You may have heard to the tragedy we had in our community this week. Tena Fiest – a 4th grader in our school – died in a fire early Thursday morning.
Her parents remain in critical condition at KU Medical Center. Please pray for Tena and her family.
You may want to look at the butterflies on the steps of the altar after Mass. Everyone in school wrote something they enjoyed or will miss about Tena on them.
For us – it’s a good time to make sure our smoke detectors work in our homes – and that we have a plan for getting out in case a fire does occur.
It’s time for a revelation: call it a Matthew moment. For the last 20 years or so – I have been hooked ---- on---- Harry Potter!
I first got hooked on the books – because I wondered what could be so interesting that young people were reading 500 and 600 page books?
And so I bought a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – and was easily hooked into the escapism that the book offered.
If you have any familiarity with any of the books or the movies – you probably know all about Bertie Botts Every Flavored Beans.
They are inspired by the traditional muggle, that is human --candy known as Jelly Beans --- but they come in all different flavors – some no one would expect.
From great hits like marshmallow or watermelon, to some horrible surprises like ear wax or rotten eggs --- and perhaps even a few hidden treats like toothpaste or grass --- with Bertie Botts
Flavored Beans --- there really is as many flavors as there are people. . . because if you can imagine it – then it is possible.
So what about faith? And what about holiness? And what about Catholic parishes. . . Do they only come in a few flavors – or are there many???
St. Paul tells us “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts – but the same Spirit;
-there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
-there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.”
Do we really believe this???? And the reason I ask is because, on the surface, it seems probably not.
And I’m not talking about how Catholics view the rest of the world. We’ll leave that for another day.
No, I’m talking about how Catholics view other Catholics – how we view those sitting on our left and on our right ---------- in a literal sense as to who is sitting in the pew next to us --------
but also in a figurative sense – as to how one falls on the liberal to the conservative scale.
Do we think that all faithfulness looks exactly the same? Do we believe that Catholics are expected (dare I say – commanded) to be carbon-copies of each other??
Do we believe there is only one way to be holy, one way to worship – that faith and holiness and reverence only come in one flavor, one color, one expression????
I think it takes deep faith ----- to embrace what St. Paul is getting at – that God’s work is accomplished through our DIFFERENCES not our SIMILARITIES.
That God’s work is accomplished through COUNTLESS gifts, not just a few – accomplished through unique and often complex individuals coming together for a greater purpose, a greater good --- coming together to help bring about the world God envisions and hopes for and died to make possible.
But this can’t happen if we over-romanticize the so called “good old days” – the days when Catholicism ONLY seemed to come in one flavor, when Catholics seemed to never have a reason to disagree, or wonder about things, or wrestle with how best to follow after Christ.
For good or bad ---- those days are gone – IF they ever really existed --- and they are not coming back no matter how many altars are turned around of Latin Masses are said – and one could easily argue that those days should NOT come back.
After all ---- we have been through an ecumenical council -------- called by the Holy Spirit working in and through Pope John 23rd ----------- and a council inspired by the Holy Spirit working through over 2,000 Bishops ----- who approved 16 documents, the first one being on the reform of the liturgy ----- all passed by a vast majority.
The Second Vatican council calls the Church NOT to avoid the world – but to engage it --- by being leaven ---
That is a pervasive influence that modifies something or transforms it for the better.
This is what the Church --- and we are the Church – the People of God--- are called to do.
And, if we really are going to be leaven in the world --- if we are truly going to help transform the world into something great and meaningful and loving ----- it’s going to take all of us ---- all of us using our very unique gifts and abilities and insights and perspectives and ideas to help bring it about.
And it can’t happen if each one of us, or each parish, or each priest --- thinks they have cornered the market on holiness – if we think that everyone has to do it our way.
It can’t happen if we think that all that matters is what we believe --- and not what we do.
And it can’t happen if we think all that matters is what we do – and not what we believe.
And it can’t happen if we think holiness means we have to vote a certain way, or pray a certain way, or talk about the Church in a certain way, or even talk about God in a certain way.
So last week, with the help of the Scriptures – we found out we are called to be followers of Christ.
This week – we find out we are called to be leaven, a change element – in the world. . .
Each of us has something to offer – something given to us by God ---- we don’t have to try to be like anyone else or envious of anyone else --- for part of being Church is the ability to recognize the gifts of one another and embrace them --------- not simply try to tolerate them and certainly not dismissing them.
I guess you could say that the best way to live out our faith --- the best way to be disciples of Jesus Christ – the adopted daughters and sons of the living God ---
is to let Christ TRANSFORM each of us into the wonderful individual God is calling us to be --- allow God to take what looks ordinary – like water – and bring about the finest wine.
But don’t forget – even though we may all be growing on the same vine, in the same vineyard and nourished and cultivated and pruned by the same vine-grower ----- the wine we produce is the result of all of us getting crushed and mixed together.
It’s each of our individual variety mixed together that keeps the celebration going and the Church growing – always moving forward – never backward and that keeps God’s love and mercy and compassion alive and well in the world.
And who knows – maybe there is something in you or in me the world and the Church has never yet experienced and desperately needs . . . and is just waiting for to offer -----------and we find that out ---TOGETHER.
Peter Parrot came home upset and confused.
“What’s wrong?” – his mother asked.
“I hate my stupid beak!” Peter blurted out.
“Why do you hate your beak? I think it’s beautiful,” his mother said--- trying to reassure him.
“But all my friends have much cooler beaks than I do: Patty Pelican. Harry Hawk. Freddy Finch. . .”
Peter’s mother sat silently for a moment. Sometimes a mother has to think pretty quickly of what to say in order to heal a wounded ego. . . “Peter may be right,” she thought to herself, “they do have pretty cool beaks.”
But that’s not what she said. “you should go see Major Macaw, he’ll know what to tell you. He’s the wisest of the parrots and lives in the tallest tree in the forest. Yes, he will know what to say.” This is what Peter’s mom told him.
So off Peter flew to the tallest tree in the forest to find Major Macaw.
“Excuse me Major, I have a problem,” said Peter. “Oh dear, what can it be?” asked the venerable Macaw.
“I have a stupid beak – why can’t I have a cool beak like my friends?”
“You’re right,” said the macaw. “Your friends do have cool beaks. Tell me Peter, do you like eating fish?”
“Yuck! That would be disgusting!” responded Peter.
“Well that’s what Patty Pelican’s beak is designed for. So what’s your taste for rabbits and mice?”
“Gross,” said Peter.
“OK so maybe you should not aspire to have Harry Hawk’s beak. How about small seeds?”
“They’re not so bad, but my favorite is Brazil nuts,” explained Peter, salivating at the thought.
“Tell me Peter, if you had the beak of a pelican, hawk or finch – do you think you could eat a Brazil nut?”
“I guess not,” said Peter.
“You see, young parrot, you have been designed a certain way, with certain skills, attributes, and tastes. Don’t waste your life being envious of the capacities of others – just make sure that you know what you’re good at ---- and why you are here.”
The lesson Major Macaw is trying to teach Peter Parrot – sounds awfully close to being what Joey’s mother tried to teach him in the story we had on Christmas about the 3rd shepherd on the left ----
We don’t have to waste our time or energy being like anyone else. What’s important is the person God has created us to be – and to go about being that person the best we can.
So as Christ invites us to journey through another liturgical year – year C of the lectionary cycle when we read mostly from St. Luke’s Gospel --- may we come all the more to an understanding of who God has called us to be.
So let’s start at the very beginning – a very good place to start:
Let’s start with our Baptism. . .for once the life-giving waters of Baptism are poured on our heads – then like the Magi of last week –
we have to go home by another route – because we are set on a journey different than everyone else – we are called to look up and find the star – to find the light of Christ – and then we are to follow that light every day ----
So let’s remember what our parents and godparents first promised for us at our Baptism – and we have had many opportunities to renew since then – by responding I DO to the following questions:
Do you reject Satan?
And all his works?
And all his empty promises?
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty creator of heaven and earth?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. If you are proud to profess and will strive to live it – then say: AMEN!
Amen – so be it. We have just said that we will do our best to live our lives following after Christ ---
that’s the first thing we need to come to know about who God is calling us to be – followers of Jesus Christ.
In Baptism, we become God’s beloved daughters and sons – and God is well pleased with us.
And to continue to discover who God is calling us to be – we need to listen to the call that comes to us in the Scriptures, be nourished by the Body of Christ – and to find support, challenge and encouragement from others ----------------- all of which we find in this place Sunday after Sunday.
By immersing ourselves in the grace that is found in this place – we continue to discover who God is calling us to be ----
and gain the courage and strength to choose God’s call ----- instead of giving in to who the world is calling us to be.
And that’s why I think it is wise for us from time to time to revisit just how committed we are to being members of this particular Body of Christ at St. Patrick.
In the Christmas card you received several weeks ago – I tried to lay out as best I could – the covenant relationship we are in when we belong to a parish.
In this relationship -- the parish provides certain things for us:
-opportunities to grow and strengthen our faith
-opportunities to live our faith in service to others
-life-long learning opportunities to deepen our understanding of the faith
-the challenge to practice good stewardship of all our financial contributions
-and the opportunities to develop lasting friendships within a faith community.
AND IN TURN – to uphold our end of the relationship each of us must decide to:
-regularly attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days
-participate in ministry and events that puts our God given gifts and talents to use for the good of all.
-prayerfully consider how we can support the parish spiritually and financially
-support the mission of the parish
-and to pray regularly for the parish and our fellow parishioners.
If we can’t do all of these things – then choose to do something --- something to show that you are committed to this parish – because it takes all of us, working together ---- to make this place the special place that it is.
In the card, you were asked to print your names on the bottom of the slip – and bring them here today -- there are baskets to drop them in when you come up for Communion -------
But don’t worry if you forgot ---- starting next weekend – there will be a bowl at the Baptismal Font where you can drop them in.
Again, the important thing in all of this is for you to just take a few minutes to prayerfully reflect on what this parish means to you --- and then make some kind of commitment to continue making this place a spiritual home for you – and all who gather here Sunday after Sunday.
PLEASE MAKE THE COMMITMENT THAT AS FOR YOU AND YOUR HOUSE---YOU WILL SERVE THE LORD!
Our Lady of Knock. Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mother of Divine Grace. Mother of Sorrows –
The particular website I looked up to list the titles or names of Mary ---- listed more than 200.
Mystical Rose. Our Lady of the Angels. Mary untier of knots – one of Pope Francis’ favorites. . .
All of this led me to wonder what title Mary would choose of herself. . .
My guess is that she would have shied away from the notion, would have strongly resisted doing such a thing – after all, choosing a title for ourselves does seem a bit presumptuous. . .
But if Mary had too – my guess would be her choice of LOWLY SERVANT –one of the translations of a well-known line from her Magnificat – the
hymn-like proclamation she makes to her cousin Elizabeth upon visiting her.
LOWLY SERVANT. The title seems to suit her, or at least suits how we imagine her to be. . . and are lead to believe in the Scriptures. LOWLY SERVANT: a title which could never be construed as something overly lofty, or self-centered, or reflecting any overt importance.
But what about “Mother of God?”
Now that’s a title that really sounds like something! Mother of God. It is filled with a sense of importance – an achievement of something lofty, powerful, and special.
And yet nothing could be further from the truth – for this title of Mary is at its core a faith-filled affirmation of the Incarnation – a resounding declaration that God really did become one of us – really broke into our world fully in the person of Jesus Christ – the one whom Mary bore and gave birth to.
In the first few centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the faithful were wrestling with all sorts of big questions – questions surrounding exactly who Jesus was: just a man, totally God disguised as a human, some combination of the two. .
And so the institutional Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, needed to settle some of these matters – needed to clarify for the faithful some of these profound truths. . .
And so it was at the Council of Ephesus in the year 431 – that the Church gave the formal teaching that Mary was to be referred to as Theotokos – a Greek word meaning “God bearer”.
This was the Church’s way of making sure the faithful knew that God the Son – the second person of the Holy Trinity – truly took on our human nature – and that Mary was indeed the one who bore him. Mary was the one whose YES to God resulted in the miracle of miracles – the word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.
And so while Mother of God – sounds like a lofty title – it is in fact the opposite: a title pointing to the profound truth that God chose a lowly path to come to us, chose a lowly way to enter our world, chose a lowly way of showing us the face of God.
Put simply – God bridged the gap between the divine and the human – refusing to simply sit in heaven and watch from afar.
And so whenever we call Mary by the title Mother of God ---- it’s a powerful reminder to us of what God was and is willing to do for us --- a powerful reminder of how much our God is concerned for us and cares about what happens to us --- a profound reminder of just how much God loves us --- more than we can ever imagine.
And so maybe Mary would be okay with a title after all: Mother of God.
May we always be grateful for Mary’s willingness to say yes to God’s will.
May we always give heartfelt thanks to God for her – for her courage and faithfulness which allowed her to play an indispensable role in salvation history.
And may we never forget that we, too, are called to do God’s work and help bring about a better world by saying yes to God’s will in our lives – for we each have our role to play in salvation history – and no role is more important than any other.
And it’s not about titles or roles or fame or attention that makes is important. What is important is the person God has created us to be – and go about being that person the best we can. Mary has shown us how. We thank God for her witness – and ask: Mary, mother of God –pray for us.