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Contents: Volume 2 - Solemnity of MARY & Epiphany (B)
- January 1, 2021

 Solemnity

  of

MARY

   2021


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP - Solemnity of Mary & Epiphany

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller - Solemnity of Mary & Epiphany

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP - Epiphany

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ - Epiphany

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Lanie LeBlanc OP - Solemnity of Mary & Epiphany

Solemnity of Mary 2021

As we know, Mary is the Mother of Jesus. Mary is also our Mother because of Jesus. Rightfully, Mary is held in high regard and an excellent role model for all of us.

The Gospel passage today tells us that "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." Those things were not all about calmness or holiness, confirming that her "yes" decision was the correct response. Many were about those intense sorrows that pierced her heart.

As a mom and grandmother, I can not imagine her daily life... raising a teenager who was supposed to be the Divine Rebel (I write that lovingly) !!! Whether you are a parent or not, everyone acknowledges the unsteadiness of those teen years and how they may extend well into the 20's. It is often beyond difficult for the adults to remain "grounded" in faith when so many actions seem to warrant considering the teen/young adult being grounded in the house permanently, as if that would solve the problem.

Mary did it, full of grace. Many of us parents have done it, more or less gracefully. How do we in today's world, parents or not, deal with the many sorrows and trials of life ?

The answer is, of course, by cooperating with grace. We must make the time to reflect and pray about our life, in troubling times and good times, allowing ourselves to be guided in making right decisions. We must reflect intentionally and consistently. That seems like the best new year's resolution ever. God knows, for 2021 to be a "good" year, all of us will certainly need to cooperate with grace.


Epiphany 2021

In the first reading from the Book of Isaiah, we read/hear: "See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory." Although Isaiah was talking about Jerusalem long ago, these words are surely applicable to today's people and cities as well. Because of several reasons, most prominently the pandemic, many people world-wide are feeling oppressed, fearing that the clouds and darkness of our times will overcome them.

There are several life-giving questions to ask so that this underlying and oppressive heaviness will be lifted from us all and the Lord's light remain with us long after the pandemic has be squelched. How can we nourish ourselves with the Lord's light? Where is the light of the Lord shining in our homes and communities right now? Those stories, the seemingly small ones and the heroic ones, need to be highlighted and retold. Where is warmth of the Lord's light not being felt, especially among the most vulnerable among us? How can each of us bring the Lord's light to someone else?

The magi in today's Gospel were wise and they did their homework. They prayed, they studied, they acted. Then they reflected on what they saw at the stable and remembered what they heard from Herod. They reflected on what they dreamt and decided to go "another way". They had been guided by the light of a star to find the Light of the World. Their "epiphany" was the realization that God's promises are true.

As we seek the Light of the Lord in our lives this new year, what will we change? Will we have an "epiphany" and go "another way". The wise still seek Him, even with just a glimmer of light, will we?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Carol & Dennis Keller - Solemnity of Mary & Epiphany

Solemnity of Mary Mother of God January 1, 2021

Numbers 6:22-27; Responsorial Psalm 67; Galatians 4:4-7; Gospel Acclamation Hebrews 1:1-2; Luke 2:16-21

We do well to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus. Through her yes to Gabriel as a young woman, she made it possible for Paul to write in his letter to the Galatians the words that express the seismic change that the birth of Jesus brought to us. "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God's child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir." We must discount Paul’s non-inclusive gender choice. He was a man of his time and the cultures of those times included a low regard for women. Even in our culture women in our country achieved equal citizenship status only in 1919 with the 19th amendment granting them the vote. Even in the contemporary workplace, women still receive less pay for identical work than men. Paul, in our current thinking on social justice would have written, "that we might receive adoption into daughtership and sonship." It is certain that Paul meant both. Is Paul being literal when he claims we are adopted children of God? Who can believe such words? We are sons and daughters of God? Paul goes on to insist we are so much God’s children that the Spirit of God, the very energy, source of all life, and magnificence of the fusion that is God resides within us? We, who are created have a place of election. For we are chosen children of God; heirs of the heavenly kingdom! For Pete’s sake! Who can believe we are adopted children of God?

If only we could believe this! We’ve been taught God is omnipotent, omniscient, all powerful, without beginning or end. God is portrayed as so far above us, so transcendent, that we must use intermediaries to reach him, even in prayer. Well, that’s what we’ve been told: that’s been the practice for many Christians. The Hebrew Scriptures insist that seeing the face of God would destroy us. We are frightened to come into God’s presence. When we do come into his presence, we tend to posture ourselves and our communications more as slaves, serfs from the middle ages. We are taught to be piously reverent. Yet, Paul insists we should call God "Daddy." That puts on a first name, affectionate level with the Great Transcendent God.

The Hebrews believed that seeing the face of God would destroy us. If we recall Moses who returned from speaking with God would have beams of light emanating from his head. The people asked Moses to cover his face with a cloth so they would not have to confront the glory of God. The first reading from the ancient narrative in the book of Numbers spells out God’s command to the priesthood of Aaron. "The Lord bless and keep you, the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace."

That is the blessing Hebrew priests were expected to give each person. Strange! Looking on the face of God was thought to be self-destructive. Yet the mandated priest’s prayer over the people is to ask that God’s face shine upon them. In the second reading on this solemn feast-day, we hear Paul insisting that we are truly sons and daughters of God, that we are heirs of God. Being an heir means a share in the Kingdom of God. But who can believe this? We may mutter the words, but who believes this? Who behaves as though believing this?

The reading from Luke’s gospel is a continuation of the nativity scene from Christmas. There are two main characters in this reading. There is Mary, mother of Jesus. She sees all that is happening, its mysterious and its glory filled moments. What is glory? Glory in the Hebrew Scriptures is named Shekinah. It is not so much an external pomp and circumstance as it is the very presence of God. That presence is described as a luminous cloud, bright sunshine, shooting beams of brilliant light. So, when we sing or speak of the Glory of God we are truly speaking of God’s presence. What is amazing is that we see this glory not so much with the eyes of our minds, but with the movements of our hearts. Everyone has such contacts: most of us don’t realize it. It is those moments that capture our hearts – make them stand still if just for a moment. It’s my standing of the crib of my first born son and noting he is alive and beautiful. That feeling that rose came even after a terrible night of walking the floor when he first came home. We tend to discount such movements of our hearts, thinking that God is so transcendent, so far beyond our comprehension that we’ll never experience his presence. But God is God and is the author of those feelings. They are not manufactured by skilled artisans. So it is Mary who takes the happenings that surround the presence of Jesus and contemplates them. She places them in her heart so that her heart will understand and lift her up in the glory that is in those events.

The wonderful commemoration of Mary as the Mother of God is often an occasion of veneration. It’s an admiration of the work and the life of Mary. That’s true, even though we actually know very little about her life from the gospels. That goes also for the second characters in this feast’s gospel. These are the shepherds – watching their flocks during the night, guarding against those would do damage to the flock. In both Mary and the shepherds, there was wonder about what they had seen. They talked among themselves trying to reach understanding. But even for them understanding wasn’t available. Instead they praised God for what they had experienced. Mary wondered at what she had participated. The shepherds returned to their flocks, to their work. But they were changed by the experience and their thoughts turned to God. They were the fruit of the blessings of the Hebrew priests for the Lord had shown them his face. This is also the glory that is Mary’s. In both experiences, there was a depth of such intensity that it required reflection to grasp the meaning of the experience. It was to both, an experience of the Glory of God.

If we only honor Mary with veneration and the shepherds with admiration, then it becomes a feast-day with no real-life impact. Mary is presented repeated in the gospels as the quintessential disciple. Most of us are like the shepherds. We come to meet God along the way of our living but always return to our work, to our flocks. It is the encounters with God, most often through the sacraments, but also most assuredly in our relationships with others and in our experiences of God’s glory in very ordinary ways that we share in Mary’s experience at the birth of her son. It is the experience of the shepherds coming to the stable temporarily converted into a nursery by the presence of this child. What they saw, what they experienced moved them to sing out praise and glory to God. As these shepherds, pretty much on the ground floor of society, returned to their ordinary, un-honored lives they were influenced by that visit to the baby in the stable at Bethlehem. They too became disciples.

To be a disciple is to be a follower of a master. That following of a master changes how the events of lives are understood. As disciples these persons, Mary and the shepherds, brought the Christ into the highways and byways of the world. The world began to change from that quiet influence. On this feast day of Mary, the Mother of God, we have an opportunity to consider how we are followers of the Christ Child. We have an opportunity to see, to hear, to feel his presence – and then return to our routine life just as Mary did in the house at Nazareth. Also, the shepherds in the hills around Bethlehem returned to their flocks, wondering, always wondering and considering what this experience meant. To be a disciple is to make the presence of God real in the world.

In our baptism, we are instructed that we are priests, prophets, and shepherds (kings and queens) responsible for the well-being of the flock. In this solemn feast we are further told the ancient blessing required of the Priesthood of Aaron is our responsibility as well. We are to bless our families, our work life, our community, and our world with the wonder of that baby found in a manger. No trappings, no loud trumpets, no banner headlines in this birth. Like millions of babies, this child is born into poverty. What is the difference? Why is this child so memorable and inspiring? What is there about the circumstances, the child, the time of history, the terror of the occupation – what makes this child memorable? That is the question That discipleship puts into practice these ancient words. "The Lord bless and keep you, the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace."

May these words be always in our hearts and springing from our lips using our own words and language.


The Epiphany of the Lord January 3, 2021

Isaiah 60: 1-6; Responsorial Psalm 72: Ephesians 3:2-3 & 5-6; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 2:2; Matthew 2:1-12

The first reading from Isaiah sets the scene for this great celebration. It is the Epiphany – God making his presence known among us. This is the Sunday of the Magi, the wise ones. It’s a compelling story. However, the message of Isaiah starts the theme this Sunday. His prophecy announces a change for the Jews held in slavery. They have been set free to return to their city. A light of uplifting hope has come that will overwhelm the darkness of captivity. Once again, the city of Jerusalem will become the city of peace that its name signifies. This return is a call to all the Israelites who have been scattered over the centuries through out all the nations of the earth. Isaiah means to call all Hebrews, all the Israelites to return home. Those lost in siege by ruthless enemies are called to a reunion with their history, their traditions, and their rituals. The new light is the glory of God. God is again present among his people.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians from the second reading, we are encouraged to enter into the great mystery of God’s grace, God’s living presence among us. It is not merely to the ancient tribes of Abraham’s descendants, but to all the peoples of the earth. The unity that comes from the presence of this great mystery is the formation of a great body, that is the Body of the Christ. All disciples are interconnected, dependent on one another for the life blood that flows through the arteries and veins of the Master.

It is in the gospel that we get a glimpse of what’s expected of us. The wise men came seeking a great one who was predicted to be born in the land of the Jews. They studied the great literature of all nations, including the Jews. There was an expectation in the vast majority of those writings of one who would come to change the very foundations of human living. There was an expectation, a longing, a search for such a person who would render human life – from the lowest person on the social structures to the most exalted monarch – meaningful and purposeful. These educated and well-read men were astrologers. In their daily recordings of the movement of the heavenly bodies they would have noticed the confluence of a couple of stars that appeared to unite into one great star. They came to Jerusalem seeking advice from the powerful of the Jews. The powerful were focused on their power and had little thought of a savior for humankind except to note if that savior would be a threat to their power. The powerful send the wise men to the Scribes who kept the books of the nation. These scribes maintained the history, the legdens, the prophecies, and the religious poetry of the Jews. It was logical these scribes would know any prophecies regarding this promised one. The scribes quickly found a prophecy that the promised one would come from the town of Bethlehem. Despite the arrival of these wise men in caravan and with strange language, dress, and customs, there was little to no stir in Jerusalem at their arrival. The wise men must have wondered about that. Why did the people of Jerusalem fail to accompany the wise men to their goal? Instead, they got directions to Bethlehem and a request to tell the civil leader, Herod, where the baby could be found. They sought the baby and found him in Bethlehem. When they had found him and embraced him, they realized those who should have cared about this birth didn’t.

The message of the story of Epiphany is simple. Once we come to know, to experience the babe of Bethlehem, we will begin to take another road home. No one can come to see him and not be changed. We will come to imitate Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men when we once again experience this promised one. Like each of those people, we will need to take time to explore our experiences of Jesus and come to understand the wonder that this child is for that time and for our own. We certainly need to visit that child and come to learn about peace and joy. When we do, like the wise men, we’ll take a new way home away from the proud, the arrogant, the pretentious, and the educated ignorant. As we begin that journey on a new path, we’ll come to understand why it is that God loves us so much as to send us his very best.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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Brian Gleeson CP - Epiphany

GOD’S GREATEST GIFT: CELEBRATING THE EPIPHANY

  • How much do we value God’s gift to us of Jesus?
  • How are we experiencing him as our Savior?

At Christmas time we give gifts to different people. Different people give gifts to us. What's it all about? It all goes back to the story of the three wise men going to Bethlehem, falling on their knees, and offering the best gifts they could afford to the Infant King.

Our gift-giving may sometimes be aimed more at keeping on-side and keeping the peace than anything else. Our gift-giving may at times be part of the commercialization of Christmas instead of expressions of unconditional love.

In contrast, the wise men are completely single-minded and sincere in their giving. Their gifts are expressions of their respect, reverence, gratitude, and love for the poor Baby of Bethlehem. Their gifts are given with no strings attached, no conditions, and no mixed motives.

The flaws in our gift-giving may make us feel that the whole business of exchanging Christmas gifts should be gradually abolished and that the commercialization of Christmas should be restrained and restricted. If or when we think those thoughts, it may help to remember that the commercialization of Christmas is somewhat necessary. If it was a completely spiritual celebration, hundreds of small businesses would go to the wall. Thousands of factory workers making trees, chocolates, decorations, cards, and toys, would find themselves unemployed.

It may also be helpful to remember that if people did not spend money on gifts to family and friends at Christmas, their consciences would not be roused to make donations to the poor and needy at this time of giving and sharing. (Many charities, in fact, experience a boost at Christmas time).

Despite the limits and flaws in our gift-giving, it’s important both to keep the practice alive and to purify it of its worst excesses. It's particularly important to the lives of children. The good news is that while they are attracted to receiving e.g., a gift of new roller skates, they are also attracted to the Crib and the story of the baby lying there. Their hearts are touched by the plight of his parents who are so poor that they can offer him nothing except their protection and affection. Children very easily get the message that this is a story of love. They appreciate the humanity of the Holy Family, their struggles and sacrifices, to bring the Light of the Nations to the human race.

The story of the visit to the Crib by the Wise Men is a story of giving and receiving. But it is not simply about the giving of things - in this case, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It speaks of how gifts express love between persons, and of how gifts given with love bind people together.

In celebrating Epiphany, we are celebrating the greatest manifestation and gift that there has ever been, that of God's love for us. For it was out of love, that God the Father gave us the Son, his number one gift, and gave him to be our Light, our Saviour, our King and our Joy.

Jesus, then, is the celebrity we are celebrating at this time. He is the reason for the season, the Twelve Days of Christmas, that began on Christmas Day. So, as a beautiful carol puts it: ‘JOY, JOY, FOR CHRIST IS BORN, THE BABE, THE SON OF MARY!’

As our Eucharist continues then, I suggest that we make a special point of giving thanks for the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives. May we acknowledge with sincerity that he is the most precious gift we have ever received! May we also renew the gift in return, of our whole lives to God!

So, let us

  • ‘Give thanks with a grateful heart

  • Give thanks to the Holy One

  • Because he’s given, Jesus Christ, his Son.

  • And now let the weak say I am strong

  • Let the poor say I am rich

  • Because of what the Lord has done for us.

  • Give thanks!’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

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Paul O'Reilly SJ - Epiphany

Year A,B,C: Epiphany

"Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh." [Matthew 2.11]

I don’t often get to feel like either a King or a wise man. But I did this week. Because last Saturday was the great day that we started doing coronavirus vaccinations. During the previous week the preparations for this event had taken up the resources of the whole local health system to provide 975 vaccinations primarily for mobile elderly people above the age of 80. And the trouble began with the initial administration. Getting 975 octogenarians, however allegedly mobile, to one place at the right time over a tightly coordinated sequence is a difficult matter. We had to call them up on the phone, arrange the procedure, enable them to understand the rationale, obtain consent, ensure the absence of contra-indications, yada yada yada. It was a long job and everyone took a hand in making the phone calls required. But we discovered that there was a quality to the phone calls that nobody expected – it was HOPE!

We found ourselves talking to people who had been confined innocently to 9 months of penal solitude, with no prospect of release. And now, it seemed like we had turned up with a key. So this was not a chance to be missed. People who had not been out of their own houses for years pronounced themselves as fit as James Milner and available for selection for any vaccination centre in London. When asked how they would get there they said they would walk it in a set voice which few of us had the courage to question further. This, we reminded ourselves, was a generation which had fought a war and knew what it is to make do.

And the second feature of the phone calls was length: few of them seem to have had much opportunity for conversation in the previous nine months and very few of them could credit that we were interested solely in their medical history and not requiring a more complete account of their life and times. Those phone calls, we all now recognise, should have been our warning.

When they day came, not one of them was on time – this we had expected. Most of us have previous experience of what happens to appointment times with the combination of octogenarian memories, British winter weather and London public transport. What we had not expected was that none of them was less than fifteen minutes early. A terror of missing this chance through unpunctuality had seized our entire octogenarian population. For them, failure was not an option.

Now, I have to tell you, that we general practitioners are a pretty hard and cynical bunch. We have seen humanity at its least attractive, least rewarding, least grateful and least inspiring. So that day came as a bit of a shock. There is nothing better in medicine than the chance to add life to years as well as years to life. All of the patients were polite, understanding and exquisitely grateful, often pathetically so. There is a certain unforgettable look that comes into the eyes of a little old lady whom you have just informed that, 28 days from today, and for the first time in a small eternity, she will be able to hug her grandchildren.

One gentleman put it most elegantly: "this is my passport to freedom and future hope." But my favourite of the day was a Scottish gentlemen of erect and military bearing whom I took particular care to remind that full protection was only obtained seven days after the second dose, that is a full four weeks from that day. He stood, considered for a moment and said with quiet resolution, "well, Christmas may still be cancelled, … and Hogmanay…

but Burns night is on!"

Not everyone had thought it right that we should rush out this vaccination program on the first properly wet weekend in December, and with exactly the same level of foresight, planning and skilled centralized government command and control as the little boats that brought off the British Army from the beaches of Dunkirk. But the analogy is still a fair one: in times of crisis, when what needs doing is a clearly visible as the white cliffs of Dover, the best response is simply to have good, intelligent courageous people of goodwill working together and getting it done. This was the generation which did that in their time and it was an honour and a privilege to do this for them.

Now I think I can see why the magi saw the star and made the trip. It’s quite something to be there at the birth of a new Hope. And an even better something to be a part of it.

Let us pray that we too may know God’s hope in our own lives.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

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3rd SUNDAY 2nd SUNDAY Baptism of the Lord Mary (Solemnity) HOLY FAMILY CHRISTMAS


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