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A Christmas Thought For You

The Eyes That See
Jesus, Son of God who came to us as an infant, says that it is to the simple and childlike that revelation is made.  This is echoed in the opening chapters of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, where he notes that the choice of God rests upon the unwise, the powerless, and the ill-born  Not the glamorous, photogenic celebrities who populate our media.
I would like to turn this proposition upside down.  Rather than affirming that spiritual wisdom is given to the otherwise unwise, I would suggest that having received the wisdom that comes from above tends to make people foolish-at least in the eyes of the world.  Consider St. Basil the Fool, to whom the cathedral within the Kremlin is dedicated.  He drew attention to his message by parading around naked during the bitter Russian winter.  Mad!  Consider St. Maximillian Kolbe, who at Auschwitz volunteered to starve to death in the place of another prisoner.  Mad!  Both of these men were fools in the eyes of the world, as were most of those we revere as saints.  When people have a glimpse (or more) of the beauty of the spiritual world, it reduces the relative value of everything that exists in space and time.  They see more.  So the choices they make, based on what us invisible to others, seems unreasonable.  If I see a dragon coming toward me, I run.  You who have your back turned, stay where you are and think I’m crazy.  
It is no surprise that  Christian values are countercultural.  I sometimes wish they were more so.

Fr. Michael Casey is an Australian well-known lecturer and author of many books on spirituality.

Within the Word
A meditation for difficult times

John 9

An ordinary encounter becomes extraordinary.  A group of travelers encounter a man, blind from birth, sitting by the side of the road and begging.  These are not ordinary travelers who might toss insults or coins.  Jesus’ disciples seem to see the unnamed man as an opportunity for a theological discussion of sin and illness.  But Jesus sees the man and his need for healing, healing that would restore him to his community rather than leaving him to exist on the fringes.  Jesus’ healing action is most ordinary.  He makes mud from dirt and spit to smear on the man’s eyes.  It doesn’t get more ordinary that that!  Yet when the man washes the mud from his eyes, the results are amazing.  He can see for the first time.
As the man begins to see, the scope of the story expands to include the townspeople, the synagogue leaders, and the man’s parents.  They seek an explanation for this extraordinary event.  Perhaps it is not surprising that they react with fear.  After all, what has happened is entirely new to them.  No one has ever healed a man born blind!  And on the Sabbath! How can breaking the law bring such a wondrous result?  Unsatisfied with the man’s answers and unwilling to face their fears, they toss the man, and their questions, aside.
Then the story’s scope narrows once again, to the man and Jesus.  Jesus requests no payment or adulation in response to this miraculous healing.  Instead, he offers an invitation to believe in the Son of Man, and invitation to faith.  Faith is the bridge that moves us from a world of fear-filled questions to the path of discipleship.  St. Anselm taught that we believe in order to understand.  Thus, faith precedes understanding and challenges us to understand even familiar things in new ways.  
The man born blind learns that even though he can see his parents and his town for the first time, Jesus offers him a deeper sight as well.  If he believes, he will see more than he ever imagined.  He will see and understand in new and extraordinary ways if he follows Jesus and conforms his life to God’s will.
Jesus offers the sight that comes through faith to all those called by his name and washed in the waters of baptism.  As believers, we are called and empowered to see with God’s eyes.  We do not see the poor and marginalized, the sick ad disabled, the abandoned and unwelcome, as problems to be solved but as children of God to be cherished.  They are not burdens to be managed but opportunities for encounter.  The needs of our parishes, communities, and world offer graced moments of healing form our blindness so that we can see God at work even in the humble, ordinary people and moments waiting for us along the side of the road.

Mary Elizabeth Sperry

Encouraging Words

Keep Walking  Isaiah 65: 17-21
“Lo I am about to create new heavens and a new earth,” God says.  A new earth sounds wonderful right now, doesn’t it?  A more peaceful earth, a cleaner earth, a place of peace and of healing.
I recently read “The Mission Walker”, an astonishing travel diary written by Edie Littlefield Sunby.  She walked the entire historic 1600 mile “El Camino Real de las Californias”, the old mission trail from Loreto, Mexico, to Sonoma, California.  She did it with one lung, after surviving widespread metastasis of stage IV gall bladder cancer and 79 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy.  She’d been given three months to life.
What is the point of it all, one might ask, a dying woman forcing herself through often desolate and harsh landscapes in order to reach another mission. Some of them decrepit and long abandoned?   We might see Sunby’s journey as an excruciating exercise in nostalgia.  Yet unseen is what God is doing in her tormented body.  As she pushes herself on to every single mission site (some still in use, most in ruins), she is being healed.  She lives today, twelve years after her diagnosis and six years after setting out on her hero’s journey.
Of this stunning pilgrimage, Sunby says, “If I was walking, I was alive”.
Might that be what the Spirit is saying to us as Church, the People of God?  Even the Notre Dame Cathedral is under construction again.  We all are.  God is doing something new.  Keep walking, Church.  It just might be that God is healing us too.

Kathy McGovern




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