Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi

I like to think if I were a follower of Jesus in his earthly ministry I would have been able to pick up on the pattern:

  1. Jesus encounters people suffering and in need
  2. Jesus performs a miracle and meets their need
  3. Jesus gives us a teaching about who He is and why He is here among us

I’m smart like that.

So when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed 5,000 men, not counting women and children, I’d knowingly look over at one of my apostle friends and smile, “Watch this Bartholomew, now he’s going to say something awesome.” This time is a little different though. This time Jesus goes to pray alone while we all pile into a boat and cross the sea (just an aside, there was a huge storm and Jesus walked on water to us. No big deal).

The next day all the people come across the sea to where we are. They’re curious, seeking and excited. I see what you did there Jesus. Make them wait a day and come to you. Nice touch. John, get ready to write this down.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”

Well played Jesus. We should hunger for a relationship with you and thirst for righteousness like we hunger and thirst for food and water! Still, these new disciples are taking your analogy a bit too literally. Maybe you should clarify?

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died…I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Lord, that might be taking things in the wrong direction. See, the people are confused because they think you mean this “eating and drinking” literally. If you explained that this is just a metaphor for meditating on your teachings or that its symbolic of learning to share better that might help.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”

Now the people are leaving. “This saying is too hard. Who could believe it?” Jesus, call them back! Tell them it’s all an analogy! It is all an analogy, right? You wouldn’t let people leave you because they couldn’t understand a metaphor, would you?

Now Jesus looks at us. At me.

“Do you wish to leave also?”

Peter speaks up, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

This changes everything.

Because Jesus isn’t some ancient teacher whose wise words remain with us today.

He is with us today.

In the Eucharist we can actually know the risen Jesus—not a long dead historical figure. He is alive and wants an intimate and eternal relationship with you and me.

Our God comes to us in the appearance of simple bread and simple wine. The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ are really and truly present in the Eucharist we receive, because that is the promise He made.

The Holy One of God, for whom and through whom all things were made, desires to dwell within you and me.

His grace transforms us. We become what we eat and, by this Eucharistic miracle, Jesus abides in us.

“When you approach the tabernacle remember that God has been waiting for you for twenty centuries.”

-Saint Josemaría Escrivá

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Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

The other night Katie and I were having one of those important, deeply profound, life changing, heart to heart conversations. This one in particular was about who Hollywood director Judd Apatow is married to. Is it Jenna Fischer? No, Isla Fisher? At some point one of us said “Why are we discussing this, let’s just Google it and be done.” It’s Leslie Mann, if you’re wondering. Google is great for that. Often times friends or family will be sitting around having trivial conversation and a question will come up that just has to have an answer right now. So someone grabs their phone and Googles it, problem solved. I think that’s fine when dealing with trivia. But there’s also a temptation to that same “problem solved” mentality with nontrivial things. The success of the scientific method and the technologies science produces has led us to conclude that everything is merely a problem that can be solved. But not every truth has a simple summation that our intellect can grasp.

We have a beautiful word for these Truths that can’t be simply summed up or solved—mystery. I used to think calling something a mystery was a graceful way of admitting ignorance of a thing that should be understood but wasn’t. Mystery is so much more than that. A mystery is not something that can’t be known at all, it is something that can’t be known completely. The central mystery of the Catholic faith is the Most Holy Trinity. Scripture is pretty clear on four things:

     The Father is God (Philippians 1:2)

      Jesus is God (Titus 2:13)

     The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4)

     There is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4)

We first learn this truth by various analogies, though none of them are the complete truth. The temptation to apply a problem solving sort of “Google it and be done” approach to the Trinity is much older than Google. Oversimplifying the truth to make God more manageable can lead to a number of material or accidental heresies, some of which I have been guilty of believing in the past. Here’s a short list of Trinitarian heresies:

Sabellianism: God is one person, but reveals himself to us in three different ways. For example, a man is one man but also a father, a husband and an employee. However, this heresy denies the Threeness of God. Another example: H2O is water, ice and vapor.

Arianism: The belief that only the Father is truly God and that the Son and the Holy Spirit are his creations. The sun is a common example: the sun represents the Father, and the sun’s light and heat represent the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Tritheism and Partialism: Tritheism is the belief that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are actually three gods who work as one. Partialism is the belief that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three parts or divisions of God. A common example of partialism is the shamrock (sorry Saint Patrick). Another is an egg—one egg made of shell, yolk and white.

The mystery is that God is one nature and three distinct Persons. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit. The Son is not the Father or the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father or The Son. The three Persons share one divine substance (consubstantial).  The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. I really hope that makes very little sense to you as it makes very little sense to me. Because the tension created by this mystery is beautiful.

I was one of the six people who bought a Wii U. I used it a lot when I first purchased it. It was fun to figure out its features and get new games to play on it. But then I had it all figured out and it became boring to me. It was, after all, just an object. Persons are not objects and we can’t fully know them simply by knowing about them. That would be like thinking you know someone because you know their name, favorite movie and where they see themselves in five years. The greatest aspect of being in relationship with another person is the mystery that they are so wonderfully other.

Our God is not just one Person but three Persons equal in glory, coequal in majesty. We could (and hopefully will) spend an eternity coming to share in the inner life of the Trinity and never reach its depths—never fully grasp the mystery, and never grow bored. If you’ve ever been blessed to read a book (or binge-watch a series on Netflix?) that pulled you in and totally engrossed you and you never wanted it to end then you might understand this. If you’ve ever had a deeply meaningful conversation that lasted hours but felt like minutes that’s even closer. But books and people are finite. We have to avoid the temptation to make God a problem to be solved or a question to be Googled—small and understandable. I hope this Trinity Sunday finds you diving into the reality of a God who is deeper than we can imagine, beyond comprehension and beckoning us all to enter into the perfect communion of life and love that is our God —the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threenessthrough confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.”

-Saint Patrick

Happy Birthday Church!

Happy Birthday Church!

I love the Holy Spirit. He is amazing. We are taught that the Holy Spirit is the Love between the Father and the Son. I used to marvel at the idea that the love between two Persons could be so powerful that another distinct Person could proceed from that Love. I still marvel at that reality despite participating in it and seeing not one but two persons proceed from the love between Katie and me. I’ve also been blessed to have the veil lifted at times to see something powerful proceed from the love between a father and son.

On the day Caleb was born, after spending some bonding time with mom, I went upstairs with him to the nursery where they did tests and took measurements. I remember standing there, looking down at Caleb with something new but familiar burning deep in my chest. There were certainly many emotions, as one might expect when a child is born. This particular birth was made a bit more emotional because we had just observed the 9th anniversary of our oldest child’s death. But this burning love inside as I looked at Caleb wasn’t just a feeling. It was like love stepped out of mere sentiment and showed what it truly was—a pure fire of will, totally unencumbered by fickle emotion. I borrowed a line from our Heavenly Father, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” I have had that same burning many times these last nine months.

I had it this morning as I left for work. Caleb was playing on the floor. I got down on all fours and put my forehead against his. I said, “I love you Caleb Maximilian, be good to mom today.” He grabbed my beard and gave me a sloppy drooly kiss (he’s still working on his technique). The burning in my heart returned once again. On my drive to work I thought about how the more emotional side of love was tugging at me to stay home, but the burning fire of will was urging me to go out. It calls me to go places and do things that are uncomfortable. Love as a function of the will is unselfish and agenda free.

This love, perfect and infinitely multiplied, is the Love from which the Holy Spirit proceeds. When we become docile to the Holy Spirit and remove obstacles to personal holiness miracles happen. Mary said yes to the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and the Son of God became man. When we allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow us Christ enters the world through us. Two thousand years ago, on the first Pentecost, a group of insignificant socio-economic nobodies received the Holy Spirit and, led by a wayward fisherman, brought the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church into the world. That same Holy Spirit dwells in us. That same burning fire of Love urges us out of complacency to the same bold, fearless faith.  What better gift can we give to the Church on her birthday than to echo Mary’s “Yes” to the Holy Spirit?

 

On This Day, O Beautiful Mother

We are the Pilgrim Church on Earth, journeying towards our universal Home. This image of a pilgrim church at sea is reaffirmed in the design of our church buildings. The main body of the church is called the “nave” from the Latin word for ship (think “naval”).  Look up at the ceiling of the church and with little imagination you can see an inverted hull. This beautiful analogy gives us a sense of the common mission and destination of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the common calling of our own parish. I think the analogy can also be extended down to the level of our domestic churches—our families. Like the passengers and crew of a ship we raise the sails, swab the deck and keep a lookout for anyone who may have fallen overboard always with an eye toward our final goal in Heaven.

In this analogy I think the role of Motherhood is found, more than anywhere else, in the sails.   Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit being like the wind, which blows and we do not know its source or aim. When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost there was a rush of mighty wind. The sails receive the wind and deliver its driving force through the mast to the whole ship. Sails are a paradox. They have to be soft enough to embrace the wind yet firm enough to transmit its power. Without sails the ship is dead in the water and so is the family without its life giving mother.

This was my experience growing up. Dad was head of the household, and Mom’s embrace of his headship gave life to it, just as she gave life to my brother and my sister and me. Her discipline came through expressing disappointment, which stung more than any punishment or grounding. She was always there to listen, even when I wasn’t saying anything worth listening to. Mom was the one I went to when I needed wisdom, counsel or courage. Most of all she was the one I went to when I needed unconditional love. A mom’s love is the definition of gift of self. It’s fitting that Mother’s Day so often falls near the Pentecost. Just as the Holy Spirit is poured out on us (Joel 2:28) a mother’s love and very life are poured out on her children.

God doesn’t limit good things. He multiplies them. My biological mother is not the only mother He gave me. I count no less than five. He gave me my birth mother. He gave me His own Blessed Mother from the cross. He gave me Holy Mother Church. He gave me a wonderful mother-in-law. And of course He gave me an amazing wife, who is mother of my children. There are countless other women who have been spiritual mothers to me all throughout my life. Mother’s day is an opportunity to say thank you and reflect on these remarkable women—sails that embrace and empower. By their example of sacrificial love, mothers bring us to Jesus Christ.