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The Tree of Jesse

In medieval art we find often the representation of the “Tree of Jesse”. From Jesse, David’s father, emerges a tree whose fruit is Christ.  It is a depiction of the genealogy of Jesus. This artistic theme intends to illustrate that Jesus accomplishes the prophecies of the Messiah, the Son of David. Following Jesus’ genealogy in the gospel the artist, like a seamstress, intertwines without tearing the successive generations from Jesus back to David.

This image can help us to understand the meaning of Peter being the rock upon which Jesus will build his Church and being given the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

In the first reading, Eliakim is given the key of the house of David to “open” and “shut”. However, what Jesus gives Peter with the key is the ability to “bind” and “loose”.  And for me this is a fundamental question about the Church: whether the Church does bind us to Jesus connecting us to him, or it is a kind of “firewall” blocking our access to Jesus.

Many Christian believers tried to build the “tree” of their own community. The conclusion was disheartening: they could go back to Luther, Roger Williams or King Henry VIII, but that’s all. However, as we go back through the branches of this tree that is the Catholic Church, we dive deep down into a tradition that connects us without gaps to Peter, the disciple having the key to bind us to Jesus.

That’s the beauty of the Church. It is a fabric connecting us to Jesus woven tight and strong. Bounded to Jesus through Peter, as the Church grows the new generations are seamlessly interwoven into that fabric. And this mystery of the Church is alive in our Parish family. We have a pastor that has been appointed by the Bishop, and the Bishop has been appointed by the Pope who in a non-stop succession connects us to Peter, and Peter to Jesus.

Branch to trunk to roots. Stone upon stone upon the rock. Peter is the key though not the one that locks and unlocks. He is a “key” and essential component in the mystery of the Church because in him we are given Jesus.

 

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