Reflection – First Sunday of Lent

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

You may remember the most challenging part of an essay exam from your school days. It began with the words “Compare and Contrast.” You had better know your material to answer smartly. If for any reason you were weak on the subject at hand, you would likely spin a web of conjecture with the vain hope that your lengthy burst of meaningless verbiage could fool your
teacher. I leave to your imagination another more coarse definition of what that’s called!

Readers of Sacred Scripture have no such problem with the Holy Spirit, who is its real Author. He compares and contrasts with a masterful touch as expressed by the human writers. This first weekend of Lent, we read the enchanting recap of the flood story in Genesis, wherein the newly dry land becomes the setting for a new covenant God makes with mankind. Combined with His pledge of never sending a flood comes His choice of the rainbow as a perpetual reminder of the Covenant.

Retaining the watery theme is today’s excerpt of Peter’s First Letter, telling us that the waters of baptism have the innate power under the Final Covenant to save us all from destruction.
Then comes today’s Gospel. In his trademark almost texting style Mark tells us how Jesus was tested in the harshness of a water-less desert. We have to depend on the other more detailed gospel versions of the story to learn the devil’s tactics’ exact nature. But what Mark does add is the comfort Jesus derived afterward from ministering angels.

It is relatively easy to compare and contrast floodwaters and an arid desert as different backgrounds for the birth of covenants. But what might be more difficult for you and me right here at the beginning of Lent 2021 is the comparison and contrast we can make of keeping our baptismal covenant promises since Lent 2020 until now. Back then, the arrival of a certain pandemic
came upon the scene. We have presumably since learned a lot about ourselves and how we have handled all the shutdowns and restrictions. Through it all, have we been true Christians with all around us? I believe that with our answer to that one, we could “have our hands full.”

There is lots of room in the process to list those nasty little sins we have committed against others, like impatience, rash judgment, and mean words. This not to omit the bad choices we may have made in seeking comfort from our pain with unchaste thoughts and actions along with overindulgence in food and drink. Above all, and more importantly, our Lenten resolve this year
and what changes we will implement going forward.

God’s Covenant of loving mercy and salvation still stands as strong as it ever was. Our spiritual posture is the only variable. This kind of comparison and contrast is a demanding but pertinent Lenten exercise, hopefully, targeted at something called “conversion.”

In the “Alice in Wonderland” story, at one point, Alice says to the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.  “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

As with Alice, so with us and the Church. Without objectives, we will have nowhere to go, and we’ll just keep wandering aimlessly. We need to remember that Jesus once declared for all to hear: “I am the Way.”

God love you and give you His peace.

February 14 Reflection

You are in the doctor’s exam room, perched on the side of the examination table, awaiting the doctor’s return. When he does so, the doctor brings another one with him. Their combined verdict is clear: “You have a strong case of cancer.”

Since you’ve been a patient of this man for many years, you know of his special concern for you. You inherently know how much the doctor would instead be saying something else.

That’s how it could be for any of us since cancer’s arrival and its varied forms. You dread the sudden imposition of isolation this may bring. Most family and friends take on this serious air around you. You are grateful for those who can still share a laugh with you, no matter the subject. And when you are alone, you try to remember that in- stead of holding a “pity party” for yourself.

All of that was part of the plight of the unnamed leper who met Jesus on that long-ago day. He knew the pain of his condition, but the social strictures Leviticus demanded in those days that he live apart from family and friends and shout out to everybody, “Unclean! Unclean!” Jesus will thus make all the difference.

Mark’s description that Jesus was “moved with pity,” is a bit tepid rendition of the original Greek word used here, which is “embrimesamenos.” The word means rather “strong emotions that boil over and find expression in groaning.” That was the depth of the healing love in Our Lord’s great heart that day.

This weekend finds us in “the vestibule,” so to speak, of Lent. We can easily acknowledge our need for re- pentance at any time, but Lent is a special season for this. Think of it as a retreat. At least as a time to zero in on the “leprosy” of sin that regularly infects our souls. How supportive, consoling, and hopeful it is to know that God sent us His Son as an emissary who could be so concerned for our healing as to groan over us! I believe that prompted Jesus to say on another occasion, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.”

Bishop Robert Barron offers this complimentary pre-Lenten observation: “It is a biblical commonplace that we are unable to save ourselves from sin since the very powers that we would muster to do so—the mind, the will, and the passions—are precisely what sin has compromised. Our only hope, therefore, is in the divine salvation of- fered as a gift.”

In Lent, we’re all, figuratively speaking, in “the office “of the Divine Physician, the Healer of souls. Tell him your condition, and then listen attentively. And don’t be like this man who consulted with his doctor. “I have a terrible problem,” he confided. “I’ve been carousing and misbehaving. It’s been happening more and more frequently, and my conscience is beginning to trouble me very deeply. Can you give me something that will help?”

The doctor replied, “Oh, I see; you want me to give you something to strengthen your willpower?” “No” the patient protested. “That’s not it. I don’t want to strengthen my willpower. I want you to give me something to weaken my conscience.”

Have a good Lent. God loves you and gives you His peace.

Why the Sacrament of Confession?

A question was asked recently in conversation by several people in the parish: Why do we need to go to Confession?
First, this is a Sacrament that was given to us directly by Jesus as a means to grow in grace and holiness and as a sign of God’s love for us.  In John’s gospel chapter 20 verses 21-23, Jesus said, “… Peace be with you.  And when He had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  We all are called to holiness by Jesus, and this is a powerful tool to do so.
For by the power Jesus has given to a priest, our sins are forgiven here on earth by God, and our slate is wiped clean.  This act of going to Confession is pleasing to God, for he desires us to be holy as He is holy.

Some have said they were told that they only had to go to Confession if they had committed a mortal sin.  That is wrong.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that we must also confess venial sins, for these can lead to more serious sins and even mortal sins.   For mortal sin can lead us down the path to Hell and away from Heaven and everlasting life with Christ.  Church law requires us to go at least once a year, but encourages monthly confession for all its members.

Frequent confession is good, for it allows the Holy Spirit to help us remember our sins and to bring things to mind that others may have done to us or we to them. This is a grace that God wants to give us that will help us on the path of holiness.  He wants to soften our hearts so we can forgive others as He forgives us.   The seal of confession is such, that the priest cannot disclose to anyone what he has heard, for what is said in the confessional stays in the confessional.  The priest, after he has given guidance and absolution, sees you in a state of grace, for having confessed all your sins.   For your soul is clean again in the sight of God, and the burdens of sin have been lifted off your shoulders.  The early Church Fathers saw Confession as a second Baptism that wiped sin away from one’s soul.*   Don’t be afraid of confessing your sins,  for the priest who is representing Christ in the confessional only wants to reunite you to Christ and his Church through this sacrament.  We all have a fallen nature due to original sin, and that was why Christ came to redeem us and to reunite us with God, for He wants us to enter into heaven where every tear will be wiped away, and we will experience the love of God in a way that is unfathomable.

And yes, humility is required to do this.  Nothing that we have done is so bad that God will not forgive us.  He is calling us to come to him to be cleansed and renewed.  It is known that Saint John Paul II went to confession weekly, and J.R.R. Tolkien would not receive communion until he had first gone to confession.  Why? Because they had experienced the grace of the sacrament, and they did not want to receive the Body of Christ in a state of sin.  Along with that, they needed it to grow in holiness and in the love of God and of neighbor.

Finally, Christ wants to heal our brokenness and restore us as his loved ones.  He is the good Shepherd.  The kind of heart he has for us is found in Isaiah 42:1-4.  “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one, in whom my soul delights.  I have put my spirit upon him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.  He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street: a bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice.”   This passage from Isaiah speaks of the gentleness of Jesus toward those who are hurting and suffering, and through the Sacrament of Confession, He wants to heal us.  He desires our repentance so He can wipe our sins away and restore us to the life of grace with Him.

February 7, 2021 Reflection

Poor little February! Even in its better leap years, it still has fewer days than its calendar mates. Besides that, at least in the Northern hemisphere, it comes at that time of year when the weather offers a tiresome repeat of its neighbor January. Gone is the charm of that first snowfall when others arrive.

There is no significant holiday to prepare for as the previous three months offered. That is unless one gives an extraordinary rating to Valentine’s Day right in February’s middle. Consequently, nobody rushes around the mall for gifts to liven its days.

Speaking of gifts, it’s now the bills for same arrive. No special decorating for most houses.

There is no list of favorite songs for February. And, unless you or a loved one celebrates a birthday or an anniversary this month, there are no large gatherings for a special meal. Add to all this the somewhat unwelcome news that Lent soon arrives, with all its purple weeks of fasting and other penances.

But wait! Isn’t a convinced Christian an automatic optimist, no matter the season? Theologically, yes. Psychologically, I am not so sure. Whatever problem, Life doles out, it just seems that we’re less likely to handle it well in February.

This Sunday’s First Reading from the Book of Job makes explicit what we might be thinking about in February. We get little comfort.

Along comes the timeless “Good News” in today’s Gospel passage. It can lift us from any “downer” we may experi- ence this month. The Holy Word offers not just a palliative but a pain killer. That’s because it highlights how a certain Jesus, the same we met as a mere babe two short months ago, comes to us with the very reason for our optimism. We re-learn that He is the cure for all our ills.

At this point, the demons have a temporary advantage over the good people around Jesus, who are seeking cures from various maladies. But Jesus orders their silence. He prefers a gradual realization among His newfound followers.

As a result, “little February” is not as forlorn as it may have seemed at first. For here, only seven days in, she presents a Gospel passage that gives us the whole reason for our main Christian claim. Bishop Robert Barron explains it this way:

Christianity is, first and foremost, a religion of the concrete and not the abstract. It takes its power not from a general religious consciousness, not from an ethical conviction, not from a comfortable abstraction, but from the person Jesus Christ. It is Christ…that moves the believer to change of Life and gift of self.”

Of course, pessimists are always to be found. Usually, they have a hard time believing in anything, much less Jesus. When someone is convinced that things can’t be done, he will cling to that conviction in the face of the most obvious contradiction.

The story is told of the time when Robert Fulton gave the first public demonstration of his steamboat. One of those “can’t be done” fellows stood in the crowd along the shore, repeating, “He can’t start it.”

Suddenly, there was a belch of steam, and the big boat began to move. Startled, the man stared for a moment and then began to chant, “He can’t stop it!”

God love you and give you His peace!

Reading I: Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
Job temporarily pauses his dialogue with his three friends and turns to lament about human life in general. He mentions three pro- verbially unhappy states in life and shows it is only with dependence on God that man has lasting happiness.

Reading II: I Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23
Preaching is Paul’s acknowledged calling as a Christian, so he does not deserve credit for using the gift. His integrity is based on his love for all persons, no matter their situation.

The Gospel: Mark I: 29-39
Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law so completely that she gets up from bed to serve all in the house. Later, Jesus cures all the peo- ple who crowd Peter’s door. We learn that the demons knew who Jesus was, but they were silenced by Him. The disciples will gradually come to know Jesus’ identity.

January 31 Reflection

Live a while in our very human world and you soon learn that many a promise is broken. So much so that we are amazed when they are kept, especially over a long time. How many hearts have been broken by this very human failure we can only guess. So it is very reassuring and definitely cause for rejoicing to learn from the Bible that God is the exception. He keeps every promise He makes. Admittedly there may be ex-tensive time gaps between promise made and promise kept. But then we also know that God’s ways are not ours. The times described in Deuteronomy, our First Reading today, were long gone when events like those recounted in the Gospels took place.

Deuteronomy captures the day when, speaking through Moses, God guarantees that a prophet very much like Himself will be “raised up for you from among your own kin.” He adds: “And to him you will listen.” This is very much a command added to a promise.

Fast forward to this long ago day at the Capernaum synagogue. At the synagogue service, with its usual ritual begun with prayer, followed by Scripture readings and teaching. Just as Jesus started His teaching, He was rudely interrupted by a foul mouthed demon living in an otherwise innocent man who took on an even more ugly attitude. Jesus hears him out. “What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” Most likely this group of demons knew the answer to their questions, but they wanted confirmation of their conclusion. It must have frightened the little congregation. Jesus doesn’t answer their impertinent questions. Instead He commands them to be “Quiet! Come out of him!” That’s the kind of thing that Moses had described long before coming from the future prophet.

The stupendous power of Jesus, able to cross over to the invisible world of the supernatural, should be a welcome comfort to us. Especially when we can be quite devilish in our inner lives. Christ has kept His promises. All we have to do is keep our own to Him. Allow me to tell, on a much lower level of example, what just might happen to us if we don’t.
Three men died and went to heaven. Upon their arrival, St. Peter asked the first if he had been faithful to his wife. The man admitted to two affairs during his marriage. St. Peter told him that he could receive only a subcompact car to drive in heaven.

Then St. Peter asked the second man if he had been faithful to his wife, and the man admitted to one affair. St. Peter told him that he could have a mid-size car to drive. The third man was asked about his faithfulness, and he told St. Peter he had been true to his wife until the day he died. St. Peter praised him and gave him a luxury car.
A week later the three men were driving around, and they all stopped at a red light. The men in the subcompact and mid-size cars turned to see the man in the luxury car crying. They asked him what could possibly be the matter. After all, he was driving a luxury car. “I just passed my wife,” he told them, “and she was on a skateboard!”\

God love you and give you His peace.

Reading I: Deuteronomy 18: 15-20 The author wants to find a place for prophecy in his country. He describes a true prophet as a native Israelite who is called by Yahweh and continues the prophetic role of Moses.

Reading II: 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35 Paul is addressing newly married couples. We note his view of the equality of men and women. He advises couples but does not impose any solutions.
The Gospel: Mark 1: 21-28 Capernaum is the setting for this last section of Chapter One. Jesus’ “amazing” teaching did not rely on appeals to Scripture or other teachers for verification. The healing He works presages the end of the power of demons.

January 24 Reflections

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

St. Mark, in giving us this scene for meditation as the Holy Spirit’s spokesman, hits upon the secret of every good salesperson as well. For it seems to me that such people are actually selling a dream. One they passionately believe in.

My own dear Dad spent the bulk of his working years selling life insurance. In this case, the “dream” is guaranteed security and strong protection against the twin nightmares of uncertainty and fear. But all salespeople offer a product that will not only pre- clude disaster but also bring a strong dose of hope and optimism.

Our Lord Jesus could also be called “the World’s Greatest Salesman.” He has all the good qualities of a person who believes in what they’re selling, so to speak, and none of the dark characteristics often attributed to salespeople. His “product” of course is “the Kingdom of God.” He tells us it is nearer than we think.

In the process He was actually selling Himself as the perfect actualization of that kingdom. He made His hearers un- derstand that this kingdom is such that positivity is the law of the land and undying love is its hallmark. In other words, He was “selling” God back to those who had abandoned Him. How good He was at His work shows in the way even His first listeners were so quickly able to leave behind much of their old life and walk with Him.

Some of the actors who have played Jesus in Hollywood films have managed for me to capture His charm to a satisfy- ing degree. It may be that as a confirmed romantic I fell for their portrayals too easily. But I watched through the lens of a committed believer in Jesus, and one who has his own ideas of how to play Jesus. However, the Bible tells me not just to play the role but live it.

But no matter our nature or temperament, we are all “hard wired” to be attracted by truth and the obvious conviction of an authentic truth teller. We “buy into” their wares with ease. Is it any wonder that Simon and Andrew, James and John dropped their fishing nets to follow the Divine Troubadour? And aren’t you glad that you did too? What we have gained from this magnetism of the Master is the joy of having Someone to believe in. That cannot be taken away from us by anyone, especially the one “evil salesman” who was formerly an archangel.

That’s why it’s best for us to remember:
“You are writing a Gospel, a chapter each day, By deeds that you do, by words that you say. People read what you write, whether faithless or true. Say! What is that gospel, according to YOU?”

God love you and give you His peace!

Reading I: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10
The prophet, as God’s spokesman, brings about a miraculous turnaround by the people of Nineveh. Prior to that, the city was known only for its sinful cruelty and wickedness.

Reading II: I Corinthians 7: 29-31
St. Paul believed in an imminent end of the world, so he recommends detachment from earthly ways. It would be ridiculous to maintain one’s “status quo” in such circumstances.

The Gospel: Mark 1: 14-20
Jesus calls His first disciples. He was so compelling that they were immediate with their responses. Jesus describes their new life’s work as their becoming “fishers of men.”

January 17 Reflection

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

Magnetism. On one level, it’s that physical phenome- non in which a bar of iron or steel can attract other iron. It can grab on to almost any metallic object from a coin to a car and everything in between. It’s the “glue” that holds the photo- graphic memories of a family on the refrigerator door.

On another level, the word refers to those features of a person that makes him or her attractive. In the case of Our Lord Jesus, we have not only attraction but also the fact that He is both human and divine. The gospels give us glimpses of both. Jesus at one time raises a dead man to life but at another time He is caught napping in the stern of St. Peter’s boat.

In the gospel passage we read today, John our author gives us all the subjects and verbs of the incident, but none of the adjectives or adverbs. We hear that two former disciples of the Baptist were sent after the Lord. They experienced in turn His magnetism. But how did their faces look? And how did Jesus’ own face look? Or with what tone of voice did Jesus have when He asked them “What are you looking for?” John doesn’t say.

I surmise a smile and a welcoming arm gesture when Jesus invited them to come and see where He was stay- ing. However John steps out of character to note the time of day when this happened. Maybe because this incident marked the hour of the first calling of people that Jesus gave.

We find out the name of one of the men was Andrew. He in turn introduces his brother Simon to the Lord. Simon gets a new name, along with a new calling. The magnetic attraction of Jesus usually involves a change in the other’s life.

I believe it follows that we have an opportunity this January day to reflect on our own calling from the Lord. While each of us is unique, we also have a common call as Catholic Christians to “introduce” others, so to speak, to Jesus. A sad fact is that the largest group of people in our country in terms of religious affiliation are the “nones.” People with no connection to any religion. I believe we have a call to introduce them to Jesus. And we can do that more by our actions than by words. The action of our Christian lifestyle, which has a built in magnetism of its own.

The story is told of the captain of a Mississippi riverboat who, as his ship passed another vessel, grabbed the first passenger he saw and said, “Look, look over there on the other boat, Look at its captain.” The man was some- what bewildered and asked, “Why do you want me to look at that captain? What makes him so special?”

Then the captain told him the story of how he had collided one night with another boat. His own vessel was foundering and in the process he was thrown overboard. The captain of the other vessel saw his desperate plight and maneuvered close enough that he was able to dive into the water and save his life.

After telling the story, the once-saved captain then turned to the bystander and said, “Ever since that day, I want to point out my rescuer to others.” Likewise, as a people who have been magnetically attracted by Jesus, and been saved, secured and loved by Him, we should want to point out to others the God-Man who has rescued us from the consequences of our sins.

God love you, and give you His peace!

Baptism of the Lord

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

Many a joke has been told about the trial and tribulation that is part of most people’s dealings with their state’s DMV. I refer to the much maligned Department ofMotor Vehicles.
Its various ways and means conjure upimages of purgatory, especially with the demands it makeson our patience. This last is exacerbated with the restrictions brought on by the current pandemic. Already being bureaucracy at its worst, when one adds those in, I think then the experiences it creates for its users could be recorded as “Intimations of Purgatory.”

My needs were twofold: buying a car from a private seller, and renewing my driver’s license. Were I to tell you my whole story, including a suggestion from an official to “go have breakfast and we’ll text you when it’s near time for your spot in line to get serviced”, I believe you might giggle a little and think how it resembled an episode of “Seinfeld”.

My point in all this recall is to highlight the importance these days of carrying some proof on your person that you are who you claim to be. Today’s feast cele- brates the fact that at His baptism, Our Lord had no such need, for He received in spectacular fashion His authentication. God the Father said it in five words: “You are my beloved Son.”

However, you and I cannot remain simple observers of a passing scene in this case. The fact that Jesus was baptized, and declared God’s Son then and there brings to the fore a pair of religious obligations we all have inherit- ed as a result of our own baptism.

First is that we take our baptism very seriously, far from being just a happy memory caught by a collection of posed pictures of us as infants at the font. Second, we must take seriously every facet of Christ’s teaching in making decisions for action practically every day.

Most Catholic adults only confront the importance of their baptism when they visit the parish office seeking permission to be a godparent; or arranging a wedding; or setting up the baptism of their own new child.

The significance of this sacrament is the fact that it is the “gatekeeper” for the other six. It begins our full commitment to Christ, albeit made through our godparents, waiting for us to make it on our own. This automatically means that we are called to full participation in the life of the Church He founded, and identified Himself with as its Head.
What are some aspects of our commitment? For one, we may have to decide on any given Sunday, do I go to Mass, or junior’s soccer game? Do I opt for more sleep because I’ve had a hard week at work? Do I attend my daughter’s Confirmation class on Saturday or go instead to a ballet performance? Basic items but real cases. And those are only the beginning.

Our baptism gave us our permanent identity and it involves far more than a cleansing from original sin. I leave it up to you to research the whole beautiful treatment of the sacrament given by the Church from her earliest days. Refresh your earlier learning by finding online the beautiful truths presented by the official Church catechism.
Meanwhile, here is rich food for thought from C.S. Lewis, one of the best exponents of the Christian faith: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

God love you and give you His peace.

Reading I: Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7, or 55: 1-11
God speaks as He would to a heavenly court, and promises that He will give His Spirit to the coming Messiah. We also learn about the power of God’s Word, which never goes unfulfilled. The Messiah will be “a light to all nations.”

Reading II: Acts 10: 34-38, or I John 5: 1-9
This letter of John joins obedience to love. It is incumbent on us to believe that Jesus is the Son of the Father, and that His death for sin brings us eternal life.

The Gospel: Mark 1: 7-11
John the Baptist again exhibits his humility before Jesus, as he declares himself unworthy to do what was normally a slave’s task: loosening Jesus’ sandal straps. “Wind and fire” describe the coming of the kingdom and precede the proclamation of Our Lord’s true identity.

Feast of the Epiphany

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

From boyhood I have always loved the Epiphany story, perhaps because the magi manage to bring a touch of the exotic and color to the nearly monochrome stable scene of the first Christmas.  More than that, their very arrival after a presumably long dangerous journey has always underscored the attractive power and authentic divinity of the baby Jesus.

Also, the stark contrast the gift bearers make with the humble homespun couple and their newborn has always struck me with how God acts in ways that challenge our expectations.

Of course, we should not be surprised how often God does this, thoroughly upsetting our ideas about “how things ought to be.” When our notions clash with His, urging us to ask for Him to change His decision, He simply refers to His prior admission that “My ways are not yours” and the added codicil “Learn from Me.”

We could ask “Shouldn’t the wise men have pooled their resources to set up this young couple and their child in the best room at the inn?” Not a proper question albeit a natural one. We have to accept God the Father’s “No” to that.

To that we add the vexing question for the Jews at that time: “Why does Yahweh allow these gentiles to re- ceive a warm welcome from God when we are His chosen people?” A hard pill for them to swallow as they heard this story.

Inevitably we come to think about our personal failure in at least one aspect of our lives. One would think that after all this time, all these centuries since the Bethlehem event, and the clear teaching of the grown up Naza- rene, we would still be guilty of racial prejudice. And what about this awful habit of practically naming ourselves “God’s selected ones” all the time forgetting the petty betrayal of Him involved in our every sin? One could analyze that each sin of ours is like a spike of rough straw chafing an infant’s skin. Or more heinous, like a thorn crowning a condemned God-Man’s sacred head.

We have our work cut out for us, as in our imaginations we rise up from our knees behind the wise men when they stand up. We know they won’t be going back to Herod with any report. Nor will they take the same route home. Nobody who has seen Christ goes away the same. They will have learned without any words from the Holy Infant what it takes to be truly wise. All of this is what makes the Epiphany celebration wonderful.

Our Eastern rite brothers and sisters celebrate this day more than Christmas. It is the day our God revealed Himself as Someone available to everybody and not to just one race.

When I find myself tempted to join the growing number of cynics in the world beyond my front door, who seem more aggressive these days than we are in spreading their convictions, I can recall this scene for comfort. It has adorned many a Christmas card; been added to literary fiction in Henry Van Dyke’s story of “The Other Wise Man,” and immortalized in music as the subject of Menotti’s opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”

In my mind I see the weary camels shaking the tiny bells in their livery. I hear rustling silk in the apparel of the extraordinary travelers from the East. I smell the aroma of incense competing with the stink of the stable. And I see the look of delight on that tiny Face which I believe with all my heart to be my God’s countenance.

May that same God love you throughout this New Year and give you His peace.

Reading I: Isaiah 60: 1-6
God radiates light inside the city, so darkness surrenders, so to speak, in Jerusalem. All the nations come together to rebuild the city, including people associated with Abraham from the Arabian peninsula.

Reading II: Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6
Paul’s great insight into the mystery of Christ is that He wills the Gentile nations to be full participants in the Church. Its very foundation is based on Christ and the prophets and especially the Apostles.

The Gospel: Matthew 2: 1-2
The magi were a group who did things like interpret dreams, or work in astrology and magic. Later tradition made them kings. Above all they represent the Gentile world coming to Christ. Their gifts have meaning, so gold repre- sents kingship; incense divinity and myrrh suffering. Or they can be interpreted Virtue, Prayer, and Suffering.

The Feast of the Holy Family

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

To be cute about it, I quote here an American humorist by the name of Evan Esar (d. 1995): “Family: A social unit where the father is concerned with parking space, the children with outer space, and the mother with closet space.”

Whether Mr. Esar was fully correct or not, there is a grain of truth in what he wrote, and there is always some truth in wholesome humor.
However, for my purpose I prefer this statement of Sir Winston Churchill about the nature of family. “There is no doubt that it is around family and the home that all the greatest virtues …are created, strengthened, and maintained.”

Over this holiday time of year we are most likely to be with family, either literally or virtually because of the virus. We can verify Sir Winston’s observation. Family also gives us the answers to most of life’s important questions.

Do you think the young Jesus had questions? Certainly He must have, because remember He took on a human nature “like ours in everything but sin.” What is one of the principal ways we learn? Through answers to questions. Through that triple-spoke process of lessons taught, example given, and experience lived, Our Lord and Savior indeed grew in wisdom and grace.

I think it is an important detail that all this happened in the little village of Nazareth. It was located on the edge of the empire, far from the high society and corruption of Rome. So insignificant was it that it is nowhere even men- tioned in the whole Old Testament. Great things can happen in humble places, as our family homes most often at- test.
Could Our Lord have had better teachers in how to handle life than Mary and Joseph? Hardly. Without any ad- vanced degrees after their names, we can say with conviction that both Christ’s parents had “PhD’s” in holiness. Mary who was declared “full of grace” by an archangel, and Joseph remembered as a “just man” in the Scriptural sense cannot be excelled at their task. The Holy Spirit has decided not to tell us if any peers taught Jesus things, but we can imagine they too played a part, for better or worse, in His human upbringing. So we stand back for a time from all our concerns to admire and celebrate this Holy Family. We can see the necessity of these thirty or so years to prepare Our Lord for His incomparable mission.

That brings up the subject of our mission. Obviously it begins in our family circle, but it has to expand from there if we are to take our Baptismal and Confirmation promises seriously. That means doing our part to tell the waiting world all about Jesus and His Good News, even if the world neither acknowledges nor cares that it is waiting. Wait- ing for something, or more accurately, Someone, beyond its own calculations to give it purpose. Taking up the ad- monitions of Sirach and Colossians, which we read this weekend, is a good place to begin. After all, that’s our way to heaven. Here is George Bernard Shaw’s take on family: “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” Think about that!

God love you and give you His peace in 2021.

Reading I: Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14
Fidelity to the Lord implies many virtues. Chief among them is our duties toward our parents. The traditional blessings are then listed.

Reading II: Colossians 3: 12-21
This section is an early baptismal instruction. It describes the Christian community which a new member embraces through his/her baptism.

The Gospel: Luke 2: 22, 39-40
This section points out the necessity of the Nazareth years in Jesus’ life. It was there that He grew strong in the full experience of a human nature. In that way, He could bring the Spirit of God into contact with every area of our lives.