Have you ever noticed the chalice that is used in Mass causes a reflection? Some of the cups are colored or muted, but the gold cups in particular act as a mirror. When Father Bob holds it up during the consecration, I can see the congregation in the cup. When it is on the table, I can see the book of prayers and other vessels for Mass. And when I go up for communion and receive the cup, I see myself.
It reminds me of other mirrors. The mirror on my van reflects things as bigger than they actually are. The mirror in my hallway tells me whether I’m going to stick with the first outfit I put on or a later rendition. The mirror in the parish office is one way, so inside I can see people coming in but they can’t see me. Most of these mirrors have a purpose of showing me something I need to know. They reflect information.
But the chalice is different. It reflects who we are to become, and that is Jesus. Everything that cup holds and brings forth is Jesus. As Catholics, we believe we receive Jesus in the bread and wine. Jesus wants us to look at his whole life, death and resurrection; and then, we should take that leap and say yes to all of it. We drink it in. We say yes to our belief in it and say yes to our living it.
So seeing what the chalice reflects is powerful. We aren’t just seeing ourselves but Christ who is in us. It is a glimpse of how God sees us, really. We drink the wine and we are given a message. God is saying, “Look! Look what love does! Now go do it!” Father Bob raises the chalice that is Jesus within and, as a community, we have the capacity to mirror Him.
Eucharist is more than bread and wine. It is an action. We are Eucharist-ing. We are like the cup itself, holding Christ and reflecting Christ. We share in this mission together at Mass. We are communing. And then we are sent forth (The word Mass comes from the Latin missa, or to go, sent forth.). As we attempt to come and follow Jesus, be strengthened by what Jesus gave us. Jesus gave His very self, and wants us to be His living mirrors.
How might you reflect Jesus this week?
Editor’s note 5/28/2019: I’ve been thinking about this post again, because I was recently reminded that mirrors fully receive what is in front of them. Mirrors completely receive just as the onlooker completely receives the reflection. This is another layer of the mirroring that happens at Eucharist. We must be truly present in order to receive true presence. And by doing that, we are fully received.
Let us pray from St. Teresa of Avila
Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours. AMEN
A Reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (7:36-50)
36 Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to [a]dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And there was a woman in the city who was a [b]sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a [c]sinner.” 40 And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he [d]replied, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred[e]denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 44 Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47 For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” 49 Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say [f]to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” 50 And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
There is quite a contrast between the Pharisee and the woman, one showing hospitality and the other refraining from it. With Pharisees being so accustomed to rules, you would think it would be the other way around. But it is the woman who greets Jesus by kissing him, washing his feet and using an oil to refresh. These were customary things to do when a guest arrived, but the Pharisee does none of them. Why is that? Maybe he admired Jesus but didn’t want to show it out of fear, but this seems unlikely with his rude behavior. Maybe he was hoping to catch him in doing something wrong so he could charge him, yet he does call him rabbi/teacher. He probably collected celebrities, and Jesus seemed to be the latest fad (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, p. 93). This story is an example of people not always seeming on the outside what they are on the inside. This will be shown in Babette’s Feast as well. How does Eucharist transform us? How does Eucharist teach us to be our true selves?
“It is true to say that the greatest of sins is to be conscious of no sin; but a sense of need will open the door to the forgiveness of God, because God is love, and love’s greatest glory is to be needed,” (p. 94). This woman showed great need for Jesus. She wasn’t afraid to step into a place where she wasn’t supposed to be, hair unbound, and pour herself over Jesus. She uses no words, but her actions speak for her. Consider how approaching Eucharist would touch our hearts more if we showed great need for it like this woman. Consider the needs of the people in this film as well.
In Jesus’ parable, he points out how we like things to be fair and just. The man with the greater debt must love the moneylender more because he was forgiven more. Jesus tells this story in reference to the woman and why she is lavishing him with love. But who does the moneylender love more? He forgives both debts equally. That is how God’s love works. We love imperfectly, in the best way we know how. Note how love works in this film too. And in receiving Eucharist, we are all called to the table, no matter how worthy.
Let us pray
How often do we hold back, Lord?
We sometimes find ourselves
not coming to you
because we are not worthy, or ready,
to receive you.
Heal us. Open us to your presence
so that we might see
your great love for us
exactly as we are.
Reading #1: Acts of the Apostles 5: 12-16
This book (by the same writer as Luke’s Gospel) is sort of a cultic biography. It is a rather idealized version of the early church – the first people who knew and lived the reality of the Risen Christ. It acts like a norm by which we are to measure our attempts at being church. What do you find important in this reading?
This Second Sunday of Easter has become known as Divine Mercy Sunday. God’s mercy often comes to us through the quiet gift of another person who touches us with love, understanding, hope. — like a nurse who takes unusual care or a friend who really listens – who laughs with us and who likes us despite our ‘faults.’ Like Peter, we can all cast the shadow of God’s love and healing over another person . . . How have you experienced such mercy?
(Exploring the Sunday Readings, April 2004)
In Near Eastern cultures of this time, a shadow was commonly thought of as an extension of the person. It was a time of ‘magical understanding’ rather than scientific. It was even thought that one might harm people by stabbing their shadow. Symbolically, it was often used in Hebrew scripture as a sign of protection – especially God’s protection as in Ps. 17:8: “Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Understanding God’s Word, April – June, 2007)
Consider that word: esteemed. What images does it conjure in your mind? “The people esteemed them.” The dictionary has synonyms of
|respect, admire, value, regard, appreciate, prize, treasure, revere.|
Who does this for you? Who esteems you to be who you are and dare to put yourself out there? Imagine if the people did not esteem them?
Reading #2: Revelation 1: 9 – 13, 17-19
Revelation is an example of apocalyptic literature. It means unveiling; it tries to reveal the truth through ‘safe’ but powerful images, symbols, colors, numbers, visions and cryptic language. This is potent symbolic literature – it is written to those who had suffered persecution and were looking forward to more in the future. It was to assure them that goodness would never be overcome by evil. It draws the whole Biblical story into its own – a story of a God who journeys with humans to guide, shape and reshape human history. (Celebration, April, 2004)
The seven gold lampstands refers to the seven churches to which this ‘letter’ was written – what do you think of this image for a church? Notice Jesus is standing in the midst of them, with his feet showing and dressed like the lampstands. His first words are not to be afraid. How does this speak to you?
Do you have dreams/visionary insights/imaginary thought that impact your life too?
The Gospel: John 20:19-31
Can you relate to Thomas? When have doubts ever led you to greater faith?
“To believe in the resurrection of Jesus means to undertake
the surprising risk of reckoning with Jesus Christ as a present reality.” (Meinrad Limbeck)
What does that statement mean to you? This gospel reading is a culminating event in John’s gospel — shining forth with insight, symbol, and challenge. The community that gave us John’s gospel was experiencing much persecution, both from the Roman Empire that declared them illegal to the Jewish synagogues that declared them unwelcome.
What meaning do you find in:
the locked doors
‘the fear of the Jews’ (the authorities)
Shalom, “Peace be with you,” Jesus’ greeting
Jesus breathing on them (Genesis 2: 7; Ezekiel 37)
the power of forgiveness
the binding that comes from the lack of forgiveness
the wounds of Jesus
Thomas’ experience of doubt and faith (See John 11: 16)
It seems particularly important to John’s community to have Jesus assure those “who have not seen and have believed.”
Easter reality: Jesus lives; fear not! This is the cornerstone of our faith – joyfully proclaimed, but not easy to live. Fear can be crippling: fear of failure, fear of hurting or being hurt, fear of loss, fear of not knowing love, fear of pain, fear that what I know may not be so . . . Yet, a cowering band of men and women, hiding out from the authorities, suddenly became a powerful and public force for good . . . What made the difference? In the risen Christ they found the end to fear . . . (Celebration, April, 2004)
At the end of this gospel story, John writes that he has told this story so that “you may come to believe . . . and that through this belief you may have life.”
But the word John uses for belief is not a noun – but a verb! In fact, John never uses the noun faith or belief; he uses the verb 98 times! John is not concerned with an inward system of thoughts, but an active commitment to trust in Jesus and in his word. This is what it means to be a disciple. It is the very reason the Father sent Jesus and why Jesus came: “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:15). Jesus’ whole life, ministry, death, and resurrection are oriented to this one outcome. This is why Jesus persisted in the face of conspiracy, rejection, abandonment – and it is why Jesus came that Easter morning to those who were locked in fear – and then again to Thomas. It is also why he continues to come to us offering us his peace. (“Working with the Word”, Zimmerman, http://liturgy.slu.edu )
How many of us are like Thomas? Our faith may be strong, but there are slivers of doubt that creep in now and then. It is an ancient problem and John gives us an honest scene to ponder. Here are the disciples of Jesus hiding behind locked doors — Afraid. They were not expecting the Risen Christ. Locked doors are not a welcoming gesture! But suddenly he is there – offering peace, forgiveness, new life. There are no auras, no blinding lights, no accompanying angels to identify Jesus. Only his wounds. Doesn’t our own faith-life have more wounds than auras or lights or angels? Like the disciples we have seen many wounds. Of course, our culture tries hard to hide wounds and wrinkles and scars. Yet, perhaps one of the greatest gifts we have to share with each other is our woundedness. Only those comfortable with wounds can enter into the wounded places of others. Like Jesus, we carry our wounds with us. One powerful witness to resurrection may be our willingness to embrace these wounds — not out of some maudlin, masochistic, woe-is-me pleasure. Rather, we need to be ‘wounded-healers’ for each other (Henri Nouwen). For “the blessing lies close to the wound” as an African saying proclaims. Here in the ‘sacred wounds’ of one another we may find the presence of the Living One who can and will breath new life into us all. That is how our faith saves us. (Celebration, April 2000)
My sisters and brothers, how does God love you? Think about that for a few seconds, how does God love you? Now, look for a moment at our Crèche. Yes that is how much God loves us. This is what we celebrate today, Jesus Christ, Mighty God and Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, Jesus Christ, who came in glory with salvation for his people. Our God, who is love, who makes us channels of peace, loves us so much that he gave us the gift of his love in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, our brother, our friend, our savior. What a wonderful gift we have been given.
And this Jesus Christ, God’s gift to us, loved us so much that he gave his life for us so that we might have eternal life. Jesus was born, Jesus suffered, Jesus died, and Jesus rose from the dead so that we might live, not as we do now, but live the life that we, as human beings, can only imagine. A life of no suffering or pain, a life where every tear will be wiped away, a life where all are equal. Very shortly the simple gifts of bread and wine will be placed upon this altar, this table. There they will be changed, changed into the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The bread and wine are not the only gifts to be placed on this table though. As the gifts are brought forward tonight I invite each of you to add your own gift, the gift of your very life too. All your suffering and pain, your joys and your sorrows, your questions, any heaviness in your heart, all your thankfulness, where ever you are right now; place it on this table so that it too may be offered.
For all of us, my sisters and brothers are the Body of Christ and our lives too will be changed along with this bread and wine. Then as we share in this simple meal, as we receive the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ, may we feel the joy and the peace offered to us at this Christmas Mass and every Mass where we are fed with what we become. My brothers, my sisters, my friends, Christmas is also a time of giving and receiving gifts right? May I suggest giving one another and receiving from one another the best gift this year. This gift we receive in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Now may I ask you again, how does God love you? I would like to close by offering a gift to each of you. I don’t know how this gift got started, but I hope it is still given. I received this gift from my sister about 40 years ago. Then it was difficult for me to read this note not because the typing is small, but because I didn’t get to see the gift until I read the card that came with it telling me why she sent this as her gift and tears had already filled my eyes. Today I still get tears and I had to make the writing bigger. I offer this as a gift for you, but it is from our God who is love. The note says: “This is a very special gift that you can never see. The reason it’s so special it’s just for you, from me. Whenever you are lonely or ever feeling blue, you only have to hold this gift and know I think of you. You never can unwrap it, please leave the ribbons tied. Just hold the box close to your heart. It’s filled with love inside.”
My friends may Christmas joy and peace be with you.
Triduum means “three days”: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. But I’m going to be a rebel and talk about the forgotten day in the middle…Holy Saturday.
Holy Saturday is this awkward, in-between time. A not-knowing time, where everything just sits and you just don’t know what’s going to happen next. Some people fear the worst, some people hope for the best. Fear often creeps in. We often turn inward and go to that dark, hellish place. We’ve all had our Holy Saturday moments. Maybe we are waiting for test results, or a friend to come out of surgery. Maybe we applied for a job, or college. Maybe we are just in the rut of life, and don’t know where we are headed. Holy Saturday is unfinished and uncomfortable.
Traditionally, Holy Saturday is considered the day that Jesus descended into hell. You know how we say in the Apostles’ Creed, “…suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified; died and was buried. He descended into hell, the third day he rose again from the dead,”. You would think hell would be where Jesus could not be. But he goes there anyway. Jesus does not want us to be alone, even in our sin. Even if we let fear creep in and we try to shut our Lord out, he runs into the depths to find us. This is how Jesus enters into our lives. Jesus comes to be with us in our Holy Saturday moments, so we can rise with him on Easter.
Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar expanded on the insecurity of Holy Saturday. He begins with the emptiness of it all. “Everything that was, was a dream dreamt by no one. The present is all past. The future is nothing. The hand has disappeared from the clock’s face. No more struggle between love and hate, between life and death. Both have been equalized, and love’s emptying out has become the emptiness of hell.” But then as the day progresses, “Quiet, quiet! Hold the breath of your thoughts! It’s still much too early in the day to think of hope. The seed is still much too weak to start whispering about love. But look there: it is indeed moving, a weak, viscous flow. It’s still much too early to speak of a wellspring.” And then finally, hope dawns. “High-vaulted triumphal Gate of Life! Armored in gold, armies of graces stream out of you with fiery lances. Deep-dug Fountain of Life! Wave upon wave gushes out of you inexhaustible, ever-flowing, billows of water and blood baptizing the heathen hearts, comforting the yearning souls, rushing over the deserts of guilt, enriching over-abundantly, overflowing every heart that receives it, far surpassing every desire.”
As you walk through the Triduum, may you hold on to that hope which will spring forth. When you face the challenge of Holy Saturday, be at peace and turn to the Lord. He will go down into your desolation and fear, and He will raise you up with Him.
The Gospel — John 9: 1-41
In John’s gospel ‘miracle stories’ are never simple and are never called miracles. They are SIGNS that reveal Jesus. What do you make of this sign or teaching? What do you make of the mud/saliva paste?
e.e.cummings wrote a poem on spring; he called it ‘mud-luscious.’
Jesus spits – he mixes this part of himself with the clay of the earth. (Spit, saliva, in Jesus’ day was thought to have healing properties; it actually does.) He then smears (the Greek word used means anointing) the man’s eyes with this paste and tells him to go and wash. Ordinary, even crude, elements become ways for Jesus to work. This is the essence of our sacraments.
From Celebrations, March 10, 2002:
We are to be like this mud-paste; Jesus mixes into our ‘earthiness’ the healing substance of himself. We are to be people molded by Christ’s truth, transformed by his words. As this ‘mud-paste’ we are to be helping to ‘heal’ the world by being in it: we are ointment not pipelines. We help others to see Jesus more by how we are and how we live then by what we pass along.
The word Siloam means ‘Sent’ – so does the word apostle. Sacraments are ‘signs’ – rituals – that send us forth; every Mass also ends with a sending forth . . . What does it mean to you to be sent?
The story is about the struggle to see –what does this mean? Have you ever struggled to see?
At first, the blind man only knew Jesus as a man, then as a prophet; at the end he calls him, Lord – a beautiful growth in faith . . .What did knowing Jesus as Lord ‘cost’ the man? What does it cost you?
From Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu :
The original story in this gospel might have simply been about how a man was born blind and was healed by Jesus. This story was then later expanded due to the suffering and needs of the community for which John was writing. He was taking an experience of Jesus and applying it to the present situation. Isn’t that how the Spirit of the Risen Lord usually works? So John’s gospel has a trial and expulsion from the synagogue of Jewish converts to Christianity. This did not happen in Jesus’ day, but it did happen to those of John’s community. For this community to live through this very difficult time, Jesus must be seen and accepted as the true Light of the World that can help them overcome the darkness in which they were living. The washing in the pool of Siloam also suggests a further connection with baptism since the early Church often called baptism an ‘illumination” (photismos).
(Also, from Celebration, March 10, 2002)
From John Foley, S.J. “Spirituality of the Readings,” http://liturgy.slu.edu :
Why is this reading presented during Lent? Because it is pointing to the even greater healing that Easter offers us. We need to prepare for this. Jesus himself will suffer from the blindness of the world and will die because of the blindness of evil. Jesus will descend into the unseeing darkness of mortality, death, and by doing this he will show that love – God’s love –is stronger than death. By his death the world can be healed of its hatred, fear, insecurity; it can finally, once and for all, be assured of God’s love and power to bring good out of even the worst of evils. For, it is the crucified One who is the Risen One. We need to admit that we are like this blind man; we cannot see very well. Our eyes need to be opened. Due to Jesus, we can begin to glimpse and trust God’s answer to blindness, suffering, and sin.
Martin Luther Kin Jr. says, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Helen Keller was blind and deaf. Her teacher Anne Sullivan signed the word ‘water’ as she pumped from the well. It was in that moment that Helen had comprehension that words stood for things. She says, “She (Sullivan) awakened in me a long forgotten memory…the realization of that word…the touch of the water called my soul to life…she brought me into the light again.”
Some thought from Henri Nouwen in Here and Now:
. “…pain can be embraced, not out of a desire to suffer, but in the knowledge that something new will be born in the pain, “ (p. 47)
“What really counts is our willingness to let the immense sufferings of our brothers and sisters free us from all arrogance and from all judgments and condemnations and give us a heart as gentle and humble as the heart of Jesus, “ (p. 78).
The Gospel – Matthew 4: 1-11
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is led into the desert immediately after his baptism. “This is my beloved, on whom my favor rests.” Notice that these words of total acceptance by God are spoken before Jesus had done anything of great significance. This is critical to realize and remember as we enter our own times of wandering in life’s deserts (Wandering with God, Feb. 1993, p. 8)
Why would the Spirit drive Jesus out into the desert, especially now after what just happened? In Mark, it says, “the Spirit immediately drove him out,” (Mark 1:12).Did Spirit know what would happen there? It sounds a little harsh, at first glance. But Spirit is not way outside of ourselves. Spirit is within. It is our deepest inner desire that calls us outward. So Spirit was driving Jesus out to the desert because that is where Jesus wanted to be. Jesus wanted that space to himself. He needed the stillness. His ministry lay before him. He had a lot to figure out. He needed to keep it simple. He needed less. Intentions were good. Satan seemed to have other plans, though.
The word, Satan, has been used in scripture to mean many things: the talebearer, the accuser, the seducer, the one or the thing that separates us from God, that which brings or likes darkness. What do you make of the use of Satan here? (“the Perspective of Justice,” http://liturgy.slu.edu ) THE DEVIL is the personification of the wrong view of life, the wrong use of power, the wrong use of language. His way is a lie; it is false.
FASTING can be a form of prayer for God’s help when making a difficult decision. The act of fasting redirects the heart away from worldly activities and towards the remembrance of God. Jesus was faced with a life-changing decision, so he fasted, helping himself be open to God’s word and guidance. From what can we fast that could help us hear God more clearly?
Jesus was tested in the desert. But even there he continued to listen to his Abba’s words and to trust in his love over possessions, honor, pride. Jesus held on to the great love of his life. This Lent let us try to be again more like Jesus. May we re-balance our priorities. Jesus recommends this way: “Love the Lord your God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself.” (John Foley, S/J. “Spirituality of the Readings,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
The tempter beckons Jesus to choose a new center for his life instead of God: power (bread into stones), influence and control (throw self off temple), and exalted recognition bought at the price of false worship (all these kingdoms can be yours). Jesus lives in fidelity to who he is: gifted for responsible choices. He refuses the “easy way out,” which leads away from fuller human life. What are some important choices you had to make this week? Why is the desert necessary for full human living? (Breaking Open the Work of God, cycle A, p. 43-44)
Jesus left the desert convinced of three things:
- His power is for love; it is not to be used for self-satisfaction.
- He is called to serve, not to be served.
- He will not bargain with evil, even if it means suffering.
The word for tempt here in Greek is peirazein, which actually means “to test”. Here is a great and uplifting truth. What we call temptation is not meants to makeus sin; it is meant to enable us to conquer sin. It is not means to make us bad, it is meant to make us good. It is not meant to weaken us, it is meant to make us emerge stronger and finer and purer from the ordeal. Temptation is not the penalty of being a human, temptation is the glory of being a human. It is the test which comes to a person whom God wishes to use. So, then, we must think of this whole incident, not so much the tempting of Jesus, as the testing of Jesus (Barclay, Daily Bible Study Series, p. 63).
Other thoughts from Barclay:
- We must always remember that again and again we are tempted through our gifts. It is the grim fact of temptation that it is just where we are strongest that we must be for ever on the watch.
- No one can ever read this story without remembering that its source must have been Jesus himself. It is Jesus telling us his own spiritual autobiography.
1st Reading – Isaiah 49: 3, 5-6
This is from Second Isaiah – written during the Babylonian Exile. This servant was to help free these exiled Jews; it was a most difficult assignment. But then, God expands the scope even more. This servant and his people were to be a light to the nations. God’s concerns are not limited to any one race, or ethic group. God’s power to save wishes to expand “to the ends of the earth.” Everything and everybody is to be brought to wholeness and freedom (that is what salvation means). Celebration, Jan. 2002
As Jesus was called to be this servant, this light, so are we called by our baptism to bring the light of God’s love and to ‘put on the Lord Jesus.’ How do you respond to this reading?
This may seem like a ‘big’ order when too often we can feel more like a morning fog than like the light of Christ. Yet, God chooses us. The more we choose God’s way of love over our usual selfishness and preoccupation, the more the radiance of God shines forth. Prayer connects us to this Source. Exploring the Sunday Readings, Jan 2002
2nd Reading — 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
The next four Sundays we will read from Paul’s letter to the early Christian community in Corinth. This city was a wealthy busy seaport as it had two harbors, one open to Asia and one open to Italy. It was a veritable melting pot of people, cultures and religions. After it was conquered by Rome in 146 BC, it was re-founded as a Roman colony in 44 BC. It had a large Italian population and a sizable Jewish community. It was a place of many shrines to a variety of gods and goddesses. The Corinthian Christians would have been confronted on a daily basis by all of this variety, vivid images, and temptations. Paul was challenged to help them come to know the one God we find in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Celebration, January, 2002
Notice how many times Jesus’ name is said in this short introduction? Right at the beginning of this letter, Paul has Jesus at the forefront. It was a difficult letter dealing with a difficult situation…Paul goes right to the love of Christ to deal with it. Notice Paul calls it the church of God, not the church of Corinth. To Paul, wherever an individual congregation might be, it was a part of the one Church of God. Also notice how he describes a Christian: one that is sanctified in Christ, called to be holy and who calls upon Jesus name. Wm Barclay The Daily Study Bible Series
Who is Sosthenes? A friend of Paul’s and someone who was known in Corinth. It was a common name in those times. Sosthenes is mentioned again in Acts 18:17 but it is unclear if they are the same (In Acts, he is a leader of the synagogue, where here it is not known if he is Jewish or not.). The name means “saving strength”. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible and The Jerome Biblical Commentary
The Gospel – John 1: 29-34
John calls Jesus the ‘Lamb of God’ – it is a title with many meanings.
3 meanings in particular are –
Passover Lamb (Exodus 12: 6-13): The Passover Lamb recalls the time in Exodus when the Israelite slaves were told to sacrifice a lamb and apply its blood to the doorpost and lintels of their homes so that death would not touch them. This Passover led to their freedom.
Suffering Servant Lamb (Isaiah 52: 13 – 53: 12): The fourth Suffering Servant song in Isaiah describes a servant who goes like an innocent, oppressed, condemned Lamb to the slaughter – yet from this death comes new life and goodness.
Victorious Lamb (Rev. 5:6; 7:17; 22:1): The glorious Lamb that we find in Revelation is the lamb that has passed through suffering and death and now becomes the source of life-giving water; all humans can be freed by his blood.
We believe that Jesus is this threefold lamb – this lamb who takes away our sin and insecurity giving us new life and peace – alive with God’s grace and set afire with his love for the sake of the world and in service of his word. Celebration, January, 2002
This is a different picture of Jesus’ baptism. We are hearing it through the eyes of John the Baptist, as he was there and witnessing to this miraculous event. You know yourself that you give more credibility to stories that are told as seen vs. stories that are hearsay. He speaks as though he was forewarned of this baptism. Then John the Baptist calls Jesus the Son of God. It is very clear Jesus is center stage. John the Baptist is playing second fiddle. Is Jesus center stage in your life?
During this time of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday it is good to remember his hope and vision for a universal ‘salvation’ for all people. As he chose to live Jesus’ words in a world of difficulties, he, too, has become an example for all of us. Let us recall his words that were delivered on the steps of the LincolnMonument, August 28, 1963:
“I have a dream that one day . . . the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood . . . I have a dream that one day . . . little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers . . . I have a dream that one day every hill and mountain will be made low . . . and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope . . . this is our faith . . .With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discord of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to struggle together . . .”
My cousin Ellen, who lives a great distance from our once big, close, Catholic family, recently wrote that she has trouble understanding and sharing the Bible with those who don’t believe it. To her, the Old Testament God seemed punitive, not connected to Jesus all that much. So, in a rather playful yet serious burst of reflection (leap-frogging through scriptural time), I tried to off my take on Tale and Truth. As Catholic girls raised in the 50s, we heard of Noah and young David, then memorized the Rosary Mysteries. THE BIBLE as a whole? Not so much. So let me offer this hop-scotch through the Bible act as PART II of my evolving STORYTELLING Ministry this Advent:
During a meeting with Moses, God describes God’s self as I AM. So let’s imagine I AM creating the world in steps. FYI, the Church now sees creation as metaphorical – not 6 literal days. Finally, God rested, teaching us to stop and rest, savor the gifts of I AM. Genesis shows us God through creation’s beauty, its majestic evolutionary ways, its stars and black holes and – then – in several stories with some sweet, lovable, but misguided, egotistical people. Genesis is an amazing dance of human and divine – our likeness to yet chosen separateness from God. In this first book we see God yearning for humanity and humans not quite trusting in God’s providence. Eventually God chooses Abraham and Sarah, offering these two very old people the impossible – descendants as numerous as the stars. Thus, our ancestors in faith, the Hebrew people begin. (The Muslim people too but that story doesn’t unfold for many years.) God’s initial covenant sounds something like: I’ve chosen YOU to carry the message. I AM is all powerful (not that I’ll fix your every woe), nurturing, providing Teacher. I’ll LOVE YOU without limit, send prophets and elders galore, make you prosperous beyond your imaginings. All I ask in return is keep turning to me…NOTICE I’m here. THANK me for creation. RESPECT that I am your guide. And God sent deliverance from oppression, rules for the road, even a promised milk and honey land.
But…for those good but miss-the-mark humans, that was just too good to be true. Soon they were whining, “Can’t we just have a KING – one who FIGHTS for us and wins? Brings us wealth and the spoils of war? You know, like all the other tribal people? Can’t you hear God sigh? Our great I AM, our Mother/Father/Mystery/Wisdom/Parent shook God’s head and said…OK, if that’s what you really WANT. Don’t say I didn’t warn you (through Samuel, God’s spokesman at the time). Human kings can be pretty horrible when they forget I AM! So Saul became the first king that the PEOPLE chose and God said, “OK I’ll bless that king, but he’d better remember I AM. Saul turned out to be not all that devoted to God. (He grew jealous at just the sight of young David and tried to KILL him! You can understand how God did not like that!)
Yet, God saw something special in young David, Jesse’s youngest boy, out there in the fields playing his lyre. So I AM thought, “This one just might make a truly great king.” David, like some humans, got full of himself and made some less-than-wise choices (Bathsheba). But, God’s teacher Nathan set David straight, and he turned to God (good move!) wisely and humbly saying, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” He wrote the top ten songs to God we call Psalms, and straightened himself out. So God gave David a brilliant son named Solomon who, again humbly, asked for WISDOM! God thought, “Good choice! Just maybe this king thing WILL work.” But Solomon got greedy and arrogant. He thought he’d be famous for THE BEST EVER TEMPLE for God and turned lots of God’s chosen people into slaves to build it. Then he taxed to death the rest to balance the budget. Not so wise. He also partied with concubines galore. Frankly, after that, hardly any earthly king could keep the Hebrew people close to God for a very long time.
The rest of the Old Testament is full of nasty kings, partying and fighting and foolishly building gold statues to OTHER gods like Baal, messing with “sacred” prostitutes and even sacrificing children. BAD IDEA! Poor I AM is now sighing and frowning. Wouldn’t YOU be? God started sending prophets to say, “You don’t get it! Where’s the LOVE AND RESPECT God asks for? Where’s the help for the poor, widows, orphans? And what is it with these not-even-real gods! God commanded us to spread the word about I AM, the only one!
Soooo finally God called some prophets to give a picture of what a truly great king looks like…NOT militaristic, NOT partying wildly (though he will have some good times with friends), NOT warring with factions, NOT overly stuck on himself or even on the law. God’s prophets warned the people and a lot of destruction came to wake the people up. Part of the message was “Imagine God sending a new kind of KING, as a shoot from Jesse’s tree, from the line of David, yes, but a king who will be about LOVE. Yes, LOVE of God and LOVE of others, especially the poor and downtrodden. Why, lions will lay down with lambs. Children will play with cobras. This King will be about justice and service and kindness and peace. THIS KING will GET GOD, see God as the Providential FATHER that I AM has always been for his people. Akin to David and Solomon and the better Kings (Hezekiah and Josiah), he will humbly lead like a Good Shepherd and bring back the lost of the fold.
So God sent Jesus, who truly GOT GOD, who is God, who became GOD’s WORD to the world. Jesus’ whole life spoke of what God wants for and from his people – LOVE. God had made humans hard-wired for communal, loving living! God made them to be generous not greedy, service-minded not overly-selfish, hopeful not despairing. (Not that despair is wrong, it’s just a feeling.) God simply wanted people to TURN TO GOD. Jesus did. NOTICE I AM with you! Jesus did. CRY OUT for help. The humble, broken, Jesus did and showed us how to stay connected to God.
Honor God as Father. Keep Holy God’s name. REST and turn back to God as the commandments long taught. Don’t get overly picky about humanly designed laws, lording them over those who struggle. Don’t cheat the poor. Walk with them. Stay humble. See the children as teachers of innocence and purity. Allow yourselves to be vulnerable. Depend on God. Turn to I AM for all your fears and needs. SEE the widows, the lame, the blind, the demonized. Never turn away in disgust or fear. Offer compassion toward the down-hearted. Lend a hand till they are out of trouble. Walk WITH them, as God has always walked with you. KNOW the Father. Be still and listen in prayer. Give thanks. Sing. Dance. Play the lyre, as David did. You don’t need another King. Remember my promise: YOU are MY PEOPLE and I AM your God.
Reading I: Isaiah 62:1-5
Your God rejoices in you! You are God’s Delight, God’s Espoused! How does this speak to you? When were you so full of joy you could not be quiet?
The conferral of a new name designated God’s almighty power over creation. When one was given a new name, that person was made a new creation, (Birmingham, W&W, p. 88). Isn’t it endearing when someone calls you by a nickname? It draws you close to each other. God calls you by name, for you belong to God. Relish in it.
Reading II: Acts 13:16-17, 22-25
In this reading, Paul is connecting the messianic promise in the Hebrew scriptures to its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Paul wants to be sure his audience is listening to this message. Jesus came to save them – and us! Know that this Christmas. Jesus comes to us as a small child, unlike any image of Messiah anyone could have possibly imagined. But Jesus comes to us now, in our hearts. We must listen for it.
Gospel: Matthew 1:1-25
Matthew begins with this genealogical lineage, almost like a commercial before the main event. It was so important to the people at that time to see a link between Abraham, the Father of their faith, and Jesus. The important link is Joseph, since he is Jesus’ legal father and heir to the house of David. The genealogy shows that God used ordinary, unknown men and women to be part of the greatest story over told. Not just unknown – some were downright scoundrels! David himself was no saint, and others were horrible kings. But everyone has a place in history. We all may have a sordid family tree – Jesus understands that! (Remember that when you are at your family gatherings this Christmas!) Jesus stands as a beacon of light in the midst of relational darkness, (Birmingham, W&W, p. 90).
From Celebration Dec. 2004:
On keeping Christmas all year long: believe and live as if love is the strongest thing in the world – stronger than hate, stronger than fear, stronger than death. “God-with-us” – God’s power and love is forever involved with all that is human.
From The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew Vol I, Barclay:
Jesus is the answer to the dreams of men [and women]. It is true that so often we don’t see it that way. We see the answer in power, wealth, material plenty and the realization of anticipated ambitions. But if ever our dreams of peace and loveliness, and greatness and satisfaction, are to be realized, they can find their realization only in Jesus Christ.
The relationships in this passage are bewildering…first Joseph is betrothed to Mary, then he wants to divorce her, and suddenly she is his wife. These are the steps to a normal Jewish marriage procedure in those days:
- Engagement: This was usually done when the couple were only children, through the parents or a matchmaker.
- Betrothal: This was the sealing of the engagement. The girl could withdraw up to this point. Once entered, it was binding and lasted a year. The couple would be called man and wife even though they didn’t quite have the rights yet. Only divorce could end a betrothal. This is the stage Mary and Joseph were in.
- Marriage: Full marital consent.
Jesus is the Greek form of the Jewish name Joshua, meaning Jehovah is salvation. Jesus was born by the action of the Holy Spirit, a Virgin Birth. What does this mean for us? According to the Jewish idea, the Holy Spirit was the person who brought God’s truth to humanity. It was the Holy Spirit who taught the prophets what to say and what to do. This is how Mary and Joseph would have understood it. Jesus would be the one person who could tell us what God is like, and what God means us to be. In Jesus we see the love, the compassion, the mercy, the seeking heart, the purity of God as nowhere else in all this world.
From Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing:
God takes on flesh so that every home becomes a church, every child becomes the Christ-child, and all food and drink become a sacrament. God’s many faces are now everywhere, in flesh, tempered and turned down, so that our human eyes can see him. God, in his many-faced face, has become as accessible, and visible, as the nearest water tap. That is they why of the incarnation.
God is still here, in the flesh, just as real and just as physical, as God was in Jesus. The word did not just become flesh and dwell among us – it became flesh and continues to dwell among us.