The Old Testament reading from the Book of Exodus assigned for this Sunday is one of the most famous passages in all of the Scriptures. Moses, who in previous chapters of the Exodus story, had been raised by a Pharaoh's daughter and enjoyed a life of privilege in the royal court, had abruptly fallen out of favor when in a fit of anger he had killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. Fearing for his life, Moses had fled to the eastern region of Egypt and, as the dramatic encounter in this Sunday's reading is about to begin, is tending sheep in the desert area of Midian.
We human beings are people of the land - even in the midst of urban life in the 21st Century. We are deeply connected to the land, as we are made of the same "stuff." The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground. (Gn 2:7) We continue to find significance and value in "our land."
Remember one of the first and still well known songs of Peter, Paul, and Mary (feel free to sing along as you read this. . .) This land is your land, this land is my land / From California, to the New York Island / From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream Waters / This land was made for you and me.
Ash Wednesday of this past week marked the beginning of a forty-day "retreat" - out of ordinary time - for us to prepare for Holy Week and Easter. One can also consider Lent a kind of "rite of passage" - an opportunity for change as we move from one "place" in our life to another. All rites of passage consist of three phases - separation, liminality, and incorporation.
February is a low time of the year for many people. Often it is a time when we simply go about fulfilling the mundane chores of life. Liturgically, we are still in Ordinary time. However, this week's Scripture readings invite us to be alert for a life-changing experience that might happen when we least expect it. We ought not let our guard down, for God can come to us in the everyday routine of our lives and call us to conversion and discipleship.
At CTU we have just completed the J-Term - a four week intensive period of teaching and learning. Mary Frohlich, RSCJ and I taught a course, "ES-4002 Ethics, Spirituality, and Global Climate Change." In her or his final research paper each student addressed ethical and spiritual dimensions of human caused global warming and climate change as it affects their homeland or the place of their anticipated ministry following study at CTU. Our class included students from China, Viet Nam, Nigeria, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the U.S.
Diversity is a reality of our daily living. Each of us, with our own differences, participates in diverse contexts including but not limited to family, parish, school, neighborhood, and nation. In many ways, families are the most basic unit of human diversity. They are established in difference, contain elements of intentionality, e.g. for the most part we can choose our spouses and elements of accident, e.g. we cannot choose to whom we are born. As kin we may share some commonalities, for example biological traits, cultural practices, even our names.
Everyone loves a wedding! It is a public manifestation of commitment to love, the beginning of a new family with all its promise, and a great time for a party. If it is such a time of happiness, why do people cry at weddings? Many people are simply overcome by emotion. But which emotion? Might it be that they realize that the couple has moved beyond their individual lives as friends have known them, and they are creating something new and extraordinary?
LOVE ENOUGH FOR ALL
"In truth, I see that God shows no partiality" (Acts 10:34)
This Sunday we celebrate Epiphany, one of the greatest feasts of the liturgical year. The word "epiphany" comes from the Greek and literally means a "shining forth" or "manifestation." This unique day comes with different popular names such as "little Christmas" or the "Twelfth day of Christmas." It is celebrated with particular joy among Orthodox Christians who consider it even more than Christmas as the most important celebration of the manifestation of Christ to the world.
Before turning to the readings, it might be helpful to know a bit about the history of this feast. Interestingly enough, Pope Leo XIII initiated the Feast of the Holy Family in 1893, and Pope Benedict XV extended the feast to the universal church in 1921. Leo's well known encyclical, Rerum Novarum on the Rights of Workers, addressed the justice issues of factory workers in the midst of the industrial revolution. One of the consequences of the time was the break-down of the nuclear family.