What does it mean for us to be light?
By Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB
Last weekend we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. As we blessed the candles that we use in Church and at home we were reminded that Jesus is the light of the World. This weekend Jesus speaking to his disciples and to the Church, the Body of Christ, “You are the light of the world, …let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” What does it mean for us to be light?
Isaiah tells us, “…to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up quickly… If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday”.
The light of compassion and mercy that may be as source of healing, hope and liberation for some, may also be a challenge and judgment on others. For the light may also reveal what causes the darkness. Dom Hélder Câmara (1909-1999), Archbishop of Olinda and Recife in Brazil, an advocate for the poor and oppressed said, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist”.
Over the centuries many individual Christians and the Church, herself, have been worthy witnesses to Christ’s care and concern for those who suffer and they are models of God’s love and mercy as they feed the hungry, care for the sick, shelter the homeless and educate men and women so that they can live happy and productive lives. Others at times have spoken out against the injustices, suffering and hurt caused by prejudice, economic systems, governments.
As we reflect on this week’s readings let us consider how we have been light to others and how others have been light to us. Let us pray that we be sensitive to the needs of others and work together to find the causes and cures for injustice in our society and the world in which we live.
1 Corinthians 2.1-5
Who Made God?
By Nancy Nobrega
One of our daughters lives in the United States so I often talk to my grandsons on the phone. Since they are young they get their Mom to call and then she hands the phone over to them. Nana “knows everything” and “Nana rules” so they sometimes ask for information and sometimes ask for permission thinking that I will overrule my daughter when she has already said no. One day, when he was 4, Ryan called and asked me, “Nana, if God made me and you and Mommy and Daddy (etc. etc.) who made God?” I wasn’t really ready for that but the Holy Spirit helped me and I replied, “Honey that is the most important and best mystery of all!” I felt ok about that answer because it really is the truth and he was quite satisfied and ran off to play. Kids accept and love mysteries and isn’t everything a mystery to them? That’s all he needed to know.
Isaiah, St. Paul and St. Matthew didn’t ask any more questions either. Prophets like Isaiah did not have easy lives telling the truth that more often than not no one wanted to hear. Isaiah told us that we must trust the Lord to love and care for us even when we are in hard times. God does not give up on us so we should not give up on him. Even today the truth is often hard to hear or sometimes believe. We are however given the task of being prophets by our covenant with God at our Baptism. Richard Rohr tells us the prophets are not so much those who tell the future but “ones who see clearly in the present.”
St. Paul’s life was transformed when he “met” Jesus on the road to Damascus. He had been a harsh and cruel man, persecuting Christians until he met Jesus and became a disciple – fully engaged. He heard the truth and off he went to spread the word, travelling throughout his world and eventually dying for the truth.
St. Matthew did not have an easy life either. He was a tax collector – shunned by his community. He was the only one of the three from the readings and Gospel today who met Jesus in His humanity. His life was also transformed when he heard the truth of Jesus’ word.
He connected the Old and New Testament when he wrote in his Gospel that Jesus was the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had foretold. He also died for the truth.
These men who were chosen by God to spread his word were not chosen because they were saints. As we have so often heard, they were just ordinary people like you and me. We have our good days and bad days and there are times when we are not proud of what we do. We are not asked to die for God, but we are asked to let our “old life” die – the life that we are not proud of. We ask God for help often and every time we share in the Eucharist we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We ask for God’s grace to help us let our old lives die.
In today’s gospel Matthew tells us that as soon as Jesus called to Peter, Andrew, James and John they left their whole lives behind to follow him. They were humble fishermen and “immediately left their nets to follow Him.” They did not doubt, they saw the truth. At the end of Mass, Father sends us off with the grace of his blessing and tells us, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” Fr. Norm, in his homily last week ended by quoting St. Francis. “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” We don’t need to be prophets like Isaiah, or evangelists like Paul or gospel writers like Matthew, but we are just as important to God.
God made us too. Each one of us can show the truth of God’s word by our actions and we just need to have “no doubt” about the truth, just like little children, like my Ryan, that God’s grace will help us in our enthusiasm and commitment as it did and does for these great men and the little children whom God so loves. That is the joy that we must feel, the truth that we must see – our task and our purpose, to help one another see God. It is a mystery and it’s all we need to “know”.
1 Corinthians 1.10-13, 17-18
By Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB
John the Baptist in today’s Gospel reading, points to Jesus Christ saying, “…He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” It is through Baptism that we put on Christ and become members of the Body of Christ, the Church. St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians writes, “To the church of God, … to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. St. Paul prays for unity and peace among Christians. All those who are baptized in Christ, Catholic and non-Catholic, are united to each other in Christ. St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians wrote, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). But since the beginning of Christianity there have been misunderstandings and arguing, divisions and schisms. Sometimes those divisions have been reconciled, but at other times they have remained, even at times becoming deeper and more painful. These divisions are what prompted St. Paul to write to the Ephesians, “… lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). This admonition is still appropriate today as we encounter disharmony among Christians, even discord within the Catholic Church. From Saturday, 18 January (the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter) until 25 January (the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul) we invite you to pray with Christians around the world to pray for harmony and peace among all the baptized. Here is a prayer you might want to pray daily during the Church Unity Octave. God, giver of life, we thank you for the gift of your compassionate love which soothes and strengthens us. We pray that our churches may be always open to receive your gifts from one another. Grant us a spirit of generosity to all as we journey together in the path of Christian unity. We ask this in the name of your Son who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Isaiah 49.3, 5-6
1 Corinthians 1.1-3