Sunday, January 14, 2018

Friendship with Jesus

In this morning’s gospel, John the Baptist watches Jesus as he walks along and points him out as the promised One, the Lamb of God. Hearing this, two of John’s disciples decide to leave him and follow Jesus. Jesus senses their footsteps behind him; he turns and gazes upon them, "What are you seeking?" he says. "Teacher,” they say. “Where are you staying?" Jesus invites them, "Come, and see." A relationship has begun.

The scene takes place in Capernaum; some scholars believe Jesus had a little house there. Capernaum was after all Jesus' home base during his ministry in Galilee, and the Gospel of Mark will call it "his own town" and say that Jesus was "at home" when people came to see him there.1 And so these two go home with Jesus; now right beside him not behind him. And they see where Jesus is staying, and they stay with him that day. It is, the Gospel tells us, about four in the afternoon; an hour they will always remember.

What did they do at Jesus’ house? What did they talk about? Perhaps the typical questions – “You two are from around here right? Fishermen? I think I’ve seen you out there. The weather’s been decent for fishing, hasn’t it?” “Yes; and Rabbi where are you from?” “Nazareth, really?” (They glance at each with a bit of surprise; it’s kind of a nowhere place after all.) And then most probably there’s a meal. Maybe Jesus cooked; he was good at cooking fish. And maybe there was some warm bread from the woman next door. Some olives? I don’t know. But I’d bet anything that Jesus waited on them; their new rabbi serving them at table. It would have been unheard of at the time for a rabbi to do such a thing, but we can intuit that most likely Jesus would do something that. As he will remind the disciples later on, “I am among you as one who serves…I have come not to be served but to serve.”2

In the religious world of ancient Judaism a disciple always chose a teacher and followed him – a disciple followed, keeping a respectful distance behind his teacher, always listening and soon serving and caring for all his rabbi’s needs. With Jesus, it is all reversed; it’s all about his invitation. The disciples’ decision to follow Jesus and leave everything else behind is crucial of course, but it is Jesus who calls them to himself - not behind him but beside him. Jesus’ way to form new disciples is to make them his friends. And this morning we imagine his heart full of joy, for he has found friends with whom he can share his dream of God’s kingdom.

And so it is that these two new disciples stay with Jesus that day; they remain. It’s a compellingly beautiful word used often in John’s Gospel; in Greek, the word is meno - with so many connotations of intimacy, at-homeness, stability, and commitment. It’s what we say to those we love – stay, please don’t go yet. It’s what Jesus wants; he wants to remain with us. God in Christ has come down seeking our friendship - he wants companions as he creates the Kingdom. In John’s Gospel friendship is the ultimate description of what it means to be a disciple.

The Savior, (detail), El Greco (and workshop), 1608-1614, oil on canvas, 72 cm x 55 cm, The Prado, Madrid. 1 James Martin on Facebook. 2 See Gerhard Lohfink, Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 72– 76.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

With Mary on Saturday

Mary offers us a new motherhood in a new superabundant fruitfulness in which she exercises her maternal care for the community as a whole and for each of its members. Mary’s fruitfulness is to make others fruitful in the Son. As spiritual mother, everywhere a person approaches her Son, everywhere a person is really seeking – whether faith, conversion, or vocation, she smooths the path. Because she has gone with the Son on all his paths, she knows all the paths that lead to him.

As we begin this new year, we commit ourselves to taking advantage of this maternal care, offered us by God who prepared Mary from all eternity to be his mother and then prepared her to be our mother, that her care and solicitude may shape our lives and lead us to her Son, who comes to us now to be consumed as bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist.

In his goodness, God not only did the incomprehensible by choosing one of our race to be his mother, but he has given her to be our mother also. Someone who knows, loves and assists us in our life with God with her maternal care and concern. Someone who knows God’s Son with an unmatched depth and intimacy and whose deepest wish is to lead us to him, accompanied by the Virgin Mother, let us renew our commitment to serve the Lord with a generous and pure heart.

Medieval statue of the Virgin and Child in a gallery at the Cloisters Museum, NY, sent to us by a friend. Excerpts from Father Timothy's Homily for New Year's Day.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Remembering Saint Aelred of Rievaulx

A God who is love would be inconceivable without the reality of the incompleteness that is love, the inner voice, the deep desire that says, “I cannot be me without you. And you cannot be you without me.”* This is the truth of who God is, A God who is Trinity, a God who is relationship, a God whom Saint Aelred names as friendship. In their mutual exchange, deferring to each other in love, Father, Son and Spirit utter these words endlessly to one another and to each of us.

Saint Aelred as pictured in the initial of an ancient Cistercian manuscript. *see Jeremy Driscoll, OSB. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Greatest Gift

The Christmas season ended officially yesterday with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We share here thoughts from Abbot Damian's homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany. He invited us to reflect on all the characters and scenes that were part of the Christmas story.  

Throughout Advent, Isaiah offered his prophecy and vision of endless peace.
The angels offered their songs of praise and message of good news.
The shepherds offered their wonder and curiosity, as well as their status as homeless field workers and outcasts.
The heavens offered a star, a guiding light.
The inn offered a closed door: no openness, no welcome, and no vacancy.
The earth offered a manger and a feed trough.
Mary offered her “yes”, her “Let it be with me according to your word”. She offered her pondering and treasuring.
Joseph offered his presence and his guardianship and protection; along with a home and security, as well as his silence and listening trust.
King Herod offered his fear, anger, and violence.
The parents of the slaughtered innocents offered their grief and sorrow, their brokenness and unfulfilled futures.
The Magi, along with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they offered their searching, longing, and desire for something beyond and greater than themselves.

The whole world has been moved and affected by Jesus’ birth.  All of creation has offered something. We cannot exclude ourselves. We must have the courage to own and offer our own “stuff” – good, bad, indifferent. Whatever we bring to the Child and his Mother is our means of participating in the divine birth. What we offer speaks the truth of our own life, which is now God’s life. And the greatest gift in the whole story is the one this Child offers us – Himself.

Photograph by Brother Anthony Khan.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Down in the Jordan with Jesus

“I have witnessed the affliction of my people, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them.”  Ex 3

God in Christ is always, always with us. And today in this final scene of our celebration of his Nativity, we see him descend into the soggy truth of our sinfulness. Down there in the waters of the Jordan River, Jesus is baptized.

Why is Jesus there of all places? He has nothing to repent of? Why does he offer himself for a cleansing baptism of repentance and conversion of heart? Perhaps it simply that he who is Love could do no less. Only the logic of love can explain this action of Jesus, or any other one of his for that matter, for Love always lowers itself. So it is, that he who did not know sin became sin for our sake to rescue forever us from the trap of sin.

Let us go down then into the waters of repentance with Jesus. As we confess our sinfulness, we will hear the Father remind Jesus and us - “You are my beloved.”

Plaque with the Baptism of Jesus, ca. 1150–75, South Netherlandish, Champlev√© enamel, copper alloy, gilt, 4 x 4 x 1/8”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Epiphany

We have seen his star and have come with gifts to adore him.

Magi, wise visitors from the East, come to pay their homage to the Infant Christ. In this ancient mosaic, they are of three different ages, and they advance with great intention, holding with arms extended their fantastically-shaped gifts. These Magi represent all that is opulent, foreign, extraordinary, even esoteric and exotic. They wear Phrygian caps, colorful leggings, gold and jewel-encrusted tunics and capes. They are all the nations and ages of humanity with their wisdom and accomplishments acknowledging the preeminence of Christ Jesus, he who is all beauty, all wisdom, all truth. Come let us adore him!

He continues to make himself known to us in numerous, unending ways each day, each moment; longing to be recognized, loved and honored. Let us be more and more attentive to these endless epiphanies. Come let us adore him!

The Three Kings, mosaic, Byzantine School, 6th century, Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Her Assent

Mary renounces herself, in order to let God alone become active in her. Mary makes her whole being, with all its potentialities, accessible to God’s action. Yet, precisely in resolving to make this renunciation, she becomes cooperative in her whole person with the grace offered her. Everything in her person is ordered to it. Mary, in freely and willingly letting go of all other potentialities for her life, paradoxically, obtains their fulfillment beyond all expectation. Submitting herself to God in everything, she lets her assent form her whole existence. Before God she knows no caution, she expresses no wishes, no preferences, makes no demands. She enters into no contract, sets up no conditions, no if this then that. Once and for all, she renounces all self-shaping of her own life. Having set no limits or conditions in her renunciation, but having given herself completely in her answer, her fruitfulness is boundless.

Mary’s fruitfulness is so incomparable because her assent is laid up entirely in God and remains there. With us it is different. However sincerely and devoutly we promise to belong entirely to God, to sacrifice everything to him, to be eternally faithful to him, and through our renunciation and self-gift to lead as many people to him as possible, inevitably we fall back into lukewarmness and indifference. Never on this side of the grave do we experience the death to self that would enable us to live only for God in a fully consistent way. With Mary, it is completely different. In speaking her assent, she has died so completely to herself that she lives only in her Son and for him. From the beginning, God knows that he can place the life of his Son within her, confident that the Mother he has chosen for the Son will always live her life in service to the Son, as a function of his life. Nothing in her opposes the redemptive action of the Son; rather everything places itself at his disposal to further and enhance it.

It is from this surrender that Mary embraces her mission as Mother and treasures all matters regarding her Son, reflecting on them in her heart. 

Orazio Gentileschi, Italian ( 1563 - 1639), The Virgin with the Sleeping Christ Child, c. 1610, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard. Excerpts from Father Timothy's Homily for New Year's Day.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Like God

See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God. 
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God's children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed. 
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure. 1 John

We were amazed as we heard these words again at this morning's Mass. Already God' own children, we are destined to become more and more like God, transparent to his goodness, beauty, and truth.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Mary

Today, January First is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. With our Blessed Lady to lead us, we begin a new year, praying for a year of continual prayer, a year of peace in our hearts, a peace and compassion and gentleness of heart that will spread through all the land and to all nations. Mary gives us Jesus, who is our Peace. We ask her to make us more and more available to him.

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Gerard David (Netherlandish, ca. 1455–1523)oil on wood, 20" x 17.”  The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.