These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
At the time for offering sacrifice, the prophet Elijah came forward and said, “LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things by your command. Answer me, LORD! Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses.” The LORD’s fire came down and consumed the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench. Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, “The LORD is God! The LORD is God!” (1 Kgs 18:36-39)
Every generation seems to have its defining moment (for my mother’s generation it was the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941). For others it was the attacks of September 11, 2001). For my generation there were three, and all three were assassinations: President John F Kennedy (November 22, 1963), Martin Luther King (April 4, 1968), and Robert F Kennedy (June 6, 1968). In the Hebrew Scriptures Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal is one such defining moment. It is also one of the most colorful and bloody stories of the Bible. Fortunately, our lectionary omits most of the gore. The question, of course: "Whom will you serve?" And the people answer: “The LORD is God! The LORD is God!”
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Mt 5:14-16)
The little songs we learned as children have a way of staying with us throughout our lives. They teach us valuable lessons. It’s always good to remember that our little light can make a world of difference if we just have the courage to let it shine.
♫This little light of mine I'm gonna let it shine This little light of mine I'm gonna let it shine This little light of mine I'm gonna let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!♫
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Mt 5:1-4)
When I was a seminarian at Saint Meinrad, Indiana, there was a celebration of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy once a week. I remember the beautiful Communion chant, the Beatitudes: ♫“Remember us, O Lord, when you are in your kingdom. Blessed are those who are poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Remember us, O Lord, when you are in your kingdom.”♫
Having come down in a cloud, the LORD stood with Moses there and proclaimed his name, "LORD." Thus the LORD passed before him and cried out, "The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity." (Ex 34:5-6)
It’s always fun to see the passages of Scripture that the lectionary-makers stitch together for us on the major feast days. The passage from Exodus takes us through the second-giving of the LAW on Mount Sinai. But what is most interesting is not the LAW, but the self-revelation that God makes: “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity." And good old Saint Paul adds a blessing for us in proper Trinitarian form:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (2 Cor 13:13)
Some folks think that the triple Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) is a reference to the Trinity. Unfortunately, it’s not. Hebrew lacked the superlative. So the only way to express “holiest” is to repeat “holy” three times. And so in the vision of Isaiah, the Seraphim praise God singing:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!”
For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (2 Tim 4:6-8)
Such a beautiful passage from the Scriptures. The words perfectly describe the life of Saint Paul, a life spent in the service of the gospel, a life that has been filled with hardship and privations, but a life well-lived. Oh that all of us would be able to say: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” Now at near the end of his life the aged apostle awaits the “crown of righteousness.” I have always loved the pictorial book Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats by Michael Cunningham & Craig Marberry. Who says we have to wait for our crown? In anticipation, we can wear one right now!
But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 3:14-15)
As the Second Letter to Timothy reveals, Timothy has received the faith from his mother and grandmother. As the old apostle reminds him:
I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you. (2 Tim 1:4-5)
I’ve always loved this passage . . . it reminds me of the two women of faith in my own life . . . my mother Norma, and my grandmother Minnie. I just hope to live up to the examples they both gave me.
Beloved: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my Gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. (2 Tim 2:8-9)
Children of immigrants separated from their parents and placed in cages has touched the Heart of Christ. But it continues to happen with a vengeance. When will we make the connection between the unfettered Word of God and the cages we put one another in? As Jesus said, there’s not two separate commandments, love God, love neighbor, because the second is the same as the first. Or as the Letter of John puts it:
Whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 Jn 4:20)