Friday 31 December 2021
Saturday, January 1, 2022 - Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and New Year's Day - A New Beginning, a New Hope
A new beginning, a new hope
Saturday, January 1, 2022 - Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and New Year's Day - A New Beginning, a New Hope
To read the texts click on the texts: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21
The first day of the New Year brings with it many thoughts, feelings and emotions. The fact that it is January and named after the Roman god Janus with two faces already indicates that it brings with it a looking back and a looking ahead.
Thus it is a day for retrospection and introspection and also a day for planning and goal setting. The retrospection must be with a view to help the planning and goal setting and not an exercise in condemnation of oneself or feeling regret.
It is fitting then that the first reading of today should speak of a blessing. The blessing is what is commonly called a Priestly blessing and pronounced on all the people of Israel. There are three pairs of verbs used in the blessing resulting in a threefold blessing. The first emphasizes concrete gifts—blessing and protection. The second stresses the hope that God will be well disposed toward the person and thus temper judgement with mercy and grace. The third asserts that God will pay attention and heed to his people thus providing fullness of life. The central message of the blessing is Peace, which must be translated as wholeness or completeness. The peace of God embraces every aspect of an individual’s life.
The idea of blessing is taken up in the Second reading of today. Paul in writing to the Galatians speaks of the blessing that God conferred not just on Israel but on the whole world when he sent his Son. The sending of the Son was for one reason alone, namely to reconcile the world to himself and through that to make each of us sons and daughters of God. The Son that God sent in to the world was not an angel but born of a woman, Mary who dared to say that unconditional yes to God’s invitation to be the mother of his Son.
This son whom God sent is human in every single aspect of the word and is therefore circumcised and given a name. The name that the child bears signifies his function. He is named Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. This child will be king, but a new kind of king. He will inaugurate a new world order, a world not like that of earthly kings but under the direction of God’s design for the redemption of all peoples. In this world, God’s Word is heard by all who remain open to that Word. In this world, there is hope for the oppressed, and those who heard what God is doing are filled with joy. God has not forgotten us or abandoned us to the brokenness we have created. God continues to be concerned and to make new and whole. The New Year thus, is for us as Christians, an announcement of hope. It is a call to continue to believe that God continues to be in control of all the events that will take place and that we only have to do what is required of us and leave the rest to God.
Thus the triple celebration of Mary Mother of God, the giving of the name of Jesus and New Year’s Day all close in on one theme: Hope. The past is over and forgotten; it is forgiven and absolved; it is pardoned and made new. The challenge is for us to respond like Mary did to what God is doing in us and in our world. If we like Mary are open and receptive to the working of God in our lives, if we like her are willing to let God do in us, if we like her are willing to say that unconditional and categorical Yes, then the saviour Jesus will continue to be made present all through the year.
The priestly blessing of peace pronounced on the people in the first reading of today becomes then a blessing pronounced on each of us as we begin the New Year. We must keep in mind throughout the year that like the Galatians we are no longer slaves but sons and daughters of God. This means living in a fearless and bold manner. It means being able to face all the vicissitudes and challenges of life with equanimity and confident in the knowledge that we are loved unconditionally by God and that God will be with us every step of the way in the New Year.
Thursday 30 December 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 2:3-11; Jn 1:1-18
The prologue of the Gospel of John is an extremely rich text. Unlike Matthew and Luke who begin their Gospels with stories of the birth of Jesus, the Gospel of John begins with the pre-existent WORD and the relationship of the word to the world. It is Word which is God and also an incarnate word, a word made flesh. Thus the Prologue is concerned with the sphere of God, the eternal sphere and the sphere of human beings the temporal.
Thus the prologue makes two main points.
The first of these is that the abstract, the incomprehensible, the indecipherable, the unknowable, and the absolute mystery which is the Word and God, have become concrete, comprehensible, decipherable, and knowable and a mystery revealed because of the Word becoming flesh. However, this mystery is not as easy to understand as it may seem. Many take offense at this. They want something more spectacular; some divine figure, some hero or god-man, some fascinating, mysterious being, able to impress everyone with the feats of might and glory. But what they saw was only a man; a man of compassion, a man who claimed to speak the truth. And they saw no glory here. But this is how God decided to come. He wanted to be one of us in all our limitations. Thus no longer can we say that our God could not understand what it is like to struggle against the opposition, to have to flee to another country, to be betrayed by a friend, to grieve the loss of a loved one, to fear suffering and death, to experience a seeming absence of his father. No, our God has truly walked our walk; God's Word of Love has truly taken flesh. Through this act of the Incarnation, God and the Word have become Father and Son. God, the Father is revealed in the Son, Jesus. Through this act, heaven has come down to earth and earth and heaven are reconciled as never before. The incarnation means that human beings can see, hear, and know God in ways never before possible. The relationship between divine and human is transformed, because in the incarnation human beings are given intimate, palpable, corporeal access to the cosmic reality of God. The newness wrought by God in Jesus is so dramatic that a conventional narrative of origins is good, but insufficient. That is because the story of Jesus is not ultimately a story about Jesus; it is, in fact, the story of God. When one sees Jesus, one sees God; when one hears Jesus, one hears God.
The second point that the prologue makes is the response of humanity to the incarnate Word. Since the Word is not a Word that is thrust on creation, but given freely and in total generosity, human beings must respond to the Word in freedom. This response is either of acceptance or rejection. One cannot ignore the potent power of the Word.
The rejection of the Word by Jesus’ own people while being a historical fact is a rejection that continues even today. Darkness continues to try to overcome the light. This becomes evident when we look at our world which is a world in which corruption, selfishness, injustice, intolerance, and communal disharmony, racial and caste discriminations continue to raise their ugly heads. It is seen when people still concern themselves with only the desire to have more rather than be more. It is seen when the concern to accumulate for oneself even to the detriment of not giving others their just due overpowers us.
Yet, despite this rejection of the Word, there is a note of hope and promise because there continue to be people who will choose light over darkness and selflessness over selfishness. There will continue to be people who fight for justice and will never give up this cause. There will continue to be people who will generously give not only of their wealth but also of themselves in imitation of the one who became human and gave all. Those who opt for the light can continue to do so because their openness to the Incarnate Word and all that he stands for makes them receive grace upon grace from him. This abundance of grace continues to sustain through the most trying times and gives them the courage never to give up or give in, but to continue and carry on. God became what we are, so that we could understand better what God is, and we could believe with all our hearts that God understands what we are.
Those who dare to accept the light and walk in its ways begin to realize that God himself walks with them and ahead of them. They know that God does not stay distant from them, remote and isolated; rather, in Jesus, God chose to live with humanity in the midst of human weakness, confusion, and pain. This bond holds true for all times and all places. To become flesh is to know joy, pain, suffering, and loss. It is to love, to grieve, and someday to die. The incarnation binds Jesus to the “everydayness” of human experience. The Word lived among us, not simply in the world. The Word became flesh and the Word’s name is Jesus Christ. This Jesus continues to be born in our midst even today. When selflessness triumphs over selfishness; when generosity triumphs over greed; when light overcomes darkness, then Jesus is born again and again.
Wednesday 29 December 2021
Thursday, December 30, 2021 - Have you accepted the revelation that Jesus makes? How will you show this in your life today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 2:12-17; Lk 2:36-40
Luke is fond of pairing male and female figures in his narrative. The role of Simeon and Anna in the Temple at the end of the birth narrative balances the role of Zechariah and Elizabeth at the beginning of the narrative. Anna’s character and piety are emphasized, but not her words. She was a descendant of a family from the northern kingdom, and a devout widow, advanced in age. Anna evidently married young and was widowed seven years later. The reference to 84 years probably records her age, but may be read as the number of years she had lived as a widow.
Anna’s blessing, though not recorded, is characterized as praising God and speaking about the child. Since this description corresponds to the content of Simeon’s oracles, we can probably say that Anna’s prophecy matched his. Similarly, the reference to “all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” serves as an inclusion, balancing the description of Simeon as one who was “looking forward to the consolation of Israel” at the beginning of this scene. Simeon and Anna, who represent the pious ones, declare that Jesus is the one who will bring salvation for Israel, but not all would receive this salvation. Jesus himself would be rejected, and many in Israel would reject the gospel, but it was also meant for “a light for revelation to the Gentiles”.
Tuesday 28 December 2021
Wednesday, December 29, 2021 - How will you show that the presence of Jesus has changed your life for the better? What three actions will you perform to show that the coming of Jesus has made a difference to your life?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 2:3-11; Lk 2:22-35
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 2:3-11; Lk 2:22-35
The text of today consists of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the purification of Mary and the Song of Simeon.
According to Jewish law a woman became ceremonially unclean on the birth of a child. During this time, she was not permitted to enter the Temple or touch any holy object. On the eighth day the child was circumcised, after which the mother was unclean an additional thirty-three days—sixty-six if the child was female. At the conclusion of this period, the mother offered a sacrifice, either a lamb or, if she was poor, two doves or two young pigeons. That Luke does not mention a lamb but refers to two turtledoves or pigeons may indicate that Jesus was born to the poor of Israel. In addition, the first son was to be presented to the Lord as a reminder of the Exodus, and then, bought back with an offering. Luke does not mention that Jesus was redeemed either because he was not aware of this requirement or because he wanted to convey that Jesus was constantly devoted or dedicated to the Lord. In this part Luke emphasizes that the law of the Lord was fulfilled in all respects at the birth of Jesus.
Simeon is introduced immediately after the presentation of Jesus and the purification of Mary. He too like Zechariah and Elizabeth is described as “righteous”. He is also “devout”. He looked forward to the restoration of the people and the fulfillment of God’s redemptive work. The Spirit, who had revealed to him that he would not see death until he saw the anointed one of God, is the same Spirit who rests on him and gives him utterance to speak.
His hymn of praise of God is known as the “Nunc Dimittis” (“Now Dismiss”). It is only loosely related to the occasion of the birth of Jesus. It declares the praise of God for faithfulness and the redemption of the people. Though some interpret “now you are dismissing your servant in peace” to mean that Simeon was now prepared to die, it can also mean that he recognizes that he is being released from his mission to watch for the coming of the Messiah because he has now seen the coming of the one who will bring salvation. His blessing relates the birth of Jesus to the fulfillment of the promise of salvation and looks ahead to the inclusion of all peoples in the experience of the blessings of God. Even as the parents of Jesus wonder at what is being said by Simeon, he blesses them and then addresses Mary, the mother of Jesus. He speaks about the coming rejection of Jesus. Not everyone will want to see the light, not everyone will want top receive the salvation by God for all peoples. Not everyone will recognize God coming in Jesus. Jesus will be rejected and treated as someone to be opposed. Even his mother will have to share in his sufferings.
Jesus came not to make us comfortable but to wake us up from our sleep and this is what Simeon had prophesied. He came to challenge our way of looking at the world. This challenge is not easy to accept because it means that many of our preconceived ideas and notions will have to be given up and we will have to start anew. It is easier and more comfortable to live the selfish and self-centered lives that we are used to rather than be concerned about others. It is easier to be caught up in our own small worlds, rather than get out of our wells and see that life is much more than simply having more.
Monday 27 December 2021
Like in Matthew’s day so in ours the war between the two kingdoms continues. Those who regard power as absolute will continue to massacre the innocent. They will continue to destroy others for selfish means. Our response has to be one of courage and hope.
Tuesday, December 28, 2021 - The Feast of the Holy Innocents - Will you perform one unselfish act today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1Jn 1:5-2:2; Mt 2:1,3-18
Matthew’s Gospel is the only one of the four which has the story of the killing of innocent children by Herod. A king is born, but a king is already here; and there is room for only one king. The birth of Jesus, the messianic king, precipitates a conflict with the kingship already present in this world.
It is not merely with the historical Herod with whom Matthew is concerned, however, but with Herod as a character in the story, who serves as a foil for the kingdom of God. When this Herod hears of the birth of the new king, he is “troubled”. Matthew is not describing Herod’s psychology but the clash of two claims to kingship that occurs in the advent of Jesus. Herod represents the resistance of this world to the divine kingship represented by Jesus. When “all Jerusalem” is troubled with him, this is not mere sympathy with or fear of Herod. Matthew is again looking ahead to the passion story and implicating Judaism’s capital city as a whole, not only its king, in the rejection of Jesus’ messianic claim.
When Herod asks the magi the chronological question “When?” to determine the time of Jesus’ birth, he acts hypocritically, claiming that he too wants to worship, but with murder in his heart.
Herod’s slaughter of the innocents is in character with the historical Herod the Great, who was ruthless in maintaining his grasp on power. There is no record of such an act among the detailed records of Herod’s numerous atrocities, nor is it reflected elsewhere in or out of the New Testament. The story seems to be part of Matthew’s Moses typology, with Herod cast in the role of Pharaoh.
Matthew does not sentimentalize the tragedy of the innocent victims or speculate on how the other mothers and fathers of Bethlehem might have interpreted the divine decision to warn one family. His attention is fixed on this event as a fulfillment of Scripture. Matthew does alter his usual formula in such citations of Scripture from his usual “in order that”, and thus avoids saying that the murders happened for the purpose of fulfilling Scripture.
Matthew’s third formula quotation in 2:18-19 is from Jer 31:15. In the New Testament only Matthew explicitly mentions Jeremiah. Jeremiah 31:15 pictures Rachel, matriarch of the tribes of Benjamin and Ephraim (but not of Judah) weeping at Ramah for her “children,” the Israelites, as they are led away captive to Babylon in Jeremiah’s time. Ramah (in the area of Benjamin, five miles north of Jerusalem) was chosen by Jeremiah because one tradition locates Rachel’s tomb there, at the site where Nebuchadnezzar’s troops assembled captives for deportation (Jer 40:1). Another tradition locates Rachel’s tomb at Bethlehem. Matthew combines these traditions to achieve the desired effect. The Jeremiah passage is in a context of hope; it is not clear whether Matthew interprets contextually or whether lamentation is the only note to be heard in this text. In any case, the child Jesus recapitulates the experience of Israel.
Like in Matthew’s day so in ours the war between the two kingdoms continues. Those who regard power as absolute will continue to massacre the innocent. They will continue to destroy others for selfish means. Our response has to be one of courage and hope. Though some will have to suffer because of the selfishness and egoism of a few, there are many more who live unselfish lives for the benefit of others. If each of us were to perform one unselfish act every day, the world becomes a better place for all.
Sunday 26 December 2021
What the beloved disciple believed, is the evidence of the empty tomb: not merely that the tomb was empty, but that its emptiness bore witness that Jesus has conquered death and restored life.
Monday, December 27, 2021 - St. John, Evangelist and Apostle - St. John proclaimed Jesus by writing a Gospel. How will you proclaim Jesus today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 1:1-4; Jn 20:2-8
Saint John whose feast we celebrate today is in the Gospels the brother of James. The brothers were sons of Zebedee and were fishermen. John along with his brother James and Peter were the trio who accompanied Jesus when he raised Jairus' daughter and also on the mountain at the Transfiguration and in Gethsemane.
The Beloved disciple who is a character only in the Gospel of John has often been associated with the disciple and evangelist John.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast is from the Gospel of John and in which the beloved disciple figures. The text speaks about the intuition and faith of the Beloved disciple. On being told by Mary Magdalene that the Tomb in which Jesus lay was empty, he along with Peter ran to the tomb. The beloved disciple saw and believed. He needed no proof. The empty tomb and the words of Jesus before his death were proof enough for him.
What the beloved disciple believed, is the evidence of the empty tomb: not merely that the tomb was empty, but that its emptiness bore witness that Jesus has conquered death and restored life.
Saturday 25 December 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; Col3:12-21; Lk 2:22-40
The feast of the Holy Family is celebrated every year on first Sunday after Christmas. It is appropriate that such be the case, because for centuries Christmas has been regarded as a family feast. Not only do members of a family get together to celebrate the feast, but the themes of Christmas like the birth of a child, naming of the child, gathering together as a family to celebrate this event, all lend themselves to reflection on the meaning of family.
That family life, under threat today, does not need any kind of in depth analysis. ‘Single parent families,’ unwed mothers, the rampant rate of divorce, are all testimony to this fact. What can the feast of the Holy Family mean in the face of this threat? The readings of today offer a response.
The author of the letter to the Colossians begins by giving the foundations of a good marriage. In a word this may be summarized as “adjustment”. The Colossian Christians are called to adjust with one another in any and all circumstances. To adjust means first of all to have the ability to let go off one’s ego. As long as one holds on to one’s point of view there can be no adjustment and so what is required is an openness and receptivity to accept that one can be wrong, that one does not know everything about everything and that there is lot that is unknown. Secondly to adjust means to be flexible. Rigidity of any kind is a hindrance. There is not just one hand; there is also the other hand. This leads to the third meaning of what it means to adjust: forgiveness. Any community in which forgiveness is not an integral part will be a superficial one. And what is required for sustaining community is likely to be more than a single act of forgiveness; rather, the lives of the people in that community will be characterized by the continuing practices of forgiveness that draw their resources from the forgiveness already enacted by Christ and especially on the Cross. If one realizes that one is forgiven completely by God for any and all wrongs that one has committed then it is easier to forgive others. Encompassing all of these is the reality of love. Love it is which binds everything together and while there are numerous definitions of love, it seems to me that a good way of understanding love is to realize that in love there is no “I”. The other is always more important than self. The other is always placed before self. True and genuine love is not barter exchange but unconditional.
To be sure, the exhortation to wives to be submissive to their husbands in the second part of the text might be misunderstood as servility. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a marriage both the husband and wife are equal partners. There can be no higher and lower rank. There can be no greater and lesser. What there is in fact is complementarity. Males and females need each other to complete the other. If this is understood by both partners half the journey has already been completed.
It is also important to note the role of children and the relationship of children which all three readings speak about. In the first reading from Sirach, the focus is on instructions to children to show honour to their parents. However, in the second reading while children are asked to respect their parents, parents are also asked not to provoke their children. In this context, the words of the famous Christian writer and poet Khalil Gibran take on a depth of meaning. He says to parents that the children who come through them are really life’s longing for itself. Thus they do not really “belong” to their parents but to life which “goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday”. Children “dwell in the house of tomorrow” and so parents have to be like flexible bows that are willing to be bent so that their children like arrows “may go swift and far”. Parents have to learn to grow with their children and keep in touch with all the changes that are taking place around them. They need to learn to be relevant and if they cannot be then to be understanding and accommodating.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast of today consists of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the purification of Mary and the Song of Simeon.
According to Jewish law a woman became ceremonially unclean on the birth of a child. During this time, she was not permitted to enter the Temple or touch any holy object. On the eighth day the child was circumcised, after which the mother was unclean for an additional thirty-three days—sixty-six if the child was female. At the conclusion of this period, the mother offered a sacrifice, either a lamb or, if she was poor, two doves or two young pigeons. That Luke does not mention a lamb but refers to two turtledoves or pigeons may indicate that Jesus was born to the poor of Israel. In addition, the first son was to be presented to the Lord as a reminder of the Exodus, and then, bought back with an offering. Luke does not mention that Jesus was redeemed either because he was not aware of this requirement or because he wanted to convey that Jesus was constantly devoted or dedicated to the Lord. In this part Luke emphasizes that the law of the Lord was fulfilled in all respects at the birth of Jesus.
Simeon is introduced immediately after the presentation of Jesus and the purification of Mary. He too like Zechariah and Elizabeth is described as “righteous”. He is also “devout”. He looked forward to the restoration of the people and the fulfilment of God’s redemptive work. The Spirit, who had revealed to him that he would not see death until he saw the anointed one of God, is the same Spirit who rests on him and gives him utterance to speak.
His hymn of praise of God is known as the “Nunc Dimittis” (“Now Dismiss”). It is only loosely related to the occasion of the birth of Jesus. It declares the praise of God for faithfulness and the redemption of the people. Though some interpret “now you are dismissing your servant in peace” to mean that Simeon was now prepared to die, it can also mean that he recognizes that he is being released from his mission to watch for the coming of the Messiah because he has now seen the coming of the one who will bring salvation. His blessing relates the birth of Jesus to the fulfilment of the promise of salvation and looks ahead to the inclusion of all peoples in the experience of the blessings of God. Even as the parents of Jesus wonder at what is being said by Simeon, he blesses them and then addresses Mary, the mother of Jesus. He speaks about the coming rejection of Jesus. Not everyone will want to see the light, not everyone will want to receive the salvation by God for all peoples. Not everyone will recognize God coming in Jesus. Jesus will be rejected and treated as someone to be opposed. Even his mother will have to share in his sufferings.
Jesus came not to make us comfortable but to wake us up from our sleep and this is what Simeon had prophesied. He came to challenge our way of looking at the world. This challenge is not easy to accept because it means that many of our preconceived ideas and notions will have to be given up and we will have to start anew. It is easier and more comfortable to live the selfish and self-centred lives that we are used to rather than be concerned about others. It is easier to be caught up in our own small worlds, rather than get out of our wells and see that life is much more than simply having more.
Friday 24 December 2021
Christmas is not only the birth of Jesus, it is also the birth of HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE. No matter what faith you belong to or even if you have no faith or have lost faith, Christmas is Universal.
It brings HOPE in a world which is losing hope, PEACE in a world which is in tatters, JOY in a world in which is sorrowful and for LOVE in a world which is frightened and has forgotten how to love.
May the Christ child born in our world be born also in your hearts.
May Mary and Joseph who dared to say “Let it be done to us according to YOUR will” obtain for us all that same grace
Saturday, December 25, 2021 - Christmas in the time of COVID-19 - A Scriptural Reflection on Matthew’s Infancy Narrative
Can we celebrate the feast of Christmas this year in the midst of this pandemic and the scourge of COVID-19?
If our idea of celebration is restricted to participating physically as a community at the Eucharist or meeting together as a large family for a festive lunch or dinner, or if our celebrations are merely enjoying the delicacies that have been part of our celebrations in the past, then we most definitely cannot. This is because it is unlikely that in many parts of the world, large groups will be allowed to gather together. Besides, this type of celebration will be an abuse to the millions of people all over the world who have been made redundant and so have no source of income, and to the millions, who because of the pandemic have been reduced to a state of nothingness. We are all in the same storm, but there are millions who even in this storm are in wobbly rafts, and without even a paddle. When this is the reality of our world, we cannot and must not celebrate as we usually did. Our external celebrations must be muted, muffled and hushed much like the millions of the poor, the marginalized and the downtrodden.
Even as this is so, it does not mean that we cannot celebrate in a totally different way. We can, we must and we will. We will celebrate with the poorest of the poor. Our celebrations will be such that it will offer them hope in their hopelessness, joy in their misery, hope in their despair and love in their fear. We will do this because this is what Christmas is. It is the birth of hope, the birth of love and the prototype of selflessness and self-giving. It is the birth of God.
Two of the four canonical Gospels (Matthew and Luke) have stories of the birth of Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, the annunciation of the birth of Jesus is to Joseph in a series of dreams, in Luke it is to Mary. The Gospel of John has a prologue which is in many ways akin to an Infancy Narrative.
In what follows we will go through the Infancy Narrative of Matthew, and try to relate it to our present times and especially this time of the pandemic and the scourge of COVID-19.
In the Gospel of Matthew, the story of the birth of Jesus is narrated through three dreams of Joseph (Mt 1:18-25; 2:13-15; 2:19-23). However, after the first and second each, there is an episode, through which Matthew makes his narrative richer (Mt 2:1-12; 16-18).
1. The First dream of Joseph (1:18-25): At the end of his genealogy, Matthew had changed the narrative by stating that unlike the others in the genealogy who were the fathers of their sons, Joseph was not the father of Jesus. Rather, Joseph was the husband of Mary who gave birth to Jesus. In the first dream, Matthew tells us how this was so. Here, Joseph is told that his betrothed is with child which is not his, but through the intervention of God.
There are many points in these verses which we can relate to our present situation. The first of these is the confusion of Joseph when the angel tells him that he must take his fiancée Mary as his wife though she is with child. Joseph had made up his mind before the dream, to divorce Mary. This could be either because he suspected her of adultery or because he did not want to marry a woman who had been set aside by God for a special purpose.
Like Joseph we too are confused with the present situation of the pandemic. We can make no sense of it whatever. The varied explanations that have been with regard to the origin, spread, control, and precautions that must be taken, are changing with each passing day. Like Joseph, we too want to decide what is best for us. However, even as we make up our minds to do, so, the voice of God speaks to us of God’s saving help. We, like Joseph, are called to believe that “all” that is happening is ordained by God and that God is still and always in control.
Another point in these verses is the explanation of the angel, which is not logical or reasonable. We too can find no logical or reasonable explanation to this scourge. All that we have are unfounded theories and baseless allegations. Joseph’s openness allowed him to believe. Our openness must also lead us to believe.
Still another is that it is in the same announcement that the name of the child and the meaning of that name are revealed. The child to be born will be named Jesus which means ‘Saviour.’ The name Jesus is significant. Jesus was a fairly common name. Thus, by the choice of this name, God shows that God’s son will be ‘common’ and in doing so identify totally with us as humans. Our God in Jesus is not condemner or destroyer, but one who will save. This alone ought to cause for joy, hope and optimism.
Finally, Matthew shows by using the universalizing “all” that it is God who ordains everything that takes place. This Saviour will continue to be present as Emmanuel.
The extension of the name to Emmanuel means that God continues to be an integral part of the world. We can seek and find God here in the midst of this trial and challenge. We must.
2. The search of the Magi: (2:1-12): Matthew contrasts the assiduous search of the Magi with the negative reaction of Herod and his cohorts. The latter, because of their selfish desire for power and the fear that accompanies it, reject the child. The Magi, who seek sincerely, find the King. The finding of Jesus by the Magi indicates that Jesus as King and Saviour, is not restricted to a specific group of people. He is available to anyone and everyone who genuinely seeks him. That the Magi return to their country by another road might be because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. However, it can also mean that because they encountered the king, their lives could not be the same again.
In our present situation, it is not easy for us to find God. We search but cannot find. We look for stars that will lead the way, but they do not seem to shine in the night sky. At times therefore, we are tempted to give up. However, like the Magi, we need to keep searching and seeking assiduously. If we overcome our selfish desires and are consequently fearless in our search, we will indeed find. God will reveal God’s will to us. Once we find God in these troubled times, our lives too will take on a new meaning.
3. The second dream of Joseph (2:13-15): Matthew summarises here, the whole Exodus story. Like God was with Israel as it went from bondage to liberation, so here, God continues to be with God’s Messiah. God’s plans cannot and will not go awry. Though there will be people in power like Herod, who will attempt to thwart God’s plans for the whole human race, their attempts will fail.
4. The ruthlessness of Herod fueled by his selfishness (2:16-17): That Herod would kill those who were a threat to his egotism and desire to remain in power is believable, even if he perceived the threat as coming from a child. However, through his quotation from Jeremiah, Matthew expresses confidence that even in this seeming disastrous happening of the massacre of children, God will bring hope, joy and deliverance.
Even in this pandemic, there have been many people in positions of power who have taken advantage of their positions. Reports of Governments reacting violently to a difference of opinion, incarcerating without evidence, those who are on the side of truth and justice are too many to be enumerated. Governments using force and draconian laws to stifle the voices of prophets are commonplace. Children and youth being raped, murdered and burnt is an everyday occurrence. The situation today seems worse than at the time of Jesus. It almost seems hopeless.
In these times, the poor and marginalized have been trampled upon more than they otherwise are. Those who do so, use the pandemic as their excuse. The prophecy of Jeremiah of Rachel’s voice wailing and lamenting loudly in Ramah is apt for the present situation. Though Rachel refuses to be consoled, the following verses in Jeremiah (Jer 31:16-17) speak of hope. It is God who offers this hope and God’s hope is not deceptive. We need to continue to raise our voices in protest at the injustices and wail and lament loudly till our voices are heard. They will be like Rachel’s voice was.
5. The third dream of Joseph (2:19-23): Though there was nothing in scripture which spoke of the Messiah coming from Nazareth, the Messiah does indeed come from there. The choice of Nazareth as the place where Jesus the Messiah would come from, is to show that even our best laid plans or the sure facts that we think we have, come to naught in front of God. God works in amazing ways. God works even when we cannot see God working. God works for our good, even when we cannot see that good immediately.
The pandemic has shown us that all our advancement in science leaves much to be desired. It reveals that a dead virus can hold the whole world to ransom. It exposes our shallow knowledge and with it our shallow lives. It tells that because of the individualistic manner in which we have lived till now, we are in this predicament. It invites us to realise not only our dependence on each other and on nature, but more importantly our interdependence. It invites us to believe that despite all that we do to frustrate God’s plans for us and our world, God will continue to come to us in the hope that we will open our eyes and see, that we will open our ears and listen and that we will open our hearts and love unconditionally, just as God loves us.
This unconditional love of God was manifested in the most tangible manner when Jesus was born. We celebrate God’s earnest care for us and our world, by responding with the same earnestness that God shows.
Practical ways in which Christmas may be celebrated this year:
1. Make a resolution to spend only a quarter of your regular expenses on Christmas. This will help your personal and family celebrations to be muted and subdued and in keeping with the mood in the world. The balance three quarters can be donated in a variety of ways.
2. Donate masks, soaps (avoid sanitizers because they are more hype and expensive than effective) gloves to health care workers directly or through a religious or other charitable organization that has a proven track record.
3. Prepare hampers of foodstuffs like rice, dal, pulses, oil, salt, sugar and distribute these to the families of daily wage earners and the poor irrespective of caste or creed. If one is afraid of going out in public, one can do this through a charitable organization which will come to your doorstep to pick these hampers.
4. Youth groups can organize to go to the homes of senior citizens living by themselves and offer to help by cleaning the homes, buying groceries, giving a hair-cut, trimming nails and other allied works.
5. Professional counsellors may offer counselling services free of charge for at least a period of time. Business persons and those who have begun creative start-ups can offer online or other jobs to the unemployed.
Thursday 23 December 2021
Friday, December 24, 2021 - Does fear still rule the larger majority of your actions? What will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 7:1-5, 8-12.14.16; Lk1:67-79
Zechariah’s song, which is traditionally called “The Benedictus” (Blessed), is the text which the Church reads on the day before Christmas. It may be seen to be divided into two parts. The first part praises God for his messianic deliverance and the second speaks of John the Baptist’s role in this deliverance. The progression of thought in the Benedictus shows that the true end of God’s redemption is not merely deliverance from political domination, but the creation of conditions in which God’s people can worship and serve God without fear. When people are released from external domination, they can worship in peace. The people of God are a covenant people, saved and rescued by the hand of God. God has thereby fulfilled the promises to Abraham and to David. Holiness and righteousness are to mark God’s people “all the days of our life”. The hymn comes to a climax as it describes the place of John in God’s redemptive work. John’s birth announced God’s new deliverance. John would be a prophet who would go before the Lord. Four infinitives outline the progress of God’s redemptive work. The first two describe the role of John the Baptist. The last two allude to the inauguration of the kingdom, “when the day shall dawn upon us from on high”.
The mark of the redeemed is that they live out of the knowledge of God that has been given to them. Darkness is dispelled by the revelation of God’s being and God’s grace toward us. Finally, through John’s call for justice and righteousness, and far more through Jesus’ unique ministry, God would “guide our feet into the way of peace”.
The Benedictus links the promise of salvation and redemption inseparably to the achievement of peace. God’s people cannot have redemption without peace, for each is necessary for the realization of the other. It affirms that God’s purposes are being fulfilled in the delivering of his people from the hands of their oppressors. Their feet are being guided in the way of peace so that they may worship without fear.
Wednesday 22 December 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Mal 3:1-4, 23-24; Lk 1:57-66
Two days before the birth of the Messiah, the Church invites us to reflect on the birth, naming, and circumcision of his precursor or forerunner, John the Baptist.
Luke does not give us too many details about the birth of John, and he narrates it with a short sentence. He focuses more on the events that follow the birth and, through them, show that God’s word spoken through the angel, Gabriel, is being fulfilled. Elizabeth does bear a son and the people rejoice at the birth because of the great mercy shown by God.
Circumcision of the child on the eight day was in accord with Gen 17:9-14 where God makes circumcision on the eight day a sign of the covenant with Abraham. It was the father who normally named the child and, in doing so, recognized the child as his own. Sometimes, the child was named after the father, especially if the father was a person who was highly esteemed. Objections were raised to the name “John” (“God had been gracious”), chosen by Elizabeth. That the people made signs to Zechariah to ask him what he wanted to name the child indicates that, besides being dumb, he was also deaf. The moment Zechariah writes the name “John” on a writing tablet, Zechariah regains his speech. Once again, God’s word comes to pass. The fear and amazement with which the people respond to these happenings is an indication that they experienced God’s awesome power. The question that the people ask, about what the child would turn out to be, is answered in summary form by Luke when he ends this narrative by stating that “the hand of the Lord was with him.”
God’s word is a word of power and will come to pass, no matter how many obstacles we may put in its way. It is a word that enhances and builds up, a word that gives life. To be sure, we may not always be able to understand and accept it for what it is, but in the final analysis, it is always a word that is for our good and for his glory.
Tuesday 21 December 2021
Wednesday, December 22, 2021 - What image do you have of God? Does your image lead you to have confidence in God? How does this show in your life?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Sam 1:24-28; Lk 1:46-56
The verses which make up the Gospel text of today are commonly known as “The Magnificat” or Mary’s hymn of praise. It seems to have been modeled on the prayer of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, in 1 Sam 2:1-10 and contains many Old Testament concepts and phrases. It communicates a picture of Mary as someone quite steeped in scripture. It reveals God primarily as a God of the poor. God is the one who will vindicate the poor by removing the rich and mighty from their positions and raising the lowly.
The hymn may be seen to be divided into four parts. The first part consists of praise to God for what he has done in and for Mary; the second part speaks of God’s power, holiness and mercy; the third part shows God acting as a Sovereign in reversing social conditions in favor of the poor and downtrodden; and the fourth and final part recalls God’s mercy and promises to Israel.
The hymn speaks of the effects of the Lord’s coming for all of God’s people. It begins on a note of salvation as Mary acknowledges her dependence on God. It was the grace of God that sustained and brought her to the position in which she finds herself. She has not achieved anything on her own, it is all a gift of God and thus, Mary acknowledges her humble state, referring to herself as God’s servant. She is to be called “blessed’ because God, in his mercy and goodness, had raised her to this level.
God has shown this mercy and goodness to the poor by showing the strength of his arm, by scattering the proud, and deposing the powerful. The poor, on the other hand, have been raised, and the hungry have been filled. God remembers not only those of old but also the present generation. He is a God not only of the past, but also a God of the present, the now.
Monday 20 December 2021
Tuesday, December 21, 2021 - Are you generally a happy person, or do you go about life as if the burden of the whole world is on your shoulders? Will you give up that burden today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Song 2:8-14; Lk 1:39-45
The text of today, which concerns Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, is also the scriptural basis for the second Joyful mystery of the Rosary.
Since the angel does not ask Mary to visit Elizabeth, or even suggest it, the alacrity with which Mary goes to visit Elizabeth expresses clearly that Mary trusted the angel’s word. Mary’s greeting of Elizabeth results in a sign which is that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. This could also indicate that the announcement of the angel to Zechariah that their child would be filled with the Holy Spirit is being fulfilled. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth is also able to utter an oracle which seems to have as its source, the Spirit of God. She recognizes Mary and the child in her womb as blessed. Not only has Elizabeth been blessed, because God answered her prayer for the gift of a child, she has also been blessed by a visit from the one who is called to be the mother of her Lord. The leap of the babe in Elizabeth’s womb was a leap of joy. John has already begun to fulfill his calling as one who would declare the Lord’s coming and prepare the way for him. Mary is blessed because she dared to believe in God’s word.
When joy or happiness is shared it is doubled; when sorrow or sadness is shared it is halved. The joy of Elizabeth and Mary on their respective vocations is shared by the other and hence, both experience a doubling of their joy. This joy is experienced by even the child in Elizabeth’s womb, because it is a genuine joy felt by its mother.
Life is too short to cry or be sad. Life is too short not to be happy or not to share in the joy of others.
Sunday 19 December 2021
Monday, December 20, 2021 - Will you say YES to all that God wants to do through you today even when you fully cannot understand why?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 7:10-14; Lk 1:26-38
The text of today’s Gospel relates a scene immediately after the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist and contains the announcement of the birth of Jesus. There are many similarities in the annunciations to Mary and to Zechariah. The angel Gabriel is the one who makes both announcements. Both Zechariah and Mary are called by name and exhorted not to be afraid. Both ask a question of the angel, and it is the angel who tells them what name each child is to be given. It is the angel who predicts what each child will turn out to be. However, even as there are similarities, there are differences in the narratives. While the announcement to Zechariah comes in the Temple and as a result of his fervent prayer, the announcement to Mary comes (apparently) when she is in her home and it is unanticipated. While Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are advanced in age, Mary has not yet stayed with her husband, and so is a virgin. The birth of John to parents who are past the age of child bearing is a miracle, but even greater is the miracle of the birth of Jesus, who would be born through the Holy Spirit, and to a virgin. Even as John the Baptist goes with the spirit and power of Elijah, Jesus will be called “Son of God”. Luke clearly wants to show John as great, but only the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus, who is greater.
Here, too, like in the case of the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist, God intervenes in human history. Mary though betrothed or engaged to Joseph, who was of David’s family, had not yet lived with him. This she would do only after marriage, which would be one year after the betrothal. The angel greets Mary as the recipient of God’s grace. She has opened herself to the promptings of God’s Spirit. While Zechariah was gripped with fear at the very appearance of the angel, in the case of Mary, it is the angel’s greeting that perplexed her. The angel reassures Mary and makes the announcement, not only of Jesus’ birth, but of who he will be and all that he will accomplish.
In response to this announcement Mary, like Zechariah, asks a question. While both questions seem similar, it is clear that Zechariah’s question expressed doubt and asked for a sign, as is evident in the angel’s words before Zechariah is struck dumb. Mary’s question, on the other hand, is a question asked in faith. Mary did not question the truth of the revelation like Zechariah did. She asked only for enlightenment on how God would accomplish this wonderful deed. This will be accomplished in Mary through the work of God’s spirit. This is why the child will be called holy. Luke probably also intends to convey here that it is not merit on Mary’s part that obtained for her what she received, but God’s generous gift in the Spirit.
The evidence that what the angel has announced will indeed take place is the pregnancy of Elizabeth, for nothing is impossible for God. Mary responds, not merely with a Yes, but by asking that the Lord work in her to accomplish all that he wants. The annunciation would not have been complete without Mary’s trusting, obedient response.
Today, many assume that those whom God favors will enjoy the things we equate with a good life: social standing, wealth, and good health. Yet Mary, God’s favored one, was blessed with having a child out of wedlock who would later be executed as a criminal. Acceptability, prosperity, and comfort have never been the essence of God’s blessing. The story is so familiar that we let its familiarity mask its scandal. Mary had been chosen, “favored,” to have an important part in God’s plan to bring salvation to God’s people, but it is unthinkable that God would have forced Mary to have the child against her will. Mary is an important example, therefore, of one who is obedient to God even at great risk to self.
When we think of or reflect on Mary, the one word that comes to mind to describe her whole life is the word, AMEN, a word which may be translated, “so be it”, “your will be done”, “do whatever you want to do in my life”. This was, indeed, Mary’s constant response to every situation in her life, especially when she could not understand why things were happening the way they were. The text of today is, then, a call and challenge to each one of us, that we, too, like Mary, might be able to say YES to all that God wants to do in our lives. It is a challenge to be open and receptive to the Spirit of God, so that we, too, might be able to give birth to the Savior in our hearts.
Saturday 18 December 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Mic 5:1-4; Heb 10:5-10; Lk 1:39-44
The visitation of Blessed Virgin Mary is often interpreted as Mary’s concern for Elizabeth. Mary had heard from the angel that Elizabeth was in her six month and so rushes to her aid. This is true but only at the very superficial level. If this were the only point, then it would seem strange that Mary who rushed to Elizabeth’s aid would leave after three months of her arrival there i.e. soon after Elizabeth’s delivery of John – a time when she should really get all the help that she would need. Thus Luke makes a deeper point when he narrates the incidents of the visitation. It is that Mary was so full of the ‘good news’ that she could not contain it within herself but had to share it. It was ‘good news’ not only for her but for the whole world.
This good news is what Micah speaks about in the first reading of today. The ruler of Israel is struck upon the cheek with a rod, things seem to be totally out of control and there is a feeling of being closed in all sides and defeat is staring us in the face. Yet, there shall come forth one who is to rule and take control over the most distressing situation. This movement from suffering to hope reminds us that God is at work to see that our individual life-pilgrimage will move in the same direction. Micah’s words repeat again and again the liberating intention of God not to let people remain trapped in their experience of exile. It is important to note that these hopeful words from Micah do not belittle the reality of suffering. Pain is taken seriously and is part of the human condition. However, the point is that even in the midst of pain there is hope. God is working to make all things well. The mention of both Bethlehem and Ephrathah makes a double connection with David, including both geographic location and family identification. The small size of Bethlehem, which is one of the little clans of Judah, is of no consequence to God, When God is about to do something great, human estimates of status, size, power, and influence are completely irrelevant. In fact, God often deliberately chooses someone whom we would probably dismiss as the most unlikely candidate for carrying out God’s mission.
This is evident in the choice of Mary chosen by God to bring Jesus into the world. She was from Nazareth, an obscure village, from which the Messiah was not expected. She was a simple village girl. Yet, it was she who was chosen, to be part of the earth shattering event that would change the course of history forever. The Incarnation occurred within a very real world, a limited world, a broken world, a world that was very much in need of healing.
Mary’s visit to Elizabeth was done in haste or urgency. Mary wanted to share such wonderful news. Elizabeth responds to Mary’s visit with four oracles. The first declares the blessedness of Mary. Elizabeth recognizes that Mary is blessed by God because of her openness and generosity. The second oracle discloses the identity of the child in Mary’s womb. The child is indeed the Lord. The third explains the leap that the child in Elizabeth’s womb gives. It is a leap of joy. Even in the womb of his mother, John the Baptist begins his role as the precursor or pointer to Jesus. The fourth and final oracle speaks of unconditional faith and trust. It speaks of the courage to believe even when things are in the future. It speaks of total confidence in God’s word, knowing fully well that even if all evidence seems to point to the contrary, God will fulfill what is promised. This is the confidence of Mary. It is the confidence with which she dared not merely to say Yes to God but to add that it be done to her according to God’s will. This was because she knew that what God could do in her would be infinitely greater than when she could ever do, even with God’s help. This attitude of Mary resulted in her womb becoming the location in which the greatest of all events would take place. Her womb became the place in which all expectations would be exceeded. Her womb became that place in which not merely would a ruler be born, but in which the king of all kings would take residence. Her womb became God’s first home on earth.
The letter to the Hebrews confirms Mary’s disposition and attitude when it speaks about the disposition and attitude of Jesus. His focus was to do God’s will and to let it be done to him. Like Mary, Jesus too knew that what God could accomplish in him would be infinitely greater than anything else.
As we stand at the threshold of Christmas, we are invited to adopt the attitude of Mary. It is true that even today things are not as they ought to be. It is true that injustice, prejudice, disharmony, intolerance and fanaticism still raise their ugly heads. It is true that the poor are becoming poorer today than they were some years ago and the rich have only gotten richer and often at the expense of the poor. Like Mary we are challenged to believe that if we let it be done to us, Christ will be born in our minds and hearts and the vision of Micah for a just world will be fulfilled because our God lives in our world.
Friday 17 December 2021
Saturday, December 18, 2021 - When in a dilemma do you usually do the right thing or the loving thing? Would your life have been any different if Jesus had not been born?
To read the texts click on the texts: Jer 23:5-8; Mt 1:18-24
This text, which appears immediately after the genealogy of Jesus, and is the Gospel text for today, narrates the story of his birth. Since Mary and Joseph were engaged, they were legally considered husband and wife. Thus, infidelity in this case would also be considered adultery. Their union could only be dissolved by divorce or death. Though Joseph is righteous or just, he decides not to go by the letter of the law and publicly disgrace Mary, but he chooses a quieter way of divorcing her. God, however, has other plans for both Joseph and Mary and intervenes in a dream. Joseph is addressed by the angel as “Son of David” reiterating, once again after the genealogy, the Davidic origin of Jesus. He is asked to take Mary as his wife and also informed that is the Spirit’s action that is responsible for her pregnancy. He is told that he is to give the child the name “Jesus". Jesus (Iesous) is the Greek form of "Joshua" which, whether in the long form yehosua, ("Yahweh is salvation") or in one of the short forms, yesua, ("Yahweh saves”), identifies the son, in the womb of Mary, as the one who brings God’s promised eschatological salvation. The angel explains what the name means by referring to Ps 130:8. The name “Jesus” was a popular and common name in the first century. By the choice of such a name, Matthew shows that the Savior receives a common human name, a sign that unites him with the human beings of this world rather than separating him from them.
Matthew then inserts into the text the first of ten formula or fulfillment quotations that are found in his Gospel. This means that Matthew quotes a text from the Old Testament to show that it was fulfilled in the life and mission of Jesus. Here, the text is from Isa 7:14 which, in its original context, referred to the promise that Judah would be delivered from the threat of the Syro-Ephraimitic War before the child of a young woman, who was already pregnant, would reach the age of moral discernment. The child would be given a symbolic name, a short Hebrew sentence “God is with us” (Emmanu‘el) corresponding to other symbolic names in the Isaiah story. Though this text was directed to Isaiah’s time, Matthew understands it as text about Jesus, and fulfilled perfectly in him, here in his birth and naming.
This birth narrative of Matthew invites us to reflect on a number of points. Of these, two are significant. First, many of us are often caught in the dilemma of doing the right thing which might not always be the loving thing. If we follow only the letter of the law, we may be doing the right thing but not the most loving thing. However, if we focus every time on the most loving thing, like Joseph, it is surely also the right thing. Though Joseph could have done the right thing and shamed Mary by publicly divorcing her, he decides to go beyond the letter of the law and do the loving thing, which in his case was also the right thing.
Second, the story also shows us who our God is. Our God is God with us. Our God is one who always takes the initiative, who always invites, and who always wants all of humanity to draw closer to him and to each other. This God does not come in power, might, and glory, but as a helpless child. As a child, God is vulnerable. He is fully human and in his humanity, is subject to all the limitations that humanity imposes on us. Yet, he will do even that, if only humans respond to the unconditional love that he shows.
Thursday 16 December 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 49:2,8-10; Mt 1:1-17
The Gospel of Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus. One important reason he begins this way is because it is theologically important to him to begin by referring to Jesus as the son of David and the son of Abraham. Jesus is, for Matthew, the Messiah who has descended from David, as foretold by the scriptures. Another reason why Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus is to show that God continues to act in human history, and that he acts now, in a decisive way, in the sending of his Son. God is not simply a God in the heavens, but a God who is Emmanuel, God with us.
Matthew’s genealogy consists of three parts. The first, which begins with Abraham, ends with the Davidic kingship. The second begins with David and ends with the deportation or exile to Babylon. The third begins with the exile and ends with the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Matthew calls attention to the number fourteen at the end of the genealogy and, though a variety of suggestions have been offered as to why he chose fourteen, the simplest explanation is that the numerical value of “David” in Hebrew (DWD) is fourteen (d, 4; w, 6; d, 4). By this symbolism, Matthew points out that the promised "son of David" (1:1), the Messiah, has come. And, if the third set of fourteen is short one member (to solve this problem some count Jechoniah twice), perhaps it suggests that, just as God cuts short the time of distress for the sake of his elect, so also he mercifully shortens the period from the Exile to Jesus, the Messiah.
Unlike Luke’s genealogy, which does not name a single woman, Matthew’s genealogy mentions four women besides Mary. These are Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, and Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Several reasons have been offered as to why Matthew mentioned these four women. Three of these reasons are widely accepted today: (a) there was something extraordinary about their union with their partners; (b) they showed initiative or played an important role in God’s plan and so came to be considered as instruments of God’s providence or of his Holy Spirit; and (c) all four women (except Mary) were Gentiles and Matthew wants to show that in God’s plan of salvation, the Gentiles were included from the beginning.
Through this, Matthew probably wants to show that God wants all to be saved and that he uses the unexpected to triumph over human obstacles and that he intervenes on behalf of his planned Messiah. This combination of scandalous and irregular union, and divine intervention, explains Matthew’s choice of the four women.
What are the points that Matthew makes in his genealogy and what does he want to achieve by it? Matthew clearly wants to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of all Israel’s hopes. The story of Jesus is part of the story of God’s constant saving acts throughout the history of Israel. God involves himself in the nitty-gritty of life. Despite the constant infidelity of Israel, God remained faithful and, in a definitive way, directed its history towards its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Matthew is also interested in affirming that the plan of God has often been fulfilled in history in unanticipated and “irregular” ways, as was the case in the birth of Jesus from Mary, and that Matthew is interested in showing that God worked through irregular, even scandalous ways, and through women who took initiative, like Tamar and Ruth. Yet the main reason for Matthew’s inclusion of these women corresponds to one of the Gospel’s primary themes: the inclusion of the Gentiles in the plan of God from the beginning. All of the men in Jesus’ genealogy are necessarily Jewish. But the four women mentioned, with the exception of Mary, are Gentiles, “outsiders,” or considered to be such in Jewish tradition. Just as the following story shows Jesus to be the fulfillment of both Jewish and Gentile hopes, so also the genealogy shows that the Messiah comes from a Jewish line that already includes Gentiles.
By showing Jesus as descended from David, Matthew wants to explicate that Jesus is the royal heir to the throne. Jesus, however, thorough his life, cross, death and resurrection will redefine the meaning of Kingship as never before.
Finally, Matthew wants to stress that God is active constantly in history and involved in the lives of his people. He works not only miraculously but also ordinarily in human effort, pain, and struggle to bring people to the kingdom.