Normally, the Church celebrates the feast of the Baptism of Christ on the Sunday after Epiphany. This year is strange, in that with Christmas being on a Sunday, the Baptism of Christ got moved to last Monday (when the local Church here was celebrating the feast of ‘not dying on icy roads’) and this is the first Sunday of Ordinary Time, which (confusingly) is the Sunday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time (which started with a half week last Tuesday). Confused yet? All of those arcane calendrical calculations aside, in a coincidence, or probably act of Providence, this week we’re assigned a reading which is about the Baptism of Christ, albeit in a rather different sense than the Feast we observed on Monday. That feast is about the Baptism of Christ, as in, the time when Christ got baptized. This reading from John is about the Baptism of Christ, in the sense of the Baptism with which Christ baptizes. This reading is the kernel of the gospel, that God acts in Christ for us. In this case, the promise that Jesus will baptize us.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Third Sunday of Advent, Year A; Holy Infant Church
“Here is your God.” Behold, your God. Those are the words we heard from the book of Isaiah. It goes on: He comes with vindication, with divine recompense, he comes to save you. It goes on, talking of all the miraculous healing that will happen, all great cause for rejoicing on this Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing. But, the future, what will happen, can distract us, almost water down, the exultant immanence of the Hebrew acclamation: Hinneh elohekem! “Here Is your God.” Not, here’s the spot where he will be, just hang on; certainly not, there’s where he will be, but he’s distant now, so don’t bother Him. No. Here is your God. The cry might go up… “where?”
Saturday, December 3, 2016
2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A; Holy Infant parish
We use cute kittens for praising friends. Ask anyone who got confirmed at Holy Cross grade school in South Bend, IN in 2014 or ’15 what the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are, and right before they tell you wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, fear of the Lord, they’ll probably think to themselves: we use cute kittens for praising friends. It taught the confirmation class to our 7th and 8th graders, and made up that mnemonic (where the first letter of each word matches) to make sure they remember the seven gifts, because I knew that our bishop would base his confirmation homily around asking them what the seven gifts were and preaching about each one. Only on one quiz did I ever get told that the seven gives were wisdom, understanding, counsel, kittens, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Advent I, Year A; Holy Infant parish.
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
The resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
With righteous deeds at his coming,
So that, gathered at his right hand,
They may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.
Advent is for waiting – if people know one thing about Advent, it’s probably that. We’re waiting for Christmas, which isn’t very long to wait and we’re waiting for Christ to come again, without knowing how long that will be. Regardless, we’re waiting. So why did our opening prayer, our collect, talk about running? “Grant us the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ.” That’s what we prayed at the start of Mass. Running: it’s a fascinating and compelling characterization of what Christian waiting looks like.
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Ordinary Time, Year C, 31st Sunday; Holy Infant.
When you look at Zacchaeus, what do you see? We know what the crowd saw. They saw a short man, collaborating with Roman occupiers, a man they disdained and feared in equal measure. They saw someone who they presumed was an extortioner, and I’m sure tale upon tale of how wicked this bogeyman was spread, picking up embellishments like ships collecting barnacles. We don’t know whether this was true. We don’t know whether his extravagant gift to the poor was a one-off, spontaneous gesture occasioned by meeting Jesus, or his habitual practice that he just now makes public. We don’t know if he extorted anything, or if his promise to pay back four times as much was a cheap one to make because he had only ever made the costly decision to never act dishonestly. All we know was that he wanted to see Jesus, and he would go to any lengths necessary to make that happen. This well-to-do well-feared man, would publically humiliate himself by shimmying up a tree: All to see Jesus.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Year C, 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time; Holy Infant
Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee! Oh… wait… oops. It’s hard not to find some of him in each of us. You see, that Pharisee was a good person, a generous person. He fasted twice a week, much more often than was required. He ignored all the various exemptions concerning what kinds of income you didn’t have to pay tithes on and tithed on his total income. He fasted, gave alms and here he was in the Temple to pray – a model believer! Well, almost. Because he goes through the motions of addressing a prayer to God – beginning it “O God, I thank you…” – but our narrator, Jesus, tells us what’s really going on: “he spoke this prayer to himself.” And while he says “thank you,” his prayer merely lists his good deeds (genuine good deeds!) and the misdeeds of other mortals: entirely lacking is any mention of God’s deeds. All the good that God has inspired him to do… all that should be a living icon reminding him of the goodness of God, of God’s gracious acts of creation, of deliverance from captivity and exile, of God’s care and providence, God’s mercy. But no, this Pharisee takes his own good deeds and instead of letting them serve as an icon of God’s goodness, he makes them into an idol. And the people around him, who should be objects of his love, in whom he should be able to see the original spark on the image of God, in whom he should be able to see God acting, from whom he should be willing to learn; he simply reduces them to flat images of what not to do.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C; Holy Infant; Mass with baptism.
Whenever I come to baptize, my heart goes back to the first parish I served as a deacon, then priest, where my first baptisms and so many more were. There, like here, the font was near the door, a beautiful reminder that it is by baptism that we enter the church, like a door, and it was under a beautiful stained glass window of Jesus inviting children to come to him, to be embraced and to be blessed. Most of our baptisms there were outside of Mass so I was able to use that gospel each time. I would point them to the window, that I hope you can paint in your minds, and proclaim that this moment too, this beautiful sacramental moment of baptism, performs exactly what happened in that window (and so much more besides): a child is brought to Jesus for embrace, for blessing.