Herod!

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.

Interesting that there is a ton, a ton, of information in this gospel and in the readings for this day, yet I was struggling throughout the week to figure out what I wanted to say to you. Where was the Holy Spirit leading me, for He is always the Author?

Sometimes the Holy Spirit stays silent for a reason. He was waiting for today, for January 6, 2021, and what we have seen as a nation today. He told me, He said, Herod! King Herod, what a guy he was. Herod still lives in the world today.

If you study scripture you will soon notice that there are threads that run through scripture. Nothing is disconnected. You can talk about the swaddling clothes that Jesus was wrapped in when He was placed in in the manger and soon see that His body was similarly wrapped in linen cloths after His death, when He was buried. There’s a line that runs throughout scripture. Everything is interconnected.

Herod!

Herod meets the three wise men. We call them Magi, Wise Men, Kings. We do not know what they were specifically, but we do know one thing in particular, they were scientists. They studied the skies and they tried to figure out the based on their study of the stars. They were people of facts and observation, so they knew there was a new King in Israel.

So, they said to each other, let’s hop on our camels, take some gifts, and go to find this King. They said to each other, Who better to talk to than the current king. They go to see Herod and Herod is troubled.

Herod!

Herod was more than troubled, he was angry. Herod – a troubled and angry man. A man who cheated on his wife. A man who stole his brother’s wife. A man who was constantly looking over his shoulder for the person that was going to chop him down from the throne.

Herod calls the truthful people around him and he says, ‘Hey, where is this Messiah going to be born.’ Once he finds out he calls the Magi secretly, secretly because when we do evil those deeds must be in secret, kept under wraps. We cannot let people know what we are about when we are doing wrong, when we are doing evil.

Herod ascertains from the Magi the timing of the star’s rising and sends them on their merry way telling them, ‘Hey, come back and fill me in when you figure it all out.’

We know the Magi did not go back, they were warned in a dream, but Herod had this little snippet of information – when and where this King was born. Herod was going to do something about that. He was not going to sit on his hands.

Herod!

Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem of Judea and had every firstborn son under two years old killed. He wiped out an entire city of infants because of his anger, because of his jealousy, because he had to hang on to what he thought was his.

Jump forward thirty years and Harold is still there. Along comes John the Baptist. John is standing down in the river and looking up he sees Herod passing by. He points to Herod and tells him exactly what he is. Well that not only ticked off Herod but also ticked off his stolen bride. Herod was going to get even and lo and behold, John is jailed and off goes his head. Off with his head and we will shut him up.

The line in scripture continues on. Jesus is arrested. He is taken before the chief priests and the Sanhedrin. They judge Him and send him off to Pilate. Pilate in his questioning finally figures out that Jesus is a Galilean. Hey, this guy is a Galilean. I can wash my hands of this Guy and send him to Herod. Herod was in Jerusalem at the time.

Jesus was taken to Herod. What did Herod do? This scene as portrayed in Jesus Christ Superstar captures it very well. Herod made a mockery of Jesus. He tried to turn Jesus into a clown for his entertainment. After the mockery was over Herod wrote Jesus off. He probably thought, ‘Maybe this was the kid that was supposed to be the king. Here he is before me in ropes and with the crown of thorns on his head. He is going to the cross.’ Send Him back.

Herod!

Herod’s line goes on and does not stop there. Herod’s children and his children’s children, and all those in the world who are like Herod remain among us. They remain gnawing for power, make a mockery of Jesus as they burn and destroy, continue to look over their shoulders – jealous of anyone who might knock them off their self-established pedestal, and do anything they can to keep what they have.

Where must we be as Christians?

Our call is to be open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, to be open and willing to do God’s work in the world as the wise men, the scientists, the Magi did. The Magi were open to God and kept their eyes open, looking up to the star, and followed it until they found that place where Jesus was. We must go the same way.

Being men of God, keen observers, they knew what they saw in that poor infant, in that poor home, as they got down on their faces, flat on the floor, prostrated before the Child King. Then they open their treasures. Their treasures were not just the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but the real treasure was in the offering of their hearts to Jesus. They offered their hearts to the child Jesus and then they departed for their own country. They departed, not just by a different map, but by another way. Let us offer our hearts to the only King and go forward by another way.

The
knowing.

I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

On this Fourth Sunday after Christmas we hear the testimony of John. In the gospel, John twice says: “I did not know him.

It seems odd for John to say such a thing. Afterall, John and Jesus were cousins. It is true that they lived in different towns, and transportation was hard on foot. Based on Church Tradition, John lived with his family in Ein Kerem, an eighty-mile, three-day journey on foot from Nazareth. Yet, it is highly likely they did know each other. It was common for larger Jewish family gatherings to occur, especially during festivals, as well as in pilgrimages to Jerusalem. So why would John say: “I did not know him?

Remember, that this Epiphany season is about revelation, Jesus becoming known. What John experienced following Jesus’ baptism was a deeper knowing of Who Jesus is. He was no longer the cousin I knew back when. Actually, I probably knew Him better in my mother’s womb when I leapt for joy. Now, I really get it. The Holy Spirit has helped me to see; I see Jesus in fulness according to the Spirit.

Like John, seeing and experiencing the Lord in the fullness of His being and then acting upon that knowledge is the grace of God working in us. It is the Holy Spirit inspiring us. It is also a call to look beyond mere appearance and to see each and yes, every person, as the image of Emmanuel, the image of God among and with us.

John acted on his knowledge and spoke of it to the crowd. He pointed to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He spoke of what happened in his life. He is literally saying that his work, there by the river, was about making Jesus known.

As the faithful, we are called to make Jesus known. I would ask that we think about this work in a slightly different way. Christians often approach those who do not know as those who do not know, in other words, uninformed. What we might miss is in the saying of: “I did not know him,” they like John already do know. They exhibit the traits of one who knows Jesus, in their goodness and love. They are created in His image. We, in our work, just need to help them see the fulness of what they already know.

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

The new year. Time to learn something new? There are lots of areas we could concentrate on. Learn to live a healthier life. Learn to cook like Julia Child. Learn plumbing, blacksmithing… Get another degree? One area long neglected and re-emerging in learning circles is apprenticeships. Apprenticeships offer many advantages. Millions leave college each year with long term debt, little practical training, and difficult job prospects while apprenticeships cost nothing and provide learners with health care and pension benefits, paid practical training, highly marketable and in-demand skills, no debt, and earning prospects of $145,000 to $175,000 per year. We might feel it is difficult to go back and start over, but there is one apprenticeship that is always open and available to everyone: Being a Disciple of Jesus. Factually, that is what being a disciple means – a learner, a student, an apprentice. In 2019 we are called to renewed discipleship, to apprenticing with the Master and Teacher of all. This year we are to dedicate ourselves to learning and doing with Jesus as His disciples! This apprenticeship is to focus on aligning our lives with that of the Teacher, learning His ways, first imitating and then integrating His behaviors, approaching people as He does, and inviting them into this school of discipleship. The key to this year of learning is our doing. A plumber’s apprentice has to get in there and carry the pipes, sweat them together. An electrician’s apprentice has to splice wire with his teacher. In the same way, as Jesus sent out the seventy-two learners/apprentices/disciples, we must apply our efforts in practical ways alongside our Master. Ready to learn something new, and put that learning into practice? Ready to do the one thing that guarantees success and great benefits? Sign the Jesus Union card and Disciple now!

January, the New Year, and we wish all of our followers, Jesus’ disciples in training, a very happy and blessed new year.

There is much going on – and we want to make sure you are well informed and ready to put your resolutions into high gear. It is about doing what is healthful and positive and we cannot get any greater health and positive force than from Jesus.

Read about our upcoming annual meeting, put yourself in running and do something to keep YOUR parish going. For the 18th year we are participating in the SouperBowl of Caring – feeding the hungry in our local community. Get your Valentine’s Raffle tickets sold and in. It is really important. Offer Holy Mass for a loved one. Set up a house blessing. Get in on Music Scholarships. Read and integrate “The Most Important Thing We Can Do To Be Successful In The New Year.”

Check out all this and more in our January 2019 Newsletter.

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Baptism of our Lord

Baptism-of-Christ

Reveal what
has been revealed to you

After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

We know that John preached a baptism of repentance. He was calling all of Israel to repent, starting with washing in the waters of the Jordan in preparation for the coming of the Messiah who was “at hand.”

Jesus obviously had no need for a baptism of repentance. He is God and is without any sin or error. John immediately recognized this as Jesus approached him: John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”

Yet Jesus came and insisted.

Jesus was baptized because He wished to cleanse the waters. We are baptized in the waters He cleansed, waters imbued with His grace of regeneration. In being baptized Jesus set an example for everyone who would follow him. After all, if the sinless Son of God would willingly enter the waters of baptism, how much more urgent is it that we be washed in the waters of regeneration.

While these reasons are of great importance to us, and are essential to our salvation, the key reason for Jesus’ baptism is that it was His anointing as King, High Priest, Prophet, and Messiah before all of Israel. In Acts we hear Peter telling Cornelius and his household that at the baptism of Jesus: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.

Jesus, sent by the Father to inaugurate the Kingdom definitively was anointed by the Holy Spirit and presented before all as fulfilling His office.

The beauty of our Epiphany-tide is that in it we celebrate the moments of Jesus’ revelation. He became known to the poor and lowly through the humble shepherds. The gentiles and the wider world knew Him through the Magi. He became known to all of Israel and took His rightful place through the fullness of revelation at His baptism where the Father called Him “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” and where all heard it and saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Him in the form of a dove.

In the waters of regeneration we became one with Jesus. He is revealed to us in His word. Through the Church and our family we learn all about Him. We must bring the Epiphany to others; making them aware of what has been revealed to us. Invite and welcome them to the waters of regeneration, to oneness with Jesus, and to a share in His kingdom with us.

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Epiphany

IMG_7238-image-extracted-small1-1024x643

Does God play…
hide and seek?

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”

Have you ever stopped for directions? The typical joke is that a man will drive around for hours, trying to find a destination, while a woman would immediately stop and ask for directions.

From our reading of the scripture we see that the Wise Men/Kings/Astrologers/Magi did stop and ask directions. They received directions, an answer in response to their search for The Answer, and made their way to Bethlehem.

It seems inconsistent doesn’t it? The Wise Men were following a star. Besides being men, why would they stop for directions if they had the star to guide them?

The lesson here is that something greater was happening. We need to unfold the map, and get our directions by reading between the lines a little.

Certainly, the gospel account is true. The Astrologers saw a sign in the skies and intuited that something wonderful had happened. That intuition isn’t just some human trait, but God’s grace at work in them, asking them to take action. They chose to believe and act on that grace. They decided to believe and follow a light – a star.

The star they followed wasn’t just something in the sky; it was the light glowing in their hearts that drove them onward toward God. That light drove them toward Jesus, the reality of God’s promise to all people.

The Wise Men received a great blessing – from outside of God’s chosen people, God called these men. With the power of His love – that is, His grace – He called Gentile leaders to come to His Son. These representatives of all nations responded. They headed toward Jesus (stopping for directions along the way).

God doesn’t play hide-and-seek. His grace is for all people in the same way as was given to the Magi. The light of His star exists in all hearts as a little flicker, an ember. If we choose to act on that grace and head toward Jesus, that ember will be fanned into a great flame, greater than any star.

When touched by the spark of grace we must not brush it off or put it out. Rather we stop and ask directions. We start in our faith community, our local church. From there, we set out and find Him as fully as we are able. Finding Him we also become His messengers (like the Magi – who as travelers were also bearers of news). With a great light in us we go out and proclaim the Good News. God is not hiding – we only need to fan His many embers into great stars revealing Jesus to all.