Totally Forgettable Wedding Feast, Journey of Faith

Totally Forgettable Wedding Feast, Journey of Faith

“They have no wine.”   John 2:3

In Africa, weddings re crucial, fateful, far-reaching, revelatory social events.  They are not merely joyful private, personal celebrations, but momentous cosmic communal actions.  A marriage binds together the visible and invisible worlds: the extended families or clans of the bride and groom, all their clan ancestors, the invisible living dead, and the yet-to-be-born awaiting entrance into the visible world. 

Weddings are also predictive events.  Nothing should go wrong during such a pivotal social affair.  Everything needs to go right: plenty of happy people, plenty of food, plenty of dancing, plenty of noise.  Lavishness, a sign of abundant babies to come, is critical.  If something goes wrong, it is more than a regrettable blunder.  It is a distressing sign of impending evils. 

Ancient Galilee, it turns out, had much in common with contemporary Africa.  Things and signs should go just right at a wedding. That’s why I empathize with Mary.  The family is at a wedding feast at Cana when she notices that something has gone catastrophically wrong.  Filled with dread, Mary tells her son, “They have no wine.” 

That’s not a good sign, and here’s why.  More than an inconvenience or an embarrassment, this is a social disgrace.  No one runs out of wine at a wedding.  The families of the bride and groom would endure this shame for generations to come.  In fact, given the superstitions of the day, the unlucky bride and groom would become pariahs to be avoided at all costs. So, Mary’s concern for the well-being of her hosts—their reputation—is almost palpable.

And what does Mary’s son say in the midst of this looming social calamity?  Jesus answers his anxious mother this way, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?”  See what I mean about feeling for Mary?

Of course, we tend to forget that because we know that Jesus did perform a miracle that day, one that left the guests remarking that the best wine had been saved for last.  But I ask myself, why did he wind up showing such compassion for the partygoers of this tiny, insignificant, microscopic and totally forgettable wedding feast at Cana?  What is the meaning of this caring act for a seemingly inconsequential event in the life of our universe?   

Friend, one of the most revelatory mission stories I ever heard came from a Maryknoll brother I knew who served in China as a teacher of university students.  One day on the way to class, he stopped to bend down over a puddle of water to save earthworms from drowning.   A few of his students had witnessed the rescue and mocked him when he arrived in class.  Without missing a beat, he asked them to put themselves in the worm’s place.  With that some of the students began to weep.

Now that’s a transformation as good as water into wine. 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Father ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Lance Nadeau, M.M.

 

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

O Mary, at the wedding feast in Cana

you showed a mother’s concern

for the bride and groom and

their future happiness.

You interceded on their behalf

with your son knowing that his hour

had not yet come.

Your message to us today is the same

as to those servants in Cana:

“Do whatever he tell you.”

May we too obey your wish and become

obedient to your son

The Word Made Flesh.

O Jesus, change our daily lives

into the wine of happiness and peace

that comes to those who put their faith in You.

Teach us to give and not count the cost

to love and not recall the wounds

to serve and not mind the sacrifice

till all are welcomed to Your wedding

feast in heaven.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Worthy Servants, Journey of Faith

Worthy Servants, Journey of Faith

“I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice; I have grasped you by the hand.” Isaiah 42:6

Sometimes, when I read Scripture, the meaning is crystal clear. Other times, I find myself asking questions. This week’s Gospel has prompted me to do that once again.

We know from our readings that Jesus is the Lord’s chosen one, the one on whom God’s favor resets.  And the one who humbly asked his cousin John to baptize him.  But who is he really?  Could he really be they, not an individual but a group?

Christians rightly identify Jesus as the servant, the beloved Son who pleases God and on whom the Holy Spirit descends.  But he is not the only servant, the only beloved, the only pleasing one on whom the Spirit rests.  Every baptized person is a servant. I find the identity of the servant enigmatic, if not outright mysterious.

The identity of the servant may be a mystery but the servant’s mission is easily understood.  In describing the Lord’s calling of his people, Isaiah refers to tsedeqah.  Translated from the ancient Hebrew, we moderns might call this idea “distributive justice”—a practice that supports the well-being of all people through fair access to wealth, work, healthcare, and housing as well as the care of God’s creation.  If ever there was a time to practice justice… today’s the day.

Accepting our baptismal call to serve—even when doing what’s right seems futile or worse still, hopeless—is how the Holy Spirit rests upon us.  You may have your own extraordinary examples of God’s healing grace.  Here’s mine:  I served in Kenya during years of violence and political turmoil.  Families lost their homes and some lost their lives.  That’s when I met a mother who found refuge—yet again—in a displaced persons camp.  She told me she was resigned that nothing would ever change for her or her kids because nothing ever did.  But then she did something unforgettable.  When another displaced mother arrived in camp with her children, she invited them all to share her small tent.  And I do mean small.  Somehow they made room and shared what they could. 

Isaiah tells us the Lord wields his servant like a tool for mishpat, right rather than naked might.  But how is the servant to bring this justice to the earth?  Unobtrusively, compassionately: “Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench” Isaiah 42:2-3).  You will hardly know anything is happening, but the Lord will wield his instrument of justice, the servant, resolutely, steadfast. I have never experienced Isaiah’s tsedeqah in quite the same way after what I saw in that Kenyan camp.

Friend, we may not fully understand God but there is nothing mysterious about being the servant who brings justice to earth.  We can be Christ-like and worthy servants just by becoming an instrument of tsedeqah. And by trusting that the transformation of the world will come, sometimes in ways that we rarely know or can appreciate even in the unobtrusive compassion and mishpat of our baptized lives. 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Father ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Lance Nadeau, M.M.

Baptism of the Lord

All honor, glory and praise

to You Lord Jesus Christ

who took on our humanness,

living like us, dying for us,

rising with us that we might

live and die and rise with You.

O Son of God, may we be true

to our calling to be children of

Our Father in heaven.

Grant that we too might serve

as You served and love

as You loved and forgive

as You forgave.

Renew in our hearts our baptismal vows

to become brothers and sisters

to one another even as we are to Christ

and to continue his mission

to bring justice to the oppressed,

food to the hungry,

shelter for the homeless,

and God’s peace and love to all.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Always Welcome, Never Ungenerous, Journey of Faith

Always Welcome, Never Ungenerous, Journey of Faith

“And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.” Matthew 2:9

Occasionally unexpected.  Always welcome.  And never ungenerous.  That’s how I think of God’s presence in my life.

Epiphany means revealing and over the years I have experienced more than a few personal Epiphanies. I imagine you may have, too.  Today’s feast day is another reminder of how God’s grace has permeated—and enriched—our lives.  At one time or another, we have all experienced acts of kindness, courage, and personal piety.  I think of these gifts as the new gold, frankincense and myrrh—blessings revealed as blessings from God.

In the spirit of the day, let me share a few of my revelatory experiences.  I grew up in a white ethnic American Catholic family. I was an altar boy and attended a Catholic elementary school. I even attended a Catholic college! I see myself as Catholic through and through.

But over the years three other religious traditions have shaped me deeply.  During my high school years I attended shul (that’s Yiddish for synagogue) with my Jewish friends.  Their observance of the Torah impressed me deeply.  Later, as a missioner in Egypt, I experienced the piety of my Muslim friends. The rhythm of Islamic observances–daily prayers, fasting during Ramadan, and zakat, their obligatory acts of charity for the poor—moved me.

During my years working as a missioner in Kenya and Tanzania, traditional African religions impacted me in yet another way.  I began to absorb a worldview unlike anything I had experienced before.  In Africa, people see themselves as members of a community formed by their ancestors—going all the way back to the very first human who walked on African soil—and by those yet-to-be-born.

All these revelations–a series of Epiphanies that expanded my appreciation for other religions—deepened my own Catholic faith.  I learned that God’s presence can come unexpectedly from anyone and anywhere—at any time—if we are open to receiving it.

In today’s Gospel we see that Herod was fearful of the Magi’s mission, fearful that his power would come into question.  That fear kept him—a Jewish king, worshipper of the One God with access to experts on Scripture and its meaning—from making his way to Jesus. The Magi, on the other hand, were astrologers.

That star over Bethlehem spoke to them, perhaps in some unexpected way. Whatever they heard, it was revelatory enough to inspire them to travel far is search of a light that could transform their lives.

Friend, on the feast of the Epiphany I invite you to follow your own star and be transformed by the presence of God in your life.  Perhaps you will be that shining light for someone… a peacemaker, a healer of hurts, a source of wisdom.  We are all chosen, we have all been called.  And we are all capable of revealing God’s goodness not just today but always.  Why not give it a try.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Father ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Lance Nadeau, M.M.

Feast of the Holy Family

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

You have given us a beautiful example

of family and holiness by

overcoming problems, facing dangers

and resolving misunderstandings

by Your faith in God and through

Your love for one another.

Give us patience to endure setbacks,

courage to confront injustice

and faith to accept God’s will

even when we cannot be sure

of what to do.

Grant every family a mother’s love

a father’s wisdom and a son’s devotion

that our family might reflect Yours.

May we be ever mindful that a family is

made holy not by the absence of problems

but by the presence of God.

Amen

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Celebration of Hope or Love and Forgiveness, Journey of Faith

Celebration of Hope or Love and Forgiveness, Journey of Faith

“Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Luke 2:48

Yesterday, the Nativity of Our Lord, was a great family day for many, packed from beginning to end with tradition and celebratory moments.  Most of us find purpose and meaning in our families, and Christmas is often when our expectations for “comfort and joy” are highest.

And yet… Christmas can be a lonely and painful time especially if there are disappointments or unresolved conflicts.  Well, guess what?  The Holy Family experienced conflict and tension, too.  In some ways, they were like us:  imperfect human beings struggling to overcome the challenges of their day—and trusting that with God’s help they would succeed.   

Read Luke’s Gospel today and you’ll see what I mean.  Jesus is already 12 years old now, accompanying his parents to Jerusalem for Passover.  After the feast, the family returns home with a caravan of friends and relatives, but Jesus decides to stay behind—without telling his parents.  Really?!  When Mary realizes that her little boy is not traveling with the other children, she panics.  She and Joseph return to Jerusalem filled with dread.  Eventually, their search takes them to the temple where their child is actually sitting with the elders, asking and answering questions like a scholar.  Mary couldn’t hold back her relief, but she wasn’t exactly happy either.  She says, “Son, why have you done this to us?”  I don’t know about you, but my sympathies are with Mary.  When Jesus answers his mother with, “Why were you looking for me?,” don’t you wonder how Mary responds?  What do you do with a child who is reprimanding his own parents?  Luke doesn’t tell us, but just so you know, my mother wouldn’t have remained silent! 

Throughout her life Mary endured many upsets just trying to be the best parent she could.  And we have to believe that Joseph did, too.  Were they always meek and mild in the face of events they couldn’t completely understand?  Probably not.  How did they resolve conflict?  Ultimately, by trusting in God.

Healing a wounded family may seem beyond our ken at times.  I realize that a change of heart

doesn’t happen in a few hours around the dinner table.  And we all know that life isn’t a performance of A Christmas Carol.  But when a rebirth happens, it’s so rewarding—it’s the very celebration of life that we memorialize in all the traditions of Christmas. Rebirth and renewal are possible if we just pause to ask ourselves, “How much healing can I offer someone right now?  And how much healing am I willing to accept if offered to me?” 

Friend, the Holy Family was not a collection of stick figures.  These were real people who experienced sorrow, anxiety, and disappointment just like the rest of us.  Who knows, maybe Mary and Joseph were the inspiration for St. Paul who taught us to always express “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Father ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Lance Nadeau, M.M.

Feast of the Holy Family

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

You have given us a beautiful example

of family and holiness by

overcoming problems, facing dangers

and resolving misunderstandings

by Your faith in God and through

Your love for one another.

Give us patience to endure setbacks,

courage to confront injustice

and faith to accept God’s will

even when we cannot be sure

of what to do.

Grant every family a mother’s love

a father’s wisdom and a son’s devotion

that our family might reflect Yours.

May we be ever mindful that a family is

made holy not by the absence of problems

but by the presence of God.

Amen

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

The Grace of Mission, Journey of Faith

The Grace of Mission, Journey of Faith

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:45

The women in Luke’s Gospel always amaze me.  The two I remember today with affection are Mary and Elizabeth—devoted cousins, faithful servants of God, and expectant mothers.   

Carrying the gift of life in their womb, the women prepared themselves for their unique calling.  They could not understand the fullness of their mission.  But they placed their complete trust in God—Mary a virgin, Elizabeth a woman well past her prime.   And like most mothers-to-be, they had dreams for their children.  Because that’s what mothers do.

Some of you know that I spent decades in Africa, most recently in Kenya.  In the week before Christmas, I am praying for the mothers and pregnant women I served in Nairobi.  They have dreams, too, and some are managing new lives transformed by the grace of mission.  In the waning days of Advent, I want to share their story.

When the pandemic hit Kenya, many cities and towns went into a tailspin.  Jobs dried up and unemployment in the informal economy topped 50%.  Then the government imposed a curfew and by 7:00 pm the streets were empty.  People who ate two meals a day were the lucky ones.  Among the people who suffered the most were the commercial sex workers and their children.  They had no food—and no money for rent, school fees, or medical care.

We found a way out of this nightmare.  In East Africa small businesses import used clothing from the global north that is then sold by local street vendors.  As I had hoped, many women were eager to give street vending a try.  Some even decided to band together as a group business for protection and safety.  Keep in mind… many of these women had been thrown out of their homes by husbands who wanted another wife or partner.  Their life choices were made out of desperation.

What did those mothers dream about?  Not unlike Mary and Elizabeth, I can tell you they dreamed about providing for their children.  They dreamed about a transformed world—a Promised Land—where justice overcomes hate, where the poor, the hungry and the abused are free of deprivation, where mothers can raise their children in safety.

Friend, the Christmas story about to unfold is richer for me than ever before.  I give thanks for the dreams that motivate people to survive, and I give thanks for those who participate in dreams by rescuing people in crisis.  May the birth of the Christ Child be your inspiration to share His love in ways that only you can.      

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Father ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Lance Nadeau, M.M.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

O come, Emanuel, God-with-us,

into our world, our homes, and our hearts

even as You made the Virgin Mary the living Tabernacle

of Your glory and Elizabeth a sign of hope in old age.

Bless all expectant mothers with the grace

and strength they will need to bring new life

into our world, and the wisdom to raise their children

in love of the Lord, bless all fathers with gentleness

and courage to be models of virtue to their sons and daughters.

May all people work together to build a

better world where children are wanted,

loved, fed, clothed and educated

the better to reflect the divine image

in which we are all created to the glory of God.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Luke the evangelist and Rules of Thumb, Journey of Faith

Luke the evangelist and Rules of Thumb, Journey of Faith

“Your kindness should be known to all.” Philippians 4:5

Luke the evangelist returns today with what I like to call “Rules of Thumb.”  His storytelling centers on the preaching—once again—of our friend John the Baptist who was asked by a restive crowd what people should do to prepare for the Messiah. 

John answers them, not as a politician but as a missioner.  If you have two cloaks, he says, share one with someone who has none.  If you have extra food, give some to the person who has little.  Even the dreaded tax collectors asked John for advice.  These were predators who routinely bilked people with threats, keeping what they stole.  John told them what they probably knew in their hearts:  don’t exploit people or harm them; be satisfied with your wages.

“Rules of Thumb” come about when people recognize an injustice and commit themselves to ending it.  What better time than Advent to take an inventory of the soul and decide how our baptismal call to serve can guide us in the New Year.  Big reforms are always welcome but ending climate change or extremes of wealth may be beyond our personal reach.  John the Baptist is saying small-scale changes are meaningful, too.  Let charity, especially for the poor, help you do the hard work of day-to-day living.

Friend, when the crowds heard John preach, they were “filled with expectation.”  We are filled with expectation, too, because we know the promise of the Christ Child is at hand.  May the next two weeks be rich for you in prayer and preparation, and all the small gifts of caring and service that honor your call to mission.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Father ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Lance Nadeau, M.M.

Third Sunday of Advent

We long for peace and thirst for justice

O God of Mary, Joseph and John.

Give us the sight to recognize injustice

and the courage to right the wrongs we see.

Help us help others, especially those who

have lost hope and joy of life.

May we build a better world by

being better ourselves.

Even as we await the return of Christ

may we discover anew all the wonders

and miracles with which You have blessed us.

Remove from us, Lord, anything that keeps us

from knowing, loving and following You

more and more everyday.

Fill our hearts with a fervent expectation

of Your kingdom here on earth

beginning with us, here and now.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

ABOUT MARYKNOLL

We are a Catholic Society of priests and brothers based in the United States. We are dedicated to missionary work overseas in over 20 countries. Additionally, we animate Catholics in the United States to follow their own baptismal call to share God’s compassion and love with the poor, the sick, and all those in need.

OUR GENERAL COUNCIL

L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Fr. James M. Lynch, Fr. Lam M. Hua, Fr. Lance P. Nadeau, Fr. Timothy O. Kilkelly)

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is overseen by our General Council, led by Superior General Rev. Lance P. Nadeau, M.M.

OUR FOUNDERS

L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Our Co-Founders Father Price and Father Walsh)

PLACES WE SERVE

EVANGELIZATION, PARISHES, AND PROJECTS

USA

STORIES OF MISSION

(Africa) Education and Formation of African Clergy

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Africa Region will provide tuition assistance to African clergy, male and female religious at institutes of higher education or specialized training. Read More

Stories of Our Global Mission

The calling of a lifetime

The life of a Maryknoll missioner is challenging, fulfilling, and deeply rewarding. Follow your baptismal call to mission by sharing God’s compassion with the poor, the sick, and people most in need.

L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier
“Go where you are needed but not wanted, and stay until you are wanted but not needed.”
– Bishop James E. Walsh, M.M.
First Maryknoll Bishop