SFX Bulletin, 1 March 2015 Most of us can relate to many of the events in Jesus’ life.  We can relate to his temptations in the desert, his rejection by various groups of people and his abandonment by his apostles for we, too, encounter such trials although not to such intense degrees as Jesus did (Mk.1:13;6:16;14:50).

However, there is perhaps one event in Jesus’ life – his transfiguration (today’s gospel) - that may be difficult for us to grasp. What happened and what is the significance of that event for us as Jesus’ followers?

Mark tells us that when Jesus was transfigured, “his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them” (Mk.9:3).  Seeing this, Peter, James and John “were so frightened” (Mk.9:6).   
SFX Bulletin, 22 February 2015 Has the Church always celebrated Lent? What exactly is this 40-day period of fasting, prayer and almsgiving (or similar works of sacrifice and love) supposed to lead to?

The word Lent itself simply means “Spring” or “March” in Anglo-Saxon.  It refers to the time of the year when the Lent-Easter season usually occurs.  The earliest reference to Lent is in a letter from St. Ireneaus (d.203) to Pope St. Victor I about Easter, “The dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast for one day, some for two…some make their 'day' last 40 hours on end.” (Eusebius, History of the Church, v24).  By the 4th century, the 40-day period of fasting had become the norm as preparation for Holy Week and Easter.  Nevertheless, the number “40” is not to be taken literally.  It symbolizes a long time of testing or trial as in the long period that Israel wandered in the desert before entering the Promised Land (40 years) or Jesus’ time in the desert (40 days) - which is our gospel text for today.
SFX Bulletin, 11 January 2015 While Scripture is to be prayerfully read as sacred text and not always as literal history, bible scholars almost all agree that the baptism of Jesus which is recorded in all four gospels (Mt.3:13-17; Mk.1:9-11; Lk.3:21-23; Jn.1:29-33)  is an event that actually took place – it is as true as Jesus’ crucifixion.  For many of us, Jesus’ baptism  never fails to make us pause and ponder.   Why did Jesus, who has no sin, ask John for this rite of repentance? 

Reflecting on this event, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, said, “Jesus did not need to be baptised, but the first theologians say that, with his body, with his divinity, in baptism he blessed all the waters, so that the waters would have the power to confer baptism.  And then, before ascending to Heaven, Jesus told us to go into all the world to baptize.  And from that day forward up until today, this has been an uninterrupted chain: they baptised their children…And today this chain continues” (Angelus, 13 January 2013).
SFX Bulletin, 4 January 2015 The Greek word “Epiphaneia” from which we get the English word “Epiphany” means “appearance” or “manifestation” of a divine reality.  The Church celebrates this as a Feast marking the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God not only to the Jewish people but to the whole world – to “the nations” as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah (Isa.60:3).  The wise men from the east in seeing this revelation made true before their eyes in the child Jesus with his mother Mary, fell to their knees and “did him homage…opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Mt.2:11).

Today, many of us feel the need to verify the historicity of the magi.  We want to know which countries “from the east” these wise men originate; we question their “wisdom” since their occupation seems to be star-gazing;  were they really called Casper, Melchior and Balthazar; were there only three wise men since only three types of gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are mentioned.  All these questions on literal details miss the point of what the gospel writer wants to say – that in encountering Jesus and coming to know that God is now in our midst most intimately in the community of believers called the church - one has received an epiphany that is beyond words – a joy so deep that the only appropriate response is adoration and submission symbolized by the wise men falling on their knees and paying homage and in the Psalmist’s declaration that in coming to know and experience the saving help of the Lord “all nations shall fall prostrate” (Ps.71:11).
SFX Bulletin, 28 December 2014 Nativity scenes invariably depict Baby Jesus in a manger with Our Lady and St. Joseph gazing in wonder and adoration.  While revealing not only Mary and Joseph’s marvel at God made flesh but so humbly trusting and vulnerable like any normal human infant, this scene also reveals God’s desire for every child to be in a family unit – to have a father and a mother who would protect and nurture the child.

In speaking of the family, the Catechism tells us that the family is a “natural society” where human beings associate with one another to develop human qualities like initiative and responsibility (CCC1882); it is the “original cell of society” in which “authority, stability and a life of relationships…constitute the foundations for freedom, security and fraternity within society” (CCC2207) and it is also a “privileged community” for it is within families that one first experiences an affinity of feelings, affections and other interests (CCC2206).

The Church proposes to us the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a powerful role model for the struggles and joys of family life.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says that while the Holy Family is “unique and unrepeatable”, it is nevertheless “a “model of life” for every family because Jesus, true man, chose to be born into a human family and thereby blessed and consecrated it…God wanted to be born and to grow up in a human family. In this way he consecrated the family as the first and ordinary means of his encounter with humanity” (Angelus, 26 Dec. 2006; 31 Dec. 2010 – italics are the Pope’s).