Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

December 19, 2017 / By: Fr. James Peter

Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a/Lk 1:5-25

“O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!”

This “O Antiphon,” which serves as the verse for the Gospel Acclamation today, calls to mind the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree, an artistic representation of Jesus’ genealogy. Jesse was the father of King David, from whom Jesus descended. The antiphon is also based on a verse from the prophet Isaiah: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (11:1). Christians from early on saw Jesus as the fulfilment of this messianic prophecy, coming to restore the kingdom promised to David, inaugurating an era of radical peace and righteousness.

I find it interesting how this antiphon calls Jesus “root” instead of “shoot” or “branch.” With the Jesse Tree, as with any genealogical tree, we tend to think of descendants as the branches, blossoms, or fruit going out from the stem. However, here Jesus is instead the root, which also grows out from the stem and branches out, but in a hidden, earthy way. How important roots are for grounding the tree and delivering nutrients to the rest of the plant, especially in the midst of violent storms or the cold of winter!

After reflecting on this further, I realized how appropriate it is to see God as the root, the vital but hidden source that grounds us and nourishes us. With the two miraculous conceptions in today’s readings—Samson in the first reading and John the Baptist in the Gospel—we see how these unlikely new branches were possible only because of a deep connection with God. To grow into their important roles, they needed to remain consecrated, totally dedicated to God.

We who are united with Christ by baptism have been grafted onto the tree—not just the tree of Jesus’ human lineage back to Jesse, but most importantly to Jesus’ divine lineage as the Son of God. Now is a great time to strengthen that bond, to let ourselves be rooted in Christ, so that the love of God can flow through us and help us to grow and bear fruit.

Fr. James-Peter Trares, OP
Associate Chaplain, Campus Ministry