Sunday, January 8, 2017
These bitter cold days are no fun, and unfortunately there’s not much we can do about it! As many faithful, native sons and daughters of this the Windy City will often say to us complainers, “Hey, that’s Chicago in the winter!”
This past week I was in conversation with a friend, who happens to be a Rabbi living in sunny Naples, Florida, about these extreme weather days with such cold temps. He was in Chicago to join me in celebrating the life of Bill Aronin, one of our great OSP members who died two days after Christmas after a long courageous illness. Bill was a good friend to me and to this wonderfully beloved Rabbi. Caught off guard by the frigid wind chills, the Rabbi acknowledged that this weather was really wild, but in the same breath (as I was asking him to take me back to Florida) my rabbinic friend said, “Well this is like our summers, but at the other extreme! It gets hot and humid for a long time,” he said. “Nothing we can do about it”, we both acknowledged, except to stay in inside.
I was thinking about that imagery when I was in the middle of a conversation this week about the state of the Church and the larger culture. I don’t think it’s any secret that we, the church (and quite frankly organized religion) find ourselves in a curious situation with respect to the larger culture. Though we might use various analogies to make the point, the truth of the matter is that the world of “faith” as given to us through our formal ecclesial experience, continues to find itself in the midst of a “headwind”, and this headwind is fierce. It pushes back on us with great strength and indicates often through the messages of pop culture that many of us don’t need the help of Church. It is, in many ways, like the weather outside. There’s not much we can necessarily do to change the weather conditions (although I would suggest we start listening to Pope Francis about our Care for God’s Creation and global warming, which is real!) and these extremely frigid days, but perhaps using the metaphor of our HVAC systems: we can adjust what goes on inside our house! The culture might say one thing, but I can always adjust what’s happening in my internal home and where the Risen Lord speaks to me.
At times, it may seem that the direction of the outer world (as least as we’re experiencing it here in the U.S.) might appear to be overwhelming and perhaps even off-putting to the Christ of faith and the community of believers who are called to follow him. Though I will continue to try, with all my heart, to strengthen the world with the beautiful gift of the gospel message, the most important thing for all of us as believers, is to make sure we’re taking care of what’s happening INSIDE the house! Maybe that’s something to think about as we begin this new calendar year of 2017. Let’s take care of our “house” and work on strengthening our own faith lives. Let’s do what we need to do in order to make the necessary adjustments on the climate both within the larger church and within our domestic churches with our spouses, relatives, and children. Let’s find ways to do what shepherds did so many years ago, after they had internalized the message of the angels, and make Jesus known to our children and those of the next generation.Otherwise, without first knowing the beauty and warmth of the gospel message, we might be caught off guard by the whipping winds of the uncertainties and mixed messages when we step outside.
Today, being Epiphany day, we hear from Matthew’s account about the Magi. The image of the gospel text that sticks with me this year is the last line of the story, “They went home by another way.” After encountering the Incarnate God, the Prince of Peace and Light of the World, in the child Jesus, Matthew tells us that instead of going back on the same path of destruction and violence, a road poisoned by the wickedness of Herod, the Magi heard the voice of an angel who said, “Try another road. Find a new one.” So too, for us, on this second Sunday of our new year, may we hear the invitation of the Holy One who invites us and challenges us, to find another way. Make the necessary adjustments in order to be more alive in faith. Change what needs to be changed. Re-work calendars, routines, habits, and expectations in order to strengthen the domestic church of our homes and communities.
Let’s pray for each other as we begin 2017. So many people I know are carrying over a lot of hurt and pain from 2016. Illness and suffering don’t look at calendars.
God’s Peace be with us all.
Fr. Tom Hurley
(PS- Keep in touch on Twitter and Instagram! @TomHurleyOSP)