December 14, 2015

John of the Cross

December 14, 2015:  St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor

  • 'Eyeball' pin:  Balaam sees what the Almighty sees (1st reading)
  • 'Plant,' 'tree' pins:  Your tents are like gardens beside a stream, God-planted cedars (1st reading)
  • 'Star' tie pin:  "A star shall advance from Jacob" (1st reading)
  • Rose-colored shirt:  Gaudete Sunday (yesterday)
  • '?' tie pin:  "By what authority...?" / "Where was John's baptism from?" (gospel)
  • 'Cross' pin:  St. John of the Cross
  • White on "jubilee year" pin:  color of St. John of the Cross memorial
  • 'Classroom' tie:  "Lord, teach me your ways" (psalm)

For the psalm
    Pope Francis homily
    Balaam, like all of us, had his faults and sins, but God is greater than our sins.  Balaam met the angel of the Lord and had a change of heart.  He says what he sees:  the People of God dwelling in the desert, and beyond the desert, fruitfulness and victory.  Balaam repents and sees the truth because with good will you always see the truth, truth that gives hope.  Hope, a great gift from God, allows us see beyond problems, pain, difficulties, and sins to God's beauty.  If you have hope, you have the freedom and strength to see beyond bad times.
    The chief priests questioning Jesus had no horizons; they were slaves to their rigidity.  Human calculations close hearts and shut out freedom, but hope gives us levity.  It's beautiful to see hope in people of the Church, vs. the hopeless rigidity of clerical stiffness.  In this Year of Mercy there are two paths:  hoping in God’s mercy and knowing God is the Father; and taking refuge in the slavery of rigidity and not knowing God's mercy.  God forgives all; he's just waiting for you to get close to him.
    The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable:  On theological questions about Catholic-Jewish relations, continued from yesterday

    The universality of salvation in Jesus Christ and God’s unrevoked covenant with Israel
    There can't be different paths or approaches to God’s salvation, a Jewish path without Christ and the path with Jesus Christ.  The Church must witness to Christ as Redeemer for all.  The Christian faith confesses that God wants to lead all people to salvation.  There can be only one path to salvation, but it doesn't follow that the Jews are excluded because they don't believe in Jesus as Messiah and the Son of God.  God entrusted Israel with a unique mission and doesn't fulfill his plan of salvation without drawing into it his son.  Paul asserts: “The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”  How the Jews can be participants in God’s salvation without confessing Christ explicitly is a mystery:  “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How inscrutable his judgments; how unsearchable his ways.”   For the Jews “a determined point in time has been fixed which cannot be anticipated” (Bernard of Clairvaux).
    How Christian belief in Jesus Christ's universal salvific significance can be combined coherently with the clear statement of faith in God's covenant with Israel.  The Church believes Christ is the Savior of all, Jews and Gentiles.  We expect the Lord will bring about a time when we'll all be united.... [to be continued]

    • Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a  Balaam:  I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near:  A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.
    • Ps 25:4-5ab, 6, 7bc, 8-9  "Teach me your ways, O Lord."  Your compassion and kindness are from of old.  The Lord is good; he shows sinners the way, guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble.
    • Mt 21:23-27  Chief priests and elders / Jesus:  “By what authority are you doing these things?  Who gave it to you?” / “If you answer my question, I'll tell you.  Was John’s baptism of heavenly or human origin?” / [among themselves:  “If we say heavenly, he'll ask why we didn't believe, but if we say human, we fear the crowds who regard John as prophet] “We don't know.” / “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

    • Creighton:  Today's readings are about vision, seeing the world as God does.  It's a gift, often bestowed on the marginated.  Balaam (“seer of the gods”) was entrusted with deciphering signs. Balak and the Moabites hired him to curse Israel, but he was filled with God’s spirit, and the intended curse  was transformed to a blessing.  He “sees what the Almighty sees,” God’s future redemption.  But God’s vision remained elusive, especially for the religious leaders, entrusted to be the community's visionaries. The Lord's ways can be hard to discern, especially when they challenge us.  How can God work through a desert preacher who eats locusts or a carpenter’s son who fraternizes with sinners?!  God's Kingdom is a matter of learning to see as God sees, of allowing God to shape our vision, then acting faithfully.  May we see the humble face of the star of Jacob, in the Christ child, the homeless, the migrant, or the refugee....
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Arrogance and sight":  Balaam boasted he could see what God sees, but on the trip to the desert, he couldn't even see what his donkey saw!  Those in authority in Jesus' time considered themselves guardians of the truth, but in their arrogance, they considered the people lost and challenged God's authority; they didn't see the Truth before them in Jesus.  The lowly shepherds, not the arrogant, recognized the Baby Jesus.  May we humble ourselves....
      St. John of the Cross
      Ann Chapin
    • Passionist:  Jesus faced the politics and conflicts life.  In today's gospel the religious leaders put him into an unusual position, challenging his authority and truthfulness, but Jesus didn't give in; he made it clear that his authority and truth would be revealed.  The Lord comes to shed his light on the world, to bring truth and goodness to shine.  May we resist appeals to fear and embrace the path of the Way.  May we listen carefully, measure everything by the light of the Gospel, and wait for truth to become clear.
    •  "All hold John was a prophet":  When we fear disapproval or rejection, we're tempted to avoid confrontation.  The Israelites met resistance and opposition on their way to the promised land.  King Balak hired Balaam, prophet of Baal, to curse the Israelites, to scare them away, but Balaam yielded to the spirit of truth and prophesied blessing and protection despite what Balak wanted.  When John the Baptist began to preach, religious leaders resisted and persecuted him.  Jesus also met resistance and opposition from the religious leaders.  Their view of religion didn't match God's word because they were set on personal gain, not submission to God's plan.  They questioned Jesus to discredit his claim to be Messiah, but when Jesus asked them about John, they dodged the question, unwilling to face the truth. They accepted neither John nor Jesus....
    St. John of the Cross
    Thanks to Fr. Chris:

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