Tag Archives: Nazareth

Bartholomew, the Apostle

IMG (160)

Cana today

August 24th is the feast of the apostle Bartholomew, also identified as Nathaniel,  from Cana in Galilee, only a few miles from Nazareth.  Like Nazareth, Cana attracted little interest in Jesus’ time, yet it played  a major role in Jesus’ early life and  mission.

In John’s gospel,  Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding in Cana, his first “sign” that God’s kingdom would come. (Jn 2, 1-12) The family faced a wedding nightmare: the wine was running out and embarrassment was sure to come.

Catholic Church, Cana

Catholic Church, Cana

Was the family related to Jesus? Or Bartholomew?  At least they were close. Why else would Jesus, his mother and his disciples be at the celebration?cana carol rothstein 7

The miracle was special,. More than saving a family from embarrassment, it’s a sign in John’s gospel of God’s great love for ordinary people in ordinary towns everywhere. God delights in them, says the Prophet Isaiah, whose words often accompany the Cana miracle,  Cana signifies poor Israel, whom God loves with all the ardor of a “young man marrying a virgin,” God’s love, bountiful, restoring, overflowing with delight, goes out to this poor place, as well as poor places everywhere.

Jesus performed another miracle at Cana, John’s gospel says, another sign of the coming kingdom. Besides the miracle at the wedding, Jesus cured the dying son of a government official from Capernaum, whose ” father came to Cana because he heard that Jesus was there. (John 4.46-54) Jesus saved his son from death.

cana carol rothstein

Through the centuries Cana hasn’t prospered much. It’s not much to look at today.  In the late 19th century, a visiting English vicar described it this way:

“ (Kefr Kenna) lies on high ground, but not on a hill…A broad prickly pear led to the group of houses which perhaps represents the New Testament Cana. Loose stones were scattered around the slope. There may be, possibly, 150 inhabitants, but one cannot envy them their huts of mud and stone, with dunghills at every corner. Huge mud ovens, like great beehives, stood at the sides of some of the houses.

“ In one house a worthy Moslem was squatting on the ground with a number of children, all with slates on which verses of the Koran had been written, which they repeated together. It was the village school, perhaps like that at Nazareth eighteen hundred years ago.

“ A small Franciscan church of white stone with a nice railed wall, with a beautiful garden at the side, had over its doorway these startling words in Latin: ‘Here Jesus Christ from water made wine.’ Some large water jars are shown inside as actually those used in the miracle, but such mock relics, however believed in by simple monks, do the faith of other people more harm than good.”

Cana’s still a poor town. Like other poor places in the world it’s waiting to be raised up to share in the splendor of the heavenly Jerusalem. God loves poor places like this, the Cana miracle says. Bartholomew came from here.

cana carol rothstein 11

Church of St. Bartholomew, Cana

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary



Faith gives life and sends us on a mission. That’s what it did for Mary, Luke’s gospel says.

Mary believes the angel who announces in Nazareth the coming of Jesus, and she’s empowered by the message. So,  she sets out “in haste” for the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, who also was with child. It’s not an ordinary visit. She goes “in haste” because she’s filled with a sense of mission. She hurries to Judea to announce good news to her relatives serving in the temple of God.

Faith is not a burden; it empowers us. It does not cripple us, it enables.

 “Blessed are you who believed,” Elizabeth says to Mary.

“You too, my people, are blessed,” comments St. Ambrose, “ you who have heard and who believe. Every soul that believes — that soul both conceives and gives birth to the Word of God and recognizes his works.

“Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you, to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one of you, to rejoice in God. According to the flesh only one woman can be the mother of Christ, but in the world of faith Christ is the fruit of all of us.”

As with Mary so with us, faith gives life and sends us on a mission..

Three years ago today we blessed our Mary Garden here. We will pray there today to Mary, Queen of All Creation..

St. Joseph: March 19

St. Joseph – by Bro. Paul Morgan,CP


Readings

“Each year Jesus’ parents went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, and when he was twelve years old they went up according to festival custom.” Luke 2,41

At twelve, Jesus entered a new stage in life – his “Bar Mitzvah,” when he took on the responsibilities of the law, which later he summarized as: “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart…Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Who led him to that new stage? It had to be Joseph and Mary. Matthew’s Gospel gives Joseph a major role in Jesus’ birth. He provides Jesus with a genealogy going back to Abraham. He’s told by the angel not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife; he shouldn’t divorce her as Jewish law called for, and he should name the child, Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins.”

After the visit of the Magi, Joseph was directed to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Then, the angel tells him to return to Israel with them after Herod’s death. Finally, he makes a home in Nazareth in Galilee, where his family would be safer away from Herod’s heir, Archelaus, who ruled in Judea.

Clearly, according to Matthew’s gospel, Joseph is an important figure in the birth and early life of Jesus Christ. Then, he silently disappears from the gospels. There’s no record of his role at Nazareth or his death.

The gospel calls Joseph an “upright” man. He was upright because, like his neighbors at Nazareth, he observed all the Jewish laws. But not from lip service. Joseph firmly believed in his heart in the God of Israel, who loved all things great and small, yes, even Nazareth and a humble carpenter.

An inward man, Joseph saw in the simple, ordinary world about him more than others saw. His neighbor casting seed on the family field he loved – wasn’t God’s passionate love for the land of Israel like that? Even as he built a village house or a table, his thoughts sometimes turned to another world: was not God building a kingdom for his people?

An inward man, Joseph saw beyond the fields and mountains of the small town of Nazareth, but he said little about his inmost dreams to others. A quiet man, he kept his own counsel.

Jesus, the Son of God, was known through his earthly life as Jesus, the son of Joseph, “the carpenter’s son.” Growing up as children do, he naturally would acquire some of Joseph’s traits, perhaps the way he walked and spoke.

From Joseph, Jesus first learned about the people of the village, their sorrows and their joys. He saw his love for Mary and the people of his village. As a child Jesus learned from him how to use a carpenter’s tools and began to work at his side. The rabbis said: A father who does not teach his son a trade teaches him to steal.

The two were constant companions at the synagogue in Nazareth. Together they celebrated regularly the great Jewish feasts, listened to the Scriptures, and journeyed as pilgrims to Jerusalem.

Jesus must have seen in Joseph a simple, holy man who trusted God with all his heart. Someone like Joseph, so unassuming, so steady, so quietly attentive to God, was like a treasure hidden in a field. He could easily go unrecognized.

Later, would Jesus remember lessons and tell stories he learned earlier at Nazareth from Joseph, the carpenter?

Two Passionist brothers remembered St. Joseph in a painting and a sculpture, which I’ve added to this blog: Brother Paul Morgan and Brother Michael Stomber.

St. Joseph and the Boy Jesus by Brother Michael Stomber, CP

Monday, 3rd Week of Lent

Lent 1


Readings

Scholars say the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus was the first story his disciples told and the first story written down. Other teachings and accounts from his life were added to it and, in some way, point to it. Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth, which we read today from Luke’s Gospel, is an important part of the mystery of his death and resurrection. 

Nazareth was where Jesus lived most of his life among “his own.” (Luke 4,24-30) Yet, as he begins  his ministry  he is rejected by ” his own”  in their synagogue. It was a rejection Jesus must have carried with him;  how could he forget it?

Crowds welcoming  him to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday call him “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee,”  but not many from Nazareth accompanied him there.  Some women from Galilee, most importantly his mother Mary, stand by his cross as he dies. Still, Jesus didn’t find much acceptance in Nazareth.. “He came to his own and his own received him not.”

The great Cross on Calvary draws attention to the physical sufferings of Jesus in his passion–the scourging, the thorns, the crucifixion. But let’s not forget his interior sufferings, especially rejection from “his own,” who knew him from the beginning. Only a few of those dear to him follow him to Jerusalem.

The lenten gospels tell us God’s mercy and love persists, even in the face of human rejection. Jesus shows God’s love in his outstretched arms on Calvary.

We also share in the great mystery of his death and resurrection. We may never be nailed to a cross like he was, but there are other ways to bear a cross. Rejection by “our own,” perhaps someone close to us, may be one way we share in the sufferings of Jesus.

Let’s not forget we can also bring suffering by rejecting “our own”. Nazareth where Jesus was rejected is not far from us.

Lord,

help me  face the slights the come from those close by,

from my Nazareth, from “my own.”

The mystery of your Cross is not played out on Calvary alone,

It’s played out in places and people close by,

where we live now.

Give me the grace to live in my Nazareth

as you did in yours.

I ask this grace through Jesus Christ.

Nazareth: Where Jesus Was Raised


Some think Nazareth was a quiet little hill town in lower Galilee in Jesus’ day, cut off from the outside world, but recent historical studies tell a different story. The town was not as isolated as we once believed.  Just four miles away was the thriving Greco-Roman city of Sepphoris, recently uncovered by archeologists, and nearby were roads to Tiberias, Jerusalem and the sea coast.

The economy of Galilee was booming then, thanks to the rich soil of the Esdraelon plains and the fishing villages along the Sea of Galilee. A new port, Caesaria Maritima linked Galilee to the rest of the Roman world. Roman rule brought stability. A skillful administrator and builder, Herod Antipas, was firmly in charge. His new regional capital, Tiberias–a model of Greco-Roman city planning– dominated the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Could Nazareth, 15 miles east of the Sea of Galilee and 20 miles west of the Mediterranean Sea, a few miles away from a booming city, be shut off from this world?

How did Jesus get there?

Some historians say Joseph and Mary were not from Nazareth in Galilee, but from Judea. Matthew’s gospel, in contrast to Luke’s, indicates that Joseph was a Judean associated with Bethlehem, David’s city. Mary’s family may have been associated with the temple in Jerusalem. The Church of St. Ann there claims to mark Mary’s birthplace in that city.  Another tradition, however, says Mary was born in Sepphoris.

After Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, some believe that his family moved north to the small town of Nazareth to escape the clutches of Herod the Great, who ordered the slaughter of infants. When Herod died, he was succeeded by his son Archelaeus, who was just as unstable as his father. Did relatives of Jesus living in Nazareth invite his family to safety there?

Herod Antipas, another of Herod’s sons yet slightly less dangerous than Archelaeus, inherited power in Galilee after his father’s death in 6 BC and ruled till about 36 AD, over the lifetime of Jesus. He began building the city of Sepphoris in 3 BC. Wouldn’t it be likely that workers from nearby Nazareth, like Jospeh, would be recruited to help in the building?

Jesus and his followers rejected

Nazareth will always be a mystery. Instead of supporting Jesus, the Nazareans turned their backs to him, the gospels say. They drove him out of their synagogue when he announced his mission and said he was mad. (Mt 13,54-58)  After his resurrection, there is no evidence Jesus appeared there; his followers in Nazareth were few. “No prophet is without honor except in his native place,” Jesus said. (Mt 13,54)

A Christian Minority through the Centuries

Followers of Jesus in the town where he was raised continued to be few, it seems. By the time Matthew’s Gospel was written, around the year 90, after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD,  scribes and temple officials as well as the pharisees from that city had moved to the Galilean cities of Tiberias and Sepphoris, near Nazareth, and began a powerful new movement in Judaism.

Did they drive the followers of Jesus out of the Galilean synagogues just as his contemporaries drove him out of Nazareth?  Matthew’s gospel offers numerous warnings that the disciples would be handed over to the courts and scourged in the synagogues. (cf. Mt 10, 17)

“Slender evidence suggests that a Jewish Christian community survived in Nazareth during the C2 and C3 AD, “ writes Jerome Murphy-O”Connor. (The Holy Land, 423) The nun Egeria, one of the few Christian visitors in the 4th century, found a cave considered part of Mary’s house but she does not stay long in the town.  In 570 AD a pilgrim from Piacenza found Nazareth a hostile place:  “there is no love lost in the town between Christians and Jews.” Two Christian churches were built at that time, but after the Muslim conquest of Palestine in the 7th century the number of Christians in Nazareth declined further and their churches were destroyed.

When the Crusaders conquered the town in the 11th century, they rebuilt the Byzantine shrines and added their own buildings; some remains are visible today. But after the defeat of the Christians in the 12th century, Nazareth once more became a Muslim stronghold and Christians a minority.

Through the ages, the Christian presence in Galilee remained small, dependent mostly on Christian pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. After the crusades, it was considered dangerous for Christians to enter Nazareth.  In 1620 the Franciscans bought a site in the  town where the house of Mary was said to be and they continued to nourish a Christian presence in the town. Through their efforts the large Basilica of the Annunciation, built over the early Byzantine and Crusader churches and archeological remains from the ancient town, was dedicated in 1968. The Greek Orthodox church also continued its ministry in this revered spot.

Nazareth itself remained poor and undeveloped from the time of Jesus until recently, when it became the provincial capital of Galilee and its population soared. From less than 1,000 inhabitants in Jesus’ time, the number has grown today to 70,000, mostly Muslim.

The large basilica of the Annunciation, with its extensive collection of art from all over the world honoring this mystery, is a gathering place for Catholic pilgrims. Here faith attempts to interpret this mysterious town “where our feeble senses fail.”

19th Century Nazareth

An English vicar left this quaint description of Nazareth as he approached it towards the end of the 19th century. Unlike its neighbor, Cana, the town then was experiencing a modest revival:

“Our horses began to climb the steep ascent of 1,000 feet that brings one to the plateau in a fold of which, three miles back among its own hills, lies Nazareth.

“At last, all at once, a small valley opened below, set round with hills, and a pleasant little town appeared to the west. Its straggling houses of white soft limestone, and mostly new, rose row over row up the steep slope. A fine large building,with slender cypresses around it, stood nearest to us; a minaret looked down from the rear.

“Fig trees, single and in clumps, were growing here and there in the valley, which was covered with crops of grain, lentils and beans. Above the town, the hills were steep and high, with thick pasture, sheets of rock, fig trees now and then in an enclosed spot.   Such was Nazareth , the home of our Lord. (p 513)

“The town is only a quarter of a mile long, so that it is a small place, at best; the population made up of about 2,000 Mohammedans, 1,000 Roman Catholics, 2,500 Greek Catholics and 100 Protestants – not quite 6000 in all; but its growth to this size is only recent, for thirty years ago Nazareth was a poor village.”  (p 516)

The Catholic shrines of Nazareth were not among the English vicar’s favorite places to visit, but he does recognize one of the town’s enduring holy places:

“The water of Nazareth is mainly derived from rain-cisterns, for there  is only one spring, and in autumn the supply is precarious. A momentous interest, however, gathers around this single fountain, for it has been in use for immemorial ages, and, no doubt, often saw the Virgin and her Divine Child among those who frequented it morning and evening, as the mothers of the town, many with children at their side, do now.” (p.515)

“The Virgin’s Spring bursts out of the ground inside the Greek Church of the Annunciation, which is modern, though a church stood on the same site at least as early as 700 AD.They say that it was on this spot that the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin; and if there is nothing to prove the legend there is nothing to contradict it.  Indeed, the association of the visit with the outflow of living water from the rock has a certain congruity that is pleasing. “ (p.516)

The Word Made Flesh

Nazareth, where Jesus lived most of his time on earth, offers few traces of the town he knew. Those were hidden years when the Son of God “humbled himself” by living inconspicuously, immersed in the steady, ordinary rhythms of a small 1st century Jewish town.  Jesus “became flesh” in Nazareth,  “one like us in all things but sin.”

Instead of Nazareth of the past, then, we may find him just as well in Nazareth of the present–or in any town or city or anyplace today, for that matter.

Jesus did not come only for the world then, he comes also for the world now, to dwell among us. Nazareth may help us understand the mystery of the Incarnation in our town and place.

He Came to Nazareth

The gospel readings this week are not just from one gospel, as they usually are. The readings this week after the Epiphany to the Baptism of the Lord ( January 7-12) are from the four gospels and each tells us that Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, manifested himself to all. In Psalm 2 (Monday) God says “I will give you all the nations as an inheritance.” Jesus gives himself to all.

This week each gospel points to the universal mission of Jesus already evident as he ministers to the people of his own time and place. Matthew’s gospel on Monday says he began his ministry in the “Galilee of the Gentiles.” “Great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.” Gentiles from the Decapolis and beyond the Jordan as well as Jews were already approaching him. Matthew 4,12-17, 24-25)

In the readings from Mark’s Gospel for Tuesday and Wednesday, Jesus multiplies the loaves and the fish on the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee and then sets out on the sea for the other side, the pagan side, to bring the blessings of these signs to them also. (Mark 6)

On Thursday and Friday, there are excerpts from Luke’s Gospel. On Friday Luke recounts the cure of the leper. The leper’s cure promises that Jesus will reach out to all the abandoned throughout the world.

On Saturday, in the reading from John, John the Baptist recognizes that Jesus “is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” Jesus will bring the waters of life to all.

Luke’s reading for Thursday, though, is somewhat puzzling. Jesus goes to Nazareth where he was raised and is rejected, but notice Luke’s reading for that day ends before the account of his rejection: “And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” (Luke 4, 14-22)

That’s the way we would have liked Nazareth to respond to the presence of Jesus when he first came there, but the town rejected him and Jesus never returned, the gospels say.

Do our readings this week offer the promise that Jesus, as the Risen Christ entrusted with the mission to save all, always returns to the hard places and most resistant people?

That means we’re not to give up on the Nazareths of this world that seem too far gone, too faithless, to ever hear the gospel. “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you,” our psalm says.

December 20: The Annunciation

Annunciation 

St. Luke’s account of the Annunciation to Mary, read today at Mass,  follows the announcement of the birth of John to Zechariah in yesterday’s advent readings. An angel announces that Jesus will come as her son, but Mary receives the angel so differently than the priest Zechariah. (Luke 1, 5-25,)

In the temple, where great mysteries are celebrated, the priest won’t believe he and his wife can conceive a child. They’re too old. He doubts.

In  Nazareth, a small town in Galilee and an unlikely place for a major revelation, the angel approaches Mary with a message far more difficult to grasp. “ The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Mary believes and does not doubt, and so by God’s power she conceives a Son who will be born in Bethlehem. “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word,”

The Annunciation scene pictured above was placed at the beginning of a medieval prayer book with the words beneath it in latin: “Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise.” Most medieval artists assumed that Mary was at home in prayer when the angel came and so they put this scene at the beginning of an hour of prayer. Prayer enables Mary to believe and accept what would come.

Isn’t that true for us all? As with Mary, prayer helps us discern and say yes to what God wills. “Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise.”

My community, the Passionists, still begins the prayers of the liturgy of the hours by reciting the Angelus, a prayer that repeats this gospel story. “The angel of the Lord declared to Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit….”

Prayer opens the way to mysteries beyond us. As a woman of faith, Mary knew that, and we learn from her.

At Mass today we pray:  “O God, grant that by Mary’s example, we may in humility hold fast to your will.” Open our eyes to see and our lips to say yes.

Readings www.usccb.org

4th Sunday of Advent: Mary, Woman of Faith

King David wonders, in our first reading today of the 4th Sunday of Advent, what he can do for God after all God has done for him. David had built himself a palace of cedar wood in Jerusalem, while the ark of the covenant, the sign of God’s presence, is in a tent. Should I build God a temple, a place of beauty where God would dwell and be honored,” the king asks?
The prophet Nathan tells the king: instead a building, God wants to dwell with you and your people.

In today’s gospel, God goes further. God will dwell in Mary’s womb, to take flesh from her and be cared by her. 
Our gospel begins:
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.

This gospel says so much about Mary. God showered graces upon her: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Just a young girl of 15 or 16, Mary answers: “Be it done to me according to your word. She accepts God’ s call, but she has her questions: “How can this be?”
The power of God will overshadow you, the angel tells her. The only sign she’s given is that her cousin, Elizabeth, “has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”
“Nothing will be impossible for God.”

Then, the angel leaves, and never returns, as far as we know. Mary meets the days as they come with faith, gathering her experiences and treasuring them in her heart.
At Christmas, we’ll see Mary in Bethlehem, humbly, silently holding the Infant, her Child, God with us. At Easter, we’ll see her standing beneath the cross of Jesus.
She’s his mother, a woman of faith. We learn from her and ask her to pray for us: “Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worth of the promises of Christ. 

Wednesday, 3rd week of Advent

 

Sacred Heart Church

 

The angel came to Mary in Nazareth, the last place we might expect an angel’s message. In this little known place, Jesus became flesh. In this young unknown woman, he came to dwell among us.

It wasn’t in Jerusalem, in the temple where God’s Presence was proclaimed. It was in Nazareth, in the quiet hills of Galilee, on a routine day, that He came.

We celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation and pray, “Pray for us, O holy mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

Receiving a Prophet

In today’s Gospel we read about Jesus’ return to “His native place,” and the reception He got from His peers when He began to teach them. They found it hard to take Him seriously, asking,

    “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas  and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.  Jesus said  to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”

    Why such a reaction?  Why were they not proud of their hometown boy?  We’re they jealous of Him? Did they believe that a humble carpenter’s son had no right to teach about the divine?  Were they startled because He no longer acted like a “regular guy”, one of them?

    When I started testifying about my newfound faith at men’s retreats and at prayer groups, some people would come up to me and thank me for helping them in their search for healing, and for God, while others treated me like I was just some upstart who didn’t know anything! Well, I guess one of the lessons of this Gospel is that you just can’t please everybody, especially if they’re your friends and relatives .

    After my conversion, many of them could not believe that I was for real. One of my drinking buddies winked at me and said, ” You gotta be kidding! Common, have fun. You only live once.” Another said, “Hey, don’t turn into a religious fanatic! That’s not the guy I know! What about that temper?”

    A nice cousin of mine said, “You’re dedicating your life to God now that you’re retired? That’s a nice hobby. I guess you gotta do something with your free time.”

     A very intelligent, cynical, clever friend would use her language skills to prove me wrong, and justify her way of thinking and acting towards others.  I was no match for her smart talk. But another fiercely atheist friend synthesized the feelings of all the others:” Don’t come preaching to me! I don’t want to hear anything about God! If you’re my friend,  let’s talk about anything but that!”

    Like Jesus, I was ” amazed at their lack of faith!” I certainly wasn’t able to perform any “mighty deeds” there, except perhaps keep my composure, shake my head, and smile. I really love these persons. I guess the best I can do is show them this, knowing how much greater than mine is the love that our Lord Jesus has for them.

    If they ask me I will tell them about the peace I feel in my heart. Maybe I’ll be able to show them how I have changed, even if a little, perhaps reflect the words of the scholar of mythology, Joseph Campbell: ” Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief, better they reveal the radiance of their own discoveries.”

    My spiritual director, Fr John Powers C.P., once wrote, ” I begin the telling of my tale with the assumption that my story is, in some measure, everyone’s story.”

Orlando Hernandez