Monday, May 9, 2011


The Root of Jesse

I have often wondered at the "begats" know,

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac. And Isaac begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Judas and his brethren.  And Judas begot Phares and Zara of Thamar. And Phares begot Esron. And Esron begot Aram. And Aram begot Aminadab. And Aminadab begot Naasson. And Naasson begot Salmon. And Salmon begot Booz of Rahab. And Booz begot Obed of Ruth. And Obed begot Jesse.
     And Jesse begot David the king. And David the king begot Solomon, of her that had been the wife of Urias. And Solomon begot Roboam. And Roboam begot Abia. And Abia begot Asa. And Asa begot Josaphat. And Josaphat begot Joram. And Joram begot Ozias. And Ozias begot Joatham. And Joatham begot Achaz. And Achaz begot Ezechias. And Ezechias begot Manasses. And Manasses begot Amon. And Amon begot Josias.
     And Josias begot Jechonias and his brethren in the transmigration of Babylon. And after the transmigration of Babylon, Jechonias begot Salathiel. And Salathiel begot Zorobabel. And Zorobabel begot Abiud. And Abiud begot Eliacim. And Eliacim begot Azor. And Azor begot Sadoc. And Sadoc begot Achim. And Achim begot Eliud. And Eliud begot Eleazar. And Eleazar begot Mathan. And Mathan begot Jacob.
    And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.--Matthew 1:1-16

And that's just one list!  There are many more scattered throughout Scripture.  I know these genealogies were important to the original authors of the sacred Word, but why does God want them in there?  What is the spiritual benefit for us?  What does, "Achim begot Eliud" have to do with my salvation?

As I was meditating on the sacrament of marriage last week, I began to think about what would have happened if Adam and Eve had had contraceptives available to them.  Or, what if they had just decided that the world had become so horrible (with sin and all of its evil consequences) that they did not want to bring any children into the world?  I realized, as I mentioned in the Sacrament of Matrimony post, that they would have been depriving themselves of their own Redeemer.  And, of course, none of us would ever have had a chance to be born, live, and be redeemed by God.  Heaven would be devoid of human persons.  The entire purpose of God for creation would have been thwarted.

Does man REALLY have such power?  Can he really refuse God?  Indeed, every man has the power of such free will:

God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions...Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility...The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes.  There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just.  The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin."--CCC 1730, 1731, 1733

Without freedom, there is no merit and there is no sin.  With freedom, man can choose God or not God, merit or sin, heaven or hell.  Fortunately for you and for me, Adam and Eve were open to life and they had many children.  And yet, as I thought about it, I realized that each generation since has had the same choice to make...will they be open to life or will they refuse to "be fruitful and multiply"?  Will they obey the command of the Creator, or not?

Each person named in those lengthy "begats" said YES to life.  Each one is a crucial link in the line to the Messiah; each one had to cooperate with God in bringing forth children from whom would one day descend the Christ.  Only a very few of them had any idea of their role in God's plan--perhaps Adam, Noah, Abraham, and David.  Maybe Judah.  The others?  They probably had no idea.  Amid the strains and difficulties of their own lives, in famine and feast, in freedom and captivity, in the years of their youth or the exhaustion of their old age, they did not refuse to bring forth children.

Where are we in the chain of faith? There may be many, many generations of mankind that will be born after us. Will we be faithful and open to life?  Will we give them--all of them--the gift of life and of Life?  We are called to transmit both physical and spiritual life to our children, but without the physical life first, there can be no spiritual life.  And if we do not pass on the Gospel to the next generation, because there isn't a next generation, how will the people yet to be born hear the Good News?  How will they know about their Redeemer if there is no one to tell them?

Now when I read the "begats", I am inspired by the example of these faithful ancestors and so grateful that each one of them chose to be open to life.  Because of their faithfulness, I have life in Christ.

The Annunciation, Henry Tanner
     And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."--Luke 2:38

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