Thursday, January 9, 2020

Give in for Now

Dear Friends,

Has this ever happened to you?  You’ve walked down the same street day after day, and all of a sudden, you notice lovely artistic details on a building you pass  and say to yourself “I’ve never seen that before!”

That’s the way I felt about a line in today’s Gospel from Matthew for the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus.

I had never seen it before!

John resisted baptizing Jesus. In fact, he refused. “No!” John said. “I should be baptized by you and yet you come to me.” Jesus didn’t coax him with theological arguments or persuasive rhetoric. Jesus did not tell John that he was missing an opportunity, nor did he chide John for his refusal. Jesus simply said  “Give in for now.” Jesus encouraged John saying: “Give in for now.” (Other translations render the phrase  “Allow it for now. ”or “Let it be so for now.”) “ We must do this”, Jesus insisted.. Not “I must do this but we must do this, if we would fulfill all that God requires.”

In this experience, John learned to see Jesus and life and his own call in a new way.

How often you and I find Jesus coming to us in new ways that are unseemly and we also resist. To experience Jesus in a difficult moment, we, too, must “ give in for now”: Be the first to patch up an argument. Work with a cantankerous colleague. Put personal plans on hold and minister to this ill person. Take up an unwanted responsibility. Give in for now.

The mystery of “why us” and “why now” and “why should it be this way at all”  doesn’t go away.
But in giving in for now, we learn to live with mystery and the unexpected calls of God, which are not interruptions  of life but life itself.

We not only learn from John, we learn from Jesus who goes down into the water, is cleansed, and takes to himself the sin of all humanity. When Jesus comes up, he is a tender, sensitive new creation, who, as Isaiah says, will not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick. It was this Jesus, cleansed and newly committed to his mission to whom the voice of God says : “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

This, too, is how we learn. We go down into the waters, let go of sin and self-centeredness and become a new creation in God. Only then we try not to break the bruised reed or put out the smoldering wick.

The challenge, the lesson, the hope of today’s celebration of the baptism of Jesus is that, like Him, we commit ourselves wholeheartedly to do God’s work.

Then, in some unexpected moment, in some startling way, we too will hear the words that urge us on:

“This is my beloved – in whom I am well pleased.”

-Sister Joan Sobala

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Life in the Fast Lane

Dear Friends,

This last month confirms what we already know. In our day, life is a rush. We zoom in and out of parking lots, serve up already prepared foods, tap our fingers impatiently if our computer is slow. Come on! Come on! Move it! We travel in the fast lane.

Speed marks a new division in our world. In addition to the rich and poor, the haves and have nots, we have the fast and slow. The presumption is that faster is better.

Contrast this milieu with that of the Magi. It is estimated  that the  Magi’s  journey took 1 to 3 years, beginning from different places.  A long time to search for truth and meaning. They may have begun before Jesus was born, trusting the star would lead them they knew not where.  They met up with one another at some point and trusted  one another enough to share the secret of their their individual quests. Only then did they choose to travel together. No walls to bar them from going on together.

As learned astrologers, the Magi could have written up their findings about the star in a journal and left the actual search for others. But no, they were moved in their depths to take up the search, and when they finally saw the child, something leapt between them and the child. God in Jesus was casting a loving look of recognition on the travelers.” See I am here for you.” But it was also the travelers recognizing and gazing on the face of God, saying “See I am here for you.” God and the followers of the star gave each other all they had in love.

Epiphany invites us to journey – to be Magi - to follow a star/ an intuition- grace by another name –slowly, painstakingly, as opposed to travelling recklessly in scattered directions.

Epiphany reminds us that, for the most part, God’s revelation or our own experience of God is not abrupt  or sudden. By and large, God’s unfolding in our life is gradual, almost imperceptible, cloaked in the humanity of others as well as our own. It may take years, but we  have  each  others ’ company, if we allow ourselves to share what we have personally been beckoned to.

Epiphany reveals to us that the unknown, that which we discover on our way to our destinations, can and does hold God.

Like the Magi, we don’t come empty handed to the Christ Child. Think today of what you bring this year. What unique gift you bring to honor God and represent who you are.

Let’s not minimize the gifts we bring to the Child who is God Incarnate.

                                May I, O Lord,
                                Become an epiphany,
                                A revelation of my inner self
                                To all who travel in search of You
                                So that we may come to you together.

-Sister Joan Sobala