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The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time- January 20, 2019 The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time- January 20, 2019
The Gospel reading for this Sunday is not only the first miracle in John's Gospel--it is also John's first mention of Jesus' mother. I used to find it odd that he addressed her as "Woman." But in that time the word was more respectful; it could even be affectionate. Jesus does help as his mother requested, but he does so in a way that is a lesson about God's love.
You have probably heard how the Jewish people in Jesus' time performed purification rituals before eating anything. The cleansings were a sign that they wanted to be like God, completely free from sin. Eventually, it came to mean that you could not approach God until you cleansed yourself. Jesus could have made the wine in bottles or wineskins. But he used the "six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings" (John 2:6). That meant that once they were full of wine, no one could wash themselves from the jars. I wonder how many Pharisees flipped out when they saw that.
The point of this is that no one can cleanse themselves. We don't purify ourselves in order to come to God--we come to God to be purified. God is the only one who can make us holy. God offers this to sinners especially, because sinners who know they need forgiveness are the only ones to receive it. God never forces mercy on anyone. It is offered to those who ask for it. the amount of wine symbolizes the extent of God's mercy. As there was now more than enough wine for the wedding, God has more than enough mercy for those who need it. Wine is also a symbol of joy in the Old Testament. There is no greater joy than knowing that you have been forgiven by the Lord.  Read more...
The Baptism of the Lord- January 13, 2019 The Baptism of the Lord- January 13, 2019
Did the first reading from Isaiah sound familiar? It was also heard on the first Sunday of Advent in December of 2008. I suppose it could be a reminder that John the Baptist appears at the beginning of the Advent/Christmas season and at the end. In Advent we were preparing for Jesus' coming at Christmas. Now we are preparing for his coming at any time.
The reading from Isaiah talks about the Lord coming in mercy to the people whose "guilt is expiated" (Isaiah 40:2). With our sins forgiven we need not fear asking God for help: "Fear not to cry out" (Isaiah 40:9). The Lord comes in power, not to strike sinners down but to shepherd them and lead them.
In the second reading, St. Paul has a similar theme. Jesus gave his life for us on the cross so that we could be free to give ourselves in love as he did. No matter how bad I was in the past, the Lord loves me enough to forgive it all, and even better, to give the Spirit to help me stay close to God.
How do we prepare for this? We can start by hearing the words of the readings today, letting them sink into our hearts and minds. Ask the Spirit to help look for ways you can be more loving with your family, then with your friends, and eventually with anyone who needs your help. When we let that Spirit guide us, we become like Jesus in that we can listen for God to say, "You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased" (see Luke 3:22).  Read more...
The Epiphany of the Lord- January 6, 2019 The Epiphany of the Lord- January 6, 2019
A rather liberal priest was teasing one of the women of the parish, asking, "How do we know the Wise Men weren't Wise Women?" She answered, "If they were, they'd have brought bottles, diapers, and a bassinet, instead of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
The gifts, of course, are symbols of who Jesus is: a king who is both God and human. And I wonder what our gifts to the Lord say about our faith in him. Remember the song about the little drummer boy, who had no gift to bring but his ability to play the drum? It can remind us that a person who gives all they have, no matter how little it seems, is the most generous.
So what do we bring to the newborn King? I can give my time by coming to church for the feast of Epiphany and actually paying attention. Just making the effort to listen to the words of scripture, to hear what God may be trying to tell me, could be a great gift. Or I could bring someone in our family, or a friend, who doesn't go to church very much.
Now let's not forget the meaning of "epiphany." In ancient times it meant the appearance or manifestation of a divine being. Maybe a way to celebrate the Epiphany is to reflect on how God has been made known to me. Simple things, like a hug from a friend or an answered prayer, or major events like a wedding, the birth of a child, or a funeral, can all be ways to experience the Lord. The Wise Men received the gift of an epiphany by following a star. May the light of Christ lead you to him also.  Read more...
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph- December 30, 2018 The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph- December 30, 2018
On the feast of the Holy Family, it is tempting to compare our own families to the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Luke's narrative of the twelve year old Jesus in the temple is not a warning for parents to watch their children closely while travelling. The story looks forward to the time Jesus would be "lost" in the tomb after his crucifixion. Just as his parents found him on the third day, so Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day. And Jesus' remark, "I must be in my Father's house" (Lk 2:49) gives us a hint at who is Jesus' family.
Luke was well aware that the Temple was considered God's dwelling place. So to call it his Father's house showed that Jesus was the Son of God. Like Jesus, we call God our father, and like Jesus, we are part of a larger family than the one we live with.
But remember Jesus was 12 in this part of the gospel. So his duty to God included being obedient to his parents. We too have a tension between obedience to our parents and following God's call, a tension between taking care of our children and giving time to God's children in the church and the community. Let us ask God to help us appreciate what our family obligations really are.  Read more...