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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Year C – 2022

Among us, people, signs are very much part of our interaction.
A wink, a scowl, a frown, a shaking of the head – all of these give a message.
But to be truly meaningful, such signs need to be interpreted.
If not, then the message can be either lost or misunderstood.

Today’s gospel text, on the Feast of Jesus’ Baptism (Luke 3:15-16,21-22), offers us many signs indeed.
People coming to John to be baptized is the sign of their repentance from their sins.
John speaks of the untying the sandal straps; this was a sign of unworthiness as it referred to the work of a slave.
The fire mentioned by John is a sign of purification.
The dove descending from above is interpreted as the sign of God’s Spirit.

But no matter how meaningful these signs may appear, they are weak and poor in comparison to THE SIGN not yet mentioned.
This exceptional SIGN is that of Jesus himself being baptized.

He goes down into the water, just like everyone else.
Even when John the Baptist objects, Jesus insists to be treated like all others (Matthew 3:3-15).
What does this say?
What does it mean?

During the Christmas season just ended, we have remembered the name given to Jesus: God-with-us.
Jesus is indeed God-with us, but today, we are given to understand that Jesus is also one-of us.
And the author of the letter to the Hebrews dares to say that Jesus was

“in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:21).

A close proximity, you may think.
More still: an amazing identity – this is the true meaning of the Incarnation.
Born like all of us, he will die as we will all do, to make us what he is:
true children of God!

Already in the 2nd century, Saint Irenaeus was teaching this extraordinary truth to the early Christians:
“The Son of God became the Son of man so that man might become a son of God”.

Ours is also an amazing identity!

 

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/fete-du-bapteme-du-seigneur-annee-c-2022/

 

Source: Image: Pinterest

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Year C – 2021

A family… the word evokes people, different people of course –
each with his/her own character, likes and dislikes, weaknesses and strengths.
Every single member has a personal history and… a personal DNA, of course!

This description brings to my mind the picture of… a quilt!
Yes, a piece of patch-work serving as a colourful blanket to some of us.

Looking at a quilt what is most striking is that it includes so many different pieces of various sizes and colours.
When starting to put them together, one may think that they will not match, or fit together.
One may fear that the final look may be unpleasant, even jarring.
And yet… the finished piece is so pleasant to the eye – a masterpiece, really.

And so is a family – or… so it should be!
People, different, yes, but accepting one another.
Perhaps strongly autonomous and original, but valued for what each contributes to the group.

Thinking about it… it was somehow the same with the Holy Family!
Mary, a young woman pregnant, not by the man she is promised to, but by God’s own Spirit!
Joseph, a decent young man, dreaming of soon bringing home his beloved; but he suddenly thinks he must make another plan…
A baby born like others, it seems, but is he only an ordinary child?…

When he grows up, his mother and adoptive father will have cause to wonder… (Luke 2:41-52). 
The birth had taken place during a journey  imposed by a political leader –
not in some cozy surrounding with a nice crib to welcome this new-born.
A shelter from the rain for shepherds, a ‘grotto’ people would call it nowadays.
But, in spite of this…

One, really only one, thing matters to that Family – and, in fact, to all our own families:
God is present to all that happens, to all that these people live –
a real patchwork of experiences,
each one blessed by the One who has made himself ‘God-with-us’.

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/sainte-famille-de-jesus-marie-joseph-annee-c-2021/

 

Source: Images: Wallpaper Access   Free Bible Images   Church of Jesus Christ

Feast of Christmas, Year B – 2020

Did you notice how, when surprised or caught unawares, some people will explain:
“My God!”
The words come not as a prayer but as a spontaneous exclamation.

And yet, it could be a prayer… and it could be more than a prayer –
it could be the sign that the words of Isaiah in the 1st reading of the Christmas night mass (Isaiah 9:1-6)
have been really understood.

Because this is the true meaning of CHRISTMAS:
“To us a child is born,
to us a son is given.”

If only, this time – this Christmas – we could discover, understand, and appropriate this reality.
Appropriate, yes, make it our own – God is OUR God, God is God-with-us – this is his name.

How is it that we have come to imagine a distant God, remote from our human experience?
How did we miss what he has been trying to make us understand for so long?
Why do we find it so hard to accept that his idea of what God should be is the right one?!

Why do we constantly go back to the gods of the past, the gods known before Jesus was born a small child –
Born from a human mother, a woman of our race – that he could in truth claim us as his own.

He has claimed us as his own so that we may claim him as ours – indeed OUR God.
A child born to us, a son given to us.
 
This is Christmas – “MY God!” how amazingly wonderful!

Note: Another reflection on a different theme is available in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/fete-de-noel-annee-b-2020/

 

Source: Image: Knowing Jesus

4th Sunday of Advent, Year B – 2020

We get used to things that we do often; used also to the words we repeat day after day.
The words we speak during our liturgical celebrations are no exception and…
sad to say, all too often we repeat them with our minds busy with all kinds of other thoughts.

During the Eucharistic celebration (the Mass) more than once, the priest tells us:
“The Lord be with you.”
We respond immediately – or at least, most of us do –
“And also with you.”
 
These 5 words addressed to us by the celebrant sound somehow like a wish,
a prayerful one but still a wish.
I know a few priests who rather say: “The Lord IS with you.”
 
These are the very words with which the angel Gabriel greeted Mary.
We hear them again in today’s gospel text (Luke 1:26-38).
I wonder if Mary was surprised?… Amazed?… Delighted?…
Wondering what would follow this greeting?…
Did she truly believe the message these words expressed?
 
The first time I heard the words repeated during Mass, I was suddenly made aware of what was said… to ME!
And, for some time after, I kept repeating silently to myself: The Lord is with me…
 
Perhaps this is the purpose of the period of Advent: to realize that God is with us –
yes, already with us!
We need not wait for the Nativity scene to make us believe it.

The reproduction of the Holy Family in a stable, or a cave, or any kind of shelter, will not make this more real.
It will only be a reminder of who God is now and for ever: EMMANUEL – GOD-WITH-US.

Note: Another reflection on a different theme is available in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/4e-dimanche-de-lavent-annee-b-2020/

 

Source: Image: YouTube

4th Sunday of Advent, Year A – 2019

Do you have in your life some… ‘wingless angels’?
You smile, but they can be very REAL!

We are used to the representation of old showing us cherubim and seraphim angelic messengers.
It was the imagery of ancient times and it has made its way up to our days.
The illustration of today’s gospel – the dream of Saint Joseph – is one such picture (Mt.1:18-24).

Some may find it helpful, others not.
But the identity and the mission of such messengers remain valid and meaningful.

If you pause for a moment and look at your daily life, you will most probably recognize some people who are there –
there precisely when you need them!

  • There with some information you are looking for.
  • There with some help in a given situation.
  • There with some useful suggestion.
  • There with some discrete friendly advice.
  • And always there with compassion and comfort!

They are the ‘wingless angels’ you can count on – the very manifestation of a presence –
that of the One who made himself: “God-with-us”.

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/4e-dimanche-de-lavent-annee-a-2019/
 

Source: Images: russ-ramsey.com   topofart.com (painting, Georges de la Tour)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feast of Epiphany, Year B

Have you ever tried to have a person do something that he, or she, does not feel inclined to do?
It is quite a… task, we know it.
One may use petition, supplication, cajoling or threatening, but a stubborn silent refusal may be all that is given as a reply!

I think that this is what the prophets of God’s people have sometimes met with.
No wonder that, at times, they used strong language to wake up their people.
Isaiah was no exception as he addresses the people of Jerusalem.

On this feast of Epiphany, his first word in today’s first reading (Is.60:1-6) is rather mild but insistent in tone: “ARISE, JERUSALEM!”
In today’s language, one may say: ‘GET UP!’

Why? Normally, a person gets up to do something, or to go somewhere.
This is the case for the Magi whom we meet in today’s gospel text (Epiphany, Year B – Mt.2:1-12).
They have risen, left their respective countries and set out on a journey.
They are not yet certain where their traveling will take them but they are on the move.

In this first week of a new year, this is somehow our situation as well.
We are on the move – the days go by, one by one, and take us with them.
We are not at all certain where the 31st of December will find us – neither the where nor the how are clear to us just yet.

But what is indeed clear and assured is: to what and with whom we are traveling.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, whatever our age and condition, our steps are taking us to God’s home – the place he has prepared for us – and our traveling companion is the one who has become, by his own choice, God-with-us.
 
Our steps are taking us there… if we have chosen this direction and this traveling companion.
The choice is ours… and remains so all along the way…

Source: Image: Pinterest

Note: Other texts about this feast are available at:  https://image-i-nations.com/fete-de-lepiphanie-annee-b/

https://image-i-nations.com/mages-dou-viennent/

Feast of Epiphany, year A

Day after day, week after week, the Bible texts call to us in different ways.
We believe that this is God’s message addressed to us.
We are convinced that the words we hear are not simply human words but God’s own words.

They may be words of invitation, or words of comfort;
words of reproach, or words of encouragement.

 God’s messengers speaking to us in his name sometimes ask us to do something.
In the first reading, this is what Isaiah does today (Is.60:1-6). He tells us:
“Lift up your eyes and look around.”
 
Did you notice how many people go about doing… exactly the opposite?!
Many walk around head bent down, with stooped shoulders…
Their steps are heavy… and, possibly, their hearts as well.
 
Through Isaiah, God invites us to lift up our eyes to see what?
He wants his people to realize:
“The nations come to your light… all are assembling.”
 
This is the meaning of today’s celebration on this feast of Epiphany.
It is a celebration for all nations, all peoples are called to recognize God in our midst, “God-with-us”.
The Magi – those Wise Men from the East –are the symbol of all the many we may see as strangers, foreigners, outsiders.
They are all called to be God’s people.
 
They, from afar, who come close to this new-born Child, represent already the Samaritan woman, the Roman soldier, the Syro-Phoenician woman, to whom He will make himself close to.
This will be… Epiphany continued!…
God’s revelation to each and everyone, notwithstanding their nation or language, their origin or belief.
 
God is the GOD OF ALL – by His own choice!

Source: Images: Daily Record; The Well Community Church

 
 

Christmas, Year A

Proverbs often have much wisdom encapsulated in a few words. They convey the popular wisdom which has much to tell us about life and situations.

At one time or another, you may have heard this saying: “There is more to it than meets the eye.” Looking at a situation, observing the attitude of someone, a friend or neighbour may have whispered these words: “There is more to it than meets the eye.” The person would have acknowledged that what he saw, what she noticed, was “not the whole story”, as they say.

These words are truly appropriate for what we are celebrating at Christmas – what we see, or… think we see! – as we look at a Nativity scene. The scene itself may be very ordinary or quite elaborate, it may show only the new-born child with his mother and father, or display as well the humble visitors and the royal guests that are part of the longer narrative.

Yes…

  • We look at a baby – We are to see God himself;
  • We look at poverty – We are to see the riches of God;
  • We look at weakness – We are to see the strength of God;
  • We look at helplessness – We are to see the power of God;

Indeed, we look at a simple situation: the birth of a child – We are to see the most extraordinary event in human history: God who has become a human being like us.

He has chosen the name he was to be called: “God-with-us” (Mt.1:23) – this is what He is, what He wants to be for each one of us. There is no situation – except that of our refusal – which can render this obsolete.

The gospel text (Lk.2:15-20) tells us, that having seen the new-born child, the shepherds “went back glorifying and praising God.” What more could we do?

Source: Image: Answers in Genesis          

                                                                                                                                                     

4th Sunday of Advent, Year A

At one time or another, you may have found yourself in this situation: as you approach the house or a person you intend to visit, you detect a movement at the window: a curtain is pulled slightly and you can recognize the person you hope to meet.

You ring the bell, or knock at the door but… no answer. You try again, but again your ringing or knocking obtains no reply. Yet, the person is there, no doubt about it. You may feel disappointed, even annoyed. You may ask yourself questions…

I believe the Lord knows from experience how this feels.At one time or another, you may have found yourself in this situation: as you approach the house or a person you intend to visit, you detect a movement at the window: a curtain is pulled slightly and you can recognize the person you hope to meet.

I believe the Lord knows from experience how this feels.
For him, it started over 2,000 years ago when people would not open their door for his mother to give birth to him – “There was no place for them at the inn….” (Lk.2:8).
Later on, some people would not even allow him to pass through their village… (Lk.9:54).

And this experience may repeat itself for him in our own time when people – when we – do not open the door of our lives to him…
He knocks and may keep on knocking, but… he is still standing at the door, waiting… waiting for us.
We say that Advent time is a period of waiting – could it be that it is so for Him too?…

The response to the Psalm (Ps.97) of this Sunday (4th Advent, year A) says: “Let the Lord enter…”
Simply this: to allow him to come in, to welcome him to share our day-to-day experiences.
We know that his name is “God-with-us”, this is what he wants to be for each one of us.

When welcoming people to their homes, people often say: “Come in, come in, make yourself at home!”
Perhaps these are the very words the Lord is waiting to hear from us…
‘Welcome, Lord, make yourself at home!’
This could be the best Christmas prayer we can make!

Source: Image: Pinterest

Christmas, C

CHRISTMAS, a time to rejoice and to celebrate. We somehow move a short distance away from our routine tasks and daily activities. We try to take time – time to reflect, time to look at things, situations, and people, in a different way. Strange, but it seems that those very things, situations and people that are part of our daily lives suddenly take on, is it a glow? Or a meaning? that was not there before… It is as if things around us now have a special quality, a special depth, drawing our attention, perhaps even our admiration.

NativityReflecting on this, I started looking at the texts of the Christmas liturgy. Different aspects struck me: the light, the simplicity, the newness, the peace, that a birth – THE birth – of this God-Child brought into our world. It happened long ago, but the effect is enduring, permanent!

Then, one short text came to my mind. It stood out, not of those beautiful Christmas readings, but it appeared suddenly from the often-repeated ritual of the daily Eucharistic celebration. The words are spoken by the priest when he addresses us, saying: « The Lord is with you. »

A new meaning dawned on me and I know that, when I hear these words during the Christmas celebration, I will be tempted to reply: « HE IS ! » « Yes, indeed, HE IS, ‘GOD-WITH-US’! »

This is in fact, the meaning of all that happens during this season, what people call « the reason for the season »! It is announced at the very beginning of the gospel of Luke and it is confirmed at the end of the gospel of Matthew by that Child who has become a man who promises: « Behold, I am with you until the end of time! » (Mt.28:20) This is Christmas for me…

Pic: www.rforh.com