Friday, November 29, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection, December 1, 2013: It is the hour to awake from sleep...

Rouse yourself and get ready!  
Carrying on as usual is simply not possible any more!

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and, as we leave ordinary time, our readings this week call us to a new and radical awareness:  we are entering a new age and we need to be ready, now, to do so.  In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah calls the people of Israel to be open, to listen, to hear the promise of what is to come.  Jerusalem, he tells them, will soon be a different nation, one in which there is no more need for weapons, but rather radical transformation: their spears and swords will be turned into pruning hooks and plowshares, a change that signals a new sense of being, one lived in peace and justice in the divine presence, so that the nations might be drawn to the city, as we hear in Psalm 122, where the pilgrimage to the Holy City is marked by rejoicing, and by joy.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus similarly admonishes his disciples to stay awake, and be prepared!  This passage, taken from late in the gospel, is meant to prepare them for Jesus’s Passion, for the agony in the garden and his arrest.  Jesus gives them multiple examples that demonstrate the need to be aware:  Noah, one of the men in the field, one of the women at the mill.  Carrying on as before is no longer feasible:  something radical has happened (Jesus’s coming) and something even more radical is going to happen (his death & rising), and it will radically change how they understand themselves.  And by the time Paul is writing to the Romans, a new light has dawned:  Let us throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, he tells them.  In other words, wake up!  Jesus  has shown us the path and we must walk it:  we who believe know who Jesus is, what he came to represent and to reveal, and we can no longer dwell in the darkness of our present age. 

Advent begins this Sunday!  We are entering a new age, an age of Light.  Are we prepared?  Are we ready for the Incarnation, and, eventually, perfect union with God?  Wake up!

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Photo source

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Blessed Thanksgiving to All!

Our Lady of Mount Carmel
wishes you and yours a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Eucharist means Thanksgiving!
We hope you will join us for Thanksgiving Mass at 9:30am on November 28th.

A Catholic Thanksgiving Celebration

Loving Father, on this Thanksgiving Day we pause to remember how grateful we are to you for our home, our clothes, our friendship, and this food.  We know that throughout the world and even in our own community there are other families like ours who do not have the privilege of nourishment.

We promise to help those who are in need of compassion in our own community.  We promise to work for justice in our own country and throughout the world.

Loving Father, on this Thanksgiving Day, we thank you for all that you have given us.  Sanctify our efforts to bring peace and justice to our world as we ask you to bless this food, which we receive gratefully in the Name of Jesus Our Lord.  Amen.

The above prayer was adapted from a short family prayer service for Thanksgiving published by Gerald Watt.  You can access the text for the entire service, complete with opening prayer, reading, petitions and closing prayer by clicking here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

King and Kin (The Infant Jesus of Prague)

King and Kin

My mother has a statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague like the one pictured above on a dresser in her bedroom.  She changes its robes fairly often, but not necessarily according to the official colors of the liturgical season:  green, for example, the color for Ordinary Time, might show up at Christmas and alternate with red, a color usually reserved for the feasts of martyrs.  As a child, I was fascinated by this child-statue, with its oft-changing yet somewhat formal appearance; as an adult, I now appreciate its profound symbolism.

I suppose it’s not surprising that this image should come back to me as we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, for this Holy Infant is just that:  a child dressed in royal robes, both kin and king.  Christ’s royal nature is illustrated by his left hand, which holds a globe topped with a cross, a symbol of Christ’s kingship; this status is seconded by the crown on his head.  Yet Jesus’s human nature is not neglected.  He is after all portrayed as a child, small and vulnerable, the kind of child you might want to take up into your arms.  His humanity is also inscribed in his gesture.  The two first fingers of the statue’s right hand point upward, together, a symbol of Jesus’s dual natures:  he is human and divine, both, simultaneously.  The two remaining fingers and the thumb of his right hand come together across his palm, a symbol of the Trinity.  (It is a gesture of blessing still used today by the Pope.)  The New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has noted that the prophecy from Isaiah, The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations (Is 52:10), is fulfilled in the tiny arm of the infant Jesus poking its way out of his manger-bed.  The two images are wedded in the statue of the Infant of Prague.

As we consider the Feast of Christ our King, let us not forget that Christ’s kingship is inextricably tied to Jesus’s humanity:  he is at once king and kin, no matter the season.  And as we are baptized priest, prophet and king, so are we called to live out that kinship in our service to other, and to the world.

For more on the story of the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague, click here.
Photo source

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection, November 24, 2013: Your bone and your flesh...

It's the Feast of Christ the King!  In our first reading from the Second Book of Samuel this weekend, David, King of Judah, is approached by the tribes of Israel who want to make him their king as well:  Here we are, your bone and your flesh, they tell him.  It is a relation of kinship that they describe, a matter of identity based in familial ties.  As their king, David will carry their identity; like a shepherd, he will be the one to whom the flock belongs, and he will bear full responsibility for their welfare.  And Psalm 122 suggests that his judgments will be based on the wisdom that he gets from God.

The kingship of Jesus is foregrounded in Luke’s Gospel, first, in the soldiers’ jeering mockery – If you are king of the Jews, save yourself – and later, in the humble entreaty of the thief crucified with Jesus – Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.  Only the thief truly understands:  through the Cross, we have been brought into a kingdom that is ruled not as the world rules, because the world’s definitions don’t include the infinite fullness of God.  Jesus is at once king and kin.

We come before God as Israel came before David.  We proclaim, we are your bone and your flesh.  What kind of identity does that proclamation establish for us?  Paul’s letter to the Colossians tells us that Jesus became a man, entering the human realm through incarnation, uniting himself to humanity on the Cross and taking it through death to redemption.  The Cross is evidence that kinship gives us life with Christ, paradoxically, through his death:  we are transferred … to the kingdom of his beloved Son.  This is the inheritance of the holy ones in light:  a gift, not earned, kinship with Jesus Christ, he in whom our identity is found.  Like King David, we too have a responsibility that is ours through kinship:  we are to allow the incarnation to take place in us because he has made us fit to share in it with him.  King and kin all at once, Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  We, in turn, are to work to be the image of Jesus on earth, giving flesh to him, serving as his hands and his feet, his bone and his flesh in the here and now.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Photo source

Monday, November 18, 2013

When Death Comes (Mary Oliver)

A poem by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; 
when death comes
like the measle-ox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say:  all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real. 
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Volume 1

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Guest House

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

(Jelaluddin Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks)