Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Reflection on the Sunday Readings

“Come: follow me”, said the LORD.
“I will make you fishers of men.”
(Benedictus antiphon for the 3rd Sunday of the Year)

“At once, they left their nets and followed Him.” (Mk 1:18)

That was Peter and Andrew.  A little later, He called James and John the sons of Zebedee, “…and leaving their father Zebedee in the boat … they went after Him” (Mk 1:20).

Jesus hadn’t worked any miracles when He called these young men – they had been disciples of John the Baptist, at least James, John and Andrew were; and they had heard John [the Baptist] say wonderful things about Jesus.
“He will baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Mt 3:11).  So, when He called them, they jumped to answer.  Their time with John the Baptist was a preparation – a Novitiate of sorts – and they were ready.

‘Readiness is everything.’

Jesus’ call is imperative!  Think of Matthew the tax collector.  He would have heard Jesus preaching to the people on the seashore and seen His miracles.  He must have longed to follow Him, but felt utterly unworthy as a despised tax collector. 
Jesus passes by and says, ‘Follow me’ and Matthew straightaway jumps to follow Him.

Today we also have the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul.
Here was Saul – a highly educated Pharisee, determined to put an end to this movement which seemed to him heretical.  He had encouraged the killers of Stephen and had gone on to imprison men and women “followers of the Way” (cf Acts 9:1-3).  And now he was on the way to Damascus to catch the frightened followers there.

Ah!  But wait, Saul!

The Church in Jerusalem, gathered around Mary, is praying. 
I can imagine the disciples saying, ‘Let’s ask God to remove that Saul, before he destroys us all,’ and Mary saying, ‘No.  Let’s ask God to change his heart from hatred to love.’
As Saul reached Damascus, Jesus appears in a great light.
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
“Who are you, Lord?”
“I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me.”
And what a change of heart came to Saul!  He became one of the greatest lovers of Christ.

‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?’ (Rom 8:35)
No!  We come through all these things triumphantly victorious by the power of Him who loves us, he tells us in his letter to the Romans.

It was the prayer of Mary and those first Christians gathered around her that brought about the change in “Saul, to Paul the greatest apostle of them all.”

Let us gather around her now
and pray for a change of heart in our leaders

who are trying to undermine the teaching of Jesus.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Feast of Epiphany - 2015


My memories of Epiphany as a child are of a big party, the last one of the Christmas season and back to school on the 07th January, next day. The story of the three wise men, the carols, the colourful clothes of the three kings and their loads on the back of the animals were all a part of that day but I am afraid the spirituality of the feast and its depth never reached us.

Of course in reality Epiphany is one of the greatest feasts of the Church year.

In fact in many places and especially in the Eastern Church this glorious feast of Epiphany holds an even higher place than the Birth of Christ.  It is announced and celebrated with very great Solemnity.

The readings at Mass and Office for the day throw a lot of light on its depth and meaning. Isaiah begins by telling us “your light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising on you”. Saint Paul tells us of the manifestation of Christ to the peoples and the nations and of course St Matthew too gives all the details we want to know .We can learn so much from this text.

A sentence from today’s Preface sums up perfectly the feast “For today you have revealed the mystery of our salvation in Christ as a light for the nations, and when He appeared in our mortal nature, you made us new by the glory of his immortal nature.”

As St Leo said on Christmas Day “Let us then be quit of the old self and the habits that went with it. Sharers now in the birth of Christ, let us break with the deeds of the flesh. O Christian, be aware of your nobility- it is God’s own nature that you share”.

Epiphany means “to shine upon” or made “known”. When the three wise men saw the star they recognised it as the star of the infant Jesus and because they were wise they followed the star, they were searching for someone, they were rewarded for their unwearied search, the long tiresome journey, they never deviated but stood by their resolve to find him.

And going into the house they found the child with his mother Mary. I wonder were they taken aback at the very ordinary scene they encountered. After all they were looking for an “infant king”, no palace, no servants, no security gates or door. Yet the wise men had enough insight to recognise that they were in the presence of something very special. They immediately fell down and worshipped the Divine Infant.

Christ made himself known first to these Gentiles and they were the first to do homage. These men represent all the peoples outside Israel to whom the Gospel will be preached, a great missionary feast.

Today as Pope Francis says “God is not afraid of new things that is why He is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways”.

The wise men offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They knew by a revelation who they were worshipping.

 We may no have such gifts, but as Christina Rossetti says in her poem:

“What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part
Yet what can I give Him,
Give my heart.”

                                                                      -Christina Rossetti

The wise men were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, a duplicitous and seductive voice of the evil one and returned to their own country by a different way.

Jesus is The Way for us. Are we willing to go a different way this coming year, a year specially for consecrated people, can we learn from today’s feast to let the star of faith lead and guide us, on maybe a different path, a new way and be willing to radiate the light which is Christ to all who pass our path and depend more on God’s grace and strength.

Arise, shine out, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord is resting on you.