Monthly Archives: December 2014

December 28, 2014 (Year B Christmas 1) Celtic Meditation

John 1:1-18

“And the Word became flesh and … made his dwelling among us.” This is the Christmas miracle – that the Unique Son of God, who had been with God the Father forever without beginning, became what we are, a fragile human person. The Life of the World, the Life that is the Light of the World, came into our dark world of sorrow and frustration, to live among us as one of us. What does this Christmas miracle tell us about who God is and what it means to be human?

The Christmas miracle has a purpose. This purpose is so important that John the baptizer was sent to bear witness to the coming of the Light, Jesus, into the world. Moses had come to bring the Law which reveals some of the heart of God. The Son of God, Jesus, reveals even more: grace and truth. How, as Church, do we demonstrate that we know Jesus as the one who fully reveals the grace and truth of God?

Jesus came so that he might make His Father known to us. He alone of all human persons is of the same nature as the Father. Adopted children do not share the same DNA as their adopted parents, but they are loved by their adopted parents and they learn to trust their new parents. Trust is foundational to healthy relationships. We can be connected by DNA, but if we don’t believe, if we don’t know, love, and trust those with whom we share that DNA, we are not really family. Even children born by natural descent are not always true children. Knowledge and love must be mutual; it is not enough for the parent to love and know the child, but the child needs to know their parents and love them in order to be family. All people are known and loved by God, but not all people know, love, and trust God. The Unique Son of God became what we are, fully human, in order to show us his Father and show us how to love and trust the Father so that we can be what Jesus is, a child of God’s.[1] What, as Church, are we doing to help those who do not know God to see that God is trustworthy?

————————————————

[1] When the Greek church fathers use the phrase “He became what we are that we might become what he is,” the concept in view is theosis. This term is a way of describing sharing in the divine life, being caught up in the love shared between the persons of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and thus sharing in eternal life (see Hebrews 2:14 and 3:14). One way of describing this sharing in the divine life is being adopted by God as God’s children.

December 21, 2014 (Year B Advent 4) Celtic Meditation

Luke 1:26-38

With God, all things are possible. God could have worked salvation in many other ways, ways that don’t require our cooperation. But God chose to redeem the world through becoming one of us. This meant that, through the work of God the Holy Spirit, God the Son became fully human, with a human mother.   God chose to invite Mary to participate in this plan of redemption in a unique way.  Only one woman was needed to be the God-bearer, to be the one through whom the Son would take on human flesh. That said, all Christians are called to be those who, through baptism and eucharist, bear Christ in the world.

God’s invitation for Mary’s participation in God’s mission to restore right relationship with all of humanity required Mary to take a huge risk. She could have faced a death sentence from her people for getting pregnant before she was married. As Church, what is the risky ministry in which God calls us to participate?

While Mary’s invitation was startling and troubling, it was not completely out of the blue. Mary was known by God and Mary knew God. Mary recognized that the message she received from the Angel Gabriel was from God. Mary’s head and heart had been prepared to hear God’s call to a unique mission. God’s request to use her body in this unique ministry was in the context of this long relationship that we don’t get to hear about. How, as church, have we been living into our relationship with God so that we can hear our unique invitation to serve as a Christ-bearing community?

Mary’s call to her unique mission in the church is within a context. Just as Elizabeth’s son, 30 years or so after the events of today’s readings, would sign God’s invitation to the people of Israel using words and clothing that had been established centuries before his day, God gave Mary a sign that would allow her to see the pattern of redemption that God was using in her life. The beginning of God’s work through Israel started with a faithful but infertile elderly couple’s longing for a child. Mary would have known this part of the history of her people. God repeats this pattern of beginning a new work with this familiar act of power, but not with a stranger. God repeated this pattern with Mary’s relative Elizabeth. God invites in a context that includes other people who are faithful to him and in a pattern that his people can recognize. What patterns from how God was worked with his people in the past and present do you see and how can they build up our faith in our unique call to be church here and now?

December 14, 2014 (Year B Advent 3) Celtic Meditation

John 1:6-8, 19-28

In this passage we see the last prophet of Israel clearly describe his specific calling within the larger mission of the people of God.   Last week, we saw how John the baptizer, working from the long tradition of the prophets, was calling the people of Israel to turn away from the ways of the world in order to prepare for the coming King.  This is an insider conversation:  a prophet’s calling is to serve the people of God.  The purpose of the prophet’s message is to call the people of God to live out their role in God’s mission to the world.

This week, some of the leaders of Israel come to John to ask for clarification on who John is and why he is doing what he is doing.  Their first question to John is “Who are you?”  John’s response is in the context of the expectations of the people of Israel.  There has been a long silence between the last prophet and John.  They have been waiting for a word from God.  They have been waiting for God’s anointed deliverer, the Messiah, to rescue them from Roman occupation. John knows that he is not the Messiah but one who points to the Messiah.  In what ways do we, as Church, focus on ourselves, thinking that we are Messiahs, rather than simply those who humbly point to Jesus?

John the baptizer knew the urgency of his mission – the Messiah was already among the people, but unrecognized.  The kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Out of this urgency, John served his calling.  He acted, dressed, and spoke according to the traditions of the people of Israel so that they could understand his message.  How, as Church, can we work within the traditions of the Church that we know so that those who are Christians can turn from the ways of the world and return to God’s way of being God’s people?

John the baptizer knew his calling and mission.  He was to be a voice in the wilderness, calling for the people of Israel to prepare for the Messiah who is also the Prophet and King.   John will baptize those who already know themselves to be God’s people with water in preparation for the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.  This is so that the people of God can fulfill their calling to share the Light, Jesus, with the nations.  In what ways are we, as Church, helping each other live more fully into our baptismal vows so that we can participate in God’s mission to the world?

December 7, 2014 (Year B Advent 2) Celtic Meditation

Mark 1:1-8

Mark begins his gospel by telling us who Jesus is:  the Christ, which means the Anointed One, and the Son of God. But Jesus doesn’t just arrive without warning:  a prophet of old had announced that a messenger would come before the Lord’s arrival.[1]   Hundreds of years before the messenger came, the prophet Isaiah had told the people what to expect this messenger to say.[2]   This messenger appeared in an uninhabited place, dressed the way the people of his day expected a prophet to dress, speaking words that other prophets had said, telling the people to prepare because the day that the prophets of old had spoken of was near.   Throughout the history of the church, we have had people who live lives that symbolize that they are set apart to serve the church as prophets.  For the church today, what are the symbols of prophets and what old words do we expect to hear through those voices?

The messenger of God, John the baptizer, stood on the edge of the Jordan River, symbolizing entrance into the Promised Land.  He ate food that symbolized to those people that God was providing for him, moment by moment.  His message to them was to prepare the way of the Lord, which, as we heard in Psalm 85:9, begins with respecting and being in awe of the Lord.[3]    Revering the Lord is expressed by repenting, which means turning away from ways that are not approved by the Lord.  Only in this way can the people cross the Jordan and enter into the Promised Land.  This baptism of repentance marks the people as a people who are turning toward the one anointed by God.  What ways of being do we, as church, need to turn from so that we demonstrate our respect and reverence for Jesus and his ways?

John’s attitude toward the Son of God is clear:  he does not consider himself to be worthy to even do what the lowest servant in a household of that day would do for his master.  Humble John not only recognized his place in the great story of salvation, but he also recognizes the relative importance of his ministry.  The baptism for repentance is the beginning of the Christian journey.  A greater baptism is on the horizon for the people of John’s day, a baptism that initiates fellowship with the Holy Spirit.   This is the baptism we receive as Christians.  What does it mean, for us as church, to be those who are baptized into fellowship with the Holy Spirit?

————————————————————

[1] Mark begins by quoting from Malachi 3:1, the messenger prepares a way for the Lord God who will come into his temple.

[2] Isaiah 40:3 also references the coming of the Lord God. Since divine name is used in Isaiah, Mark’s use of this passage attributes full divinity to Jesus which provides the details for what he means by the term “Son of God.”

[3] Here, “fear” means awe and reverence.  See Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 3, chapter 1.