Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings can be found here.

Today's second reading from the First book of Corinthians tells me that If I do not have love, “I am a resounding gong or a crashing cymbal.” I admit, week after week, it is difficult to write a reflection that can be both challenging to you, my reader, yet not hypocritical. Who am I to point out the splinter in your eye, when I have a plank in my own? I am not perfect, but I write because I love each person in the church and I love the Church herself. I write as a duty to love,to challenge you, and myself as well.

Last week, we heard that we are each a part of the body. One is the ear, one is the nose, and another the hand. We are each a part of the body of Christ. We cannot belabor that we are called to donate money to a cause, while another has the time to pray in front of an abortion clinic, while another can counsel broken mothers. We all have our strengths and our weakness, and we each have our purpose. Ultimately, this purpose is to love.

I write today, to challenge you to look at the life you participate in on a daily basis, the ministries you are involved in, and the things you are passionate about. The pro-life march this past week was a testament to the numbers of people who are passionate about life. It is important to remember, though, the woman who carries the unborn. It is important to remember that she must be loved. A woman who teeters on the edge of an abortion needs compassion and love, she needs strength and hope. A woman there needs the support of a loving community to pull her back and give her the strength to bear the child within. She cannot do it without love.

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that Love is patient, love is kind. It does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it rejoices in the truth and bears all things. Your life is a gift to this broken world, but only if you have love. Otherwise, the sound of your cry is cacophony among the shouts of many others. It is a clashing cymbal, a resounding gong. We should follow the call that God gives to us. Following the call will help us to work and serve Him in the situations where we are best able to love.

If we have love, we see the individual, we see the need for healing, patience, kindness. Only if we have love can we bear, believe, hope and endure with others. I pray that you may follow God's call to love. I additionally ask your prayers that I won't just be noise in the world, but a loving voice, bearing, believing, hoping and enduring alongside the Body of Christ, calling each person to love others as God created them.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings can be found here.

The first reading from the book of Nehemiah details the Jewish tradition of reading from the sacred scripture. Upon hearing the sacred word of God, the people fall to the ground worshiping God and weeping. Ezra tells them to rejoice, to eat and drink and give to the poor. He tells them to celebrate the Holy Sabbath day and go forward with the Lord as their strength.

The Gospel parallels the event in the book of Nehemiah because Jesus returns to Galilee and reads from the sacred scripture. Jesus was inspired and led by the Spirit of God to proclaim from the prophet Isaiah. His authority is given by the Spirit and proclaimed to the assembly. He informs the synagogue that He is the one chosen by God, whom God's spirit is upon. He has come to proclaim liberty (to us), give sight to the blind (us), and free the captives (us again!).He takes hold of His position as the Messiah and informs the authorities that the time is now!

Next Sunday, when we gather to listen to the sacred scripture, as faithful people have done throughout time, we will hear what happens after Jesus' announcement. The people will scoff, refusing to believe that Joseph's son is the Son of God. They will drive Jesus out of the city, causing Jesus to say “no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”

If we were hearing the story of Jesus for the first time, we would again be on the edge of our seats. After this speech, Jesus cannot go back to his mother's house and work as a carpenter in obscurity anymore. He had even been driven out of his own home town. The Son of God, the Messiah, who comes to set the captives free, give sight to the blind and proclaim liberty has begun His work. Last week's passive Jesus at the wedding has stepped up to the plate. There is no turning back for Jesus now. Jesus has arrived!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings can be found here. They are really good this week, so I suggest you look at them if you haven't already!

“Brothers and Sisters … To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” We are each called to God's work. We may not know what it is, but God certainly does. To determine what our call is, it is helpful to look at our strengths, abilities, talents and skills and pray about how they may be used to the benefit of God's holy church.

One person may be good at organizing and office work. Our parish almost always needs help in those areas. One may be good at planning parties and having fun. We have many events that need to be planned including fundraisers, youth events, and ministries to the poor during the holidays. Another may only be good at accounting, the church needs that skill too! Then we have talents such as speaking, writing, singing, and playing musical instruments. The Church needs people to lead music at worship, lector (especially at Saturday 5pm and Sunday at 11:30am), and write for the bulletin. The needs of our parish, and the Church at large are tremendous and each of us are called to serve our Mother Church and the Body of Christ. We are all a part of the one body of Christ and each part has its essential function.

Jesus Christ was called to specific work in His lifetime and when he was about 30 years old, His mother gave him a push that resulted in His first scriptural miracle. At the wedding feast, Mary turned to Jesus knowing He had a special skill that could help the situation at hand. Jesus tells his mother that he isn't ready. Mary pushes him to action, as a good mother would. Sometimes we need someone to push us to action, especially when it comes to serving others and God. Sometimes we need someone to believe in us and encourage us in the good works we do. We need encouragers and enablers in our lives to push us into action.

We need to be encouragers and enablers to our friends, family and to strangers we meet. When we see someone with a skill or ability the church needs, our job is to give them a nudge in God's direction. Every one of us has a part to play in the story of our faith, from the priest, to the lector, to the people who stuff the bulletins, to the ministers for the children, youth, sick, and prisoner, to the infant who plays baby Jesus in the Nativity play. As the hymn says, “We are many parts, we are all one body, and the gifts we have, we are given to share. May the Spirit of Love make us one indeed... Working for the Father's Son, working that His will be done, let us lay our gifts before the Lord.” Indeed, let us lay our gifts before the Lord.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Baptism of the Lord

Today's readings can be found here.

Today we celebrate Jesus's baptism and the beginning of His public life. If we were hearing the story of Jesus for the first time, we might wonder what that child of God would do with his life. We heard of his miraculous birth, visitation by three kings, escape into Egypt, an ordinary life of pilgrimage as a teen, getting “lost” in the temple. When we listen to the story, he grows older and older. Today, we would be on the edge of our seats with anticipation wondering, “When will he act? He's a grown up already! What will come of his life?”.

When Jesus meets with his cousin John at the river, we've already heard about John, too. We know John was born to woman who was supposedly barren after an appearance of an angel, his father went mute during the gestation, John jumped in the womb when he was in the presence of Mary, pregnant with Jesus. As an adult, John preached far and wide, lived as a wild man in the desert living off of locust and honey. Both men were born under stupendous circumstances and amazing blessings.

When they meet at the river, we know something miraculous is going to happen. John had been baptizing people and saying that one mightier than him would come. Jesus arrives, is baptized and begins praying. The heavens open up and and the Holy Spirit gently descends upon him and a voice is heard, proclaiming that Jesus is God's son and has pleased God.

At this point, we should be on the edge of our seats! It is time for Jesus to begin doing whatever it is that he will do! If this is our first time hearing this story, we wonder, what will he do? The first reading, from the book of Isaiah, gives us our answer. In this reading, God names his servant, with whom he is pleased, just like we heard at the river after Jesus' baptism! Then, we hear what Jesus will do, why he has come to this earth. God says that he will peacefully bring justice to the nations. He is sent to bring light, open the eyes of the blind and free the captive. He is sent as a covenant to the people. Jesus is a promise of peace between God and man.

Fortunately this isn't the first time we have heard this story. We know the covenant between God and man is played out daily at Mass in the sacrifice of Jesus' life on the altar. His life and blood are poured out so that we might live in peace with ourselves and others, freed from sin. We are the captive who needs to be freed. We are the blind who need to see. We are in darkness and should look to Him for the light.