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Of her was born Jesus ~Matthew 1:16

This Christmas season, let us reflect on grandparents. Like many in our community, we are also grandparents. We have five children and eight grandchildren. Joyce is our eldest child. She was born in the United States and studied at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock. From Joyce, who lives with her family in Santa Clarita near Los Angeles, California, we have five grandchildren, Miko, 23, Mita, 18, Mari, 15, Maki, 9 and Migi, 8.

Our eldest son, Joubert, is a computer science graduate of De La Salle University and works and lives with his family in Singapore. From him, we have one granddaughter, Cate, 11. Our third and middle child, Joel, was a special child who died at the age of 24. Our fourth child, Jenner, is an HRM graduate from IHMES in the Isle of Man, United Kingdom. From him, we have two grandchildren, Sean James, 8, and Chloe Allysa Joy, 5. Our youngest son, Jon, a management graduate of Ateneo de Manila University, is still unmarried.

Christmas, of course, is about the birth of Jesus. But it is also about Mary who gave birth to him. And tradition tells us that Mary is the only child of a couple named Joachim and Anne, who are, therefore, the grandparents of our Lord Jesus. There is no mention of Joachim and Anne in the Bible although some scholars claim that Heli in the Lukan genealogy of Jesus is the other name of Joachim:  He (Jesus) was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli (Lk 3:23). Bible scholars explain that Joachim is a variant form of Eliacim, which is abbreviated as Eli, a variant of Heli.

On the other hand, the genealogy of Jesus by Matthew states that Jacob (not Heli) is the father of Joseph: Zadok the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called Messiah (Mt 1:14-16). How is this apparent inconsistency between the Lucan version (which states that Joseph is the son of Heli) and the Matthean version (which states that Joseph is the son of Jacob) of the genealogy of Jesus resolved by Bible scholars?

The Church Fathers and Bible scholars have several theories and possible explanations. But many modern Bible scholars explain this by claiming that Anne is the sister of Jacob. Thus Joseph is the son of Jacob, as stated in the Matthean genealogy, but he is also the son (strictly speaking, the son-in-law) of Joachim (Heli) because of his marriage to Mary, the daughter of Anne and Joachim.  This explanation is supported by the claim of many Church Fathers, including St. Augustine, St. Cajetan and other Doctors of the Church, that Luke traces the genealogy of Christ through Mary and her father Joachim (Heli) while Matthew traces it through Joseph and his father Jacob. In this way, Christ is shown to be descended from David both through Mary and Joseph.
By tradition St. Joachim and St. Anne are considered to be the parents of Mary. They are another example of a married couple who became great saints because they opened their hearts to God’s grace and their lives to God’s will. They were chosen by God to become the parents of Mary, who was immaculately conceived in the womb of St. Anne and chosen to become the mother of God.

The oldest story about the grandparents of Jesus comes from the so-called non-canonical Gospel of James, which was written around 150 A.D. Anne was said to be from Bethlehem and Joachim from Nazareth. Joachim and Anne were a very pious couple who regularly gave to the poor and to the synagogue at Sepphoris. They first lived in Galilee and later settled in Jerusalem. But since Anne turned out to be barren, the high priest rejected Joachim and his sacrifice, interpreting their childlessness as a sign of divine displeasure. This made Joachim withdraw to the desert where he fasted and did penance for 40 days. Angels appeared to both Joachim and Anne promising them a child. Joachim returned to Jerusalem and Anne met and embraced him at the city gate. This scene is depicted in a 1504 sculpture by the German artist Albrecht Durer entitled Joachim and Anne Meeting at the Golden Gate.

When Mary was three years old, Joachim and Anne presented her at the temple in Jerusalem. We do not know for certain if Joachim and Anne were still alive when Mary, through the power of the Holy Spirit, gave birth to their grandson, Jesus. If they were still alive, they would have doted on him together with his parents, Joseph and Mary.  

Being free of the direct responsibility of raising them, grandparents generally enjoy their grandchildren more than they did their own children. Our five-year old granddaughter, Chloe Alyssa Joy (we fondly call her Jenny), is a great example. One day we were talking about visiting my mother (we call her Lola Paz) who is almost 102 years old and living in Unisan, Quezon.  Jenny was so excited about our forthcoming visit and said, “I want to visit her now. I want to take care of her.” We then jokingly asked her, “You want to take care of Lola Paz, but what about us? We are also your lolo and lola. Will you take care of us also?” Her response was a joyful surprise. She said, “But you do not even look old!” On another occasion, she took hold of my 7-year old Nokia mobile phone and asked, “Lolo, why is it that when I touch the screen of your phone nothing happens?”

Our grandson, Sean James, is also a source of constant joy. He is in third grade and is at the top of his class. And he delights us with his “why did” trick questions. He has so many of these. Here are just two examples: “Why did the boy eat his homework?” Answer: “Because it was a piece of cake.” Our alternative answer is, “Because it is chicken feed.” “Why did the banana see the doctor?” Answer: “Because it was not peeling (feeling) well.” Our alternative answer is, “Because it is saging (sagging).”

We guess that becoming grandparents able to enjoy their grandchildren is God’s earthly reward to those who have labored greatly to raise, support and educate their children. St. Joachim and St. Anne, as grandparents, must have been no exception (assuming they were still alive when Jesus was a baby and later a young boy). They pleaded to God and prayed hard to have a child. They did not lose hope but continued to trust in the Lord. Thus God rewarded their love, faith and generosity by giving them Mary. And of her was born Jesus. Merry Christmas!

We are all aware of the real reason for Christmas - the coming into the world of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Christmas, therefore, is all about Jesus. But it is also about Mary, his mother. But if it is also about Mary, then by extension, it is also about the couple who brought Mary into this world, her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.

And so this Christmas, let us give some time to reflect about this holy couple, the grandparents of our Lord and Savior, and in so doing honor all the grandparents, many of whom, even at their advanced age, still have to support and care for not only their children but also their grandchildren.

Merry Christmas from us who are also grandparents 8 times over. ~Jun & Jean Uriarte

Added on Thursday, December 17, 2015


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