Easter Homily II: Easter and Mary Magdalene

IMAG1096_1Mary Magdalene came to The Tomb and found the soldiers on guard as dead men, with the Angel of The Lord sitting atop the grave boulder, which He had moved, saying The Crucified Lord is not here. As He is Risen, behold, see an empty tomb.

HOMILY        (Lengthened Blog version)

On this Easter Morn, we hear the Matthew 28 account of Mary Magdalene and Mary of Cleopas at the tomb of Our Lord, and then of the encounter of the Risen Jesus.  Last night at the Easter Vigil I preached on one of these women and of her inspiration to us.  It was of “the other Mary,” Mary of Cleophas.   Today I preach on Mary Magdalene and of her inspiration to us.   Both women were present for the whole Paschal Mystery:  They were there for the suffering Lord Jesus , and below Him as He died on the Cross, as well as coming to Jesus’ tomb to pray, therefore, putting themselves in place as the early witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection.

At the Cross, Mary Magdalene was a silent witness.  No words are recorded of her, only long sobs– as we hear Jesus address her later, “woman, why are you weeping?”   Jesus saw her weeping below His Cross of Sacrifice.   It moved Him to see His friend there for Him to the end.   So, He would meet her here on the First Easter’s dawn, as her great consolation and new hope.

Mary Magdalene knew Jesus as God’s Love revealed to the world.  She had been amazed with HIm, even since her deliverance from her darkness.   As she saw Jesus on the Cross, she might have commented to the soldiers:   “He won’t really need the nails, for His Love could hold Him up there.   He dies in the fullest Gift of Love ever.”

Mary Magdalen was one of the “three Mary’s” at the Cross.   The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary of Cleophas, and her made for the faithful trio.   Mary Magdalene was different from the other two, in that she was not related to the Savior by family ties.   The Blessed Mother was Jesus’ true mother, and Mary of Cleophas was Mary’s sister-in-law.   Our Mary was a Galilean woman from Magdala, a city more known to be influenced by Gentile than Jewish life.   Yet Mary of Magdala would meet Jesus and become one of His closest disciples.   As for new family ties, Jesus had said one time that “those who hear the Word of God and keep to it are mother, brother, sister–or family– to me now.”  Mary Magdalene certainly fit that description of Jesus’ new extended family by faith.  We have learned it, too, today, that if we accept Jesus the Word and keep with Him– in Scripture, in love and service, in Sacrament, as members of His body, the Church– then we are called Jesus’ brothers and sisters.   My opening address to you was as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus– just to acknowledge that family tie we have!

In Luke 8, we hear how Mary met Jesus while she was under the possession of darkness.   Jesus heals her out of seven demons.  What those sins or evil spirits were–we don’t exactly know.  Yet she had a full recovery.   7 is a number that denotes fullness.  You know it as such, such as of the 7-fold Gift of the Spirit or 7 days of creation or 7 Sacraments.   Mary of Magdala will be a changed, whole woman now.  Because Jesus will later call her “woman” as in Matthew 28, it tells us that she is a woman of the new creation in Christ.   He came to bring us back into Grace, like humankind had in the Garden of Eden.  In fact, as John’s Gospel describes Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene in that first public, official Resurrection account— it is in a Garden, on purpose.  Jesus is first the mistaken Gardener, in John 20, until Mary cries “Rabboni” in recognition of her Lord standing there.  She knew Jesus when He called her name.   It is the same for us awaiting after death; Jesus will call us by Name and welcome us into Paradise with Him.

On Mary Magdalene’s feast day, July 22, the Church gives the Song of Songs as the first reading, denoting our Mary as the one seeking the Lord as like the dove figure in that Biblical book about God and humankind drawing nearer to our full reunion.  This figure in the Song of Songs so desires to be one with her Lover.thhhh

I’d like to suggest here how Mary Magdalene is our saintly model of desire to be close with the Lord God of love.   We need to want Him so dearly, too.   What made this disciple so want to be near Jesus, that even after death she arises as dawn’s early light to go to Jesus’ tomb, even bringing spices, if perhaps the guards would let her in to pay her respects?   Let us pray for desire for Jesus!   There is a title of The Lord’s Anointed that befits this suggestion:  He is the “Desire of Nations.”   (From Haggai chapter 2.)

Mary Magdalene has the soul need for God.   Jesus is God–so she needs to be near Him.

Jesus accepts her close to Himself.  As we have learned from His episode in Bethany, in letting two women sit at His feet and be taught as disciples– Mary of Magdala would have had that opportunity from her Luke 8 meeting with Him and on.

Sometimes Mary Magdalene is given a mistaken identity or even a disparaging one– as Jesus’ intimate lover on earth, as in girlfriend or wife.  Shame on those who say such things, as they reveal in that ignorance or pride that they don’t know what kind of intimacy Jesus offers His followers.   John the apostle and Lazarus of Bethany were so close to Jesus, they get identified, too, as “the one Jesus loved.”  Mary of Magdala was a pure and close relationship to Jesus, showing what the kingdom of God offers anew.

By the way, Mary of Magdala meets Jesus in Luke 8, so the harlot woman who meets Jesus in Luke 7 is a different person.    Yet the same thing applies– Jesus would have women followers, and some were of those whom He had healed and converted– and they now were disciples, like the others, and with the apostles.

Mary Magdalene is a chosen example for Christians to follow, probably thanks to how John the Apostle appreciated her.   Under the Cross, John was there with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he did take notice how Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” was there, too.   When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary find that Jesus is Risen, it is to John, and Peter, that the news is delivered.    With Mary Magdalene, she is the symbol of humanity renewed by the grace of God, and bathed into the Paschal Mystery, for a new start to the world for the people of God.  We live in the world now with Jesus.  Jesus is the Gardener of our garden of soul and body, working us to redemption to Glory.

The Tree of Calvary becomes the Tree of Life’s new start, and the Garden of our seeking in faith and hope is where we find the Risen Lord, by faith, more than sight.  Yet He will present Himself as Sacrament to our senses.  Still, we are to know Him first by the heart and soul.  Mary calls Jesus by her favorite name for Him:  Rabboni.   She teaches us that we need to know our Savior so well, that perhaps we even have a special Name for Him.  Why?  Because we are in a personal relationship with Jesus.

It is Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Cleophas (whom I preached about on the Easter Vigil and copied to the parish pastor’s blog), along with Salome who seeking Jesus on that first Easter morn.   In imitation, you and I have come this Easter morn seeking Jesus.   Mary Magdalene and her firsts see Jesus and go prostate to kneel and worship Jesus.  It is what we come here to do on Easter 2017:  to bow and worship, and to be glad we have a Risen Lord.

What happens to Mary Magdalene later?  We know she is a witness for the Church in the Holy Land for 14 years after Jesus’ Resurrection.   The non-accepting Jews of Israel resist the movement of Jesus and this Way of the Lord (Christianity), and they put Mary Magdalene adrift on a large boat without oars, to ban her from Israel, and on that same vessel is said to be Martha of Bethany, Maximillian, Sinonius (the healed blind man of Jesus’ miracle), the Magdalene’s servant Sera, and the remains of Anne, Jesus’ grandmother.  They end up floating to Gaul, which is now known as France.   Mary Magdalene continues as an evangelist there, and a Basilica attests to that, in southern France, and Mary dies at 72 as a mystic in a cave dwelling, matching what the Song of Songs says as a “dove cooing her voice in the clefts, longing for her Love of Loves.”  The testimony is given, that like Mary Magdalen met the Angel at the tomb, so would she sees angels through her lifetime, even being ministered by them in her final days.”

This homily about Mary Magdalene is meant to reflect back on the One she so honored with her life–the Meaning of Easter.   JESUS is the Risen One.   HE is our Love.   HE is our New Life and Hope.   HE is the One whom we seek for a fullest knowing of Him, and WHO so promises us that such will be given to us, even in an Everlasting Way.

Mary’s seeking so diligently for The Lord, and not giving up, nor letting up after a Risen Jesus visit, tells us the same, as the Scriptures reminds us:  “It is whoever perseveres to the end who will be saved (Matt. 24:13).”   So seek the Lord fully!  The Lord has much to show us, even forever and ever, to our highest happiness!

Mary of Magdala also tells us to gather with others in this faith.  Jesus says to her, as in today’s Gospel, ‘tell the Good News that I Am Alive, then tell the apostles and others to go gather as one back to Galilee, where everything begins again with you.”  Mary tells Peter, and after they find Thomas, all go back to begin anew with Jesus: together.   Peter and the Church have been one since that time, when at Pentecost, the Spirit came to them to be the one, inspired, holy, out-to-the-world Church.   Amen.

we begin anew in Galilee– go tell Peter.

IMAG1188

 

 

 

‘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.

The Doxology Prayer in the Eucharistic Prayers

Do you know what the Doxology is in the Eucharistic Prayer (EP)?

It is the big prayer of the presider to be followed by the Great Amen.  It is the special prayer during the action of the elevation the Body and Blood of Christ in finish of the Eucharistic Prayer (I,II,III,IV, others), as the presider (and perhaps deacon) lift(s) up the paten and chalice vessels with the Lord as Sacrament in them.

The priest prays/sings “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, O God, Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.”

The people answer in song or prayer (with some gusto):  Amen!

That’s the Doxology.

What does the prayer and it’s Amen mean to us? That Only “through Christ, with Him and in Him” can we arrive to the Father.

The word “doxology” comes from the Greek “doxa” which means “glory”. Doxology, therefore, means glorification.

Each celebration of the Mass has this function of praise, of blessing, and of glorification. However, the Eucharistic Prayer is the heart of this liturgy. The Eucharistic Prayer begins with the preface, lifting our hearts up to the Father. Then comes the Sanctus, proclaiming God’s holiness and glory that fills the universe.  God’s people pray or sing Holy, Holy and Blessed is He Who Comes and Hosanna!   The EP goes on, but takes a break for the Mystery of Faith, the people’s prayer in the middle.  Then, at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, the presider (priest) recites this concluding doxology, praising the Trinity. In this prayer, the priest elevates the Sacred Victim up high, above all temporal realities, and says:

“Through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.”

It is quite a Doxology, and it is meant for quite an Amen!    IMAG0751_2_1

We are now presented to God with the Sacrament of Christ among us.  We are standing with Jesus.  The Holy Spirit has come down.   The Father is drawn to Christ appearing as our Salvation in present form as Sacrament (just as Jesus said He would provide us), and we look up to the Father in this Doxology to say:  Here we are.  We are yours.  Let this Sacrament come to us and claim us anew.   May the Real Presence of Jesus really renew us!   May we please You, O Heavenly Father!    Amen!  Amen!

Then we speak to the Father in the Lord’s Prayer— as with Jesus, as in a Spirit led miraculous meeting/encounter.

The Church believes in the mediation of Christ alone and His supreme Priesthood. Only “through Him, with Him and in Him” can we reach the Father. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6) We know that our deeds are pleasing to God through Christ. Our lives united to His life, to His death and to His resurrection, are glory and honor to the Trinity.

The Church exists to glorify God: this is precisely why the priestly Christian people have congregated together– to elevate toward God, in the Eucharist, the maximum praise possible and to gain, on behalf of all humanity, countless material and spiritual goods. This is why the Eucharist is where the Church completely manifests and expresses herself.

Now is a good time to point out the fact that the active participation of the faithful does not consist in reciting together with the priest this doxological prayer. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, “The concluding doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer is spoken (sung) solely by the principal priest celebrant and, if this is desired, together with the other concelebrants, but not by the faithful.” (GIRM, 236). The presider of Mass, in his unique Holy Orders , prays Person Christi in this Eucharistic Offering.  The people participate in the EP with the Sanctus prayer ( Holy,Holy), their sole recital/song of the Mystery of Faith, and then their Great Amen.  The EP is now prayed through to an Amen, as we are presented to God in Christ via the Mass/ Body and Blood of Jesus.

The Christian people make the Eucharistic Prayer their own and complete the great Trinitarian Doxology by saying “Amen.”   And they are to say or sing it heartily!    I can recall being taught this when the People’s Mass was begun in the early 1970′s and the religious sisters of St. Joseph of St. Pius X School (here in Bowie) told us to almost shout this response to the priest at the Doxology.   So we did!

There was a movie back then called “Lillies of the Field” with Sidney Pointer helping a community build a church.  He taught the religious sisters of the parish how to exuberantly sing a musical gospel style of “Amen.”   I recall our good sisters in St. Pius X finding great affirmation in that (and we ending up singing that Amen from the movie for awhile as the Doxology response song ).  Yet we got the message:  It’s the Great Amen of Holy Mass!

The people’s response to the Doxology of the EP IS one of the two very solemn “Amen’s” of the Mass.   (The other is in reception of Holy Communion.)  In the third century, the principal privileges of the Christian people were listed as: hearing the Eucharistic Prayer, pronouncing the Amen and receiving the Divine Bread. With this ‘Amen’, the faithful ratify the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. St. Augustine says, “To say ‘Amen’ means to endorse.” Even up through the Carolingian dynasty, the last words of the Canon were not spoken in silence so that the people could respond ‘Amen’ out loud.

The word ‘Amen’ is possibly the principal acclamation of the Christian liturgy. The term ‘Amen’ proceeds from the Old Covenant: “The Levites shall proclaim aloud to all the men of Israel… And all the people shall answer, ‘Amen!’” (Dt 27:15-26; 1 Cron 16:36; Neh 8:6). According to different contexts, ‘Amen’ means: “This is it, this is the truth, so be it”.

The ancient ‘Amen’ continues to resound in the new covenant. It is the characteristic acclamation of the celestial liturgy. (Rev 3:14; 5:14, 7:11-12; 19:4) In Christian tradition, it conserves all of its ancient expressive vigor. (1 Cor 14:16; 2 Cor 1:20)

As in the whole liturgy, saying ‘Amen’ has a vital meaning. It shouldn’t be a mere response with the lips, but rather, it has the value of uniting us to the mystery that we celebrate. Saying ‘Amen’ means uniting ourselves with Christ, desiring to make our whole life a doxology, that is, a glorification of the Trinity, united to the Paschal mystery of the Redeemer.

An essential part of the Christian vocation is to be “the praise of His glory”. Once again we see how the liturgy should be lived. A summary of the glory of creation in Christ is found in the doxology. Through His obedience and love even unto the Cross, Christ has carried out the perfect glorification of the Father: “Father, glorify your Name” (Jn 17:5), and has achieved the perfect glorification of His humanity, united to the Incarnate Word: “Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.” (Jn 17:5) We must unite ourselves, with our lives, to this glorification of the Trinity. Uniting ourselves to Christ, offering our whole life with Him, joys and pains, success and failure, work and everything that we do, we will become praise of the glory of the Trinity “through Him, with Him and in Him.”

Consider these points the next time you are praying the Holy Mass.

 

Catholic Music Convention

I am away until Friday the 15th at a Catholic convention. As a photo below shows, the gathering was for hundreds of persons who have an interest and/or participation in Catholic music (used in liturgies). We were gathered together yesterday in singing “worthy is The Lamb to receive power and wealth, and wisdom and might, honor, glory, blessing!” We had a group of musicians leading thw throng, mostly made up of members of an organization called NPM–the National Pastoral Musicians. In this moment captured, our musical instruments were mainly of 2000 voices, joined by a few persons in accompaniment with instruments of strings and keys and horns.

This convention gathers people to bring together some music and praise to God, and to fellowship in the experience, and to go to various workshops and conferences to learn how to enhance Catholic liturgies. People also come to grow in faith and just be inspired by all the music. It’s real enjoyable.

This blog would be served better today if I had audio samples from this week’s convention … with all the musical styles represented and the great teachings. It has been a great feast here for me for the heart and ears.
IMAG0541IMAG0536_1
I was in a grand closing Mass when everything here seemed to hit its peak. Also, our final plenum was by Fr. Paul Turner as he taught on how our ultimate goal is to praise God in unity, even in our blend of diversity.

In a workshop today, also, a songwriter/liturgist shared some blessings in his life. One such blessing was in how he experiences the prayed Psalms at Mass as truly an act where he prays it WITH CHRIST to the FATHER. He says that The Spirit enables this dynamic prayer orientation. He said this revelation and enhanced prayer at Mass was in realization of how Jesus prayed those same Psalms in His life on earth and as one of us, and how the speaker started entering into the present reality that Jesus still is present to lead and prays the Psalms with His Body on earth. His Word remains active and living! Jesus truly prays the Psalm with us as the grand Mediator of earth to Heaven.

This participation was our subject for discussion and for singing some Psalms together afterwards, using this mindset.

IMAG0545.
I come back to pray all the weekend Masses, the confessions, a baptism, and join along with a prayer/Bible study group. ‘See you then!

Homily: Father’s Day in the Word and in the news

FOR DADS
HOMILY FOR JUNE 19
1220132140a
The Scriptures for a Father’s Day weekend are not purposely picked out for the occasion, but just for a Summer’s Sunday Bible reading, falling randomly on this June day for a “Year C” selection.
But what did they say?

The Word opened with: “Thus says the LORD: I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition; and they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son.”
,
It says from the Hebrew Testament that a Father in Heaven would promise to send an only Son, as a gift of grace. If people would look upon Him, upon His suffering love, their proper mourning for their sins would deliver them free. On this Father’s Day, we hear of the Almighty Father promising to do something very special for His wayward children on earth. It will come in a Blessed Redeemer.

So the opening Word today is a prophetic message on the Cross of Jesus. We know how it is fulfilled for our own hearing; Favor comes from what Jesus did at Calvary. He is the Sacrifice given for our sins, to offer reconciliation from God to humankind. Yet the Gift does involve a mourning to receive the divine favor. The prophecy says “they shall mourn for Him.” A mourning for who and for what? It is a mourning, involving tears and a gripping reality that dawns on us over Father God’s cost for saving us via His Son. The cost of God is Jesus’ offering! The Person of Jesus dies on the Cross for sinners. We mourn that gripping Event which occurred to save our souls. And when we do–the beatitude goes into effect: Blessed are those who mourn; for they shall be comforted.

Mourning starts with Cross sorrow; then Comfort comes from the One of Love on that Cross who steps into our mess and blesses it and becomes our Mercy and Peace.

Relate this mystery to the news of those recent tragedies in Florida involving lost children and adult children to their fathers and mothers. In one horrible occurrence, there was great grieving down in Disney World over a parent’s child who perished to a sudden wildlife attack. We have learned that the father of that deceased Disney-vacationing child is a Catholic, who just let his little boy get out of his sight for a few seconds, not knowing the danger lurking. His son was snatched by a gator at the lake shoreline and the dad couldn’t rescue his boy. The Dad’s names is Matt Graves, and the wife and mother is Melissa Graves. They hail from Elkhorn, Nebraska and a Catholic parish up there near Omaha. They both are having a fairly terrible Father’s Day 2016. They are in deep mourning over what happened to their boy, Lane, on this vacation.

The dad Matt and his priest pastor did speak to Catholic press on Friday morn. They said that the whole home parish is rallied together in love and deep hurt together for Lane and his loss to the family and church. Imagine how the readings impact them today in their parish for Father’s Day. You heard them here. The Word refers to the Cross and to the Death of The Christ. “They shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son,” says that haunting line of Scripture. In the Omaha parish, they mourn for their son, the little boy.

And, in their Sunday Mass, as we do here in Bowie of Maryland, we mourn that our sins have caused separation from God to happen and for death as its consequence, and that a Savior was necessary to bear our wrongs on a Cross that would free us into God’s Mercy. We pray for the Blood of Jesus to bear us Peace. We pray for the goodness of Jesus to get into us deeply and save us. We pray for this broken world, where lots of lives were lost in Orlando these past days, and elsewhere– and that we focus on Jesus as the only Way to deal with our lost situations.

What does the Psalm say on this Father’s Day? Psalm 63, in song, gives us Jesus’ prayer on the Cross. Jesus says He thirsts on The Cross, and we recall Jesus’ words at Calvary, even saying aloud: “I Thirst.” What did He mean? It tells us that Psalm 63 was in Christ’ heart: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God. O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.”

Jesus means that He thirsts for His communion to the Father, for Their oneness, and He prays in a new way in history as something is opened up, that as He is given Communion back to Heaven with the Father, that He, the Anointed One, the Only Son, can also bring us with Him in His Body. Jesus thirsts for souls on that Cross, to be presented to the Father in salvation. What souls? Any of them, anyone, who comes in a repentant (mournful and sorry) life to the Father. What that mournfulness does is that it then becomes the way a person is united into the Sacrifice of Jesus. It is the mystery of Holy Mass. We mourn Christ’ Sacrifice, yet present it to the Father, with our “Lord, have mercy” and “Lamb of God, have mercy” prayers in Mass, and Jesus presents Himself to us, so we can unite Sacramentally to His body, and let us receive Communion with God. It is a reason we call it Holy Communion. Uniting ourselves to Christ’ Sacrifice frees us to not have to stand alone on our own merit, but be presented by Christ to the Father. Holy Eucharist, of course, relates us into the same Mystery started in us and our souls at our baptism (our baptism into Christ’ death).

The Graves family of Nebraska have been presenting themselves to God over and over in this manner and Mystery of Faith. The Dad and Mom and daughter and little son were Mass-goers. Jesus will remind and assure them again, and to their whole parish up there in Nebraska, that He is a reliable Savior to trust in. Jesus will help them remember again that it was for their tears and loss (for a life such as Lane’s) that Jesus came to save us. We hope the Graves family, with all their hurt and loss, will find blessed assurance of their boy Lane being in Jesus’ hands, the hands of a caring Savior, who took death upon Himself, so to keep death from taking Lane (or any of us) away when it comes upon us in this broken world. Death will be a door for Lane–into Heaven–and not oblivion. Lane was already baptized into Jesus’ death. Lane has salvation.

We can be co-realizers of that reality, and have Communion in it today.

Jesus thirsted for Lane, as well as for each and every one of our souls, that seeing our need and our looming death, He offered us a way to be united in Him and presented to the Father by Him. This is what the Mass is all about. Jesus saves. Jesus gives us to His Father.

When the Heavenly Father receives His children home, through the Blessed Son, and the Spirit’s power—He always has a happy Father’s Day.
thNX5B1OT1
You earthly fathers who are here today, and grandfathers, and other kinds of fathers– you know what the best thing you can offer you children, besides your first love, is in teaching your children to love and honor God and to be repentant of sin and to live humbled before the Almighty. And to respect the Holy Mass as how we present ourselves to God every week of our lives, in a Holy Day.

If children see their own dads humbled and before God in need, then they can follow and be saved in that example.

God bless you men who are doing this, or turning the corner on doing this. Pray for the grace to life on in this way of life! It comes from the Christ in you.

I’d like us to look at the two New Testament readings from Mass today, as well, for its messages on a Father’s Day in America.

We go to the epistle for a connection to “fatherhood.” In Galatians it says: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s children, heirs according to the promise.” You are Father Abraham’s children, if you belong to Christ, so says the text.
When we go back into Salvation History, the road leads us back 4000 years to Father Abraham. As told in the Book of Genesus, Abraham was the man who pleased God, and who inspired a covenant with God the Father to bring forth an Eternal Son to save us. Abraham was a strong man, and strong father, who was strong in his faith practice, and God honored it so. God was moved by Abraham’s own willingness to move where He directed him, and then later, in Jerusalem and as a dad with a miracle birth son–God was moved that Abraham was willing to give Isaac over to him. Abraham was a man who really loved his son deeply, and yet, Abraham loved God even more and was willing to share or offer his son. This act on the mount led God to make a covenant with Abraham, and to the whole human race, which would lead the Almighty to later give us The Christ, so that we could live in the blessing of Father Abraham, and by faith be heirs to promises from God, recipients of eternal, heavenly favor.

And this leads us to today’s Gospel from Matthew 16. Peter realizes that the Covenant of Israel for the ages, to be realized in an Anointed One, a Christ, was right there on earth standing before Him. Here He is! The Savior, The Redeemer, The Lord Jesus Christ. Peter is asked by Jesus, “…and Who do you say that I Am? Have you come to know Who I Am?” Peter says: “You are the Christ of God.”

To our strong men, who are strong in spirit, and here today to be in the Presence of The Lord, say it in your prayers of Whom You know and honor: I believe I am in the Presence of The Christ of God! Say “I believe… and I trust in You, Jesus, and I follow You.” Dear men, who do this act of faith, we thank you for it. The world needs men and fathers like you!

Final line: Last weekend I was with two fathers and their new babies at baptism. One of them is a second-time dad, and I had baptized his first child, a girl, and now her baby bro was there and baptized in the same font. It was a few years ago when I witnessed this dad’s wedding to his lovely bride’s wedding here, now the mother of two children with him. They live down near Annapolis, now, but grand-mom still lives and attends here in our parish. Occasionally the couple does worship here, too. So the party was over there, in a house near Allen’s Pond, where actually the mother of the little one grew up. It was a real happy day, perhaps even an early Father’s Day last Saturday to Eric! It was good to be the spiritual father in the middle of that family and couple’s joy.
IMAG0496

End of Homily
=====================================================

Bonus– see a short message on celebrating Dads and their vocation… right below

PART TWO here of this message is just a celebration of the vocation or role in life as being a dad today.
th2N95AMRX
The USA National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) produces lots of resources dedicated to furthering the work of fatherhood professionals, with their research and information available to all in fatherhood to ponder in their higher role in life. They asked men: What has been your greatest “fatherhood” moment? Answers were:
• Welcoming my baby girl to this world when she was born. Holding her in my arms and humming songs to her in the middle of the night. Every moment is precious! (From A. Harrer)
• My son is the love of my life, he is my everything. 11-years-old and he’s out there with me working on our car, helping me wash her, and get her showroom ready…great kid in the classroom, and a great kid out in public being well mannered as well! (From L. Perez)
• Just watching my kids be themselves and being silly with them. And knowing they love me as much as I love them. (From L. Cusic)
• Being a single dad, raising my daughter myself since she was 18 months old, and she is a great kid, works [hard] in school, and is in the gifted program. She makes me so proud everyday…If someone’s in trouble, she wants to help. (From A. Redden)
• ‘Favorite Moment? Taking off a training wheel to teach my young one to ride a two wheel bike. Phone rang, ‘had to answer, and when I got back with my son, my 5-year-old had taken the other wheel off by himself (having seen me remove the first one) and was riding like it was nobody’s business. (From J. Bowman)

And, then, the NRFC survey asked the men: What advice they would you give to young dad raising their newborns today? Answers were:
• Be gentle, be patient, be loving. Always be there. (From T. Berntson)
• Read to your child 30 minutes a day. By the time he reaches Kindergarten he will have learned hundreds of words or more. (From T. Spencer), then he added practically, • With $100, open a 529 College investment plan. Do it at any Federal Credit Union.
• Tell your kids that you love them every moment and play with them. Don’t get discouraged – be strong. (From B. Bearbow)
• Turn the T.V. off and spend time with your baby, as much as you can, they grow fast. Set a good example to be a man and gentleman. (From A. Avila)

There is some good advice, and there’s much more good advice waiting out there for Dads by other good men who have been Dads and who have cherished it.

Today’s Birthday celebrant…

thUHK4C6VHHappy Birthday

on this June 2nd to

our regional school’s patron,

St. Pius X,

who was born in Italy on June 2, 1835.

IMG_20150421_103302_119

The side picture is of our shared regional Catholic school (and where I once attended as a boy). St. Pius the Tenth school has been around almost 54 years now, and all the four RC parishes in Bowie support it financially and send our own parish family students to study there. We also have members who are on the faculty there, and each parish sends priestly support, such as regular teaching in the classrooms. In this past school year, six priests regularly helped in the school. The 8th grade graduation and Mass is next Wednesday night at St. Pius X church. This will be the first time in my priesthood that I have remained in a parish long enough (St. Edward the Confessor) to see a class go through the school from 1st to 8th. [*They also have K and Pre-K classes]

The statue of the patron is in the main lobby of the school, with another one outside of the church.
The parish and school were given this pious Pius name to honor the saint whose feast is August 21st on the Church calendar. He was canonized in 1954, so he was a rather new saint when the school was founded. He had been the 259th pope, and evidently the tenth pope named Pius, and he did a marvelous job as pontiff, and in much evidence of sanctity of life. Pius X inaugurated a worldwide liturgical renewal and the restoration of frequent Communion from childhood (2nd graders could receive). His papal motto was “to renew all things in Christ.”

His birth name was Giuseppe Melchoirre Sarto.

The prayer to St. Pius X:

Glorious Pope of the Eucharist, Saint Pius X, you sought “to restore all things in Christ.” Obtain for me a true love of Jesus so that I may live only for Him. Help me to acquire a lively fervor and a sincere will to strive for sanctity of life, and that I may avail myself of the riches of the Holy Eucharist in sacrifice and sacrament. By your love for Mary, mother and queen of all, inflame my heart with tender devotion to her.

Blessed model of the priesthood, obtain for us holy, dedicated priests, and increase vocations to the religious life. Dispel confusion and hatred and anxiety, and incline our hearts to peace and concord. so that all nations will place themselves under the sweet reign of Christ. Amen.

Saint Pius X, pray for me.

[Corpus Christi Extra Thought] The Eucharist is really One Celebration

(A Blog Extra to May 29th Homily). On this Feast to the Blessed Sacrament, we ask ourselves: Isn’t each Mass joining us all into something much higher and wonderful than we’ve ever realized?!

Let’s s-t-r-e-t-c-h out our Eucharistic faith.

We can believe it! The Eucharist is so much more than we really “get” in our minds, and it is so in so many ways!

Consider just one thing here about The Eucharist Sacrament’s eternal aspect: In every Holy Communion you now and ever have or ever will participate in, God delights in it and joins it into becoming One Eucharist of Life. It becomes one graced experience. One Eucharist.

Yes.
But the point is pretty cosmic, so said Jesuit theologian Fr. Chardin, and it’s all a little unclear.

Part One
Perhaps it can help for us to do a little review of our Mass participation which takes place throughout our lives. Could I offer such a perspective to you of how they all connect together? If you have been a cradle Catholic, like me, then you could think of perhaps of the times you’ve been to various Masses. Such as, when you went to…
–a Mass as a child, when you were barely tall enough to see over the pew. (I can recall some of those times.) Fine.
Now add that to…
–A Mass sometime when you were 12 and in a stretch of receiving Holy Communion regularly on Sundays. Fine. Now, add that to
–A Mass when you graduated from your Catholic school, or to a Holy Day Mass you went to as a religious ed. student with many other classmates, and its experience. Fine. Now, (if you are older), add that on to…
–A retreat Mass, when you were in an intimate setting for spiritual reflection, with your fellow retreatants, and perhaps a special moment in it (e.g. at the presentation of gifts of such a Mass, we Mass-goers gave away a hard rock into the offertory basket and had them brought to the altar–based on the Scripture of Ezekiel of asking God to turn stony hearts to soft, warm hearts). Fine. (I hope you’ve had a retreat or special Mass in your life.) Now, add that on to…–A Mass on some Christmas, your first one away from family when as a single-adult, or a collegian, or as a traveler… when you found a new meaning to Mass while also meanwhile feeling less familiar but still “home” in that solitary experience…. add that to
–A wedding Mass you attended, either of your own one or of a friend or family member, and how your prayed it in celebrating love and Christ’ covenant bond in the Matrimony Sacrament. Fine. Now add that on to…
–Or a Mass of Christian Burial, maybe of a person dear, and maybe you can remember when you received Holy Communion with tears flowing down your cheek… and add that to…
–A Sunday Mass in the Summer, with the smaller crowds around, and less music–but one you came to with faith and used the longer quiet pauses for some of your best personal thank you prayers of the year… and if you are a senior, add on another Mass memory, such as…
–A Mass with a grandchild coming with you to pray at church… or a Mass when, for the fourth time in your parish membership, another new pastor is installed, in this parish you helped keep going on.

All of the above of Masses during a lifetime. The list will be different for persons, but the Mass has been there for our journey Home.
–and one day for us, there is that Mass of Christian Burial, when we will be the one for whom the church is praying for, because it will be our remains in the casket, as our soul is called forth to fly to God, while our body prepared to be laid down.

Again, it will be a Mass, with people pleading to God in this special liturgy, and we’ll have the behalf of the prayers of Jesus Christ, THE Priest and Head of the Liturgy. He will be THE HEAD to the Body, and apply to us the saving merits of His Death and Resurrection Mystery to our lives. (On last Friday’s Mass, we did just celebrate it again for the passing to God of our charter member Odessa Gore).

Part Two. Now you are reading for the point of the Eucharist as One Celebration.

OK. Here we go. Join all the Masses of your life attended, and mesh them as one in your mind’s experience, for they ARE one prayer, one Communion in Christ bundled up like a bouquet, and given a timelessness to them all, as a living prayer of one’s life.

In that understanding, one could pray: Jesus, I do “take this Body of yours, and eat it,” as You are given up for me in each moment of Sacrament. Jesus, I hear and trust You each time saying, “this is the cup of My Blood, the Blood of the New Covenant, for the forgiveness of sins,” and I do celebrate this cup of salvation in living memory of Thee and for my ransom. Ransom me, Lord, by Your Body and Blood– into the innocent paradise life again, baptized into Grace, and fed by Your Holiness, O Bread of Life.

The Blessed Sacrament joins you and me with others to the Last Supper of Christ, and also to the Lamb of God in the Heavens. It’s united to where Jesus is. He’s in time at the Upper Room of the First Mass, and on the Altar of the Cross and then risen in Jerusalem’s Calvary hill…. as well as here in our Masses at our parish this weekend…. as well, of course, as reigning in Heaven. He is Lord of all.
One could pray in acknowledgement: You, the Eucharistic Christ of the ages, should be celebrated! For You do unite all of us and all of our times in Communion with You to be part of one Offering.

Yes, I borrow from a Jesuit priest’s ideas on the Cosmic Christ and our Lord’s ability to bring into one EVERY liturgy and its participants into an Eternal Now and Oneness. I’d like to have you think on Fr. Chardin’s idea that all our Eucharistic experiences are a grace that becomes one united experience.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit priest and scientist (1881–1955), taught that, for him, the risen Christ was also the cosmic Christ, the Lord of creation. Reflecting on the words of consecration at Mass, Teilhard wrote:
When the priest says the words “This is my body,” his words fall directly on to the bread and directly transform it into the individual reality of Christ. But the great sacramental operation does not cease at that local and momentary event. Even children are taught that, throughout the life of each man and the life of the Church and the history of the world, there is only one Mass and one Communion. Christ died once in agony. (The Divine Milieu, Wm Collins & Sons, London, 1964, pp.123–124)

He then points out that the individual acts of receiving Communion by different people are the dividing up of one unique act in order that all may benefit from Christ’s saving action. In fact, from the beginning of the Messianic preparation, up until the Parousia [the coming of Jesus in glory], passing through the historic manifestation of Jesus and the phases of growth of his Church, A SINGLE EVENT has been developing in the world: the Incarnation, realized in each individual, through the Eucharist. (The Divine Milieu, p.124)

This is a wonderful insight into the place of Christ in our lives, namely, that the Word of God became flesh in Jesus (Incarnation) and now through the Eucharist becomes embedded in the flesh of each one of us. Teilhard then has this grand vision, (which explains my review above of a lifetime of Masses):

All the communions of a life-time are one communion.

All the communions of all men now living are one communion.

All the communions of all men, present, past and future, are one communion.

(from Chardin’s The Divine Milieu, p.124)

I find this a fascinating study! While there is theological speculation in his works, and some development needed and agreement with other Eucharistic Theology, I just love the big idea Chardin throws out to us, all in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, and how more awesome God is by His Son’s work that we could possible know well!

Past Pope (and present Saint) John Paul II picked up this wonderful panoramic vision of the Eucharist. He tells of the many different venues where he has celebrated Mass: basilicas, chapels on mountain paths, lakeshores and seacoasts, stadiums, city squares. Then he said, “This varied scenario of celebrations of the Eucharist has given me a powerful experience of its universal and, so to speak, cosmic character. Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 8)
saint
What a grand vision! St. John Paul the Great says how ‘On the altar of the world’ it gave him a picture of the blue planet with a large bread (paten) and a chalice of wine poised above it, and the risen Christ offering himself as spiritual food and drink for all the people. Then he saw Christ as Lord of all creation, One Who is lifting up His eyes to include all the stars, all the galaxies, all the black holes, all the as-yet-undiscovered material, even all the ‘dark matter’ of the cosmos. The Eucharist has a cosmic character. Yes, cosmic!

When Teilhard was in China in 1923 on a scientific expedition he was unable to celebrate Mass, but his cosmic vision helped him to make up for the loss.

“Since … I have neither bread nor wine nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself. I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it I will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world … I will place on my paten, O God, the harvest to be won by this renewal of labor. Into my chalice I shall pour all the sap which is to be pressed out this day from the earth’s fruits. (The Prayer of the Universe).”

So, what this is saying, is in times when we are unable to participate in the Eucharist, we can always take time to pause and be aware that in many parts of the world, the Eucharist IS being celebrated and we can be there in spirit if not in person. We can pray to be united to the Sacrifice of the Mass as being celebrated world-wide that day, and in the Eternal dimension of Christ in each one.

At Mass, when we can get to it, we gather about the altar of The Lord to unite with Him, with brings us into eternal dimensions of invitation. Then, in each Eucharist received worthily and faith-fully, one may be brought into a participation with Christ Jesus. While living on earth, we can still somehow be united to Jesus, Lord of Heaven and earth.

God can take all the Masses prayed with Him, and join them unto Himself with every one ever celebrated, or to be celebrated— for this Mystery is Divine and Everlasting. As Jesus’ Sacrifice is One Sacrifice, so it can be so forever.

I hope you got some of the points of this blog.
Over and out!girl-looking

Homily>The Eucharistic Christ: His Re-creating Power by the Sacrament.

There is a re-creation (or re-creating) power in the Eucharist. New life flows from the Grace of this Sacrament of Jesus for His followers, the Church.

This homily takes some views I have learned, and I join it to words by Bishop Robert Barron of L.A. on the view of paradise found again through the Sacred Liturgy. 1024px-Genealogy_of_Jesus_mosaic_at_Chora_(1)

I point you to John’s gospel and how its message is all about the re-creation of the world, with the the Eucharist and the Cross and Resurrection as the Good News of this re-beginning. The Johannine message starts in chapter one, in announcing a new Creation. “In the beginning, God, was the Word, and the Word was with God.” John purposely starts his gospel in sounding like he is re-writing Genesis. Then, in verse 14 of chapter one, he shows us Who is this Alpha Person: “The Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us.” In chapter two, Jesus is embarking on the ministry life, as the traveling rabbi. Mary encourages Jesus’ to His first miracle, which was an action to save a wedding celebration, to bring a flow of rich wine to the empty supply. Jesus states to her: “My Great Hour of saving Blood and Water is later to come, (but I will precede it by this miracle).’ He has an endless supply of saving Blood to offer, evidently. (It will be His Precious Blood poured out, at the Last Supper and Calvary, and in Masses to follow in history.)

Now, in chapter six in John, the Lord Jesus proclaims “This is My Body…This is My Blood… True flesh….True drink: (Me.)” Then, in chapter fifteen in John, He says “I Am the Vine… so remain in Me, and I in you.. so to bear much fruit.” In chapter 19 Jesus is on the Cross, Mary is below it and He says: “Now it is consummated! Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” He expires, and His Heart is pierced, and Mary receives the same spiritually, as which Luke 2 prophesied, and here in this action a New Creation starts. It will be told in the Revelation of John, as the triumphant Lord Jesus says: “‘See, I make all things new?!…and there in the heavens is “a Woman is clothed with the sun, with the moon and stars at her feet.” Then, closing out the Bible, blessed people are invited to the table of the Lamb, to sup with Him and He with them, in paradise.

Just what has taken place? The Flesh and Blood Offering of Jesus has turned the world back around for grace, for the freedom for humanity to come back to innocence again, like at the Garden of Eden prior to sin.
I take Bishop Robert Barron’s words on the matter, as His Excellency of Los Angeles puts it this way: “Remember that just as Adam and Eve allowed sin to enter the world by physically eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Mary gives us the fruit of the cross aka the Tree of Life, which is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist for us to physically eat, thus overcoming sin and allowing our salvation. The devil goes around as a roaring lion seeking to devour us; Jesus, on the other hand, goes around like the Lamb of God seeking for us to devour His flesh to overcome the devil.”

Interesting, huh?!

I have much more in the Gospel of John to share about another time, from His Book of Signs to His Book of Glory (and in the live homily, I did add some of them spontaneously)….

But, let us draw towards a close here. As we finish Mary’s month of May, think about her and what the Sacred Liturgy is about: It’s about a communion to participate again in the divine. Do we seek this as a goal of our life? Is Jesus and His Glory and salvation the finish line of our journey?

There is a first mystery point to ponder, and why is Mary in it’s story, and not only Jesus? Because she was offered to receive the Lord into her, uniquely by pregnancy and a Child of Anointing to be born in her in Jesus. So now, in comparison, WE are offered to receive the Lord within our SOULS and through all of our BEING, and to confirm and live that anew every Lord’s Day, as a new week begins. We are to have special participation with Jesus. We have a “fiat” or agreement to make, too, as Mary, and a Christ to be revealed through us, to the world, in a manner like her. It’s just that, she will be offered to us, by Jesus, to help us live what she has already succeeded in– in being the first saint and queen and mother of all saints.

While Mary and Jesus were one flesh in various explanations and realities, so can we join in receiving the flesh of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament–Holy Eucharist.

so– I ask: Is our Summer ahead a joyous plan of continuous Sundays of receiving Him in, for His continuous Grace. Are you living from a source from Heaven and not just of ourselves? Do you see the Church and Jesus’ Sacrament as your dispenser of His holy favor? He set it up so.
Will our Summer be about Jesus? Will we perhaps even take some time from some leisure to our schedule, and go to a Summer weekday Mass? Or make a retreat? Or do some sacred reading or Scripture study? This parish and most others offer lots of opportunities for Mass–and St. Edward’s is unique in that we offer two weeknight Masses on the schedule, something not available elsewhere in this or in the Baltimore diocese– just to make the Eucharist more available. On Sundays and Saturday vigils, we still afford four or sometimes five times for Mass to be conveniently schedule for you. The Body and Blood of Christ arrives in Sacrament here. The Mystery of God appears!

God also is the food for you to keep growing. In today’s gospel, how pleased Jesus was to see the crowd staying for its fill of his spiritual teachings! At the close of the day, as they were still there and hungry for more, Jesus gives the miracle of the loaves and fishes for their physical need.
An apostle had suggested: Lord, let us send them all away, for it is late and it’s a deserted spot. Where can one get any food here?
Jesus says: There is lots of food here, for the soul, and for the body.

He says that to us: He has a supply for us for our nourishment. Are we hungry? Will we sit down for it– to remain with Jesus?A60A57D0 (2)

Non-Catholics or lapsed Catholics with us at a Mass of Christian Burial

We have had a lot of non-Catholics in our church for the last few funerals. I can usually tell how many practicing Catholics are in the church by the time the Opening Collect is prayed and the Scriptures are proclaimed. If few or not many of the congregation are participating in the proper responses, nor know enough of when to be seated or to stand, then I quickly recognize of how I have a lot of “guests” at the Mass.

As a priest and pastor, I am happy the guests are there to honor and pray for the dear departed person, and have so come to join with us in the Catholic liturgy. I think they can experience a lot from The Lord in it by their coming, as they come near to the Real Presence of Christ in His Eucharistic offering in the Church’s prayer. I believe a non-Catholic’s soul does recognize the Light of The Presence of Christ in the Sacred Liturgy (even if not realized by them consciously or by their natural senses). I believe the Divine Son Jesus wants to appeal to them in His unique and special way, as He prays the Mass (through the priest and with the congregants) and as He mediates to the Eternal Father on all our behalf in the Sacred Liturgy. He tells the guests secretly: I am really here in this church. I Am also the Resurrection and eternal life this Church proclaims of Me..

Of the “guests,” some are lapsed, non-practicing or barely practicing Christians. Some might be former Catholics or quite lukewarm ones. Then still, the others are people from varying religions, or of perhaps no religion at all. All are welcome.

If all of these folks have come to honor the dearly departed Catholic and/or their Catholic family member survivors, by this visit to our parish, then I can see they have been summoned by Christ Himself to be with Him, and there, at the Mass. Thus, I, the priest, with our parishioner hosts, have a role to serve Jesus’ intentions to them. So, while our main purpose is to be in prayer for the deceased, we also have a Catholic witness of hope to give to our ” guests.” It is a moment of evangelism. (I have these thoughts through my reflections after my once reading Pope John Paul II’s “Witness to Hope.”)

While I don’t believe that Christ Jesus the Lord wants us to have open Communion in the Mass, which could offend Him, and deny our own high faith in the Sacrament Signs of Christ, I do know how He wants us to be loving in presenting that part of the Mass, and to be loving in how we accommodate our guests at the Mass. Even our description of our Catholic only Eucharist can be done lovingly, as needed, to a mixed church of believers and congregants.

See the PART TWO bottom of this blog on this whole matter of Holy Communion at a Mass of Christian Burial.
We also try to emphasize that it is love what can unite us in the funeral celebration, from whatever point we come from. [*See footnote at blog bottom]

IMG_20150611_154623_362Jesus surely recognizes everyone and everything going on in that Mass. He sees the members of The Church; He sees the guests out there in the pews. He loves them and greatly hopes that they will experience Him for all that the Church proclaims about Him–that He is among us, and praying for us, and that is indeed The Deliverer of humanity from sin and death. He glories in presenting His own Sacrifice of Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity to the Father in that Mass of Christian Burial. Alone He saves us. He is the Lord of Reconciliation and He hopes for a touching experience to be had by His members and for the guests in His Holy Mass. Because, one day, each there in the pews will come to their finality on earth, too. He wants to say: “Can I be there for you on that day?”

As a priest, I love to be there in the Mass for the mourners, especially for the Catholics, so we can do what we do in times of death and mourning: We can come together to Jesus. And we can let others join in through our beautiful rites and beliefs. Sacred Liturgy Image

Some people have conversion experiences at Catholic Masses of Christian Burial. They can be that greatly touched.

I try to be personal to the family of the departed person. As a single person, I have the availability of my time and attention at the time of funerals. Catholic priests have schedules that can open up for the families and mourners. We can adjust our plans to serve them. The faithful deserve that attention in their time of need. I am inspired by the Beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn…” and I think of the Work of Mercy: “Pray for the Living and the Dead.” These both are fulfilled in ministry at a funeral. We Catholics know how Christ will be present for our gathering in a funeral/Mass.

I see that, as a priest, and also as a Catholic, that I have a role in the funeral Mass as Christ’ agent and for His manifestation in my membership with Him in His Body, the Church. What an honor to represent Him as we gather in Him in the liturgy to our guests at Mass.

I appreciate it when members of the parish gather in to love and pray at the Mass. Among them are those who knew the deceased (or family of the deceased) well. They can be so important to the support of the grieving.

People come into the Mass of Christian Burial to mourn and remember the deceased. It may be their practicing Catholic parent who is the beloved of the funeral and in the coffin. It may be a friend or neighbor or a co-worker whom they have just lost. It may be a relative who died that they are paying family respects to. It may be that they come to support a co-worker in their loss of a parent, child or sibling.

Surely, it can be a touching and special time for them, as they join us at Mass in the church. I hope for it to be a revelation to them and a good experience. (Often I am told that our Masses of Christian Burial fulfill the above hopes.)

The Mass is a beautiful hour of prayer. Funeral Masses must be so important to Jesus. As one of the Gospel readings done at funerals declares of Jesus, “…He calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ Or, as in the Wisdom chapter 3 Word in the Old Testament, He says: “The souls of the just are in the hand of God…their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace….as sacrificial offerings He(I) took them to (My)Himself. In the time of their visitation (with Me) they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble… and (I) the Lord shall be their King forever. Those who trust in (Me) Him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with (Me) Him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and God’s care is with the elect.” Amen! Alleluia!
IMG_20140414_131310_662 Lord of Mercy

PART TWO THE COMMUNION LINE AT A FUNERAL MASS

A sensitive time of the funeral Mass is when we get to Holy Communion. Some non-Catholic guests (and lapsed Catholics out of Confession practice) may not know that they are supposed to stay in their pews for the distribution of Communion. Or, that a blessing can be imparted in the line, as some customs afford, but that the Holy Eucharist is not supposed to be distributed to non-Catholics or Catholics out of practice. The visitor may differ with our belief on Eucharist, too, but some visitors may think the funeral Mass is a time to publicly differ with that theology and come forward to receive. It certainly is NOT the time for such an action (of deciding matters on their own). It could even be quite a rude behavior on their part. We Catholic priests sometimes have to tolerate it going on in front of us, and we are taught by our bishops not to cause a scene if it happens as such, but the non-Catholic’s communion reception doesn’t make it right on their part to do. The non-Catholic Christian members (our separated brethren from The Lord’s Supper) are part of a division of Christians who willingly walked away from the family table of unity in the Eucharist. They have established their own version of Holy Communion, but it is not the one in practice with the Church that was founded on Jesus and to His apostles at the start. It is Christianity’s biggest dividing point, and it won’t be fixed by people disrespecting our Catholic Communion in The Lord. Jesus sends His Spirit to us and we pray, as inspired by His prayer for unity in John 17, that all can be one in Him in the end. He has His banqueting table, and the banner over it and its people is love– so sings a Scripture song I know.

As a priest-presider, I look on a mixed congregation at a Mass of Christian Burial and ask for Jesus’ eyes and ways of love when encountering any ‘trouble’ at our time for Communion. I ask for His words to say, if I note that He is prompting something. At the last Mass of Christian Burial, I did note it, and just said “We Catholics rehearse in a real way, in this Holy Communion part of Mass here, of our eventual time to meet Jesus the Lamb and our God and Savior in Heaven besides His banqueting table. We kneel to the Lamb, address Him as such in the song we just sang, and say in this next prayer of Communion recipients of His Church how we are not worthy of such a magnificent grace to sit at table with Him, right here, and in Glory, but if He says but the Word to us to give Himself to us as God and gift to be received, then may it be so and we shall be healed. In the Church’s ministry in Sacraments, we hear His Word of such invitation, and come forward, but in fidelity to Him, His teachings, and what He expects of us for being in community in Him. In every Mass, then, right here, we rehearse our presentation to Him in Glory, but also come to now see His Kingdom Come, on earth, in Him, as it is in Heaven—in Him, our daily Bread of Life—our Eucharist. To all our guests here, we want you to know, that God comes into His Church, His Body, like this every day, to lead us to Heaven. If that is inviting to you, and sounds to you as The Truth, then join us one day in that Catholic faith. Yet, even right now, we can all be gathered in love, with Catholics doing their thing next, and others saying in the pews, too: God we love you. Gather us in to Heaven, and with our beloved who has died, that we be in Your Heavenly Banquet ahead and perfectly together.

I am not sure if those words helped or not, but I said something close to that before I lifted up the Paten and Chalice with Jesus’ gift upon them, and we went knelt to pray the Prayer Before Communion.

I think in my mind, in such times, then, of St. Paul’s teaching that “no-one receive Eucharist unworthily (1 Cor. 11:27).” St. Paul, the apostle-priest to the Corinthians, taught that the Eucharist should be celebrated well and worthily. So I want to encourage the same at our church at funerals. The Sacrament for Catholics IS our kingdom-come-on-earth experience of the wedding supper of The Lamb to come (even if some Catholics there at the Mass might not understand or realize it so). We Catholics want to have Communion at a funeral, since we are called by our Sacrament life to be “one body, one spirit in Christ…(1 Cor. 12:16)(Rom. 12:5)” and in communion in Christ with them.” We know that Christ is Head of the Body, and that our beloved departed is now “changed, not ended in life,” as we pray in a Preface Prayer. We know there is one body of believers to be formed as one as Christ’ Bride, His Body, and we shall be one in Him. It is a hope underlying any funeral for us. Death can’t even separate us. Love will hold. Love will triumph. Love conquers all. Jesus is love. Christ Jesus will keep us in His love.

Maybe a guest to Mass, whom you know, will want to know more of what we Catholics believe about Mass and the Eucharist. We hope our holy reception in the Mass might lead to such a later request from a guest to a Catholic. Even in that, we hope we can better believe Our Lord Who said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink [John 6: 53-55].”

The reason non-Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist is not a matter of hospitality. It is a matter of unity and belief. The word Communion means “In union with.” The Eucharist is the highest practiced sign of Christian unity: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” [1 Cor. 10:17--words from an early Catholic parish in Corinth, Greece, under St. Paul].

Yet we Catholics want to pray a Mass for a funeral, for by it we are uniquely presenting our beloved into Christ’ Liturgy and “presenting them to God the Most High.” (<< these words are prayed in the final part of the Funeral Mass) We believe holy angels have attended to the Mass, even joining us in exulting in God in their own prayers of “Gloria” or “Holy, Holy.” At Mass nears its parting song, we pray: May the angels take you into paradise, o beloved. What a great hope we have, and it is all upon the belief that we are in Encounter with Christ the Lord at Mass, and not just speaking to Him distantly far off in Heaven. He is the God among us Who saves.

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the LORD my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the LORD my soul to take.christ-on-IMG_20150504_115956_435

Good Thursday Homily Sent Ones of Mercy

If Jesus could use the Twelve Apostles with their weaknesses, He can certainly use us, too, as His agents of Divine Mercy and Good News.

It is Holy Thursday in the Year of Mercy. On this date, on Passover 33 a.d., the Lord laid the foundation of Himself and His apostles for His Body, the Church. He instituted the Eucharist and Holy Orders for it, and He chose men of whom He had entitled His “sent ones” to serve His Gospel after this Last Supper with Him. The title of “apostle” means sent ones.

Now in 2016, while there are the many apostles for that defined Church (like our Archbishop Wuerl and three auxiliaries for our Church of Washington), there also is a commission for many “sent ones” among the regular believing people as to go out with the Gospel of Mercy. That’s you and I. That has been the Church’s message all this Jubilee Year. What have you been doing in Mercy lately?

Now we might think that our weaknesses might hinder our being a good “sent person” of the Gospel of Mercy. We might know of our own small fears or other reasons to be reluctant to be a workman of mercy, but The Lord would not want you to sell yourself short. He wants you to be full agents of His Mercy. He wants you to know that His first apostles had their weaknesses. The apostles were not some elite group, but more like a motley bunch.

Jesus chose Simon, later the one known as Peter or “The Rock.” Peter wasn’t always solid, though. At the dramatic climax of Jesus’ ministry, in the courtyard of the high priest, he folded. He wasn’t steadfast, but denied any association with Jesus, so to save his own skin. Peter was quite human in this way, like some of us in our own weakness, in not taking stands for Jesus as the culture slides downhill into secular humanism. God still called Peter, and this big fisherman came through, after all.

Jesus chose Andrew, Peter’s brother. In John 6:9, before the multiplication of the loaves and fish, Andrew makes an embarassing faux pax. He sees hundreds to be fed, and remarks to Jesus how “there is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, and so that’s all we got, Master, for this overwhelming need.” Andrew had a tone about him that maybe was being funny in how ridiculous the situation seemed to him. Jesus said: “That’s about enough to feed them all, Andrew. Bring them here.” Andrew must have been startled and humbled. He would have much to learn about Jesus.

Perhaps some of us are like that. The world has too much misery, so we might wonder: How can there be enough Mercy for all? Jesus knows the answer to that. He hopes you can find enough faith so He can use you to bring your part to that answer.
photo a3

Jesus called the brother apostles James and John and originally they looked real good, with a prompt response to Jesus’ call as they “left everything and followed Jesus (Mt. 4:21).” But we discover later they were following Jesus for some wrong reasons and looking out for their own glory, as in Mark 10:35, they told Jesus “we want you to do for us whatever we ask you–that we may sit one at your right and the other with their left.” These words show that their motives were real off. It reminds me of the times in campus ministry and then in singles ministry (as the priest chaplain) of how some people joined up not so much to connect in their Catholic faith but just to hook up with cute girls or cute guys!

But can Jesus still work with people whose motives stray from a pure path? The answer is yes. People can find the honest way again.

Jesus called Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel, but we know little about him. He is described as “a person without guile,” so we suppose he was an innocent man, a straight shooter. However, we don’t hear of anything he’s said or done in Scripture, so perhaps he was a man of good internal faith, but not much of one for likewise good external actions. Was Bart shy or timid?

Another lesson here: I think with Jesus, He can use us even if we’re a little slow to act or reserved and slow to reveal our emotions or actions. There is still a lot of Mercy I think He can channel through us.

Matthew the apostle had a past that was all very obvious and greedy. Yet God helped him change and used him big time. Is our past an obstacle? Let’s not let it be. Mercy can free us and start ministering mercy to others.

Simon the Zealot had been a violent vengeful man. Jesus showed him a much greater alternative life of love. It was a matter of Simon turning his will over to God more. Maybe that’s the path of someone here, and think of the mercy that can flow because of it!

Thomas the Apostle’s big flaw was his doubting and disappearing act. We have people with those weaknesses today that God says He can use for spreading His Mercy. You may have gone missing over your internal struggles, but God can even use that in your witness ahead if you’ll listen more for God’s answers. Tom did and was a great mercy man of the Gospel to India later.

I made the point at the homily start, and I repeat it to close. If Jesus could use the Twelve Apostles with all their weaknesses, He can certainly use us, too, as His agents of a Gospel of Mercy.

As we move on now to the footwashing ceremony, consider how Jesus so loved His Apostles, and how He also loves you and me.