Homily. 15th Sunday.

Homily. 15th Sunday. by Fr. John Barry    Web version

God is a sower but will we let Him sew His will in us? Or–will we settle for living for much less in a so-so life?  Or–will it be worse?! (Hope not!)

The Choices:   Open up so very much.   Or, be so-so, either shallow or worldly. Or, be apart from God, trampled on the path of the world or picked-off by birds of prey.

God so loved the world that he sewed. The Seed was the Word of God, His Son, Jesus.  We are the soil. But what kind of soil?  There’s today’s question.

We have the parable of the sower today in Matthew’s gospel, and it looks a little like Jesus as Johnny Appleseed.   Do you remember the legend of this ‘Appleman’ crossing the country and sowing seeds to the earth?  Johnny Appleseed is an American children’s story, and it may be a lesson of just explaining and thankfully telling about our fruitful land, in the tale of a man sowing seeds that become apple orchards across the Midwest American trail.

Jesus is much more than a legend or exaggerated folk figure.  He really IS the great coming of God to walk humanly among us to sow the possibilities of new life and fruits in the Spirit. Jesus sowed the fruitfulness for eternity for us!  As another Gospel quoted Jesus saying: “the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” He sowed salvation for sinners.

In this gospel, at Mathew 13, it sounds or reads like Jesus is looking back to examine how His good seed took to people of the earth, to whom He gave the seed, of Himself as the Saving Word.  He is observing here in the text of how He was received in open welcome by some folks, which is one of four exampled responses.  He also is commenting that three of four persons were not cooperating in having His teaching planted in them. That is not a good percentage on our side, revealing that many don’t see the need for The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Response “A” (of the four soils) is the soft and yielding soil of a trusting believer. Jesus celebrates this kind of person(s) and their fruitful consequences.

Then, He points to Response “B,” of His good seed that has fallen on ground that is only so-so, which refers to someone who is only giving shallow ground away, but lacking the deep faith and love and trust they need for His coming to be effective in them.

Jesus gives His example “C” of response; it is of when a person receives the Good Word, the seed of God, but it lands on a surface that is too surrounded by temporal, selfish cares, or worldly stuff, as called as thorns. The problem here: worldly matters mean much more than God’s matters.  What is the result of this response? Often, those worldly cares choke out the Word in life for this type of person.  This game of thorns’ is much a game of thrones, as in, who is in the throne of their soul?  Is it The Mighty Me or the Lord Jesus? The selfish-me-life chokes on all their vain pursuits.

Or, consider Example “D,” the fourth response, as it is one whereupon a person is so sinfully selfish, and ego-centric, that it results in nearly shutting out God and any fertility and growth in one’s spiritual life, because of hardness of heart. For–even while the Seed was sown by The Lord for good, in this fourth person, the seed falls in the hardened, worldly path, and then it gets picked off by birds of prey, to God’s dismay, since He made us for Himself, but He will honor the freedom’s term of our will, and that of our own free decision to choose our soul soil.

Let us hope we take this parable seriously. Jesus says: ‘Those who have ears, listen up!’

Bravo to the people who hear themselves fitting in category A.  That means you are doing much in cooperation with God to be alive in Christ.  ‘Right?!

In an interesting interpretation I heard, someone has commented that maybe we individually and corporally as a church can be a mix of all four types of soil in our field. Some parts very open to God, some shallow and hesitant with God, some areas way too worldly, and some parts just very resistant to God.   We all need to yearn for being the good soil, and for those caught in the rebellious hard ground, we pray the Lord’s Prayer and “deliver us from evil, for Thine is the Kingdom.”

That is a short look at today’s images given by Jesus, as He tries, in a parabolic way, to explain the human condition, and our need to abide in God with the good soil of cooperation, in love and faith.

Jesus is pleased with those who till in their Catholic faith for good, open ground in them to Him.

Ol’ Johnny Appleseed was probably pleased, too, at all the apple trees that sprung up across America.

While Johnny didn’t head eastward, we know what success apple orchards have had in mid-and-western Maryland, many groves are giving a great harvest, and Johnny would give a thumbs up to the Old Line State here, with our fine tasty apple cider, jams, apple butter, and other fruits of the earth to enjoy and share here.

God in Christ seeks a harvest of souls. People who are alive in the fruits of His Spirit are His delight.

ln this parish here, I am hoping we can yield many fruits in The Spirit together, and that I can rejoice in the fruit of the Spirit already sown and alive in you, and so, too, you of me. We are God’s field.

God has so much invested in this parish and in each you, and He wants, in Jesus Christ Glorified and Risen, for you to have the abundant life in Him.

Does that sound good to you?  Can you say yes to what God in His goodness wants to do in you, and in us?

I think the parable has us yearning to be good fertile ground for His purposes here.  Not rocky, thorny, prickly, hardened earth, and certainly not to be easy pickings for the birds of prey against God’s wondrous plan.  “Lord, help us to be good ground for you.”

I find it interesting that the epistle reading for this Sunday describes the groaning sound, which is heard and cannot be denied.  It’s a groaning for things to be right.    The world and humankind is fallen and broken, so the groaning about it is daily, it’s the groaning of hurting and lost people.  But I’d like to add, that it also can be the longing sound for us to all  be right with God.   They are personal groans and some collective groans.   In the groaning sounds of the longing of the broken creation to get whole and right and restored– I hear the Holy Spirit, for He speaks to us of the call to get wholly into Jesus, our salvation.  He speaks in our inward groaning that we really need spiritual response, to keep on in our becoming the children of God.

Even while humanity rebels or just foolishly sins against God (as we each do sometimes) or when people just struggle to accept the reign of God, and live by faith in the Son of God– all nature indeed groans for The Day we do get whole again, and our souls do yearn even cooperate at our best with the re-offered Kingdom of God.

Let us live in the hope of Jesus, so to keep on coming up for a rising. Today’s Psalm 65 verse wraps it all up: It tells us  “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.”  God will sometimes drench those furrowed rows, or soften it with showers, blessing its yield.   May we be a great harvest field for Jesus the Lord.

 

 

 

“Rebuilt” (model) church needs much re-consideration

7403_1I went to a “Rebuilt” Mass. I came as an observer of it, just another person in the crowd.  (No clerics on.)  It is a Mass within a new movement in Maryland to make the celebration of Mass more relevant to younger Mass-goers (though the Rebuilt founders may dress their approach up in other terms).   Here’s how it came across to me– it was like pulling in to a Cineplex today.

The church seemed more like an auditorium, and it was very dark inside, with commercials for the parish flashing on large screens up front.  On the way in through the main doors, I was passed by kids going out carrying paper plates of fresh pizza slices, adult men and women leaving with foam cups of hot coffee to their mouths, and a grandma in jeans and a t-shirt exiting while eating a banana.   That’s just for starters, folks.   (These people were leaving the café area of the parish, which I took a peak at before walking into the church part. These people were leaving from the prior Sunday liturgy.  But how often do you run into people leaving Mass with slices of pizza?!   But I knew I wasn’t at the Cineplex, but at a Catholic church for Mass!   I joked to myself:  “Maybe their dismissal to close Mass is:  The Mass is ended, go and eat pizza.”)

There was a greeting team and a parking team to hold open the door to church and to tell me exactly where to park beforehand.  As I pulled up the church driveway, I saw a couple walking in from the neighborhood street, and it occurred to me that they did so because they wanted to choose their parking situation.   After Mass, in the scramble of people coming and going, I understood why they chose the far-away spot.  ‘Twas quite a parking mess.  Obviously, the parish will need to schedule Masses at least 2 hours apart in the future (and not 90 minutes), lest someone and their banana gets run over in the confusion out on the lot between liturgies.

In watching people coming out from the earlier Mass, I did notice smiles on faces, and a good number of families in the crowd. Ah, a big positive!  People liked this parish!  Well, that was a very good sight to see!   People walking in to Mass also looking pretty happy to be coming.  That was refreshing.

As I saw the arriving congregants, I also saw a more younger crowd, with numbers of new families.  There were not many older persons over 65.  Maybe 5%, which in Catholic America is quite odd.  Well, it’s a positive and a negative here on that accord.

Well, a second negative was noticeable.  Most of the people all looked the same race and/or middle or middle/upper class background.   This sameness among the people was a little off-putting to me, because I knew the Maryland area of the parish church was more of a blended area, even though in a partly-affluent corridor out of the city. The congregants were almost all dressed in casual cool or just in plain jeans and shorts.   (Even more dressed-down that one going out to dinner somewhere.  There was an abundance of Orioles t-shirts in the attendees of Mass, suggesting maybe that they were including the struggling team in their intercessory prayers.  It worked, as the O’s won today–even with Chris Tillman pitching! 🙂    A man who did walk in to Mass wearing a suit did stand out among the incoming Mass-comers.   There was just a casualness in this parish that spoke of some lack of reverence here.  Of course, I have seen this casualness in other places– just not so dominantly (except at Beach parishes in the Summer).

As some of my first impressions were not so good here, I reminded myself that I was going to try to be positive, and not to come in with a critical attitude.  After all, this was my Sunday Mass obligation, as well.   I came incognito, and sat in with the congregation today.

As I walked in to a darkened church, I could make out an altar, a presider’s chair, an ambo, a crucifix, and some lit candles on stands up front and center.  Check: I was in a Catholic church.   One problem: No visible tabernacle, no sanctuary lamp.

What got one’s attention instead were the large screens flashing announcements and commercials above me, and everybody in the church was talking to one another, or checking their phones for messages (but not looking at Catholic Apps, such as one to prepare for liturgy!).  I saw only a minimal of people remaining quiet or looking like they were praying.   A young lady was taping something live on a tv camera just three pews away from me, evidently for their broadcast of this show, er, Mass, later on to the parish web site.  She was a distraction.

Relevance all too often sacrifices reverence in a church.   I immediately saw that here.

The band members were not a distraction, as they stood discreetly off to the side.   They were my lone witnesses to some respectful attitude before Mass.   Their drums and guitars were up on a platform, which rivaled the altar space for attention.   As Mass started, the band walked on.  From then on, people would be looking off to the side at them, or up at the big screens, about half as much as they would be looking at the lector or priest or altar.  These side distractions would hold a lot of the attention in Mass.   Still, the members of the band before and during Mass seemed to be the most reverent people in the house.   More on them later.   Mass has not started yet.

There was no kneeler to position oneself humbly for pre-Mass prayers.   There were no missalettes to check out the readings for Mass (although I always do that at home before I come in to Mass, so it was no loss for me, as I knew of the Jeremiah reading, the Psalm, the epistle, and the “what you hear in the dark, you must speak and proclaim in the Light” Gospel of this Sunday).   Thankfully, there were no parish bulletins to be found, so no one was eyeing them as pre-Mass reading material.  🙂

It was past the time for Mass to start, but we hadn’t begun yet.  There was no sign of a procession to be coming in of servers, cantors, deacon and priest.  However, there was a video welcome given to us from the big screens by two spokespersons for the parish, and many explanations to be made of what to do.  Next, another video came up about when the children would be leaving for their “Time Travel” session.   Now, finally, came the opening song.

The words to the opening song were up on the screens, and the music group was lively and contemporary.   I liked the way the group sang and played, but I did not know the song, nor did the people around me, so we mostly watched and listened to them sing and play.   I am not sure how the priest and one server got up to the sanctuary, but suddenly they were there. (Did they rise up from below the stage?!)   The Sign of the Cross opened us up, and a Penitential Rite by the presider.  The Gloria was a rousing 2017-sounding one, perhaps written by this parish group.   I sang along, as I could.  A member near me sang along pretty loudly and enthusiastically.  That was nice to notice.  As the Collect was prayed, I noticed something a little odd.  The presider wasn’t facing us, but he was facing diagonally away from us, angled toward the altar from his presider’s chair, positioned beside the altar ten feet away.  A lone teen or young adult altar server held the Missal for the priest, and I noted that the young man had an earpiece, receiving instructions from someone controlling the Mass from some side place.  Odd again.   Oh, now I got it, the priest was looking into a camera.  We, the live congregation, he had his back to.   Just great!   Check: negative.

In the back of church was a lighting ministry and a sound ministry.  From the appearance of it, they were paid helpers for Mass, vital to the liturgy, and helping with all the slides.  Ushers were going up and down the aisles spying for free seats about.

When the Liturgy of the Word began, the only slides to go up were the responsorial words of the Psalm song (which was not the Lectionary Psalm) and some text of the Gospel.  The church remained dark throughout the Mass so we could see the slides.  (If you had brought a St. Joseph’s Missal for assistance, then it would not have helped unless one used a cell phone light to see it.)   This lack of text is not much of a problem for me, since I think The Scriptures should be heard as proclaimed, rather than read along in the pew by persons looking down towards their missalettes.  I get that concept.  However, I have a comment about it.  This way that the Rebuilt Mass does the Word requires a very good lector to do it, and one who does not have an accent.   In most parishes, that would disclude many Africans, Asians, South and Central Americans from being lectors.  Heaven forbid a Jamaican or Australian or even Green Bay Wisconsin-ite be chosen to proclaim the Word, due to the need that all could understand each Scripture verse proclaimed (since a text can’t be followed).   Just saying.   It’s an exclusionary way this church does the Liturgy of the Word– for good communications’ sake.   The human factor was orchestrated here.   Not so good.

I was ready for a good homily.  The pastor-priest was proclaiming the Gospel and preaching today in Holy Mass.   Yet I was disappointed by what came next.   After proclaiming the Gospel, he merely summed up the readings and showed their ties to not being afraid to be the Lord’s voice or witness to the world.   Then he advertised that a series on Moses was coming at the tail end of Mass (though Moses isn’t in any Summer readings of Year A cycle, as far as I know).   Yet I like theme preaching a lot, so I looked forward to this post-Communion homily to come, since we were quickly standing up now and praying the Apostles’ Creed.

I checked the time, and it was only 25 minutes into Mass.   We were going in fast speed.   No break for any silence either.  The Offertory Song to follow the Universal Prayer was a familiar praise song of charismatic prayer meetings, so I knew it and joined along in the song.  No procession of gifts was done.  Soon, we were moving into the Eucharistic Prayer(EP).  Surprisingly, the Holy Holy song was the sung Latin Sanctus, of which the Praise Band took a break and it was almost an acapella  prayer.   We were signaled to sit for the EP.  (No kneelers.)   A few tried kneeling, but there was no room for that.

I watched the presider through the Mass, and he was pretty expressionless throughout, during a Mass with lots of high tech and praise band excitement.   A little odd.   He seemed to be doing things in a hurry, too.   He prayed a normal Eucharistic Prayer and did the elevations properly of Body and Blood, though.  As the Peace Rite exchange began, he was breaking the bread and the Lamb of God was sung and done quite soon.   Just one Lay Minister joined Father in the sanctuary space at the Lamb of God (to serve a church of 300).   I wondered about that in the moment, comparing the number of parking lot ministers I saw while pulling in.

As Communion started, the Praise Band didn’t receive, but went into singing right away, and I didn’t see them receive during the Mass.   I also noticed that other lay ministers appeared with ciboria, but not with Eucharist from the altar or a tabernacle in the altar area.  Odd.   They just appeared in numerous places with the Eucharist from somewhere, and the Communion Rite was finished up pretty quickly.   It was only 42 minutes in when the Prayer after Communion was done, without a call for people to stand up for it, nor for the blessing.   The priest prayed in the diagonal direction away from the people again, and then abruptly announced: “The Mass is ended.”    But the church experience was not over, just simply paused.   A dismissal of children from the church to their programs was announced, and a layman came up and then gave an 18 minute Moses talk, complete with slides, as the presider sat in his chair, again looking a bit detached and unemotional about everything, even as the pastor of this whole operation.   The lay teacher taught us how Moses had an attitude of gratitude.

This lay teacher did a very good job on the Moses teaching, and then we all stood, with the children come marching back in on a cue, and we sang a short closing song.   There was no procession out.   When the song ended, the priest shook some hands up front.  Most of the congregants went out into a café area to have donuts and coffee, and fruit, and bagels, and best of all, slices of fresh pizza.

I wondered about the value of the Eucharist inside of us as we lined up for pizza.  I decided to skip the pizza.   I took a walk around and I saw the babysitting ministry room, the little kids room for ministry, and the Time Travelers room, and some other rooms for during Mass/Moses talk occupation of the young.    (I stood in the Time Travelers room and wished to be at the 1983 World Series in Baltimore again, but nothing happened.)

I had managed to get inside and out of this “friendly parish” without anyone walking up and saying hi to me, except for a quick sign of peace in Mass, and I tried to go up and talk to a musician after Mass, but they turned away to talk amongst themselves.   I realized later that they were paid to play all the Masses of the morn, as well was likely the lector a paid person.   That ‘professionalism’ did not lend to those folks acting like regular members.  Not, at least, to my observation.  Paid help can act differently at or in a Mass or afterwards.  No surprise in that.   But not ideal!

Outside there were many people talking on the plaza, or hanging awhile in the café.   The mood was pretty good, except for the parking lot, as people for the next Mass were arriving, but not finding available parking spaces.   The parking ministers had a job on their hand keeping people calm out there.   If only Moses could have parted and opened up some new spaces somewhere, for a safe but late exodus of the 1030 Mass Folk and a safe arrival of the Noon Mass new folk.

I realized as I drove away that I hadn’t genuflected or blessed myself with holy water before my departure, until I realized that no one did at this parish.   It’s different.

My favorite part of the experience was the contemporary music, though it had its flaws.  I also liked that the children’s and youth ministry were bringing and leaving happy faces on the young (along with chocolate donut frosting).

The “Rebuilt” (model) church needs much re-consideration.

I noticed they are building a bigger church on the grounds.  Perhaps the old space can be used as a parking garage (but I got a feeling they’ll use it as a mega-café).  Or perhaps the new space and the present space is planned as one big space for worship, since they have the megachurch in mind with this place.

I am happy that many ‘Timoniniums’ and O’s fans are coming to Mass at this parish.  We need people coming to Sunday Mass.   I just wondered:  Is THIS how we are to go about it?

I liked the contemporary music– well, at least to a point.   The music ministers were the best part of the liturgy.   Since I have a liking to contemporary praise music, I did enjoy it.   However, the Mass needs to have its Liturgical Music, as well, which they really did not offer at the ReBuilt parish here. (I am a member of the National Pastoral Musicians Association for the reason of promoting liturgical works in the Mass, even contemporary ones, but not just Praise Band music.  That music has its place.   I really like it– but in its proper place.)

More comments…..  I did like the Moses presentation, but it was odd that the preaching of the day was by a layman, and not the clergyman   Yet I did like that people in the pews were staying for a Bible teaching of 18 minutes, as all Catholics very much need more Bible study and faith education.   I have tried many ways in my own parishes to present as such.   Sometimes it has led to longer Sunday homilies by me to get the message across, all with a 60-minute Mass limit in mind.    I know Catholics need so much more knowledge of the Bible and Catechism and Apologetics and The Saints– they do need so much more than the little many settle for.   ReBuilt, at least, is trying a creative way to keep Catholics in the pews for some teaching time.   Yet the sacrifice of the priest’s homily time is too much.    So, there’s a positive and negative comment in one there.

Other positives:  I liked that the babe’s and children’s and pre-teens had a ministry for them on Sundays, and that a whole lot of people were involved in their parish (even if for selling $1 pizza after Mass).   I figured that a high number of paid persons were needed for this whole operation to work, so I wondered all that worked out financially, or how much another parish (like ours) could copy it on a smaller budget.   I guess if you have the higher collection, then you can pull more ministry off.  Bravo to them that they pulled it off.   Our parish cannot afford a band, nor light and sound and screen/computer teams, nor paid staff on Sundays for all the ministries, nor the Security Guard (off duty Baltimore policeman) they had present.  Phew!

A major negative:  I think Jesus was lost in all of this.   Yes, He was glorified in the songs, and honored in the prayers, and mentioned centrally in His House, but all the trappings (music band, lights, cameras, screens, noise) took much away from His being honored and revered in His own Mass.   The priest, His sign, also seemed secondary to the liturgy, even while it all depended on his being there.   A general feeling of it being a religious drama show, with music, almost overwhelmed the Mass, and there was precious little reverence felt there for the one Centrality there that deserved the most respect:  Christ as Eucharist and the Sacred Offering at Mass.

Yes, we got Communion at this Sunday Mass, and we did acclaim Jesus— but it was such an unfamiliar way of doing it.   The boxes were checked of Catholic things to do in a proper Mass, but the Mystery seemed to be missing in the middle.

I think the Catholic Sunday Liturgy does need some of the elements and modern adaptations present at the Rebuilt Mass.   I get where they are coming from, but I am not sure where they are going, and I am unsure about how they are going about this reform.   I came as a person very interested in what they were trying to do here, but I am unsold on it at this time.   I am a fan for their trying, and in doing so as Catholics, rather than departing independents trying to re-invent the Christian Church.

But I think the “Rebuilt” program had better re-group! 

I have read all their materials in the past few years in attempting this project.   I like some ideas a lot, but I am flummoxed and offended by some other ideas of theirs.

But I just had to take a Sunday and go see a ReBuilt Mass for myself.    I did this today, leaving my retreat house to drive to this liturgy.  I wrote this review back at the retreat house.

======================================

Consider Who the Host is at any Catholic Church.   He is Jesus.   The Attention needs to be on Him in any Mass, whether a Cathedral Mass with choir or a daily Mass in a simple country chapel.   His Presence in the Church, via the reserved Blessed Sacrament, is the first consideration of ‘noticing Him’ when one enters the Catholic parish church.   His Presence in the Priest, via Holy Orders, is an important focus as the prayers of Mass take place.  The priest presider/celebrant should reflect this and he should be aware of it.  Then the Word in Scripture announces Him.   The Eucharistic Prayer really ought to be prayed along (participated) by the faithful on their knees.  The Lord is Come to us in Mass.   The Eucharist and its thanksgiving is such the vital experience of the Mass.   It must not be lost amidst all else going on around it.  When I leave the Sacred Liturgy, the Peace of The Presence needs to be central.  The communal experience of prayer needs its key link to the action at the Altar (The Miracle of the Lord’s Supping with us) and our being commonly fed by the One Loaf Who is Christ, Bread of Life. IMAG1245

Pentecost Novena Day Eight

The Great Novena of the Church.  Thursday of the historical Ascension through to Pentecost Sunday.    

THE NOVENA TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
“Wait and pray to be clothed from on high”

DAY EIGHT OF THE NOVENA.

Come Holy Spirit.  Please find in me the openness for Your power to renew and move this servant of Yours.  Help me to care about Your concerns and to be an instrument to the works Your Grace can do in me.  I bow to Thee. Spirit Window.

In the historical account of the witnesses of the Risen and Ascended Jesus, if one were to go back in time, you would find them now on the move towards Jerusalem for the Pentecost Feast.  This old Jewish observance in the Holy City of David would be utterly transformed in this Year of an Ascended Anointed One (in Jesus).  Pentecost would now be known as the day of Spirit Power from On High.    The Birth of the Church and Life in the Spirit for the faithful.

DAY 8 Regular Daily Prayer of the Novena
O Lord Jesus Christ, before your Ascension to Heaven, You did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish your work in the souls of Your apostles and disciples. You asked them to “wait for the Promise of the Father…. (and that) in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…. (and) you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” (From Acts 1)   The Acts of the Apostles’ account tells, then, that the apostles, and Mary, and various men and women, indeed went to Jerusalem to wait on the Gift, devoting themselves with one accord to prayer together.”   In this Novena, O God, I join all others in the Church in these days of devotion and pleading for the power and love of your Spirit.
I ask You, Lord, for our present age, that we might more deeply encounter Your Spirit of renewal in Mother Church. As the hymn goes, “Come with Thy grace and heavenly aid to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.” (Come Holy Ghost) You said: “Ask and you shall receive.” So we now ask for strength in Your Spirit.  In our Easter regeneration, we pray for what You started may increase and be built up strong in our days.  O Jesus You said to Peter:  “Upon this rock I will build my Church… I give to you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven,” (from Matt. 16) so we petition You, Come help us who faithfully abide in Your Church!  O Come, Holy Spirit. Do teach us all truth, console us as we go about in this broken world, and please enlighten us in the way we best should live in it.  Help us then, to have courage to live in accord with our vocation of faith and to do so for the Common Good. Help me, and my brothers and sisters in The Fold, to be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph.5:18)

Day Eight Meditation

Someone once said that we (who are in the Spirit) have the privilege of conviction.  The Holy Spirit will direct us in the way to dislike sin, fight against its control, and instead want to be led to the enlightened and free life in God.  (John 16)   Oswald Chambers said: “Conviction of sin is one of the rarest things that ever strikes a person.  It is the threshold of an understanding of God.

Jesus Chrsit said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict people of sin, and when the Holy Spirit rouses the conscience and brings a person into the Presence of God, it is not their relationship with other persons that bothers them, but (how) their relationship (is doing) with God.”  Jesus had pointed out this problem of humanity:  “For they loved praise from men more than praise from God. (John 12).   Think on this.

Lastly, Pray the Lord’s Prayer, a Hail Mary, and the Glory Be to conclude the day’s novena prayers.

IMAG0751_2_1

 

CWA and Cameroon Catholic support ministry

Several years ago, a group of Cameroon women in the parish or county region came together to begin an ecclesial group.   We started a chapter of the CWA (Catholic Women’s Association) here at St. Edwards.   It involved our joining into an existing ministry branching out from Cameroon and Nigeria, which is making efforts to form parish groups on USA’s east coast, to where more Cameroons have moved.   The first one in the region came in 2006-07 in Burtonsville.  Ours followed afterward.

 

The Burtonsville Maryland start at Resurrection Parish was honored last Sunday, with a bishops visit there.   It was Bishop George Nkuo from Kumbo diocese.IMAG1323

My own closer involvement with Cameroons in St. Edwards began with a wedding of a couple in the parish, one that brought many Cameroons into our church.  That bride and many other Catholic women soon were gathering, upon my invitation, twice-a-month, after the 1130 St. Edward Sunday Mass for rosary, doctrine and Bible study, lunch, charity planning, and socializing. I have joined and led them for several years now.

This past Sunday was a Mass and social time for hundreds of CWA CMA chapters and of other Cameroon men and women Catholic organizations in the DC/Baltimore area gathered in Burtonsville.  The bishop from Cameroon was the celebrant of an almost 3- hour Mass, filled with all sorts of ethnic traditions, songs, testimonies, and prayer in the Eucharistic Lord.   It was long for me, of course, but it was a rich experience.   It was another act of support I could give for a group of vigorous Catholic African immigrants, whom I value as an asset to the local Church.   I was one of only two white persons of color in the celebration, but that was fine with me, as I act in solidarity with these new members to the Catholic USA community. IMAG0461  I am getting used to being with them now.  Above is a picture from an African style wedding celebration from a few months back.  The program from Sunday also shows above.  In it you see one of about 20 songs we sang in worship. IMAG1324_1n

I did not take photos within last Sunday’s celebration.

The Rising Up Life. Homily 5-7

How do we live a Rising Up life?  By the buoyancy of the Easter Lord Jesus.  We engage Him daily into our lives.  We do it by prayer, spiritual reading, service to the Gospel, and by loving in a God- breathed way in activities and relationships.  That’s for starters.    It’s the success formula and story of many a saint, such as the single Canadian woman Blessed Marie Leonie Paradis, whose feast is May 3rd. She came from a poor but religious family. Her pursuit of holiness as a Catholic inspired her to become a learned woman of the Faith, going on to teach in places in Canada as in New Brunswick and Montreal, and in the USA in New York and Indiana.  She founded an Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family.  Many others took up an imitation of her zeal for God and love of people.IMAG0460_1

What Marie-Leonie found was of how to let the Risen Lord into her being, so that He might be her inspiration.  She learned to live in tandem with Him.

Indeed.  The Risen Lord seeks avenue to live in His people.  This is the new life.  The prophecy was that God would put in us a new heart and spirit– Yes, His very Self in us.    I in you and you in me, as John’s Gospel tells of Jesus of this rising up life.

How do we say YES to the LORD today to the new life?

We hear about a changed Peter in the Acts 2 reading today for the opening Sunday Scripture.  He now lived in Jesus and we hear how his convicted teachings were so moving that his hearers “were cut to the heart.” They took Peter’s exhortation rather seriously–about becoming saved from their corrupt generation–and it says 3000 people expressed their repentance in baptism in that afternoon described.

A changed new life in the Risen Lord Jesus has the holy power to touch others and make a real difference– whether in St. Peter, Blessed Marie Leonie or in you and I.

So how do we say YES today to being joined in the Easter Lord Jesus, and Rise Up more in the New Life?

IMAG1225_1

Deciding to be married in the Church

imagesQVCV16ZLI feel like a lot of Catholic couples (or Catholic/non-Catholic ones) have made a left rather than a right, in their choices to be wed or to live together, but not as in a sacred union in the Church.

Did you notice the sign was wrong in the pic?

To be right with God in love and sexuality with a partner, the Catholic person(s) needs to be in a heterosexual union that is wed before the Lord in His Church as the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.   Yet the norm in the Catholic realm of young adults right now isn’t for that–but distinctly something other than Holy Matrimony.  People are making a left when they should be going right.

OK– it could be that a percentage may just be reluctant to enter Matrimony over their great respect for it, and they are working up to it.    Maybe another small percentage have a financial issue that is strapping them temporarily to a situation that they wish they were practicing.   Yet, we are talking about a whole lot of others, who were raised Catholic, that are unwed and living together now, and perhaps not for the first time with someone.  Or– they are wed, or going to be, but decided to go secular only with the union (sorry, but getting wed by a rent-a-rev at a park or hotel is still a secular affair, with just a religious decoration on top).    Some Catholics have parted ways with a Sacrament-led life in Christ, not seeing its integral connection with our Lord.   So they wed in some other way outside the Church (and of a special union of grace in Jesus).  Sad.

We are called to live holy lives before the Lord God, especially in the realm of love and relationship to a special someone.    To make a covenant of love in a church is the right setting for a marriage promise.  God has made a covenant of love with us, and He has used the Church for its main expression in Christ Jesus.   He awaits our covenant answer to Him.   We can give such a blessed gift by uniting and dedicating our love to our special someone (spouse) as in and unto Christ Himself.  A covenant love response– to the new commandment of Love– “love one another, as I have loved you.”  We can love the other another as in Christ, and to do so in a sacred sense as Jesus did it.   His laying down His life as groom to spouse made it possible for the Church to be born.  Thus, our laying down our married lives can make it possible for God to enter in to them and show His love in-the-middle.

I know that there are various ‘exceptions’ that people will give for not being wed in Church– and I won’t address them each here– but I will instead celebrate a couple who decided to wed in the Church last Saturday, after being wed civilly for years.   They came to a mutual understanding and mutual conviction with God that this was what He had called them to do.    They are both Catholics.   They entered Holy Matrimony on April 22nd, 2017 at St. Edward’s parish church.  Hurrah for them.   They want to live their love together for God and in God from now on.    God has put it on their hearts.IMAG1221_1

Marriage is a vocation.  It is a true calling from God to serve Him in this special way.  He takes the love shared in the bond and unites it to Himself, making it for true treasure in Heaven, for in it He is glorified.   “Love one another:  this is My New Commandment,” Jesus said, adding, “No greater love, than for one to lay down their life for another.”   thtt

I think of all the fruits of the Spirit that can be lived in such a union:   love, peace, patience, gentleness, self-control, joy, meekness… as the Bible describes it so.

Jesus is the Partridge in the Tree of Eden calling us to love in union with the sacred nature of who we are.   (For the practicing couple, it makes them a Partidge family? Well, it makes them a holy family, surely.)

 

 

‘Twere True? ‘Tis True

Long Teaching      There is a Part One, Part Two, and a Part Two all in here

Part 1

I heard a phrase this week: “If ’twere true, then it’d be most obvious.”  That twere word is from an old-fashioned English usage as in meaning if it were true (’twere), then it would be ( it’d be or ‘tidbe) thus and such.  I haven’t heard those phrases used in a while… but some folksy speakers favor them still today.  Listening to S.C. nominee Gorsuch speak this week shows that the homespun terminology is still much in circulation.

But how I heard the ’twere phrase was not in a good light.   It was used by some Christian anti-Catholic person, one who unfortunately, was speaking publicly in dead-set opposition to a Living Jesus with us in the Blessed Sacrament.  They said that the Eucharist couldn’t be real because the amazement and convincing factor wasn’t there, in their view.  So, in the folksy, olde-fashioned sentence, they said “if ’twere true, then it’d be most obvious,” meaning that they were trying to debunk the Eucharist*, saying “it,*” was not really Christ Jesus, in their demanding that, if “it*” were true, some special effects would be seen and felt to support the claim of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in our Catholic belief and practice.  

Cut to chase, the Eucharistic Jesus isn’t exciting enough for them to be real.  “It” seems too ordinary to them.  

What a short-sighted point of view this seems to be.   The “it” actually is a Person: Jesus.  There view does slight the Lord in some certain way.  

I am reminded of the account in Mark 6 when people also dismissed Jesus by saying that “they knew” how he was only (merely) a carpenter, just an ordinary relative from Nazareth, son of Joseph.  They “knew” it.  They made noise that Jesus could NOT be anything more (and surely not Messiah).   We know now how very wrong they were in belittling Jesus.  

Same thing with belittling Him as Sacrament and Bread of Life among us today. That’s a big mistake to make. It leaves out a major, personal experience of Christ from their lives.  Yet we Catholics will need to be the witness to His Real Presence, so that all Christians can be led to Him, the Bread of Life, for their full nourishment.

To those statements above of expecting a sign, or refusing to believe, I thought: ‘Like what special effects are they looking for to have prove to themselves the Eucharist is really Jesus?! A tingling sensation? A taste of true blood? A stupendous, instantaneous, miraculous healing to the communicant?’ What ‘special effects’ were they seeking of Christ or of the Church’s relationship to Jesus as Eucharistic Lord for our pilgrimage Home?   In their current faith practice, is it all a big feelings kind-of-experience they demand to have called their Christianity?  There is fault in that orientation, if so.

There are clear descriptions in the Bible (as proof) for the Real Presence, too, if they are searching.  I wondered:  How more clear in The Word can it be that John the Baptist or John the Apostle call Jesus the Lamb of God, or that Jesus calls Himself as “the Bread of Life” or the “Living Bread of Heaven,” as for us to “take and eat?!” of Him? ! (John 6, Luke 22)  Or, that He offered Himself purposefully on the exact Jewish Passover for sacrifice (John 13, Matt. 26), which was unnecessarily dramatic of Jesus if twere only a symbolic gesture He was making.  Yet, what if the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus, is Real Presence Blood to save us from death in sin?   Hebrews 9:11-28 has something to say about that, of this Church today in a living practice of Christ’ offering, as while we seek His Glory to come.  (Read it.)

Experientially, at each Mass, I get a sense of the blood on the doorpost of our hearts being applied onto us and into us, who want to be saved from death and our sins.  This, of course, is an update to the exodus story, as we live under the Exodus march now of Jesus.  As the author of Hebrews writes to the believers to experience in their present-time:  “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:14)

Oh my!   The anti-Catholic said “if ’twere true”– scoffing as he said it… but hallelujah, “TIS TRUE.   JESUS IS AMONG US IN HIS BODY AND BLOOD in the work of salvation, and He is building us up to serve Him for His kingdom!  The “I AM with you always” so promised Jesus at His Ascension (Mt. 28:16-20).  Jesus IS Sacrament and Paschal Mystery for us now, so that the great I AM has been and is now and will be ministering to us of His feast of salvation.

As for a convincing proof of Himself as Bread, back in Jesus’ public ministry in Israel, do your remember the big deal Jesus made of it about Himself.  In John 6, it says how even many disciples and the apostles did not get it, of what Jesus did after the Miracle of the Loaves.   Due to that, Our Lord said:  “You had your fill of the miracle loaves, but do you still not believe?”   The people had missed the sign (sacrament) unveiling of Jesus.  So, even with much of an amazing thing occur on the hill with the multitudes with all them getting fed from practically nothing at hand, they still didn’t believe.   Why not?  Because it was not to be any special effects or spectacle that would win hearts.  Jesus knew it was all about faith and its desire to catch on and believe.   In that John 6 dialogue text, Jesus asked His apostles, ‘as many have left, over this hard teaching, do you also want to leave?’  Peter spoke for the Twelve that they were staying; faith helped them see the Living God before them in Jesus–and in His signs.  ‘You offer Everlasting Life, Master!,’ says Peter, indicating that he and the band of apostles were remaining with The Lord.

So, it is true that some sincere disciples for Jesus today can get it wrong, at first, about Jesus as the Sign of God, the Sacrament for a living encounter in the Divine.   But we wish for them to “get it.” (Only by Grace did we, too.)

These denials of fundamentalists and charismatic Protestants and other non-Catholics about the truth of the Eucharistic Christ today are familiar.  Many do say something like the man did (If t’were true, tid’be most obvious); but they are exercising their prideful demands a bit too far.  Faith seeks understanding, and we hope they will arrive there to know Jesus as Sacrament.

There’s hope people will come to The Eucharist.  The Holy Spirit will be looking to draw them in to glorifying God by such an embrace of Jesus Real Presence.

In seeking such a demanding physical proof of God (sign, on their terms), maybe by faith they can really become surprised, because God IS offering a physical manifestation of His works in the 7 Sacraments.  It’s just not of the double-wow factor.   Jesus comes meek and humble among us.  That’s so vital a lesson to see in the Gospel story. Jesus says: “Come to Me… for I Am meek and gentle of heart… I will help your soul find its rest.”  That is the same Lord of the Gospels Who is Sacrament today.  We meet Him on those humble terms.  We kneel often in His Sign Presence to us, as in Mass or Reconciliation or in a Matrimonial union or Holy Orders consecration.   It’s a humble thing to experience God in Christ in Sacrament..

Part Two.   ‘TIS THE LAMB LEADING US!  IMAG0206

Our Lord And Savior Jesus presented Himself humbly before the Father.  See our Mediator kneeling in the Garden of Gethsename in our illustration on the page.

He kneels in a humble offering to God, doing so in the time directly which had followed the First Mass, the Last Supper.  Only in our own exercise of humility will we take note of God come to us in all humility.

Jesus Himself in His public ministry (as told in the gospels) was not touring around like a rock-star of today.  He did not have elaborate clothes, house musicians, magnetic appeal, and an oversized, look-at-Me personality.   As some Nazarenes commented of Him:  ‘You’re just a poor carpenter’s son, and a lone carpenter yourself now and widows son (with Joseph gone), and merely a relative of people we know, a man of no privilege (Mark 6).  How at all could you, Jesus, be God (?), the Messiah?’ they scoffed.

This denial of Jesus Christ as God in the flesh was a regular thing as Our Lord was in ministry, and that of some of the Jews rejecting Him when He came is clearly told in the New Testament.

Later, the rejection of Jesus as God in the flesh was the break of the first heretics of Christianity.   Interestingly, there is a tie-in to the same rejection of Jesus as Eucharist.  This has also been going on from early on in Christianity, though very much more in recent decades and centuries.   Many non-Catholic Christians insist on living apart from the Sacraments of the Church of the 2000-year-old Church begun by Jesus.  Why such resistance??

Refusal to acknowledge Jesus as Sacrifice and Sacrament in the Eucharist has been going around for centuries, even so in the time of Christ ministry itself (e.g. “How can He give us His flesh to eat?!” –John 6) ‘and many no longer followed Him (after His Bread of Life teaching).’

The connection of God coming as human and as flesh/sacrament are much related– The Word is Flesh; The Word is also Eucharist.  He is the same Word, expressed as flesh.   Think of the many times in bible stories when people would not acknowledge Jesus as God among them, because He was of the flesh.  They couldn’t imagine God as flesh, therefore, they would not believe.  The Lord in flesh was an automatic disqualifier for them.   Even the crucifixion of Jesus was about some Jewish leaders asking for the death sentence for a man claiming to be God among them as a man.   But, oh how wrong those Sanhedrin were!

Jesus said that He was giving His flesh for the life of the world, and that His Body offered was becoming Eucharist for the faithful:  God was extending His visit as flesh and His Presence to us via Sacrament.   The God Who became small as an embryo once was even becoming present as hosts and parts of bread transubstantiated.  Amazing this Lord of Heaven is!

It is important, then, to see how the objection of Jesus as God/man is tied together with the objection to Him as the Eucharistic Sacrifice today.  They are closely related.  As a person like this twere person goes so vehemently against Jesus as Bread of Life Sacrament, I suppose that they would have also missed Jesus as the Man of Galilee too.  Jesus just wasn’t spectacular or obvious enough for some people, I suppose. 

The recognition of the mystery of God among us is by faith, and that recognition is a Gift.  This is so true a point.   At some time in our lives we Christians all need to become like Thomas the apostle, who was missing from the assembly, and to come in and see what the others had said was true.   Thomas examines “the Body and Blood Jesus– even the nailmarks–and gets that it is all indeed true, so to exclaim “My Lord and My God.”  Believers outside of the Eucharist need to come in to those believers with the Eucharist and to recognize Jesus as the Eucharist, so to say “My Lord and My God” to the Blessed Sacrament.

Jesus said something very important to Thomas upon the doubting apostles’ coming back into the fold:  “Blessed are those who have not seen (nailmarks like you have here), yet who will still believe.”  

Because it is all by faith that we see.   No tingling or sensations, no fireworks, no overwhelming feelings– just Jesus recognition. 

The Jesus received in Mass from the faithful is related to same Man of Galilee, the man so often spurned, because of denials by so many that He was God in the flesh with them.  Read the Bible accounts. They are many detailing the above rejection.   When the Lord Jesus was in public ministry, numbers of people also demanded certain signs or amazing proofs from Him, in that same special effects mode, but Jesus did not serve them in that flashy way.  In fact, Mark’s Gospel shows Jesus doing many works among them in humble ways, almost as in secret.  Faith not flash was the way into intimacy with Christ.  The Gospels all communicate how Jesus was indeed already their Sign of Signs right in their midst.  He was Sacrament; He was sign– but not to the demand of people for a spectacular sign.  He came as one of us, not to wow but to gently meet us and heal us and save us. He once concluded, “This is a people making demands but no more sign shall be given them but for the sign of Jonah ( referring to His Rising from the dead).”. That would be His major sign, but it would only be manifest to people who were in faith with Him.

Jesus comes to us, maybe more humbly in surprise to us than we could ever expect.

Yet He is here.   Humankind, in our folly, make our demands on God, rather than roll out the red carpet and ask however might receive Him in. It is all due to our want to deny our sin and our need for help and transformation, and of our resistance to let it happen on GOD’ S terms, not our own.   It’s a problem of pride.   Believers who say they belong to Christ have such problems sometimes in pride, though given by word of promise to Christ the Lord.  Yet they fully don’t know Him yet.  They also are prone to errors.  Just read the epistles of the New Testament from James through Jude, and you hear the apostles trying to keep the Church one and true and moving to deeper conversion and convictions, rather they might lose their faith.  (John’s letters are particularly strong.)

Yet Jesus IS a challenge to us.   Anyone who says He is peachy and easy and just a buddy Savior has much more to know of Him.   When Jesus came, He knew that He would experience rejection or refusal from people to Who His True Identity.  John’s Gospel leads off with the real challenge before us:  “The Word became flesh… and to as many as received Him, to them He gave right to be becoming as children of God.”

Even while getting rejected as the Son of God meekly ‘sneaking’ (past our prideful eyes) into our world and history, Jesus continued to affirm His identity as The I AM.  He was God in human existence with us, and the God of eternity.  He said basic things (as recorded further in John’s Gospel) such as “he(she) who believes in Me (as such) has eternal life.”. “I AM the Bread of Life… anyone who eats of Me, this bread, has life eternal, and anyone who does not, does not have eternal life.”   Jesus says this.   The gospel records it.

‘Tis True.

Ah, the Irish like this word, ‘Tis!      And with the Real Presence, we Catholics can say of its truth:  ‘Tis!!

It also says clearly in John than many people left Jesus, because of not accepting who He was or what He said, as in looking for a different Messiah.  In His teaching on the Eucharist, particularly, they left Him. (See John 6.) These were those ’twere true, then followers.  They stopped following the Real Jesus due to stipulations, one might say.  Could they have been saying;  “Jesus, you are too much of the ordinary and sublime to actually be the Divine One you claim to be.’

Oh how wrong they were then.  And now.

Part 3.   Our Catholic testimony.   People undeserving but who have been blessed to see.

What the non-Catholics (who kid us about wafer worship) just don’t know!  Jesus is Eucharist for His people on the journey home to Him.   This is so dear to us who are Catholics.  It also startles us about Jesus.  Our God Who becomes small, whether as baby and man, or as Eucharist host– He does risk being missed or unnoticed or even disrespected or rejected.

By grace, we in the Catholic Church (and other Real Presence believers) have recognized Him, like those who did when on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24).  Praise be Jesus for His revelation to His people, and for His Gift to the Church.  The hidden part of the Emmaus story is of persons who had walked along as if without Jesus, and even heard His words, still had not caught on Who He was until the breaking of the bread.  Then, they knew Him.

We Catholics claim and believe God is with us, and even in ordinary-style signs and sacraments.  The Lord is right here among us, yet He still can be missed, as by those who will not see.  He is Sacrament to continue a physical reality with His Church, yet people just will not abide with Him in this Way.   I think of many ex- Catholics who have voted so with their departure from Mass-going. They had been right near Jesus, even to receive Him in as gift, but have departed away from this intimacy with Jesus to prefer some other place or experience.  Sad.  

Some of the younger generations are going off preferring a more dynamic, entertaining style of Jesus.  Even some of the older folks, too.  Yet the Word says “He came meekly.”  Notice it in Him as the babe in Bethlehem (Mt. 2).  Or the man of Galilee walking up to John the Baptizer (Mt. 11).   Or the man preaching on the hillsides (blessed are the meek–Mt. 5).   Or the one describing Himself:  “I AM meek and humble of heart.  Come to me, and rest. (Mt. 11:29).”   This One Person also proclaims I AM Food in John 6, to “eat and drink of Me,” as does He say in the Last Supper Gospels.

‘Twere true?   It really is true that the Humble Jesus, as in Mystery among us as Eucharist, is missed, or even dis-missed by people today.  Yet He is Real-ly there. Those who seek, find– says Jesus.  May they find Him as Eucharist among us.

How I love the EWTN tv show that has all the testimonials of people of other religions or denominations who have come to recognize Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread.   The show is called “Journey Home.”   Other live call-in radio shows on EWTN’s network feature many more such testimonies.   Catholic Answers Live is full of Eucharistic Jesus confessors.  ‘Tis True, they say.

Of my hurts as a priest is to know of former Catholics or former practicing Catholics who are not with us in Sacred Liturgy now.  I dearly pray for them to Come Home.

‘Twere is probably a poor relative of ’twas, as in “once before, He was my Eucharist, but not now.” As in someone saying: “I don’t want Him to be.  I want something more amazing or appealing.”   Would they demand it to not be so, of this Eucharist not to be Him?

As the destiny of the believer is to gather around the Throne in praise of the Lamb, in the Liturgy of Heaven, going to Mass is a getting ready and acquainted with the Lord as He is worshipped forever.   The Holy Mass is our connection even now to Heaven’s liturgy, as they go on simultaneously.   Scott Hahn’s book “The Lamb’s Supper” is a great read for someone to see the message of the Book of Revelation as of a communion of the Church triumphant in Heaven, united to believers of the Church Militant (fighting the good fight soulfully on earth’s pilgrimage) and the Church Suffering.   All are united into the Sacrifice of the Lamb, and we are made worthy only in the Lamb’s Offering.   Again, this is all about the meaning and mystery of Holy Mass.

As John’s Gospel proclaims, Jesus is God in the flesh… and then Jesus says “my flesh is real food, eat it in remembrance of Me… this is My Body…My Blood for you.”   In each Mass, we acknowledge this Truth.  ‘Tis True.   Blessed is the Lamb Who was slain, who reigns now.  This is the celebration of Heaven, of and in and by The Lamb Jesus.

And on earth we pray in every Mass:  “Lamb of God… have mercy on us… grant us peace.”

Mary, our model believer, embraces the Word made flesh among us. At the start to finish.IMAG0820_1IMAG0244

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Twere.  ‘Tis.   Two shall be one, Bride to BrideGroom.

Twain is another old English language word with a tw start.  It’s used in phrases like “never the twain shall meet” but also in wedded lines like “twain thee, one love now.”

Which shall it be of the Eucharistic Lord Jesus: Never the twain shall meet (me and Jesus as Bread of Life)–or– twain us, one Communion and bond, Lord?

IMAG0895_1

I think I will sign off on that.  (I’d tweet off, but this is a blog!  If it ’twere a tweet, then this message would have been over in the first sentence! )

Photo:  San Juan Cathedral in the week of Epiphany.  I con-celebrated some Masses here.   In Spanish.

1st Sunday of Lent thoughts on Gospel; 2nd Sunday off from preaching– more guests in the pulpit.

The 2ND Sunday of Lent has guest clergy preaching on the Transfiguration of Jesus. I have thought that this day of Jesus’ life is befitting as a Holy Day.  It’s just a huge event!  We’ll, at least it gets a Lenten Sunday for some emphasis.

The First Sunday of Lent. Thoughts.

We look at the temptation of the human race in the opening reading of Sunday, and it leads us to ponder the Gospel message of Jesus under heavy temptation (but of how He prevailed over it).   Jesus is presented much as the “new Adam” in the Gospel, as, after He is anointed in the Spirit for His Messianic time of ministry, and told He is the favored One of the Father (of the human race), then He is tested.  Jesus is tempted in some huge ways out there in the desert (following His over-a-month fast); however, Jesus does not succumb to these temptations; rather, He wins out over them.  They were major temptations to Jesus to become all self-focused (self-obsessed) in His person, but Jesus would not do it.   His attention was outward and upward; serving us in HIs life and glorifying the Father in it all.   The devil must have been stupefied that this blessed man of Nazareth had turned down his offers– who turns down such things?!  (he would ask)  The devil would flee from Jesus here in this moment of his being rejected; but he would come back another time for more distraction, accusation, and attack.

I will comment briefly on one of the devil’s attack on Jesus.   He tempted Jesus to misuse His power in self-direction to turn desert stones instead warm, fresh bread.    The devil’s tactics was to play on Jesus’ hunger and practical desire for the satisfaction of food,  After all, what’s wrong with that?—was the cunning temptation.

“Man does not live on bread alone” was Jesus’ reply.   He completed the sentence by saying that “we live to live upon God and in giving our Maker pleasure.”

Jesus would live in that manner of life and faith for all the rest of His earthly ministry.    He would be utterly faithful to the call.   He longed for the pure bread of Heaven and to be with the Father and Spirit concretely.

I wonder if Jesus remembered the temptation to turn rocks into stones when He reached the end of his ministry 2 1/2 to 3 years later that from the start of the Church.      For Jesus had a special surprise coming soon.   He was to NOT turn stones to bread to satiate his hunger, but He was to later turn bread into His Body.

Jesus would come to be THE sacrifice for sin for all humanity, and hooray–  and He WOULD be  give us a communication of His love at Calvary of One would worn turn Himself to bread.   (Stones was an easier miracle or trick; a person out of turn Himself into becoming bread, not that was a FEAT.)

So I was just caught up in the drama between the devil asking Jesus to make bread (a selfish act in it s situation) towards the Savior making Himself out to be bread (and wine) later in ministry.

The devil wanted to tempt  Jesus to be inward and self- centered, but The Master had other plans to be humble and other- centered.  He would become bread Dorothee’s’ hunger.  That was an amazing response.    No to rocks being bread, but of a plan  on  becoming the “true bread” from Heaven offered out in Himself. Wow.

It was a short, dynamic advice.  Jesus would be giving out Himself as the New Manna.    HE would be bread.

So, we reflect on today’s Gospel of Luke story and we hear a Gospel later in Lent of Jesus becoming food for eternal life Himself.

Quite an interesting turn ahead for Our Lord.