Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Gift From The Heart

Yesterday I rode 30 miles. As I rode, I smelled the air, observed the bison and the burros grazing in the pasture, watched the buzzards circling around overhead. It was a beautiful day. I thought: how fortunate, how blessed to be alive and here right now.

Our existence is pure gift. If we were to really consider the circumstances that lead to our existence, the appropriate response would be awe. Just from the biological point of view, the millions of possibilities of others being conceived instead of us, or no one being conceived at all is mind boggling. Consider how weak and dependent we are when we are born- almost anything could harm us if we were not protected. Think about how we are able to even contemplate our existence. Do the plants do that? Do other animals on earth muse on the meaning of their own being? We might investigate the circumstances leading to life being able to exist at all, at least on this planet. We have to be certain distance from the Sun- not too close, not too far. We must have a certain chemical makeup of the planet - a sufficient amount of water and air, etc..., so that life could live. Whether there is life elsewhere or not, we do not know for certain. But we can know that our participation in life is almost miraculous. It is a gift for which we did not ask, but which is awesome.

In the area of faith we have also been given a tremendous gift. It is true that naturally we can come to surmise that God exists (if existence is a gift, then who is the giver?). We can even know that God is perfect, and therefor, perfect in His love. To know Him personally and intimately, however, that is a bit different. God must reveal Himself to us. Jesus said No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him (Matthew 11:27). But the Lord desires us to know Him and to love Him, so He has revealed Himself to us. All this is gift.

If we have received so much that we did ask for, that we did not know to request, how much more might God do for us? Is there any reason to doubt His goodness? Is there any cause to doubt God’s love?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lord, Lord...

As the adopted children of God, we are destined for the glory of heaven. But God will not force any of us into paradise. We have to freely accept His invitation and His grace to enter His reign. As Jesus tells us, our acceptance cannot be a collection of empty words. It is not just a matter of verbally acknowledging our faith in Jesus, or crying out to the Lord if we do not really want Him to rule us. Rather, we must open our hearts to being transformed by God’s Word. In other words, we must become obedient to His word, letting it change us.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Body and Blood

1. Today we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi- that is, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. In truth, every time we participate in the Holy Mass we are celebrating the Body and Blood of Christ. But today is a special day for us to focus our minds on this profound and mysterious truth: The bread and wine which we offer are transformed by the will of the Father, the power of the Holy Spirit and the Words of the Son into the true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Risen Savior Jesus Christ.
2. Jesus’ flesh is real food and blood is real drink, and He has really offered us Himself in this Sacrament. Of course, His Body and Blood come to us under the appearance of bread and wine. But we do not doubt the power of God to make things new. When God said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) what happened? There was light. When God commanded Lazarus to "Come out" (John 11:43), what happened? Lazarus came out of the tomb. So when the Son of God says "this is my Body which will be given up for you" (Luke 22:19), what happens? Can we doubt His words because they might be difficult to accept? Can we refuse to believe simply because we might be uncomfortable to eat His flesh and drink His blood? No, we really cannot refuse this belief in the power of the One who rose from the dead.
3. Nevertheless, the Eucharist nevertheless is a mystery. As children preparing for First Holy Communion, we learned the facts - the Eucharist is Christ’s Body and Blood. And each of us is required to give an intellectual assent of faith before receiving communion. When the priest or minister says Body of Christ, and we must answer Amen! In the seminary, we studied the Eucharist in many classes- Liturgy, History, Scripture, and Doctrine. But as important as it is for us to study the Eucharist in that manner, that is not where our intellect will grow in its understanding of this mystery.
4. True knowledge of the Holy Eucharist begins with faith. And it will grow only in acts of faith. We must believe before we see. To grow in the knowledge and understanding of the Holy Eucharist, we must believe, we must adore, we must participate, and we must receive. Only then will our knowledge and understanding grow. It is like love. We could study love and read books about it, but until we actually love and are loved, we will never really begin to get it.
5. Observe the audience of Jesus in the Gospel. Many complained about Jesus’ words because they thought He was talking about cannibalism. In fact, many of the disciples left Jesus’ company that very day because His words were too hard to accept. What did Jesus do? He turned to the Twelve and asked them if they wanted to leave also. Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Those who remained with Him did not understand. They were probably scared. But they remained because they believed in Jesus and trusted in Him. As they continued to follow Him, they eventually ended up at the Last Supper. And on the night of the Resurrection, their eyes of understanding were opened (see Luke 24:13-35).
6. The Eucharist is crucial to the structure of the Church- not just because bishops and priests are the principal celebrants of the Mass, but because the Eucharist makes us Catholic. Every one of us who receives communion today receives the same Jesus. In the world there are over a billion Catholics. So how many will receive communion? More than a million, more than a hundred million, maybe more than five hundred million or more will receive. And each of us receives the same Jesus, who is One. And by receiving the One, we become One. We become intimate with God Himself. Through our worthy reception of Jesus in the Eucharist, we place Jesus at the center of our worship instead of ourselves.
7. Finally, we need the Eucharist if we want to live- not just here on earth, but forever in heaven, which is our true destiny as the children of God. The life of God we receive in Holy Communion makes it possible that our Holy Religion is not just pious words or humble thoughts, but a radical transformation of our entire selves- body, mind, and spirit.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A New Town

Today I went mountain biking with some of the people of the parish. For a couple of them, it was their first time. But I think they will want to do it again. We rode about 11 miles, which was enough for today. I crashed and my rear wheel is very much out of round now, although not taco-ed yet. It happened so early in the ride that I just loosened the rear brake and rode the rest of the way with only a front brake. Now I get to try my hand at truing a wheel. If not successful, I will take it to the shop.

Last weekend I had to announce some important news. I am being transferred to a larger town and a larger parish. I will no longer be the priest of a small country parish. It is difficult to go, because this town has become my home, with many friends and many spiritual children. So many people let me be part of their family.

Due to my leaving soon, many people have expressed their appreciation and care for me, and it is very touching. Their affection and even their sorrow mean a lot to me, since it reveals that God did something through me. Although I know that there will be many good people in the parish to which I am going, it is still difficult to go away.

The new parish is about three times as big, with twice as many Masses. I hope that I am able to find a substitute for a couple of weekends, so that I can have a vacation and participate in some bike rides I had planned on- like a century.

Eventually I will change the profile to indicate I am the pastor of a large suburban parish, but that will be another day. May God bless the people of this little town!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Being One with God

A characteristic of God which we often overlook is the Lord’s desire to be one with us. He created us in His likeness and sought Adam in the Garden. The Lord called Abraham from his father’s house and rescued Israel from slavery. He sent His only begotten Son to share our nature, so to give us eternal life. The Son has given us the gift of His Body and Blood so we could be one with Him. Why would God do such a thing? We often are unworthy, many times we do not even want union with the Lord. God does it out of His love- He wants nothing to stand between us.

The Most Holy Trinity

1. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life(John 3:16).
2. The image we have for God is very influential in our relationship with Him and with others. Many see God as a stern judge waiting to strike us down for the least mistake. Others view God as kind of absent minded inventor who has made us, and then went off to do something else. There are those who believe in many gods, in order to account for various characteristics each one possesses. A large group of people worship wealth or money, and will do anything necessary to serve their god. And of course there are a large number of people who worship themselves, especially their appetites. Whatever is pleasing to themselves they want, and other people or even the common good of society is of no interest to them if it were to interfere with getting their way.
3. But as Catholics, who do we say that God is? When we came into the Church, we blessed ourselves and said in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Not, the names, but the name. The same is true with how we began Mass: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We believe in One God, there are simply not many- that defies reason. If there were many, which would be in charge? Would not the one in charge really be god and all the rest some other kind of thing? Anyway, we believe in one God, in three persons. Not three gods, not three masks that the one god wears, not three modes of being, not three hats- three persons in One God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
4. The truth of the Holy Trinity is not something which the Early through their wisdom and goodness figured out on their own. No, that God is a Trinity of Persons in a Unity of Divinity is a truth which God has revealed to us. In God, the Persons of the Trinity love one another perfectly and are in perfect union- God is a communion of Love.
5. The nature of One God in Three Persons is not simply a fact of who God is, but this fact touches (or should touch us) us in profound ways. In place of a judge, a Father, in place of a Punisher, an obedient Son who offers Himself in Sacrifice for the guilty. In place of an absentee creator, the Holy Spirit dwells within us to guide us on the path to holiness of life.
6. The world needs the Holy Trinity. Not simply from the point of view that the Trinity is God, and the world needs God. That is true enough, but each of us need the Trinity more than we think. God invites us into the intimate relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit. As human beings we are social and communal creatures. We need community. Without community, a person will be stunted and incomplete, even from just the human point of view.
7. Consider the example of a child. Without a good healthy relationship with both mother and father, a child will not mature in a healthy manner. If there is physical, sexual, emotional or spiritual abuse, then the damage could be severe. It is very common that those who are victims in one generation become those who abuse in the next. The most common form of abuse is neglect- that is a person not having their needs fulfilled, whether they are physical, emotional, social, or even spiritual needs. Blessed Mother Theresa said that the most terrible and common form of poverty was loneliness.
8. If terrible things happen to a person and to society because a person does not have their need for community met, what would happen to us if our need for communion with God was not fulfilled. Without communion with God, a human being will be stunted and incomplete spiritually- they will not be what they are made to be.
9. God said through Scripture that even if a mother would forget her child, that He would not forget us. The love of the Holy Trinity is a relationship which God is calling us to experience and to share. This love is not affected by human weakness or sin. We cannot earn it and we cannot lose it, because it is a gift from God. We can refuse it or accept it, like any gift. We enter into this relationship most notably through the Sacraments of the Church, but for those who are aware, the love of the Trinity surrounds us at every moment of every day.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Today I rode 16 miles. The weather was perfect to ride much more, and I was feeling strong. But I had a wedding in the afternoon for which to prepare, plus the usual Saturday activities of Confessions and Vigil Mass. On Friday nights, we have Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until Midnight. (On First Fridays, it goes all night until 8 in the morning). Usually, we close at Midnight with Benediction, and that usually falls to me. So it is a bit difficult to get up and going on Saturdays. Last night, one of the deacons was there, so I let him do the Benediction, while I went to sleep.

In the Gospel yesterday, Jesus asks the question What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? (Mark 8:36-37). It really is a good question to confront ourselves with from time to time. Are we really focused on what is eternal, or are we stuck with the transitory? It is very easy to get caught up in the things of the world, even good things. We can start off wanting to develop and use our talents as best we can, we can begin by desiring to provide for our families, we can commit to building a business that will be a good place to work and provide excellent service and integrity. But then it is a temptation not to let the time get away from us, or the work to begin to control us, or the amassing of goods begin to consume us. Saint Augustine spoke about it in his Confessions. He remarked to God how he had fallen in love with the created goods and failed to see their Creator, who should have been the One whom Augustine sought.

Even in the collection of spiritual goods, we can lose sight of our main goal- to love God above all things and in all things. That was Jesus’ complaint against the Pharisees- that many focused so much on certain external practices of their faith that they lost sight of mercy and sharing God’s love (which did not require disobedience of the commandments, but a higher level of commitment to them).

To all of us, Jesus commands us to take up our cross. That is, we are to imitate Jesus Himself if we are to put things in proper order in our lives. And what is first is to empty ourselves so as to be ready to receive the Grace of God in abundance.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It Was I Who Chose You

Today is the Feast of Saint Matthias, the one who took the place of Judas Iscariot. He was chosen to take the place of Apostle during the time between the Ascension of our Lord into heaven, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Peter indicated the qualifications for candidacy for this position- someone who had been an active disciple of Jesus in His company since His baptism by John, and someone who could give witness to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

After the disciples proposed the two candidate, Joseph/ Barsabbas and Matthias, the disciples prayed to God that He would make known whom He had already chosen. Then they drew lots. Drawing lots is like casting dice or drawing straws- something that looks like chance. But in the mind of the ancient Church, it really was not chance. Everything that exists, exists because God has made it. Everything that is, is because God holds it in being. Without God holding something in being, it simply would cease to be. So, everything that is, is able to be because God is permitting it. God does not have to directly will it to be such a way, but He permits it to be.

We could look at human freedom and the reality of sin. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We have the capacity to love, to be faithful, to conform ourselves to what God has made us to be. But in order to love, our love must be freely given. Therefore, God has permitted us to sin. The Lord does not will us to, He does not want us to sin, He does not make us sin. But the Lord does permit us to operate according to our nature, and so we can freely love or freely withhold our love.

In any event, since God at least permits all things to be as they are, one can learn about God by observing things. Thus the disciples cast lots, but first asked God to use those lots as a means of indicating His will. Then they prayed, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place" (Acts 1:24-25). This passage brings to mind what Jesus said to the disciples - it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you (John 15:16).

We do not use the casting of lots to choose pastors anymore, probably because our concept of chance and random has changed (that is a subject for another time). But when we reflect on this passage from Acts, we really ought to understand that each and every one of us has also been chosen by God. This choice was not just within the last few years, or even at our birth. Paul reminds us in Ephesians that God chose us before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 1:4). Think of that! God chose you and me before He created one thing, just for the purpose of being like Him. We do not need to draw lots to figure that out. Of course, how we live that call to holiness is part of our personal vocation from God, and for that we need the Lord’s help (and others’ too) in discernment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mend Your Ways!

Before instructing the Corinthians to offer one another the holy kiss, that is, a sign of their unity and love of one another, Saint Paul tells them to mend your ways. The work of unity requires that each person look honestly at themselves and seek to conform their behavior to the demands of the Gospel. To be in unity requires give and take, it requires change, especially if our love is not the same as God’s love. Our example in the life of community is God Himself. God is One, and God is also a Trinity of Persons- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- whose love is perfect one for another, as evidenced by Jesus the Son, who emptied Himself out in obedience for our sake.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gifts From On High

1. The Holy Scriptures proclaimed for Pentecost Sunday present us with two instances of the gift of the Holy Spirit- in the upper room on Easter Sunday, and in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, 50 days later. What is going on? Are there two Pentecosts? We can consider the nature of the Holy Spirit. There is only one Holy Spirit, but because He is God, He is infinite. To receive the Spirit does not prevent us from receiving Him again. And to receive one gift or collection of gifts of the Spirit does not prevent us from receiving more. We could look at the life of Mary. She received the Holy Spirit when she conceived Jesus in her womb. But certainly the joy of being the mother of our Lord and God was not an isolated or single instance, as if giving birth was the sum of motherly joy. Her experience of being the Mother of God affected her whole life in many ways.
2. Likewise when the disciples received the promised gift of the Spirit, we do not have to presume that the gift they received was an isolated experience. Neither was it just one type of gift. For example, they received the Spirit of Sonship, by which they became the adopted children of God. They received the Spirit of Love- that is, the Love of God was poured into their hearts, so that they could love as Jesus loved them. Today’s Bible readings talk about three other aspects of the Spirit which the disciples received at Pentecost: the spirit of peace, the spirit of knowledge, and the spirit of power.
3. In the Gospel, Jesus says Peace be with you and breathed on the disciples. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of true peace and contentment. Not the peace of the world, which usually is simply the absence of war or fighting, but the peace which only God can give. The peace of God is something that is only completely fulfilled when we rest in the Lord. Saint Augustine said our hearts are restless Lord, until they rest in you. When we are fully conformed to the image of Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God, then we will have peace, because then we will be what God has made us to be. Our attempts to find contentment and rest through doing what makes us feel good only end leave us in emptiness and sorrow. So part of the gift of the Peace which Jesus gave His disciples is the gift of the authority to forgive. Forgiveness is necessary so that we can become more like Jesus, not just as we are forgiven our sins which deform us, but also as we give forgiveness to others.
4. In his letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul says that only through the Holy Spirit can we even say that Jesus is Lord. That is the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Knowledge of God. Only with God dwelling within us can we know who Jesus really is. We may know He existed, we may know He died, we may even know that He rose from the dead. But to get to know Him personally as He really is, we need the Holy Spirit. Through the gift of the Spirit, we can begin to grasp the mysteries of our faith because the Light of Truth is shining within us. An example of this is the Holy Eucharist- until we believe, until the Light of Truth shines inside, we will not see and understand.
5. The Acts of the Apostles recounts the event which we would say is formally Pentecost. That day, the Holy Apostles were huddled in fear in the upper, praying for the gift of God. When the Spirit rested upon them, they burst forth to proclaim the Jesus is Lord and God. They were no longer afraid. In the next few months and years, they would be arrested and persecuted, and most of them would be killed. But they did not waver in the faith, or in their desire to share it. And because they shared the faith, many came to believe and receive the same gift of the Spirit. Witness the mighty power of their words, by which more than 3000 were converted the very first time they spoke. It was not human wisdom which motivated these people to believe and receive baptism, it was the power of God Himself.
6. All this sounds exciting. Wouldn’t it be great to speak the truth about Jesus and convert thousands? Wouldn’t be great to receive knowledge of the mysteries of God? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to exercise authority and experience peace that the world cannot give? Are those days past? Could we receive the Spirit for the same kind of mighty works?
7. Those days are not past. Each one of us has received the gift of the Holy Spirit in our Baptism, so we are God’s children. The Church exercises the authority to forgive sins in the Sacrament of Penance, which we can make use of almost any day we want (just ask). We can boldly state “Jesus is Lord” because the Spirit has given us knowledge. And even if we do not fully understand, we are able to know that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
8. Every one of us has been anointed at Baptism as Prophet, to proclaim the Gospel through our actions and through our words. In Confirmation, we receive the same gift of courage that enabled the apostles to lose their fear and speak out loud.
9. But we do not always experience the same power that the apostles did. Maybe the problem is, do we actually do it? Or are we still afraid? Do we hide our Catholic Faith? Or do we profess belief and then live as if there is no god? In various times in history, there have been tremendous numbers of conversions. And even in our own country, many people enter the Church each year. Will we be bold today in the true expression of our faith?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Do You Love Me More Than These?

The weather is getting better here for riding. I guess I should say it is getting warmer, which is better for me. Although it won't be long before it is very hot. One of my brothers in law who lives nearby rides all winter but puts the bike on the trainer for the summer, because the heat is too much. But if you get up early enough in the morning, it is okay.

Today I rode about 18 miles. The wind was not too bad and was coming from the Northwest. Still, it was not a cold wind, or even very cool. At least it was not a hot blast. During the summer, I console myself when I have to ride against the wind and it is slow going that at least I am getting cooled off a bit.

This weekend is Pentecost, so the gift of the Holy Spirit is on my mind. But more on that on Sunday. Today's Gospel is one of my favorites. When I read it, I usually cry. It is Jn 21:15-19, where Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. Three times Jesus asks, three times Peter answers. Three times Jesus commends the care of His flock to Peter. Caring for the flock that God gives us is all about how we love Jesus. That is true if we are talking about the children that parents are given to guide just as much as it is about the activities of a bishop or a priest. Successful shepherding is the fruit of love.

Of course, Jesus goes on to tell Peter that someday Peter will have to suffer for the faith. Success is not necessarily about worldly success. We could look at the life of Paul. At first he seemed to get many converts. Then he was arrested in Jerusalem. Eventually, Paul ended up in Rome, where he had to give his testimony regarding Jesus. Although Paul successfully completed what the Lord had asked him to do, he was still put to death. Yet can we say that Paul was not successful? No we cannot. Paul was faithful and yet paid the ultimate price.

When we look at how we are serving God, our goal should be to love God with all our strength. John tells us that there are two ways of knowing whether we love God truly. The first way is, do we obey the Lord's commandments? If we do, that is good, but if we do not, then our love is not complete. The second way is to love others- family and friends, those whom we do not know well, even our enemies.

The love that Jesus questions Peter about, the love that Jesus is asking us about, is so important that it even takes the form of a commandment. Jesus says "Love one another as I have loved you." That is, we are to love with the love of Jesus, and not just our own love. That's good, because sometimes our love is weak. Sometimes we love (or not love) based on what someone has done for us, or how we feel, or whether or not pleasure is involved. Our tender feelings may do us very well in many situations, but they simply will not help us to love as Jesus loves us. Jesus loved Peter when He knew that Peter would deny Him. Jesus loved Peter when Peter was denying Him. Jesus continued to love Peter even after Peter denied Him. And Jesus' love was so powerful that Peter not only repented but was healed.

We are called to love Jesus with the same love that is present in the Holy Trinity, God himself. we are also called to love other with the same love that Jesus loves them. And for many of these, we have to love with the love of Jesus or we will never be able to love them at all. Thanks be to God that Jesus shares with us His power to love as He invites us to do.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Faith is a Gift

We could point to many sources of our faith in Jesus Christ. Our parents may have brought us to Baptism. A teacher or even some good books may have taught us the truths of our religion. Maybe we began to believe when some experience helped us to realize that the Lord is real. Ultimately the true source of Faith is God Himself. The Lord has created us with the capacity to believe. More importantly, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to know not only that Jesus is from God, but that He is God. But knowledge is not enough, we have to trust.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Our Glory and Our Hope

This was my homily for the Solemnity of the Ascension (moved to Sunday in our area).

1. Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? When Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples stood there, I presume with mouths open, staring at the sky. Who wouldn’t have? Jesus had died a brutally horrible death and was buried. Then He rose from the dead. He could walk through walls, appear and disappear, but He would still eat food and drink wine and they could touch Him. Now all at once, He ascended into the sky body and spirit and everything. No wonder they were looking up at the sky.

2. So there they were, staring into space, wondering what was going to happen next. What was going to happen next was that it was time for them to get to work. Jesus had promised that He would come back, but they had a few things that they had to do first, like tell everyone in the world about what happened, baptized them and bring them into the Church. The angels had to get them started.

3. But first, the disciples had to do some serious prayer. They had to prepare themselves to receive one more gift- the gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit of God would make all the difference in the world to their attitude, their knowledge, their abilities. But they had to prepare themselves with prayer and meditation. So for the next 9 days, the disciples would gather in the upper room and pray. They did not know what the gift from on high would be like, or what it would do to them. There was only one there present who had experience the gift of the Holy Spirit. And that was the Virgin Mary. So she accompanied them on their journey of prayer, fasting, and meditation.

4. In just a few days, they would indeed receive the Holy Spirit, just as we did at Baptism. But before we focus on the gift of the Indwelling of the Spirit of God, maybe we should look at what the Ascension teaches us. Was the Ascension significant for the Church?

5. There are a few things that the Ascension helps us to realize and believe. First, it is another reminder that the Resurrection to new life in Christ is not a resurrection to the same kind of life we have here. It is not even a resurrection to a new and excited kind of life of walking through walls while eating and drinking. The new life Jesus has obtained for us is life in the house of His Father in heaven. Jesus promised that He would go and prepare a place for us in His Father’s house.

6. Second, when Jesus ascended, He did not leave His body behind. If He had, the disciples would have been looking at Jesus' cadaver, and not up at the sky. No, Jesus took it all to heaven. We say in the creed that we believe Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. That is, the new life we are to live with Jesus forever in heaven will not be as disembodied spirits, nor as angels. We will be human, with human bodies, although glorified like Jesus’. The opening prayer this morning says that Jesus’ ascension is “our glory and our hope.” It is our glory and our hope because everything that happens to Jesus is so that it can happen to us- resurrection from the dead, and ascension into glory.

7. Third, which brings us back to what the disciples had been commissioned to do, we are called to make everyone a disciple of Jesus Christ. Now it is true in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus is speaking to the Eleven- that is, to the Apostles. But the great commission He gave them was not for themselves alone to accomplish, nor even for their successors the bishops. We are all called to make disciples of all nations, each according to a particular circumstance.

8. For example, when married couples accept the gift of children from God and present those children for Baptism, they are helping to make disciples. When those same parents fulfill their duties to teach their children how to pray, what to believe and how to go to Church, that also is making a disciple. When someone volunteers to be a catechist or a classroom aide for Religious Education and prepares lessons, that person is helping make a disciple. When we share our faith with our co-workers or fellow students, we are helping to make disciples. When we visit the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, or other merciful acts, we might even be helping to make disciples even then.

9. Even children can do it. One of my great-grandfathers was not a baptized person. He may never have even stepped foot in a Catholic Church (in those days you got married in the rectory if one of the parties was not Catholic). But his grandsons got up every morning during Summer Vacation at 6am to go serve 6:30am Mass. That simple service of God not only made great-grandfather proud of his grandsons, but it made him begin to think, “What was worth getting up at 6 in the morning on your vacation?” And then he began to desire it. And so great-grandfather was baptized on his death-bed and received communion and confirmation. We never know what expressions of faith will bring someone into faith in Jesus Christ.

10. But before we can accomplish these important goals, goals which Jesus promised to help us achieve, we must pray. We must learn to wait on God first, and depend on Him as if for everything (because in fact, we do depend on God for everything). And then when it is time to work, work like it all depends on us.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

It Has Been One of Those Weeks

It has been one of those weeks. Or at least week-ends. I admit, Thursday was consumed by bike riding and bowling and homily writing. But Friday was First Friday. It was supposed to begin at 6:30am with Mass. Well, it began at 6:30am, when I realized that I was supposed to be awake and over at church. So I jumped up and ran over and we started a little late. Then there was a priest seminar at 10am downtown, then the priest luncheon with the obligatory speeches and what not (they were mercifully short and the meal was really very good).

I drove back to the little town to help someone move some of their belongings to a new apartment in the big city. They do not have access to a truck. I do not own one, but I have a little Subaru that carries a lot. Then I came back in time for 5:30pm confessions for some of the prospective First Communicants. Then Evening Prayer, then Benediction, then Mass at 7pm. Then there was Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (we have all night adoration on First Friday). Then there was confessions from 8pm until 11pm.

Saturday morning was Morning Prayer and Benediction at 8am. Then First Communion Mass at 10am, followed by pictures. Then a quinceƱera at 1:30pm that actually began closer to 2. Then confessions at 3:30, then Vigil Mass at 5, the First Saturday Rosary. Then I drove into the city to my Uncle Leo and Aunt Carolyn's for their 50th wedding anniversary party. Now it is after 11pm and I am pretty tired.

Yesterday at the clergy luncheon, I heard someone say that "you are not real until you have eaten." It was said in the context of the activities of a fraternal organization. But it fits more most of us. Not just that we need to eat to live, but we celebrate most events of importance with a meal (such as my aunt and uncle's anniversary). Religion is no different. The Israelites had to eat the lamb while slaves in Egypt, or they would not have been rescued. The Christians had to eat the Eucharist (the Lamb of God) in order to fully participate in the mystery of Christ. The Eucharist - the Sacrificial Meal- is what makes us One with Christ in His Body and gives us the strength to fulfill the mission He has sent us on, that is to teach all nations. And we cannot fulfill that mission without the direct help of God and the strength the Lord gives us through the Eucharist.