Monday, June 21, 2010

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Link to the Mass readings:

It is not often we meet God in joy. Rarely do we pull back from sin, thankful that God is by our side and we are His people. Too often we meet Him in the pain that follows. We take that step back and really see who we hurt: the friend when we have said one word too many, the lover when we have betrayed their chastity; ourselves, when our greed has left us only loneliness. It is this pain that we read about in the first reading: “and they shall look on him whom they have pierced,/ and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son,/ and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn.” These verses prophecy the repentance of God’s people over the death of Christ, but all sin meets at the cross. Jesus took the pain and punishment of the sins we mourn for there, and this prophecy about God’s people speaks to our own mourning of the pain we cause there.

“O God, you are my God whom I seek;/ for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts/ like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water./ Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary/ to see your power and your glory,/ For your kindness is a greater good than life.” Life without God is defined by longing. Longing for love, for satisfaction, for absolution of our lives. We are always reaching out to God, and do so even in pain. It is hard to bless God when He has not blessed us, sometimes hard to accept that in Him is a banquet where our souls shall be satisfied.

This is what faith is, that we who are baptized into Christ are heirs to the promise of salvation. There is joy in Christ, and the pain that leads to longing does find satisfaction. But Jesus himself tells us that if anyone is to follow him they must take up their own cross. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake will save it.

These are hard words for we who have hurt in our life, and want salvation to be blissful. But Christ is the narrow way. Our joy comes from the hope of His promise, from knowing that His right hand holds us up. We must cling to that, cling to the hand and to the cross and share in the pain of Christ when we hurt too. There is a balm in Gilead. It is in losing our life that we find it, in mourning that we find “a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Elevent Sunday in Ordinary Time

Link to Mass Readings:

“Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan answered David: ‘The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die.’”

This is what it is to be a member of the Church: to acknowledge we are sinners, to be sorry for our sins, to acknowledge who and what we are before God and ask His forgiveness. And to be forgiven: “Blessed is the one whose fault is taken away,/ whose sin is covered./ Blessed the man to whom the Lord imputes not guilt,/ in whose spirit there is no guile.” God’s forgiveness is complete, it leaves no stain upon us. And more, because “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.”

Not that there remains no consequences for our sin. In the first reading, while Nathan tells David that the Lord has forgiven him, the next line reads: “But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” The eternal consequence of our sins is wiped away when we confess, and the threat of hell averted, but the temporal consequences remain. We are still tempted to gossip, lie, cheat, and steal, and must continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

But the readings today focus on salvation in forgiveness, and the hope we are given therein. Under the law, there is no hope of salvation. When we sin against the Ten Commandments, we feel shame but not hope. We break a law and resolve to do better, but Paul reminds us in the second reading that “through the law I died to the law.” But in being crucified with Christ, we have faith in Him, who did not sin against the Ten Commandments but was sacrificed under the law anyways. His sacrifice is our justification, our faith in him is our hope. We cannot triumph under the law, but by the grace of God and Christ Jesus who lives in us we can rejoice with the psalmist “You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;/ with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.” Even the righteous man falls seven times a day, but the beauty of Christ is that sin is not the end of righteousness, but with forgiveness, the beginning.

Each of us have the sins we feel are the worst. Relative to each person, they are that which make us feel dirty, unworthy of love from God or anybody. Even these God will forgive. We shall not despair against God, but recognize that in us the one with the larger debt was forgiven. Our faith in God will save us, and from our pain we will find love that replaces it. It is this fountain of forgiveness and loves that the martyrs die for, a salvation unearned, but a lifetime of trying to be worthy of it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of ChristSolemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Link to Mass Readings:

Today is the day we celebrate the Eucharist, that Jesus Christ gave us his body and his blood forever in the Mass. We believe that the Eucharist is the Real Presence, that Jesus is fully present in the bread and fully present in the wine. We believe that even though the appearance of the bread and wine stay the same (the species), when the priest says the words of consecration (what we hear in the 2nd reading) the substance of the bread and wine change into the literal body and blood of Christ. A little morbid, but a powerful way that we take Christ into ourselves, and renew our covenant with him.

The readings today focus on the priest’s role in the Eucharist. We believe that the priest stands in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) during the consecration, which means that during the consecration it is Christ through the priest who is offering his body and blood on the altar. In the Mass, it is always a reenactment of the Last Supper.

The first reading and the psalm today make explicit Christ’s role as the priest. He is the one who intercedes between us and God, who offers the sacrifice of his body and blood as expiation for our sins on the altar at Mass, because he is “a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.” In the Gospel reading of the feeding of five thousand we see a parallel in the way the Church celebrates Mass. Jesus has the multitude split into groups of fifty (churches), and has the disciples feed them with food they brought (the species of bread and wine) which he blesses (the priest acting in persona Christi).

The powerful reminder of what this Solemnity means to us is found in this phrase: “They all ate and were satisfied.” We are hungry for God, and for love, and it is in Jesus we are fed. The Eucharist is a rich symbol and literal way for us to eat and be satisfied. It is there we are fed, and it is there we find more than we can ever want. When Jesus was done feeding the five thousand there were twelve wicker baskets filled with leftover loaves and fish. We believe that Jesus has all we need and more. He is abundant in love, and when we open ourselves to him we are filled to overflowing with it. God has more love than we have sin, much, much more.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Link to the Mass Readings:

The first reading describes how the wisdom of God was with Him before all the world, and with God it took delight in the human race. This passage is about the Holy Spirit, and reminds us of the beginning of the Gospel of John: “In the Beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The point is to remind us of the Trinity, because as much as the Trinity is one of the most basic beliefs of Christianity, it is often taken for granted. This Sunday, we remember especially that God is One in three Persons, one distinct being and also three distinct persons.

But the readings as a whole remind us not just of the mystery of the Trinity, but of the role of the Trinity in salvation. God is wholly invested and involved in our salvation; we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, we boast in the hope of the glory of God, and “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Jesus has justified us through his death on the cross. Died so that our sins are forgiven. We yearn for the glory of God, and through faith in Christ we can attain it. The Holy Spirit is given to us as a gift so that we might love God, and know His Truth; and in knowing Truth might love Him the more because truth and love exist within each other.

In the Trinity, each Person leads to each other Person. God begot His only Son, but Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is eternally begotten of the Father, and we know Him as the living Love between Jesus and the Father, a love so sublime it is a Person. They are all God, and God is one. A beautiful Mobius Strip. We see this in the second reading drawn out in our faith, where our afflictions produce endurance, endurance proven character, character hope, and hope that will be realized in the glory of God because of the love God has poured into us, the Holy Spirit.

Our faith life is one thing, and many distinct things, like God is one and distinct Persons. Our struggles, may they be alcohol, pornography, gossip, anger, despair, greed, are part of our lives. Paul says to boast of these, not that you should be proud of the unholy things in your life, but because our afflictions will lead us to the glory of God, if we keep faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and accept the love of God in our hearts. And we must accept the love of God; when we sin it is easy to hate ourselves, but we must remember that sin is not the end, and is never the end.

When we struggle to endure our sins we grow in character, and with each holy step we grow in hope of our God. When we fall, we must keep that hope, because the love of God has been given to us as a gift, and this love finds delight in the human race.