From Jesse’s roots, a bud shall blossom
Father Robert Mraz, Holy Family Catholic Church, Silver Lake
As we celebrate the great season of Advent, we are inspired by the prophecies about the coming Messiah and His kingdom.
Isaiah writes: “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright of the lands afflicted . . . then the Wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.” This is only a fraction of this beautiful prophecy (Is 11:1-10), but it is a prophecy of hope.
We are given the sign of the shoot coming from the stump of Jesse and from his roots, a bud shall blossom. This refers to the promise given to King David that his dynasty would go on forever.
But how can it, when it ended with the Babylonian Invasion several hundreds of years before, and the people have since been ruled by the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and now, the Romans? Even when things seem impossible, that the royal family has been cut off, there is still a branch that grows from this cut-off stump, a little-known branch of very common-looking people and workers, of which Jesus is part (see the geneology in Matthew).
Here, even when the world does its worst to destroy God’s promises God will win in the end. Then, this new king will rule with justice for the lowly and the poor so they are no longer gobbled up by the rich and the powerful.
We see the fruits of this Kingdom of Justice as we are given an image of paradise. We have enemy animals who live peaceably together, who even give up eating one another as they eat hay together. This is an image of what God’s plan was for us from the beginning that of the Garden of Eden, a place where man and all the animals lived in peace together (Genesis Ch. 1 and 2). That was what God wanted for us.
But what happened to that paradise? We lost it by Adam and Eve giving into the temptation that if they ate this fruit, they could “be like gods.” That is what they did, and they played god over each other, then Cain played god over Abel, and so on, through the flood and the slavery into Egypt.
But God wanted us to have that paradise once more so, under Moses, he led the freed Hebrew slaves to the “promised land of milk and honey.” And to be sure that this would be a paradise, they received the 10 commandments along the way.
The commandments were to teach them that if they wanted to remain free, they had to realize that there is only one God and it is not us, that God is good and deserves our obedience and respect, and that finally, we cannot play god over others. Everyone deserves to be treated with charity and respect, as equal children of God.
As long as the people followed the commandments, they had a paradise, but when they disregarded them and played god over others, they lost that paradise. Such was the status of the people of Isaiah’s time, but Isaiah promised a future paradise with the true king the true Messiah Jesus.
God gives us a new beginning and a fresh start (the new sprout from the cut-off stump) with Jesus. Jesus teaches us by his word and example that all are brothers and sisters, whether they are Jew or Gentile, Israelite, Canaanite, Phoenician, Samaritan, or Roman. As long as we do God’s will, respect the lives of all, and give them the justice due them by the 10 commandments, the beatitudes, and the example of Christ, we can have a paradise once again.
We look at our world with the terrorism, violence, and wars, and wonder if there is any hope. Yes, there is.
Jesus as offers us forgiveness of sins of the past to give us a new beginning and a fresh start. He teaches us to quit trying to be God and play god over others and instead, to be of service to our brothers and sisters, bringing them the justice and love they deserve, for we are all children of Adam and Eve and were destined for paradise.
Let us, then, use this holy season of Advent to repent and turn from our sins, let us confess them and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Let us then treat others as Jesus would, with love and care, seeking justice together, and then we can together give the world its greatest gift, a paradise of peace where “the Wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.”