Saturday, January 12, 2013

Blog # 291 Jesus in the Bible / Jesus Today

Blog # 291  Jesus in the  Bible / Jesus Today

Whenever a high school football team wins a State championship in their division it means they played good football.  I remember living in Sandersville back in 1997 when our local team did that.  Their record was 15 wins, no losses.

You could have known our team played good football if you actually attended the games.  But if you did not attend the games you could still know they played good football by the record.  And the more you knew of football either by playing  the game yourself or following it as a fan, the more you appreciated and found interesting and exciting the experience and performance of the local team.

Then when the season was over, the final game was won and the trophy brought home, large enthusiastic headlines in the local newspaper proclaimed the victory and exalted the team. A parade was organized and the team rode through town in their uniforms on an open flatbed truck.  Cheers went up. The memories and excitement of the games came alive.  Parents of the players were proud of their sons again.  The team was not actually running tackling passing scoring and winning now.  That had all been done.  Now was the time of glory appreciation and celebration of what had been done.

I see all you have been reading so far lived out in relationship to Jesus. 
Here's how.  As any Sandersville Hawks fan knows, the team played well, so, any believing Christian knows Jesus did something great with His life. But a difference comes  here. None of us was alive two thousand years ago when Jesus actually spent His life for others. This would be something like having none
of us from town being actually present at any of the fifteen games our team won.

We know what Jesus said and did primarily from the Bible.That would be something like knowing how our team performed  by the newspaper accounts, and by the pictures in the high school year book. The sweat has been washed away, the victory has been won, the games are over. Some of us can get really excited just by reading about a good season  this way.  We watch the parade and cheer the team even though we did not actlually attend any of the games. With Jesus it can be similar.

We know we cannot  physically eat with Him in Martha's kitchen, walk with Him on the streets of Jericho, hold the scroll for Him to read from it in the synagogue in Cepernaum.  We were born too late for this.  We could accept this and be satisfied and thankful reading it in the pages of the Bible. The actual physical games our team played, and the actual limited physical human experience of Jesus in history on earth are over.  The memory of it handed down through the centuries is exciting in itself.  It is fitting and proper that we bring high praise and deep appreciation to Jesus for all He has done as His story is told for us in the Bible.. 

This is the way it would be for someone coming to Sandersville years from now, when all the current end guards, centers, coaches and quarter backs will be gone. You could get out copies of old newspapers, read about the games, and rejoice in the victories that were won.  But the real action of it all would be in the past, real in that sense, but only in that sense.

Here is where my analogy parts from the reality of the Bible story of Jesus. We can take that up tomorrow
in another blog.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Blog # 290 Epiphany

Blog # 290  Epiphany

Blog # 189 identified the Church's practice of celebrating the life death and  Resurrection of Jesus and of feasts of individual Saints throughout the Liturgical Year  as a valuable resource in aiding us to grow both in the knowledge of our faith and in a more regular and effective application of our faith in our daily experience of life.  Blog # 290 is an example of one way this might be done when it is applied to the Feast of the Epiphany. 

The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the coming of the Magi to Bethlehem.  It happened a long time ago in a far away place.  They came by camel rather than by any of the various more rapid and more comfortable means of travel available to us today. They traveled a path through the desert.  It was a long and difficult journey. If we realize what our liturgical feasts are designed to do, we realize we have a part to play, today, in the events in the life of Jesus or of a particular Saint whose feast we celebrate.  We have questions to answer.  What was happening? Who are the people involved?  What did they think or say or do?  

Mary and Joseph  continue to be present.  They are faithful servants of the Lord, holy ones.  We admire them and thank them.  They give us joy in their love for Jesus.  The Magi are discoverers, willing to grow, to follow their star, responsive, self-giving, persevering, rich, yet humble, blessed. To be like them we are not called to learn how to ride a camel, but how to identify and follow a star.   

Their physical star may have been Haley's comet.  No doubt there were many people who saw it with their physical eyes.  A second star for the Magi was a 'star' that told them God's plan for them, that invited them to go after it.  I was their conscience, and following that star they found Jesus .  We have a conscience too, and we are 'Magi', invited to follow our unique individual star.  If we pray and look around us and within us with an open mind and heart our spiritual star appears. Following it we have a safe and secure path that leads us to Jesus. 

Herod was jealous, fearing and fearsome, selfish insecure and violent. We  can thank him for teaching us how we should never be.   Finally the ordinary people.  As tradition has handed the story down, the Magi were few in number.  Most of the people seem to have been unaware of them and their story.  Most of the people seem to have been following another agenda.  The story of the Magi goes on today but most of the people have passed on with their temporary agenda.  Maybe later on some of them came to know and believe in Jesus.   Maybe some of them were there on Calvary when Jesus died and watched that go by too.
Some like these are alive today.  We ask God's mercy for them.

The traditional theological content of the Feast of Epiphany has been a recognition of the divnity of Jesus in the miraculous coming of earthly rulers and wise men to pay Him homage and offer their treasures to him, and secondly, an emphasis on  the universality of salvation, and the call to welcome the whole world into the love of God in Jesus.  This is seen in the fact the Magi are traditionally given as Gentiles rather than as Jews, already members of the People of God and children of Abraham.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Blog # 289 The Liturgical Year - Feasts

Blog # 289  The Liturgical Year  - Feasts

There are several distinctive characteristics of the Catholic church that are so familiar and such regular experiences  there might be a danger of taking them for granted with the result they are less effective in aiding us on our way to the holiness to which we are daily summoned by the love and presence of  Emmanuel, Jesus the Word of God  Come Among Us. 

Our whole Sacramental System, from Baptism through our anointing of those who are in danger of death  is not only a reminder of the special love of Jesus for us throughout our lives but a share in His special love, encouragement, support and power  on the occasion of  various turning points and crossroads in our spiritual journey, individually and as a community of Christian believers.  Our use of holy water at the entrance of our churches reminds us of our gift of  new supernatural life and of our vital union with Jesus and one another as branches on the vine , the Church.

The use of a crucifix in a place of honor, pictures or statues of our family patron Saints, and a Bible available for reading in our sitting rooms all lend themselves to encourage us to  be reminded of our Christian identity and our Father's invitation to grow in our likeness to Jesus. 

The Liturgical Year which annually reenacts for us Sunday after Sunday the life death and Resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon us  is a powerful help in focusing for us the story of our salvation with an invitation to claim that story as our own.

Let me share with you a few three dimensioned analogies that have helped me clarify and benefit from  our  Sunday liturgical readings: a song book, a home video of Grandma's 80th birthday party, playing cards, seeds, a recipe book, a crucifix.       

What have all of these in common?  There is something real in each of them that comes from the past and reaches to the present, inviting a response.  Sing it again, play it again, plant another garden, bake another cake, remember Grandma.

See her wonderful smile again. Introduce her to her four year old grandchild, though Grandma died at the age on eighty seven six years ago.  This is how we loved her on her eighty seventh birthday.  This is how she sang for us.  This is what she said of Grandpa who died fifteen years before.  It is different, yes, but also the same as it was when we were with her on her birthday.  The video helps us remember.

Watching it again helps us renew and grow in our love for  Grandma.  It is not just another TV show.  We keep it and plan to watch it again. It is similar with the  other items listed above.  Seeds for more tomatoes.  New and different tomatoes, but the same breed we enjoyed last season, and connected with them in the seed.   The same playing cards, bridge, the same name of the game mother played last night, but now you are playing with a different set of friends. 

You found the recipe for the great spaghetti sauce you enjoyed in that famous restaurant in New York when you were there for your fifteenth wedding anniversary. Now it is  another special day, your sixteenth anniversary.   You are not in New York.  But you remember. You put the recipe together and it has been cooking all afternoon on your stove.   Your kitchen smells very much like a famous restaurant in New York. How happy you and John will be when you light the candles and sit down  for supper together. The spaghetti sauce has everything the recipe called for, but it has that additional ingredient that makes it uniquely special this evening, your anniversary love.

It is something like  all of this with the feasts we celebrate throughout the Liturgical Year.  Something real happened in the past. We believe. We remember.  We sing it again, We watch it again.  Jesus is born and we are there.  Jesus claims to be God.  Jesus teaches.  Jesus dies on the wood.  We are there. He asks us the same questions He asked Peter and the other disciples.  He shares with us the same message He shared in Jerusalem.  He offers us the same love He offered in Bethany.  We are invited to respond, to make it our own.  The same recipe, a new bag of flour.  God's  love, yesterday, and today in us!  Thank You, Lord!