The way that scripture presents the four disciples in these readings is that, at one encounter, they drop everything in their lives and follow Jesus. At first glance, this act of leaving everything behind seems almost un-virtuous as if they abandoned their families and responsibilities. It seems like to radical of a move without further reflection. On a human level, we can probably glean what really happened - what’s more likely, is that they knew Jesus already, enough to trust him and make a conscious free decision to follow him. They were predisposed to make a commitment to someone who they most likely had grown in trust and relationship.
Invitation can be life-changing. When we ourselves don’t always stay committed to the things we want to, such as our faith life and even relationships, we can find ourselves invited in various ways to reconnect and even connect others to these areas of our lives. We cannot predict the ways that these invitations will manifest new and profound interior and exterior movements as we go forth in making decisions and self-identifying. At St Thomas More, everyone is invited and welcome. This church is not a place for the sinless, but the ones who need that constant invitation to ask for help and grow. It is a place we can also invite others and allow Jesus to take the reins. If He is a God who can do the impossible, then let us give Him a chance to do so in all of our lives.
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” We can recall the history behind these scriptural words - the sacrificial lamb at Passover, the suffering servant in Isaiah, and the sacrifice that becomes the Eucharist as Christ’s body and blood.
Today, we need to have a deep understanding of who Jesus is - not just academically or theologically, but personally. The modern culture around the church has declined in numbers and fervor mostly because of the rise of an apathetic and unbelieving attitude towards the person of Jesus. This means we are lacking in our personal prayer or effort in seeking time directly with God. How can we bring ourselves to not just do the actions of faith but bring our authentic hearts to prayer?
Asking the tough questions, sharing anxieties and all emotions, being open to the reality of who He is. Every time we carry out any ritual in the church, we are invited to connect our deepest, most vulnerable selves to a truly real God. It might take a conscious act of Will in our part, but it is more than worthwhile to enter more intimately into the spirituality of the church and community. Every song is an invitation, every recitation of a prayer or response is the open hand of Jesus wanting to share His heart.
We hear about another manifestation of who Jesus is in today’s readings. We see Jesus being baptized with the entire Trinity being revealed in the voice of God and the appearance of the dove as the presence of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist explains this baptism as an act of repentance. And yet, even though Jesus does not need to repent, He still exemplifies for us the gift and sacrament of baptism; and as salvation history unfolds, He takes responsibility for all acts of repentance. This is a huge bit of truth. God did not enter into our story to just teach, to heal or to model morality. His existed for the sake of forgiveness and reconciliation with God our Father.
How can we ourselves be brought back to God in reconciliation? As baptized, transformed and adopted children of God, we can become like Jesus in his mission by forgiving and understanding one another. Everyone has or has been challenged to forgive someone in their life. It is not always easy to do. However when we do not forgive, it can be toxic and self-damaging. We must be aware that forgiveness is not about admission of wrongs, but letting go of the things we cannot control - and there’s great benefit and blessing in acknowledging a greater truth and love amidst great pain and hurt. There is real freedom in forgiving each other. Once we seek to know one another’s stories, and why there might be hurt or wounded actions, we can better pray for them as we seek to forgive them. Let us constantly look to Jesus to receive an understanding and merciful heart.
Fr. John Ehrich, STL
St. Thomas More
In the readings, we hear words like ‘obedience, honor, and subordination.’ One thing we can remember when we hear these terms, especially in the context of family and relationship with God, is that the desire to be obedient comes from a place of respect and love and awe for the other person. Even in the structure of the Holy Trinity, the three persons of God are completely equal, mutually respected and loved among the three. This Trinitarian relationship is meant to be made manifest in our marriages and in our families.
Though we may. often forget this love and respect in our everyday lives, it is so important to continually be reminded of the honor that we can hold for each other. It is so important that children are taught obedience for the sake of learning these concepts of love and respect and honor. Subordination is not a synonym for being controlled. Rather, it is rooted in trust and intimate relationships. A husband cherishes his wife, and therefore a wife can trust in the love and respect she can also return.
Christ gave everything for His Bride. It is vital that we honor God just as He has honored us by giving us life. One problem that can be addressed among families is the call for men to be leaders. In their work, in their many pursuits, but most notably in their families. We look at the Holy family and we see a leader even in St Joseph, the foster-father of God. Men can sometimes be in a position to potentially believe they are inferior, but the true reality is they are needed as leaders in faith and honor for God. Putting others before ourselves is the most loving thing we can do for one another. This sacrificial leadership is what Joseph did, what Christ did for His bride, and what all men are called to do as well.
Let’s say you were the author of a story. The characters that you created are vast and intimately known by you, their creator. You decide to give your characters free will because that way, they get to choose themselves rather than be controlled. What are you to do as the author brings their attention to you? Would you enter into their story? Maybe you could enter into that story so that you could communicate directly and say, “ I love you, I have created you from the beginning and I have always been with you.”
It’s an analogy that we can reflect on as a way to potentially see God's perspective. To clarify, God did not create sin, nor evil, but as a consequence of free will allowed the possibility of evils suffering to be apart of our story. This does not mean we are abandoned. The very opposite is true - God takes responsibility for our own sins. The main point of God entering into Hos creation was for Our redemption. The power of evil is therefore gone.
Though we might not feel like evil and suffering has been defeated in our lives, yet the Lord shows us that suffering cannot go un-redeemed. No one can be abandoned. In the most vulnerable way, as a child, God brings back power to his creation. The power of redemption. He did not come as a king and conqueror but as a humble gift of self-offering. How can we not respond with awe and gratitude at this miracle of grace and fidelity?
God does amazing things through the people who say “yes.” Abraham is the one who makes a covenant with God initiates this pattern in scriptures. When finally the angel Gabriel asks of Mary to bear the son of God, she said yes to God's plan even without knowing the full story. Joseph also was asked to accept a difficult truth and to say yes to the idea of raising a foster child. Without knowing the entirety of the situation, these figures in the Bible represent an abiding trust in simply saying yes. And this trust might be interpreted as recognizing that this might be God's initiative, that it could be a beautiful gift in the making. Which is what it truly was for all of humanity.
We can never predict what our life will be like. We simply cannot know what will take place through all of our moments of saying yes. While it’s easy to look at other people’s lives and think our lives should be the same, the comparison is not a factor with a God who creates us all so uniquely and with different purposes. Perhaps if we feel stuck or lost, we could accept that we might need hardship and suffering to be used for our ultimate yes to God. It’s in those difficult moments that God can turn our lives toward Him and restore our own relationship with Him.
Abraham and Sara wait and are blessed with the fulfilled plan of allowing them to conceive. Even we’ll pass their old age, they desire to conceive and are finally graced with a child. There are many similar storylines in the Bible that share this theme. Conception as a gift from God.
Its almost as if God was preparing humanity for the big one. The immaculate conception and the very salvation that would miraculously enter into the world. Emmanuel, God with us. We see in this narration a God who takes responsibility for our sin, who desires to be with us in our suffering as the only way to restore us. It is not only a story that is a mystery to our scientific minds, but to our psyche - that Christ desires to be actually apart of human history by becoming human Himself. He desires to be close, to be with us even in our unfaithfulness. We can look at our lives; times when we have been prosperous and times of victory, but also times of great need for help and healing. This God wants to meet us and for us to trust Him to bring us to greater fidelity. Let us acknowledge this reality as a way to be consoled in our suffering and our human needs. We have the grace of the gift of this conception narrative and can be grateful for a God who will never abandon us but rather, truly be with us in everything.
Rejoicing. On this caudate Sunday, we hear all about all the blossoming of good things God will do, specifically in the “desert.” The location of the desert is significant because, during the time of John the Baptist and earlier prophets, the desert was seen as a place of barrenness, where the vast dryness of nature resides. Isaiah focuses on the messiah coming to these places of death, vast infertility, blindness, deafness, etc. We hear that He will renew the earth, renew and restore all people and unite us in the redemptive good news. The metaphors of the desert are not just relatable to our own places of emptiness, but a larger symbol for Gods coming into the world and blessing us with abundance, with promises of unending love and beauty. We are not called to live in anticipation of future glory, but to see that He is already renewing all of mankind by virtue of His Grace. Let us live and bask in these graces as often and courageously as we can.