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REFLECTIONS

SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s readings, the first, Psalm and Gospel offer us some contrasts.  In the First reading the contrast is between the cursed and the blest.  The Psalm contrasts the happy man and the wicked.  The Gospel contrasts the blessed and the woeful.  For the next three Sundays we will be hearing Luke’s Sermon on the Plain.  Today’s Gospel passage is an introduction; it will be followed by teaching on love and a warning against false teachers (in the form of a parable). 

It would appear that the communities to whom Luke is writing are comprised of poor and rich, those who hunger, those who are full, those who weep and those who laugh.  Luke is teaching all of them about discipleship, following of Jesus.

Jesus’ preaching, blessing the poor and hungry, would have attracted many of the slaves and lower class in the Roman World.  But there were also people who were attracted who were not slaves but of the upper classes.  These also were attracted to Jesus and his teaching as they received it. 

In an agrarian society the fate of the poor is always to be ostracized socially.  These are the ones spoken of in vs. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.”

But for the rich who followed Jesus and became part of a community that also had poor members, they too would suffer the same kind of fate, ostracism, “hate, exclude, insult, denounce as evil...”

The words of challenge from Jesus are to all members of the community (they will be heard next Sunday) “...love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”

There was antagonism between the rich and the poor, between those who are filled now and those who are hungry, those who laugh now and those who are weeping now, those spoken of well now, those hated now. The people of Jesus time believed in “limited goods”.  There was only so much to go around. If one person had more, I had less.  The rich were seen as having power, the capacity to take from someone weaker.  Being rich was synonymous with being greedy.  To be poor was to be unable to defend what was yours.  It meant falling below the status at which one was born.  It was to be defenseless, without recourse. 

Within the community, the poor (in Luke’s community the slaves and the lower classes) must love the rich, do good to them, bless them, pray for them.  The rich must love the poor, the hungry, the slaves and lower classes, do good to them, bless them, pray for them.  Then together both the rich and the poor must treat those from outside their community (those who mistreat them, their enemies) with love, prayer and forgiveness.

This is perhaps the most difficult teaching of Jesus.  It is a total reversal of values. 

Poverty is not, for Jesus, a good thing.  Poverty, being poor usually means, being hungry, without necessary food or shelter or clothes or work.  It means lack of medical care, not having good water and sewerage.  These are bad things.  In what does the blessedness of the poor consist?  First it would seem that God and Jesus have a special love for the poor, a preferential option for the poor.  Secondly, many of the poor have an awareness of their dependence upon God.  To be poor means to be weak in relation to my neighbor, to be rich means to be strong in relation to my neighbor.

Jesus words have meaning for both rich and poor.  For us, we must ask, in what does my happiness consist,  Money, winning the lottery, prestige, power, to be well spoken of, etc?

Luke is clear in his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles: those who have should share their possessions.  The leaders of the community should not only pay attention to the powerful, the rich.  They must imitate Jesus in his concern for the poor and the fringe or outcast people of the society.

Who do I think of when I say “rich”?  Who do I think of when I say, “Poor”?  What is Jesus teaching me in the Gospel Words this Sunday?



P.S. There is some interesting study and writing being done in our time, that Jesus may have been driven to be an itinerant artisan.  Could his family have lost their plot of land due to death (St. Joseph), bad crops, or taxes both political and religious? Could this have happened to the people in Nazareth besides Jesus' family?  If so what he did as a carpenter then might have made him go on the road to find work and possibly do more than just carpentry.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s readings present to us three people.  Each one has a different experience of God.  They are Isaiah, Paul and Simon.  Notice their different reactions to the experience of the holy.  Then notice how God the Holy One responds to them. 

Each of these experiences of God takes place in a different place.  Isaiah experiences God in the temple.  Simon experiences God at his workplace.  Paul’s special experience of God was on a journey. 

Experiences of the HOLY.

1) Isaiah’s experience may be real or it may be symbolic.  If real an angel touched or burned his lips with a coal.  If symbolic it may speak of an experience that we all have.  We speak of “getting burned.”  Some examples of the way we get burned are: someone disappoints us, someone rips us off, and the death of someone near to us can in a way “burn us”.  There are many other ways that we get burned.  Sometimes the burning is purification.  These experiences change us, we are not the same.  This seems to have been the experience of Isaiah. 

2) Simon’s experience is that Jesus tells him to push out from the shore and lower his nets on the other side.  Remember Peter had been fishing all night.  Jesus seems to have been a carpenter.  But Peter does what Jesus asks.  Why does Peter follow this direction of Jesus?   As Luke tells the story of Jesus he puts the healing of Simon’s mother in law before this call.  He also has Jesus doing some miracles before the call. Simon does put out into the deep and lets down his nets. 

3) We speak of Paul being knocked off his horse on the way to Damascus.  He surely had a special experience of God.

REACTION TO THE EXPERIENCE OF THE HOLY.

The reactions of Isaiah and Simon to their experience of the holy are quite similar.  Isaiah cries, “Woe is me, I am doomed.  For I am a man of unclean lips”   Simon says, “Leave me Lord.  I am a sinful man.”  Paul also is aware that he was a persecutor and says the he doesn’t deserve the name apostle.  Contact with the holy leads to us to contact our own sinfulness as well. 

HOW GOD TREATS THESE SINNERS

1) In Isaiah God asks the question:  “Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?" Isaiah, now a changed man responds, "Here I am, send me!" The rest of the book of Isaiah tells us how God used him.

2) To Simon’s response of awareness of his sinfulness Jesus says, “Do not be afraid from now on you will be catching people.”  Jesus will use sinful Simon powerfully, especially as the book of Acts shows. 

3) God’s choice of Paul too, is reflected in Paul’s marvelous missionary work. 

Lessons for Life:

4)  God can come to us in many different places and in many different ways.

5)  The experiences in our life in which we “get burned,” change us.  When we make contact with the holy we also make contact with ourselves as sinners.  An awareness of us as sinners can also be a deepening of our relationship with the holy.

6)  Sometimes God is asking us to put out into the deep and let down our nets.

7)  God has worked with sinners of the past and made them Missionaries, people sent to preach his word.  Is God calling you to some particular preaching of his word?  In Spanish the words

pescador and pecador are only different by one letter “s”.  We who are in touch that we are sinners (pecadores) are also called by Jesus to be fishers (pescadores).


8) The Vincentian Meditation for the previous Sunday made this statement: "Jesus  modeled doing before teaching."


I have often heard: "Actions speak louder than words."



9) There is also a quote that many times is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  It comes in many forms:




Preach the gospel always, and if necessary, use words.



10) My personal experience of the Catholic Church in the U.S. is that we have put much more emphasis on teaching and doctrine to the detriment of the Call to Action.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

One of the ways that Luke looks at Jesus is to call Jesus a prophet.  We still have a tendency to think of a prophet as someone who foretells the future.  But a prophet is one who speaks on behalf of God.  Prophets are called to announce and denounce. Or another definition I like: "Prophets are called to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." In today’s readings we have three prophets announcing and denouncing: Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus.  They each paid the price for their steadfastness in their call.

In the Gospel passage there is a quick change or conversion.  At first “all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”  But by the end of the reading today we heard:  “they were filled with fury.  They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill to hurl him down headlong.”

The reason for the mood change in the Gospel is clear.  Jesus tells them something that challenges their way of thinking, some of their security.  It would seem that they wished to have Jesus become their own private healer.  Jesus reminds them from their own history of two examples of God’s graciousness to those outside of Israel.  He cites the story of Elijah who was sent to a widow who was not a Jew.  She was blessed and received a miracle.  He also recalls that Elisha was sent to a leper Naaman the Syrian (another non-Jew). Naaman received his miracle.

 Jesus clearly makes the point that there were needy widows and lepers in Israel in those days.  But God sent Elijah and Elisha to the non-Jews.  In this passage Jesus doesn’t explicitly say he too will extend the Kingdom of God to non-Jews.  In the course of the Gospel Jesus will feed hungry people, raise a widow’s son and heal leprosy.  But Jesus healing touch will also extend to non Jews.  One of the lepers is a “foreigner” Samaritan.  He will cure a Roman centurion’s servant.  He will attempt to minister in Samaria (9:51-56).  In Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, the Gospel will spread into more and more non-Jewish areas.  Probably the readers of Luke’s Gospel and the Acts were non-Jews (Gentiles).  The response to Jesus will be the norm for belonging to the new People of God.  It matters not whether you are Jew or non-Jew (Gentile).  It matters whether you accept Jesus and his teaching and live it out.

After a violent attempt on his life, Jesus will simply walk away.  This foreshadows the end of the Gospel when the violence will take his life on the cross, but even then Jesus will pass through, he will be raised from the grip of death to new lif

Lessons for life: Have you ever in your life experience had a mood change quickly and abruptly, like in the Gospel?  A change from amazement to fury?   If so, what caused it in another or possibly in you?

Is there some area in my life that Jesus has been challenging me on?  Is there something about the way I am living, the attitudes I have, that is not in conformity with the words that Jesus taught and the life that he lived?  Am I excluding someone that Jesus would not exclude?  Why? What am I called to do about it?

Jesus evades his attackers in this Gospel passage.  Ultimately he will evade even their killing of him.  He will rise to new life.  The promise for us too is that we can pass from hostility and even death to newness of life in Jesus.  The people of Jesus time reject him as healer and prophet.  Are we able to face that we too might be rejecting something of Jesus and yet asking him for Miracles?

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

In each of the three readings today it seems we have a program for action.

    1) The people of the first reading are called to listen attentively to the book of the Law.  The law has power to uplift and sustain.

    2) Paul uses the metaphor of the body to teach people that we are to live as newly created people whose gifts complement each other.

    3) Luke gives us the “inaugural speech” of Jesus, quite stark and unadorned:  Jesus has come in the power of the Holy Spirit to make things better for the poor and others on the margin.

The Gospel today comes from two different chapters of Luke’s Gospel.  The first part is from chapter one.  There we learn that Luke is a third generation follower of Jesus.  He speaks of “eyewitnesses and then ministers of the word.”  Luke introduces the reader to his Gospel as a whole.  The second part is from chapter four and introduces the beginning of Jesus public ministry.  In this passage we learn in summary fashion of the program for Jesus’ life.

Jesus roots his mission and ministry in the written word of Isaiah, in which the Spirit sends the prophet to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberation to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed. I never noticed it before, but this line speaks volumes about Jesus: “He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written . . . .”  In other words Jesus knew the book of Isaiah and was looking for this particular passage. He was regularly  attending the Synagogue on Sabbath and must have listened attentively to the readings.  These words reflect the biblical idea of  Jubilee.  Pope John Paul II quoted them when he spoke of the Jubilee Year.

These words will be fleshed out in the actions and teachings of Jesus in the rest of Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.

But these words are also a challenge to us.  The todayness of this Gospel reminds us that the church must continually renew the true jubilee of concern for the marginal and freedom for the oppressed. We seem to have an uncanny ability to block out those portions of Scripture that challenge our prejudices and to magnify those that confirm our own advantage.  If we look at the issues that are promulgated through much of the TV and radio religious programming, what do we find? Forgiveness? The poor? Liberty for captives?  Setting the down-trodden free?  Caring for the wounded?  No these are not the topics we hear.  We hear of the Health and Wealth Gospel.  Give financially that you may receive health and wealth.  Money and self interest are talked of almost to the exclusion of other Gospel topics.

One commentator on these words has said:  “We have pried open a yawning gap between the world of faith and the world of ‘real’ issues.  As a result, we never have to worry about changing our behavior or confronting our culture.”

As we witness a “presidential” inauguration or hear a State of the Union Message, we must ask where are the kinds of people Jesus was concerned about in his inaugural address at Nazareth.

The bishops of the U.S tell us:  “The Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society." Several of the key themes that are at the heart of our Catholic social tradition are:

Life and Dignity of the Human Person;  Call to Family, Community, and Participation;  Rights and Responsibilities;  Option for the Poor and Vulnerable;  The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers;  Solidarity; and Care for God’s Creation. 

We as Catholics are called to oppose abortion.  Most Catholics support this view. But to be Pro-life means much more than to be opposed to abortion. We are also called to oppose the death penalty.  This is a clear teaching of our Holy Father and our United States bishops that many people choose to disagree with.  We are called in our tradition of social teaching to propose an economy of service rather than greed.  These are matters of faith.  These are matters rooted in our continuing to work for the mission of Jesus.  Our Catholic church has a rich tradition of involvement with “real” issues.  But most Catholics have not heard of this teaching.  Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK has brought the church’s social teaching to the forefront.  It would seem that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious’ emphasis on social justice brought them into conflict with the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.  Under Pope Francis this was finally resolved.

With Jesus we have a call to a new creation.  We are to be agents of this new creation.  The Church must be good news to all people, but especially to those who are broken in many different ways.  This is not something which we, as members of the Church, may or may not choose to do.  It is Jesus’ most challenging word to us today.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

The story of the wedding feast of Cana is only told in John’s Gospel.  A particular characteristic of John’s Gospel is his use of symbolism.  Many times the stories in John’s Gospel are working on several different levels of meaning.

At a very basic level this is a story of Jesus accepting an invitation (a call)  to a local wedding.  His mother is also present and seems to be helping the family with hospitality.  It is a story about a family, about being a good neighbor, about human celebration.  These events are part of our experience as well.  But into this story comes an uncomfortable shortage.  Through Mary’s mediation Jesus wonderfully comes to the rescue.  The story reminds us that faith is a family affair.  It appeals to our Catholic view of Mary as intercessor for us.  But John appears to have much more in mind.

This story looks back and completes the story of the first days of Jesus ministry in John’s Gospel.  The wedding is the culmination of the first week in Jesus’ public life.  John’s Gospel begins with the words: “In the beginning was the Word . . . ”  There are echoes from the book of Genesis which begins:  “In the beginning God created . . .” Genesis then goes on to tell the story of creation in seven days.  John parallels Genesis with his structure of beginning days in Jesus’ ministry. 

The story also fulfills,  in a beginning way, the call of the disciples.  Jesus called his first disciples and now after the wedding feast of Cana we are told: “ . . . his disciples began to believe in him.” The geographic site of Cana is unique to the fourth gospel. "Jesus begins his activity not in the headquarters of the Law, not in the center of the religious world of Israel, but on the obscure margins, hidden, quiet, yet invited." Becoming Children of God, p. 78.

In a third sense this story is a fulfillment story.  There were six large water jars empty.  John creates suspense almost making the jars appear to be waiting for something to happen.  Jews were conscious of numbers and their symbolism.  Six is incomplete. "The six jars are juxtaposed with the six days of the gospel's first week: the older is being replaced by the new." Becoming, p. 79 The jars are used for religious ceremonies for washing and purification.  The jars can hold twenty to thirty gallons.  They are filled, filled to the brim.  Then the water is changed into wine, but not just ordinary wine, but wine of the highest quality.  In the Jewish scriptures the coming of the Messiah was at times described as a time when there would be an abundance of wine.  Wine was a symbol of joy.  It  still is today.  We toast special events. 

As the Gospel story continues according to John, Jesus will replace the old with the new.  But for now the incompleteness of the Jewish people, the incompleteness of the disciples, resonates with our own sense of feeling incomplete, our sense of emptiness, our longing for more.  Jesus is a promise of fulfillment, joy, and abundance.

Mary’s words to the servants were:  “Do whatever he tells you.”  Mary’s greatness lies not only in her being the Mother of Jesus but in her faithful discipleship.  In Luke, Jesus responds to the praise of his Mother with the Words, “Blest are they who hear the word of God and obey it.”  Are we not in touch here with a clear example of the ways our Mothers’ words stick with us.  Mary’s words to the servants are almost exactly the same as those Jesus speaks in Luke's Gospel of his mother.  These words have become as it were watchwords for the Christian ages.  They are the way to true Discipleship.  In our relationship with God we are many times preoccupied to present our needs to God.  We share our dreams and desires with God.  But Mary’s words point out to us the need to listen.  We must take time in prayer to listen for the Word of the Lord.

The Words of John’s Gospel in this story also find resonance in us in our sacramental life.  We have gathered for the Eucharist, we have listened to the Word of the Lord, we will have the opportunity to share changed wine and changed bread, the Blood and Body of Jesus.  Mary and Jesus wish to be part of our ordinary life.  Jesus promises fulfillment to us too.  We must listen to the Word of the Lord and then carry it out.  John ends this story with the words, “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee . . . ” The first part of John's Gospel has been titled "The book of Signs". The second part is titled "The Book of Glory". Like the disciples we have the opportunity to share in Jesus glory and to believe in him.  We must follow Jesus.  The Gospels open up to us what this following means, not just for the disciples of Jesus time, but for us. The original ending of this Gospel, the end of Ch. 20 we hear the author's purpose: "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name." We can use Ordinary time to deepen our relationship with Jesus and accept the challenge to follow the example of his words and actions.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

BAPTISM OF JESUS


Pope Francis quote:  “We are not living in an era of change, we are living in a change of era.”  This is not to deny that many changes are taking place.  One example:

Simply counting Catholics since 1972, for example, you would get the impression that its population had remained fairly static - at about 25% of adult Americans (the current number is 23.9%). But the Pew report shows that of all those raised Catholic, a third have left the church. (That means that roughly one out of every 10 people in America is a former Catholic, and that ex-Catholics are almost as numerous as the America's second biggest religious group, Southern Baptists.

What does a change of era mean for the Catholic Church? Are we willing to look at our present reality?  There seem to be many signs that we are not. What does the Baptism of Jesus mean for us today?  What does our own baptism mean for us today?  What is happening as far as baptism in our Catholic Churches?  These are questions that I believe must be looked at.

First let us explore the Baptism of Jesus. I am most struck by the first reading from Is. 42.

Reading 1: IS 42:1-4, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

When I first read this passage I thought it was the one Jesus quoted in Nazareth,   Luke 4:18,19.  But it wasn’t.

Here is the passage from Isaiah 61:1, 2 that Luke quoted Jesus as saying in the synagogue in Nazareth.   “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, 2 To announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God; To comfort all who mourn;

You will notice that in the passage that Luke quotes, he has made significant changes. Luke 4:18,19: 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

The footnote in the NABr expands on this passage: “ . . . more than any other gospel writer Luke is concerned with Jesus’ attitude toward the economically and socially poor.”  Our first reading chosen for this feast puts the stress on JUSTICE. Pope Paul VI made the famous saying: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

WORK FOR JUSTICE.  To me it summarizes the ministry of Jesus.  Doug Oakman in his book Jesus and the Peasants makes this provocative statement: “While Jesus’ historical resistance to imperial and colonial realities left its traces in his traditions, it is also true that the canonical gospels of the New Testament shifted Jesus’ focus from social relations to relations between human beings and God.  In this sense, the New Testament made an early contribution to obscuring the meaning of Jesus resistance.”

Another author expresses the change that took place in the interpretation of the ministry of Jesus, in these words:  The shift that Oakman discerns in the canonical gospels of the New Testament was further amplified when Christianity opted for the religion of empire under Constantine.  “This was reflected not just in accommodation to the Roman Empire after Constantine, but through the spiritualization of Jesus’ prophetic message. The combined influence of Greek philosophy and Roman imperial social structures shifted the emphasis from fostering egalitarian relationships and transforming the world to the goal of saving one’s soul.”

This quote is found on the back cover of Wes Howard-Brook’s Empire Baptized (How the Church Embraced What Jesus Rejected) 2nd-5th Centuries.

Pope Francis expresses for me a very neglected part of Catholicism.  We are concerned with a Me and Jesus relationship, almost to the exclusion of what needs to follow our prayer. 

 Pope Francis declared:  “You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That is how prayer works.” Prayer without action is not sufficient, there must be action.

Is not the pope saying in different words what the Letter of James 2:14-17 is proclaiming: “ What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?i15If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?j17So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

In our Valley of Texas and elsewhere many people have made an ACTS retreat.  My exploration of the ACTS Facebook page shows me that it basically has announcements of future retreats and requests for prayers.  I posted a question asking what types of service are being engaged in.  I received a very meager response. 

In the Baptismal rite,  language is used which makes me wonder if it has much meaning for people: “Prayer of exorcism”,  “ . . . set him (her) freed from ‘Original sin’”, “Annointing with Chrism”, “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King” .  Questions are asked and routinely answered: “Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”  Never have I heard either parents or padrinos answer no. Renunciation of sin and Profession of Faith are answered in the same manner as the Creed is recited at Mass, routinely (and I feel with little meaning).

What are parents occupied with in preparing for a Baptism?  I’m afraid that for many people it is more a social event than a religious event.  In my experience Baptism preparation is often heavily involved with going through the Baptismal Rite so that people will give the “right” answers. 

So what are the effects of all of this?  (And this only begins to touch the contradiction between many words that are spoken and acts that are lacking.) Have you ever heard a sermon at Mass talking about the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church? A book on Catholic Social Teaching has as its subtitle “Our Best Kept Secret”. We must face the reality that Pew research has brought to the surface :

. . . the Pew report shows that of all those raised Catholic, a third have left the church. (That means that roughly one out of every 10 people in America is a former Catholic . . . .

Are we going to face this reality of what is happening in the Catholic Church in the United States?  Do we even talk with people who are part of the third who have left the Church to begin to find out why?  In my opinion the Bishops seem to be the most in denial about this state of things.

So I propose this reflection for our consideration as we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus.  What was he about? What are we “baptized Catholics” about? What can we do about it?

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

EPIPHANY

Today’s First Reading says:  “Your Light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.”  The Light of the Star guided the Wise Men, the Light shone on the angels, God wants to let his light shine on us.  But in the midst of the guiding light of the Wise men there are the shadows of Herod greatly troubled and all Jerusalem with him.  We invite the light of the World into our lives into our shadows.

Matthew is writing his Gospel about the year 80 for Jewish Christians probably living in Syria.  They are living the midst of two great transitions, separation from Judaism, and adjustment to the influx of the Greco-Roman world of the Gentiles.  They are being harassed by non-Christian Jews.  They are being overwhelmed by the great influx of Gentiles.  These were turbulent years of transition and disruption.  Matthew’s Church was suffering loss of perspective and unity.

Prophets say things that name a reality clearly:  Pope Francis has said: "We are not living in an era of change, we are living in a change of Era." Matthew’s Church was suffering loss of perspective and unity. Sounds to me like an apt description of our times. 

One of the great seekers of our time a Jesuit priest-theologian, Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J. gave a talk some 16 years after the second Vatican Council.  It was his attempt to give a basic interpretation of this Council.  In it he pointed out there have been three great ages of Christianity:  “First, the short period of Jewish Christianity.  Second, the period of the Church in a distinct cultural region, namely that of Hellenism and of European culture and civilization.  Third, the period in which the sphere of the Church’s life is in fact the entire world.”  Now Christianity must meet World Religions:  Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, etc.

The Gospel of Matthew, in a special way, tells something of the separation process of Christianity from Judaism.  But it is also dealing with the second age, the spread of Jewish Christianity to the Greco-Roman World.  We call ourselves Roman Catholics.  As Roman Catholics we have our own doctrines, worship, church law, tradition.  Our present day Roman Catholicism has been profoundly shaped by the splits that took place in the history of our Church.  There have been splits with the Eastern  Churches and Protestant Churches (I like to refer to them as separated sister churches).  But all of these groups are Christian.  The predominant geographical area for these religious groups has been Europe and then North and South America.  There has been some spread to the East, but nothing compared to the expansion of the Roman Catholic Church to the West. 

Our World has changed.  Now we refer to ourselves as living in a global village.  We know of Moslems in Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.  We know of Hindus in India.  We know something of Buddhists in China.  We may have heard about other more obscure (to us) Religious traditions.  It is in this world that we must now live and operate. 

The Gospel of Matthew was written for Christians that had been Jews;  people who continued to believe that only they shared the  privileged state as the Chosen people.  St. Matthew shows them that is no longer so, that now there are no more privileges in this way.  What used to be exclusively theirs now belongs to all people.  Matthew shows it through the scene we have just heard:  some Wise Men who come from the East are looking for the new-born king of the Jews, whose star they have seen in the sky.  Anybody, any woman or man of good will, who sincerely seeks goodness, justice and peace, can see themselves in these wise men from the East.  Our Christian imagination has painted them with warm descriptive strokes.  They are no longer just the kindly figures of the manger scene with their camels and dromedaries, exotic names, luxurious garments and their retinue like a fairy tale.  They are all those who seek truth and love, and who, guided by that,  wish upon a star, and find Jesus and  offer him the best they and we have, because in Him we see God himself made human. 

The topic of religious pluralism, the encounter of World Religions, and religious dialogue will more than likely be an ever increasing topic of discussion and discernment.  Some have said it is the religious theme of the new millenium. 

This Epiphany we should reflect on the guiding lights in our lives.  Who are they? What are we reading?  Who are our companions along the way?  What do I do when I get stuck like the Wise men did?  St. Paul said that a mystery had been revealed to him.  The mystery St. Paul is talking about is this:  God considers us all equal, loves us all equally, and has a special fondness for those who are excluded, marginalized, materially poor.  Who am I forgetting in the broader Jesus family?


(Pope Francis has given global attention to a particular evil of our time, sexual abuse.  He has called all the leaders of Bishop Conferences in the world to come to Rome in February.  Much preparation is being done.  The different cultural differences of the Roman Catholic Church may have to lead to dropping the "Roman" from the description. We have spoken of Catholic meaning "Universal".  Please let us all call down the Holy Spirit on those preparing and all those who will attend.)

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH

At present I am working on a manuscript for a book. This part speaks about the HOLY FAMILY: 


"Clearly the Gospels present Jesus on the move.  I believe that Jesus family experienced some type of disaster, possibly the death of Joseph that forced them off their land.  It forced Jesus to “travel to where work was.” I also believe that Jesus “exported his labor rather than a product.”  I believe this less glamorized picture, quite different than the happy holy family living in peace and contentment, more accurately describes Jesus’ hidden life experience. Jesus lived among those who for one reason or another were forced into begging, prostitution, tax collection or other occupations not directly connected to working the land.  It is important to remember the words of Marcus Borg. He reminds us that tekton was at the lower end of the peasant class, and not a step up from a subsistence peasant farmer as we might view such skilled workers today. “So Stegemann rightly says that the popular movement “associated with the name of Jesus was a movement of the poor for the poor.” Jesus did not make an option for the poor, he lived poor and out of this experience he preached and attracted followers."



HOLY FAMILY SUNDAY

The readings today give advice for mothers, fathers, and children.  They also speak of virtues which characterize a holy family. 

Families are changing.  Less than 38% of families now consist of Mother, father and children.

About 50% of people are living in households affected by divorce.

There is an ever greater increase of single parent families. 

The families where both parents work has increased in number.

Families very seldom eat a family meal together.  That time for communication is gone.  Watching television occupies a great deal of people’s time.

The most common adjective in talking about families today isn’t holy but dysfunctional.  There is abuse: physical, emotional, sexual.  We hear of drug abuse and alcohol abuse.  Abandonment, infidelity.

What image of family do we have portrayed on television?

The telenovelas, the soap operas, “all my children.”

The talk shows: Jerry Springer, Cristina, Oprah, Geraldo, Sally and more.

The Judge Shows: Judge Judy, etc.

The evening shows.

Families have power.  Power for good and power for bad.

Family can support, tear down, criticize,

Each family has its own secrets.

In Spanish we have the word chiflado/a  “spoiled”.  It has a good meaning used in an endearing way, but it also has the terrible meaning of “spoiled” like rotten.

In family we learn some very important things:  it’s where we develop our tastes for foods, at a basic level.

But its where we begin to learn how to relate, parent to child, child to parent, child to child, man to woman, woman to man.

It is where we internalize the way we deal with feelings.  Express, not express, suppress: anger, sadness, gladness.

We are called to be holy families.

The world of entertainment and sports and politics says:  “Show your best to others, but treat one another like dirt.”

The world of holy families says, “Offer your best to your family members and give what is left over to others.”

This Sunday reminds us that whatever the condition of our family life we are called to be holy families.  What do we need to do to enable our family to grow in holiness?

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 


 
   

 

 

 
 
 
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