Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 17th, 2018)

Today’s first scripture is an excerpt from the 17th chapter of the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, one of the most beautiful and interesting texts of the Old Testament.

Ezekiel is a priest who is trying to prepare the Israelites for what will be one of the most catastrophic events in their history.  In the year 587 BC, the lands of the Israelites will be invaded by the armies of Babylon, Jerusalem will be ransacked, the royal house of David put to the sword, the temple will be destroyed and the people scattered, enslaved and sent into exile.

In the 17th chapter of his book, Ezekiel offers an allegory which explains how an arrogant and foolish political decision was the turning point for this disaster.  The king will break a treaty with the Babylonians, attempt to form with alliance with the Pharaoh or the Egyptians, and in doing so will provoke Babylon to invade.

This is harsh for the Israelites to hear, because Ezekiel places responsibility for the catastrophe on the Israelites themselves, a reckoning he believes is necessary if they are to repent.  Truth sets us free- all the biblical prophets insist on this and it is especially coming to terms with the hardest truths we refuse to admit that do the most to free us from our self-deception.

At the conclusion to Chapter 17 is the scripture passage we heard this morning.

The meaning is that though the Israelites have been cut off, indeed, cut down, by the terrifying events of 587 BC

In this respect, the surviving Israelites are like the “crest of the cedar tree” that Ezekiel is referencing.  The Lord will take this remnant of a once great and now fallen tree and from it will renew its life.  In other words, the Israelites, reduced and humiliated, will, through God’s power, be restored.

The events of 587 BC haunt much of the Old and New Testament.  In fact, much of what the Lord Jesus has to say about the Israelites concerns the fulfillment of the promises and insights of prophets like Ezekiel.  We know little about the events of 587 BC and their significance, which is one reason why there is a tendency for the scriptures to sound strange, even unintelligible to us.

The sages and saints of the Church have understood that the story of the Israelites from the Old Testament has a great deal to tell us about the story of the Church.  And this is how we can try to understand Ezekiel’s insights.  Coming to terms with our own complicity in events that have diminished the Church is what a prophet like Ezekiel imparts to us.  Admitting the hard truth that if the Church is not flourishing, it is far too easy to blame someone else, rather than accept what we ourselves have done or failed to do, is a necessary crucible.  And further, remembering the Church did not begin as a massive international institution with seemingly unlimited resources and unassailable prestige.  How did the Church begin?  It began small.  And in every age, when through human wickedness the Church falters and fails in her mission, God preserves enough of what is good to assure that the Church continue.

It is most often through small movements, small communities, that the Church is reformed and renewed.  It seems that this is God’s favored way of doing things- he can even take the seemingly diminished and withered Church that is the experience of so many, and from that remnant, make the Church bloom with renewed life and vigor.

The second scripture for today is an excerpt from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.

The Apostle speaks about his body and our bodies and in doing so he makes a very important point about the Christian way of life- our bodies matter.  But why does the body matter so much for the Christian?

Because it is the Body of the Lord Jesus revealed in his Incarnation that saves us; it is into the Body of Christ, the Church, that the Lord Jesus gives his way of life to us, it is the Body of the Lord Jesus given to us in Eucharist that sanctifies and sustains us, and it is the suffering bodies of the poor in whom Christ dwells that we serve the Body of Jesus himself.

Knowing Christ, encountering Christ is not simply a matter of our mind or our emotions, but of our bodies and it is through our bodies, practicing the Faith of the Church in worship, Sacraments and works of mercy that Christ redeems us all.

Christ reveals himself in a body, a body like our own and in our bodies that his salvation happens to us.

It is mistake to reduce our faith to having the right ideas or thoughts or having the right kinds of feelings- as if ideas and thoughts and feelings are all that it means to be a Christian.  Christian Faith is about the significance of bodies, Christ’s Body, the bodies of our neighbors, and yes, even our own bodies.

This physicality of the Christian way of life is hard for many to take.  Bodies are, after all, messy, often times non-compliant, and very difficult for us to deal with.  A faith that is reduced to ideas and feelings is far less demanding than dealing with bodies.  But the significance of the body is a non-negotiable necessity for the Christian for God in Christ has chosen the significance of our bodies.  How so?  By accepting for himself a body, a human nature, and through that body, living like us, a real, human life.  In doing so, God made the body, our bodies an inescapable fact of our faith and a necessary route of access to him.

Finally, in his Gospel, the Lord Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God, testifying that it will always first manifest itself in what is small, like seeds sown, and as a particular example, a seed as miniscule as the mustard seed, which can produce an enormous plant.

Now, I know we Christians have a tendency to spiritualize the kingdom of God, thinking of it as being an otherworldly reality like heaven, but this is really a mistake.

Connect our first two scriptures with this Gospel: Ezekiel speaks of the restoration of an actual people in this world, the Israelites and St. Paul emphasizes the physical, bodily reality of our faith.  And in his Gospel Christ speaks about a kingdom, a kingdom that starts small and has the potential to grow and grow.

This kingdom of which Christ speaks is a new kind of Israel in this world, a kingdom composed of real flesh and blood, of bodies.  This kingdom is the Church and the Church has and will always start small, but it isn’t supposed to just stay small, because like the small seeds Christ references in his Gospel, the Church is filled with the potential to grow and grow and grow.

The Church is the kingdom of God.  And the seeds of the Church have been given to us to sow into the world.  The seeds of the Church are small, and as such, many Christians try to protect them, keeping them safe as if planting them in the world would mean they would be lost.  But this over protectiveness simply results in a Church that never realizes its purpose and the life that the Church does have ends up withering away and dying.

The task of every generation of Christians is to sow the Church, to plant the Church in the world, that is, to facilitate the growth of the Church and in doing so bring the kingdom of God to life- not just in heaven, but in the here and now.

This task is not something that can be delegated away to religious professionals, it is the mission of every Christian.  So, ask yourself now, because the Lord Jesus himself is going to ask each of us later, and our answer is going to matter more than anything else- are you sowing, planting the seeds of Church and helping the Church to grow?  Or are you missing in action in the fields of the world or worse, tearing up what he has already planted?

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The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (June 3rd, 2018)

Today the Church celebrates the great solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, popularly known in Catholic culture as the Feast of Corpus Christi- Latin for “Body of Christ”.

The purpose of this day of worship is to highlight the Church’s Eucharistic faith, meaning the awe filled and wondrous truth that the Eucharist is what Christ declares it to be- the gift of his divine life and presence given to us as food and drink. This is why the Eucharist is called “Holy Communion”, because it is Christ that we receive- he gives to us his divine life and we in turn, in response to his gift, give our lives over to him.

Holy Communion would not be possible if God in Christ was not true to his word and gave to us something less than what God in Christ declares the Eucharist to be- his Body and his Blood, his divine life and presence.

For centuries the gift of Christ’s divine life and presence in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Eucharist, has been celebrated on the day of Corpus Christi, and this day has also been the occasion where the Church’s unique faith regarding the Eucharist has been affirmed.

We do not believe that Christ’s divine life and presence in the Blessed Sacrament is merely metaphorical or symbolic, but real and substantial. Nor is Christ’s divine life and presence in the Blessed Sacrament merely an emotional experience or a matter of cultural expression, but it is objective and it his divine life and presence that we receive, not an affirmation of community values.

Further, the Blessed Sacrament is what it is not because of the will of the priest or of the assembly to make it what it is, but because of the will of Christ to give to us a share in his own divine life. The Eucharist is Christ’s gift and it is by his will, not our will, that it is what it is. The Eucharist is given to us as Christ’s gift, it is not made and taken by us by force of our own will.

Thus, it is Christ that we receive in the Blessed Sacrament. This is why the manner in which we receive the Eucharist and the reverence with which we regard the Blessed Sacrament is meant to indicate how we should respond to and receive Christ himself.

Our attitude towards the Blessed Sacrament, expressed in our bodies, in our words, in our gestures, all profess our faith in what the Eucharist really and truly is- the life and presence of God in Christ.

If you believe that the Blessed Sacrament is less than Christ’s divine life and presence and yet you receive him, then you are receiving him in bad faith, by this I mean a kind of perjury, a lie. If our reverence for the Blessed Sacrament is lacking, then we are indicating with our bodies that we either do not believe that the Eucharist is Christ’s divine life and presence or worse, that we just don’t care.

Receiving Christ’s divine life and presence is not merely a perfunctory gesture, but it indicates a decision of life changing importance. Just to be clear- the word “Sacrament”, the word the Church uses to identify the Eucharist, literally means an oath. Receiving the Eucharist is akin to taking an oath. The oath we take is that inasmuch as we receive the divine life and presence of Christ, we agree that we will give our life over to him. In other words, receiving the Eucharist means that Christ gives his life to you and you agree to give your life over to him. That’s the oath. That’s what is at stake. This oath is ratified when we come forward and in response to the priest or minister’s declaration “The Body (and/or) Blood of Christ” we say “Amen”. Your “Amen means that you accept the terms- his life in exchange for your life. Christ gives you his life and you give him your life. That’s the oath. That’s the Sacrament.

The great challenge in that is are we telling the truth or telling a lie.

The Blessed Sacrament is Christ’s divine life, given to you as food and drink, but it is also Christ’s divine presence, given to you as consolation and hope. Thus the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, is reserved in our churches with great reverence and love, for as long as the Eucharistic elements remain, Christ’s divine presence remains.

The transformation Christ effects is irrevocable- he keeps his word. We do not put Christ’s divine life and presence in the Blessed Sacrament and we do not take it away. What we can do is to choose to receive the Blessed Sacrament with reverence and love or not.

It is because of Christ’s abiding presence in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in our churches that our churches are not just assembly halls or gathering spaces or community centers. Our churches are temples- for just as the divine presence of God made his home in the Holy of Holies of the ancient temple of Jerusalem, so now, in our churches, in the Blessed Sacrament, God in Christ makes his home among us. This is what the tabernacle is indicating and why our deference and reverence of Christ in the tabernacle is so pronounced.

The Blessed Sacrament is not just a sacred object, like a statue or a crucifix. The Blessed Sacrament is the life and presence of the Lord Jesus. Placing ourselves in the presence of the tabernacle we place ourselves in the presence of Christ the Lord.

The scriptures for today all gesture towards the mystery and meaning of the Body and Blood of Christ, given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.

From the Old Testament Book of Exodus we hear of how the covenant of the Israelites with the Lord (a covenant is an agreement that initiates a relationship) is ratified in a tremendous sacrifice. Though the sacrifice of animals to God likely perplexes and may offend us, it was the manner in which the Israelites expressed in the most concrete, raw and realistic terms that there is no love in this world without sacrifice, and that our love for the Lord will inevitably place demands on us, cost us- it will mean a sacrifice. This sacrifice may not mean for us the slaughter of animals, but it will mean that we place our lives at the Lord’s disposal, making ourselves ready to do what he asks for us to do.

Our second scripture is from the Letter to Hebrews. The Letter to the Hebrews is not so much a letter (though it is called such) but a theological essay. This essay explains the meaning of the Church’s worship and how this worship is like and unlike the worship of the ancient Israelites.

The Church’s worship is like the worship of the Israelites inasmuch as there is a sacrifice, but unlike that worship because the sacrifice the Church offers is not animals, but God in Christ. God in Christ makes himself our sacrifice, giving up his life for us so that we might give up our lives for him. This is what is happening in the Eucharist. This is what the Blessed Sacrament really and truly is. This is also what connects the Eucharist eternally to the cross of Christ, what Christ offers on the cross, his life, is what we receive in the Blessed Sacrament.

Finally, in his Gospel, Christ the Lord himself testifies to what the Eucharist is- his Body and his Blood. Christ’s own testimony signals to us that what the Church believes about the Eucharist is not merely a matter of our own ideas or opinions, but an expression of what God in Christ has revealed. The Eucharist is a revelation from God and it is God, in Christ, who makes that revelation what it is and tells us what it is. On our part, we can, if we so choose, accept this revelation as a gift, responding to that gift with love and gratitude.

And this is the decision that each of us must make today.

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The Nativity of the Lord (December 25th, 2017 0

The Church’s Gospel proclamation from the Gospel of John for the Mass of Christmas Day comes as a surprise to many.

There is, in this Gospel, no reference to the Holy Child laid in a manger or to the Virgin Mother or to Joseph her husband. There is no mention of a crowded inn or angels or shepherds or a star. Instead, we hear a poem or what sounds like the text to a hymn that speaks of Christ as the Word and that this Word became flesh and as such was his glory as God revealed- in the flesh.

Those seemingly cryptic references to Christ, far less accessible to us than the story of the Holy Child laid in a manger, lulled to sleep by the angels, worshipped by shepherds and kings, and bathed in the radiant light of a star, but they tell us the same truth, refer to the same revelation.

This truth, this revelation, is that the Holy Child of Bethlehem is God, and it is this truth, this revelation, that discloses the great mystery of Christmas: that in Jesus Christ, the eternal God has accepted for himself a human nature and lived a real human life.

How this is possible remains utterly inexplicable. Why this has happened is easier to understand, even if it remains hard for us to fully accept.

God did this, he allowed himself to live in this world as a man, being born first as a baby, is because the one, true God is a personal God, meaning that he is a not just an idea in our minds or a feeling in our hearts, or some kind of cosmic force. Instead God is a living, divine person, who created us for communion, that is, friendship with himself. And to make this communion, this friendship possible he does not just send us an invitation at a distance, but in Jesus Christ he meets us, quite literally, face to face.

The communion or friendship that the one, true God seeks with us is such that God accepts from us a human nature and in doing so offers us a share in his divine nature- opening for us possibilities that are way beyond what our humanity alone can accomplish or achieve.

The ancient sages of the Church called God’s gesture, his willingness to be born into this world and live and die as a man, a marvelous exchange. This means that God accepts a human life for himself so that we can receive from him a divine life. This the heart of the Gospel and its revelation is the deep mysticism of the Christ’s revelation- he accepts a human life so that we can have a divine life and by this divine life is meant that we can share communion or friendship with God.

How this happens for us is as strange and wonderful as God being born into this world, and living, like us, a real, human life. Looking at that Holy Child in a manger, few would have understood that the Child gazing back at them was the eternal God made flesh, and yet there God was, in the flesh, sharing communion with us and offering us a reason to become his friends.

The same strange experience happens in our reception of the Sacraments of the Church. For the Sacraments of the Church are not merely expressions of culture or a means through which we give religious significance to important events in our lives. The Sacraments of the Church are encounters with the life and presence of the Lord Jesus himself- they are the privileged means, in this world, in the here and now, that God makes communion or friendship with him possible. The Sacraments serve the same purpose as the human nature of the Lord Jesus- they are his privileged means through which he makes himself known to us.

At the beginning of the Advent season I spoke from this pulpit about the coming of Christ in the world- that God in Christ comes to us in history, in mystery and consummation of all things that we refer to as the end of the world.

The first and the last, history and the end of the world, receive the most attention from us. History offers us the story of the Holy Child in the manger, a story that we love to hear over and over again. The end of the world captures our attention because it is something that we all fear. However, in our preoccupation with these two, we can lose sight that Christ comes to us now- in mystery, which means in his Sacraments, particularly in the Blessed Sacrament that we call the Eucharist.

The Eucharist delivers to us the true and living presence of the Lord Jesus himself. The same divine presence that rested in a manger becomes for us a source of divine life and nourishment. In fact, the revelation of the Holy Child resting in a manger, a feeding container for animals is a foreshadowing of how God in Christ will feed us with his divine life in the Blessed Sacrament.

Thus, on the very day the Church commemorates the birth of God in Christ in the world, the faithful are called to, not a play or performance or a pageant, but to a Mass- the Christ Mass, an event the culture has come to call Christmas, but what the faithful know as the Mass.

The Mass, this Mass and every Mass, is the occasion where God does for us now what he did in Bethlehem centuries ago- he shares communion with us and invites us to be his friends.

It is here that we can be the recipients of the “marvelous exchange” where God in Christ gives us a share in his divine life while asking us to give him a share in our own lives.

Giving Christ a share in our lives is what he asks of us, and in exchange he gives to us, through the Blessed Sacrament, a share in his life. This is what holy communion is. This is how friendship with God in Christ happens.

Christ who came to us in History and will come again into this world at the end of time offers himself to us right now in this Mass- the Christ Mass.

In this mystery of the Blessed Sacrament we see and can receive the very same divine life and presence that revealed himself to the world centuries ago as the Holy Child of Bethlehem.

For his Word is even now made flesh and blood, and makes his dwelling place among us and we can see his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth…

Here today for us in mystery…

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Friday of the Second Week of Easter (April 28th, 2017)

Our first scripture, an excerpt from the New Testament Book of Acts, describes the Church in crisis- facing a persecution that threatens its young life.

An unexpected advocate emerges who intervenes on behalf of the persecuted Christians, insisting that the Church’s opponents stand down and let the Christians alone. Time will tell if this new movement survives, and as the Church is beleaguered and weak, it poses no real threat. And besides, if the Church is, as the adherents of this new Faith testify, a work of God, no merely human power will be able to stop it.

This advice seems to be accepted and the persecutors relent, at least for a time.

The Church has known persecution in every age of its life. Hatred from the outside oppresses the Church while wickedness from the inside subverts her mission- and yet the Church mysteriously endures. Why? Not because of merely human ingenuity or accident. But, instead, the Church endures because the Church is not merely an institution, a construct of our own making, but instead is mystically Christ’s Body, the continuation of his Incarnation in space and in time. The Church is Christ’s life and presence enduring in history. Like his earthly body, the Church is afflicted and suffers, but this affliction and suffering cannot overpower the divine power of God that the Church, as the mystical body of Christ, bears into the world. And because the divine power of Christ resides in the Church, affliction and suffering can become redemptive.

The early Christians knew and believed this. Do we?

Today’s Gospel is a brief selection from the Gospel of John, testimony to the divine power of Christ to work miracles. What does Christ do? He multiplies mere fragments of bread and fish so as, to satisfy the hunger of a vast crowd.

Christ does what only God can do, and in doing what God can do, he gestures towards the mystery of his identity- that he is God.

But today’s mysterious revelation in the Gospel does not just signal to us Christ’s divine identity, but also presents a type or foreshadowing of the mystery of the Eucharist.

How so? The Eucharist is a marvelous intervention of God in our lives, bearing into our lives a power that effects a surprising change- mere fragments of food and drink become Christ’s Body and Blood, imbued with his divine power to reconcile us to God and draw us into an extraordinary relationship with him.

The Eucharist is no more just a symbol or metaphor than it is merely bread and wine. The Eucharist we receive is Christ’s life and presence, given to us as food and drink, given to us, to satisfy the hunger of our souls for communion with God, but also given to us, so that partaking of his life, our life might become like his.

May we who partake of this holy mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood, appreciate what Christ is giving to us, and permit ourselves to become like the One that we receive.

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Funeral Homily

(The following text is the notes for the homily I delivered at the funeral Mass for my father. May all the blessed dead know the solace of the beatific vision and help us as we make our own pilgrim way to a world that is yet to come).

The Church’s first scripture proclamation was an excerpt from the Old Testament Book of the prophet Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah spoke the Lord’s word of truth centuries before the revelation of Christ, and in his spiritual vision, foresaw Christ’s revelation.

In this scripture, the prophet Isaiah envisions a holy mountain, upon which God will act to destroy the power of death and deliver his people from power of their sins. Is this holy mountain an actual place or merely a dream? When will God act to accomplish such wonders?

The holy mountain the prophet foresees is the place of Christ’s cross, for it is in this place, and at that moment, that God acted in an extraordinary way to impart an undeserved forgiveness and to transform death forever. Remember, the revelation of Christ is not merely that of a kind teacher of timeless spiritual truths, but of the one, true God, who surprises us all, because he does something God should not do- he accepts for himself a human nature and lives a real, human life.

God in Christ does this, not for himself, but for us, so that he might create for us a possibility beyond death and so that we might know that his power is manifested in his willingness to love us and forgive us, even when that love and forgiveness is not deserved or appreciated.

Christians believe that God in Christ enters into death on the cross so that when we die, as all mortal creatures do, what we encounter in that experience is not merely an end, but a new and mysterious beginning. Death has become in Christ a route of access to God because God in Christ has permitted himself to die.

In that moment of his experience of death (on the cross), God in Christ does something remarkable, and again, surprising, he demonstrates his willingness to forgive us and this act of generosity, for his forgiveness is undeserved, gives us hope that what we encounter after death is not a cold rebuke, but a merciful Savior, the one who will, as the Gospel testifies, “save us from our sins”- from what we have done and what we have failed to do.

The prophet Isaiah foresaw all this in shadows and suggestions. God would reveal centuries later in Christ the Lord what the prophet Isaiah foresaw, what we know and believe in Christ.

The second scripture is another excerpt from the scriptures- this time from the New Testament, from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. In this text, the Apostle Paul testifies to the power of the Sacrament of Baptism to change us, to transform us. St. Paul illuminates God’s purpose for Baptism.

Baptism is not, as many have made it, merely a quaint cultural custom. Instead it is an act of God, a revelation and through this act of God, this revelation, a Christian is changed, not by human choice or merely an act of our will, but by God’s choice and God’s will. God chooses us and through Baptism he changes us, making us his members of his family, giving us the identity that the Lord Jesus himself has- the identity of a child of God. In other words, through our baptism we belong to God in a way that a child belongs to his parent or a person belongs to her family. What Christ has in his own relationship with his Heavenly Father, the baptized are also given.

The significance of this is profound. Throughout our lives we grasp at (or are grasped by) identities that we might be tempted to treat as being of ultimate importance- family, nationality, political affiliation, race, ethnicity, class etc. And while these identities have worldly importance, they are not all that important to God. And God signals the relative importance of these worldly identities by making these things temporary, passing away, we take none of these identities from this world to the next. These things are inevitably left behind.

Worldly identities, or things of worldly importance, like beauty, youth, athletic prowess, academic degrees, bank accounts, real estate, (all the things the world believes matter most) pass away and do so by their very nature. We can enjoy these things for a time, but all these things have an expiration date and they will not pass with us from this life to the next.

What does last is that relationship given to us in Baptism, our identity as a child of God and a member of God’s own family. When we meet Christ face to face, this is what he sees, this is what we bring to him.

This is the meaning of St. Paul’s testimony to us today.

Finally, in his Gospel, Christ testifies that he will give his divine life to us as food and drink. He does not come to us merely to teach us ideas about God, but he comes to be for us a living source of holy communion with God. What we receive in Christ is not merely an insight or an opinion, but God himself- and how will God in Christ give himself to us?

Christ will give himself to us through the mysterious reality that we know as the Eucharist, the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood. The Eucharist is mysteriously God in Christ, not merely a symbol of Christ, but God in Christ himself. God’s life is not far from us and his presence is not off somewhere at a distance. God reveals himself, not merely in ideas or opinions, or as a vague cosmic force, but he places himself in our midst in the Eucharist and then through that Eucharist, asks us to receive him, in the manner one receives food and drink. This is the Eucharist- God in Christ gives us a share in his divine life and presence as food and as drink. Thus, in the Eucharist, we do not simply remember Christ as a historical reality from the past, but we encounter Christ in the present. The Eucharist is Christ’s revelation in this world, in our lives, in the here and in the now.

Receiving God as food and drink we have an opportunity to become ever more like him. Receiving God in the Eucharist we have an opportunity to become more that what believe that we are- we can become ever more like Christ.

This is the great mystery, and the great meaning of the testimony we heard from the Gospel of John today.

Over eighty years ago, **** ****** was baptized. (Whether the motive for this Baptism was custom or something else is not as important as the gift that he received). This gift, this Baptism, indicated that God in Christ had chosen **** as his own and given him a mission, a meaning and purpose for his life.

Over time, the mystery of **** Baptism would unfold, leading him through the other Sacraments, of Eucharist and Confirmation, and what was given to him through these Sacraments was the startling revelation that God reveals himself in Jesus Christ to be Love.

The revelation that in Christ God is Love is given to us in a way of life called the Church. In the Church, we do our best to become for others an experience of the love that God in Christ has given to us. The Church is meant to be a way of life, a way of love.

Love is not for the Christian merely a sentiment or a feeling, but a way of life. Love is what we do for others by doing what God in Christ asks of us- willing for others what is good, testifying to what is true, appreciating what is beautiful, and giving to others what merciful.

The way of love, the Christian way of life, takes the form of a unique mission or vocation and **** accepted this in the Sacrament of Marriage and through his relationship with his wife, *****, and in communion with his children and grandchildren, family and friends, he sought to give to others the gift he had received in his own Baptism- the way of love.

We would know, through him, through sacrifices great and small, through a low-key death to self (that would set the needs of others as more important than his own needs), how God in Christ loves all of us.

Love in any of our lives is never perfect in its expression or motive, but **** sought, as best he could, to impart to others what God imparts to us- what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful- the gift he has received from the Lord he gave to others.

St. John of the Cross, one of the Church’s greatest mystics, remarked that in the evening of our lives, we are examined by love. This means, as years pass, and worldly concerns and pre-occupations become ever less important, it is our love, for God and for others, that remains, and it is this love that we take with us as we make our way from this life to the next.

Concluding Remarks

(These remarks were offered at the conclusion of the Funeral Mass)

On behalf of my mother and my brothers, I would like to express our deep appreciation for all the gestures of consolation and kindness that we have received. These past two weeks have been the occasion for both grief and grace and the support that we have experienced from family and friends has been gracious indeed.

I cannot do a better job testifying to the life and interests of my father than my brother did in the text of the obituary that he wrote. My father was a thoughtful and kind man, who was faithful to his wife of nearly sixty years and whose quiet influence is manifest in the lives of his children and grandchildren. We will miss him, but his faith, faith that believed that life is not ended but changed, enlivens us with a hope greater than mere memory, a hope that believes that he is still with us in ways that are unseen, and that he awaits us in a heavenly life that is yet to come.

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The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (May 29th, 2016)

Today the Church in the United States commemorates with great care and solemnity, the gift of the life and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, given to us in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.

The Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, what we know as the Blessed Sacrament or Holy Communion, is not for us Christians merely a symbol of Christ, or an expression of community fellowship, or a metaphor, but it is the life and presence of the Lord Jesus himself. God in Christ makes himself food and drink, so that, taking him into our bodies as nourishment, we can become like him. Adoring and Receiving the Blessed Sacrament we adore and receive Christ.

This is all very mysterious and mystical, and what else could it be? All actions of the God to reveal himself to us are mysterious and mystical, the breakthrough of God into this world is always confounding and never fits easily into worldly categories of experience and understanding.

The Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, is the breakthrough of God’s life and presence into our lives and into this world. It might seem easier and safer for us to construe the mystery and mysticism of Holy Communion into a symbol or a metaphor, but this construal, is not what the Blessed Sacrament really and truly is.

We don’t make the Eucharist what it really and truly is, God makes the Eucharist what it really and truly is- and what God in Christ makes the Eucharist is the gift of his very life.

The scriptures for today are all evocations of the mystery and mysticism of the Blessed Sacrament.

The first scripture, an excerpt from the Old Testament Book of Genesis, recalls the ancient patriarch’s Abraham’s encounter with the priest and king Melchizedek, who offers bread and wine to God as an affirmation of his covenant, that is, his relationship with Abraham. In response to the bread and wine offered by Melchizedek, Abraham makes his own offering “a tenth of his possessions”.

The story of this encounter and offering is presented to as a foreshadowing of the Blessed Sacrament we receive from the priest and king Jesus Christ. The Blessed Sacrament establishes us in relationship with God in Christ and our response to the offering of the priest and king Jesus Christ is that we offer him our very lives.

The second scripture is an excerpt from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, which contains one of the earliest descriptions of the mystery of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is not an invention of the Church, but a reality that Christ’s first disciples received from him. It is Christ who declares the Eucharist to be his Body and his Blood and it is Christ who makes the Eucharist the sacrifice of his new worship.

The Eucharist is the worship that God wants for it is the worship that God in Christ gives.

We might desire a different kind of worship and even invent forms of worship to satisfy our desires and needs. These invented forms of worship might even appear to us to be more appealing and entertaining than the worship God in Christ gives to us, but they are not what God wants and they will never give to us what the worship that is faithful to Christ gives. The worship we create may provide us with ideas and feelings and experiences that we associate with God. The worship of the Mass is different.

We do not receive in Christ’s worship, the Eucharist, merely an idea or feeling or experience, but Christ himself. No form of worship, except the form of worship Christ gives to us, can give us the life and presence of Christ himself.

The meaning of our scripture from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians should be taken as this: From the time of the Apostles, the Church has offered the worship that we know as the Mass. It is not just a matter of human custom, but fidelity to Christ, and receiving from Christ, the gift that he wants to give. This gift is his life and his presence, given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.

Finally, the Gospel of Luke testifies to the great miracle, a display of Christ’s divine power. He feeds a vast crowd with only a few morsels of food.

There is no natural explanation to what is described in this account from Luke’s Gospel. The people cannot give to one another what they do not have. The disciples cannot give to the people what they do not possess. There is nothing to share, for there is nothing at all to share.

God in Christ provides for the people what they cannot provide for themselves. They can only eat and be satisfied because Christ gives them food that he through his divine power creates.

This miracle foreshadows or anticipates the gift of the Blessed Sacrament, heavenly food that God in Christ gives to us, a food we cannot create or provide for ourselves. Christ accomplishes a miracle to suggest to his followers an even greater revelation that is to come- the gift of his life and presence, given to his disciples as food and drink, given to us as a meal, given to us as the Blessed Sacrament.

A greater gift than the food that fed the multitude is the food that Christ makes of his Body and Blood. Greater than the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is the revelation of the Eucharistic mystery.

Throughout the Church’s year of worship, there are reminders to us of what we believe. Knowing what we believe, we know who we are as disciples of the Lord Jesus. Knowing who we are as disciples of the Lord Jesus we can also know what God in Christ wants us to do.

If we forget what we believe, we will inevitably forget what Christ wants us to do, and then we will no longer be Christ’s disciples.

The stakes are high when we forget what we believe and what we are supposed to do.

For this reason, the Church reminds us, and today the Church reminds us yet again what we believe the Blessed Sacrament really and truly is- the life and presence of the Lord Jesus himself.

We remember what we believe about the Body and Blood of Christ so that we might be made worthy to receive what we believe.

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Wednesday in the Octave of Easter (March 30th, 2016)

In today’s scripture from the Book of Acts, Peter and John manifest the power of Christ by doing what Christ did- in this case, healing a man of an affliction that prevented him from walking.

The man’s disability not only prevented him from walking, but from walking into the holy temple, and once he is healed, he walks into the temple, praising God for the gift he has received from Christ through Peter and John.

The lesson in this text is that the disciples of Christ should act like Christ and though this might mean for some, becoming the means through which Christ will work miracles, it will mean for all us that we act like Christ by loving what he loves and serving what he serves.

Becoming Christ-like is what Christian spirituality is about. Holiness for the Christian is not a matter of appearing pious or fulfilling regulations, but of becoming ever more Christ-like in what we say and in what we do.

There is another aspect of this text that is worthy of our consideration- the Apostles offer healing, healing is received, and this healing enables a person to enter into worship, to enter into the temple.

The healing the Church imparts through her ministers, is not simply a matter of the body, but of the soul. We are all soul-sick and the Church has been given Christ’s healing power for our soul-sickness through the ministry of the forgiveness of our sin. Once forgiven, we are able to participate in worship, enter the Church’s temple, which we experience in the Mass. The worship of the Church is not simply a matter of custom or entertainment, but it is an expression of our relationship with Christ. If we have little or no relationship with Christ, or we have resisted Christ through a willful disregard of his commandments, then our worship will become truncated and frustrating. Thus, the ministry of forgiveness is offered to us so that we might be reconciled to Christ and once reconciled, be made ready for worship.

Rarely or never seeking the healing power of Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the equivalent of never having recourse to a doctor for medical care. Even if we are feeling healthy, we should occasionally visit the physicians who care for our bodies. Our soul needs this kind of attention as well, and if we don’t we might find that we have become seriously soul-sick and spiritually disabled.

The worship of the Church is the heart of the matter in Christ’s Gospel for today.

Again, we have another account of eyewitness testimony to the resurrection of the Lord. Christ presents himself as alive to people who believed him to be dead.

The culmination of this encounter is that Christ presents himself to these people in the Eucharist, it is in the Eucharist that they come to know for certain that it is truly Christ the Lord who has revealed himself to them, and that he is alive, not dead.

Christ is alive, not dead, and our encounter with him may not be to see him now in the body of his Incarnation, but he gives himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament. The Blessed Sacrament is not merely a custom or a symbol, but it is an encounter with the Lord Jesus himself, who makes himself as really and truly present to us as he did to those who were privileged to be witnesses to his resurrection.

The manner in which Christ presents himself to us is different, but it is Christ who makes himself present in the Eucharist and it is the living Christ that we encounter, adore and receive.

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