Matthew 1:1-17 NRSVue

1An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,

7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,, 8and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, who bore Jesus, who is called the Messiah.,

17So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Some thoughts on this scripture

Today’s readings look unsparingly at Jesus’ ancestry. Matthew points out that Jesus’ forbears included children born of incest (Perez), of mixed races (Boaz), and of adultery (Solomon). God entered into our human history with all the episodes that proud people would be ashamed of.

Lord, teach me to accept my humanity, my genes, my relatives, as you did.

You are a brave person to pray this gospel! It is frequently omitted when we find it at Mass, and unless we know something of the background, it makes little sense. The list is placing Jesus in the mainstream of human life and his people. It lists all sorts of people, holy and not so holy, public sinners, outcasts and the type of people you wouldn't associate with. In our family tree we might erase them or pretend they never existed. This list is God's list of favourites and of co-workers. All can be partners with God in the coming of the kingdom - and that includes me and you - and all sort of people you might normally not invite to dinner or coffee.

Matthew's Gospel opens with what, to many people, is an off-putting introduction: a genealogy. What Matthew is trying to do is to place Jesus' birth within the context of all Jewish history from the time of Abraham up to the birth of Jesus. Using groups of fourteen to make his point, he gives the impression that God made mathematically precise preparations for the coming of the Messiah. The first fourteen names mentioned are those of the patriarchs, people such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The second fourteen are Israel's kings, especially Kings David and Solomon. The last fourteen are unknowns from Israel's past who played a vital role in the coming of the Messiah. Four women are mentioned in the genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. The first three women were not Israelites, and Bathsheba was not married to an Israelite. The irregular marriages of the women may well have prepared Matthew's readers for the extraordinary way in which Jesus was conceived.

Family and teachers have played a major part in my education and in my coming to faith in Jesus. Having been gifted beyond imagining, do I remember with gratitude all that they have given me?

This litany of names deserves to be read reverently, as all names do. I think of the lists that can easily dehumanise and pray that the dignity and experience of each person be respected. I consider that a life's story lies behind each name that I see today.