Biblical Reflections 2016

Most meditations concentrate on things, doctrines and moral rules in monologues. A few concentrate on symbols, persons, relationships, and dialogue. I favor the latter without neglecting the former. The contrast between the two can be seen in the opposition between the Anonymous Sacred and the Holy One of Isreal. A spiritual and symbolic interpreation is found in the meditation of Simon and the sinful woman.

The parable of the potter

       We are in the workshop of a potter  making a vessel out of clay at his wheel. When the vessel is a failure he starts over until he gets one he likes. “Yes, like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand,” says the Lord.
            This is the story of salvation, from creation to re-creation in Christ Jesus. “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house and see.”
            Let us go down to the garden of creation and let’s watch the potter. With  clay from the earth he fashioned the vessel of our body and  our face to his likeness. But on the day of the Fall, the vessel broke and our face became troubled. All is broken. Then he makes another vessel that he will like.
            Let us go back to the potter’s house in the garden of re-creation, in the garden of resurrection. Here is the new Adam, the new potter. He has refashioned our face to his image and we resemble him even more. We are his body. He is the head, and we are the body of Christ.
            This parable tells us the story of salvation. It is also the story of our own salvation, of our transfiguration day by day under the impulse of God’s grace if we let the potter work.
            Brothers and sisters, we are the clay and our Father is the potter. Before the creation of the world, he wanted us to be holy and immaculate, beautiful in his eyes and love. Let us allow God to fashion us with his loving hands. Let us become the one he wished from all eternity for us to be, for the praise of his glory.
Adapted from KTO, July 28, 2016. Commentary by Sr. Carla.

Call for Brotherly Love

Patriotism is love of country. But you can't love your country without loving your countrymen and countrywomen. We don't always have to agree, but we must empower each other, we must find the common ground, we must build bridges across our differences to pursue the common good.

Love knows that every American has worth and value, no matter what their background, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Love recognizes that we need each other, that we as a nation are better together, that when we are divided we are weak, we decline, yet when we are united we are strong invincible!

America's greatness must not be measured by how many millionaires and billionaires we have, but by how few people we have living in poverty.

This understanding of love is embodied in the African saying: "If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together."

When we respect each other, when we stand up for each other, when we work together against the challenges our neighbors face be it a neighbor with a beautiful special needs child or one struggling with the ugly disease of addiction when we help them, when we show compassion and grace... that is when we are stronger.
Senator Cory Hooker, DNC, July 25

Reflections on the Nice massacre

Pain. Confusion. These are our feelings after the bloody massacre at the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. We are repulsed by the horror of the massacre and also by its absurdity. We have compassion for people’s suffering but confused: how could a massacre of such a scale be deliberately carried out by a single man. Pain. Confusion.

The readings of today (on Martha and Mary) speak about hospitality. It does not consist of just opening one’s home to those we have invited. Hospitality is welcoming travelers passing by in need of a break and comfort. In these days of pain, it was comforting to see the hospitality of hashtags like “Nice, open doors,” and “Pray for Nice.” The first reaction to evil was to open the doors to those in need and prayer from those who where not there. It was a hospitality of the heart for all those who suffer.

Confronted with the absurdity of this deliberate evil we must face the obvious: we are powerless before this kind of terrorism; it is absolute and blind violence that can come from anyone and hit anybody anywhere. So what can we do?

If we cannot prevent it, we can reflect about it. We have unfortunately known other such attacks: against the freedom of the press with Charlie Hebdo and against religious freedom in a synagogue. But this attack was against everybody, children and seniors, youngsters and families, Frenchmen and foreigners. All came to enjoy the fireworks of July 14. It was an attack against national unity, against our ability to all come together. It is our national fraternity that was the target of this criminal madness. Hence we should reflect on how to implement the Republican principle of fraternity.

For us Christians we must remember that Christ invites us to an open fraternity that extends to others, as in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Will we be a leaven of fraternity in our society? We must go to those who do not share our faith, the Jews and especially our Muslim brothers. We must go to encounter those of different social and cultural backgrounds. Will we, brothers and sisters, face this challenge of fraternity? If we get involved, the word “fraternity” inscribed on all our city halls will not be anymore the poorest of our three Republican principles [liberty, fraternity, equality].

In today’s gospel we have seen how Jesus taught hospitality to Martha. Jesus also teaches us how to practice hospitality towards him, first of all by listening, a form of listening that tries to internalize the world of God and directs us towards others. In prayer and fruitful service. This is the hospitality that Lord Jesus expects from us. Confronted with the horror of evil we must be vigilant that our hearts remain open and not give in to fear and hatred. For this we need our host Jesus Christ to teach fraternity and peace for us and for our society.
Adapted from KTO, July 17, 2016. Homeliy of new auxiliary bishop of Paris, Msgr. Denis Jachiet

Our Road to Jericho

The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of a trip, the story of a road full of pitfalls.

When you look at your life, don’t you feel you are always on the road? Isn’t there in your life that man wounded by robbers? Isn’t there also that man who did not want to be bothered and went on the other side of the road? And the man who does not pay attention because he is too busy? That self-centered man, it’s you, it’s me. And there is also the man who is able to stop, miraculously, in his busy life, and is moved because he sees in the fallen and the humiliated one his neighbor. This altruistic man is also you and me.

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho goes down to the Dead Sea. It is the road which we all follow equally; it is the road to goes down to death. The time that wears us out and the ordeals that leave us wounded, all this, in one way or another, is the mark of death. But we also know that our roots are in Jerusalem, that our whole being is rooted in the presence of God. While we walk towards death with faith and hope, we also walk towards God.

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is also the road that God has taken; it is a road of flesh and blood; it is a road of cross and resurrection. This is why, at any time on the road, we have a chance to meet him. God is not at the end of the earthly road; God is already present in our road, in the road of our hearts. The error of the Levite and the priest was to believe that God was at the end of the road and that one had to hurry ahead without looking at the wounded body; God was not at the end of the road: he was there on the side of the road.

The parable of the God Samaritan teaches us how God wants us to find him, often in unexpected ways, in the one who lies on the side of the road. It is as if God appeared suddenly but we do not want to recognize him because he still carries to blows and stigmata of his passion. The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of God who came near us and risked that we may not recognize him; it is the story of God coming so that we may encounter him in the fallen brother. The face of the fallen neighbor is not just the image of human misery, it is also the face upon which we can recognize the image of God.
Adapted from KTO, July 10, 2016. Sunday homily by Br. Théophane

“It is I who taught [you] to walk,
who took [you] in my arms” Hosea 11:1-11

In this reading Hosea shows us another image of God, that of his fatherly love,
a love of sweetness and tenderness that comforts, a love of strength that guides and corrects,
a love of mercy that forgives infinitely.
The history of salvation is a history of growth,
that of a people which has grown under the guidance of a master who is also its father and God,
a father who teaches, tests, reprimands and corrects out of love,
because he knows all the paths that lead to happiness
where he want to leads his beloved son.
The history of salvation is the history of the crazy and maternal love of God for his child.
The history of salvation and our own is a history of mercy,
that of a God who endlessly tries to connect, simply because he is a father.
“Lord God, you know what is best for each of us.
Guide, correct, prune, and purify.
You know our hearts.
Comfort, alleviate, forgive, and have mercy.”
Adapted from KTO, July 7, 2016. Commentary by Sr. Catherine


Mary Magdalen Proclaiming the Risen Jesus

The early church regarded the foundational first appearance of Jesus as the manifestation of the primacy of apostolic witness which is the foundation of the church's faith. According to Paul  and Luke, Jesus appeared first to Simon Peter.  According to John , Matthew, and the Markan appendix, he appeared first to Mary Magdalen.

 Only the Fourth Evangelist places the tomb of Jesus in a garden, a  setting intended to evoke the creation account. Mary is seeking Jesus, but her grief has spiritually blinded her and rendered her incapable of revelation even when Jesus himself stands before her. Jesus challenges her weeping, trying to refocus her distraught attention from his physical body to his person with the question, "Whom [not what] do you seek?"  But Mary remains fixated in her obsession,  interchanging "him" with the "body." For her the absence of Jesus' dead body constitutes the absence of the living person of Jesus.

 When Jesus said  'Mary,' the calling by name effected her conversion B Jesus calls his sheep by name, and they know his voice and they follow him.  Mary's response, "Rabbouni," means, "Teacher." Who is the true teacher: Moses or Jesus? Mary makes the salvific choice: Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Teacher.

"Do not continue to touch me," or even more literally, "Not me" but "Go to my brothers and sisters." What Mary is told is not to try to continue to touch Jesus physically, that is, to encounter him as if he were the earthly Jesus resuscitated. The time for that kind of relationship is over. Jesus is redirecting Mary's desire to the new locus of his presence in the world, that is, the community of his brothers and sisters, the disciples.

The words of Jesus about his ascension "to my Father and your Father, my God and your God"  echo  the prophetic promises of a new covenant, AI will be your God and you will be my people." Now the work of Jesus is complete. He ascends to his God and Father who is now their Father. His disciples  are the first to participate in this new creation. They are now truly his sisters and brothers, members of the new Israel, with whom God, through Jesus, the new Moses, has sealed a new covenant.

Mary had begun in the depths of spiritual darkness and sorrow, weeping, but now she has been converted to a new life in the glorified Jesus B he who lives now with God and in the temple of his body which is the community.
     "Mary Magdalen went and announced to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord'@ This is also what the disciples said to Thomas "We have seen the Lord" B the Easter kerygma. In John's gospel, bearing witness is always based on what one has seen and heard. Paul's ultimate self?vindication as an apostle is, "Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" Mary Magdalen is by all accounts an official apostolic witness of the resurrection. She is the one who, in the Johannine community, takes Peter's role of confirming the brothers and sisters, once she herself has been converted.

In short,  Mary Magdalen is presented by the Fourth Evangelist as the official Easter witness in and to the Johannine community. Symbolically she is both the Johannine community encountering its glorified Savior and the official witness to that community of what God has done for it in the glorification of Jesus.

Adapted with permission from "Encountering and Proclaiming The Risen Jesus" by Sandra Schneiders in The Strength of Her Witness, Elizabeth A. Johnson, editor (Orbis books 2016) 3-16.

“The glory of God is people full of life”

Reading from St. Irenaeus on the day of his feast, June 28
The one who operates everything in all is invisible and inexpressible in his power and greatness to all created beings.
However he is not unknown to them because all learn from his Word that there is only one God the Father who contains all things and gives existence to all.
Since the beginning, the Son reveals the Father because he is with the Father since the beginning.
The prophetic visions, the diversity of gifts, his ministries, the glorification of the Father, all this, like a harmonious melody well composed, he unveiled to humans at the appointed time for their benefit.
The Word came to dispense the Father’s gifts for the benefit of humankind for whom he accomplished great mysteries, showing God to humans and  presenting humankind to God.
He preserved the invisibility of the Father so that humans would always have a goal to pursue, et at the same time made God visible for fear that, if totally deprived of God, humankind would lose its existence.
The glory of God is people full of life, and people's life is in the vision of God.
If the revelation of God in his creation gives life to all beings on earth, all the more will the Word’s  manifestation of the Father give life to those who see God.
Translated from KTO, Reading at Lauds, St. Gervais, Paris
Gloria enim Dei vivens homo: vita autem hominis visio Dei.
Other translations:
“Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God.”
“The glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God.”
"The glory of God is the human person fully alive."
“The glory of God is humanity alive.”
“The glory of God is man fully alive.”

Simon and the sinful woman (Lk 7:36-50)

      The house of Simon where misery and mercy cohabit could be our heart. When the reality of sin erupts in our lives, like Simon we often do not know how to react. Shall we talk about it or ignore it? Sin offends our dignity, our self-image and self-worth. But God is not offended; he invites all sinners to the banquet of mercy and reconciliation. Today the Lord wants to show us how to live out this forgiveness, the way Jesus forgave the sinful women.
            To live out forgiveness is to find communion in an encounter with God and with others. To live out forgiveness is to invite others into our hearts by honoring their dignity. Simon’s mind was paralyzed by prejudice; he kept his distance with Jesus. “If this man were a prophet he would know who that woman is and that she is a sinner.” Steadfast in his knowledge, he judges from a superior position. The woman, on the other hand, opens her heart to God. She comes to wash, serve, and anoint the body of Christ.  In living out forgiveness, she brings communion.
            In this example we can see that we should not flee from sin but rather bring communion to and with all, by purifying our hearts in repentance and bringing to the world the good perfume of Christ. To live out forgiveness is to move into the hope that comes with mercy by rejecting deception, despair and feelings of misery.
            “Do you see this woman?” In asking this question Jesus is moved by her misery; he sees the misery of his people and that of our hearts. The Pharisee saw nothing. He looked at the outside and could not feel the mercy his heart was calling for. “Do you see this man? Do you see this spouse/child/neighbor? Do you see your brother? Do you see your sister?” Often we only see their misery, but mercy requires to change our gaze and see the dignity, the beauty of others.  To live out forgiveness is to bring mercy rather than condemnation. By dwelling in our hearts, Jesus awakes in us hope and mercy.
            “Lord Jesus, you who dwell in my heart, allow me to join you in the bottom of my heart. Lord Jesus, you who dwell in my heart, I offer myself to you so that your mercy and joy
arise in the bottom of my heart.”
Adapted from KTO, June 12, 2016. Sunday homily by Brother Charles

The Anonymous Sacred vs. the Holy One (1 Kings 18: 20-39)

   The miracle of the fire consuming the altar prepared by Elijah on Mount Carmel is the sign of another miracle among the people, namely adoration of the Holy One instead of fear of the anonymous sacred.
        The priests of Baal prayed from morning to noon, saying, "Baal, answer us!" But there was no voice, and no reply. One may tremble before the sacred as there is only a frightening silence: the sacred of religiosity offers no encounter. Baal was silent because he had nothing to say. The sacred is imposing but not relational. It creates an atmosphere, intense at times, without a person. The sacred is anonymous and distant. “Call louder, for your god may be asleep!” No response. No access to the Holy One. This silence terrifies and attracts at the same time.
         Elijah said to the people, “Come close. Come close to the living God and do not remain distant as to Baal who says, “Don’t touch. Don’t get near. Keep quiet. Tremble!” The Holy One lets us get close, to touch and taste. He himself comes close without fear of becoming impure because he purifies everything he touches. The Holy One comes to encounter us and wants to be encountered. The Holy One wants a relationship; he makes himself accessible, lowering himself to our condition. In truth, we often prefer the sacred which is silent; it is more comfortable, it does not disturb our habits, and we only seek it for a favor, like the followers of Baal.
         Elijah prayed with all his heart, “Answer me, Lord, so that this people know that it is you who moves the hearts. Answer me.” It is to a relational God, a God of dialogue and communion that Elijah prayed, like a friend speaking to a friend. The miracle of the fire was the proof of this intimate dialogue, this heart to heart conversation. The fire coming from heaven was more than a sign to see. It was a message of fire that consumed and set ablaze, because Elijah wanted his people to encounter the Holy One, not just be afraid of the sacred.
Adapted from KTO, June 8, 2016. Reflection by Sr. Marie-Aimée

The Sacred Heart

I will say with David, “I found my heart to pray to my God.”
I found the heart of Jesus, my king, my brother, my beloved friend. How will I not pray?
Yes I will pray, because if Christ is my master, his heart is my heart.
His spiritual heart is really my heart. It is really mine. I have only one heart with Jesus.
Don’t be surprised: “The multitude of believers were of one heart.”
Having found, Lord Jesus, that heart which is common to both, I pray to you, my God.
Attract me totally to your heart, then I will find a place in your heart to dwell all the days of my life.
This is why your side was pierced, to open wide the door for us.
This is why your heart was wounded, for us to find there our dwelling place.
But it is also to allow us to see, in your visible wound, the invisible wound of love.
How could the fire of that love be better revealed than in the piercing not only of your side but also of your heart?
The wound of the side manifests the wound of the spirit: who would not love such a wounded heart? To such a great love, who would not respond?
Adapted from KTO, June 3, 2016 (from St. Bonaventure)

Love your neighbor like yourself (Mk 12:31)

If we have inner unity, we will bring unity
If we have inner peace, we will bring peace
Love yourself in humility the way God loves you, and love others similarly
Love yourself in forgetting yourself
If you stop seeking yourself you will lead the most happy life,
and through you, God’ love will become transparent to others.
Adapted from KTO,  June 2, 2016

Ain Karim: the Visitation

“Ain” means well and “karim” means vine. The well comes to water the vine. The creator comes to visit his creature like a fecundating rain to produce the wine of joy. “I want to sing for my beloved the song of his wine,” proclaims Isaiah. And Zephaniah, “Shout for joy, daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, daughter Jerusalem!” - “It’s him! He is coming” sings the Song of Songs.

He was searching us first. It is not Elizabeth who rushed to Mary, it is Mary. In her lives the haste of the Great Encounter. No matter the hardship of the mountainous roads: in Mary God has overcome any mountain, hill and season, any obstacle to separation from the Great Encounter.

Even before he could walk, he the Way, even before he could talk, he the Word, he comes through his mother to that inaccessible mountain place that is us. As at Cana, Mary prepares the hour of her son. And behold: the well comes to water the vine, and Christ his church.
Adapted from KTO, May 31, 2016 (Sr. Mariam)

Obedience to truth

  St. Paul writes about the obedience of faith, St. John about truth and St. Peter about obedience to truth, combining Paul and John. “Through obedience to truth you have been sanctified in order to love one another sincerely like brothers from a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22). With “obedience to truth” one passes from the issues of truth to those of ethics, but the two are related. From God who loves us to the point of giving up his life we pass to love of our brothers and sisters for whom Christ has died. Truth is the foundation of Christian and community life. Truth is found in the Word of God: we are reborn not from a corruptible but an incorruptible seed, the Word of the living and eternal God. It is this Word that leads us to love one another.

We are saturated with information. We receive a phenomenal amount every day. But, are we any better informed by it? The Word of God brings  true life. It puts us in contact with the true God, with Jesus who is the Way, Truth, and Life. Through obedience to truth, we will live more fully.
Adapted from KTO, May 25, 2016 (Br. Théophane)