Friday, January 4, 2019

Staying Catholic at Christmas. A Gospel reading for the scandal in the church.

I'm a little behind on my blog reading but this piece works for any time of year, I think. I really liked this linking of the "begats" to the current scandal.

Anyway, I myself like it when we dig into the boring parts and pull out the plum of deeper meaning that speaks to us here and now. I need to be reminded of Christ's lineage and what it means ... and what the gospel writers were saying.

Go read the whole thing, but here's some of what I liked.
If you only know the Bible vaguely, this litany of names probably sounds a bit pompous, an attempt to elevate the infant Jesus by linking him to great patriarchs and noble kings. But the truth is roughly the opposite: The more you know about Genesis or Chronicles or Kings, the more remarkable it is that Matthew announced the birth of the son of God by linking him to a pack of egregious sinners.


Take a line like “Judah begat Perez and Zerah of Tamar.” Just a typical nuclear family, right? Here’s McCabe with the real story: “Judah slept … by mistake, with his daughter-in-law Tamar: She had cheated him by disguising herself and dressing up as a prostitute … [When] Judah heard that his daughter-in-law had prostituted herself and become pregnant, he ordered her to be burnt alive. He was disconcerted when he discovered that he himself had been the client and that the child, Perez, was his.”


Crucially, in claiming the divine is entering the world through this line of “murderers, cheats, cowards, adulterers and liars,” Matthew isn’t offering some particularly Christian innovation within the larger biblical story. He’s simply picking up what his own people, the Jewish people, already said about themselves: We’re the chosen people of the one true God, and to prove it to you here’s a long story about how awful and promiscuous and murderous and fallible we are, how terrible our leaders often turned out to be, and how we deserved every exile and punishment we received.

If you don’t find that message credible, well, I understand. But if you find it strangely compelling, then you’re close to the case for remaining Catholic at a time when the corruption of the church is driving a number of very public defections from the faith.

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