O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!

Knowing our roots is important. I remember as a small girl learning the story of Nicholas Appert, my ancestor, who was a French scientist around the time of Napoleon. When Napoleon needed a way for his army to carry food over long distances without spoilage, Nicholas Appert developed what has now become the canning process. If you look in some old cookbooks, it will still be called “Appertizing”. My dad was very proud of that story, and passed it along to us. Each summer when I preserve food for my family, I tell my son the story too. This connects us to an important part of who we are: our family.

If you look at the genealogy of Jesus, it’s a pretty motley crew.  There are certainly come powerhouses in the group, but for this reflection I want to focus on the women in the list: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.  While I wish I were a better person, some of these women are definitely people I would gossip about in the staff room. Tamar was the widow of one of the sons of Judah who slept with her father-in-law when it was obvious he wasn’t going to help her.  They ended up having a son, and it was from this line that Jesus would trace his ancestry. Rahab was a prostitute from Jericho who saved the spies sent out by Joshua and was allowed to become an Israelite as a result. Ruth also wasn’t originally one of the Chosen People, but her loyalty and love for her mother-in-law would probably still inspire admiration today.   Bathsheba was the recipient of David’s lust, and the Bible doesn’t really make it clear whether she was a willing participant in adultery or just a beautiful pawn of powerful men. Even Mary, who we know was conceived without sin, didn’t seem like the best bet for the mother of a Messiah- young, unmarried, pregnant.

The challenge for me in this O Antiphon is to suspend my judgment and my tendency towards gossip to extend mercy and love.  God’s plan for someone else doesn’t have to be obvious to me, but what a blessing it is when I can obviously see God at work in someone’s life.  In schools, there’s so many opportunities to gossip and judge- the student whose parents seem to be putting themselves first in a difficult divorce, the staff member who never seems to pull their weight, and the list could go on and on.  But this Advent and Christmas season, I am going to try to love and pray instead of gossip and judge. When tempted to judge I will pray for a greater love of that person and a deeper understanding of the real roots of their situation.

For today: Pray for a difficult situation in your classroom or school.  Pray for a person who is being judged harshly. Choose to change the subject instead of joining in gossip.