Sermon Fr.Eugene A. Thalman M.M. Notes for Homilists and Religion Teachers.Embargo: Catholics are welcome to read after Noon, Sunday
[Our Lady of Fatima is a Catholic parish of the Hong Kong diocese. It is located on a one-square mile island. The total population is over 30,000. About 50 Filipino Catholics attend the English/Tagalog Sunday Mass and about 120 Chinese Catholics attend the Chinese Mass. The Church is also a center for pilgrimage. The pastor, Fr.Gene Thalman M.M., ordained 1960 is a Maryknoll missioner. He enjoys sharing with you his weekly struggle to make the Word of God relevant to this particular firstname.lastname@example.org.]
DROWNING: LET THE JOURNEY BEGIN
01/04/02 Sunday after Christmas: Epiphany Mt. 2:1-12
There was once a holy monk who lived in Egypt. One day a young man came to visit him. The young man asked: "Oh, holy man, I want to know how to find God." The monk was muscular and burly. He said: "Do you really, want to find God?" The young man answered: "Oh, but I do."
So the monk took the young man down to the river. Suddenly, the monk grabbed the young man by the neck and held his head under water. At first the young man thought the monk was giving him a special baptism. But when after two minutes the monk didn’t let go, the young man began struggling. Still the monk wouldn’t release him. Second by second, the young man fought harder and harder. After five and half minutes, the monk pulled the young man out of the water and said: "When you desire God as much as you desired air, you will find God."
MATTHEW’S POINT OF VIEW:
Today Matthew tells us about some folks who had an intense desire to meet Jesus, our Saviour.
Evidently some of Matthew’s Jewish Christians were wondering if by following Jesus, they were betraying the Faith of their ancestors. These Jewish Christians asked: "Matthew, why is it that many non-Jews are following Jesus. Whereas most of our fellow Jews reject him." Matthew responded that the non-Christians converts had experienced an intense desire for a saviour and went looking. On the other hand, the Jewish leaders felt that they already possessed God. These Jewish leaders saw no reason to search for something they already had. A saviour would be nice but not a matter of life and death. They did not experience any intense desire for a saviour.
In today’s passage, Matthew shows us that the foreigners, the superstitious astrologers, had such an intense desire to find the Messiah that they painstakingly studied the Holy Scriptures and the Jewish writings for clues. These Jewish writings spoke of signs in the heavens. The astrologers persistently searched the heavens every evening for signs of the savior’s approach—until they discovered the star. They got off their backsides and mounted camels. It was an 800-mile journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. It was certainly not business class travel. I suspect a camel’s back would be bony and hairy. Fleas, too?. And I once heard that camels spit. One thing is certain. These foreigners had an intense desire to find Jesus.
In Matthew 1: 18 to Matthew 2:23, the evangelist quotes the Old Testament to arouse our curiosity in Jesus. Matthew shows us that Jesus is the new Moses, the new David, the new Solomon and the new Elijah. Each of these comparisons entices us to hunger to know more and more about Jesus. Each time we find out more and more about Jesus. And the hunger to know more increases.
In today’s passage, Matthew shows us that Jesus is the "new David who fulfills the prophecy of the Immanuel (Mt 1: 20-24), on whom will shine the messianic star of Numbers 24: 17. And then Matthew shows us that Jesus is a new Solomon whose wisdom draws the wise men of the East as the wisdom of the king draws the Queen of Sheba ( 1 K 10: 1-13)."
I know that many of you experience this hunger to find Christ on an ever-deeper level. This is what we call the "spiritual life." I would love to give some classes on the experiences and writings of the Saints. For many Christians the spiritual life ends with the commandments and some feeble attempts at the Beatitudes. But the Saints and the astrologers tell us that there is a whole wonderful unexplored. It is called "Sainthood." And what is more all of us are invited to be Saints, to be holy as God the Father is holy. St. Paul likes to remind their early Christians that they are called to holiness. For example in Romans 1: 7, he writes:
"To you all then, who are God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace."
Paul hadn’t catechized these Roman Christians. But he did know one important thing about them. The Roman Christians they were called to be Saints. (Cf. 1 Cor. 1: 2). We all have this marvelous honor.
Otherwise the Saints were no different from anyone sitting in this church this morning. The Saints had to eat, sleep, brush their teeth, take the dog for a walk and visit relatives. Some of them had to get up early each morning to board the ferry, work overtime and take the eight-thirty evening ferry home. The Saints often slept on the ferry back to and from work.
Many Saints had bad habits. Some committed sins—even whoppers. Some Saints were able to spend many hours a day in prayer. But other Saints had little time for anything but the essential prayers.
Many Saints had a life style similar to those of us at Our Lady of Fatima. The Saints were like non-Saints with one exception. The Saints had an intense desire to find Jesus. They were always on the lookout. They were always eager to discover the places in which Jesus was hidden.
A Saint would never say: "Hey, I got God! I know all there is to know about God. I got a good grip on God and I will never let him slip away." For the Saints there were always new things to learn about God. Sometimes there made new discoveries and their desire was never satisfied. There was always something "more." Sometimes they found God in prayer. Sometimes in an enemy. Sometimes in a leper. Sometimes in a member of their family. And often God seemed out to lunch. There were dead-end searches. But throughout it all they clung to this intense desire for a deeper and deeper relationship with the Risen Saviour.
Our story illustrates that the spiritual life begins when a person has an intense desire to find God. If a person says: "It would be kind of nice to find God if it is not too much trouble. But honestly, if I don’t find God, I won’t lose any sleep over it.
The young man in the story expected the monk to tell him to go to church to pray on his knees, or wash some lepers, or go to the seminary or say five inches of special prayers. Instead the big monk taught the young man that the foundation of a spiritual life presupposes an intense longing for God. It is only when someone experiences an enduring desire for an ever-deepening personal relationship with Jesus that his/her spiritual journey will have begun.
This morning perhaps we will wish to recall those precious occasions when the Risen Lord was so close to us that we could almost touch him. In this way we try to re-enkindle our determination. We re-enkindle our desire to get to know Jesus better, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly."
FINALE: This week we ask ourselves: "How much do I really desire to find the Risen?
HOMILETIC NOTES AND STUFF
01/04/02 Sunday after Christmas: Epiphany Mt. 2:1-12
Often I preach to the lowest common denominator of the congregation. I suspect that in every parish there are some contemplatives (unknown to themselves) and potential contemplatives who are experiencing this thirst for a deeper spiritual life.
ONE WORD: DESIRE (Hunger, Longing, Thirst, Need?)
TWO WORDS: Intense Desire
THEME: The desire for union with God is the foundation of the spiritual life.
TEXT: "Some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east."
"As the hind longs for the running waters, so my soul longs for you, O God. Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God? Tears are my food day and night, as they say to me day after day, ‘Where is your God?’" Ps. 42: 2-4.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH:
" #1718 The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who along can fulfill it:
"…. How is it, then that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you. [St. Augustine, Confessions 10, 20: PL 32, 719.]
"God alone satisfies. [St. Thomas Aquinas, Expos. In symb. Apost. ]" [Emphasis added: et]. Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Mission Hills: Benziger Publishing Co, 1994), p. 427.
" 2558 … This mystery [of Faith], then requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This prayer." [Emphasis added: et] [Ibid., p. 613.
In Matthew 1: 18 to Matthew 2:23, "the evangelist assembles five episodes of the childhood of Christ, juxtaposing them with five texts of the Old Testament." [Thierry Maertens, Jean Frisque, Guide for the Christian Assembly Advent - Christmas (Notre Dame: Fides Publishers, 1972), p. 254-255.]
Practically speaking how might we stimulate an intense desire for God? Let’s look at the process in this following anecdote.
Waldo watches his grandfather at the museum. His grandfather can look at a Chinese painting for over any hour. Waldo sees the beautiful smile on his grandfather’s face. His grandfather seems in another world. Waldo himself doesn’t find the paintings very interesting. He would rather read a cartoon book.
But then one day, Waldo decides that maybe there is something important that he is missing. He decides to undertake a simple re-search. He talks about the paintings with his grandfather. He visits the museum. He reads the history of Chinese painting. He decides to take a course in Chinese paintings. At first it seems dull, but gradually he discovers more and more of interest. The intensity of Waldo’s desire to discover the treasures of Chinese art causes him to learn more and more.
5. Lifetime desire: always more to learn about life in Christ.
We might wish to imitate Waldo. What are some places where we are likely to find the Risen Lord? We may wish to open our Scripture and read something that Jesus said or did. Jesus is certainly present when we read about him in the Holy Scripture. Or we may read the life of one of the Saints to see how they searched for Jesus. It might be setting aside some time for quiet private prayer. It might mean looking for Jesus in the members of our family, our classmates, our work-mates, the poor, the sick or the oppressed. These are the places where Jesus hangs out. And finally, we may wish to search in our own hearts and to discover how Jesus is already busily at work in our life.
Chewing, Digesting and Practicing God’s Word
01/04/02 Sunday after Christmas: Epiphany Mt. 2:1-12
nAME_______ Favorite Saint who WAS MARRIED. _______ grade_______
1. In Matthew’s tells us that Jesus is a new M_______ D______ S_______
2. What surprises you in today’s gospel reading? _______________________