6 January
Lk 3:23-38

Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Melchi, son of Jannai, son of Joseph, son of Mattathias, son of Amos, son of Nahum, son of Esli, son of Naggai, son of Maath, son of Mattathias, son of Semein, son of Josech, son of Joda, son of Joanan, son of Rhesa, son of Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, son of Neri, son of Melchi, son of Addi, son of Cosam, son of Elmadam, son of Er, son of Joshua, son of Eliezer, son of Jorim, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Simeon, son of Judah, son of Joseph, son of Jonam, son of Eliakim, son of Melea, son of Menna, son of Mattatha, son of Nathan, son of David, son of Jesse, son of Obed, son of Boaz, son of Sala, son of Nahshon, son of Amminadab, son of Admin, son of Arni, son of Hezron, son of Perez, son of Judah, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, son of Terah, son of Nahor, son of Serug, son of Reu, son of Peleg, son of Eber, son of Shelah, son of Cainan, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah, son of Lamech, son of Methuselah, son of Enoch, son of Jared, son of Mahalaleel, son of Cainan, son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.

One of my early memories is of my parents endlessly “tracing relations” in the long winter evenings around the fire.  I ought to know the genealogy of every family for twenty miles around.  No subject carries more interest for the insider, or more boredom for the outsider.  That shows that it’s an intimate subject. 

Today’s reading is a genealogy.  The strangeness of the names and the people in it should put it well beyond our interest.  But in the end it is about Jesus, and that makes it an intimate subject.  Leo the Great (5th century) said that these genealogies “show that the first and the last Adam share the same nature.”

The names have a great deal of shock-value.  All human life is there: murder, treachery, incest, adultery, prostitution…. In the first list of fourteen names there are three women, an unusual feature: Tamar, Rahab and Ruth.  Tamar gave birth to twins by her father-in-law; Rahab was a prostitute, and Ruth was a Moabite, a foreigner.   In the second list of fourteen, there’s another woman, Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.  King David observed her bathing from the roof of his house, and invited her in and seduced her; then he had her husband killed, so that he could marry her.  At the end of the third section a fifth woman is mentioned: Mary the mother of Jesus.  It is an unedifying litany of names that leads us to Mary and Jesus.  This is the world they entered.  Nothing in the Scriptures encourages us to look at it with rose-coloured spectacles. 



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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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