Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wednesday after Epiphany

(I John 4:11-18; Mark 6:45-52)

For the nine days before Christmas many Mexican households conduct posadas.  This tradition is situated in the gospel verse where Mary lays Jesus in a manger because there was no room for her and Joseph in the inn.  Posada means inn.  In the dramatization of the verse, Mary and Joseph are petitioning the innkeeper to give them lodging.  At first, the innkeeper rudely tells them to get out because there is no vacancy.  But when they ask again, he recognizes Mary as the Virgin Mother and warmly welcomes the family into his inn.  We should be able to recognize a similar drama taking place in the readings today and yesterday. 

In the gospel passages for these two days, Jesus shows himself to be the Son of God.  Only a divine person could feed thousands with a few loaves of bread and some fish.  Likewise, only a godlike person could walk on water.  Despite Jesus’ transparency on these occasions, his disciples remain clueless about his identity.  As is said today, “they were completely astounded…” and “their hearts were hardened...”  If they could have figured out who Jesus is, their worries would be ended.  They would feel no fear.  Rather they would realize that they have been embraced by love.  As the first reading states, “…love drives out fear.”

First, then we should recognize that we are loved by God -- completely and unconditionally.  Since we can choose to deny this love so that we do not feel it in our hearts, we must open ourselves to it.  Surely for the vast majority of us, this is not a demanding task.  We are blessed by the people and the opportunities that abound in our lives.  God’s love, for the majority at least, is hardly more difficult to see than the rising sun.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Wednesday, Christmas Weekday

(I John 2:29-3:6; John 1:29-34)

Paintings and statuettes of Jesus in the manger often have him with arms outstretched.  He seems to be welcoming the world to him.  But upon reconsideration there seems to be a better reason for picturing him so.  His arms are extended outward in anticipation of the crucifixion he will endure.  A similar motif runs through today’s gospel.

Upon seeing Jesus, John the Baptist exclaims, “’Behold the Lamb of God…’” He is not referring to Jesus’ meekness as if he acted like a lamb.  Rather the expression foresees Jesus being slain so that his disciples may be freed from sin.  This happens, of course, at the crucifixion on Good Friday.  Indeed, his death takes place in this Gospel of John at exactly the same hour when the paschal lambs are being slaughtered in the Temple.  As the Israelites in Egypt slayed a lamb to be saved from the destroying angel, Jesus’ death on the cross saves those who believe in him.

We have every reason to rejoice during this Christmas season.  Our savior has come to redeem us from sin.  But our rejoicing must be tempered.  For one thing, over-indulging would give counter testimony to our redemption from sin.  For another, we know that Christ has come to die on our behalf.  It would be shortsighted to separate completely the two events.