THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

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THIRD MONDAY OF ADVENT

SCRIPTURE: MATTHEW 1:1-17

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations.


REFLECTION

Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew accomplishes an incredible feat – tracing the genealogy of Jesus from the Patriarch Abraham all the way to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the Babylonian Exile, fourteen generations from the Exile to the Christ.

I would be misrepresenting my Old Testament acumen by claiming to have perfect (or even passable) comprehension of this Gospel’s full significance. Many of the names, of course, are familiar – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Boaz, Ruth, Jesse, David, Solomon, Amos, and others. But there are plenty of names I hardly recognize, especially as the list draws nearer to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. I have been reflecting on the need to read more Scripture this Advent season, and this passage confirms this need for me! 

This list of men’s and women’s names serves not only as a people’s chronology, but also as an epochal bridge. The full arc of God’s redemptive narrative for humanity is pressed within this passage, linking His covenant with Abraham and Israel all the way to His new covenant with all of mankind. This is, I suppose, why the reading comes to us during Advent – when God arrives once more, “O ancient, beauty ever new,” as St. Augustine put it.

Often, often, often,
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise;
Often, often, often,
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.
— OLD GAELIC POEM

One thing I have tried to focus on this Advent is gratitude for those people around me – the people who have stood by me through all of my ups and downs. For whatever reason, I have always had the tendency to shy away and isolate myself when I am feeling low - whether from my own doing or from outside circumstances. It is exactly in these moments that I feel the “love language” of God at work. 

It will happen like this - just as something goes wrong or gets broken, and as I am ready to abandon hope, abandon another, or abandon myself, that is just when God sends a friend to me. Sometimes a person I love very much will call or text randomly, just to check in with me. Other times a complete stranger will offer words of kindness on the street, or in a coffee shop, or on the Metro. This happens with such regularity that it has become a bit uncanny – to the point where I can almost count on its occurrence! 

This continual pouring-out of kindness, patience, and gentleness from the hearts of others has kept me afloat for my entire adult life, and these warm souls have gifted me the fragments of sunshine that I brandish against grim December days. Like the succession of “strangers” in today’s Gospel, God keeps sending, sending and sending, at times when I am certain I don’t deserve it, but certainly when I am most in need, from a love beyond my understanding.


CONTEMPLATION

  • Who is one “stranger” that has helped you on your Advent journey?

  • What is God’s “love language” with you?

  • What are you praying for most this Advent? How do you think God might respond to your prayers?

  • What habits help you connect your past understanding of God with your present relationship with God?


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Mike McCormick is a graduate of Elon University and a former Augustinian Volunteer. Born in Queens and raised in Staten Island, NY, Mike now resides in Washington, DC, where he is the Outreach Coordinator for the Catholic Volunteer Network.