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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Monday of the third week of Advent

Father Kevin MacDonald, C.Ss.R.

The Church was in turmoil when the Gospel of Matthew was written. Two-thirds of Rome had burned and the Roman emperor, Nero, found his scapegoat for the destruction in the Christians. Also, the great Temple in Jerusalem had burned to the ground. Christians were singled out for the blame by their disturbing presence in the Jewish worship services. In a meeting at Jamnia in the year 70, Jewish leaders made it official that Christians were no longer welcomed in their synagogues.

It was into this world that Matthew began writing his Gospel. He was writing to Jewish Christians as well as to the Gentiles. By beginning his Gospel with a genealogy, he provided Jesus with an identification that placed him firmly in line with Abraham and Sarah, the father and mother of many nations. Matthew venerates the past but welcomes the new things that God is doing in Christ. Jesus is the new creation, and the five women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy are part of this new development. Tamar is a Gentile woman who became a prostitute for a day out of a crisis in her life. Rahab, another Gentile, was a full-time prostitute who provided an essential service to the invading army of Jews. Ruth was the loyal foreigner who God blessed with a marriage to Boaz, and Bathsheba, named as the “wife of Uriah,” is famous for her part in King David’s great sin of adultery.

Mary is the last woman named. Her life too was lived in tension. It was out of her lowliness that God blessed the world. Her quiet “yes” to God’s messenger was to usher in the greatest change of all. And yet she was still a loyal Jew, obedient to the Roman edict to register for the census. And it was in her obedience that the child Jesus was born far from home, surrounded by strangers.

If there is a lesson from today’s Gospel reading, it could be that God is not so much concerned about the past but with the present. Hopefully we have learned many lessons from our crooked and cracked family histories. God will use what we have experienced to help guide us in the present. If we remain faithful and open to God’s grace, like Joseph and Mary, God will be able to accomplish great things through us, especially in our lowliness.

Advent Blessings,
Father Kevin MacDonald, C.Ss.R.