A Clergy Retreat

Retreat pic 0618132113
==================================================
I took a clergy retreat last week. It was an out-of-state one held
from Monday afternoon to Friday morning. It was on a Catholic university campus. It was all consisting of Catholic clergy. Each day we had time for lots of praying of praise and worship songs, and adoration of the Eucharist, and daily Mass, and confession (to one another), and for talks on the power of the Lord that is in our everyday ministry to the Church. We had meals and socials and recreation time together. Clergy came from various places in the U.S., converging on the campus and using the student dorms (haven’t done that in a while!). Three other priests of the Washington Archdiocese were on it with me. Overall, all of the clergy retreatants were excited in the Lord Jesus Christ, and came willing to listen and pray with one another for a 4 ½ days.

It was a time for priests and deacons to gather who have exercised charismatic gifts and those who want to grow in this experience in the Spirit. This was what was a little unique about the retreat gathering.

I think the most enriching experience was of the week were the liturgies and praise/worship times of song. It seemed as if each clergyman was praying with full participation and communication effort. It was full gusto. It was good to experience. It is something that we don’t frequently experience in our parish liturgies, of a church constantly full of enthusiastic and generous worship to God.   (Retreats and conferences like this one bring out people ready to Praise the Lord!) This mountaintop joy was nice to deposit in the soul and bring home from retreat. We clergy brought to the retreat our joy in Jesus and life in His Spirit to share, and we took home “the collected good” of Christ’ Spirit in the many.

Here is an excerpt from one of the retreat talks: “The Word is sign; we are the cause. The Word is the setting, but the dynamic of the Word is its living power in a person. The Word incarnates. We recall that Jesus (Who is the living Word) didn’t write; He preached. He did not command writing of His teachings, yet did command us to preach them. The clergy’s job, then, is to preach and to make the Word present. We do so with the sacred texts; we do so with the Eucharist. The signs are caused by The Church to come alive as experience with the Person of Christ. As a line in Vatican II’s document Verbum Domini says: “the proclamation of God’s Word at the celebration entails an acknowledgement that Christ Himself is present….. (56, #197)” Also, “Christ truly present under the species of bread and wine, is analogously present in the word proclaimed in the liturgy.” Since Jesus said “whoever does not eat my flesh and drink my blood, has no life” thus, the Church’s Pastoral Activity, has become vital and important to give the Word of God its revelation in us. As Verbum Domini adds “The whole history of salvations progressively demonstrates this profound bond between the word of God and the faith which arises from an encounter with Christ.(#77).”
I am off the mountain-top now, but its effect is still upon me!0618131905a                                       Clergy in praise and worship in the chapel

Dewfall, Part Five

We had a prayer group meeting on Sunday, and it was asked: What is the holiest moment of the Mass? Two popular answers were made: One, at the consecration. Two, at receiving Holy Communion. Technically, the first answer is the right one. It is very special to have the Holy Spirit come to us at our beckoning.   Jesus gives the Church (via its valid priest serving The Priest) the ministry of calling down the Spirit for special graces, such as featured in the Sacraments.  Because of the Spirit’s response and coming to us in the consecration prayer is so special (His dewfall or coming down to us in Mystery upon the gifts), we name that as The Holiest Moment of the Mass.   Due to its importance, all the parishes I have been in assignment (but for one–where and when I was not the pastor) has had the altar servers ring chimes for the congregation’s notice and attention, while ushers are also instructed to still the church for that part of Mass of the Coming of the Spirit.  Due to the Spirit’s arrival, the bread and wine on the altar go through transubstantiation in those prayers over the elements.

Of course, answering that “receiving the Eucharist is the most special moment” is not so bad an answer!  It’s a correct response. Why? Because of the Spirit’s coming upon the gifts and making them holy, we will be able to later on receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion. That moment is quite precious, too–because it becomes our personal (individual) encounter of Our Lord.

The first encounter with the Spirit in Mass is the communal one.  Let’s highlight it in this commentary, as we speak of a consecration prayer in these Dewfall blogs. The Spirit comes in the “epiclesis prayer” of Holy Mass. As the presider/priests at Mass uses Eucharistic Prayer II to call down the Spirit, we ask Him to be a Spiritual Dew, a divine touch of grace upon our bread and wine gifts, that we might receive Christ from those elements.   Some churches put up a baldachino over the altar, to indicate that the Spirit will hover and come upon the gifts in that place.  It is like a marble tent high over the main altar.  A Holy Spirit symbol is on it. (I wonder if any one has given a permanent dewfall artistic rendering to a baldachino and altar below?).  Immaculate Conception Basilica in Washington D.C. has one with a wondrous manna from Heaven decoration (representing the Exodus 16 connection). One in St. Mary’s (the Queen) church in Rockville Md. did inspire me quite a lot in liturgy, as I celebrated at least 300 Sunday and Holy Day Masses under it (in my first priest assignment, 1988-91).  I just con-celebrated a Mass under it last Sunday, too, for a First Mass celebration at St. Mary’s for Fr. Mark Cusick, newly-ordained for Washington.

I think that baldachino there at St. Mary’s still gives a strong image of God’s Spirit as hovering and coming down to the altar.  One time, for some special liturgy, we had decorative and ornamental grasses below St. Mary’s  altar, which kind of suggested the sanctuary space was a dewfall area.  The Spirit would come down and we would find miracles and life under that baldachino.  The Spirit wants to unite us into Christ.   As Jesus explained: “He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.”(John 16:14), so “ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24)

Dewfalls and Dews are quite life-giving. We can expect them in certain circumstances and times and situations.
From the Last Supper, Jesus had taught His disciples to ask and expect His Ongoing Presence to be found with them daily (Daily Bread), as in gathering and breaking bread together in His Name.   We could make a “dewfall of the Spirit” area and gathering place in the Real Presence of the Son.   Certain circumstances and times and situations can be set for a Mass.   (Ask-and-receive ‘fields’ for the Dew to fall.)

We were to told by the Savior to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” What is the “daily” in Daily bread?  It is “epiousois.” The Super-Essential Supply in the Now-is-Salvation-experienced “time.”  HE will be the Bread.  Jesus did say:  I AM the Living Bread.  And, in bread and wine, like Jesus Himself offered in Holy Thursday’s Upper Room Supper, (much like Melchizedek and Abraham celebrated together with bread and wine a holy covenant)–now it was God and man to be at table. Jesus The God-man would call us to His Supper. The SPIRIT would offer the connection for the Church. HE would “fall” upon the gifts. How? Jesus said: “This is My Body…This is My Blood poured out… Do this in memory of Me.”  The Last Supper memory could continue as Living Memorial, just as the apostles had.  Being with a Living Lord.

He had showed them the Substance of His New Covenant. It was His Body and Blood, and the Spirit would consecrate bread and wine to become this graced daily bread. Jesus would consecrate men to represent His priesthood, and call forth the blessing. The apostles were the first priests of the Church.  They could invite the Bread of Life to the Church’s altar and to then later be distributed to Christ’ Flock, the faithful.

How would we have such a graced encounter with God, in a meeting with a meal or physical touch with Him? In Mass. Sponsored by the Spirit. The Spirit would glorify The Son by providing for us to encounter Christ among us. As sacred bread for a pilgrim’s journey. As wine become Jesus blood of Peace and Mercy for our sins, which only He can heal away.

Standing with their priests of Christ’ Church (Body), His followers would plead for a New Exodus survival unto getting into the eternal gates of Heaven. Manna is a good Biblical illustration for a pilgrim of old (Moses’ time)–now become Eucharist, the New Manna. Dew is a good image of survival. The Holy Spirit led the people through the desert, and water was an element of survival. God had to be dew for them. He was Cloud, but also the water come to the ground to them through the night.  The Water (the Dew) helped form the manna.  The pilgrims were kept alive.

Jesus says:  Eat this bread (drink/offer this cup) and you shall live forth, not die.  (Spiritually stay alive.)   Dew has given us the New Manna to stay alive in the soul, even past our physical expiration.  The New Manna also identifies our bodies for glory, as people relying on God’s grace.

Numbers 11:9 says, “When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.”   The Passover Pilgrims then ate what the Dewfall had provided (manna–the “what’s it?” food) and journeyed on.   Could the New Covenant Camp be the Church in liturgy?  Could the Eucharist be the New Manna–Jesus as Sacrament?

After Israel’s story of Exodus, then later in the prophet Hosea’s time, that good prophet speaks of survival and “Dew of God.”
“The Lord says: I will heal your backsliding, I will love you freely…I will be as the dew unto Israel, He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.” (ch. 14:4-5).
Jesus says that to His Church today. We call for a Dewfall to be sent forth to a faithful people of His covenant, upon the gifts of bread and wine that Jesus Himself chose to be a living sign.

Back to the Survivor theme of the pilgrim….
I was glancing at a bestseller in a book store, it was a survivor story (something that is a popular genre right now). In it the man said that he had to learn to live of the land in his cut-off situation (crash site) and that survival depended upon him learning how to make a dew-catching device to gather enough fresh water to drink and wash upon himself, until his deliverance.
Interesting. I thought of it as a like situation of the Church.
The Church is on the crash site of our fallen state of sin and looming death. Yet we are wanting to live and survive.
The Church has a grace-catching manner in the Eucharist that Jesus said He’d provide, of course, having us totally rely on the Dew/Miracle Making Coming of the Spirit to make our gifts alive and fresh for spiritual benefit. If we participate in receiving the Miracle Bread (and Wine) of the Savior, then we live on.

The Church has to exercise Faith in God and trust in His mystery. Like Gideon waiting upon a miracle (and putting his fleece out to catch the dew), the Church waits upon the Lord at the altar, for His coming. (see Judges 6:36-40)

Send down Your Spirit, like the Dewfall, upon these gifts…
so begins the consecration prayer of Eucharistic Prayer 2.

What’s truly amazing is that Jesus empowered the Church to be in any position of asking for the Dewfall. That a Catholic priest can beckon the Spirit is totally awesome and behooving. It was a saint who once said: “If we might marvel at angels, then think of how the angels marvel at priests calling down the Spirit and how the angels marvel at the people at Mass receiving such grace from God. It is more wondrous than the Exodus, too, for they see to where these new pilgrims at heading–back home to God in Heaven.
The angels might also marvel at the Church today being much like the prophet Elijah, who encountered the Lord not in the mighty signs but in a still small voice. Like the Breath of the Spirit, to a miracle come upon a paten/ciboria and chalice/communion cup and bring the Body and Blood of Christ to the world, it all happens in such a sublime humble manner.

Much like Jesus’ Coming to Mary, and she said: Be it done unto me according to Your Word, O Lord. And Jesus came. born in her, by the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit to us. Give us Jesus.

From Fr. John Barry (Papa John)

Dewfall, Part Four

I would like to add more thoughts on the image of the Dewfall and the Holy Spirit in the Missal’s “new translation” of Eucharistic Prayer II. If you haven’t read the first three installments on Dewfall, then perhaps you’ll need to begin there and work to this fourth part, but anyway–here we go.

The Missal now prays: “Make holy these gifts, we pray, by sending your Spirit down upon them, like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
It used to pray: “Let your Spirit come upon these gifts and make them holy.” What’s the difference, even in an opening epiclesis prayer of consecration? Well, evidently, there is enough good difference for me to be writing a fourth blog on just that one line.

It was asked by the Church over the last decade: “How many of our people in the pews — and how many of our priests at the altar — had felt in the New Missal (called the Novus Ordo–the Missal in English that came after Vatican II’s call for a modernized and vernacular Missal version) –that some word and phrase changes had surrendered away some of the beautiful transcendant aspects of praying the Mass? The reformers of the liturgy in the 60′s and 70′s (of the English version Missal) had tried so much to bring familiarity and down-to-earth language of the human aspect of the Mass, that they might have tampered in translation efforts that hurt the heavenly side of the experience of Holy Mass. Questions in the turn of the New Millennium and its decade of the 2000′s were ones like: Are the people in the pews and the priests at the altar at Holy Mass experiencing the manner of being lifted up to partake in the heavenly liturgy? Did the words of our vernacular translation Missals make that connection? Thus, the answer of “maybe not” to those questions had Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI busy about a reform of the reform (of the liturgy). The words of the English language version would be translated again from the Latin Missal, using a new method, which could insure the transcendant aspect of the Mass to be reclaimed (at least in our words). This seeking of a return to the wonder and awe of praying the Mass made the new translation work so necessary and important. As the Church would reach her 40th anniversary of Vatican II, she would have a New Missal (now in English, but closer to the Latin and transcendant original Missal).   0702131655morning dew by seaside a photo of one’s wonder, under heaven, of waking to a new misty morning

The consecration prayer with the Dewfall image was one of the changes in this new translation. I want to meditate on it from a perspective of appreciating what the Liturgy Reform (2011) of the Missal did for us, offering us back the essential transcendent dimension of the liturgy. To get to that point of what dewfall could mean to the consecration prayer of a daily Mass, allow me to start with a change that was also made to the Kyrie/Lord Have Mercy invocations of Mass–and why it was also ‘tweaked’ a bit in new translation from the Latin.

In one of the forms I often use for a weekday Mass, from the New Missal, I introduce the Penitential Rite in a prayer, saying: “You are seated at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us Lord, Have Mercy.” Before 2011 and back into the 1980′s, I prayed: “You plead for us at the right hand of the Father.” Now, what small but significant difference was made there? The new translation lifts our gaze to heaven and asks us to contemplate Christ seated at the right hand of the Father and there interceding for us. Oh yes–Christ is still pleading–yet see where He is pleading from–His Seat in Sovereignty. That’s an elevated sense of prayer. It was there in Latin Masses in prior generations, but it had slipped out a bit in the English translation from the 1970′s (post Vatican II).
By contrast, the translation we used to have aimed to be didactic and efficient. It scrubed the metaphor and hence the vision of our Lord in heaven. It opted instead to give us information about what Jesus is doing for us. Instead of emphasizing us and our level, we now are emphasizing the Lord and His Highest Level.
It matters to pray this way!
Here’s a little background for you. The original Latin of that Lord Have Mercy invocation— ad déxteram Patris sedes, ad interpellándum pro nobis — combines two quotations from the Letter to the Hebrews. It’s chosen quite deliberately from that Scriptural meditation on Christ’s heavenly high priesthood. In the New Testament, to be “seated at the right hand” describes Christ’s divine power and authority (see. Matt. 26:64; Col. 3:1). By removing the metaphorical reference to His being seated, the first English translation weakened our loftiness of the prayer. This sense of ‘weakness’ was reinforced by the decision to translate interpellándum by the word “plead” — which in common English usage suggests an inferior or powerless position. Yet In restoring a faithful translation of the Latin, the new Missal now redirects our worship toward heaven. We pray, confident in our Father’s mercy, knowing we are in contact with our High Priest — who “is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,” and “always lives to make intercession” for us (see Heb. 7:25; 8:1; and compare it to Rom. 8:34 (ad dexteram Dei qui etiam interpellat pro nobis).
Now we may proceed to the new Dewfall prayer of Eucharistic Prayer Two and the consecration words…
Currently we pray:
Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy,
so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The new translation restores the repetitive language and the biblical metaphor found in the Latin text:
Restoring the Latin here gives us a much richer prayer. It also stresses that the liturgy is not our work, but the work of God, who sends down his Spirit from heaven. Do you catch on to this?! Can you see the meaning in the image?

The key word is “dewfall,” rore in the Latin. It is a poetic metaphor that is filled with Scriptural significance. Of course, the allusion here is to how God fed his chosen people with manna that he sent down from heaven with the morning dew. We are also meant to associate this with Christ calling the Eucharist the true manna, the true “bread which comes down from heaven.(see John 6:50).
Again and again, this new translation reminds us how steeped our liturgical language is in the vocabulary and thought-world of sacred Scripture.
In just this epiclesis, for instance, we have not only the reference to the heavens that drop down manna with the dewfall. We also have an allusion to the sending down of the Spirit — upon the earth at creation, upon Mary at the Annunciation, Christ at his Baptism, the Church at Pentecost, and each one of our hearts at our Baptism.

Considered prayerfully, we can see that Spirit’s action on the altar in the liturgy continues the Spirit’s work of creation and redemption in history. The Spirit’s work is still a-fallin on us. As it was prayed in the 8th century Mass in Latin, we can pray it alike in the 21st century in English. The dewfall still happens naturally on the earth through time, so does it happen in the Spirit’s Dew falling to earth through time. Jesus had said: “I will give you another Advocate.” He is the Dew for us. Consider this: in the 1974 Latin Edition of the Roman Missal (yes, they have been working on the Latin ever since that first English translation), they had the words for this part of Eucharistic Prayer 2 as “Spiritus rore tui.” Rore comes from “ros” which means the dew. So the phrase literally means “by the dew of Your Spirit.” The translaters for the 2011 Roman Missal–English rendered it to say “like the dewfall” to help the faithful understand our definition here. While the moment of natural dewfall is a nightfall-to-morning process to the leaves and the grass, which will be “discovered” in the dawn and early morn, so too the Spirit unveils the start of a New Dawn, of the Eternal coming to humankind, though we cannot yet grasp fully to it (dew can hardly be held onto– yet CAN be drunk or consumed). Still, it is real–this DEW of God is present to us–and refreshment comes to us super-naturally. As dew helps nature, The Dew helps the spiritual nature. Jesus explained the Holy Spirit in this way: “You cannot tell whence He comes and wither He goes, so it is for every one born of the Spirit… if I tell you here of earthly things, and you won’t believe or recognize it, then how can I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:8,12) Here Jesus was drawing comparisons of the Spirit in natural and supernatural connections. Whether with Wind images or Dew images, you can get the point that God is saying I AM AMIDST YOU IN MYSTERY. And that’s Sacrament talk. Blended with Scripture.

This view of God is put in our new Missal translation.
And this is deliberate. This is what the Vatican intended in Liturgiam Authenticam, the important statement of translation principles that it issued back in 2001 about what they were trying to do. If one could sum up their aim, it would be: Keeping it real.

The Holy Fathers have sought the way of realism in our prayers.
No matter what the fads in liturgy or catechesis, the Vatican wants to Church to understand the relationship we have with God–as one of transcendence and immanence.

Liturgiam Authenticam says: “The words of the Sacred Scriptures, as well as the other words spoken in liturgical celebrations … are not intended primarily to be a sort of mirror of the interior dispositions of the faithful; rather, they express truths that transcend the limits of time and space.”
True.
The liturgy is not only an aesthetic event. It is not only about praying beautiful words. The Scriptures are the inspired Word of God. They are the Word of God in the words of human language.

In the liturgy, we are praying to God in the very words of God. And God’s Word is power. God’s Word is living and active. That means that the words we pray in the liturgy are “performative.” They are not words alone, but words that have the power to do great deeds. They are words that can accomplish what they speak of.

As priests, when we speak Christ’s words in the Eucharist — or in any of the sacraments — these words possess divine power to change and transfigure. “This is my Body … This is the chalice of my Blood.” When we speak these words by the power of the Spirit, bread and wine are marvelously changed.

For all of us, we are invited to understand that a Falling of the Holy Spirit really does happen in the church at the consecration. Even more really so, than the dew is seen on the grass in early morn. Can we make that connection?
The words of the liturgy are able to create “a universe brimming with spiritual life.” By these words we are summoned into the stream of salvation history. By these words we are able to offer ourselves in sacrifice to the Father, in union with Christ’s own offering of his Body and Blood. By these words we are being transformed, along with the bread and the wine on the altar. We are becoming more and more changed into Christ, more and more assimilated to his life.
We are the Church meant to become changed by what the Dewfall (Dew of the Spirit action) does to us. We are invited to become one into Christ’ Body (other Christ’s–in that we are anointed as His sons and daughters–to be like Our Lord).

Through such revelations, and catching on to the Spirit’s work,
we need to invite our brothers and sisters to know the liturgy as a mystery to be lived. As Pope Benedict has said, our Eucharistic mystagogy must inspire “an awareness that one’s life is being progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated.” The Dewfall comes to bring New Life. The Altar gathers us into the New Morning of God. Eternal life.

Some of the saints try to help us “get it.” For St. JoseMaria Escriba, the Sacred Liturgy (Mass) was not a formal act but a transcendent one. Each word in her prayer held a profound meaning and was uttered in a heartfelt tone of voice. He savored the concepts. … Josemaría seemed detached from his human surrounding and, as it were, tied by invisible cords to the divine. This phenomenon peaked at the moment of consecration. … Josemaría seemed to be disconnected from the physical things around him … and to be catching sight of mysterious and remote heavenly horizons.

Refs.
See Catechism, nos. 1090, 1111, 1136, 1187, 1326, 2642 (“heavenly liturgy”); 1139 (“eternal liturgy”); 1195, 2855 (“liturgy of heaven”).
See Rev. 1:10.. Rev. 4:4, 10; 19:4, 9. xx. Rom. 12:1; Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 3:18.
See Sacramentum Caritatis, 64.

Dewfall–Part Three

I have been writing about a phrase in Eucharistic Prayer 2.   You have read it in prior posts.  It’s our beckon of the Spirit to come like the dewfall.

When we beckon the Spirit to bring a miracle to bread and wine on an altar, our expectation is that we will be given a pure gift, as it will be holy of God. It will be fresh.   It will be cleansing.  It will be needful.

The sinner (who is all of us) stands before God in desperate need of all manner of gifts of saving life in Jesus Christ.  The Savior did mention that He would be Bread of Life to us.   The apostles had once petitioned:  “Give us this Bread always.”  Jesus has–at least through valid Catholic Masses through the ages, has He.  The Church receives this Bread via the Spirit’s help.  The Church has her means to receive this heavenly aid in the Holy Mass.

It brings on a newness to those so disposed in faith to receive it (Him).

What is necessary to be blessed by the Eucharist?  I heard it once in a short explanation:  “Till Sin Be Bitter; Christ Will Not Be Sweet.”

We need Christ as Bread of Life for our salvation.  We need to keep turning from sin, and going to Communion for holiness of life, of total reform.   This everyday freshness, like the Dew, is the holiness of life we do need.

We can hold a Mass and ask Jesus for His Presence to be made manifest:   It is much an invitation of Heaven to come down and meet us!  Jesus is Heaven’s connection.  He DID say:  “…Everlasting Life.  I am that Bread of Life.   While your forefathers did eat manna in the wilderness (he was speaking to Jewish persons in this dialogue)…This is the Bread which comes down from Heaven, that a person may eat to be saved from death…I am the Living Bread come from Heaven….whoever eats My body and drinks my blood, has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”                                                                               John 6 passages

What does The Lord say we need to do for this Living Bread meeting?  He asks for a gathering of His baptized believers, and we may invite others as guests, and we must have a valid priest in the Church’s Holy Orders, necessary to preside and pray over the gathering, and then the proper matter is necessary in the unleavened bread, the wine and some water.  The proper Scriptures are to be proclaimed and the proper Missal is to be used, too.   The Catholic Church trains her servants to have all of this in set-up.   Now we can meet with the Lord.

(Even in the Last Supper preparations–which was the First Mass–Jesus had special preparations made for the New Passover meal.  See Mark 14:12-17 and Luke 22:7-16.  He also commissioned his apostles for service of the same, a New Passover celebration, as Luke 22:19-20 records that what Jesus did He also meant for the apostles to continue on and do “in memory of Me.”  In verses 25-30  Jesus passes on to them His authority and He explains carefully to them what it would be used for, especially in regard to the Church, saying ” I am among you who serves –so you shall imitate My servanthood– and you have continued with Me even through great temptations, and I appoint unto you now a kingdom, as my Father has appointed unto Me; that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom.”)                  0702131728

The Holy Mass is a place that man can cooperate with God to receive something beautiful from The Trinity.   We can gather in the Sacred Liturgy, and, following the original instructions from Jesus and with wisdom of the ages in the Church in celebrating Mass, a delightful experience, like the dewfall of God, can come to us.   Jesus intended for us to have intimate contact with Him.  He authored the Mass for this experience.  Two disciples catch on to this as they share the Word and then Break Bread with Jesus and  experience Him as the Risen Lord, as Luke 24:30-31 tells of their Emmaus walk.  In a second example of the early Church, In the first days in the Pentecost Spirit, Jesus’ followers begin a daily Breaking of the Bread gathering, as Acts 2:47 says was important

And this is the same basic experience of the Church of 2013.

We come to participate in a Liturgy of the Word.  We hope to hear from God and for it to burn in our minds and souls (like the Emmaus disciples say happened), and then we come to a Liturgy of the Eucharist and we hope to sup with the Lord and break bread with Him (hoping that our eyes of faith will open up and see Jesus and His Kingdom before us, like the Emmaus duo saw).

We also are members of a Church that has a daily Mass, though we center on a Lord’s Day gathering of all.  The early Church had a smallness to it that could have a daily meeting; yet parishes today can also be ‘local’ enough to have daily Mass too.

Each day that I pray Mass, I bid Jesus (due to His gift in me of Holy Orders*) to send His Spirit to transform the gifts of bread and wine on a church altar to truly become (and consubstantially be) His Body and Blood.  It is to re-present Him as THE OFFERING to humankind for their salvation.                                                              (*rf: John 20:19, 21 “Jesus said to the apostles in the Upper Room: Peace be with you.  As My Father has sent Me, even so I send you.  And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said, Receive the Holy Spirit… and Jesus did many other signs (a word for sacrament) in the presence of His disciples.”  The Church has continued using the Signs/Sacraments of our Savior to them all through history.)

The Dewfall Coming of the Spirit provides the Church members a manner of being in touch (Sacrament) with the One Salvation Offering of Jesus on the Throne.   He reigns in the Heavens, and He has holy gifts to share with those who have accepted Him as Lord and who are following Him.  His Offering in Heaven is shared.  We get to remain in touch with Jesus.

When I think “Sacraments,” I think of “remaining in touch with Jesus’ holiness.”   This IS something He said He would provide us.  Do you remember what John 15:4 says?  There, Jesus explains:  “(You are to) Abide in Me, and I in you.”   [Abide means to remain in.]   It is also interesting that the Holy Mass is a celebration of Word (with opening the Mass celebrating Mercy) and Sacrament (Touched by Mercy).  Do you know what John 15:2-3 says?  Jesus says there, right before the abiding part of Sacrament: “Every branch that bears fruit I still must prune, that it may bring forth more fruit.  Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken to you.” So, in Mass, we come as people growing in the Lord, yet who need to keep growing and knowing the Lord (Liturgy of the Word), and we share in Jesus’ Intimacy of Abiding to be touched in His Grace (Liturgy of Eucharist).

When Jesus fully institutes the Priesthood, in John 20, when He is Risen, it is interesting how he gives the priest the Sacrament of Reconciliation, too, as part of their ministry of service to Him.

Mercy leads to Encounter.   [The Eucharist is prepared for.] [Even some pruning is expected.]

The Dewfall Person, the Holy Spirit, has the Mission of Glorifying the Son and bringing on His secret Kingdom come to humankind. The Spirit will be working in mystery.  He will come to fulfill and complete the work of the Son on earth.  He will use the Church as his servants and instruments of blessing.  As John 16:8 also points out:  The Spirit also will convict us and prove the world to be wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.

The world says no problem about those above three–as if we need not worry about “sin” and that noone need strive for holiness in Christ in this life and that God will be easy on judging people.  That–the Holy Spirit says–He will prove such ideas to be very wrong.

Many Christians also follows the world’s script on the above.  Bad idea.  The Spirit has an assigned mercy place of believers to come and meet Jesus.  It’s in Sacraments, such as Reconciliation and Eucharist.

Sacraments shall be where THE SPIRIT is frequently at work with us.  He will come as like the Dewfall to bring us renewal and a truly redeemed life with the Kingdom of God experiece going on in us.  Jesus prayed:  “Thy Kingdom Come, Father, Thy Will Be Done On Earth, As It Is In Heaven.”

And the Father gives us His Spirit for this work to be done on earth.

Dewfall–Part Two

May we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives with each new day!

“Like the Dewfall”                                                                                     A Series of Reflections on the Image of Eucharistic Prayer 2

THE DEWFALL:  PART TWO

In the Roman Missal Eucharistic Prayer 2, the priest prays,   “You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness. Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  

As I started saying in Part One of THE DEWFALL, I recognize now that the Holy Spirit is He Who is like the dewfall, for He Comes and Showers a Blessing on the Faithful, by indeed bringing us Jesus in the Eucharist, as the New Manna (and Our Forgiveness in the Blood).  Let me continue those thoughts.  It has all been brought to mind by the inclusion of a new image in our Eucharist Prayer 2 in the latest Roman Missal of the Church.

Psalm 133 is one of the short but more beautiful of the psalms.  It has a priestly image to share and then a dew image to share.  They are blended on purpose.  Psalm 133 is also about God’s people being one in this image; they have come together in God.  Let’s look at three lines…

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down on the beard, even Aaron’s* beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;  As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended on the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for ever more.

Do you note the Psalm author’s delight?  They had always wanted Israel to become one.  They wanted unity by a communal prayer of God’s people gathering in holiness, as God meets each person, and the whole collection of people, as people open to His Ways.

The priest Aaron (Moses’ brother), who is God’s beginning of priests for the Exodus, is mentioned as in covered in the oil of anointing, for special work for the Lord.

The dew of Hermon is mentioned as the high lofty sign of God bringing down from the holy mount His refreshment (Hermon is Israel’s highest point and a sacred place).   What happens in result?  People come into unity.

Isn’t this exactly the point of Catholic Mass?  We have in Mass: √Encounter with God.  √God’s delight.  √The priests in delight in service.  √Blessings coming from above, as fresh and good as clear mountain dew streams, as all God provides is pure. √ Unity as the Promise and Hope from the Eucharist.

I was at an ordination Mass yesterday for the Archdiocese of Washington, and guess what was in the program?  It was the mention of Psalm 133, and priests, and dews, and the hope of unity in Communion with Christ!

Hmm!  What an interesting God-incidence!  I have been writing of this image in this blog.

I was also looking at the main chalice on the altar, and the main paten-plate there, and I remembered a verse in Scripture of 1st Corinthians 10:16:   The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of the Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of the Christ?

Yet, as Paul puts out this question to Corinth’s people two millennia ago, I think it could be asked of people today:  Do you recognize the Presence of Christ to you in this Sign to the world in the Church?   Or is it missed like the dew can be missed in the morning, or just walked (or driven) past?   Is Christ being missed in the city, since it is so built up, in concrete and steel and glass and brick, distracting away from nature’s daily wake up call?           0702131742

Dewfall comes among us rather in mystery. It’s just some small wonder of nature, almost taken for granted everyday.  I have not really understood how dewfall works, but through the years I have come to expect it on the morning grass.  So, when I take a walk across the dawn lawn, I look back and expect to see a trail of soppy steps being left behind me.

It is good to get out on a morning like today and just walk a bit at sunrise.  You can catch on that God has been working while we have slept inside in our beds.   He has the world ready for a new day.

God works through His Creation all around us, and He gives big hints of what His Own Existence is like, by these signs (like dew).   God likes to just show up as He wants, in the dewfall, in the mist that produces a fresh air, and in the rainbow in the clouds between the showers and the sun.  He just lays these kinds of signs of His Presence before us.  They are not controllable by man, except sometimes to spoil or partly prevent their occurrence (like concreting over a meadow, as the song line goes “they paved paradise, put up a parking lot.”), but humankind likes these signs and regrets any interference on our part to them.

Dewfall is cool.   Even a big soft drink company has tried to capitalize (make much money) on the refreshing image, saying “Do the Dew.”

God has His own appeal. ‘Be where the Dew comes in Sacrament to give new life and fresh blessings to you.  Go to Catholic Mass.’ –GodOr to priests: “Do the Dew. Call on My Spirit at Mass today.”–God

The Spirit is like the Dewfall Who come to bring a wonder to the Mass.

There are natural wonders of the Lord that our natural senses can appreciate.   Still, there are spiritual wonders also to be enjoyed, and to be received by our senses, but in tandem with our spiritual capabilities.   Here’s where the Spirit comes like a dewfall to us at Mass. God comes in nature, but also in super-nature (or the miraculous, in soul-full sign).  A Sacrament offers this.  It’s a sign noticed by senses (bread and wine) which also is meant to be received and appreciated in the spiritual life of man (in our prayers together at Mass as God’s covenant people).  It’s not mere bread and wine after the Spirit comes to the altar at the “epiclesis”

The Church works in this realm.  As Christ Jesus has taught us, and so instituted among us, we learn that we can accommodate God’s beauty and simple wonders to us in special encounters.

For instance, in a worldly example, first, I can explain.  A land developer can take a property and fashion it into a nice park with ponds and flowering trees and bushes and wide lush lawns.   Next thing you know—you have a place to appreciate the dewfall and grass and fields and flowers and water—where there might not have been such a beautiful and simple place like that there before.

What about developing a time and place where we experience God in beauty and friendship and refreshment?  For a spiritual wonder.

The Spirit comes to our house of worship to take a space and make it into an encounter area with the Living God.  He is a dewfall that brings the Risen Christ’ Gifts; His is an anointing that has us refreshed in our baptismal life; and His is spread nourishment to the Church from Christ to feed up our soul’s being or even adorn it within, like as with flowers and fragrance and color and wonder on a mountain-meadow field.

Jesus gave His apostles (and their consecrated or ordained chosen priests to follow) the authority or God’s permission to call down the Spirit for a Eucharistic Miracle, and a Last Supper kind of encounter.   The priests say “Come” to the Spirit.  The priests use the consecration formula Jesus asked to be followed (remember Him saying “Do This…?”) and the Dewfall actually comes and happens at the altar.   Or, like the Dewfall, the Spirit happens to make the gifts changed to be the holy Body and Blood of Jesus to us.

God allows a spiritual blessing to come to us—arriving so much in Mystery and subtle power—that it is like how He works in nature, but this is a Spiritual favor for His faithful followers.  It is more than dew.  It is Jesus as Bread and Wine to nourish us.  It is Sacrament (we are meant to become holy or sacred in this way).

The ancient word for Sacrament is Mysterion.  It means a secret experience. That is, with Faith we can experience God’s signs, and they no longer then are a secret, but now a window of God’s immanence and salvation in Sacrament.

We have understood for all the ages in Church history that this experience of liturgy with God is very special.  Jesus did it Himself as the Last Supper.   He also taught that “This is the Bread (Me)…I Am the Living Bread which comes down from Heaven: if any one eat of this bread, they shall live forever, and the bread that I will give is My Flesh…for the life of the world. Except that one eats of the flesh of the Son, and partake of the Blood, they have no life within them… whosoever does eat my flesh and partake of my blood, has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day (John 6:50-51, 53-54).”

So Jesus is saying that we need to participate and partake of the Gift of Himself in Sacrament, The Eucharist, for us to live the new life of a Christian.  This IS what the Catholic Faith affords people.  One must come and receive Him.  “Seek and you shall find” as Jesus puts His offer in one line.

God is come to His people.   He arrives at Mass, in the Body and Blood, first by the arrival of the Spirit Whom has been beckoned, as He taught us to ask for this grace.  The priest prays a prayer, speaking on behalf of all, and acting as Persona Christi (or God’s delegate for the encounter): Make holy…these gifts we pray…by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.

The Meaning of EP II’s Dewfall– Part One

The Meaning of Eucharistic Prayer Number Two’s Image of Dewfall.

Part One (of several parts/blogs to come)

May we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives with each new day!
“Like the Dewfall” is a Series of Reflections on this Dew Image of the Holy Spirit, along with some other reflections about liturgy and prayer.

In the Roman Missal Eucharistic Prayer 2, the priest prays, “You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness. Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Since Eucharistic Prayer 2 is the usual prayer of choice for weekday Masses, I pray this image quite a lot. At least, I do, since the Roman Missal added this image to the prayer recently. It has given me inspiration to research the meaning of the image. Here’s what I have come up with…
Dewfall is a quiet process: it forms silently and gradually. There is a something mysterious about dew. You can be outside in the evening when the ground is dry, but return back to the outside in the morning and find it is wet. How did it happen? Unlike rainfall, you do not hear dewfall. You may ask yourself, “Did it rain last night again?” But it was not rainfall; it was dewfall. This image is a good one for the workings of the Spirit.

Dewfall Reveals God’s Love
God used dew to reveal His love to the Jewish people when they left slavery in Egypt and journeyed through the desert to the Promised Land. He showed His love by sending dew every morning, and after it evaporated, the people found bread called “manna” which nourished them. How this all occurred, I cannot explain, just that—God provided it. In the morning there was a layer of dew all about the camp, and when the layer of dew evaporated, fine flakes were on the surface of the wilderness– “fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground” is how they described it. On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?” for they did not know what it was. But Moses told them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat (Exodus 16:13-15).”

The Holy Spirit Coming Like Dewfall Makes the Bread from Heaven
The Church on earth is a pilgrim people too, but instead of journeying home to the Promised Land after leaving slavery in Egypt, we are journeying home to Heaven after leaving the slavery of sin. Like the ancient pilgrim Israelites who needed nourishment while in the desert, God gives us the Eucharist to nourish us as we live in the world but know our true home is Heaven. In the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass, the priest recalls the ancient memory of manna in the desert, and following Jesus’ command from the Last Supper, does what Jesus did by bringing us the Bread of Heaven, but first he asks the Holy Spirit to come, “like the dewfall.”

In many daily Masses, particularly between Monday and Friday, Catholic priests like myself pray the Eucharistic Prayer 2 consecration words, asking God to “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Just in knowing the connection to the Exodus provision of manna and the dewfall, it adds meaning to my daily Mass. In Mass, we pray that God “give us this day our daily bread,” and I see the Eucharist as God answering and leading that provision by giving us a community to experience and share our Christian life, with Himself as Sacrament to her needs. He is there daily for His people, His Church. He is Eucharist. He is salvation in us to help us become children of God. He is leading us to meet Him at His Throne in Glory, too. He, as well, is the Incarnation, God among us, to dwell in man. He desires to embody His believers, and make them holy. It is even like a secret thing, coming to us like the dewfall. The Dewfall is His Spirit.
His Spirit brings life and renewal to us. His Spirit also consecrates the bread and wine to be our Sacrament-Jesus in the Church’s liturgy, our encounter in the Lord God.

The Dewfall also is God’s daily provision for us to life in new life. He supplies grace to us to live each day. We can wake up daily and have confidence that God is willing to work fresh with us. Lamentations 3:21-25 puts it beautifully*: “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassion fails not, but is new every morning: Great is His Faithfulness to us! Thus, for me, The Lord is my portion, so says my soul within me, hungry and athirst for Him, therefore I will hope in Him. It is what life is about—and the Lord is good to those who rely on Him, and seek His way to go.” [*paraphrase]

Can you (likewise) value the connection of dewfall, Jesus the Bread of Life, and His leading the exodus from our world of sin and death to the promise of Heaven? Can you see the meaning of the liturgy and our daily (and non-stop) celebration of His Presence with us until we meet Him in Glory?
Let me share a little more about it.

It has been my priestly calling, since 1988, to re-present the One Eternal Sacrifice of Jesus for sinner’s salvation, as prayed with the Body of believers in the Holy Mass of the Catholic Faith. There is a vital priest-vocation role of proclaiming the Lord’s outreach to the body of believers, in showing His Gifts are ‘raining down’ for His believers to become holy and blessed. In a low estimate, I think I have prayed 13,000 consecration prayers at the altar so far, as I have made my Silver Jubilee this month. What a participation in the Spirit! I am so grateful to have been called to this provision for the Church; and I don’t know just when I began seeing the Mass as the pilgrimage route home to God, but I suppose it was when I was a young adult, and I began to go more to daily Mass.
In college I started a daily holy hour with God for prayer. I began to seek morning prayer with God on a must-do basis for all 365 days of the year, and I began to like joining the church more for its morning prayer of Eucharist. Though I didn’t go everyday, I did make a morning (or evening) Mass frequently. What led me to it? Looking from my present perspective, I suppose I was first seeing the Dewfall of the Spirit in the Eucharist. It was like: I would like to go to pick up the miracle manna with other pilgrims, as a part of my reliance of Jesus to feed my spiritual needs. The Mass gives me that: silence, The Word, The Sign of Him (Eucharist-encounter), prayer time, and mutual support.
From that spiritual awareness, I noticed what the Mass was given to mean for the faithful. It is meant to be an experience of recalling, but in-a-present-way, the dying and rising mystery of Jesus Christ, and our readiness link to His Ultimate Return to the world (and His own). “Do This in Memory of Me,” Jesus said. Not just a past memory, but a presentation of His immanence, that He is shepherding an exodus journey among us, even much greater than the Jewish one as told in the Torah. This is THE New Covenant Exodus. The Church is the gathered people, bathed in mercy and grace to be set free from sin AND in no captivity or fear of death to be led Home to the Throne of God and The Kingdom. Wow.

The Dewfall of the Holy Spirit is our daily provision to live the new life to keep going onward to Jesus, the King of Glory. The Dewfall (The Spirit) works in many ways towards believers finding that Ultimate Union to God in Christ, but the Mass is certainly one place that the Spirit showers down grace for pilgrims on the Way.

END OF PART ONE: THE DEWFALL.

A Summer Drive in your 2013 faith vehicle (what?!)

My own Christian Car “Ad”

Hey, there’s nothing like a Summer Drive in a great vehicle, huh?  In this Year of Faith, what are you spiritually driving?
Hi, this is St. Anthony of Padua.   Can I help you find The Ride of the 2013 Summer?  After all, do you what to go places this Summer?  What not in a ride in Christianity by Catholic?  This is great vehicle of Summer 2013.  Take to the Highway to Heaven in a Summer adventure you’ll remember forever.   Drive behind the the will (wheel) of God, with superb handling on the chassis of the Church and God’s dependable truths.   You’ll get mileage in the Sacraments that can impress any mpg stats.   Your GPS (God’s Piloting Spirit) is totally reliable to find the best route to your best life.   The Scriptures and the Catechism and other holy reading is your fuel to take you further onto the Kingdom of God.   Sightseeing your life in Christ and His beautiful plans for your heart and mind is like a drive by the ocean or through a national park– it’s just exhilirating to know God is with you and that He has things to show you.  You won’t need car washes–this vehicle is cleaned of heart– at every Mass you make.  If necessary, receive Reconciliation, if any road damage occurs, but you’ll be fixed up faster than you can say AAA.  So get in and join what millions already have called– an incomparable Christ-life. It’s a ride on the open gospel parkway.  Faith is your joy on This Ride. Safety also is our concern.  The 2013 Christianity by Cadillac Catholic comes with self-loading “heir” seatbelts, sensor interior and exterior lighting, and automatic warning lights on the dash for when you’ve made a bad turn into heresy or falsehood.   While in meditation, just put the vehicle in cruise control in The Spirit.  With a strong exterior craftmanship to deal with worldliness and rough roads–you’ll be ready for all-terrains and long-distances, too.   The Vehicle of Faith It has a great ac system for the “heir of Christ” and you’ll Beat the Heat for sure. This ride also has a sound system that can bring the peace that passes understanding to your mind and soul and the upbeat encouragement that puts joy in your drive.   So, it’s time for the Summer.  And It’s Christianity by Catholic.  Your Year of Faith is now.

 

Beat the Heat–Part Two

When we say:  Beat the Heat  (and we are talking spiritually, of preparing for the judgment by being reconciled in Christ Jesus)  we also are wise to ask for Mary’s help, of whom Jesus has placed as a spiritual helper for us.

MARY’S AD   BEAT THE HEAT

Today, June 13th, is one of the days of Mary’s Visits to the world in Fatima Portugal, about a century ago.   It was Mary’s second appearance to three young persons.  In the first visit, Mary told them the need for people to pray to God humbly, and of the need for Jesus’ followers to pray fervently in petition for others to turn to God.  The prayer that Our Lady of Fatima taught them to pray (and to teach others) was this little aspiration (now used in the Rosary):  “O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, and save us from the fires of hell.  Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.”  On June 13th, 96 years ago, her message continued:  “Pray the Rosary daily!  Establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart, which she then revealed in an image of her loving heart, surrounded by thorns, outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation for them.”

You might say that today’s anniversary makes for a special message (or AD from Mary) on a better way to beat the heat than just a cool beverage purchase.   (Gatorade’s Beat the Heat solution can only last an hour!)

We believe Jesus uses His Mother Mary for purposes of leading us to eternal life.  She, after all, is the model of the obedient disciple who finds glory.  Her prayer is that her soul (and all souls) would “proclaim the greatness of the Lord, and rejoice in God (as) our Savior…Who has mercy on those who fear (revere/respect) Him in every generation.”        (Luke 1)  In the Book of Revelation, she is “the Woman clothed in the sun (not burned by it), with the moon and stars under her feet (she is raised up by God from the earthly to heavenly). ”  It’s a sign of Beating the Heat of Judgment, and rather Joining the Lord in holiness.    Wow.

Today, many non-Catholics, and too many Catholics too, spurn Mary’s help and involvement to the Church.  A Gift from Jesus at the Cross, Mary has been involved as a model of holiness for the redeemed to imitate and join in her prayer for the reparation of man to Her Son.   His Spirit is outpoured to the Church for renewal, but much sin is in the way.  Mary points out our fault in taking our sins lightly, and the world’s very imprudence to ignore her sin and the Savior’s mercy for their lives.   They turn away.

Mary “Ad” at Fatima says:  Before you get overly involved in your choice of sunscreens, sunglasses, pool memberships, beach trips and beach umbrellas, and what ice cream or gelato or shaved ice you want  (shaved ice?  that doesn’t sound appealing to me!)— consider how you are practicing your Faith and also helping the world to know how to Beat the Heat.   (Of avoiding Gehenna by a serious discipleship in Jesus.  And having Mary’s help.)

 

Graduation Homily Message

Graduation homily:    St. Pius X School 8 th Grade                

Outside those doors, when you leave this school community and the special faith community of an 8th grade Catholic School class, I will pray that you look for what will fill your future need for an ongoing faith community.  You hopefully will keep going to church and worship of God, but I mean a little more than that:  Who will be at your side to help you along in faith, as some of your classmates were, along with others in the Catholic school?  Before I get to the gospel reading, I’ll relate of how I found a community of faith in the months right after I left this school, right in this parish.  You know I went to this school and parish, right?  In 9th grade, we had a parish Confirmation program to keep many of us first connected as high schoolers, but after that was celebrated, and I was in public high school just a mile up Rt. 450 as a Bowie Bulldog, I joined a parish teen group of Catholics that met every week in the Knestout’s house, right in my neighborhood, and with a dozen Bowie High students we had a peer group of faith to keep us regularly together in a faith group.  I had others to keep in faith with. Deacon Knestout led us all, but it was much of a sharing group, not lectures by him. Now, as for those students who went on to Catholic High Schools, as half of you will, I hope that they (back then) let the faith experiences in those schools give them more community of soul, to bless what was started here at this school.  Point is—you’ll have to look for it to happen.  Take advantage of the Catholic High School’s program, or of your parish High School Youth Group, or at least keep in a spiritual touch with some body, perhaps who is going from here to the same school/direction as you. Keep in touch with your priests.

Readings included John 17, the section of Jesus’ farewell and his fulfillment of the mission.        THE HOMILY                                          

Jesus is speaking in tonight’s gospel that His work is done here in His earthly ministry.  He is satisfied in it, and awaits the Father to be glorified by it all, as soon, He ,the Son, will be returning to Heaven.  The short time He has been given—to meet humanity and save the world–has been used well by Jesus.  He has lived His earthly time lovingly, generously, and pointedly.   He was here to gather us into His love and life and make something brand new happen for the world—salvation—with lessons of the Kingdom of God for the world to begin sharing in.  I think this gospel relates to you graduates, as well, as this is your parting time from this school.  You have finished school here, and done what you can, with the time you had, and the school has rewarded you with a diploma and with good promise for what can come for you ahead.  In minutes you walk out these doors and cease to be a class, going off to many different high schools, and well, not to Heaven just yet, like in Jesus’ Graduation story from earth, but you might agree its “heavenly” to be done here.  :) You are a graduate!                 My Christian point I’d like to make tonight to you is to consider your graduation a group accomplishment, a group thing, that is, just as much, as the individual achievement that you made here. Graduation 2013: You did this–accomplished this–with others.   Now, as graduates, you can all benefit ahead from the group effort you made.    For, think about what Jesus fulfilled in His mission: He didn’t just want it to be about His own fabulous and perfect and loving life on earth as reaching its fulfillment, but that His would be a victory for all his brothers and sisters in the faith path.   He walked among us, as one of us, to help us, to help us get together, so to get to glory oneday, as one family.  Jesus graduation was for all of us on earth to “pass” and follow Him into someplace great with Him.   ‘Get what I am saying?

Tonight you cross the finish line of your time here at this school.  Graduates–it took some solid personal effort on your own part, that’s for sure, but can you concede with me that it isn’t just an individual accomplishment night—for you graduate in a group, and as a group.  It’s a class graduation.  You have reached this point of success due to help of many others, such as from those sitting besides you, and from teachers and parents and others here in this church tonight.  Of course, you also played a part in other’s success and graduation in your class.  We tried to all do it in a Catholic way at this Catholic school.

Take, for instance, St. Paul’s epistle verse in tonight’s Mass about the Christian vocation to “treat one another with mutual affection in Christ.”     I think when your class was acting as “we” and not as a bunch of “I’s”—you found some lifelong lessons about the goodness of Christian community.  In the Christian Faith, it IS about all of us succeeding together as a people (like, as tonight). The lessons in “community” in this Catholic school taught you (I hope) to see one another, not as competitors versus one another, but as fellow travelers on a journey of learning and growing and believing in God.  Yes, you each had your personal best to offer, and some of you did shine among the rest with some of their academic honors, yet we don’t envy but do congratulate you who excelled in the bunch, because you were all great achievers tonight, Amen?!  You finished in success together.   Now, in contrast, where the sinful world would part from our Christian point of you—is that—out there—many are mainly interested in just their own success of “me” and not of the common good of “us.”   It explains what sin is and how it keeps hurting the human race.  Jesus Christ is interested in saving the world into one family again, putting victory in a common good.

In the higher level of human goals, we have the hope that all of us can together help one another to come into Heaven as one.  It’s The Graduation to come, where we hope that God in Christ Jesus will say to us then (in reviewing our lives): “Well done, my good and faithful servants. Come up to enter into The Joy!”1   And, as fellow pilgrim travelers, as those cooperating and sharing in the lessons God had given us, we hope to attain, as one, “the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.”  2      (1=Mt.25: 21,23.  2=Phillip 3:14)

We will get into Heaven (or Heaven will get into us) as we practice life as fellow cooperators with God, not as selfish competitors with one’s eyes only on oneself.   (Can I get an Amen?!)  Brothers and sisters, on earth we are corporally named The Human Race, yet we need not take that title so literally as to race versus one another, nor to be greedy and selfish and be so independent as to work as a rival.  No.  We are a community and Christ is our common ground, common link.

King David once wrote a psalm of celebrating this togetherness, as he saw taking place in Israel during his reign.  It is Psalm 133, which starts: Behold how good and pleasant it is when God’s people dwell together. hiNëh mah-‡ôv ûmah-Näiym shevet achiym Gam-yächad You remember David, right?  We studied about him and other Old Testament figures of faith in our 6th grade class two years ago.  I enjoyed it with you.   The Old Testament of 6th Grade religion led to the New Testament of 7th & 8th Grade Religion.  In Hebrews 13 of the Christian Testament, it says: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters… Remember your faith leaders who speak the Word of God to you… and as we have an altar in which to gather around, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God…(and) keep on doing good and in sharing with one another…. So grace can be with you all.” That’s the same message of our call to be a Christian community, or one body in Christ.

I finish with a fable re-told.  Once upon a time, a tortoise and a hare were in a race.  The nibble white-furred jack-rabbit animal with nibble bouncy feet seemed to be the favorite. The slow-moving shelled reptile, with deliberate steps in heavy short feet looked to be the sure far-behind loser for this race.  You have likely heard the story, that as they were started down the path, the hare was very so far ahead in a few moments, going at 30 mph speed, it decided to stop soon and to take a break, while the tortoise plodded on, far behind now.   The fable takes a different spin from here.

As the tortoise caught up to the place where the hare was resting, the hare asked him.  Hey, tort-buddy, what are we racing for?  And just where are we going to end up at?  At some line somewhere the human has made?!  Then, what?  A prize? No.  Applause?  Well, not much, only brief at best.   So why are we racing?  Tort-Buddy, I have been pondering something here.  We have passed all sorts of fellow creatures along this path, right?  Why not invite them all along? And, instead of a race, let’s just have a community walk!!  When has that ever been done?  The Tortoise said:  That’s a pretty good idea, Hare girl… I didn’t understand why we were put in a race, anyway, and I was ready to ditch this thing and turn around.  This “race” was that human Aesop guy’s idea.  Not much fun, if you ask me. But this ‘community walk’ idea is awesome!

The Hare said:  I came up with this idea while I was praying at my rest stop, yes, praying there, not sleeping, as the fable once inaccurately reported, and I think that St. Francis of Assisi or Noah or some angel of God  just dropped that notion into my thoughts.  And I am going with it!

The Tortoise said: I like it, too.  Let’s try gathering all the creatures along here to stroll together.  I just passed a platypus back there, saw a porcupine, met a squirrel, and had a brief chat with a beaver, who enjoyed a little free ride on my back. Maybe, they’d like to come.  I’ll go ask them. The Hare added:  I, in turn, met a horse, a buffalo, an aardvark, and a turkey so far.  I’ll invite them along.

This they did.  And soon a wide assortment of creatures were strolling along the pathway.  It was a wondrous gathering, maybe the first of its kind since Noah’s time. As the throng of creatures made the final turn of the path, Aesop and some humans were waiting there at the finish line, with faces of great confusion, expecting just a hare and a tortoise in a race, and for the hare to finish the race and beat the tortoise, or tortoise to surprise the hare.  Yet both came and, with scores of other animals, crossed all together.

Aesop said to them: You’ve ruined the fable.   The tortoise replied:  No, we’ve just written a new one, and its lesson is:  Life is a journey you take together, not a race you’re in against each other.  Maybe the Human Race could be re-named “the human cooperation.“  God has called us all to be a community.  Especially you humans.  

Aesop and his pal just looked at each other in bewilderment.   Oh, man!  Aesop said.  His pal answered:  Hey, I had a huge bet on the rabbit finishing far ahead in first, I guess I lost, or did I?    Aesop said:  They ALL finished first, so you lose.  But you aren’t supposed to bet anyway.

Beat the Heat

“Beat the Heat!”

I heard these three words coming across the room from my tv tonight.   I wondered:  Is it about the basketball game or the weather?   For tonight the San Antonio Spurs NBA team was playing the Miami Heat in a championship game.   No, it wasn’t about the game. It was from an ad, with an appeal was to keep oneself cool during the Summer months by being sure one had a great new a/c unit working to that end.

“Beat the Heat” is a three-word, catchy slogan used many times over this time of year.  Examples are:  Beat the Heat by getting our beverage to cool you off.   Beat the Heat by getting a swimming membership at our pool.   Beat the Heat by coming to our ice cream parlor.  Beat the Heat by buying and wearing our modern, light and new Summer outfits.  

Ahh!  We in these United States have gone to all measures of getting cool and beating the heat.   Almost all of our cars and homes and workplaces are air conditioned.   I was at an outdoor wedding party last Summer where even the tented areas and the temporary bathrooms had a/c.   At the many athletic stores about today, they feature clothes that don’t sweat with you or have sun-protection built-in to the fabric–amazing–and those items are meant to go along with wearing your $79 sunglasses.  Ah-hem! You’ll be all seat to face the sun!  At the beach, too, on vacation last year, I noted how they had dune-buggy vendors going by every twenty minutes to serve you, right there near the ocean, with Italian ices, cold sodas, and chilled ice packs for your head—just in case you were feeling the need for their relief.  They had many customers.    And, last year at a concert in Annapolis to hear Kevin Costner’s Band (yes, he travels and sings with a band between movies), he commented there that he never saw so many ice cream places in one square mile as Annapolis Wharf, saying:  “You folks must really have it hot here!  But with all this cooling off with ice cream, how do you stay slim?!”

Now a Spiritual Message to relate to this whole business of staying cool: The High Temperatures of Summer sometimes prompts a preacher to comment:  “If you think it’s hot here today– then you’ll want at all costs to avoid the fires of Gehenna!   Beat the Heat– get into Christ Jesus and His Plan.   Be Cool in Heaven forever.”  It’s a little comical but very true!  Christians have a plan to Beat the Heat–and it’s worst kind– eternal judgment of sin.   We need to keep applying humility and repentance and the pursuit of holiness and obedience to Christ in that Beat the Heat plan.

Now that’s advertising one should pay some attention to!  God’s “Ad.”

In the New Testament Scriptures, the Lord appeals to His Church about The Ultimate Relief:  Deliverance from The Fiery Furnace.  He speaks about quite many a time, as if it IS a DIRE concern for everyone.    He speaks of Himself as our protection and salvation for the oncoming problem of judgment for sin.   In repentance, we can apply His Benefit of Salvation, or enter into our being/becoming saved.  And we seriously need to come to Jesus for this help.    If we think we are fine without trusting in Him and being seriously guided by Him– then we have already started cooking in judgment.   Jesus says:  “If you remain apart from  Me, then you are already condemned. ”   This means that Jesus came to rescue us from a dire, eternal situation–one we all were already in–and change is needed by us.  We must respond.   Jesus gives us Himself to respond to–  He can save us.

This choice of being saved is one that needs to be KEPT BEING made—from an initial commitment to Christ (acceptance/baptism/starting out) to a mature faith and full measure of it (run the course to its finish).  One is not on automatic pilot as a Christian–we need to keep the Amens and Yes-affirmations coming to God from our will.   “Thy will be done” is the featured counsel of the Lord’s (Jesus) Prayer.   We are being saved by God.  We are becoming children of God.   We are being ransomed from death and the judgment of God.   Our getting from the start in salvation to our perfection in Christ is the Christian’s life trust in the Holy Spirit.

BEAT THE HEART PART TWO          —-COMING UP!

MARY HAS AN AD THAT “AIRS” EACH 13TH OF THE MONTH FROM MAY TO OCTOBER.  IT’S HER FATIMA APPARITION MESSAGES.  DO YOU KNOW THEM?  IT’S JESUS’ CAMPAIGN TO ALLOW HIS MOTHER TO HELP US ALL COME TO HIS MERCY AND BEAT THE HEAT OF THE WRATH TO COME.  SEE MY NEXT MESSAGE.    Because, today, June 13th, is one of the days of Mary’s Visits to the world in Fatima Portugal, about a century ago.   It was Mary’s second appearance to the three young persons, and she continued her message of warning and guidance to them.  It is one we still need to heed as a world.