Commentary on Micah 5:1-4a or Romans 8:28-30; Ps 12; Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23
The Gospel reading is the genealogy of Jesus as given by Matthew at the beginning of his gospel. It is largely an artificial composition divided into three sets of 14 generations – 52 altogether. It begins with Abraham, the Father of God’s people and there follow many names from the biblical account in the Hebrew Testament.
It is a very mixed group of people, including the very good and the not good at all. There are also four women in the list, each of them with a special interest of their own. It represents the very diverse history of loyalty and infidelity which was the story of God’s people. Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, is truly identified with our world. “The Word was made flesh and lived among us” – all of us, the good, the bad and indifferent. Mary, too, was born into this world and, with her Son, and, though, like him, without sin is fully part of it. The ancestry leads down to Joseph, the “husband of Mary”. But it is of Mary that Jesus the Messiah is born.
There is a choice of texts for the First Reading. The first comes from the prophet Micah. He has been speaking against the rulers of Israel who are paying dearly for their sinful ways. In today’s passage he is speaking of the restoration of Israel through a Messiah. Just before today’s passage he speaks against Jerusalem (called Bat-gader) which is under siege by the Assyrians. But in today’s passage he contrasts the powerful ruler of Israel under siege with the tiny city and clan of Bethlehem-Ephrathah, “too small to be among the clans of Judah”.
For, from this tiny, insignificant place will come “the one who is to be the ruler of Israel”. His origins are from of old, from ancient times, from the royal Davidic line.
The Lord will give up these people until the time “when she who is to give birth has borne” – a clear reference to Mary, mother of the Messiah. And that Son with the strength of Yahweh will “stand firm and shepherd his flock”. And “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth, he shall be peace”. The gospels will show how all of these predictions are fulfilled in Jesus. And the birth of the Incarnate Messiah comes through Mary. It is not surprising, then, that we celebrate the birth of such a person in a very special way. And that she herself, in preparation for this, should be blessed with special favours and graces.
The second choice for the First Reading is from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. He speaks of how all are picked out specially by God. “We know that everything works together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” This is an important statement for us to take on board. We see it in Mary’s acceptance of the angel’s invitation, even though she did not fully understand its implication at the time.
Like Mary, all of us have been called to be “conformed to the image of the Son”, so that he becomes the first among many brothers and sisters. Mary, too, of course was, even as Mother, totally conformed to the Way of her Son.
The last words also apply in a special way to Mary: “Those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.”
Mary, from the first moment of her existence, was totally conformed to the will of her Son, and so deserves the special glory which she merited after her death.