A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Archive for January, 2018

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Are you talking to me?

During the celebration of the Oscar awards ceremony, the most anticipated moment is not the gawking at the somewhat “de rigeur” dresses the actresses are wearing, but, rather, the  moment that the names of the winners are called.  “Is my name going to be called…or not?”

The first reading for for the second Sunday in Ordinary Time (I Samuel 3:3-19) and the Gospel (John 1:35-42) speak to us in terms of names and responses.

In the first reading from the book of Samuel, the boy hears his being name called and thinks it is his mentor Eli the elder. It was late at night.  So the boy runs to Eli and tells him that he heard his name called, and went to see what he wanted.  Eli said he didn’t call and to go back to sleep.

This call-response event occurred twice again, and finally Eli told Samuel that it was the Lord calling him.  The fourth and final time Samuel heard his name called, he responded “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.

In the Gospel, John the Baptist and two of his disciples saw Jesus walk by and  John blurts out, “Look, here is the ‘Lamb of God'”   The disciples started to follow Jesus.  Andrew, one of the disciples of John, found his brother Simon and told him that they had found the Messiah (=the one sent), and then took him to Jesus.

Jesus sized up Simon and told him, “You are Simon, son of John, from now on you will be called Cephas (=Peter).”  What we note in these two readings is the name being called and a response.

In the first reading Samuel hears his name, and when he realizes it is the Lord calling him, he responds, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”  In the Gospel, Simon not only hears his name called by Jesus, but also his name is changed to Peter.  His response is one of discipleship which we see in the rest of the Gospels.

What does this mean for us?  First of all, the Lord is calling each of us by name to be of service to others, for example: justice, compassion, forgiveness, and other virtues of service.  It is up to us to recognize Jesus wherever we see him, likely in the poor, sick, homeless, and others in need.  The response of Samuel is crucial when our name is called: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is  listening.”  It is only by listening that we can hear the word.

Secondly, as in the Gospel Simon’s name was changed to Cephas (=Peter) which means “rock,” so our name is changed when we are baptized.  Because of Baptism, we officially called “disciple of Jesus” which means we continue his work on earth.

The fundamental question in this call-response dynamic seems to be: “Is there anything that is making me too deaf to hear the voice of the Lord?”  Attitude?  Temptation?

There is no response if I am not certain that I hear the voice of the Lord by asking  “Are you talking to me?”

 

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How to deal with emigrants

In listening to or watching the news recently, we have been noticing that emigrants are major topics  of interest.  Many people, primarily from Middle Eastern and African countries, are being threatened by starvation and/or violence.  They want to go somewhere safe.  What to do?

The Gospel from the feast of the Epiphany offers a few reflective suggestions.  First, a relatively brief summary of the Gospel.  (Matthew 2:1-12)  Magi (astrologers) come from the East (a country “out there” somewhere) to honor the newborn king of the Jews, as they determined from the star which they followed.

When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, they asked the question as to where this child could  be found.  They were told “in Bethlehem.”  Meanwhile, King Herod, who didn’t like competition for his kingship, asked the Magi to tell him precisely where the child was when the found him.  His reason, of course, was to kill Jesus.

The star that the Magi followed showed them where the child was and they offered him very expensive gifts. The fact that outsiders, according to Matthew, were the first to honor who Jesus was, is  considered an “Epiphany.”  (The word means “manifestation”) Then, told in a dream to return home in another way, the Magi did so.

Having become aware of Herod’s plan to kill the child, the Holy Family fled to Egypt for fear of the child’s assassination.  In this flight into Egypt, the Holy Family became emigrants.

What is the Gospel telling us?  Basically, it is telling us that both the Magi and the Holy Family were emigrants.  The Magi left their country for religious reasons (to honor Jesus), and the Holy Family left to avoid assassination (the potential killing of Jesus).  In fact, these are two very important reasons that we have emigrants in this day and age.  The major question is and remains “How do I respond to these emigrants today?”

The basic response would be to examine myself by asking and reflecting on more serious questions.  For example:  Who is my “outsider”?  Is it the one who speaks a foreign language, is from a strange culture, has a different color of skin?  Or perhaps, what about the homeless person?

An even more fundamental  issue for serious reflection is that passage from Genesis (Genesis 1:27) which tells us the God created everybody in his image and likeness.  This means that everybody else in the world is either my brother or sister.  Now ask yourself how you would likely treat a family member.  In God’s family there are no “outsiders.”

 

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