The reflection on the third Advent Antiphon for December 19th sheds light on runts and the overlooked!
O Root of Jesse, set up as a sign to the peoples, come to save us, and delay no more.
How do we prove our worth? In job interviews, we have to put ourselves out there, prove that we are the best for the job, talk about our achievements, say how good we really are! Some people find this easier than others. Under those circumstances, if we play down our achievements, we’d definitely lose out.
Even the church has taken to this way of appointing priests to parishes. Clergy apply for parish positions, tell the bishop and the interviewing panel how suited to the job they are.
Promotions come, quite often, because someone is seen or heard to be achieving good things or because they fit comfortably into someone’s expectations. Those who don’t make a song and a dance may go unnoticed, even undervalued, played down, looked over, disregarded.
The experience of Jesse tells another story. When looking for a king to rule Israel, the prophet Samuel visits his home, parades his way through his sons, all of whom stand tall and proud. But something is missing, the runt of the family, who seems to be overlooked, as he quietly does his shepherding job, away from the attention of others.
He is neither tall nor kingly looking, has no one to speak for him, or talk about his credentials. In fact, there is surprise at his selection but Samuel sees something that others cannot.
Jesus is a descendant of Jesse, and so a descendant of David, the King. As king he does not appear to show regal signs of power. He has come in humility, and so many people simply cannot see any sign of Messiahship, any credentials of what it means to be Christ, the Anointed One. Their version of God does not allow him a place. He is, after all, a runt of the people. ‘Nothing good can come from Nazareth,’ it was said of him.
There is no mention about how well he can play a crowd or work a room and yet, there he is, teaching with authority. His miracles are signs of God not magical displays of power, signs that God’s kingdom has come, that the world is being transformed. People are drawn to him. They see in him a sign from God who always seems to favour runts!
So do not give in to the ‘Imposter syndrome’, that somehow you are just not good enough, and cannot be what others expect. Don’t care too much about what others don’t see in you. Don’t measure yourself by the standards of others although by all means take some inspiration from them, even if the inspiration is to discover afresh what is good and unique about you, and what you are able to achieve. Don’t lose sleep over those who are standing tall whilst you are being left behind.
There is much to be said for quiet faithfulness, a humility which is not brash or brazen, does not look down on others, does not label others as ‘this’ or ‘that’ simply as a means of dismissing and deriding them.
‘Go on quietly doing the work that has been given you’, said St Paul. At some point, when the time is right, without even having to push forward what others cannot see, the Lord may say, ‘Well done good and faithful servant’ but only, of course, if we set our eyes on Christ, the sign to us that God has come to save us, and will save us still. The One who transforms even the little that we have, and makes mountains out of the molehills of our lives. This is the God in whom we believe, God who has come to us in Christ, the root of Jesse, the sign for the peoples. It is in him, and him alone, that we find our worth.