One of the realities we have been more sensitive to over the past decades is the importance of our backgrounds, who we are. Lots of factors go into shaping who we are today, but the influence our ancestors had on us is very important. What we are doing this week is getting in touch with the ancestry of Jesus.
This is not an intellectual exercise. We don’t have to be Scripture scholars to do this. It’s really very simple. And our desire is clear. We’ve been loved by Jesus. We want to know Jesus more completely. We will spend a good number of weeks ahead going through the Gospels to get close to Jesus in the stories of what he did on earth. This week will give us a taste of who he is and the context he came into.
Throughout this week — in all the background moments we can find — we try to stay in a sense that Jesus’ ancestry was Jewish. The way he thought about himself, the way he thought about God, the images that filled his consciousness, and the culture that shaped his identity were steeped in the Hebrew tradition.
Jesus’ whole sense of reality was shaped by his sense that God called Abraham from his homeland and promised him a new home. Jesus’ sense of trust in God was supported by the memory that God was faithful to promise after promise. Sarah’s age was not an obstacle. Pharaoh’s army didn’t matter. The temple could be destroyed, but God would build it up again. When I want to really know Jesus, I need to really know the faith tradition that gave him such confidence in his mission.
It’s more important just to think about what we already know about that Jewish tradition than to do a lot of reading. Read the stories from the Old Testament if that helps to refresh and give color to the memories.
Perhaps this week, at a time when I’m walking or driving from one place to another, perhaps frustrated or angry or feeling alone, I might turn to Jesus and ask, “How did your background prepare you for situations like this, Jesus?” The answers will be the bonding graces of this week. This interior dialogue between Jesus’ story and my story will be rich in helping us know him, grow in love for him, and be moved more deeply to be with him in his mission.Use the other resources of this week. Stay faithful to the pattern of reflecting on the material for this week, as soon as I put on my slippers or robe in the morning. Near the end of each day, find some moment to express some gratitude. Consider sharing any grace received with the others making this retreat.