A Light to the Gentiles

Chistmas Stable In Bethlehem
A nativity scene of christs birth in bethlehem with the isolated run down stable being lit by a bright star on a dark blue sky background

When Simeon prophesied over Jesus at the Presentation, he called Him “a light for revelations to the Gentiles.” One of themes you find present in the Gospels is that the Gentiles seem to see and appreciate Jesus more than the Jews do.  Like us, they could be jaded and critical of the familiar.

It started in the Infancy narrative when King Herod, the political king of the Jews, tried to kill him. The Three Gentile Kings came from a far just to bow down and worship him.  They offered Him gifts; Herod sent an army.

During Jesus’ public ministry people clamored for Jesus to heal their loved ones.  The people in Jesus’ hometown almost felt entitled to miracles because they knew Him, but when Jesus did not perform one for them, they tried to throw Him off a cliff.

One the other hand with the Gentiles, you have the Roman centurion who says that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter under his roof, just say the word and his servant would be healed.  Jesus was astounded by this man’s faith.

The Canaanite woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter.  When Jesus rejected her because she was not Jewish, she humbled herself and said that even the dogs may eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table. I am astounded at her humility.

The Gentiles understood Jesus authority and their own unworthiness.   The religious leaders of the day were just trying to trip Jesus up and discredit Him.

During the Passion of Christ it was the gentile Pilate who called Jesus the King of the Jews.  The priests and religious leaders who cried that they had no king but Caesar!  Pilate placed above His cross in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”.  When the chief priests tried to get him to change it to “This man said, I am the King of the Jews” Pilate refused. “What I have written I have written.”

Now all of the apostles and disciples were Jewish, so obviously Jesus was not rejected by all the Jews. However, once Peter converted the gentile household of Cornelius in Acts the door to salvation was cracked open.  The Gentiles poured into the household of God.  They could finally eat more than the crumbs that fell from the children’s table.  They were adopted children themselves. Simeon’s prophecy was fulfilled.

#trcot #tcot #Light to the Gentiles #Simeon

 

Jesus, Moses and the Death of the Innocents

Church of St. Anne - Transfiguration
The internal painting of the church of St. Anne, an illustration of the Transfiguration. The author – Ivan Protsiv.

There are two stories in the Bible where innocent babies die.  They are integrally related.

The first one came when Pharaoh ordered the slaughter of all of the newborn Hebrew boys by having them thrown into the Nile river.  It is as if Satan knew somebody big was coming and he inspired Pharaoh to slaughter all the Hebrew boys just in case.  In a story, that young children are told, Moses was put into a basket and was pulled from the bulrushes by none other than Pharaoh’s daughter. God’s chosen child was spared so the plan of salvation could move forward.

The death of the Holy Innocents in Jesus’ day should bring this story to mind.  Satan could tell that something was up but he was blinded to the truth.  So he inspired Herod to slaughter all of the boys under two just in case. God’s chosen child Jesus was spared so the plan of salvation could move forward.

The mission of Moses and the mission of Jesus were similar–to deliver God’s people from bondage. Moses freed them from the bondage of the Egyptians and Jesus freed us from the bondage to sin and death.

To further cement to the two stories when the Holy Family went to Egypt they needed to pass through the old territory assigned to Simeon to do it.  Simeon means “God has heard”.  This harkens to what God said at the Burning Bush to send Moses to Egypt.

Let me adapt it to Jesus.  “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt (sin), and HAVE HEARD their cry because of their taskmaster; I know their sufferings, and I (Jesus) have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians (Satan), and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with mild and honey (heaven).”  See Moses and Jesus had the same mission from God.

God through Moses produced plague after plague each time calling upon the Egyptians to repent.  They would repent briefly and then add further oppression and misery.  The plagues were actually merciful, calling upon them to repent before the final plague came upon them–the death of the first-born son.

Jesus performed miracle after miracle for the people. Moses’ first plague was to turn the waters of the Nile into blood. Jesus’ first public miracle was to turn water into wine. More miracles followed as He healed their diseases, cast out demons and multiplied food before them.  Each time calling them to faith in Him before the final judgment of death to God’s first-born son.

In each case, before God’s final deliverance, the people were to celebrate the Passover meal.  Jesus took the place of the Passover lamb.  The Israelites were to take the blood of the Lamb and mark the door with blood at the top, bottom and both sides, like a sign of the cross.  The lamb’s death was to take the place of the death of the first born son in that household, saving his life. Our lives were spared when Jesus,the Lamb of God, and the First-born of the Kingdom of God, died for us.

At the Transfiguration Moses himself referred to the Passover Passion events in Jerusalem as Jesus’ exodus.

And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.

The purpose of each Exodus was not just to deliver us from slavery but to bring us to the Promised Land.

In these days we have been witnessing a world-wide slaughter of innocents through abortion.  I wonder if that portends the final exodus?

Referenced Scripture: Exodus 3:7-8, Luke 9:31

Follow that star!

Chistmas Stable In Bethlehem
A nativity scene of christs birth in bethlehem with the isolated run down stable being lit by a bright star on a dark blue sky background

Our personal knowledge of God is incomplete but if we are faithful, it can lead us into a deeper encounter with God.  The Magi were astrologers who studied the heavens which they thought controlled the destiny of man.  God used their mistaken beliefs to draw them closer until they experienced the reality of Him.  Once they encountered the Living God they fell down and worshipped Him, offering to Him their gifts.

Their knowledge became more complete. The stars were not the master of Christ’s destiny, but were rather in God’s service doing His bidding. As the Psalmist proclaimed, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” Those who seek like the Magi eventually find.

One way of looking at people with different levels of faith and understanding is to think of our solar system.  Some people. like the great saints, would be on the planet Mercury.  The sun is so huge to them, it would difficult for them to see anything else.  Others are far out there where the ex-planet Pluto is.  To them our sun is a small spot in a sea of stars.  Much of the light they receive is coming from sources other than our sun and it might be difficult for them to determine where they should go or who they should worship.  Rather than debunk this and that, ad infinitum it is better to point out what is true about what they believe.

This is what St. Paul did when he was in Athens and saw multiple altars to multiple gods.  When he found the altar to the unknown God. Paul seized upon it and said, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men…that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him.”

It is not good for people to stay on the outer planets because it is cold, confusing and far from the true sun.  Unlike the real solar system, we don’t have to stay where we are. Personally, we should always seek to get ever closer to God, and encourage others to draw nearer too.

To whom much is given much is required, to whom little is given little is required. There are some who have received much less light than we have who outshine us in their faith walks. In the Catholic church we have been given the fullness of the faith with all of the sacraments, the Bible, and the teachings of the church fathers, yet there are some who take it for granted.  They cannot be bothered to come to Church to receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  They don’t confess their sins and are ashamed to publically speak of God.

There are others who do not have the sacraments but only know the name of Jesus. They believe in Him strongly and live their lives around Him. They will shine brighter in heaven than those who neglected the great spiritual wealth that was their birthright.

Many of our great modern teachers like Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins have come from the Protestant faiths. They are teaching us “Cradle Catholics” to appreciate what a spiritual treasure that we possess.  Dr. Hahn by following His strong belief in the Bible was led by it into the truth behind our Catholic teachings.  When he finally encountered the reality of Christ in the Eucharist, he fell down and worshipped the Living God.

I don’t know how much light that you have been given, but I do know that life is a journey.  If you are trying to find God, you may wander here and wander there but God will eventually lead you to Him if you follow that star.

#trcot #tcot #Magi

Reference scripture Matt.2:1-12, Psalm 19[18] 1, Acts 17:22-31

 

Jesus is Born; Jesus Rises from the Dead

stained glass widow of nativity

This blog is a counterpart to an earlier blog at the start of Advent entitled Jesus enters the Virginal Womb and the Freshly Cut Tomb.  You can link to it here. https://transfigurationofcreation.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/jesus-enters-the-virginal-womb-and-the-freshly-cut-tomb/

In both cases a seed was planted. Those were Christ’s beginnings, not His ends.  Each of us began life like a seed. If given the right environment the seed grows on its own. Somehow those instructions were written in each of us to know how to create a liver, lungs and a spleen.

But the pregnancy formation is not the end unless something goes terribly wrong. We are destined for life outside the womb.  A seed is meant for life above the soil.  We were meant to share in the creative process. As seeds produce more seeds, so we are designed to give back to the earth, to life, and to the God who made us.

But this life is not the end, we are meant to die.  Jesus’ resurrection tells us that death is not the end.  Life was but a bigger womb not an end in itself. This life has been a formation for eternal life.  In some mysterious way what we have done here on earth is preparing us for the life that is ahead.  Perhaps music lovers will sing with the celestial choirs.  Artists will see all the colors of the spectrum and create works of art out of light itself.  Beauty’s true home is heaven.  My dearest wish would be to sit in the company of the church fathers and just listen.

I think if we really knew how important the formation of this life is, we would care more deeply about spiritual things and less about transitory material things.  But all we can do is prepare the soil of our soul and yield to the seeds that planted.  It is God that does the formation.

Related scripture: Mark 4:26-32

#trcot #tcot #birth and death #Resurrection

Angels of the Nativity and the Resurrection

Angels blowing on a trumpet (stained glass)

When the angels appeared to the shepherds they had a very clear message.  “I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

The shepherds went and found it just as the angels had said.  When they returned they were glorifying God and praising Him for everything that had been told to them was true.  Why wasn’t this the beginning of a groundswell of belief in Jesus?

It is because of who the angels told.  Christians have a romantic view of shepherds because Jesus identified Himself with them.  To the Jews of Jesus day, these people were migrants who drifted in and out of their towns.  They were also ritually unclean and not allowed to enter the Temple or synagogues. If God were to speak to somebody it would be through the rabbis or priests–not through the unclean riff-raff.

When the angels spoke at the tomb they were very detailed.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.”

Who are the angels talking to? Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women.  These women went and told the apostles what the angels had said but were they believed?  No!  They dismissed it as idle chatter.  Peter went to check out the tomb and found it as they said but went home wondering what had happened. He at least checked out the story but couldn’t believe the message. Mark says that when Jesus appeared to the Eleven, he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.

The takeaway from this is that God can speak to you through any person.  Listen carefully to those you would ordinarily dismiss, especially those whom the world calls nuts. All of the visionaries have gone through a period of not being believed.

God purposely chooses the lowly and the weak.  St. Bernadette once said that Mary chose her because she couldn’t find anybody stupider.  This girl could not learn her catechism well enough to receive communion yet she was chosen by heaven.

Did the shepherds or the women fail? No, they were faithful.  So must we be.  All we might see are our weaknesses and the world sees our lack of stature, but God sees someone through whom He might display His power.  If you are not believed, the failure is not yours.

Related Scripture: Luke 2:8-20, Luke 24:5-12, Mark 16:14

#angels #shepherds #visionaries

 

Shepherds of the Passover Lambs

stained glass widow of nativity

Every year at Passover, Jews from all over the world would come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  They needed to have a lamb without blemish approved by the priests for their Passover feast.  Rather than cart a lamb that long distance they would buy lambs for the Passover that were raised locally for that very purpose.

The shepherds would graze their flocks on the fields near Bethlehem which is about 5 miles due south of Jerusalem.  It was to these shepherds of the Passover lambs that the angels brought tidings of Christ’s birth and proclaimed “Glory to God in the Highest”. It is fitting as Jesus, the Lamb of God, would become the ultimate Passover sacrifice.

Some of these exact same shepherds would see Jesus again thirty three years later.  It was on our Palm Sunday before their Passover that the shepherds drove their flocks into Jerusalem to be inspected by the priests.  Jesus entered by the same gate. I wonder if any of those original shepherds thought of that night as they heard the people shout, “Hosanna!”

Those shepherds who had already died followed behind Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as He entered heaven triumphantly. Behind him were those He had ransomed.  They heard those same angels saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

In the Orthodox churches and the Byzantine rite, they often have icons in a set of three called triptychs.  I’ve thought of these three images as God’s triptych.  All three images have some of the same characters, there is rejoicing and praise in all three, and they center around Jesus and lambs.  This mental triptych is worth pondering.

For more background on this I recommend Frances Hogan’s series on the gospel of Luke, her second half of Gospel of John,  also “Behold the Lamb” by Scott Hahn.  Jeff Cavins in his Bible timeline does a wonderful job of tying all the old Testament stories about lambs to Jesus.  Dr. Brant Pitre also has a wonderful book on the Jewish rites and Jesus.

 

Related scriptures:  Luke 2:8-20, John 12:13, Rev. 5:12

He’s Here!

A nativity scene of christs birth in bethlehem with the isolated run down stable being lit by a bright star on a dark blue sky background
A nativity scene of christs birth in bethlehem with the isolated run down stable being lit by a bright star on a dark blue sky background

He’s here. He’s finally here.  Since we were cast out of Eden, mankind has been waiting for His coming.  On their worst days, when the Hebrews were in the desert or in a foreign land, their hope and faith sustained them. He was coming. The prophets foretold all the wonders He would do, and the care He would take over His people.  He’s here, letting out a wail as air fills His lungs for the first time.

Mankind doesn’t know to celebrate, so heaven does.  Hosts of angels fill the skies and stun some poor shepherds. A beautiful star appears in the sky but only a few wise men know to follow it.  His birth, one of the most momentous times in history, goes by unnoticed by most of mankind.

Don’t miss him today in the midst of all you do.

#trcot #tcot #Christmas