The kids at our parish school love to make Jesse trees. Who can blame them? Arts and crafts are always a fun way to learn, and for kids, a way to get away from books. They think they’re NOT learning, although they really are. It’s a win-win – teachers happy, kids happy, parents happy with artwork brought home.
Jesse trees are fun, because it’s a good exercise for us to contemplate the genealogy of Jesus. To be precise, the genealogy of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.
Tonight’s antiphon makes reference to the flower of Jesse’s stump:
O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.
Jesse is the father of King David, from whose line the messiah would spring forth. Many Jews did not recognize Jesus as the messiah because they were awaiting a conquering military hero, as was David. But we must remember David was the youngest, simplest of Jesse’s sons – certainly the most unlikely to become king. He was happy to care for the flock, as a faithful shepherd.
But God calls whomever He wishes, and in ways we do not often understand. Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, and many of the Prophets, were all from simple, unassuming backgrounds. I think God likes it that way – the simple hearted, humble person does not get in God’s way – they become an instrument for the Holy Spirit to work through and with.
Obviously Joseph was this sort of man, and his Davidic lineage fulfilled the prophesy written in Isaiah 11:1 – “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”
And, of course, no one was more docile and obedient to the Holy Spirit than Mary. The cooperation of a young, simple, holy Jewish teenager changed the world forever. I pray that we might learn humility from all the docile souls in the Davidic line. We too can change the world by becoming instruments of the Holy Spirit, letting our God animate our actions.