19 August 2006

Living wisely on the Bread of Heaven

20th Sunday OT: Prov 9.1-6; Ephesians 5.15-20; and John 6.51-58
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Paul Hospital, Dallas, TX

What does it mean for a Christian to live foolishly? It could mean living outside the church’s care, outside the historic embrace of the living tradition that guards and hands on the priceless arts of our faith’s lived-wisdom—the stories, the teachings, the creeds that we use to become saints. Living foolishly could mean buying tickets on one of the many inevitable cultural train wrecks that will litter our social landscape soon enough—the dilution of personal responsibility in a culture crazy for genetic causes; the multiplication of atomistic souls perpetually jacked into IPods, laptops, and cell phones; the ease with which death comes to be a reasonable reaction to daily inconveniences. Living foolishly could be something as “old-fashioned” as living in sin, living in defiance of the Father’s will for our lives, denying divine providence; or maybe something like living a life of unhealthy risk, constant stress and trauma, living outside rational deliberation, on the edge of chance and chaos.

We can live foolishly a hundred different ways, a thousand! But only one way to live offers us wisdom. Paul writes, “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise[…]do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” Living in ignorance of the Lord’s will for your life is what it means to live foolishly, to live without wisdom, without His guidance and care. A fool believes he wisely maps his life by considering all contingencies, covering all possibilities, insuring against all inevitabilities, but leaving the Father’s will off the map the fool guarantees that the biggest possible picture, the grandest scale of his life-campaign is missed entirely. Without God, without His grace we are nothing. Literally, “no thing;” we are not.

And here is where the arts of our faith’s lived-wisdom, handed on to us, are the most help. If you are Catholic, you simply cannot plead ignorance of the spiritual life. You cannot say with any integrity, with any expectation of being seriously believed: “I didn’t know about the life of wisdom! I didn’t know I had access to the treasures of our tradition!” If you make it to weekly Mass, you already have access to the priceless pearl of the Father’s revelation in the proclamation and preaching of the Word. You already have ready access to a communal life of prayer that lifts up praise and thanksgiving to God and petitions the Father with the indomitable intercession of the community of saints. You already have access to the living bread, the flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, given in sacrifice for us all and eaten at his command for our growth in holiness. You already have an open door to heaven, a cleared path to your final union with God, a greased shoot straight up to the Throne!

Living foolishly with this much wisdom just hanging around is near suicidal!

When you attend Mass, properly disposed, you eat and drink of the Lord’s body and blood, taking into your body and bloody the substance of the One who suffered, died, and rose again for our everlasting healing. True food, true drink he remains in us and we in him and we come, at our end, to Life because of Him. The foolish call what we do today—this sacrifice, this familial meal of his body and blood—they call it a “mere symbol” or a “simple memorial” without objective effect, without salvific consequences. Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life[…]the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

My life, your life is caused—granted, given, gifted—by the life of Christ in this sacrifice of the Mass—not mere symbol, not simple remembrance, but Real Presence and efficacious sacrifice—the folding of history by the power of the Holy Spirit so that Then touches Now and the one death for many on the cross is Here for our thanksgiving and praise. We do not sacrifice Christ again—over and over each Mass—but re-present, make present again his single sacrifice of the cross, our only means of salvation.

The will of the Father for us, our life in wisdom, is that we live together praising his Name, eating at His table, forgiving one another, outdoing one another in charitable acts, teaching and preaching the truth of the faith in love, witnessing to His mercy by seeking justice, and, quoting Paul, by “singing and playing to the Lord in our hearts, giving thanks always and for everything” in the name of Jesus our Risen Lord!

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