Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, January 3, 2015: Raise your eyes and look about...

Are you seeing differently yet?

Has your vision been altered by the Incarnation?  The Feast of the Epiphany, which we celebrate this Sunday, is a celebration of the ways God's revelation can alter human vision.  The prophet Isaiah calls the people to raise their eyes and look about:  God is working in new and surprising ways in their midst!  Their renewed ability to see (differently) is a revelation; they shall be radiant at what they see, for this new capacity for vision causes them to rethink their idea of God.  Likewise, Psalm 72 chronicles the many ways King Solomon was called to remain open to God's revelation, so that he could be filled with wisdom, the source of judgment and of the justice that characterized the beginning of his reign.

The magi from the east who seek the newborn king of the Jews in Matthew's Gospel do so because they have a particular vision:  they were the scientists of their day, astrologers, considered to have the divine gift of sight that enabled them to read the heavens.  Seeing the star is enough to make them leave their homes and travel a great distance to seek not just another king, not just a great king, but the divine Jesus himself.  Their long journey parallels our own:  our journey to see Jesus in our lives is not a one-day affair, but a lifelong voyage toward the unknown.  Paul tells the Ephesians that the mystery was made know to him by revelation; it is now revealed and that revelation is meant for all; all are coheirs and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus. 

The Epiphany's revelation is not just that Jesus Christ has been born, but that he lived, died, and rose, embracing our humanity and taking it to death, that that humanity might be transformed by resurrection.  Wise men and women lead us to Jesus; we see if we are open to the light of God's revelation of the power of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection in our lives, and if we allow that light to transform our vision.

May your sight be altered, your vision cleared, 
by the revelation of God's light at the Feast of the Epiphany!

This post was based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Image source:  Wordle

Monday, December 28, 2015

Deepen your relationship with God...

  Holy Family Sunday reminds us that God wants to be in relationship with us, a member of our family, so to speak.  But how can we deepen our relationship with God?  Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has ten suggestions, which we summarize in a few words below, but the complete article is a must read: click here!
1.  Start by listening to God.
2.  Cultivate silence.
3.  Seek humility.
4.  Cultivate honesty.
5.  Seek to be holy.
6.  Pray.
7.  Read Christian authors.
8.  Have faith, and act on it.
9.  Recognize your need for friendship and community.
10.  Embrace the sacraments.

Image source:  Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, December 27, 2015: We are God's children now...

 Is God a member of your family? 

  This Sunday's Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that, when we speak of the members of our family, we need to invite God into their number.  1 Samuel tells the story of Hannah who, in her barrenness, promises her firstborn son to God should she be able to conceive.  Hannah's vow deepens her relationship with God, as the very act of making a vow implies a recognition of God's presence and activity in Hannah's life.  Hannah promises that her son will be a perpetual nazirite, destined to spend his life serving God in the temple.  This may sound harsh to modern ears, but remember that for the people of Israel, God dwells in the temple, and nothing can be more beautiful than dwelling in the very presence of God:  How lovely is your dwelling place, o Lord of hosts! Psalm 84 reminds us.

Luke's Gospel also brings a family to the temple:  it is in the temple that Mary and Joseph will find the twelve-year-old Jesus, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Clearly Jesus also believes his proper place is in God's dwelling place:  Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house? he asks his worried parents.  Jesus thus foregrounds his relationship with God; Jesus dwells with God, and God with him.

1 John extends the primacy of this relationship to Jesus' followers as well:  See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God, John writes.  Jesus, God's revelation of God very self, invites us to join in his identity as children of the Father.  May we yearn, like the psalmist, for the courts of the Lord, our heart crying out for the living God, the God who dwells with us, and in us, the God who is a part of our family, a part of our very selves, so long as our heart is open to it.
Is God a member of your family? 
You certainly are a member of God's!

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Image source:  Wordle

Friday, December 25, 2015

Once, in our world... (C.S. Lewis)

 Once, in our world, 
a stable had 
something in it 
that was bigger 
than our whole world...

The Son of God 
became a man 
to enable men to 
become sons of God.


Quotation source (1):  C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, 1956
Quotation source (2):  C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 1952

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

If it takes not place in me... (Meister Eckhart)

  We are celebrating the feast of the Eternal Birth which God the Father has borne and never ceases to bear in all eternity… 

   What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself?

   And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to the Son if I do not also give birth to Him in my time, in my culture?

  This, then, is the fullness of time:  When the Son of God is begotten by us.

--Meister Eckhart (1260-1327),
paraphrased by Matthew Fox

Image source:  Nativity, detail of the door of the Baptistry in Florence, by the sculptor Ghiberti (1378-1455)

Monday, December 21, 2015

I want to be pregnant with God, but... (Enuma Okoro)

  I want to find my place amongst the people of advent  
but I can't quite decide who I am.  
I want to be pregnant with God  
but it takes such a toll on the body.  
I have given birth to things before  
And labor is hard and untimely.  
I want to welcome angels and say yes to anything.  
But if I saw an angel I would hold him hostage  
and send a ransom note of questions  
demanding answers, to God.  
I want to cheer blessings from the sidelines  
with a belly growing with prophecies,  
and have friends and strangers take hope.  
Because God has a season for those whose seasons have passed.  
I want to put my trust in dreams  
and in the words of the ones I love,  
to believe that God is as close as the one who would share my bed.  
But mostly I want to break from being the one  
who falls silent in the presence of all that's holy,  
who loses her words in disbelief,  
terrified by claims of joy and gladness,  
unable to believe that prayers are answered.  
Image source 1
Image source 2: Maria gravida (Mary at the Spinning Wheel), 
Németújvár, Hungarian National Gallery

Saturday, December 19, 2015

We are mothers... (St. Francis of Assisi)

  We are... mothers when we carry [Jesus] in our heart and body through love, and a pure and sincere conscience; and give Him birth through a holy activity, which must shine before others by example.
--St. Francis of Assisi

Image source:  Jacques Daret, Visitation, from the Altarpiece of the Virgin, ca.1435 (Staatliche Museen, Berlin)

Quotation source:  St.  Francis of Assisi, Letter to the Faithful

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, December 20, 2015: Blessed are you who believed...

How will you be transformed by the coming of the Lord?

After their exile in Babylon, the people longed for restoration, for a messiah, for one who is to be ruler in Israel. The prophet Micah shares with them the promise of salvation: there is one who is to give birth to a savior, he tells the people, and he shall be peace, a gift that will transform them.  In Luke's Gospel, Elizabeth likewise recognizes the coming of the Messiah as her child leaps in her womb at the arrival of her pregnant cousin Mary.  Elizabeth is transformed by the Holy Spirit working in her; she is redefined by her encounter with her Savior. 

Our readings this weekend challenge us, not to figure out who the Messiah is so much as who we will be once the Messiah has come.  Give us new life, the psalmist prays in Psalm 80:  it is a prayer for transformation.  The Incarnation redefines us as human beings; Christmas redefines who we are, to this day.  Why?  Because we are still being transformed by the power of God's love in us -- most obviously at Eucharist, which is our participation in Jesus's body, in its death, rising, and transformation.  We are that Body, the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, and the more deeply we enter into that reality, the more we ourselves are transformed.  More still:  by our participation in the Body of Christ, the world itself is transformed.  The authors of the Didache prayed, and so may we be:  broken to feed the many.  We are brought together in the Body of Christ to become food, spiritual food, for the world.   In this sense, Incarnation is not complete; it is being continued in us, through us, as we are transformed daily by the coming of the Lord, in Eucharist, in our hearts, in our very wombs.

How will you be transformed by the coming of the Lord?

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Image source:  Wordle

Monday, December 14, 2015

Winnowing (Simon O'Faolain)

   Here we go, trying 
to separate 
the infinite possibilities of life 
from the limited circumstances 
we prefer. 
At the last breath 
none of us know 
whether it was the chaff 
or the grain 
that flew off in the wind. 

 --Simon O'Faolain