Sunday, January 30, 2011

Inconvenient Truths (2011-01-30)

This is my homily for 30 January 2011. I am the Catholic campus minister for Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[__01__ ] Today, we hear the beginning of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. Jesus speaks from the Mountain and gives each of the 8 Beatitudes which means “blessing”.

A “blessing” is something we receive that is valuable.

One way that older folks (anyone over 31 years of age is “older” ….) speak to younger folks is to tell them about their blessings growing up. However, to the younger folks, these recollections do not appear to be blessings.

For example, when I was your age,
• We did not have television – or we did not have color TV
• Or, we did not have a car
• Or, we did not have the ability to use wireless internet while drinking a Cappucino at Starbucks.

In other words, life was hard. But … at the end of these recollections, the person telling you will also say … almost unfailingly .. but we were happy … we did not know what we were missing…or we had each other … or words to that effect.

And, the younger person walks away scratching his or her head, wondering how anyone could live without unlimited talking and texting. It’s a paradox to be both happy and - somehow also - less comfortable.

In other words … we were blessed because we did not have certain things… we were blessed by not having everything that was valuable.

[__02__] And …so it is with the Beatitudes. Listeners - disciples - may also scratch their heads and wonder. Reading them, we are challenged to understand what they really mean … to understand the paradox contained in them, as one biblical commentator wrote. (John L. McKenzie, S.J., Jerome Biblical Commentary, "Matthew").

For example, consider this, perhaps difficult, beatitude, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.”

Now, this particular Beatitude might remind you/me of our parents or our grandparents who lived through times of great poverty and struggle. And, in some way, they were forced to be “meek” … in other words to be “restrained” …. To endure difficulties without become resentful.

Though they might have been sad, they were not defeated by their sorrows.

[__03___ ] Now, it is difficult to be restrained – patient [meek] – for a long period of time, isn’t it?

After all, the Beatitude promises us a future word … “blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.”

Hearing this, we want the present-time of meekness to finish and the future-time of inheritance to start, don’t we?

We will admire this meekness – this patience – under certain circumstances … up to a certain point.

[__04___] But … there is a point at which we might think this “meekness” .. this “patience” has to be terminated … right?

For example, a child receives an instruction from his parent [or teacher.] Then, the child carries out that action. We call that meekness, responsiveness, obedience, even wisdom.

The same would be true of any person who is serving or under the leadership of someone else.

“Meekness,” “mildness”, “patience” …it all makes sense when someone else is in charge.

But, after some time, we grow up … and we get to be in charge, don’t we?

For example – as a working professional with employees, or a teacher with students, a parent with children, or a person caring for a loved one who is sick.

In this regard, we are accustomed to giving orders …

We might conclude, then, that we have “inherited the land” …that we have graduated from meekness, right?

[__05__ ] But the Beatitudes remind us to endure patiently, even mildly …when we are tempted to keep score … or react impatiently …. Or to flaunt our power or authority …or lord it over others.

As we read in the 1st letter of Peter, chapter 3:

“Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. For: "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against evildoers."” (1 Peter 3:8-12)

The Beatitudes often reminds us that we can do without certain conveniences …not the convenience of something electronic ..or something online ..or something we own or can purchase.

But, rather the convenience of being in the right, the convenience of getting my way…the convenience of being popular.

And, doing without these conveniences, these comforts, we are blessed and await a future reward. [__end__]

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Agreement (2011-01-23)

This is my homily for 23 January 2011. I am the Catholic campus minister for Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We resume our Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) on Sun. Jan. 23, 2011 for the Spring 2011 semester.

[__01__ ] In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul is writing about the importance of unity and of community.

And, he is concerned about the Corinthians having different allegiances.
• Some are saying “I belong to Paul”
• Some are saying “I belong Peter [or Kephas]”
• Some are saying “I belong to Apollos”
• Finally, some are saying “I belong to Christ.”

And, Paul is trying to direct them toward this last answer of their multiple choices, “I belong to Christ.”

Paul is also asking these Corinthians to have unity in what they say, to agree on what they say.

One example I was thinking of was the stage or screen. What is the importance of unity – in the production of a film, a play … ? We might say that the players/the actors are concerned in what to say…

They all have to follow the same script.

[__02__ ] And, could we not say that all of the following are important to an actor [player]. These are things are also important to us in forming – creating – community, unity. These things are:

1. Timing
2. Memorization of the right words (the script)
3. Judgment of the performance (the reviews)

[__03__ ] TIMING –

Timing is important in our lives. Timing will tell someone whether are we are “agreeable” or “disagreeable.”

For example, am I on time? Am I punctual?

As a person who sometimes leaves last-minute details until the very last minute, I can find myself running late. I recognize that some things could truly have been taken care of in advance. And, I could be seen as somewhat “defiant” or “disagreeable” by showing up late, especially if this becomes a consistent pattern.

I am not contributing to the balance of the group by showing up late.

The things I really want to do … I would not leave until the last minute.

On the other hand, trying to be on time is a way to work towards community and towards peace. For example, to be on time for –
• Class
• School
• Work
• Meals

And, if we surrender something desirable to arrive on time ..this is our sacrifice, our offering, an offering. It is an offering we can bring to the Lord’s altar with our gifts each day. We ask Christ to bless our sacrifices. Timing is important.

[__04__ ] Secondly, memorization of the right words are important in a performance. And, words are also important to us.

The convey unity and agreement – or, at times, the contrary.

Paul is not asking all of us to memorize a script. This is not what Paul means by urging us to “agree on what we say.”

Rather, Paul is asking us to adapt ourselves to each other, to be willing to adjust ourselves to each other, to be adapt ourselves to the difficult person.

And, to be careful in what we say.

St. Francis de Sales addresses this in his book, Introduction to the Devout Life. We might say something, not thinking anything about the evil intention, the wickedness of the statement.

But, we don’t really know how our words may be understood or received. So, words have power.

We know this is true of good words, right.

We affirm in the famous song, the words in Latin – ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. Where Charity and Love [are] [prevail], there God is ever found.

And, Francis de Sales is saying that the opposite could also be true:
“where satire and ridicule exist, contempt is found.”

[__05__ ] JUDGMENTS – How do we make judgments about others? Actors are concerned about their reviews.

And, we also are concerned with judgments.

Francis de Sales also touches on this, reminding us of the the Gospel words, “do not
judge lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1)

But, sometimes, we do the opposite. We judge our neighbor, but we rarely judge ourselves.

Rarely do we observe ourselves as clearly as others might. So, we rely on the honesty of others to help us see ourselves as we are.

If we were to receive some criticism, we might ask – what can I learn from this?

What is the truth in this?

And, we come to Sunday Mass also concerned about this search for truth, this journey to repentance.

We begin Sunday Mass with this act of repentance and admission of our need for help.

We say Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy.

And, this is the beginning of our unity, our community with God and with each other.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Good News About Water (2011-01-16)

This is my homily for 16 January 2011. I am the Catholic campus minister for Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We resume our Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) on Sun. Jan. 23, 2011.

[__01_pure v impure_ ] In this Gospel, we continue this theme of baptism and water. Last Sunday was the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. John the Baptist declares today that Jesus takes away the sin of the world through the water of baptism.

As we know, our world is made mostly of water. And our bodies also are made of mostly water. Much of what surrounds is water. Some of it is frozen right now.

And, we also know that many problems come from impurities in water ..or in things. A great challenge in developing nations is the securing of safe water sources.

What makes water good …or at least good enough for us to drink, to swim, or to navigate? What is the Good News about water?

For most of us, the Good News is that we can purify water, obtain bottled water, that is for drinking.

As for other problems with water, we may imagine we can get around them by our own intelligence and foresight. If only, for example, you or I were captains of the Titanic in 1912. We would have avoided that iceberg, a sizable water problem, this one frozen.

However, can we really navigate around or purify ourselves of all problems by our own power, intelligence, or satellite technology?

[__02_sin of world & h2 avoid (invid)__ ] This is a question which John the Baptist addresses today. Speaking about baptism and water, John is also referring to the sin of the world, the sin of the world which Jesus Christ takes away.

We might imagine the sin of the world is an impurity or obstacle in the water or on the water which affects all of us.

We might imagine that we can get around these obstacles or impurities by
• escaping elsewhere,
• paying enough money …
• avoiding icebergs of 1912 on the horizon
• drinking bottled water.

On the other hand, all of us are affected by, touched by sin, by the brokenness of others, by the faults of others.

The Good News of baptism -- both last Sunday and this Sunday – is that Christ has come to help us with such difficulties. And, he does with water.

These difficulties may not literally be an iceberg or oil spill … but there may be other structures we cannot fix so easily.

And, they may also tend to overwhelm or cause a flood, a deluge of some kind.

[__03 _sin sitn work/sch_ ] For example, suppose we have a situation at
• Work
• School

A boss, teacher, employee, student who is unfair, unjust. And, sometimes, the sin of an individual or a group of individuals can create an organization – or legislation – or policy which makes our lives exceedingly difficult.

In this regard, we face the sins of individuals which add up to a obstacle in our path similar to the iceberg. This becomes a sinful structure against which we struggle. We cannot change these structures immediately …or individually.

[__04_(MLK & nonviolent resistance)_ ] An example of this from our own history is Martin Luther King. Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day on which we honor Dr. King and others who have navigated rough oceans through peaceful, nonviolent resistances to sinful structures, to the sin of the world.

Sometimes, the sin of the world oppresses a whole class of people based on what another class of people has decided. In the process, we forget the principle that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. (Genesis 1:27).

We recall Jesus’ words to the crowd … let he who is without sin cast the first stone. (John 8:7)

This is also nonviolent resistance…for which Jesus will ultimately pay for with his own life.

[__06_children challenge_ ] Don’t mothers and fathers and teachers of all kinds have a great challenge in this regard? Is this not a challenge, to provide clear water, and to teach them about is good and harmful in the water – in the world – while also helping them to make up their own minds? Does not the raising and teaching of children require both a firm and merciful touch?

We want to teach children to survive in the water … so that even if they do not walk on water, they can at least swim.
Our hope for children is that they will be –
• Strong as individuals
• Resilient after disappointments and setbacks
• Adaptable in the snow and ice of unfairness and injustice.

Along the way, life not being fair, all of us may have to navigate difficult water … or occasionally go thirsty.

These setbacks, these floods can change our lives. And, in the process, we want to teach our children to be resilient. And, adaptable. And, we want them to endure oppression without becoming oppressive or vengeful themselves.

We want them to be strong and gentle. Again, this is a subtle touch that parents and teachers are called to manifest.

The Gospel is calling us to resist this oppression and to avoid harmful elements in the water and in the world.

What the Gospel calls us to do, however, is also to face some of these harmful elements. These impurities.

For example,
Pray for our enemies
Pray for those who persecute us.

This “enemy” might not be an armed combatant on a battle field in Afghanistan. Such enemies we might find it easy to pray for. What about the difficult person who simply is an obstacle in getting our regular work done?

This is the sin of the world.

All of us, in a way, will face the sin of the world in others who maybe unfair ..or
situations unfair.

And, the Gospel is calling us to resistance of oppression …meanwhile also loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us.

Difficult boss? Family member? Co-worker? Child? Pray for this person. This prayer may not change the other person. The other person might not melt immediately. But, we will change in the process, this prayer will purify our own hearts.

[__07_purify the world_ ] If we were to climb high enough in the Rocky Mountains, we can go to the source of pure water. We can find the source of the Colorado River, to find the snow melting which creates the river, we could – then – rise above any impurities below.

Eventually, however, we are called to come down from the mountain.

Even Moses who ascends Mount Sinai, who goes up into clouds for 40 days and nights to receive the pure source of God’s law in the 10 Commandments, even Moses has to come down and live among his people, people with whom he is also frequently in conflict.

This conflict comes for us too – in sinfulness, pride, injustice.

Coming to Sunday Mass, we recognize our need for Christ’s help, for a new source of pure water which also comes in his death and resurrection and in the pure water flowing from his side on the Cross.

We are called to this same sacrifice, this same purity which is also a test … not a scientific test measured in parts per million …

But a lifelong test of laying down our lives as he did for us. And, with God’s grace, the water will flow. [__end__]

Haiti Jan 2011_Seton Hall

8-15 January 2011, I traveled as Catholic chaplain for the Seton Hall DOVE (Division of Volunteer Efforts) trip to Maison Fortune Orphanage in Hinche, 77 miles (128 km) outside Port au Prince. The orphanage suffered no earthquake damage on or after 12 January 2010.

The trip was led by Mark Cantine. Annie Touhill (Seton Hall 2010 grad) also assisted in leading the trip, as did David Peterson. There were 12 students, 8 women, 4 men.

These are transcripts of my homilies during 10-14 January 2011.

[__Mon Jan. 10]
Hebrews 1:1-6 | Mark 1:14-20 [GIFTS]

On Christmas day, any day, we are called to open and to accept gifts that are given to us.

That gift might be the gift of another person. That gift might be a talent that we have. And, sometimes, we might have trouble – practical difficulty – opening the box or untying the strings.

This is also true of personal gifts, talents. For example, we may believe a gift is only worthwhile if it exceeds the qualities of others.

For example, we may prefer – or demand – high grades, superior performance. We may have very high expectations of our gifts. We might say …

“well if I can’t be a concert pianist, therefore I am no good at music”

That is kind of an extreme view. But, we might also have a similar struggle here at Maison Fortune or the Azeal.

We may expect that we are able to reach or encounter a child in a particular way. We may be struggle … and conclude, well, I’m not good with children.

But, that would be a rejection of God’s gifts to us.

For example, here, we try to accept all the children who come into our lives, the
children who are well behaved and those who are growing and maturing and adjusting.

We remember that children are a gift, to parents, but also a common gift to the whole world, to the whole church.

Jean Louis, Brother Michael, Brother Harry, and the whole team take care of the gift given to all of us.

We are called to open the gifts given to us, the children. And, also to recognize that the children want to open us up.

As we know, children are not interested in the packaging. They may turn the packing itself into a toy ..but only after they have figured out what is inside. They want to tear open the gift as soon as possible.

And, the children want to do that with you and me, in any language.
In the Gospel, we hear that Jesus is passing by the Sea of Galilee. He meets his first disciples.

Those words “passing by” suggest that he did not stay very long, that it was just an accidental encounter. But, it was significant. And, we ourselves are also only passing by here for a little while. But, we are also seeing God’s presence in these children.

And, we pass by here, to discover the gift of our time here.

[__Tue Jan. 11_ ] Hebrews 2:5-12 + Mark 1:21-28
In this Gospel, Jesus shows his authority. He gives a direct order to this unclean spirit afflicting a person.

And, we also at times the exercise of authority, the giving of orders. This could an order / instruction given by a teacher, our parents, by the R.A., the boss.

It could be anyone in our lives.

Authority also reminds us of obedience. There are two responses to authority. You and I can either (a) obey; or (b) rebel.

Authority and obedience go together quite well. Or you could have authority and rebellion and some kind of anarchy, some problem, some trouble.

The challenge for any teacher - Christ included – our parents included – is to persuade others to follow. That is, the wise teacher does not simply impose his or her will on others.

Rather, the wise teacher – as Christ is – persuades others to follow. And, those who follow (students, team members, apostles) are persuaded that the commands are good for them.

That is, the followers are persuaded when they see the “rules” or “methods” as not only for the group but also good for the individual.

As an individual, I may want to obey other rules, obey other things.

In the Gospel, we hear about the unclean spirit.And, this could be an example of my own desire to follow another spirit, to follow a spirit contrary to Christ and Gospel.

I might be following my own way. There are certain spirits we might follow.
In the Gospel, we sense that this spirit-possessed many is completely devoid of free will. He is unable to make any decisions for himself.

That might not be our exact situation. But, still, we might follow some other idol, some other spirit.

For example, we might follow the spirit of:
• Comfort
• Popularity
• Intelligence / Appearing Intelligent

All of these are good things.

COMFORT For example, it’s good to be comfortable. But, we could also so idolize comfort that we never put aside of anything else.

I think this week is a good example for you and me that we have put aside the idol of our personal comfort for the children here. We have put aside our time for our fellow team members too.

POPULARITY Popularity could be an idol. I want other people to like me, to know me.

INTELLIGENCE - This could be an idol because I want others to think I am smart. This may have nothing to do with whether or not I have done my homework or not. Either way, I want people to know, to recognize my intelligence. And, it is pleasing, isn’t it, when other people recognize it?
So, all of these are examples of superficial idols that we might put before the true spirit of the Gospel. The spirit that God calls us to. Also, we can put aside these things, we can grow in our own sense of obedience and service, service to a group like this.

When we put aside these idols, we are learning to love others as Jesus loves us.

[__Wed Jan. 12_ ] Hebrews 2:14-18 + Mark 1:29-39

[*** 6:00 a.m. at Missionaries of Charity, Hinche]

In this Gospel, we hear that people are searching for Jesus. They are trying to find him, so he might bring a cure, a miracle.

Today marks one year since the Leogane / Port au Prince earthquake, a time when we also witnessed many searches. Searches for the injured, searches for the lost, searches also for those who died.

Perhaps, you were part of this search.

If you were not part of the search, you were certainly receiving those who were lost. The good work you do as Missionaries of Charity shows the value – in God’s eyes – of searching out the lost. The value of every human life.

What do we do, seeking someone who is lost?

We would observe visual clues, listen for sounds. We would go to likely places. The temptation – in seeking the lost – is to look for the thing which is easiest to find, but not to use too much effort to find the difficult thing.

Or, we seek out the healthiest, the strongest. But Jesus our Lord gives us the example of lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son.

That is, it is important to seek the one lost sheep out of 100, the one lost coin of 10, the one lost son of two. In these cases, unlikely finds are made.

For example, in the parable of the man who had two sons. The father waits for the son who is ungrateful, the younger son who seems unlikely to return, the younger son who seems undeserving of a welcome.

These are unlikely reconcilations and discoveries.

On January 12, 2010 and January 12, 2011 and every day, we follow this same principle to forgive and reconcile.

We can use this spiritual principle to forgive and to welcome the person who is ungrateful to us. We can welcome the person who does not say thank you.

Doing this, we also try to seek out and save the lost.

[__Thu. Jan. 13_ ] [*** 6:00 a.m. at Missionaries of Charity, Hinche]

Hebrews 3:7-14 + Mark 1:40-45

In this Gospel, a man approaches Jesus and says …. “if you will to do so, you can make me clean.”

If you voluntarily choose to do so, you can make me clean.

This is a Gospel that touches on voluntary choices that we make, on voluntary choice that Christ makes to cure.

And, we may approach others asking for a favor..

We may be approached by others seeking help, a favor, asking us to make a choice.
If you are willing you can give me money. All you have to do is make the choide.

And, in the Gospel, Jesus chooses to heal this one man.

We might imagine that our happiness is the result of such an encounter with Jesus who chooses to forgive us, to heal us, to make us one with him.

And, that we might imagine that our happiness is the result of encounters with others who will give us money, comfort, etc.

We are called to trust in God even beyond what we can ask for.

We do not know exactly what to ask God for.

We may not understand scientifically or rationally everything going on in our lives.
So, it is our challenge to turn our lives, to trust even beyond what we understand. We see this in the lives of children, that children are asked to do things that they do not understand.

Sometimes, a child trusts not because he/she fully understand what is going on ..but will trust who it is …

Our faith, then, is not only a search for what …but also a search for who…and.
And, Augustine reminds us… of this- I believe in order to understand… Augustine emphasizing the personal aspect…

The idea that we act according to our will/our belief. Every action I do reflects something I believe, right?And, that means that if I do something wrong… then I am called to reflect on how my action [regrettable] say something about my beliefs. We might deny that it says anything. We might excuse it saying…oh, I did not really mean it, etc. But the greater challenge is to consider what sinfulness says about what I believe..
Also, what about sacrificing for one’s beliefs, martyrdom. Sometimes, our beliefs are not accepted, are they?
Here, I’m not simply referring to an opposing religious or governmental group that subjects me to capital punishment. Rather, I am suggesting that between two friends, two spouses, two roommates…the pain experienced when these two individuals do not share a particular belief.
This could result the husband and wife not sharing responsibilities in a peaceful manner, it could hinder communication, etc.
And, one person sacrifices more than the other. It could be a temporary situation, It could be permanent. But, it is definitely painful.
And, we feel persecuted, martyred when our beliefs are not respected (too extreme?). Maybe the other person violated a boundary (time, space, property) did not respect my space, etc. But, all of this originates in a set of beliefs.
Isn’t it true that if another person respects what I believe, then that person will respect my time, my property, my money, my person/body, all things.
Also – maturity for all of us involves reflection on what I believe. Say, for example, my boss is unhappy w. my work or something.
Or, someone is unhappy with what I ‘m doing. Then, I’m called to reflect on what I believe. Am I acting in accord with those beliefs? It may be possible only to change my actions … only to apologize for my actions … but ultimately we also may be called to change our beliefs, modify our beliefs for good of others, for our own good.

[__Fri. Jan. 14_ ] Hebrews 1:4-5, 11 + Mark 2:1-12
[*** 6:00 a.m. at Missionaries of Charity, Hinche]

In their journey out of Egypt, the people of Israel are seeking a place of rest, the Promised Land.

And, we hear about this rest in the letter to the Hebrews today. And, we also hear about this rest in the Gospel also.

The 4 men who carry their friend to Jesus are also seeking rest, healing for their friend. And, they have to use heroic effort, remove the tiles from the roof and then lower the man down through the roof and into the house.

This encounter reminds us that the rest Jesus promises is not a particular geographical place, or house. It is something both physical and spiritual.

Jesus is trying to connect the physical and the spiritual, saying to the man, Rise pick up your mat and go home. This is the physical.

We also seek a physical welcome in a home.

Arriving at someone’s house, we expect some material nourishment, a drink, food. And, we usually offer this to guests.

But, this is not the only aspect of welcome.

Jesus is also speaking of a spiritual welcome. “Your sins are forgiven” Imagine we can welcomed into a place, invited into a place. However, if we sense some disunion, .. some hurt feelings … it can be hard to feel at home.This can be a much longer journey. And, if we we have arrived at a place, it is a constant journey to grow closer to God, to reach the promised land.

For example, every commitment has outward signs of closeness – marriage, religious life, family …

But, we are also tyring to grow closer and closer to God not just physically but also spiritually.

This is true in our commitments, to forgive those who sin against us.

And, this also helps us to enter into God’s rest. [__end __]

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reading the Signs (2011-01-02, Epiphany)

This is my homily for 2 January 2011, Epiphany Sunday. I am the Catholic campus minister for Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We resume our Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) on Sun. Jan. 23, 2011.

[__01__ ] In this beautiful proclamation of the date of Easter, we are reading ahead, to see what is coming next in our lives. Reading is not something of passive stillness. Reading is something we do to understand. Reading is the way we receive information.

Reading is action.

For example,
• a musician reads music, while playing
• a quarterback or point guard reads the defense while passing the ball
• and, the Magi (The 3 Kings) are reading the star in the sky while moving closer and closer to Bethlehem.

We are always reading signs and signals – you and I read each other’s signs and body language and spoken language.

[Is the other person available? / Does he or she want to talk? / Is someone in a hurry? We read each other for signs. ]

[__02__ ] The signs – what we read – are not 100% accurate. We can’t believe everything we read, can we?

King Herod, in the Gospel, for example, indicates enthusiasm, piety, respect for the Christ Child. Herod arranges some type of secret rendezvous with the magi, an encounter in which he seems to reveal the truth –

“Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word that I may go and do him homage.’ ” (Matthew 2:7-8)

But in these words alone, the magi do not learn the truth about Herod. They need another sign which comes to them in the dream. This new sign guides their way and helps them to protect the life of our newborn king.

[__03 __ ] The Feast of the Epiphany reminds us that Jesus is now known, manifested, recognized.

This is what we mean by the word – epiphany – a manifestation. Making known the birth of Christ, we also relate this to death and resurrection of Christ – both as a date on the calendar in the future and a place in our hearts.

The Magi open and read the Good News when they see the face of Christ. They have also entered Jesus into their calendar.

[__04__ ] Coming to Sunday Mass, we are hear to read the Good News, to hear the Good News and to let Jesus be known to us and to discover him.

Jesus is not only the light shining the sky. He is meant to be the light in our hearts – as we read in the Psalms– that what we read guides us on our way –

“a lamp to my feet is your word, a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105)

This is also a risk. It may be easier, at times, not to read the signs or not to make the signs so clear in our lives.

Do I want others to know my understand me, read me, know me completely?

Epiphany reminds us of the manifestation of Jesus and to consider that his mercy helps us to become who we really are.

This may, also, mean that our faults become known in the process.

In the Gospel, this is also true –

• The sins of the tax collectors are made known and forgiven – Jesus says to Zacchaeus – “salvation has come to this house today”

• The sins of the woman are made known and forgiven – Jesus says – “then, neither do I condemn you.”

• And, for Peter the Apostle, the same is true. Peter has read ahead in the book, done all his homework and identified Jesus as Lord and Messiah before all others. Yet, he also denies him 3 times on the night of his arrest. After this denial, however, Peter turns back. This is a personal epiphany [discovery] for Peter.

The Lord has mercy both on those who read his word and those who occasionally forget what they have read.

The Lord has mercy on the sinner and invites them into the light. We are also called to have mercy on others … based on what we read and see. This may also invite us to put aside what we see in our first glance … to put aside prejudice as well.

[__05__ ] This week, our Catholic Church pauses to pray especially for those for whom the book of life and the door of life are closed. They may not want to be read and manifested and recognized.

This week is National Migration Week, when we pray for and remember immigrants, migrants, refugees, workers, undocumented workers in our own country.

During National Migration Week, we remember the importance of welcoming the stranger, the widow, the orphan.

Our immigration system is undergoing reform. This has been the subject of great debate in Washington D.C. and in other countries.

There is much work that needs to be done.

For example, there are families in which parents have a number children and some of their children are “legal” and some are “illegal” based on where the child was born.

[__06__ ] Illegal status makes someone an outsider. It makes someone even a criminal. But, that is a sign which is also not 100% accurate.

We are called to be careful how we read the signs and use the signs of life.

The Feast of Epiphany reminds us that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were also refugees, seeking asylum. Temporarily they go into hiding in Egypt. But, ultimately, they want to settle and to be known.

God does not want to keep them in hiding. Nor does he wish for us to be hidden.

To come out of hiding, to find a home, to have a relationship, we read signs.
Sometimes, we avoid reading the message of love or we avoid showing mercy to the other.

Rather than reading “mercy”, we find fault and we “read them their rights” and find them guilty.

We are called on this Feast of Epiphany to remember that God makes his mercy and love known first, through the Christ Child.

And, we are called to show this mercy and love others . This includes the immigrant, migrant, the refugee, those who cannot yet come to the light. [__end__]