Sunday, January 6, 2019

Hide and Go Seek. Epiphany (2019-01-06)

January 6, 2019     [ 3 kings  / epiphany ]

 Isaiah 60:1-6 • Psalm  72   • Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6  • + Matthew 2:1-12  

Title:   Found. Epiphany

[_01_]   Hide-and-go-seek (H_+GS) is a game in which 1 player closes his/her eyes – and counts – often to 100 - while the other players hide. After counting to 100, the “seeker” then opens his eyes and tries to find those in hiding .. the last one to be found is  the winner of the round.
[_02_]   (H_+GS)  is mysterious. The Gospel today is mysterious as we read about 3 kings – or 3 wise men – bringing 3 gifts and while they did not count to 100…they traveled for hundreds of miles / kilometers … a great distance in search of … seeking Jesus the newborn king.
[_03_] Why do we play (H_+GS) ? We play in order to be the last one found. Jesus is the last person FOUND, the last one discovered in this Gospel.
            That is, there are – first – 3 KINGS – they are # 1, # 2, # 3 travelling on the road to Bethlehem. We found them. There are significant statues of the –to the RIGHT of the altar…
            Then, there is a fourth king – King # 4 is King Herod. He is famous, has a palace, a big house and everyone knows his name.
            But, the real king – is king # 5 – the fifth King – who is very well hidden. #5 = Jesus.  No one knows his name. Yet. The 3 Kings were not expecting to find him in Bethlehem. And, Herod is kicking himself for not figuring this out sooner. 
            Bethlehem is a good hiding place. It is a simple town, not many people. Thus, we sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie… ”Whether in Bethlehem – or later I Nazareth, Jesus is remains pretty well hidden even as an adult. [1]
            He is in hiding today, when the 3 Kings arrive in the country and area of Bethlehem.
[_04_]    In (H_+GS), enthusiasm –love – are shown by hiding from the other person.
            This is also a message of Father Ronald Knox in a sermon about the Christmas and the birth of Jesus. Jesus appears to be in hiding, hard to find. And, the 3 Kings are the scientists of their time, they have something better than GPS satellites, they can read and measure by the stars on their own.
[_05_]   In this mysterious way, and the mystery of the Epiphany, I believe that God is not trying to get away from us…but he is showing us that he loves us.
            Sometimes, we love others even when we are in hiding.
            I’d like to give some specific experiences which you may also have. Consider that you are making a really nice Christmas gift for someone and you want the other person to be surprised. You might place the gift in a box that does not show the other person what is inside. They have to unwrap it in order to see.
            There are times, my brothers and sisters,  that we also have to take the time to understand, to listen, to un-wrap – to ask questions of other people in our lives.
            Think about this … when you are really troubled or unhappy about something..isn’t it nice when someone takes the time to ask you about what is bothering you. You are not really hiding …but you are allowing them to find you.
            Or, in another example – let’s say that someone experience some great joy in their lives. It is an act of Christian charity to ask another person about his or her joys. In other words, the other person wants to be asked.  You and I want to be asked about the joys of our lives.
            Jesus goes into hiding so that we will also ask – that we will ask directions – like the 3 Kings to find him.      [*** PAUSE***]
[_06_]    Jesus wants us to find him.
Here is an example I would like to share with you about how we – in my family – wanted someone to be found. It was not a game of (H_+GS).
            It was rather a surprise birthday party for my mother.
            There are many tricky things about a surprise party. There is the guest list, there is the date on the calendar, there is the cake, there might be gifts.
            But, the 1 thing that is really really hard to pull off … and it is key to the whole surprise – WHERE?
            Where is the surprise party to take place? LOCATION!
            The key is to find a location that everyone can gather at …and, moreover,  to get the guest of honor – my mother – to the party – to the restaurant without seeing all these people and their cars or shoes or coats.
            It is (H_+GS)  / major league baseball (H_+GS) .
            And, in the surprise party – like in the game (H_+GS) ,  you achieve your VICTORY … by making sure that one particular person is not found until the very end….this is the guest of honor, the birthday girl or birthday boy.
            And, after the surprise, everyone’s life is absolutely changed. Because everybody is in on the surprise, in on the joy.
            It is a team effort to pull off the surprise.
            And, it shows our love for the other person that we would go to such lengths to hide, to keep the plans of the party hidden for so long, for so many weeks or months ahead of time.
[_07_]   Yes, Jesus is in hiding in the Gospel. The seeking and finding of the newborn King of the Jews, the Messiah is an absolute shock to King Herod.
            Herod is scared, feels threatened.
[_08_]   Now, in a way, the presence of God – our awareness of God can also seem to be hidden.
            For example, while Christmas is celebrated very appropriately and joyously by the exchanging of gifts, and this signifies our gift of each other …. The best gifts we can give – ou love, our honesty, our integrity and our mercy – is not something you can see. Nevertheless it is there.
 [_09_]  It takes time to recall and remember where God is in my life, in good times and in bad, in summer or winter, in light or dark.
            For example, if we have a bad day, or someone said something we did not like to hear or want to hear, we might ask – God, where are you? So..rather than me hiding myself…I might go and try to discover where God is.
            I assure you – brothers and sisters – the Lord dwells in his Word, in the Church and he is always here to give you directions. If you are lost, come inside.  Stop in to church to pray and ask for these, as the 3 Kings did.
            This feast reminds us that God wants to be found. And we find him together.
[_10_]    At around 10:45 pm on Saturday evening, it was the night of my mother’s surprise birthday party. We were all leaving and my brother’s daughter – who was 8 years old at the time – had an exceptionally rockin’ time. Loved every minute of it and knew that this was so special that she and her family had traveled from California to be at the party.
            In the parking lot, she was getting into a very comfortable seat in a someone’s big car at the end of the night, she had her own surprise, her own discover to report …saying in front of my mother … “This was the best day of my entire life.”
            This was a surprise, a discovery. It also echoes our own Good News that is a joy – the best day – whenever we can find Jesus where he is – the best day of our lives. [_11_]     [_fin_]   

[1] Later when Jesus says is from Nazareth, the apostle Philip famously says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Jesus remains hidden throughout his life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

In Between. (2019-01-01, Mary Mother of God)

  January 1, 2019    [ mary mother of god ]

•  Numbers 6:22-27  • Psalm  67   • Galatians 4:4-7  • Luke 2:16-21  •

Title:   In Between. 2018-2019. Mary Mother of God.

[_01_]   In the wild, and in nature, we see that animals and birds spend a lot of their time searching for food – sometime called “foraging”. They are seeking and finding nourishment.
            And, in one report, I read that a bird might spend 75% of its time looking for food. This is not just in Rocky Mountains or at Eagle Rock Reservation..but right here.
            And, what we see – especially in birds – that they will travel miles and miles. They will fly miles and miles between looking for their next meal. Amazing and without GPS!
            Recently, on a Sunday morning, a flock of birds landed here at Our Lady of Lourdes. They were actually at the Grotto where there is the lawn and many trees and, I imagine, some berries and blossoms. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of birds. They were foraging, looking for food.
            And, typical of this location with many trees, in between the buildings.  And, typical of this season, between winter + spring.
            This is an in-between time of year. While the birds know that food is scarce, I imagine they have been here before.
[_02_]    In between.
            In between, we are in between – in time & chronology between 2018 and 2019. 
            You might say, hey it’s already 2019. The souvenirs say 2019 and soon the calendar will as well.
            But, mentally, at least for a while, I know that will be – accidentally writing “2018”  with my signature. Maybe I’ll even write 2017. It was a fast year.
            We are in balancing time between 2018 and 2019.   And, for many of us  - especially students and schoolchildren and parents – the new year feels more like a midpoint or a halftime show than an endpoint or the final whistle.
            We are balanced between AUTUMN + SPRING semesters, in between the nice outdoor weather  of AUTUMN and SPRING. We are in between our own walls because we might not be able to go out too much.
            We are in between.
[_03_]   So, for the blackbird and bluebirds and birds of our hemisphere, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is a habitat, an ecosystem, year in and year out.
            There is a Grotto, a cave also in which the Jesus is in the manger and resting.  It is his habitat, ecosystem. And, Mary – with Joseph – is in charge of protecting, sheltering him there. While nourishing and protecting, Mary is also attracting visitors. The shepherds are FLOCKING, they are arriving, landing.  And, by adoring and contemplating his presence, they are being fed.
            But, the shepherds – with their sheep – are also at an in-between, halftime – or point of change in their lives.
            They are not simply at the stable – to see Jesus – so they can go back to their old lives. They are also starting a new life.  They are in between.
            I believe our mothers – and Mary our Blessed Mother – can teach us about this “in between” state and about starting a new life.
            I’d like to touch on this in terms of our call to both GENTLENESS and to GOODNESS.
 [_04_]    1st .  “Our Gentleness.”    
            Mothers and women of faith have a great deal to share and teach their daughters and sons that real strength is not based on brute force or the overwhelming or the outrebounding of an opponent.
            Do not mothers teach us – their daughters and sons – that gentleness can be both firm and tender.
            [*** PAUSE ***]
            I recognize we live in a world in which it seems MIGHTY POWER =  RIGHT. And, in some battlefield scenarios this is the case.
            But, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, I believe we can see in our mothers and women in a lour lives, the GENTLE yet FIRM ways in which they stand up for themselves and teach all of us about love of God and love of neighbor.
            Jesus himself demonstrates this gentleness in his willingness to lay down his life for us. Surely, the Blessed Mother also taught him this gentleness and strength.
 [_06_]  Our Blessed Mother teaches about GENTLENESS which is always a high calling, even if you feel like a lowly servant. 
            Mothers also teach us about GOODNESS.
[_07_]  2nd. GOODNESS.
            Mothers teach us about GOODNESS. Is GOODNESS desirable? I think we may need, spiritually and intentionally to press [Esc] to remind ourselves that we are called to is to be  “GOOD” rather than to be sold on what is PREMIUM, SUPREME, SUPER SIZED 5 STAR, LIMITED EDITION, et cetera.
            But, I suggest we are called to a simplicity and knowledge of goodness that our mothers know very well.
            When God creates the world in Genesis, he calls each of his creations “good” or “very good.”.
            And, in this regard “good” is sufficient. Good and goodness is our goal. Goodness is also binary.  Goodness is the balance in between.
            By analogy, isn’t it true that when someone forgives us of some trespass or evil we have done – really forgives us – they are not asking us to  change but simply to be who we really are?   Goodness is not something we discover via GPS, something we recover via G-O-D and God’s mercy.
[_08_]     What about these New Year’s resolutions?
            In our new year’s resolutions and sentiments what we often wish and express are the following – in our happy new year wishes – that we have a year free from illness, from pain, from trouble, that you may make plenty of money, that your tax bill will not be burdensome, that the Dow Jones Industrial Average will remain stable and the S&P 500 will not be too volatile.
            It’s good to pray for all of the above…but I suggest we can pray and strive for even more…and to pray + recall  that -- in between our joys and our sorrows that everything in our ecosystem and our experience, everything in heaven and earthy may help us to love God and love our neighbor a little bit more.  [_fin_]