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The evangelical genealogies,
apparently arid, they reveal a
truth so close: the Son of God became man like us, for us 

of Msgr. Silvano Macchi

CWith this series of articles, which pursue a common theme, Mysteries of the life of Saint Joseph, I propose to go to the root of every tradition, cult, devotion, image of the holy Patriarch, that is, to delve deeper into the testimony of the canonical gospels about him. I'm talking about Mysteries and I mean this word in its original meaning; in fact «mystery» (from the Greek mystery) does not mean "that which is not understood", but rather "that which is revealed and which we never cease to understand". 

The first evangelical text in which Joseph is mentioned is Mt 1, 1-17, that is, the genealogy of Jesus as the true son of Abraham and Joseph. This text is the "terror" of listeners (and also of commentators and preachers). It is actually quite a feat to deal with such a long series of unusual and hermetic names. 

On the other hand, the evangelist does not intend to give a precise list of Jesus' ancestors. His intention is theological, not historicistic. This text of Matthew is clearly oriented towards Christology: that is, it offers the "identity card" of Jesus, inserting him into the (royal and messianic) lineage of David and that of Abraham (Jesus Christ son of David, son of Abraham), as starting point of Israel's history. Here for the first time we come across the name of Joseph: «Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, from whom Jesus called Christ was born».

Since Matthew's genealogy starts from Abraham and descends to Jesus, we can say that in this respect it appears like a revival of the book of Genesis, where several genealogies are found several times: from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, and finally from Abraham to David. Now in the genealogy of Matthew the "royal" genealogy has a decisive importance, from David to Jesus, son of David.

Through three series of 14 generations (double 7), Matthew summarizes the preparation for the birth of the Messiah, son of Mary who in turn is the wife of Joseph, descendant of David. The fact that Mary's son is conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit does not exclude, but rather requires that he also have a human genealogy. And it will be Joseph, not Mary, who gives a name and an identity to Jesus, and thus inscribes him in human history. 

Jesus is conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit, he comes from heaven, but he must enter the human family, he must be welcomed into the life of the children of Adam, he must participate in their sometimes unhappy and uncertain story, and this only happens thanks to Joseph. 

This is the meaning of the task assigned to him: giving a "name" to Mary's son; in this way the child is enrolled in the series of generations and is made heir of the promises made by God to the fathers. It is a human genealogy that allows us to give a name, a recognition to the Son of God conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and with that name to declare the purpose of his coming, that is, the fulfillment of the ancient promises. Without going into the intricate details of the passage, the intent of the Gospel is to insert Jesus, the Son of God made flesh, into a human story; history of holiness and sin.

It is a human story "open" at the beginning and at the end. It begins with Abraham, of whom it is not said whose son he is. In fact, it is said: «Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, Jacob begat Judah...» but who begot Abraham? So in the end it is not said that Joseph "begot", but it concludes by saying that Jesus was born of Mary. “Above” it is not known who the father who begets Abraham is, only God knows; “below” is not said if Joseph begets someone. 

According to Matthew's genealogy, this means that human history presents itself as an opening to the origin and the end. One could say that it is the story of the genesis of a new world, of a new creation, at the beginning and end of which there is a concrete person: Jesus called Christ, the awaited one of Israel and of all the peoples of the earth. There is no God without a man who awaits him and recognizes him; vice versa there is no man without God who arouses him and redeems him from a confused and even scandalous story (not exactly a good story!). We are therefore in the presence of a very concentrated theology of history, the supreme meaning of which is to generate Jesus Christ. Humanity exists to generate Jesus and Joseph is part of this humanity, not marginally. 

Of course, with him the paradigm of generations is broken. Joseph does not generate; he is Mary's husband, but Christ is generated by God (and by Mary). It will be explained later what Joseph will have to do; for now he is the one who does not generate.

In all this there is a spiritual meaning to be gleaned. It is an invitation to rediscover the memory of our fathers in faith, the memory of our past. Today this memory is very at risk: we only live in the present; the past, however, is behind us, to the point of considering it for granted, with nothing to say. In reality, in our past, in our origins, a promise for life is inscribed, just as happens to every child towards a father and a mother, a grandfather and a grandmother. Remembering the genealogy of faith is therefore an indispensable condition for being able to confess the truth of the Son of God and Mary, and thus take part in the mystery of the Incarnation, which leads to the generation of Jesus in us, in me.  

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