Sunday, January 29, 2023

A Different World (The Beatitudes) (2023-01-29. Sunday-04)

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January 29, 2023 /  4th Sunday    ● Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13 ● Psalm 146 ● 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ● Matthew 5:1-12a ●

Title: A Different World

[__01__]  Many children, adolescents and young people live in a “different world” from that in which their parents grew up. Do you live in a different world from that of your parents?

            This is one way we use the term a “different world”.  And even parents and children living in the same house may think – at times – they are in “different worlds” or on “different planets.”

            This Sunday, we read the Beatitudes – the words of Jesus from Matthew Ch. 5. Perhaps, you have the read the Beatitudes a few times or many times. Either way, hearing these words, you may wonder – are the ideas in the Beatitudes from some other world or worldview?

            The Beatitudes challenge us to consider how view the challenges we face.

            I’d like to touch on 3 of Beatitudes and also relate this to Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians.

            Paul is also thinking about a “different world” than many Corinthians are.

 

[__02__]  POVERTY.   This is just a family, everyday example.   When I was younger, my parents would periodically take my brothers, sister and me in the car to visit my grandmother and grandfather, at their apartment in the Bronx, on Bruckner Boulevard. This was same apartment where my father and his 2 brothers grew up.

            The entire apartment consisted of 2 small bedrooms, 1 bathroom, an entryway where the table was, a kitchen and living room. It was small. But you might protest and say, hey, padre, that is a 2 BR apartment.  I have been in 2 BR apartments, lived in 2 BR apartments larger than this. There was also exactly one closet and one bathroom for 5 people.

            As a kid visiting my grandparents, I found their apartment to be very cozy and comfortable, but I did not want to move in with them. I lived in a different world in the NJ suburbs.

            Often, we think of poverty in material terms and as something we must escape from or conquer or move away from.

            The message, however, of the Beatitudes and of Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians is not that poverty is something we grow out of or move out of. We would be better off growing into and moving toward poverty and simplicity as virtues.

            This is a different world.

 

[__03_]  Corinth is a different world.    In the New Testament and in Church history, Corinth is singled out as a place where Paul’s messages of simplicity and adherence to the Gospel were controversial, sometimes unwelcome.

            Corinth is a port city in Greece, where many boats docked and departed, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea and Corinth was also known as a place of luxury and prestige.

            This “luxury image” of “Corinthian” has lasted for many centuries.  This was picked up on by the a car manufacturer – Chrysler – stating in the 1970’s  that the comfy back seats and front seats were made of “Corinthian leather”, It was not real leather, it was just all marketing.

There is also something known as the Corinthian column or Corinthian pillar in architecture.  I placed an example of 2 columns or pillars on the altar here on which 2 Books of the Gospels are placed. They not actually Corinthian columns, but simpler in style.

            Of all the ancient pillars, the Corinthian column or pillar – seen outside of Greek temples or major buildings, the Corinthian column was the most detailed and decorative.

            But, Paul was saying to his people and to you and me…do not strive be just superficially good or ornate, like Corinthian leather or the Corinthian column.

            Paul was saying, rejoice and be glad that you were not “wise by human standards ..or powerful … or of noble birth [because] God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)

            So, in other words, he’s telling the Corinthians and you and me not to be discouraged about our disadvantages or lack of name-brand clothing. This is a different world.

[__04__]  By reading and reflecting on the Beatitudes, we can understand what the “different world” we are called to inhabit as Jesus’ followers.

            Jesus also wants us to understand the blessing of simplicity and poverty. Because we do not think of poverty as a blessing. In the life of the Church and especially for the members of religious orders – the Sisters of Charity, Jesuits, Franciscans -- poverty is part of their explicit vows, their promises, their virtues.

However, we are all “poor” or “impoverished” in some way.

One nice thing about visiting my grandparents in the Bronx in their apartment – which I perceived as small – was that we were never far apart. And living a simple life is meant to help us to draw closer to God and to each other. It’s a different world.

What are some of these blessings – These are blessings that unite us to God and to each other in the Church.

1st. The Blessing of Mourning

            It is a blessing to mourn. The “mourning” may not necessarily help me to reclaim exactly what I have lost or said good-bye to, or to bring someone back to life, but the rituals and reflections of  mourning will help me to look forward to the possibility of a heavenly reunion and heavenly reward and to give thanks for the past.

            When we gather in church for a Funeral Mass, it is often a time to recognize and unleash a flood of emotions, grief, sorrow. But it also a time to recognize that the deceased person I care for– or you love – belongs also to God who created the person. In mourning, we truly render unto God what belongs to God. (Gospel reference). Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.

2nd. The Blessing of Mercy

We  pray these words frequently – forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  This refers to the blessing of mercy.

But, is my distribution of mercy sometimes more said than done? Have I not, from time to time, re-told something from the past about something that went wrong or a wrong done to me – that I am apparently “over”, but re-told it to emphasize the person or persons who caused me difficulty and how I was wronged or injured?  This “mercy” beatitude reminds me not to  live as a “victim” – digging up the past -- but to recognize that I can have – we can have – victory – through Jesus’ sacrifice.

The Beatitudes come to us as the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, starting at Mattthew-Gospel Chapter 5, verse 1.

Also, the Sermon on the Mount, presents Jesus as the new “Moses” who had gone up the mountain of Mount Sinai to receive the law and 10 Commandments.

Jesus is on a new mountain. Also, while, Moses communicated the law and commandments by bring the law down to the lower altitude of the people ….  Jesus speaks from the mountain,

Jesus does not come down, he invites us UPWARD., to take the high road, even when it is difficulty to recognize the blessings of poverty, mourning, mercy, The Beatitudes are also meant to prepare us for eternal life.

This Sunday, there is a similar message about the virtue and simplicity come from God, as we read, of the different world we are called to inhabit and build …  , God chose the lowly and despised of this world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesu, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that as it is written:  Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.

 (1 Corinthians 1:27-31)  [__end__ ]

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Put Down Your Nets. Pray. (2023-01-22, Sunday-03)

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2023 January 22 __ 3rd Sunday   • Isaiah 8:23-9:3  •  Psalm 27 •  1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17  •    + Matthew 4:12-23 •  Put Down Your Nets. Pray]

[__01__]   Many years ago, my parents were helped out of their car/vehicle trouble – which they were in – outside of a shopping center / CVS Pharmacy, in a parking lot, when they discovered a flat tire, something had pierced the rubber of the wheel and they were not going anywhere.

            2 young people noticed the flat-tire.  Seeing my father and mother were about to call AAA Roadside Assistance, these 2 young people jumped into action and changed the tire, put on the spare tire and put the flat tire in the trunk.   My father had tried to stop them from helping, feeling he should call AAA, but then wanted to pay them something. They would accept no reward.

They testified to doing this out of Christian charity and service.

I imagine they were also out shopping on their way to a CVS   Pharmacy. They had interrupted their journey.

[__02__]  In the book of Matthew Chapter 4, we read that the disciples – Peter and Andrew, James and John – were disrupting their regular way of fishing, and putting down their nets in order to follow Jesus.

            In other words, they were in the midst of doing something else – doing their regular work – when Jesus came along and interrupted what they were doing, what they were thinking about.

            While there are persons of all ages who might suffer – due to very serious situations – not just flat tires – but due to poverty, oppression, do not our hearts often go out to those who are either appear to us to be “older” or “younger”.

My parents were not extremely old at the time of this incident, but they were certainly much older than the 2 young adults who pulled out the jack and wrench and other tools to change the flat tire.

In a message to the Church in Ireland and the U.K., Pope Francis wrote: “All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.   (Message to Catholics, Day for Life in Britain, Ireland July 28, 2013)

In some way, we are all born in need of help at one time or another.

Even if we have some material wealth, the ability  to pay our bills, we have health insurance, this will not prevent us from getting sick, catching an illness, needing medical care.

In such cases, do we not want to be seen as individuals with inherent value rather than simply the “ability to pay”.

The 2 young people who changed the tire did not do so based on my parents’ ability to pay them.  That did not matter to them.

Why are prayer and faith important to the sanctity of life?

[__03__]       At the March for Life 2023, on Friday of this past week, former NFL coach and TV commentator Tony Dungy gave this example – and it was an example of people putting down their nets in order to pray, and also out of respect for the precious value of being alive:

3 weeks ago, in an NFL football game, in Cincinnati, something happened that impacted our entire country. Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills made a routine tackle and his heart stopped beating right on the field. It could have been tragic, but the team medical staff rushed out they got Damar’s heart started again. The real miracle was the reaction of the announcers on the broadcast. What did they say? All we can do is pray.

All across the country. People started praying. At that moment, Tony Dungy himself reported that the stopped what he was doing to pray, in the middle of dinner with friends and family  to pray.   The NFL football Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals players played right kneeled down and prayed right on the spot on the playing surface.

And usually when that happens, the cameras cut away from that because we don't like to see that.  Oh, by the way, the game from that moment on was cancelled.

My comment  We know that there are many things we can do – and are called to do – to assist those in need.

Clothing runs, food drives, home building projects are corporal works of mercy. [They are the response Jesus in Matthew 25, I was hungry and you gave me to eat].

            Charity is the foundation for but not exactly the same as justice. Social justice, which is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority, results when “associations or individuals…obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1928)

Was there any “justice” applied happening in the Damar Hamlin example ?

Tony Dungy --- From the moment that Damar was taken off the field in the ambulance, the game was canceled – with millions $$ on the line because of one player’s life. That was an act of judgement and justice, to favor one life over the game itself. The NFL “put down their nets”

Tony Dungy Even people who were not necessarily religious, religious, got together and called on God.  Tony Dungy’s point is that … well, that should be encouraging to us.

My comment  And, but every day, it is our responsibility to call out to God for those whom we know in need and those we do not know in need.

Tony Dungy: “Because every day in this country, innocent lives are at stake. The only difference is they don't belong to a famous athlete, and they're not seen on national TV. But those lives are still important to God and in God's eyes. Psalm 139 tells us that God is watching every one of these young bodies as they're growing in their mother's womb because he placed them there.”

So what can we do about that, in charity and in justice … Well, I think we have to take a lesson from Damar Hamlin’s story. We have to pray. We need to pray with the same fervor that we prayed with during that because God answers prayer and He will answer these prayers to save these precious unborn lives as we go forward.”

            We’re called to put down our nets and pray   [__fin__]  

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Surrender (2023-01-08, Epiphany / 3 Kings)

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2023-01-08 Epiphany    ● Isaiah 60:  ● Psalm 72 ●● Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6 ● ● + Matthew 2:1-12 ● ●        Title:  Epiphany. Surrender.

 [__01__]      I called on the phone recently to United Airlines customer service, due to questions about airline tickets – which I had already purchased – for my mother and my father and me to travel from NJ to FLA. While my parents have traveled several times NJ-FLA and I have as well, this was the first time we would be going together. I took responsibility of buying the tickets. Then, a few days later, I called United Airlines to check on some details. While on the phone, I realized that our tickets were on the correct departure day, at the correct time. But unfortunately, I had made a serious error, the tickets were in the wrong direction. The tickets were leaving FLA and going to NJ.

I'm not in Florida right now! I need to depart NJ, arrive FLA. I was immediately in a panic, especially because of all the bad airline cancellation news we have been hearing. Long story short, I was able to change the tickets, and the price was completely reasonable.

While grateful for the result, I recognize that I was panicked and anxious over something that was really not that tragic and reflected in me something fragile:  my desire to win, to succeed and not be proven wrong and also not to cause inconvenience to others. 

This not virtue; this is the vice of pride.  United Airlines cannot correct this part of James Ferry in their records.

[__02__]       Nobody likes to lose. And even though I came out unscathed with a new ticket, I had to recognize my fragile vulnerability in my state of panic.

I cited this as a reminder that I was called to consider what “surrender” deos not mean and what “surrender” does mean.

“Surrender” did NOT mean that I wasn't going to get a new ticket; did not mean that I didn't have to call United Airlines to correct this.

“Surrender” did mean that the final resolution was out of my control.

 [__03__]         In the Gospel, this Sunday, we read of the appearance of Jesus to two different people, both of whom are experiencing a call to SURRENDER.

          They have 2 different attitudes toward this SURRENDER.

          1st   = King Herod.

          2nd = the Magi.

Both are called to surrender as a result the birth of Jesus.

1st. King Herod. He feels persecuted by the Messiah.  2nd there's the Magi who are pursuing the Messiah.

 [__04__]         Me and King Herod.

 So King Herod, when I was in my state of panic over my airline ticket error, there was a part of me so frustrated, that I say I would say I felt persecuted, scared, fearful, and for at least a little while I was ready to give up rather than pursue a solution. This is the King Herod part. There was something of King Herod in me.

Is there any of King Herod's pride or persecution complex in you?

In the Gospel we have just read, we discover King Herod who is experiencing his own personal drama and trauma and fear about the newborn Messiah.

          On the one hand, King Herod had been magnanimous for the Jewish people and their religious life.  King Herod had re-built / constructed the Temple for worship, reconstructed the masonry and stone on a lavish scale. This was the same Temple that Jesus predicted would be torn down.

          Jesus could see through Herod’s superficial ideas. But, to Herod, they were not superficial.

          Herod sees himself as the true star.

          Herod’s “development” and “stimulus” for the people were a coverup of his own persecution complex. Everywhere, Herod saw rivals  - adversaries – to his seat of power.

          Thus it was Herod – who in his search to destroy the newborn child  Messiah – came up with a plan to take the lives of all male children under 2 years of age. Herod would do anything to prevent something bad happening to himself.

OTOH, we have the Magi, who do not feel persecuted by the Messiah, they are pursuing the Messiah, the newborn king. They say:  “we saw the star and its rising and have come to do him homage.”

These days we hold the Magi or the three kings in great esteem, for their piety for their love. We read that they lay prostrate on the floor before Jesus, but if we consider the practice, but is that really how the Magi were regarded in Jesus's day?

I think it's important to look at historically who the Magi were. In the Bible, the the Magi were practitioners of magic and astrology.

They were ancient fortune tellers. And in the Bible, the ancient fortune tellers were not really individuals of integrity. They were regarded very suspiciously.

Example: Recall that in the ancient Israelite kingdom in the original Israelite kingdom under King Saul, Saul had banished all the fortune tellers from Egypt, from Israel. Then ironically, after Saul banished all the fortune tellers from Israel, Saul himself is caught going to a fortune teller!  

In any case, a practitioner of astrology or magic, like the Magi would have been regarded as suspicious, and not as a people of integrity. It's a reminder to you and me that things like astrology, tarot cards, mediums, witchcraft, Ouija boards may sound like harmless entertainment, but they are really opening the door to evil spirits and idols in your life or in my life.

For example, we could be tempted to worship money or wealth. Considering the popularity right now of online gambling: DraftKings FanDuel, et al. Now, these services – are in a way - modern fortune tellers. They predicting that you can make money that you can be happy if you make money gambling. So imagine a couple of gambling bookies Las Vegas bookies lying prostrate before Jesus at the manger. That's like the Magi, we are called to close the door to these things, these evil things.

So in the visit of the Magi and the surrender of their gold, their frankincense and myrrh, and their prostrate posture, it shows the Magi giving up their old ways, giving up their magic arts and techniques.

And in fact, it shows they're willing to, to lose in order to gain a relationship with the Savior. They're not in a panic. They're not panicking. They're willing to lose. They're willing to give up their valuable arts and techniques and their golden frankincense and myrrh to Jesus.

What am I called to give up in order to gain a closer relationship with Jesus? What are you called to give up?

What are these gifts St. Irenaeus says that the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh signify the mystery of Jesus as the Incarnate Word of God in three ways they symbolize gifts that you and I can also give:

1st . GOLD. Precious metal, it signifies Jesus's royal identity. And you and I, regardless of our income level, or social status, or of a royal family. One thing that royal families do is that they think always in terms of the royal collective, or sometimes we say the royal we, if you translated this into Spanish, you say the royal “nosotros”.  I.e., royally we are called to think of how our gifts given away are going to benefit someone else. Also being of a royal family with a royal identity, we're called to recognize that our actions affect the whole family for good or for ill, this is part of our royal identity.

2nd. FRANKINCENSE / INCENSE.   Points to Jesus's divinity, that he comes down from heaven. And you and I, through our baptism also have a divine identity. God knew us and named us before we were born. Before you were born before I was born. I am guilty at times of forgetting this, of believing I must always make a name for myself. But I rely on God's mercy and grace to be my true identity. And I rely on God's mercy so that I can forgive others. I don't forgive others out of my own resources, I forgive others because I know I have been forgiven.

3rd. MYRRH -- oil used especially to anoint the dying person it was used in Jesus's passion. This gift represents Jesus's human nature, his humanity

and our humanity. Yes, at times, we will not get our way we will lose. We will ultimately lose our lives. But we're also called to recognize that we can lose gracefully, we can even lose gratefully, knowing we gain a much greater victory by laying prostrate and praying for God’s will to be done in our lives.   [_end__]     

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Identity of the Messiah (2023-01-01, Solemnity of Mary)

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2022-12-25   Solemnity Mary, Mother of God ● Numbers 6:22-27    ● Psalm 67 ●●  Galatians 4:4-7 ● ● + Luke 2:16-21 ● ●     

TitleIdentity of the Messiah

 

 [__01__]     Blessed New Year of 2023 to all of you.   It is a necessary part of every superhero movie – Batman, Superman, Spiderman – that there is some ordinary person with a secret superhero identity.  For example, Bruce Wayne (Batman),  Clark Kent (Superman), Peter Parker (Spiderman).

          It is part of the pleasure / gift of watching such a movie that you – as the moviegoer – have access to information and data – that the characters in the movie are unaware of.

          And, in the context of the movie’s drama, it allows the superheroes to be a more effective crime fighters because the “general audience / population” does not know who they really are.

 

[__02__]  There is some limited sense in which this also is the case in the Gospel and because Jesus Himself – born the Son of God – has come with a much more intense “crime fighting” and “anti-evil” agenda than any of these fictional superheroes.

          From the very beginning, not everyone knew who Jesus was. From the beginning of Jesus’ life, we know that there would have been forces – both natural forces – and supernatur forces – out to get him, out to destroy him.

          Jesus is born the Son of God – and he is conceived and born – in a must unusual way – Jesus does not have a human father – Joseph is his adoptive, foster father.

          But this is not known to everyone from the beginning.

          Of course, this is known to Joseph and Mary – from the beginning – it is not clear that this is known – or needs to be known by anyone else, at least not for a while.

          If King Herod had known that there had been such a miraculous birth, such knowledge would have enabled him to track Jesus down, in his plot to destroy and take the life of the “newborn king”.

          King Herod – of the Roman Empire – would have seen himself as something of a crimefighter. We see him today – for the true villain he was. We have the benefit of the Gospel and history to see this.

 [__03__]  In the Gospel this Sunday, we read that the shepherds have been saying and announcing many things about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  The angels have also been announcing Jesus as the Savior of the world.

          It is a message which you and I know well and in fact draws into church – especially on Christmas – and in Christmas Season.  This message is one that is reminding not just to worship Jesus on these high holidays but to make him the center of our lives, every day.

          Not everyone is as well-informed as the shepherds and the angels and the Holy Family in the New Testament.

 

 [__04__]    This feast day is known as the solemnity of Mary,  Mother of God, January 1st. The reason Mary is given such prominence is not to place her above God, but reminds us that the incarnate God -- Jesus -- took his flesh and blood from the Virgin Mary.

As Mary’s true son, Jesus didn't just take up residence for 9 months leading to Dec-25.  Rather, he is the Son of God in flesh and blood through the flesh and blood of Mary.

Jesus is as united to Mary as any child to a mother, but also remains his own distinct person.  You and I were conceived and born the same way.

This feast day also reminds us that it is the role of a mother to be pondering and to be praying continuously about the future of her children.

You as mothers, as godmothers, as mother figures in other people's lives, do this as well.

Your mother was called to ponder and pray in this way, and Mary our mother, our Blessed Mother is doing this as well

 

[__05__]    Isn’t it true that some of our most beloved -  most remembered – Christmas gifts are those which were bestowed upon us by those who knew what we needed or wanted – but also given to us without us having to ask. The other person knew something which you did not know.

          In a similar way, is it not a joy to discover and give a present to someone who has not asked for a particular gift, but would benefit from your insight, your discovery?

          In other words, you know something which the other person did not know, which was hidden from the “general audience”.

 

[__06__]     SOURCE: The Sex Life of Joseph and Mary  by John Cavadini   December 18, 2017

https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/the-sex-life-of-joseph-and-mary/

          A professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame – John Cavadini – wrote that we can learn from God’s wisdom and plan something about Jesus’ origin and his own plan for

for our salvation and about something And perhaps we did not expect to be true, or did not expect to happen.

          These 2 ideas are also summarized in 1st Corinthians by St. Paul as the “foolishness that is truly is wise” and the “weakness that his truly strong”. Paul wrote: “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the strong and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28)

          1st. FOOLISHNESS THAT IS TRULY WISE.  It goes without saying that we would rather be “wise” than “foolish”, or we would rather be “smart” than “foolish”. But do we not learn – in our lives – that the smart choice or the wise choice is not always the most obvious one.

          In God’s plan, this is also the case. It would have seemed “obvious” for God to announce – on prime-time TV and in full HD – that Jesus is the Messiah, born of the Virgin. But, this was not his way. Such a plan would not have allowed him to build up the Holy Family, to build up the disciples, and later to suffer on the Cross.

          “The marriage of Mary and Joseph is thus an intrinsic part of God’s Wisdom, an intrinsic part of the logic of the Incarnation, which is the logic of God’s philanthropia, a logic of foolishness, invisible to the ruling powers because it is, to them, foolishness and not wisdom.”

Because Jesus is invisible in the marriage of Mary and Joseph, invisible to the ruling powers, this foolishness doesn't seem like wisdom to them, but it is wisdom to us.

2nd WEAKNESS OR HUMILITY THAT IS TRULY STRONG

Mary and Joseph are the parents, and biblically so designated, of Jesus only. Jesus is their son.

Thus, Jesus is not some “prodigy“ or superhero from another planet who just landed here on Earth.  Growing up as a child, then a young man and finally as an adult, this enables Jesus to conquer Satan and to conquer evil by giving himself up to death.

Jesus does not conquer Satan by “pulling rank” publicly.

Rather, Jesus conquer Satan and conquers evil by emptying, emptying His divine identity into a hidden person, a hidden child. His public identity is that he is the ordinary son of Joseph and Mary. His later to-be-revealed identity – as the Messiah – will catch some by surprise.

In this regard, Jesus allows us to become part of his body part of his life. And it also reminds us that we enter into God's plan and God's kingdom by many sufferings by many tribulations. This was part of Jesus Jesus's way. He goes before us in secret ways but in also ways that will be known to all.

 

[__END_]  

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Catch Your Breath. (Christmas) 2022-12-25

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 2022-12-25   Christmas ● Isaiah 9:1-16   ● Psalm 96  ●● Titus 2:11-14  ● ● + Luke 2:1-14  ● ●    

Title:  Catch Your Breath

 [__01__]        Earlier this week, on Tuesday, I was feeling anxious about a letter I needed to write. I was also unsure how to collect and recollect my thoughts for Christmas and this reflection/homily.

Since I was making no progress on either document, I decided to clean the garage. My rationale was 2-fold.  1st, the garage cleanup would be physically strenuous exercise à to clear my mind. I would – in a way – catch my breath.   2nd, space was needed in a new location for ice melt for the coming storm.

The garage was really not in such bad shape, but I felt more comfortable re-arranging snow shovels rather than writing sentences.

Cleaning and organization are necessary not just as physical about also as spiritual exercises. None of us is a final finished product. We all need God's grace and mercy for sanctification and reorganization and sanity. The process of conversion requires your (my) personal effort, for your good, the good of your classmates and family, co-workers and neighbors, the good of Lourdes parish, and my own good. Your virtue and devotion inspire me.

[__02__]        In the prophet Isaiah, we read that the sovereignty (reign) of God will be vast and forever peaceful. But this is not made possible simply by good politics, but by the discipleship of you and me. It happens when we follow the commandments: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34)

This requires effort. So, in carrying out our regular way of life – whether that is the task of cleaning your room, doing your homework, making dinner, you and I can do so in thanksgiving for an praise of God, to make room for Christ and His birth not just at required “clean up” hours but as Paul writes – unceasingly – and each day. (cf., 1 Thessalonians 5:16)

In this regard, we are always catching our breath.

 [__03__]   In many traditional renditions and readings of the Christmas Gospel, it seems that the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph cannot catch a break …nor can they catch their breath.

            This is emphasized in the way we have received the Bethlehem- broadcast this sound-bite and tweet (also w/ BLUE check mark !) of long ago  No Room at the Inn

            I’d like to touch on what is the real meaning of “inn”,   and the “manger” especially as we consider Middle Eastern culture and hospitality.  (cf. Kenneth Bailey, ch.1  The Birth of Jesus, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes)

 [__04__]       The biblical scholar Kenneth Bailey notes that “Joseph was returning to his home village where he could easily find shelter. Because he was a descendant of King David nearly all doors in the village were open to him.” (Bailey, p. 28)

            Also, Bailey noted: “In every culture a woman about to give birth is given special attention. Simple rural communities [worldwide] assist one of their own women in childbirth regardless of circumstances.” (Bailey, p. 26)

            The people of Bethlehem had this some honor and respect for an expectant mother and woman.

[__05_]        A few years ago, I was caught in a snowstorm and blizzard and had an experience somewhat similar to the Holy Family. That is, there were no rooms upstairs in the regular house, so I had to stay downstairs to wait out the storm.

            There was – in this sense – “no room at the inn” because there were no regular guestrooms available for me. Nevertheless, I was indoors, out of the cold.

            The Holy Family of JMJ were also indoors, but there were in a front room of the house, a lower room, and in a place where the animals themselves would have been permitted to come inside.

[__06__]      It is true – on some level – that there was “no room at the inn” – because there was no room in the upper guest room.  And, we might ask:  will there ever be room “upstairs” ?

            Do we always have to stay downstairs?

 

[__07_]  Out in the garage, I was filling up my time and day with activity rather than silence. And by the way, that's not just because I was in the garage, I have often been drawn away from God and God's word sitting in a climate controlled room with a wi-fi connected device. The garage was a reminder to give myself in love of neighbor and love of God the same

energy and enthusiasm I gave to inanimate objects like rakes and shovels.

          The birth of a child reminds us over and over again that we are not just faced with a “project” but with a person made in God’s image.

            In this regard, we are called to move “upstairs” in our thinking and intentions, not to stay “downstairs” in material concerns. But, to go upstairs, it’s sometimes requires you to catch your breath.

 

[__08__]      Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote that at prayer on Christmas, we are trying to catch our breath. (Benedict XVI, Dogma & Preaching, “Ch. 33 Three Meditations on Christmas: God has crossed over to us,” p. 335) If you have been running around prior to getting here, you can catch your breath here not just on Christmas, but every Sunday!

In the Book of Genesis, in creation in God's Word, Adam and Eve were created because God breathed on them. They caught God’s breath and the word for the Spirit that is Holy is synonymous with air and breath, “respiration” and “inspiration”

Do I turn to God when I am out of breath? Or do I draw a light and life and breath and energy from things that are simply entertaining or attractive?

In the Gospel, Jesus let us his disciples “catch His breath”. He breathed mercy on them because they had betrayed him.  Do I breathe mercy on those who have hurt me or wronged me?

Do I frequently enough really turn back to God for mercy? Or do I tried to cover up my faults by material achievement? Am I in the lower room or am I in the upper room?

For now our Lord and Savior is in a lower place. But the good news is that he's in the same low place as you and I are in. He is in our human flesh, feeling human emotions, human pain, while also demonstrating divine love. He is reminding us that we can, in the celebration of Christmas truly interrupt what we are doing. disrupt our attention to material things to focus on the gift of life we've been given the gift of life we're called to respect and nurture in others, especially for those who seem unlovable or unloved.

For we have all been at times unlovable and unloved. In the birth of Jesus Christ, we are given a hope of salvation, the hope that his spirit will be in us and the hope of catching our breath.  [__end__]