Dear brothers and sisters,
“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,”
Notice how Matthew painstakingly wants us to remember into which particular human family the Messiah was coming from and entering into. The Messiah is of divine origin, God Himself but is fully penetrating a very lowly and pruned down to the roots family: David’s family.
When we sit down to write a book, you know that the opening lines need to grip the attention of readers right away and make them want to go on reading. When we read the opening chapter of Matthew’s gospel, we read of a genealogy and the birth of a baby.
Now, to modern readers, this might not grab our attention at all but to any well read and catechized Jew of Matthew’s time, the opening chapter is very bold and intriguing.
He is claiming that the son of David born of a virgin prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading (Isaiah 7:14) and the eager anticipation of whose coming had become deeply imbedded in the national psyche of the Jews over centuries is actually God himself, fathered by God Himself through the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary.
This is the twist no one really expected. This Son of David is not a direct descendent of David by natural blood line but is the Son of God who has adopted the natural blood line of David through Mary and her marriage to Joseph.
David is not the father whose blood line leads to the Messiah but the Messiah is God who, by entering the womb of the virgin and marrying the virgin to Joseph, adopts David and his cut-to-the roots kingdom as His own.
This is very important for us to know. Matthew tells us so when he opens his gospel this way. Matthew wants us never to forget that our own individual stories and the stories and history of our families, tribes, peoples, nations will only find their true origin, true meaning and true destiny in the story of the Son of Mary and Joseph.
Matthew wants us to know that as long as we do not see ourselves as a real part of the Holy Family, we will remain loosely connected individuals and families and tribes and nations without any real binding power.
Modern technology is wonderful in connecting us virtually online and we get to enjoy images of one another on screens and hear one another’s voices but these connections remain loose and hold no real and intimate binding force, a force that can overcome the sin and death which will always be there to separate us.
Matthew does not shy away from painting honestly the sinful nature of David’s family. Just see how he includes the names of two prostitutes in the genealogy of Jesus Christ and how he names Solomon, not as David’s son but of the wife of Uriah.
For Matthew, we are hopelessly lost in our sins if we do not believe in the Son of Mary, the Son of God, conceived of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the only true bond of love that overcomes sin and death and joins the human family to the Divine. – Fr. Simi.