Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Jesse's Branch

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. (Is 11:1-3)

We hear this messianic prophecy of Isaiah every year during Advent. We also hear it a lot when we are preparing candidates for Confirmation, since it is the primary source for our traditional list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

My Bible references to this passage from Isaiah in Mt 2:23 (And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled. "He shall be called a Nazarene."). I understand that the Hebrew word for branch is nezzer, which is also the root word for Nazareth.

Jesse was the father of King David. The royal lineage of Israel, therefore, was a family tree with Jesse at the base. Isaiah, however, speaks of a stump, not a tree or a trunk. The tree has been cut down. The royal line was believed to be ended. But the geneology at the beginning of Matthew's gospel establishes that the line of David was intact, and that Jesus was of the royal line. Jesus was the shoot from the stump of Jesse, and he established a kingdom that was not of this world, a kingdom that would last forever.

That, however, is not the end of the story.

Messianic prophecies saw their fulfillment in Jesus, the Son of God. After his Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the messianic prophecies continue to be fulfilled through the followers of Jesus, his Church.

I am the vine, you are the branches. (Jn 15:5)
There is a sense in which each of us is the branch that grows from the root of Jesse's stump. When we receive the Holy Spirit in baptism and confirmation, we receive the messianic gifts, and the mission of the messiah becomes our mission.

How do we do that in our own lives? As a husband and a father, I find that I struggle just to maintain peace within my own family. I suspect that the answer is in surrendering our will to God. Some of us He has great plans for, some of us will witness to him in mundane lives of simple obedience. I don't have to set out to do great things, I only have to be faithful in the small things. I have to say yes to Him one day at a time. If I love one person at a time, because that person is created in the image of God, then the rest will take care of itself.

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