salmon, they hid inside a “red house” ran by Rahab. She offered them help in exchange for the safety of her entire family should they succeed in conquering Jericho and they did by just going around the city and blew their trumpets! Jericho fell and so did the heart of Salmon for Rahab and they had a child named Boaz.

A further twist into the genealogy of Jesus came with Boaz who married a pagan foreigner named Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi who went back to Israel when her husband and two sons died. Ruth insisted in coming with her and while picking grains at the field of Boaz, the two were introduced to each other and love blossomed between them who were blessed with a son they named Obed who became the father of Jesse who was the father of the future King David.

Now, David was not that totally faithful to God at all: he sinned big time against the Lord!

First, in having an illicit relationship with the wife of his army officer Uriah named Bathsheba. When their forbidden love led to Bathsheba having a “love child”, David tried all means to avoid fatherhood but failed. So, he ordered Uriah positioned in a battle where he would surely get killed and it worked so well, giving David the free hand to take Bathsheba as his wife and their love child became his successor, King Solomon. King David suffered greatly from the grave consequences of his sins agains the Lord who forgave him and never took back the promise that from him would come the Christ.

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

As we read on further in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ, the plot thickens as the drama unfolds further revealing to us the many colorful as well as controversial relatives and ancestors of the Lord who did not just appear as an isolated human being.

His genealogy shows us the important aspect of his Incarnation of not only coming from God but also intimately and crucially linked with the history of his own people, just like each one of us.

Notice how Matthew did not attempt to sanitize or “photoshop” the genealogy of Jesus to paint his better picture or that of his relatives. There was no shortage of “skeletons in the Lord’s closet” and yet, it was to Jesus Christ that the “scepter” of power ultimately belongs, the fulfillment of God’s promised salvation who also comes to us everyday among persons we meet, in our family, in the most unusual instances and peoples too.

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Child Jesus in Bethlehem, today’s gospel reminds us how we too was the natural development of the long process of God’s relationships with people. In becoming truly human like us who had come from God, Christ’s birth reminds us that it is good to be human.

Most of all, for us to go back to God, to be closer to God, we have to be first truly a human person with no ifs nor buts because God loves us so much as he sees us. God believes in us that no matter how dark or painful or sinful our past may be, we can still have a brighter future in his Son Jesus Christ in whom we have our rootedness in the Father in faith.

This Christmas, let us remember our being a mystery in God and share this joy, this wonder with others. Like Jesus who became human to show us our blessedness in God, let us share with others too. Have a blessed Friday!

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