FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD….
Fr. Alex’s Corner, June 25, 2017
Last week we celebrated the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi). This past Friday (June 23) we celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These two Feasts, in my mind, are like two sides of one love story. One Feast helps us understand and appreciate the other.
We older folks may remember that the Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion was BIG in our days. The First Friday of each month was dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Every church had “First Friday devotions” which featured the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. Catholic school kids always attended Mass on First Friday, going to Confession the day before, and receiving the Eucharist on First Friday itself.
There was a ritual for the “enthronement” of an image of the Sacred Heart in family homes. A priest would come to bless the statue or a sacred image, and that’s where the family gathered to pray.
When we worship the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are honoring the whole person of Jesus Christ. It’s not coronary care. The human heart symbolizes love (think Valentine’s Day!). That’s what we celebrate: God’s love. God so loved the world that He sent His Son, and the Son loved us so much that He came to make good all that is bad.
Jesus didn’t just die for us, He lived for us. His whole earthly life and ministry was a love story: His kind words, His healings, feeding the multitudes. Before His death, He reminded His closest friends how they must love one another as He loved them.
Back to the celebration of The Body and Blood of the Lord, remember the outdoor processions? In many places, even today, that tradition continues. Pope John Paul II emphasized the importance of these processions. Jesus must be taken outside the walls of our church, into the streets, into the city and our places of work, study, and meetings. But
that is not only done through processions. You and I, once we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we must take Him into our places. We bring Him there and let Him work His miracles in our midst.
We may remember the “Ite, Missa est” that ended our Latin Mass. Sadly, that was translated into, “Go, the Mass is ended.” Like an applause line: “Hey, it’s over…!” It is a faulty translation. The word “missa” is a verb form which means “the sending-out.” To the early worshippers that meant, “Go, the Sending-out is completed.” You see, in the early Church, after the post-communion prayers, the presider called and blessed those who were SENT to take communion to the sick and imprisoned; those being SENT to prepare catechumens for baptism; those being SENT with collection money and gifts to the poor and the hungry. In other words, everyone attending the Eucharistic Liturgy was SENT OUT with a task. Literally, sent out with the Jesus they received, into their world. (It was like our novices getting their work assignments every afternoon.) Once everyone had their “mission” assigned, then, and only then, was it time to “Go, the Sending out is completed.
Big difference from “Hey, it’s over!” It might stop in their tracks those people who leave Mass right after (or even before) Holy Communion.
So, my friends, think about this. What is YOUR mission? What are you and the Lord within you being SENT OUT to do after Mass today?
When God created the world, He told Adam and Eve, “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). We know how that turned out. So when God sent His Son to re-create the world, the Son told His disciples - (and us) – Come on, WE are going to subdue the earth. We! Not just you and I. Jesus comes with us. It’s a big job. But, with God, we can do it. We need God, but He needs us, too. God loved us and He sent His Son. The Son loves us and He comes with us. Together we can change the world!
THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD
Fr. Alex’s Corner, June 18, 2017
“You have given them Bread from Heaven”
One of my preaching themes is that all ancient civilizations had their gods, many gods. People realized they were not omnipotent and many things were beyond their power. Someone had to hold that power, and it probably was a god. Assyrians, Babylonians, the Greeks and Romans all had their gods. When farmers needed rain and a good harvest, they offered sacrifices to the gods of the harvest; when the soldier needed help in battle, he sacrificed to a god of war; when the lover wanted a mate, there was a god for that, too.
The gods had names, but they were not persons like we are persons. There was no conversation (prayer) with them and once the god was no longer needed people kept their distance. The farther the better!
Israel’s God was different. He spoke to them; He watched over them; He chose them. He gave them a law to observe, a law which was more about them than about God Himself. And there was ONE God!
Today’s first reading (Deut. 8) tells how God gave bread to His people in the desert. People complained to Moses, Moses complained to God, and bread came from Heaven. When Jesus fed multitudes in the desert with bread (and fish), the people caught on right away. God was once again feeding His people. That put Jesus and everything He said and did in a new perspective. He was more than just another healer, preacher, or prophet.
He fed multitudes in the desert. How like God was that! Jesus confirmed their intuition. He referred to Himself as “Bread from Heaven.” “Unless you eat this bread and drink my blood you will not have life in you” (John 6). That was a hard saying for His audience, and many left Jesus at that point. But He continued to identify Himself with food. At the Last Supper His blessing and distribution of Bread – His Body – and Wine – His Blood – was so
memorable that those two grieving disciples on the First Easter night recognized the Resurrected Lord in “the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24).
Today, the Church invites us to reflect on this God-given Food. Believe me, my friends, if Jesus did not say “Do This In Memory of Me” at the Last Supper, no one would have dared to repeat that ritual. It would have been just one more epic event to remember with awe and devotion.
But He said “Do It,” and so we do it. In consecrated bread and wine we recognize Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
Years ago a preacher connected the Eucharist with those signs we see on the highway. You know, the blue ones with symbols telling that at the next exit you can find FOOD, FUEL, and REST. (There used to be a telephone symbol to alert us to “call home,” but now, everyone has their own phone.) The idea was that on the Highway of Life, our Faith journey, we need FOOD to strengthen our bodies, REST to renew our energy, and FUEL to get us from one place to the next (the Fuel is for body and soul.) I do a lot of driving and every time I see one of those signs, I think of the Eucharist: God’s gift of FOOD, REST, FUEL, and yes, PHONE (PRAYER), too. I hope that YOU can also make that connection.
Unlike the hit-and-run gods of ancient civilizations, our God knows us, loves us, and even FEEDS us on our Faith Journey.
Maybe because this FOOD is always there, just for the asking, we may not appreciate what a great gift it is. Our ancients knew and cried with joy that “no other nations have God so close” as we do. On this feast of God’s Miraculous Feeding and Constant Presence, let us thank God who gives us Bread From Heaven. Never, ever, take it for granted.
(to be continued)
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all Dads and Grandads! Imagine: God identified Himself as a “Father.”
GLORY TO THE FATHER, AND TO THE SON,
AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
Fr. Alex’s Corner, HOLY TRINITY, June 11, 2017
The Liturgy of the Catholic Church has once again returned to “Ordinary Time.” Perhaps because this “Time” records the growth of the Church and calls us to grow in faith and virtue, the liturgical color is GREEN. Green symbolizes growth and new life.
Don’t consider “Ordinary” time “YAWN time,” or inferior to extraordinary time. It’s called “Ordinary” because the weeks are distinguished by ordinal numbers, e.g. fifth, sixth, seventh, as opposed to cardinal numbers, e.g. five, six, seven. That “ancient tradition” is more ancient than I, so I can’t say more. Ordinary Time presents us with some extraordinary feasts and mysteries. Like today!
We have been celebrating God’s EXTRAORDINARY love story with His people. Liturgical “times” focus on the “work” of each Person of the Holy Trinity.
Advent focused on God the Father’s creation of the world and of human beings in His Image and Likeness; their sin and expulsion from an earthly paradise. Through many millennia, God the Father made Himself known through His prophets. He saved His people over and over again, most spectacularly in the Exodus from slavery to the Promised Land. The more God’s people pulled away from Him, the more He seemed to love them. He promised a Messiah to undo all the bad stuff.
Christmas Time celebrates how God so loved the world that He sent God the Son in fulfillment of His Promise. We re-lived Jesus’ birth, his early ministry and during Lent and Holy Week we witnessed the depth of love God the Son had for us. He died for our sins, and even asked His Father to “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) WOW!
We sang our Alleluia’s at Easter Time, rejoicing that Jesus rose from the dead, giving death its final
knock-out punch . Death is no longer “The End” for those created in the image and likeness of God.
Jesus promised that upon His return to His Father, He would send us God the Holy Spirit to help us remember and understand all that Jesus taught. The Spirit gives us a share in the God-life even in our earthly life. Since Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit is helping, strengthening, and sanctifying us. Since God is One and Father, Son, and Spirit are always together, we are a Temple of God. What’s more, now that we are Jesus’ brothers and sisters, we have “mansions” awaiting us in the heavenly paradise. No snakes there…!
The mystery of the Holy Trinity is that: a Mystery! Some years ago I met a “professor” who claimed he could fully explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the Holy Trinity. The “professor” was more of a “legend in his own mind.” His head resembled a controlled explosion and he talked and talked and talked. It seems that he gave his best explanations when his blood alcohol level was at least .08%. So I have no intention of trying to “explain” the Mystery of the Holy Trinity.
I will say this: all mysteries are not meant to be solved. There are mysteries which require that we bow our heads and give reverence to something much bigger than we are. So it is….
This week’s celebration of all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity is a “Bravo-Event,” like calling the major actors on stage for a final bow after an amazingly good show! The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have blessed us with a life-changing performance. A good way to celebrate this curtain-call of a Feast is to close our eyes and imagine ourselves Temples of God. God loves us so much that He dwells within us. What greater compliment could God give? How do we deserve such a gift? We don’t “deserve” it. It is pure gift! So, in that spirit, yes, by all means,
GLORY TO THE FATHER, AND TO THE SON, AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT….
“WHEN THE PARACLETE COMES…”
Fr. Alex’s Corner, PENTECOST, June 4, 2017
Some years ago I was meeting with a couple in preparation for marriage. The young man came from a traditional Catholic family, but the bride had no faith affiliation. She was a nice person. Aware that church marriage was important to her fiancé, she participated fully in our program. At our last meeting, I asked, “do you have questions about anything?” She said, “Yes, I do!” She pointed to the wall behind me and said, “What is that?” I thought that a tarantula might be coming at me, so I turned around. There was only one thing there. I answered that it was a Crucifix, showing Jesus, our Savior, who died on the Cross for us. She said, “I know that.” Then she added: “What I see is a man, almost naked, bruises on his body, and blood coming from his hands and feet. There is a hole in his side, which means he is dead. And you have him hanging there like some kind of figurine!”
I was momentarily speechless – then I tried to explain …. She accepted that, I think. After they left, I sat where she had been sitting, and looked at the Crucifix from that spot. Try as I might, I simply did not “see” what she saw. And I know figurines! My Mom had a house full of them.
I dare say that YOU would feel the same way. You see the Crucifix. You may wear one, and there must be one (or more) in your home. What YOU and I see is not “some kind of figurine.” Why
What makes us “see” things differently is our faith. Jesus promised His disciples: I will send you another Advocate to be with you. WHEN THE PARACLETE COMES, he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you (John Ch 14).
On this Pentecost Sunday, we focus on the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Paraclete. It’s not easy to picture the Spirit because He is “spirit.” We are not supposed to picture God the Father as an old, white man, but we do. Many of our fathers are old, white
men, so…. We can picture Jesus because He was a young Jewish man. There may be more images of Him than anyone. The Holy Spirit is often pictured as a Dove. That’s because … well, I don’t really know why…. But the Holy Spirit is NOT a bird.
We don’t “see” Christmas spirit, and yet we know what it is. We don’t “see” school spirit, but we know when it’s there. We don’t “see” a spirit of peace, but we know it, we feel it, and we like it.
Jesus makes it quite clear that the Spirit is a Person whom He will send. He identifies with the Holy Spirit, gives Him names, and insists that it is the Spirit that makes Him (Jesus) and the Father One. And when He sends us the Spirit, we will be like Jesus. We will remember the things He said, and we will understand them. That is faith.
Perhaps easier to understand is that when THE HOLY SPIRIT is in us, we act in a certain way (just like school spirit or Christmas spirit). We “see” things differently (crucifix vs figurine). We “hear” differently, like when we hear of tragedies or illness or bad news. We have hope that things will be better. We pray and “the Spirit” helps us believe that God will help us. We can forgive a person, just knowing (faith) that we will not be hurt again.
In that sense, the Spirit is visible and palpable. When those Apostles received the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost day, Eleven scared, unbelieving, timid, and confused men left the Upper Room and preached so boldly that 3000 people asked to be baptized. That was visible and palpable.
What was the difference? The Holy Spirit, the Advocate arrived. THE PARACLETE CAME and the world has not been the same since. Jesus said it would happen, and, oh, boy, it sure did!
The Holy Spirit is in you and among you. That’s why you distinguish a Crucifix from a figurine. Lots of other things too.
COME, HOLY SPIRIT!