Matthew’s account of the genealogy of the Lord is unusual for many reasons, but most notable among those reasons, and the reason it was chosen for Mass today is because it contained the name of five women. This might not seem all that amazing to us today, but back in Matthew’s day, genealogies almost never contained the names of women. So Matthew is clearly telling us something important by including their names.
The women mentioned include Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Four of them were women of the Old Testament and the last, of course, cooperated in bringing about the New Testament. Tamar was a childless widow whose brother-in-law, to whom she had been given in marriage after her husband’s death, refused to provide her with offspring. So she had to pretend to be a harlot and seduce Judah in order to have a child. Rahab actually was a harlot in Jericho. She hid and protected the spies of Joshua, so the Israelites protected her when they ambushed Jericho. Ruth was a daughter-in-law who cared so much for her mother-in-law that she accompanied her on a dangerous journey to Israel after her family died. Ruth is known for her devotion. Bathsheba was seduced by King David, who covered up the affair by arranging to have her husband Uriah the Hittite killed in battle. She became the mother of Solomon.
All of these women represent the struggle and the blessing the Israelites had with God and his salvation. Tamar represented the struggle to follow the law and to protect the widows, orphans and aliens as God intended. Rahab represented the giving of the land to the people Israel. Ruth represented the devotion and faithful love of the Lord. Bathsheba represented the struggle with faithfulness, and the blessing of repentance.
And from all of these, we finally come to our Patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the woman whose faith and willingness to cooperate with God’s plan made possible the salvation of all the world. Today we celebrate her Nativity, the traditional date of her birth, exactly nine months having passed since her Immaculate Conception on December 8th.
Every single birth is a sign of hope in our world, and therefore a cause for great celebration. Our world may be in a bad place, plagued by war, terror, and an actual plague, and dark from sin – both societal sin and our own personal sin. But birth brings joy because it is a sign of God’s wanting the world to continue to bring salvation to all people. Mary’s birth in particular stands out prominently among us because of the grace she received from God who chose her to be mother of His Son.
The Byzantine Church Daily Worship proclaims well the joy that we have on this feast of Mary’s birth: “Today the barren Anna claps her hands for joy, the earth radiates with light, kings sing their happiness, priests enjoy every blessing, the entire universe rejoices, for she who is Queen and the Father’s Immaculate Bride buds forth from the stem of Jesse.”
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.