Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve in Taiwan

The travel from D.C. to Taipei was surprisingly easy.  Seems that D.C. and Baltimore were in a donut hole surrounded by snow.  Dulles was practically empty when I arrived.  Had to check-in a second time after the plane was changed.  The exit row window seat made it worthwhile.  We were an hour late taking off but that was due to the late arrival of the plane from LA that would turn around and head to San Francisco.  It got better.  When the doors on China Air (GREAT airline) closed no one was sitting in the middle seat.  Yesssssss!!! (multiple fist pumps).  Arrived on time to find Ignatius waiting for me. 

This was the first time I arrived in Asia in the early morning rather than 7 PM or so.  What a difference.  Weather was nice.  I was able to stay awake much of the day and then take a short nap.  As a result sleep was no problem.  Some mid-day fatigue continues but an early morning walk with the camera followed by a short post-lunch walk with Ignatius is helping bring the fatigue under control

It is great to be back in Taipei.  I wouldn’t mind staying here long term.  Love the city, the food, the people and the photographic potential.  I spent some of this morning wandering the small alleys and lanes in the neighborhood taking pix.  Will try to post some tomorrow. 

New Year’s Eve is going to be quiet.  I have neither the desire nor the energy to stay up for midnight (it will be 11 AM in D.C.).  And I have the 11 AM English Mass at the parish here (Sacred Heart) where Ignatius is pastor.   We’re going to go out for a bit this evening to have a beer and chat.  We’re both tired so there is no question of staying up until midnight or dealing with the traffic coming back from fireworks at Taipei 101.

The bad news.  I won’t get to see any football.  However, it is my duty to write . . .

GO PENN STATE.  Will check ESPN the moment I wake up (the game begins at 2 AM Taipei time) 

Below is the homily I’ll give at Mass tomorrow. 

+Fr. Jack

Solemnity of Mary Mother of God and Giving of the Name of Jesus (Sacred Heart Parish, Taipei)

Today is a day of celebration.  Not just one celebration but several celebrations.  One of those celebrations is secular.  It is the new year the first day of 2011; a day that was welcomed, at least by some, with fireworks at Taipei 101, parties in homes and other forms of celebration.

Was it really 11 years ago that paranoia consumed the world at the prospect of the new millennium, the year 2000?  Was it that long ago when dire predictions of a world-wide computer crash and other cataclysmic events were the top stories in the news?  We can summarize the unimpressive impact of the new millennium by paraphrasing Genesis: “And there was evening and there was morning.  The new millennium.”

New Year’s Day pushes us toward introspection and self-evaluation;
looking into ourselves and considering the year that has passed; the good and the bad, the joyful and the sorrowful, the gains and the losses.  We also look ahead to the future.  Is this the year I will quit smoking?  Will my life change for the better or the worse?  How can I take advantage of this new beginning?

But, there is a more important celebration today; a celebration that is two sides of the same coin.  A deeply religious celebration that recalls the universe-shaking event of two millennia in the past.

Today is: The Solemnity of Mary Mother of God and The Giving of the Name of Jesus.   

“When the fullness of time had come,
God sent his Son, born of a woman . . . “

History reached a climax it will never surpass with the birth and death
of Jesus.  This climax began with the words of Mary—“may it be done unto me according to your word” and proceeded through Jesus’ final words on the cross, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” 

This event changed the history of the world and the universe. It is a change that echoes through the universe at this moment; a change that will continue to echo through the universe until it ends and will reverberate beyond the end of the universe, beyond the end of all time. We are blessed to be living in that fullness of time. 

 “In the fullness of time, God sent his Son born of a woman. . . . “
Jesus:  Truly God
Jesus:  Truly man
Jesus:  Fully Divine
Jesus:  Fully human.

It is because Jesus is truly Man, because Jesus is truly human,
that Mary has the title  Mother of God.  Mary carried Jesus in her womb until, at the end of her pregnancy, she bore a son.

Then, as we hear in today’s gospel,  “When the eighth day came
and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus,
the name the angel had given him before his conception.”

We can identify with Mary and Joseph.  Young parents.  Who had to figure it out as they went along.  We can identify with Mary and Joseph who endured the same kind of stresses and strains that we endure; who felt the same emotions that we feel; who were cold, tired, hungry, joyful, contented, and consoled; just as we are. 

Mary and Joseph were righteous.  They observed the laws of the Torah and the laws of the land; they gave to God that which was God’s and to Caesar that which was Caesar’s.  Thus, they journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfill the law to be enrolled.  Eight days after the child was born they went to the Temple, as prescribed by Jewish law, to have him circumcised and to give him the name:  Jesus. 

Today we celebrate that name, the name above all other names, the name by which we were saved, the name that set us free.  We celebrate the giving of the name of Jesus to the child Mary bore
because it fulfilled the promise of the angel.  “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”
Today we celebrate more than a new year.  We celebrate a new life; the new life to which we have been called as Christians; the new life to which we have been called as believers in the name of Jesus;

Believers in the power of that name,
Believers in the wonder of that name,
Believers in the glory of that name. 

Today we begin a new year.  We face both the known and the unknown.  But we face them with a confidence given to us by Jesus; who stands by us in the joyful and sorrowful moments of life.  We enter into the new year with joy knowing that Jesus supports and guides us.  We begin the new year here, at this moment, giving thanks in the Eucharist for that name of Jesus and, as we will recall shortly, all that he did for us. 

The words of Moses from the first reading are appropriate here as we move into the first day of the first month of the year.

“May the LORD bless us and keep us!
 May the LORD let his face shine upon
us, and be gracious to us!
 May the LORD look upon us kindly and
give us peace!”

To this we can only say,
So be it.  Amen. 

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