Reflections from the Shrine ...
OUR CALLING IS TO
"COME AND SEE" SO THAT WE MAY MORE CLEARLY KNOW OUR OWN VOCATIONS
A few times each year our director of vocations plans a weekend for interested young men to encourage them to think about entering our La Salette Community as a candidate. The weekend is called "Come and See" based on the response that Jesus gives to two disciples thinking about following him as it is described in today's Gospel.
We are like those two disciples who perhaps want a closer relationship with Jesus but we are not sure where to begin. That is why the question of Jesus is so important: Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, "What are you looking for?"
What is our heart telling us? Can we listen to our own soul's response to the question: "What do I want to do with my life?" It is a question that cannot be ignored if we want to have a real purpose in our lives. The response of Jesus to the disciples who want to know where Jesus is staying is the same answer he gives to us: He said to them, "Come, and you will see."
The two disciples were probably Andrew and John, two fishermen, the first disciples called by Jesus. The Gospel says simply: "so they went and saw were Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day." It made such an impression, that day he first really met Jesus, he even recalled the time of day: "It was about four in the afternoon." We too remember places and details when we meet someone who deeply influences our lives.
So that is also what we can do. I encourage you to spend more time with Jesus - perhaps in quiet prayer, reading the Scriptures, or simply reflecting on Jesus' profound question: "What are you looking for?" I suggest that you also talk to a good friend who knows you and who you deeply respect. Perhaps that person can help you decide or "discern" what is the purpose of your life.
We can take the example of Samuel in the first reading. Several times, God calls him during the night but he does not know it is the Lord till Eli the Prophet tells him to say when he hears God's voice: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."
Those weekend experiences for the young men can have long term consequences as they think about their future vocations. So too, each of us has our own vocation to be clarified day by day in our relationship with Our Lord and with our Church. That is why that question of Jesus really deserves our thoughts, our prayer, or simply deeper reflection: "What are you looking for?"
With that thought in mind, I remind you that we still have our traveling vocation kit for that person or family that would want to take it home with them for the week to pray for vocations in the privacy and the holiness of your own homes. If you are interested, please speak to any member of the staff and we will see that you are able to borrow our "kit."
Father John Sullivan M.S.
THE FAMILY IS THE SCHOOL OF LOVE AND OF LIFE AS WELL AS THE FOUNDATION FOR OUR SOCIETY
It is amazing to think about, but so much of our knowledge of Jesus comes from only three years of public life. That extends from his baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan to his crucifixion and death on the cross and his glorious resurrection. What about the other thirty years he spent growing up in Nazareth as part of the Holy Family with Mary and Joseph?
Just as we are all profoundly influenced by our own families as we grow up and move away from home, so too we can learn a lot about Jesus from meditating on those thirty years. That is why the Church is wise to offer us this Feast of the Holy Family as a reminder that the family is the school of love and life as well as the foundation of our society.
Today's Gospel ends with Mary and Joseph returning to Nazareth after presenting Jesus as a little baby in the temple in Jerusalem. The last sentence gives us much to reflect on: "The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was with him."
One commentary I read raised some good questions: "How many of us imagine Jesus as a toddler, or as a young boy? Would he have had to ask questions? to learn? Certainly so. Jesus was fully human. To be so meant he had to learn. He grew and became strong. He reached maturity. He was not a divine puppet on the human stage, but he was a real human being, born into a family, and raised to maturity."
What does that say about our own families? Do we think about how in our own families, we can influence one another for bad or for good? The ideal of course is to offer one another the selfless and unconditional love that Jesus offers to each of us. The Holy Family is a model for our families as we struggle together to adapt and cherish one another with all our gifts as well as our shortcomings.
Children too can be their parents' best teachers of love and generosity. They can reveal to us the wonder of creation and move us to gratitude for everyone and everything God has made. The prophetess Anna in the Gospel also has much to teach us as a widow and as an eighty four year old woman. She reminds us that our families need to include the single, widowed, or childless.
That is why all the readings in today's liturgy have much to teach us about the importance and the dignity of the family. With all its challenges, the family plays a big part in shaping who we are and what we want to be as disciples of the Lord.
Tomorrow, Sunday, we also celebrate another beautiful feast: the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. We will celebrate Mass 6:30 PM on Sunday evening. That would be an excellent way to begin the New Year as we reflect on Mary and the hope she brings us for 2018.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
MARY'S EXAMPLE SHOWS US THAT "NOTHING WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD."
On this last Sunday before Christmas, the example of Mary can be such a great help to aid us in preparing our hearts, our minds. our very souls for the coming of Christmas. The birth of Jesus approaches once again in our homes, our Country, our whole world.
Mary was born as a Jewish country girl in a small Galilean town at the very bottom of the social ladder of her time. God who created all things makes the fulfillment of His promise dependent on one of the most powerless of His creatures. As one Scripture commentary reads: "Yet God exalts her humility, her simplicity, her trust in his love and mercy; in Mary, God reveals his "favor" for the poor, the rejected, the abandoned, and the forgotten among us today."
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." Mary is not afraid to ask the angel how this can be. She receives her answer that forever transforms the world.
Mary's response to God's wonderful plan stands as an example for each of us to participate in God's hope for our world: Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
That is the extraordinary fact to remember at this special time of year. Not only Mary, but each one of us is special. Each of us has received the Holy Spirit on the day of our Baptism. Consequently, like Mary, we are called to be messengers, to do great things for Our Lord with the testimony of our own lives in our relationships with God and one another.
The angel Gabriel assures Mary to have confidence in God by telling her that her own cousin Elizabeth who was thought barren in her old age, shall conceive a son: "For nothing will be impossible for God."
Let those words also be an encouragement for us. Although we may not have much education or be of advanced aged ourselves in our years, God has great confidence in each one of us to proclaim The Good News of God's love by our own loving actions. That is because: "Nothing will be impossible for God."
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. We will be celebrating Mass at 6:30 PM as we begin by putting the Baby Jesus outdoors in the manger. May Mary and Joseph's love, together with our own, keep Him warm.
Father John Sullivan M.S.