Jan 27, 2019

Windows to the Soul

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

When Jesus entered the synagogue of his home town and announced the beginning of his ministry as God's Anointed One, we are told that "the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him." We must do likewise. As important and necessary it is to see the face of Jesus in others, how easy we can disappoint each other when we are not Christ-like and we can become obstacles to others who sincerely seek the face of God.

As important as our Christian witness should be, all who seek Christ must seek Him above all and everyone. We set ourselves up for disappointment and disillusionment when we judge Christianity by her members. We are sinners. It is difficult for us all, indeed for all who seek Him to look directly into the eyes of Christ. We know He sees everything that we are – there are no secrets from His gaze. And His look into our eyes can be as beautiful as it can be so frightening to behold.

This present year in the Church’s calendar will very much focus on the Gospel according to St. Luke. How does this evangelist invite us to look at Jesus? St. Luke, as the beginning of this written Gospel first explains interviewed eye-witnesses who could tell him about the historical life of Jesus. ‘With them, we are back to ground level, because they did not become disciples as a result of what they heard from others. Rather they were eyewitnesses and servants of God the Word” (St. Athanasius, Festal Letter 2.7). We are thus able to be invited into the events of the Lord’s life and ministry, to see Him as those who were His friends and disciples saw Him.

And how did his disciples see Him? In the early Church, the symbol for the Gospel according to St. Luke was an ox. During the time of Jesus, when pilgrims went to the temple to offer sacrifices, many would bring a lamb to be slaughtered, or a small dove. However, only the really wealthy could afford to sacrifice a prize bull or ox.

St. Luke sees Jesus as that choice sacrifice. He sees Him as strong, able to carry the great burden of the world's sins on His shoulders. He sees Him as the offering on the altar of sacrifice to take away the sins of the world. But because He does so freely, we see Jesus as the priest mading the offering, as well as being the offering itself. We see the face of our merciful God, the cost He is willing to make to take away our sins, to cleanse us, free us from despair.

Because we see the Mercy of God for the world in the sacrifice Jesus offers on the cross at the beginning of His public ministry, Our Lord is able to proclaim liberty to captives and sight to the blind. Our own sins have made us blind - blind to God's mercy, blind to the great sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for you and me to free us from the captivity of fear and death.

It is for this reason that we must constantly ask that the Holy Spirit will help us, not only to see ourselves as we truly are but to have the courage to look into the eyes of Christ and see the Merciful One who loves us to the point of sacrificing everything so that I might be set free from all forms of slavery and darkness.

St. Luke had a close and beautiful relationship with Mary. Through her, the evangelist was given a unique window into the events of Christ's infancy, not shared with the other gospel writers. St. Luke must have been able to look into the eyes of Mary as she told him how the angel came to her, how she traveled to Bethlehem, how she reared Our Lord as her child, and how she saw Him leave home to begin His public ministry.  As she told him the stories that she, no doubt pondered and reflected on for so many years, St. Luke, must have seen Jesus through her eyes.

And so must we.  Never close your eyes to Our Lord, and tell the story of His life so that with Mary and so many others, we too can be eye-witnesses of the great things that God has done for us too.

Jan 20, 2019

Raise your glass!

The Wedding Feast of Heaven and Earth:  

The wedding celebration at Cana provides a unique opportunity for us to take note of how God interacts in ordinary events of human life and changes the ordinary into the extraordinary.

At this stage in Jesus' growing up, he has left home, Nazareth - a very conservative and traditional religious and isolated town. Jesus went to Capernaum, a lakeside fishing resort that attracted people of every walk of life. He mixed with the local fisherman - that's where he meets up with Peter and Andrew. There are also Roman soldiers, merchants, Jews and Greeks, tourists and businessmen, pagans and tax collectors. Could any place be so far removed from the quiet and prayerful Nazareth?

The small village of Cana, located between Capernaum and Nazareth, was hosting a wedding party. Both Mary and Jesus were invited. Jesus arrives from Capernaum with his new disciples. Mary arrives from Nazareth with the extended family.  They would bring together two parties who would have been strangers to each other.  No doubt Mary was introduced to every one of her Son’s new friends.  Jesus also introduces us to her. Having accepted us all now as part of the family, it would be at the foot of the cross on Calvary that her Son would tell us to take her into our own home – to make Mary a part of our families.

The choice of the story of the Wedding Feast of Cana is not so much given to us as a reminder of the events of Christ’s early life, or his first sign. Cana was only the beginning of Christ’s miracles, miracles that continues right to this very day and into this very hour. This Mass is Christ's Wedding Banquet. The Gospel we have just listened to is an appetizer to this event here and now.

In this Holy Mass, we are the invited guests of the wedding feast of the Lamb where heaven and earth embrace. The priest is the stand-in for Christ the bridegroom. Even the servers and the ministers can be seen to take the place of his groomsmen and bridesmaids.  And a miracle also takes place here, in the presence of the disciples and the invited guests.  At that event in the village of Cana, water had been changed into wine.  At the event of this Mass, the bread and the wine is changed into the eternal body and blood of Christ- Christ the bridegroom who gives himself to the bride, his Church. 

This is the wedding between heaven and earth and we have been invited, not only to attend but also to participate. Christ the bridegroom gives his life for the Church his bride in the one eternal sacrifice of Calvary, where Mary is likewise in attendance. When we enter into this "joining",  our vows to Christ are renewed. Like the changing of water into wine – our own lives can also be changed, to take on a new rich character. Like any wine-tasting event, we don’t stop with an admiration of the label.  We have to open the bottle. We have to drink of God’s grace so that what is natural in our own lives can be fortified with enduring supernatural realities.

May our presence at and our participation in this Mass in the company of our mother Mary, give us a taste, here on earth, of the Banquet of Heaven. Whether we all partake of the wedding cake or not, we are all invited guests around the top table.  Simply being here in the presence of Christ, our hunger is satisfied, our thirst quenched. Raise a glass of praise and thanksgiving and be of good cheer!

Los milagros de la multiplicación de los panes, cuando el Señor dijo la bendición, partió y distribuyó los panes por medio de sus discípulos para alimentar la multitud, prefiguran la sobreabundancia de este único pan de su Eucaristía. El signo del agua convertida en vino en Caná anuncia ya la Hora de la glorificación de Jesús. Manifiesta el cumplimiento del banquete de las bodas en el Reino del Padre, donde los fieles beberán el vino nuevo convertido en Sangre de Cristo.

Jan 1, 2019

New Year of Grace 2019

Mary, Mother of God:

As we are still within the Season of Christmas, the enduring image of the baby Jesus remains very much with us. It is "captured" in the manger scene before us. Indeed, for a whole week, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the ox, and the donkey haven't moved one inch! They seem to have frozen in time as they gaze into the crib where the child has been perfectly positioned as if someone has pressed the pause button. Rather than listening to the conversations, real or imagined, that take place inside the Bethlehem stable, or listening to the music of angels in the background, we are allowed instead to meditate on the relationships between each of those present.

Today, at the beginning of a New Year, we reflect on the most natural relationship a baby can have with anyone. We see this again and again in the enduring image of Mary holding the Christ child, close to her. Mary's femininity can never be divorced from her motherhood - bringing this child into the world is what every cell in her body has prepared for.

Even though her arms cradle the little child, God's Word that has now become Flesh in Jesus does not speak in sentences, sermons or soundbites. At least, not for now. This baby must first be nurtured, fed, loved, allowed to grow strong in earthly wisdom and strength to become the world's savior. This does not happen overnight nor within a vacuum. It begins within the natural embrace of this holy mother and child and the trust that deepens and evolves between them.

But this is not just the natural trust between a mother and her child. It is a divine trust as this child is the physical embodiment of "God with us". God does not simply use Mary as a means to enter into our world. That would make Mary simply a surrogate. Instead, God entrusts himself, his physical well being to her. God trusts her with Himself. He allows Himself, as a small and vulnerable child, to be subject to her, to be influenced by her, to be taught by her.

Under her supervision, the Son of God will learn to pray in the Jewish tradition and how to read the Sacred Scriptures. Under her watchful eye, the Son of God will learn the social skills to engage with other children, families, elders, friends, and strangers. God allows Himself to be mothered. In doing so, God trusts Himself and His whole plan of salvation for humanity completely to Mary's motherhood and in doing so allows her to cooperate in our salvation.

For each of us who are baptized, our baptism is not a simple membership status in the Church.  Through baptism, we take upon ourselves the image of Christ himself. We become Christ to others, to the world. We are not self-made Christians. With so many influences around us, before us, in front of us, each providing so many lessons of how to live the Christian life, let us not forget that Christ is not an orphan child. He is the Son of God the Father and the Son of Mary His Mother.  

And if we are likewise to grow and mature into the image and likeness of Christ by God’s grace, will not Mary's motherhood also extend to us because she sees her son in you and me, and she loves him still, she loves us too. If God can trust her motherhood, what stops us allowing her to be also our own mother, to reach out to us, to hold us and teach us as she taught her Son - how to pray, how to listen, how to walk, and how to speak and proclaim the message of salvation to the waiting world.

Gardening Kingdom

  We often hear this phrase, “The Kingdom of God ''.  We even pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”.  This “Kingdom” was the hallmark of Our Lord...