18 November 2005

House of prayer, house of thieves...

33rd Week OT (Fri): I Mc 4.36-37, 52-59; Luke 19.45-48
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas

When is the church a house of prayer and when is it a den of thieves? What is prayer and what is thievery? Prayer is asking God to bless us with what we need. Thievery is taking unjustly from others what we think we need. The former is an act of humility; the latter an act of violence against humility and charity. The church is a house of prayer when it is a place for God’s people to gather to ask Him for what they need in humility and to offer Him worship in justice. The church is a den of thieves when it becomes a place for God’s people to take from Him what is not theirs in justice, a place of pride and apathy. What can we possibly steal from God in His own church? The lives that are rightly His! My life, your life, the lives of those given to God in blood, desire, and water.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem with a little righteous anger brewing and hits the temple area like a desert whirlwind. Laying hold of his prophetic authority, Jesus, quoting Isaiah and Jeremiah, calls the temple a house of prayer that has been made into a den of thieves. To cleanse the temple of thievery, he drives out those who have turned his Father’s place of worship into a marketplace for Mammon. Now cleansed, the temple becomes his place for teaching, a place for proclaiming and preaching the Word—a place where the people gather to hang on Jesus’ every word. In this one movement, this single display of righteous indignation, Jesus has redefined the church for us, reconceived what it means for his people to gather, to hear the Word, to worship in spirit and truth, and to live in the abiding presence of God day-to-day, hour-to-hour.

When the People of God, the Body of Christ, come together to offer praise and thanksgiving, to offer up petitions and intercessions, the house of the Lord is a house of prayer. When the Word is proclaimed and preached and the sacrifice of thanksgiving made on the altar and in the heart, the house of the Lord is a house of prayer. When we gather to give to God what is His in justice, that which we owe Him as a matter of covenant and elemental desire, that is, our lives, the house of the Lord is a house of prayer. When the house of the Lord is a house of prayer, it is a time and place of distilled righteousness, a time away from time, a place away from place, where and when we eat God and are eaten.

We don’t just hang on his words in prayer; we hang on his cross, offering to God what has been His gift to us from the beginning: our love, our adoration, our very lives.

The house of the Lord becomes a den of thieves when we withhold, keep back our assent and our surrender; when we reserve for later, another when and where, the desire we were created to bring into flesh. When we choose, freely, the stingy path of hoarding for later our desire to be with God forever, that is, storing up our YES, tucking away our FIAT, we steal from Him what is rightly His. And deny ourselves everything we can be for Him.

To worship in spirit and truth, to adore Him with our strength in joy, to be seduced by His hope, cherished in His love, and brought forever to live in His beauty—that’s prayer! That’s justice! That’s the only reason I can think of to be here at all.

16 November 2005

Symposium on the 40th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council

The Moral Theology of the Liturgy: Ecclesia de eucharistia and theosis

Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
University of Dallas
November 16, 2006

(NB. This is the text for a presentation I gave at the University of Dallas commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. )

One way to approach to this topic is to talk about the liturgy of the Church as instructive for the moral life of the Christian, that is, to explore how Roman Catholic liturgy, particularly the liturgy of the Eucharist, is an engine for prayer, a source of and guide to holiness, and a push outward toward the evangelization of the world. Though all of this true, it doesn’t go far enough.

In this brief presentation, I will argue that the Church’s liturgy is more than moral pedagogy, more than spiritual refreshment, and more than exhortation to be socially just. It is the Christian life brought to concentration, highly focused, and distilled into a moment of moral clarity, an instant where the divine and the human meet in a transformative act of sacrifice, an act of sanctification through assent and surrender; in other words, the Church’s liturgy is that moment and that place where the human person meets his/her final end: divinization, theosis, a transfiguration of the merely human into the perfectly human.
This is not simply a reorientation of the Christian’s moral life toward “being good” behaviorally. Nor is it simply a refurbishing of a dilapidated but serviceable moral house. If we take seriously the prayer of the Church’s liturgy, particularly the prayer of the Mass, we cannot help but come away from its celebration stunned by what we have experienced, overwhelmed by what we have committed ourselves to, and driven by an almost ecstatic desire to be Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the world.

My thesis, then, is: the liturgy of the Church is the time and place when and where we meet ourselves as God created us to be forever.

I. The terms

I take as my working definition of “moral theology” the definition offered by Pope John Paul II in his 1993 letter, Veritatis splendor:

The Church's moral reflection…has also developed in the specific form of the theological science called “moral theology,” a science which accepts and examines Divine Revelation while at the same time responding to the demands of human reason. Moral theology is a reflection concerned with “morality,” with the good and the evil of human acts and of the person who performs them...But it is also ``theology,'' inasmuch as it acknowledges that the origin and end of moral action are found in the One who “alone is good” and who, by giving himself to man in Christ, offers him the happiness of divine life. (29)

Unpacking this a bit we get the following definition: moral theology is that sort of rational reflection on good and evil human acts that begins with the reality of God’s self-revelation—scripture, creation, Christ—and attempts to assess the degree to which human acts succeed or fail in promoting progress toward the final end of every human person—“the happiness of divine life.”

“Moral” modifies “theology,” making the phrase “moral theology” connote something more specific (and substantial) than “religious ethics” or “spiritual values.” “Moral” has to do with an already acknowledged distinction between what is right and what is wrong, or what promotes goodness and what promotes evil. “Religious” and “spiritual,” though certainly hinting at something beyond the secular or the material, do not conjure the same sense of clear division between what is right/wrong, good/evil. The “religious” and the “spiritual” are more neutral in their overt commitments to specific judgments about discreet acts performed by the human person. I think what is important about the use of the adjective “moral” here is that it leaves us with the distinct sense that the objects of moral theology are discovered and not created by our rational exploration.

“Theology,” as the term modified by “moral,” is much less ambiguous here precisely because we are discussing moral theology in the context of the Roman Catholic theological tradition. As John Paul II notes in the definition above, theology is the science of examining Divine Revelation by means of human reason. Jean-Pierre Torrell offers an appropriate elaboration:

Before all else, theology is an expression of a God-informed life, an activity in which the virtues of faith, hope, and, charity are given full scope[…]it should be clear that this faith is not pure intellectual adhesion to the collection of truths that occupy the theologian. It is rather, in Saint Thomas as in the Bible, the living attachment of the whole person to the divine reality to which every person is united through faith by means of the formulas that convey that Reality to us. (4)

The connection of faith to the science of theology gives the scientific project its object: God. Again, Torrell notes: “Theology finds in faith not merely its point of departure but also its reason for being. Without faith, not only would theology lack justification, it would have no object[…]only faith allows the theologian to come into possession of his object”(5).

The point of this short excursion into the definition of theology is this: if moral theology is to be useful to us in our exploration of the liturgy, then the theological component must connote a clear commitment to a life of faith. It is not enough that theology be useful here as an instrument for measuring and evaluating claims about the phenomena we collectively call “the divine” or “religious experience.” This is more properly the task of a sociology of religion or a psychology of religious experience. For a moral theology of the liturgy to make sense it must have the same commitment to a life of faith that any other branch of theology in the Roman Catholic tradition has.

The last term to explore briefly is “liturgy.” This is the term that I am least familiar with and most hesitant to tackle. In many ways it is the easiest term to define but has the most complex connotations of the three terms we’ve explored so far. “Liturgy” is the public worship of the Church, or in the case of the Roman Catholic tradition, the public celebration of the sacraments according to the rites of the Church. We all know how inadequate this definition is in the end. Each element of this definition (“public,” “celebration,” sacrament,” “worship,” etc.) carries the weighty baggage of long dispute. So, I will let the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council suggest a use for the term:

For the Liturgy, "through which the work of our redemption is accomplished,” most of all in the Divine Sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.” (n. 2)

Liturgy, along with being the public celebration the Church’s sacraments, is the exceptional way that 1) our redemption is accomplished and 2) an exceptional means the faithful use to convey to others the redeeming work of Christ and the nature of the Church. The liturgy is not just the logistics of organizing the particulars of public rites nor is it the acquisition and use of the arcane knowledge associated with color, symbols, fabrics, sacred objects, and incantations. Liturgy, Roman Catholic liturgy, is the where and when of our transformation from fallen into graced humanity, from sinful individuals into the living Body of Christ.

John Paul II’s 2003 letter, Ecclesia de eucharistia, will provide the instigating text for a meditation on what it might mean for us take seriously the radically transformative power of the liturgy, particularly the liturgy of the Eucharist.

II. “until He comes in glory”

The first paragraph of Ecclesia de eucharistia begins: “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church”(1). What does this mean? This is a reaffirmation of the Church’s traditional teaching that the Eucharist forms the sacramental center of our lives as Christians. More forcefully put: our Holy Father is teaching us that the Eucharist is the Church, that is, without the Eucharist, the Church is not—not the Church, non-existent. The truth that the Church draws her life from the Eucharist summarizes the mystery of what the Church is: the living Body of Christ, fed by the paschal meal, transformed by the sacrifice on Calvary, and brought to participate in the Divine Life as fully graced human beings.

Part of the mystery of the Eucharist as a mystery of the church and about the church is how this foundational sacrament brings together the historical meal of the Upper Room and any parish Mass. John Paul writes,

[The Church’s] foundation and wellspring is the whole Triduum paschale, but this is as it were gathered up, foreshadowed and ‘concentrated’ for ever in the gift of the Eucharist. In this gift Jesus Christ entrusted to His Church the perennial making present of the paschal mystery. With it He brought about a mysterious ‘oneness in time’ between that Triduum and the passage of centuries.”(5)

It is this “making present” in the “oneness of time” that makes the Eucharist the most capable engine for building an ethics strong enough to confront the world. How so? John Paul points to the “cosmic” character of the Eucharist as a starting point: “Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation”(8). The strength of this arrangement rests on two historical events, the Passion and Easter. Christ’s suffering and death on a cross and his rising from the dead energize the Eucharist across time because these events happened not to a mere human person, but to the Son of God, God Incarnated. That they happened to the God-Man of history means that the events took place temporally and atemporally, in human time passing and in the eternal now.

Our connection to God the Father is made through the sacrifice of the Mass itself, the making present of the original sacrifice for our sakes and the sake of the whole world. Of this connection John Paul writes: “The thought of this leads us to profound amazement and gratitude” (5). And he sees his project in this letter to be the re-establishment and strengthening of that amazement over and against the “shadows” of the world and those shadows that have crept in through ecclesial neglect of the mystery and truth of the Real Presence (10). It is clear that he sees the failure of some to hold and practice the Real Presence, a failure, in other words, to hold to the efficacy of the sacrament, as the darkest shadows cast. And it is in returning the Eucharist as the gift of Christ Himself that we will dispel these hungry shadows.

So, how does John Paul understand sacrifice in light of the Real Presence? Acknowledging that there are various ways to construe the “presence” of Christ, the empowering presence is the Real Presence of Christ, his substantial, abiding “hereness” in the elements of the sacrament (15). The sacrifice of the Eucharist is real inasmuch as Christ’s presence on the altar of sacrifice is real. John Paul writes in language mindful of Trent:

The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it. What is repeated is its memorial celebration, its “commemorative representation,” which makes Christ’s one, definitive redemptive sacrifice always present in time. (12)
Since the sacrifice of the altar is not separable from the sacrifice of Calvary, the sacrifice of the Mass cannot be understood as Christ merely offering himself to the Church as spiritual food. We must understand the sacrifice of the Mass to be “first and foremost a gift to the Father,” the gift of Christ offered by Christ through his Church for the sake of the Church and the world (13).

Having reaffirmed the traditional outlines of the Church’s Eucharistic theology, John Paul moves into less chartered waters in order to tie the sacrifice of the Mass to the larger world by offering to the world a means of living ethically. He characterizes the link between the presenting action of the Eucharistic sacrifice and the broader world as a kind of “eschatological tension”(18). This tension is first felt in the liturgy itself when the assembly acclaims the mysterium fidei, concluding with “until you come in glory.” The tension felt here is the tension between our present state and the possibility of living face-to-face with God in heaven. John Paul writes: “The eschatological tension kindled by the Eucharist expresses and reinforces our communion with the Church in heaven”(19). Rather than directing out limited attention to life after this one, John Paul argues that the tension inherent in the longing for union with God directs us instead to a deeper engagement with our world: “Certainly the Christian vision leads to the expectation of ‘new heavens’ and ‘a new earth,’ but this increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today”(20). The eschatological tension is best exemplified by the “fruit of a transfigured existence and a commitment to transforming the world in accordance with the Gospel[...]”(20). Here is where the ethics of the Eucharist begins to make sense: transfigured men and women transforming the world according to Gospel values.

If the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ at the sacrifice of the Mass is going to produce evangelical fruit, it seems that two conditions must be met: 1) the presence consumed must be the Real Presence of Christ and 2) the person consuming the presence of Christ must become Christ in and for the world. Though he exhorts the church to celebrate the mystery of the Eucharist (its Real Presence, sacrifice, and banquet) in a way that “does not allow reduction or exploitation,” he also exhorts the man and woman taking communion not to reduce or exploit their reception of the mystery by failing to live lives structured by gospel integrity. And this is the key to understanding how John Paul envisions the church functioning with the world without being overwhelmed by it. Two elements must always balance within the Church as the Body of Christ: first, the ineffable mystery of the Eucharist must be maintained because the salvific efficacy of the sacrament depends on the Real Presence; and second, the celebration and reception of the mystery must drive the Christian man or woman to evangelize the world fully conscious of his/her transfigured existence, fully aware that he/she walks now as the real presence of the divine, the really, truly present body and blood of the Savior.

How do we communicate to the world the presence and power of Christ when the world seems thoroughly in love with ideologies of death, radical materialism, and skepticism? Here’s how we do not communicate the power and presence of Christ to this world: Christ is only symbolically present, Christ is present because the bread and wine have had their final ends changed or because their nominations have changed. None of this communicates power or presence; it communicates doubt, embarrassment, and perhaps even denial. What communicates power and presence to this world is the hard example of Christians working in the world to bring to life those gospel values that signify the divinizing effect of the sacrifice of the Mass. This is work done now in light of Christ’s promise that he will be with us always– here now, there then and always.

III. Meeting ourselves as God created us to be forever: theosis

It seems to me that the Holy Father’s exhortation to us in Ecclesia de eucharistia is precisely right, that is, he is directing us to move from the liturgical celebration of the sacrifice of Calvary into the world as living Christs, transfigured persons set ablaze with the love of Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit. Taking everything I’ve said so far about what we mean by “moral,” “theology,” and “liturgy,” a moral theology of the liturgy then has to tell us something about the person who is moved to be Christ in the world and how the liturgy of the Church makes this transformation possible. I said earlier that if we take the prayer of the Mass seriously we should be awed beyond rational description by what we commit ourselves to in sharing communion and driven by a desire to take that filial bond of communion out into the world as living sacraments of God’s presence. This is not simply a matter of allowing the prayers of the Mass to teach us a lesson, or finding spiritual refreshment in taking communion, or even being exhorted by the priest in his homily to go out and do good works. Surely, all of these happen in the Mass. But if what we’re talking about here is a moral theology of the liturgy in light of Ecclesia de eucharistia, then we have to move to a more radical concept of who becomes Christ and how the liturgy makes this possible. This radical concept is theosis.

If it appears that I’ve decided to pick up the topic of my presentation right here at the end, let me say: not true. I’ve said from the beginning that the Church’s liturgy is that moment and that place where the human person meets his/her final end: divinization, theosis, a transfiguration of the merely human into the perfectly human. The Dominican, Jean Corbon, describes this beautifully:

The lived liturgy does indeed begin with this “moral” union [a face-to-face encounter between the person of Christ and our own person], but it goes much further. The Holy Spirit is an anointing, and he seeks to transform all that we are into Christ: body, soul, spirit, heart, flesh, relations with others and the world. If love is to become our life, it is not enough for it to touch the core of our person; it must also impregnate our entire nature (216).

Underneath John Paul’s teaching that the Eucharist is the Church is the notion that Holy Spirit transforms His assembled people into a living offering for sacrifice. From the invocation of His presence at the beginning of Mass, and especially at the epiclesis over the offerings of bread and wine, the Holy Spirit sanctifies the people as an offering, transforming them from a collection of the merely human into a body of the perfectly human. This in no way replaces, displaces, or in any way disturbs the absolutely essential transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. In fact, it is through the transubstantiation of the bread and wine that we are constantly perfected by the Spirit. Without this efficacious sign our transformation is only symbolic, or merely moral, meaning it is only an exhortation to imitate Christ. What I believe that John Paul is teaching us, and Corbon is describing so beautifully, is that while the bread and wine become the Body and Blood, we also are changed, radically changed into what God has created us to be forever: Himself. And as He has offered Himself for us, we offer ourselves in the world for the transformation of the world. Corbon, again: “If we consent in prayer to be flooded by the river of life, our entire being will be transformed; we will become trees of life and be increasingly able to produce the fruit of the Spirit: we will love with the very Love that is our God”(216).

IV. Conclusion: three questions

1. What does theosis mean for your daily life? I mean, if we take theosis to be our understanding of what salvation in Christ is, then what difference does it make for you as a Christian day-to-day?

2. If we take “grace” to be both God’s invitation to theosis and the mechanism by which we are divinized, then what does it mean for us to say that we “receive grace” in the liturgy of the Eucharist (or in any liturgical celebration of a sacrament)?

3. We said that moral theology is the science of rationally reflecting on the good/evil actions of the human person in light of his/her final end as a creature of God. How does human evil, sin, corrupt or thwart the process of theosis in the liturgy?

Works Cited

Corbon, Jean. The Wellspring of Worship, 2nd ed. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2005.

Torrell, Jean-Pierre. Saint Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master. CUA Press, 2003.

13 November 2005

Sharing the divine life...

33rd Sunday OT: Prov 31.1-13, 19-20, 30-31; I Thes 5.1-6; Matt 25.14-15, 19-21
Fr. Philip N. Powell
Church of the Incarnation, Irving, TX

In case you haven’t noticed: the end is near.

For the last several weeks Jesus has been teaching his disciples the basics of servant-leadership, communal living, the necessity of preparedness for the consummation of the kingdom. He has been preparing them for the hard reality that some will not follow them, others will openly rebel against them, some will persecute them, and still others will follow at first, then wander away, and possibly join the persecution. There is little in the recent gospel readings from Matthew to lighten our mood, to lift our hearts, or to make this choice for Christ easier. Good! It’s not supposed to be an easy choice to make nor is it supposed to be a easy life once chosen. There’s nothing easy or simple about a life lived in Christ for others. It’s work. Hard work. The pay is bad. The hours long. You can’t pick your co-workers. But hey I hear the benefits are pretty good!

So, what is this work in Christ for others? Jesus has been prepping the oftentimes dense disciples for their post-resurrection role as living witnesses to the gospel he has been preaching. He’s been preparing them for the tough task of living in a world that demands of its inhabitants a ruthless individualism, a mercenary mindset in service, and a dogged ladder-climbing mentality to the top. The spirit of this world demands the worship of the idols of money, power, prestige, celebrity, reputation, and appearance.

Jesus knows that he’s leaving his best students to the ravening wolves of empty and seductive philosophies—worldviews that make the human person nothing more than an animal, worldviews that make the human person into angels with traitorous bodies, and worldviews that make creatures into the Creator, that make gods out of what God has made. He knows that what he has taught them to teach is treachery to the Empire and the Temple, a betrayal of everything sacred to the powers and principalities of this world and blasphemy to the faith of their mothers and fathers.

But he leaves them knowing that he will send his Spirit among them after he is gone and that he will return in the end to gather them up and make them perfect in his presence forever. In the meantime, they have a lot of hard work to do. They have been given a handful of talents, a fistful of dollars to spend, invest, or bury. The good and faithful servant in our gospel reading tonight invests his talents and is rewarded with greater responsibilities and a share in his master’s joy.

Jesus makes this point: take the gifts I give you and make them bigger, better, and more fruitful. Make them grow. Make them more. Spend them and they are gone. Bury them and they rot. But if you make the hard choice to follow my way, to teach as I taught, to preach as I preached, to live as I lived, your talents will flourish, your gifts will abound, and the fruit you produce for the kingdom will be worth any reward from heaven.

The gift of the divine life left unshared with others is buried, rotted, or stupidly spent. The gift of the divine life lived in cringing fear of opposition or boring religious routine is puttered away, squandered at our Lord’s expense. The gift of the divine life lived in dull moderation with an eye to practicality, convenience, or inoffensiveness is a rich inheritance blown on cotton candy and circus hot dogs.

Jesus knows all of this. He knows the temptations that await his favorite students. He knows the troubles that will rock their faith, make them question their witness, and seduce them into complacency. He knows them. And he knows us. So, he prepares us to spend our lives in him serving others, teaching what he taught, preaching what he preached, living as he lived.

And part of this difficult lesson is that the end must come, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” There is a conclusion to this life, and there is a judgment to be made after its end. Like the three servants gifted with the talents in the gospel, the master will return, and an accounting will be made. This will be a time of measurement, appraisal, and a time of clarification, of illumination. But this time is not yet. Knowing that it is coming, hearing the Lord’s assurance that it will be done, is part of our motivation to take seriously his charge to us to be good and faithful servants, to be his excellent students, his excelling brothers and sisters.

This is no easy task for the contemporary Church. Two-thousand years separate us from the first efforts of the disciples to build something monumental after Christ’s death and resurrection. Two-thousand years spread between their immediate experience of Jesus in the flesh and our immediate experience of Jesus in the sacrament. The landscapes have changed. Languages have changed. Fashion, economics, governments have changed, but what is basic to the Father’s human creatures hasn’t changed. We are still tempted by power, prestige, selfishness, despair, and trial. We are still pushed around by the powers and principalities of the world, shoved into the obscure corners of the marketplace of ideas and slapped with the label “old-fashioned” and “intolerant,” as if being newly fashioned and tolerant were previously undiscovered virtues!

Yes, we are still tempted into sin and persecuted in varying degrees, but what bridges two-thousand years and every gap in history between the disciples and this congregation is the Living Word, Christ Crucified and Risen—the timeless bridge of He Who Is for us our final healing and our eternal salvation. The lessons of servant-leadership, communal living, and the necessity of being prepared for the consummation of His kingdom are as fresh, as bright now as they were then. We lead in the world by serving one another. We witness to Christ by being his one body. And we declare our faith in his promise of eternal life by living that promise of eternal life right now. Can this be said often enough: by your baptism and your good faith participation in this Eucharist tonight, you bring yourself to Christ to be an offering of praise and thanksgiving; you make your life holy so that what you do for others out there is truly sacrificial.

We are not promised an easy field to harvest. We are not promised a smooth, straight path to walk. We are given gifts to use in the spreading of the gospel, in the sowing of the Good News, and we are given, through the apostolic tradition, in the unswerving handing-on of the witness of the apostles, instruction sufficient to be children of the light and children of the day.

The end is near! The end is always near. Every moment of our lives brings the possibility that we will be called to accountability, called to answer for the use of our gifts. Let the Lord find you with double the gifts, triple the fruit.

Be the worthy wife: “Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.”

I AM the resurrection...

17th Week OT (Fri): John 11.19-27
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation

Do you think of yourself as a revelation of God to the world? Do you think of yourself as showing to others the nature of our Father’s love for His creatures? More pointedly, are you a revelation of the Father’s love? Does your life shine brightly as evidence of the work of the Holy Trinity?

If you are a normal Catholic, the answer to these questions is most likely, “Yes!…well, sometimes…well, OK…not as much as I should, but I’m getting there with God’s help.” This is the perfect answer for a good Catholic—enthusiasm for doing the Good, a confession of falleness and laxity, and an expectation of progressing in holiness through grace.

And we have Martha to thank for showing us how this life of revealing God to the world is begun! Martha is a bit irritated with Jesus for not showing up sooner to save her brother from death. Despite this, she says, “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus assures Martha that her brother will rise and she expresses her faith in the notion common among the Jews of that time that her brother would rise again on the last day. Jesus—as he was prone to do—took her raw faith and gave it shape, gave it a powerful content, a direction. He revealed to her the full Truth of her shadowed belief in a resurrection sometime far away. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live…” He does not say “I will be the resurrection” or “I was the resurrection” or “I would have been the resurrection,” no; he says: “I AM the resurrection…” Right here, right now, I am the restoration of life, I am the revelation of my Father, I am the death of Death and the beginning of new life. Of Martha he asks, “Do you believe this?” And her answer, and our answer, begins a life of revealing God to the world. She says, we say: “Yes, Lord!”

The fallout from saying Yes to the Lord, from confessing an unshakable faith in Him as the Christ is both devastating and comforting. Saying Yes to the Lord lays waste to a personal history of falleness, laxity, disreputation, the hard-headedness and hard-heartedness of pride. Saying Yes to the Lord destroys the strangle-hold of sin and helps us to live lives in freedom. Saying Yes to the Lord, confessing his Sonship, his Mastery of our souls, is our resurrection from the decay of death due to disobedience and our entry into everlasting life.

Please note that Martha needed no miracle to prove Jesus worthy of her faith. She didn’t wait for Jesus to raise her brother before calling him “Lord.” She was confident enough in his connections with God to get the job done…but it was only after he revealed to her his true nature—I am the resurrection and the life—that she proclaimed him Christ, Son of God, Lord. This is the moment of grace, the gift of trust, of faith, the openness to be taught, to be shown the way, and to be corrected with the Truth.

Martha began by simply trusting Jesus’ ability to get things done with God’s help. She ended by naming him Lord. What happened in between is what must happen in our own lives before we can become revelations of God to world: we must welcome God’s gift of faith by confessing his Lordship. Then everything we do and everything we say everyday becomes a showing of His love, a demonstration of his mercy and forgiveness. We become the living, breathing evidence that God moves in His creation, signs that the Christ is indeed coming into his world.

Canaanite woman & Jesus

18th Week OT(Wed): Matt 15.21-28
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory

When I told my parents that I wanted to become a Catholic at 17, my mom said, “But we don’t believe in praying to statutes!” My friends and classmates rehearsed the familiar list of objections to our ancient faith as well. All of these objections, predictably, focused on the various errors Catholicism teaches about access to God—access by praying to the saints, by vain and repetitious prayers, by good works, etc. They were deathly afraid that I was exchanging the only legitimate, sure means of access to God—my faith—for something illegitimate, and deeply, deeply suspicious—flashy religious theatre, complete with script and costumes.

I knew then and I know now that they are dead wrong. And I hope you do as well! If, however, we need reminding that Catholic prayer is first and foremost about living in trust and humility, we have this gospel’s story of the Canaanite woman. To be clear: this is not a story about a pagan woman teaching Jesus about his ministry. I have trouble thinking that the Incarnated Son of God needs a human to enlighten him about his job as the Christ. This is, however, a story about how the Canaanite woman and Jesus work together to teach the apparently ever-clueless disciples about evangelization and prayer.

So, what does this pagan woman and Jesus teach the disciples? Follow the story. The woman comes to Jesus and his disciples frantic with worry about her daughter. She is a pagan, a foreigner, a dog yet she rightly proclaims Jesus “Lord” and “Son of David.” She manages to recognize Jesus for who he really is. When she calls out to Jesus for help—“Have pity on me, Lord”—he remains silent. It is as if he’s waiting to see how his disciples will handle this pagan dog of a woman. Predictably, they tell Jesus to send her away. He then reflects back to them their own understanding of his ministry: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Notice her response to this: not a protest against being excluded, not an assertion of her rights to be included, but a simple plea in total trust: “Lord, help me!” You can almost see Jesus looking over his shoulder at his disciples—checking to see if they are paying attention—before he says, “I can’t give the children’s food to dogs.” I can’t give pagans access to God. But she insists that even dogs get table scraps on occasion. “Woman, great is your faith.” And her daughter is healed.

If the disciples were paying attention here’s what the woman and Jesus taught them about access to God, about prayer: 1) b/c prayer is a relationship btw creature and Creator, we must know and proclaim that Jesus is Lord; trust is the way we tell God that we know He can and will help us; 2) prayer is not about negotiating with God, or casting spells to manipulate God, or an argument to change God’s mind; it is about standing in awe and saying, “Lord, help me;” it is about the sincere expression of our need; 3) prayer is not an arrogant assertion of our rights; prayer is not about blackmailing God into giving us goodies; prayer must come out of humility—a firmly planted understanding of our creatureliness, our total dependence on God…humility is not about being a worm or even a dog! It’s about knowing that you are a willful act of divine creation, the deliberate creation of a loving Creator.

Now, the disciples know what the Canaanite woman knew: when we proclaim Jesus Lord, tell him what we need in trust and true humility, we step into a life lived in prayer and begin again and again to make new our commitment to preaching the Gospel. Prayer is the engine of our evangelization. And it is our progress, always our progress!, in healing and in holiness.

Priestly prayer

19th Week OT (Fri): John 17.20-26
Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert’s Priory, Irving

What does Jesus pray for in this priestly prayer? First, he prays for the disciples gathered around him then and there. Then he prays for all of us who have come to him through the preaching and teaching of those disciples. Then he prays that all of us here and now will be one in him, united in his Word, and he prays that as a united body, we will be one with the disciples who taught us and the diciples who taught them and the disciples who taught them and so on.

This unity in the body of Christ is not the kind of unity that comes out of cultural homogenity or racial identity or gender/sexual politics. Our Christian unity is not about political convenience, good P.R., or power. The unity of heart and mind that Christ prays for is an imitation of the relationship that Christ has with His Father. Jesus prays that we will be one together in him in the same way that he and his Father are one. And why could this unity matter at all? Is this is a quaint sentimental moment where Jesus creates a CareBear poem for his buddies, or a moment of weakness where he opens his heart and shares his feelings? No. The unity of the Body of Christ that imitates the unity of the Father and the Son in the Trinity is the heart of the evangelical project given to us at our baptism. Jesus prays that this unity may be given to us by the Father so “that the world may believe that [the Father] sent me.” Our unity in Christ as believers is proof to the world that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. Our divisions, then, can only be arguments against this revelation, proofs that deny—despite our words to the contrary—proofs that deny Jesus is Lord. What is it that we must look to to maintain an authentic unity?

After praying for our unity, our witness, our perfection, and his love for us, Jesus says the most incredible thing: “Father, they are your gift to me.” They—the disciples, us, those in the world who will bear witness, those who will see the witness and come to know and be with Christ. They—all of us—are gifts from the Father to Christ. How extraordinary! How extraordinary that Jesus would call us gifts from the Father, freely given creatures, treasured beyond price, loved as the Father loves His Son, freely given to be given freedom.

It’s not all that unusual for us to think of Jesus as God’s gift to us. We say so at every Mass. He is a gift that we gladly receive, bless, give back to the Father in sacrifice, and receive again as food for holiness. But do you often think of yourself as a gift from God to Jesus? How would your interior life change, the pursuit of holiness you are called to be different, if you began each day by praying, “Thank you, Father, for giving me as a gift to Jesus, your Son.”

Jesus’ priestly prayer offers us up to the Father as holy sacrifices, blessed gifts once given to him by the Father. He prays from his sacred heart for our unity in him, for our constant love for one another, and for our growing perfection. Jesus, the High Priest, has told us about the Father, about his love for us, and offered to the Father his prayer that we will love Him as He loves us. Jesus prays for us in this way b/c he knew then that our witness to his life, his teachings, his sufferings, his death, all of it will die if we fail to live in the unity that is the love of the Father for His Son.

Come and see...

21st Week OT (Wed): John 1.45-51
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert Priory, Irving

Why do you believe? Why are you here in this chapel giving yourself to the service of the common good in Jesus’ name? Surrendering your will to the Father’s? Saying “Amen” to the truths of a story told for 2,000 years by farmers, princes, weirdoes, prostitutes, and thieves? Why do you believe? Why do you think any of this is true?

Someone must have made a very persuasive argument! St. Anselm’s ontological argument? Or maybe Aquinas’ Five Proofs? What delicate combination of evidence, argument, and rhetoric drew you into the fold and keeps you coming back? Maybe you witnessed a miracle? Touched a holy person? Or maybe you cried out in fear, loneliness, despair, cried out for help from your darkness need and a small still voice answered? I AM here. Why do you believe? Why are you here? By what good reason do you think any of this gospel-church-Jesus stuff is true?

Imagine the scene with me: Philip, eager to his limits to tell of the Messiah, goes out to find his friend, Nathanael (Bartholomew, btw), and says to him, “We have found the chosen one, the Messiah promised by Moses and the prophets, Jesus of Nazareth!” Nathanael, knowing that Nazareth is this little podunk, one-stop bump in the road, says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” And then Philip utters the ringing words of apostolic witness: “Come and see.” And then Nathanael believes that Jesus is the promised Messiah? Not quite. But he is intrigued enough, curious enough to follow Philip to Jesus. And here the story gets interesting b/c it is not Nathanael who acknowledges Jesus first, but Jesus who acknowledges Nathanael: “Here is a true child of Israel.”

Taking the story at this point, what do we know about why you are you? What persuaded Nathanael to follow Philip to Jesus? Neat, logical syllogisms? No. Bribes. No. Threats of eternal fire and lakes of blood? No. Nathanael is persuaded by the force of Philip’s own convictions and by the simplicity of his faithful witness: “Come and see.” Almost a dare, a challenge to Nathanael’s prejudice, the temptation to go and see entices, charms, it even seduces the wary soul to give it a try, just once. The very act of moving toward Jesus in some vague sense of possibly believing that He might be the Messiah, this act of basic curiosity and trust, ends with the Messiah greeting him first and calling him service.

I will hazard a guess that you are here this morning in this chapel b/c you received an apostolic invitation to Come and See. You heard the weighty voice of our faith’s long history call your name and dare you to come out of the darkness, to move away from the shadows of death and see, truly see, the Son of God, the King of Israel—Jesus Christ. You came to see the Lord and he recognized you b/c in you is a heart made to love him for eternity. Arguments, miracles, evidence are all invitations in their own right, but it is the apostolic witness, the faithful teaching of what Jesus taught that will seduce the wary, humble the cynical, and, finally, persuade the stoniness heart to come and see Jesus. And once that small step is taken, the Lord will reach out and say, “Here is a true child of Israel!”

We believe, you believe b/c we came, we saw, and the work of the risen Lord is not yet done.

Stay awake!

21st Week OT (Fri): Matt 25.1-13
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, U.D.

The red-faced preacher walked the flat dirt aisles of the revival tent, swinging a lighted red lantern the size of a suitcase. The handle squeaked against the metal and in the heavy silence of a delta summer night, that small squeak was a demonic wail, a sure warning of pain and misery. As the preacher paced the aisles he described in baroque detail the rending and ripping of flesh in hell, the drowning fire and burning cold, the vast, black emptiness of eternal life without God. The red light from the lantern ticked back and forth against the farmers’ faces and the preacher’s chant to their clay hard hearts—“You never know the day nor the hour. Be prepared!” The day and hour of his coming is as uncertain as the next rain, as sudden as a flash-flooded creek, and as sure as sunrise—all glory and life and shining rescue.

My mother told me this story when I first expressed an interest in the ministry way back some twenty-five years ago. Raised in the Mississippi delta by Southern Baptist parents, she often found herself on a Saturday night sitting quietly in a revival tent listening to an itinerant preacher struggle to pull one more cotton farmer out of the devil’s snare. She remembered this night b/c the lantern was red and it casts weirdly disfigured shadows on the tent canvas, impressing in her imagination from then on the urgency of being prepared for the coming of the Lord.

Why not tell us when the Lord is coming? Why not just say, “I’ll be back to get you on Wed., July 19, 2006 around 3:30pm. Pack light”? How much simpler would this be than the ominous threat of popping in on us without warning, the promise to sneak up on us and shout “Time to go!” Think what we could do with all the time and energy we spend combing the scriptures for clues to the End Times, for a time and day of the coming of the Lord. So, why not just tell us?

Part of the answer has to do with the need for our sanctification. The five prepared virgins lived in constant readiness, steeped in the life of anticipation, and focused on the coming of the bridegroom. They were not distracted by the follies of village life or the promises of more entertaining fare down the road. They stood ready always and in their readiness they lived lives ahead of time, toward the wedding feast.

Such is the life of sanctification for us! It is not enough that we are “saved” from sin. We are also tempted into a life of holiness lived in anticipation of the Beatific Vision. Our lives as Christians do not suddenly begin when we reach heaven. Our lives as Christians begin at baptism and the life of sanctification is lived in constant anticipation of the coming of the Lord. Think about it: to know the day and hour of the Lord’s coming is an invitation—a temptation—to most of us to live lives of spiritual desolation, to wallow in self-assurance, and then come to Him as a matter of mere rescue.

“Stay awake!” is not a threat nor is it a warning. It is an instruction, a teaching to remain constant in hope so that your life is not given over to the foolishness of despair. We don’t know the day nor the hour nor do we need to know. We need only to know that he will come in glory and life and shining rescue.

Empty and seductive philosophies...

23rd Week OT (Tues): Col 2.6-15, Luke 6.12-19
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory

I used a deck of Tarot cards to do “readings” for the poems. Each poem got a reading as if the poem were a person. The seminar paper I turned in was a collection of these readings, and I concluded from my experiment that “literary texts,” “meanings,” and “authorship” all belonged in the dusty occult catalogues along with mermaids, dragons, and elves. The randomness of the flip of the Tarot card and the arbitrary assignation of mythical meaning to the card flipped was a clear demonstration that anything like an interpretation of a text was just silly. Language has no meaning beyond the reader who is the meaning-maker. That I, the author of the paper, had spent about 35 pages of text in the English language defending the thesis that there are no authors, no meanings, no texts bothered me not at all. Under the beautiful seduction of deconstructive theory, all things were possible, nothing off-limits; I was denied no critical pleasure, and my terribly fragile, almost adolescent ego was never, never challenged by the threat that I might have to grow up and stop playing with my wordy toys.

The sheer emptiness of this devilish philosophy didn’t strike me until I was crippled by a staph infection in my spine. Derrida, Cixous, deMan, none of the apostles of deconstruction gave that pain meaning. The immediacy of the need for relief from pain and the need for some means of giving that pain an explanation—a means of suffering well, if you will—is a person, not an empty and seductive philosophy.

Almost immediately after accepting baptism in Christ, the Colossians began to invite into their spiritual lives the empty and seductive philosophies of their pagan neighbors. Perhaps in the name of dialogue with the culture, or in the name of seeking the truth in all expressions of divinity, the Colossians opened themselves to be seduced, and eventually captured, by those philosophies that encouraged them (and us!) to deny the unique and final mediation of Jesus Christ with the Father on our behalf.

Luke Timothy Johnson notes that the Colossians lived in a region of Phrygia where the cult of the Mother Goddess, Cybele, flourished. He argues that the Colossians fell into their neighbor’s syncreticism, that is, the indiscrimnate and uncritical blending of religious doctrine and practice, b/c “[they were] fascinated by the charms of those who could offer them more […] a greater perfection than was available in their own cult.” These charms were the “elemental powers of the world”—fire, water, wind, and earth, the worship of the creature rather than the Creator. This is not of Christ.

What is of Christ is that in him the fullness of the Godhead dwells. We share in this fullness, members of the Body, baptized with him, buried with him, raised with him from a death to sin. Having forgiven all of our sin, we are brought to life with him and all the bonds of sin are broken, nailed to the cross in defiance of the elemental powers, the seductive philosophies. It is Christ who does this for us and with us, not Cybele nor any of her contemporary children: deconstructionism, feminism, capitalism, Marxism, neoconservatism, any of the “ism’s” of this world that would claim our soul’s allegiance, arrest our maturity in Christ, and seduce us into denying or even compromising the most fundamental truth of our apostolic faith: Jesus Christ is Lord!

And in case those empty and seductive philosophies are whispering to us now, now in the chaos and confusion of disaster, in case we are tempted to look to something other than the church, someone other than Christ, listen: He stood on level ground and a great crowd of people came to him. Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him…because power came forth from him…and he healed them all!

St. Jerome

26th Week OT (Fri): 2 Tim 3.14-17; Matt 13.47-52
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert Priory & Church of the Incarnation

Scripture is the family story. It is the story we are told and tell about how those who came before us struggled with the God—how they loved Him, served Him, challenged Him, railed against His apparent injustices, how they betrayed Him, and finally, killed Him as an enemy of the Empire and the Temple.

Scripture is the family story about what Jesus taught the disciples. About what he did in the crowds with the diseased, the outcast, those near death in sin. Scripture is the family story of what happens when we call on His name and ask Him to be with us; what happens when we pray in the spirit of righteousness and receive His grace to perserve, to grow, to triumph.

Scripture is our history, our story, our flightplan and our roadmap. It is also a record of our failures in the faith, our surrenders to easy, alien doctrines; a record of those times when we scratched our itchy ears with whatever shiny new thing winked at us—Greek Stocism or angel worship or gnosticism or just the plain ole insistence on the Old Law and its requirements.

Scripture is a foundation, a framework, and a beautifully appointed castle. It stands against the fickle tides of fashion, fending off the modernist barbarians who would put us back in the desert wandering, back into the crowds disbelieving, leave us at the foot of the cross gambling, standing at the empty tomb shaking our head at how clever those Christian thieves can be.

Scripture teaches us, refutes us, corrects us, and trains us in righteousness. We are made students, penitents, disciples, and apostles. Belonging to God, we are fully equipped and competently trained to do every good work Christ has commanded us to do. And through Scripture we know not only where the family has been and where is it, but where it is going as well.

We also know Jesus Christ Himself; deep speaks to deep, Word to Word, the Word of God is flesh and spirit, one revelation of the Divine and another together: scripture and Christ, Word and Word, wisdom of salvation and Salvation Himself.

The celebration of St Jerome is a piercing call to the Church, all of us, to take up the hard work of reading scripture and opening our hearts and minds to the insistent knocking of the wisdom that the Word contains. Jerome, in a commentary on Isaiah, puts the matter plainly, “For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” There’s a slap in the face! If you don’t know scripture, you don’t know Christ. Ignorance of the Word is ignorance of the Word.

Give yourself over to the Word to be taught in the wisdom of salvation, to be refuted in your error, to be corrected in your sin, and to be trained in righteousness. Give yourself over to Christ, submit to the wisdom of five millenia of witnesses who witness with one voice to the power, the love, the mercy, the constancy and the faithfulness of our God.
Come, everyone! Join the good fish in the bucket of the righteous!


27th Week OT (Wed): Luke 11.1-4
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

It can be just a formal noise, can’t it? Sort of like how we greet strangers on the street: heyhowyoudoingdoingfinegood. It is so familiar, so much a part of who we are as church-going people that the words mush together, the sounds seem to rush out as one long word, breathless to be spoken, almost as if we were about to run out of air praying: “Ourfatherwhoartinheavenhallowedbethyname…” Sort of like praying on auto-pilot or maybe something like a trance-state where we slip into the mantra and just hum through it.

Repetition can sap meaning if the heart isn’t in it. And by “heart” I don’t mean our emotions. Walt Disney, Inc., Oprah, Inc. and years and years of self-help litter have convinced us that “heart” is about feeling, about emotion. The music rises, the eyes brim with tears, and the magical bear (or bird, etc,) tells our hero/ine, “Just follow your heart.” Cue music cresendo. The end. Problem solved. Not quite.

In secular terms “follow your heart” often means something like: “feel your way through it and do as you please.” In Christian terms, specifically Catholic terms, the heart is something very different: “The heart is the dwelling place where I am; where I live…[it is] the place ‘to which I withdraw.’ […] It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, b/c as image of God we live in relation, it is the place of covenant”(CCC 2563). The heart, then, is our Catholic way of talking about our bond with the Divine, a place, if you will, where God dwells, where our covenant, our living contract with the Father rests. We are made to be walking, breathing tabernacles of God’s presence. When we pray from the heart, out of our covenant, as images of God, we become living, breathing tabernacles of God’s presence.

So, what does this have to do with the potentially meaningless repetition of “Ourfatherwhoartinheavenhallowed…”? The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. He responds with those all too familiar words. Those words, spoken from the heart, evoke the convenant, spark the fire of the Spirit; they rededicate us to a life of holiness in service to others, committing us to day-to-day to dependence on God.

Jesus’ prayer teaches us how to pray not by giving us a precise liturgical formula or the correct magical spell; he teaches us to pray by describing for us how to stir up our baptismal covenant, how to place ourselves within the filial bond of Christ—how to understand ourselves as children of the kingdom, heirs to the kingdom—and how to bring that bond into our lives with one another, sharing our daily bread, forgiving one another’s sin, and helping each other to avoid evil.

Prayer is never about glorifying the one praying. Father, blessed is your name. Prayer is never about manipulating God into doing our will. Lord, your will be done. Prayer is never a Neiman-Marcus shopping list. Give us our daily bread. Prayer is never a demand for holiness. Forgive us our sins.

Prayer is not wishing thinking, magical manipulation, or bargaining with God. Prayer is the means by which we feed our covenant with God. It is how we bring ourselves to see, to accept, and to give thanks for God’s blessings. To pray in your heart, for us to pray together as the heart of the Church, is to invoke an intimacy with the Divine that leaves us breathless, shining, and ready to go out from here as brillant tabernacles of the presence of the Lord.

All Souls 2005

All Souls (2005): Wis 3.1-9; Rom 6.3-9; John 6.37-40
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

Today we celebrate death! All Souls is a feast eaten to keep always before us the truth of all human life: we will die. There is no uncertainty about this. If we live, we die. A simple truth. For us, Christians, this simple truth is deceptive b/c death is dead. So, perhaps it is better to say that today we celebrate the death of death and our life in Christ right now! The Feast of All Souls is an autumnal Easter.

You do know that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Raising from the water of baptism we are new: clean, freshly washed. A life corrupted by slavery to sin is washed clean in baptism only when that life is snuffed out, killed, if you will, in the death of Christ Jesus. We were crucified with him, buried with him in that empty tomb, and raised from the tomb of cleansing water to live with him again, to live the newness of a life freed from sin. Having spent this life with him, we will be united with him in the resurrection. It is who we are. Paul writes, “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”

If our vernal Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ and our resurrection with him into eternal life, perhaps our autumnal Easter should celebrate our rising into a new earthly life with Christ. What does living in the newness of life mean if we wait until after death to begin living it? We are not called to wait for holiness until the coming of Christ again, we are called to glory in holiness while the coming of Christ is still a promise for us. What is hope but living as if Paradise is here, living the expectation of the Beatific Vision as if we are consumed by the fire of divine beauty now. And what is charity but living as Christ lives in perfect union with the Father’s will to will for others his immeasurable good. And faith, faith is how we ensure that we are not lost to Christ, we who are given to Christ by the Father and willed to be raised on the last day.

If we are dead people who have been absolved of our sins, and if this has been accomplished in the death of Christ with whom we were crucified and buried, then how do we live this truth day to day? What do we do today to celebrate, to make merry about being dead to death and alive to eternity? We can remember that we are Christ’s, meaning, that we must hold in front of us the truth that we belong to another. We cannot allow ourselves to make the basic mistake of postmodern people everywhere and confuse what we Do as citizens with who we Are as Christ’s. We are not what we Do. We are Christ’s. We are not our jobs, our careers. We can celebrate this autumnal Easter by taking seriously the black-line distinction btw who we are as do-er’s and who we are as Christ’s.

What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be Christ’s. I want to be a person dead to sin, dead to death, alive in faith, motivated by hope, and exhausted by charity. I want to be a body-soul who celebrates the death, burial, and rising again of Christ in me. I want to be a person who has seen the Son, believes in Him, and will, after my death here, will rise with him on the last day. I want to be a soul, like all just souls, resting in the hand of God, peaceful, greatly blessed, worthy of his mercy.