Pastor Column: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 3, 2019

Pastor Column: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 3, 2019

Msgr. Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish


Dear friends / Estimados amigos,

Do you remember that after-Christmas reading of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple? Luke tells us that it was there that Mary, the mother of Jesus, heard the foreshadowing of the holy man, Simeon, that during her Son’s life He would be a “sign of contradiction.”  How quickly we see this in this weekend’s Gospel at the very start of Jesus’ public ministry.

Jesus is in His home town of Nazareth. He’s been honored to proclaim the reading from the scrolls handed him by the rabbi (last weekend’s gospel reading). All His friends and family are initially taken by His eloquence, but then they turn quickly on Him in anger. Jesus could work no miracles there for them, and then He quotes the section of the proverb that a prophet is never accepted in his native place. The crowd grows more incensed, to the point of wanting to throw Jesus down over the brow of the hill on which Nazareth was built. In an astonishing turnabout, their reaction goes from pride and astonishment to wanting to kill Him.

Clearly Jesus’ Good News is not good news for everyone. Opposition would steadily mount as He and His apostles journeyed toward Jerusalem. People in the religious establishment and others would begin to question His intentions, undermine His reputation, and plot to trip Him up so as to discredit Him among the populace. Today’s readings remind us of the difficult road a prophet like Jesus or Jeremiah must travel to deliver God’s word of conversion. But God assures them of His protection and deliverance from harm. Paul’s famous reading about love is a reminder to us that Jesus came to conquer sin not by overwhelming might, but by God’s mercy for sinners. The greatest opposition to Jesus’ message was not from political enemies but from representatives of religion, who objected to His challenge of their claim to be the only ones who could access God.

Similar to Jesus, the “sign of contradiction” marks the life of a Christian disciple as well. We bear that sign of the cross on our journey through life. We try to be united with the mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. We all bear our share of the sufferings of the Body of Christ endured in every generation in order to redeem the world. By virtue of our baptism, confirmation, and receiving the Eucharist, every time we make the sign of the cross, we proclaim the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity dwells within us and is the source of our discipleship with Jesus.

Gospel joy is inseparable from our share in the sufferings of Christ. Whether we encounter them physically, mentally, or in the sacrifices and labors of our service, we are blessed to be united with Christ. The Communion that we all share ties us to one another in the Lord. So we die with Christ in order to share in His resurrection. How blessed are we to be signs of contradiction!  

 

Pastor Column: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 27, 2019

Pastor Column: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 27, 2019

Msgr. Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish


Dear friends / Estimados amigos,

While many people like to talk, only a few are what I would judge inspired speakers. The latter only come around a few times in life, while the others we meet daily. People like Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa or even Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People) spoke words that inspired millions to work for change that transformed society, raised awareness of the plight of the destitute, and encouraged people to take a genuine interest in the other, offering sincere encouragement when dealing with him/her.

Effective and powerful words are at the heart of today’s liturgical readings. Ezra reads the words of the Law to the gathering of Jews so that those words would become their source of life, their reason for union, and the bond which would unite them with God forever. St. Paul used dramatic images of the body to drive home the importance of mutual respect for differences in the faith community. In the Gospel, Jesus takes the scroll to deliver the words that would outline the “agenda” for His public ministry. His powerful words of promise were confirmed by the fact that He would spend His life and go to His death in order to fulfill them. His public activities were saturated with the proclamation of good news to the poor, the liberation of those held captive by evil spirits or disease. He made the blind see and liberated captives. As the words are once again repeated in our presence they are particularly challenging. Will we be lulled by eloquence or moved to action, fired up by the words of the Lord?

Theologian Walter Brueggemann has affirmed the importance of repeatedly re-hearing Jesus’ powerful words. At the time it is proclaimed, the sacred text is offered by the deacon/lector and received by the listener as something revelatory. The Word of God discloses something about this moment or situation that would remain unknown if not revealed. It becomes the privilege and responsibility of those to hear to keep the text available, to linger over it together, in order to permit it to speak its truth to the present situation. Every so often the words of the text, after a time of lingering, become something even more powerful. They are applied to new and different circumstances oftentimes far removed from their original contexts. Someone from the community finds a new light in the text, a nugget of truth. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he or she convinces others to see and believe with fresh eyes and enriched faith. The Word, handed on for centuries as tradition, becomes something explosive and filled with new vigor, perhaps even moving others to work together for its realization.

The theologian grasps the possibilities that are inherent in re-hearing the Word of God each time we gather for liturgy. Some may think it boring or rote, but people like the great speakers of the past have found the ingredient to spark change and convert hearts. We need people like that: inspiring and powerful, they are tuned into the workings of the Spirit and willing to share their observations and dreams with us all.