Saturday, January 30, 2010

MERCREDI GRAS…


There are some (especially in Mobile and New Orleans) who think that Ash Wednesday is a gloomy after-thought to the party-times of Mardi Gras (which down here extend roughly from the middle of January onward). Even though it’s only that one day that is technically “Mardi Gras” (= “Fat” or “Decadent” Tuesday), that doesn’t stop the “good times rolling,” with parades, balls and various alternative activities of ‘celebration’).

But if I wish to call Ash Wednesday “Gras,” (in the sense of “Great,” not “Fat”), it is because I want to encourage people to think in a paradigm-shift about this season: Lent is not an appendage to partying; the party is a farewell to one kind of life-style, knowing that it’s time to embrace another.

Who are we, as people (collectively and individually)? Are we made for self-satisfaction and hedonism, or are we designed to be people who are capable of healthy introspection to see what’s really there, rejoice over the good, and resolve to reduce the bad?

When ashes are imposed, the traditional words are “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” What part of this invocation is false? We know, deep down, that it has the ring of truth, and we want desperately to ignore it (we know we cannot dispute it). Repentance (that is, the recognition that there is much in us that needs correcting, and our willingness to correct it and/or have it corrected) is essential to what it means to be human, in need of a Savior.

Is it too early to bring up the thought of Ash Wednesday? Actually, no—EVERY day should be a Jour Gras for us, to make us face our reality, our limits—and our hope in Jesus Christ (without whom not only Ash Wednesday but Mardi Gras would have no sense or meaning).

Enjoy the time of these next few days, but remember who (and what) you are, and who (and what) you might could be…

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A REAL GAMBLE

The flap over casinos and legalized gambling has a very dark side to it. Among the quotes we see bandied over the print media and TV ads, there are such sentences as “Isn’t that [going to Mississippi Indian-run casinos] what Gov. Riley and [former anti-gambling task force head] David Barber want us to do?” and “We’ve got to make sure Alabama law is enforced before we can deal with the Indians” (Todd Stacy, press secretary to Gov. Riley, emphasis added in both citations).

So the bottom line is the issue of the Indians, as it seems. This is sad to the point of being pathetic.

Wrapped in the mantle of self-righteous ‘anti-gambling moralism,’ we find pretty well the same sentiments that fueled the notion of ‘Manifest Destiny’ in the 19th century: we’re here, so it’s our right to take what we want from whomever we want, from coast to coast.

But why should “the Indians” be such a target of resentment? Perhaps history is its own answer here. How many treaties did the Native Americans make with our government, only to have them broken when they were inconvenient for us to honor? One might read, as only one example, the history of the events leading up to the battle of Little Big Horn (“Custer’s Last Stand”) to answer this question.

The various tribes of Native Americans still here have been relegated to Federal ‘reservations’ (read: the equivalent of the old South African ‘homelands’). It is a shameful admission (in the dark) of the land-based equivalent of piracy inflicted on these people. Relegated to life-boats, they are now being vilified for surviving there as they can, and others are being condemned for actions that might support them.

Even though much of the Catholic Church in America was built on Bingo, I am no great fan of gambling. I would never go to a casino, myself (I’m far too cheap, personally). But insofar as virtually all rights and possessions have already been taken from these tribes, it seems to me they should have every right to do whatever they choose to earn income, and the States should properly have absolutely no say in the matter (frankly, neither should the Federal Government, but that’s another issue).

To oppose competition to the reservation casinos within the State is indeed a moral issue, and people should face this fact straight-on. The morality is based on whether or not to allow a beaten-down people to have something unique without a self-righteous (and self-serving) “Big Brother” telling them what they should or should not be doing (or at least, not doing alone).

The issue of gambling sites other than on reservations may be a political issue. Let’s not pretend that there is not a dimension of racism involved in the way the issue is being approached.



Anyone interested in a somewhat expanded version of this post can check the Op-Ed section of The Mobile Press-Register for this past Sunday, 2-7-10, where it was printed.

Monday, January 25, 2010

21ST CENTURY SEMINARY CURRICULUM?


Pope Benedict’s Message for World Day for Social Communications (The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word) is an amazing embracing of all the ways in which people connect electronically, including web-sites, blogs, videos, and so on. His main thesis is that the internet is the new agora (rather like the Areopagus in Athens where St. Paul preached—Acts 17), and priests should be ready and “enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel” in this realm so as to proclaim Christ. Further, he suggests, “…can we not see the web as also offering a space—like the ‘Court of the Gentiles’ of the Temple of Jerusalem—for those who have not yet come to know God?”

How can this come to be, except by the randomness of a few isolated types (like me, of course!) who happen to want to do this? The Holy Father’s suggestion is striking: “Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources…They will best achieve this aim if they
learn, from the time of their formation [in seminary], how to use these
technologies…shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong
priestly spirituality...”


Will courses of study now, perhaps, include morality, liturgy and sacraments, Scripture, homiletics, Church history, web-design, blog-writing…? Probably not in the near future, but there were people in the Church (and in my seminary) who, when they learned that Pope John Paul II had revised the Stations of the Cross for his Good Friday service at the Colosseum, thought they were now forbidden to use the “traditional” Stations—so powerful the example of the Holy Father! The same logic now is making some people think that since Pope Benedict wants to administer the Eucharist on the tongue, receiving in the hand is somehow no longer proper. So why should we not listen now?

There is a difference, of course, between my two examples above and the Pope’s Message. Personal taste or practice is one thing, which we might or might not want to emulate, but which we are not at all required to copy. A more formal statement (even if not authoritative) is a bit different, and at the very least it requires to be taken more seriously. Will heads of seminaries do this? Most already have their own web-sites, in point of fact, as do most dioceses and parishes. But many (Our Savior’s, for example) are maintained by volunteers who do great work (I mean quantity as well as quality). It seems that Pope Benedict is looking forward to a day when the pastor will be the “web-lackey” for the parish and a cyber-evangelizer. I wonder what St. Paul would have thought—but I think he would approve, as Pope Benedict quotes him: “…how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (Romans 10:14; I Corinthians 9:16)

So creating things like this blog are going to be the next wave of “new evangelization” for the world, to help create what he called a “‘diaconia of culture’ on today’s ‘digital continent.’” This phrase deserves ‘unpacking,’ as they say—and I am not sure I understand all its implications. But one thing is clear: blogs like this one need to focus on the Pope’s central challenge: we must reflect “…a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord” in order to reveal “a priestly heart [through] closeness to Christ….not only [to] enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a ‘soul’ to the fabric of communications that makes up the ‘Web.’” It’s a great challenge!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

THE VATICAN AND THE VIRTUAL WORLD


Accredited journalists are informed that Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 11:30, in the John Paul II hall of the Holy See’s Press Office, a press conference will take place for the presentation of the “Message of the Holy Father for the 44th World Day for Social Communications” (16 May 2010) with the title: “The priesthood and pastoral ministry in the digital world: the new media in service of the Word.”

This is my translation of a news item currently on the Holy See’s web-site, and beyond the fact of the content, its being found on a Vatican web-site at all is itself an important statement. This web-site, by the way (www.vatican.va) has been up and running for a number of years, and it is extremely informative and updated daily. [If you don’t know how to find a web-site or a blog, just ask your 3rd grade son or daughter!]

The Vatican is taking very seriously the possibilities of using the digital world as a means of advancing the “new evangelization.” Its web-site includes, beyond facts and figures, wonderful tours of some of the most important churches and sites in Rome, including an interactive and extremely well done virtual tour of the Scavi, the excavations underneath St. Peter’s, which were conducted in the 1940s and 1950s and which revealed, besides a 1st-4th century Roman cemetery, which is surely the grave of St. Peter. If you can’t get to Rome for the real thing, take this tour.

There are priests (like myself) and even bishops (like Archbishop Timothy Dolan in New York) who have blogs similar to this one; it is a way of attempting to reach people where they are: online. There are priests whose blogs are far more magnificent and noted throughout the country, and on which ongoing dialogue occurs. There are parishes whose web-sites offer streaming audio/video of things like their Sunday celebrations of the Eucharist, enabling parishioners who cannot come to church to feel a part of their parish by means of watching the Mass and listening to the homily.

And of course when things are put “out there,” they invite visiting by people just surfing or browsing, and from that, good things can happen. I am eagerly awaiting the publication of the Holy Father’s statement on Saturday, but it’s hard to think it will be anything but upbeat. Some people are terrified of the digital age, and one reason is their fear (very real) of its use in propagating pornography, or sponsoring chat-rooms in which sexual predators hunt for victims. But the age-old saying, Abusus not tollit usus (freely translated, “The fact a thing is used badly doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing”) is true here: we can embrace all the opportunities we have to place new means “at the service of the Word.”

Monday, January 18, 2010

UNITING ACROSS THE DIVIDES


Giovanni Guareschi’s short stories about Don Camillo, a priest in post-World War II northern Italy, are classics. In the little town in the Po River valley he is frequently opposed by Peppone, the communist mayor. But when tragedy strikes their village, they find themselves side by side working to counteract the disaster.

This lesson from literature is being lived out right now in Haiti: side by side, Iranians and Americans are working to rescue people buried in the rubble of the earthquake; Israeli soldiers are there, as well, pulling people to safety.

The old ecumenical slogan Doctrine Divides; Service Unites is ultimately flawed, I believe, but in the short term (and that’s where most people live) we can see the truth and the beauty of it—in the face of overwhelming suffering, Christians, Jews and Muslims—who regard each other as enemies-- can stand together to serve others.

Today being the anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, it seems good to include here a quote that is apropos the situation (which I freely admit I found as the solution in today’s Celebrity Cipher crypto-quote): “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

At Our Savior parish this past weekend, at parishes in our Archdiocese and throughout our country, collections are being taken up to provide relief efforts and supplies through Catholic Relief Services. It’s what we can do, at a distance and without specific and essential hands-on skills. We can enable those who do have the skills, to keep the rescue and relief efforts going.

I remember a comment made in one of my theology classes at Notre Dame when I was an undergraduate. In response to the question, “What kind of God would require His Son to die such an agonizing death to redeem us?” the answer came, “What kind of people require such a display of love to be shown that forgiveness and love are the way to live?”

Pat Robertson’s idiocy to the contrary notwithstanding, this is the answer, in a way, to the suffering in Haiti: what kind of people are we that it takes a crisis of this magnitude to pull together? Why does it take such a “wake-up call” to get us to see that nothing should divide us when there is so much in our humanity, as children of God, to unite us?

Friday, January 15, 2010

I THANK YOU, LORD, THAT I AM NOT LIKE OTHERS...


Rev. Pat Robertson (A "Christian" minister, for heaven's sake) has commented about the Haitians, and it seems that in his omniscience he has determined them to be “deserving” of the devastation of the earthquake.

This self-righteous arrogance is like the comments that were made in 2005, that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment on the sins of New Orleans. There is a passage of the New Testament (Matthew 7:1) that such condemnatory and self-congratulating types need to memorize: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

There is only one appropriate Christian response to this disaster, and that is help. We may think that a person in trouble is our ‘enemy,’ but the example of Jesus’ teaching (read Luke 10:29-37 again) reminds us that the ‘enemy’ is our neighbor, and the only limitation to those who are our neighbors is our openness to accepting them. If parables are too vague for some folks, then take the Lord’s direct teaching from the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5:43-48).

St. Paul says the same thing. “Do you want to get your laughs by ‘heaping burning coals’ on the heads of your so-called enemies?” he asks. “Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink….Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21).

How many times do we have to be reminded of the teaching of Jesus in the parable of the sheep and the goats: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least ones, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40; see also v. 45)?

I feel constrained to write about what is the fundamental teaching of Jesus, to which every single Christian should be committed. There should be no need for a post like this. And yet…

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

TO SUFFER WOES WHICH HOPE THINKS INFINITE...


Haiti is already a land of desolation: from the de-forested countryside to urban mega-slums like Cite Soleil, the poverty of this half of Hispaniola is indescribable, even after you have been there (as I was, in 2000).


I often thought that even if I had all the money of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett combined, I still wouldn't know how to "fix" the country. There is virtually no infrastructure at all: no sewerage, no proper electricity, no general sanitation, no roads, no drainage, no reliable source of safe drinking water, no proper housing... Where would one start?


The earthquake has compounded the sufferings a land of beautiful people who have endured more than any corporate "suffering servant" should have had to bear. Death and destruction are overwhelming.


If you would like to help, two sources of aid (already "on the ground" there--they have been, for years and years) are Catholic Relief Services and Food For The Poor. These are trusted organizations, and your gifts will go directly to help the victims of this massive tragedy. Please do what you can! [SEE BELOW]
UPDATE: Our Savior will have a special collection for Haiti earthquake relief. I will announce it this weekend, and it will be taken up the weekend of 23/24 Jan. Checks should be made payable to Our Savior, with a notation "earthquake relief" on the line in the lower left-hand of the check. We'll consolidate and send one large check to Catholic Relief Services.
UPDATE #2: Archbishop Rodi is requesting the special collection to be taken up this weekend. I will gladly accept donations both weekends and then send the check to the Chancery to be forwarded to CRS.

PAST AND PRESENT IN THE CHURCH


The renowned Newman scholar Ian Ker comments that when Newman was asked why he left the Anglicans to become a Catholic, he would reply because he saw the ancient apostolic Church and the current Catholic Church as the same person, but one in infancy/adolescence and the other as an adult.

I can personally understand this sense of 'discontinuous continuity'—I have encountered students or young parishioners from other parishes that I haven’t seen in perhaps 20 years—they may have been children when I last saw them, but they are young adults now. Typically, they greet me, and my whole comment (never totally spoken!) is “Hello! Good to see you! Who are you?” I have changed far less, from their point of view, than they have from mine.

This brings me to today’s memorial, that of St. Hilary of Poitiers, a bishop and doctor of the Church. He was a pivotal theological in the 4th century West, a precursor (so to speak) of St. Augustine. But how different the Church looked back then!

Hilary was born right at the time the Constantine declared Christianity to be a legal religious cult. He was chosen to be bishop of Poitiers (in what is now west-central France) while still a layman (this at least trumps Ambrose, who was proclaimed bishop of Milan while an un-baptized catechumen!). He taught and preached and wrote in defense of the teaching of the Church that Jesus was fully divine as well as fully human, and since this view was disputed by the party in favor with the emperor, Hilary was exiled for 4 years to what is modern-day south-central Turkey).

Think of our bishops—how many of them risk deportation and exile because of their teaching of the truths of the Faith? Of course, these days no one would be popularly “chosen” to be bishop at all (these things happen in the Curia in Rome), much less as a layman. Hilary wrote massively in defense of the Faith—most of our bishops simply have too many administrative responsibilities to be writers or theologians in this sense.

Then, too, this was part of the “glorious period” when the Church (to use the famous phrase of Pope John Paul II) ‘breathed with both lungs’—in East and West, the orthodox Faith was being defended by those who stood together: Hilary with Athanasius (coincidentally, for this posting, the great theological hero of John Henry Newman). Yet it was a time of Church v. State: the first Christian emperor, after all, called and presided over the Council of Nicaea in 325 (as an unbaptized lay catechumen); his son Constantius wished (for political reasons) to side-step that Council’s doctrinal decision, and orthodox bishops suffered as a result. This cannot happen today (at least, not in the United States): bishops hre are ridiculed and dismissed instead of being exiled.

Plus ├ža change, plus la meme chose… The Catholic Church is still the Catholic Church. Different episcopal appointments, different punishments, but still the need for commitment to stand for the Faith. Would Hilary recognize us? Do we recognize him? The answer is yes, once we begin to recite the “Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed” together…

Monday, January 11, 2010

HOSPITALITY AND THE STRANGER


Co-sponsored by parent-program Christus and its recently-born child Trialogue, Dr. Scott Alexander will speak on Thursday evening on the topic “To Treat the Stranger as Neighbor: An Abrahamic Imperative.” The presentation will be 7:00 pm in Byrne Hall on Spring Hill College’s campus.

This theme is timed well to meet the concerted push for immigration reform, supported strongly by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and in more than mere principle by Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope’s message for the 2010 World Day for Migrants (which will be celebrated this year in the coming weekend) focuses on respect for minors who are migrants or refugees.

I have no idea how Dr. Alexander will approach his theme, but if I were doing the presentation I would begin with the famous “Old Testament Trinity” icon, written by St Andrei Rublev in the 15th century. It is based on the scene of Abraham’s 3 visitors (Genesis 18). The Letter to the Hebrews alludes to this in recommending hospitality: “…for by this means some have entertained angels unknowingly” (Hebrews 13:2). But this leads us back to migrants, especially in our country.

Some of the insights of Pope Benedict are as follows (all in his Message for the 96th World Day of Migrants and Refugees):

“The migrant is a person who possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance.
“…And how can one fail to consider migrant and refugee minors as also being among the ‘least’ [(cf. Mt 25:40, 45)]? As a child, Jesus himself experienced migration for, as the Gospel recounts, in order to flee the threats of Herod, he had to seek refuge in Egypt together with Joseph and Mary (cf. Mt 2:14).
“Jesus’ words resound in our hearts: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Mt 25:35)…
“…any of our concrete interventions must first be nurtured by faith in the action of grace and divine Providence. In this way also hospitality and solidarity to strangers, especially if they are children, become a proclamation of the Gospel of solidarity.”

As a nation, one of our chief health concerns is childhood obesity. In light of this, how can we deny others the right to emigrate and work and earn a living for their families that they cannot possibly experience in their native country? This is, after all, the motive force for virtually all immigration, especially to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when many of our parents or grandparents came to these shores. The images imbedded in my own mind include the inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty, the Charlie Chaplin silent film The Immigrant, and Neil Diamond’s song “Coming to America”…

Immigration reform means re-establishing the policies and quotas for the opening of our nation to others. It has nothing to do with the ‘red herring’ of terrorists sneaking into our homes to destroy us. It is about welcoming the stranger as Jesus taught us.


It is an interesting detail that the Greek word that is a root for ‘fear (and hatred) of the stranger’ [zeno-phobia] can be translated, depending upon circumstances, as either “stranger” or “guest.” Which way will we choose to translate that word?

And why?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

POTENTIAL AND ACTUAL LIFE


I read recently someone suggesting that we need to respect all life, even the potential life in the womb. It sounds like a wonderful pro-life sentiment, but it has its dangers, among other things because it’s inaccurate.

What is in the womb is not ‘potential life,’ but ‘actual life.’ I am speaking somewhat philosophically here, but the distinction is important. All of us have potential in our lives—a baby has the potential to grow through adolescence to adulthood; a graduate has the potential to find a job; a married couple has the potential to have children. All this is as much as to say that we, as creatures, are always in process toward actualization: becoming real. This process continues until we die—at this point, we have actualized as much as we will, and there will be no potential left for us in this worldly existence. From that point, it is up to God's loving power to continue the process of actualization in us...

But from the beginning we are not ‘potential life’ but ‘actual life’: with conception, biologically and spiritually the process has begun. It is now only a question of ‘potential in our lives.’ Potential life by definition is not yet life, and this would mean that an abortion is not the taking of a human life but only of a potential life. Can you see the “slippery slope”?

Egg and sperm are indeed ‘potential life.’ Most (in the case of males, the vast majority) of these seeds will never become ‘actual life.’ But once a conception does occur, something completely new and other now exists, and it ought not be able to be threatened by arguments that are the moral equivalent of “…because I’m bigger than you.”

Perhaps to reinforce our moral perspective we should, as a Church, try to make a conscious shift in our vocabulary. Even without the insights of George Orwell in Animal Farm, we know that what we call something affects how we view it, use it, or abuse it. So I suggest that we stop using phrases like “getting pregnant” (which too easily can sound, to our consciences, like “getting measles”) and return to the older language of “expecting a baby,” or the even older “being with child.” One would think that our medical-technical ability to produce ultrasound images of the child in utero would point us in this direction.

It’s a nice hope: truly to respect all life, even the actual life in the womb.

Friday, January 8, 2010

BAPTISM


Coming as we are to the end of the liturgical season of Christmas, the final celebration is that of the Baptism of the Lord (traditionally celebrated on 13 Jan but moved to the Sunday after Epiphany—itself moved from 6 Jan to the nearest Sunday). The day after this celebration “Ordinary Time” and green vestments take over.

The liturgy on this day focuses us (via the reading from Isaiah and the allusion to it in Luke) on Jesus’ ministry as “Servant of the Lord,” the chosen one with whom [God] is well-pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit. Jesus is described in Acts (though not in this day’s excerpt) and in early Christian literature (for example, the Didache) as God’s pais, a Greek word that can be translated either as servant or child. This word picks up the dual nature of Jesus nicely, hinting at the later theological development of Jesus as 2 natures in one Person (what is technically called, in theology, ‘the hypostatic union,’ and which is affirmed more devotionally in “The Divine Praises” when we pray “Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man”).

This is our Faith—the event of Jesus’ baptism marks the beginning of a ministry of doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him (Acts 10, this day’s 2nd reading). This ministry of healing and forgiveness is what we crave today, for ourselves and for the world. As we celebrate the start of that gift, here are a couple of short excerpts from Messiah, set to texts from chapter 1 of the Letter to the Hebrews but capturing the spirit of this day.








Wednesday, January 6, 2010

12 DAYS, 12 GIFTS


I don’t much go along with the (nowadays traditional) re-interpretation of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as a secretive catechism for Catholic children—the interpretations are too forced and don’t flow in the way you would expect for something actually to be a device to aid the memory. But it’s fun to play with this kind of numerological symbolism, so here are my “12 Days” meanings (and no doubt you can come up with your own)—

1—One true God
2—Two Natures (human and divine) in the Person of Christ
3—Three Persons of the Holy Trinity (or, perhaps, the Three Young Men in the fiery furnace of the Book of Daniel—this image was frequently used in catacombs to represent the resurrection)
4—Four Evangelists and their Gospels
5—Five Loaves (with 2 fish) multiplied by Jesus to feed the multitudes
6—Six-Winged seraphs appearing to Isaiah, singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”
7—Seven Churches to which letters were written in the Book of Revelation
8—Eighth Day: Resurrection
9—Nine Orders of Angels (Cherubim, Seraphim, Thrones, Dominations, Powers, Principalities, Virtues, Angels, Archangels)
10—Ten Commandments
11—Eleven Apostles (minus Judas, of course)
12—Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit (as found originally in Galatians and expanded somewhat in the Church’s catechisms)


This is clearly fanciful, and some of my symbolisms are also pretty forced. More seriously, though, we could examine the gifts of the liturgical calendar in the time between Christmas and Epiphany (rightly celebrated on 6 January)—whom does the Church celebrate at this time?

Stephen, the “proto-martyr deacon”;

John the Evangelist, who taught us to say “My Lord and my God”;

Holy Innocents, reminding us of the innocents today (in and outside the womb) who are slaughtered for convenience’s sake;

Thomas Becket, standing for the independence of the Church against the State and errie pre-cursor of Abp. Oscar Romero;

Sylvester, Bishop of Rome when Constantine legalized the Faith;

Mary, the God-bearer, Him who is Prince of Peace;

Basil and Gregory Nazianzen, defending the Trinity;

Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, 1st American-born canonized saint (and a convert);

John Neumann, Bohemian immigrant and bishop of Philadelphia who worked to establish Catholic schools for children.

These are gifts in plenty, with or without any special symbolism of the “12 Days.” Happy Epiphany!
Just a footnote: the image is a mosaic from the Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna (which some of you have visited).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

SEEING AND BEING THE LIGHT

This blessed Epiphany (yes, we’re early—the traditional date is 6 January) we know how badly our world needs the Light of Christ—the light proclaimed as a light of revelation and glory (Luke 2:32).

But there is an implication for us. The brilliant New Testament scholar N. T. Wright (also the Anglican Bishop of Durham, in England) makes the point that the message of Jesus was to call Israel back to its original mission: to be a light for the world. When it got too caught up in the world (as it did many times in its history), disaster struck. Jesus’ proclamation was one which formed people into a Church that would be dedicated to being this light—a light revealing forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. As a body it would be a suffering Servant, but the suffering would be redemptive, united in Him.

This means that we, insofar as we are Church, are called to this very same vocation: to be a light of healing for the world, a witness of community that is the potential of all human community, if they would only face the Light.

We know this doesn’t always happen, nor will it—this was known pretty well from the beginning (John 3:16-21). That doesn’t mean it isn’t still our calling. The famous Prayer of St. Teresa (set to music by John Michael Talbot) reminds us, “Christ has no body now, but yours…”

In the spirit of the cheer the Light brings us, here is a setting of THE carol of the day—in live concert by Mannheim Steamroller:






And for good measure, here's John Michael Talbot's song, as well. Let's be His Body in 2010, as Pope Leo the Great (5th century) wrote:
...the star beckoned the three wise men out of their distant country and led them to recognize and adore the King of heaven and earth. The obedience of the star calls us to imitate its humble service: to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites all to find Christ.
Dear friends, you must have the same zeal to be of help to one another; then, in the kingdom of God, to which faith and good works are the way, you will shine as children of the light: through our Lord Jesus Christ...