Year of Grace Pure Offering

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“He has robed Himself in Glory:  Blessed Be the Lamb.”.  Let us draw near to be embraced in the Pure Sacrifice He has afforded in Himself.

In this Year of Grace, we can come to re- appreciate how God offers us in the Church a pure offering of Himself to apply into our broken lives.

The Eucharist Host and the Blood from the Cup afford us a means of receiving the purity of the Lamb Jesus.  His Sacrament giving (“This is My Body…My Blood”) extends a Gift of Grace for the Perfect to meet the imperfect.  God intends to heal us into an eventual perfection of being.  It will come from Him, not us.

It makes the Holy Mass and the sharing of Christ as Sacrament so vital.  How can one deny their need for such a Presence?!

Who will heal and perfect us?  The Lamb.

Behold, the Lamb of God…. blessed we who are called to sup with Him.

Sad it is for those who might try to present themselves before God without having prepared for ‘their robes’ to be washed fully clean in His Blood.  Or try to present themselves on their own standing.  That won’t work.

Trinity Sunday Homily

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“I Have Much More to Tell You” is the homily title today, taken from Jesus’ lips

Could we imagine all that there is of which Jesus want to tell us, beyond what we know now?   Oh, He says that is MORE (even MUCH MORE) that our Lord and Savior Jesus wants to tell us.   To his loyal apostles, He adds, “but you cannot bear it right now– this receiving more– but The Spirit Whom I will send will help you receive MORE.  So, cooperate with the Spirit of Truth coming to you.”

I have much more to tell you.   That line and theme does sounds like a joke on me, who always wants to tell a lot in my homily messages, in these short times I have in the pulpit here to preach and teach and exhort and inspire you.   To some I have succeeded and satisfied you.  To others, I held your interest, but maybe not so much inspired you with my subjects or points.  To still some others, you just did not want me to take long to say it– for one reason or another– and some liked my preaching, and others didn’t.

Don’t go too long, Father, as we can only take so much!’  I have seen that message on a few faces in the pews numerous times through the decade.  A few of you have voiced your displeasure with homilies of mine that normally have gone beyond the five-and-a-half-minutes you wanted me to take.   Yes, I’ll admit it, I have served some overflowing plates of preaching through the decade here.   I just have wanted you to have a lot to consider for your faith growth, but maybe now and then I could have pulled up a bit shorter in some messages, and said:  I have much more to tell you… but not today!   And some of you might have said: ‘Whew!  Thanks for the brevity this time.’

I could make this Holy Trinity real short today, too, but just saying one line:  The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is just that– a mystery.

And I could move us then right away into the Creed, and have Mass done in 39 minutes………………..   Sorry, that would be too obvious and trite here!

In this time of year, Pentecost into Trinity into Body and Blood Sunday, the Gospel takes us into John’s teen chapter messages.   And there is a line in John 17 that sums up our journey into these liturgies of The Church, heading into Summer.   It’s verse 3 that goes “And THIS is eternal life, that they might KNOW You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent…”   We need to know God and via His revelation in Jesus Christ.    It’s gospel nuggets like that which compel me to try to stir your thirst for knowledge in the Holy, and give you all I can from the pulpit, albeit in my imperfect manner and delivery and clarity.   I just wanted to stir you, and myself, to hunger and thirst for the knowledge of God, even in this life on earth, before what comes in the next.

What is it today I am pondering aloud for you?   It is about Jesus – Who has always existed as the Wisdom at the Father’s side – who came as Revelation to us.  Jesus said it that “no one has seen God in His Infinite Wonder, but now through Him we can have revelation… even that he or she who has seen Jesus can know the Father!

Yes, even those who have experienced Him, sweet Jesus… and experienced His saving love… His enlightenment….His bridge to the Spirit of Truth— can realize that God is seeking that hunger for He has much more to tell us, show us, and love in us.  Do we desire it?  Do we desire it?

The answer through the generations has been, YES, some people have really desired Him.  And found Him.   There is a title for Jesus in that category, as He is called The Desire of Nations.  It comes in Scripture in Haggai 2, verse 7.  Those digging for knowledge in the Bible can find God there in that verse coming fully alive to you in a Bible meditation or study.

Let me read it aloud for you out of the prophet Haggai:  “I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come” (Haggai 2:7). This fascinating verse apparently has a double meaning. It applies first to the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel, and if you know a bit of your Jewish Testament history, the remnant steadfast Jews wanted their center and touch-point of God back with them.  God’s prophet says that in that spirit for a rebuilt Faith, then God would promise to such that the wealth of the nations would flow into their temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus is that rebuilt temple, as He said in conclusion of His ministry, ‘there is a temple here that will be raised up in three days, for all the find their touch-point with God.’   And Jesus arose.  And He lives, and His Body now is His temple for people to live in for the wealth of God and eternity to be found.  “The Kingdom of God is among you,” Jesus said.   “It is within you,” Jesus said.   “I am a king, but as it is, my kingdom is not here like an earthly one, but it is with My Father…”  “I and the Father are one.”…  I am the Resurrection and Eternal life… believe upon Me… and live!”

In this Year of Grace, let us celebrate the grace or favor of God letting us to know Him.

So where does that leave us on Trinity Sunday?  With accepting that Jesus alone can satisfy our desire to know – and He bestows on us the Spirit of truth to make it possible for an eternal relation with the Trinity.  

That it is going to take a lot of steps to grow and reach the place where God is ready to receive us.  We can take heart, the Holy Spirit is given for us to attain it.   We just need cooperate.   With a desire to know God more.

Yes, today we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.   There is Mystery in God, but He wants to unveil mystery to us to become knowledge and love.  What I will exhort you on this Sunday is that the Trinity – an eternal relationship with the Triune God – is the one thing that will make you or me happy. We have a lot of misconceptions about what will make us happy;  knowing God will make us happy.  Knowing God is Life.  So said Jesus– John 17:3.  Hold on to that verse!

I know one more thing that can make you happy today:  for me to stop my homily right here, at the 5 1/2 minute mark.  Amen!

Did it!

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Pentecost Novena starts Thursday

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.

Holy Thursday Homily (longer blog version)

It’s the Year of Grace, and we’ve been talking of the various ways God showers His favor upon us.   The Grace of God can certainly be noticed in the blessings of Jesus’ New Passover Covenant of Eucharist and how it is shared via Holy Orders for His Church.

Two of the things that’s so important about Holy Thursday is that it’s the Fulfillment Day of the Passover by God from the old covenants to the Jews into the new one of Jesus, AND, that it’s the Institution Day of the Catholic Priesthood.   When Jesus gathered His apostles and said over the bread and wine “This is My Body…this is My Blood… (and then gave it to them to receive), He then said:  (From this time on) “Do this in Memory of Me.”  Here He commissioned them to “do this” that is, be His priestly vessels to share HIS High Priestly Gifts to the Church, His own Body and Blood, His very Self.

God’s Son Jesus gave fully of Himself on Holy Thursday and into Good Friday, and the same Gift is passed onto The Church, God’s people.  Jesus gives and still says “take…receive….Me.”   We have a new covenant in Jesus’ Body and Blood, and we have priests to serve the High Priest in continuing on this special participation in His Offering.  Jesus says “I AM Eucharist–even in His words–I AM the Bread of Life.” These apostles He chose were thus charged with the sacerdotal ministry (to be priests) beginning on Holy Thursday, and they were to pray Holy Mass in His Name and Person for Him, as priests serving The Priest.   Once Jesus returned to reign in Glory and gave us His Spirit, this priesthood was put into work.   The Holy Mass was to be the main ministry for them to do in “Holy Orders.”  Teaching was important of them too in their commission.  Tonight, we recall that original vocation started for Jesus’ purposes.   This night is the anniversary of the priesthood Jesus shared with His body of believers, the Church.  We are nearing the 2000th anniversary of it, from 33a.d to 2017a.d.

On that Thursday of the Jewish Passover in Jerusalem, about 1984 years ago, Jesus was really there in an Upper Room giving up His Body and His Blood for the salvation of the world.   His Last Supper was to be the New Passover, whereby His Body would be our ransom and sacrifice for sins, and His Blood would then be our pardon and our Passover from death.  The action of this Last Supper into the action of His Cross at Calvary would be all the same Offering, and Altar, and Victim.   It is why the Church’s Liturgy tonight doesn’t have an ending, but is picked up tomorrow in the Good Friday Liturgy.   Just like the Last Supper led along to the Cross—it was all one action.  For Jesus, that was all evident, in that it was an overnight in which Jesus never slept, until His human ‘sleep’ into death on Golgotha’s Crossbeam.

This Great Offering of Jesus, as the conclusion of His Man of Galilee earthly ministry, was purposefully done as The Main Event of the Savior, on that Jewish Passover.  It was done there to become the New Covenant Passover in Jesus’ Name.  Jesus told them to “do this in memory of Me.”  His parting Gift was Himself, and this Last Supper Gift was the Mass continued into the Church, to receive in Sacrament His Body and Blood. This Main Event Pasch of Jesus, on that original Holy Thursday, had the elements of the Pasch of the Jews, but with updates of fulfillment in Him, the Son of God.  For example, now the bitter herb would be Jesus’ suffering or Passion, the story to be told would now be changed from what Moses did to what Jesus accomplished, the unleavened bread for the journey out of Egypt and the mystery manna bread was to now be given as the Body of Jesus, His Real flesh for the life of the world (as John 6 puts it–for Jesus said: “I AM the Bread of life).”  The blood on the doorpost of the Exodus, that saved those Jews who put it obediently over their entranceways, was now the Blood of the Lamb, The Lamb of God, Jesus, who saves us who obediently receive Him into our being.   And so many other connections were made—for Jesus to now offer a Paschal Mystery.  (Recommendation:  Read Brant Pitre’s “Jesus and the Last Supper.”)

Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, commissioned priests to serve the Paschal Mystery, particularly in service of the Holy Mass.  If you peruse the latter part of the Bible book of Hebrews, you can see how it was all written and explained by that Bible author, who saw Jesus primarily as the High Priest, come down from Heaven, to author a way for us to participate in salvation by Him, and to have Him as our holy mediator to God.

I mentioned the term Paschal Mystery…you recall what it is, right?  We have had a whole preaching series on the Pascal Mystery not so many months ago here—it is the Mystery we celebrate of salvation by Christ’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and the hopeful promise that comes in participating in it, which is Glory—life with God forever.

The simple Mystery of Faith formula can be remembered as the one we often sang in churches, as a song:  “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.”  Meaning:  Christ to our past, Christ to our Present, Christ to what is yet to come.

Or, better, stated biblically, as St. John records in Revelation, we celebrate our Jesus as The One “Who Is, Who Was, And Who Is To Come.”  John starts out His apocalyptic book with Jesus as Priest and Paschal Mystery.  Rev. 1:8 says (as on Jesus lips, reigning in Heaven): “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, Who is and Who was and Who is to come.”

Catholic priests know something of this three-fold identity of Jesus the Priest and Pascal Mystery.  I will briefly tell you of Jesus Who Is, Who Was, and Who Is To Come.

Jesus Who Is. He is the Priest Forever, every making intercession for His people.    Cardinal Wuerl was talking about this in his Chrism Mass at the Cathedral on Monday.   Jesus lives.  He is Emmanuel, God-with-us, which is the great prophet Isaiah’s view of the Christ. Jesus says “I Am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   One sure way He is– the Eucharist– is supplied for the Church’s whole journey, providing the people of God discern their priest vocations to serve her, and have them pray their Masses.  Please pray tonight on how you may support priestly vocations.  We need to find them and support them.

Jesus Who Is.  In a new book by N.T. Wright about Good Friday, he says that this Day of Christ’ Death (and its Holy Thursday lead-in) should be seen as a new starting point, as in Jesus as Alpha, and Wright say for too long some churches have seen the Crucifixion as just one day of wrath, when God took out His anger about sin, and had Jesus punished for us, to take our sins.   But that punishing definition is off, because then it leaves the Cross only as a past event, as if the Friday of Jesus Crucifixion was for wrath, and then an ending.  A closed event.   Yet read all of Revelation or the Book of Hebrews, and one can find how Jesus lives as Priest to keep on making intercession, and He can re-present His Sacrifice as He likes, without it being changed or having Jesus be re-crucified.  (As people crazily and wrongly claim of Catholics doing.)   Jesus is still seen as Lamb in a present tense in Revelation, as well as a future tense.   Because Jesus must be a present Lord, not only a past one.

Speaking of the past, Jesus did come into time and offer His life.   There was a definite day of Crucifixion for Jesus.   Jesus is the God who was—too.  We remember precisely the day He committed Himself to the Sacrifice, as on Holy Thursday He said:   “Would that I could pass from drinking this cup of suffering, yet, not as I will, but as You will, Father.”  Jesus chose to die for us, carrying out His destiny to be Yeshua–the God Who Saves.  He came and on that Cross could even offer up in Himself the sins to all the people in the past centuries and millennia who had sinned.   His offer at the Cross would be able to go way back into the past–even to the original sin.    We remember that in the Eucharist prayer at Mass.  Jesus died for us.  (Fact.  Historical Event.)

Who Is To Come.  Jesus’ offering also could go far into the future, for to give Mercy to the modern world of sinners, too, like ourselves.  Even from nearly 2 millennia ago, and 5892 miles away from here, on the other side of the planet.  He wanted to bless us in His Mercy and Peace and lead us to eternal life.  And His Love outpouring reached us.  And where are we headed?   We are headed to Glory.    Jesus said of Himself, that He is Who is, Who was, and Who is to come.    The Holy Mass is a prayer for preparation for His coming.  We await Him in a holy worship in His Body and Blood.   How more personal can a holy waiting for His Glory Arrival be?   St. Paul said of the Mass:  “We proclaim the Lord’s Death (Sacrifice) until He comes again (in Glorious appearance to us). ” When we get to Heaven, what will we do?  Worship Him.  So, we get started here, even in Jesus’ Body and Blood.

I tell you all of this because priests know these things of the Priesthood of Jesus and of the Pascal Mystery.   We also know why Scriptures like Revelation was written.  It is a letter by John to his churches (7 in Asia Minor) about how he sees a Heavenly Liturgy going on (via visions he received from Jesus) and how John urges the churches to have earthly Masses mirror the One above, celebrated in the same Lord Jesus among them on earth (as Sacrament).   This life in Sacraments (such as by Holy Mass) was to upbuild their ongoing relationship to God as His people in Christ.   Yes, take note, Jesus is speaking as the Book of Revelation starts, Who says He is the I AM–  the source of everything.   He is The One who first spoke to Moses with that title, and the one to institute a priesthood, even via Aaron, Moses’ brother, to celebrate the Sinai covenant He had made, and Jesus was also around in the bread and wine covenant with Abraham and Melchizedek the priest atop this very Jerusalem city.  Jesus speaks now in victory from Heaven of the New Covenant He has accomplished.  He speaks to one of his first priests, John, in this amazing revelation.   John the Apostle knows Jesus as “Priest.   Jesus is the One Who, as Priest and Perfectly Holy High Priest, did institute a New Covenant priesthood to serve His purposes for the Church.  John was there in the Upper Room when it was inaugurated– Passover Day.  John was now living the Mass as he wrote this letter.  He reminds us how Jesus, the Alpha, the new beginning, wanted to use priests them to lead His people in salvation to the Omega point, the life of living forever.  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, Who is and Who was and Who is to come.”

Oh my, I could go on…. but let’s end on a personal reflection.

Have you had some real memorable Masses in your life?   I have.   I’ve been a lifelong Catholic.   I can remember school Masses in St. Joseph’s School in Penfield, New York in my third grade year, when excitedly, I could receive Holy Communion with my class at Mass.    I can remember six years after that when I was in a Mass with Bishop Hermann over at St. Pius X Bowie with a big Confirmation class.   I remember being given the Sacrament by him, under the patronage of St. Anthony, and I remember it being a windy afternoon outside, like it suddenly was Pentecost or something.

I can also remember being in college Masses with my buddies at Ohio U. or University of Maryland.   I had many enjoyable ones there.  I had a Mass on a Sunday at St. Pius one Sunday night on the Feast of St. Augustine where God really touched me.  It would lead me to a deeper commitment to Jesus, eventually leading me to be called to seminary and priesthood.  Seminary Masses were quite edifying, like my first Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday as a twenty-six-year old in a Cleveland seminary was so great.  It was quite dynamic and faith-deepening.   Jesus is clearly leading every Holy Mass.  Priests are instruments of His choice to do what He wants for His Church.

Then as a priest, there have been too many amazing Masses to try to single certain ones out.   Well, how about just one.  Down in one parish assignment in Leonardtown on a Holy Thursday, I recall a parish woman named Grace, who really lived out her faith, by the grace of God.   I would tease her– “you are the Grace of God in our midst.”   She so loved the Lord and the Sacred Liturgy.  She was on cloud nine on that Holy Thursday.  She came back on Good Friday to pray the Stations, and after the 14th one, she died.  She literally went on to the 15th station on her own, the Resurrection, as Mary Magdalene sees Jesus.   Well, Grace saw Jesus in person one Good Friday ago.  As she did the stations so prayerfully, I suppose He could not be without her another moment, so much did Our Lord love her.   Grace’s funeral Mass filled the parish church in an Easter octave weekday following.  You know, all through this Year of Grace, I keep thinking of her.

Lastly, there are many, many very nice liturgies that have occurred here in St. Edward.   Maybe this very evening I could also single this Mass out, for it is the ninth Holy Thursday I’ve had here, to celebrate back in my home town another anniversary of the priesthood day.   That’s special to me.   It is good to be here!   As Psalm 133:1 says:  “Behold, how good and pleasant it is, for brethren to gather in unity.”  That’s how I feel tonight.  Or as the Psalm line in Hebrews goes:  “Hinneh mah tov u mah nahim, sebet ahim gam yahad!”

So it’s the New Passover and with the Holy Orders in the priesthood serving Jesus by it.   It’s so good!

4th Sunday of Lent Homily “Redemptive Suffering”

Live Homily was trimmed short.  Here’s the fuller, blog version…

The Help of Redemptive Suffering

A man goes into the doctor complaining of aches all over, and points and touches his kneecap and says to the doc: “I have pain here.”  Then he points and touches his elbow and says:  “I have pain here.”   Then he points and touches the back of his neck, and says:  “I have pain here, too.”   Then, he’s ready to point to something else, but the doctor interrupts him and says: “ Sir, I think I already know what’s wrong with you.”  The patient is elated—saying: “’You do, Doc?  That’s great, because I need help.  What is it– arthritis, bone degeneration, injuries?”   The doc says:  “Just let me look at your pointer finger—I think you must have injured it.  Ah yes—you’ve cut your pointer finger!   Nothing else is wrong!  (Everything you touch therefore just feels like it’s hurting…)”  :)   Oh, if suffering only had easy solutions like that one, in the joke!

But when we are in some serious pain, it’s no laughing matter.

We also can struggle in the spiritual life when we suffer.   Like the false assumption made in today’s gospel about the blind person, some people can think that suffering happens just to bad people, or to people who have it coming to them from God, or suffering happens to dumb people.  So when suffering comes to them, they are looking for how the sufferer might be at fault, for being bad, deserving of hurt, or just dumb.  Wrong assumption.  Jesus says that suffering was not the fault of the man born blind, nor the fault of his parents.  But then Jesus adds something important, that the man’s suffering will be involved with God’s compassionate help.  Jesus says the man’s blindness was there that the works of God might be made visible through him.

What? People must have wondered.  Did Jesus just say God is with suffering?

God is with sufferers, though He’s not the cause of suffering.  Yet God can work with any suffering person to have the experience be redemptive and saving.   Yes, we are already broken people to start with—but God is a healer.  God is a Redeemer, too.

Redemptive Suffering might be hard to believe of Jesus, but for the fact that He practiced it in a grand way in saving sinners by His crucifixion on a Cross, and then in His rising up afterwards in a victory to share with us—and it won our salvation and our right to have Him live inside our souls– so we take heed of Him to listen and learn.

Suffering, first, causes the person acting in soul and conscience to reflect on life.   You or I ask: Where is God in my suffering? Did I do something wrong? What will be the quality of my life from here on out?  Simply, we want to make sense out of that which doesn’t seem to make sense.

Understanding a share of the meaning of suffering has come via some experiences in my own life.  While my pains have been small compared to others, one big accident I had suffered in life pointed me to a higher meaning for my life (since I survived it—and looked to know why), another incident showed that I need to exercise some caution over my need for success and acceptance of others, and another suffering situation showed me that I cannot always be in control of things, even my own life, but that it’s ok.    These are some life lessons in redemptive suffering.   I came out better due to the suffering.   I used the suffering for good.   I accepted it as part of God’s plan to shape me, or to shape another via me.   It’s not an easy thing, but it is reassuring that, as Jesus said, “the works of God might be made visible” through me in some episodes of life.

Jesus has redemptive power.    It is part of His whole being of Grace.   He answers our questions of suffering in some simple lessons— like that of the pearl fisherman seeking a treasure embedded in the dark heart of the oyster, so we have shining pearls of grace hidden in the darkness of our suffering.  God will bring forth His grace and pearls in our own oyster’s to open.   (So let’s start shucking, rather than ducking, our pain.)

When we survey human history, it becomes evident that suffering is an inextricable part of the human condition. It’s not a matter of whether we will suffer during our lives, but when. And more specifically, how will we suffer: poorly or well?

When we fail to find meaning in our suffering, we can easily fall into despair. But once we find meaning in our suffering, it is astounding what we can endure, both mentally and physically. The key is not the suffering itself, but the meaning found within it.   Here is where our Lent and our standing at the foot of Jesus’ Cross might truly help us.  Jesus calls us to join Him, to even become His body, or an embodiment of believers under Him, the Head of the Church.   He permits us to give our suffering with His perfect suffering, again in trust of the Father Almighty. Christ asks for us to offer our suffering as part of our becoming fully one with Him.  Jesus did this redemptive work as one of us, suffering many things, all with a goal in mind—to present it to the Father as a perfect, saving act of service and love.   When Jesus perfectly offered it all at the Cross, as His final act, the Father received it as “redeeming.”  Jesus is Risen.   Our path in His paschal mystery now can lead us to gains from our pains, victory over any misery.   Trust in God.

Let us understand that we are called to co-suffer with Him.   You see—some people want a convenient and easy theology or faith approach that claims that Jesus suffered so that we wouldn’t have to?  But that’s wrong teaching.   Jesus suffered the Cross, because we couldn’t save ourselves, so that we gladly have had Him stand in for us.   But Jesus didn’t eliminate suffering here on earth.   His believers were expected to go through some of it, even as the Beatitudes say of our life in Him.  We are blessed, but we suffer some for it, too.   Also, not everybody was healed by Jesus from states of suffering.  For one, He did not overthrow the Roman Empire in His 33 year visit to Israel, so there would be much persecution and suffering ahead to the Church because of that.   Yet Jesus does say a whole healing is coming to His people, and an eternal life.   That is a very good thing He promised, so to make all the ordeals worth it.   We won’t suffer damnation nor separation from God any longer, provided we cling to the Lord and His salvation.   We need to suffer through what He allows to happen to us.

Pope John Paul wrote an apostolic letter on suffering, and in it he says that the work of Christ doesn’t guarantee an escape from suffering.  No-instead, Jesus has changed the meaning of suffering. We are now joined through baptism with Christ in His death and resurrection, and we have become intimately united to Him, so much so that we are His Body. Because of our union with Christ, even our suffering is changed; it becomes redemptive. Because Christ loves us so much, He invites us to participate in His redeeming work by allowing us to offer up our sufferings in union with His.  Pope John Paul II said, “in the cross of Christ not only is the redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed” (Salvifici Doloris, 19). In other words, our suffering is changed and is worth something if it is in union with Christ. Every time we suffer, we have an opportunity to either run from Christ, or embrace the suffering as an opportunity to love and walk as He walked.

St. Paul experienced much weakness and suffering, but when he prayed about it, Christ answered: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” As a result, the apostle could proclaim, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Paul understood that our life is a cooperation with the work of Christ when he wrote: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24). Think about that: Paul said that something is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. What could possibly be lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Answer: Our part!  While that is miniscule compared to Christ, “we still have little part to play in the world’s Redemption.” (SD27–Pope JPII)  It’s a grace of “redemptive suffering.”

We can participate with Christ in redeeming the world.  So offer up your pain.

‘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?

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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.

One more Ordinary Sunday homily on grace

Sermon on the Mount–The “Don’t Worry” Gospel.  Photo= Gary Zimak speaking here last Feb. about handling anxiety. ‘Remember? They were 3 great talks.

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I lead off with a reference to bulletin blurbs. This week we nearly printed the guidelines for giving up mean for Lent. Yes, we meant meat! But, hey, perhaps giving up being mean is really better!  It reminded me of another bulletin blunder that read: Don’t just let worry kill you, let the Church help.  Say what?!

No, the Church and Jesus ARE working AGAINST worry and stress, really.  It the Peace Rite at Mass we truly petition God for our wanting freedom from sin’s dominion (like fear) and to be safe from all distress, as we await the Blessed Hope and Coming of Jesus in Glory.

How to Let Grace Win out over Worrying

In this Year of Grace, we are especially pondering how to have God’s favor upon us lead us to more victorious and fruitful Catholic living.   One obstacle in our path is worry or anxiety—as Jesus pointed out in His message today.  The Savior in His sermon on the mount said:  “One cannot add a single moment to their life by worrying… do not worry.”

Recall those talks last year by our special guest speaker Gary Zimak—the author of the “Worriers Guide to the Bible.’   He came for three nights with different addresses to urge us to not let worry take away the joy of our Catholic faith.  He urged us to pray:  “Lord, help me again, for I have fallen again to worry, and I so reduce myself by it, let my faith and trust in You rise up instead.  Help me to trust You, again, right now, and turn this thing around.  I surrender once again—to You!”   Such prayers work!

I know that how, for some of you, Gary’s message was an ice-breaker for you to get finally free of the icy holds that you had been used to being shackled by.

Today’s gospel has Jesus addressing our need to trust in the Father Almighty’s plan.   There is a Master Plan and we can trust in it.   Jesus did so Himself, as He lived and made choices in our very position as a human person.  Jesus said:  Consider how nature relies on God: you too are a natural wonder of God, now act so!   You can take the lessons of the lilies of the field, dear disciple.  They don’t toil in living under God.  Why, then, do you?

When we feel that things are out of our control, that is when we tend to worry, but how do you stop worrying?  For starters, remember that God, not you, is in control.  Also, of about worrying, most of the awful things we imagine that will happen often never do. We can be thankful for that.  We should better understand that worrying never helps a situation get better. Worrying sends a message to ourselves and those around us that we are helpless and have nowhere to turn or no One to deliver us. However, as a Christian, we believe that God has everything in His control. If He really does, and we really believe that, then we have nothing to worry about. We only need to trust that God will take care of everything according to His plan.

Here are five more short tips from the Bible to help us to be free from our anxieties.

First, we can confess to God that we are falling into fear again, and ask Him to strengthen us.  The Bible says in Philippians 4:6,7 to “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Yes, we can be so cautious that it is not hesitancy or prudence in the lead, but timidity and fear and being overly concerned for something—as if we have to have it all under our control.  Why not remind yourself that God is in control, and ask God to help out, thanking Him that He is there.  Stop worrying by taking your requests to Him. You have a “go-to God.” Peace comes from being in Christ Jesus, rather than just self-reliance.  Yes, we do what we can, then we leave the rest up to God from there.

Secondly, that same verse reminds us to be thankful.  “O God, thanks, that You’ve Got This: Amen.”

Thirdly, if one goes on to the very next verse in Philippians 4, verse 8, the Word of God gives us more advice:   Quote:  Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Just after Paul’s comments about worry he says that we should think on good, godly things. When we focus on positive and wholesome events, memories, plans, etc., then it is hard to be worried about everything else.   Christians should be positive-minded people for we know God and His plan wins out in the end.  Yes, you might have a problem going on, like needing a new job—but what about the work of God (or job of God) in you?  Are you becoming more like Christ, as in being more a true self, honest person, with a good pure intention or loving heart in what you do?  Are you giving witness or good report of a life of faith, and do you have some virtue shining through, and can you praise God for something in your life?!  If so, then be of that mind, not of worry.

Fourthly, we have a Counselor to call upon.   We are blessed in the Holy Spirit, Who goes by the title Comforter and Counselor.   He is a Gift from Jesus to us to live the life of being His disciple.  It says in John 14:26, 27 “But the Comforter, Who is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind for peace….so let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Would we just let that Word be planted deep within us as real and reliable!

In John 14 Jesus is explaining to the disciples where He is going and that He will return. In the meantime the Holy Spirit of God will come and indwell the believers. This was something new to the people of Jesus’ day. They did not have the Holy Spirit living within them like we do as believers today.  Jesus could have been worried about His whole salvation plan working, but He turned it over, for the Spirit’s help of comfort.”   “Come, Sweet Comforter, and help me.  Live according to Your Name.   I need it.”

The Father comforts too.  The Word says in 1 Peter 5:6, 7 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for He cares for you.”  O God, I may be suffering and low right now, but You are the exalter.  Lift me up in Your own Self.  Unite me to You via your Son and Spirit.

Fifthly, we should realize that there is an inner strength to us, if we have received Christ into us. Even the Psalmist, having some of the spirit of God, declares in:  Psalm 27:1-3 “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?   So does Isaiah say in:  Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you, and yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Life was a lot less scary (and worrisome) when we were kids and we had parents who were bigger and stronger than us. When we had problems we could go to them and they would say that they would take care of it. We have a God that wants to do that for us today. Will you take your concerns to Him and rely on His strength?  He is waiting to take that burden from you.

And what if you just can’t see how all you are looking at adds up to Heavenly Aid?   Go to Romans 8:28 of God’s Promise, as He says to us: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”.  Amen to that.

More on Basic Definitions of Grace

It’s a “Year of Grace” theme in 2017 in the Church.  You’ll see Bible quotes on grace in the bulletin and articles/homilies on grace in this blog.  Carrying on from Sunday’s homily, we talk of some basic definitions of Grace.

From your catechism classes when you were growing up, you probably remember that there are two kinds of grace, sanctifying and actual.  What makes those two kinds different?  Sanctifying grace stays in the soul. It’s what makes the soul holy; it gives the soul supernatural life. More properly,  it is supernatural life.  Actual grace, by contrast, is a supernatural push or encouragement. It’s transient. It doesn’t live in the soul, but acts on the soul from the outside, so to speak. It’s the supernatural kick in the pants. It gets the will and intellect moving so we can seek out and keep sanctifying grace.

We can fall into mortal sin and deny the work of sanctifying grace.  It’s our free will to reject God, but the Bible says it is the unpardonable sin if we’ll take it that far (blasphemy of the Holy Spirit– one’s un-cooperating with God’s work to be sanctified).   If we die in this state of mortal sin, then we have not the sanctifying grace to help us exist with God in Heaven.  It would be like trying to live more than ten minutes at the sea bottom with no means for breathing air.  Grace is the air of existence with God.

Only the fictional people of Sponge Bob and his Bikini Bottom pals do seem to get by in the underwater world, but in real life we cannot.   (By the way, do you remember my blogs from over a year ago when I mentioned how that kid’s show covers the 7 deadly sins in its characters, covertly?  Really!  Even Sponge Bob knows the lessons about humankind’s needing to live in grace! He wants to become holy!)

If we humans would want to live in the deep blue existence of a Holy God, then we will need ‘equipment’ we aren’t provided with naturally; we need something that will elevate us above our nature, something super- (that is, “above”) natural, such as the oxygen tanks of Grace.  In this comparison of air to grace, and living underwater to heaven, the lesson applies to our soul. In its natural state, it isn’t fit for heaven. It doesn’t have the right equipment, and if you die with your soul in its natural state, you won’t last 5 minutes nor 5 seconds in heaven; it won’t be for you. What you need to live there is supernatural life, not just natural life. That supernatural life is called sanctifying grace. It is holiness.

The reason you and I need sanctifying grace to be able to live in heaven is because there one is meant to live perfectly and in absolute union with God, the source of all life (cf. Gal. 2:19, 1 Pet. 3:18).  Now the cool thing is that God decided that we would first receive sanctifying grace down here, so to practice a start into the Spirit-assisted life of the supernatural (which we call the Christian Way– so to not have anything confused with aliens from outer space or ghostly things seen on the Horror cable tv channel)!

Heaven comes down in Jesus and Grace enters our soul in our union to Him.   God in Christ reaches out to us with the saving assistance we so desperately need.  And, He tells us, that our need isn’t just for ahead in paradise living, but that we are to learn how to live by grace while here on earth.  We need conversion of life to be grace dependers.

Actual grace would then be all that holy help and inspiration from God to motivate us into holiness/wholeness of life.  Are you recognizing those blessings coming your way?  One, I am sure, is the arrival of a parish mission to stir up and/or rejuvenate St. Edward’s people here.  Fr. Blaise Czaja comes from March 5-8 in 7 p.m. talks.

We Christians are beginning to breathe into the eternal.  Eternal life actually starts here, in our consent and decisions for God’s reign over us.  We learn to accept Christ and His way in us. St. Paul wrote down many things about this.  Romans chapter 8 has verses describing this activity:  “If Christ is in you…the spirit is alive because of righteousness… Led by the Spirit. (you) are children of God (now)…You received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, Father.. You are under grace….the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus as Lord (of our present to future existence).”

If sanctifying grace dwells in your soul when you die, then you’lol have the equipment you need, and you can live in heaven (though you may need to be purified first in purgatory; cf. 1 Cor. 3:12–16). If it doesn’t dwell in one’s soul when they die—in other words, if their soul is spiritually dead by being in the state of mortal sin (Gal. 5:19-21)— they are not equipped for life in heaven.  They face the real probability of face an eternity of spiritual death: the utter separation of their spirit from God (Eph. 2:1, 2:5, 4:18). The worst part of this eternal separation will be that one would have caused it to be that way, having not caught on in earth how all people in the flesh were dying away a little more and more each day when not living in Christ and the Grace of God.  (Of course, God in His mercy knows who was rebelling and resisting Him, or not– He knows the soul’s state and He is its ultimate Judge.)

So it’s important for us to catch up on Grace Lessons 101. How are we valuing Grace from God in our lives and letting it prepare us for union with God above?

Questions: What ways are you yielding to actual grace? How do you recognize it? Are you looking or seeking for it?

How do you value the Sacrament of Reconciliation in all this?  Do you receive pushes or nudges to head to a Reconciliation Room with a confessor, where the guilt for your sins is remitted (John 20:21–23)? Through the sacrament of penance, through your reconciliation to God, you receive sanctifying grace. But you can lose it again by sinning mortally (1 John 5:16–17).   Mortal sins do serious harm to our souls ( hence, the name)– see what Proverbs 6, Galatians 5, or 1 Cor. 6 say.  1 John 5:17 tell us that venial sins are less alarming, though we still work to curb them, too.

Our grave matter needs to be brought into the Light . God will offer you the help to keep living and breathing in the Holy Spirit, in your new dawn and new nature in Christ– and you very much need to cooperate. This Sacrament is invaluable to that pursuit of holiness. God is ready; we must come to seek His aid.

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A source of this information on grace here (and upcoming) is from Catholic Answers.  It is quite an informative web site.

 

 

Grace: What it is, What it does (homily)

The eye for an eye, tooth for tooth way of doing things once was seemed a fair way to handle things.  The revengeful response of this-for-that, I’ll hurt you because you hurt me, I’ll not care for you because you never seemed to care for me way of doing things–this all seemed fair once upon a time.  But Jesus came.  Grace came among us in His Person, the Second Member of the Holy Trinity, and He introduce humanity to our original design and living as neighbors, and He elevated humanity in HIs coming to share in the Grace of His own Sacred Heart among us, and His own Spirit.

Things changed for the earth.   Grace happened upon us.   A New Covenant, a New Life dawned to the people of the world in Jesus.  We now could accept grace as the new normal.  God came to us (in Christ) in an unconditional favor and He showed how far love could go when powered by grace.   Today’s Gospel teaching of Jesus introduced some ideas of grace-led living:  if someone asks your help to walk a mile with them, then say yes and even offer to go a second mile…. if someone genuinely needs an article of clothing, then give what extra you have, or even the shirt off your back. … if you’re struck on the right side for doing good, then you might have to resist evil or bad a second time on the left, in tolerance or non-violence– to not resort to that level where and when hatred and division and war starts out.  Can you be the peacemaker?  Can the cycle of harm be stopped by your own brave and good actions?

Rather than humanity being AT ONE ANOTHER, Grace comes to have us be helped to come together under God again. Jesus brings peace and favor on earth for people of good will.

Major examples of this..

There was a person who had been the next one in a string of generations of family who had to face a ‘family curse’ as he put it.   His great-great grandfather, then his great grandfather, his grandfather, and his father all struggled with something that they each gave into–each succumbed to the temptation.  But with this person of the new generation, he said:  “Enough.  It ends with my generation.  I will plead my Lord for the way to not continue in that path, whatever it takes.”

Praise God, after much prayer, sweat and tears, he conquered.  It took a dear, authentic, help-me-God faith.  He became the blessed peacemaker, and the help of God broke through the defenses of pride.

That above account is an example of the spirit of Grace in a person.

In another example, a person at a job, working with numbers of fellow Christians, became agitated in her spirit that their firm was cooperating in an evil regularly, with everybody turning a blind eye to it, since the boss did not have scruples or the moral fortitude to admit the wrongdoing he started, justifying it by saying “other firms do it, so we have to compete in the same way.”  It had gone on long enough, and this woman with the conscience wanted to bring the immoral practice up at a meeting.  She knew that her official complaint about it perhaps could cost her this well-paying job.  The exposure of the dark dishonest practice brought immediate wrath upon her from the boss and she was terminated by that person, in some set-up false charge manipulated against her.  Yet in that workplace, in the aftermath of it all, the rest of her colleagues began to muster the same courage, which they tabbed “grace under pressure,” to get that immoral practice at their firm stopped and the fired woman’s dignity restored back.  It took a while for it to happen, but the immoral practice was stopped at the firm. The woman’s resume was fixed.  Still, her life and career were scarred from that episode, but she ways that the ongoing conversion in God’s grace to her soul is going right.

Jesus came in Grace to the world, when the plan of spilling it out generously for us all to practice.   His lavish generosity of favor outpoured to us, though so undeserved by us, is the story of his recovering humankind to our original path and destiny.  We are made to be grace-full.

While a world wants to go at one another, Jesus inspires us, as in today’s Gospel message, instead to share grace to our neighbor and to receive grace back.   God will live in those united hearts and remake humankind.   In it all, we can be fit for Heaven eventually, which is The Place of Grace.

One cannot live in Heaven, but for the learned way of cooperating and living fully in Grace.

We continue our Year of Grace theme in 2017 with some basic definitions of Grace.

If you took your parish’s catechism classes when you were growing up, you at least remember that there are two kinds of grace, sanctifying and actual. That may be all you recall. The names being so similar, you might have the impression sanctifying grace is nearly identical to actual grace. Not so.

Sanctifying grace stays in the soul. It’s what makes the soul holy; it gives the soul supernatural life. More properly,  it is supernatural life.   In the Sacraments and by means of the open heart to God, Jesus starts the work in us for the supernatural– no not sci-fi horror type, but the elevated way of living that grace affords us to go beyond our natural selves, which are harmed by our sin and brokenness.  Grace can perfect us, even win over eventually of our nature, and we become blessed people, souls in holiness embodies by our humanity on the way to utter salvation in God.

Actual grace, by contrast to sanctifying grace, is a supernatural push or encouragement. It’s transient. It doesn’t live in the soul, but acts on the soul from the outside, so to speak. It’s a supernatural kick in the pants. It gets the will and intellect moving so we can seek out and keep sanctifying grace.

We very much need to keep in sanctifying grace, as we won’t be able to enter into Heaven without it, because everything transcends the natural there.  Even our bodies will be graced, perfected ones there–by Grace’s assistance.   Our minds will be so much more elevated there in Heaven, even permitted and able there to see God and to perceive mysteries so profound, that which will take a whole lot of ‘supernaturality.’

But we need to be disciple by Jesus.  There are lessons for the ultimate conversion.

So we start the participation in God’s grace right here, right now.  Even as we all are on a child-like level with God, we must accept the reign of God and the trustful life of letting grace in and letting our carnal self go.  If not, if we don’t go along with God’s lessons on grace but instead choose to live by the worldliness of sin and let our fallen nature lead, then we’ll find ourselves in death as like at the bottom of the ocean without air.  Mortal sins can kill the soul, take away our freedom and participation in God, so we must consider how the Sacraments, such as Confession and Communion, are important measures to practice for a grace-filled life.  Confirmation’s gift of the Spirit also is a reminder to us that we have virtues to live out, charity to serve, faith and knowledge to grow more deeply in,  and the many ways of the Holy Spirit to have us  to become like Christ and live in sanctified love.

There is such Good News here.  We Christians are soul-breathing into the eternal, and our bodies, feeling sinful or unworthy at times, are being re-worked to be a Temple of the Holy Spirit, and even to become the finished wonder of the Body of Believers, the Church, to be “bride” to Christ, as the Bible tells in its ending chapter.   Our exodus story of the New Covenant is to be made a people home with God forever, and we shall show our friendship on our pilgrim journey on earth as His Catholic believers and with our other friends of faith God leads to Himself.

St. Paul wrote down many things of how we are to live in grace by Christ’ Spirit.  It is our vocation, our “supernaturality,” as it is.    Romans chapter 8 has verses describing this activity:  “If Christ is in you…the spirit is alive because of righteousness…Led by the Spirit. (you) are children of God (now)…You received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, Father.. You are under grace….the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus as Lord (of our present to future existence).”

What can Grace do in you in easier examples of everyday living?

It can help you bear with situations with people that just seem impossible, uncomfortable, unreasonable, and otherwise hard.  They are occasions for Christ in you to live by grace.  He’ll show you.  His unconditional love is yours to borrow at times so difficult.  His noticing of people for the broken vessels they are–and putting that in your heart and eyes– will be helpful for you to see and understand better what life is throwing at you, or why it is how it is.  He also will bear you up in grace to your heart.

It can help you getting over the hump of something that has been your struggle for so long.  Maybe less human natural effort, and some super-natural effects, like Grace, can bring you peace.

Grace can bless you with a cave of the heart experience, a refuge in God– where a spirit for personal prayer,and worship, or Scripture pondering, or a shared Christian experience with others in openness to God, can give you refuge from life’s storms. That’s Grace, too.  May such Grace be yours.  Amen.

From the Silly to the Serious Signs– of the End Times

th8UXRGELIA Long Teaching on the End Times. Back in Advent Season, the Church took its annual look into the Word of Jesus’ Promise to Return in glory. In this 6th week of Ordinary Time daily Masses, we are hearing of Noah’s story (told in Genesis) and we relate it to Christ Jesus as being the ultimate fulfillment of Noah’s hope, as His Body will be the “ark” in which people will find our “passage” from the judgment onto the great hope of Heaven. Noah was the one who found favor with God before He unleashed the Flood.  All who were with Noah (man and creature) were saved.   So it will be in Glorious manner with those who are with and in Christ Jesus; they shall be in His favor and saved by God by His provision.  We consider the Church to be the new ark for people to come and get into Christ for salvation.    In this Year of Grace, that is a sound message of our Saving Grace via Christ the Lord, which is offered by Him, can be lived now through Him, and is to come for us as with “The Day” of salvation.  (Our Rising Up day in Jesus–the Second Coming Day.)

In today’s Genesis Bible story (Wed. 6th week Ordinary Time), the image of the dove coming back to Noah’s Ark is seen as the fore-sign of The Holy Spirit, the Dove of Peace, coming to the Church that is together in the Lord in the end times.   With peace in the Holy Spirit, we shall not fear The Day of the Lord ” (Old Testament; יֹום יְהוָה  and New Testament ἡμέρα κυρίου, as in “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD does come upon us all. ” (Joel 2:31, cited in Acts 2:20).

When we get along to April and to the Easter Season, we shall ponder the End Times promises again and from the perspective of Jesus’ Sign of Jonah, that He is Risen and, for those people of faith (of humbled, repentant hearts in Him), they have The Advocate in Heaven coming in Return for them.  Until His Return, when the Son shall come and raise our bodies up to be with God where our souls have gone to, we live on in Faith.   We keep on growing in The Lord and in His Body until The Day.    We live on to know the Lord better and to keep in hope in His Promises, and we share our Faith of the great grace of Jesus for saving sinners.

As Peter says: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)

As we wait upon the Lord of Glory, we must hold on against the current of all those who mock and scoff at such a Day to come or that Christ Jesus would be their Judge.  But He will!  Many think there is no Second Coming and Judgment to arrive from the Eternal Son Jesus.   The apostle Peter knew this sad conclusion from the start of the Church when he preached to the flock:  “Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created*.’” 2 Peter 3:3-4 (NLT)                        *=BIG HINT–but it will not remain the same

Well, things really aren’t remaining the same, as some scoffers say.   We press on in history, seeing some prophetic signs getting met, which hadn’t occurred before on earth.

Here are two such signs of the times:

The Re-Emergence of Israel as a nation.  The Bible mentions this as possibly a key sign of the final days.  Like as prophesized in Ezekiel 37, God promised to bring the Jews out of exile. He promised to bring them back into the land of Israel.   If that is so, if literally interpreted, then Israel re-emerging as a nation has taken place.  It came about right after World War II, though following their trying Holocaust period.  Since God has originals ties to Israel, we would think this is a noticeable development.

Yet, there could be a different interpretation of the Dry Bones vision of Ezekiel.  If the prophesy is about the Church being raised up as the new Israel, in the power of Jesus (its Founder), where and when an elect people are brought back into existence at Jerusalem (where the Church began) by a New covenant fulfillment–then the prophesy has been in place and ready for its Glorious fulfillment.  In the prophesy, it says: “O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:11-13 (NLT)  The Church is a people who are alive again, born again, into the start of eternal life.  Though we still experience natural death, we know that Jesus promises us to all have our graves opened on The Last Day for us to be given “resurrection of the body and life everlasting.”  *(so says N.T. Scripture and our Creed)

Another Sign of The End: The Dramatic Increase in Travel and Knowledge
In a vision, God revealed prophetically to Daniel that in “the time of the end,” travel and knowledge will increase: “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end. Many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” Daniel 12:4 (NLT)    Let’s consider this two-fold thing.

At the time the Book of Daniel was written, horses were the world’s the fastest mode of transportation, which remained until the train, plane and automobile. Now we move about on the earth quite quickly and freely.  Today’s world is definitely not “the way it’s always been.” Frequency and speed of travel have markedly increased!
What about knowledge? In Daniel’s time, few people received a formal education. In fact, basic literacy was a foreign concept to all but an elite minority of the world until the past 100 to 150 years. Yet, in the past century alone, human knowledge of science, biology, technology, and countless fields of endeavor has exploded. And the advent of the Internet has created a worldwide archive of human knowledge that far exceeds even the wildest dreams of the great ancient civilizations. Is humanity’s knowledge base today “the same as previous generations?”  Nope.  That word in 2nd Peter (which we wrote of in the top of this blog) tells it right.   We are moving forward and rapidly to the Day of the Lord!

In the next blog, we will consider two more of the Signs of the Times.   One is of the sign of false messiahs/anti-christs and the other is the birth-pang signs of the earth reeling from its long-continuing broken state.  Be prepared for an even-longer blog than this one.  I got into the topic, borrowing from a source a blog reader sent to me. thvk6431l8  The poster here is someone’s end times advice!