Where’ve we come from and where are we going?

St. Jerome Praying with the Scriptures – Mass. Ave, NW at the Croatian Embassy

A Review of Our Parish Catechetical Process

Last summer, amidst the craziness of moving into a new parish and new ministry, I realized that not only did my preaching need an anchor… I did too!  With everything going on in world, local and church news… it can be hard to focus, to focus in a way useful to ongoing personal growth.  So it struck me in a holy hour to undertake a year-long catechesis for the parish based on the seasons, the readings and on some catechetical guidelines recommended by our Archdiocese.

Where have we come from and where are we going in that process?  If you look back on the Homilies page (above) you’ll be able to listen to preaching on all these subjects in order…

Back in October we prayed on ways that God guides us… sign posts he uses to keep us moving on the road to heaven… namely:

The Rosary
Covenants and Sacraments
God does not guide us dependent on things
Our identity as priests (royal and ordained) guides us

In November, we asked the question, “What do we believe” and looked at select issues from the Creed:

What does it mean to say, “I believe”
What does it mean that “I believe in Jesus Christ”
What does it mean to believe in a Kingdom that will have no end
Who is Christ, the KING, in whom we believe

In December we recognized the belief inspires/commends us to worship… and we all need a yearly renewal of worship during Advent, if we’re going to be ready to receive Jesus at his Nativity.

Receptivity: the beginning of worship
Prayer: how do I grow in prayer after 8th grade?
Humility: the first step in worship
How can we offer our bodies in spiritual worship

Since December we’ve moved through the Epiphany season worshipping at the crib with Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Magi… recognizing different facets of Christ’s divinity each weekend.

Now the question comes… what’s next?!?!

Well, Ordinary Time, or the “Sundays after epiphany” as reckoned in the Extraordinary Form calendar launches us on mission… but that mission requires some help and timely maintenance.  So we’ll spend these coming Sundays in February looking at just what kind of help we need… before actively seeking it during Lent (starts Ash Wednesday, March 6).  Here’s you can [I hope] look forward to:

January 27 – What is the nature of religion? Constant soul maintenance by re-reading the Law (i.e. re-legere… re-ligion)

February ⅔ – The Feast of the Presentation is Feb. 2… and on the 3rd we hear about Christ’s experience preaching in Nazareth: Like the figures in the Temple, like the synagogue members in Nazareth, do I need to refresh my eyes and ears to see the Lord?

February 10 – Duc in altum : What does it mean to “set out into the deep” with Christ

February 17 – The Beatitudes: a measure for our depth

February 24 – Loving our enemies: same topic, continued

March 3 – “Can the blind lead the blind?”  Turning always to Christ during, especially during the season of Lent… leaving behind self-rule and letting him rule in our hearts.

Stay tuned… it’s going to be a great few weeks!!!

Epiphany and the tools it gives us for life…

THOUGHTS FROM MY EPIPHANY HOMILY

Epiphany… a season no just of information, but of illumination… of the light and warmth that comes from worshipping Christ in his humanity – thoroughly established at Christmas – and now in his divinity.  Joining the magi on bended knee we find ourselves called to deeper conversion, and also mission… a mission to spread the good news in every dimension of life.  We’re also equipped with tools for mission.  Epiphany marks the beginning – in some senses – of sacramental economy… that is to say, the use of the things of this earth for the purposes of conveying divine life.  Let’s explore some of these tools and how they relate to our Epiphany mission.

Time and Knowledge Matter…

The magi were astronomers, masters of natural sciences from the East.  Unlike scholars today, engaging in siloed, categorized fields of inquiry, the ancients simply studied.  All higher knowledge was categorized as “philosophy;” literally the love (philos) of wisdom (sophia).  Scholars like the magi observed the stars to track the movement of seasons, plant crops, map geography, chart sea journeys and much more.  Now, for the first time, that natural, rational wisdom is turned by our Lord’s birth toward the purposes of evangelization.  Brothers and sisters the Church never fears knowledge or the Truth… she shouldn’t, anyway… because Christ is the Way the Truth and the Life… Like the magi we can and should always use natural reason to guide us to the author of all Truth, Jesus.  It’s interesting to note also that the first sin was the seizure of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil… and now among the first things to be redeemed is knowledge.  

There’s more thought… because it’s not just ephemeral knowledge that is baptized in this Epiphany season… Time itself is turned to Christ.  The magi’s astronomy was first and foremost about the movement of time… and now, in the fullness of time, they find themselves at the foot of the Infant Lord.  Like knowledge time is precious.  Its value only increases as we consider its finite nature.  Your life and mine will eventually end.  We have seventy years, eighty for those who are strong (cf Ps. 90:10).  Time itself will come to an end at the final judgment.  Time is precious… and we can use it for God’s eternal purposes or our own all too mortal ones.  

Matter Matters…

Time and knowledge are great… but epiphany also very definitely touches on stuff… matter.  How did the magi choose to worship God?  They brought him stuff… literally the stuff of the earth: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Royal gold acknowledges Jesus as King.  Mystic frankincense proclaims him High Priest.  Embalming myrrh recognizes and prepares for his saving death.  

Matter begins to be sanctified when Jesus takes our humanity to himself… today’s feast marks the expansion of this mystery to the things of this earth.  The holiness of things culminates with the establishment of the seven sacraments.  Common water baptizes us into his death and resurrection.  Simple bread and wine become his body and blood.  Vegetable oil is given healing and blessing qualities for anointing.  Simple words are granted the power to absolve sin.  How amazing the uses of stuff!  There’s nothing wrong with having stuff.  What do we use it for??  Therein lies the critical question.  

We matter…

The final thing to consider in sacramental economy and missions is we, our very selves.  At some point, for all their knowledge and wealth, each of the magi had to make a decision, “I’m going to journey across the desert to an unknown destination, to worship and unknown king.”  That’s a massive personal investment.  It’s not just that they took a physically perilous trip across the desert… We can only imagine the cost of taking such a trip.  At a personal level did they risk their reputations on this trek?  And as if all that wasn’t enough, on arriving in Jerusalem they take their very lives in their hands as they unwittingly rouse the anger of Herod (cf Mt 2).  Ultimately, all of us need to make a personal decision… an investment of the whole of our lives into the Jesus experience.  It’s important.  

On the negative side, we’ve seen what happens when even a few of us walk away from Jesus, when we turn hypocrite.  I’m referring, of course, to the scandalous news that has rocked the Church since this past summer.  A tiny minority of individuals have brought the whole Church to it knees shaking the faith of us all.  The personal investment of individuals matters.

On the positive side, I think of an old colleague, Ed Sullivan.  Ed just died a few days ago.  He was an active Knight of Columbus serving others, praying, and befriending all those he met.  Mundane stuff, right?  But in the midst of these mundane exercises Ed met some college guys and invited them to found a K of C council at the Catholic University of America.  From that council have come vowed priests and religious… and ten times as many good faithful Catholic men who will be husbands, fathers of families and raise up a generation of faith and hope!  …all because one simple man was a friend to a few others.  The personal investment of individuals matters.  How will you invest yourself after the example of the Magi.

A season of epiphanies…

The Feast of the Epiphany may have happened this past Sunday, but the season of Epiphany is far from over.  On the old calendar there was a whole explicit season called “Epiphanytide”.  Remnants of this are still with us.  The second Sunday after Christmas is Epiphany when the magi worship Christ.  The Third Sunday after Christmas (now called the First of Ordinary Time) is the Baptism of the Lord, when the voice of the Father recognizes his Son and the Spirit descend on him in the form of a dove (Lk 3).  The fourth Sunday After Christmas (now reckoned as the 2nd of Ordinary Time) may appear non-descript as the priests dress in Green once more… but look at the Gospel… It’s the wedding at Cana (Jn 2) when Jesus performs his first public miracle and people begin to recognize his divinity… a third epiphany moment!  Spend these weeks absorbing the light and warmth of epiphany in all its forms… Like the Lord and the magi, start using the things of this world to convey his divine life to others.