When push comes to shove, all of us are going to die one day. I know that’s something that we don’t like thinking about or spending time reflecting on. I think that in the world, there is such a denial that one day, we are going to die.
We are given only a blink of time to live in comparison to the rest of world history. Many have come and gone and their names have been long forgotten. But there was a time where people knew the family that passed before them for generations. The ancient Jews of Jesus’ time were able to trace their family history back to the times of David and of Moses. This is an art that we have lost in modern society.
Your family is what gives you your identity. Sure, you can come out of it, but there is a certain element of (good) pride that should come out of your surname and where you came from.
My aunt loves genealogy. She has spent hours working on developing our family history, even going as far as traveling to our ancestor’s homelands in Europe to learn more. Thanks to her, I am able recite names from several generations before me.
In my aunt’s research, we discovered things that I could never have imagined about the people I am related to, but have never met. We discovered that we have veterans from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, ancestors who helped found New York and ancestors who traveled to America on boats immediately following the Mayflower.
We discovered that we are related to British royalty (I always knew I was a princess!) and my family went back for generations in parts of Germany, Wales, and Greece.
At the beginning of the Gospel Matthew is a genealogy of Christ from Abraham to Jesus. God bless the poor deacon that has to go through those names when we read it in Mass. I’ll admit, sometimes when I read Matthew, I skip that and go straight to the next chapter, which recounts the birth of Jesus.
But actually to look at that section, there are names that we can easily recognize; the patriarchs Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and Judah; the lovers Ruth and Boaz; royalty including David, and Solomon; and of course, Joseph and Mary. Why does Matthew go through this?
Well, throughout the Old Testament, God makes promises that the eventual savior will come from the descendants of Israel, Judah, and the house of David. For Matthew to cite Christ’s genealogy with these names in the list is proof that even in name, he can logically qualify as the one who God promised. Out of these names, Jesus is able to claim is his identity as Emmanuel.
I am so grateful for my aunt’s laborious research into our family history. Out of it, I can have a greater appreciation for who I am and where I come from. Out of it, I understand that I have the same interest in history as my great grandfather, whom I never knew, and I have an unreasonable love for English culture and German food from my family from that area.
A final point: Having these names gives me someone I can pray to for intercession. They are always listening because their flesh is mine too. They’re family and they want the best for me.
I would encourage everyone to try to track where they come from, from a historical perspective. It’s easy to do for free online and the work in the research it is certainly worth it.