Nature never ceases to amaze me. We have a couple plants in our backyard – a rose bush and a trumpet vine. The rose bush has never produce great roses, and so my wife and I have cut it down, dug it up, and thought we had killed it. The same thing with our trumpet vine. It has grown over the years and became a huge vine covering a pergola we once had. It had become very invasive. The trunk of this vine was almost like a tree, and so we wanted to remove the vine before we put in a new patio. So I cut it down, dug up the stump and chopped it away from the root, and then put some shrub and vine killer on it in hopes that would do the trick.
Weeks later, in the flower bed, we see the red branches of the rose bush shooting up through the soil. Small branches from the trumpet vine then begin shooting up from the grass around where the trumpet vine had been, and sure enough, a branch even begins to sprout and shoot off of where the stump had been. Nature is patient. Nature is resilient.
God is patient. God is resilient.
Over the years, His people had been cut down to a stump by the forces and circumstances of the world at the time, but also much resulting from their own doing. Just as life is today. Yet through these years, God worked through certain people to spread His message and word as a blueprint for generations to come. A blueprint not only for how we should live our lives, but also for what was and is to come.
And so here is Israel, cut down to a stump, seemingly divided, nothing unifying them. Sin has infiltrated their ranks and you then have the Pharisees and the Sadducees and then everyone in between. They are under oppression by the Romans. But they all have hope. They have hope that something, that some One is coming that will save them and finally defeat their enemy.
2016 years ago, give or take a couple years, God showed that the stump was not dead. As Isaiah prophesized, a shoot did sprout from the stump of Jesse, from the origins of our faith and that this shoot would not only revive the tree of Israel, but also spread and regenerate the forest of the world.
Jesus came – the blueprint was set. No matter how hard Satan tries to destroy us, and remove the bushes and the trees and the vines that we are from his world, cutting us down to a stump – if we look to Jesus, a shoot of life can sprout from us as well.
That’s what I love about these collection of readings today, and this season of Advent and really the cycle of the entire Church calendar. Often in life, we sprout up and grow like beautiful rose bushes, or magnificent trees, or even meandering vines that cover and protect, emanating beauty to this world, and producing amazing fruit.
But then we get cut down. Circumstances happen, often not of our control but often through our own doing. We get uprooted, chopped up, and the stump left behind. We can live like this for years, almost lifeless, stagnant, in a dormant state. It’s those times in our life where we are going through the motions, not growing in our faith, not growing in charity and reaching out to others – just getting by.
But then at some point, a green shoot appears, raising out from within us, because Christ is within us. You see, the shoot from the stump of Jesse of course is Jesus who saved the world from Satan and sin.
But Christ is also within us, and so He sprouts from deep within us, trying to revive us from our dormancy. Do we recognize it and cultivate the growth, or do we simply snap the shoot off and remain a dormant stump in life?
Jesus will continue to spring these shoots up in our lives for our renewal, to bring us closer to Him. But if we don’t cultivate ourselves through repentance, forgiveness, and then actually doing His work out in the world, being who He intended us to be, and attempting to make this world a better place through our actions, well then we might just be cut out at the roots and thrown away so that we don’t interfere with the growth of others.
The choice is ours. We can let this Advent and approaching Christmas sprout a new life in our souls, and renew our relationship with Jesus. Numerous dioceses and parishes have penance services all around. If not, simply find some time to go to your parish or one nearby and go to Confession.
My family did last night. My son, in preparation for his first Communion in the spring, did his first Confession last night. My wife and I went too. We celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a family. Reconciliation is the first step in cultivating the shoots that Christ brings forth from us.
Don’t let this Advent season, this time of waiting and revealing slip away into another season of dormancy. Use this season as a time of renewal, reviving your relationship with Christ, preparing for His coming. Speak to Him. Seek His forgiveness. Remove that burden from yourself and simply let Him sprout more shoots from within you.
Let Him reveal Himself to you, and let Him reveal who you are to Him. Revive your soul this Advent, and let that shoot grow.
IS 11:1-10; PS 72; ROM 15:4-9; MT 3:1-12