It is much more!

The other day I was talking with a person about how they celebrate the Mass at their parish.  They were telling me about how they had conformed the Mass to better reflect their community. ‘We need to express ourselves to fully participate in the Mass.’  It reminded me of a parish in the next town that before communion announced that in their parish everybody stands after they receive communion until the last person has received.  This supposedly showed not only community solidarity, but that the Mass was bigger than any individual.  Wow! These are two examples of community centered elitism.  What they fail to understand is that the Mass isn’t about the Parish community as the body of Christ.

The Mass is first and foremost Christ’s sacrifice to His Father; that we, as members of His Mystical Body share in.  We come to witness Christ’s ultimate prayer to His Father; His ultimate act of obedience to Him, and ultimate act of Love for us, and offer our sacrifices along with His to the Father.

This Mystical Body, that we are part of; is more than just a person, it is more than those parish communities – it is the whole Church.  The Holy Father in his October 3rd General Audience touched on this aspect of the Mass. The Sacraments, especially the Mass ‘is an encounter between Christ and the Church.  Therefore it is the ‘total Christ’ the whole Community, the Body of Christ united with Her Head, that is celebrating.’  He went on to say ‘It is the worship of a wide open heaven.  It is never solely the event of a single community with its place in time and space.  It is important that every Christian feel and be truly integrated into this universal ‘we’’

When I have been at Masses that have strayed from the Rubrics to ‘better integrate within the community’ I have felt confused and separated from the worship.  I was an outsider, I felt I was intruding. This is not what the Mass is about.  It is about one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church coming together and participating with Christ.  The Mystical Body, me, those around me, those in the diocese, in the world; those living, those that have lived, those in heaven coming together as one in Christ.

We need to realize this universality of the Mass.  We need to stretch our minds passed our little parish mindset and embrace the Mystical Body, the Church Universal if we are ever to understand the true importance and power of the Liturgy.

The Quiet Ones

This past Sunday we heard the account of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana. As with everything in the Bible this account is inexhaustible in its meaning for us. On first glance we see that Christ starts His ministry, we can understand that this event marks the Sacrament of Marriage; that Mary is a co-worker with her Son – and on and on.

But this weekend I was drawn to the servants and their part in Christ’s action.  As we hear, the servants were told to fill the jars and then draw out from the jars and take it to the headwaiter.  They did this quietly – they didn’t explain to the headwaiter what had happened (as we see by the headwaiter’s comment to the groom). Then they disappear from the account and into the gathering to continue with their chores.  Christ included them in His action – He didn’t have to include them – He could have done it himself – but He wanted their participation.  Through their ‘little’ part in this event Christ’s action was made manifest to those He intended to help.

These servants are each of us; this is what we are called to be.  We are called to walk through this world and bring Christ to each person we meet. That is our part in His salvific plan.  By our words, our actions, our lives: we carry, we introduce and we recede to allow Him to work.

Reactions

It is almost 11pm on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  I have changed the cloth on the prayer altar at home from Gold to Green – Christmas is over. As I listen to my final Christmas music I am struck by something that happened on this feast.

At the Masses I assisted at this weekend I noticed the reactions on the faces of the congregation as they were ‘hit’ with Holy Water during the sprinkling rite; some look annoyed, others surprised, others embarrassed, and still others awkwardness; everyone had a reaction. I was surprised – not that they had reactions; but that I failed to appreciate what an epiphany is all about.

Now, this contact with Holy Water is not what is we usually think of as an epiphany, but it is, at least according to the dictionary: ‘a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something’. Being sprinkled with Holy Water is a revealing moment, a powerful remembrance of what God has done for us and how close He is to us.  It is a moment of awakening.

If we truly allow God’s revealing moments to us to touch us, it should bring about in each of us those reactions I mentioned.  The action of God in our lives is not a ‘hallmark card’ moment; it is an invasion within our well-built armor. These moments of awareness of God within our lives sheds light on our self-designed comfort nests that make us feel good about ourselves while shielding us from much needed spiritual growth. We tend to become the spiritual version of the Newton’s first law of motion: ‘An object at rest tends to stay in rest’.  We are comfortable with the level of religion that we have achieved and to have that challenged is not something we desire.

Of course that ‘object’, in this case our souls, can not get anywhere if we are not moving. These moments of closeness with God, should make radical change within us.  We should be aware of how far we are from our journey’s end and why; so we can make the profound change that these moments are pointing to. In a very real way this is what is meant by having to go through the cross to reach heaven.  We can only attain eternity within God’s embrace if we allow him to show us our shortcomings and allow Him to convert our spiritual ‘bloatedness’ into energetic discipleship.

As I look back on this Christmas Season, a season of celebrating God’s revealing light, I pray that I can take these epiphanies and my initial reaction to them and embrace their challenge so that I can grow closer to God, who came to me; who keeps coming to me.  Which brings me to the final reaction I noticed on those being sprinkled – they smiled!

For the last time this liturgical year – Merry Christmas!

¿Feliz Navidad?

¡Feliz Navidad!

Con la celebración del Bautismo del Señor, la Santa Madre Iglesia cierra la temporada de Navidad. Volvemos ahora al Tiempo Ordinario; Los colores blanco y oro dan paso al verde. Ahora vamos de la celebración de la luz que entra en el mundo, al camino de Cristo desde el río hasta la Cruz. He oído muchas variaciones de ‘¡Wow qué cambio! él era el bebé de la semana pasada y hoy él es un adulto. ¿Por qué esta fiesta forma parte de la temporada de Navidad?” La respuesta que suelo escuchar es” Sólo tenemos un año para ir a través de su vida.” Pero, si nos fijamos bien en esta fiesta nos encontramos con que es una parte muy importante de la Temporada de Navidad.

La fiesta del Bautismo del Señor, aunque sólo recientemente (1955) se celebra como fiesta, fue originalmente parte de la antigua celebración de la iglesia, junto a la Pascua y a la Epifanía, que celebramos la semana pasada. Las epifanías que se celebraban en los primeros siglos, y todavía se celebra en la Liturgia de las Horas son: Los Reyes Magos, La Fiesta de Bodas de Canaá y el Bautismo del Señor, hechos de la revelación de la presencia de Dios entre nosotros. De hecho toda la temporada de Navidad es una celebración del Dios que se revela a Sí mismo a nosotros. La Navidad es la celebración del cumplimiento de la profecía de Isaías: “El pueblo que caminaba en tinieblas vio una gran luz; Sobre los que vivían en tierra de sombras, una luz les brilló.” (Isaías 9:1).

Partimos, por supuesto, de la Navidad; cuando Dios se reveló a la humanidad y cómo Su nacimiento marcó el conocimiento de la humanidad a este regalo. El ángel proclamó a los pastores judíos: “No temáis, porque he aquí que yo os anuncio las buenas nuevas de gran gozo que será para todo el pueblo. Hoy, en la ciudad de David, un salvador ha nacido para ustedes que es: el Mesías y Señor.“(Lucas 2:10-11). Dios se reveló a su pueblo escogido cuando los pastores dejaron sus rebaños para contemplar el Pastor de la humanidad en el pesebre.

La semana pasada, la solemnidad de la Epifanía, ante todo escuchamos acerca de la revelación de Dios a los gentiles. Magos de un país extranjero fueron dirigidos por Dios a través de la ciencia de la época, a su hijo – como los Reyes Magos veían al niño, el resto del mundo se enteró de este regalo, un salvador. Pero como ya he dicho antes, la solemnidad de la Epifanía se celebra en toda su plenitud, en todos los momentos reveladores de Dios.

Hoy, damos un salto de unos treinta años a la poderosa revelación de Dios para el mundo, de su triple naturaleza. Observamos y escuchamos con los que estaban allí: “el cielo se abrió y el Espíritu Santo descendió sobre él en forma como una paloma. Y vino una voz del cielo: “Tú eres mi Hijo amado, en tí me he complacido.” (Lucas 3:21-22)

Con esta epifanía se muestra la manifestación del gran alcance del poder de Dios, también viene la idea de que nuestro mundo ha cambiado, ya no estamos atados a nuestra naturaleza pecaminosa – somos liberados por Dios. La humanidad, que desde el tiempo de Adán ha sido excluida, ahora se ha demostrado que la puerta se ha abierto de nuevo. Nuestro Santo Padre habla de esto: “La apertura de los cielos es una señal de que este descenso en nuestra noche, es el amanecer de un nuevo día, que la barrera entre Dios y el hombre se desvanece por la identificación del Hijo con nosotros: Dios ya no es inaccesible… ”

Con esto comienza el ministerio público de Cristo. Su ascenso largo y sinuoso camino desde el río hasta la Cruz comienza con este bautismo. Los próximos tres años son la revelación de Dios y de lo que significamos para él, y sólo Él es el que va a salvarnos de nosotros mismos. Él nos enseña lo que es el amor verdadero y lo que puede lograr, mientras sube a Jerusalén y hasta la Cruz. Él nos enseña cómo debemos tratar a los demás y actuar en favor de la creación.

La luz que es Dios, que se abrió paso en los eventos de la Navidad, ahora está creciendo en el cielo. Con la proclamación pública de Cristo y el plan de Dios somos capaces de ver más claramente. Consultemos nuestros propios puntos de vista acerca de nuestra visión de la humanidad y con su luz veremos la visión de Dios para la humanidad y lo que significa realmente ser humano.

Nuestro reto, como discípulos, es absorber la luz y crecer y permitir que esta luz nos cambie. Al igual que con cualquier cosa viva, necesitamos la luz, pero también necesitamos alimentación. Necesitamos nutrirnos mejor con la comprensión de Jesús y escuchando a Él, lo haremos leyendo de la Biblia y viniendo a misa. Necesitamos estudiar y reflexionar todo lo que Él nos da a través de la Santa Madre Iglesia y sus grandes hombres y mujeres espirituales. Tenemos que tener en nuestros corazones todo lo que nos encontramos de Él y por Él, como su madre lo hizo durante toda su vida en la tierra. Tenemos que curarnos a nosotros mismos cuando estamos desnutridos poniéndonos delante de Dios a través del sacramento de la Reconciliación. En resumen, tenemos que crecer en el amor del Señor.

Así que para aquellos que se preguntan, ¿por qué es el Bautismo del Señor, una fiesta de Navidad?

Cristo ha resucitado de entre las aguas y Dios ha anunciado a nosotros que debemos tomar nota. Cristo ha descendido entre nosotros desde lo alto y ahora empieza a subir a partir de nuestra naturaleza caída, y Dios nos dice que debemos caminar con él hacia nuestro destino. Dios toma nuestra mano y llévanos por el camino de la felicidad eterna.

 

Hoy, nuestro regalo se ha abierto.
¡Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas?

Merry Christmas!

With today’s celebration of the Baptism of the Lord Holy Mother Church closes the Christmas Season.  We now return to Ordinary Time; White and Gold gives way to Green.  We now transition from the celebration of light entering the world; to Christ’s journey from the River to the Cross.  I have heard many variations of the comment ‘Wow what a jump – he was baby last weekend and he is an adult today.  Why would this Feast be part of the Christmas season?’  The short answer I usually hear is ‘We only have a year to go through His life.’  But, if we look closely at this feast we find that it very much part of the Christmas Season.

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, though only recently (1955) made its own feast; was originally part of the oldest celebration of the church, next to Easter, Epiphany, which we celebrated last week.  The Epiphanies celebrated in the early centuries, and still celebrated in the Liturgy of the Hours are: The Magi, The Wedding Feast of Cana and the Lord’s Baptism; events of revelation to mankind of God’s presence among us.  Indeed the whole Christmas season is a celebration of God revealing Himself to us.  Christmas is the celebration of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone.” (Isaiah 9:1).

We start with, of course, Christmas; when God was revealed to mankind as His birth heralded the awareness of mankind to this gift.  The Angel proclaimed to Jewish shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11).  God revealed Himself to His chosen people when the Shepherds left their flocks to behold the Shepherd of mankind in the manger.

Last weekend, the Solemnity of the Epiphany we primarily hear about God’s revelation to the Gentiles.  Magi from a foreign country were led by God through the science of the day, to His son – as the Magi looked on the child the rest of the world is made aware of this gift of a savior. But as I mentioned earlier, in its fullness the Solemnity of the Epiphany is celebrating all of God’s revealing moments.

Today, we jump about thirty years to God’s powerful revelation to the world of His triune nature.  We watch and listen with those who were there as: “heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven,’ You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:21-22)

With this epiphany, this powerful manifestation of God’s power; also comes the realization that our world has changed, we no longer are bound to our sinful nature – we are freed by God.  Mankind, who from the time of Adam has been shut out, now has been shown that the door has been opened again.  Our Holy Father speaks of this: “The opening of heaven is a sign that this descent into our night is the dawning of a new day, that the barrier between God and man is being broken down by this identification of the Son with us: God is no longer inaccessible…[1]

With this event Christ’s public ministry starts, His long and winding climb from the River to the Cross begins with this Baptism.  The next three years are God’s revelation of what we mean to Him and just what He will do to save us from ourselves.  He shows us what true love can accomplish as He climbs to Jerusalem and onto the Cross.  He teaches us how we should treat each other and act towards creation.  The light that is God, that broke through during the Christmas events; is now growing in the sky.  With Christ’s public proclamation of God’s plan we are able to see more clearly. See our shortcomings; how left to ourselves we wallow in our own view of mankind.  And with His light we see in bright contrast what God’s vision of mankind is; what being human is truly meant to be.

Our challenge, as disciples, is to allow this light to change us, to absorb this light and grow.  As with anything living, light is a necessity, but so is nourishment.  We need to nourish ourselves with understanding Jesus better by listening to Him – reading the Bible and coming to Mass. We need to study and reflect all that He gives us through Holy Mother Church and her great spiritual men and women.  We need to take into our hearts all that we encounter from Him and through Him; as His mother did throughout her life on earth.  We need to heal ourselves when we are malnourished by putting ourselves before God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  In short; we need to grow in the Lord’s love.

So for those who ask the question, why is the Baptism of the Lord a Christmas Feast?

Christ has risen from the waters and God has announced to us that we should take note.  Christ has come down among us from on high and now starts to climb from our fallen nature, and God tells us to walk with him towards our destiny.  God takes our hand and helps us up the path to eternal happiness.

Today, our gift has been opened!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 


[1] On The Way To Jesus Christ pp.84-85 – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

 

‘God Moments’

This weekend at the Masses I assisted with, I sadly noticed that I didn’t hear ‘We Three Kings’; one of my favorite carols, one that, to me, the tune fits well with my idea of the wandering Magi.

I was thinking about that as I walked to my car after the last Mass only to find out that I had lost my car key.  After much searching I came to realize that my wife would have to come and help me and that it was really a bother, since she is sick.  Needless to say, it was looking like a trying time – when all of a sudden the bell tower burst into ‘We Three Kings’  and seeing Father David and Father Franklin walking towards their house  I pointed to the tower, smiling, and said ‘Finally; I have not heard it all day long.’

God coming when you least expect it.

After my wife helped my find another key, and finally on my way home I thought of another instance where God came when it wasn’t expected. “magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled…” It dawned on me that the critical point in these meeting, these Epiphanies, is our reaction to God’s interaction with us.

Do we rejoice at these ‘God Moments’; allowing His peace to permeate our souls and enjoy the closeness of our Lord; or do we become greatly troubled as did Herod?  Do we allow the event to work within us for our spiritual growth or do we become annoyed and struggle against it?

It seems to me the answer lies in how we accept Christ in our lives.  Do we allow Christ to take control, allow Him to guide us; do we decrease so He can increase?  Or do we keep control, and only let Him enter when it is convenient for our plans?  The first leads to joy and peace, freedom that allows us to savor those God-moments; the second leads to manic chasing of false moments of joy, and frustration when they don’t last.

My prayer for us is to keep up the good fight that allows us to always feel the peace and joy that I hope we all felt sometime on Christmas Day when that wave of shear awe and joy brought tears to our eyes that God was born to us and we realized that He did it for us for no other reason than His love for us.  May these God-moments come more often and last longer.