Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society

Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well. – Mother Teresa

1 John 4: 19 – 5: 4 “Beloved, we love God because he first loved us….This is the commandment we have from him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother…”

Psalm 72: 1-2, 9-10“…Lord, every nation on earth will adore you …”

Luke 4:14 - 22a “…’Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’…”

There are a couple of lessons in our readings today; one is a subject I think about sometimes myself. It is the basic question about why we/I believe in the Risen Lord? Why do I believe in the Catholic/Christian Faith? Today’s scriptures are one of the many that answers that question for me; and it is found in a single word or phrase, which describes the crowd’s reaction to their encounter with Jesus. In Luke it says they were “amazed” and he was “praised by all”. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to meet someone who moved you just because of their spirituality. Somehow you knew you were in the presence of holiness. For me it was an encounter with an old Missionary of Charity sister on Good Friday in the Bronx ( New York ). The sister had to have been in her late 80’s early 90’s and her body showed every bit of her age and labor for the Lord. When I looked into the face of this old woman, she simply glowed! Her eyes were on fire and her smile was radiant! It was a complete contradiction to how worn down her body was.

As the Good Friday Service progressed, and each of us, one by one went up to venerate the cross, a young Missionary of Charity sister was assigned to help this old sister up to the alter. Watching the two of them struggle up to the cross, resulted in me weeping in my pew. God is real and holiness is tangible!

That feeling of awe is how I imagine many of the people who heard Jesus talk back in his day might have been feeling. I don’t think about their credibility, you know they’re just like the everyday people of today, except they knew the earlier scripture prophesies (better than we do).

First Jesus read from the Prophet Isaiah and then He said “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) He had just told them “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19) The people were said to be amazed. And that describes the way I felt, amazed at the encounter with the old Missionary of Charity Sister, whose body was broken but the radiance of Christ could be perceived from her face on that Good Friday in the South Bronx .

So, today’s first lesson is easy to answer, but the second is a little harder, because a little further down in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says no prophet is accepted in his own native place, and so this encounter speaks of a second lesson, not to get distraught when your own family, or fellow co-workers and friends don’t appreciate that faith. Jesus had the same trouble as did others along the way. Jesus kept moving and spreading the Gospel. People were encountering Truth and Love, and some people just weren’t open to it. The first reading reminds us to love God and brother/sister. “…whoever is begotten by God conquers the world and the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” (1 John 5:4) We are asked to love as he loved, and in this week of Epiphany, might we allow ourselves to imagine the awe of the Magi who encountered the King of the Universe, and think about how far they traveled to have that experience. God Bless.

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