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Spiritual Reflections

Breaking the rules

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Jesus chose to associate with people whom the rest of his contemporaries found reprehensible. Today, we are used to this notion, and we tend to romanticize his behavior. In his own time, however, it was shocking and offensive. Jesus’ manner was so off-putting that many people could not move beyond their repulsion to hear and accept his message. In a word, he was a rule-breaker, an iconoclast, and those who would follow him with integrity are to do the same.

Standing in truth before God

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Have you ever been listening to a homily and suddenly find yourself wishing that so-and-so was here because they really need to hear this? In your mind’s wandering, have you thought so-and-so in the row in front of you should be taking notes? How often do we mentally excuse ourselves from the truth being preached and its challenges because we do not see ourselves as God sees us, as others see us, as we are?

Crossing over

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Rudolph Bultmann once described our sacred writers as people who had glimpses of the “other side,” but wrote for people “on this side.”

Though they admire the well-known scholar’s insights, most Scripture experts today would disagree with the last half of Bultmann’s statement. Certainly people who have had no experience of the other side read their writings -- anybody can read the Bible -- but these special authors originally wrote for people who had also visited the other side, who had personally touched an awesome God and lived to tell others about it.

Becoming other Christs

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At the end of his life, Moses delivers some final words to the Israelites, who are finally about to enter the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 26:4-10 concerns the proper way to offer the first fruits of their future harvests. Setting their offering before Yahweh’s altar, they’re to say, “My father [Jacob] was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. But there he became a nation great, strong and numerous.”

Just a job or a vocation?

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What do you do for a living? This is a common question, easily answered: “I’m a teacher, nurse, architect, chef, accountant, lawyer,” etc. Each answer points to a personal choice and suggests years of study and preparation in a specific field. Each job provides individuals with a means of supporting themselves and those they love. At times, however, even the best of jobs can become a necessary but tedious chore.

Real presence

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It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of today’s second reading. Paul’s insights give us the foundation for understanding the presence of the risen Jesus among us: an essential part of early Christian experience.

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Compare and contrast

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We have no idea which miracle the historical Jesus first worked. Our four Gospels aren’t much help in determining the event. Each evangelist carefully chooses Jesus’ first miracle. It sets the theme for the rest of his Gospel.

Only in John’s Gospel do we find the changing of water into wine at Cana as the first miracle Jesus performs. There are two keys to understanding its meaning and the theme John is creating. First, throughout his Gospel, John never refers to miracles as miracles. He always calls them “signs.”

Baptism, a first step

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As a community gathers to remember and celebrate the baptism of Jesus, all present are offered an opportunity to reflect upon their own sacramental initiation into Christ and the church. Jesus defined himself and his ministry in terms of the Servant described by Isaiah (first reading). Like him, we are called to learn who we are in Christ and what we are called to be and to do in the world.

Their story, our story

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As we gather together today around God’s living word and the living bread of Eucharist, we will hear Isaiah share his vision of a cavalcade of nations streaming toward Jerusalem. We will take note as he describes gift-bearing riders astride camels, proclaiming God’s praises. We will listen attentively as the author of Ephesians reveals the “mystery” that gentiles and Jews -- that is, all the peoples of the Earth -- are “coheirs, members of the same body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).

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