My last homily at St. Edward parish in Bowie was for the monthly Filipino Mass. I first spoke of my history with the Filipino community building at the parish, but then I gave a homily on meekness. The homily part is about 12 minutes. It is a video included here. I thank Steve Duhig for taping it for me and making it available.
I 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.
Sunday’s parish bulletin has a special inset on May 21 st. It is a sheet with the Novena to the Holy Spirit prayers.
This prayer originated with Jesus at His Ascension, asking His followers to wait to be clothed from on high by the Holy Spirit. After nine days of expectant prayer, the Spirit came upon the believers at Pentecost, birthing the Church.
We need to take seriously this novena for asking the Holy Spirit to fall afresh on us. The 40th day of Easter is when Jesus ascended; and today is day 36. Pentecost is on the 50th day, which is on June 4th this year. Make this 2017 Pentecost a special one by your own Novena to the Holy Spirit, starting it this Thursday.
The Church’s Mass of Ascension is now held on the weekend after the 40 th day. It will fall on May 28th. Yet the Novena starts on Thursday.
We are reminded from the meditation of the First Fall of Christ, that three common falls into sin have plagued humankind. They are Living in the Pride of Flesh, Lusting for Power and Control, and Being Greedy and Utterly Selfish.
Those three major mortal sins have been committed so very heavily through time by humankind versus God. Pondering the immensity of it, one might sense how all these sins then WEIGHED on Jesus.
In tempting us to power or control, the devil takes us to a pinnacle and dares us to prove God is good, by our leaping off into the oblivion of some disguised rejection of God, (that ours, really, belong power and control). Rather, in not being so foolish, the believers opts for acting in wisdom and prudence and love and self- control. We would rather ‘leap’ into the love of God by our trusting heart; we need no cliffs nor dares. God already is trustworthy as He has always been. Jesus shows us this Trust, as He presses on.
The Son of Man who was once tempted in the wilderness has prevailed to trust the Father in all things. Right to the finish. That’s the path we shall follow, as we go the Way of Jesus.
Below on the road, spills some more of the Precious Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus. Much has poured out already, at the bead droplets in the Garden of Gethsename prayer time, then gushing out at the flogging courtyard, again at the prison dungeon (of His thorny crowning) and now along this Way, and finally ahead at Golgotha. At this mid-way point, we praise God in the value of Jesus’ Blood.
Mary alone understood Jesus and the plan of God in Him and the meaning of His suffering. She was heart-to-heart with Jesus, walking in holiness and trust in the Heavenly Father. The Cross and the Rising in her Son she saw coming. This, in the final days of ministry, she tried to be nearby Jesus for whenever He might need her.
Here she was on His way to Golgotha, to console Him. And Jesus knew that she could understand and comprehend what was unfolding and its holy reason. And she gave Him a nod.
Of course she was crying and in much distress, too. Still, there was a confidence about her about the big picture. She is Our Lady of Wisdom.
The eventual suffering of her Son Jesus was known to her, just as her own pain to come by it was pre-told her way back at the Temple presentation of her Babe Jesus. Simon prophesied her sword in the heart feeling over Jesus sacrifice. It now could be felt.
She would follow to the foot of the Cross, then even onto His entombment, and then awaited the 3rd day in quietude.
If we are to have any good idea of Calvary’s story, then it’s incomplete without Mary’s part. For that realization, Jesus gave us His mother from The Cross.
“Behold your mother” is an amazing final word and gift from Jesus in Good Friday. This station brings Mary fittingly into our Via Dolorosa.
Long Teaching There is a Part One, Part Two, and a Part Two all in here
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..
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.
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.”
‘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?
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.
HEADLINES: LENT AND A PARISH MISSION ARE SOON ARRIVING.
LENT BEGINS ON THIS WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1ST. THIS DRAWING BELOW BY A MEMBER OF MY KINDERGARTEN CLASS AT ST. PIUS X SCHOOL PROVIDES YOU A VISUAL OF THE SPECIAL DAY OF PENITENCE IN THE CHURCH. THE PARISH WILL HAVE A SOUP AND STATIONS ON THE FIRST FRIDAY OF LENT, MARCH 3RD. SOUP IS AT 630 IN THE HALL AND STATIONS ARE AT 730-800 P.M. IN CHURCH.
IN NEXT WEEKEND’S MASSES, OUR MISSION PRIEST, FR. BLAISE CZAJA, WILL BE HERE TO SPEAK AT ALL MASSES (VIA HOMILIES, AND BEING AVAILABLE AFTERWARDS FOR A HELLO). HE ALSO WILL BE AT OUR SOUP AND STATIONS, AS HE ARRIVES FRIDAY TO US.
THE PARISH MISSION TALKS ARE AT 7 P.M. ON SUNDAY, MONDAY, TUESDAY, AND WEDNESDAY NIGHTS—MARCH 5TH THROUGH THE 8TH IN THE CHURCH.
THERE ALSO WILL BE DAILY MASS AT 8:45 A.M. MON-WED. WITH FR. BLAISE PUTTING A MORNING REFLECTION ADDED ONTO THE MASS.
WHOOOOOO SHOULD GO TO THE PARISH MISSION? WHY SHOULD ONE GO TO IT? THE WISE OWL QUOTES FROM THE BOOK OF WISDOM: “Wisdom is glorious, and never fades away: Yes, indeed, she is easily seen of them that love her, and found of such as do seek her… seek her early, and you shall find her sitting at your door, waiting to gift you…For wisdom goes about seeking to bless people… showing favor (grace) to them in their ways and thoughts.”
Why a Parish Mission? Pope Francis keeps encouraging the Church to be alive, like it is “on mission,” remaining in the task to bring the Good News to the world. Firstly, we need to be alive to our own baptismal call, and with our common call as fellow believers, appreciative of the Presence of the Lord Jesus to us, as “head of the body, the church (Col. 1:18).” So, a mission seeks the draw the parish together into Christ Jesus and to be rejuvenated where she needs to live afresh in God. A mission priest comes to be the vehicle for that motivation to the parish. Fr. Blaise is good at it, and our parish shows the need for his ministry at this time.
Secondly, we need opportunities like this to not only bless ourselves in this time, but to afford others the opportunity to come back to the Church, or investigate her for the first official time. A mission can be uplifting both to the new person as well as the long-time practicing Catholic.
Thirdly, the parish mission draws the whole parish together. Since we have four regular Sunday Masses, it does fragment us a bit, but a mission has us all gathered as one for four evenings. We meet one another and we get recharged. Everyone takes time for the truly important things like wonder, mystery and prayer. Faith is stirred. Our sense of “parish” is re-awakened. Lives experience healing and the love of God, via our welcome and availability to the work of the Holy Spirit. We show we “seek first the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33);” God responds to our openness.
Fourthly, in a Year of Grace, we afford a special avenue of experience for it.
As our slogan says beneath the parish altar, we beseech you: “Abide in Grace.”
Mary, Mother of God
The early Church struggled for how to address Mary in her most stupendous act, being the mother of the Lord’s Anointed, Jesus, Who is God. It took the pressure of heretics and deviators from The Gospel Truth for the Church Fathers to announce that Mary had the fitting title of “Mother of God.” This entitlement to Mary was made more to exalt Jesus than to lift up Mary. They wanted it clear that the teaching of the True Church is how Jesus is Divine. He is God, as the Word Incarnate– and therefore, Mary did mother a divine person through her flesh, Who is called God. Mary a creature was given the purpose to bring in the Word made Flesh. God fashioned her to do so, and she lived a total fiat (yes) to that calling.
God came into humanity through Mary, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, but also to be flesh of flesh by her, whom He had made. God thus became flesh. This part that Mary played, to agree to bring the Word into flesh (her own), made it possible for Jesus to be True God and True Man. The Word pre-existed (John 1:1-4 ) so God’s Son was Eternal in being with the Father. Yet our Faith celebrates that The Word also came into time and flesh (John 1:12-14) and the Word was now man. He used Mary in quite an amazing and startling entrance, as her baby. The Annunciation Feast (March 25) and the Nativity Feast with its related Epiphany Feast celebrates God the Son’ s arrival into humanity.
A title was needed to show Mary’s elevated part, her necessary part, her specialness– in this cooperation with the Biggest Event in history. When people wanted to just call Mary as “the Mother of Jesus,” it came to be recognized that this title could be mistakenly applied so that her role was too reduced. How so? She had a child that was not only human, but also divine. She gave birth more to a male child named Jesus. Her child was God, arrived in a divine nature ( which God included in His Person in Jesus) and on the eighth day of his presence here He was named “Savior”–meaning, “God saves” the name told by an angel, to define Him.
As the Church came out of the early persecution period from the Romans, she now held councils to define the Faith. The Scripture Canon was chosen, the Creeds were written, traditions were made clear, and beliefs were sharply defined. Mary’s title of Theo-tokos became important. This God-bearer woman, forecast in Hebrew Scriptures and hopes, was mother of the Deliverer (Isaiah 7:14) even as a virgin that conceived. She would far surpass the great women and mothers of the Hebrew Faith story, like Hannah, Sarah, Rebecca, Nitzevet (David’s mother) or Jochebed (Moses’ mother). She was the fulfillment of the dreams of all of the above.
The Very Lord’s Anointed, THE Christ Child, came into flesh, Mary’s flesh, and He arrived as God/human– two natures in one. The Church needed to clearly teach that Jesus did not later to become divine, or semi-divine, nor did He have only a prophet’s status nor was he just a holy man who never was deity nor was a man who had divinity added on along the way in life. The Church settled these doctrine matters and they heralded Mary as “Mother of God” because Jesus, her Son, is the eternal Son, God’s member of the Holy Trinity, to join into our human race with us. Mary’s title of Mother of God is all about this deep effort to honor truly her Son.
Elizabeth “gets this” true knowledge, when in the Holy Spirit, she greets Mary in the Visitation (Luke 1) and addresses her as “the mother of My Lord.”
In the early heresies versus the Church, like Gnosticism, their leaders objected to Mary having a Child Who would be God in her, claiming it was not possible, since, they said, that “all matter is evil,” an idea borrowed from certain Greek philosophers. The gnostics contradicted Genesis 1:31, “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.” They also denied the doctrine of the Incarnation, claiming that Christ only appeared to be a man. Since matter is evil, they conjectured, his humanity was merely an illusion. (See the work of Church Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus, Constantinople)
There are many non-Catholic Christian opinions today that, also, like the early objectors, cannot fathom Mary as a woman God made who was good. They also cannot fathom the connection of Jesus and her, in how God provided for His Son’s necessary pure birth in this way through a woman. Yet, without the Mother of God, Mary (mothering into human nature by her womb, God the Son)– God would not claim the avenue that He did of bringing a spotless, sin-free Savior, fellow human, while Lamb of God offering for us that would be divinely worthy. It is a true God/ true man plan in Jesus. We pray that in our Creed every Sunday as Catholics. Yet many separated Christians do not, and it has a lot to do with the hang-ups they have, of a theological challenge that Catholics have accepted in their Faith. We must love Jesus as He is. We must love His mother as He made her to be, for Him, and for our sake. Mary is not to be dismissed.
God once made an Eve from the side of Adam, and both started in innocent life in the Garden of Eden. Could not Mary come forth from the side of Christ, in the Genesis plan, to be the innocent virgin to bear a Son? Could not God choose when to introduce her and to bring forth His own coming into the world as man? Of course, and so we have the top image of Mary as “Mother of God” and we start the calendar with it. Isaiah 7:14 John 1:29-34 Genesis 1, Revelation 12.
End of Mother of God lesson
This Jan. 7th, the RCIA class is on Mary. We’ll be looking at other titles of her, as well as Marian devotions. If you want , then you may read on of 3 other related titles of Mary, in compliment to get being Mother of God.
Three Other Images of Mary with less description than Mother of God
Mary, Ark of the Covenant:
The Old Testament ark of the Covenant was a true icon of the sacred. It was a picture of the purity and holiness God fittingly demands of those objects and/or persons most closely associated with himself and the plan of salvation. Because it would contain the very presence of God symbolized by three types of the coming Messiah—the manna, the Ten Commandments, and Aaron’s staff—it had to be most pure and untouched by sinful man (see II Sam. 6:1-9; Exodus 25:10ff; Numbers 4:15; Heb. 9:4).
In the New Testament, the new and true Ark would not be an inanimate object, but a person—the Blessed Mother. How much more pure would the new and true Ark be when we consider the old ark was a mere “shadow” in relation to it (see Heb. 10:1)? This image of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant is an indicator that Mary would fittingly be free from all contagion of sin in order for her to be a worthy vessel to bear God in her womb. And most importantly, just as the Old Covenant ark was pristine from the moment it was constructed with explicit divine instructions in Exodus 25, so would Mary be most pure from the moment of her conception. God, in a sense, prepared his own dwelling place in both the Old and New Testaments.
Mary, the “New Eve” of the New Covenant:
It is important for us to recall, as I mentioned briefly above, that New Covenant fulfillments are always more glorious and more perfect than their Old Testament types, which are “but a shadow of the good things to come” in the New Covenant (Heb. 10:1). With this New Testament truth in mind, let us consider the New Testament revelation of Mary to be the antitype of Eve, or the “New Eve.” After the fall of Adam and Eve in Gen. 3, God promised the advent of another “woman” in Gen. 3:15, or a “New Eve” who would oppose Lucifer, and whose “seed” would crush his head. This “woman” and “her seed” would reverse the curse, so to speak, that the original “man” and “woman” had brought upon humanity through their disobedience.
It is most significant here to note “Adam” and “Eve” are revealed simply as “the man” and “the woman” before the woman’s name was changed to “Eve” (Heb.—Mother of the living) after the fall (See Gen. 2:21ff). When we then look at the New Covenant, Jesus is explicitly referred to as the “last Adam,” or the “New Adam” in I Cor. 15:45. And Jesus himself indicates Mary to be the prophetic “woman” or “New Eve” of Gen. 3:15 when he refers to his mother as “woman” in John 2:5 and 19:26. Moreover, St. John refers to Mary as “woman” eight times in Rev. 12. As the first Eve brought death to all of her children through disobedience and heeding the words of the ancient Serpent, the devil, the “New Eve” of Revelation 12 brings life and salvation to all of her children through her obedience. The same “serpent” who deceived the original woman of Genesis is revealed, in Revelation 12, to fail in his attempt to overcome this New Woman. The New Eve overcomes the serpent and as a result, “The serpent is angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God, and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).
If Mary is the New Eve, and New Testament fulfillments are always more glorious than their Old Testament antecedents, it would be unthinkable for Mary to be conceived in sin. If she were, she would be inferior to Eve who was created in a perfect state, free from all sin.
Mary, the Beginning of the New Creation:
Jeremiah 31:22 presents another fascinating prophecy concerning the coming of the “New Woman” and the New Covenant. In the midst of this well-known chapter famous for its prophecy concerning the coming of the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31:31, which is quoted in Heb. 8:8), we read: “For the Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth. A WOMAN SHALL COMPASS A MAN” (DRV). St. Jerome, in the fourth century, comments on this text:
“Can a bride forget her jewels, or a virgin her girdle” (Jer. 2:32) Always in this very prophecy it is said that a great miracle occurred involving this woman: The woman will surround the man and the virgin’s womb will contain the parent of all.
In the first covenant, the man “compassed” or “encompassed” the woman. The woman came from the rib of the man. In the New Covenant, “the New Man,” or “New Adam”—Jesus—would come from the womb of “the Woman”—or “New Eve.” It is Mary that would “compass” Jesus.
Many fathers of the Church, in agreement with St. Jerome, will see from this and other biblical texts Mary as the “new earth” or “new land” out of which God would form the “New Adam.” Consider St. Jerome’s Tractus de Psalmo 66 and 96 (these are commentaries on the Psalms). When considering Psalm 66, St. Jerome sees Jesus and Mary in both the “flower and the Lily” of Song of Solomon 2:1 and the “fruits of the earth” from Psalm 66 (67):6:
Do you want to know what this fruit is? It is the virgin from the Virgin, the Lord from the handmaid, God from a human creature, the Son from a mother, the fruit from the earth.
St. Jerome here refers to Mary as “the earth.” He says something similar in his commentary on Psalm 96. He speaks of the promised land to David as being Mary:
The land of David is holy Mary, Mother of the Lord, “who was born of David’s seed according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3). What was promised to David was fulfilled in Mary’s virginity and birth, where a virgin is born from a Virgin.
Mary is the new earth out of which would be formed the New Adam. Just as God formed the first Adam from a pristine earth untouched by the curse of original sin, so God would bring the “New Adam” from a “New Land” or “New Earth” that would also most fittingly be pristine and untouched by sin. The first creation began without sin, so the New Creation would begin without sin as well. The first Eve would fall from grace; the New Eve would not.
Long and Deep Teaching. Parts of the content here will be in the homily Nov. 2nd.
Pics. My shadow in the sand at Bethany Beach. Sunset sparkles off Lake Michigan.
All Soul’s Day begins a month of daily intentions for our beloved dead, for their soul’s full sanctification in God, as they are made perfect in God’s Spirit for life forever in Heaven. Catholics have been praying as such since the First Church with the apostles, and we have also borrowed from the anticipated faith of the Hebrew people, who were preparing for the Messiah in enlightened religion.
I would like to share some Scriptures about this observance of the departed in our Catholic practice of faith, because I find that many Catholics cannot explain it well, when asked about it.
Let’s review a few Scriptures of the Mass and Liturgy of the Word chosen of today…
From 2nd Maccabees, chapter 12, of the Old Testament (RSV): “On the next day, as by that time it had become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kinsmen in the sepulchres of their fathers. Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”
Here is a text explanation:
In the books of Maccabees, we have the end of Old Testament time when the Jews, like Judas Maccabeus, had come to believe in the ongoing soul life of men, and of their resurrection to come. Judas (with other faithful Jews willing to even die as martyrs–so deep was their faith) believed that there would be some great new life connection in the Lord Messiah to come, Who would bridge Heaven and earth. He would be The One to carry over the soul out of the physical body at death and transform them onto Glory. This Lord Messiah of the Hebrew hope, would even be the Link between those departed, and those who remaining living on earth. All would live as one in Him.
In this Biblical account, Judas and his army find brother Jews on a battlefield who had died in war, but they find that these fallen men had each been wearing an idolatrous token. Judas Maccabeus feared that this sign of idolatry, of some ‘lucky’ token on them, was displeasing to the Lord. He instructed his own army not to resort to such a practice of token wearing, but asked that they collect the fallen men for a proper burial ceremony, wherein they would give these fallen soldiers some special prayers. Judas Maccabeus taught that their intercessory prayers for Divine Mercy (for their dead comrades) would be helpful, since they had all died in battle in a sin of idolatry and with likely unconfessed hearts about it.
Judas, thus, leads all his army in prayer, in a petition for all those fallen men that their idolatrous sin be blotted out. Judas knows that God’s Spirit will need to do that cleansing sanctification, so the prayers he leads are for those in need to get that cleansing and to go on to perfection in God’s realm. Judas’ actions go even further in concern so far as to offer a sin offering (sacrifice) to be prayed in the holy places in Jerusalem, namely, at God’s Temple. The drachmas will be given for the customary prayer to priests and intercessors there in their holy duties. This whole episode told in this Bible account is a communal act of a merciful and caring prayer for souls of the dead.
We do something similar in Catholic Faith. First, it is a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the living and the dead. Our Church takes that seriously, and we believe in intercessory prayer.
Secondly, we realize that modern people of faith also unfortunately die with some serious unconfessed sin on their hearts. We pray for their souls, in that, God’s Mercy and Purification come to their aid. Thirdly, we pray for those who died in God’s friendship, that their fundamental trust in God will be their saving grace, and that our prayers help them to now agree fully to abide forever with God. Sometimes we, the petitioner to God, even know what area of life the departed may need fully surrendered to God. In the Maccabees story it was the known idolatry of those soldiers. Today it may be that we know personally that our departed fell badly short in committing some sin, like in stealing, cheating or their breaking a big promise, or it could be we know of their religious omission in something like tithing, Mass-going, pro-life defending, or forgiving someone they should have. Or maybe we know how little social concerns that person had in following Jesus’ new command to “love one another.” In these cases, the one praying for a departed soul really knows what to say in petition. We ought to pray for the finished wonder to go well for that person’s obvious new for purgation and purification, because we know they need it. Yet if we don’t know of other believer’s shortcomings, it is always good to pray for a person’s soul who earthly body has expired.
As on memorial days like All Soul’s Day, we offer prayers, similar to the account in Maccabees. We pray with concern and support and solidarity for brothers and sisters in the Fold of faith who have fallen asleep in death, to be brought into God’s Light, and to be saved out of any un-confessed sin or disobedience or lack of faith maturity, and to be completed and purified into Heaven**. It is a prayer in Christ Jesus, via the Spirit, to the Father— for those who have died. We have our personal prayers and our prayers made in a special way in the Church and in our liturgies. The Gospel for All Soul’s Mass tonight is Matthew’s Beatitude list, including “**Blessed are the Pure of Heart, for they shall see God.”. I will be praying on All Souls for a lot of departed people in need, and for anonymous Poor Souls in Purgatory.
Let us now turn to our second reading today, as written by St. Paul, of the book of 2nd Timothy, chapter 1, of the New Testament (RSV): “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me — may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day — and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.”
Here we have a Scripture of the New Testament time when Christians believed in the resurrection of the dead, as confirmed in Jesus, and in their fuller realization that we are embodied souls on earth, and that when we die, our souls pass on to God, with our bodies buried for the resurrection of the dead to come, when Jesus Christ would return. St. Paul the apostle had written many things of faith in what God would do so favorably for the disciple of Christ, His Son, and that, after physical death, God would continue His work in us in our soul. Next, at the Second Coming, our body would be given resurrection to perfection, with no more sin and death to be weary us any longer.
As Paul recalls the life of a deceased brother in The Lord, named Onesiphorus. Paul writes to Timothy to pass on to the family and community in Ephesus of how refreshing and good this believer was in life. Paul talks about the great support that this man had given him, even in the effort he made to see him in a Roman prison, and how Ephesus had been so blessed by him. Paul writes of Onesiphorus in the past tense, so it is about his dearly departed friend. Paul prays for his soul. He prays that the Lord grant Onesiphorus mercy—and for great reward on “that Day.” Paul was referring here to the Second Coming. Paul here is writing about this dead friend of whom he believes still lives on, just in a new way. He wants Timothy and others to remember this man as now heading to be with God, and to still be able to be loved, as family in the Beyond. Paul says that the Second Coming Day would arrive to bring all their hopes to fulfillment.
As we apply this Scripture to 2016 and the Church’s prayer practice, we note how we also do pray for people after they have died. We pray as their faith partners on earth, and for God to now look after them. We hope one day, by God’s Mercy and Grace, that we can gather again with our beloved and our friends and with all the just.
Friends care for each other, especially in times of need. What greater need can there be but upon death for one to get into Heaven with God?! Wouldn’t a friend hope that the most for a friend? Making Heaven is no easy guarantee, as some have been mistaken and foolish about. The Bible calls the way in as “narrow” but that “wide” is the road of perdition and destruction. So, we believers should definitely act as good friends and pray for people who have died. Who knows really what great effect it might have?! Maybe the prayer of a friend brings care and relief to a soul on the journey to God. Maybe the petitions here from earth do stir God’s Mercy in Jesus’ Sacred Heart. Love speaks volumes in prayer. Maybe these All Souls prayers unite the body of believers into Christ’ trust, and He expects it, in our cry for unity?
We don’t just pray for the people who we might think will desperately need it, as in ‘barely making it into God’s company (those of weak faith or of not a lot of evidence of soul room for God) faith growth). That’s a good person to appeal for–sure. But that appeal would be natural, just out of dear concern that the person does actually find favor with God.
Yet, we do also pray for the good and practicing believers who pass on. We need to pray also for the good practitioners of faith who have been among us. Rather than just assume an immediate Heaven for them, we join St. Paul for praying mercy on these people, too, as an act of solidarity and an ongoing friendship with them. I can recall that Mother Teresa in her dying days made everyone promise her for prayers for her soul after death. People thought–“Why—for a saint?”-—but Teresa knew her Catholic theology well, and she knew that purgation in the Spirit will be needed for nearly everyone. “Who dies perfect?” Teresa asked her visitors. She would know St. Paul and his teachings about how the Holy Spirit is sent to make us holy in this life, and to complete us in Christ Jesus, afterwards. Many have left a lot undone in life, even if confessing Jesus as Lord over their life.
A hint: Ask people for Mass intentions and other prayers for you after you die. You’re likely to need it! In your will, put it down as a “must” for a Mass of Christian Burial upon your death. These prayers really do mean something!
Here now is some more Scripture and knowledge of the Spirit’s role in purgation of all our sin…
The Spirit is called the Fire by Paul as he writes the Corinthians in the third chapter of his first epistle to that church. He says that the Spirit keeps at it to complete us in holiness, even later on. “The work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire. ”
The author of Hebrews agrees with this work of the Holy Spirit needed for us after our death, so as to see God in the New Jerusalem. In Hebrews 10 it proclaims: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel.”
Revelation 21:27 is in agreement, too, here, as it declares that “nothing unclean shall enter Heaven.” Thus, the need for purgatory, a place or process to enter purification and completion, is in order. If St. Teresa of Calcutta didn’t feel quite perfected for Heaven, then neither should we be. And we should highly welcome, as she did, the prayers of people for us after our death.
Finally, the great confessor St. John Vianney, who spent hours upon hours every day with people in the Sacrament of Confession, was asked of why he gave some much time for this Sacrament, and he said that it was because it was freeing people of many sins that Purgatory would have had later to address, but was instead pre-dealt with in God’s Mercy in the Confessional. Wow. That’s a saint telling us something important.
John Vianney said the Holy Spirit does much work in perfecting a life in the confessional, but that un-repentance or an unwillingness to address the sins in our life, begs for an address for it later by God’s Spirit in our afterlife, because we cannot enter Heaven and be in God’s Perfect presence without becoming all holy ourselves. God must give the grace for that. Only the arrogant thinks otherwise and would depend on their own righteousness or merit.
(Of course, Reconciliation follows upon the Grace of Baptism and the general repentance of a person for God’s Mercy to save them.)
It is understood then, that the post-Baptism Sacraments affords us much in grace, and that our acts of charity and works of mercy do help in the perfection of our lives, too. It is the practicing believer whom God can then perfect. Practice makes perfect. We need to seek and do good works, and hold to do all we can in Jesus so as not to be dominated by sin. Christ is come to grant us all freedom from sin. Vianney’s saintly faith certainly borrowed from St. John’s epistles, where it set the bar for the Christian life, saying: “But you know that Christ appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who remains in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has seen Him or known Him. Little children (of God),, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous.”
So there is some review of why we pray for All Soul’s, and how we believe in the Holy Spirit and His work, and how we accept purgation or purgatory, to be mercifully given our good completion in Christ Jesus. We also hear the call to use Confession, to remain pure, as God’s children of faith. Live it out.
Say hello to your “Supernatural Friend” in Heaven. That’s who a heavenly believer is–ready to be friends forever with us. We call them saints.
There are some sure ones in Heaven that the Church has pointed out, or “canonized,” that would be great choices to be your friends in Heaven. There are multitudes of others, too. Each all of them in Glory want to cheer us on to make it to Heaven, too.
Which saint(s) shall be your supernatural friends?
Can I tell you about mine?
I have my name’s sake: John– to be my holy friend. My first name is for a saint, which also was my grandpa’s name, and a Catholic naval hero guy. I pray to Saint John, as my supernatural friend. He is a favorite. I keep a drawing of him by my front door. His gospel is my favorite Bible book. I think it’s cool, too, that he was at the Last Supper, too, as I have learned to love the Eucharist as Jesus with us. All of this was probably due to his help. John became a priest, and so did I.
Here’s my next friend on my list–Mary. St. John was close to Holy Mary, The Saints of Saints. She is a supernatural friend of mine, and while I share her with billions of Christ’ faithful through time, Mary gives us each of us a personal care in the Church, as we allow. She is our beautiful Mother. I am doing something in return for help. I am consecrating myself anew in our supernatural friendship. I think Saint John recommended it. He wants me to better know Mary. John knew her well, and even took care of her (after Jesus’ Death and Resurrection) until her Assumption.
I have a saint that I chose for Confirmation: Anthony of Padua– to also be my holy friend for life. The friendship is working well. I can’t count the many ways he has assisted me over the 45 years of knowing him. He is always working to fix up the lost ways that I might go, or for me to find the lost things in my life. He is the patron of announcers, and he has inspired me to announce the Gospel with my life. He is depicted holding a child in his arms in his statue, which I saw in Franciscan parishes in my youth. Now I try to have a ministry to children in my life. As I see a child, I see Christ in them.
I have a saint of a new affiliation since my priesthood; he is an English priest saint and martry named John Payne. He was canonized in the 1970’s and given my birthday date as his new saint’s feast day. He is my holy friend of a few years, and I went and paid him respects at where he served and died for the Catholic Faith. I also prayed at St. Edward’s tomb on that pilgrimage.
I have my Irish heritage befriending me supernaturally to St. Patrick, as well.
I think he just automatically became my supernatural friend, with a last name like Barry, and since that he has seen me visiting his cathedral in NYC or marching in his parades with frequency from my childhood on.
These are the top special and supernatural friends in my life. They are each taking part in my life towards my own becoming a saint.
The goal of every Christian is to become a saint. And thus we are reminded– on ALL Saints Day of the Church calendar.
I also have Michael the Archangel, as my supernatural friend, all due to his name given me as my middle name by my parents. He is a supernatural friend to me, too! Make him SF #6.
Last year I began a friendship with St. Gaspar, one of the Magi to Christ. He carried the frankincense, the priestly gift, to the Christ Child on Christmas.
Now Gaspar has a little statue in my car. I made a postcard photo of it. He is SF #7.
I have struck up a supernatural pal in St. Edward since my arrival in Bowie in 2007=. Ditto that for St. Pius X, upon returning to teach at the school I attended in my youth.
It’*s Supernatural Delight– in knowing these living heroes of Heaven and lovers of God– these Supernatural friends.
May the saints and angels guide and bless you to the Glory of God!
Who are your supernatural friends?! We call them the saints.
At our parish saint’s fair, one of our confirmands has chosen St. Thomas Aquinas to be his saint for his full initiation into the Church. here he is telling some children about his new supernatural friend.