|Saint Alphonsus Liguori
Psalm 146:1-2, 2-4, 5-6
or Romans 8:1-4
I have just returned from a weekend in Hot Sulfur Springs, Colorado. Reading the readings today I can readily identify with the images Jeremiah and Jesus use to explain who we are and who our God is. An hour in the hot sulfur baths makes one literally feel like clay and the attendants about needed a fishing net to get me out of the hottest of the baths as my bones had turned back to clay and I was as red as a poached salmon. I also spent the next two days smelling like a book of matches! It was worth it though, as I feel like a new person with energy and a certain flair (Iím avoiding all open flames until the sulfur smell goes away!).
We are clay. We are fish. We are old and new. What does that all mean? Like all of Jesusí parables and the Prophetic images of the Hebrew Scriptures, there are a multitude of possible interpretations, each shaped from our personal and communal encounters with our God and with one another. Let me suggest some of what strikes me.
Clay is poor, earthy, simple, grounded, malleable, multi-colored, fragrant, noble, movable and sturdy. Clay transforms only if it undergoes heat or fire. In our Christian lives we are transformed by the fires of the sacraments, scripture and lifeís trials.
Fish are various, strong, sleek, colorful, bright, energetic, and different one from the others. Fish also turn over their lives so that we may live. Christ is depicted in the earliest of Christian symbols as a fish. So too are Christians so identified.
Old and new speaks past and future, traditions and innovations, antiques and innovations, thinking in the box and out of the box. Our faith relies on both the past and the future.
Thatís a little of who we are. But remember, all these symbols are relational -- they speak of our intimate relationship with our creator.
Our God as well as our Savior Jesus are the potters. God has created our very being, mounding us in the womb as the psalmist tell us. Jesus continues to shape us and make us more beautiful through each encounter we have with Him.
Jesus is the fisher, wishing all to be saved and catching fish of every kind (I hope you caught that phrase in the reading!). He risks his live and indeed gives his very life to bring in the catch.
Jesus is the head of the household who selects from what is old and what is new, asking us to be people of tradition, of the present and of the future too. He invites us to use what is good and holy in all times and places. He also sends His Spirit to help us make these important decisions when choosing.
Oh, I didnít go to Hot Sulfur Springs just to be baked like clay, to be poached like a fish or to make the old man new. My dearest friend, a Greek Orthodox priest, invited me to celebrate with his community the feast of Saint Elias (Elijah). Thus my transformations were spiritual as well as physical, sacred as well as mundane. Praying with the community, laughing with my friend whom I had not seen in a year, praying during the beautiful Orthodox liturgy, and eating with him and his parishioners all transformed and renewed me spiritually.
The gospel of Matthew tells us that after Jesus spoke these words he left. Unfortunately I could not stay with my friend or remain in the hot sulfur baths -- I have other things to do. But like the very words of Christ and the prophet this experience has been a transformative experience is so many ways.
Blessed be God our creator and transformer. Blessed be Jesus
who catches us up to be his own and provides us with both old and new for
His praise and glory!
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