Saturday, October 8, 2011


Bi-Bi-lingual Sunday

ago I had the honor of celebrating two Sunday morning bilingual masses. The first was my usual English-Spanish one, and the second was English-French for a special celebration of the French-speaking African community at St. Mary’s, the abbey’s parish. The following is the text of my homily (delivered in English) at the second mass. I thought you might enjoy it.

The Prism of God

Imagine a pure white light, a hundred times brighter than the sun. It’s so bright, of course that you can’t look directly at it. Well, see, we can’t look directly at God either – God is just too much for us to comprehend!

But think about this: scientists have long had a way of analyzing sunlight: the use of a prism – a piece of crystal or glass, for example, that allows sunlight to pass through it, but then breaks down the sunlight into the various colors that make it up, from red at one end to violet at the other end of the spectrum. This, as we know, is what makes the beautiful colors of a rainbow.

I want you now to think of Jesus as a prism. He takes the incredibly bright light of God’s pure being which is totally incomprehensible to us humans and breaks that divine light down for us into more manageable rays into understandable terms that we human beings can see & relate to.

Now look at this morning’s second reading with me for a moment.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus,
Who … emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.

This is Christ the prism, breaking down the mystery of God’s love into human terms:
He’s telling us that God is eternally giving himself for others – indeed for US
Of course we can’t understand exactly what that means, because God is ultimately beyond our understanding, but we can at least try to grasp a little bit of the blinding truth about the mystery of this God we believe in, this God we pray to.

Especially on Calvary Jesus has “broken down” God for us: And by his suffering and death, Our Lord has shown us not the Old Testament God of Hosts, the God of armies, but rather God DISARMED, hanging on the cross. You thought God was rich and powerful, and he certainly is, since he’s infinite. But Christ lets you see deep into God’s very being:
God’s richness lies not in possessing but in giving. It’s the richness of a total self-offering, with no reservations or second thoughts.

Simultaneous Translation

But there is a second image that occurs to me this morning, maybe a better one than a prism; appropriately enough it is the image of a translator. Sometimes a student of mine will be absent from school because he had to go with his parent to translate for them

Some of you may have had the experience of depending on a translator to tell you what was going on. Without the translator you would have had no idea of what was happening around you.

I had that happen to me in Hungary. I don’t speak or understand any Hungarian, and so I had to depend on a Hungarian friend to translate for me all the time. Especially at the family dinner table: “They’re discussing where they should take you sightseeing in Budapest tomorrow.” “My mother is asking how you like her goulash.” She’s asking if you want some more – and she says you’re too skinny”

You depend on the translator to tell you pretty much everything, so that you can understand what’s going on.

Well, imagine Jesus as our translator, as the one who translates God for us, a God who is otherwise so infinite as to be far beyond our comprehension. By becoming one of us, Jesus became the “WORD MADE FLESH”

God became a word, a word that translates the divine nature for us. Jesus our brother translates God into human deeds and actions, and so reveals to us the blindingly beautiful truths about the inner life of God. And what does he say, what does he teach us about God?

From the manger in Bethlehem Jesus translates God, telling us: “God says he loves us so much that he wants to become one of us that he is infinitely humble and gentle.

In the miracle of healing a blind beggar Jesus translates God for us: God is Light that enlightens your life if you let him, that dispels the darkness of your sin and sorrow and ignorance.”

When he calms the stormy sea he is translating God for us: “God has power over everything, the creator is in complete charge, so all you need to do is put your trust in the Lord and you will have nothing, absolutely nothing, to fear.”

From the cross on Calvary, as Paul reminds us in the second reading today, Christ is still translating God for us: In giving us his son, God gives us himself. In not sparing his only Son, God did not spare himself, but gave himself for us. God became a slave and died the death of a slave

Through his life, death and resurrection and through his life of total, constant self-giving, Jesus has translated God for us.

Do You Speak God?

But there’s more to the story. Again let’s look at the second reading: Paul advises us there,
“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others. Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.”

Well, there it is. We are, it seems, being recruited as translators ourselves!
“Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus,”

Have any of you ever been called on to translate for someone in some situation or other? Where someone depended on you to put something into a language that they could understand? Well Paul is calling on all of us this morning to become full-time translators

When you have Christ’s attitude of selfless love, of humble service and self-sacrifice, then your actions and your words will begin to reveal something about God to those around you.

Your humble attitude of service to someone you work with will translate God for them: Not a God of domination or armies but a God disarmed, a God of infinite patience and boundless, self-giving love.

Your patience in bearing suffering or trials will translate God for someone close to you who knows what you’re going through.

Your act of forgiveness when someone has wronged you will translate for that person as God who is infinitely forgiving, who loves us unconditionally, no matter what.

Like a bright, clear prism, like Jesus himself, you can “break down” the blinding brightness of God for people and help them to see something about God. By your example you give a priceless gift to others -- especially a glimpse of a God acquainted with suffering, a God who carried a cross so that your own suffering would take on an ultimate meaning. So that your own cross would become a path to glory.

What a gift to give someone! What a ministry! What a beautiful service to perform for another! Even better than translating Ibo or French for them. You translate GOD!

Let us pray that each of us, no matter what our native language, may take up St. Paul’s challenge this morning and become “translators of God” for those we live with, for those we work with, for our friends and our foes.



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