Friday, January 25, 2013

God's Chisel

Day 8 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Day 8Walking in celebration

Habakkuk 3.17-19Celebrating in a time of hardship
Psalm 100The worship of God through all the earth
Philippians 4.4-9Rejoice in the Lord always
Luke 1:46-55The Song of Mary

To walk humbly with God means to walk in celebration. The visitor to India is struck by the hardships and struggles endured by Dalits, but at the same time by their sense of hope and celebration.
Hope and celebration occur together in today’s biblical readings. The prophet Habakkuk rejoices in the Lord at a time of drought and crop failure. Such testimony that God will walk with his people in their difficulties is a celebration of hope. The Blessed Virgin Mary walks to her cousin Elizabeth in order to celebrate her pregnancy. She sings her Magnificat as a song of hope even before the birth of her child. And from prison, Paul exhorts the Christian community at Philippi to celebration: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” In the Bible, celebration is linked to hope in God’s faithfulness.

The celebratory aspects of Dalit culture bear similar testimony to a gospel of faith and hope, forged out of the crucible of the Dalit experience of struggle for dignity and resilient survival. As we pray for Christian unity this week, we turn to the celebration of life that we see in India with focus on the faithfulness of Dalits to their Christian identity in the context of their struggles for life. Our celebration for a unity among Christians which has yet to be achieved likewise occurs in hope and struggle. It is grounded in hope that Christ’s prayer that we may be one will be achieved in God’s time and through God’s means. It is grounded in gratitude that unity is God’s gift, and in recognition of the unity we already experience as the friends of Jesus, expressed in one baptism. It is grounded in the conviction that God calls each of us to work for that unity, and that all our efforts will be used by God, trusting with St Paul “in everything by prayer and thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The walk towards Christian unity requires that we walk humbly with God in celebration, in prayer, and in hope.

Gracious God, may your Holy Spirit fill our communities with joy and celebration, so that we can cherish the unity we already share, and zealously continue in the search for visible unity. We rejoice in the faith and hope of peoples who refuse to allow their dignity to be diminished, seeing in them your wonderful grace and your promise of freedom. Teach us to share in their joy and learn from their faithful endurance. Rekindle our hope and sustain our resolve, that in Christ’s name we may walk together in love, raising a united voice of praise, and singing together one prayer of adoration.
God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

  • What are the struggles towards justice in your community? What are the causes for celebration on the way?
  • What are the struggles towards Christian unity in your community? What are the causes for celebration along the way?

Day 7 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Day 7Walking in solidarity

Numbers 27.1-11The right of inheritance to daughters
Psalm 15Who shall abide in God’s sanctuary?
Acts 2.43-47The disciples held all things in common
Luke 10.25-37The Good Samaritan

To walk humbly with God means walking in solidarity with all who struggle for justice and peace. This poses a question for those who pray for the unity of Christians this week: what is the unity we seek? The Faith and Order Commission, which includes the members of the fellowship of the World Council of Churches as well as the Catholic Church, understands unity as “visible unity in one faith and in one Eucharistic fellowship.” The ecumenical movement is dedicated to overcome the historic and current barriers that divide Christians, but it does so with a vision of visible unity that links the nature and mission of the Church in the service of the unity of humankind and the overcoming of all that harms the dignity of human beings and keeps us apart. As Faith and Order has said:

The Church is called and empowered to share the suffering of all by advocacy and care for the poor, the needy and the marginalised. This entails critically analysing and exposing unjust structures, and working for their transformation... This faithful witness may involve Christians themselves in suffering for the sake of the Gospel.The Church is called to heal and reconcile broken human relationships and to be God’s instrument in the reconciliation of human division and hatred (Nature and Mission of the Church).

There are many examples of such acts of healing and reconciliation by the Indian churches. Until very recently, Christian inheritance laws in India disempowered daughters. The churches supported the demand for a repeal of this archaic law. The story of the daughters of Zelophehad, in which Moses turned to God for justice in support of the rights of the daughters, was invoked to demand justice for women. Thus, Dalit Christians have been moved in their struggles for justice by such biblical witness.

A biblical image of Church united in solidarity with the oppressed is Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan. Like the Dalits, the Good Samaritan is from a despised and outcast community, who is the one in the story who cares for the man abandoned by the wayside, and who proclaims by his solidarity in action, the hope and comfort of the Gospel. The walk towards Christian unity is inseparable from walking humbly with God in solidarity with any and all in need of justice and kindness.

Triune God, in your very life you offer us a unique pattern of interdependence, loving relationships and solidarity. Unite us to live our lives in this way. Teach us to share the hope that we find in people who struggle for life all over the world. May their endurance inspire us to overcome our own divisions, to live in holy accord with one another, and to walk together in solidarity. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

  • Who in your community stands in need of the solidarity of the Christian community?
  • What churches are, or have been in solidarity with you?
  • In what ways would more visible Christian unity enhance the Church’s solidarity with those who stand in need of justice and kindness in your context?

Day 6 of the Week of Prayer of Christian Unity

Day 6Walking beyond barriers

Ruth 4.13-18The offspring of Ruth and Boaz
Psalm 113God the helper of the needy
Ephesians 2.13-16Christ has broken down the dividing wall between us
Matthew 15.21-28Jesus and the Canaanite woman

To walk humbly with God means walking beyond barriers that divide and damage the children of God. Christians in India are aware of the divisions among themselves. St Paul lived with the devastating divisions in the earliest Christian community between Gentile and Jewish Christians. To this barrier and to every subsequent one, Paul proclaims that Christ “is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall between us.” Elsewhere Paul writes, “As many of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.27-28). In Christ, all the deep barriers of the ancient world—and their modern successors—have been removed because on the Cross Jesus created in himself one new humanity.

In a world in which religious barriers are often difficult to cross, Christians who are a tiny minority in the multi-religious context of India remind us of the importance of interreligious dialogue and cooperation. Matthew’s Gospel tells of the difficult journey for Jesus—and his disciples— to cross the barriers of religion, culture and gender when he is confronted by a Canaanite woman who pleads with Jesus to cure her daughter. The disciples’ visceral instinct to send her away and Jesus’ own hesitation are overcome by her faith, and by her need. From hence Jesus and his disciples were able to cross the imposed human barriers and boundaries of the ancient world. Such is already present in the Hebrew Bible. The book of Ruth, the Moabite woman of a different culture and religion, concludes with a list of her offspring with the Israelite Boaz. Their child Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of David. The ancestry of the hero-King of ancient Israel reflects the fact that God’s will may be fulfilled when people cross the barriers of religion and culture. The walk with God today requires that we cross the barriers that separate Christians from one another and from people of other faiths. The walk towards Christian unity requires walking humbly with God beyond the barriers that separate us from one another.

Father, forgive us for the barriers of greed, prejudice, and contempt that we continually build which separate us within and between churches, from people of other faiths, and from those we consider to be less important than us. May your Spirit give us courage to cross these boundaries, and to tear down the walls that disconnect us from each other. Then with Christ may we step forth into unknown terrain, to carry his message of loving acceptance and unity to all the world. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

  • What are the barriers that separate Christians in your community?
  • What are the barriers that separate Christians from other religious traditions in your community?
  • What are the differences and similarities between walking beyond the barriers that separate Christians from one another, and walking beyond those between Christianity and other religions?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day 5 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Day 5Walking as the friends of Jesus

Song of Solomon 1.5-8Love and the beloved
Psalm 139.1-6You have searched me out and known me
3 John 2-8Hospitality to friends in Christ
John 15.12-17I call you friends

To walk humbly with God does not mean walking alone. It means walking with those who are those vital signs of God’s presence among us, our friends. “But I have called you friends” says Jesus in John’s Gospel. Within the freedom of love, we are able to choose our friends, and to be chosen as a friend. “You did not choose me, but I chose you” Jesus says to each of us. Jesus’ friendship with each of us transfigures and transcends our relationships with family and society. It speaks of God’s deep and abiding love for us all.
The Bible’s love poem, the Song of Solomon, has been interpreted in various ways such as the love of God for Israel, or the love of Christ for the Church. It remains the testimony of passion between lovers which transcends the imposed boundaries of society. While the lover says to her beloved “I am black and beautiful”, her words come with the plea “do not gaze at me because I am dark.” But the lover does gaze, and chooses love, as does God in Christ.

What does the Lord require of those called to walk with Jesus and his friends? In India it is a call to the churches to embrace the Dalits as equal friends of their common friend. Such a call to be friends with the friends of Jesus is another way of understanding the unity of Christians for which we pray this week. Christians around the world are called to be friends with all those who struggle against discrimination and injustice. The walk towards Christian unity requires that we walk humbly with God with—and as—the friends of Jesus.

Jesus, from the first moment of our being you offered us your friendship. Your love embraces all peoples, especially those who are excluded or rejected because of human constructions of caste, race or colour. Filled with the confidence and assurance of our dignity in you, may we walk in solidarity towards each other, and embrace each other in the Spirit, as children of God. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

  • Who are those in your communities whom Christ calls into your friendship?
  • What prevents the friends of Jesus from being friends with one another?
  • How does being the friends of the same Jesus challenge the divided churches?

    everything but the image taken from

Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 4 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Day 4Walking as children of the earth

Leviticus 25: 8-17The land is for the common good, not personal gain
Psalm 65: 5b-13The fruitful outpouring of God’s grace on the earth
Romans 8: 18-25The longing of all creation for redemption
John 9: 1-11Jesus’ healing, mud, bodies and water

If we are to walk in humility with God, we will need always to be aware of ourselves as part of creation, and recipients of God’s gifts. There is a growing recognition in today’s world that better understanding of our authentic place in creation must become a priority for us. Among Christians, especially, there is a growing awareness of the ways in which ecological concern is a part of “walking humbly with God”, the creator; for all we have is given by God in his creation, and so is not “ours” to do with as we wish. It is for this reason that from 1 September to 4 October Christians are called to observe the Time for Creation—a practice increasingly observed by many churches. In 1989 the Ecumenical Patriarch, Dimitrios I, proclaimed 1 September as a day of prayer for the environment. The Orthodox Church’s liturgical year starts on that day with a commemoration of God’s creation of the world. On 4 October, many churches from the Western traditions commemorate Francis of Assisi, the author of the “Canticle of Creation”. The beginning and closing of the Time for Creation are thus linked with the concern for creation in the Eastern and the Western traditions of Christianity, respectively.

The Christian story is one of redemption for all creation; it is creation’s own story. The belief that, in Jesus, God becomes a human person, in a particular place and time is a central belief around which all Christians gather. It is a shared belief in the Incarnation which carries with it a profound recognition of the importance of creation - of bodies, food, earth, water, and all that feeds our life as people on the planet. Jesus is fully part of this world. It may be slightly shocking to hear how Jesus heals using his spittle and the dust from the earth; but it is true to this real sense of the created world as integral to God’s bringing us to new life.
Across the world the earth is often worked by the poorest people, who frequently do not themselves share in the fruitfulness that results. At the same time it is these communities who have a particular care for the earth, as the practical wisdom of working the land is shown forth in their labours.

Care of the earth includes basic questions of how human beings are to live within creation, in ways which are more fully human for all. That the earth - its working and ownership - should so often be a source of economic inequalities, and degrading work practices is a cause for great concern and action for Christians together. The covenantal recognition of these dangers of exploitation with regard to the earth is spoken about in Leviticus’ instructions concerning the Year of Jubilee: the land and its fruits are not given to be an opportunity for “taking advantage of one another”, rather the working of the land is for the benefit of all. This is not just a “religious idea”; it is tied to very real economic and business practices concerning how the land is managed, bought and sold.

God of life, we thank you for the earth, and for those who care for it and bring forth its fruits. May the Spirit, the giver of life, help us to recognise that we are part of creation’s web of relationships. May we learn to cherish the earth and listen to creation’s groaning. May we truly walk together in the steps of Christ, bringing healing to all that wounds this earth, and ensuring a just sharing of the things that it brings forth.
God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

  • Today’s readings invite Christians into a deep unity of action in common concern for the earth. Where do we practice the spirit of the year of Jubilee in our life as Christians together?
  • Where, in our Christian communities, are we complicit with things that degrade and exploit the earth? Where can we work more together in learning and teaching reverence for God’s creation?

    everything taken from

Day 3 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Day 3Walking towards freedom

Exodus 1: 15-22The Hebrew midwives obey God’s law over the command of Pharaoh
Psalm 17: 1-6The confident prayer of one open to God’s gaze
2 Cor. 3: 17-18The glorious freedom of God’s children in Christ
John 4: 4-26Conversation with Jesus leads the Samaritan woman nto freer living


Walking humbly with the Lord is always a walk into receiving the freedom he opens up before all people. With this in mind we celebrate. We celebrate the mystery of the struggle for freedom, which takes place even in the places where oppression, prejudice and poverty seem to be impossible burdens. The resolute refusal to accept inhuman commands and conditions - like those given by Pharaoh to the midwives of the enslaved Hebrew people - can seem like small actions; but these are often the kinds of actions towards freedom going on in local communities everywhere. Such determined journeying towards fuller living presents a gift of Gospel hope to all people, caught up, in our different ways, within the patterns of inequality across the globe.

The step by step journey into freedom from unjust discrimination and practices of prejudice is brought home to us by the story of Jesus’ meeting at the well with the woman of Samaria. Here is a woman who seeks, first of all, to question the prejudices which confront her, as well as to seek ways of alleviating the practical burdens of her life. These concerns are the starting place for her conversation with Jesus. Jesus himself engages in conversation with her on the bases both of his need for her practical help (he is thirsty) and in a mutual exploration of the social prejudices which make this help seem problematic. Bit by bit the way of a freer life is opened up before the woman, as the reality of the complexities of her life are seen more clearly in the light of Jesus’ words. In the end these personal insights return the conversation to a place where what divides these two groups of people - where they should worship - is transcended. “Worship in spirit and in truth” is what is required; and here we learn to be free from all that holds us back from life together, life in its fullness.

To be called into greater freedom in Christ, is a calling to deeper communion. Those things which separate us - both as Christians searching for unity, and as people kept apart by unjust traditions and inequalities - keep us captives, and hidden from one another. Our freedom in Christ is, rather, characterised by that new life in the Spirit, which enables us, together, to stand before the glories of God “with unveiled faces”. It is in this glorious light that we learn to see each other more truly, as we grow in Christ’s likeness towards the fullness of Christian unity.

Liberating God, we thank you for the resilience and hopeful faith of those who struggle for dignity and fullness of life. We know that you raise up those who are cast down, and free those who are bound. Your Son Jesus walks with us to show us the path to authentic freedom. May we appreciate what has been given to us, and be strengthened to overcome all within us that enslaves. Send us your Spirit so that the truth shall set us free, so that with voices united we can proclaim your love to the world. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

  • Are there times, even in our own Christian communities, when the prejudices and judgments of the world, - with regard to caste, age, gender, race, educational background - stop us seeing each other clearly in the light of God’s glory?
  • What small, practical steps can we take, as Christians together, towards the freedom of the Children of God (Romans 8.21) for our churches, and for wider society?

    everything taken from

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Day 2 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Day 2Walking with the broken body of Christ
Ezekiel 37:1-14“Shall these dry bones live?”
Psalm 22: 1-8God’s servant, mocked and insulted, cries out to God
Hebrews 13: 12-16The call to go to Jesus “outside the camp”
Luke 22: 14-23Jesus breaks the bread, giving the gift of himself before his suffering

To walk humbly with God means hearing the call us to walk out of the places of our own comfort, and accompany the other, especially the suffering other.

“Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” These words from Ezekiel give voice to the experience of many people across the globe today. In India, it is the “broken people” of the Dalit communities whose lives speak vividly of this suffering - a suffering in which Christ, the crucified one, shares. With injured people of every time and place, Jesus cries out to the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Christians are called into this way of the cross. The Epistle to the Hebrews makes clear not only the saving reality of Jesus’ suffering, in the place of the margins, but also the need for his disciples to go “outside the camp” to join him there. When we meet those who have been excluded and we recognise the crucified one in their sufferings, the direction we should be going is clear: to be with Christ, means to be in solidarity with those on the margins whose wounds he shares.

The body of Christ, broken on the cross, is “broken for you”. The story of Christ’s suffering and death is prefaced by the story of the last supper: it is then celebrated as victory over death in every eucharist. In this Christian celebration, Christ’s broken body is his risen and glorious body; his body is broken so that we can share his life, and, in him, be one body.

As Christians on the way to unity we can often see the eucharist as a place where the scandal of our disunity is painfully real, knowing that, as yet, we cannot fully share this sacrament together as we should. This situation calls us to renewed efforts towards deeper communion with one another.

Today’s readings might open up another line of reflection. Walking with Christ’s broken body opens up a way to be eucharistic together: to share our bread with the hungry, to break down the barriers of poverty and inequality - these, too, are “eucharistic acts”, in which all Christians are called to work together. Pope Benedict XVI frames his reflections on eucharist for the church in just this way: that it is a sacrament not only to be believed in and celebrated, but also to be lived (Sacramentum caritatis). In keeping with the Orthodox understanding of “the liturgy after the liturgy”, here it is recognised that there is “nothing authentically human” that does not find its pattern and life in the eucharist. (SC 71)

God of compassion, your Son died on the Cross so that by his broken body our divisions might be destroyed. Yet we have crucified him again and again with our disunity, and with systems and practices which obstruct your loving care and undermine your justice towards those who have been excluded from the gifts of your creation. Send us your Spirit to breathe life and healing into our brokenness that we may witness together to the justice and love of Christ. Walk with us towards that day when we can share in the one bread and the one cup at the common table. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

  • In light of that prophetic tradition in which God desires justice, rather than ritual without righteousness, we need to ask: how is the eucharist, the mystery of Christ’s brokenness and new life, celebrated in all the places where we walk?
  • What might we do, as Christians together, better to witness to our unity in Christ in places of brokenness and marginality?

    everything taken directly from the Vatican website (

Reflections for Day 1 of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

Yesterday's readings for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were followed by a series of questions. I would like to reflect on these questions here. The questions were:

  1. Where do we practice true conversation, across the various differences that separate us?
  2. Is our conversation orientated towards some grand project of our own, or towards new life which brings hope of resurrection?
  3. What people do we converse with, and who is not included in our conversations? Why?

My response:

1. Although Christian traditions can be very different from each other in matters of doctrine and liturgy, they still share basic Christian teachings. These teachings are nicely summed up in the Nicene Creed. Although the differences are not negligible, ecumenical conversations are important to collectively bear witness to Jesus Christ in the world. There are many social issues that Christians agree on and different groups can work together in hunger centers and the like. We should reexamine denominational stereotypes. Do Catholics really worship Mary and re-crucify Jesus at each Mass? Do Protestants really lack a sense of tradition or community? 

2. In the Genesis reading, the people tried to create unity through their own means. Although Christians pray for unity, ecumenical efforts that water down Christianity to avoid controversy, lack integrity. Jesus calls Christians to live radical lives, so disagreements are unavoidable. What is the point of Christian unity if it asks Christians to compromise their faith in Jesus Christ? "Seek first the Kingdom of God" is a good rule of thumb.

3. There tends to be a chasm, at least in the United States, between "conservative/traditional" Christians and "liberal/progressive" Christians. Respectful conversations between the two groups are almost non-existent. How can Christians bridge the gap? This is a question that I struggle with each and everyday.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 1 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Today is the first day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This week is organized yearly by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches. All information I post (except for the ecumenism logo) comes directly from the Vatican website. The theme is from Micah 6:6-8:

‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Day 1Walking in conversation

Genesis 11: 1-9The story of Babel and legacy of our diversity
Psalm 34:11-18“Come...listen”. God’s invitation to conversation
Acts 2: 1-12The outpouring of the Spirit, the gift of understanding
Luke 24: 13-25Conversation with the Risen Jesus on the road

To walk humbly with God means to walk as people speaking with one another and with the Lord, always attentive to what we hear. And so we begin our celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by reflecting on scripture passages which speak of the essential practice of conversation. Conversation has been central to the ecumenical movement, as it opens up spaces for learning from one another, sharing what we have in common, and for differences to be heard and attended to. In this way mutual understanding is developed. These gifts from the search for unity are part of our basic call to respond to what God requires of us: through true conversation justice is done, and kindness learnt. Experiences of practical liberation from all over the world make clear that the isolation of people who are made to live with poverty is forcefully overcome by practices of dialogue.

Today’s Genesis reading, and the story of Pentecost, both reflect something of this human action, and its place in God’s liberating plan for people. The story of the tower of Babel first describes how, where there is no language barrier great things are possible. However, the story tells how this potential is grasped as a basis for self-promotion: “let us make a name for ourselves”, is the motivation for the building of the great city. In the end this project leads to a confusion of speech; from now on we must learn our proper humanity through patient attentiveness to the other who is strange to us. It is with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost that understanding across differences is made possible in a new way, through the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Now we are invited to share the gift of speech and listening orientated toward the Lord, and towards freedom. We are called to walk in the Spirit.

The experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is a conversation taking place in a context of travel together, but also of loss and disappointed hope. As churches living with levels of disunity, and as societies divided by prejudices and fear of the other we can recognise ourselves here. Yet it is precisely here that Jesus chooses to join the conversation - not presuming the superior role of teacher, but walking alongside his disciples. It is his desire to be a part of our conversations, and our response of wanting him to stay and speak more with us, that enables a living encounter with the Risen Lord.
All Christians know something of this meeting with Jesus, and the power of his word “burning within us”; this resurrection experience calls us into a deeper unity in Christ. Constant conversation with each other and with Jesus - even in our own disorientation - keeps us walking together towards unity.

Jesus Christ, we proclaim with joy our common identity in you, and we thank you for inviting us into a dialogue of love with you. Open our hearts to share more perfectly in your prayer to the Father that we may be one, so that as we journey together we may draw closer to each other. Give us the courage to bear witness to the truth together, and may our conversations embrace those who perpetuate disunity. Send your Spirit to empower us to challenge situations where dignity and compassion are lacking in our societies, nations, and the world.
God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen

  • Where do we practice true conversation, across the various differences that separate us?
  • Is our conversation orientated towards some grand project of our own, or towards new life which brings hope of resurrection?
  • What people do we converse with, and who is not included in our conversations? Why?

Monday, January 7, 2013

To be Catholic is to be a Rebel

Today's and yesterday's readings are Gen 5-7:24, Ps 5-6, and Mt 4-5:20. I will reflect on the Gospel reading.

When I read from the Gospel of Matthew this morning I could not help but be reminded of  Dietrich Bonhoeffer's famous book The Cost of Discipleship. In the book, Bonhoeffer aims to awaken the German Church from its spiritual torpor. When Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, and James and John, they immediately drop everything they were doing and follow Jesus. Here is what Matthew says:

" As [Jesus] was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, 'Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him" (Mt 4:18-22).

Matthew does not indicate that these men even hesitated before following Jesus. What faith they must have had! Their past lives were physically and maybe financially trying but their future life will require spiritual endurance. Jesus says as much when he urges his disciples to "rejoice and be glad" (5:12) when people insult and persecute them. In our country, we are not killed for our faith; however, you can be sure that our faith in Jesus Christ is put to the test. We must expect people to look at us funny when we say we are Catholic and when we speak about our faith in Jesus. We must expect our values to contradict those of our society. In other words, we must be rebels!

As a young adult Catholic, I desire to be a rebel just like any other college student my age. But what does it mean to be a rebel? Jesus gives us the answer. To be a rebel is, and always has been, to follow Jesus Christ and proclaim Him as LORD. Of course, we must lead others to Christ through love. But, we must not be afraid to be different - to reject the ways of the world. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We must be true witnesses to Christ in our lives so that people who live destructively can see Jesus in us and be set free.

I am convinced that to be Catholic is to be a rebel! 
And I've always wanted to be a rebel :)

Pope Benedict's Epiphany Homily

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For the Church which believes and prays, the Wise Men from the East who, guided by the star, made their way to the manger of Bethlehem, are only the beginning of a great procession which winds throughout history. Thus the liturgy reads the Gospel which relates the journey of the Wise Men, together with the magnificent prophetic visions of the sixtieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah and Psalm 71, which depict in bold imagery the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jerusalem. Like the shepherds, who as the first visitors to the newborn Child in the manger, embodied the poor of Israel and more generally those humble souls who live in deep interior closeness to Jesus, so the men from the East embody the world of the peoples, the Church of the Gentiles – the men and women who in every age set out on the way which leads to the Child of Bethlehem, to offer him homage as the Son of God and to bow down before him. The Church calls this feast “Epiphany” – the appearance of the Godhead. If we consider the fact that from the very beginning men and women of every place, of every continent, of all the different cultures, mentalities and lifestyles, have been on the way to Christ, then we can truly say that this pilgrimage and this encounter with God in the form of a Child is an epiphany of God’s goodness and loving kindness for humanity (cf. Tit 3:4).

Following a tradition begun by Pope John Paul II, we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord also as the day when episcopal ordination will be conferred on four priests who will now cooperate in different ways in the ministry of the Pope for the unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ in the multiplicity of the Particular Churches. The connection between this episcopal ordination and the theme of the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jesus Christ is evident. It is the task of the Bishop in this pilgrimage not merely to walk beside the others, but to go before them, showing the way. But in this liturgy I would like to reflect with you on a more concrete question. Based on the account of Matthew, we can gain a certain idea of what sort of men these were, who followed the sign of the star and set off to find that King who would establish not only for Israel but for all mankind a new kind of kingship. What kind of men were they? And we can also ask whether, despite the difference of times and tasks, we can glimpse in them something of what a Bishop is and how he is to carry out his task.

These men who set out towards the unknown were, in any event, men with a restless heart. Men driven by a restless quest for God and the salvation of the world. They were filled with expectation, not satisfied with their secure income and their respectable place in society. They were looking for something greater. They were no doubt learned men, quite knowledgeable about the heavens and probably possessed of a fine philosophical formation. But they desired more than simply knowledge about things. They wanted above all else to know what is essential. They wanted to know how we succeed in being human. And therefore they wanted to know if God exists, and where and how he exists. Whether he is concerned about us and how we can encounter him. Nor did they want just to know. They wanted to understand the truth about ourselves and about God and the world. Their outward pilgrimage was an expression of their inward journey, the inner pilgrimage of their hearts. They were men who sought God and were ultimately on the way towards him. They were seekers after God.

Here we come to the question: What sort of man must he be, upon whom hands are laid in episcopal ordination in the Church of Jesus Christ? We can say that he must above all be a man concerned for God, for only then will he also be truly concerned about men. Inversely, we could also say that a Bishop must be a man concerned for others, one who is concerned about what happens to them. He must be a man for others. But he can only truly be so if he is a man seized by God, if concern for God has also become for him concern for God’s creature who is man. Like the Wise Men from the East, a Bishop must not be someone who merely does his job and is content with that. No, he must be gripped by God’s concern for men and women. He must in some way think and feel with God. Human beings have an innate restlessness for God, but this restlessness is a participation in God’s own restlessness for us. Since God is concerned about us, he follows us even to the crib, even to the Cross. “Thou with weary steps hast sought me, crucified hast dearly bought me, may thy pains not be in vain”, the Church prays in the Dies Irae. The restlessness of men for God and hence the restlessness of God for men must unsettle the Bishop. This is what we mean when we say that, above all else, the Bishop must be a man of faith. For faith is nothing less than being interiorly seized by God, something which guides us along the pathways of life. Faith draws us into a state of being seized by the restlessness of God and it makes us pilgrims who are on an inner journey towards the true King of the world and his promise of justice, truth and love. On this pilgrimage the Bishop must go ahead, he must be the guide pointing out to men and women the way to faith, hope and love.

Faith’s inner pilgrimage towards God occurs above all in prayer. Saint Augustine once said that prayer is ultimately nothing more than the realization and radicalization of our yearning for God. Instead of “yearning”, we could also translate the word as “restlessness” and say that prayer would detach us from our false security, from our being enclosed within material and visible realities, and would give us a restlessness for God and thus an openness to and concern for one another. The Bishop, as a pilgrim of God, must be above all a man of prayer. He must be in constant inner contact with God; his soul must be open wide to God. He must bring before God his own needs and the needs of others, as well as his joys and the joys of others, and thus in his own way establish contact between God and the world in communion with Christ, so that Christ’s light can shine in the world.

Let us return to the Wise Men from the East. These were also, and above all, men of courage, the courage and humility born of faith. Courage was needed to grasp the meaning of the star as a sign to set out, to go forth – towards the unknown, the uncertain, on paths filled with hidden dangers. We can imagine that their decision was met with derision: the scorn of those realists who could only mock the reveries of such men. Anyone who took off on the basis of such uncertain promises, risking everything, could only appear ridiculous. But for these men, inwardly seized by God, the way which he pointed out was more important than what other people thought. For them, seeking the truth meant more than the taunts of the world, so apparently clever.

How can we not think, in this context, of the task of a Bishop in our own time? The humility of faith, of sharing the faith of the Church of every age, will constantly be in conflict with the prevailing wisdom of those who cling to what seems certain. Anyone who lives and proclaims the faith of the Church is on many points out of step with the prevalent way of thinking, even in our own day. Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs. Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous. And this courage or forcefulness does not consist in striking out or in acting aggressively, but rather in allowing oneself to be struck and to be steadfast before the principles of the prevalent way of thinking. The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves. “Those who fear the Lord will not be timid”, says the Book of Sirach (34:16). The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates.

Here I am reminded of an episode at the very beginning of Christianity which Saint Luke recounts in the Acts of the Apostles. After the speech of Gamaliel, who advised against violence in dealing with the earliest community of believers in Jesus, the Sanhedrin summoned the Apostles and had them flogged. It then forbade them from preaching in the name of Jesus and set them free. Saint Luke continues: “As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the name of Jesus. And every day… they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah” (Acts 5:40ff.). The successors of the Apostles must also expect to be repeatedly beaten, by contemporary methods, if they continue to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that can be heard and understood. Then they can rejoice that they have been considered worthy of suffering for him. Like the Apostles, we naturally want to convince people and in this sense to obtain their approval. Naturally, we are not provocative; on the contrary we invite all to enter into the joy of that truth which shows us the way. The approval of the prevailing wisdom, however, is not the criterion to which we submit. Our criterion is the Lord himself. If we defend his cause, we will constantly gain others to the way of the Gospel. But, inevitably, we will also be beaten by those who live lives opposed to the Gospel, and then we can be grateful for having been judged worthy to share in the passion of Christ.
The Wise Men followed the star, and thus came to Jesus, to the great Light which enlightens everyone coming into this world (cf. Jn 1:9). As pilgrims of faith, the Wise Men themselves became stars shining in the firmament of history and they show us the way. The saints are God’s true constellations, which light up the nights of this world, serving as our guides. Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, told his faithful that they must shine like stars in the world (cf. 2:15).

Dear friends, this holds true for us too. It holds true above all for you who are now to be ordained Bishops of the Church of Jesus Christ. If you live with Christ, bound to him anew in this sacrament, then you too will become wise men. Then you will become stars which go before men and women, pointing out to them the right path in life. All of us here are now praying for you, that the Lord may fill you with the light of faith and love. That that restlessness of God for man may seize you, so that all may experience his closeness and receive the gift of his joy. We are praying for you, that the Lord may always grant you the courage and humility of faith. We ask Mary, who showed to the Wise Men the new King of the world (cf. Mt 2:11), as a loving mother, to show Jesus Christ also to you and to help you to be guides along the way which leads to him. Amen.

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Friday, January 4, 2013

One Year Bible - Day 4

Today's readings are Gen 4, Ps 4, and Mt 3. I will reflect on the first reading.

I have always wondered why God accepted Abel's offering but not Cain's. Regardless it is inexcusable for Cain to have killed Abel. God warns Cain, " If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master" (vs. 7). I believe that God is speaking to me as well. Sin is a demon that desires my submission, but I must be the master. I must not give in to the many temptations that face me each day. And how must I overcome these temptations?

I cannot overcome them on my own. I need God's Grace and Love to set me free. In recent months, I have learned that it is not enough to say no to sin if I do not say yes to something else. For me, that is love. Our desire for sin exists as a result of an emptiness in our heart that can only be filled by love. In our relationship with God and in our relationship with others we come to know this love. When God rejected Cain's offering, Cain thought that God had rejected him. But this was not so. Cain closed himself off from love even for his brother. The hole in Cain's heart was easily filled with sin. Sin became his master.

We need to remember that just as important as loving others is allowing others to love us. When we close ourselves off from love, we allow sin to enter our hearts and dominate us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may I be open to receiving love today so that I can learn to love others like You.

Tomorrow's Readings: Gen 5-6:8, Ps 5, Mt 4

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One Year Bible - Day 3

Today's readings are Gen 3, Ps 3, and Mt 2. I will reflect on the Gospel reading.

The last reading is so appropriate for this liturgical season. In Matthew 2, the Magi arrive, Herod slaughters children aged 2 and under, and Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt with their newborn son. The Magi, some scholars believe, were Zoroastrian priests from Persia. Although they were not Jewish, they were the first to see the infant Jesus and worshiped Him. "They prostrated themselves and did him homage" (vs. 11). This Jesus had not come to save only the Jews but the Gentiles as well. However, the birth of Jesus had the adverse effect on Herod who called for the killing of all children aged two and under. It is because Herod knew the identity of the boy that he felt threatened by the birth of Jesus. He knew that the only one more powerful than him had been born. The Magi and Herod both understood the power hidden in Jesus, but they reacted differently to this Good News. When Jesus speaks to me or when people speak about Jesus do I receive the Good News in joy like the Magi or do I feel threatened by God's message like Herod?

No matter how hard Herod tried to destroy Jesus, he could not. But this is not all. Matthew explains that the events of Jesus' nativity were not coincidence but fulfilled Old Testament prophesy. Mary and Joseph went into exile in Egypt with their son but later returned to Israel once Herod died. God spoke to Joseph saying, Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead" (vs. 20). God's message to Joseph, the footnotes explain, is the same as His message to Moses thousands of years before. Moses was to return to Egypt and to Pharaoh "for all the men who sought your life are dead" (Ex 4:19). Moses, though a mere man, saved the Hebrews of Egypt. Now, the Son of God came into the world to save all humanity.

Prayer: Lord, may I never forget that you created me for a purpose. Even if your Will calls me into the desert may I never seek to do my own will in opposition to Yours, for I know that "all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

Tomorrow's Readings: Gen 4, Ps 4, Mt 3

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

One Year Bible - Day 2

Today's readings are Gen 2, Ps 2, and Mt 1:18-25. I will reflect on Psalm 2.

In this Psalm, although the rulers of the nations belittle Israel and its king, the LORD derides them (vs.4B). The kings think that they can conquer Israel probably because of its relatively small size or small army, but God has a plan for Israel and nothing the kings do can thwart this plan. In fact, in vs. 4 the Psalmist writes that the LORD laughs at these detractors. This is God's plan:

"I myself have installed my king
 on Zion, my holy mountain.
 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD,
 who said to me, 'You are my son;
today I am your father.
 Only ask it of me,
 and I will make your inheritance the nations,
 your possession the ends of the earth.
 With an iron rod you shall shepherd
 like a clay pot you will shatter them" (vs. 7-9). 

This promise, which God gives to Israel and its king, is fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God and who has total dominion over the nations of the earth. He is also the Good Shepherd who does not will for any one of his sheep to go astray. 

Instead of mocking Israel, the Psalmist warns the kings to worship the LORD in fear and trembling. The Church is the New Israel, and it is no exaggeration that Christians are mocked and belittled in our world. In other countries, Christians are even killed. However, like Israel, God has a plan for the Church. In our culture, practicing Christians are a minority. Sometimes we feel alone, but we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus is the head of the Church. The only appropriate response to such a head is adoration. 

Prayer: Lord, may I remember that although at times I may feel alone in my worship of You, You are the  head of the Church and You will fulfill what you promised.

Tomorrow's Readings: Gen 3, Ps 3, Mt 2

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

One Year Catholic Bible Reading Plan for 2013 - Intro and Day 1

Last year I was not able to go through the Catholic Bible in one year. This year I plan on trying again. I will also try to write a reflection for each set of readings. I am using a plan that I found on someone's blog. I highly recommend it because it covers the Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms/Proverbs every day. Here is the link: . So without further ado, I will post a reflection on the readings for Day 1.

The first day's readings are Gen 1, Ps 1, and Mt 1:1-17. Today, I will focus on the first two readings.

It is worth noting that the first of God's creations is light. Then God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:3-4). In this Christmas season we must not overlook the importance of light. Jesus, we learn, is the light of the world. The light drives out the darkness. How interesting that God created light first. Darkness existed when the world was a formless wasteland. Thus, God willed for there to be light while darkness was not created by God but was negated by Him. However, darkness is needed for night; so, while darkness represents the formless wasteland, God still allows it to exist in the world in the form of "night". What do you all think about this passage? We know that Jesus the Light banishes all darkness (all evil) in the world. And yet, God allows evil to exist. This, I believe, is a mystery which I hope to understand after I die. But in the meantime, I will follow the Light of the World.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in this New Year, may I only follow You, the Light of the World.

Tomorrow's Readings: Gen 2, Ps 2, Mt 1:18-25