Lectio Divina: Birthday of Mary - Mt:1,1-16.18-23
1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
You redeem us
and make us Your children in Christ.
Look upon us,
give us true freedom
and bring us to the inheritance You promised.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23
The Book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph. Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile. After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
• Today, September 8th, Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, the Gospel gives us the genealogy, or birth certificate, of Jesus. By means of the list of His ancestors, the Evangelist tells the communities who Jesus is and how God acts in a surprising way in order to fulfill His promise. On our birth certificate there is our name and the name of our parents. Some people, to say who they are, also recall the names of the grandparents. Others are ashamed of their ancestors, of their families, and hide behind appearances which deceive. The birth certificate of Jesus has many names. On the list of names there is a great novelty. At that time, the genealogy indicated only the names of the men. This is why it is surprising that Matthew also mentions five women among the ancestors of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the wife of Uriah and Mary. Why does he choose precisely these five women and not others? This is the question which the Gospel of Matthew leaves for us.
• Matthew 1:1-17: The long list of names – the beginning and the end of the genealogy. At the beginning and at the end of the genealogy, Matthew clearly makes us understand Jesus’ identity: He is the Messiah, son of David and son of Abraham. As descendant of David, Jesus is the response of God to the expectations of the Jewish people (2 Sam 7, 12, and 16). As descendant of Abraham, He is source of blessings and of hope for all nations of the earth (Gen 12-13). Therefore, in this way, both the Jews and the pagans who formed part of the communities of Syria and of Palestine at the time of Matthew could see that their hope was fulfilled in Jesus. .
Drawing up the list of the ancestors of Jesus, Matthew adopts a plan of 3 X 14 generations (Mt 1:17). The number two is the number of the divinity. Number 14 is two times 7, which is the number of perfection. At that time, it was something common to interpret or calculate God’s action by using numbers and dates. By means of these symbolic calculations, Matthew reveals the presence of God throughout the generations and expresses the conviction of the communities who said that Jesus appeared at the time established by God. With His coming history reaches its fulfillment.
The message of the five women mentioned in the genealogy. Jesus is the response of God to the expectation both of the Jews and of the pagans, but it is in a completely surprising way. In the stories of the four women of the Old Testament, mentioned in the genealogy, there is something abnormal. The four of them were foreigners, and they will conceive their sons outside the normal schema of the behavior of that time and they do not keep the requirements of the laws of purity of the time of Jesus. Tamar, a Canaanite, a widow, dresses as a prostitute of Jericho to oblige Judah to be faithful to her and to give her a son (Gen 38:1-30). Rahab, a prostitute from Jericho, makes an alliance with the Israelites. She helped them to enter the Promised Land and professed faith in a God who liberates from the Exodus. (Judg 2:1-21). Bathsheba, a Hittite, wife of Uriah, was seduced, abused and made pregnant by King David, who in addition to that, ordered her husband to be killed (2 Sam 11:1-27). Ruth, a Moabite, a poor widow, chose to remain with Naomi and adhere to the people of God (Rt 1, 16-18). Advised by her mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth imitates Tamar and spends the night together with Boaz, obliging him to observe the law and to give her a son. From their relation Obed was born, the grandfather of King David (Ruth 3:1-15; 4:13-17). These four women question the models of behavior imposed by the patriarchal society. And thus, their conventional initiative will give continuity to the descendants of Jesus and will bring salvation to all the people. Through them, God realizes His plan and sends the promised Messiah. Truly, God’s way of acting surprises and makes one think! At the end the reader will ask, “And Mary? Is there something irregular in her? What is it? We get the response from the story of Saint Joseph which follows in (Mt 1:18-23).
• Mathew 1:18-23: Saint Joseph was just. What was irregular in Mary is that she became pregnant before living together with Joseph, her betrothed, who was a just man. Jesus says, “If your justice is not greater than the justice of the Pharisees and the scribes, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” If Joseph had been just according to the justice of the Pharisees, he would have denounced Mary and she would have been stoned. Jesus would have died. Thanks to the true justice of Joseph, Jesus was able to be born.
4) Personal questions
• When I present myself to others, what do I say about myself and about my family?
• If the Evangelist mentions only these five women together with over forty men, no doubt, he wants to communicate a message. What is this message? What does all this tell us about the identity of Jesus? And what does this say about us?
5) Concluding Prayer
They shall speak of the glory of Your kingship
and tell of Your might,
making known Your mighty deeds to the children of Adam,
the glory and majesty of Your kingship. (Ps 145:10-11)