Tuesday July 17th 2018

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST 17th December 2017

We have all at some time or another seen the moon on a day when moon-set is late — the moon is just visible in the sky in the morning even though the sun has come up and is bright in the sky. The moon is much dimmed by the power of the sun’s magnificent light, but you can just make it out.

This gives us a way of seeing all the Old Testament prophets and also, the greatest of the prophets, the man who stands on the threshold of the New Testament, with a foot in both — John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin. John stands in the tradition of all the great Old Testament prophets. He tells forth the word of God; he announces the coming of the Word of God made flesh. He baptises. His is a baptism of repentance which Jesus, by humbly undergoing John’s baptism, even though he is without sin, transfigures into a baptism into the new life of his redemption. It becomes for us, through Jesus’ action, a death, a death to sin, to selfishness, to willful independence, a death to death, a death of death. And though baptism, transfigured by Jesus, we are united to his resurrection, his rising to new life. Through baptism it becomes possible for us, in Christ, and though the Trinity making their abode in our hearts, for us to live the new relationship with the Father to which Christ invites us.

In the darkness before the coming of the Son, John shines as a light, pointing to the coming Christ, whom we bring to the forefront of out minds during Advent. Moonlight is beautiful and, on the night of a full moon, it is sufficient to see. But it is a pale light, compared to the true light of the sun.

We know that the moon has no light of its own. Because of where the moon is positioned in the sky, at night, when part of the earth is in darkness, because of being turned away from the sun, the sun’s light illumines the moon and the moon reflects that light of the sun, changed but still truly sunlight, onto the darkened earth. The moon reminds us that the sun is still there.

The prophets reflected God’s light to the earth. John was the promise of the true light yet to come.

And then Christ came. Jesus calls John the greatest of all the prophets. And he truly is. We all know the difficulty of stepping out of the limelight; those of you who have retired, know how hard it is to give up the work that has given meaning to our lives. Those who have been in charge, know how difficult it is to step down and take a back seat. We have the example of leaders all over Africa who never want to relinquish power.

But John knows how to allow Jesus to increase and himself to decrease, as the moon graciously allows the sun to take over. She knows her light is only from the sun in the first place. John knows his vocation is to reflect Christ. He is not Christ. In his humility is his greatness. This is why Jesus says he is the greatest of all the prophets: because John knows how to step out of the limelight when his vocation is accomplished. He has pointed to Christ.

At the time of Vatican Council II, they found a new way of articulating something we have known, but have struggled to put words to, for centuries. If we understand that the sacraments are moments of encounter with the living God, given to us by God, we realise that the original sacrament is, in fact, the Christ-child in the manger in Bethlehem; the man Jesus walking among his people in Galilee, healing, teaching, dying, rising.

And so the theologian, Kloppenberg, coined the phrase, ‘the Sacrament of the Moon.’ We who have heard the Word and have believed, the Body of Christ, the Church; we in whose hearts the Trinity has made their abode … we are sacrament.

The Church (not the institution, but us) is like the moon. Christ has returned to the Father, sending us the Spirit so that the Trinity can make their abode in our hearts. The world is in darkness because the Son is no longer physically present. The world has turned its back on the Light. But His Light is reflected to the earth by us. We are not the Light, like John the Baptist says of himself. But the Light is reflected to those around us through us. We are the moon. We are the sacrament of Christ.

And all the Sacraments of the Church, then, flow from this first premise: Jesus is the Sacrament of God … he made God present in the world. And he chose us to be his sacrament. The seven sacraments then are moments of encounter because we are sacrament of Jesus in the first place.

Furthermore, in the same way that the moon’s light is beautiful, but a pale reflection of the sun, we are (like John the Baptist) not Christ. We do not reflect Christ’s light perfectly. But enough for others to discover him through us.

And, like John the Baptist, we must know that we merely point. We must decrease, fade, before the true Light coming into the world. Our reward is knowing that we have pointed others to Christ.

But do they? Do others truly encounter Christ when they encounter me? What light do I reflect?

Fr Scott, CSsR

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Garden of Remembrance Project update

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