Jesus and the human family

The Gospel reading at Mass today from Matthew lays out the genealogy of Jesus. Part of Matthew’s aim to his own Jewish audience was to show that Jesus is connected to the “right” lineage to be the Messiah. Jesus is connected back to David and Solomon, kings remembered as symbolic of a time of prosperity for Israel, and expectations for the new Messiah frequently revolved around this theme of kingship and Davidic lineage.

However, Matthew takes the genealogy back even further than David, to Abraham; Matthew writes this long after it is clear that Jesus will not be a political ruler but will have a different kind of role as Messiah. Abraham is the father of the Jewish people, so Jesus also is shown to be related not only to David, but to the whole Jewish family. The lineage also includes sinners as well as people of faith. Matthew expands his own culture’s understanding of what family “counts” for Jesus.

Still later in the Letter to Galatians, Paul will write about Abraham as the forefather of all who believe and Jesus as transforming who is included in the family of faith, through belief and not ethnicity or heritage. One who believes belongs to this faith, and not only the one who is related by blood. Vatican II and other inter-religious documents today have further expanded our awareness that God’s graces are not only for believing Christians but also for those of other faiths and even agnostics who pursue the good in their own ways. Jesus’s human family just keeps on expanding. We are still learning as a world, often finding ourselves struggling with war and conflict, what it means fully to belong to that human family.

Each of us have ways that we try to keep the wideness and inclusion of God’s familial love at bay. We might distance ourselves from those of other faiths, or those who understand our own faith quite differently (conservatives vs progressives). We might distance ourselves from those of other ethnic backgrounds, from immigrants, from those in other parts of the world and decide that our own country is “more” family than the rest of the human family. Or we might find themselves lonely at the holidays, feeling that family is absent, not fully aware of the love that God is constantly offering to us through friends and strangers alike. All of these are ways of distancing ourselves from our own full participation in the larger human family.

Jesus’ genealogy is an opportunity to reflect: Where I have found family and love in unexpected places in my life? Where does God challenge and invite me to find Christ in the larger human family?