Friday, December 28, 2012

12/30/12 – La Sagrada Familia – Lucas 2, 41-52, 1 Samuel 1,20-22, 24-28

     En nuestro mundo, muchas personas piensan que la celebración  de Navidad termina con la misa en el 25 de diciembre, pero, en realidad, esta misa empieza este día y termina con el baptismo de nuestro Señor en el 13 de enero.  Hoy, celebramos la Sagrada familia, una celebración importante en el tiempo de Navidad.  En nuestra lectura en el Evangelio, San Lucas nos da un cuento de la descubrimiento del joven Jesús en el Templo de Jerusalén.  En este cuento, hay un énfasis en la familia divina de Jesús y en su familia humana también.  Jesús explica a María que necesita quedar en la casa de su Padre, pero, en última instancia, él obedece a sus padres con su vuelta a Nazaret con ellos.  Al fin de la lectura, dice que Jesús creció en sabiduría y en estatura con su familia, en el favor de Dios y de los hombres.  Después de escuchar la explicación de Jesús, María conservaba en su corazón todas aquellas cosas. Me imagino que María tenía confusión y frustración en este momento, pero lo guardaba en su corazón y lo compartía con la comunidad cristiana en los cuentos de los Evangelios. 
      En el descubrimiento de Jesús en el Templo, podemos reflexionar sobre los obstáculos y los desafíos que tenemos en nuestras familias, en la manera que vencerlos con perseverancia y con una respuesta de fe.  En las celebraciones de Navidad y del Año Nuevo, celebramos con familiares y amigos.  Podemos darnos cuenta de las relaciones rotas, de las argumentos y los problemas que tenemos en nuestras familias.  En los días de Navidad, queremos ayudar a los pobres y los hambrientos, y en estas acciones, nos damos cuenta de la desigualdad que existe en nuestra sociedad humana, de la guerras, los conflictos, y los sufrimientos en nuestro mundo, de la pobreza material y espiritual que afligen a muchas personas.  En los problemas y en los desafíos que tenemos en nuestra familias y en nuestra sociedad, tenemos la luz de Cristo para guiarnos.  Tenemos las gracias y las bendiciones de Dios para animarnos y consolarnos. 
      En la primera lectura de Samuel, escuchamos sobre las oraciones de Ana.  Ana recibió una respuesta de Dios – un hijo – se llama Samuel.  Ana no olvide las promesas de Dios – no olvide su voluntad en su vida.  Entonces, Ana dio las ofrendas a Dios, y envió Samuel al profeta Elí con su gracias y su gratitud a Dios.  La fe de Ana es un ejemplo de fe para nosotros y para su hijo Samuel.  Samuel será un gran profeta para el pueblo de Israel.  
      Un niño necesita participar en una comunidad de fe y en la liturgia y los sacramentos de nuestra Iglesia.  Necesita participar en las clases de religión en la Iglesia.  Pero, el Segundo Concilio Vaticano dice que la familia es la Iglesia domestico para los niños. En sus palabras y en su ejemplo, los padres son los maestros de sus hijos en nuestra fe. Ana y su esposo pasaron su fe a su hijo Samuel. Y Jesús creció en su fe con el ejemplo de José y María en su vida. Los padres cristianos tienen la llamada de animar a sus hijos en la búsqueda de la vocación propia de cada una, de su vocación sagrada.  Cada padre y cada adulto en nuestra comunidad de fe puede preguntar – ¿Cómo estamos predicando la palabra de Dios a nuestros hijos y a los jóvenes en nuestra comunidad en nuestras palabras y en nuestras acciones.  En el cuento de la Sagrada Familia de hoy, podemos reflexionar sobre nuestra llamada de ser sagrado en nuestra familia propia y de nuestra llamada de cultivar la santidad de nuestras familias,   

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Catholic Church - Grand Gulf, Mississippi

   Last month, I went on a road trip to the area around Claiborne and Jefferson County, Mississippi, around the town of Port Gibson.  We went to the ghost town of Rodney, a thriving cotton hub in the mid 19th century.  However, due to a change in course in the Mississippi River, Rodney lost most of its population and had very few people living in it by the mid-20th century.  Sacred Heart Church was the Catholic parish in Rodney.  It was moved to the Grand Gulf Military Park when it was no longer used as a place of worship.  It is a very beautiful little wooden church.  There is an interesting cemetery in Grand Gulf as well.  Grand Gulf is home to a large nuclear power plant.  

Christmas at St Mary Catholic Church in Yazoo City, Mississippi

     These are scenes from St Mary Catholic Church in Yazoo City, Mississippi on Christmas Eve.  Peggy Moore and members of our altar society did a wonderful job decorating the church this year with the white color scheme for the Christmas season - which is much more liturgically appropriate than red poinsettias.  Merry Christmas to everyone.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

1/6/2013 – Epiphany – Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12; Psalm 72

     While I was a graduate student at Ole Miss and a Spanish teacher at Greenville Weston High School, I studied one summer at a Spanish language Institute in San Jose, Costa Rica. I found a parish a couple of miles from the Institute where I could walk to mass.  There were no street signs or addresses marked anywhere in the city, so I found my way around using my knowledge of the neighborhood.  My first time going to mass, I found the parish quite easily, but it was already dark when I got out.  On my way home, I must have taken a wrong turn, because in a short while, I was completely lost.  I tried to retrace my steps, but I became more confused and more frustrated.  I stopped at least a dozen people for directions; they were all very friendly, but no one could point me in the right direction.  I became very exasperated, not knowing where to turn. I finally got into a taxi,  Within a few blocks, I recognized where I was and found my way back.
     Just like how I got lost in Costa Rica, I’m sure most of us have been lost at one time or another.  When we're lost, we yearn for a sign to point us in the right direction.  The Magi had a sign as they traveled from afar to honor the Son of God born in a distant land: a star guided them to exactly the right place.  It wasn't just any star that the Magi followed in their search for God: it was “his” star, the star of the child Jesus.  Isaiah describes a darkness that separated the people from God's glory: the star's light directed the Magi through this darkness.  In the midst of his chosen people, Israel, God revealed his glory.  Isaiah prophesied: “Nations shall come to your light, kings to the brightness of your dawn.”  So, Magi from a faraway nation came to the light of Christ’s birth that burned so brightly in the midst of the earth's darkness. 
     The story of the Magi visiting the baby Jesus is a vivid part of Christmas season, but it's so much more than an enthralling story.Ultimately, the story of the Magi has its deepest significance in what it tells about the early Christian communities & what it tells us about ourselves as modern believers in Christ.
      The early Church knew that the Magi were not Jews, that they did not have the Hebrew Scriptures to provide them knowledge and understanding about the birth of Christ.  However, the Magi read the signs that God sent them.  Perhaps the gifts that the Magi brought don't seem appropriate for an infant, but the early Church saw their symbolic value: gold for virtue, frankincense for prayer, myrrh for suffering – all appropriate for a baby who would be the Savior and Redeemer of the world.   The journey of the Magi, Gentiles from the East, and their homage of the Christ child, told the early Church that salvation and redemption through Christ is open to all, not just the Jews.  Today's psalm refrain reflects the inclusiveness of God's offer of salvation to all that is present in the story of the Magi: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”
      The Magi aren't the only people of faith who make an incredible journey in order to honor and glorify the kingship of Christ.  Indeed, as believers, we all make a journey of faith to the baby Jesus. We have examples throughout history and in our own day of journeys near and far that the faithful have made searching for the baby Jesus.  You have heard me talk about how my missionary work was inspired by the many examples Jean de Brebeuf & the other Jesuit priests who left Europe in the early 17th century to bring the Gospel to the native tribes of present-day Canada.  Jean de Brebeuf had a deep calling to be a missionary, to bring Christianity to those who didn't yet know Christ.  Although he died for the faith like so many other missionaries, his legacy lives on in the Church he helped establish in Canada and in the Huron Carol, a Christmas song he wrote in the native Huron language.  It is the oldest Christmas carol that we know of in North America.  The Huron Carol depicts the wise men as native American chiefs, traveling to pay homage to the Christ child wrapped in rabbit skins, giving him gifts of fox and beaver pelts.
      Jean de Brebeuf was called to be a missionary, to give up his life for our faith: his witness still calls out to us today.  But, how does the story of the Magi call to our imagination and to our faith? How are we called to be like the Magi?  Well, we're all unique, bringing our own gifts & the reality of who we are to our faith.  We don’t bring gold, frankincense & myrrh to Christ today, but we're called to lay down our own unique gifts at the feet of the baby Jesus: our talents, our time, our riches, our love and our care for one another.  We also have stars in our own lives guiding us – such as the Holy Spirit, our dreams, our prayers, the ways we see Christ in others and in our world.
     Like the Magi, our own journey of faith calls out to us to search for the Christ Child in the world,  It calls us to search for a mystery that we will never fully understand.   Yet, like the Magi, we continue to search, to wander, to wonder. For the mystery that we ultimately find is not in some lofty ideal, or in a principle, or in a theory, but in the very person of Christ, in the child that was born in the manger in Bethlehem. 

1/2/2013 – Wednesday of Christmas weekday – St. Basil the Great & St. Gregory Nazianzen – John 1:19-28

       “Who are you?”  This was the question the Jewish authorities asked John the Baptist, a question he had no difficulty answering.  And, I wonder, if someone asked us a question that challenged our identity, both our natural identity and our spiritual identity, how would we answer?  In our society, I think many people try to manufacture or invent an image or identity for themselves, leaving their spiritual identities deep in the recesses of their hearts.  
         The Jewish authorities questioned John the Baptist so earnestly because they wanted to know if the Messiah had come, if John claimed to be the Messiah or one of the great prophets who was expected to return at the coming of the Messiah.  But John had no problem in knowing who he was & in proclaiming this identity to others: he was the one preparing the way for the Messiah.  John is the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. 
         Today we also celebrate the feast day of two important church fathers and doctors of the Church from the 4th century: St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzus.  They were both from Cappedocia, an inland area in present day Turkey that was an important center of early Christianity.  Gregory and Basil were not only two great theologians and teachers in the early Church, they were great friends, so much so that Gregory described them as “one soul in two bodies.”  Like John the Baptist, Gregory and Basil were true disciples of Jesus who were not afraid of proclaiming their identities publicly & who ardently preached the truth of God.  In 379, Gregory found himself in Constantinople, where he had to defend the Trinitarian doctrine that was declared at the Council of Nicaea to those who adhered to the heresy of Arianism.  Gregory acquired the nickname “The Theologian,” because his theological way of thinking came from his strong life of prayer and his holiness.  St. Basil not only was instrumental in outlining the foundations of monasticism as it evolved in the early Church and as it is still practiced in the monasteries today, but Basil as a bishop was also known for his acts of charity and for his development of the Church’s liturgy as the summit of all our Church’s activity. 
         In John the Baptist, St. Basil the Great, and Gregory Nazianzen, we have three great examples of faithful discipleship, of identity rooted in their faith in God, of a strong willingness to give witness to their faith & their spiritual identity to all publicly.  May they serve us as models as we continue our journey of faith this Christmas season. 

12/28/2012 – Feast of the Holy Innocents – Matt 2:13-18 -

        Right after we celebrate Christmas, our church recognizes 3 feast days in a row, representing the different people who worship & honor Jesus at his birth.  The day after Christmas is the feast of St. Stephen, a martyr in the early Church whom we can see as representing all who have sacrificed and given their lives for our faith.  Next, we have the feast of John the Evangelist, who is representative of all the Church leaders who work tirelessly for our faith.  Today, we celebrate and honor the Holy Innocents, children who were massacred by King Herod in Bethlehem when he had heard of Jesus' birth.  Martyrs, church leaders, children: they all honor Jesus at his birth. Two of these feasts recognize those who died for our faith, showing us how the cross, the sacrifice Christ made for our salvation, is an essential part of the message we hear this Christmas season.
         As Luke tells us about the massacre of the holy innocents as part of the story of the Magi, he quotes the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”  Jeremiah portrays Rachel, the wife of Jacob, the patriarch of the people of Israel, as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into the Babylonian captivity. As Rachel is imagined weeping for her people forced into exile, as the parents of the children massacred at Bethlehem weep for their loss, what do we have to weep for today in our modern world?  We see children and families suffering and torn apart by violence, or by alcohol and drug abuse.  We see innocents killed by abortion.  We see many in our world & in our own society go to bed hungry for lack of food to eat.  We certainly have a lot to weep for ourselves. 
         Yet, while the prophet Jeremiah calls for weeping, he also brings a message of hope and liberation to the people of Israel forced into exile.  Herod's actions were brutal and painful, but they weren't the final word.  God gives us hope in the birth of Christ.  Through Jesus, God proclaims his kingdom and promises us salvation.  How are we called to help proclaim this kingdom that is here already yet is still not fulfilled?