Thursday, January 31, 2013

Turning the page


JUST FOR FUN: In this increasingly digital age bursting with both possibility and frustration--depending on one's point of view--here is an amusing sketch of what such a transition may have been like in the Middle Ages. Any computer user who's had to call the "help desk" for assistance, I think, will appreciate it. In this case, it's a monk. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Christ's embrace

"The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many,
are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf."

1Corinthians 10:16-17


NOTE: The following is an excerpt from today's second reading at Vigils in the Archabbey Church, a commentary on 1Corinthians 10:14-11:1. It is a succinct, straightforward, and inspiring exposition on what the Eucharist truly means (or should mean) for all Catholics.

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From the very beginning, Christianity was meant to express the unity of the one Lord who unites us all in his embrace from the Cross, an embrace that goes beyond the frontiers drawn by earthly life and that forms us into one body.

The Eucharist is not a private matter among friends, taking place in a club of like-minded people where congenial spirits meet together. On the contrary, just as the Lord allowed himself to be crucified publicly outside the city walls, stretching out his hands to all, the Eucharist is the public worship celebrated by all whom the Lord calls, irrespective of who they are. So it is an essential constituent of the eucharistic celebration, just as it was a feature of the Lord's earthly life, that people of different party groups, different classes and views are brought together in the larger context of his word and love.

We can still discern, in the documents of the New Testament, how people continually tried to resist this kind of inclusive fellowship and wanted to enclose themselves in their own circle, and we can also see how the Eucharist asserted its meaning all the more, namely, to be a focus of assembly, transcending barriers and leading people into a new unity in the Lord. The Eucharist continued to unite people who would otherwise not mix.

We come together beyond party and class boundaries, beyond the distinction between rulers and ruled, manual workers and intellectuals, people of this or that walk of life. And the essential thing is that we are gathered here by the Lord, that he has led us to each other. We should go forth from this hour, challenged to accept one another inwardly too, to open ourselves to one another, to go to meet each other; we should carry with us, into the manifold preoccupations of daily life, this inner reality of having been gathered together by the Lord.

There are many kinds of gatherings of people, but so often they are united by what they are against rather than by what they are for. But when Catholics come together for Mass, what binds us together is not the private interest of this or that group, but the interest which God takes in us. And we can calmly and confidently entrust all our interests to him.

We commit ourselves to the Lord. And the more we commit ourselves to the Lord and stand before him, the more we stand together with one another. When we do this, we discover how to understand one another and to recognize each other as human beings, as brothers and sisters. In this way, we are laying the foundations for humanity and making our fellowship with one another possible.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
(Pope Benedict XVI), 1986

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Like an almond tree


NOTE: A few more words of wisdom from the pen of the spiritual master St. Francis de Sales, whose feast the Church commemorates on this day:

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“It has been said that if one writes a word on an almond, and then replaces it carefully in its husk, and sows it, all the fruit borne by that tree will be marked by the word so inscribed. So it seems to me that one should begin to be transformed from within. Whoever has Jesus Christ in his heart will soon show it in all his external actions. So, engrave and inscribe on your heart this holy and sacred motto, “Live Jesus!” I am certain that your life, which comes from the heart just as the almond tree comes from its seed, will thereafter produce all its actions—which are its fruits—inscribed and engraved with this sacred word of salvation. As our beloved Jesus lives in your heart, so too he will live in all your conduct. Then, with St. Paul you can say, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me” [Galations 2:20].

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“The principal means of uniting yourself to God are the sacraments and prayer.”

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“You must not only be devout and love devotion, but you must render it lovable to everyone. Now you will make it lovable if you render it useful and pleasing. The sick will love your devotion if they receive care and comfort from it; your family will love it if they see you more attentive to their well-being, more gentle in handling affairs, more kind in correcting, and so on; your husband will love it if he sees that as your devotion increases, you become more warm and affectionate toward him; your relatives and friends will love it if they see you more free, supportive of others, and yielding to them in matters that are not contrary to God’s will. In short, we must, as far as possible, make our devotion attractive.”

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"Bear patiently the slight injuries, the little inconveniences, and the inconsequential losses that daily come to you. By means of such trifles as these, borne with love and affection, you will completely win God’s heart and make it all your own. Practice those little, humble virtues which grow like flowers at the foot of the cross: helping the poor, visiting the sick, and taking care of your family, with all the tasks that go with such things. Great opportunities to serve God rarely present themselves but little ones are frequent. Whoever will be faithful over a few things will be placed over many, says the Savior."

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PRAYER BY ST. FRANCIS DE SALES

O God, by your gracious will, I resolve to strive earnestly to be patient and gentle, and not to allow the waters of contradiction to extinguish the fire of that charity which I owe to my neighbor. Amen.



Vive Jésus!

"Just as with all of creation, God commands Christians,
the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits
of devotion, each according to his position and vocation."
St. Francis de Sales


NOTE: Today the Church celebrates the feast day of my patron saint, Francis de Sales, whose name I received at my monastic profession in 2008. To mark the occasion, below is a revised portion of the introduction to my thesis for the master's degree I received last year. The entire thesis, which is far too long (and possibly, tedious!) to post here in its entirety, was titled: "Vive Jésus! Saint Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life and the Universal Call to Holiness."
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What does a saint look like? Is it someone we can see through the windows of our eyes? Still more, is it someone we can possibly recognize mirrored in our own souls?

Occasionally, we will hear someone say, “She was a saint,” but we’re more likely to hear, “He was no saint,” or say with a shrug, “I’m not a saint.” Saints, it seems, are extraordinary people who, for the most part, lived long ago and were graced with special divine favors that the majority of us neither possess nor comprehend. We admire and venerate them, but their alabaster perfection is obviously far removed from us. Rather, our sentiments may echo the words of Simon Peter: “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8).

Becoming a saint, it seems, is frightening because it demands the impossible, or at least suggests unimaginable suffering. Perhaps, we bargain, it is sufficient simply to be a “good person,” and even go to church, without the bother of aspiring toward the unrealistic ideal of saintliness.

Underlying this fear is the false belief that “becoming holy is something we painfully accomplish rather than something that Christ rejoices to accomplish in us,” as Mark Plaushin, O.S.F.S., wrote in Homiletic & Pastoral Review in March 2010. While holiness does require human cooperation, it is God who works in us to bestow saintliness (cf. Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 3:20). The servants are summoned to fill the jars with water, but it is Christ who changes the water into wine (cf. John 2:1-11). “Holiness is neither the simple result of human effort nor is it the automatic result of a ‘grace’ from out of the blue,” writes Francois Corrignan for Studies in Salesian Sprituality. “A combination of both is needed: God’s gratuitous gift and free human cooperation with that gift.”

And for this reason, Jesus did not heed Simon Peter’s request to depart from his sinfulness. Instead, he replied, “Do not be afraid” (Luke 5:10). Our assurance as baptized Christians is the same: Do not be afraid to strive for holiness, to become saints, because that is what you are, what you are created to be. You have only to realize it. This call to saintliness, to holiness, is nothing other than the perfection of charity (cf. Blessed John Paul II, Christifidelis Laici) to love as God loves.

It is our fundamental vocation, inherent to our very being as children created by God in God’s image. To be fruitful externally, it must first be sown internally—something God does for us. “Love the Lord, your God, will all your heart,” God commands (Deuteronomy 6:5). This “is not too mysterious and remote for you… No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out” (Deuteronomy 30:11,14).

This promise is perfectly fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, the true vine, from whom we, as branches, are given life and fruitfulness according to the New Testament image of the vineyard. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

So, we are meant to be saints, to be holy—each and every one of us. Since God, who is love, wills all to be saved (cf. 1Timothy 2:4; 1John 4:16), he sent his Son, who beckons us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Becoming a saint means coming to Jesus and, as he says, learning from him to be gentle and humble of heart like his heart. In doing so, nature is gradually perfected into charity, and typically without spiritual heroics. This charity is to be cultivated and carried out daily, sanctifying the ordinary events, duties, and relationships in whatever one’s state of life.

When we allow the heart of Jesus to speak to our hearts in this way, we learn to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, and we discover that holiness is not too mysterious and remote for us. It is something very near, already in our mouths and hearts. We have only to carry it out, to externalize it, to become what we possess (and possesses us) in our hearts. With the name of Jesus engraved on our hearts, we “allow that name to become one’s own true name, to allow one’s entire self—body, thoughts, affections, actions, decisions, work, devotion—to be animated by the reality of the person known by that name” (Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal, (Wendy M. Wright and Joseph F. Power, O.S.F.S.),  Letters of Spiritual Direction).

In other words, becoming a saint means: Vive Jésus!Live Jesus!

“Live Jesus!” was the spiritual maxim of Francis de Sales (1567-1622), a nobleman of Savoy, which was an independent state in the Alpine border region of what is now southeastern France, northwestern Italy, and southwestern Switzerland. From 1602 until his death in 1622, he was the bishop of Geneva, though his episcopal see was located just to the south in Annecy near his hometown of Thorens because Geneva was a Calvinist stronghold. And he is a saint, having been canonized in 1665 by Pope Alexander VII, declared a doctor of the Universal Church in 1877 by Pope Pius IX, and confirmed as patron saint of writers in 1923 by Pope Pius XI.

Long recognized for wisdom that has been termed “inspired common sense” (Thomas F. Dailey, O.S.F.S., “An ‘Every Day’ Approach to Holiness,” Deacon Digest, November 2011), St. Francis de Sales headed his thousands of letters of spiritual direction with the mantra “Vive Jésus!” and he opened and closed his most well-known work, Introduction to the Devout Life, with the same call.

Sanctity, he emphasized time and again in varied ways, is for everyone, and it is not something distinct from day-to-day life, but is lived through each moment and encounter. The message he conveys—one that has been commonly referred to as “the universal call to holiness” since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s—is thoroughly rooted in the Gospel and the tradition of the Church. However, this integral teaching bore repeating in the early 17th Century because the concept had largely been either distorted or discarded. In similar fashion, it bears repeating today.

“Vive Jésus!” was more than a rallying cry for Francis. Rather, it succinctly expresses a profound, Gospel-based, and incarnational theology that was (oddly) countercultural during his time, even within many corners of the Church. Sanctity, he maintained, involves a radical change of heart that gradually transforms one from within, “rather than a change of lifestyle effected from without,” writes scholar Wendy M. Wright in her translation of Introduction to the Devout Life. By taking to heart the Word made Flesh through Jesus’ gift of self, we give flesh to the Word in our daily circumstances by practicing the perfection of charity.

Francis’ pastoral focus as a bishop was on inspiring and directing the individual soul toward the love of God within the particular circumstances of his or her life. One’s interior transformation in Christ is what brings about the Kingdom of God on a universal scale. In other words, we each need to “Live Jesus” first and foremost. His emphasis was always on an interior life lived heart-to-heart with Jesus through our baptismal call, and which then moved outward to be expressed in actions motivated by the love of God (cf. Jordan Aumann, O.P., “St. Francis de Sales: Theologian for the Laity,” Listening, Fall 1991).

In addition, his concern for the soul’s intentional pursuit of holiness was adapted to the particular person he was addressing, “taking into account her or his life responsibilities, temperament, strength, and ability,” Wright notes. His heart-to-heart exhortation to “Live Jesus!” extended even (or especially) to the intimate manner in which he expressed it. No one of his many letters of spiritual direction is identical to another. Francis speaks to each addressee as with a friend. Even his Introduction to the Devout Life and his later, more sophisticated Treatise on the Love of God are addressed, respectively, to feminine and masculine terms for “Lover of God”—Philothea and Theotimus, as if he were writing to a particular person. In all his writings, he conveys sound theology rooted in a prayerful heart and keen intellect, along with consistent firmness. However, he does so in a conversational manner with ease, warmth, and humor. He also exhibits a great deal of psychological insight, compassion, and optimism.

Commentators agree that this personal, heart-to-heart approach was thoroughly authentic to his very being and his pastoral outlook, and is what has endeared him to so many “Philotheas” over the last four centuries. In his 1967 apostolic letter on the 400th anniversary of Francis’ birth, Pope Paul VI gathered together a composite portrait of the saint, noting that he exhibited:

An acute perception of mind, a solid and clear reasoning, a penetrating judgment, an almost incredible good will and kindness, a gentle and lovable suavity of speech and expression, a calm ardor of an ever active spirit, a rare simplicity of manners, a serene and tranquil peace, an ever firm and secure moderation nevertheless not separated from strength.
  
Like Jesus, Francis de Sales met people where they were, and he lived the incarnational theology that he promoted. He authentically lived Jesus through his particular state in life and day-to-day duties, providing a living example of responding to the universal call to holiness.

No analysis of his writings can ignore his very intimate, Christocentric approach because that is what makes them so powerfully engaging. That is what makes what he says relevant today—he was a human being who became a saint through God working in him. Some of his plans failed. He disappointed his father, who wanted him to become a lawyer and marry well like any self-respecting nobleman (Butler’s Lives of the Saints, New Full Edition). He experienced numerous trials—physical, emotional, and spiritual. Not everyone liked or agreed with him. Early in his career when he almost single-handedly converted 70,000 Calvinists in the mountainous Chablais region through sheer determination, ingenious pamphleteering, and the attraction of his personality, he was often ignored, harassed, and threatened (Michael de la Bedoyere, Saintmaker). Attempts were made on his life. His episcopacy burdened him with many duties, and he practically worked himself to death at the relatively young age of 55.

Yet with all this, he was first and foremost concerned with the individual souls entrusted to his care in the Diocese of Geneva—to lead them on the way to sainthood. He was truly the shepherd who sought the one lost sheep out of 100.

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre d'Annecy in Annecy, France,
where Francis was ordained and presided as bishop.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martyr of hospitality


Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Meinrad, hermit and holy martyr, for whom Saint Meinrad Archabbey is named. He is often called the "Martyr of Hospitality," a virtue held dear by Benedictine monks. Upon the site of the hermitage (which in German is einsiedeln) where he was killed by two robbers in 861 was built the venerable monastery of Einsiedeln in Switzerland. Centuries later, the Swiss monks of Einsiedeln establised an American foundation--Saint Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana in 1854.

Pictured above is a 15th-Century block book from Einsiedeln's library on the Life of St. Meinrad. The artwork depicts the martyr's death. Notice the two ravens, which are part of the insignia for Einsiedeln--and Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

Click here if you would like to read an English translation of a 10th-Century Latin account of the life and death of St. Meinrad.
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O God, you are made glorious
in the martyrdom of the hermit Meinrad.
Through his intercession help me
grow in my love for you
and in devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
May I follow his example
in Christ-like hospitality
and in single-hearted prayer.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Our first vocation--disciples

"Follow me."
Mark 1:17


Someone who is entrusted with the service of directing souls recently asked me for advice on how to meet this “daunting obligation” of assisting others in their relationship with God. Specifically, he mentioned a passage from the Rule of St. Benedict that he had been reflecting upon: “More will be expected of a man to whom more has been entrusted. He must know what a difficult and demanding burden he has undertaken: directing souls...” (Rule 2:30-31). In view of the Church’s current observance of National Vocation Awareness Week, I thought part of the answer was worth sharing, along with some additional thoughts on the practice of spiritual direction itself.

As Christian disciples, we are all advisers of one sort or another. As St. Paul says, we are “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1Corinthians 4:1), each member of the Body of Christ serving the Head. And yes, as Benedict writes (in reference to the monastery’s abbot, but applicable to all Christians), it is an awesome responsibility. Jesus also stresses this, perhaps most notably in Luke 12:48: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” While Benedict was (and is) a great spiritual “adviser,” he takes his cue from Christ—always. The Rule, after all, is built upon the foundation of the Gospel.

The most important thing that “those entrusted with much” can do is to first of all be authentic disciples. In order to lead, first we must follow Christ our Head. The passage from St. Paul above is an indicator of that: first, we are servants, then we are stewards. After all, as St. Paul also writes, “What do you possess that you have not received?” (1Corinthians 4:7) This echoes Christ himself, who told his disciples: “I am the vine, you are the branches…Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

So, the key task of the adviser—or steward, as it were—is to always sit at the feet of the Master in order to learn—a task that will not end is this life. The word “disciple,” after all, comes from the Latin word meaning “pupil.”

Being an authentic disciple entails nothing surprising, nothing unusual—immersing oneself in Scripture and prayer, partaking of God’s grace in the Sacraments, being faithful to the Tradition of the Church, and participating in the community of believers. It means incorporating the Gospel message into our very being so that we grow into Christ, our Head through love (cf. Ephesians 4:15). The very first words of the Prologue in Benedict’s Rule address this key posture of the disciple. First, and always, we must listen. Then we can speak (advise), but we must always circle back and listen to the Master first.

So, what should one do in order to be a faithful adviser? Be a faithful disciple first and foremost. Pray. Read Scripture and other spiritual works. Participate in the Sacraments—especially the Eucharist—and life of the Church, and remain united to its Tradition. Live the Beatitudes. Practice virtue daily. Strive for holiness out of love for Christ. Maintain an open mind and heart willing to perceive and receive all the ways in which God manifests himself in our daily lives. Listen to the Word, and then do it.

After all, while we each have vocations (either as a monk, married person, etc., etc.), and we each have particular tasks and ministries in building up the Body of Christ, we are all disciples—pupils—of Christ, at whose feet we sit in order to listen (cf. Luke 10:38-42).

As for the specific practice of spiritual direction, the Holy Spirit is the principal “director.” Primarily, spiritual direction is a forum in which the Holy Spirit is invoked to freely operate so that the directee may discern the movement of God in his or her life. One of the first things I tell a new directee is: “There are three persons in this room: you, the Holy Spirit, and I—and I am the least important of the three.”

Though he or she may not express it in such terms, the directee comes to a spiritual director seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit; the director simply provides a human face, a listening ear, and—to be sure—guidance when it is called for. It is essential that this guidance be firmly rooted in Scripture and the living tradition of the Catholic faith, as well as in the spiritual director’s own life of prayer. The emphasis is more on “spiritual” than it is on “direction.”

Spiritual direction is not equivalent to psychological counseling. These are two distinct realms of dialogue, although there are certainly areas where the two intersect with one another. In the case of spiritual direction, the focus is always on the directee’s relationship with God and how God is working in his or her life. A spiritual director may on occasion recommend to the directee counseling by a qualified professional.

Spiritual direction is also not a manner of faith sharing such as members in a Bible study group may experience. Rather, it is the means by which one’s intimate disclosure of his or her interior life, offered in full freedom and all honesty to a trusted (and trustworthy) director, aids one’s self-understanding in relation to God.

Often, this understanding develops with the director merely listening to the directee—who, by the light of the Holy Spirit, sees more clearly by simply expressing what is already written on his or her heart. God himself is the origin, path, and destination of our seeking, and an open heart will not fail to ultimately find him.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Newness of life

"We were buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father, we too
might live in newness of life."

Romans 6:4


The Baptism of the Lord
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him. The heavens, like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open. The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, bearing witness to his Godhead. A voice bears witness to him from heaven, his place of origin. The Spirit descends in bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood and so gives honor to the body that is one with God. Today let us do honor to Christ’s baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven.
--St. Gregory of Nazianzus
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"Grace is a participation in the life of God.
By baptism, the Christian participates in the grace of Christ."

Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1997

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pardon my Irish


A lighter moment from life in the monastery at Saint Meinrad:

Early Tuesday morning, just hours after Notre Dame's top-ranked, undefeated football team was humiliated 42-14 by Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, Fighting Irish-booster-in-residence Fr. Timothy Sweeney, O.S.B., presided at the conventual Mass. At his side as the server just before Mass began, and having no knowledge of the game's result, I whispered to Fr. Timothy, "Who won the game last night?" The rest of the conversation proceeded as follows:

Fr. Timothy
: "Pardon?"

Br. Francis
(slightly louder): "Who won the game last night?"

Fr. Timothy
: "Pardon?"

Br. Francis
(Oh, Fr. Timothy is not hard of hearing): "Sorry, I didn't know."

With this, the lights in the church went up and the processional hymn began.

Fr. Timothy
(half smile, half scowl): "Let us PRAY, Br. Francis."

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Way to Eternal Life

“If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves and take up their
cross daily and follow me.”

Luke 9:23


How can God permit human suffering? It is a question we all ask—a timeless riddle that prods our constant search for the truth. The answer, Christians believe, lies in the mystery of the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Way to Eternal Life: Contemporary Reflections on the Traditional Stations of the Cross, my new book published by Abbey Press' Path of Life Publications, is an extended meditation on that mystery. (Click the image above for purchase information).

The Cross disturbs many; suffering and sin are realities we’d rather not think about. However, viewed through the eyes of faith, it offers us not an escape from our troubles, but a means by which the unholy is sanctified and death is transformed into sure and certain life through the Resurrection. The way to Eternal Life is through the Cross, and to be effective, it requires our cooperation—the loving gift of self in response to God’s love for us. God desires to involve us in his merciful act of redemption.

Each Station in The Way to Eternal Life offers avenues of reflection connecting the Cross of Christ with our own. Steeped in the Word of God, each reflection is complemented with the striking 1950s artwork of Fr. Donald Walpole, O.S.B. (+January 2012), and is accompanied by a prayer. Together, they are meant to draw the reader deeper into his or her own understanding of the mystery of the Cross.

The Cross of Jesus Christ is our story, too, and his story is ours. It’s why “the Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14). This is Good News intended to give us hope along the way to eternal life.
 

(To read a book review of The Way to Eternal Life,
please click
here.)

Your light has come


Solemnity of the Epiphany
January 2013

Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2:1-12

“Raise your eyes and look about,” Isaiah tells us in the first reading at Mass on Sunday. “Your light has come. Upon you the Lord shines.” We must keep our gaze on heaven above but also “look about,” to the circumstances and people on earth through whom the light of Christ shines. He is in each of us, all around us, yet we must first raise our eyes, viewing everything from an eternal perspective that reveals God’s immense love, mercy, and compassion.

Elsewhere, St. Paul tells us, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). As baptized Christians, we are raised with Christ in his baptism (which we celebrate this coming Sunday), on his cross, and in his resurrection. Raised with Christ in this light, God’s glory shines upon us, and as Isaiah says, we then become radiant at what we see, and our hearts will throb and overflow.

This is illustrated for us in the Gospel story of the Magi. In Jerusalem, very near the town of Bethlehem where Christ is born, King Herod looks all about, but not above, and therefore is “greatly troubled.” The light of Christ is close by, but he cannot see it. On the other hand, the three Magi from a distant land have their eyes uplifted to see Christ’s star at its rising. So, they are impelled to look about for him, guided by the light above. They knew who they were looking for, and in a spirit of humility, gratitude, and joy, they found him and gave themselves to him by presenting their treasures.

The Magi’s encounter—God revealed to foreigners in a strange land through the newborn Christ—made them stewards of God’s grace and co-partners in God’s promise of eternal salvation revealed through the gospel. Herod, though a native of the land, remained troubled. Fearfully looking all about but without raising his eyes to heaven, he attempts to kill all the newborn children in Bethlehem to preserve his own treasures. In doing so, he remains in the dark, unable to see the light so visible to the Magi from so far away—and eventually loses everything.

As we reflect on the mystery of the Epiphany—God’s manifestation to all peoples through Christ’s birth, his visit from the Magi, his baptism, and his first miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana—we do well to ask ourselves these questions:

n      Are we greatly troubled?
n      Have we first raised our eyes to heaven?
n      Do we then look about the earth for the light of Christ with humility, gratitude and joy, eager to find him in the most unlikely of people and places, and offer there our greatest treasures?

May our encounter with Christ make us radiant at what we see, our hearts throbbing and overflowing with the gift of God’s grace manifested to all the earth. Let us raise our eyes and then look about. Then this light, this life, will be ours forever, and likewise will be offered to all around us who are greatly troubled. May we all become co-partners in God's promise of eternal salvation revealed through the gospel.

“Your light has come. Upon you the Lord shines.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year blessings


The Lord
bless you
and keep you!

The Lord
let his face
shine upon you,
and be
gracious to you!

The Lord
look upon you
kindly and
give you peace!

Numbers 6:24-26