Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

THE JOURNEY FROM LIGHT TO DARKNESS IS ONGOING

By Maria di Paolo

Deep darkness will make way for a great light, gloom and anguish for a glorious way by the sea, writes the prophet Isaiah. Matthew’s Gospel quotes this same text just before Jesus calls his first disciples, Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, saying, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.”  The four leave their work and families and join with Jesus in his mission as he teaches and proclaims the Good News.  A simple reading of these two short excerpts side by side may lead us to think, “Well that’s it! We have the answer and it is Jesus.  He is the light and we don’t really need to do much more work!”  But we know that things aren’t that simple.  We know that Peter and the disciples often don’t get things right.

And in the second reading, only a couple of decades after the Jesus’ death and resurrection, St. Paul is writing to a small Christian community in Corinth that is riven by quarrels amongst its members, asking them: “Has Christ been divided?”  Who, he asks the Corinthians, do you belong to?  That community, and others like it, learned from him and from each other and grew and flourished and prepared the way for all the generations that followed.

Like Peter and the disciples, and like the community in Corinth, we often don’t “get it.”  We often don’t quite see the light, but we build on what we learn from our parents and families, from our friends and teachers and neighbours and from our own life experience and then we do see the light, and then we pass that insight on to someone else.  For the Church, and for ourselves, the journey from darkness into light is ongoing and never ceases.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

RELATING TO JOHN

By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB

I have always appreciated the character of John the Baptist, who we hear about in this week’s Gospel.  He is a bold, prophetic, almost larger-than-life personality, and somehow manages to cut straight to the heart of things with simplicity and humility.

He has this profound sense that he is part of something bigger than himself.  The Baptist clearly understands that he is great, not just because of his own actions, but because of what, and who, he represents.

Last week you received a letter from me concerning what has occurred in this parish since I was appointed your Pastor.  I have received a lot of gratitude, which is wonderful; and indeed, I have worked hard, so I do welcome the appreciation.  However, I am also mindful of what my father drilled into me, “to whom much has been given, much is expected.”  In his mind, service and sacrifice are the dues we pay for the privilege of living

Like John, I am a reflection of someone else (actually many someones. . .) This is true of each of us.  We each have people who have come before us, and it is quite humbling for me, especially when I think of the great Pastors that have come before me.

But real humility is not lowering our head and pointing to another in attempt to throw credit or attention away from ourselves.  I think it is more like what we find in John the Baptist:  a bold voice that says I am here, but recognize that I am part of something much bigger.  As the adage goes, “Real humility is not thinking of yourself less; rather, less about yourself.”

So let us answer the call to serve and be willing to sacrifice; but let us do it like John:  with our heads held high, confident that it is never just about us, but about being a part of something (and someone) greater.

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES

By Emily VanBerkum

Today’s Gospel allows us to reflect on the Sacrament of Baptism. Jesus met John at the Jordan River seeking baptism by water. Understandably, John questioned Jesus’ motives. Why is Jesus seeking repentance? Why does Jesus’ baptism occur by water instead of the “Holy Spirit and fire” as prophesied by John? However, Jesus responds by informing John that baptism by water is no fluke. Amazingly, this humble act is the way Jesus consciously chose to begin his ministry.

John’s baptism of Jesus marks a relationship of mutuality. Jesus says, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Clearly, it is proper for “us”- both Jesus and John- to fulfill the work of righteousness together.

I interpret the “work of righteousness” to be Jesus’ particular brand of justice imbued with a profound sense of humility. Jesus’ ministry demands a change in the power dynamic that oppresses and exalts peace and hope for God’s Reign. Jesus is praised by a divine voice for accepting God’s will, yet it is imperative that his followers also take part in the life-giving work of righteousness.

There is no greater imagery than Jesus emerging from the water as the “heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove.” Jesus’ baptism in the water created a possibility for ministry that involves Jesus and all believers in perfect relationship.

Our baptism reimagined this sacred moment as the start of our own ministries. As we near the end of the second week into a new year, take some time to reflect upon Jesus’ humility. How will you enact righteousness on earth? And, what does baptism mean to you? Is it simply a sacrament of initiation or a constant reminder that you are co-heir to the Reign of God humbly opened through Jesus’ righteousness?

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

WHAT CAN I GIVE HIM?

by Lucinda M. Vardey

The wise men led by the star to greet the child Jesus not only knelt in adoration but also opened “their treasure chests” to offer what was precious to them.

As we pay homage to Jesus – God’s greatest gift of love to us – what will we be bringing the Lord as an offering?   What is most treasured to us to share for the glory of God?

 

Nearing the end of his life, my father, in an intimate moment with my husband,

revealed that he was fully prepared to meet his “Maker” because he’d always

done his best.   After a long illness, he’d come to realize that this was the treasure he could bring to God.

The last line of the famous carol In The Bleak Midwinter ( by l9th century English poet, Christina Rossetti) says: “What can I give him: give my heart.”  In Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus instructs not to store up treasures on earth but in heaven he concludes, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:21).

What then lies in your heart that can be laid at the feet of Jesus for his benefit and his use?

Could 2014 be the year where we are more generous to God by offering prayerful gratitude for who and what we have already received?  And could we venture “to give thanks ahead of time “(Fr. Solinas Casey) for what we will be receiving through the grace-filled, life-giving abundance of God?