Matthew’s gospel gives us insights different than Luke’s gospel about Mary, the young woman who bore God’s son into the world, beginning with a genealogy. Many people will pass over this beginning but it is actually deeply significant. Genealogies are used in the bible to indicate families and important ancestors. They provide a way to see God’s commission in Genesis for men and women to cooperate in a partnership -- to care for creation and fill it will descendants. [Genesis 1: 28] Abraham, too, received a promise of descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky. God’s plan of creation continues with the help of faithful throughout the history of the ages. Here, with God’s entry into time in order to save humanity, Matthew demonstrates the link of Jesus in familial line to Abraham! [Genesis 22:17-18]
Luke’s gospel did not begin with a genealogy but included a lineage that began with Jesus the son of Joseph and points all the way back to Adam. Luke’s genealogy shows that Jesus is the “second Adam.” [Luke 3: 23-38] In contrast Matthew looks at the heritage of Jesus in the opposite way, beginning with Abraham and recording the generations forward to Christ. Unlike Luke who records only fathers and sons, Matthew includes Uriah, the wife of King Solomon; Tamar who tricked her Judah into giving her sons; Rahab the mother of Boaz who was the husband of Ruth a foreigner; Ruth, herself, who was the mother of Obed and grandmother of Jesse giving rise to the descent from King David; Uriah who was King David’s wife; and ending with Mary the mother of Jesus.
What is Matthew’s gospel saying in this unique genealogy mentioning women, some of whom might be considered less than holy saints? Knowing that the remarkable event happened through the lives of both men and women, we see that God’s plan wended its way through history in the lives of all kinds of people. It culminates in the life of a woman who not only trusted in God’s promises but who was known by God as most holy and finally the one to bear the savior. [Matthew 1:1-17] With all the interest in Mary, some will ask … “well, what about Joseph?” That seems to have been a big question for Matthew, too. Matthew tells us about God’s “annunciation” to Joseph and the problem Mary’s pregnancy posed for him who was planning to wed Mary. The angel appears to Joseph and assures him that the situation is the work of God.[Matthew 1:18-25] Matthew’s questioning about Mary and his fear that she will be stoned as a bad woman indicates, indeed, that he is not the father of her child. For further clarification, Matthew describes the moment as the fulfillment of prophecy found in Isaiah. “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel (meaning ‘God is with us’.)” [Isaiah 7:14] What more needs to be said. Matthew has demonstrated that Mary is pregnant because of God’s wonder. Luke has recorded the event in Mary’s eyes. Through Matthew’s account we learn that what Mary saw, heard and experienced is truly of God.
Next, Matthew gives an account completely missing in Luke, the coming of the astrologers (magi) who will identify Jesus as the coming king of Israel. [Matthew 2: 1-12] They talk with Herod, only to turn Herod on to a murderous attempt to kill the baby boy he thinks will replace him as king of Israel. This leads the holy family to make an escape to Egypt. It is the message of an angel, again, that prompts Joseph to hasten his family away from harm’s way. [Matthew 2:13-15] This short passage speaks volumes on the courage and strength of Mary. In the face of absolute power and violence, she hurries at Joseph’s side to bundle her child away to safety. Herod carries out his murderous plan and sacrifices the lives of innocent boy babies throughout the land. On her way to Egypt, Mary’s mind and heart turn to the ancient words of Jeremiah:
A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.
This terror [Matthew 2: 16-18] comes soon after the joyous moment of birth had occured, and now Mary shutters with the fear of losing her son – God’s son – which would separate her from the long awaited son like death kept Rachel from her children. [Jeremiah 31:15] Matthew indicates in this reflective allusion to Jeremiah that in all the isolation of the Christmas crib, the danger and fear of the threat of Herod, and the long traveling hours … that Mary’s son is the consolation for humanity. [Matthew 2: 15-18] Only through her patience and trust will God’s reconciliation take place.
After Herod’s death the holy family dares to return. But Joseph learns that danger still abides in Judea and takes his family to Galilee for safety. This fulfills the prophecy that the messiah will come from the small town of Nazareth. [Matthew 2:19-23]
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