The 40s

The very first liturgical action in the Rite of Baptism isn’t pouring water – it is marking the one receiving baptism with the sign of the cross – traced on the forehead. At the same time speaking the words, “I claim you for Christ…” They are powerful words, words of life and death. Words that mark a new beginning. “I claim you for Christ…” This is who you are and whose you are. And now off you go into the world, into the wilderness of life, among the beasts and the angels among us. Continue reading

A pause and a prayer

He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp” – frightening and dreadful words.  Spoken to a people in the wilderness, a people on the Exodus betwixt and between the slavery of Egypt and the promised land of Palestine. Words that ban, isolate, shun, and place someone beyond the connection to the community. These are words spoken to family and friends that pushed them from the routine of life into the wilderness. In modern life, we have our own words, instances, texts, and posts that push others into a more modern wilderness. Continue reading

Everyone is looking for you

TheAnnunciationThe story of Job is the well-known biblical account in which a person’s life goes from prosperity and security, from joy to despair – and Job is the one who asks aloud what some of us only whisper – where is God in all of this? Job watches while his life unravels losing prosperity, family and feeling that the entirety of his life under assault. He has looked into his life and his heart, searching for his sin, then at least he imagines he can reconcile what has happened to him. But he is a blameless and upright man. Just when he thinks he had suffered and so much taken from him, then the assault encompasses his own body and he grows sick and covered with sores. No wonder he laments: My days … come to an end without hope. …. I shall not see happiness again. Continue reading

Powerful Words

The children’s rhyme insists that “sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Yet anyone who has comforted a teased child knows the emptiness of the adage. We all know from experience that the sharp, cold edge of the sword of a single word can cut to the quick, leaving wounds of a lifetime. Indeed, sticks and stone can break bones, but words… words have their own power. Continue reading

After curiosity…

Last week’s gospel was, like this week’s gospel, a scene in which Jesus begins to call people to the ministry. When people were curious, Jesus responded. “Come and you will see…”

Just as we have heard the words so often in Mass, last week the would-be apostles heard “Behold the Lamb of God….” were curious, wanted to know more, sensed the call of belonging – and so they followed… loosely at first, perhaps at a bit of a distance, a safe distance. Jesus sees them and speaks to their curiosity: “Come and see.”  We are a naturally curious people, but we have also learned to let lots of calls go to voicemail and let the moment pass. Still…. We are a curious lot. Continue reading

Sweeping right

Calling disciples…

I have always liked today’s first reading – the story of how a young boy named Samuel was called to a life of service to the Lord. It was the only story I knew where a young child was the center, the protagonist, the “hero” of the story. I remember my Catholic school religion teacher telling me what I was supposed to learn from the story: always go to church – after all Samuel heard God’s voice in the temple. Always obey my parents and adults – Samuel did exactly what Eli, the temple priest, instructed. Always keep your heart open to God and then act – Samuel invited God to speak to him. Continue reading

The Richness of Epiphany

Today we celebrate the visit of the magi to the child Jesus. It is often referred to and celebrated as “Three Kings Day” especially in Latino and Mediterranean cultures. Its official name is Epiphany, from the Greek epiphania, meaning that which is revealed, unveiled. The meaning in Greek is reflected in our English language definition: (1): a usually sudden manifestation of the essential nature or meaning of something (2): an intuitive grasp of reality through something usually simple and striking (3): an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure. There is a certain excitement and energy that accompanies the moment of epiphany. Continue reading

Being Simeon

In today gospel account, it is now forty days after Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph are performing their duty as pious Jewish parents by coming to the Temple to fulfill the requirements of Exodus 13. It is a ritual that reminds the parents that this child is now a member of the family that God redeemed from the slavery in Egypt. And so, they come to offer a simple sacrifice as they dedicate their first-born child to the Lord and to the larger, holy covenant family of God. Continue reading

Living the Dream

King David – living the dream! I mean who could have imagined?  The Lord God had sent his prophet Samuel out to anoint the one who would be king – and the young shepherd David was selected among all of Jesse’s sons – the one to be king of Israel and all of God’s chosen people.  And the Lord had been with David on the battlefield as he stood before the giant warrior Goliath.  The Lord had stayed with David when he was a wanted man on the run from the murderous hand of King Saul. The Lord had guided David as be took on the mantle of leadership and had united the 12 tribes of Jacob into one nation. And now David was king. Continue reading

Towards Light, Into Trust

I feel sorry for the Levites, the scribes and the Pharisees that were sent from Jerusalem to investigate all the commotion and buzz surrounding John, the one baptizing out in the wilderness at the Jordan River.  Israel has a history of people coming along and claiming to be the Messiah – the people get caught up in the fervor and are just sure that this is the One to Come who will lead the army that throws off the yoke of the occupying army and re-establish the throne of David.  The cycle is this:  a self-professed Messiah appears, all the world runs to him, the revolution starts, foreign armies come and crush the rebellion, and in the end, it was a false Messiah.  So, you can see why the Jerusalem authorities send investigators down to the Jordan river to ask John: who are you, what are your intentions.  The religious authorities in Jerusalem have a responsibility to acclaim the Messiah when he comes, but there is this legacy of false messiah, misplaced hope, and people needlessly dying – all for naught. So…. They seek out John – once again wondering if the promise of the Messiah is true. Continue reading