Faith is a force of consolation in suffering
Christians know that suffering cannot be eliminated, yet it can have meaning and become an act of love and entrustment into the hands of God who does not abandon us; in this way it can serve as a moment of growth in faith and love... Nor does the light of faith make us forget the sufferings of this world. How many men and women of faith have found mediators of light in those who suffer! So it was with Saint Francis of Assisi and the leper, or with Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her poor. They understood the mystery at work in them. In drawing near to the suffering, they were certainly not able to eliminate all their pain or to explain every evil. Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.
There are clearly two parts in today’s gospel narrative that present Jesus first as giver and then as receiver leading again to his giving.
Faced with human need, Jesus’ heart is moved to do what he can to alleviate their suffering. He frees those who are possessed by demons and heals those who are sick, including Peter’s mother-in-law (I facetiously find here the root of Peter’s denials: he never forgave Jesus for curing his mother-in-law). As Paul will much later tell his friends in Ephesus using an otherwise uncorroborated saying of Jesus, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” [Acts 20:35]. At least at the level of ministry, my own experience resonates with that quote. Yet in the course of years of ministry I have learned that I cannot keep on giving without at some point receiving. In my early years I found myself at times “drained”, empty, victim of one-sided spiritual activism.
Jesus speaks here at the beginning of His career with striking authority, not through a repetition, a simple commentary, or a refinement of the text but as a prophet, one speaking directly the words of God Himself. He knows the text that He is opening for His community perfectly well, since He is permeated with the words of the Old Testament and filled with the Holy Spirit, just like His mother: it will become apparent later in His life that He is not only a special vessel of God's word, He is God's Word. At this early point, though, His mastery of the written word and the oral delivery of it sets Him up for a special role in salvation history.
Psalm 97:1 and 2b, 6 and 7c, 9
As we enter into this New Year, we recall the resolutions that we made and the hopes we have for 2019. At times these promises can seem quite fleeting. The busyness of life as normal can overwhelm us as we bear the weight of work, study, and other duties. Yet, if we pause for a moment, we might remember how way back during Advent, we were all called to prepare the way of the Lord. We prepared ourselves to receive the refulgence of God’s glory and the very imprint of God’s being, as we hear Jesus described in the first reading from Hebrews. We opened our hearts to receive Jesus and with him the graces we needed to strengthen our faith, to renew our hope, to enkindle our love. Once we prepared the way for Jesus to enter into our hearts, we celebrated his birth at Christmas.
Presentation of Christ at the temple (left) and the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, assisted by an angel (right). Detail of carved and painted wooden doors, c.1065, now displayed at the west end of the south aisle. St. Maria im Kapitol, Cologne, Germany. Photo by David Joyal
Luke’s version of Jesus’ baptism describes the Spirit descending on Jesus in the physical form of a dove and the pronouncement of God’s affirmation of Jesus as Beloved Child. It appears that Jesus is both one of the crowd and set apart in a unique way. Still, this blessing is not the final story or the end of Jesus’ personal and spiritual growth; he must go on retreat in the wilderness to face the temptations of his vocation. Luke’s Jesus is one of us: fully human, seeking a tangible sign of his vocation. No doubt Jesus had prepared long and hard spiritually for a day such as this.
1 Jn 5:14-21; Jn 3:22-30
“We have this confidence in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours.”
The opening verses in today's first reading deliver a powerful promise – and also can be a stumbling block for some. Personally, I find the message encouraging and enlightening.
On January 6th, 2019, the communities of the Generalate and the Procura, with great joy and thanksgiving celebrated the Solemnity of Epiphany - the Manifestation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The ceremony included the blessing of the houses and blessing of a new replic of Pallotti's Bambino Gesù, followed by the solemn Vespers and agape.
1 Jn 5:5-13; Lk 5:12-16
The Real Presence of God
God, we are complicated creatures: reluctant, idealistic, complaining, generous. You know us well. Our secrets don’t surprise you. You seek out our hiding places. In crisis and celebrations, you are there. We try to protest: God, why do you allow such suffering? Then we remember: you are no stranger to abandonment or to joy. Even to doubt. You have walked through valleys and to mountain tops. You have faced lonely nights. No matter what engulfs us, you have been there first. Your presence brings comfort.
1 John 4:19-21.5:1-4; Luke 4:14-22
The gospel from Luke and the reading from John are about love, the love from God and our love for him. The gospel from Luke tells us that the love from God has no limits and is non-discriminatory. He sent his son to love and serve the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed, and Jesus tells those in the synagogue that it is he who will fulfill the prophesy of Isaiah. He has come to share his love with those in the synagogue, but also with all of us. His love brings us joy if we are open to it when we are destitute in spirit. His love brings us liberty from the captivating temptations of this world. His love clears our blindness and opens our eyes to the many gifts that he has bestowed on us. His love frees us from the oppression of greed, hatred, jealousy and revenge.
Final Profession in Russia
On December 8th, in the St. Anna parish in Yekaterinburg, Russia, there was a solemn Mass during which Sr. Irina Cziczerowa, proclaimed her perpetual profession. Holy Mass was presided by Bishop Joseph Werth SJ from Novosibirsk, concelebrating with Fr. Anton Gsel, and Pallottine priests - Fr. Piotr Jankowski and Fr. Sergiej Bildzis. Sr. Iwona Nadziejko, Provincial Superior and few sisters from Poland were also present for the Mass of final Profession. From Novosibirsk, the home town of Sr. Irina, her parents and several friends also attended the celebration. The joy of Sr. Irina was, that many parishioners participated in this special event, they prayed together and praised the Lord for this Pallottine vocation on Russian land.