In the opening chapter of Pope Benedict’s newest book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, the Holy Father addresses today’s gospel. He points to two central figures: Abraham and David. Abraham, the father of many nations and of a universal family, lives a life pointing to a future promise; therefore, the genealogy addresses a universal gathering, a universal procession into the future. David is the King to whom the promise of an eternal kingdom is to be given. From his line comes Christ the LORD. The Holy Father also makes the connection that this Jewish genealogy inserts four women who are Gentiles; therefore, this list of names speaks to both Jews and all humanity.
The most crucial thing to note is that this genealogy ends with a woman: Mary. The pattern found throughout is “Abraham the father of Isaac …” Then we hear this interruption: “Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Christ.” Mary marks the new beginning for humanity. Humanity will be renewed and because of Joseph, our LORD’s human origin is bound to the house of David in which the eternal kingdom will be established.
Today’s gospel may seem irrelevant to us in the 21st century as we hear so many unknown names in this passage filled with literary patterns that may not even interest us who are so busy this December with holiday shopping. How does this even speak to us who look at the massacre of children and innocent lives in Connecticut?
This list of names from antiquity speak of the stories of tragedy, love affairs, murder, scandal, and all the mess found in the heart of humanity during the biblical times. In the midst of this darkness, in the midst of this tragedy we hear Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Christ!
Today, in the midst of the tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut, no politician, no policy, no public statement can ever answer the question of “Why? Why did God allow this to happen?” Furthermore, there would be no answer found in this life that would satisfy our questions or quench our hurt. Some 2,000 years ago, Christ did not come, born of Mary, into a perfect world. So too, today, Christ is born of Mary in the middle of all our confusion, in the heart of our pain, in the midst of our tears. God was there when teachers hid their students from violence, God was there when the policemen came to the aide of the oppressed, and God is here now: Emmanuel, God with us.
How beautiful it is that in the time of the year when night is the longest, when the earth is barren from the cold winter months, when life seems hopeless, Jesus is born of Mary. The answer to all of life’s unanswered questions comes to us in poverty. His answer is not a statement, his answer is Love. Come, O Wisdom. Come, O Love. As you were born in the barrenness of a cave, be born into the emptiness of our hearts, into the pain of our lives. Come, Emmanuel, God with us and do not delay.