Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time; St. Brigid Secondary Patron of Ireland

Of course Brigid is not celebrated this year but I did give her a mention in the Eucharistic Prayer. Some time ago I watched a TV program called "Digging for Jesus". At first I thought this would be another Christ-bashing exercise and the presenter was a sceptic or at least he started out that way. As he went around interviewing archaeologists in the Holy Land he was shocked to discover that they had no problem with the historicity of the Gospels. Their 'digging' confirmed that the Gospel authors knew the geography and culture of first century Palestine very well. They had discovered what they believed to be the High Priest's house not too far from the Temple among other previously unknown buildings. This leads me to today's Gospel. Jesus never comes right out and says "I am God; I am the Second Person of the Holy Trinity". Instead it is what He does and how He teaches, 'with authority' that point to His true identity. He calls Himself the healer of Israel, the Bridegroom, and the Shepherd all of which are symbols of God's relationship to Israel. He heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, makes the deaf hear, casts out demons and raises the dead. Finally, as John records, He tells them "Before Abraham was, I am". While not being as explicitly a claim to Divinity as we might think it is a claim to pre-existence and the next best thing. We have to the witness of those who followed and knew Him. They were prepared to endure years of hardship, rejection, persecution and even torture and death to spread His Gospel. They had little material reward, suffered hunger, thirst and poverty to bring others to Jesus. They believed Him because they saw Him risen from the dead. They understood the Divine plan and handed it on to us through the Church. In the midst of world that is always changing, with economies in crisis, and nations in turmoil, with wars and rumours of wars, one firm anchor holds fast: Christ the Eternal Word and Image of the Father. When we are built on Him we cannot be shaken.
Brigid was one lady who built on Christ. Miracle-worker, foundress and abbess of a monastery for women and men, peacemaker and evangelist for a new faith she must have been an extraordinary woman. Her cross, famous throughout Ireland, was woven from straw as she nursed her pagan father in his last illness. Her blue cloak is apparently preserved in Belgium. Her impact on Ireland was so great she became known as Mary of the Gael (Irish). She died in 525. Beannachtaí Lá Féile Bríd!

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