Archives: February 2014

Click on the link below or paste it into your browser to find to the readings for this weekend: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/020914.cfm

In our Gospel this weekend, Jesus tells his disciples:  “You are the salt of the earth.”  “You are the light of the world.”  These words are so familiar that it would be easy to miss their meaning.  Specifically, I think they remind us of two very important things.   First, notice that Jesus didn’t say you “will be” the salt of the earth, or you “will be the light of the world.  Rather he said: “You are.”   This reminds us that in our lives --- in the here and now and not at some point in the future --- we are to be salt and light to the world around us..  Second, though, both salt and light have an impact, and it doesn’t take much of either for that impact to be noticed.   A little salt can add flavor to a meal, while too much salt can ruin it.  In the same way even a small amount of light can guide us on a dark night, while too much light can blind us.   Clearly, even in small ways, we can be salt and light to our world and can make a difference. 

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.    It shares the theme of the Gospel and tells us very practically how we can be salt and light in our world.   “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn………………… If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness,”

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In the section we read this weekend, Paul reminds the people of Corinth.  That he did not speak to them with “sublimity of words or of wisdom …………… so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom, but on the power of God.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.    Where are you called to be salt and light in your life?
2.    What concretely and specifically do you need to do be salt and light? 
3.    Have you ever encountered someone who spoke with “sublimity of words and wisdom,” but really didn’t say much?  

Candles at Mass
Photo provided by: 
Michael Jensen
Candlemas

The feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2) or Candlemas is one of the lesser known feasts in our church today. Its history is complex and rich yet because it most often falls on a weekday very few people even are aware of it. Nevertheless, I have very fond memories of this feast which go back all the way to my childhood. 

Our family would attend early morning Mass on that day. Upon entering the church we received a candle, one per family. After the priest said a prayer and sprinkled Holy Water we walked around the church in procession. As the oldest child I was tasked with carrying our family’s candle. My current fondness of processions probably dates back to those Candlemas celebrations when I carried the candle under the watchful eye of my parents and the envious glances of my siblings. After Mass we were encouraged to take our candle home and to care for it with reverence. The priest told us to light the candle in times of need. I distinctly remember lighting our candle when my great-grandfather was mortally ill while we prayed for his recovery. We also found some solace in this candle once he died. We even would light the candle and huddle around it during bad storms. It made us less afraid.

Many years later, when living in a Benedictine abbey we celebrated the day with even greater ceremony as the candles were bigger, the procession was longer and the sung psalms were more numerous. We started the celebration in the chapter room. After the lighting and blessing of our candles we processed through the entire cloister into the church while singing Lumen ad revelationem gentium or A light of revelation to the Nations. I can still hear the sounds, see the sights and smell the burning wax which even overpowered the copious amounts of incense used for the procession.

Candle procession
Photo provided by: 
Michael Jensen
Procession with candle

Memories are great yet they need to be interpreted carefully. My childhood experience of the feast reveals profound truths but maybe there was a hint of superstition which tainted the use of the candles at home. Or was it the result of a more generous and less complicated faith?  My monastic memories, again revelatory of deep faith undoubtedly suffer from some liturgical romanticism.

The essence of the feast is this: Christ is the Light of the world and we are to witness to the Light in word and deed. The candles are a tangible symbol of the light of Christ. And  the procession is not just a pretty parade rather it symbolizes and rehearses us in our calling to bring Christ’s light to the world.

As a child I always wished we could keep the candle burning throughout the liturgy and even on our way home. I did not quite know why but I thought it made sense. I still imagine this grand procession of all Christians leaving their respective churches on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or any feast for that matter with lit candle in hand, proclaiming to the world that Christ is the Light and we bear witness to Him in word and deed.

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