The First Reading and Gospel for today both speak of the trials of someone called to be a prophet by God. Jeremiah is told: "They will fight against you ..." (Jer 1: 19) and once the congregation at Nazareth heard of Jesus' message: "... all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove Jesus out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off he cliff." (Lk 4: 28-29) Why would anyone choose to endure such hatred, rejection and violence as Jeremiah and Jesus did? Likewise, what brings contemporary Catholics and other Christians to stand up for the faith in the face of public ridicule and worse? In the end it must be love. Love for God and love for people who do not know the Lord and and grace he has to offer. Prophetic messages only have impact inasmuch as they are motivated by and oriented towards love. Saint Paul tells the Corinthians: "If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." (1 Cor 13: 2) In our own faith lives this necessity of being impelled and guided by love in all we do must always be in the back of our minds. If we are acting solely on the basis of duty or public/social recognition, regardless of how successful we might be, I risk acting fruitlessly: "If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." (1 Cor 13: 3)
Monday, 17 January 2022
In the First Reading we hear of the people gathered in the ruins of the Temple after their return from exile. Nehemiah reads the copy of the Law, most likely the Book of Deuteronomy, to the people. He says to them: " 'This day is holy to the Lord your God, do not mourn or weep'." (Neh 6: 9) Jesus in the Gospel tells the people gathered at the synagogue: "Today this scripture is being fulfilled in your hearing." (Lk 4: 21) On both occasions the Chosen People are given a message of hope in trying times. In the former they are mourning the sins of their ancestors and the ruin of their Temple which was the result of that rebellion. In the latter, the people labour under the yoke of their Roman oppressors and the tyranny of the Herodian rulers. As we gather for Mass on Sunday we may be oppressed by our worries or circumstances. Sometimes we have collaborated in our own unhappiness through our sins. Thi causes us to weep as we hear of the beauty of God's love and compare it to our own deficiencies: "... but sin is not reckoned when there is no law." (Rm 5: 13) The message of the holy Eucharist is always one of hope as it is a participation in the victory of the Resurrection with our Lord feeding us with his Word, his Sacred Body and Precious Blood. This manifestation of mercy and love means that whatever is happening in our lives we can do as St Paul exhorts us when he says: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil 4: 4-7)
Wednesday, 5 January 2022
Following on from the beginning of Ordinary Time, with the baptism of the Lord, we are given by today's readings a sense of what baptism entails. It is not some magical event that exists in isolation but an ongoing call and reality which finds its fulfilment in our heavenly destination. That is why we have the prayers and sprinkling of the coffin with holy water at funerals. Each one of us, therefore, is given a vocation of discipleship in baptism, even if we were baptized as infants, such that we live towards God's plan for each one of us. John the Baptist names the mission of Jesus: "' Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world'." (Jn 1: 29) Jesus affirms this mission when, at the Last Supper, he exclaims: "Drink from it (the cup filled with wine), all of you: for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Mtt 26: 27-28) In the other readings we get a sense of divine commissioning. God says to Israel: "I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (Is 49: 6) St Paul greets the Corinthians: "To the Church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints...". (1 Cor 1: 2) We, too, have a calling to be saints and as we continue through 2022 let us call upon the Lord in prayer asking that the Holy Spirit guide us so that we may respond to that call. We do so with confidence knowing that: "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who seek him!". (Lk 11: 13)
Sunday, 2 January 2022
It is important that we do not confuse the baptism of Jesus with Christian baptism. The former has Jesus identifying with Israel and the desire of people to prepare for the Messiah and the fulfilment of God's promises: "I (John) baptize with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me..." (Mtt 3: 11). The latter is a birth into the life of the risen Lord who frees us from sin and makes us participants in the saving mission of Christ Jesus: "For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you - not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of the God, with angels, and authorities, and powers made subject to him." (1 Pt 3: 18-22) We celebrate Jesus' baptism because it shows how completely, as the Incarnation, he identified with the people of Israel and their history of tragedy and triumph as God prepared them for the Messiah. It also is a reminder that we too need to repent of our sins and renew our baptismal commitment so that we can more worthily serve the Lord in 2022.
Saturday, 1 January 2022
In today's gospel the Magi encounter God in four different ways: the stars (science), prophecy (Scripture), Jesus (Word made flesh) and a dream (private revelation). God is unveiled for them and they return home filled with joy not needing to retrace the footsteps of the past. In the holy Eucharist we encounter Jesus Christ in four different presences: the Word, the people, the priest and the Blessed Sacrament. In these seemingly normal and everyday phenomena is God unveiled for us? Do we recognize that every time we come to Mass there is a revelations of the God's love and plan for us? If only we are ready, like the Magi, to search for it and to have our eyes opened! Then we too will know their joy, offer our Lord true worship with the gifts at our disposal and continue on our journey of love in new and exciting paths.
Wednesday, 22 December 2021
It is interesting that for the wider world Christmas is all about family. Yet, for Catholics, there is a separate feast for the family in the Sunday after the Nativity of the Lord - the Feast of the Holy Family. I think that there is wisdom in this. Christ, Second Person of the Holy Trinity, precedes his earthly family, yet, born in time to the Virgin, he belongs, as all human beings do, to a family. He also unites, through the Cross, the human family so the distinctions and hostilities that divide us and originate from the chaos of Babel are done away with. It is in his flesh that we find harmony, peace and unity. These are all characteristics of the Holy Family in which Jesus grew to manhood in Nazareth. However, families, as we already know, do not possess peace. It must be founded on Christ. It is through God's grace that we can find the kind of family life for which we all long. Let us, therefore, pray that we can have some of that peace in our hearts and families this Christmas so that they will be the domestic church that testifies to the greatness of God's love in Christ Jesus.
Monday, 20 December 2021
As I typed the heading to this blog entry I reflected briefly on why it might be better for Catholics and, indeed, other Christians to speak of this feat as the Nativity of the Lord rather than Christmas. The latter term seems to have been highjacked. Sadly, it also seems to have been objectified such that it is possible for someone to "steal Christmas" or to "cancel Christmas." The Nativity of the Lord is an irrevocable historical and cosmic event: "In the beginning was the Word, and he Word was with God, and the Word was God... The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. he was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him... But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or the will of the flesh or of the will of man but of God." (Jn 1: 1, 9-10, 12-13) It is impossible for the world to go back to a time when Jesus was not born. he has changed the whole nature of our reality through his incarnation. This is the source of our joy - that we know him and believe in him and that his life is in us. His glory, which has existed eternally in the life of the Holy Trinity, is shone into our hearts and no-one can steal it away from us: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope .through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls". (1 Pt 1: 3-5, 8-9)
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers of this blog a happy Nativity of the Lord and a blessed New Year.