In Christ, the world is transformed and we are called to be transformed along with it. Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, which we hear today, is more direct than Matthew’s. More difficult, as well. It is not the poor in spirit who inherit the kingdom of God, but the actual poor. It is not those who hunger for righteousness who will be satisfied, but the plain old hungry. As if that weren’t enough, Luke, unlike Matthew, also includes the flip side: “Woe to you who are rich...woe to you who are filled now” (Luke 6:24-25). Basically, the Kingdom of God reverses your current place in society. As Christians we are paradoxical people. In baptism, we die with Christ. Because we have died with Christ, we receive the promise of eternal life. As Paul points out, we trust that Christ has been raised so that we may be raised as well. To borrow Jeremiah’s image, we are the tree planted beside the waters of baptism—the waters that bring plenty out of poverty, fullness out of hunger, joy out of mourning, and life out of death.
If your current place in society were reversed, where would you be now?READ MORE
What in the world does she see in him? We ask incredulously when the object of a friend’s interest seems unworthy. One may ask the same of God regarding the imperfect people who become prophets or disciples. Why would God choose Isaiah, a man who admits to being unclean, and worse, doomed, for such was the fate of those who had seen God? Why would Jesus choose Peter, impetuous, stubborn Peter, who admits to being a sinful man, foreshadowing his eventual denial of Jesus? Yet God chooses both and both end up playing major roles in the history of the church. So too does Paul, who calls himself unworthy because he had persecuted Christians prior to his conversion. All three have an unexpected encounter with the Lord. We hear of two today. Both Isaiah and Peter receive a sign and an invitation. A seraph symbolically burns away the sin from Isaiah’s lips. Peter’s net, empty all night, fills with fish. Thought unsure of their worthiness, each accepts the call. Paul recognizes how this can happen, for it happened to him. It is not their own virtue but the grace of God that made them worthy. And so they respond, “Here I am,” and “left everything and followed” (Isaiah 6:8, Luke 5:11).
How is God calling you? Can you recognize God’s grace?READ MORE
It is the fate of the prophet to be rejected. A prophet challenges those who think that they are doing fine. They do not want to hear that they really are not. Jeremiah told the people of Judah that they must repent of their infidelity or God would destroy the temple. They responded by threatening to put him to death. But Jeremiah was able to bear this, for he knew God had called him. After all, God had warned him from the start: “Gird your loins...They will fight against you” (Jeremiah 1:17, 19). Jesus faces similar opposition in the Gospel. He upended his neighbors’ expectations, first by revealing that the hometown boy is a prophet and secondly by pointing out that prophets often show favor to outsiders over their own people. Rather than welcoming the universality of his message, they reject him and drive him out of town. Jesus was able to bear all this and more. “(Love) bears all things,” Saint Paul writes the Corinthians (13:7). Indeed, it is out of love, love for God and love for the people they served, that Jeremiah and Jesus were able to bear all things.
How does love enable you to bear all things?READ MORE
How are your New Year’s resolutions going? It’s been nearly a month now. Have you been faithful to them? Did you make any in the first place? Are you ready to weep now, as the assembly in the first reading did, because you’ve fallen short or you find them too difficult? New Year’s day is an opportunity to change our habits. Ezra offered an opportunity to the people of Jerusalem by reading to them from the law. They had returned after generations in exile, so living according to the law new to them. It was an opportunity to use guidance from God to live justly and virtuously, but it may have been overwhelming because it was new to them. Ezra had to encourage them to rejoice. Centuries later, the passage Jesus found in the synagogue provided a lot to be joyful about: glad tidings for the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed. What was new in this case was revealed when he told them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Now Jesus’ ministry had begun. Jesus gave them—and gives us—a new opportunity, a new beginning, a new year, in fact, “a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4:19).
How can you make 2019 a year acceptable to the Lord?READ MORE
Changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana is registered as Jesus’ first miracle, but John does not refer to these acts as miracles. He calls them “signs,” for they are performed in order to reveal God’s presence in human history. What does this sign reveal? Let’s look at the first reading for a clue. Isaiah used wedding imagery (“as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride”) and the metaphor of a marriage (“makes your land his spouse”) to describe God’s relationship to humanity (Isaiah 62:4, 5). God and humanity are united as in marriage. A covenant, a bond, has been established. In the Gospel, Jesus transforms water, which guests use to celebrate the wedding (for ceremonial washings), into wine, which guests use to celebrate the wedding. We will see wine again when Jesus’ hour truly comes: at the Last Supper, where it becomes his blood, and on the cross, where he drinks fully from the cup he cannot let pass, the cup of salvation. Jesus is actually the bridegroom, sent by God to humanity, which is the bride. Today and every Sunday, we come together to celebrate this bond and to drink the wine, the good wine, from the cup of salvation.
If the Church is the bride of Christ, how is the Mass like a wedding?READ MORE
The Holy Spirit has the power to transform the world and our lives in it. No matter which readings are chosen for today’s liturgy, we witness God’s power to transform. Isaiah, writing while the Israelites were living in exile, foresees a time when “every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low,” transforming the world around them (Isaiah 40:4). Later, he says God’s chosen one will “bring forth justice to the nations,...open the eyes of the blind,...bring out prisoners from confinement,” transforming the lives of those in need (Isaiah 42:1, 7). Peter speaks in the house of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. “God shows no partiality,” Peter says, transforming the outreach of the nascent Christian community (Acts 10:34). Paul writes to Titus that through Baptism and the Holy Spirit, we “become heirs in hope of eternal life,” transforming what happens after we die (Titus 3:7). In the Gospel, John promises that Jesus would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire,” transforming their lives (Luke 3:16). Indeed, if we have been baptized, we have the transformative power of the Holy Spirit within us.
How will you use that power to transform the world around you?READ MORE
Wonder upon wonders, ever more wondrous. The readings today are like that, revealing greater and greater wonders as they go. The excitement is evident from the start of Isaiah exhorts, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). Jerusalem is portrayed as a beacon for all nations, as certainly it wanted to be at the time, welcoming its people from exile. In the second reading, we hear that “the mystery was make known...that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body” (Ephesians 3:3, 6). This was truly Saint Paul’s guiding mission—to bring Christ to all people. There are no foreigners in Christ. In the Gospel, the magi receive more than one epiphany as they follow a new star, which ancients believed appeared at the time of a ruler’s birth. First, “overjoyed at seeing the star,” they recognized the kin in the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:10). Then they realized that Herod should not be told, giving the Holy Family an opportunity to escape. From the light of Jerusalem to the star over Bethlehem, the glory of the Lord shines forth.
Where can you see the light in the world and in your life today?READ MORE