Called to live anew!

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

Anew – it is a word we will focus on for years to come. Now is the time for our next great step together, to call people anew to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord and His Holy Church right here at this parish.

How do you recollect time? Most people see time as a linear progression, past, present, and future. We could draw an arrow from one moment in our lives to the next, event to event. Did you know that God sees time differently, that Jesus came to change our conception of time and even place?

That is true. Jesus’ birth marked the start of a new age – the age of the Kingdom. In His Baptism, which we celebrated last week, Jesus marked out our change – how we are to enter His place and time, the Kingdom of God.

For many Christians, the Kingdom is something afar off. We have time. If we are sinning, we can go to confession tomorrow, or next Sunday. If we need to repent and live changed lives, walking the gospel path much more closely and realistically – radically, well we can work on that. That is a false notion. We have our facts wrong. The Kingdom will not come someday but is here now. We are in it, and we are called to live changed now, immediately.

What St. Paul tells us in his writing on baptism is true. We died with Christ in our baptism and so we have been raised with Him to life anew. We are no longer living according to the world’s time and priorities, stumbling from moment to moment, place to place like the lost. Rather, we are living a changed reality in which we have great work to do, Kingdom work. We must set to it now.

Kingdom work comes down to what Jesus showed us at Cana in Galilee. It is about changed perspectives and lives anew.

The changing of water into wine isn’t just a one-off miracle. It is not just a moment along a timeline. It is rather a foreshadowing of the eternal change that comes when the wine is made His blood. It is a foretelling of the way we are changed in Jesus. 

When we share in the Eucharistic moment in a short time, the changing of bread and wine into His body and blood, we literally join with Jesus in His timeless reality. the ever-present Kingdom where we also reside. We receive abundant grace for our work.

Our Kingdom reality is where the Spirit’s gifts, given to each of us in different form and measure, are to be implemented. We are residing in God’s time and place and our mission is an imperative command to declare the Kingdom and invite others into it; to live changed. 

And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child

At our three Holy Masses of Christmas we saw references over and over again to Jesus as the light of the world, the light of heaven breaking into the world to change it forever.

We can certainly see how the Lord’s love and mercy have changed us. We no longer live in fear. Our life is eternal, the gates of heaven and all its light are opened to us. We have forgiveness of sin, we have a new relationship with God and to each other.

We who were once strangers and afar off are bound together in a new family, the family of the Church. We are given two important missions by God that spread the light of Christ.

Our first mission is to grow in our personal sanctification, to become more like Jesus, to walk better in His ways. We receive power and strength to do that through the many graces we receive both sacramentally and in living our everyday walk of faith.

Our other first mission, for it is equal to the necessity for sanctification, is to build the Kingdom of God right here and right now.

On Christmas 1919 Bishop Hodur addressed his congregation and spoke of the gap between the very materialistic view of the world, a world only concerned with bodily needs and wants, and the Savior Who came to build up both the body and the soul. He called this materialistic focus an illness, for the worldly do not perceive the wholeness God offers us in Jesus. They limit themselves by their deafness to His word and way.

Jesus pointed to the Kingdom and called us to build. We are to call people out of where they are, out of deafness, to what they can be, not only as individuals, but as a society.

This is the example we celebrate today on this very special Solemnity in our Holy Church – the Humble Shepherds, the Ubogich Pasterzy.

The Shepherds whose life was limited to the care of earthly material things, their flocks and pay and duties, encountered heaven. They met Christ Jesus their Lord and Messiah, God. They met Him as we meet Him each time we come to Holy Mass, participate, pray through the Eucharist, and receive Him. They were left with the same choice we all have. What will I do for my sanctification and for the building of the Kingdom?

The Shepherds set forth to announce and build the Kingdom. In the world’s eyes they remined poor, but in God’s eyes they became whole and rich. Let us decide to as well, as we renew our commitment to God’s mission for us. 

Strength of Faith.

And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” 

Over the months of Ordinary Time, (and we only have two Ordinary Sunday’s left) we spend our time dedicated to growth. We focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk the gospel path in Strength of Faith.

Over the past few months, we have encountered several instances of Jesus being questioned. On August 29th, we read that the Pharisees and some Scribes questioned Jesus on how his disciples ate their food – not strictly following the rules of the elders. On October 3rd, we read of Jesus being confronted by the Pharisees on the question of Divorce. Chapter 12 of Mark’s gospel narrative is replete with this questioning, with challenges.

The gospel writer was using these illustrations from Jesus’ life to help the first Christians, who were predominantly Jewish converts, understand Jesus and make sense of their faith. Should Jewish people pay taxes to Rome? What should one expect to happen in the resurrection? And today, what is the most important commandment?

In most of the cases we sense conflict and challenge; it was Jesus being confronted by those trying to entrap Him. Today, something different happens. A young Scribe breaks through the conflict to have a dialog with Jesus, to understand the nature of God better. The young Scribe as fully recorded in Mark 12:28 came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well He had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”

The young Scribe sees the truth, realizes where the answers are, and in Strength of Faith overcoming societal pressures, peer pressure, and the duties of position approaches Jesus. That is what Strength of Faith does, it leads us to breakthroughs.   

Jesus recognizes the breakthrough and notes that the young Scribe is “not far from the kingdom.” The Scribe understands that doing right involves a total dedication to God, a carrying out of these great commandments of love, and its value. Living in this loving relationship with God and the other replaces burnt offering for the remission of sin since love overcomes sin and draws people away from sin.

Philo, the Jewish philosopher, argues that those who only love God or only love others are “half-perfect in virtue. The perfect have a good reputation in loving God and humans”

Jesus calls us to perfection of life by breaking through whatever holds us back from fully loving God and the others we encounter. To love requires we break through to do all we can to proclaim Jesus and serve our brothers and sisters.

Strength of Faith

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. We are focusing on our growth in Strength of Faith.

There are several ways of translating what Jesus says to Mary and Joseph. Our scriptures read today recount Jesus saying: “I must be in My Father’s house.” This can also be rendered “I must be about my Father’s business.” Literally, I must be in the things that are My Father’s—i.e., in His work.

It seems odd to us to have a twelve-year-old be so bold as to stay behind in a city of over a million people (especially at festival time), but some context helps.

A Jewish boy reaching the age of twelve, became ‘a son of the Law,’ and took upon himself the religious responsibilities which had previously been his parents. 

This marked moment shows Jesus’ maturity and His acceptance of those responsibilities, to learn, to study, to question, and penultimately to do His Father’s will. Jesus asserts that right in staying behind, not to contravene Mary and Joseph, but rather to grab unto an opportunity. 

In this opportunity He speaks a few words – His first recorded gospel words – words we are to take to heart and emulate – “I must be about My Father’s business,” I must do His work.

These words cause us to consider more fully not just the where of Jesus’ statement, Hey, I’ve got to hang out in the Temple because… but rather the what of His statement.

When Jesus says “must” He says that His doing is the on-going accomplishment of the necessary appointed work of the Father. He accepts His Father’s commands and continues forward in carrying out His duty. 

We, as the Christian family are called to be more than a presence in a place, church on Sundays. We are called to also share and increase the love of family between ourselves and in the world. We are to act in Strength of Faith in the carrying out of our kingdom mission, opening God’s loving family just as Jesus showed us.

The ties and connection of family go beyond place to the life – style we live. How do we style our lives? If we style them to be about our heavenly Father’s business, to doing His work, what we do in a place on Sunday, the worship, praise, and learning, bears fruit Monday through Saturday in the doing. We live and do as Jesus lived and did. We are in the Father’s work.