February 18, 2018
I had breakfast yesterday with ladies from Magnificat – women who gather in the Spirit and give witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were talking about a meeting in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flood. They saw some of the devastation and heard both stories of the breakdown of law/order and of selfless giving and sacrifice. A woman said a dresser in her home on the third or fourth floor was not touch by the flood water and became a source of clothing for her neighbors with nothing to wear. We can appreciate the dramatic narrative of the flood in the Book of Genesis. There are other stories of a great flood told in ancient world but the Biblical account is unique by revealing God’s mercy far surpasses our human sinfulness. The flood expresses God’s judgment on society. The ark that lifts Noah, his family and all the creatures aboard above the rising waters and the rainbow in the sky are symbols of God’s salvation. God enters into covenant with the earth!
We leave the flood waters of our first reading that prefigure baptism (2nd reading) and accompany Jesus (Gospel according to St. Mark) when the Spirit drives him into the desert for “forty days” where Jesus is tempted by Satan. Satan, the deceiver, tries to trip Jesus up and distract him from the mission God the Father has entrusted to his beloved Son. Jesus will be “tested” again when Peter tries to dissuade him from journeying to Jerusalem. Jesus calls Peter “Satan.” Nothing can distract us from the preaching of Jesus: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Lent is the precious time (forty days) when we hear the clarion summons of Jesus to turn from sin and accept the good news of our salvation. It is both a critical moment of repentance and conversion. Our prayer, fasting and charity must heighten our awareness of what is at stake – recognition of our sinfulness and the gift of God’s mercy and salvation in Jesus Christ. Strangely in the solitude of the desert we find that we are not alone. We are in the company of wild beasts (our own demons) and of ministering angels. Pope Francis reminds us that God does not tempt us to fail but tests us to be faithful.
“The Magi set out because of a deep desire prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was though they had always been waiting for that star.” (Pope Benedict XVI) How often do we walk before dawn or during the night and not observe the stars? But on occasion the night sky catches our attention and in a twinkling of a star we are keenly aware of the magnif... READ MORE
The feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth is an occasion to speak of the importance of family no matter when the time or place. Families connect us to the past and create a sense of belonging; families are a cell or workshop of virtue and discipleship; and families kindle hope in the future. Jesus Ben Sira, author of our first reading, encourages young men (and daughters... READ MORE
Christmas carols make this time of the year so special. The traditional English carol “The First Noel” can be traced back to the 13th century; “Silent Night” 1816; “O Come, All Ye Faithful” in Latin “Adeste Fideles” 1743; “Joy to the World” 1719. But not all carols are that old. “The Little Drummer Boy” originally “Carol of the Drum” was compose... READ MORE
Before the printing press and literacy when many people were unable to read and write, town criers made announcements. A “bellman” made an announcement by calling for silence: “Hear ye! Hear ye!” In England town criers were protected by law as they sometimes brought bad news like an increase in taxes. The bellman was under the protection of the monarch. Harming the... READ MORE
John the Baptist takes center stage. He is a bit frightening! In the Gospel according to Saint John, the evangelist tells us John the B was sent by God to testify to the light. The Baptist knows who he is not and who he is. He is not the Christ, the One who is to come; he is not Elijah; he is not a prophet at least in his own estimation. John says (quoting Isaiah): “I am... READ MORE