Galatians 4:4-7, and a selection from a homily by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, 2003.
If we can be open to the word of God,
observe it and keep it,
that word will transform us
and we will know peace deep within our hearts.
I can think of no other gift we could receive at Christmas
that would be more important than to have the word of God,
who is peace,
come fully into our hearts.
This is an exciting day to be talking—“homilizing”—to you.
It’s a Sunday, of course, but also:
The first day of a new year, a beginning!
The day named to honor Mary, Mother of God
The day designated as World Peace Day
And a liturgy rich with calls to Peace and to bestowing Blessings!
This does also make it complicated:
3 or 4 fasinating themes in 8 to 10 minutes???? And I’m Irish!
Ah, well, there is a flowing ribbon linking them! Like this scarf, or ribbon, of blue, given to me by Steve Clemens, local peace activist, and given to him by a youth group in Afghanistan who had asked him and others to come to their village and plant trees together to make a peace garden! They sent these scarves of blue back with Steve to distribute as a reminder that “we all live under the same sky of blue.”
Such a beautiful gesture of peace. The blue linking?? Listen:
Mary, the Queen of Peace, and the mother of God from whom all Blessings flow;
And she is most often pictured in blue .
Blessings, invokings of God’s favor, not limited by time or place.
The Blessing of World Peace is creation’s greatest need.
Peace is also represented as a Christmas promise, the soothing of the great waves
of war to the serene blues of Peace.
It all fits together but I’d better talk fast…………………
I am going to trust that your connection to both the teenage Mary who gave birth to Jesus and the mothering Mary of 30 some years and Mary, the woman who witnessed at his torture and death----that most of you have a connection with Mary that is heart felt and soul strong.
But I do want to take a moment to talk about a passage from today’s Gospel:
“Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” “Pondered” is, in this text, the translation from the Greek “symballein”. But symballein also translates literally as “to toss things together in one’s heart”. Isn’t that both amazing and wonderful! The Mother of Jesus had a heart full of things tossed together, just like we often do! Mary puzzled and prayed and pondered for years. Somehow it helps me a lot, this insight, particularly in keeping on with peace work. I admit to tears and a sinking heart sometimes when we are singing the same songs for peace and unity that we sang with such confidence 50 years ago.
I am still learning that, like Mary, we can ponder and toss with a full heart and stay open to God’s grace, accepting that this is a process. We have to listen deeply to God’s Word and then work hard at translating it into works and actions that will probably require a life long effort.
The Queen of Peace tosses and walks with us and blesses our efforts wight now as we continue to find Peace in reconcilitoryAction. Yes, Peace. And just what do we mean by Peace other than the absence of war?
Peace is used in the readings today and is richly associated with the promise of Christmas. So what does it look like iin our lives; what does it mean to us?? I asked for help from the folks at Peace House last Tuesday. (Peace House as most of you know is a drop-in center for the Homeless.) Interestingly, no one said an absence of violence or no wars. Answers included “tranquility of self” , “being content with who you are, what you have”, “know what you have to do and never go back”. “Stillness and alertness,” said Jeff Kennedy. Jeff is one of the local people featured in A PEACE OF MY MIND, a newly released book which explores the meaning of Peace a (and includes statements and pictures of the McDonald sisters, long activists).
In the book, Jeff says, “When I think of World Peace, I just this of us all having a meal together, sitting down, everyone from every tongue and place on the planet”….”check our pride pistols at the door and come in all humility together and just walk together.”
What else can I say except doesn’t that sound familiar???
There’s time left to “ponder” the Blessings theme for a moment. To give and to receive a blessing is such a beautiful gift. But , once again at an earlier discussion at Peace House: “ What IS IT???”
I have been pondering the sweet mystery of Blessings for a long time, and just in the last few years discovered an authority to help me understand: John O’Donohue, Irish poet, theologian, author, presenter, vibrant spirit. He Left the earth too soon at age 51 but gifted us with a final book “TO BLESS THE SPACE BETWEEN US: A Book of Blessings.” This book is dearly beloved at our house; in fact we have one for each of us.
I would read pages of O’Donohue’s book to you right now if I could! I really would! However, we will have to make do with a few quotes:
“A blessing is not a sentiment or a question; it is a gracious invocation where the human heart pleads with the divine heart”….”regardless of our differences, there is no heart that is without an inner divine reference…”
“ ..a blessing is a gift; it can open doors, bring healing and transfiguration….Our times are desperate for meaning and belonging. It would be lovely if we could rediscover our power to bless one another. I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere…… The Holy Spirit is the subtle presence and secret energy behind every blessing.
“A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person (<all creation>) to protect, heal, and strengthen…..when a blessing is invoked, a window opens in eternal Time’…….”a blessing is a form of grace. Grace is the permanent climate of divine kindness.”
“We have no idea the effect we actually have on one another. This is where blessing can achieve so much. Blessing as powerful and positive intention can transform situations and people.”
This is me now. We’ve all experienced a room or space becoming tensed, even fright-filled when anger and ugliness crash in; or ever notice the freezing cold when, for instance, sexist or racist remarks or jokes are made? Imagine then what a wave of blessings could accomplish !
How much blessing does it take to bring Peace??
Who will do the work, the journey of heart, soul, body, toward the peace promised at Bethlehem ?? Paul shouted it right out in the 2nd reading:
You are no longer slaves!!
You are now daughters and sons of God!!
As Occupiers of this space, let’s connect with other Occupiers and do a “mike check”.
Mike Check (repeat)
Mike Check “ “
We are “ “
Daughters and sons of God “ “
We are (repeat)
No longer slaves “ “
We will “ “
Work and pray “ “
Sing and play “ “
To bless all Creation (repeat)
With Peace “ “
With Peace “ “
Peace be with you. Amen