Monday, January 05, 2015

At Hand

And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.  Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit whom he gave us.  1 John 3:23-24

[T]he people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”  From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Matthew 4:16-17

"Among the shepherds of the flock in Philadelphia," wrote Pope Pius XII, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the diocese, "the figure of Venerable John Neumann is pre-eminent.  It was mainly through his prodigious efforts that a Catholic school system came into being and that parochial schools began to rise across the land.  His holy life, his childlike gentleness, his hard labor, and his tremendous foresight is still fresh and green among you.  The tree planted and watered by Bishop Neumann now gives you its fruit."

Spirit and light themes continue today as they have throughout Advent and Christmas.  The light now starts to mature as the liturgical year narrative shifts from the Nativity and youthful stories to the beginning of the public ministry.

Jesus comes out into the light and picks up preaching right where John the Baptist left off…in fact with the very same words John used in the desert:  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Matthew 4:16-17

There, too, is the prefix “re—pent.”  When we “repent,” we consider an action from our past with regret.  The root in Latin for this word is rÄ“pere which means “to crawl or to creep.”  When we repent, we get on our knees and feel sorrow or regret for what we have done.  Once we repent, we can stand up again and walk in a different direction and act in a different way. 

This also connects us to what happens when we “see a great light.”  When we go to bed in the darkness, we lay down and close our eyes.  In the morning, as light streams through the window, we wake up and get up and walk around.  Light leads us to get up on a daily basis.  Mourners also sometimes sit around in darkness until their sadness passes into acceptance and they get up to go back about their daily lives.

Jesus, the light of the world, also brings people to “Arise!” from crawling around in repentance to walking in the light.

Jesus is asking us to change both our posture and our direction.  As we reflect on the beginning of Jesus preaching and teaching, it is fitting that today marks the holiness of St. John Neumann the bishop of Philadelphia who is considered the founder of the parochial schools system in the United States back in the middle of the 1800s.

What can you do to pick up the mantle of a teacher?  You do not have to quit your job and go to the front of the classroom.  But who are you teaching?  How are you teaching?  

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