December 21, 2008
Luke 1, the Annunciation, seems more like it. All that Old Testament stuff, all that stuff about the end of the world. NOW we are into the Christmas cards. But lo, no! The promises are still about a second coming, a fulfillment we have not yet seen, a darkness that sill waits for the shattering dawn.
When, when, when…Come, Lord Jesus!
More and more we can as we get older and older appreciate the delicate thread from the first Christmas until now… Those peace makers in our lives! How different…how easy to pass by…how surprising their presence…like the angels in front and above and all around the angels. The appearance of the angels also gets easier and easier to believe in. Who else would sing about peace in this troubled and troubling world??? It had to be angels or creatures very like them.
I remember the face of an old nun in a video about Taize, I remember the nurse in 1965 who was in charge of one of the worst wards I ever saw in a state mental hospital, I remember Mahagovananda, the Cambodian Buddhist leader who survived Pol Pot and led the struggle to bring peace back to Cambodia. On film, there was the radiant Pope John XXIII whose teaching PACEM IN TERRIS still speaks to the world and made it respectable in the Catholic Church to witness to peace. Many people believe in God because they knew a saint or two, a person who had not despaired and could still dream, a little at least, of peace on earth.
Holy Family is December 28 the Sunday after Christmas. In a way…after all THAT celebrating and family closeness that can be maddening…it is a cruel feast…too much family already!!! But the Gospel is stunning. Two old people come to see the Baby. Simeon sings a little song that the Church still uses EVERY night for night prayer. It takes faith to sing…Now Lord dismiss your servant in peace because my eyes have today seen your salvation. One of the MORNING Psalms used everyone morning…If today if you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart…is the piece that goes on top of our daily sandwich…the stuff in the middle is special to us.
Epiphany…Gentiles show up at the Jewish baby’s cradle (in a house, you will notice, not a stable)…and at the end of the Gospel…Matthew…a very Jewish gospel…the Jewish disciples are called to go out to the other three corners of the world and gather disciples in…so this is above all the Gospel of Mission…you know, that thing our ancestors did or other people do…us?????
Coming from a Maryknoll parish I know that there is a special star over Maryknoll and I think of all the Maryknollers who were often the best, brightest, most hopeful Catholic critters around. And we get to join in, imperfectly, of course, into the effort to follow…and, God forbid…if we are stuck somewhere the mission spirit has died, we try to light things up…or allow us to be lighted on fire. Mother Mary Jospeh…foundress of the Sisters…said “As one lamp lighting another doesn’t grow less, so nobleness enkindles nobleness.”
FEAST of the Baptism of the Lord…
If our faith is grounded on the ability to keep rules, even the best of rules, we will offer mostly despair. This feast is the baptism of the Lord…Jesus and us in Jesus hear God say YOU ARE MY BELOVED CHILD; with you I am well pleased. Without this experience, we reduced the faith to morality. The fundamental energy of our life as Christians comes from baptism…and the energy of mysticism is nothing less than the proclamation from God that we hear today with Jesus.