Where Are You From?

"Where are you from?" is a big question the Sunday readings during advent seek to answer. But really, underneath it all, these readings are trying to asnwer the question, "Who are you?" Along with that goes the further question, "Who are we?" Geneologies are one way to approach these questions, and the Gospels of Matthew and Luke approach that in a traditional way that leads to different answers. Kind David is a central figure in Jesus' geneology found in Matthew. So it answers the Jesus question by saying Jesus is Christ the King fulfilling God's promise that David's kingdom will not end. The Gospel of Luke contains a different geneology that goes back to Adam, the original Son of God on earth. So Luke answers the question by asserting that with Jesus there is a new beginning in which everything starts over. Yes, let's start over! The Gospel of John doesn't have a geneology in the same sense, yet it still tries to answer the question about Jesus, "Where are you from?" Its answer is that Jesus is the Word that was always with God and comes from God to pitch his tent among us. In John's Gospel this question stays alive when, in the middle of the night, Nicodemus tried to figure things out about Jesus. He first acknowledges Jesus is a teacher come from God, and then they explore together what that means. In the Temple, people say they "know" where Jesus is from, but the Evangelist is obviously disclosing that they really don't. Pilot would later ask Jesus, "Where are you from?" In this Gospel, to ask where Jesus is from is really asking "Who are you?" In all of the Gospels, we meet a Jesus who is come from God in a way no one understood. That's why there was so much trouble answering "Where are you from?" or "Who are you?". The Jews of Jesus' day expected a military leader to liberate the Jewish state. But Jesus came in humble trappings proclaiming a kingdom that's not of this world. No one was expecting that! And that's why it was so important to ask, "Where are you from?" or "Who are you?" This is a vocation blog. And a Franciscan vocation blog to be exact. So it behooves us to see the connections between these Gospel portrayals and St. Francis' spiritual intuitions. The Jews of Jesus day had a hard time understanding and accepting who Jesus was because he wasn't what they expected. Jesus was in a humble service orientation. The Jews of his days expected a commanding military figure. Jesus was following the orders of the Father. The Jews expected someone to give the orders.
This is exactly the point at which St. Francis of Assisi enters into the gospel portraits. In his Letter to the Faithful, he says that we become brothers and sisters of Jesus when we do the will of the same Father. That means Francis understood where Jesus was from and who he was. It means he also understood who we are or at least who we should be. We too are called to be the humble servant hanging on every desire of God.Christmas is so important to Francis because he got this message correctly. It's not the sweet child Jesus smiling with everyone ooing and ahing around him that was so important to St. Francis. The infant Jesus is so precious to St. Francis because the vulnerability of this child so palpably expresses the self-emptying nature of God disclosed in Jesus, the Incarnate Word. The crib and the cross are so close to each other for Francis because they both show us what God is really like, and what we are called to be.The crib and the cross answer all three questions: "Where are you from?" "Who are you? Who are we?"