A HOUSE FOR ALL PEOPLES
By Father Morgan V. Rice, CSB
The first reading from Isaiah ends with the Lord’s saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (56:7). The psalm echoes that notion of all people offering prayer to God in the response, “Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you!” (67:3). Would that not be a beautiful experience of a united human family that has come to know our merciful and loving God shown to us in the person of Jesus Christ? I believe we get tastes of it when we, a diverse people representing different nations, cultures, ages, and backgrounds, gather together at the Eucharist to worship the Lord and be nourished by Jesus. This I have witnessed during my two or so months here at St. Basil’s; however, we know this is not the case in all parts of our world.
I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, Va., where the violent and hateful events of last weekend occurred. The demonstration of one group of people claiming to be superior to others goes against the future the Lord has laid out and against what Jesus taught us by his compassion and non-violence. Instead of the community of trust, mutual respect, and life that the Lord desires, the actions of those in Charlottesville led to the loss of human life and an atmosphere of fear and division. Condemning the violence at UVA, the university’s Rector wrote in a message to alumni, “We are all here for a purpose, and the events of the last few days have leant that purpose greater clarity and urgency”.
Events like Charlottesville certainly do clarify our purpose as women and men striving to live out Gospel values and bring the Good News of Christ to all. One of those values is to open ourselves to the gifts and goodness of others who come from backgrounds that we might have been taught to fear or be suspicious of. We do that when we make it a point to encounter and get to know others, particularly those who are different from us, with a belief that we can learn and be transformed from our interactions. Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman and the recognition of her tremendous faith demonstrated that his mission was broader than originally understood. To what insights might our interactions lead us?
In a couple of weeks, university students from around the world will be coming to begin the academic year. The University of St. Michael’s College campus will be abuzz with Orientation Week activities. As part of those activities, students will be attending the 4:30pm Mass on Sunday, 3 September. My hope is that hundreds will come to celebrate and will find a welcoming home at St. Basil’s, where together we can all join in praise of God and truly be a house of prayer for all peoples.
Isaiah 56.1, 6-7 2
FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION
By Lisa Fernandes
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This is an ancient feast that was gradually introduced into the Western Church, and made a universal feast by Pope Callistus III in 1457. It celebrates Christ’s glorious transformation before several Apostles.
Just prior to the Transfiguration Jesus takes Peter, James and his brother John up a high mountain where his appearance changes: “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Matthew 17.2).
According to the Catechism: “Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent onto the ‘high mountain’ prepares for the ascent to Calvary” (CCC 568). Today it is an important reminder of Christ’s divine nature; we all need reminders to strengthen our faith in this age of chaos.
Peter, James and John were purposely chosen as Jesus only needed a few witnesses and these, specifically, were part of his inner circle. These are the same three disciples that later accompanied Christ to Gethsemane on the eve of his passion. The transfiguration was not meant for the masses even though Peter misunderstood what was happening and wanted to build tents to mark the event and show everyone. But it was meant only for their eyes as Peter and the other disciples realize when suddenly God says: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (Matthew 17.5). It was at this point that the disciples fell down to the ground in awe.
I think it is important for us as current believers to understand their amazement. In our society where there sometimes seems to be a lack of wonder and we are becoming jaded, we seem to have lost our childlike amazement. We overuse the term “awesome.”
I was reminded of this in a recent obituary of Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, a longevity expert who died at the age of 105. He had many rules for living longer: “We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep,” he often said. “I believe we can keep that attitude as adults — it is best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.”
How can you recapture your amazement at this wonderful life God has given us? Write a gratitude journal. Find awe in everyday things. I recently went to hear one of the world’s greatest choirs, The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge from England and I thought how lucky I was to have this experience. And also don’t take for granted Christ’s sacrifice. Pope Francis encouraged parishioners to look at the Cross often, and to remember how Jesus was “annihilated” to save us.
Relish the rare moments in between our everyday life when we might sense we are on the mountaintop in communion with Jesus.
Daniel 7.9-10, 13-14 2
You Have Revealed To Little Ones The Mysteries Of The Kingdom
By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell
One of the main principles of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is to focus on “the essential.” In preparing the presentations for the children, it is important to not overwhelm them with explanations full of deep theological concepts. Instead, we find the one kernel, the key phrase, the key theme, the key image, and we let each child experience the wonder surrounding it in their own way. Their reactions may be big or small but, as Paul’s letter to the Romans emphasizes, sometimes when the Holy Spirit is at work, there are no words; only silence and awe.
Have you ever seen a mustard seed? It is a speck, barely bigger than the head of a pin. The children of the Atrium put their hands out to us and cup them together. They are anxious to have “the smallest of all the seeds” placed in their hands. The moment they receive the seed they are struck by the size and raise their cupped hands closer to their face to get a closer look.
They engage with the reverence of the moment the same way adults respond to the miracle of a newborn baby. Some comment on the size over and over exclaiming, “It is so small,” while others sit in awe trying to protect the seed in their hands. The children are keenly aware that the seed they are holding has a strength within that no words can describe. We also show the children a picture of the transformation which will occur once that seed is planted and grows. The tree has a trunk that is thick and can grow to be 20ft tall. The branches extend and weep like a willow’s. It can withstand harsh arid climates and, no matter what it endures, it will continue to grow and survive. It is a transformation that is both mysterious and beautiful.
For our youngest children in the Atrium, the essential is the movement between small and great. So simple but so very rich with meaning. They take this knowledge and apply it to everything they see in the world. Everything that grows, including themselves, starts small and transforms into something that seems unimaginable. Eventually we, the catechists, pose the question, “Whose strength could be so great, to transform a mustard seed into a tall tree?” It is the marvel of creation. For God’s presence is in all things and always ensures that new life and growth will occur. Even if it seems impossible.
This is the Kingdom of God. It is all that exists as it is born and transforms and withstands. It is beyond words. But to marvel at it, as the littlest amongst us show us, is a form of prayer. Jesus tells us to humble ourselves like children. So today, let each of us take a moment to be childlike and marvel at the Kingdom of God that is all around us.
Wisdom 12.13, 16–19