Immersed in Christ: December 19, 2020
Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
O Offspring from the Root of Jesse
raised up as a sign for all people,
Before you the sovereigns fall silent
And hope gathers nations in prayer.
Come free us! Lord, do not delay!
How is it a “sign for all people” that Jesus is an “Offspring from the Root of Jesse”? How does this offer a “hope that gathers nations in prayer”?
It is commonplace to think that human beings, nations and cultures, tend to lose the vision, the ideals and principles that first brought them together as a people. How many great civilizations flourished and died because the virtues that first kept them together and empowered them grew weak and died out, leaving them corrupt? Where today is the “glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome?” Do Americans today still have the principles, the values, the integrity of our founding fathers?
We can (in fact, we must) ask the same question about the Church? Are we like the early community described in the Acts of the Apostles, when:
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
The answer is “No—but Yes.” St. Paul’s letters show the early Church had its faults and factions. And the chain of canonized (which means officially recognized) saints through every century shows that the Spirit remains alive and effective in the Church of every place and period in history. But there is a “root” assurance that is more than a play on words.
In calling Jesus “Offspring from the Root of Jesse” the liturgy proclaims that in Jesus God himself became a member of this unstable human race. And of one of its yo-yo cultures that kept going up and down through fidelity and infidelity to the law. “Sovereigns fall silent and hope gathers nations in prayer” when we see how God preserved Israel, and then his Church, in spite of all sins. Jesus born of human stock, Jesus present among us as one of us, encourages us to pray in every age, “Come free us! Lord, do not delay!”
In both Judges 13: 2-25 and Luke 1: 5-25 God brings life out of barrenness. He did it to show two things: that he can work through inadequate human instruments; and that when he does, the results we see are divine. Both Manoah’s wife and Elizabeth had children chosen by God.
Every baptized Christian is born of a womb incapable of giving divine life; then reborn “of water and the Spirit.” “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit” — and will live—and last—forever. Stay aware of that and trust. 1
Initiative: Be aware that the life in you is more miraculous than the Virgin Birth.
1 John 3:1-8.