This week we celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. In the Gospel from Luke, we hear an account of the occasion of his birth, with a focus on his naming. During that time, one’s name indicated one’s lineage, and the name John was not found within his family. John the Baptist’s parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, were of old age yet were favored by God and had a child. Because of this great blessing, Elizabeth and Zechariah chose to name their son “John,” which means “the Lord has been gracious” (At Home with the Word 2018).
Today's reading tell us much about sin. From the fall of Adam and Eve, to the Psalmist crying for mercy, and Christ becoming the victim of accusation and name calling. Sin has become something of a norm for us in public discourse. We have experienced a crisis in truth over the past years. Facts have been challenged with “alternative facts,” science has been denied, and lies are so prevalent in our political and social media spheres that finding the truth is hardly easy. We have also seen an erosion of what is appropriate public decorum in the rhetoric that comes from our leaders.
LAST MONTH priests at Saint Clement all marked our anniversary of ordination. It is a joyous day, much as it is for a married couple. Anniversaries remind us of promises made and commitments kept. Couples see the imperfections of their mate and still love them. Priests see the imperfections of the Church and still love it. Marriage is the joining of two human people who seek to bring the divine into each other’s lives. In ordination, human priests are joined in a mystical union with God and His People. Like a marriage, there are ecstatic moments.
As a child I was often enamored with the moon. I was fascinated with its sheer brightness, magnitude and its distance. To my mind this strange celestial object contained all of the mysteries of life, and I longed for the day when someone who had visited the moon would be able to unravel all of its mysteries. It was only years later I would learn to my amazement that some people had actually landed on the moon. Human beings have always been intrigued by the unknown and what is beyond them. They have always longed to conquer the “mysterious.”
I don't care if you can name all seven gifts of the Holy Spirit,” I told the classroom of 8th grade students preparing for Confirmation. “I care very much if you can tell me what it would look like to show fortitude in a high school hallway when you see someone getting bullied. What does fortitude, which is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, concretely look like?"
I am a cradle Catholic; baptized and raised in the Church and proud attender of 16 years of Catholic school, if you count the three years of Jesuit law school. In all that time, I was never once asked to “evangelize.” I first heard the word from our former pastor Fr.
What do you value? What is valuable to you? Take a moment and think about that—make a mental list. I imagine that our lists would vary in some ways, and in others be similar. For example, we might compare our valuables and find that one list has a lot of things on it, a lot of tangible “stuff”—the stuff of Life. Another list might include things tangible, like people—loved ones, family, co-workers—and less tangible, like relationships, feelings, belonging. Maybe your list includes the conceptual: freedom, integrity, compassion, purpose, resolve, vulnerability.
WHEN GOD’S MESSENGERS in the Old Covenant and the New wanted to explain the ways of the Lord to people, they looked around for objects and events familiar to them. Among the most familiar were the plants they lived with day by day and year after year. From the everyday experiences of sowing, plowing, watering, reaping, and storing the biblical authors created metaphors to explain the unseen realities of the spiritual realm.
A few years ago, a video went viral about a month before Mother’s Day called “The Unique Connection,” celebrating the special bond between a mother and child. In the video, six mothers stood in a line as one by one their children were led in, blindfolded. The “experiment” was to see whether the child could pick out his or her mother using their senses of touch and smell. The first child we see is a little girl. She leans forward to put her face against one woman’s face, then shakes her head no. The girl continues, feeling the face and hair of another woman, then another.
Back in December, I served as a substitute catechist for one of our religious education classes. For the session, I had prepared a seasonally-appropriate lesson on Advent. About five minutes into the lesson, a brave student raised his hand and asked, “Ms. Espinoza, how do we know that any of this is true?”