This Sunday’s gospel tells us that Jesus led Peter, James and John up a high mountain (Luke 9:28-26) to pray. Apparently the three disciples got a bit sleepy, however. (Maybe all that mountain climbing was tiring.)
Nonetheless, we’re told that “becoming fully awake,” they got to see Jesus in a new light.
They “saw” him in a way they never before experienced. And, a voice beckoned them to “Listen, to my chosen Son.”
Words will never adequately describe what Peter, James and John experienced that day.
These three “students” of Jesus probably couldn’t grasp the meaning of it all either. It would take some time to take it all in.
But this much is sure: They “woke up;” they became fully awake and were able to “see” Christ in a new way.
The Church in her wisdom has told this story at the beginning of Lent for centuries.
Why? Because Lent should be about “waking up” and seeing things (especially our faith) in a “new way.”
Where in life might we possibly be “snoozing” and unaware of what’s really going on?
And while the gospel doesn’t give a quick “wake up” remedy, it does imply that opening our eyes will involve moving beyond our comfort zones—like the strenuous workout of a mountain climb.
–You need to get to the mountain top in order to appreciate the view and “take in” the vista. (Usually not much of a “view” at the comfy lodge at the foot of the mountain!)
“Seeing in a new way,” is the fruit of prayer. If prayer is stretching our hearts and minds to see things as God sees them, then prayer will push us beyond our ourselves and challenge us to look at the bigger picture of our lives and the world. Prayer will dare us to gaze even into the “beyond” of eternity.
Oh, and another thing: We tell this story because, sometimes we “snooze,” the wider Church snoozes too.
The Church, in all her structures and organizations, during Lent, is being challenged to “become fully awake” and listen more attentively to Christ.
So, what have you chosen to do for Lent this year?
Whatever it is, do you think it will “wake you up” to life? (If it don’t think it will, there’s still time to change what you’ve chosen.)
Alert to what’s happening around us, may we hear Christ calling us to be bold visionaries for life’s journey.
The gospel this coming weekend tells us that Jesus while in Nazareth went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. At the appointed time, he was handed a scroll from which he read the appointed reading for the day.
Jesus was a Jew. Sometimes Christians forget this: Jesus was a Jew.
Jesus was raised in a Jewish home. Like all Jewish males, he was circumcised. When he was 13, he had a Bar Mitzvah. He celebrated Hanukkah and Passover. He learned the Hebrew scriptures. He prayed the psalms. He made a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. And today, we’re told that he was in the habit of going to the Synagogue on the Sabbath.
Last Sunday, Pope Francis visited the Synagogue of Rome. He reminded those present that there is an inseparable bond between Christians and Jews. He spoke of how Christians and Jews are called to work together to overcome all forms of violence and terror.
But he added a rather interesting observation:
“In order to understand themselves, Christians must understand their Jewish roots.” In other words, if you want to understand what it means to be a Christian, you have to seek to understand the faith out of which the Church was born. And the Church was born within a Jewish matrix.”
Think about these simple facts:
One reason why we sing or say the responsorial Psalm at every Mass is because the psalms are the prayers that Jesus grew up with. When you pray the psalms you are praying what Jesus actually prayed.
When the deacon or priest carries the Gospel book to the lectern at Mass, he is imitating the rabbi carrying the Torah scroll to the reading desk.
The unleavened bread we use during Mass, evokes the unleavened matzo bread of the Jewish Passover, reminding us that we are all called to leave behind “Egypt” –whatever places or relationships that imprison, enslave or oppress. “Exodus” is a on-going part of life.
As a Jew, Jesus understood that God had intervened in human history; that the human story was not arbitrary or meaningless. We Christians see the human drama, despite its tragedies, as headed toward an ultimate fulfillment and destiny. That’s why hope is characteristic of a Christian.
And there’s so much more…
How could someone tell the story of your life without understanding what means to be a 21st century American?
So, how can we claim to understand Jesus and his message without understanding his Jewish faith?
How could we say that we really know someone, without striving to understand from what and where they come?
Let’s pray for a Church that honors her roots;
for an openness to understanding more about our connection with the Jewish faith;
for a future where we find strength for living from the wisdom our past;
and for overcoming the amnesia that would keep us from understanding who we are.
A personal note
I would like to extend to Father Steven and his parishioners a hearty congratulations for the reopening of the fully renovated rectory at Holy Family! Three of the four suites in the home will be used to house retired priests. This is the first time that I can recall a parish literally being brought back from the dead (Holy Family is housed at St. Joseph’s Church on Hamilton Street, once slated for closing in the 1990’s, and saved by the parishioners). This is indeed a happy occasion! You can read more about this amazing story at the Catholic Free Press website.
For those who wish to deepen their understanding of the significance of this Sunday—The Solemnity of the Epiphany—the following is offered in preparation for Mass this weekend:
1—This weekend’s celebration ranks among the most important celebrations on our Catholic calendar, with only Easter, Christmas Day and Pentecost taking precedence.
2—The word “Epiphany” is a Greek word meaning “revelation” or “manifestation.” The word “epiphany” may be used in non-religious ways. An “epiphany” can refer to a sudden perception or insight about something. For example: “Then, one day, I had an epiphany, “Why not email my friends back home?”
3—On the Solemnity of the Epiphany we celebrate that the child born in the darkness of night in a lowly manger is revealed as the manifestation of God. Christ is revealed in many ways: as Lord, as King, as the one in whom God is present and acts. All of these manifestations (epiphanies) are “lights” that shine on Christ, revealing a deeper understanding of who he is. Notice that all the readings for today reveal, in a way, a different manifestation of who Christ is and what God is doing through him.
4—The First Reading from Isaiah will speak of a reversal of fortunes for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Jerusalem will no longer be an insignificant city. A light will beckon peoples from many nations.
The Second Reading from Saint Paul speaks of Christ as the one who gathers all to share the same promise, the same inheritance, making them members of the same body.
The Gospel Reading recounts the wise men following the star and offering their gifts. Of course, the story represents the life of every Christian: we are guided by the light of faith to offer our gifts of service to Christ.
5—Notice that all of the prayers of the day all refer to light as well.
6—Because the liturgy refers to light, splendor, shining and appearance, the Roman Missal directs that the sanctuary should be decorated with more candles than usual. (Reminder: In Catholic worship, an age-old basic principle is that symbols often communicate truths of the faith better than just words.)
7—Epiphany is another moment in the Church’s celebration of the Christmas Season Actually, our celebration of Christmas will continue for another week, until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. From a Christian perspective, there are so many angles, so many perspectives, so much to “take in,” that it takes weeks to “digest” the many different meanings to Christ’s birth. The “secular” celebration of Christmas is now over: trees are coming down, decorations are being put away because the ‘holiday parties” are over and the money-making of the gift giving business is ending. Christians, however, are called to be different. We continue to celebrate and reflect on “the light of the world.” For Christians the primary meaning of Christmas is not gift-giving or parties. (Although gift-giving and parties are wonderful things we should all enjoy!) The meaning of Christmas is Christ-the light. We pray that by our celebrating that our minds and hearts would be transformed by that light. Why? Because there is always darkness to dispel. And that’s what Christ calls us to do.
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:15-20
Thank you to all my dear readers for an amazing year! I look forward to many wonderful times with you in 2016 and all the new friends we will meet.
In this Sunday’s Gospel we hear about Jesus opening the ears of a man who is unable to hear. Jesus also removes a speech impediment which had prevented the man from speaking clearly (Mark 7:31-37). Not surprisingly this man’s life is completely changed.
“Jesus summoned the twelve and began to send them out ..He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money for their belts…so they went off and preached everywhere.” (Mark 6:7-13)
Sending people out on a journey virtually empty-handed may sound like bad advice.