When I first came across Jesus' poetic words today about God's care for creation and having trust in God's providence, it hardly seem very realistic. Like the lyrics of a song that won a Grammy award in 1989, Bobby McFerron's, "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Its reggae beat and constant refrain were hard to stop humming, but the message struck me as superficial and trite. I remember thinking to myself after hearing the song for the umpteenth time, "Don't tell me how to feel!
The first words we hear on this Sunday are: "Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." WHAT? What does this call to holiness mean? And, how is it that God is holy? After consulting both a thesaurus and an etymological dictionary, holiness has to do with a certain reverence for life. Indeed, our God reveres all of creation, and we are challenged to do the same. In Leviticus, it comes down to the great commandment: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
The first reading from Sirach lays out the fundamental decision we need to make - the choice between life and death, between good and evil. That choice will determine the direction and meaning of our life. What does this decision entail?
Children are taught to base their decisions on rules. Don't touch a hot stove! Don't run with a scissors or knife! Don't fight with other kids! Children may not know the reasons, but they are to just "follow the rules."
"With just a few more grains of salt, Nicholas' dish would've been as good as Nina's."
"Wait a minute, what does it mean that we are sitting here in the final challenge and we're still saying, 'Nicholas' dish needed a little more salt.' This is basic cooking 101!"
"It certainly would've made his dish infinitely better."
GRASPED BY GOD'S HAND
"I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people." (IS 42:6)
A frequently used technique in action films is a scene where a person is in danger, slipping off a cliff, or a building, or some other perilous perch. Someone grasps the person by the hand and desperately tries to pull him or her to safety. This is one of the images Isaiah gives us: God grasps the chosen servant by the hand and hangs on for dear life.
The title of today's feast "epiphany" means "manifestation" in Greek and we have to admit that the Gospel of Matthew illustrates this manifestation with a flourish. Today's feast is a filmmaker's delight because it is full of wonderful images...
On this Sunday after Christmas the Church celebrates the Holy Family. The Holy Family is, of course, Jesus, Mary and Joseph but in remembering this family of families, we also celebrate all families as sacred.