Sunrise

Take a look at some snapshots I took at dawn at ocean side. IMG_20140827_064744_951-1IMG_20140828_064652

Sunrise.

From our perspective the sun arises.

Actually, though, the sun does not move. We are the ones moving on the turning earth.

Still– a day does begins anew for us– as God ordained at Creation for us as our marker of movement in life with the Trinity.

Importantly, we also know how each dawn is really an experience of “things continuous.” Life really keeps moving along. But God lets us experience a beginning again with the passing of a Day/Night. It is an experience of what God is like. He is both the same and yet ever- new. And the Trinity wants our experience of the 3 Divine Persons in 1 God to relate to Them as in an eternal realm. God remains. God lives. As in comparison to the sun’s recent life of a a few billion years, God has been shining too, forever, and living, and existing, and as THE CENTER of all things. Forever. (The sun is just a created work of Hid that reveals what its Maker is somewhat like.)

And while we have “night” come upon us at each sunset, God is not sleeping or away, but Always Present to us (even when we sleep). God abides with us then. Plus, He is helping all the people on the earth’ s sunny side to go through their new day.
This afternoon when I write, it is even ‘tomorrow’ already in the Pacific Island nations. Fascinating.

With a sunrise (whether one sees it or not), we do have the privilege of a start of daylight and another day. It is a gift. It is meant to add on to the day (days, weeks, years, decades) we have spent before it. Our life is going somewhere. It is not just a bunch of crossed-out calendar days. It is a walk with God that we are on. It is a life of purpose and service under God. We servants of the Lord “render unto God what is God’s.”
God is leading His people on a journey back Home to Himself. We are a people who got lost and broken and divided. This is His delight, now, to walk us back into the Kingdom. He wants to awaken us further and futher into relationship with God and with others and to our true self. So, Good Morning o my soul!

God says in each morn: “See? I am still here for you. You can live this day with Me and in Me. I am your constant. I am your trust.”

He says: “As this sun has taken its course back to you, know that I am its reason and provision. Let it be a reminder, too, that I, your God, do not change. I am always there and I live in the eternal — the always. I told Moses: I AM Who Am. I tell you: I exist. I Am reality. I Am love for you.

…But I know that in your fall and separation from Me (by sin) you are in time and have been caught in a finite life in your current state, with sin and death capturing you, enslaving you.

I, the Lord Jesus, have come to your aid with My invitation to seek things above and the Eternal. Come and see , I have said, I bid you to be My followers in My way of renewal for the world. I invite people into a re- creation to Our Original Plan. See? I make all things new!”
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What is this offer? (Friendship with God. Communion/ communal life with all creation/ paradise/heavenly bliss) !!!

Pope Francis launched his papacy with this first written work and message: that we can have a new dawn by the Way of Faith. It is life by the Light of Faith.. Pope Francis told us in his encyclical last year called “Light of Faith” about these such matters. Did you read it? Well, if not, take a look at it. Pope Francis has a reason for starting his papacy with such a call to the Light of Faith.

Someone today did read some of my past blogs from last August (2013) when I wrote about this papal work and explained it a bit and asked each blog follower to read and pray it. They said that it was encouraging to them. My Light of Faith blogs are still up to read in those year-ago blog entries. If you are interested and missed it before, then go take a look. Also, the whole Light of Faith encyclical is on web sites that have the whole thing to read for free, or you can pay and order a booklet copy for yourself at a place like Barnes and Noble.
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The photos of sunrises above and below were taken this week by me. I arose to see the dawn over the ocean. I snapped a few shots. The real thing looks much better than a photo yet they still look awesome.
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The Holy Spirit: the Unapproachable becomes approachable, the One beyond understanding becomes fathomable to humanity via faith

Here is some more thoughts on the Holy Spirit (in follow up to the homily blog).

God is beyond human understanding, yet somehow also fathomable, sort of. The Jewish-Christian tradition insists that God is eternal . while also He hascommunicated and acted towards us in a way that can He be received in the temporal manner. In some fascinating way, God has met us mortals in time and given us revelation
, showing that He does not stand aloof from His creation but freely chooses to relate to the world out of love. God had built a bridge to eternity for man to cross.

God relates to us by Word, by Image, by Desire. God reaches us by spirit and heart and mind.
His intentions? To win us back into His realm. Jesus stated clearly that “the Kingdom of God was at hand.”. It was being offered. It was available to the repentant sinner to their heart and soul. He said: “The kingdom is within you.”. To the persons who took up and lived His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus promised: “The kingdom shall be yours.”

Jesus further explained that we needed the help of the Spirit to live this life. He said: “He will guide you into all things.”
He instructed that we needed to “be clothed from on high” for the power to be a full follower of His.

How then can the actions of this unknowable and eternal God (in Christ) be expressed? Through the channels of the Spirit which Jesus has tuned us to.

The Bible shows us that God had worked with and through our limited human language. On our end we must employ images drawn from human experience to describe God’s action in our midst. Human words always fall short of the mystery of God, but they are the only words we have. One day we shall know God face to face, but for now, we have to reach and try to grasp and to have a filling of the Spirit come into us and upon us. We can be touched by grace. Words will have to attempt to describe it. Capturing the spiritual via words is much like a sail catching and showing the reality and power of the wind.

Jesus, God’s Son among us, is He Who is the Sail for hoisting up and offering us that ability for humanknd to receive of the Spirit of God.

In both Hebrew and Greek the word which we translate as “spirit” indicates “a movement of air.” Thus “the Spirit of God” could correctly be translated “the wind of God” or “the breath of God.” This invisible movement of air is an inspired image for God’s presence and action among us. Not something one can control but indeed something (Or Someone) we can experience in God-given ability put into us. Jesus says: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And the apostles receive this breath into them.

The scriptures use this image consistently. Wind or Breath. God’s Spirit is found in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis and the last chapter of the Book of Revelation. He is rushing wind, living power like fire, and inner quenching like water. Humankind was meant in our origins to be involved in this God breathed existence: The Eternal Presence and Power with us.

Mostly, God works in this personal way to share of His life with His creatures. God communicates that He is Personable. God wants us in Their love– within the Father, Son and Spirit. And this Third Person of the Blessed Trinity does show us what God does. God reaches out, so He shows. He wants communion—oneness in His love. He reveals God in ways that we can catch. Jesus leads us to use His life with us to catch the Wind.

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There are seven things that God’s Personable Spirit has revealed to us that I would like to highlight here. Each involve The Holy Spirit.

1/ that God creates via the Spirit
2/ that God sustains, via the Spirit
3/ that God saves, via the Spirit
4/ that God judges, via the Spirit
5/ that God inspires, via the Spirit
6/ that God equips, via the Spirit
and 7/ God guides, via the Spirit.

Lets look at the 7 areas.

God’s Spirit Creates

It is through God’s Spirit that all things come to be. In the first chapter of Genesis, before God says, “Let there be light,” we are told that “a wind (spirit) from God swept over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2). When God creates the first human, again the image of moving air is used. God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). Psalm 33:6 proclaims that God created through the Spirit: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their hosts by the breath of his mouth.” Job 33:4 speaks of creation in personal terms: “The spirit of God has made me, the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

The New Testament asserts that God will establish a new creation inaugurated through the death and resurrection of Jesus. As at the first creation, God’s Spirit is instrumental in bringing about God’s intentions. At present, creation is in labor pains. Christians possess the first fruits of God’s Spirit as the new creation is born (Rom 8:22-23). God has bestowed the Spirit as a guarantee of the new creation which in Christ has already begun (2 Cor 5:5, 17).

God’s Spirit Sustains

God’s Spirit does not only create life but also sustains it. If God’s Spirit is taken away, life ends. When God’s Spirit is sent forth, life is renewed (Ps 104:29-30). Job 34:14-15 asserts that if God “should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath, all flesh would perish together, and all mortals return to dust.”

In the New Testament the Spirit of God sustains those who believe in Christ. Paul reminds the Corinthians, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16). Paul tells the Galatians, “Live by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16). God’s Spirit also sustains the Body of Christ, activating all the gifts of the community (1 Cor 12:11).

God’s Spirit Saves

The Spirit saves God’s people. In the exodus God turns the sea into dry land by a strong wind (Exod 14:21-22). But God most often saves Israel by bestowing the Spirit upon great leaders who rescue the people. Moses (Num 11:17), Joshua (Num 27:18), the judges of Israel (Judg 3:10, 6:34, 11:29), Saul (1 Sam 11:6), and David (1 Sam 16:13) all receive the Spirit. The ultimate savior, the Messiah, will possess the Spirit in its fullness (Isa 11:2).

The New Testament proclaims that Jesus is God’s Messiah. Therefore his saving work is accomplished through the Spirit. Jesus is conceived in the Spirit (Luke 2:35). The Spirit descends upon him at his baptism (Mark 1:10). At Nazareth he defines his mission in the Spirit (Luke 4:18). Paul asserts that Jesus’ resurrection occurs through the Spirit (Rom 1:4) and that all believers have been saved “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11)

God’s Spirit Judges

What is contrary to God’s goodness cannot endure. God will judge the evil of this world and destroy it. The “breath” of God will “sift the nations with the sieve of destruction” (Isa 30:28). Those who do evil rebel against God’s “holy spirit,” and God will fight against them (Isa 63:10). God judges the world through the Spirit which will be poured out from on high and establish justice on the earth (Isa 32: 14-16). The Psalmist understands that it is through the Spirit that evil can be removed from the human heart (Ps 51:10-11). Jerusalem will be cleansed by “a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning” (Isa 4:4).

The New Testament applies that burning judgment of the Spirit to the mission of Christ. John the Baptist announces that Jesus will baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11). It is the Spirit as Paraclete who proves the world wrong about sin, justice, and judgment (John 16:8-11). In the Spirit the church can judge which sins will be forgiven and which retained (John 20:22-23). Every disciple is challenged to fight against evil with the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6:17).

God’s Spirit Inspires

To communicate with humanity God chooses prophets to speak the divine message. God’s Spirit inspires these chosen men and women to announce God’s words. It is God’s Spirit which opens Balaam’s mouth to pronounce a blessing on Israel (Num 24:2). The Spirit places God’s words on David’s tongue (2 Sam 23:2). It is in the Spirit that the prophets teach God’s law (Zech 7:12) and Micah (3:8) declares Israel’s sin. Joel promises that in the fullness of time all humanity will prophesy in the Spirit (Joel 2:28-29).

The same Spirit of God inspires men and women in the New Testament to speak of the mystery of Christ. Filled with the Spirit Zachariah pronounces a canticle of praise for the Messiah (Luke 1:67) and Elizabeth blesses the mother of the Savior (Luke 1:42). Peter teaches in the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8) and declares that the promise of Joel has been fulfilled (Acts 2:17-18). Stephen and Agabus are inspired by the Spirit (Acts 6:10; 11:28). The entire community speaks in the Spirit (Acts 4:31), and it is only in the Spirit that the individual believer can say, “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor 12:3).

God’s Spirit Equips

The Spirit prepares men and women for service, granting them abilities and gifts. Intelligence, knowledge, and artistic ability are the Spirit’s gifts (Exod 31:3-5). Joseph and Daniel possess wisdom in the Spirit (Gen 41:38-39; Dan 5:14). Indeed true understanding and wisdom flow from God’s Spirit (Job 32:8-9; Sir 39:6; Wis 9:17).

The tongues of fire at Pentecost indicate that the Sprit’s gifts are given to every believer (Acts 2:1-4). It is the Spirit who equips the Church with every gift (1 Cor 12:7-11). Through the wisdom and revelation provided by the Spirit the believer can come to know the Father (Eph 1:17) and speak to God in prayer (Rom 8:26).

God’s Spirit Guides

The Spirit is not idle when decisions must be made, but guides men and women according to God’s will. It is God’s Spirit which leads Israel through the wilderness (Neh 9:20) and provides a new heart so that right decisions will be made according to the law (Ezek 11:19-20). The Psalmist prays, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path” (Ps 143:10). The guidance of the Spirit is not always subtle. Ezekiel is lifted up bodily and carried away to speak to the exiles of Israel (Ezek 3:12-15).

In the New Testament Philip, like Ezekiel, is transported by the Spirit on his mission (Acts 8:39). The same Spirit leads Simeon to the Christ child (Luke 2:27) and guides the mission of Peter (Acts 11:12) and Paul (Acts 16:6; 19:21; 21:4). The Spirit directs the church at Antioch to commission Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2) and the church at Jerusalem to ease the burden of the law upon the Gentiles (Acts 15:28). The Spirit as Paraclete reminds believers of all that Jesus said (John 14:26) and guides them into all truth (John 16:13). All Christians are directed by God’s Spirit (Gal 5:25), “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Rom 8:14).

This sevenfold look at God via His Spirit hopefully helps us “see” the portraits of God as put around us.

They paint a portrait of our unknowable God. What does this portrait show us? That our God created all things and He can sustains them. He wants to save us and to inspire us. He has a job to do as Judge of a fallen, rebellious world. Our God judges evil and brings salvation. Our God does not remain aloof, but inspires creatures to speak the good news, and equips men and women for all manner of Good to come to us, and He teaches us the way of service, and He will guide us through the journey of life.

The Portrait of the Holy Spirit: A Homily for Aug. 24th

HOMILY AUG. 24 21ST SUNDAY A

Have you ever visited an art gallery and looked at some famous abstract paintings and wondered what they were all about? I took in a trip to the National Gallery of Art to look at abstract expressionistic works and I just stared for a long while at framed works on the walls, trying to “see” or “get” what Rothco and Kline and Pollock had put to color and canvas. Mostly I felt unclear at the artists’ intentions or meaning with the work on display, but I guessed at their meaning. Such as: “The bright solid red and orange colors of Rothko, here, seem to say, well 🙂 The Solid orange sprays are beams of hope intersecting with the blood red color of man’s trials… I don’t know 🙂 And the texture of the paints convey a lot of feeling in the expression.’ And for a few seconds I was an art critic and afficianado.

The painted works were each beautiful, unique and captivating, but I mostly was lost on what the artist was doing with the piece. Abstract art is just that–vague and lofty.

But a person walked up— a fan of Rothko— and said “you are getting it.”
‘Really, now?!

Expressionist Abstracts lead me to compare with how God and His Spirit tries every day to catch our attention and to invite us into beauty that we do not know. God wants to move us from surfacey and shallow experiences of life to something new and deep and profound. God reveals to His own–to the seekers of truth and faith– new insights to life and it’s meaning.

“Getting” God’s Revelation in Christ is about willing to stop awhile and to take in the grandeur of God all around us. We should ponder and wonder and think and arrive at some added understanding to our point of life.

Because, like, in the art world, if you don’t care, then you won’t get it. You won’t get the meaning of the art, the reason for it, or to view to which it points.

In God’s world of revelation to us, if we do care, then we have a way to get it. We just need to care about knowing and seeing God in our lives. Be thirsty for it. Long for it. Desire it.

Now we have sort of walked through a gallery of The Spirit of God in the Scriptures at today’s Mass.

In comparing some of these verses today, I think it is something like marveling at Abstract Impressionist Art. Consider what St. Paul says to us in the epistle of Romans (11:33-36):
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of You, God!
How inscrutable are Your judgments and how unsearchable Your ways!
For who has known Your mind, O Lord or who has been Your counselor?”

Paul is like a person looking unto God like a person staring at a famous art piece. But his wonder is of God. “O the depth! O the riches! O such wisdom and knowledge!” He is saying: This is You, O God. How are we ever to really figure You out? I am praying and searching for You, God, in trying to discern any of what I can of knowing You!

Romans 11:33-36 is the prayer and comment of a searcher.

We are given another Scripture today at Mass to put us in wonder with the Psalmist, who prays in the 138th Psalm:
“O Lord, Your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.”
He is saying: Be blessed in Your works! Even though we are in a fallen creation and of sinful man, and have marred or spoiled some of the original beauty of this world, we still say: Here we are! Your universe. Your people. Your creation. Please, see what You first made and how you took delight in us, God: “Do not forsake the work of your hands.”

Like a person losing their breath at first seeing a magnificent masterpiece of art, the Psalmist goes on in prayer:
“O LORD, oh so Exalted, You are, and yet the lowly You see, knowing us from afar” (from wherever the Heavens and Your throne is)..”but Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever” (and what is forever? what is eternal? How are we to grasp it?!)

Those who get closer to God and who pray and wonder–they start to get answers to their big questions: “The Exalted One, God, is around us. He is before us. He is in us, His believers.” And what is eternal? All that is truly with God. THAT is the beautiful insight to the high question. We can have eternal life, as we ask the Lord to help us get in tune with Him, in snyc with Him. Psalm 138 prays: “O Lord, You are love, A Love which is eternal.” conclusion: We need that love of God moving in us. We need to ask God more for it.

While the inspiration of a painting can only be an imprint on the mind and an inspiration to lift the heart, God is the Gift Eternal that can live in us.

In the Gospel today we heard that Jesus was pleased with Simon Peter, his apostle. Why? Because he was seeking the meaning and direction of Jesus for His own life. Simon Peter was seeking it for his whole nation. Could this Rabbi of Galilee lead Israel back to faith and back to God? So Jesus asks them the question: ” Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter testifies: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Jesus says, ‘Terrific, for you got this
by a supernatural insight, and not by flesh and blood. Simon Peter, the Father revealed it to you. And the Spirit helps you to see and get it. And, because you are walking along with the Divine Son, you Peter have become able to live as a child of God and follower of the Lord Jesus into Glory.

As St. Paul said elsewhere to the Corinth Church: “We see dimly now, but one day face-to-face with God.” “Strive for the higher gifts. You once thought like a youth, acted like a youth, chose like a youth, but now you have come to time to be a man, to put away childish things.

We are meant to live in the Spirit.

So, the Scriptures here in this Mass call us to be like Peter and come to understand and notice Christ among us, with the Kingdom come, and with access to a life in holiness with God.
The Psalmist calls us to be amazed with God and to look upon Him (or look for Him).
St. Paul says that the riches of God can be comprehended to the heart, even if just a small start into the experience of rapture and love and excitement in God.

Just taking the analogy up a notch: THE SPIRIT IS A “PORTRAIT” OF GOD–
MUCH LIKE AN MASTERPIECE OF ABSTRACT ART SHOWS US BEAUTY BUT WE DON’T TOTALLY FIGURE IT OUT. WE CAN JUST APPRECIATE HIM. AND LEARN.

Abstract Art is a funny thing. It shows something as seen from the eye of the artist as random or other or undetermined. This kind of art can just be a conglomeration of colors and figures, all with a title, to try to give you a hint of what the artist was “seeing.” A swish of aquamarine colors on canvas, complimented by a wash of deep blues, with streaks of silver and an emergence of black from the bottom of the portrait, And, AHA! It is “Blue Whale of the North Atlantic.” Why, of course! That’s what I was looking at! Uh, really? Ok!

The Spirit of God is presenting Himself to us in all sorts of ways and experiences to humankind. While He is Mystery to us, He really is not meant to be vague or distant. God wants to be intimate with us.

See we welcome God into our gaze, into the destiny of our life. He will love us, as we are made in God’s image. So we pray: (Psalm 138 again) “Lord, your love is eternal; see and recall the work of your hands. And I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, and so hear the words of my mouth; as I go ah! You are lovely God! In the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple.”

Aren’t those beautiful words? Aren’t those personal words we give to our God Who is so personal?

It is our words today–at Mass–to the One in the Portrait Who is Mystery–the Holy Spirit.
We are in the Gallery of God’s revelation, and He has so much to show us of Who He is.

END

Reading the Newspaper Obits

I read the newspaper obituaries. I have been an ordained clergyman in eight parishes, so I know Catholic people from the region between Montgomery County down through mid-St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Just today, I found out through the Washington Post that Donald Baughmann passed (husband to parishioner in Rockville). I also heard that Marty Novak died (Laurel member), so I will already know it by Saturday morning paper’s notice.
I also know that in the past week a former classmate of mine’s (SPX School) mother died (Mrs. Jones), and a woman I knew while growing up in Bowie also died (Mary Conroy). She was in city and state politics, along with her husband, and knew my parents through that. I read Mary’s obit in the Post this week. It recognized her 20 years in Md.’s House of Delegates.

Sometimes I note a few things in the obits. There are stories being told there. This week they included quick stories of some fascinating women. In the Post paper this week I saw that an actress died that I have seen a few times on stage (Tana Hicken). It said she had “received 20 nominations for Helen Hayes awards in her life of 70 years, with a wide range of characters played.” I also read that Pittsburgh’s 1st female mayor passed at 96. 26 years ago Sophie Masloff won the vote as a folksy Jewish grandmother figure mayor, picked to lead a city out of a long slump. I was amazed to read that Pittsburgh’s first female mayor “was born to impoverished Romanian immigrants, with a dad who died when she was 2, and under a mom who scraped a living out of rolling cigars in a factory, and who had never learned English.” As a young woman, Sophie “worked in Allegheny County government jobs for four decades, as such did her husband Jack, and it led all the way to becoming Mayor of the big city.
I also read that Bowie’s Jamie Paterson died at 84. What was notable of this homemaker? Her grandfather was the Confederate General James Longstreet. I also read that Bowie’s Mary Smith, a D.C. teacher in her life, passed at 88. She was in public schools for 34 years. Notable to me was that she kept her Catholic membership going at St. Gabriel’s parish in NW DC, where she evidently was baptized long ago as baby Mary Dorsey.
These all were quick but informative stories of some interesting women whom God has blessed the earth in our area.

I also learned from Alan Postlethwaite’s obit (8-17)that he was a native of England but eventually got a job in the Smithsonian’s Conservation Unit, due to his learnedness as a metallurgical scientist. I found out that the Smithsonian was first begun and funded by an Englishman named Smithson. In the close of the obit, I wondered how this museum official ended up being, in his retirement, “a volunteer in President Bill Clinton’s White House.”

In a couple of days our own parishioner Theresa Proctor will have her obit in the paper. Theresa lived on Queen Anne Rd. for the past 57 years, and was married to “Mott” who predeceased her a few years ago here (I did his funeral.) She had been faithful to Mass through her life, and she was active in our parish, even in its founding days, even helping to keep our parish rectory cleaned. She helped social activities in the parish, too. Theresa lived beforehand on Church Road when that area belonged to Holy Family Mitchellville parish. In our becoming a parish (as a mission from Holy Family), Theresa helped us get the new members to St. Edward the Confessor, even when we just met in a school. Her wake and funeral are on Thursday morning, Aug. 29th at St. Edward. Her enthusiasm and smile and faith will be missed.

I had heard that another local (Anne Arundal County) priest had written some thoughts on obituaries…
Here’s what he said. He comically noted that the reading of obituaries is an Irish thing of looking and being sure that you are not listedin them, so that you can celebrate that you have another day to live well in this world! Obituary reading is his “racing form so that he’ll know who out ran him to heaven that day.”

One other comedian quips: “What’s up with obituaries? They now cost you an arm and a leg! The newspaper used to publish your passing for free. Now it costs you a lot of money just to inform others you are going six feet under. It hardly leaves your kin to cover the rest of the funeral bills. Ah–but you should just send them to 777 Pearly Gates, attention to St. Peter. He’ll cover you for the rest.”

Clive the Human Cannonball says he won’t need a funeral Mass. “Whenever the cannon shot does miss the target,” he says, “you can just go get a shovel and bury me where I have fatefully landed. It is probably where God intended for me to lay! Call it fate.”

Robin and The Fisher King

The Fisher King: Robin Williams and the Wounds that Made and Unmade His Life

There is a fellow pastor who had these comments last week that I thought I’d post for you.

Like him, I have seen The Fisher King film, starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges, and I see a lot of connections with the story and the real person who played the part in the film as the wounded king.

Read along…

In Arthurian legend, The Fisher King is the latest in the line of kings chosen to live in the Grail Castle, guarding and protecting the Holy Grail. But the Fisher king is not a valiant quester like Arthur and his knights. The Fisher King is not actually whole. He has been wounded, uncomfortably, in the groin; an impotence that seems to extend to his entire kingdom. Unable to move about, he cannot participate in games, cannot go to war, cannot even hunt. His only pleasure is to sit beside a stream near the castle and fish, and wait for someone to come heal him, restore him, and make him whole.

What makes the Fisher King so interesting is not his role as protector of the grail, but the wounds with which he struggles. The legend provides the thematic underpinning for the Hemingway novel, The Sun Also Rises, and for the T.S. Eliot poem, The Wasteland, (after “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”), and for my favorite of Robin Williams films, The Fisher King.

The story of The Fisher King could serve as the grounding narrative for Williams’ life.

WOUNDS
Possessed of the kind of creative talent and energy instantly recognizable as rare, Robin Williams seemed destined to become a great actor. His family was terribly wealthy. His grandfather on his mother’s side was a governor and senator from Mississippi. His father was a senior executive at the Ford Motor Company. He was prep-school, Claremont, Julliard, and then Hollywood. But he had a deep wounding, even multiple woundings perhaps.

Williams’ father was 46 when he was born. His mother was an aspiring model, and a philanthropic society aficionado. Both parents brought older children to the marriage. Williams grew up, in large part, alone. “I’m just beginning to realize that it wasn’t always that happy,” Williams admitted in a 1989 interview with Esquire Magazine. “My childhood was kind of lonely. Quiet. My father was away; my mother was working, doing benefits. I was basically raised by this maid, and my mother would come in later, you know, and I knew her and she was wonderful and charming and witty. But I think maybe comedy was part of my way of connecting with my mother—‘I’ll make mommy laugh and that will be okay’—and that’s where it started.” (Robin Williams: A Biography by Andy Dougan, p. 8)

Williams’ first impersonation—a skill that later made him famous—was of his own grandmother, an attempt to make his mother laugh. The Fisher King was wishing for someone to notice him, to make him whole.

As a child Williams struggled in school, and was overweight and plagued by low self-esteem. He had both dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), in a time when the diagnosis of those processing styles was rare, and the treatment of them largely ineffective. More wounds. Williams lived with a lot of shame and the intense feeling of being different. Humor was his way of diffusing the tension and connecting with others. Like many kids with learning issues, Williams found other ways to fit in. Wrestling, soccer, track became healthy outlets.

The rest you know. An improvisation class in college led him to Julliard. His training there led him to the LA comedy clubs, a spot on Happy Days, and his own television series, Mork & Mindy. (Question: Do all aliens wear rainbow suspenders?).

In retrospect, what is so often cited about that Mork & Mindy period is that first, Robin Williams became a household name, and second, he began a lifelong struggle with alcohol and drugs. Fair enough. But I think the most remarkable aspect of Williams’ career is that he successfully made the leap from kitschy-sitcom star, to box-office film star success. It’s not an easy jump to make (just ask Steve Urkel, Mike Brady, or Lucille Ball). Williams found a way to transform the big break that was Mork & Mindy fame into a legitimate film-acting career including many great movies: Good Morning Vietnam, The Fisher King, Aladdin, Dead Poets Society, and Goodwill Hunting just to name a few.

His talent was undeniable. But it was his wounding that made him great. Dyslexia, ADD, his weight, a lonely childhood, addiction to alcohol and Cocaine, and now we learn the inner darkness called severe depression that finally consumed him; all of it comprised the deep wounding that was the secret to his success.

Look at old clips of Williams on the Tonight Show. It’s almost uncomfortable to watch. There’s something abnormal about watching an actor bring that much energy to a talk show. Almost like he’s trying too hard; a stream of conscious explosion that would be completely obnoxious if it wasn’t so dang funny. With that much energy trained on making other people laugh, you instantly knew there was some deep darkness going on underneath the surface.

That’s almost certainly what the cocaine and alcohol was about. Cocaine has been called a near perfect ADD medicine (apart from the nasty addictive properties). Untreated dyslexia is highly correlated with low self-esteem, aggression, anxiety, and other social and behavioral struggles. The standup, the improv, the acting, it was like drug therapy for Williams. The emotional pain he experienced growing up was channeled into an amazing cultural art form.

But it only took a quick glance to know that he was working from a deep well of inner darkness. Perhaps that’s why, when he played some of the really understated dramatic roles such as he did in Goodwill Hunting and Dead Poets Society, he gave such remarkable performances. It was mesmerizing to watch. When somebody that energetic grew that quiet, it was impossible not to respond as a viewer.

It was his wounding that made him great. Sadly the very wounds that made him great, finally overcame him.

VULNERABILITY
“Mork calling Orson. Come in Orson.” It’s how every single Mork & Mindy episode ended. As an audience, our first glimpse behind the Robin Willaims curtain came by way of Mork’s weekly unguarded report to his boss Orson on the planet Ork. Mork would call home to his boss Orson & report in on what he had learned that week. Williams spend 20 minutes each episode going absolutely nuts. It’s said that producers used to leave large chunks of the script blank, just saying, “Mork does his thing for 20 seconds; Mork does his thing for 15 seconds.” But for a few moments at the end of every episode he would attempt to be serious. I never missed that part of the show. It was just Mork in his red space suit on a black screen. He’d talk about the deeper things of life, reflect on what it means to be a human, and he’d crack only a few little jokes. He was vulnerable. That’s the Williams we loved. That’s the Robin Williams we recognized as representing something we wanted to be. Without that vulnerability, the show was just an alien version of Gilligan’s Island with a much more talented Gilligan. It was his vulnerability that made him great.

Author and researcher Brene Brown says that when people describe what vulnerability feels like, they use words like excruciating, awful, painful. When they describe what vulnerability looks like from the outside, they call it raw courage. That’s the affect to which we all responded when we watched him get quiet and start to really share. You could tell it was genuine. He wasn’t acting anymore. He was being real.

Nobody could be that ‘up’ all the time. They’d blow a gasket. There had to be a dark side. We loved him because he had the courage to let us see the dark side. The energy, the voices, the characters the indomitable animation that was his public personality, comedic and acting style had its alter ego, and Williams’ singular brilliance was the courage to let us see his true self, warts and all. Throughout his career it was not the zany-crazy Williams who won the hearts of fans. It was the vulnerable man who let us catch a glimpse of his own pain.

In the false world of Hollywood, he gave the sense that there was still something genuine.

It is a false world, by the way. Hollywood is an illusion. Fame, stardom, affluence, the worlds the films create, the final product we watch while gorging on popcorn—it’s all fantastic. During filming, every line of dialogue is delivered a dozen times, each with slight variations in tone, inflection, wording… then the snippets are culled, sequenced, scored, enhanced, and patched together in an editing studio. It is an illusion. They’re actors. And yet when we watched Robin Williams’ work, something about it seemed very real. We saw something candid, something genuine, something sincere—even if it was sincerely dark.

Carpe diem— seize the day. It’s cliché. And yet when someone with the passion and vulnerability of Robin Williams said it, we wanted to try. He was compelling. And even though we knew it was make believe, a movie produce in the most plastic and saccharine of places, we felt like he wasn’t full of crap, and we endeavored to take his advice.

SUICIDE
Williams was a coke addict with an insatiable appetite for Jack Daniels. He abused drugs and alcohol for years, and then one day he quit cold turkey. Williams said that the main factor in his decision to give up using drugs and alcohol was the birth of his first child, Zachary. But anyone who has to fight an addiction knows that you are never really over it. After nearly 20 years of sobriety, he fell off the wagon.

“I was in a small town where it’s not the edge of the world, but you can see it from there, and then I thought: drinking. I just thought, hey, maybe drinking will help. Because I felt alone and afraid. It was that thing of working so much, and going f*%#, maybe that will help. And it was the worst thing in the world… You feel warm and kind of wonderful. And then the next thing you know, it’s a problem, and you’re isolated.” (The Guardian)

The wounds always bring with them a certain amount of fear. The fear crept up on him again. “It’s just literally being afraid,” Williams said. “And you think, oh, this will ease the fear. And it doesn’t.”

There’s no reasoning with the darkness. Our wounds are as irrational as the coping mechanisms we embrace to help us get through the day. Addiction is like this, only more powerful. “It’s [addiction] — not caused by anything, it’s just there,” Williams said. “It waits. It lays in wait for the time when you think, ‘It’s fine now, I’m OK.’ Then, the next thing you know, it’s not OK. Then you realize, ‘Where am I? I didn’t realize I was in Cleveland.’” (ABC News)

Relapse. Rehab. Open heart surgery. Another divorce. Another trip to rehab. More work. Money problems. More criticism. Depression. Suicide.

Williams’ energy might have been his defining characteristic. I think his vulnerability in the face of his own wounding was the most compelling thing about his life and work. It’s what made him great to watch, and it’s what we should remember most about this tender, vulnerable actor.

Footnote:
In William’s ‘latest’ film, now out on DVD called “The Last Angry Man in Brooklyn,” he plays a man who despairs and jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge. In the film, a very sympathetic woman (his doctor) goes into the East River to see if he can be rescued. She succeeds. The part of the doctor was played by actress Mila Kunis. In some way, we fans of Williams wished we could have played a part in rescuing the real person, the actor Robin, and keeping him in this world to love.

Robin Williams– more Catholic reflection on the taking on life

PART A–MY REFLECTIONS
(IN PART B BELOW, ANOTHER PRIEST’S REFLECTIONS)

I don’t mean to make all my blogs this week want to be on the topic of deaths or funeral, but I am left affected in still thinking about Robin Williams tragic death, and it reminds me (too) of some funerals I have done of a suicide victim. Plus, I am around death a bit. It’s part of my vocation. I recently drove up to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to give out Last Rites to a person I knew. I did what I could to get her ready to meet the Lord God. She had her funeral Wednesday. It was held at a sibling’s parish.

In our St. Edward the Confessor parish this week we had a death of a senior member. She had not been well for over a year or more, and had dementia, so she couldn’t recognize what used to be so familiar to her. Theresa Proctor, at 91, died peacefully. She had lived in Bowie for a long, long time.
Her funeral is planned here in our parish church for the last Thursday morning of August, and the interment at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Cheltingham.

I have to deal with death often as a priest, probably much more than the usual person does. I think my response to it is the same each time: I hate death. It is everything of the opposite of what humankind is about. We are meant to be children of God, children of Life. God is Life. We are meant to share Life and be friends with God, Who is Life. Love is Life. Jesus Christ has come to deliver us into everlasting life. Jesus is Love. He has come to conquer sin and death for us. We can be reconciled to God. In Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5 is a good Bible chapter to ponder about His offer for our change. In there it says: “And it is that He, Jesus, died for all, that we need not any longer live just unto ourselves, but be back into relationship with God in Christ, Who took our death, and rose again… Therefore if anyone be in Christ, they are a new creation. Let the old order pass, and behold have all things become new and alive.”

Or just to put it succinctly, Jesus said in The Gospels: “I Am the Resurrection and the Life.” And “Come unto Me.” And “I have come that you might have life, and life abundantly.”

Knowing all this, I should say here that I have assurance of The Lord’s Promise for giving us Life. I have to live this life of readiness myself. We all do. He wants to give us “the peace that passes all understanding” (as His Good News proclaims for us). He IS My Peace to overwhelm the hardship of living in this broken-down world. I rely on those revelations of God of His Life begun in us and how He is started our new creation or re-creation as children of God.

Back to discussing Robin Williams (as he is the one who first made this past week one with much reflection on one’s final moment), I wondered if and how much Robin did realize of this Christian revelation (of Hope) for him. And how much did his mental illness interfere with his ability to receive it? Also, how much did poor life experiences injure his already hurting existence?

In two of William’s movie roles, they seemed close to his own personal life. In The Fisher King he plays a man that is tormented by a menacing red knight of fire and all through the film he desperately seeks escape from a terrifying real experience of life that has led to his deep wounded-ness and this nightmare. At the film’s closing the character finds his escape and releases all his clothing and dances on a Central Park lawn in the moonlight. In What Dreams May Come he plays a man whose wife has taken her life in depression and she has fallen into a nebulous world of shadows and sadness. The man goes to this afterlife place (after getting permission to leave heaven) to try to find her and save her from her death and abandonment to eternal despair.
This past week I read of another pastor’s similar reflection on The Fisher King story and its resemblance to Williams’ own story. I include it in the next blog.

While I am exposed a lot to death and dying, it is not that I am used to it. Sometimes I do struggle with how people die, or why they die, and what is their culpability when they are cause of their own death.

The suicide death of Robin Williams is disturbing. It has me thinking still about it, many days after it happened. He was a baptized Christian. I don’t know of his worship or spiritual practice of his Christianity, yet Robin seemed to live quite generously and to find much generosity and care from somewhere or someone, so I will name it as in him from Our Lord, Who was born into him at baptism, and Who is the SomeOne of Generosity in this world (we live generously in borrowing so from God’s Spirit, it not just all generated on our own). You did not hear of Robin going to worship God publicly with other Christians, so there is a lack there. I worry for him on that accord. Yet God’s love did find its path into Robin’s life with others. His care for others was well-told.

Williams was raised as an Episcopalian as an only child in a well-off family. Something soured him to keeping the Faith or he never was convinced of Christianity’s real practice in Christ. Perhaps all the philanthropy and gift of his time for others was his search to live out a Christ-like way.

Yet there were his struggles and prodigal son-type wanderings. Robin could be vulgar, crass, irreverent, and daring in a bad way against morals and godliness. Perhaps it was all part of his public-viewed recklessness, his manner of disquiet.
There was sin in his life. He had to own most of it. Maybe it all really bothered him and became pain for him. Oh if only he had found some community of Christ’ believers who could have been help to him. God was bigger that all Robin’s problems, if he could have understood it. Yet he chose to just bear the problems within.

A day or two after the comic/comedian Robin Williams died, I commented in the daily homily of how sad I was about it, as it was a self-inflicted death, and a tragedy that someone (Robin) who could make everyone else laugh and be lifted up could not do it for himself. He was afflicted for years with depression and styles of self-abuse (addictions, substance abuse, etc.) and tried to medicate or kid himself out of it. Evidently overwhelmed with news of having Parkinson’s disease and its oncoming decline to his (already weak) health, Robin felt he should take his life. Terrible.
It was just awful to hear about it.

We can’t kid our way past death.
Yet I do think that comedy and humor helps us to find the joy of living that can help us find Life and meaning. And Faith.
I think Robin was searching for meaning and peace and contentment in all his antics and roles.

In his kidding about what he had hoped Heaven would be like, he said that he hoped to meet God and hear God tell a joke (that there’d be laughter in Heaven). He quipped: “Wouldn’t it be great if you met God in heaven and he came up to you and told a joke?!…and God started out classically with– Have you heard this one? A rabbi, minister and a priest walk into a bar, and..” Yes, Robin, you could make me smile. Your jokes even about religion could be funny. As for defining his own former Episcopalian Christianity, Robin explained: “It’s Catholic Lite. Most of the Faith with just half of the guilt.” The line still makes me grin, even if mostly it isn’t true. (Catholics have Confession and use this Sacrament, actually, for addressing the guilt of our sin, and exposing it into The Divine Mercy.)…..

With all the silliness and fun he had in poking fun at religion, I do hope he had a serious inner life with God.
As for his getting tell exchange jokes with God, I think that people should not think that Robin instantly got into Glory and is laughing with God right now. Hold up on the instant pass into Heaven.

I think Robin is instead quite seriously addressing his matters before the Judgment of God, in reviewing where He disobeyed God or belittled His Son and His work on earth, or how he might have sinned without repentance for things, and how his final act will leave much healing work to be needed among his family. He may need to learn much more about Our Lord and what is required for entrance into His Perfect Company. We Catholics call it Purgation or Purgatory.

I think of Purgatory when I think of some suicide-funerals I have had to do as a priest. I believe those Catholic persons we prayed for at the Mass (the suicide victims) are very likely in Purgatory (and hopefully there to work out with God what was wrong). There is so much healing needed for a person like that. God has a place for healing.

Two young Catholic men come to my mind of suicide deaths. One was an altar server then a youth group member of mine in a previous parish, and the other was also an altar boy and teen group member in another parish. Both had the absence of fathers (fatherly love) and both thought of themselves as odd persons and both were troubled frequently in their minds as young adults. They both seemed to have lost control of their lives, though yearning to be good men and Catholic. Each committed suicide. I did both of their funerals at their parishes. Those experiences were real difficult for me. I had tried so much to care for them, but they had their troubles and disgust and despair with themselves. After years since their deaths, the Moms of those guys are still hurting from the suicides of their sons.
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PART B ANOTHER PRIEST’S REFLECTIONS

Actor Robin Williams’ death reignites questions about suicide. I looked online to see what priests were working a lot in this area of ministering around suicides. I found a priest in the Chicago Archdiocese who has made public comments on his work. Catholic News Service ran this story and interview with him. I share it below:

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNS) — After 35 years of providing counseling and a Catholic outreach to families with a loved one who died by suicide, Father Charles Rubey has consulted on more than his share of the resulting funerals or wakes.
The priest is the founder and director of a Chicago-based ministry called Compassionate Friends, which later evolved into Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide, or LOSS, an entity of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He still bristles when he occasionally hears misinformation or outdated notions concerning suicide and Church teaching. “The Church’s official teaching in the Catechism still lists suicide as a sin but they do add that in most instances there are extenuating circumstances that could severely impair culpability,” said Father Rubey. Twice recently he heard of someone suggesting to surviving families members that their loved one would be automatically deprived of eternal life as a result of completing suicide. The incidents prompted the priest to draft an advisory memorandum for best practices in dealing with and discussing suicide situations in local parishes, and how best to minister to families already feeling the stigma of suicide and the mental illness that often attended the deceased.

“The Church’s standing is to be pastoral to the survivors: They feel stigmatized anyway … and so we shouldn’t do anything more because it is a suicide, nor should we do anything less because it’s a suicide,” Father Rubey said. “We do the normal rites and burial, not treating the situation any differently.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that suicide “is seriously contrary to justice, hope, and charity. It is forbidden by the Fifth Commandment (and) contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. … Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.” This is still clear to most people as our Catholic teaching. What the Church no longer teaches (he says) is that suicide automatically condemns the deceased to damnation, while denying family members access to a Catholic funeral and burial privileges for their loved one. The Catechism notes that “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives… By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives,” it states.

We leave things up to God’s hands. It is all in His care now. God knows all.

The Aug. 11 death of actor-comedian and Chicago native Robin Williams has reignited questions about suicide, now the 10th leading cause of death in America. It is thought to often be accompanied by factors such as mental or other illnesses, substance abuse, the pain of social disconnect and other underlying problems. Father Rubey, whose LOSS program has counseled thousands of family members of the years, said he is saddened but understanding at hearing of William’s apparent suicide and that he hopes people don’t think less of the actor as a result. Williams did take his own life in his home.

“Does it make sense to me? No, but I understand that he battled with this (severe depression) all his life and he got tired of the pain. I feel badly for the wife, and all of his fans,” Father Rubey said. “He died of an illness and that is the important part of it, just as a person might die from a car accident or from a cancer. But with mental illness they look like everyone else (on the outside) and it may not be apparent.”

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Bill Schmitz Jr., board president of the American Association of Suicidology, a Washington-based research and prevention nonprofit organization, said he grew up in Boulder, Colorado, not far from the house used in William’s “Mork & Mindy” TV sitcom, which aired in the late 1970s. Fans were flocking to the house in the days following the actor’s death to pay their respects. “My heart goes out to his family,” said Schmitz, a clinical psychologist with the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. “This touches all of the entertainment industry, just as it can an entire church congregation (in other cases). I think Williams was really trying to find answers, and I would have loved the opportunity to sit with him.” Schmitz told CNS that faith communities can and do play an important role in offering support groups and local networks for surviving family members. Churches can be part of the social cohesion that keeps people from completing suicide in the first place. “For a lot of people (their) faith life is a buffer and protector against suicide — one of the key components I look at is a sense of belongingness and a sense of community, and church communities are a powerful buffer against suicide because they fill that need so well,” he said. “Spiritual, physical and mental health are all interrelated and interdependent. A sense of belonging is more than just saying, ‘I attend services.’ It is really about that connection.”

Where there has been a suicide, Father Rubey urged survivors not to make it “the family secret,” and instead talk about it rationally just with any other tragedy — especially if there is a history of occurrence of suicide in a given family.
“Children have a right to know what is in their genes and it is part of the family history. It can be a very healthy learning experience: that this is not how you handle life’s problems,” the priest said.
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I guess I should add a few things in closing here.

After a suicide, especially in ministering to siblings or friends or other family of the person who died, I have to be clear to them how suicide is wrong. As lovingly as we can be in the funeral of a person of suicide, it also needs to be balanced as a break of the 5th Commandment of God. God wants us not to take life. Especially our own.
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We have a family here in our parish who has experienced a suicide. I responded with the police to the call to the Bowie home. The parents of their adult child at home called us both for immediate help. It was a gun-inflicted self fatality in their son’s bedroom. Days later we had a Mass of Christian Burial for this Catholic son who had such torment in his life. His name was my first two names. John Michael. (I am John Michael Barry.)
We all pondered about him and his After-life. We decided that he would definitely need our prayers. We have prayed many Masses for him since at St. Edward’s, and we save a Christmas Mass for his intention each year to call Jesus’ attention to one of His own, Whom He came from Heaven to save. We ask Him to give John Michael the ultimate Christmas present: everlasting mercy and peace.

May God in Christ Jesus and the Power of The Spirit carry us over to The Other Side. href=”http://www.stedwardbowie.org/papajohn/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/1101131806b.jpg”>1101131806b

When Kin or Friend excuses their giving a Catholic a Catholic funeral

In the first blog of this couple of ones on Catholic funeral Masses, I said that often some sad excuses are made for a family not gathering for a funeral Mass. Yet I don’t think many of the excuses hold up. I think it is so sad when a Catholic is not honored by his kin or friends for the Faith they had in Christ and His Church for the salvation of their soul.

Here are some excuses, and what doesn’t hold up about each one. (At least, in my opinion…)

One excuse not to hold a Mass of Christian Burial is that “some mourners are not Catholic.”
Yet if the person being honored was Catholic, then there is not usually a valid excuse for not having a Mass. There should be given the respect and sensitivity deserved for the one who has passed—- it’s not just about the survivors. The main figure at a Catholic’s death is THAT PERSON and who they were IN CHRIST. Catholic prayers are more than a gathering of general mourners— for Catholics it is a Prayer with Christ, Who is our Resurrection and Life. This is our Easter tenet of faith. Jesus will be there for as Savior and Deliverer upon our death.
Non-Catholics should respect the faith of the deceased person. To say that they (the mourner) is not Catholic is to miss the point. It’s not their funeral; it is for the deceased.

Another excuse to pass up on a Mass is that “only a few persons will attend the Mass, like only forty or less of the family.” Here’s the thing. We would have the funeral even if it were only the priest and the funeral director.
(And one time–that’s all it was.) Numbers do not matter at a funeral. We hope a goodly number come to pay their respects, if they can, but it is not about the numbers.

Another excuse is that “we can’t afford a Mass and burial from the Church.”
Well, the parish does not have much of all of an expense to the family when it comes to funerals. You make a donation to the parish, but it is quite small in comparison to the charges of a funeral home, which is often over $10,000. A typical donation in $100. The organist and cantor will have a fee, too, for the Mass. It still is a small expense. That is really all that is in costs for a parish church end of a funeral. (You can give a stipend to the presiding clergy too, but it is not required.) The high costs of a funeral are all in funeral homes or in cemeteries and in all other kinds of memorials and dinners held.

Another excuse is that the church will not allow cremains in the Mass.
The Church does allow cremains into the Mass of Christian Burial, if that choice is made

Another excuse for not holding a church funeral is “that we just want to get it over and done.” Yet funerals are important closure rituals for a person, and its preparation and celebration are an acceptance experience of death, even amidst tragedy. It is a prayer of hope, too. It is a presentation of the survivor’s experience before God asking for mercy and kindness from God, in a setting He offers it freely. It is a formal remembrance and recognition of the person that probably is needed by many persons. It is a gathering with God for hope and peace.

Another excuse versus a Church Mass of Christian Burial is a preference for an informal gathering where people may speak freely or special programs introduced into the gathering. Yet this is what the wake is for. This is also what the reception or a repass offers to a family. Anyway, some wakes are held in churches and offer that kind of gathering sought for the family. Also, some comments/memories are put into some Catholic funeral Masses, either prior to the Mass starting, or after the Communion Rite. This usually lends a personal word and touch to the Mass for the deceased.

Another excuse that I hear is that the non-Catholics or non-practicing ones do not like it when they are not offered Holy Communion at a Funeral Mass. Certainly, respect to the Sacred and the dignity the Catholic Church wants for her Blessed Sacrament can be honored for one time, can’t it? People are respectful in other situations, are they not? I do not ask or demand to be included in something I am not privy to. The Church has had Holy Eucharist for the ages and she safeguards the practice of it as a Sacrament that is Christ to us. Other Christians have a symbolic meaning to Communion, but it is not the same as Catholics. Those “open” Communion services are so because of their symbolic meaning, yet Catholics regard Communion as the Real Presence of Christ upon Whose reception means that they are in obedience and practice to all the Catholic Church basically holds. Thus, it is not “open’ to all. Taking Holy Eucharist is a pledge of fidelity to Christ, as a witness to God and others of being in the practice of Catholic Faith. If non-Catholics received it, then it would lose its dignity and special regard.
We welcome non-Catholics into the Mass, but just ask they not receive our Sacrament. If they do believe in what Catholics believe, then we invite them to our RCIA class for joining us one day for the Communion Rite.

A few “parting” words on the subject….
A Catholic funeral Mass proclaims that we live because of God and that we die for the Lord (Romans 14:8). We are dependent on Christ’ Love and Aid to the sinner (of which we all are indeed). A funeral Mass communicates–from God’s side–that He loves us and want to “lose no one for whom He loves.” At a Funeral Mass we thank God for the gift of a person who brought God’s blessing into our lives, and it is our way of returning that blessing to the Lord who gave us our loved one.

A Catholic funeral Mass reminds us that the soul life of the person goes on, even as we bury their remains to the earth or its place of burial. Preface I of the Mass for Christian Burial states it this way: “. . .For your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended. . .“ This is a message of hope for those in grief that reminds us that we have not lost our loved one, we have entrusted them to God who is our origin and final destiny.

After the Mass of Christian Burial, the Church keeps praying for her beloved dead. It is one of the Works of Mercy. It is a practice done in every Mass which is prayed, to include prayers for the deceased. The Church also devotes Mass intention every day for someone of whom the family or a friend would like us to remember in prayer.

Lastly, we all die imperfect under God. None of us had it all together. We all pass in need of God’s love, grace, and mercy. At a funeral mass we entrust our loved ones to the mercy of God so that any sin they may have committed through human weakness may be forgiven. The celebration of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ at every Mass, especially a funeral Mass, reminds us that God is always ready to accept us with forgiveness and mercy.

A traditional image of heaven is the image of the banquet table around which the holy of people of God sit and feast on sumptuous food (cf Ps 23). The altars in our churches prefigure that banquet table for us and remind us that we have a place at that table with the saints of God. At a funeral Mass the altar helps us remember that our loved ones have been invited One Fine Day to take their seats at that table of The Lord; Who will be there to welcome us when we arrive to be seated. Thus it is fitting when we pray at Mass: “Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.”

Thoughts on the Assumption Feast (Part A) Unlike Mary, Catholic Believers will need a Mass and a burial grave goodbye, but will they get one from their survivors? (Part B)

PART A
Blessed Mother Mary did not need a Funeral nor a Mass of Christian Burial. She was assumed body and soul into Heaven. This is a joy that we Catholic believers celebrate in this August holy day for her. She is Mary, Assumed into Heaven. It’s the Mystery of the Assumption of Mary in Heaven. After her dormission (or sleep) into death, God gave her a special gift of being fully taken into Heaven: soul AND body.
There is no cemetery plot or mauseleum or marker place for where Mary lies. She has no need of a tomb. She was given special favor by God. Her body was taken up by God.

The rest of us will need a place of rest. Yet there stays a hope that the Christians will have their bodily life someday in Heaven. Our model, granted by Christ Jesus for Mary, is there!

I took a look today at a site called Assumption Poetry. It’s rather nice. One poem, included in part below, expressed the biblical view (Song of Songs, Revelation, Psalms, Proverbs) that God chosen Mary for this favor granted His Lady.

Poem: On the Glorious Assumption of Our Blessed Lady

Hark! She is call’d. The parting hour is come. Take thy farewell, poor world! Heav’n must go home
A piece of heav’nly earth, purer and brighter Than the chaste stars, whose choice lamps come to light her
While through the crystal orbs, clearer than they, She climbs and makes a fair more milky way.
She’s called. Hark how the dear immortal dove Sighs to his silver mate, ‘Rise up, my love!
‘Rise up, my fair, my spotless one! ‘The winter’s past, the rain is gone.
‘The spring is come, the flowers appear. ‘No sweets but thou are wanting here.
‘Come away, my love! ‘Come away, my dove! Cast off delay.
‘The court of Heav’n is come ‘To wait upon thee home. Come, come away!
‘The flowers appear, ‘Our quickly would, wert thou once here.
‘The spring is come, or, if it stay, ‘Tis to keep time with thy delay.
‘The rain is gone, except so much as we ‘Detain in needful tears to weep the want of thee.
‘The winter’s past. ‘Or, if he make less haste,
‘His answer is, Why, she does so. ‘If summer come not, how can winter go?
On the golden wings Of the bright youth of Heav’n, that sings
Under so sweet a burthen. Go, Since thy dread son will have it so.
And while thou goest our song and we Will, as we may, reach after thee.
Hail, holy queen of humble hearts! We in thy praise will have our parts.
Thy precious name shall be Thy self to us, and we
With holy care will keep it by us. We to the last Will hold it fast…

Maria, men and angels sing, Maria, mother of our King.
Live, rosy princess, live. And may the bright Crown of a most incomparable light
Embrace thy radiant brows. O may the best Of everlasting joys bath thy white breast.
Live, our chaste love, the holy mirth Of Heav’n, the humble pride of earth.
Live, crown of women, queen of men. Live mistress of our song. And when
Our weak desires have done their best, Sweet angels, come and sing the rest.

By Richard Crashaw (1613-1649)

Isn’t that a lovely poem from a man of faith?

Some people do not give Mary’s Assumption enough thought. There is something bright and beautiful in it.

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PART B
Funeral Rites: Believers will need a grave: What are your plans and family plans to be buried from the Church

Now, if you are a person who has ever regarded leaving a will behind, or in leaving important instructions behind in case of your death… Have you settled the details of a funeral and burial for yourself, handled by family or others? As for the Church end of things, including Wake/Mass/Burial, I recommended that you write it down in your records and will.

Some people don’t. Recently, a family decided not to have the Church involved in the last things of a practicing Catholic’s farewell. I think they went against the wishes of their member who departed, and might have even offended and insulted their loved one and God by that decision. (Especially since the finances were all taken care of, to afford any wishes of the departed.) There was no notice to the parish at all and call for involvement. It was of a Catholic that many people knew and loved at the parish. People were very surprised at the decision.

People should prepare in writing their desire for a Church funeral and for some specifics about them. This document should be easy at hand for the time of need. It should be in one’s will. You might talk about it with family or a priest.

In most cases, Catholics should have a Mass of Christian Burial. If one has lived in Catholic faith, then the Church wants to honor you with a holy ‘send-off’ and prayerful farewell. It is due respect to the Church member who believed in God—a Catholic Mass and burial. It is also due respect given to God.

Some Catholics need to make clear their affiliation with a parish, so that they will accommodate your needs at your death. You should always be registered in a parish. If you belonged for many years at a parish, but no longer are there, then if you want a Mass or burial there, you should talk to that pastor and get something in writing if he approves your plans.

One’s parish will always be the expected home place for a funeral. (Otherwise– permission is needed to go to another parish.) As most parishes have just one priest today, it helps to keep the pastor informed if someone is near death or in danger of death (as in having a very serious medical procedure)–then he can be better ready to assist you in the parish. They’ll have better opportunity to be prepared on their end for you.

So it was the topic of a recent priest’s meeting I did attend. We discovered that across the diocese there are many persons who are not properly calling the parishes right away upon the passing of a church member. Too often, the family is meeting with a funeral director at a funeral home without having spoken to their priest. (That isn’t right. Let the priest and parish know of your needs soon. Funeral homes and others need to be reached for immediate need, as in the taking of a body from a home or hospital. That is understandable. Yet, the next step should be contact with the parish.)
Sometimes, right there, a decision is made to not honor the deceased person’s Catholic identity at their funeral.
Some funeral directors are good, in asking or pressing the family to do so, but the decision by a non-practicing person of faith might have already been made.

That shouldn’t happen. In most cases, a Mass of Christian Burial should be held. And a burial to come afterwards (that day or ahead on the calendar).

Planning for a funeral will include the priest, the family, the music director/music persons, and the funeral home, and cemetery. On the church end of things, we want to console the grieving and we want to have some Liturgy planning for a fitting and loving and respectful farewell prayer to the Catholic. There are Scripture readings and prayers to choose, and a review of the departed person’s life for the homily/remarks/tribute, and the related music to consider. There are times and church arrangements and options to consider (e.g. flowers, place for photos, etc.). If an obituary will go to press, then the choice of days and times and the celebrant/presider will have to be made all before that.

There may be grief counseling needed for some immediate hurt or pain. There may be a gathering of family needed soon.

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A Mass of Christian Burial is important. The Church and her Holy Mass prays the Mystery of Faith in the Dying/Rising/and Promise of Jesus Christ. The Funeral Rites call attention to this hope we have in salvation in Christ.

I frequently read the (daily) obituaries in the Washington Post and I look often for the same in local papers. So, now and then, this is how I find out about the passing of someone I care about from a former parish of service or of my home town. I will offer prayers for them, and call and check up on the family, and such. Just recently, the newspaper listed the name of a woman from my home town who died. She was friends with my father. So I prayed for her today. A parent of a classmate from my alma mater here in town also died. Both were given a Mass of Christian Burial at two of our city parishes. I was glad of that.

I used to have a woman work for me for rectory and office cleaning. She went to Sunday Mass every weekend of her life, and holy days too. She died. All of her children (now adults) had not practiced the Catholic faith for many years, and I was much afraid that they would not have the Church celebrate her Mass of Christian Burial. Yet they had it. We clergy intervened a bit in sharing that high expectation of it. The family agreed. A good number of Catholic neighbors and parish people and a few clergy attended the Mass.

But far too often I discover how there are no plans for a funeral Mass for a man or a woman who was obviously Catholic and involved in their parish and/or a member. I don’t understand why family members would settle only for prayers at a funeral home or a “celebration of life” at a hall or restaurant (or nothing much at all) rather than bring their loved one’s body to the church for a funeral mass, especially if Holy Mass was an important part of their loved one’s life. The Mass often precedes a burial on that day of memoriam (though not always—they are some reason for delay to another day). The Catholic Rites lead the congregants at Mass onto the last acts of burying a loved one and starting their physical separation from them, which the graveside prayers and Scriptures provide to the mourners.

While the deceased is not praying in the pews at their funeral, the whole reason for the Funeral Mass is because the person had prayed in those pews many times.

Homily 20th Sunday “A” Aug. 17

As we take another Summer Sunday in Matthew’s Gospel middle, let us remember the context of what was going on, as in review of the past few Sunday Gospels in Matthew 13 and 14. Remember how the varied parables in Matthew 13 and the stormy sea moment in Matthew 14 were all about “faith.” The lessons are about “faith.” So it will be so in today’s Gospel.

Remember also that Jesus was in mourning over the violent death of His cousin and mighty prophet named John the Baptizer. Jesus had tried to get away to a deserted place to mourn and pray, but thousands found Him on the hillside. There He taught and fed them. He tried to get a break after that, even sending the apostles ahead in the boat to cross Galilee. Jesus takes some time alone, for a short while in that evening, but catches up with the apostles, even walking on the water to do so. These two stories were in the past two Sunday Masses and gospels. Jesus nor His apostles have had time alone for themselves. In today’s portion of Matthew 14, they have made it to a retreat in a far get-away place to hopefully not get disturbed.

Here in this northern coastal place where Jesus and the disciples retreat is the locale of a peculiar episode with Jesus and a persistent women who breaks into their company to ask for Jesus’ power to reach her daughter. It is how things occur that makes it peculiar.

Sometimes in the most peculiar circumstances–Jesus is working to bring our Faith alive–or He is using us to bring another to faith and healing. We just need to recognize Him and trust Him in these situations. We can be tested in our Catholic practice, but it is remaining WITH Jesus in trust: that is what God is looking of us. We need to grow in faith. Will we let down our human pride, and let God work about us? That is the message of the Gospel of Jesus.

Today’s Gospel reading IS a peculiar one. On the surface of the reading, Jesus seems a little harsh in His interaction with a woman. (Did you feel that yourself, in reaction to it?) But IN the context of Matthew 15:21-28, we have to see it as a lesson of being tested for faith. In this episode, the Canaanite woman is tested, and the apostles are tested too. Will faith prevail here?

Of this peculiar Gospel account, the context is important to know. In this journey time of ministry for Jesus, He has just met with Pharisees and other hard-hearted Jews and He has called them “defiled” by the many serious sins they have coming forth from them. These arrogant Jews respond by saying that Jesus has “insulted them.” How dare He say that of them?! We’re insulted (say they)! Jesus says that what IS insulting is their “lip service to God” and their “hypocrisy of worship,” since they were hiding serious wrongs going on in their lives. Jesus names the wrongs He sees in their souls, and exposes aloud what he sees, namely, “murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.” Yes, Jesus could see the sins of people! He comments that these men were just complaining about unwashed hands of some of his disciples, but the real cleaning needed was for their repentance of sin in their hearts. What Jesus sees is a terrible lack of faith and humility amidst them. Little can be done with them, that is, until they will see their own dire need. There’s little He can do with their blocked hearts. This will be contrasted with today’s episode up in the region of Tyre and Sidon and a woman of great faith.

He says to His disciples: ‘We DO need to take that retreat I have been trying to get. Let go up to Canaan land.’

He probably asks the apostle Simon the Canaanean: ‘Do you know of a place that we could retreat to? Where we might not get disturbed?’ I am guessing that Simon picked some perfect coastal place off the Great Sea (the Meditterranean) for them to go. ‘I can get us a quiet place near where I am from, Jesus, actually, at my relative’s lodging, ‘Simon says, ‘not too far away south from Tyre and Sidon. No one will bother us there, and You, Master, and all of us, can re-collect ourselves of all that has recently happened–with John’s beheading, and all the rebellion from Jewish authorities that has taken place.’ So, that is where they all go.

As they enter the region, off the Meditterrean (Great Sea), they settle down. To accommodate the band of disciples and Master Jesus, the host of this lodging place probably employed some helpers to assist with cooking, serving, cleaning, and the like. A certain Canannite woman, who is not a Jew but from further north (modern day Lebanon and Beirut– or olden day Phoenicia)– she comes to be a part of the service team (as I see it). She has got into proximity to where Jesus will be eating. She has a big request to make.

She surely realizes it IS in the place of a do-not-disturb situation with Jesus, but she will find an opportunity to petition Him. Faith has made it urgent and even appropriate!

Jesus immediately knows that a woman of great faith is there in His proximity. He just knows this–by means of His holiness and powers of acute discernment. Jesus also knows that a miracle will be served by Him to her. He knows what she will ask, as He has already sensed that this region has many people under demonic possession, including her daughter. There is an evil presence in pockets here (just like off the Jericho road in the desert lands, and in the Garasene territoy, where He met the same). The woman has come to ask for His power to deliver her dear daughter from a demon.

This Canaanite woman (who is probably there, again, as a service member to the family hosting the retreat), let’s call her Bisha, I would suppose she probably had already known Simon (the Apostle). Once upon a time, Simon had been a passionate terrorist and Zealot party member here in this region, using violence to thwart the Romans one subversive battle at a time, but he had changed since meeting Jesus. People all over this region had heard of Simon’s change, with his following the Master as an apostle, and that this Rabbi Jesus had such amazing power to turn hearts to goodness. When the woman overheard that Jesus was coming to Simon’s home territory, she knew she had to meet Him. When she discovered that the plans were not for Him to visit into the cities of Tyre and Sidon, but just simply to privately retreat here with His men at a coastal spot, she realized that this occasion would be her one-time to approach Jesus. Don’t disturb Him, that was the word. But–if Bisha could get in close enough, as one on the servant team, and if she could just find the right moment to get His attention– Bisha could present her case. This Canannite/Phoenician woman was so distraught over her daughter being possessed by some demon. She loved her daughter, but this case was so hopeless. Bisha’s daughter was a slave to evil impulses. Only one like Jesus could help her.

Here’s where peculiar things happen in the story. The Canannite woman cries out, from a distance: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy. Take consideration on my tormented daughter!” Yet, Jesus does not seem to acknowledge her at all. (?!?)
I first find that odd, since Jesus normally does stop for people.

As I was thinking of why He did this and when He did it (while on His retreat)–I compare it a bit to the example of President Obama this past week trying to take a family break at Martha’s Vineyard, with reporters all around shouting requests of him, for comments on the Ferguson situation, Ukraine, the Middle East, North Korea’s fired missiles upon the pope’s visit to South Korea, and etcetera… Obama gave short answers in some media moments, such as right before hitting off in a some golf recreation. But he wanted some “r and r” and some family time. It was his 150th day off in his two-term presidency of 5 years and 209 days. Secret Service kept people away for this needed rest at the coastal Martha’s Vineyard place.

In Matthew 15’s account, Jesus is at a coastal place for a retreat too. He is surprisingly interrupted by Bisha (Jesus did not have Secret Service… of course He had angels, but their directive was not to push away the Canannite woman!). She calls out her desperate plea. (“But at that moment He did not answer her at all” notes verse 23.) Eventually He will respond to her. Yet not so at first. It’s a little odd that He does not, don’t you think? Yet Jesus always has a reason for what He does. This silence He first gives her is the start of His test. The test of faith. Will this woman show these apostles an example of perseverance? Jesus thinks so. This woman, an outsider, knows how to respect Him, after all, even as an outsider, she opened her appeal by addressing Him with the title “Son of David.” (Recall when the blind man called out with this title, Jesus soon took interest in the man, and would cure him.)

Remember that Matthew’s Gospel is presenting lessons on Faith here.

We get the context of unpermitted interruption here. She is disturbing things here for the retreat and their meal.
Jesus’ whole ministry life seems to be a succession of interruptions. Yet He will be kind, even in this situation, as He looks up at her. He checks His disciples reaction. They are a little uncomfortable, saying: “Send her away, as she keeps crying out.”(Verse 23b) Yet, as I read a few commentaries on this Bible moment, the scholars say that the disciples do show some concern for her. They acknowledge her and really are saying to Jesus (‘Heal her and send her off, Master.’) Jesus is pleased with that response. Good. They have compassion. They want her well. Jesus next mentions that His present Mission is just “to the lost sheep of the House of Israel (verse 24).” But Jesus ALSO knows the larger and future mission of God’s Anointed One, the Christ, and we had two Bible verses from Isaiah and the Psalms (proclaimed in Mass today) that shows how The Word expected the Jews to take the Blessing of Messiah and spread the Word out to all the nations and peoples. Jesus knows that a time ahead will come when these apostles will be the ones who will take the Good News to the world, including to the foreigners in this region. Simon the Apostle will come back here one day and build up the Faith of people. Yes, people on the coastlands near Tyre and Sidon will hunger in faith and respond to the Good News. So, Jesus wants to bring out the faith of this woman, Bisha, all the more. It will explain the next odd things that He says. He knows the woman is up for the challenge of faith. Verse 25 says that she was permitted to “come close to Jesus”, and that she “knelt down right in front of Him.”

This visual is one of humility. Bisha is so much a contrast from the arrogant (and in mortal sin) Pharisee Jews that Jesus had to deal with just days ago. Now comes the odd use of a phrase of that time: “The bread of the children should not be tossed to the dogs.” Jesus points out the contrast of He, a Jew, and her, a foreign woman–by using that phrase (and indicating what normally would be proper/improper for a rabbi to do in the situation). Normally, a rabbi would not be in this situation. Yet Bisha has said: “Lord, help me.” Her faith has brought her right to Jesus. And she takes not offense at the phrase about the dogs, as if she could be insulted as being called a dog. But she is not. She comes in an attitude of unworthiness, not entitlement or pride of self. In a sense, all of humanity is under the table and we would be grateful for any scraps or crumbs falling from the Master’s Table. This is the example of faith that Jesus will illustrate, to you and me and to those apostles that day and to the Canannite hosts, of which pleases God.

The arrogant and entitled and self-dependent from God will have a very hard time living a life of faith. Yet faith is what God desires of us. We are made to live by faith, and not just by sight or as in the flesh.

I was thinking that if phrases like the ones Jesus used in this episode were used today, as in ‘you people’ versus ‘we (the clean)’ OR ‘why should you dogs get the scraps?’ OR that case of Jesus being a man who would not answering a woman’s plea or demand— THIS would be politically or socially incorrect, and in society today I wonder if that Jesus wouldn’t have even been allowed to finish through with His case here. They would have ridiculed Jesus for His attitude or approach. Indeed.

But we know that Jesus can be trusted. Even if He takes an unusual approach with us, even to oddity or surprise, or if He doesn’t answer us like we’d like…. we should put our Faith in Him. We should just get down on our knees before Him and be glad that He is Lord. He has all things under His control. We can trust that. We can put our faith in Him.

Finally, in example, I know that this past Sunday, as I spent time with a family of nine, in an out of town visit, I was blessed by the example of faith of a couple I once married. They have two growing children among their seven that have emotional/psychological problems in their development. It makes for a lot of difficulty in family life and control. Yet they are loving their children, all of them, and keeping it in God’s hands, even while sometimes it all seems a peculiar life they lead. Only by faith can they manage. And they do manage. God is pleased with them.

I also think that peculiar circumstances can happen among any of us, which have us thrown a bit for a loop, even while we trust Jesus. A woman in the parish had a trying week. Her husband went into the hospital with a heart event. Then, her Dad died. That’s a lot to handle. It’s peculiar timing, but God is there, and faith will meet Him for the need. Amen.

Assumption of Mary Homily

grotto

HOMILY
ASSUMPTION OF OUR LADY
[Photo above–praying at the Grotto of Our Lady at Mt.St.Mary’s with some jubilarians last October, in joy of our journey so far. That Marian site of devotion is a favorite one of mine and visited often.]

Mary is the New Eve inviting us to trust in God’s Original Blessing to humankind, and to turn from Original Sin and live anew in Christ.

Do you remember two weekends ago when I preached of how God has deep meaning in His Genesis words of “be fruitful and multiply?” These words said to original human beings of Adam and Eve were understood to mean not only to love and to bear children, as parents, but also that all humankind were to be fruitful in love and goodness and service and stewardship, and to be vessels or channels of all of God’s goodness and grace and to share it out to all of Creation. This was our original directive as humankind, or nicely said, our “original blessing.” Mary’s title, besides being a “new eve” or “blessed Mother of the Savior” is “One who gives the blessed fruit from her self, Jesus.”

She gives the world a Son… One who is to multiply the Good and All Graces to the world.
Satan takes and divides and separates and leads to dead ends. God leads to life and love and unity. God chooses Mary to lead the human response to His offer. Mary stands as the sign of victory that people will share when they also serve the Son.

Mary served God. This was the story of her life. When Jesus came into her life, she could help the world be fruitful again and to multiply the good of the Lord to the world. How did she feel and believe about this? We hear it in her prayer in today’s gospel: Mary sings: My spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed.

What’s the blessing she speaks of? We pray the answer out all the time: “Blessed is the fruit of her womb=Jesus.”

She is the vessel of God. Honored in the Assumption Mystery.

We were called to be vessels or channels or children of the Almighty letting the Trinity’s love hold in us and flow out out in good to all. We were called to be partners or servants to God of sharing blessings and graces. It was humankind’s purpose, in our work and service to God as His beloved children. But, fallen in sin, we have deeply struggled in our part to live and channel the Lord– still Here God Comes to us and here He sends into the world one we can call “The New Eve,” “The Vessel of Gold,” “The Sign for Deliverance” and “The Ark of God, the Tabernacle in Heaven’s Temple.” Mary.

Thank you sweet Lord for sending her. She is a special person you have used to save us back into right relationship with You and for hope for everlasting life.

Mary’s title of “new eve” refers to her call to be a big part in helping humankind get out of original sin, that is, for her to be used by her Son and His Victory. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did come to “seek and save the lost” and to help the world to receive from Him our new life covenant with God. Original Blessing, Part Two. The Restoration. (!!!)

So Mary for her whole part in receiving the Lord into her being and loving Him and believing in Him, through and through, makes her worthy of the great title of “Vessel of Gold.” As Psalm 45 says today: The Queen stands at your Right Hand arrayed in gold. (That is, Mary stands besides the Champion and Lord Jesus, Who is God’s Right Hand, she stands in honor there as His blessed Mother… arrayed in gold… of the golden response of being such a great First Christian.)

God would honor her faithful life, she who helped vitally in this New Beginning for Humanity, for our reconciled lives. God would give her a place, body and soul, to be in Heaven with Him. She would be assumed body and soul upon the moment of her death, of her falling asleep, and so be honored in a way that St. John describes in amazement, when he writes his account and vision in our First Reading today, out of Revelations 11 & 12.

“God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars…
She was The One who had labored with child… who was opposed by the dragon… (but) Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.’… It is a Son destined to rule the nations (whom is He, her Son).”

John the Apostle, very close person to Mary, and caretaker of her from the Cross of Jesus until her Assumption, saw Mary as the Tabernacle and Vessel of God in the Heavens. He saw a woman in his heavenly visions and he knew who she was. Interesting, he also noted her honor by God. She was the Ark of the New Covenant. The Ark of the Old (or Hebrew) Covenant was the golden vessel that Israel revered that contained the Staff of Aaron, the Ten Commandment Rocks, and the Manna of the Exodus in it. This tabernacle or “ark” was kept in the Temple of Jerusalem in its holy of holies place. It had served as the sign of the Exodus. Yet since Jesus came as our Deliverer, for a New Exodus to Heaven, the attention could now be turned to a new vessel of God, and it was the person Mary. In her Son, she gave us the Word made flesh (more than the Law on rocks). In her Son, she gave us The Bread of Life (more than manna food of the desert). In her Son, she gave us the Priestly High One to Hold the Sceptre of Authority for all time (more than the priestly staff of Aaron).

There was a lot to this vision of John’s. It gives us reason for why the Church has held to Mary’s Assumption as a belief of the ages.

Mary, Blessed is the fruit of your womb, HE is JESUS.

We hear in the other reading today of Jesus as being the First Fruit. He gives us new life. He gives us original blessing, yet made ever new and grander. We can freely receive it and be a vessel of passing His grace along to others.

The Vigil Gospel today says: that as great as it was to be Mary, and hold the Savior to her breast– Jesus says that intimacy with Him can be ours: “Blessed are those who take in the Word of God and then live it out.” Or the Gospel of the Feast Day says: “God has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation… to lift up those bowed down and lowly…
to fill the hungry with good things… to come to the aid of his servants… to keep promise to them.”

What promise? The promise of Salvation to get us into blessing again with God. That we can go and bear fruit in His Name… to go forth and multiply the good… to channel His graces…. to behold God at home in our being.

We can be servants of God for the original blessing–reborn–restored!

Today’s Feast of the Assumption of Mary gives us a sign of hope of such this new offer to people of the world.
Christ gives us the fruit of His Rising, as we hear from verses in 1st Corinthians today. Who was a person that was among those first fruits of Christ’ Redemption and offer for a New Covenant? Mary was. His blessed Mother. What was significant about Mary is that she was the perfect believer, the totally good response to our Lord’s Gift to turn around humankind to grace. She, the true “First Christian,” was also our best one. Mary, full of grace, responded so well and open to Our Lord’s Coming, that she is really the “new Eve” of Jesus’ work to begin us again in right relationship with God. Since she lived free of personal sin, upon her falling into the sleep/dormition of death, God could offer her a return to Heaven as a body and soul member to the Afterlife. We call it Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. She got to receive a special favor.

She is a sign to us that we who serve God in His purposes on earth today will also be recognized by the Lord and be rewarded into His Presence One Day.

Two weekends ago I gave a homily on the Multiplication of the Loaves. I said that Jesus is a Multiplier of the Good. And that, from our Genesis beginning, God has wanted to use us to multiply goodness out to the world, saying “be fruitful and multiply.” It was part of the Original Blessing. It was not just to procreate fruitfully, but a divine blessing to love and serve and work fruitfully for the good, for all the kinds of good, as stewards to the Lord. We were to receive and live out and give God’s goodness out to others and to the world.

When Jesus came to us, and fulfilled the Father’s plan for our salvation and becoming children of God, we were offered to live by His First Fruits of Redemption, as told in the epistle reading today. So, I propose that we try to live fruitfully, in the fruits of the Spirit, and ask for God to channel His Grace into us and through us and out to the world. Amen.