Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday after Epiphany

(I John 3:22-4:6; Matthew 4:12-17.23-25)

The gospel says that Jesus “withdrew to Galilee.” But we should not think of Jesus as retreating. He is actually heading toward the battlefront. Herod Antipas has just arrested John the Baptist for criticizing his unlawful marriage. Jesus leaves the solitude of the Jordan desert to take up John’s banner in Galilee. His message is the same as John’s, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” Herod Antipas can hardly ignore it. We wonder if he will manhandle Jesus as he did John.

Like Jesus we are sometimes called to the battle line. A shouting match turns into a fist fight where someone is going to get hurt. We should intervene. A minority person is accused of wrongdoing, but we know that another – one like us -- did the dirty deed. We must speak up.
Courage enables us to act in such situations. As a natural virtue, courage moves us to defend ourselves and our loved ones. Magnified by the love of God, courage overcomes our fear in the face of danger so that we might act on behalf of what is right.

Certainly St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) showed this elevated courage when the Gestapo came to take her, as a Jewish convert, from her Carmelite monastery. Her sister, who had come to stay with her, was deeply shaken. St. Theresa, however, did not resist or seek to hide. She took her sister by the hand saying, “Come, Rosa, we are going for our people.” She meant that she would die, as Christ did, giving testimony to God’s love first for Jews and then for all people.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

(I John 2:18-21; John 1:1-18)

To many Catholics the ponderous words of today’s gospel are not obscure but quite familiar. These people were raised before the Second Vatican Council when the first fourteen verses of the passage were recited at the end of every mass. For this reason we may have heard them referred to as “The Last Gospel.”

The passage deserves meditation by old as well as young. Its opening verses enlighten the ancient controversy of whether Christ was really God. Some have questioned whether the belief in Christ’s divinity contradicts God’s unity. The verses tell us not only that Christ, the Word, is God but also show how he can come from the Father yet not after the Father: the Son and the Father with the Spirit existed before time began when there was no before and after. The passage further relates that the Word actually took on human flesh to ground faith not in hypothesis but in the deeds of an historical human, Jesus of Nazareth.

Used as the gospel we read at the final mass of the year, the passage allows us to peak beyond the end of time while it reinforces the purpose of the Word becoming flesh. As Christ existed with the Father before time began, his work as human makes us God’s children so that we might exist with him, the Father, and the Spirit when time ends.