reNEW is our theme for 2017. Light is, has been, and will continue to be a significant vehicle to express that theme. Perhaps you noticed the darker environment of our beautiful church during Advent that gradually grew lighter as we moved toward Christmas. This was one way of encouraging you to reNEW. Hopefully you heard the beautiful words of the post communion song, Hallelujah, Light Has Come, during all of our Christmas liturgies, and for those of you in church, the movement of the singers who went from the baptismal font to the altar steps and ended by acknowledging the presence of Christ in our Cross of NEW Life. That cross hangs above the altar where Christ finds each of us in the greatest energy that God gives us—the transformative grace given as a gift from a God who wants to not only change bread and wine, but each one of us. That is MOST powerfully realized in the sacredness of each Eucharistic celebration when we realize Christ’s presence in each other as we gather, in God’s word as it is proclaimed, in the person of the priest as he presides, and in the elements of bread and wine that are changed.
Let’s continue to be inspired by the song’s message and words: “A light has come. A child is born who will bring us light. Hallelujah we’ve been found.” It is a song sung by Mary as she rejoices in the gift of her child, but as always, Mary doesn’t just sing for herself, she sings for the world, for each and every one of us. So not only should we search for the NEW light, but we should express our joy when the light finds us.
This powerful image is one more manifestation of something that is so central to my own theology, namely the partnership that we are in with God. I often refer to it as the Divine Human enterprise. This most recent image of light helps me to express the beauty of this partnership. I believe that our entire spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological journey is a sacred partnership with God. Everything we do is a collaborative endeavor with God. Sometimes we search for the NEW light, and sometimes it finds us. Much of our spiritual journey involves energy that we expend searching for God, and often times God finds us. There is magic in both, and tremendous sacredness when those two come together.
A reflection back on 2016 has many saying that they are glad the year has ended and a new one is beginning. Political tensions, increased world terror, racial tension, police shootings and unprecedented violence in Chicago streets seemed to dominate and overshadow the good of 2016. We in Chicago buried more people who died in shootings than Los Angeles and New York combined. It was important for some of us here at Holy Family to join Fr. Mike Pfleger recently in a march down Michigan Avenue with 3 ft. solid wooden crosses commemorating the almost 800 people who died in shootings in Chicago in 2016. We all lost the potential of these peoples’ lives, even us in Inverness, because we simply don’t know how they might have enriched our lives in the future, particularly those who died young. It is important for us to show solidarity with those who lose life and those torn apart by violence.
Thank God for the 2016 Cubs, who brought us not only a World Series championship but ended the longest championship drought in major sports history. If 2016 was a good year or a bad year for you, perhaps pausing and giving God thanks for the blessings that it brought you and the world would be a simple, yet worthwhile spiritual exercise.
So, again, that is where our theme of reNEW and light come in. We celebrate the Epiphany this weekend. The light of the star guides three interesting characters. They are sometimes called Wise Men, sometimes called Kings, sometimes called Magi, but we know that they are bringing substantial gifts to a baby king. They traveled together and they kept their eye on the star. When they got close to Jerusalem they made a fundamental mistake. They assumed. They assumed that the king was in the big city of Jerusalem and that he was a political king. But the astrology of the dark night, and one star in particular, motivated them to find a NEW king. As they consulted deeper wisdom, the star nudged them to nearby Bethlehem and the unfolding of another royal story.
One of the messages of Epiphany is that the Wise Men/Kings/ Magi never lost sight of the fact that the star led them to a three-fold spiritual journey. Movement one—it led them to travel with others (not alone). Movement two—it led them to their savior. Movement three—the savior inspired them to give away their gifts. This is a rich story that has much to offer our journey of 2017. Much more will follow this year regarding reNEW and our collective individual and communal journey.
The light that found us at Christmas was made so much brighter by the very hard work of so many in our community. Thanks to Brian Michalski and all of our liturgy and worship folks, to all who planned and participated in liturgical roles, and to the countless who volunteered to decorate and execute prayerful liturgical roles in our many Masses. Thanks to our dedicated operations crew who cleaned, set up, took down and worked so hard to host our many visitors, parishioners and guests. Thanks to Gene Garcia and the army of musicians and singers, and all who provided the creative technical expressions that are so easy to take for granted here at Holy Family, but make our worship experience truly unique. Thanks to so many of you who worked very hard to make the light of Christ coming into our world and community a bit brighter this Christmas.