Wednesday, February 5, 2020

New Thinking for Valentine's Day

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Dear Friends,

In  my ordinary way of thinking, I would not put Valentine’ Day  together with salt and light. But the rubbing of liturgical feasts and cultural celebrations as happens this week, can bring us to new thinking.

In today’s  Gospel , we hear those familiar descriptions of what we are called to be : the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In themselves, salt and light are useless. It is only when we apply them to our relationship with people and the needs of this world do they become valuable, sacramental in their own way. Sacraments, as we know, are signs that point to and embody people’s way to God. The seven sacraments are the holiest signs we know, but other signs can be understood as sacramental when they point us to and embody our way to God . When we love God, people and the earth, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Then, there’s Valentine’s Day. Valentine was a real person who lived in Rome in the 3rd Century. He was a priest and a physician who was beheaded in a religious persecution. The date is said to have been February 14. Valentine caught the attention of people in medieval times. Myths grew up around him and the belief was common that birds began to pair on February 14. This gave rise to the custom of sending Valentines on that date. The author Chaucer, in one of his poems, coined the phrase  “valantynys day”, and so it has been.

In one form or another, Valentine’s Day has been passed down as a reminder to treasure  the many loves of our life: a budding love, an enduring love, a big love,  a love of the earth.
The Gospel can be read as a story of great friendship. The Messiah did not even consider working alone. At the very beginning of His public ministry, Jesus chose others to walk with Him; Peter and Andrew, James and John, Mary Magdalen and Susanna and Joanna. They were others too. 

Friendship with Jesus brought together the most unlikely collection of people – with Jesus at the center of it all. He  taught  them they could have a new relationship with God. He taught them to love people and to put things in their proper place. Jesus taught by His example: compassion, not pity,  community, not slavery.

It was in living with Jesus day to day that His disciples  grew to love Him and understand the generosity of his love for others.

Likewise, it is in the daily living with the people of our world that we grow to love this one and that one and the next.

Friends are salt for one another. They also help each other to see. They help create a tastier world, where gloom give way to new ways of seeing life and the world around us. Happy Heart Day!

~Sister Joan Sobala

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Celebrate Your Elders

Dear Friends,

Every now and again, as a child, I would take out our family photo album and ask my parents to tell me about people holding me as a baby. These people who held me were older, distant relatives who I would not know in my adulthood – or friends of my grandparents who were included in family gatherings. I have no memory of them today, but I value the fact that they were there with me early on, their breath mingling with mine. Perhaps you, too, have similar experiences.  Spend a little time today recalling the elders of your family.

Today’s Gospel  tells us about a wholes set of people  - elders -  whom Jesus knew. He was held, loved and prayed over by strangers – seasoned members of the community named Simeon and Anna, who had spent a lifetime waiting for Him. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, they recognized  Him as the long awaited one. Simeon and Anna were prophets – people who affirmed publically that God was faithful to the covenant made with Abraham. They knew that faithfulness of God was  manifest  in their encounter with Jesus for the good of all.

Jesus wouldn’t have remembered them or what they said or how they acted toward him, but Mary and Joseph would have told Him about Simeon and Anna. Jesus must have been moved, for, later, He would be conscious of the elders He met and served.

Early in His public ministry, Jesus would cure Peter’s mother-in-law, the woman with the hemorrhage and the bent over woman, all Anna’s sisters-in-faith. The blind men he healed and the cripples.
After His death, the much respected elder, Joseph of Arimathea  would ask for and receive Jesus’ body for burial. Simeon and Joseph of Arimathea  were the elderly bookends of Jesus’ life, welcoming Him as a babe and burying Him as a man.

Only rarely does this feast of the Presentation fall on a Sunday, so let’s take advantage of it to honor and celebrate our own wise elders, the Simeons and Annas of our lives. Who are they? They are the members of our families and communities who have borne the heat of the day, whose love of God is palpable, and who have passed the light of Christ from their generation to the next. They have stood firm when ethical decisions had to be made, and taught us to be hospitable, just and true. Their faces are lined with the remnant of their experiences.  They may well  be  surprised when we notice them, because  they do  not frequent  the fast-paced lanes of our society. But do notice them. Take time with them.

It’s not common in our day for members of our community to bless one another. Somehow, over time, we have come to leave that honor to our priests.

But today, let’s reclaim what is ours from biblical times  and  ask our elders to bless us and our world with their words and their hands. Ask them to bless us, so that their taste for God may become ours.

-Sister Joan Sobala