Saturday, January 21, 2017

Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr Lectionary: 316

Just what do you do with this Gospel? "He is out of his mind." And that's Jesus's family. Suffice it to say that, Jesus is going to stir things up. We should not be surprised by strong reactions to Him. What is my reaction to Him?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Optional Memorial of St. Sebastian, martyr Lectionary: 315

The personal element of the new covenant is reinforced by the calling of the Twelve or the Apostles. The Church is going to be founded upon these men whom Jesus has selected to follow Him and to remain with Him. This is the model that Jesus Himself sets for evangelization: friendship. I need to look no further than my father for a good example of this sort of evangelization. No body would ever leave our church without being greeted by him and invited back. Nobody that he know even for a short time would not be issued an invitation to come to church. And such invitations would just keep coming. It was completely natural to him. It helped that he was not afraid to be "awkward." He would engage in religious conversations readily. When I worked with FOCUS in the university, I was always so surprised how very timid otherwise quite poised young people were to bring up religion whereas it has always just seemed a natural thing to do. I would have to keep encouraging and reminding the student leaders to engage in conversation with those leaving Mass, not to let them just leave. These are the people, after all, who even got themselves through the doors on their own! To evangelize this way, we have to get over ourselves. Remember the direction of charity: outward!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 314

"He warned them sternly not to make him known."

There have been lines like this at the end of a number of miracle stories in the Gospels recently. What is this about? Of course, practically it didn't work. Nevertheless these requests by Jesus show us that unlike our crazy world, Jesus was not interested in how many "friends" or "likes" He has, to say the least. He does not seem to be founding a mass movement. His miracles are personal encounters. He wants people to come to Him and to form their own judgment about Him. He wants faith, and faith is not a fad. Jesus keeps moving on, not allowing a home base to develop. He especially does not want people to hear about Him from demons! For Jesus, all publicity was not good publicity. So let's give Him what He wants, ourselves. His invitation is to come and to follow. To remain.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 313

"But they remained silent."

Good ole passive aggression! Doesn't it makes us feel so superior...and so miserable? It tends to flourish where their is fear and lack of servant leadership. It also flourishes where there is no humility but rather contempt and distrust. It is always a failure of charity. You see, the direction of charity is always outward, toward the other. When we retreat in to silence, we cut off that outward direction. We turn back on self. We can never do this.

Far better if the Pharisees had said, "yes, we think that you are violating the Sabbath." That indicates some degree of interest in the other. But not the silence. The silence is about self. Even if the fear to speak is real, then speak to God. Pray for the person and the situation. Hardness of hard cannot long survive in a charitable heart, that is a heart directed out to God and to God in others.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbot Lectionary: 312

"The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath."

For the Pharisees who were questioning Jesus, this answer was practically blasphemy. If Jesus were to answer today that the Son of Man is lord even of Saturday (and/or the weekend), He would be committing modern blasphemy. You see, the weekend is "me time," the sabbath of the Unholy Trinity of Me, Myself, and I. He would probably be taken out for stoning right on the spot, if he suggested that "all time belongs to Him" as we pray in the blessing of the new fire and Paschal Candle at the beginning of the Easter Vigil. In one of his works, C. S. Lewis suggests that we can see just how generous we actually are (rather than how generous we think we are) with out time, if we look at how we respond to demands on the time that we think is ours: a vacation, a day off, a little break carved out of a busy day, etc. If we are peeved at having that time snatched away by a demand of charity, for example, then that shows our level of generosity. I don't score very well in this regard. About the best I can say for myself is that sometimes I end up like the son in the parable who says "no" at first but then relents and goes to do the father's bidding. But that surrender is liberating because it is true. All time really is His, and He shares it with me freely. I actually had a bad dream last night that frightened me, and I was having a hard time getting it off of my mind. I was prompted by it to give thanks to God for what I have, including my time. I began to pray and the fear subsided. That's real. The Son of Man is lord even of...

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 311

Sorry for the terse postings lately. I have been succumbing to a sinus infection, thinking it was a bad cold and so have not been feeling the best. I have been to the doctor now and have meds and so am on the mend.

What is Jesus saying? I confess that I often ask myself this question. The hardest part is when someone else asks me what He is saying, and I have to offer some sort of plausible answer. In today's Gospel, for example, I don't really understand His answer about fasting, and I don't really understand the parables about mending cloth and about new and old wineskins. And I don't understand if and how any of these things go together. I might come up with something for each one of them, but taken together I am at a loss.

How about this for the first point on fasting? There is a time to fast and a time to feast. We definitely have the part down about a time to feast. I am not so sure that we take fasting seriously enough any more and so perhaps we are missing something. Maybe the parable about the cloth is an explication of this insight. We should not rush off to new things until we have been seasoned in the old. On the other hand, we can't just keep doing the old things in the old ways. It seems to me the deepest interpretation of the new wine is the Incarnation. Our old sinful humanity has to be transformed into the new man to receive the new divine life. The Blessed Virgin is the literal embodiment of this. She is the new wineskin, ready for the new wine.

The best that I can come up with, taking all of this together as the Church gives it to us today, is that the old has been surpassed but not superseded. The new has come, but He comes along the old ways: Jesus goes to John for baptism. That's my best shot.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 64

Ah, John the Baptist once again! The prophet. I was once told in my Anglican Sunday School growing up that a prophet is not so much someone who see the future but one who sees the present. Today's Gospel is a good example of this definition. Jesus is there for all to see, but only John sees who He really is: the Lamb of God and the Son of God. John, himself, says that he did not know Jesus until the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus' supernatural identity to Him. We have been given a prophetic spirit in our baptism so that we can see the supernatural realities around us. Too often we neglect this gift.