A lead-in to New Testament promise

By Fr. Edward Looney | For The Compass | December 13, 2022

Over the past three weeks Advent devotions have filled your lives. For some, an Advent wreath has adorned the kitchen table or island and has been lit when you gather for a meal. Maybe reading from a blue devotional book, the “Magnificat Advent Companion” or any number of the Advent devotionals available from Catholic publishers has accompanied your Advent prayer and meditation.

For me, I tried a new Advent devotion this year. I had heard about it for several years, but never went any further than that. This year I bought the book, some ornaments and each day have reflected over the history of salvation with the Jesse Tree.

St. Paul writes to the Romans in our second reading, “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In the New Testament, St. Paul is the last to write who has received the gospel message and mandate of the Risen Christ. He acknowledges that Jesus was promised previously through the prophets in the holy Scriptures. This is precisely what the Jesse Tree devotion illuminates — tracing the anticipation of Jesus through the Old Testament.

The Jesse Tree begins with the first book of the Bible, Genesis, from the creation of the world to the fall of Adam and Eve to Noah’s Ark and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The birth of Jesus is anticipated to make right what was wrong in the world from the fall. Mary becomes the New Eve and Jesus the New Adam.

Some of the stories of the Old Testament remind us of happenings in the New Testament, like Samuel, whose mother Hannah struggled to conceive and then sang a hymn of praise to God in the temple and dedicated the child to the Lord. That prayer of Hannah is very similar to Mary’s Magnificat.

Paul emphasizes that Jesus descends from King David, who shepherds Israel and writes the Psalms, and who is born in the City of David. And the promise of Jesus through the prophets comes to us through any number of them — Isaiah, who tells us that a virgin shall bear Emmanuel to Ezekiel and Nehemiah who are remembered in the Jesse Tree devotion.

Beyond the Advent season, when we hear the Old Testament proclaimed at Mass, listen for how it points us to the life and ministry of Jesus. Paul knew it and so can we.

Fr. Looney pastors the Catholic parishes in Brussels and Lincoln/Rosiere. He also hosts the podcast “How They Love Mary.”

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