The long form of today’s Gospel offers Jesus’ geneology: “Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz…” The names, most of them unfamiliar,usually  tumble past me, threatening to break down into meaningless syllables sweeping past me like trees alongside a highway, undifferentiated, unnoticed. Except one thing: every name is a story, a person with joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, worries, fears, doubts, expectations, triumphs, contentments. Every name is a sacred story.

Whether the names of Jesus’ ancestors or the names of my students, colleagues, friends, each name stands for a sacred story, much of it hidden from me. And when I remember that, the Gospel urges me to pay attention so that I can see that “God with us” is the story of Jesus alive and active, laboring in the hearts of these hidden, sacred stories to draw ever nearer to them.

—Matthew Spotts, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic teaching history and religion at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, Indianapolis IN.