Sunday, January 17, 2010

Prayers today: May all the earth give you worship and praise, and break into sone to your name, O God, Most High (Psalm 65:4)

Father of heaven and earth, hear our prayers, and show us the way to peace in the world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.

St. Anthony of Egypt (251-356)

The life of Anthony will remind many people of St. Francis of Assisi. At 20, Anthony was so moved by the Gospel message, "Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor" (Mark 10:21b), that he actually did just that with his large inheritance. He is different from Francis in that most of Anthony’s life was spent in solitude. He saw the world completely covered with snares, and gave the Church and the world the witness of solitary asceticism, great personal mortification and prayer. But no saint is antisocial, and Anthony drew many people to himself for spiritual healing and guidance. At 54, he responded to many requests and founded a sort of monastery of scattered cells. Again like Francis, he had great fear of "stately buildings and well-laden tables." At 60, he hoped to be a martyr in the renewed Roman persecution of 311, fearlessly exposing himself to danger while giving moral and material support to those in prison. At 88, he was fighting the Arian heresy, that massive trauma from which it took the Church centuries to recover. "The mule kicking over the altar" denied the divinity of Christ. Anthony died in solitude at 105.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 2:1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, They have no more wine. Dear woman, why do you involve me? Jesus replied. My time has not yet come. His mother said to the servants, Do whatever he tells you. Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, Fill the jars with water; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet. They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now. This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

Jesus Christ
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

Jesus Christ One of the intriguing areas of modern study is the nature of religion. In A Grammar of Assent - a modern classic on the nature of religious assent (1870) - Newman chooses to define religion in this way: “By religion I mean the knowledge of God, of His Will, and of our duties towards Him” (p.303, Image). The emphasis in this description is on the objective reality of God and his will for man. A religion without God would have been a nonsense for Newman. But the word “religion” in common parlance and in academic study now embraces a far broader range of meanings than that which Newman gives to the word. One prominent philosopher in a book on theism chooses to define religion as, in effect, man’s commitment to ultimate values. We commonly refer even to sport as being a man’s “religion.” There are great religions which deny what Newman would have taken for granted as essential in any religion. For instance, it is generally agreed that Buddhism denies a loving Creator and a personal soul that persists in its full identity after death. It is clear that Asian civilization, including Buddhism, has traditionally manifested a religious instinct, but the formal beliefs of some Asian peoples have been very far from what a Christian - as in, say, Newman - would regard as an authentic religion. But then, for more than two centuries there has been debate among some about the essence of Christianity. A famous book entitled The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig Feuerbach was published in 1841. In his book Feuerback maintained that the deities of religion are projections of human needs. Man depends on nature, and he deifies certain forces of nature and makes of them the gods he worships and supplicates. Religion, he thought, is just a superstition, and should be replaced by science. Now, all of this shows the need for clarity in thought, and in particular thought about Revelation. What is the essence of the religion revealed by God to man - which is to say, the essence of the Christian religion? What is the Gospel, the Good News for all of humanity?

The essence of the religion which God has fully and definitively revealed is the person and teaching of Jesus Christ. In our Gospel today (John 2: 1-11), our Lord did something which manifested his glory. At the wedding feast of Cana, he changed the water into a beautiful wine. The wine that came from the word of Christ replaced the water that was all that was left for the wedding, and it was the best wine possible. It was Christ’s gift to man in his need. Let us take the wine that replaced the water as a parable, a sign, of the uniqueness and the completeness of Jesus Christ as the heart and soul of man’s true religion. Christ is the gift of God, and the Good News for humanity is the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who died and who rose from the dead. At a certain point in history - in the time of King Herod and the Emperor Caesar Augustus - God fulfilled the promises that he made to Abraham and his descendants. He sent “his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4: 4-5). We celebrate his coming at Christmas. From the very beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Jesus Christ in order to lead all to faith in him. From the loving knowledge of Jesus Christ there naturally springs up in the heart of the believer the desire to bring to others the person of Jesus Christ and the plan of God as present and revealed in him. That plan is to bring all humanity into communion with him. The fulness of religion and, in particular, the fulness of the Christian religion consists in the person of Jesus Christ and union with him. Closely related to this fundamental truth is another. It is that Christ is to be found in his body the Church which he founded on the Apostles, with Peter at their head. Christ is present among men still, glorious though unseen. His Church is the locale of his presence among men. The Church is his body, and we who make up the Church are his members. He reaches out to us in the Church’s ministry, in her preaching, in her teaching and her catechesis, and in her sacraments, especially the sacrament of the holy Eucharist. He, Jesus Christ, is man’s all.

In our Gospel passage today we read that “This was the first of his miraculous signs which Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” Their faith in Jesus Christ in due course became their religion, and it was the religion they brought to the world. The purpose of life is to be a true and constant disciple of Jesus Christ. This is the pathway to holiness and to heaven. All of the Church’s teaching has Jesus at its heart, and the whole of our life ought be a life in, and with, Jesus. This is the Good News that saves.

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