Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fulfilled in your hearing


Today in our readings we hear something interesting.  In both our first reading and our gospel we hear about the scriptures being read.  In both cases we hear that amazing things happen when the Bible is read.
The Bible is truly a remarkable object.  It is unlike any book or any ancient piece of literature.  While we believe that it was written by human beings, we also claim that it has God for its author.  While it is many different books, compiled over thousands of years, and written by various authors, we call it one book.  While there are many inspirational books out there that might change your perspective on life, we believe that this book is inspired by the Holy Spirit, Vatican II says, “the divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”  Further, “we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach the truth which God wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures for the sake of our salvation.”  In other words, not only is the Bible important because it was written by God, but it contains nothing less than the truth, and this truth will lead us to salvation.  I think the first reading and the gospel show us how this takes place.
In the book of Nehemiah we hear about the law being read to the people.  This took place after the Babylonian Captivity.  Jerusalem was left in ruins, but through Nehemiah and Ezra, Jerusalem was rebuilt.  When the book of the law is read to the people, the rebuilding is complete.  Not only have the buildings been rebuilt, but the word of the Law, the Scriptures, reconstitutes them as a people.  Then in the gospel we hear about Jesus opening the scroll of Isaiah: today this passage has been fulfilled in your hearing.  The words of Isaiah are renewed and proclaimed to a new generation.  For all those in the synagogue that day, the words of the prophet came alive.  In both cases, the reading of this Bible brings about a new reality.
This is how we should read the Bible.  The Word of God is what forms us into God’s people.  Just like when the law was read in our first reading, when we read the Bible it gives our lives shape and direction.  To be Christian means to be like Christ, and we can never be like Christ unless we hear the word and let it enter our hearts and minds, making us more like Christ all the time.  Also, when we read about the message of salvation, it is not simply something that stays in the past, rather when we proclaim this Good News it brings the Gospel into our own day, it becomes fulfilled in our hearing.  So, when we read the Bible it comes alive in the present tense and it shapes us into the kind of people we want to become.
Let’s apply these principles to our second reading.  This passage is speaking to us.  There we hear Paul say that we are all one body.  Though each of us has a different vocation and role, we all belong to the same body.  Let this text come alive for you right now.  Look around, do you see the Body of Christ?  If we let this passage speak to us, we should see everyone around us as fellow members of Christ’s body.  I think changes the way we look at others.  Also, what responsibilities come with this?  Maybe I am not an apostle, or a teacher, but as a member of Christ’s body I am called to be Christ to others. 
The word of God is living and effective.  It is not just some old book; rather, since it is inspired by the Holy Spirit the Bible continues to form us into God’s people, and it continues to be fulfilled in our hearing.  This is why we read the Bible at every Mass.  But, also why reading the Bible as a part of our personal prayer and devotion is so important.  Through our engagement with the word of God, that word becomes alive in our lives and forms us into the people of God.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Epiphany


Today we celebrate the feast of our Lords epiphany, his manifestation. This feast day is important to us because it reminds us that Christ came for everyone. Jesus is the Messiah promised to the people of Israel, he is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, he was born of the house of David, but he comes with a universal mission.  He came to save all people.  Today We celebrate Jesus' manifestation to all the nations.
So these magi represent all of us; if you stop and think about it, they represent all the Gentiles and all the people of the earth. We should be inspired by their courage, they travelled great distances to approach the Savior, they faced difficulties with king Herod, but still they were not deterred, why?  Why would they go through all this hassle, this difficult journey?  It's because of this baby, because of who they believe him to be. He must obviously be quite special for them to undertake this trip, but their gifts tell us more about who they believed Jesus to be.
Gold has always been a valuable metal. Normal people do not have access to large quantities of gold. In the Bible, gathering gold was the job of the king, since gold was able to be used to sustain the kingdom. The magi's gift of gold shows that they believed that this was the newborn king. Frankincense is a fragrant sap, it was burned in the temple. This gift on incense might seem strange, what would a baby do with incense? I mean I like to play with incense here at church, but what would a baby do with it. But, the point of the incense is what it means, it means that the magi recognize Jesus as being God. The myrrh is perhaps the strangest gift. This spice was used to preserve bodies for burial. Why would anyone give a baby myrrh, it would be like giving a coffin as a baby shower gift, again it says something about this baby: his greatest achievement will be his death. In a way this gift is the pinnacle of the other 2: Jesus shows he is king and God when he defeats sin and death, when he puts these things under his rule.
The gifts of the Magi show us that they believe Jesus to be king, God, and Messiah. No wonder they came to do him homage.
But I was thinking this week, don't we do the same thing? Every week we make a pilgrimage here to St Matt's. Every week we bring him our gifts, not gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but our very lives, hearts, we give ourselves to Christ. And just like he did to those magi he manifests himself to us, an epiphany takes place at every mass, if we have the eyes to see it. Christ comes to us not as a little baby this time but in the sacrament of his body and blood.
No wonder we make this pilgrimage, because right here at this mass we see Jesus. And we believe and profess that he is the divine king who died to save us. This is why we worship here at the mass. The mass is not simply the gathering of a community, but it is a gathering precisely for us to bend our knees in worship of Christ our savior.
               But, alas, the mass cannot last forever, I know many people think it lasts long enough already.  But just like these magi we return to our daily lives after spending this time in the presence of God; but listen again to what the gospel says about the magi, it says they went home by another path.  This is a great way to describe how our experience of worship here at mass should have an impact on our lives. We all make a pilgrimage to get here, and afterwards we all return to our daily lives, but hopefully we don't go home the same as we arrived.