As I was growing up in Puerto Rico, the celebration of John the Baptist took many different forms… but always brought us closer to water! In an island that is difficult to avoid! I remember going to celebrate the Eucharist right on the beach… that was the religious part! I also remember going to the river and even opening the fire hydrants on the streets… we just wanted to get wet as we remembered the Baptist…
Everyone likes a story. We get drawn into a good story and we moan at a bad story, but, nonetheless, we listen to it and it usually elicits some type of response on our part...a comment, laughter, a groan, or whatever the case may be.
Just the other day I came across an advertisement on YouTube about taking the perfect selfie. In it, the young woman described how essential it is in “this day and age” to have the right image out there, one that would involve no wrinkle nor blemish, and have just the perfect lighting, with no filter needed.
The solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ brings our focus back to the source and summit of our Christian life, which is the Eucharist. It is the center of our faith because it is Christ himself being present in the Eucharist.
Rachel Carson, a famous author of a few years ago, was once quoted as follows:
1. When I look at the beauty of the world and see the mountains and the valleys, the ocean and the sky. I am reminded that I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth.
2. When I read about bloodshed and violence and see murder and hatred, stress and strife, selfishness and phoniness. I am reminded that I believe in Jesus Christ who, for our sake. Was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
3. And when I feel the wind in my face and the freedom of the fresh country breeze, or a walk at sunset, I am reminded that I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life.
Today’s great feast, Pentecost – the birthday of the Church – recalls another great story in our salvation history. This feast of Pentecost makes me think of a story that God’s people began to tell many, many centuries before today’s powerful events occurred.
There are not many details that I recall about the novel, The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas. There is one detail, however that has remained with me over the years. It is the seven-word phrase chosen by the title characters as their motto, “One for all and all for one!” This motto is something that helps define what a team does.
Let me start with a story from the Jewish tradition by the late Brooklyn-born Philadelphia writer Chaim Potok, about a young boy whose father was a good man. The boy, though, was troubled because the father was away often serving their religious leader the Rebbe during some very difficult years for their community
Riding in a taxi in Lima recently, I was struck by the quantity of rosaries and religious images that the driver had placed on the rear-view mirror and on the dashboard. Even for a devout and pious culture, this was exceptional. As we were nearing my destination, the driver looked in the mirror, and asked “are you a priest?”
When Jesus spoke to the people of his time, he used images with which they were quite familiar. In his day, anyone walking in the countryside could see shepherds watching over their sheep...In our day, I wonder what kind of an image today’s gospel brings up to our minds. For many, I’m sure, a sheep is some soft, wooly, cuddly animal–a fitting pet for someone like Little Bo Peep. Maybe some sheep are like that, but not all of them are. Here’s how I know.
There are many things and experiences in life that create fear in us. Anything from heights to speaking in public. Fear is a crippler. It prevents us from enjoying life in its fullness. Think about the fears you have or have dealt with in the past that made your life more difficult than it needs to be.
I have to be honest, I wasn’t entirely successful in my Lenten promises. I was hoping to enter Easter with a renewed sense of accomplishment. However, because of my missteps, and good intentions gone awry, I was confronted by what I could not do. I was humbled. I felt defeated ...but then I remembered a line from one of my favorite artists. In his song, Anthem, Leonard Cohen sings: There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.
Easter is a story about dirt and graves and uncertainty. Even Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus for a gardener.
Nadia Bolz-Weber, a theologian and author, reminds us that the depictions in churches of the risen Christ never show dirt under his nails. Somehow, we needed to ‘clean things up’ for Easter, so no one would be offended by the truth.
Brennan Manning tells the following story which he calls “The Signature of Jesus”: An elderly man meditated each morning on the bank of the Ganges River. One morning as he finished his prayers and opened his eyes, he saw a scorpion floating helplessly in the water.
It was the last week of Jesus’ life. Some Greek Gentiles, sincere folks who had been attracted by the faith and practices of Judaism, had witnessed Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem and wanted to hear more. They approached Philip, one of the few apostles who spoke Greek, and said: “Sir, we would like to see Jesus!”
As we look upon our nation at this time in its history, there are as many distinct and different narratives as is to be expected in a large country of great diversity. However, for those who have lived a half-century or more, we cannot but see the political and perhaps cultural dividing lines growing further apart.
If we could travel in time, I would take us back 2000 years to the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus. What we would find would be that coins were minted by hand. Each coin started off as a round slug of a precious metal like bronze, silver or gold.
Today, we are presented with two mysteries. The first mystery is the Lord transfigured: Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets, the culmination of salvation history, the apex of God’s plan to draw all things to Himself, shining forth in glory as much as earthly light allows and human eye can accept.
The second mystery involves the apostles.
No sooner was the glory of the hour of the Baptism over than there came the battle of the temptations. It was the Spirit who thrust Jesus out into the wilderness for the testing time. The very Spirit who came upon him at his Baptism now drove him out for the test.
Friends, Leprosy is scary. True leprosy, what we now know of as Hansen’s disease, is a horrible disease that used to take anywhere for 7 to 30 years to kill its victims. In our day it can be treated but not cured, and many of the symptoms can be controlled through medication.