Monday, September 07, 2015

From Ancient Times

By Melanie Rigney

The Lord says: you, Bethlehem-Ephrathath, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:1)

With delight I rejoice in the Lord. (Isaiah 61:10)

Gaetano Gandolfi [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
… The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

Lord, I honor those who prepared the way for You in my life.

My maternal grandmother was born on September 8, 1900, in Bessemer, Michigan, an Upper Peninsula town near the Wisconsin border where almost all the men, including her father, worked at either the iron mine or in logging. He had come to the United States nine years earlier from Poland, where the family he left behind included a sister who was a nun. His given name was Cajetan because he was born on the Italian saint’s feast day (August 7) but in the United States, everyone called him John. It was easier. My grandmother’s mother had arrived from Poland the year before, working as a domestic, and was named Johanna because her birthday was close to the feast day at that time for John Cantius, a Polish saint, priest, and theologian.

Obviously, there was no debate what to name their first child when she arrived on September 8—Mary.

Now, you may be interested in little of this or of any of the stories, some true, some not, of these ancestors or those of the man Mary would marry. His lines have been traced back to fifteenth century England. But they are stories about the people who helped make me who I am, people who passed down a Christian faith through the centuries. They lift me up.

You might keep that in mind in considering the long form of today’s Gospel reading, the one with dozens of names, many difficult to pronounce. Some were kings; some were psalmists; some were scandalous in one way or another; all were flawed. They were people who passed down the promise of the coming of Messiah, a promise that helped Joseph with his own awesome yes to the Lord’s angel. Their stories lifted him up.

Pick one unfamiliar name from Matthew 1:1-16. Do a little research into the person’s gifts and challenges.

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