“Where are you from?” is the title of the first chapter of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives released in 2012. The question pertains to Jesus Christ. But it also concerns us.
As we come out of this holiday season, Jesus of Nazareth offers us a chance to reflect on what has just happened and respond to the question about Jesus’s origin. The first chapter is a question of His genesis and mission as well. It is also a question about our own origin and our own private journey through life.
Who is Jesus? Where is he from? These two questions are linked.
Jesus’ provenance is both known (Jn 6:42) and unknown (Jn 9:29).
In order to explicate Jesus’ origin, Luke and Matthew provide genealogies tracing Jesus’ descent. As Pope Emeritus points out:
“Matthew opens his Gospel with Jesus’ genealogy because he wants to put the question of Jesus’ provenance in the correct light from the very beginning: the genealogy serves as a kind of heading to the entire Gospel. Luke, on the other hand, places Jesus’ genealogy at the beginning of his public ministry, as a kind of public presentation of Jesus, in order to answer the same question with a different emphasis – in anticipation of all that is about to unfold in the rest of Gospel.”
Luke and Matthew’s genealogies indicate Jesus, as Thomas Harmon comments, “in the fulfilment of both the history of Israel and the history of all time through their symbolic structure.”
Matthew’s genealogy is placed at the beginning of the Gospel. He ascends from the roots to the present, “to the top of the tree.” For Matthew, “two names are of key significance if we are to understand Jesus’ provenance: Abraham and David,” as Pope Benedict reminds us. The genealogy ends with a woman: Mary, the virgin from Nazareth, marks a new beginning.
Matthew’s account confirms that God is truly Jesus’s father. Mary’s child does not originate from any man but the baby was conceived through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Jesus comes “from above,” from God himself. At this point, Joseph is the legal father of Jesus and through him, Jesus belongs to the house of David.
Luke’s genealogy is placed at beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. In the Infancy Narratives we read that “Luke descends from Jesus, the “treetop”, down to the roots, in order to show that in the end the ultimate root is found not in the depths but rather in the “heights” — God is there at the beginning of human existence.” “Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” (Lk 3:38).
Luke’s genealogy indicates that humanity starts fresh with Jesus. As Pope Benedict confirms: “Luke’s genealogy is correctly grasped here. Jesus takes upon himself the whole humanity, the whole history of man, and he gives it a decisive re-orientation toward a new manner of human existence.”
Luke agrees with Matthew that Joseph was considered a legal father of Jesus. He says: “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son of Joseph.” (Lk 3:23)
Further, John proposes an answer to the question of Jesus’s provenance. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the World was God … and the Word became flesh and dwelt [pitched his tent] among us.” (Jn 1:1:14). John confirms that Jesus comes from God. He is God. God was first and then he sent forth his son.
As Pope Benedict explicates: “John has recapitulate the deepest meaning of the genealogies, and moreover he has taught us to understand them as an interpretation of our own origin, our true “genealogy.” … So it can now be said of us that our true “genealogy” is faith in Jesus, who gives us a new origin, who brings us to birth “from God.”
A question about Jesus’ origin is the question about being as well as His mission. Jesus’ birth reminds us that He came into the world on a mission. He came to save us from our sins. He also came to give us — you and me — a new start. He created us for a purpose.
We are here on a mission. Do not forget about that. God always sends us our assignment to be fulfilled in our lives. It is a unique task and each of us is the only one who can carry it out. Therefore, listen to Him or wait for His sign. He will find the way to deliver His message for you.
Christmas is a time of new life and renewal as well as second chances for each of us. I wish us all to discover why we were born and what our mission in life is. We can’t change the past. With the grace of the Newborn King, we can always change our present and our future.
Monika Jablonska is an author of "Wind from Heaven: John Paul II, The Poet Who Became Pope." She is a lawyer and a literary scholar living in Washington D.C. Read Monika's Reports — More Here.
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