As we are beginning our Advent journey, we are gifted with two really rich readings. First, we have the prophet Isaiah speaking about sprouts, roots and stumps, all imagery relating to the lineage of David. Biblically, it is very important for the blood line of Jesus to be linked to David. Even though it has been many generations, God’s covenant to David promised that David’s throne will last forever.
Generations after David and his father Jessie’s death, Isaiah’s prophecy announced that God will honor the sacred lineage. It may have seemed improbable, for after the Babylonian Exile, very little of King David’s dynasty remained. But there was enough to bring forth the long awaited one, the Messiah. It is yet another example of how God works in the improbable. Even at the beginning of David’s monarchy, the story of the anointing of David as king was improbable. He was the 8th son of Jessie. So excluded was the lad that he wasn’t invited to the sacrificial celebration. He stayed home to take care of the flocks. God overlooked the oldest seven sons and chose the youngest.
Moving to the Gospel of today, have you ever noticed how many times Jesus invites people to see things in a new way? He does this by inviting people to change their perspective. As an example, in Matthew 12, the Scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus to show them a sign, and Jesus quickly mentions two of their heroes, Jonah and Soloman. And after each he proposes there is someone greater than Jonah and Soloman right here in front of you, and they can’t see it. They ask to see something; Jesus shows it to them, and they can’t see it.
The other side of the coin are those who actually do see it and tell Jesus what they see and understand. We are all familiar with stories where people in deep need of some miraculous healing approach Jesus, reverence him either in word or deed, and plead their cause. Think of Bartimaeus who calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” These are people who see who Jesus truly is. They stand in awe before his authority and know that his authority reaches beyond disease, illness, and death.
That same theme reoccurs in today’s Gospel. Jesus asks his circle, do you have any idea how many people would want to see what you see? Jesus could have said, do you know how many people would give anything to be able to walk in your shoes? It isn’t about just seeing with physical sight the signs and the miraculous events. It isn’t about the walk or having a front row seat to Jesus’ ministry. It is far more about being present to a greater awareness. It is more about coming to a consciousness of who Jesus is and less about what Jesus does. It is about attentiveness to what Jesus reveals about his Father and knowing we are invited into that intimacy. That gift is freely given.
Beyond seeing or walking, today’s Gospel reveals the intimate prayer Jesus has with his Father. We could say how blessed were the disciples for being able to walk with Jesus and be with Jesus. Yet I would suggest how blessed we are when we have been given the words of Jesus’ prayer in today’s Gospel. For Luke’s account transcends time, placing us in Jesus presence to help us understand this intimacy. This invitation into God’s divine intimacy is a profound and rich gift so appropriate for Advent.
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province. He resides in Chicago, Illinois.