The candidates running… and The Lord also asking for your kind attention July 4th Homily

Every week another candidate throws his or her hat in the ring to run for the Office of President of the United States. I think we’re expecting twenty or more before it is all over. Each candidate will need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for their campaigns–which most of them are raising now. Our former Maryland governor might be canvassing Maryland today for votes or support. July 4th is a great day to go out and talk about serving America.

Every Potus candidate has an opinion about what is wrong with America and how they plan to fix everything. As if everything can be solved by politics or government. But, let’s be fair, at least they are involved and trying. Serving in public office is not easy, as you are under such scrutiny and conditional favor and sometimes incredible expectations. These candidates go and take it on.
In a few months, and after the Iowa and New Hampshire and early primarys, the candidates will know by polls and other ways the kind of support they have. And whether they should go on or not.

In today’s readings, we have Ezekiel who says that his popularity ratings never were that good. Yet he kept faithfully preaching what the Lord asked, until his last day of service on earth. In the gospel, you have Jesus not received well at all in his homeplace, upon his visit back there to the synagogue. He says something quite bad of his homeplace: He was “amazed at their lack of faith,” and “that he could only do little there, due to such lack of respect. Only a few miracles were done by Our Lord there, because of the people’s poor disposition. But did that stop the Lord Jesus in His ministry? Of course not. He moved on to find many people interested in Him and the Good News.

So we have all these candidates for president. One is locally very familiar. Martin O’Malley has launched his bid for the White House. Maryland’s former governor said the other day that a campaign slogan he is running with right now is “Rebuilding the Hearts of our Cities.” That sounds nice. It’s a crafted political launch message that is supposed to be appealing. He is saying that his Democratic political plan can re-build cities and lift hearts. We’ll see how he does.

Yet if he has heard from his own Catholic Archbishop Lori in Baltimore, a similar message is being given, but with a different emphasis. Archbishop Lori says that these candidates and other leaders should know that our nation’s moral compass is broken, and her spirit is wavering in a lot of secular hopes, where once she had God First in American dreaming and living. What America primarily needs is a spiritual re-building. It’s hearts that need rebuilding, alright. Can the nation work with the backbone of her churches and houses of worship as she looks forward? She better.

We see what secular solutions can do– but God is the answer first. America needs hearts back to Jesus in people deep in prayer, who ponder the Bible for guidance, and who join together with other believers for living the Faith, just, too, when it seems that less people are remaining committed disciples of Christ in America. America is deciding things and going in directions that we could say is more about exalting “Self” (or ourselves), and less about exalting the Lord. Our sinful choices and ways testify it.

Secular Humanists and Nones (the no-church affiliation Americans) are getting to the politicians with their agendas and they people with their loud voices claim Christianity and its biblical influence were not a powerful force in the birthing of our nation, and it need not be so today either. That’s what they say. They are very wrong. They falsely claim the First Amendment calls for a complete separation of church and state. And, frankly, they seem to add, that the state is primary, and church must follow the secular way, or be penalized for our stand against the state. That’s where it’s going right now in America, and I’m uncomfortable about it.

As we celebrate July 4th again, maybe it’s time to stop and think about the greatest influences upon our land and nation were people going to church, praying to God, reading their Bible and practicing it, and following their catechisms. In one of the great outside commentaries of explaining America’s growth, Charles de Tocqueville, the French author and statesman of the mid 1800’s, said: “I always wondered what made America great. I visited their cities and factories and stores. But not until I entered their churches and heard the preaching from their pulpits did I realize what made America great.”

When people say that early America was not strongly begun by Christianity, perhaps they forget the words given by our early U.S. presidents. Many of them publicly commented about the good influence of the Bible upon their lives and of America’s. So, in the tradition of Nationals Park, who like to run the presidents (mascot style) out every home game, I’d like run a few Presidents and their statements by you.

Our first President, George Washington, held a Bible in his hand at his inauguration, and upon finishing his oath, he kissed the Bible and added the prayer, “So help me God.” This was no empty gesture. He meant it. George was a man of God, and a friend to Catholics here in Maryland and in D.C. John Adams, the second President of the United States, revealed that he personally studied the Scriptures every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning. Andrew Jackson, the seventh President, referred to the Bible as “the Rock on which our Republic rests.” He also read three to five chapters in the Bible every day. Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth President, called the Bible “the best gift God has ever given to man…Without it we could not know right from wrong.”

Recent presidents such as Reagan and Carter were pretty vocal about prayer and Bible reading being a foundation in their life, too. Reagan, wrote: “Inside the Bible’s pages lie all the answers to all the problems man has ever known…It is my firm belief that the enduring values presented in its pages have a great meaning for each of us and for our nation.” Carter said that besides being president, one of his most important tasks in life has been being Bible teacher in his Plains, Georgia church.

Are we Americans losing that sense, though?

The attempt to divide America from church influence is going on. Some think that the First Amendment asks us to separate church from state, by diminishing religion from influencing government. Actually, the First Amendment prevents the establishment of a single-state operated church which would compel everyone to conform to it, a failed practice in other countries. In fact the Northwest Ordinance of 1787–to put things of that time clearly– stated, “Religion, Morality, and Knowledge are necessary for good government and the happiness of mankind.” We just weren’t going to be the United Methodist States of America, or the United Baptist or Catholic or Mormon States of America.

There are teachings in the Bible and in Catechisms and practices of the Church back to Christ Jesus that are being violated today here in our land, those concerning life and marriage and proper love of neighbor. As we get more lax or comfortable in our sins, America’s people in the pews will have to decide “I am a follower of Jesus first?” or “Am I firstly a follower of the secular world around me?” What am I letting influence me the most? I think the secular pull is winning the day right now around us.

A few days ago in late June was the feast of the two English martyrs, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. Their names are up on our west windows here, for their ultimate sacrifice to keep God first, even while trying to be earnest servants of the king. Yet King Henry VIII wanted to defy Church teaching and one of the 10 Commandments, and bring the whole nation with him in defying God by not calling adultery a serious sin anymore. He felt he had “right” to commit it. And not be “judged.” (Does that sound familiar to you today?!) Respectfully but truthfully opposing him from doing that were a bishop and a lawyer, and Fisher and More were beheaded for it by King Henry. The King’s church, the Anglicans, resulted, and English Catholics fled to Maryland and its our history that we are here in the English descendants of people willing to keep in fidelity to God and not break God’s laws even so routinely as a government-allowed choice and behavior.

God is asking Maryland Catholics to keep true to Him and His Word in the Bible and our Catechism/Church teachings. Our faith can be an asset to the state, and nation, in that we are a people who love God in our land.

Today’s Gospel was about Jesus going back to Nazareth and not being welcomed there. Mark 6’s account is so sad. He could do little there, because of their lack of faith and acceptance of Him there. Let’s hope Maryland doesn’t ever match those words about Jesus, yet we have surely tested Him already. May we amaze Jesus at our fullness of faith!!

Just Jesus or the Just Jesus–Which is our salvation? Homily 6/28/15

Homily: 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time June 28
Gospel: Mark 5:21-43 The raising of Jairus’ daughter by Jesus. The healing of the bleeding woman.

A couple of years ago a New York Times columnist wrote a book titled Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. The author, Ross Douthat, wrote that the original message of Christianity of living socially responsible to one another in Christ has been mostly lost to us now. He said that too many church messages are now about personal prosperity, self-improvement, me-centered faith, and a religion of comfort and to each his own choice and preferences.

He says that is heresy to him. He comments sharply that the early Church did not see Jesus just as one’s personal Savior and buddy and life coach—as he sees some of what Christianity is spreading around today in America. He comments that the ‘Jesus Original’ was Lord of a community, looking to bring together people in His Name who love one another in a new way of life: the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God ushers in a new society. People then ought to relate to one another differently as in that new way of life—with God-centeredness.

I don’t know Ross Douthat but I think he was looking for that Church described in the Acts of the Apostles which says that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and fellowship, with the Breaking of the Bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42) “Awe of God came upon every one, because of signs and the wonders going in their faith.” (Acts 2:43) and that “all who believed were together and shared all things in common, distributing goods and funds to the needs at hand” (Acts 2:44).

Routhat is on the right track in looking for how the Church is acting to her first story.
Back then, it appears that The Church was agreeable to the life of Christ to animate them and be His Body.
It acted this way: “Is there a need out there? Christ is interested: He’ll send His body. That’s us, His believers, who witness to Him in the world now. We are His agents, His vessels or instruments.”

In imitating the Lord Jesus, the Church in its founding days saw that the Master did not emphasize just a private relationship of people to His Father. (Yes, there were times He went alone to pray to His Father in secret, and asks us to do so, too.) Jesus was more about being out and among the people, and caring for them. You see that in today’s Mark 5 message. Jesus lived a life of mingling with people and getting them into community. He changed them from being on the outside looking in, to being participants with God who is blessing the world from inside out. You see, that’s the lesson He was teaching His original disciples, and what He is still teaching.

The stories of Mark 5 gives us a good picture of Jesus in everyday ministry. He is the healing help and love in the stories of two women. Jesus shows a level of involvement and care with other people (even strangers) that is going out of His way. He is out walking in Galilee and giving access to people. In this day of exchange recorded, Jesus will bring back two marginalized women back into the life of the community. In the first, He is accessible enough that a sick woman gets near and touches His garment. She does so with an act of faith that prays for a healing. She might have been afraid to ask Jesus’ to touch and heal her, because He, a holy man, was not permitted in Jewish Mosaic law to touch her, an unclean woman. But she is a believer, and she has got very close to Jesus. She had to try to become well. Jesus had healed others!

Jesus senses her in his soul (that a woman of the faith had touched him for a healing). While several people might have brushed next to Him in the crowd, in this case He stops. He turns and directs attention to her and shows that He wants engagement with her, and He wants healing to come to her. (The woman had terrible bleeding problems.) In this action, Jesus crosses over cultural and religious boundaries in order to bring this marginalized woman back into the life of the community. Jesus sees her, and He heals her, and He welcomes her back into community. “Daughter,” He addresses her, “your faith has made you well. Go in Peace and be healed.” Rather than be afraid of the people saying that He had become unclean by being touched by this sick woman, and risk his own detachment, Jesus has turned it all around to help a women become attached again. It’s a great move of human connection by Jesus. Imagine for a moment that you are that woman being offered the turn-around. It’s great, right?!

She now is a daughter of God—a family member to the Lord. She is recognized for her faith, not her sickness. Jesus wasn’t repulsed by her sickness, nor of her closeness to Him, instead He lovingly got involved with her. This is a model of Christianity that we have been talking about here in this homily. Jesus is engaged, not apart. Jesus is accessible, going from place to place to meet people or be seen by them.

Jairus’ deceased daughter is a much clearer Jewish case of how Jesus got involved with the impure and untouchables of the society. The woman who was bleeding was considered impure, and so was anyone making contact with her. But touching a dead person like Jairus’ daughter was much more dramatic and controversial. Jesus, as a traveling rabbi, was expected to avoid touching the dead—so that he didn’t get impure (the practice of the day of the religious man).

What instead does He do? He goes with Jarius to be beside with her! Jairus had begged Jesus to come to his daughter in sickness, but now that she was dead, it is a big surprise for a holy man to do this—because, according to Jewish law, a dead person was “impure” and could only be touched by family members preparing it for immediate burial. As a Jewish nation called to be priests, maintaining ritual purity was important to them back then—so important that it was willing to shun and exclude people (so to remain ritually pure). Yet Jesus got involved with Jairus’ daughter. Since His mission was to bring back all the dead to life, and get as many back into His Father’s kingdom, this situation (of Mark 5) fit His calling. He was going to get involved.

Jesus’ extension of Himself in this cases had (in a human understanding) lots for Him to lose. He would be treated differently and not with the usual honors for the man that did everything right and did so apart from society. The priest or rabbi was supposed to remain apart, almost distant from the mundane or unclean issues of the day. Jesus was different.

This is the same Jesus Who lives in us. He is not just interested in stamping people with salvation. You are more than baptized and made a Christian by Him. Christian means “Christ within His movement is that “the kingdom of God has come among you.” He wants the practice of the kingdom to begin on earth and in you and me. His believers can start the new way of life. It will be known for love and involvement and our going the extra distance for things of Jesus.

Just a quick final paragraph: This is the Catholic Christian life that Pope Francis has been encouraging to happen in the Church today. He wants Christ’ example of ministry to be now practiced in His Church. Christ lived in kinds of ways that was an “out-of-the-box” style, out of the circle of ease and comfort sometimes. Pope Francis says: “His ministry is messy. It is engaged. It challenges.” The salvation Christ was bringing to human kind was not just imparting a Faith of some private exchange with God, like in asking God personally to be our God and then with us telling Him what we’d like. It is more of humbly following Jesus so to become someone of whom He can be doing the things He was doing in the Gospel lessons. God wants to keep bringing the Good News and His Way of salvation that serves people and promotes community as His family of friends on earth now, and as a people interested in serving the common good and a just society.

A Jesuit and a diocesan priest in Washington said that this Gospel life is living the difference of “just Jesus” to living the Just Jesus in society. What they meant is that one could have a Christianity of just Jesus—you and Him. Or you could be living in justice as Jesus living His life in you—showing the Just Jesus (or Jesus of justice and advocacy for the poor and the lost in faith).

It is a clever distinction. It is possibly what Douthat was pointing out in his book of what he’s looking for in Christianity today.

Gay ‘Marriage’ or Gay Unions?

Here was the headlines last week: Gay marriage is a constitutional right, according to a historic 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court today (June 26).

Here’s my take on it. Calling a union of same-sex couples a “marriage” does not square up with Scripture, Church Teaching, or Natural Law, and probably not even Common Sense. Calling it a “union” would suffice, without daring to have the right to re-define an institution of the ages. It could have been called a “couple’s union” that we would use to recognize, for equality’s sake, rights that these couples are asking for. For equality’s sake, the government could have acknowledged that a new unit of couples in society are there for various coverage and recognitions afforded.

But why do we have to call them “marriages?” They are definitely not marriages. Not in any traditional sense used for a few millennia in history. Who gives these same-sex couples, or the Supreme Court, for that matter, the authority to re-define what marriage is?! It is audacious to make such a change to marriage? Who are they, God?! We who are Catholics, in accord with many people in various religions, have a reason to be shocked and appalled.

It makes us question the motives of people in the same-sex lobby who helped push this all through. Do they want to take others down, while lifting only themselves up? Do they realize how long “marriage” has been defined as between only a man and a woman? Do they understand the affront it is for religious people and moral persons to be asked for all society to all just change its definition now, all while trying to keep our allegiance to God and an honest moral sense to ourselves?

I know our government has played with things quite a bit, making us comply things that really aren’t what we know they are– such as telling us what time it will be or not be (i.e. daylight savings and the time it shall read on our clocks), or in telling drivers to drive eastbound in the one-way westbound lanes of the Bay Bridge. We go along with it, feeling there is some greater good in going against the normal way. We also are a little gullible in letting ourselves be taxed for the rainwater falling on our properties, as if the rain belongs to the state. But we figure its going to some proposed good.
Marriage is a case where the government and its citizens does not have the right to change, alter or monkey with the definition of it. It is something out of their domain. It’s not theirs to control, when in the realm of morality and family and marriage.

In Genesis 1-2 (Scriptures held dear by Christians and Jews) we hear WHO decided on the definition of marriage. GOD made us all, and he made male and females in the human race, as complementary, and gave us attraction to one another, and in that attraction and unity, (or becoming one flesh) how they could be married partners. To those married partners He gave the means of being co-creators of life, in fatherhood in the male and motherhood in the female.

Same-sex couples do not match any of this. They have no Scriptural basis, but only admonitions against same-sex unions in the Bible. Catholic Church teaching on marriage (as not being of same-sex unions) is clearly taught, as one can read in the Catholic Catechism in #2357-#2361. Natural Law going back to Aristotle points out the divine patterns and laws to follow, from things as serious as protecting life (murder being evil) as to protecting marriage (a model for building society upon the husband/ father and wife/mother role). Common sense also shows some biological and scientific realities to why marriage needs a father and mother to it for their family experience. A man and a woman (or at least sperm-seed and womb) is needed in natural, biological marital fecundity-fruitfulness.
I could share lots more of info on these categories above, but it would take too long. (I tried, but deleted most of it here.)

Speaking of common sense and simple explanations: One can call an orange an apple all you want–even get a supermarket to change their signs in the fruit aisle with–but the orange will still be an orange, even if one would color it red. And, I thus say, “marriage” is between a man and a woman. Even if a government expands its definition. Even in permissive media re-labels everything. Even if people “do this” in society and call it a marriage. Marriage is not something between opposite sex persons. Who is my authority? God is. We have many centuries of agreement among many religions on the revelation God has given on this matter. It was agreed by religious or spiritual people that marriage is a promise of love between a man and a woman. It’s amazing today how people want to play God and defy Him. The devil delights in it, as it is his original defiance.

Marriage is in the spiritual realm. Marriage is of a matter of the heart. Marriage lives in the sphere of sharing love and we believe that God is love. We are sharing in God when we love. When people marry and promise to one another in love, they are definitely sharing in God (whether they acknowledge Him or not). So it matters of what God has said in the matter over the past few thousand years!

I have some compassionate things to say here, and some comments on how ‘reasonable’ this whole matter of a new marriage definition has come about. I also will try to be more light-hearted and open, than condemning or angry, even though I feel offended (because I feel God is offended).

I guess one of the problems we got here today is that we already use the word “marriage” very loosely in our language, as we also use the word “love” in a broad sense. But the words have a higher meaning. Marriage isn’t just anything we want it to be. (I shudder to think, too, what the next ‘leap’ will be in the definition of marriage, since it is now open season on it.) But we use marriage to mean anything in society now from a union at a cathedral of royalty over to a Vegas wedding chapel ‘quickee ceremony’ of people who just met. Marriage is also being used as a term by people who even are not actually married. Here in Bowie, a couple with a few children told me that they considered themselves married, though they never formally wed in a church nor a courthouse. They said, “We don’t need a piece of paper to say we are wed. We just made our own promises to each other. That’s all that matters to us.” They are not in a minority opinion, they say, in commenting that “many people here in Bowie, who we know, have children and a family but have not officially wed… It’s perfectly acceptable and alright.”

Marriage used to mean something. Weddings did, too. It was a commitment for life, and by people who had not dabbled long in living together or in having multiple partners before the vows. That is changing in today’s culture. How do we in the Church adjust to it? We are pro-marriage and for chastity and holiness in the body and soul, as well as for life-long covenant commitments in it.

If “marriage” is a vague term now, then so has been “love” for a long time.
A celebrity person was telling how “I love you” was lacking in meaning in his marriage relationship, according to his wife. She told him: You “love” golf. You “love” your sports car. You “love” chunky-monkey ice cream. So how do I know that your “love” for me is higher that that?
He had no real answer for her, but he said: From now on, I will say “I more than Titleist you, or I more than MX-5 Miata you, or I more than Chunky-Monkey you! ‘Deal?! You have my highest form of love!

Point of the joking story: People want to know when “love” is special. So do people want their committed unions to be special.

Heterosexual marriage and Homosexual marriage under the same roof! Not a good thing.

I will use another light-hearted example to make a point. There were some corporate people of the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants that met the Dunkin Donut Shoppe people and said: ‘Let’s put the two fast food restaurants under the same roof and be open all day in the same building. We can make it work together.’ One of these combo places they set up was right up Rt. 3 in Crofton. I noticed it is now closed and turning into a Roy Rogers restaurant. I know why. It’s because the donuts and coffee tasted like chicken and the chicken tasted like donuts and coffee. They are not meant to be under the same roof. It was too mixed-up of an idea.
I see a new Colonel Sanders is featured in 2015 ads for KFC. Maybe, alone these lines, one new ad can tout: “Wake Up to KFC. A Chicken with caffeine. This Chicken is great for dunking, too.”

Same-sex partners are not really recognized before the Lord God, the author of marriage. It is not what He has set up. He set up male and female for marriage. We Christians and Jews know the verses in Genesis 1 & 2.

Yet instead, the Court seemed to overstep its authority. They, in representing all of us Americans, now seem to have declared before God: ‘We are changing Your definition of marriage. We are calling something that You say is not moral as our new morality. We are going against You, God, on this matter. We are calling it progress and growth for our society.’

God forgive them, and all of us in America, for this audacity!

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What of the lack of respect for marriage today?

I do think that people are in a demanding spirit before the Almighty these days, whether hetero OR homosexual, male OR female. I get a sense that the fear of commitment is prevalent today, and that religious convictions are shaky with many. But just so many people are just desperate for love today. We have so many sexual relationships going on in society, outside of marriage. Sensual pleasures and shared physicality is the ‘right’ of the day. People want it more than staying in morality before God. The practitioners of all this ‘loving’ are trying to fill a need within—an emptiness– a personal attention for satisfaction. I get it. It is also the era of “Self.” What matters in this Self Culture is “I” getting what “I” want– as long as no one is ‘hurt’ by it. Well, they ignore that God is ‘hurt’ by it. When I say hurt–I mean offended. (God can bear anything! He doesn’t get ‘hurt.’ He gets offended, and thus our communion and intimacy with Him is distanced, on our side. What happens is that we get hurt, by this distance and separation from Him. God desires that we abide in Him closely, and in all love and truth.)

God has mercy on us in all of this looking for love. He knows that His Love is THE satisfying and fulfilling love in the heart of humankind, yet we have become separated from Him in our sin, and clouded in our judgment by our pride of sin. When we try to run a society with a lot of people trying to live in that sIn, apart from God, you then get governments trying to accommodate all people’s rights, and you get a mess. That’s where we are today.

We hardly know what love is (since God is love and our inter-personal relationships are meant to be connected to the Divine Love). We seek from others (so desperately) what God has first offered to us– yet we have trouble in receiving from God because He is to be LORD of our lives if in a relationship with Him. We sometimes insist on our independence from Him. This is mostly the definition of sin. I spell the word s-I-n. “I” is capitalized in the middle. (The “s” for succession, and the “n” for no to God.) We look for love, but in sin, we do not in some wrong ways or motives or means. We just muck it up.

I think of a song written by Johnny Lee that has been recorded many times since its 1980 start (used in the soundtrack to the Travolta film Urban Cowboy), as it lyrics say: I’ve been lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, lookin’ for love in too many faces, searchin’ their eyes, lookin’ for traces of what I’m dreamin’ of…. hopin’ to find a friend and a love, I bless the day I discovered another heart lookin’ for love…
I spent a lifetime lookin’ for you, single bars and good time lovers, never true. Playin’ a fools game, hopin’ to win. Tellin’ those sweet lies and losing again.

Yep. That could be a repentant sinner’s prayer to God, asking Him to please be their First Love. Their True Love.

As a Christian, I try to help people to be led to God for their need. God is the First Love.
As a Christian, I know that I (and so many believers) still struggle to love and to be loving, and to not be affected by the Self Culture and all its temptations. In human relationships, there is a temptation to be self-serving in it all. Sure. Lust and greed and the other deadly sins are quite alluring to people, and we shouldn’t kid ourselves that it is worth succumbing to, as many traps and dangers are in false kinds of loves.

I think of the time when the Church was just beginning, and her living with the Gospel message of Jesus right in the face of the Roman Empire’s gross practices of ungodliness and abandonment in human decadence. While orgies were going on in cultic practices, such as in Corinth or Ephesus or the region of Galatia (e.g. see Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:19-24), here was Christ’ Church trying to re-make a community in the love of God and to promote new life relationships centered in Jesus. Verses of Scripture appeal out to the believer, saying: “Do not be drunk with wine; for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” ‘The Love of God in us is patient and kind, not boastful or demanding, nor envious, nor seeking its own way. Love rejoices in the truth, love hopes all things (as under God), bears all things, believes all things, and will not come to an end (since its founded and completed in God).’

In that early Church, marriages in the Lord were recognized as models of Sacrament (God with us). I love the example of the husband-wife Prisca and Aquilla who were heralded three times in the New Testament (they lived in Rome, then Corinth, then Ephesus). The Paul that heralded them spoke of his own single life as a Christian, too. He said that in whatever state we are in to “glorify the body as temples of the Holy Spirit.”

Christians were expected to be quite different from the culture around them (i.e. Roman Empire ungodliness), and to be absorbed in Christ’ Spirit rather than cultural sin. It was not easy, but the Church prevailed. The Roman Empire caved in on itself and its own decadence.

So we live today in a time with some comparison to the pride of that time. The world brashly lives in its demanding way, and the Church tries to live in the Way of Christ Jesus, her Lord. Pray for me and I’ll pray for you. Maybe we glorify God in our loving.

Same-sex marriages? In all reality before God, Whom we serve, they cannot be “marriages.” Same-sex loving? I see it more as a brotherly love or sisterly love that has badly crossed boundaries. It still is a longing to love and be loved. I understand that. For those same-sex couples, I am trying to understand how to be helpful, and not condemning. People have extended their loving (or lusting) out to new practices– looking for satisfaction. They have trouble finding it.
In a perfect world, all peoples will have the ability to love and be loved by one another, in a way that greatly satisfies and delights us, and God will be in the midst of it all, as its inspiration.
Same-ex loving, as well as practice of fornication (going on in huge numbers today) and adultery (lots of the reason for the high divorce rate) are all issues that have relevance to the “kingdom of God” message that Jesus taught. He said that those abiding (unabashedly) in them (and other forms of sexual immorality) “would not inherit the kingdom of Heaven.”
Here’s a list of some related verses, as they are all over the New Testament epistles. Acts 15:29, 1 Cor. 6:18. and 10:8,
Gal. 5:19, Eph. 5:3, Col. 3:5, 1 Thess. 4:3 and Jude 1:7.

So there are people in some of the above predicaments today, in their search for love or acceptance, that has them is discord with God or the Church or with believers or moralists. I have compassion on them. They are fellow sinners, like me, needing reconciliation of God. We need to be decent to one another, and fair, and seek the will of God together
and find communion in the Lord. He is the Lord of Grace, not of sin. He is a God of mercy, while also of Truth. He is the mender of the broken-hearted, which all of us are, to some degree. He will be our Spouse in the Eternal Plan.

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So now the same-sex partners in America want to have the title “marriage” put to their unions. The point, I thought, of the lobbying of same-sex partnerships was of equality in society. They wanted to have their unions and not be discriminated against. They wanted to forge their unions and be recognized as a household like other ones of opposite-sex. It mattered in their getting included in things like health coverage or insurance or taxes or housing issues. I say–if that is their equality issue to fix–then let’s fix it in society. But let’s not damage the institution of marriage, which has never held the definition of it as same-sex partners. It seems to me that this lobby definitely wants to re-define everything to their advantage, and asked everyone else to conform to it as a ‘truth.’
Come on!

America has already got it wrong some decades ago in defining that taking life away in the womb was not immoral or illegal, if it could be re-directed as seen as a choice of a parent (often the woman of this ‘matter’ in her womb). Though science differs on the reality, that the ‘matter’ is indeed already a living human, it was decided for convenience sake to just re-define things to give the option to abort the fetus matter (and not call “it” a human person with rights). It’s the law of the land today, responsible for hundreds of thousands of missing Americans today by choice. It’s the sin that Mother Teresa, now a saint, told America was our biggest sin crying up to Heaven. Might we have added a second big one now? In the ‘name of equality?’

Sometimes we just go too far in giving rights to some people of demand, while taking much away from another people who get terribly short-changed or much worse. We give rights for abortion in America–in the name of rights to the mother–and take away a child’s life (and of course all the child’s rights to come into the world) and take the father or society’s right to a new citizen. We offend God in all of the process. Yet it’s all legal in America. A legal crime. Who had the right to call abortion something other than taking a fellow human being’s life? It’s called “choice.” Really?! Choice to eliminate, might be the better description.

So this is what I am upset with in America. We abused our freedoms terribly. We are become so self-centered. God is out of the center. That’s a bad move. Marriage belongs to God.

This movement of gay marriage includes the pushing of agendas to have all schools ‘respectfully’ teach this as a new model of loving commitments (er, “marriage”) and to make it legally defensible to force others (who still think gay marriage is immoral) to back down and get on board, or be punished in society. Where’s the tolerance in that? I thought the movement of same-sex partnership was all about tolerance! Yet, I see where it’s going, and it is a movement quite intolerant of those who disagree with it. The same-sex marriage lobby wants not just equality, but they seem also to want and demand for people (who don’t agree with it morally) to now have to name and respect it as a “good.” Yet many people of Christian faith (and other religions) see that as an affront to them and to God. We believe that God does not call same-sex unions as a good. He does not promote it. (In a related matter, we also do not believe that fornication or adultery is “a good,” no matter how many people have sex outside of marriage. God’s revelation to us is clear. To obey God is to uphold in our own lives what is good.)

I was surprised in the decision. The Supreme Court does have several Catholics (or Catholic-raised) members on it. I think their attention was in the advanced “rights” of persons, which America has had a long history of supporting– but I think a different resolution was needed– one that accepted the same-sex relationships as a recognized “union.” A majority, in a 5 to 4 ruling, saw it differently. Yet go look at how practicing Catholics justices Roberts and Scalia have looked upon the voting of their co-horts. Roberts and Scalia are appalled.

The Lion and the Lamb, part 2

This is Part Two of a Bible Study of Revelation. It was given at the parish on Friday, June 26th, to a parish group of 40 participants.

You should do Part One of the Study before embarking on the below info.
PART TWO OF THE STUDY OF REVELATION 5

Are you ready now to review again the passage of Revelations 5:1-12? Let’s do a second pass and try to understand the images in the text. First, go over the text again, and then, stop and close your eyes for a moment and try to picture what is written in this chapter.

Did you read it? (Ok, you can open your eyes now!) Let’s do an image review.

I would like to do it two ways: First, as a review pertaining the Catholic Church today in her practice. Then,
second, as a verse by verse probing again, as to getting to the meaning of St. John’s words to us of The Word of God.

Revelation 5 – The Lion, the Lamb, and the Scroll

The Catholic Church and this Chapter in Scripture

We are a Church who believes in connections all the way back to Jesus, and into our Hebrew covenant background that Christ, the Eternal Son, was laying down in those pre-years of His Coming. We know as Catholics that the Lion is the Image of God’s authority. He is the Lion of Judah, the One of Judah’s tribe (one of the 12) who brought the line of God’s covenant from Genesis to the Gospels, from Jacob/Israel to Jesus Christ.
Just as we claim that we are of the unbroken line back to Jesus, as Catholics with our one, holy, catholic and apostolic church– so do we similarly connect even further back to the Lion of Judah hope going back the Genesis times on earth. Only the Catholics (as well as Orthodox line of us) claim such Christianity connections to Jesus and even to His people Israel, His chosen ones.

I like my patron Saint Anthony’s prayer: “Behold the Cross of the Lord, flee ye hostile powers of darkness. The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered.”

Why is this title used in a Catholic saint’s prayer? You just need to know the Scripture connections and line of the Lion of Judah of Catholics today back to the covenant line of the Hebrews with God. Read Genesis 49:8-10: “You, Judah, shall your brothers praise…Judah, like a lion’s whelp, you have grown up on prey, my son. He crouches like a lion recumbent, the king of beasts— who would dare rouse him? The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs…”
As the Lion’s line went forward (in the tribe of Judah–which locates near Jerusalem), you see it kept going in King David’s lineage. Read in 1 Samuel 16 how “The smallest and seemingly weakest of the sons of Jesse is smeared with an oil of anointing, and from that moment, the power of the Lord rushed upon David, turning this shepherd into the first Lion of Judah.”
Go forward several more hundred years and you have the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 1) describing Jesus as being born into that tribal line, and even in the territory of Judah (at Bethlehem), as well as the bloodline. Thus, Jesus, Who comes in the power of God, to triumph over sin and death, does so as a Lion of Judah and in Divine authority (as Jesus is God and man).
Revelations 5 proclaims the victory as from the side of Heaven, as witnessed in this vision by John the Apostle. John, as an Apostle, and writing to the 7 churches in Asia Minor (of the Catholic Faith in its first century), tells the churches that the Jesus we adore and worship and serve IS truly Lord of All. He will be the Lord and Head of the Church through to the Second Coming. As Revelations 5 is of His Triumph; Revelations 22 is of His Second Coming (vs. 7 “See, I Am coming soon!…vs. 12 “See, I Am coming soon; My reward is with Me…I Am the Alpha and the Omega”… vs. 20 “Surely I Am coming soon.”).

We Catholics practice a life in line with Jesus, and thus to His Authority as the Lion. Jesus gave His authority to His apostles (the original bishops and pope), and we have acted in His authority ever since (Matthew 16:18-19; Luke 9: 1-2, Matthew 28:16-20). There also is an authority of believers (Luke 10:17-24). Because the Catholic Church was appointed by Jesus and with His authority, we often receive a lot of flack from non-Catholics over our identity. We get protested against, abused, persecuted, and fought against—just due to our identity with the Lion of Judah, as Jesus’ Church. He said it would come. God’s authority is challenged by the darkness. He will appreciate the Church remaining steadfast to Her Lord Jesus Christ and living out the last Beatitude which the Savior gave: “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice of that Day (the Second Coming) and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in Heaven, for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)”

Catholics live in the Lion of Judah. We are a Church of Authority; His Authority, as appointed to us.

Catholics also live in the Lamb of God. We are a Church that knows how God came among us. As Scripture says, “…and as he watched Jesus walk by, he (John the Baptist) exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” In every Mass, the words are echoed, as we behold Jesus the Lamb come to us on the altar, and offered for us “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

We Catholics claim Jesus is our Eucharist, truly Present, and our Lord in humble appearance again (like a lamb) in Holy Communion. We believe our Sacred Liturgy unites us on earth (in the prayer of Mass) to His Mystery in Heaven, as the Book of Revelation describes Him as the Lamb (chapter 5 and also chapter 21). We receive the Lamb in Sacrament, as the Holy Offering and Sacrifice for our sins. We cannot save ourselves; we need to put ourselves in Him. The humble Jesus lets us do that, even as He gloriously reigns in majesty, too, as the Lion and Power on High. This is how and why we worship the Lord as we do at Mass; to present ourselves to God in Him, The Lamb and the Lion.

This interpretation of Revelations 5 sees Catholics uniquely* living out the Lion and Lamb mystery on earth. We are not living just in symbolic imagery; we really are in Christ’ Body and we really share in Christ’ Body, the Lamb of atonement. As the Church in the Covenant life back to Genesis 22 on Mt. Zion, we trust, like Abraham, that “God Himself will provide the lamb for an offering (vs. 7) and we believe His blessing is on us for recognizing Jesus as Lamb (as He revealed at the Last Supper and Calvary), as God once favored Abraham: “Because you have done this… I will indeed bless you…and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars or of the grains of seashore sand… by your offspring (ultimately in Jesus) shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves.” We Catholics see that our fidelity to the Lord in such matters as Church and her Eucharist help us to be truly Jesus’ ‘offspring’ to the earth, which is why we call ourselves catholic (it means global, a universal people) and one with Him (blessed are those in the Supper of the Lamb) and holy (God is Holy in Jesus the Lion and the Lamb) and apostolic (we serve as a Church appointed by Jesus, and her shepherds/bishops are in an unbroken line back to the original ones–in fidelity).

The figure of a Scroll in the chapter 5 is about a Mission to unfold. That Mission needs a very special person and ambassador. Later in the Book of Revelation we see the Lamb (chapter 14) and He stands on Mt. Zion in some victory with 144,000 persons who are redeemed (vs. 1-2)… is says they are first fruits for God and the Lamb (vs. 4c). People in that company are mentioned to have followed the Lamb whereever He goes (vs. 4b). (Note: They are still following Him, as in the first fruits of Resurrection and Redemption by Jesus.)

Catholics see this triumphant verse as referring to the many who do trust the Lord and blamelessly serve Him (vs. 5)…who have not been defiled by the world and its sinful enticements(vs. 4a)… and now sing a new song before the Throne, a reference to the Lord as Lion here (vs.3) and each are marked with the Father’s Name on their foreheads (vs.1), which is a reference to Lion (belonging to Him, as by the Sacraments signing us into His Name) and also as Lamb (as many are marked, and so are we–again by Sacraments and by our repentance and turning over our will to God, in submission to Him. (Jesus saw us like lambs needing a Shepherd, remember?)

The Mission seems to have been accomplished, of whatever was on that scroll to have done. We suppose it was the Book of Life, of which Jesus told His followers that they were not so much to exult in their power over evil, but to rejoice that their names, His disciples, were written in Heaven (Luke 10:20).

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Revelation 5 – The Lion, the Lamb, and the Scroll

Now, as we have above interpeted the chapter of Revelations 5 as logically applied to the Catholic Church today, let us take a second verse-by-verse sweep of the great chapter in John’s Revelation. We will do it in outline form, with commentary.

Revelations 5 all starts with a Figure Who is Worthy to open up a scroll. We know that Figure is Jesus!

Revelations 5, starting verse…It speaks of One worthy to take the scroll.

1. (a) The throne and the scroll.
“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” The focus of Revelation 4 was the throne. Here, in Revelations 5, John begins with reference to the throne, but now shifted his focus to the scroll held by the enthroned Lord. As if almost in modern lingo, we could hear John commenting: God has got this! He’s got it in control!

b. Written inside and on the back:
This means that this scroll was unusual. It wasn’t common practice to write on both sides of the scroll. This means that whatever information was on this scroll, there was a lot of it – almost more than the scroll can contain. God definitely has taken a lot onto Himself to do, at least from our perspective1 Yet God can handle it.

What did John see about this scroll? All the important recorded things (such as Scriptures or agreements or maps)needed to be put down. This papyri scrolls did the job. Ancient scrolls were read horizontally, not vertically. The rolls of the scroll were on the left and the right, and the writing lay in narrow columns about three inches (8 centimeters) wide, written on a substance somewhat like brown paper. The scroll was held in the left hand, and unrolled with the right; as the reading went on, the previously read portion was re-rolled. On such a typical scroll, the Book of Revelation would fill a scroll 15 feet (4.5 meters) long. Since it was written in Jewish form, the writing went right to left, too.

c. Sealed with seven seals: When a roll was finished, it was fastened with strings and the strings were sealed with wax at the knots. This scroll was sealed with seven seals; there were seven strings around the scroll, each string sealed with wax.
These were not seven writings each separated by a seal; but seven seals all set upon one scroll. All the seals must be opened before the scroll could be read. So this means that whatever the Lion/Lamb is doing, it will be done in full and all comprehensive and all in accord with everything held in time and captivity of sin.

d. A scroll written: Through the centuries, commentators suggest many different ideas for what this scroll is, and what was written upon it. It’s important to remember that whatever was on this scroll, no one except Jesus was (and is) worthy to open it (Revelation 5:3-4).
Some think the scroll was the Old Testament, or the Old and New Testaments together, or fulfilled prophecy. But these ideas look back, not forward, and John wrote of things related to things which must take place after this (Revelation 4:1). Additionally, if the scroll was the Old or New Testament, who is unworthy to open that scroll? Unless it means that the heavens wonder who can tie all of history together and mend the world and its people. That could be an interpretation.
Some think the scroll was God’s claim of divorce against Israel, but there is little Scriptural evidence for this idea, and who is unworthy to open that scroll? Yet, in that idea, if it were a list of sins and all the infidelity of humankind against God, Who could deal with it all except for Divinity?
Some think the scroll was God’s sentence against the enemies of the church. Perhaps this is true, but only in an indirect sense; but who is unworthy to open that scroll?
Some think the scroll was the text of the Book of Revelation, or the next few chapters. But this is rather unlikely considering how the idea of the scroll is communicated, and who would be unworthy to open that scroll?
Some think the scroll was something like the title deed to Planet Earth. This is an attractive idea, especially because the coming time of tribulation will end with Jesus ruling over all, and His Lordship over earth will be clear. But it is hard to demonstrate this interpretation with certainty. Maybe the best connection in this idea seems to be with Jeremiah 32:6-15, which describes Jewish title deeds as sealed. But there is no doubt that the earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24:1), though the governments of this world belong in some sense to Satan (Luke 4:5-8). If God has to get the title deed back, when did God ever “lose” the title deed to planet earth? In fact, God holds this scroll – it isn’t lost. But the scroll must be opened, it must be revealed. Maybe it is a reference to the world getting back to its innocence, like at the start. There’s nothing like a new home or a new car or new something! Some realtors or car dealers try to put in a new smell and look to their property they are re-selling. Some old things, or aged people, can be disguised by new smells and creams and colors, too—but what of Earth and humanity, in such a fallen, hopeless state, with things separate and lost and dying? Who can save such

e. A scroll written: The best solution is to see the scroll as “God’s will, his final settlement of the affairs of the universe.” (Barclay) This is based on the idea that customarily, under Roman law, wills were sealed with seven seals, each from a witness to the validity of the will.

Notes: “Roman law required a will to be sealed seven times as illustrated in the wills left by Augustus and Vespasian for their successors.” Perhaps it is the comprehensive program of God culminating in the second coming of Christ.” (Walvoord)

“The book may mean the purposes and designs of God relative to his government of the world and the Church; but we, whose habitation is in the dust, know nothing of such things. We are, however, determined to guess.” (Clarke) “(I think this is) the book of the counsels, decrees, and purposes of God relating to his church, as to what more remarkable things should happen to it to the end of the world; which book was in the hand of the Father.” (Poole)

Comments: Well, the idea here (behind the above thoughts) is that God has a book in which the history of the universe is already written (or a place is laid for all things to happen in it). God has written the history of the world in advance, or some plan, and He holds in His hand the history of the world in advance, in that a victory can come to it, even while the world fell into sin. God in Christ initiates the consummation of all history. Only God can hold this scroll.

We find it fascinating, then, that Jesus’ Last Words on The Cross contained the phrase: “It is (all) consummated.”
Where did Jesus go in His Ascension to Heaven? He went to “the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll. Realize what the emphasis is His going there, in not so much on the content of the scroll, but on its seals and that He indeed is the One who is worthy to take it there, as like to bring a guest book of names of who can be admitted into Glory.

2. (2-4) Who is worthy to open the scroll?
[These are the next words in Revelations 5, are you following me?]

Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.

a. There’s a strong angel: We don’t know who this angel is. Many have suggested that it is Gabriel, but we don’t know. Is it Michael? Maybe so. Nonetheless, this angel issued a challenge to all creation: Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals? This is a challenge no creature can answer because no creature is worthy to open this particular scroll.

b. No one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it: John could not have said it any stronger. It was as if the strong angel looked through the entire universe to find someone worthy, and did not find anyone worthy to even look at the scroll.

Notes:
There was no answer to the strong angel’s challenge because the creation is utterly incapable of deciding or effecting its own destiny. Someone above the order of created beings must determine the course of history – only God can unfold this plan.

c. So I wept much: John wept either because a previous promise to see the future may now be denied (Revelation 4:1), or more likely, because the consummation of history would now indefinitely postponed.

d. No one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it: To look upon the scroll, one must have the right to open the scroll and possess it – and no creature was found worthy.

3. (5-7) The Lion of the tribe of Judah is worthy to open the scroll.

But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

a. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah: One of the elders (not an angel) rescued John from his grief, showing him the one who has prevailed to open the scroll. This One was the great figure of Old Testament prophecy: the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, Messiah of Israel and of the Gentiles. The Eternal Son.

Notes: The Messianic title Lion of the tribe of Judah comes from Genesis 49:9-10, Isaiah 31:4, and Hosea 11:10. The title Root of David comes from Isaiah 11:10 and is repeated in Revelation 22:16.

A Lion is a fitting image of our Messiah, “1. For the excellency of his strength. 2. For his heroic spirit. 3. For his principality; the lion is the king of beasts. 4. For his vigilance; as the lion sleeps with open eyes.”

b. And I looked, and behold . . . stood a Lamb: Because of the elder’s announcement, John expected to see a Lion, but saw a Lamb instead. John even used the specific word for a little lamb; he “Signifies a little or delicate lamb.” (Clarke)

Notes/Comments: The Lamb is presented in a way both sympathetic and powerful; He is living (stood as a Lamb), but He still had the marks of previous sacrifice upon Him (as though it had been slain).
It is a bit fascinating: When men want symbols of power they conjure up ferocious beasts and birds of prey such as those that represent nations and sports teams. But the representative of the kingdom of heaven is a Lamb, representing humility, gentleness, and sacrificial love.

What is the image? The Lamb looks as though it had been slain. It’s hard to describe what John saw, but this Lamb had the marks of sacrifice on it. The coming judgment beginning in chapter six is dictated and administrated by the Lamb who already offered an escape from judgment by taking judgment upon Himself. The judgment will come upon a world that hates the Lamb and all He stands for, and rejects His offer of escape.

c. As it had been slain: The idea is that the sacrifice of Jesus is still fresh and current before God the Father. There is nothing stale or outworn in the work of Jesus on the cross. Thousands of years later, it is still fresh as the day He died on the cross. This is our whole basis of the Sacrifice of the Mass. Christ is the Eternal Offering. His Sacrificial Offering is given for all generations, as if it were always “new.”

Notes: “This form of speech is put to show the continual recent virtue of Christ’s death eternally effectual before God, as whereby once for all he has purchased eternal redemption.” (Trapp)

As it had been slain: “As if now in the act of being offered. This is very remarkable; so important is the sacrificial offering of Christ in the sight of God that he is still represented as being in the very act of pouring out his blood for the offenses of man. This gives great advantage to faith; when any soul comes to the throne of grace, he finds a sacrifice there provided for him to offer to God. Thus all succeeding generations find they have the continual sacrifice ready, and the newly-shed blood to offer.” (Clarke)

d. Having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth: Even though the marks of His sacrifice were evident, the Lamb was not presented as an object of pity. He also bore the marks of omnipotence (seven horns) and omniscience (seven eyes). What a figure! A slain Lamb, who has the marks of omniscience and omnipotence! The seven eyes of the Lord are a picture of omniscience drawn from the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 4:10 and 3:9).

Notes:

Throughout the Scriptures, eyes suggest knowledge and wisdom, and horns suggest power. This Lamb has knowledge, wisdom, and power fulfilled perfectly: seven horns and seven eyes. Which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth: The Holy Spirit is not only the Spirit of God (in the sense of being the “Spirit of the Father”), but also the Spirit of Christ (see Acts 16:7 and Romans 8:9).

e. Then He came and took the scroll: No created being was found worthy to take the scroll, but the Lamb can take it. His rank, character and ability to take the scroll and open it (and thus dictate the destiny of creation) has been permanently demonstrated by His work on the cross.

B. Praise to the Worthy One.

1. (8-10) The song of the elders and the cherubim.

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”

a. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb: When the Lamb took the scroll, the response was immediate. High-ranking angels and redeemed man joined to worship the Lamb.

b. Each having a harp: The harp is “Properly, a zithern or kind of guitar, played either with the hand, or with a pick.” Neat! Worship in heaven is accompanied by music. As one might expect, this is the passage that started the idea that people in heaven will have harps.
I wonder if I can pack my Martin guitar to go with me after my passing?! I might need it!

c. And golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints: With their golden bowls full of incense, the elders symbolically presented the prayers of the saints.
Comment: Not everyone appreciates how the Church today likes to use incense at her liturgies, and the great connection to what the Bible describes as the prayers and praises of the saints rising up like “holy smoke.” While we need not have the holy smoke of the lamb or tutledoves or oxen slain for a holocaust– we do need Christ to be our presented offering. The incense reminds us of the necessity of An Offering and Sacrifice made to God. We are reminded that there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Lord Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). It is noted that all prayers go to Him in the end. All intercession by the Church of today or yesterday or tomorrow will pass to Him.

Comment: See the golden bowls full of incense: In this we see how precious the prayers of the saints are to God. He regards them as a sweet smelling incense, as if set in precious golden bowls. The connection between prayer and incense is shown in Psalm 141:2: Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Incense has a pleasing aroma, it ascends to heaven, and it needs fire before it is of any use.
Our fire for prayer is the Holy Spirit, of course.

d. And they sang a new song: The elders sang a new song, for mercies that are forever new.
In the heavens it is described that there are 24 small thrones or chairs around God’s Prominent One.
It shows that there are some special persons to be seated near God. The Twelve Tribes of Israel will likely have a rep as will the original apostles (with Matthias in for Judas the Iscariot).

The picture here is of earthly persons around a Supreme Person Who is Earthly, but also Heavenly: Jesus.

Note: “It is a new thing that the Son of God should become man. It is a new thing to ascend into the heavens with a body. It is a new thing to give remission of sins to men. It is a new thing for men to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. It is a new thing to receive the priesthood of sacred observance, and to look for a kingdom of unbounded promise.” (Victorinus)

e. You are worthy: In the days of the Apostle John, Roman Emperors were celebrated upon their arrival with the Latin expression “vere dignus,” which is translated “You are worthy.” Here the true Ruler of the world is honored. John gives the salute to the Lord of All.

f. For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth: In the praise of Revelation 4:11, the emphasis was on God’s work of creation. Here, the emphasis is on His work of redemption. A song honors the price of redemption–and here is a short list to pay respects:
The songs honor the fact that God paid dearly, because He held us dearly in regard to save.

· The song honors the destination of redemption: have redeemed us to God

· The song honors the payment of redemption: by Your blood

· The song honors the scope of redemption: every tribe and tongue and people and nation

· The song honors the length of redemption: have made us anointed ones! (kings and priests to our God)

· The song honors the result of redemption: and we shall reign on the earth.
There is some new heavens and new earth plan of God that somehow John the Revelator can see coming ahead.
It is a great vision John is having.

g. Kings and priests to our God: Believers are kings because of their royal birth and their destiny to reign with Jesus. They are priests because they receive the righteousness of God to be put into them. In the Catholic Baptism Rite, we always mention these things. We also count in our prophets role.
In the Baptism Rite, we also announce how a person is joined into the whole Body of Believers to God (in history) including the saints and angels and all in our faith line or family tree of Christ’ disciples.

2. (11-12) Countless angels join in, declaring the worthiness of the Lamb because of the redemption He accomplished.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

a. I heard the voice of many angels around the throne: The angels and the elders fell down before the Lamb together (Revelation 5:8). Yet it seems that only the elders sang the song of the redeemed (Revelation 5:9-10), as there is some role of them as shepherds who speak in behalf of the flock.

Notes: In Revelation 4:9-10, the angels prompted the elders into worship. Here, the elders seem to prompt the angels. It is a wonderful cycle in heaven, with the angels and elders encouraging each other to more and more praise.

b. The number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands: This is an innumerable company of angels. The number just means endless in number…

c. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain: In their song, the angels did not offer praise for their redemption. Their relationship to God is different here. There were the faithful angels, who remained with God. There were the lesser number of unfaithful angels, who were banished for good from God’s Presence. Thus, you have angels here praising God for His redemption of sinful humankind. We have been given a way back to God out of our sin; the angels rejoiced in God’s merciful offer. (1 Peter 1:12 and Ephesians 3:10).

3. (13-14) All creation praises the Father and the Lamb.

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

a. Every creature: John couldn’t be any more complete in his description. Truly, this is every creature – in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them.

b. Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb: This combined worship of the Father and the Lamb is strong testimony to the deity of Jesus. There cannot be the slightest doubt that the Lamb is to be reckoned with God and as God.

Notes: Now if Jesus Christ were not properly God this would be idolatry, as it would be giving to the creature what belongs to the Creator.” Yes Jesus is God. No idolatry exists if the Real God is worshipped.

Depend upon it, that noone ever will go to heaven unless they are prepared to worship Jesus Christ as God. They are all doing it there: you will have to come to it, and if you entertain the notion that he is a mere man, or that he is anything less than God, I am afraid you will have to begin at the beginning and learn what true religion means. You have a poor foundation to rest upon. I could not trust my soul with a mere man, of some nice religious figure in human history. He need to be God in our humanity. Our Mass is a real rehearsal for the worship we know God is due!

c. Fell down and worshipped Him: The ancient Greek word for worshipped is literally “to prostrate” or “to lay before another in complete submission.” The scene may be that the elders fell down to their knees, then laid themselves before Him who lives forever and ever as an expression of their total submission and worship.

Note: This is the eastern method of adoration: first, the person worshipping fell down on his knees; and then, bowing down touched the earth with his forehead. This latter act was prostration.

d. Forever and ever . . . worshipped Him who lives forever and ever: The living God reigns eternally. The Caesars come and go, including those who persecute God’s people. But the Lord God lives forever and ever and is ever worthy of our praise. The Roman Catholic Church has long outlasted the Roman Empire, hasn’t it?

END OF STUDY

The Live Christ, Share Christ program & The Pope’s 1st Homily

Part A/ LCSC PARISH RENEWAL PROGRAM.
Part B/ POPE’S FIRST HOMILY.

We put a bulletin insert out this weekend on a new program we’d like St. Edwards to consider. It is here.

Then I’d invite you to look at the first homily of Pope Francis.

A PARISH RENEWAL PROGRAM! LIVE CHRIST, SHARE CHRIST.

In November 2014, our parish council was presented a program to encourage and build up our parish. After discussing it for a few months, it was moved to be presented in a homily to all parishioners at all the regular Sunday Masses on June 6th and 7th. (That homily is saved on the pastor’s blog—for those who missed it.)

The program we recommend to the parish for our renewal is called “Live Christ, Share Christ (LCSC).” It is a retreat program of presenting vital seminars on the Catholic faith to the parish. It is given by parish members and it is given here at our church. There are nine seminars, accompanied by discussion and sharing exercises, along with some fellowship, and some praying and singing. It is a packaged group of prepared, dynamic seminars which have begun to energize Catholic parishes elsewhere, and it has papal blessing.

We will need to have parishioners to volunteer to give the seminar talks, and many others to offer support to LCSC with ministries of music, hospitality, publicity and invitation, table discussion guides, and lots more for the “Live Christ, Share Christ” experience.

The nine “Live Christ Seminars” can be offered in a variety of ways—–either for nine times (suggested: nine Sunday afternoons or Saturday evenings) or for three times for longer experiences together (three Saturdays)—–and even sometimes it is given all at once through a full weekend. “Live Christ, Share Christ” (LCSC) is successful in any of those applications above.

Who goes to this LCSC program? It is for any presently practicing adult Catholics to take a retreat here on the vital areas of their faith. It is also to benefit inactive Catholics or other Christians, as well of benefit to the un-churched adult persons who can be introduced to the living essentials of a Catholic Christian life. Thus, it is evangelistic in style—doing the very thing that Pope Francis has asked us to try in our parishes.

How will our parish LCSC presenters and volunteers know what to do and say and how to do the retreat? Well, it’s pretty neat, in that a Catholic group who has done LCSC already comes in here and gives it to our team, so that we can see how it’s done, and meanwhile, get the blessing from receiving it first ourselves.

Then, our parish team then prepares to give this Live Christ, Share Christ to the community. With the assistance of the Parish Council and direction of the Pastor, we plan and pray for this renewal program to be a blessing and life-changing and faith-building experience to our parish of St. Edward the Confessor.

LCSC then has a monthly follow-through meeting to keep people in fellowship, and encourage faith relationships to form in smaller circles. LCSC is a lay response to the New Evangelization. It was put together by Catholic lay people who were succeeding in doing it themselves. It has influences from the USA and the Philippines. Its main hope is for its participants to meet Christ anew, and to meet one another anew in living Christ and know Him more fully as a parish, and to get inspiration to share Christ with others.

This is a practical and Catholic as a retreat-renewal experience. It may especially serve our younger generation especially, those in their 20’s to 50’s. It may help newer members and the ones not so plugged in to parish life (besides Sunday Mass-going)– to have a way to come into more community in Christ and be formed to be the vibrant life of this parish in our coming years.

Let us remember St. Paul’s advice about sharing and spreading the Good News of Salvation in Jesus.
Rom 10:13-15 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on him of whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!

Let us also remember the pope’s words.
Pope Francis: ”I appeal to you to be the beautiful ones to bring the Good News alive to yourself and in your churches and shared among your community and neighbors.”

LIVE CHRIST, SHARE CHRIST.
LET US FIND SOME INCENTIVE TO SERVE THIS PROGRAM BY CONSIDERING THE CALL OF POPE FRANCIS.

The inaugural homily of Pope Francis. Background: Pope Francis drew on the readings of the day, about Abraham’s covenant walk with God, an apostle’s image of the Church as living stones forming God’s House on the Cornerstone of Jesus, and Peter’s confession of Jesus being “The Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
. Pope Francis’ First Homily

“In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement is the journey [itself]; in the second reading, movement is in the up-building of the Church. In the third, in the Gospel, the movement is in [the act of] profession: walking, building, and professing.

Walking: the House of Jacob. “O house of Jacob, Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing God said to Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be blameless.” Walking: our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. Walking always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness, which God asks of Abraham, in his promise.

Building: to build the Church. There is talk of stones: stones have consistency, but [the stones spoken of are] living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Build up the Church, the Bride of Christ, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord. With [every] movement in our lives, let us build!

Third, professing: we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a compassionate NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, and in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups – there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back.
This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways that do not include the Cross.” (Peter is corrected. He will be asked to be Cross-centered.) When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, (and parishioners), but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.
My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.”

[^Note: Parts above in ( ) are added in.]

. . . LIVE CHRIST, SHARE CHRIST!
PRAY FOR HOW THIS PARISH PROGRAM MAY RENEW US ALL

Father Day’s Homily June 21st

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A Christian man needs to aim to be “a man after God’s own heart.” One person was originally given this title. It was King David of the Hebrew Testament. We heard from him today in his 107th Psalm. He comments in it on how life tests us, and there it is when we find ourselves to be in distress, like a ship out in a heavy storm at sea …but we can trust the Lord and give Him thanks, for He is come to deliver us.

We can look for a way out of the storm. Yet, it may be sometimes that the only way is by our going through them.

Fathers are given tests and choices all through life–to look for ways of safety or to muster stength to take on the trials that we must…

Last night I was driving back from New Jersey to Maryland. I was trying to get back before the violent storm went through. It was pretty bad weather coming through. I had a choice earlier to take the Cape May Ferry over from Jersey’s shore to Delaware, via the 7 p.m. water crossing. I chose not to! Otherwise the Gospel of the sinking boat in Mark 4 today could have been re-enacted by me out there on the stormy seas! I surely think the 7 pm Ferry was cancelled, but I was already crossing the Rt. 95 Delaware Memorial bridge by that time (choosing that route home).

A Christian man has his decisions to make all the time, and he (and the Christian woman) needs to put in the time and focus and prayerful hope that they can be the kind of person that God desires. Since we are given God’s Spirit, that plan is very possible. We can seek God’s own heart in the matter of our living out our existence.

That’s my main message today on this Father’s Day.

Now while not all men are “fathers,” we know that a father’s vocation comes from God’s own fatherhood, and He establishes ways for persons to act or partake in His own image. God also gives us role models like in saints such as St. Joseph, and from men in the Scriptures. Men are all called to be Christ-hearted. Its a lesson that all men need to keep practicing and developing (whether dads or not). Women, on mother’s day, I had a similar message for you.

As men learn to share, we realize that we must all help out to better the Church, and its domestic model, the family. Jesus looks at us all in the boat and asks: “Do I see a growing faith? Or do I only see some disciples who are afraid, because of your forgetting how I am in this boat with you?” ( Hint: In this church with you…)

Now to be fair–God knows we will be puzzled and distraught over some trials in life.. Thus, we had that passage from Job today. Some tests are pretty hard.

Speaking of that, I offer here a word about the tragedy that happened at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston this past week. I was shocked and saddened (like you were) to hear of the gunman shooting down nine persons at a Wednesday evening AME church bible study in that historic church. It was just a senseless crime and led by a hate that no one approves of– and now we look again to the Heavenly Father to help form us to be loving disciples of Jesus, along with being just, and holy, and one with our neighbors.

I took note how the tragedy happened at a Scripture study gathering, and I heard somewhere that the parable of the sower was their lesson for the session. There were some men at that Bible study, including the pastor, and just earlier there had been a meeting among some males in the church and denomination there.

At the shooting, the nine victims died while in the act of pursuing more knowledge of God’s Word. We, the fellow disciples of Christ, can say that they died nobly, as gathering in mutual hunger for God. It was so opposite a thing for the gunman who would act so senselessly and cruelly, with cruel anger controlling his mind an heart, and who would end his life so badly and seemingly quite distant from God’s heart.

There are several historic churches in the sector of Charleston, and close by to “Mother Emanuel” church is St. John the Baptist parish church. I was checking out what men’s studies or mixed studies take place over in that Catholic church. They have a lot of men enrolled in a 26 part program this year, so to get together to form their vocation better of being Catholic men of God. They are taking a course called “That Man is You!” It is now available to any parish that have men that want to grow together in their Catholic manhood and relationship to God and relationship to the important others in their lives.

These Catholic men come regularly for a session together there in St. John’s, drawn to “becoming a Man after God’s own Heart.” Again, that is a verse in Scripture of God describing how much He is glad with David, His anointed servant. What does the study do? It is a Catholic study of being an authentic man, and a believer who is pursuing holiness with other parish men. The program focuses on leadership roles entrusted to men–in the fields of moral life, leading in strength for country, having a healthy economic plan and play a community/governmental role to help society to God. The group honestly assesses male leadership today and identifies the consequences of failed leadership all around us, and identifies what could be wrong in man. They look to the personal traits that must be developed to fulfill authentic leadership: as in taking personal responsibility for one’s actions, developing clarity of thought, maintaining integrity of action, laying a hopeful, God led vision and foundation for the future, AND being willing to pay the price over one’s convictions. That’s their first 13 weeks of the study. Part two (as I saw it on the website for the program that parish was doing: That Man is You) covered and considered the struggles occurring in the hearts of men between what would be things which would crush and enslave his heart as compared to those things which would expand their hearts to become all that they were created to be. The study takes an honest look at the temptations confronting modern man: sexual misconduct in all its forms, materialism and the desire for success, and the temptation to live a life independent of God. It sets forth those things which can help expand the human heart: the ability of the mind to touch God, the ability to find God in self and other people, and the liberating power of mercy.

The program is like another one I described in the bulletin today called St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers, who lay down some covenants to guide their all-men members in their spiritual journey: such as in the covenant to Honor Wedding Vows, the covenant to Use Resources for the Benefit of Others, the covenant on Giving Time to God, the covenant to Ascent one’s Mind to God in some study and focus, the covenant on the Practice of the Presence of God, and in Finding the Hidden Face of God, and the Covenant of Appreciating the Mercy of God.

So as God has been looking down in all these recent years and generations on that beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina, He has seen people of God drawn to being in congregations there that are involved and centered on their Christian Faith. Both at Mother Emanuel’s (as they call it locally down there) and at St. John’s Catholic (and at the other historic houses of worship in that city area), God has been pleased with people meeting together to know Him better so as to serve Him better. Alleluia. While it was quite a tragedy this past week in Charleston, those who died in the church bible study died nobly, and while in the act of pursuing God and knowing Him so to make Him known in Charleston. There is a red carpet rolled out in Heaven to greet such persons, and Jesus Christ will be there to meet them and welcome them to their heavenly reward.

Let’s looking at lines in today’s Scriptures from David’s prayer psalm. It is meant to accompany the messages of the Corinthian letter and the Gospel and Job story. We had a storm at sea going on in the Job reading, and another storm going on in the Markan Gospel reading. So, in one interpretation to take from the texts, you could say that even God’s servants (like mighty Job or in the Apostles) will not be spared from the raging seas of life that so test us. We don’t know why we are left to face them. Yet God tells Job and God in Jesus tells the apostles that He is with them. Be at peace. [Readings: 1 Job 38:1, 8-11 Psalm 107:23-31, 2 Cor. 5:14-17, Mark 4:35-41]

Psalm 107 puts us out at sea in the prayer….You tread the deep waters…over the abyss… find the works and wonders of the Lord. And give thanks…. A storm wind tossed its waves on high… and now watch it dramatically fall. The movement could give anyone distress. So, Cry to the Lord!! He can hush the storm to a gentle breeze. (Believe it.) He can bring you and his own safely to their desired haven. So, give thanks to the LORD for his kindness and his wondrous deeds to be passed on to the children of men.

Guys: Be a man after God’s own heart. Let not life’s storms be too big, let your God be bigger, for He Is! No storm will out match Him, and so, it will not for you. Believe God for the Good Heavenly Father that He really is. Let God be your strength. On your own you will have weakness, but with God all things are possible.

Homily June 14 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time “Live Christ, Share Christ”

Homily: 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time (June 13-14)

We are heading into Summer season, as its solstice is next weekend, and Summer means that the Church calendar is moved back into Ordinary Time, as you see the green liturgical colors up in the church. The Scripture readings go back into ordinary time and they are about more ordinary business of things. In fact, today they have seemed to go green on us…

The Word in Ezekiel 17 and Mark 4 today speaks of tender shoots growing up into plants, shrubs and trees. Because of the growth and maturity of their branches, both readings comment how birds have come and rested or nested in those enlarged green bushes, plants and trees. It’s all a nice, natural picture of things.

I particularly like the image of the birds in the readings. Some years back when I was pastor in Medley’s Neck off the Potomac River and Breton Bay, I was in a bird lover’s paradise. Many wondrous winged creatures of God flew around the watery, wooded, and farmland/fishing country. Many rare birds could be sighted down there. I enjoyed it. So I wrote a homily on birds with these 11th Sunday readings back into 2003, as helped with terminologies and analogies given me by some local ornithologists. (That would be bird experts. No, it’s not a throat doctors. That’s an otorlaryngologist! Big difference there. However, if you would ever swallow a swallow, you might need both the otorlaryngologist and an ornithologist!) 

What are these Ezekiel and Gospel of Mark readings saying in mentioning branches and birds?

It’s first about the Lord, Who is the Tree of Life, an image depicted in our east sanctuary stained-glass window. He is the Life (John 14:6) and the Embodiment of faith where we live as really rooted in Him, and by partaking of the Divine with Him, we do grow up towards the Heavens like the mighty tree in Ezekiel 17 or the amazing mustard tree in Mark 4.

There is life in that tree. The birds show that life, celebrating the health and strength of that tree, as they alight and aloft from it. It is like a healthy parish, where parish members help her be strong and of good service to the community. When Jesus is the source of life in that community, then it matches up to Jesus’ description of things,,as He said “I AM the Vine, you are the branches….you have life as you abide in Me, or no life when apart. Remain in Me.” That is John 15.

In Ezekiel 17, it is followed later by Ezekiel 36 that describes God’s people coming alive out of their gloom and getting alive in the Spirit and in being one body of believers and standing up strong again like a tree. (Israel’s religious symbol is the tree.) Ezekiel would speak God’s giving of a Spirit of invigoration coming; chapter 36, verse 8 says “You, my faithful ones. shall again shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit…For behold I am with you…and I will multiply men upon you…you shall be rebuilt’). Do you hear the language of a Tree and how we are alive in it and that it speaks of growth to God’s people. God has promised all of this to the one who will believe and receive this call.

The image of the mustard tree is also much about the people of the New Covenant becoming seeded with new life by Jesus and a “church” comes forth, growing in the land, and now we are grown and mature enough that we are receiving birds to our branches. That is a parish or world-wide Catholic Church image. We are like a 9-foot Black Mustard tree, and the birds are symbolic of those who have come to rest here in our branches and to nest here spiritually. We witness to the world that it is the Lord Who is this Life here, and, when a church is doing her work, it presents a healthy tree where visitors will be attracted to the Lord of Life, as He is the One building up the kingdom here.

In Mark 4, today’s gospel is about the Lord who has planted us and expects growth and maturity in us. A sign that we have grown up, like in a mustard bush-tree matured, is if the birds or new people of this Bowie area will land in our matured branches. Now we must plant seeds of interest, too, as Jesus did. Mark 4 is all about what Jesus plants. He has joined you and I up and put seeds of faith and bulbs in our hands. He wants us to live and spread the Good News and call people to Him (i.e. to alight onto the Tree). Much of that is to be the Mustard Tree, ourselves, to show what has come from a seed of faith and trust and obedience to God. Is our parish the one with such welcome branches, especially for adults or youth who are newer and maybe less connected to the Church? What have you or we done lately about St. Edward’s to be healthy and happy parish? Are you supporting it?

These Scriptures today lead right in to my introducing an idea from the parish council to you. Since November, we have been pondering a special program that could be used here in the parish for renewal and outreach. Back in November, I was blessed to have a council member propose a parish evangelism-retreat plan called “Live Christ Share Christ.” I think I might have been one of the only pastors of the Archdiocese this past year to have had a parish council present him an evangelism program. “Live Christ Share Christ” is an approved parish renewal program by the present Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict. It was started by a lay evangelism group by a couple named Frank and Gerry Padilla. A parish council member was familiar with it being used in a couple of parishes down south in the last year, as well as in places in the Philippines. The program works. So our council has been looking at how to do it here.

Last month in the council meeting I noted that some of our strongest members who are older have had some special parish faith experience in a group or movement that energized their faith. But we suspect that many younger parish members, between 25 and 55, maybe have not had a rich retreat experience or ecclesial movement ever in their lives, and perhaps their last planned growth experience or concentration to know the Faith better was back at Confirmation or some school program afterward, as in a Catholic high school or college. As a result, they may not have the support around them in faith sharing or fellowship with other parishioners, or have ever had a small group experience of faith. New members to the church, or transferred ones, or returned ones also could use an experience and a follow-up program where they can gather and grow. Parish life needs that connection. Parishes need programs to offer some renewal and revival to area people. We in the parish council see the need for rejuvenation of some local Catholics who may be living off of past faith but not a present and active faith. We see good people living in Bowie and its surrounding area who are unchurched and ought to be invited to experience parish life and liturgy in the Real Presence of Christ, and to have Christian community. Do we have something for them? Maybe so in “Live Christ Share Christ.” We also see some regular people in church or Catholic faith that aren’t as lively or happy with their walk with God, and who might want more. What can the parish offer to stir up faith, so that we can all together “walk by faith” and “please God” well in our faith, as today’s letter of Paul to Corinth also looked to encourage that Greek community?…

“Live Christ, Share Christ” is a program that believes Jesus is a Tree of Life. We believe He gives life to the Church. People need to deeply ponder the teachings of Christ for His Church and of what are her keys to being spiritually alive. This program being with a series of seminars of Christ and Catholic Faith keys. The seminars are presented in a retreat style, giving right here at the parish, and mostly by lay members of the parish. It features the giving of nine different vital talks on the Catholic faith, accompanied by sharing exercises and some fellowship, building community spirit, and in some praying and singing. The retreat can go for nine times, like nine Saturdays, for short periods, or for three times for a half-day experiences together, or it can even be done over a long weekend. But Live Christ Share Christ (LCSC) is successful in any of the models that is used.

It revolves around giving that Retreat, in the “Live Christ Seminar.” That retreat is done here and is led by parishioners who have first taken the retreat themselves, right here. How do they know what to do and how to do the retreat? Well, its pretty neat, in that a Catholic group that has already done LCSC comes in here and gives it to our team, so that they can see how it’s done, and meanwhile, our parishioners get the blessing from receiving it first themselves. You will see how the music and praying and sharing and food fellowship aspect should go, and hear the content of all the talks.

Then, after this retreat of the nine talks and the sharing and fellowship and prayer and song—our parish team of many persons goes and prepares for our parish to give the retreat and sets of seminars. They find the team of speakers, music groups, background leaders, welcome persons, prayer partners, publicity teams, refreshment and hospitality teams, and more—to give the retreat to parish members and newcomers who get interested in taking it.

Live Christ Share Christ then has a monthly follow-through meeting where we gather and keep people in fellowship, and encourage relationships to form in smaller circles. The retreat usually excites people into a better faith disposition. The follow up keeps the fire glowing.

LCSC is a lay response to the New Evangelization. It was put together by Catholic lay people who were succeeding in doing it themselves. It has papal approval. I enjoyed looking at a presentation given to our parish council and seeing the lay members and their book and program being enthusiastically received by Pope Francis in Rome. This program is just getting started in the USA. It is intended to be a movement for evangelization by, of and for the parish. It can be what is vitally needed to assure some faith experiences that can sustain the parish ahead with alive members and new members. It will encourage us to look outside at our neighbors as “birds” to happily fly to our invitation, since they need the Lord so much (as we all realize we do). It will encourage us to see one another as branches on a living tree Who is Christ among us in Word, Sacrament, Community, and Love.

Today’s homily, with began with images of coming together in the Lord, is served well by this program being its application. We wanted you just to hear about it this week at all the Masses. Next weekend we will put a bulletin insert for some further information and review. Eventually we will challenge you to accept and partake in this program as a parish. We hope a good number of you will get interested in this, even in just being moved by what the Lord said in the Scriptures today. God has a dream for our parish to be the Mustard Tree of His parable.

The Lion and The Lamb

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A Bible Study on Revelation, Chapter 5 [The Scroll and the Lamb Who is a Lion.]

1 I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who sat on the throne. It had writing on both sides and was sealed with seven seals. 2 Then I saw a mighty angel who proclaimed in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to examine it. 4 I shed many tears because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to examine it. 5 One of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed, enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals.” 6 Then I saw standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and the elders, a Lamb that seemed to have been slain. He had seven horns and seven eyes; these are the seven-fold spirits of God sent out into the whole world. 7 He came and received the scroll from the right hand of the one who sat on the throne. 8 When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones. 9 They sang a new hymn: “Worthy are you to receive the scroll and to break open its seals, for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation. 10 You made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth.” 11 I looked again and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, 12 and they cried out in a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.” 14 The four living creatures answered, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. ========================================================================

Bible Study>>>

Explanations: The vision describes a papyrus roll in God’s right hand with seven seals indicating the importance of the message and being of The Spirit. (5:1) A mighty angel asks who is worthy to open the scroll, i.e., wondering who can accomplish God’s salvific plan (5:2). There is despair at first when no one in creation can do it (5:3–4). But the seer John is comforted by an elder who tells him that Christ, called the Lion of the tribe of Judah, has won the right to open it (5:5). Christ then appears as a Lamb, coming to receive the scroll from God (5:6–7), for which he is acclaimed as at a coronation (5:8–10). This is followed by a doxology of the angels (5:11–12) and then finally by the heavenly church united with all of creation (Rev 5:13–14).

Fr’s Comments: Last Christmas I received a greeting card with the Lion and the Lamb on it. (See photo above.) There was a simple line in it: “And peace will reign in the kingdom–the lion will lie down with the lamb.” I went to look into the Book of Revelations to look for this image in Scripture. Mistakenly, I went to Revelation chapters 12 and 19 because it tells of the Lamb there and of the triumph of The Lord, but I did not find my Lion and Lamb together. Then, I thought, “Oh yeah, the lion and the lamb are prophecy images of Isaiah.” So, I looked and found two likely places for my Lion and Lamb, but instead I found passages about a wolf and a lamb at peace. There was a lion, too, and calves, and a little child playing in the Scripture about a Day of Peace coming. But not exactly a Lion and a Lamb together. (I think most Bible students think that it’s a lion and lamb together there in Isaiah 11 or Isaiah 65, but it isn’t so, the wolf and lamb are paired as the opposites now in peace and tranquility.) So, then, I looked around and FOUND where the lamb was paired together with a lion. It was in Revelations, alright, but it chapter 5.

There in that Scripture written by John the Apostle and/or his followers, Revelation 5 speaks of The Lamb Who is adored as Christ in the Heavens, as the One worthy to break open the seals. He is referred there to also being the same One told to be “The Lion of Judah.” The One Who is the Lamb (Jesus, the Lamb of God) is also the forecasted (prophesied Lion) Deliverer for the Chosen People. The tribe of Judah (of the Twelve Tribes of Israel) brought forth the promised Messiah, and the tribe’s symbol is a lion. Jesus is the Strong Deliverer promised of God.

Interestingly, in digging around a bit more with that history, I saw that in Genesis, the patriarch Jacob (“Israel”) gave that symbol to his tribe when he refers to his son Judah as a Gur Aryeh גּוּר אַרְיֵה יְהוּדָה, “Young Lion” (Genesis 49:9) when blessing him.[3] In Jewish naming tradition, the Hebrew name and the substitute name are often combined as a pair, as in this case. The Lion of Judah was used as a Jewish symbol for many years, and as Jerusalem was the capital of the Kingdom of Judah, in 1950 it was included in the Emblem of Jerusalem.

The Lord Jesus was sacrificed for us, and because He was both God and man, and having lived the perfect, sinless life–He was worthy to be our “offering” for our many sins. His Blood offering was so incredible and powerful (and Divine in its gift, and a total surrender on the human part) that the Lion’s might of mercy because the Lamb of sacrifice for all the world and her need for pardon and reconciliation.

Jesus is the descendant of Jacob (and Judah and the whole tribal line). Jesus also is the Eternal Son Who made the covenant with Jacob that his name be blessed for the ages.

One does wonder just how much that Sacrifice covers in Jesus, the Son, Who is Lion and Lamb. John the Revelator must be wondering that in his vision, as he looks upon a scroll possibly containing a list of afflictions for sinners (cf. Ez 2:9–10) or God’s plan for the world. How can God redeem the human race, so fallen in her sin and guilt?! The answer seems impossible, as it is even sealed with the seven seals: meaning, it is totally hidden from all but God. Yet God knows the answer. He had told it to Jacob’s grandfather and father–Abraham. “God will provide the sacrifice!,” is the proclamation from a Jerusalem hill. God tells Abraham at the altar (with his son Isaac prepared on it in trust): “God Himself will provide the lamb for offering (Genesis 22:8).” And then, when Abraham’s sacrifice of will was accepted by God, He spares Isaac from being Abraham’s Only Son offering, and proclaims “I, the Lord, will do it.” And from that point on, the place was called “Jehovah Jireh” which means “The Lord will provide.” God tells Abraham, “By Myself I have sworn in covenant…I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore…. all the nations of the earth shall gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed My Voice.” (Gen. 22:16-18).

What do we know now? We know that the Divine Son (God the Mighty One, like a lion) was committed to be offered up as a lamb of mercy as a gift to those who would trust and obey God. In the Lamb the just would find mercy. As the generations went from Abraham to Isaac to Judah and all the way to Jesus the Lamb, as listed all in Matthew chapter one, as the Child of Fulfillment, the Child Who is God, now we see (Rev 5:7–9) Who is come to save us and Who has the right to carry out the divine plan. It’s Jesus!!!

John the Revelator (the apostle John having these visions) now is having clarity to his vision of Heaven. He is seeing something of a timeless sight: * [5:5] The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, the Messiah, is God the Son coming forth to take the scroll and being Savior to the fallen world and fallen humanity. (Note some other verses in the Bible making this messianic connectin titles to Christ and his planned victory; cf. Rev 22:16; Gn 49:9; Is 11:1, 10; Mt 1:1.)
Put that together with Israel’s long history of trying to make atonement for her infidelity to God, and for all her sins, and for her resistance to God’s plan with her as The Chosen people, those set apart for holiness. The Jews declare that “there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (e.g. Hebrews 9:22).” Yet here comes the Lamb of God! He is The Lion of Judah of forecast! He is the Anointed One of Promise!

Observe Revelations 5:6 again. Christ is the Paschal Lamb without blemish, whose blood saved the new Israel from sin and death; cf. Ex 12; Is 53:7; Jn 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1 Pt 1:18–19. This is the main title for Christ in Revelation, used twenty-eight times.
But what of these “seven horns and seven eyes?” John understands the message: Christ has the fullness of power (horns–Rev. 1:4) and of knowledge (eyes–Zec 4:7) and He gives us the fullness of life, even His Spirit to revive us again in might (in His ‘lion-hood’). Rev 1:4; 3:1; and 4:5 repeat this image of God as Spirit to us and of Power shared.

No wonder that the great author C.S. Lewis chose the image of The Lion to represent Christ in his novels. Now you understand why Lewis had Aslan the Lion as slain in the story.

Even popular literature and works of entertainment has copied the idea. Think of “The Lion King.” The circle of life has returned us back to peace in the land.

We all join in with the Church to give praise to the Lion/Lamb Jesus. In each Mass we cry “Holy Holy Holy Lord God of Hosts…Hosanna in the highest!” as well as “Lamb of God You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us…grant us peace.” As John sees the worship of Heaven’s side of the Sacred Liturgy, he sees [Rev 5:11] countless numbers in worship, as in “100,000,000 plus 1,000,000,” used by the author to express infinity.

This is what we share in at Mass—giving praise and worship to the Lamb Who is Worthy and to the Strong Lord Jesus (Lion of Judah) Who could break open the seals and solve our huge dilemma.

PART TWO OF THE STUDY. THE IMAGES EXPLAINED BETTER–SEE THE NEXT BLOG COMING THIS WEEKEND.

An added perspective on The Lord’s Prayer

I am passing something along today in my blog. It is not something I wrote, but was passed on to me to read. I do appreciate it when people share their discoveries in Scripture to others. Here’s a case of it. It is of something I saved back from February. It was then when I saw in my email box a forwarded message/meditation from a Catholic who works in Sociology and Anthropology. They were in Australia doing some rural health research there. They said that while they were on the job there, looking for new ways of doing things to better some field health practices, it opened their mind to seeing the daily readings a bit differently. Here’s what they wrote…

On the fourth day of Lent, the Liturgy of the Word (from Lectionary #222) presented The Lord’s Prayer gospel (from Matthew 6:7-15 in the Sermon on the Mount). Paired with it, for reflection, were Isaiah 55:10-11 and Psalm 34:4-7, 16-19. Here’s what I ‘saw’ opened up to me…

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It is amazing to me that I saw so much of the Lord’s Prayer in the book of Isaiah and in the Psalm for today. I began to think about all of those faith tradition messages and how they are embedded in the prayer that Jesus taught us. I started to wonder whether Jesus was in fact drawing on all of them when he came up with that prayer just out of the blue. I think he was thinking about scriptures, of course, because not only did he know them very well, he was the fulfillment of them. It was from that perspective that I made the connections today between the petitions in the prayer and the words of Isaiah and the Psalmist. I invite you to make your own connections following my method….of going deeper into Jesus’ rich scriptural background. Below each connection, I add my reflection of some of the sentiments I think Jesus was sharing when he invited us to pray the Lord’s Prayer.

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“Our Father” — “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth”
This is about who God is. We are invited to speak directly to our father, who establishes his authority in everything he says. Sounds like the authority our earthly fathers often held over us, but unlike our earthly fathers, our heavenly father always has time to listen.

“who art in heaven” –“Thus says the Lord; Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there.”
Our Father is the source of all good things and the blessings we receive. We need not think of heaven as some far off place where God holds our long awaited rewards in trust for us. Our heavenly father showers us with blessings come down to earth for our benefit now.

“hallowed be thy name” — “Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name.”
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer with others, we are not just paying lip service respect, we are joining with others to glorify God. I think that is why we always pray this prayer together in church….our faith is even more powerful when we pray respectfully together as a community.

“thy Kingdom come” — “they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful”
The Kingdom of God comes to us in ordinary experiences, such as the falling rain. God works with us when are open to the extraordinary in the ordinary.

“thy will be done,” — “It shall not return to be void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”
This petition is about trust. God has a plan. We have a big part in it. Something good is happening at all times. We can trust that.

“on earth as it is in heaven.” — “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted: and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”
It seems to me that is Jesus’ main message to us. The Lord is close to us on this earth!

“Give us this day our daily bread;” — giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats.”
Again and again, Jesus invites us to ask God for what we need.

“and forgive us our trespasses,” — “Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,”
And, we are invited to ask for forgiveness, which is our need and our greatest joy!

“as we forgive those who trespass against us;” — “and your faces may not blush with shame.”
There are some strings attached to this one.

“and lead us not into temptation,” — “When the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them.”
God rescues us in so many ways every day. We do make mistakes, God expects that, but we do so much better when we seek guidance. Jesus invites us to make calling on God a real habit, just like we would ask our earthly fathers to help us make the right decisions while still respecting our autonomy.

“but deliver us from evil.” — “The Lord has eyes for the just, and ears for their cry.”
Over and over again the Bible reminds us that we are not lost, no matter what happens to us. Not only can we cry out, we will be heard. Jesus assures us of that.

My final reflection today on this beautiful prayer that gives us so much comfort is that it really helps to continually experience new contexts in which to pray it to make it more powerful in our lives. Just like (my) sabbatical away from (my) regular work (can)…revitalizes the way we think… (so, too can it help me to new) experiences (of) praying familiar prayers.

On The Body and Blood of Christ Feast–Corpus Christi 6-7-15

My homily of June 7th was taken in part from this meditation and partly from the previous one. The homily was shorter than these blog entries, but here I will give you the full dual meditations that I had for this Feast and for Sacred Heart feast on Friday.

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“The Body and Blood of Christ Feast” (formerly “Corpus Christi”)*

Today’s feast is of the Body and Blood of Christ. At the heart of what the Church remembers today is the command of Jesus to Peter to “Feed My Sheep.” The Eucharist was surely the main food that Jesus was asking good St. Peter to serve the flock, Christ’ Church.

Today’s gospel is Mark’s proclaimation of the Last Supper. We note here in Mark 14 of how Jesus taught Simon Peter and His apostles that the Eucharist would be food for believers ahead. Jesus said: “This is My Body” offered for you and this is “My Blood” is given in “the covenant poured out for many.” After that key teaching moment in Mark will come the time when Jesus predicts the faltering faith of Peter and then, in some hours later, Simon Peter really does deny Jesus three times. This weak moment of Peter (in Mark 14 and 15) is an important part of the Eucharistic story. How so? Because it the recovery of Peter, with his confession of his weakness, that Jesus is able to strengthen His first vicar on earth and use the Eucharist to offer renewal and strength to the body of believers. Peter could feed the sheep with Christ. One sees all this when you add the apostle John’s Gospel explanation in John 21 of a Resurrection appearance of Jesus to Peter. Jesus visits Peter, and Peter is still upset over denying Jesus the three times. So Jesus receives Peter’s confession of sorrow for this denial. It happens that Peter will be asked to give his three-fold “I love you’s” to Jesus. What, then, does Jesus do with Peter (once the confession is done)? Jesus takes him back to the meaning of the Last Supper and says to Peter: “(now) Feed My sheep.” Hence, many believing people sin against Jesus, but the process of confession and reception of Eucharist will renew us, feed and strengthen us.

The Church is given an early lesson on The Mass through her first pope’s weakness. The lesson is that we all are weak and that we each need confession to our Lord AND we need to feed on The Eucharist.

Peter is asked to Feed The Faithful. He knows what he is asked to do. He was there at the Last Supper when Jesus showed them how to pray the Mass of the New Covenant, the Living Memorial of Christ’ Sacrifice and Self-Giving Love.

The Church offered the Lord’s Supper from that time forward. The apostles and their successors and priests have offered Mass as a key and central ministry of her mission. From generation to generation we have held on to this truth: The Faithful need to keep feeding on the Eucharist, because it is the Food of Christ and of his new exodus. Christ’ Body and Blood will be given to offer us strength and hope for eternal life. We need what Christ gives for our long pilgrimage of faith.

And it is so crucial that the Catholic Church has kept steadfast and true to offering Mass and The Holy Eucharist. We have the Food to feed people to eternal life. What a great gift we have preserved in the Blessed Sacrament.

“Feed My Sheep” is what Jesus said to Simon Peter for the Church. Jesus was saying “I AM Food for you.” That, by the way, is the title of a great little book on the Eucharist, entitled “I AM Food.” I forget its author. Another great one is called “I’m Not Being Fed!” by Jeff Cavins, on how undervalued the reception of Eucharist has become.

When we think of food or drink– we think also of hunger and thirst. When we get a meal in us after a long spell without nourishment, or when we drink a glass of water to slake our dryness, we can feel our hunger or thirst go away. Likewise, the food of eternal life meets daily hunger and thirst.

How does hope for eternal life grow weak? It’s when Jesus is not counted on as our nourishment or living water. For when we turn to choosing sin instead of relying/feeding on the Bread of Life/New Wine of Salvation– then our sins take away our hope. We get weaker, like a person gone without proper food or water to their bodies.

Feeding on our sins is like our consumption of only junk food or artificial food. We can be happy that the fast food restaurants have been finally exposed for all the fake food and artificial ingredients they have been passing off to customers. But people put up with it for a whole generation. It seems that our generation has also fed off of some serious sinful things, too, in place of graceful nourishment from God.

There is the tv show that some weight conscious people have followed; it’s called “Biggest Loser.” There on the show audiences applaud people who can get 50 to 100 pounds off their bodies. The Church likes fit people too, but even more so, we applaud those who will get off sin. We need to lose lust, gluttony, pride, envy, greed, sloth and furious hateful anger (known as wrath). “The biggest loser” who is a winner in the Body of Christ are they who shed any longer to the deadly or capital sins. Jesus said in Mark 8:35: “Whoever loses themselves for my sake and the gospel shall save their life. One would not want to only gain the world but for the forfeit of their soul.”

So we confess our sin and we go to the Eucharistic Jesus for regular strength. We need to “feed” on Jesus and His holiness, and turn from living from sin after sin, since this activity harms our relationship with God, and can numb us into a life of fear or defeat from the real hope that Jesus gives us Of Himself to feed upon. The fact that we will need mercy and strength in a regular pattern is contained in the verb of the command of “Feed my sheep.”

Hunger and thirst always return after a meal. If the gift of eternal life was not in need of continual nourishment, then Jesus would have used an action other than ‘feed.’ Yet He knew we would need continued nourishment from Him. Indeed, He identifies Himself as The Living Bread and the new manna for His new exodus pilgrims. It is a long journey home.

Jesus did not say that we needed merely (or only) an initial blessing to be His follower. Yet many types of Christianity say so today, diminishing the importance or centrality of the Eucharist and to ” feed on Him.”
They have come up with an instant good-to-go Christianity that more-or-less likens the becoming of a Christian to getting a one-time vaccination to be freed from sin. Once vaccinated (born again on one day) this approach of Christianity might lead the believer to think then that they are protected from that disease of doubt or fear or their weakness always. But eternal life is not like a vaccination. And most of us are like Peter in having our weaker moments in the flesh. We will need Confession and Communion in our lives for this new exodus movement to Glory.

The Eucharist is our great help to be fed by God in our hunger and for our thirst for life. Because temptations exist every day, our hope for eternal life grows hungry and thirsty every day. Listen to Saint John is his epistle, “Do not love the world or the things of the world….the world and its enticements are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever. See 1st John 2:15-17.

In the close of the Fourth Gospel in its chapter 21, Jesus uses the command ‘feed.’ (Ex. “Simon, son of John, do you love Me? (then) Feed My sheep.”) Note: He does not command Simon Peter to vaccinate us against death. We believers still are in danger of loving the world every moment of every day. However, we have the words of eternal life: “Feed my sheep.” Yes, the body of Christ is real food and the blood of Christ is real drink. Unlike physical hunger and thirst, our hunger and thirst for hope in eternal life does not give us daily pain nor do they direct us instinctively toward the Eucharist like physical hunger and thirst direct us to food and water. We need faith and we need Peter and the Church giving the food that Jesus is offering.

As Mark’s Gospel quotes Jesus saying to His friends: “take and eat; this is My Body.” The loaf of unleavened bread that He broke into pieces would show how Jesus would give out to us the Gift of His Very Self. As He shares Himself out to so many, Jesus does unite people by the commonality that He is the blessed bread shared by all.

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