Peter and Paul (recycled from 2012)

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The celebration of these two disciples seems to be a fitting summation of this past weeks readings.  It was Saint Irenaeus who was instrumental in guaranteeing the Apostles gospel message received from Jesus was faithfully transferred to the following generations. It was Paul that delivered this message outside of his own culture to a gentile people eager to understand Jesus teachings.It was Peter who was first instructed to tend to Jesus’s flock.  I continue to notice that Jesus did not preach to only one group, or one nationality.He preached to all who were receptive to Gods word. The teachings applied to all, and I keep taking away the message that the underlying message was that God is available to all, that Jesus continuously opens up the God of the Israelites to all people.

Peter and Paul,”Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church..” Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter is the one that walked with Christ while Paul’s experience was with the Easter Christ. Peter started out as a disciple, yet frequently stumbled in his faith. He grew into the faithful preacher of the Gospel and defended the word with his life. Paul started out as a persecutor of Christianity ,”Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” . Paul ends up preaching and defending this teachings of Jesus.Peter and Paul start out in different paths, yet reach the same destination.They enter the narrow gate and follow the narrow path. Peter who delivers this message to its original and intended Jewish  recipients ; and Paul who also delivers the message to its intended Gentile people.

A gospel faithfully preached to all nations as Jesus intended. Paul who seeks Peters guidance in delivering this gospel to a people likely unfamiliar with Hebrew culture, and Peter who counsels his colleague.Most importantly Peter who accepts Paul as a disciple even though Paul originally was his persecutor.Just as Jesus continued to accept Peter though he denied him three times!  It is through these traditions that this message was delivered to me.It was made available to me as it was to members of all nations. It was delivered faithful to Christ’s teachings. It also rests on a firm foundation so that this tradition can continue.

the Epiphany of the Baptism of Jesus by John

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The feast the epiphany is such a powerful feast. Though Christmas is that big day that is celebrated commemorating the nativity, it many times is looked at as a birthday. If Christmas is that day of birth, it is the epiphany that marks the day of understanding who that Child in the manger was. That understanding is what makes the epiphany such a powerful day. Within the narrative of that day in conjunction with the nativity gospels, there is given so much information on discerning who that infant was. Though that  day frequently focuses on the magi, there are others who face their own epiphanies of who Christ is, and through the eyes of each of them, we too can get a glimpse of who the Christ child is. There are the eyes of Mary and Joseph, those of Anna and Simenon, the shepherds, and then also those magi. Each of those had their own epiphanies on who the Christ Child was based on their experiences and knowledge. To each of these God was manifested in an infant, they recognized God in a new life.

The next epiphany of who that child was, comes decades later at the baptism Of Jesus by John in the Jordan river. Here it is a crowd that hears “this is my beloved son whom I am well pleased.” With that thy don’t just see who Jesus is, but they also take an active part in Gods plan. With that voice of God, and the clouds parting, they truly know that God both recognizes them and is with them. At that baptism they are given that choice to listen and follow him. To think about Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, isn’t one also reminded just a bit of Moses at the red sea? Though God conversed with Moses, it was his followers that had to make the decision to follow him into the red sea, and emerge in a new freedom on the other side. That decision and commitment was as much about Moses followers as it was about Moses. The same is true when those Hebrews crossed the Jordan into the promised land; they could be led to that river but the decision was theirs to cross it. In looking at Jesus baptism, one can see Jesus taking on his ministry, and one can also see those in that crowd making a personal decision to follow him.

In the Baptism of the Lord, the epiphany that the disciples experienced is described in three events. They are the clouds opening, the spirit descending, and that voice of God speaking to them. With that they realized that God had not abandoned them, though with life as harsh as it was they had every reason to believe that he had. In that baptism their God had returned to them, and again spoke to them. That was a profound event that they were witness to. The baptism though is more than being witness. Johns baptism was also about repentance and returning to the Lord. These don’t simply speak of witness, but they speak of action. In witnessing that epiphany at the baptism they are called to change, and they are called to take action, and they are called to follow him.

In reading the accounts of this event, there is one other point that can  not be missed. In this scene there is the Father present as he says “this is my beloved Son”, there too is the spirit that descends in the form of a dove which is that same spirit that descends on creation, and then there is Jesus son of the Father. In this Epiphany the Trinity becomes manifest as one God with three distinct natures. It is the beginning of a new testament. The path that they are being called to follow is truly a new path. Epiphanies of God to the chosen people occur throughout the OT, the burning bush, in clouds, as a pillar of fire are a few examples. They are common enough that there is always the danger of glossing over the appearance of both the Spirit and the Father, while directing the focus on the Son. The danger of course is missing this appearance as an appearance of the trinity. It is so blatantly obvious, it might get lost in plain sight. To the writers, they were familiar with Gods presence in the clouds and heavens, and the spirit as a dove was equally common  to their faith. The revelation of Christ as Son of God, and the Son of God as flesh and bones was their epiphany. That is the Theophany. It is that Theophany which is the central teaching of Christian Faith, and this writing very much points towards that new faith and new direction. On one hand a person can think on a passage and meditate on all sorts of things. On the other hand these texts are the basis of a theology and dogma that is quite well-defined. Neither should be slighted. The catechism of the trinity, and of baptism do have their basis in the testament on the baptism of the Lord.

Theophany: a visible manifestation to humankind of God

>a repost from 2014

Holy Innocents

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At the time of the Nativity, they are those innocent children martyrs massacred by Herod, in his search and fear, of the Christ child. With them comes another Christmas revelation, and that is the Christian attitude towards Children. Herod’s actions two thousand plus years ago were nothing new, and in many parts of the world today similar mistreatment of children exist today. Might one of the messages of that first family be their attitude towards innocent children? Mary did after all say yes to that angel Gabriel and accepted her Son as the Savor. Joseph too decided against divorcing Mary, he listened to an angel and agreed to support her and her Child. Elizabeth accepted Jesus as Lord before birth. Jesus Christ in His teaching constantly asks that children come to him. While the Holy Family do see their Son uniquely as the son of God, Lord and Savior; I can’t help but wonder if that was not one of the characteristics of newborn Christians. Did they see hope and salvation through their children and the youth of the world. Was their view and attitude towards innocent children the exact opposite of those such as Herod? To look at today, is the Christian charism to raise children to their full potential as a  true means to give glory to God, and how does this contrast against those who view children as something to exploit? It is just one more thing to ponder while looking at that Nativity, when gazing on that Christ child. In looking at that Christ Child, can you see the promise of all children? That is part of the Christmas celebration, the celebration of children.

John, the beloved disciple

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Many of the icons of Saint John show him with a chalice, and frequently that chalice has a snake emerging from it. The imagery relates to a tale that the evangelist drank from a chalice poisoned by a snake yet was unharmed due to the blessing he gave that potion before drinking it.

The chalice is an important part of this apostles imagery, but I think only partially because of that story. It was John who was with Jesus at the agony of the garden when he said let this cup pass from me, but not my will but thy be done. John was one of the inner circle, witnessing the transfiguration. He stood at the foot of the cross with Mary when Jesus said behold your mother and behold your son. As that chalice held the suffering of Christ that John witnessed at the garden, he also held that vision of the transfiguration. He was in charge of protecting Mary, and of receiving her guidance and wisdom. Mary is that model of the Church, and the one who carried the Christ. Hers was the faith that proclaimed the greatness of the Lord at the incarnation, and the one who maintained that faith throughout Jesus ministry. Hers was the message of Gods joy, and when Jesus said behold your Mother; that joy was placed in charge of John. In a way that chalice that is associated with John is not simply the poisoned cup, but is also that cup of Christ’s suffering, and of the Joy signified through wine.
It is the chalice that contains the messages of Mary, as mother of the Church. It is a symbol, of apostolic succession as the priesthood, and can rightly be looked at as a combined symbol of the ministry Christ’s Church. Johns symbol, that chalice reminds one of that saints ministry role in the Church as a guardian of knowledge, and as teacher. In the Christmas narrative, Jesus is told of being laid in a manger. Later in the story, he will take wine and pour it in a chalice  and say this is my blood. That is the chalice that John holds. The Christmas narrative tells of the birth of Christ, Johns story reminds us of the reason. The manger held the body, and the chalice holds the blood.

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Gaudette (third Sunday, advent)

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Here is a lightly read post from several years back
Rejoice is the underlying theme of the third Sunday of Advent as it is the pivot of this season where the mood shifts from waiting to a joyful anticipation. To take from some of the earlier readings of the week; it is that joy of the lost sheep knowing that the Shepard is coming to free him from the thickets, and it is the Joyful knowledge announced to the flock that they have not been abandoned even though at times they feel alone. In John the Baptists asking if Christ is the one, or should they expect another; it is the Joy of Christ’s Yes! To feel the full power of the Rejoice though, one has to look at the sorrow of a lost sheep abandoned among the thorns and the flock abandoned without its Shepard. The rejoice is the knowledge that God has not abandoned creation, and that God does come to those in trouble. This third Sunday of Advent can highlight a joyful expectation when faced with a feeling of hopeless abandonment. An illustration comes with first verse of a popular hymn that begins to make its appearance on this Sunday:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
R: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
shall come to thee o Israel !

To the ancient Jews that exile was the Babylonian exile, though for anyone today exile is many things; from financial abandonment, to the exile of an outcast of society, to the battlefield solder and returning veteran, or a person struggling with illness and handicap, or those struggling through relationships, homelessness, drug addiction. The list is great. These or any of the many life struggles, often lead  to isolation; and a persons outlook indeed turns to Joy when those people know that someone cares. Perhaps one of the lessons of Christmas is to give someone abandoned in life a reason to rejoice? There is rejoicing in knowing that you are not abandoned, Christmas is that Joy in knowing that God does not abandon us. If God does not abandon us, should we abandon others? In this season of merchants gifts, here is one of Gods gifts to us, specifically Gods concern for us, and perhaps that gift should be passed on to others? Might a command of this third Sunday be to seek out one of the lost sheep of our society? Emmanuel after all means God is with us. God does not abandon us. Rejoice, and give another a reason to do the same.