Each of us is unique! We are, each of us, special in our own way! Hopefully this is not news to anyone, but it can explain a lot about how confusing life can be for us. So often we cannot understand why someone does the things they do. We are confused because their way is definitely not the way we would live or handle things! Imagine this, though—they are probably thinking the same thing about you! Aren’t we a funny species?
In today’s first reading it is Isaac’s good fortune that Abraham is attentive to God’s second message. Whether the first message from God was simply misunderstood by Abraham or it was a fidelity test for him, Abraham tried his best to remain open to God’s will. He had to change course in the midst of his actions and he was willing to do so.
The few lines of the letter to the Romans that are provided this weekend are an adamant plea for us to recognize the Almighty nature of God. While others might question or condemn us, God will always be for us. The “us” here means not only “me” as an individual, but equally means everyone as in humanity. It seems a clear indication, if we are to believe in God’s love for everyone, that we need to be more forgiving and more accepting of one another.
The Gospel of the Transfiguration exposes our limited human capacity to understand events while highlighting the ease with which Jesus moves between the heavenly and the earthly. Our spiritual lives are certainly much more in tune with the disciples of this account. When we are terrified and questioning, it is comforting to know our call is to listen to the Beloved Son.
May our Lenten journey continue to lead us toward the things of heaven: peace, unity, mercy and love.
-Sister Lori High
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
FEBRUARY 21, 2021
Mark 1: 12-15
As a teacher, I always looked forward in Lent to putting up on our bulletin board the phrase: ‘Lent is the Church’s ‘Springtime’. This selection was accompanied by multiple pictures of spring, leading to lively discussions and relating it all to our Lenten journey. It seemed to me a more positive and hopeful approach to this special season and what truly could be possible for each of us if we were willing to die a little to self.
The gospel for today appears to be brief and simple but it’s challenging. Just as the Spirit drove Jesus into that desert where he had to make choices and die to self so too are we driven into our own desert experiences constantly having to choose good over evil. The issue isn’t temptation; it’s fidelity. There is always a choice to be made in temptation; a choice that could bring growth and strengthen a relationship. Lent is our time to measure the extent to which our words and deeds conform to the gospel.
Now too is the time when the whole church joins in a conversion process with our brothers and sisters to be baptized or make their profession of faith that leads to full communion with the Catholic Church. And so it’s a conversion journey for all of us. We have this special time set aside to reflect on our ‘yes’ to God, to ask for that inner strength to continue to be faithful and to live the gospel with deeper conviction and insight. May the church’s ‘Springtime’ burst open a newness of life for each of us.
The first and third readings today have the same theme, namely leprosy.
In Leviticus, the laws are spelled out: The leper first had to go to Aaron, a priest, or a descendant of Aaron. Then if the priest declared him unclean, he had to keep his head bare, rend his garments, muffle his beard, and cry out ‘unclean, unclean’. Lastly, he had to live somewhere else. Truly the laws were very strict in those days.
In the Gospel, Jesus healed a leper. The leper must have taken a risk to leave his dwelling place. Jesus also took a risk to heal him, but it’s the true meaning of what compassion and love is all about for Jesus.
I had the opportunity to visit a leper colony in the Dominican Republic many years ago and to tell you the truth I wasn’t nervous about getting the disease but about what I would say. My experience was super great. I walked to one small house where it was dark as the light hurt their eyes and I encountered a man who was deformed by leprosy. His fingers were gone and his face was somewhat deformed. He seemed so happy to talk to me that we had a wonderful conversation about his family.
In 1998, Hurricane George devasted the place. The people were OK but had to be transported to another place. Many families came to get their relatives and to my relief the gentleman I visited had a family to help him.
I realized as St. Paul expresses in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”.
It is Valentine’s Day, so let us truly try to love one another without looking at exterior features but with the heart of Christ.
Lent begins this Wednesday so maybe we can be more compassionate in accepting every person as she or he is, and not judging someone by their appearance.
A great prophet has arisen in our midst. God has visited his people.
-Sr. Rose Ann
FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
FEBRUARY 7, 2021
Job 7:1-4, 6-7, I Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23, Mark 1:29-39
The readings offered us in this Sunday’s liturgy evoked in me some of the emotions most of us, Americans, have had over the last months. Since March we have continually listened to the news of the Covid-19 pandemic ravaging our world. And over these months we have come to realize, and shamefully acknowledge, the blatant racism that still exists in our country. Our contested election only wedged a deeper divide within the country. And when we thought we had seen and felt it all, January 6th and the insurrection of our capitol entered our psyche and hearts shaking our own and world-wide confidence in democracy. Job gives voice to our feelings: “So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me..I shall not see happiness again.” (Job 7:2)
Throughout these months the psalms of our daily liturgy offered us hope. Likewise today’s responsorial Psalm 147 calls us to know in whom our confidence and strength abide. “The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem..He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds..”
A gnawing fear for the inauguration filtered its way into our hearts as we watched the barriers to our capitol mount while our National Guard slept, day and night, on the floors of the capitol building. Would our new president and vice-president be able to be sworn in without disturbance and more chaos?
As in today’s Gospel with the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and the many others cured from diseases, goodness emerged in an unexpected way. The events of January 20, 2021 were marked by joy, hope, beauty, music, poetry, culture, and perhaps deepest of all, a sigh of relief. Peter’s mother-in-law, no name given, was set free. Were we not also set free as we rejoiced in the peaceful transition of leadership? In each of his healings Jesus delivers people, restores them to community and speaks truth to power.
Throughout the Gospel of Mark we witness Divine Generosity and in Jesus experience the sheer goodness and gratuitousness of God. Jesus, the itinerant preacher, healer and exorcist, is a man with purpose. His compassion and outreach to the sick and suffering are signs of the kingdom of God.
Is it foolish or too political that in the empathy, goodness and hopes expressed by Joe Biden we might see something of God’s kingdom once again in our country: Health Care, Immigration, Climate change, collaboration with other world leaders…
At evening’s end of the Inaugural celebrations, Lin Manuel Miranda, the star and creator of the Broadway play ‘Hamilton’, read from one of President Biden’s favorite poems, “The Cure of Troy” by Irish poet Seamus Heaney. I quote a few lines. Prayerfully, let us discern if it calls us to the same hope, promise and mission that following Jesus invites.
History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave..
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge,
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky
That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.
Treat yourself to a read of the whole poem.
-Sr. Maureen Quinn
FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
JANUARY 31, 2021
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Ps. 95) Todays psalm response evokes some Hebrew history. During their wanderings in the desert following their great escape from Egypt, the Hebrews were shepherded by God through Moses. When they grumbled, God heard and responded to meet their needs. This psalm response hearkens to a time when, despite all the interventions on their behalf by God, the Hebrews hardened their hearts against God.
The fickleness of human nature arises again in the Gospel passage for today. (Mark 1:21-28) The people express amazement and astonishment at the teaching of Jesus that they describe as having authority. Authority is the right and power to command. We know Jesus has this, thanks to centuries of developed faith. These Jewish faithful in the synagogue on the Sabbath day get to experience the authority of Jesus without the benefit of Christian faith. Of course, they question, “What is this?” They realize that Jesus is not like the scribes but they are at a loss to understand God’s presence in their midst. We know some will harden their hearts while others will leave all and follow Jesus.
The way to know Jesus is to be attentive to the spiritual realm, which is the realm of God. The Gospel clearly speaks of an evil spirit recognizing Jesus for who he truly is: The Holy One of God. Our modern. technological minds tend to dismiss the reality of the spiritual realm. It is an area where we moderns often harden our hearts. Perhaps it would do us well to nurture our inner curiosity about the spiritual realm and soften our hearts to its reality.
-Sister Lori High
THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
JANUARY 24, 2021
Gospel of Mark 1:14-20
Jesus appears on the scene like a second John the Baptist, with a message just like John’s: the kingdom of God is at hand! Repent! One prophet follows another. John is imprisoned for speaking the truth and Jesus, THE TRUTH (“I am the way, the truth and the life”) is about to begin his mission.
In this gospel Jesus calls. He calls out an invitation to simple people, fishermen, men who might easily be ignored by others. But Jesus SEES them. The gospel tells us that as he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus SAW Simon and Andrew and James and John. What does it mean to be seen by Jesus? The gaze of Jesus was like a magnet. it drew people to him and he promptly drew them to his mission.
There is such mystery involved in this gospel. Jesus calls men who don’t really know him, or if they knew of him, they certainly must have found him compelling enough to leave everything and follow him. Who among us would have so willingly left everything without knowing the details and without asking a million questions first? What happened in this gospel can only be explained in one way. The call of God is a powerful force that can’t be explained. It can only be heard and acted on in faith. It’s yes or no and there’s no in between.
“The Galilee Song” by Fr. Frank Anderson captures something of the mystery and beauty of the compelling call of Jesus in the refrain which we could imagine the disciples singing if this gospel were a musical:
“So I leave my boats behind. Leave them on familiar shores. Set my heart upon the deep. Follow you again my Lord.”
COME. FOLLOW. LEFT. Let’s remember these words from the gospel. Let’s hear them in our hearts and lives. They are Jesus’ invitation to us, also.
-Sr. Patricia Brady
SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
JANUARY 17, 2021
Gospel 1: 35-42
Whenever I read this particular gospel, the part of the scene that especially stays with me is that of Andrew bringing his brother Simon to Jesus. Hasn’t that happened to us in so many precious ways? Perhaps today would be beneficial to take time ‘remembering’ and giving thanks for all the people in our own lives who have ‘brought us to Jesus’ in one way or another, starting with our parents at that sacred baptismal font.
Of course, ‘bringing someone to Jesus’ is just the beginning of ones’ life journey. The many verbs in this particular text help us understand what must come next: follow, come, see, stay, seek. All of these implying the need to respond. And how does the call come to us? Through a voice in the night (first reading), through the guidance of others (first reading and gospel), through a personal encounter with Jesus (gospel). Through all these ways we come to know who Jesus is and are drawn to choose to give our heart, our fidelity, our all.
Daily Christ-like living is the tangible way we say yes and respond to the call of committing ourselves to bringing another to see the face of Jesus. Do we act with patience, compassion, willingness to forgive, generosity toward others? Each day we have opportunities to become Christ present in this world. Most likely you know the expression: ‘the only bible some people will ever read is you’. What an awesome responsibility and at the same time graced privilege. We pray today that others may see in us a reflection of the One who is inviting them to a relationship with Him; and like Andrew may we not hesitate to help another take that first step.
- Sister Ann Marie Grasso
BAPTISM OF THE LORD
JANUARY 10, 2021
Is 42: 1-4, 6-7 Acts 10: 34-38 Mk 1: 7-10
With today’s celebration of the Baptism of Jesus, we end the Christmas Season. John the Baptist was called to “Prepare the way” for the Promised One by “preparing a people fit for the Lord” (Lk 1:16-17) – and he did this by preaching conversion and baptism with water. When Jesus approached him, the Prophet John immediately understood who Jesus was meant to be in the history of God’s Chosen People. John the Evangelist tells us that the Baptist recognized Jesus as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29) – highly charged terminology to use to describe Jesus’ mission. Even though John objected, he later baptized Jesus, and as Jesus rose out of the waters, a Voice spoke from the heavens: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mk 1:11).
This may seem a bit premature (Jesus hadn’t done anything yet!) But in fact, he had. Jesus had stepped out of the oblivion of his earlier “hidden” life, and now both his identity and his mission were proclaimed. Jesus was, in a sense, now publicly embracing both. So yes: Jesus’ heavenly Father was very well pleased, and he announced it the world…
What could perhaps seem barely significant (one baptism among many performed by John), is in fact a giant leap forward in the realization of God’s Plan for our salvation. Jesus, in allowing himself to be baptized, thus assumes the role of God’s Lamb, and he does so in order to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15). While only the Baptist seemed to recognize the full prophetic meaning of what was happening, the time had come for God to fulfill the Promise made to Adam and Eve. The time of fulfillment had indeed arrived!
Jesus freely accepted his Father’s invitation to be the Lamb who would be slain for us. In the waters of our own Baptism, each of us is washed in the blood of Jesus the Lamb and marked with the Sign of his Cross. An important change happens in Baptism, and we are then called to live as though it means something to us…
We are called to undertake a personal journey with Jesus, and to learn from him how we are to live out our own mission. We’re not meant to just imitate Jesus. No – now, because of our Baptism, we are one with him, and we are to live as he lived, even in the ordinariness of our daily lives. We are called to renounce whatever separates us from him, whatever weakens our fidelity to him, and whatever prevents us from keeping our eyes and our hearts focused on him. We are to become what we already are: beloved Daughters and Sons of a Father who never ceases to be pleased, regardless of the number of times we might stumble and fall. Jesus’ Father is our Father, and when our Father looks at us, he sees only “Corpus Christi” – he sees only his eternally Beloved Son, with whom he is ever pleased… In this Ordinary Season, it’s time for each of us to surrender to our extraordinary calling…
-Sr. Patrice Yarborough
FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY
JANUARY 3, 2021
Isaiah 60: 1-6 Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6 Matthew 2: 1-12
I begin my reflection with this passage from The Eternal Year by Karl Rahner, SJ.
“They travel over tortuous paths. They marched on and on. The way was long. Their feet were tired. Their hearts were heavy and vexed. But they carry on. The Star is there and it shines.”
The Feast of Epiphany is truly a manifestation. In the first reading from Isaiah, non-Jews bring gifts in homage to the God of Israel. This is good news. The light of God has come. God’s glory becomes visible to people from every nation. God’s light is being manifested for all the nations to acknowledge, enjoy and walk in the light.. “Rise up in splendor Jerusalem.”
What a wonderful image this is! Non-Jews from Midian, Ephah and Sheba bring gifts of gold and frankincense in homage to the God of Israel. This is again echoed in the Responsorial Psalm, “Lord every nation on earth will adore you”.
In the Gospel reading we hear about the Magi and Herod’s reaction. We are told that Herod was troubled. The Magi were on a journey. They went forth from their homeland to follow a Star. We have come to know it as the Star of Bethlehem. For some it was the Star in the East on Christmas morn. Let’s ponder anew these questions. Who were these Magi? How many were they? What were their names? From where did they come? Were they seekers of God? Led by the Star the Magi the Magi struggled through deserts until they found the child and could worship him as the Savior and King. They are summoned to look beyond their darkness into the light. The Feast of Epiphany, the manifestation of the Lord is the proclamation and manifestation of Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.
With a bold and renewed faith and trust, we can step forth on our adventurous journey and announce with great joy that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. The Star is there and it still shines even in this time of COVID-19. In the end, the Magi outwitted Herod. They went home by another route. We too may have to take another route to proclaim the Gospel message. Each one of us has a Star leading us. Stay awake. Be attentive. Be curious. Stay hopeful and keep the light of faith burning. We give the gift of LOVE.
“In the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus, the whole world being at peace, Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judea.” The paths from east, north, south and west, from morning to evening lead on and on, Take up the journey. The Star still shines. Blessed Feast of the Epiphany.
-Sister Roberta Fulton
FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
DECEMBER 27, 2020
Sirach 3: 2-14 or Genesis 15: 1-6, 21:1-3 Psalm 128: 1-5 or Psalm 105: 1-8
Colossians 3:12-21 or Hebrews 11:8-19 Luke 2:22-40
A man, a woman, in Israel doing what is expected. They traveled to Bethlehem to be inscribed according to the Law. There the woman gave birth to a child. Then they went to Nazareth to be at home. Now after forty days they go up to Jerusalem to present the child to God, to present God’s Child. This is no ordinary visit to Jerusalem.
The Scripture passages suggested for today (Sirach and Colossians) suggest that in the ordinary relationships of life, parent and child, parents and children, one person to another, God’s love is made visible. Created in God’s image and likeness, we are called—expected—to live and to do what members of God’s family live and do in loving, forgiving relationships.
The alternate Scripture passages for today (Genesis and Hebrews) stress the abundant generosity of God in creating an heir for Abraham and Sarah, an ancestor for Jesus, son of Abraham. These excerpts of the Word of God also make clear that God’s generous gifts can only be incarnated where there is profound faith and trust in God lived out in our actions.
A man, a woman, in Israel doing what is expected, come in their faith-filled simplicity to present the Child to God in the Temple. There they meet a man and a woman who have spent their lives waiting on God. Along with all the faithful women and men of Israel of generations past, they live to praise God who is now breaking into their world in an unimagined way. God’s active presence in their lives and ours, now is here, now is here. God calls us to live as family.
Ever wanting to be reassured over and over again of God’s love and presence in our midst, we wait for healing of mind and spirit even as we work for a Covid vaccine; we wait for governments to respond to our requests for permission for our sisters and brothers to leave refugee camps in Lesbos, Mexico or Paris; we wait as we work actively for an end to racial discrimination and violence; we wait as we reach out to loved ones separated by our betrayal, anger, or estrangement; we wait and work for the peace that only our God can give.
And so, a man, a woman, a child remind us of God’s faithful love and our call to recognize our God in each and every person and event. A man, a woman, a child, wherever we are, living what is expected of people of faith. We are called to be family, a holy family, God’s universal family.
-Sr. Mary Laura Lesniak
FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT
DECEMBER 20, 2020
2 Samuel 7:1-5,8b-12,14,16 Romans 16:25-27 Luke1:26-38
Well, we just have 5 more days until Christmas when we will celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel of today is the same as when we just celebrated the Immaculate Conception on December 8.
The Angel is waiting for Mary’s answer as all of creation also awaits and at the moment of her yes, the Word becomes flesh. I remember watching a movie on the Christmas story and I have never forgotten the part when Mary said Yes, the Angel knelt. It was very powerful. How a simple word as Yes can have such power.
How many times a day do we say Yes? Yes, I would be glad to take you to the doctor. Yes, I will get your mail. Yes, I will go to the meeting with you. Etc… How many times do we say Yes to the Lord? Yes, Lord I trust you are with me in this situation. Yes, Lord I would like to spent 10 minutes with you. Yes, Lord I will go. Yes, Lord I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.
We know that to say yes to someone or some situation brings on a responsibility and a compromise. But we also know that it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that the action or words that all will be done. Mary, I believe, didn’t understand the meaning of her YES, but knew in her heart that God would show her the way. She couldn’t have said yes if she didn’t have faith in God.
Perhaps as we enter into this last week of Advent, we can ask the Lord to give as faith to say yes to the Incarnation; allowing the word to take flesh in us and dwell with us.
God has given each of us special gifts and placed us on this earth for a purpose. Do I say Yes Lord, here I am to do your will?
“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness…make straight the way of the Lord.” (1 Jn 6-8) “But,” may we ask “how do we do that?” What does it mean to straighten out God’s way? Can you hear that voice crying out in these later days of Advent 2020, asking us to prepare, to be vigilant, to enter the wilderness of our own hearts as well as the pain and suffering of our world today. We can’t ignore the plight of the hungry, the poor, the unemployed, the Covid pandemic. This is all very real. But, today the church gives us readings that break into our reality with a huge burst of joy.
Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS; again I say Rejoice!” (Phil. 1:4-5 and 1 Thes 5:16) Gospel joy persists obstinately right in the midst of suffering and, I believe, it is true joy that prevents the pain from becoming bitterness and a closing in on ourselves.
We have all probably in our ministries experienced the strength and amazing courage of joy many times. I can see clearly the face of the man in a very difficult situation who told me “a day without a good laugh ain’t no day to count.”
It is our joy, everyday to proclaim “glad tidings,” to “heal the broken-hearted; tp free the imprisoned.” Wherever our hearts may be, whatever joy or sadness we are carrying in these last days of preparing to celebrate the profound mystery of “God with us” we may stand with John the Baptist and say to him-
As I prayed with these readings, the words of an Advent song we used to sing , kept singing themselves in my heart:
“Long is our winter, dark is our night,
O come set us free, O saving Light…
come dwell within us, O Saving Light”
This week, in the Buffalo area, we’ve felt the first days of cold and seen the ground covered with that “white stuff ” - no blizzard yet! These signs remind us that winter is coming, darkness will be with us for weeks, and an Advent quiet has fallen upon us.
But this year, it seems like we’ve been living in a certain kind of silence and stillness since about March, because of the Covid virus and the pandemic. We’ve spent weeks hunkered down with the people with whom we live. We think twice before venturing out to a store, our worship com-munities have limited space set up, and most often, our worship is live-streamed. Our “long winter” began months ago and we have no idea when it will be over.
As I began this reflection, our local fire station’s siren blew the signal that doesn’t mean fire but does mean someone is in distress – a stark reminder that around the globe and in local towns, we are experiencing not only cold and darkness, but also hunger, unemployment, illness and death. Our prayer reaches out to those who are suffering and to the large number of people who have died as well as their family members who haven’t been able to be with them.
Advent’s readings were very consoling to the people who first heard them and they can also speak to us in 2020. “Comfort, give comfort to my people”…” every valley shall be filled in, every mountain made low”…”like a shepherd he feeds his flock”; “in his arms he gathers the lambs.” John the Baptist arrives in Mark’s Gospel today, bringing good news to the people in the desert.
A speaker once reminded us that HOPE is the virtue when we’re in darkness. Hope is also the virtue for Advent. As we experience that “Long is our winter, dark is [this] night”, may we also know that our Shepherd “feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying [us] in his bosom”
Lord, please hold in your arms, all those who are suffering.
- Sr. Marian Baumler
FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT
NOVEMBER 29, 2020
Advent! The gateway to Christmas. The prelude to Christmas trees and presents and manger scenes and stockings hanging from a fireplace. Maybe this is what Advent brings to mind for many. But really, Advent is an invitation to avoid sleepwalking your way toward Christmas. Be awake! Be on the alert! Watch! These words could jar us awake and give us a gentle shake of awareness.
We have to really keep our attention on what we’re waiting for and why it’s so important to watch. We all know what it feels like when we are waiting for a long desired event to occur, or a person well-loved to appear or a moment that is going to bring us great joy. There is an eagerness in our manner, a “watch so you don’t miss it” feeling. Imagine if Advent could be that kind of moment in time for us. A moment to live in expectation for a great arrival. The coming of salvation, the coming of new life, the coming of Jesus. This, of course, has already happened, but it is so astounding when you think about it that we are invited every year to live it again.
This time of Advent is also a moment for us to recall that Jesus will come again as promised. We don’t know when or how but it will be a moment like no other. It will be the coming of the one who loves us so much that he was born, lived, died and rose for us, to give us the gift of eternity with him. This is the one we love, the long-awaited Messiah. “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down..” (Isaiah).
Yes, he is coming. He has already come but continues to come, again and again. So, let’s be awake, alert, eager and waiting. No sleepwalking! We won’t be disappointed. If we prepare and get ready and stay awake, we will receive the greatest Christmas present of all.
-Sr. Patricia Brady
THIRTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
NOVEMBER 22, 2020
FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
Today we name Jesus “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords”. In all 3 Cycles for the Feast, the Gospels chosen focus not only on Jesus, but also on those who join him: those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, who have been purified, and who now bear his mark on their foreheads. All 3 Gospels focus on identifying who it is who can be found in this vast throng, and how Jesus relates to them.
In Year A, for example, Matthew 25 cites the example of a shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats. Jesus is a shepherd who knows his sheep, and who is able to distinguish genuine goodness from every mask of deception and self-interest. While God may have allowed the weeds and the wheat to grow together before, the time has now come to separate them, and to admit only the pure-hearted into the final Banquet.
In Year C, Luke 23 tells the story of the 2 thieves crucified with Jesus. Both are guilty of grave offenses, and both deserve the punishment they are receiving. Yet the story reminds us that hearts can change… One is closed to the truth about Jesus, and joins his voice to the chorus of derision and self-destruction. The other thief miraculously recognizes in Jesus the embodiment of love and mercy, and he longs to be a part of that reality, in spite of his unworthiness. Jesus does not hesitate to promise him that his heart’s desire will be granted. He and others like him will be welcome – ALL will be welcome.
In Year B, however, we have an entirely different focus. John 18 describes Jesus before Pilate. It is a strange scene, where Jesus appears powerless, while Pilate maneuvers adroitly to keep his hands clean, revealing only his pathetic weakness in the situation. Jesus knew what it meant to have true power, to stand unbowed before forces which could destroy his body, but could never render God powerless, and could never prevent God’s success in the task entrusted to Jesus: those whom God had created in love are about to be redeemed in love, to be returned to the embrace of God where they can abide in peace, forever.
This Feast of Christ the King reminds us that God’s Victory is not imaginary – it is already real. Yes, we long for the culmination of the final Day, but we also believe that it is already here; that Jesus’ victory is already total and complete and available to every heart ready to receive it. The Gift is free, and it has already been given. All that remains is the choice to receive it, to embrace it, to allow ourselves to be changed by it. God intends for no one to be excluded – but the choice is always ours, and no one is ever forced.
If we have eyes to see the great procession forming, will our hearts be free enough to let go of everything that hinders us, and race to join it, allowing Jesus to take our hand and accompany us, to lift us up when we fall, and to carry us whenever necessary? Will we allow him to be the One who sustains us and strengthens us, who feeds us and heals us, who loves us into existence every step of the way? And all that he asks is that we do the same for one another: that we walk together, supporting one another in this great procession… Like him, we must embrace any who begin to slip and fall along the way. We want to arrive at the great banquet hall together, and miraculously find that for each of us, our soiled garments have become white as snow… Together – God asks that it not be a solitary journey, but that, no matter how late someone joins the procession, they be welcomed in and embraced. Only then can we truly be a People who mirror the face of our God.
-Sr. Patrice Yarborough