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Following the Rules

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Which Commandment do you find to be the most challenging? This is a great exercise if you know your Ten Commandments. Not all of our students at St. Dominic Catholic School can recite them frontwards and backwards, but we try. When I was a classroom teacher, I made sure my students could do just that. My students and I invested a lot of time in impressing them into their minds, into their consciences. These are God's rules, why wouldn't you want to know them? We practiced them, recited them in order and out of order, we studied what they meant. We worked to figure out how they fit into the covenant of the Old Testament and the fulfillment of the covenant in the New Testament. We discussed how brilliant Jesus was in taking ten and turning them into two - the transition from the Ten Commandments to the Great Commandment. We lamented that, even though Jesus simplified things, we still fail to follow the rules. Why is it so hard to follow rules? Free will. God loves us so much that He doesn't want to constrict us but allow us to freely choose Him. The rules aren't to be restrictive but freeing. Think about that for a minute.

Following God is not meant to be complicated. After all, Jesus tells us to approach God like a child. Don't think too hard about it. Life is complex. Messy. God helps us find order. Keep it simple like going from Ten Commandments to the Great Commandment. Love God with all your heart, mind, and being, and love your neighbor as yourself. Rules keep our free will in order so that we may experience joy.

Posted by Jill Fischer with 1 Comments

Welcoming the Poor

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Christian baptism not only forgives sins, but infuses the life of God into the soul, making us God’s children. The origin of this sacrament is Jesus’ own baptism. Jesus had no need to be cleansed by the waters of baptism, for he had no sins to be washed away. Rather, he sanctified the waters by his descent into them. Jesus set for us the example to be baptized. When we are baptized there are several things that happen: we enter a new, deeper relationship with God, we become a new creation, a daughter or son of God, and we become a part of Christ’s prophetic mission. Our eyes are opened to see those in need, and we are given the ability to carry another’s burden. We become the arms, the hands, eyes, heart, and feet of Christ. This reality touched me deeply on Christmas Eve.

I was in line for coffee the other day at a fast food location when I noticed a woman who had just left the city bus and had begun to walk laboriously, with a walker, along the parking lot. Every few steps she would stop and catch her breath. A young boy was with her. It was 17 degrees outside. Her fingers were exposed. I turned my car to stop next to her and offered her a ride to her destination in my warm car. Her name was Lisa, and her son, Thomas. They hopped inside. The place of their destination was not open for 20 minutes. I abandoned everything I had to do and accomplish…and made myself totally present to them. 

She shared that her family was poor, that they only use public transportation, and her husband works two jobs to make ends meet. We started talking about faith. She told me they attend the Salvation Army church since they “welcome the poor.” When the store opened, I helped her inside and Thomas stayed back to ask if we could exchange phone numbers. I will never forget them, or this experience. 

When they left the car, tears flowed down my face—”where they welcome the poor.” Was this Jesus I encountered? What more could I have done for her and Thomas? This experience was an Epiphany moment.

This is the effect of our Baptism: we are called to welcome the refugee, feed the hungry, build bridges of trust, share our gifts, seek justice and peace, and bring Christ into the world. 

 

Epiphanies of God

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By definition, Epiphany means an appearance or manifestation, particularly of a divine being. God breaks into the everyday life of His people, manifested in the person of Jesus. 

The story of the Magi arriving in Jerusalem looking for the newborn king of the Jews is only found in the Gospel of Matthew. The term "magi" may refer to a group of astrologers from Persia or the East. They are neither referred to as kings nor being three in number. It as common belief in ancient times that a new star appeared at the birth of a great figure. We are told that the Magi brought gifts. Gold, appropriate for a king, yet given to the one who gives the kingdom "to the poor in spirit." Frankincense, an expensive perfume for the one who tells us "the meek shall inherit the earth." Myrrh, a traditional herb used in burial preparations, foretelling of Christ's suffering and death. 

Two thousand years have passed since that first Epiphany. Is the star that led the Magi still burning brightly in our lives? How does God manifest Himself to us today? We need only look to ourselves. We make God present to others. The God we cannot see shines through the love of those we can see. Sometimes that star is profound and easily recognized, while other times it may be subtle and difficult to see. In making God's love present to others, we become Epiphanies of God...shining stars that lead one another to Christ...we become Christ, each one for the sake of all.

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