Today we celebrate the grandparents of Jesus, the parents of the Blessed Mother. It’s a chance for us to think about the importance of grandparents in passing along the faith, in showing examples to their grandkids, telling stories of the faith. There’s an association out there called the Catholic Grandparents Association. It helps grandparents in this important endeavor.
Today is the feast of St. James. One of the biggest and most important pilgrimages takes place in honor of today’s saint every year, the Camino de Santiago (the way of St James). We pray for the pilgrims. His remains were discovered in Compestella in the ninth century, where he had brought the message of Jesus during his life. A large church was constructed on the site, and that is the ending point of this ancient pilgrimage. We are a people who, like St James and the millions and millions of pilgrims who have made the camino over the years know this: we believe that if we want to grow closer to God and bring his message to the world, we must move our feet….not just our hearts or spirits.
“You too left Egypt, at baptism!” St Augustine said those words years ago. In baptism, we leave the shackles of original sin behind and enter the promised land of the church just as our ancestors in faith left the land of Egypt, as we hear about in our first reading today. Praise God!!
We continue to consider the power of the Precious Blood of Jesus, as we do throughout the month of July. Our readings today help us. In our first reading from Exodus, we hear how the Lord ordered Moses and Aaron to instruct the faithful in the land of Egypt to get a lamb and sprinkle some of its blood on the doorposts and the lintel of every house. God says he will come by and wipe out everything in Egypt, except the houses marked by blood. Those folks, they will have life. We who have the Precious Blood of Jesus, we who are marked with that, in a similar way have life….have salvation. We have been saved by that blood. We pray that blood will cover the whole world, that is, that all might come to believe. Ephesians says, “You who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” His blood has that power.
Today we celebrate St. Lawrence of Brindisi, a 16th/17th century saint. He spoke many languages and by the time he was my age, 31, he was papal emissary and peacemaker. He brought many people to the Lord. He wanted to blood of Jesus on everyone. I read this quote the other day from Nelson Mandela that I think applies to him well: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
Our psalm today says: “I am sunk in the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold; I have reached the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me.” From time to time we find ourselves in a swanp, sinking and driven down by stress or overwhelmed by troubles. But God reaches out to us and saves us. He reached out and saved Moses in our first reading, for example. He will do so for us. Jesus talks about his mighty works and says he is amazed how many of them he has done that have gone unnoticed or unthanked. It’s true! His nightly works, they are crazy and beautiful. And of course the greasiest of his works is his gift of salvation, how we reached down to us and brings us up. We would sink down to the netherworld, every one of us, were it not for our savior.
“Yet the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.” How beautiful. God transforms our oppression into fruitfulness!
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” I love going to the cemetery at St. Mary of the Woods. Hundreds and hundreds of nuns buried there. They gave up everything, and in so doing, they found even more: God himself. The more we give up of ourselves and so on, the more we find Jesus.
Today’s first reading is so beautiful. Here’s how it starts:
Israel set out with all that was his. When he arrived at Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called, “Jacob! Jacob!” He answered, “Here I am.” Then he said: “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you a great nation. Not only will I go down to Egypt with you; I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes.”
Jacob (Israel) must have been rather nervous to leave the Promised Land and go to Egypt in the midst of the famine there. Jacob was old at this time. He probably feared he would never make it, let alone make it back home to the land promised to his grandfather Abraham. Would the land be lost forever? But then God says not to worry, that God will join him on the journey. Jacob finds his son Joseph and they embrace. And then he dies, but God is true to his word. His body returns to the Promised Land. When will we ever learn: calm down and just trust.