Heart-Softening

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
January 12, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011223.cfm

psalm 95 copy

Today, in Mercy, our first reading quotes at length from Psalm 95, and the message is reprised in the Responsorial Psalm.

Harden not your hearts.

We all know what it feels like to harden our hearts. We do it out of anger, fear, exhaustion, frustration and so many other reasons. We feel like the only way to protect ourselves and our space is to build a wall! Put up those bricks made out of our stony faces, curt words, numbing silence, distancing indifference – our hardened hearts.


Today’s reading tells us that this is never God’s way.

The way to freedom, peace, self-respect, joy and fullness of life is always found in relationship – as God is in relationship with all Creation.

Jesus demonstrates that relationship in today’s Gospel by connecting with the leper. This leper has been walled off from society by illness and disfigurement. Most people’s hearts are hardened against him, but Jesus is “moved by pity” at the leper’s isolation.

The leper, too, has built a bridge by reaching through his own hardened heart in faith and trust. Surely all the years of mistreatment had made him wary of trust, had immobilized him in self-protection. But he allows himself a courageous plea to Jesus, and he is heard.

Jesus Cures a Leper – Rembrandt


It is no easy challenge to soften a hardened heart. Some of our walls are very high, some of our bricks very heavy. But, one by one, we can choose opportunities for forgiveness, kindness, understanding, patience, encouragement, listening and companionship – even, and especially, toward those estranged in any way from us or from themselves. And we can do this even toward ourselves when we have become hardened to our own beauty and goodness.

To begin might take only a smile, a prayer, a phone call, a small kindness, an invitation, a moment of ordinary conversation…. just these might start to crumble a wall, to soften a heart.

Let’s ask God’s grace today to do this heart-softening wherever we might need it. Let’s ask this grace for others in need as well.


Poetry: The Altar by George Herbert – Herbert wrote this poem in the shape of an altar. He describes the spiritual process of allowing his “hard heart” to be built into an altar for God’s praise.

A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,

 Made of a heart and cemented with tears:

  Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;

No workman’s tool hath touch’d the same.

                   A HEART alone

                   Is such a stone,

                  As nothing but

                  Thy pow’r doth cut.

                  Wherefore each part

                  Of my hard heart

                  Meets in this frame,

                  To praise thy name:

       That if I chance to hold my peace,

 These stones to praise thee may not cease.

   Oh, let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,

     And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.


Music: Soften My Heart, Lord (and adding a second song, just because I think you’ll like it.)

Solitude Prayer

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
January 11, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011123.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Mark’s Gospel allows us to spend a day with Jesus during his early ministry.

After “church”, so to speak, Jesus and his buddies go to Simon’s house for a meal. Where Simon’s wife was we’re not told, but his mother-in-law seems to have been chief cook and bottle washer. Unfortunately, on that day, she’s not feeling well. However, with but a touch from Jesus, she’s restored and begins waiting on the guys.

The Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law by Rembrandt

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

Mark 1:29-31

It seems like Jesus and his friends hung out through the heat of the day. As evening cool descends, neighbors begin arriving with their sicknesses and troubled spirits. Jesus cures many of those gathered. Can you just imagine the scene!


The next morning, even before dawn, Jesus goes off to a quiet place to pray. No doubt he wants to discern, with his Father and the Holy Spirit, the things that are happening in his life. Again can you imagine that conversation!

We know that, when asked, Jesus gave us the human words of the “Our Father” to teach us to pray. But how did Jesus himself pray in the solitude of his heart?

Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity
focused in relationship to one another
and yielding a Love
too immense for description!


In our own humble prayer today, may we lean against the heart of Jesus as he immersed himself in the Presence of the Creator and Spirit. May we pray in Christ’s pregnant silence.


Poetry: Solitude – Thomas Merton

When no one listens
To the quiet trees
When no one notices
The sun in the pool.

Where no one feels
The first drop of rain
Or sees the last star

Or hails the first morning
Of a giant world
Where peace begins
And rages end:

One bird sits still
Watching the work of God:
One turning leaf,
Two falling blossoms,
Ten circles upon the pond.

One cloud upon the hillside,
Two shadows in the valley
And the light strikes home.
Now dawn commands the capture
Of the tallest fortune,
The surrender
Of no less marvelous prize!

Closer and clearer
Than any wordy master,
Thou inward Stranger
Whom I have never seen,

Deeper and cleaner
Than the clamorous ocean,
Seize up my silence
Hold me in Thy Hand!

Now act is waste
And suffering undone
Laws become prodigals
Limits are torn down
For envy has no property
And passion is none.

Look, the vast Light stands still
Our cleanest Light is One!

Music: Intermezzo in B minor – Maureen McCarthy Draper

The Mystery of Suffering

Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
January 10, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011023.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read from the epistle to the Hebrews and the Gospel of Mark. We will be doing this for the next month or so.

heb2_10 sufferingjpg

Hebrews is unique in that it was written rather specifically for Jews who had become Christians. They were people who were steeped in the spirituality and expectations of the Old Testament. Many had been waiting for a militant Messiah who would deliver them from earthly suffering by a display of power and might.

During the first century of Christianity, as the nascent Church experienced persecution, that hope for delivery re-emerged. Although they had accepted a Resurrected Christ, the community’s own present suffering fixated them on the Passion and Death of Jesus. They questioned how that anguished man could really be the One foretold in their Hebrew Scriptures, and how he could transform their lives.


Can’t we empathize with those early Judea-Christians? The mystery of suffering and death still haunts us. Don’t we sometimes question why Jesus had to die like that – why we have to die, why the people we love have to die? Don’t we feel at least some resistance to this overwhelming mystery?


The author of Hebrews tries to address those doubts by showing that the majesty of Christ resides not just in his divine nature, but in his loving willingness to share our human nature. By doing so, Jesus demonstrated in his flesh the path we must take to holiness. He leads the way through our doubts if we put our faith in him.

… we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor”
because he suffered death,
he who “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,”
that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone…

For it was fitting that he,
for whom and through whom all things exist,
in bringing many children to glory,
should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.

Hebrews 2:9-10

This is the core mystery of our faith: that God brings us to eternal life not by a path outside our human experience. Rather, Jesus shows us how to pattern our lives on the profound sacrificial love which is the Lavish Mercy of God. The path to eternal life is not around our human frailties and challenges, but through them. Jesus leads the way by his Life, Death and Resurrection.


Mark gives us just one Gospel example of that love today in the healing of the man with the unclean spirit. That spirit was one of resistance to the Word of God, screaming out as Jesus began to preach a Gospel of love, faith, and forgiveness.

Two Men Possessed with Devils – James Tissot (1836-1902)

The man with an unclean spirit cried out,
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” 

Matthew 1:23-24

As we pray these scriptures today, let us put before God’s healing touch any resistance in our hearts to Jesus’s call to be merciful love in the world.


Poetry: Suffering – Jessica Powers

All that day long I spent the hours with suffering.
I woke to find her sitting by my bed.
She stalked my footsteps while time slowed to timeless,
Tortured my sight, came close in what was said.

She asked me no more than that, beneath unwelcome,
I might be mindful of her grant of grace.
I still can smile, amused, when I remember
How I surprised her when I kissed her face.


Music:  Crown Him with Many Crowns, an 1851 hymn with lyrics written by Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Turing and sung to the tune ‘Diademata‘ by Sir George Job Elvey.

This majestic hymn reflects how mid-19th century theology attempted to embrace the Redemptive mystery. Still, many of its suggestions, though cast in an earlier idiom, are well worth reflection.

You’re Invited to a Baptism!

The Baptism of the Lord
January 9, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010923.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus makes a remarkable debut! 

Picture the scene. It is a beautiful morning in the Judean Valley where the Jordan Riven runs fresh and sparkling. Most scholars place the Baptism of Jesus sometime in January, which means the weather would have been relatively cool. But perhaps, like our own weather, an unusually warm day may have snuck in.

Rustic, fiery preacher John is baptizing in the Jordan River. Crowds have come to hear what he has to say. Some are convinced and dive into the cool water under his hand.

Others rim the hillside, not so sure John isn’t one of the many who have glorious visions but few facts.

Then, out from the pines on the far side of the river, comes Jesus, flanked by some of the Twelve. While his companions chat away to Jesus, his eyes are focused on John. In an instant, Jesus realizes that this is the moment for his revelation. In that same instant, all Creation realizes the same thing.

As Jesus walks slowly toward John, the birds and little animals speak to him, “My Lord and my God…”.  Wind whistling through the trees becomes an Oratorio praising him. All the surrounding colors deepen, breaking forth in unimaginable light.

John is stunned by the cosmic change he senses but cannot describe. Heart trembling, he looks into Jesus’s eyes and catches a glimpse of heaven. “I need to be baptized by you”, John says,”and yet you are coming to me?

Jesus smiles at his cousin, replying, 

“Let it be so now; 
it is proper for us to do this 
to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then John consented.

Perhaps those in the crowd, schooled in the ancient scriptures, heard Isaiah’s voice in the charged atmosphere:

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.


Matthew tells us:

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.

the-baptism-of-jesus-jeff-haynie
The Baptism Of Jesus is a painting by Jeff Haynie For purchase, see:https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-baptism-of-jesus-jeff-haynie.html

Can you see him light-heartedly splashing John as he shakes his dark curls free of the chilly water? Can you see his transfigured face as he hears his Father speak Love over him?

At that moment heaven was opened, 
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
And a voice from heaven said, 

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

What a beautiful moment in time! Don’t we wish we might have been there in the blessed and awe-struck crowd? We can. Let your prayer of imagination take you there. What happens in your heart when the newly baptized Jesus catches your eyes?

Music: The Baptism of Jesus

Seeing What We Look At

The Epiphany of the Lord
Sunday, January 8, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010823.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the great feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord, a day which commemorates Christ’s manifestation to the Gentiles.

is60_5 epiphanyjpg

Perhaps on this day, as little children, some of us placed the Three Kings in the crèche, fascinated by their journey and their majesty (and of course by the camels.). These figures represented all nations bringing their gifts to the newborn Savior. In their humble generosity, the journeyers eyes were opened and they recognized Divinity in the most unlikely of places.

An epiphany is a special kind of vision.
It is an insight to see something amazingly deeper
in what we thought we had already perceived.

We might walk by a tree, a house, a person day after day taking them completely for granted. We see them – but don’t really see them. Then, one day, a certain turn of sun on leaves might let us see that tree differently. An open window with its curtains billowing might transform that house into a home. A caring exchange might change that person into a friend.

And we say things like, “Gosh, why had I never noticed that before…”


The Three Kings were given the grace of Epiphany to see God where others saw only a poor newborn. They were given the wisdom to see Herod’s treachery where he pretended to offer only homage.


This feast reminds us that a sacred dimension exists beneath the surface of all appearances. Every reality contains the capacity for holiness, for goodness, for wisdom, for love. The more we are attuned to Grace, the more we recognize the presence (or the absence, as with Herod) of this capacity. The more we begin to live in deeper relationship with the seemingly ordinary in our lives.

Because actually, nothing is ordinary! Everything that comes to us is fraught with grace and divine possibility. We just need to live intentionally – to ask for and respond to the gift of Epiphany as it is given in our particular circumstances.


Poetry: I think the sentiments of today’s feast thread through a beautiful poem by William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood – particularly in these lines:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Poetry lovers might like to read the entire poem here: 

Click here for full poem


Music: Walking through Clouds – Bernward Koch
Please enjoy this gentle music as you pray your Epiphanies:

Becoming Wine

Christmas Weekday
January 7, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010723.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we have the belovedly familiar story of the Miracle at Cana.

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”

John 2: 1-3

Like all good stories, this one is engaging on so many levels:

  • We see Mary and Jesus enjoying a social event in the same way we would.
  • We see Mary extending her solicitude and influence for the sake of the hosting family.
  • We see Jesus needing a swift nudge from his mother to do the right thing!
  • We see the Apostolic tipsters slowly waking up to the fact that Jesus is not just the guy next door!

We can pray with this Gospel passage by entering it from any one of these, or other, perspectives. We can easily sit right down at one of the wedding tables and watch the slow, human revelation of God in the world. But I think our first reading makes a strong case for us to pray the Cana story as a perfect example of how we should make our prayers of petition.


If you’re like me, you ask God for a lot of things every single day. Some of them are big deal things like “Please move hearts to stop the war on Ukraine.” And some of them are little deals like, “Please don’t let it rain on my picnic!”

In our first reading, John tells us how to pray our needs to God – with the utter confidence that, within God’s Will, we are heard.

Beloved:
We have this confidence in God,
that if we ask anything according to God’s will, we are heard.
And if we know that God hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked for is ours.

1 John 5: 14-15

This is the way Mary offers her petition in our Gospel story. She knows that Jesus will hear her and do the right thing. She doesn’t niggle him to death to get it done. She knows that by her “prayer”, she is now present to God’s infinite awareness of our needs.

His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”

John 2:5

In this case, that “right thing” was to turn huge vats of water into delicious wine. A very satisfying outcome! But what about when our prayer doesn’t result in a deluge of wine? What about when it seems like God paid no attention to our request? Can we still have the unyielding confidence which John encourages and Mary exemplifies?

Our faith calls us to believe that God is present with us in all things. Our prayer opens us to seek that Presence and to respond in faith to our circumstances knowing that even when the vessels seem empty, God abides. Ours is a life in God not limited to one petition, or one prayer. It is an incremental immersion into an Eternal Truth which transcends any particular circumstance. God is always with us and that alone is the source of our confident prayer.

We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true, in God’s Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:20

Poetry: Cana Wine – Irene Zimmerman, OSF

“The weather’s so hot
and no more wine’s to be bought
in all of Cana!
It’s just what I feared—
just why I begged my husband
to keep the wedding small.”

“Does he know?” Mary asked.

“Not yet. Oh, the shame!
Look at my son and his beautiful bride!
They’ll never be able
to raise their heads again,
not in this small town.” 
“Then don’t tell him yet.”
Mary greeted the guests
as she made her way
through crowded reception rooms.
“I must talk to you, Son,”
she said unobtrusively. 

Moments later he moved
toward the back serving rooms.
They hadn’t seen each other
since the morning he’d left her—
before the baptism
and the desert time. 

There was so much to tell her,
so much to ask.
But this was not the time!
They could talk tomorrow
on the way to Capernaum.
She spoke urgently, her words
both request and command to him:
“They have no wine.”
But he hadn’t been called yet!
He hadn’t felt it yet.
Would she send him so soon
to the hounds and jackals?
For wine? 

Was wine so important then? 

“Woman, what concern is that
to you and me?
My hour has not yet come.”

Her unflinching eyes reflected to him
his twelve-year-old self
telling her with no contrition:
“Why were you searching for me?
Did you not know I must be
in my Father’s house?” 

She left him standing there—
vine from her stock,
ready for fruit bearing—
and went to the servants.
“Do whatever he tells you,” she said. 

From across the room
she watched them fill water jars,
watched the chief steward
drink from the dripping cup,
saw his eyes open in wide surprise. 

She watched her grown son
toast the young couple,
watched the groom’s parents
and the guests raise their cups.

She saw it all clearly:
saw the Best Wine
pouring out for them all.

Music: od Hears Our Prayers – Mandy Lining

Cherish Your Baptism

Christmas Weekday
January 6, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010623.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we may be used to celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany. But those who generate the Church calendar have reserved that celebration for this coming Sunday.

We are blessed instead with dynamic readings, triumphant in tone, calling us to celebrate our life in Christ:

Beloved:
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
….
I write these things to you so that you may know
that you have eternal life,
you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

1 John 5: 5;13

In a way, John calls us to a personal epiphany — the realization of the indescribable gift of grace we have received through Baptism. He enjoins us to live audaciously within the power of that realization.


In our short but powerful Gospel, we see Jesus burst into that audacious living:

The Baptism Of Jesus is a painting by Jeff Haynie
For purchase, see:
https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-baptism-of-jesus-jeff-haynie.html

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Matthew 1:9-11

In the power of Jesus
rising through the Baptismal waters,
may we too live each new day
in cascade of faith, hope and love.


Poetry: Variation on a Theme by Rilke from Breathing the Water by Denise Levertov


A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me--a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task, The day's blow
rang out, metallic--or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

Music: Cherish by Aeoliah

Fig Trees and Ladders

Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop
January 5, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010523.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  we celebrate the Memorial of Saint John Neumann. 

John Neumann was born in Bohemia on March 20, 1811. Since he had a great desire to dedicate himself to the American missions, he came to the United States as a cleric and was ordained in New York in 1836 by Bishop Dubois.

In 1840, John Neumann entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). He labored in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. In 1852, he was consecrated bishop of Philadelphia. There he worked hard for the establishment of parish schools and for the erection of many parishes for the numerous immigrants. Bishop Neumann died on January 5, 1860; he was beatified in 1963.
(catholicculture.org)


jn1_50 figjpg

In our first reading today, John tells us bluntly:

Whoever does not love remains in death.

1 John 3:14

This kind of statement is what one might both love and hate about John. We love it because it’s clear, unequivocal – tells us exactly what we need to do.

And we hate it because it’s clear and unequivocal – there’s no evading it, no back door. We must love – everybody- or we are as good as dead. Wow!


Was this the kind of either-or that Nathaniel struggled with under the fig tree? He sat there pondering some deep challenge or decision and Jesus saw him – and understood – from afar.

The miracle of that moment caused Nathaniel to believe. But Jesus says something like this to Nathaniel:

Hold up, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Your little wrestling under the fig tree was all about your own small world and vision. I invite you now to see the world with God’s eyes.


We all spend worrying time under the shadow our own little fig trees – most of the time worrying about ourselves – who hurt us, doesn’t like us, gets in our way, misunderstands or annoys us.

Today’s Gospel invites us to stop licking our wounds. It beckons us out of the shadows of our self-absorption to see what God might see today – the beauty, the needs, the challenges and possibilities of the world around us. We are invited to become lovers and healers like Jesus.

As John has said, we are invited to leave any shadow of death and to live in love:

The way we came to know love
was that he laid down his life for us;
so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If someone who has worldly means
sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion,
how can the love of God remain in him? 
Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:16-18

Poem: In the following poem, Malcolm Guite compares the spiritual transformations of Jacob and Nathaniel.

Jesus called Nathaniel “a true Israelite” and tells him: “… you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” This is a clear reference to the story of Jacob’s Ladder from Genesis, where in a dream God transforms Jacob’s life to become the Patriarch of Israel.

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.

Genesis 28:10-15

Nathaniel’s Awakening – Malcolm Guite

A fugitive and exile, Jacob slept,
A man of clay, his head upon a stone
And even in his sleep his spirit wept
He lay down lonely and would wake alone.
But in the night he dreamt the Heavens parted
And glimpsed, in glory, as from Heaven’s core,
A ladder set for all the broken-hearted
And earth herself becoming Heaven’s door.
And when the nameless Angel named him Israel
He kept this gift, whose depth he never knew;
The promise of an end to all our exile,
For now a child of Israel finds it true,
And sees the One who heals the deep heart’s aching
As Jacob’s dream becomes Nathanael’s waking.

Music: Maybe Nathaniel sang a song like this in his heart as he came out from under his fig tree.

Love Like Jesus – Rhett Walker

The Invitation

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious
January 4, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010423.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of St. Elizabeth Anne Seton, the first American born saint.

Elizabeth Seton was born on August 28, 1774, of a wealthy and distinguished Episcopalian family. She was baptized in the Episcopal faith and was a faithful adherent of the Episcopal Church until her conversion to Catholicism.

She established her first Catholic school in Baltimore in 1808; in 1809, she established a religious community in Emmitsburg, Maryland. After seeing the expansion of her small community of teaching sisters to New York and as far as St. Loius, she died on January 4, 1821, and was declared a saint by Pope Paul VI on September 14, 1975. She is the first native born American to be canonized a saint.

(from CatholicCulture.org)


Jn 1_39

In our Gospel, we find the first disciples encountering Jesus. They are curious about him because the Baptist has just described him as “the Lamb of God”.

The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher),
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.

John 1: 37-40

We can picture Andrew and his unnamed buddy trailing behind Jesus, watching him, listening to him. Finally they hazard a question, “Rabbi, where do you live?”

It’s kind of a loaded question. What it might really mean are things like these:

  • Where did you come from all of sudden?
  • How could you possibly be the Messiah if you’re walking around looking just like us?
  • Do you go back to heaven at night or are you really one of us?
  • Can we just hang out and find out more about you?

Their faith is tentative, hopeful and maybe just a little bit suspicious. Does your faith ever feel like that? 


When we pray, are we convinced that God hears us? When we suffer, do we believe God abides with us? When we choose, act or respond, do we trust that God cares about our actions? Do we believe, in these and all circumstances, that the power of God is present in our lives?

To have that kind of faith, we have to “learn” Christ, to become as close and comfortable with him as with an intimate friend. In our Gospel, Jesus tells us how to do that: “Come and see.” 

In other words:

Spend time with me.
Talk with me about ordinary things.
Watch sunsets and sunrises with me.
Tell me your secrets.
Let me tell you mine.
Laugh with me.
Be silent with me.
Trust that you are never separate from me.

If we do these things, even slowly and steadily as the first disciples, we will eventually say with Andrew, “l have found the Messiah” – and he is living right within my life!


Poetry: the calling of the disciples – Lucille Clifton

some Jesus
has come on me

i throw down my nets
into the water he walks

i loose the fish
he feeds to cities

and everyone calls me
an old name

as i follow out
laughing like God’s fool
behind this Jesus

Music: Come and See – Bob Bennett

The Image of God

Christmas Weekday
January 3, 2023

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010323.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with John’s soul-stirring words:

1 jn 3_ 2

Beloved, we are God’s children …

When I pray these words I think of my mother. As a little child, I already bore a clear physical likeness to her. But as I grew into a young woman, and later an older woman, people remarked that we looked like twins. There were even occasions when we were confused with each other.

This visible resemblance gave me great pride. My mother was strong, courageous, funny, wise, and fiercely loving. I loved to hear the phrase, “Oh my, you are the image of your mother!” I wanted to be like her – made of the same stuff as she was.


In our reading today, John tells us that we are made of the very stuff of God – the essence of the Sacred. He suggests that when people look at us they should see God’s features written all over us.

See what love the Creator has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.

1 John 2:30

John says that we should see this Divine familial likeness in one another – that we are each imprinted with our Creator’s image.

The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.

1 John 2:31

If we believe John’s words, what tenderness we would bear toward ourselves and others! How could we ever belittle, hate or kill one another? How could we ever do these things to ourselves?


In our Gospel, the great prophet John the Baptist sees the imminent transformation of the world coming toward him in the person of Jesus Christ. May we see this too as, by our sincere prayer and study of the scriptures, the Light of Christmas waxes in our hearts throughout 2023. In that Loving Light, we recognize one another clearly as beloved children of God.

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
…..
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

John 1:29-34

Poetry: I Am the Light – Malcolm Guite

I see your world in light that shines behind me,
Lit by a sun whose rays I cannot see,
The smallest gleam of light still seems to find me
Or find the child who’s hiding deep inside me.
I see your light reflected in the water,
Or kindled suddenly in someone’s eyes,
It shimmers through the living leaves of summer,
Or spills from silver veins in leaden skies,
It gathers in the candles at our vespers
It concentrates in tiny drops of dew
At times it sings for joy, at times it whispers,
But all the time it calls me back to you.
I follow you upstream through this dark night
My savior, source, and spring, my life and light.

Music: How Can Anyone Ever Tell You – Shaina Knoll

Often, when I think of Christ on the Cross, I can hear God the Mother singing this song to Jesus, reaching from heaven to console Him in His pain.

This morning, we might ask God to sing this song over our wounded world which has so obscured God’s likeness – perhaps to sing it over us if we are in particular pain.

In our heart’s deep forgiveness, we might sing this song over anyone who has hurt us – the meanness coming from their failure to recognize their own beauty – the fact that they and we are the very image of our loving God.