Ephiphany – A Final Christmas Reflection

(I wrote this for the parish blog last night and it is not as well developed as I might like, but I put it out there and put it out here too. Happy and Blessed Epiphany! I wish you faith, hope and light!)

What a difference! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it moved them to make that long journey. The scribes were much better informed, much better versed. They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many dons, but it did not make them move. Who had the more truth? The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge? –Soren Kierkegaard

Thursday January 6 marks the actual date of Epiphany, even though we celebrated it on Sunday. We have such vivid images of the 3 Kings or the magi, yet we don’t really know too much about them.

I am struck by two things on this Epiphany… One is that the real sin in life is despair. The acts of sin and manifestations of them – adultery, killing, stealing, all appear to come out of some kind of despair. I-don’t-have-this-and-I-want-this kind of despair. It means a lack of hope and our faith is about hope if nothing else.

That element of hope is the second thing that strikes me… Out of hope grows faith. Imagine the hope of the magi, their faith. They acted on a hunch and look what happened. I would say that they defied conventional wisdom with their bold act.

It all seems a gamble. Don’t despair. Have hope. Follow the hunch. Nurture your faith, live your faith.

The 3 magi come in at about 2:30 of this video, a little corny but thought provoking nonetheless.


Saying Yes and The Holy Spirit – A Christmas Reflection for December 29, 2010

Christmas Reflection for Wednesday December 29, 2010

As I do each Advent and Christmas (and Lent as well), I am using a small book to read and reflect upon each day. This year it is Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas – Waiting in Joyful Hope 2010-11 by Robert F. Morneau.

Today is the 5th Day of Christmas and it is also the memorial (optional) for Saint Thomas à Becket. For today’s reflection in the book, Bishop Morneau weaves together the daily readings from today’s mass and Becket. In today’s Gospel we hear about Simeon and how the Holy Spirit was upon him. The Holy Spirit was also upon Becket. Morneau brings forth that both men were “enlightened” by the Holy Spirit.

He the brings in the words of “brilliant Dominican theologian Yves Congar,” who wrote widely on the Holy Spirit and who said that the Holy Spirit “set things in motion.”

Morneau then posed the question “What roles does the Holy Spirit play in your life? What sets you in motion – for good or ill?” Pulling from today’s first reading from the Letter of John, he also asks about any who have been “agents of light and love” in our lives.

This really has me thinking about how the Holy Spirit sets things in motion. In my own life I think of how seemingly small decisions lead to life change. I decided, on a whim no less, to go to daily mass the day before my wedding. I had never been to daily mass at St. Edward’s before. On a similar whim, I decided to actually answer Fr. Pat when he posed a question during the homily at that mass and we began to engage.

As a result of this, I spoke to Father as well as to some parishioners and my life was set in a different direction than it might have if I had not gone to mass or if I had not responded out loud to the question.

That was the Holy Spirit setting my new life into motion. And Fr. Pat, along with some parishioners became agents of light for me. Thanks be to God! Today, pretty much everything in my life is completely different as a result and my life is so enriched by the beautiful communities that I am a part of at St. Edward’s, at Immaculate Conception, where I work and in this diocese of Albany.

And these replies are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg for me!

In any event, this is not unrelated to questions being asked at the Loyola press blog, People for Others yesterday and today… What do you say yes to when you say yes to Jesus, was Paul Brian Campbell’s question for yesterday. And today he poses the opposite, what do you say no to?  Over at More Meredith Gould, Meredith talked about her own journey with yes. If we don’t say yes in some way, how can this journey even begin?

Thus I pose these questions to you all today… How has the Holy Spirit set things in motion in your life? Who are agents of light and love for you? What do you say yes to, when you say yes to Jesus? And what do you say no to?

These things are deep in the heart of this season of birth and light and journey and family. None of this happens without something being born, none of this happens without illumination, none of this happens without journey. And none of this happens without relationship – with God and with one another.

Christmas Reflection for Saturday December 25 – Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

Recently I was at the home of a good friend. The purpose of my visit was to meet her new grandson for the first time. As soon as I got there, her daughter-in-law asked if I wanted to hold the baby, which of course I did. Baby Noah was placed into my arms and I gazed down at his precious face, marveled at the warmth of this small bundle in my arms. The beautiful baby scent emanating from him was intoxicating. His tiny hands, each finger so small yet so elegant, reached out before me.

I was a bit overwhelmed.

While I am blessed with a remarkable step-daughter and with many nieces and nephews, as well as the numerous children of my friends, I have never had a baby of my own.  It was at a practical level that I felt this but also at the level of awe and amazement.

Today is Christmas and I am struck with awe once again by how God came to us as a child! Earlier I was reading something over at Inward/Outward. Writer John Buchanan recounts some words via John Updike. He writes:

The birth of Jesus contradicts the idea of a God who ‘lay above the earth like a layer of icy cirrus’ (John Updike, Bech is Back). The birth means that we encounter God, not only in elegant theology but in work and in our enjoyment of beauty, friendship and love–in love particularly.”

This God above the earth, “a layer of icy cirrus” is in some ways easier to conjure, isn’t it? Or if not that, a stern judge who really wants the best for us, but in a towering and looming and sometimes-more-than-slightly threatening way, kind of God.

God as a baby turns everything on its ear, doesn’t it? Unlikely, improbable and exactly what happened.

Like baby Noah in my own arms, Jesus came as the smallest and most vulnerable of creatures. We celebrate Christmas – well, I often do anyway – with faith, but still at some superficial level.

God. As. Baby.

I am reminded of a quote that Father Pat has been struck with lately and one that he used in his own Christmas homily; “Christianity is the attitude of amazement at the dignity of the human person.”

The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. God as a baby – both a source of awe and amazement and a symbol of need, vulnerability, and the vastness of the tiniest person.

I can barely fathom a God who would love us so much to do this very thing.

Once again, through the manifestation of Jesus, we are called to the unlikely, the unexpected and the extraordinary this Christmas and always. As the carol, O Holy Night proclaims, “the soul found its worth.”

Amen and amen and amen.