May 30, 2020

Body, Spirit-Breath, Forgiveness of Sins

From Pixabay / Public Domain.


  
Newly arisen from the dead, Christ gave us his body and his breath, which is the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.


For Pentecost Sunday: John 20:19-23


Today in the Gospel, we return with the first disciples, the whole Church and the Spirit to the day of the Resurrection itself, the first Easter Sunday.

Newly arisen from the dead, Christ shows to us HIMSELF and the power of the Holy Spirit.

First, he shows us his BODY— with open wounds in his hands and his side.

It is his real BODY, arisen from the dead.

Secondly, he BREATHES on us, and says: Receive the Holy SPIRIT.

Thirdly, he says: Whose SINS you FORGIVE are forgiven them....

Thus, three great things: the human BODY, the BREATH or SPIRIT of God, and the FORGIVENESS OF SINS.

We see these three also in the beginnings of human life on earth: BODY, BREATH, and SIN.

In the book of beginnings, Genesis, we see the Lord create the universe and humanity.

In the beginning, the Lord God formed of dust from the earth a BODY.

Just so, the first great sign the Risen Lord shows in his Resurrection Gospel is the BODY.

In his Resurrection, he shows us his real BODY— raised from the dead and now everlastingly glorified, but a real human body nonetheless.

Genesis tells us that after the Lord God shaped the first human body from the earthen elements, he then BREATHED his own BREATH, the SPIRIT of Life, into the earthly human BODY.

So, in the resurrection of Christ, the second important sign is the BREATH of God, the giving of the SPIRIT.

In his Resurrection, the Lord BREATHES out the Holy BREATH, the HOLY SPIRIT, upon the beginnings of his Church which is his BODY— just as at the beginnings of all humanity the Lord had BREATHED his SPIRIT into humanity’s earthen BODY.

But after the first beginning, Genesis shows us that living humanity went on to SIN against God.

So, the third sign in the resurrection of Christ is the commission to FORGIVE SINS.

And so, in the Resurrection of Christ, God creates our humanity all over in a new way:  the human BODY, the BREATH or SPIRIT of God, and the FORGIVENESS OF SINS.

The apostles were the first to know these truths and pass them on.

On the first Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after Christ rose from the dead, God publicly revealed these truths and their power in the midst of the apostles and the whole Church.

The Resurrection of Christ together with the Power of the Spirit is the New and Everlasting Truth of the Human Race— the New Beginning of the human race.

The New Beginning is handed over to us.

It is planted in us and we are planted in it in the sacraments, especially Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.

Most especially in the Eucharist, our real BODIES receive the promise and the beginning of resurrection, and God’s Spirit BREATHES within us.

In the Eucharist, the present world of bread and wine comes to an end.

In the Eucharist, there is only the reality of Christ in his Real Body and Real Blood with the unity, truth and power of the Holy Spirit.

We eat and drink the glory that God offers to his sons and daughters.

What will we do with our bodily lives, what will we do with the Holy Spirit and the glory that God has already given us— the glory that we eat, drink and celebrate this day?

What will we do?


Turn. Love. Repeat.


The Eucharist Is the End of the Ordinary World and the Beginning of the New One






For Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter




This is the last day of getting ready in worship and prayer before we mark Pentecost, which means fiftieth, as in the fiftieth day of Christ’s resurrection.

The Mass brings us in today’s readings to the end of the Acts of the Apostles and the end of the holy Gospel according to John.

We might ask if there is no more.

The last words of today’s Gospel answer and beg the question:

There are also many other things that Jesus did,
but if these were to be described individually,
I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.

But there is a book where the finger of God [see Lk. 11:20] wrote and still writes all the many other things that Jesus did.

We are each that book.

The Holy Spirit, the finger of God, writes the deeds of Christ within us.

Christ told us of this on the night before he freely went to die.

I have yet many things to say to you,
but you cannot bear them now.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
he will guide you into all the truth;
for he will not speak on his own authority,
but whatever he hears he will speak,
and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
He will glorify me,
for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
All that the Father has is mine;
therefore I said that the Spirit will take what is mine
and declare it to you.  [Jn. 16:12-15]

All that the Father has belongs to Christ his Son.

All of it the Spirit now writes upon us, within us, and through us.

The eyes of faith can see and read the Word of God, the Son of God, whom the Spirit now writes into us.

Faith sees, recognizes, reads, and follows the Word, the Son of God.

Today in the Gospel, Christ commanded Peter to use and obey the eyes of faith: YOU FOLLOW ME.

The Spirit gives us the wherewithal to see, know, heed, and FOLLOW the Son of God whom the Spirit makes present within our being.

The strength from the Spirit made Peter fit to give glory to God by dying for the name of Christ.

This strength made the beloved disciple fit to abide ever faithful to the Son of God.

Here in the Eucharist, we make known, offer, and take the Son of God in his real Body and Blood— whose presence is made real by the work of the Spirit.

Our faith is a power the Spirit gives us.

It opens our eyes to see and know in the Body and Blood of Christ all the things Christ has done that the whole world cannot contain.

The whole world cannot contain what Christ does in his Eucharist because the world comes to an end in the Eucharist.

In the bread and wine we bring to the altar, the ordinary world comes to an end in the Eucharist.

In the Eucharist the ordinary world is gone.

There is only the incarnate, risen, and ascended Son of God whose Body and Blood are already the beginning of the new heavens and the new earth.

In the might of the Holy Spirit, Christ was born and lived.

In the might of the Spirit, he died and rose.

In the might of the Spirit, he will come again.


Turn. Love. Repeat.


May 23, 2020

Seeing Ourselves From Inside God

"The Last Supper," by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.


  
John 17:1-11a, for the Seventh Sunday of Easter


Christ ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father.

He wants us to be with him in glory.

That wish fills his prayer in his Gospel today.

Today we hear only the first part of his prayer.

He goes on to say:

Father,
I desire that they also,
whom you have given me,
may be with me where I am,
to behold my glory
which you have given me
in your love for me
before the foundation of the world. [Jn. 17:24]

He wants us, and we belong to him.

He wants us to follow him to the Father.

He calls us to that by the news of God’s desire and will for us.

In hope and in faith we embrace God’s goodwill, and by love we embrace the mission he gives us.

We underwent baptism into God— Father, Son and Spirit.

In Baptism, they have taken us inside the love they have for each other.

They hold us inside their communion with each other.

They hold us inside their oneness that is the Holy Spirit.

That we are alive at all is already the fruit of God’s love overflowing in action.

Though sin overtook us, and though we freely chose to go along with sin, God has always been calling and reaching out as our savior, for his love never gives up.

Though Christ has fulfilled our ransom, he wants for us much more than freedom from sin.

He wants us to live in glory at his side.

That is the mission his Father chose to give him on earth.

Together with the Father and the Son, the Spirit is also at work.

The Spirit helps us choose and work to enter what Christ has already fulfilled: to enter the love that Christ has for the Father, and to receive the love the Father has for Christ.

The Holy Spirit works to have us enter the Son’s love for his Father, and the Holy Spirit works for us to receive the Father’s love for his Son.

Hoping for all of that, we work with the Holy Spirit by the works of repentance, the works of faith and the works of love for holiness.

We do those works from our dignity as the Spirit-adopted sons and daughters of God in Christ.

Every Sunday, when we declare our faith together at Mass, we say that we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life.

The Spirit is the Father’s living breath that comes into the world from the lungs of Christ’s risen body.

God is Love, and Love is already alive and breathing in the world because Christ in flesh and blood has risen from the dead.

We take a deep breath of it only when we CHOOSE and DO and LIVE and HAND OURSELVES OVER to what is OBJECTIVELY GOOD, to what is GODLY.

Inspired by God’s goodwill, the Christian does good on earth to others for the glory of God in the highest.

Christ has prayed for this:

Father ... that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. [Jn. 17:23]

That is Christ’s mission in his Eucharistic Body and Blood that are full of the Holy Spirit.

That is Christ’s mission in his Body the Church.

That is our mission, and its final fulfillment shall be our everlasting glory and joy with Christ at the right hand of the Father in the oneness of the Holy Spirit.


Turn. Love. Repeat.


The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

"The Ascension," by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.


  


With the words of the Creed at Mass every Sunday of the year, we proclaim our faith that after Christ rose from the dead he:

... ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead....

We might ask what value there is for us in the fact that Christ rose BODILY from the dead and ascended BODILY to sit in unseen mystery at the right hand of God.

We get an answer by first turning the question upside down, as it were.

What value does GOD recognize in the human BODY— what value does God recognize in human nature by having it sit BODILY next to him in the mystery of heavenly glory?

God has so esteemed our human D.N.A., our human body, our human intellect, our human will and our human heart that he has not left these in the grave, but has raised them up in the person of his Son and given them a throne at his right hand in glory.

What we celebrate in the Ascension of Christ is not his glory that he never lost.

The Ascension celebrates the glory and the dignity God has given to us.

In the mysteriously human, historical fact of the bodily Ascension of Christ, all of us have reservations booked, written onto the right side of God’s throne.

We have untold dignity to believe, own, to hope for and to live out.

God has given us this dignity.

Do we want it?

The conditions of the world, our own actions and omissions sometimes show us to be anything but dignified.

What connection can we have with the mystery of Christ seated in the unseen mystery of heaven?

What is the connection between Christ in heaven and us on earth?

The connection is as straight, unbroken, direct and immediate as flesh and blood.

The Gospel tells us that on the day he rose from the dead, he gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples by breathing the Spirit right out of his own human lungs.

That is the work of Christ as he sits in heaven until he returns: Christ breathes the Spirit of heaven on our behalf.

He breathes the Spirit with our bodies and our entire human nature.

In the person of Christ himself, the Spirit of God fills our human nature, flesh and blood.

This is not magic.

We remain free either to work with the Spirit or to refuse.

God will not do it without us.

The Scriptures today— the Acts of the Apostles, the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, the Holy Gospel— the Scriptures today join in speaking of the Spirit’s power, Christ’s work and our work.

They tell us what we celebrate in Christ’s Ascension.

With Christ, you and I have one human nature, one flesh, one blood, one Spirit and one Father.

Christ who came down to the earth is also the one who ascended to heaven that he might fill all things.

So we can speak of the church as the body and fullness of Christ who breathes forth the Spirit to fill all things in every way.

We have power from the Holy Spirit to be the witnesses of Christ.

Later on, the Letter to the Ephesians will say more of the same [4:10-13].

He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens,
that he might fill all things.
And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
to equip the saints for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to mature manhood,
to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

In the prayers of the Mass for the Ascension of Christ, we give thanks as we celebrate God’s plan of glory for the human race.

The two Preface prayers for the Mass of the Ascension acknowledge of Christ that:

he plainly appeared to all his disciples and was taken up to heaven in their sight, that he might make us sharers in his divinity.  [Preface II]

... we, his members, might be confident of following where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.  [Preface I]

Christ sits in flesh and blood at the right hand of the Father.

There he breathes the Holy Spirit on our behalf.

As the sign and the presence of this, he holds out to us his Eucharist by which we eat and drink his flesh, his blood, his glory and his Spirit.

Our final prayer after the mystery of Eucharistic communion today will declare the whole reality for us.

Hear us, O God our Savior,
and grant us confidence,
that through these sacred mysteries
there will be accomplished in the body of the whole Church
what has already come to pass in Christ her Head.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.


Turn. Love. Repeat.


May 22, 2020

Come. Learn. Take.

"Our Lord Jesus Christ," by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.


Come to me. Learn from me. Take my yoke.


For Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter


John 16:20-23
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
On that day you will not question me about anything.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”

We know and experience that there is real reason in the present world for travail or labor, for sorrow and anguish.

Yet, three times today in his Gospel, the Lord tells us that sorrow, labor and anguish will turn into joy.

He does not tell us to go out and look for sorrow and anguish.

However, if the Spirit is to have room within us wherein to bring joy to birth, then we must— through faith, prayer and worship— prepare a willing and tender hollow within us that can accept sorrow, labor and anguish if and whenever they come.

In the very same place where sorrow plunges its blade, there joy sinks its root.

The human heart is both the field of sorrow and the seedbed of joy.

The Lord says to us in his Gospel today:
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice....

We must let the Spirit of God hollow out its place within us, so that the will of God be done, so that his kingdom come to birth within us, so that we may be ready for joy even now, joy in him, and so that we may be ready as well for the day of Christ’s return.

We have his promise in his Gospel today:
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.

On that day of joy, as he goes on to tell us, we shall have nothing further to ask of him.

Even now, he approaches us in his Eucharist wherein he gives everything without being asked.



Turn. Love. Repeat.


May 17, 2020

Love Speaks, and Love Hears Voices

The Son and the Spirit are within us, loving us by adding their voices to ours as we turn to the Father.

From "The Last Sermon of Our Lord," by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.

John 14:15-21 for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him."

Our obedience to Christ’s commandments is love that opens us to having him and the Holy Spirit within us as our two advocates in the presence of the Father.
Advocates: those who vocate, that is, who lend their voices to our cause.
The Son and the Spirit are within us, loving us by adding their voices to ours.
Thus, when a Christian obeys Christ’s commandments, the Son and the Spirit join the Christian in saying to the Father: Our Father who art in heaven.
The Father answers us with the same love he has for the Son and the Spirit.

Turn. Love. Repeat.

May 16, 2020

Jesus the Nazarene King Chooses His Friends, Giving Them Everything His Father Gave Him

"The Title on the Cross," by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.





Today Christ speaks of four parties:  his Father, Christ himself, his disciples, and the world.

He speaks of his Father as the one who sent me.

Christ speaks of the world as not knowing the one who sent him, the world as having hated Christ, as having rejected his word, as having persecuted him, as hating his disciples, persecuting them and rejecting their word.

Until the end of the world, until the new heavens and the new earth, there will be ups and downs in how many cleave to Christ, and there will always be foes of Christ.

The word of the Lord says spurning of Christ will grow as the end of the world draws near.

In today’s Gospel, Christ reminds us to expect to be hated and persecuted because we belong to him.

But belonging to him is not a matter of our claiming to belong to him.

It is not a matter of saying we have accepted him as Lord and Savior.

Rather, belonging to Christ is a matter of his choosing us.

He says today:  I have chosen you out of the world.

It is up to us to own or spurn that Christ has chosen us.

He has chosen us to join him in the Eternal Covenant of his Body and Blood.

If we freely take, eat and drink it, we are owning a choice Christ has made to have us belong to him, as he says in his Gospel today:  you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world.

He has a claim on us, but his claim does not enslave.

His claim on us sets us free to receive from him.

Right before today’s Gospel he said:

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you....

... a SLAVE does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you FRIENDS,
because I have told you EVERYTHING I have heard from my Father.

EVERYTHING Christ has from his Father he has given to us.

The first sin of human history, the sin that enslaved us, was the sin of believing that God would NOT give us everything.

It was the sin of believing that we would have to reach out and take it for ourselves.

Our NEW freedom will come from letting God reach out and take US for himself.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you....

I have called you FRIENDS,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

We might TAKE the Body and Blood of Christ, but we must see our taking as letting GOD take us.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you....

If we allow God his choice of us, it will guarantee us hatred from the world until the end of the world, but it will take us into the Eternal Covenant of friendship with the Son of God and a share in his Father.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you....

I have called you FRIENDS,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.


Turn.  Love.  Repeat.

May 11, 2020

Unending Communion with Christ in Washing Sinners’ Feet, Obeying Love’s Commands, Thanking the Father

"The Whirlpool Galaxy." Pixabay / Public Domain.





With today’s Gospel reading we are back in the Upper Room at the Last Supper.

That is fitting, because from the day of Christ’s Resurrection until Pentecost, the Word of the Lord shows that his followers stayed in the Upper Room.

There he met them more than once in the season from his Resurrection to his Ascension.

So it is most fitting that we who still relive the season of his Resurrection find him coming to us in his Gospel of the Last Supper in the Upper Room.

Strangely, John’s telling of the Last Supper does not give witness of Christ speaking bread and wine into his Body and Blood.

But according to John, Christ did three things at his Last Supper that dive into the meaning of his Eucharistic Body and Blood.

First:  Christ Lord and God put himself beneath the dirty feet of sinners, washing them as he does in his Eucharistic Body and Blood.

Second:  he speaks at length to his followers, and what he speaks offers them same wealth and truth as his Eucharistic Body and Blood.

Third:  he speaks at length to his Father, and what he speaks is his Eucharistic offering and thanksgiving on our behalf to his Father.

Today’s Gospel reading is only a small part of what he speaks to his followers from the depths of his Eucharistic Body and Blood.

Christ has drawn a full circle for us in today’s Gospel reading.

God is inside the circle and so are we.

The circle starts with the commands of Christ’s teaching.

If we obey him, he and his Father will live within us.

Then the Father will give us the Holy Spirit in the name of Christ.

Then the Spirit will teach us everything and remind us of all that Christ has told us.

As the Spirit teaches and makes present to us all that Christ has taught, we are back at the circle’s beginning:  the teaching of Christ.

We have the same circle in the Eucharist.

In giving us his Eucharist, he tells us to obey it:  Do this in memory of me.

Do what?

Give up our own bodies and shed our own blood, putting them beneath the Father’s glorious feet and beneath the sinful feet of humanity for its authentic welfare.

If we obey the Eucharist, then Christ and his Father will live within us.

Then the Father will give us the Holy Spirit in the name of Christ.

Then the Spirit will teach us everything and remind us of all that Christ has told us.

As the Spirit teaches and makes present to us all that Christ has taught, we are back at the circle’s beginning:  Do this in memory of me.

In his Eucharist and his Gospel, Christ gives us himself as the means and the model, the way, truth and life for being obedient and becoming a dwelling place for the Father and the Spirit.


Turn.  Love.  Repeat.


May 10, 2020

Ninety Percent Silent Integrity and Prayer, Ten Percent Public Ministry

"Jesus Goes up Alone Onto a Mountain to Pray," by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.



For the Fifth Sunday of Easter




Christ’s earthly years:  ninety percent or more in silent integrity & prayer, ten percent or less in public ministry; and even during his years of public ministry, he was known to be a man who spent long hours in prayer.


The risen Christ, who sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, is waiting to return for us, just as he tells us in his Gospel today.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.

And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.

He wants to take us home to the Father.

For the time being we are away at work.

What is our work, our mission?

Today Christ tells us.

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do....

We share Christ’s work of giving glory to the Father and bringing the world to salvation and fulfillment.

We are to give glory to the Father by serving the authentic welfare of humanity.

However, our worship and our private prayer are also a share in the work of Christ for the glory of the Father.

Christ himself regularly took time to be alone in prayer with his Father.

Christ taught and wants us to pray.

He wants us to be as close to the Father as he is.

How do we do that?

We must serve the best and highest interests of all whom God loves, both our friends and our enemies.

In that way, we are close to God by imitation.

Yet we must also come close to him through worship and prayer.

Worship and prayer that have a real place in our lives require the sacrifice of real time spent on God alone.

Christ wants us to be caught up with reverence for the Father’s name, respect for his kingdom, and devotion to his will:  hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

We ask rightly in prayer for what we need, but we bear in mind that we need God the most.

Because we want to be close to him, and because he wants us close to him, we ask him to forgive our sins— our trespasses— and we imitate him closely by forgiving those who trespass against us.

We ask to be kept faithful, to be led out of temptation, and we ask to be delivered from evil.

We pray because God is God, we have come from him, and are going to him.

In today’s first reading from the Book of Acts, we saw the apostles themselves insist on the primacy of prayer, while authorizing others for the bodily work of justice and charity for the neglected poor.

The apostles devoted themselves to the priority of prayer in their mission of preaching the word of God.

As a result, the Book of Acts testifies as we heard:

The word of God continued to spread,
and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly;
even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

Worship and prayer, by the measure of mere practicality, may not seem either to be work at all or to be relevant or effective in doing good for others.

We tend to measure the saving work of Christ by his open public ministry during the months towards the end of his earthly life.

We tend wrongly to exclude from his saving work those first thirty years or so— thirty years of silent prayer, anonymous work and integrity.

Monks or not, we all have the mission to worship and pray in silence and integrity.

Christ himself did that for about ninety percent or more of his earthly years.

Only one tenth or less of his earthly lifespan was public.

Yet even during his final and public years, he was known to be a man who spent long hours in prayer.

Today’s second reading tells us we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood.

A royal priesthood— we all are kings and priests.

We all are kings, because God sends us to lead the world in charity and justice.

We all are priests, because God wants us to intercede, pray, and sacrifice for the good of the world and in praise of God.

The words of today’s second reading bear much repeating, since they tell our mission and our happy destiny.

Beloved:
Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings
but chosen and precious in the sight of God,
and, like living stones,
let yourselves be built into a spiritual house
to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people of his own,
so that you may announce the praises” of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Here in the wonderful light of his Body and Blood, Christ comes— the High Priest and King of the Universe.

In his Body and Blood, Christ— in our name and in our human flesh and blood— offers himself up as a thanksgiving sacrifice to the Father.

We are to join him by offering ourselves up with him to the Father.

With his Eucharistic Body and Blood, Christ feeds us with the life and goodness of God.

We in turn are to be life and goodness for the world.

That is the work that faith in Christ gives us, as he tells us in his Gospel today:

Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do....


Turn.  Love.  Repeat.