Tag Archives: mission

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Visitation
Faith gives life and sends us on a mission. That’s what it did for Mary, Luke’s gospel says.

Mary believes the angel who announces in Nazareth the coming of Jesus, and she’s empowered by the message. So,  she sets out “in haste” for the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, who also was with child. It’s not an ordinary visit. She goes “in haste” because she’s filled with a sense of mission. She hurries to Judea to announce good news to her relatives serving in the temple of God.

Faith is not a burden; it empowers us. It does not cripple us, it enables.

 “Blessed are you who believed,” Elizabeth says to Mary.

“You too, my people, are blessed,” comments St. Ambrose, “ you who have heard and who believe. Every soul that believes — that soul both conceives and gives birth to the Word of God and recognizes his works.

“Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you, to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one of you, to rejoice in God. According to the flesh only one woman can be the mother of Christ, but in the world of faith Christ is the fruit of all of us.”

As with Mary so with us, faith gives life and sends us on a mission..

A year ago today we blessed our Mary Garden here. We will pray there after the 11 AM Mass.

A Mother’s Plans for James and John

On today’s feast of St. James, the apostle,  Matthew’s gospel describes the mother of James and John asking Jesus to give her sons privileged places in his kingdom. “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”

I’m not sure she would have fallen at Jesus’ feet as she’s pictured in the illustration above. They were related, after all, and her approach was probably more indirect. She probably reminded Jesus that James and John were his cousins, and she was one of his relations too. Family ties have always helped people get ahead.

Jesus doesn’t dismiss her altogether, but he reminds her that his followers are to serve and not be served. It’s a service that will cost them, even their lives. Following him doesn’t mean that they and their family would gain. Like the Son of Man James and John will  have to give their lives “for many.”

They’re called by God to reach out, and reaching out can be hard, sometimes painful. It means going beyond those we call our own, our families and friends. It means reaching out to those we don’t know, even to those we don’t like. It means going beyond what we’re used to.

Later stories say that James and John went to places far beyond the Sea of Galilee where they fished with their father Zebedee and were cared for by a mother who had their interests at heart. Our church is a missionary church. It reaches out to the whole world. That’s what  Jesus last words in Matthew’s gospel says to do:  “Go out to the whole world, baptizing and teaching.”

That’s still his word today. Go out to the whole world, even if the world is changing and the future is uncertain. “I am with you all days,” Jesus says.

Today is the feast of St. James, brother of John, also known as  James the Greater, to distinguish him from James the Less, the other disciple mentioned in the New Testament. James was the first of the apostles to die for Christ; he was beheaded in Jerusalem by King Herod Agrippa in 42 AD.

Later Traditions About James

Some 4th century Christian writers say that one of the apostles went to Spain. A 6th century source identifies James as the apostle, who preached briefly in Spain and converted only a few before returning to Jerusalem and his death.

Modern scholars are divided about the truth of the tradition. Relics said to be of St. James were discovered in Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain in the 9th century, a major event in Spanish history. His shrine at Compostella became a major pilgrimage center for the people of Spain and Europe, rivaling even Rome and Jerusalem in its popularity.

From the 9th century onward, James was patron of the Spanish peoples and a rallying cry in their fight to free their land from the Moors. At four battles – Clavijo (9th c.), Simancas (10th c.), Coimbra (11th c.) and Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) – legends say he appeared as a warrior astride a great white horse with a sword in his hand. Throughout the Middle Ages, soldiers and knights  came as pilgrims to Compostela to seek the saint’s protection.

In 1492, when Spain was finally free of Moorish domination, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella came to Compostela to give thanks to St.James in the name of the Spanish people.

How old are the relics of St.James? Pilgrims from Galicia were frequent visitors to the Holy Land as early as the 4th century and may have brought the relics back to their native land. Colorful legends from medieval times, however, brought the story back further to the time of the apostle himself, saying that disciples of James fled with his body after he was beheaded and, escaping by boat, drifted to the coast of Spain where, after many adventures they buried him. These legends about James appear frequently in medieval art and in numerous churches built in his honor in France, England, and later in the Spanish colonies of the New World. Cities such as Santiago, Chile, Santiago, Cuba,San Diego, California, are named after him. The feast of St.James is July 25.

As Lambs Among Wolves

In the gospels read at Mass this week, from the 10th chapter of Matthew, Jesus instructs his disciples and sends them on their mission. His words are important because he calls us also to follow him. We share the mission of his disciples, we have a mission, together and as individuals.

Our life is a journey and a ministry we share with Jesus. When he sent out his disciples, he asked them to do what he did in his ministry in Galilee. His Galilean mission was the pattern for the mission of his disciples.

His invitation is so simple. “Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.” (Matthew 10, 1)

Jesus empowered his disciples; they don’t go without his grace. He empowers his disciples to lift the yoke of evil from themselves and others, to raise up hope in a struggling world. He calls each by name. Peter, James, John…. Each with a mission to fulfill. Then, “Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 10, 10)

For the time being, they’re not to go into pagan territory or Samaritan towns, but to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” There’s no elaborate timetable, no definite assignments. There is no economic security or assurance they’ll be received well or their mission successful. Jesus’ instructions are general and imprecise.

As he instructs his disciples, Jesus says repeatedly “Don’t be afraid.” There’s plenty in these instructions to make us afraid. No promises of power or success. We’re sent “like lambs among wolves.”

Instead of a long term program, it seems to me our mission is best seen facing the day at hand. We pray for daily bread. Something must be done each day, something that adds to a picture we still don’t see. Let’s face the day. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Stations of the Cross

 

 

 

 

 

See also Stations of the Cross by young people at: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2018/documents/ns_lit_doc_20180330_via-crucis-meditazioni_en.html

Friday Thoughts: Simple Awe

Picasso, The Blind Man's Meal, 1903

Picasso, “The Blind Man’s Meal”, (1903)

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The ear that hears, the eye that seesthe Lord has made them both.

—Proverbs 20:12

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It is the simple times. It is when we are doing life one dirty dish, one utility bill, one ordinary errand at a time that deepened faith creates an awe-filled stir.

For much is said of the bells and whistles of supernatural faith—but what is most supernatural is the presence of “all”, of “everything”, of “heaven and earth” in each dirty dish, each electric bill, each trip to the dollar store. What is most supernatural is the acknowledged presence of God in day-to-day life.

The deeper our trust, the more complete our surrender, the less “exciting” the external signs need to be. Or to express it differently: The least “exciting” times become so overwhelmingly profound that bells and whistles are hardly noticed.

We are told that we need an ear that hears and an eye that sees.

But what is it to have them?

Is it being still within God’s presence while the sponge soaks, the envelope seals, the cash register line slowly shortens?

The skeptic may see such a man as confined by complacency, dangerously satisfied, or simply numb. The skeptic may even call such a man “blind”.

That is certainly one way to look at it.

There is another:

Or is it that the mighty awe of a salvaged life has finally taken hold?

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Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

—Luke 10:23-24

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—Howard Hain

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Jesus, the Teacher

This evening at our mission at Immaculate Conception Parish in Irvington on the Hudson, I spoke about Jesus, the Teacher. I like Rembrandt’s drawing of Jesus preaching to a crowd. For one thing, the crowd around him seems to represent all ages, shapes and sizes of ordinary humanity. Jesus’ disciples, like Peter, James and John may be there, but they don’t seem to stand out. Maybe some of his enemies are there, but they don’t stand out either. They’re all there listening, except maybe the little child on the ground playing with something he’s found. And Jesus teaches them.

Did Rembrandt find these faces in the people of his neighborhood, ordinary people? If that’s so, this crowd could be us.

Luke’s gospel seems a lot like this painting to me. In much of Luke’s gospel Jesus makes his way from Galilee to Jerusalem, and as he goes his way he calls everybody to follow him. Some women from Galilee follow him. He calls Zachaeus, the tax collector, down from a tree to join him. Follow me, he says to a blind man begging in the same place for years. He called people in every shape and form, sinners, tax-collectors, everyone.

It was not just to see him die that he calls them to follow him, but to go with him onto glory. “Come with me this day to paradise, “ Jesus says to the thief on the cross. Our creed says he descends into hell, which means he goes to those who have been waiting for centuries for the redemption he brings. He calls to all, to them and to us, to follow him.

Following Jesus to glory also means taking up our cross each day. Listen to Luke’s gospel: “Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily *and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’” ( Luke 9, 23-24 )

Listen carefully to what Jesus says. He speaks to “all”. Everyone in this world has a challenge to take up and a burden to bear. Jesus also says, “take up your cross.” It’s a cross that’s distinctly ours. It’s not the same cross that Jesus bore; it’s the cross we bear. “Do you want to see the cross? Hold out your arms; there it is.” (Wisdom of the Desert)

He blesses us from his cross. He gives us strength to bear what we have to bear and to carry out the mission he gives us.

Besides taking up our cross each day, Jesus says also to become like little children to enter into his glory. Often in the gospel, Jesus points to children when his own disciples try to lord it over other people. Listen again to St. Luke:

“An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” Luke 9, 46-48

One of the saints describes this teaching very well. Jesus doesn’t tell us to go back to being children physically. We can’t do that. This is what it means to be children. “To be free from crippling anxieties, to be forgetful of injuries, to be sociable, and to stand in wonder before all things.” (St. Leo the Great)

There’s great wisdom in Jesus’ teaching on spiritual childhood. No matter how old or young we are, we’re called to become like children. Rembrandt instinctively has a child prominently in his drawing of Jesus preaching to the crowd. Jesus opens his hands as he preaches. Can we see him teaching them they must bear their cross?

Morning Thoughts: Counting Drops

massimo-stanzione-pieta-1621-25

Massimo Stanzione, “Pieta”, (1621-25)


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For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

—1 Corinthians 13:12


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Nothing.

Some days all we can do is count raindrops. There seems to be little else on the horizon.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)

On days such as these, a friend, a family member, a neighbor—perhaps even a stranger—may ask us if anything is wrong.

The answer is short and straightforward: “No, nothing at all.”

Yet, it is precisely that.

“Nothing” is precisely the problem:

The abyss of faith.

It’s hard.

It’s hard to journey in darkness.

It’s hard to swim in a bottomless sea without attempting every once in a while to touch bottom.

It’s also hard not to wonder if there’s something dangerous swimming just below.

But we must resist temptation, no matter its shape or size.

We must keep our eyes on the Island of Hope, with its very distinct Tree of Life, firmly planted, and reaching far above the horizon.

Instead of looking backwards or beneath, we must look to Christ lifted high up upon the Cross.

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We too must ascend. We too must rise above knowledge, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” (Phil. 3:13)

And we must never despair. Never.

And why would we? God’s drops of love are everywhere.

Start to count them. Start to count this very day. Count the drops dripping from Christ’s open wounds. His crucified presence abounds; there are so many instances of Christ being put to the test—of Christ being nailed to the Cross—right in front of us, each and every day.

The Crucified Christ we personally discover within our immediate presence, literally within arm’s reach, just may be that same friend, family member, neighbor, or stranger who asked us just a little while ago if anything was wrong.

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Count your blessings on the outstretched fingers of the Lord.

Order your days according to the Stations of His Cross.

For without the Passion there is no Resurrection.

That’s part and parcel of The Promise:

God became man, so that man may dwell eternally with God.

His promise is everything.

Our doubt is nothing.

And the space in between, the space between His promise and our doubt, is filled with the very real stuff we call “life”— “the nuts and bolts” of daily existence, the building blocks of the Body of Christ—the Kingdom of God.

We just have to continue to walk, in faith, one step at a time. Knowing that we never walk alone.

Christ is always with us. He shares our total existence—in all things but sin—and even that, He got to know well. For the Guiltless One took upon Himself our sins and those of the whole world.

Jesus not only hung upon the Cross, He was yanked on all the while He was up there—the weight of a fallen world ceaselessly pulling down on His spotless hands and feet.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin…” (2 Cor. 5:21)

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Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Jesus held back not a drop. He gave it all. And we in return are offered everything:

Sons and daughters of God. Co-heirs of the Kingdom.

How can we ever repay such a gift?

That’s the point. We can’t.

It’s grace. Pure grace.

Unwarranted mercy, non-merited compassion and forgiveness, unearned love.

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Grace-filled moments such as these, when we realize just how small we truly are, bring us astonishingly close to the Creator of all—wonderfully close to Him Whom nothing can be compared.

They fill us with hope, the hope of what is to come, the hope of what Christ Himself promises.

In the meantime, let us keep counting raindrops. They too shall soon cease to fall. For one day, even faith will no longer be needed, for we shall see God “face to face.”


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Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

—1 John 3:2


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—Howard Hain

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