December 19, 2021
Catholic Charities USA’s Daily Advent Reflection
Advent has always been a time of joy-filled anticipation for me, and I love everything about the season: the hope-filled liturgies, the festive decorations, and especially planning out special Christmas gifts for loved ones.
I remember several years ago having conversations with my Catholic Charities colleagues, who recommended that I buy my family a DNA Ancestry Kit for Christmas, recounting the fun that their own relatives had looking into their family histories from this perspective. It was a process that both confirmed stories about recent ancestors that were passed on to them orally, and also sometimes discovered relatives from generations past who had come from very faraway places. It was a reflection that migration has always been an integral part of the human story from time immemorial, and that despite our perceived linguistic, cultural and physical differences, we are indeed all part of one human family.
This Christmas gift suggestion of my colleagues came to mind as I read today’s Gospel, in which Saint Matthew details the genealogy of Jesus. Saint Matthew’s account – which begins with the Patriarch Abraham – list three sets of fourteen ancestors for a total of 42 generations between the time of Abraham and Jesus’ birth. The men and women of these 42 generations – the ancestors of Jesus Himself who had experienced not only God’s blessings and providence, but also times of slavery, Exodus, war and exile – lived lives and had experiences not too dissimilar to the experiences of some of the 272 million international migrants of today – over 3.5% of the world’s population – 160,000 of whom Catholic Charities Agencies throughout the country assisted with shelter and respite care last year.
At Christmastime, I always find it powerful to recall that as the Son of God, Jesus Himself could have chosen any means to enter into our world. Yet He chose to be born into a family, one that like each of our own is the product of generations of men and women who came before us – through travels and triumphs and hardships – and gave us life. The message that Jesus delivers to us at Christmas through his humble birth is for me the greatest testament to the dignity of every human person – and the best Christmas gift we could ever ask for.
Tom Dobbins Jr. is the Justice and Peace Coordinator of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, a Producer for the “JustLove” radio broadcast on Sirius/XM’s Catholic Channel 129, and the Chair Emeritus of the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors.