By Father David A. Cockson
In the Gospel of Matthew, verses 1-17 of chapter one, the genealogy of Jesus is recorded by the author of this gospel. Of particular note is that the names of five women are mentioned therein: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife) and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
These women have been described throughout history as being both “saints and sinners.” Let’s take some time to discover who these women were — focusing primarily upon how their lives helped to keep the promise of the Messiah alive in the minds and hearts of God’s chosen people.
She was the daughter-in-law of Judah — Jesus has been described when he returns to earth again as being the “Lion of Judah.” Tamar was married to both Er and Onan, Judah’s sons. Because Er and Onan sinned against God, they died prematurely.
Judah blamed Tamar for their demise. As a result, he cursed her and cast her away from his presence. Judah failed to offer Tamar to his youngest, surviving son, Shelah, even though that was the Israelite custom.
Consequently, the line of the Tribe of Judah was without an heir. Tamar took this situation into her own hands and disguised herself as a woman of ill repute and as a result, she bore Judah twin sons — Perez and Zerah.
Tamar’s desire to keep “the promise” alive resulted in the line of Judah, which was the lineage of Jesus, to continue.
Cultic prostitution was commonplace in Rahab’s society. She was a Canaanite who lived near the temple area and befriended Joshua’s two messengers. They were sent to Canaan in order to determine if Joshua could overtake the city of Jericho.
The commander of Jericho sent out his soldiers in an attempt to kill these intruders. Rehab showed compassion to these two spies and hid them from the military commander. As a result of Rahab’s risk-taking and ingenuity, Joshua captured the city of Jericho and, as a result, Rahab helped to keep the promise alive.
Joshua later married Rahab and their direct descendants included the prophets Jeremiah, Hilkiah, Seraiah, Mahseiah and Baruch. These prophets risked their lives in proclaiming the coming of a future Messiah and, as a result, the promise continued.
Naomi was the widowed mother-in-law of Ruth and Orpah. Ruth and Orpah were also widows who had been married to Naomi’s two sons. These three women were left to face the world alone. However, Ruth would not abandon Naomi — the following poignant Scripture passage describes Ruth’s character and her desire to keep the promise alive:
“Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”
When Ruth and Naomi met Boaz, he befriended them and watched out for their safety. Ruth eventually fell in love with Boaz. Ruth would not compromise either Boaz or her own reputation, even though they were very much in love with one another.
Boaz’s elder brother had made a claim to marry Ruth — but due to the ingenuity of Naomi and Ruth’s willingness to “trust the process,” she did marry Boaz and their son was Obed. The promise continues. Boaz and Ruth were the great-grandparents of King David.
Uriah was Bathsheba’s husband and an officer in King David’s army. King David’s reign enabled the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel to become a strong, united force. David ordered Bathsheba to have relations with him and then attempted to cover up his infidelity with her by placing Uriah in the front of the battle lines.
As a result of David’s plan, Uriah was killed. The son that was produced by David’s indiscretion died shortly after birth. In David’s old age, Bathsheba secured the throne for her son, King Solomon. The promise remains intact.
When our Blessed Mother accepted the invitation to become the Mother of God, the promise became flesh in her very womb. Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which we celebrate during this Advent season, reminds us that grace was present most perfectly in Mary. But we are to also remind ourselves that grace builds upon nature and we can take comfort in knowing that Mary was vulnerable enough and open enough to be completely filled by the presence of God.
We ask for Mary’s intercession, as well as all of the angels and saints, that we will ask God to free us from sin and fill us with his grace so that we, too, may keep the promise alive in our hearts, both now and forever, amen.
Please come home for Christmas — Jesus, the promise, is here!