“Justice shall flourish in time, and fullness of peace for ever” – Psalm 72:7

I am in awed at the slow and steady work of God! Two aspects of Matthew’s compilation of the genealogy of Jesus in today’s Gospel amaze me.

First, the serial list has a regular, rhythmic cadence, especially when read out loud: “Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah …” The three series of fourteen generations documents several thousand years of preparation. Moreover, in Jewish numerology, the number fourteen signifies fullness. The birth of Jesus and our salvation are not some jolt or flash that comes out of nowhere, but rather a radical expression of God’s gradual, consistent love that unfolds in due time.

Second, the listing of the five women manifests something unheard of in a Jewish person’s lineage. Moreover, instead of choosing famous matriarchs like Sarah, Rebekeh or Rachel, Matthew highlighted women whose lives were filled with shame and pain: Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute to conceive sons by her father-in-law; Rahab was the prostitute who helped Joshua’s spies bring down the walls of Jericho; Ruth was the foreigner who embraced both the people and the God of Israel; Bathsheba, the “wife of Uriah,” was seduced by David and gave birth to King Solomon. They all bore sons through unions that were in varying degrees strange and unexpected. Thus, they foreshadow the irregular birth of Jesus through Mary, the fifth and final mother in the genealogy.

I am amazed that Jesus entered the world as part of this long, gradual preparation, in a family tree filled with imperfect people, through irregular births. Grace works in human history, through each lineage, bringing it to newness and fulfillment, so that “justice shall flourish in time, and fullness of peace for ever.”

Is there an invitation here to look at our own family history, with its irregularities and imperfections, to encounter a merciful God who is present and works in every human story, slowly, steadily, surprisingly, and decisively? Is there an offer to embrace divine grace laboring through messy human beings, through chaotic political systems, through scandalous upsurges of homeless people in gentrified cities, through the urgent flight of refugees everywhere, especially in Aleppo?

Jesus, help me to trust in your presence and action through my irregular and chaotic human family.