Saturday, January 26, 2019

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In this Sunday's Gospel, when Jesus returns to Galilee and teaches in the synagogues there, "Everyone sang his praises," says St. Luke. How often we can think, “If only I could have sat at his feet and heard him speak.” Yet the early Christian writer Origen (183-253), who commented on this passage, assures us that we are not at a disadvantage:
When you read about Jesus teaching in the synagogues of Galilee and everyone there praising him, take care not to regard those people as uniquely privileged, and yourselves as deprived of his teaching....Throughout the world Jesus looks for instruments through which he can continue his teaching....
When Jesus had read this prophecy, “he rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed upon him.”
Jesus teaches in the synagogue, Caldarusani Monastery, Romania
Here too in this synagogue, that is in this present assembly, you can at this very moment fix your eyes upon your Savior if you wish. Whenever you direct your inward gaze toward wisdom and truth and the contemplation of God’s only Son, then your eyes are fixed upon Jesus.
Blessed was that congregation of which the Gospel says, “All eyes in the synagogue were fixed upon him!” How I long for our own assembly to deserve the same testimony; for all of you, catechumens as well as the faithful, women, men, and children, to have your eyes, not those of the body but of the soul, turned toward Jesus!
When you look at Jesus your own faces will become radiant with his reflected glory, and you will be able to say: “The light of your face has shed its brightness upon us, O Lord!” To you be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

This Sunday's Gospel tells of the miracle of the wedding feast at Cana. Mary noticed that the hosts were running out of wine, and she tells Jesus. On July 6 2015, Pope Francis gave a homily on the wedding feast at a Mass for families at Guayaquil, Ecuador. His words are so meaningful that it's worth reading the full text.

Wedding Feast at Cana, Giotto, 1304-1306.
(Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel, Padua, Italy)
Here is a portion of his homily:
The wedding at Cana is repeated in every generation, in every family, in every one of us and our efforts to let our hearts find rest in strong love, fruitful love and joyful love. Let us make room for Mary, 'the Mother' as the evangelist calls her. Let us journey with her now to Cana.
Mary is attentive, she is attentive in the course of this wedding feast, she is concerned for the needs of the newlyweds. She is not closed in on herself, worried only about her little world. Her love makes her 'outgoing' towards others. She does not seek her friends to say what is happening, to criticise the poor organisation of the wedding feast. And since she is attentive, she discretely notices that the wine has run out....
But Mary, at the very moment she perceives that there is no wine, approaches Jesus with confidence: this means that Mary prays. She goes to Jesus, she prays. She does not go to the steward, she immediately tells her Son of the newlyweds' problem.... She teaches us to put our families in God’s hands; she teaches us to pray, to kindle the hope which shows us that our concerns are also God’s concerns.
Praying always lifts us out of our worries and concerns. It makes us rise above everything that hurts, upsets or disappoints us, and helps to put ourselves in the place of others, in their shoes. The family is a school where prayer also reminds us that we are not isolated individuals; we are one and we have a neighbor close at hand: he or she is living under the same roof, is a part of our life, and is in need.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, Year C

Blessed Feast of the Epiphany! On this feast last year, Pope Francis gave a homily at Mass in St. Peter's in Rome. His words are so meaningful, we're posting them all:
Three Kings (detail), Chartres Cathedral
That child, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, came not only for the people of Israel, represented by the shepherds of Bethlehem, but also for all humanity, represented today by the wise men from the East. It is on the Magi and their journey in search of the Messiah that the Church today invites us to meditate and to pray.
These wise men from the East were the first in that great procession of which the prophet Isaiah spoke in today’s first reading (cf. 60:1-6): a procession which from that time on has continued uninterrupted; in every age it hears the message of the star and finds the Child who reveals the tenderness of God. New persons are always being enlightened by that star; they find the way and come into his presence.
According to tradition, the wise men were sages, watchers of the constellations, observers of the heavens, in a cultural and religious context which saw the stars as having significance and power over human affairs. The wise men represent men and woman who seek God in the world’s religions and philosophies: an unending quest.
The wise men point out to us the path of our journey through life. They sought the true Light. As a liturgical hymn of Epiphany which speaks of their experience puts it: “Lumen requirunt lumine”; by following a light, they sought the light. They set out in search of God. Having seen the sign of the star, they grasped its message and set off on a long journey.
It is the Holy Spirit who called them and prompted them to set out; during their journey they were also to have a personal encounter with the true God.
Along the way, the wise men encountered many difficulties. Once they reached Jerusalem, they went to the palace of the king, for they thought it obvious that the new king would be born in the royal palace. There they lost sight of the star and met with a temptation, placed there by the devil: it was the deception of Herod. King Herod was interested in the child, not to worship him but to eliminate him. Herod is the powerful man who sees others only as rivals. Deep down, he also considers God a rival, indeed the most dangerous rival of all. In Herod’s palace the wise men experience a moment of obscurity, of desolation, which they manage to overcome thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who speaks through the prophecies of sacred Scripture. These indicate that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David.
At that point they resume their journey, and once more they see the star; the evangelist says that they “rejoiced exceedingly” (Mt 2:10). Coming to Bethlehem, they found “the child with Mary his mother” (Mt 2:11). After that of Jerusalem, this was their second great temptation: to reject this smallness. But instead, “they fell down and worshiped him”, offering him their precious symbolic gifts. Again, it is the grace of the Holy Spirit which assists them. That grace, which through the star had called them and led them along the way, now lets them enter into the mystery. Led by the Spirit, they come to realize that God’s criteria are quite different from those of men, that God does not manifest himself in the power of this world, but speaks to us in the humbleness of his love. The wise men are thus models of conversion to the true faith, since they believed more in the goodness of God than in the apparent splendour of power.
And so we can ask ourselves: what is the mystery in which God is hidden? Where can I find him? All around us we see wars, the exploitation of children, torture, trafficking in arms, trafficking in persons… In all these realities, in these, the least of our brothers and sisters who are enduring these difficult situations, there is Jesus (cf. Mt 25:40,45). The crib points us to a different path from the one cherished by the thinking of this world: it is the path of God’s self-abasement, his glory concealed in the manger of Bethlehem, on the cross upon Calvary, in each of our suffering brothers and sisters. 
The wise men entered into the mystery. They passed from human calculations to the mystery: this was their conversion. And our own? Let us ask the Lord to let us undergo that same journey of conversion experienced by the wise men. Let us ask him to protect us and to set us free from the temptations which hide the star. To let us always feel the troubling question: “Where is the star?”, whenever – amid the deceptions of this world – we lose sight of it. To let us know ever anew God’s mystery, and not to be scandalized by the “sign” which points to “a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12), and to have the humility to ask the Mother, our Mother, to show him to us. To find the courage to be liberated from our illusions, our presumptions, our “lights”, and to seek this courage in the humility of faith and in this way to encounter the Light, Lumen, like the holy wise men. Amen.