Reflect on your spiritual ancestors

In this Sunday’s Gospel we will hear about the kingly lineage in place at the time of Jesus. We will hear the names of some political key players who affected the ministry of Jesus such as Herod, Caesar and Pilate. They are part of our human ancestry.

Genealogy is a popular hobby among people and so many families have a good concept of whom their biological ancestors are. Recently, an elderly man in my parish of Most Blessed Sacrament passed away. He was always proud of the fact that he had certified records that placed his biological family with John Alden and the Mayflower.
More importantly to us should be our spiritual ancestry. If you attend Mass on Christmas Eve you may hear a formal “proclamation of the birth of Christ,” which is traditionally chanted or recited near the beginning of the midnight Christmas Mass. It begins with creation and recounts the genealogy of Jesus in the context of our salvation. Like this Sunday’s Gospel, hearing all those ancestral names helps us understand “where we belong.”

Advent is a good time to consider again, “Who are my people?” St. John the Baptist exhorts us to consider our spiritual ancestry. He tells us “the One” to whom we should belong is on his way.

Watch for signs within your parish that signal Jesus drawing ever nearer to us. You might be reminded as you see an Advent wreath with additional candles being lit each week, or as you sing “Hurry the Lord is Near … Wake, O Wake, Sleep no Longer, Christ the Savior Comes” or listen to the presider as he prays, “Come we pray, to our rescue.” If you find you have fallen into somewhat of a liturgical slumber during the past weeks of Ordinary Time, it is time to wake up, and use Advent well!

This is a good time to once again look at the pictures and statues in your church. Each is a representation of one of your spiritual ancestors! Choose one. Quiz your pastor if you are unsure who the saint represented is. Learn more about that saint. Look for connections in how they lived their life, or the difficulties they had to endure or the grace of God that they effectively used. Can you find similarities in your own life? Ask your saintly ancestors for intercession on your behalf. Think about what you are going to do this Advent for “the family,” not just in gift giving, but in spiritual growth. What personal heritage of faith can you bring to our liturgical celebrations? How will you reflect your ancestors who are in the communion of saints? Is there a saint who can teach you to be kinder or more tolerant, more magnanimous or more patient? Above all, as we draw near to the beginning of a Holy Year of Mercy, look to St. Faustina, the patron saint of mercy, for guidance.

John the Baptist promises that Jesus is come among us. Do we belong to Jesus? Then let his word rule our hearts, let his will be our desire, let us love as he loves. Let us rest in him and be filled with him. We are decedents of a long line of good and holy people, the name of our king is Jesus, and all the Caesars, the Pontius Pilates and the Herods of this world have no power or authority over him.

Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.