January 27, 2010
On Tuesday we celebrate the beautiful feast of the Presentation of the Lord, known for centuries as ‘Candlemas’. This traditional name is
derived from the ceremonies performed during Mass on the day. At the beginning of Mass the priest blesses candles held by the people.
These candles are symbols of Christ, who is proclaimed the gospel of the day as ‘the Light to enlighten the gentiles’. In many churches the
candles that will be used throughout the year are also blessed on this day.
As the days slowly begin to lengthen we are aware of the return of light. Slowly the earth responds as we head towards spring. We are
conscious of our need for sun and warmth. And so it is very apt that we celebrate this feast and have an intimation of those days yet to
come when a much bigger candle will be lit and carried in procession ahead of us into the Church. The Paschal candle will speak of this
child as the risen light of the world. On Tuesday we can relish the glow of the candles of Candlemas knowing that they are pointing the
fullness of life and light that Christ has brought for all peoples.
January 19, 2010
One of only two films ever made in Latin is ostensibly about the saint we celebrate on Wednesday, Sebastian. The film is a flight of fancy, but so similarly are the plethora of pictures and statues we have of the saint because we know little beyond the fact that he was martyred and buried on the Appian Way in Rome. Sebastian is depicted in art shot through with arrows, and perhaps it is this legend that made him a popular subject for artists. What we can be sure of is that Sebastian died for his Christian faith because his cult is found early on in the history of the Roman Church.
A Christian martyr like Sebastian is a witness not to death but to life. The martyrs were and are able to sacrifice their lives because they were and are convinced on the resurrection of Christ. They know that he is the way, the truth and the life, and so are able to lay down their lives. At the heart of Catholic worship is the Mass. There we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. The martyrs, through their celebration of this mystery were and are able to imitate Christ. We are called to do so as well, not so much by laying down our lives but by opening them up more fully to the life that Jesus brings. P.D.
January 8, 2010
I wonder how many sermons will begin on Sunday with an attempt to explain why Jesus didn’t need to be baptised but still underwent the baptism described in the gospel reading? Several preachers will be at pains to explain that Jesus did not have original sin and then try to explain why John still baptised him. The problem is that we have become so used to seeing baptism as a ‘washing away’ that we fail to see what the gospel is saying. Jesus baptism is revelatory: he is shown for who he really is- the Son of God. In fact the gospel reveals to us the God we believe – Father, Son, and Spirit. The baptism of Jesus is not some edificatory piece of play-acting, rather it is the revelation of the Trinity at work as Jesus begins his ministry.
In the same way our baptism reveals something about us. It shows us that we are the sons and daughters of God. The difference is that our baptism takes away the wound of original sin and makes us God’s children. The baptism of Jesus shows us who he really is – one free from sin because he is the eternally begotten Son of the Father. He is by nature what we are by adoption – but we are both still the children of God the Father. What a wonderful thought to sustain us as we journey into this new year.