08 June 2013

Miraculously strange, indeed. . .

10th Sunday OT 2013 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
 St. Dominic Church, NOLA 

Writing against the heresies of the Gnostic, Marcion in the second century, Tertullian uses Jesus' miraculous resuscitation of the widow's son to a make a point about Christ's relationship with his Father. On the way to making his point, Tertullian quickly summarizes the scene from Luke and notes, almost offhandedly, “This was not a strange miracle." Not a strange miracle? Did I miss something? Luke is reporting that Jesus returns a dead man back to life, right? Out of compassion for a widow whose only son has died, Jesus touches the dead man's coffin, and says, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” And he does. Tertullian tells us that it is not strange that a dead man rises from his coffin? Nothing unusual about that at all. Tertullian and I have very different definitions of the word “strange.” To be fair to Tertullian, he's making a larger point by using this miracle. His larger point is that the revival of the widow's dead son is not at all strange when viewed in the longer history of miracles. He asks, if God's prophets can perform miracles of such magnitude, why not His Son? Especially when the miracle bears the burden of revelation: “. . .they glorified God, exclaiming. . .'God has visited his people.'” And God still visits His People. 

Just a day or two before reviving the widow's son, Jesus had healed the centurion's servant. In both cases, Jesus showed compassion and exercised great power. In both cases, his interventions gave witness to his ministry and glory to God. And in both cases, news of his words and deeds spread like wildfire over Judea. But there is one interesting difference btw the two events. In the case of the centurion's servant, Jesus acts on a request for healing. No such request is made in the case of the widow's son. What's interesting is that the power and glory of God are revealed in both cases, whether those most directly involved in the miracle ask for God's help or not. Where Christ goes—preaching, teaching, healing—so goes the most exacting revelation of God possible. The truth of that revelation—God's Self-revelation—is not contingent upon the need, the desire, the faith, or the belief of those to whom He reveals Himself. To those with eyes to see and ears to hear, He is uncovered, unveiled, and all there is to do is give thanks and praise! For others, strangeness abounds when a miracle occurs and there is nothing to do but seek a non-miraculous explanation. 

Let's ask a somewhat difficult question: do we need a strange miracle to occur before we can say with the utmost confidence: “God has visited His people!”? Do we need a man several days dead revived? Do we need a sick servant healed from a distance? If so, if you need a strange miracle to believe, ask yourself why. Why do I need such thing? And consider: God visits His people daily in the Eucharist. In the breaking of the bread, a great prophet rises among the people. God's mercy; His healing touch; His cleansing spirit; all the gifts necessary to come to Him in the perfection of His Christ. . .all freely available right here in His Church. Think of them as miracles. . .strange little miracles, if you want. Regardless, strange or not, miracles or not, in the Eucharist, all of the sacraments, Christ touches you and says to you, “Arise!” Arise from death. Arise from sin. Arise from disease, doubt, distress, worry. Arise, speak, bear witness, and be yourself a revelation of God the Most High! What else is there for any of us to do but arise and bear witness; arise and give testimony to the miracle of our salvation; arise and speak out for the glory of God that we are no longer slaves to sin but free men and women burdened by nothing and no one but the surpassing love of God and the inheritance we have received through His Son? 

Is our salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus a strange miracle? Yes and no. Given what little we know about the nature of God—that He is Love—and given what we know about His Christ—that he is fully human and fully divine—and given what we know about the nature of creation—that all of it, us included, participates in the divine life—then, no, it would seem that God's love for us is not miraculous at all. That He would condescend to send His Son among us to save us through sacrificial love seems like the perfectly natural act of a loving Father, not miraculous at all. But then we consider how we look upon creation: how we are tempted to explain the objects and processes of nature w/o reference to our Creator; how we work so hard to acquire things and dominate people outside the laws of charity; how we torture truth, desecrate beauty, and defile goodness, then: Yes! indeed, our salvation is a strange miracle, with emphasis on strange. Through all of the messes we make that we come to accept and receive God's grace and find ourselves lifted up to and adopted into the holy family, yes, that's strange indeed. Miraculously strange. 

“Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sits up and begins to speak. Jesus gives him back to his mother. “Fear seized [the crowd], and they glorified God, exclaiming, 'A great prophet has arisen in our midst,' and 'God has visited his people.'” Through their fear and amazement, the witnesses to this strange miracle recognize the work of the Most High. Through their awestruck fear, they give glory to God, and proclaim the news that God has visited His people. He still visits His people. He still reveals Himself through His Word, His Christ, and His creation. The truths He reveals are not contingent upon the need, the desire, the faith, or the belief of those to whom He reveals Himself. Do we need strange miracles to see His truth? Do you wait for some strange sign to believe? That's not the faith we share. We believe on the witness of Christ's apostles and the witness of his Church. We believe on the evidence of reason rightly revealed as a divine gift. We believe b/c we know who we were before Christ; who we would be w/o Christ, and all that we can be with Christ and him alone. Arise from death. Arise from disobedience. Arise from weakness, uncertainty, pain, and trouble. Arise. Speak. Bear witness. And be yourself a revelation of God the Most High!

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe and DONATE!  ----->

A Mississippi Mystic

Being a Dominican friar and a philosophically-inclined poet-theologian (geez), I am at once intrigued and put-off by those who claim to experience mystical visions. My first thought upon hearing that some peasant child in Ussbackistan is having visions of the Blessed Mother is: Not another one! However, I immediately click over and read all about it. 

Out of the blue, a HancAquam reader and frequent commenter alerted me to a visionary from my own backyard, a Home Grown Mississippi Mystic, and his story is remarkable:

Claude Newman was an African American man who was born on December 1, 1923 to Willie and Floretta (Young) Newman in Stuttgart, Arkansas. In 1928, Claude’s father Willie takes Claude and his older brother away from their mother for unknown reasons, and they are brought to their grandmother, Ellen Newman, of Bovina, Warren County, Mississippi. . .


Follow HancAquam or Subscribe and DONATE! ----->

07 June 2013

Is your heart a Sacred Heart?

Sacred Heart of Jesus 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic Church, NOLA 

Thus says the Lord God, “I myself will look after and tend my sheep. . .I will rescue them. . .I will lead them. . .I will bring them back. The lost I will seek out. . .the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.” And we are glad to hear the Lord say that He will look for the lost, rescue the endangered, and mend the broken. We are especially glad to hear these promises when we find ourselves among the lost, the sick, and the wounded. Not only does God do all that He promises to do, He does more. Much more. “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” To find, to heal, and to mend, you need someone to be lost, sick, and injured. But Christ died for us “while we were still sinners.” Before we repent, before we confess, before we seek his mercy and absolution, he dies for us so that we are able to repent, confess, and seek his mercy. How is this possible? “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. . .” Because he surrenders his sacred heart on the altar of the Cross, our hearts are made sacred in the fires of the Holy Spirit! If your heart will be like Christ's, you too will surrender to the Cross. 

What does “surrender to the Cross” mean? And how is it done? If we think of surrendering as the coward's faint way of avoiding injury and death, or if we think of it as a desperate last resort before total defeat, then surrendering to anyone or anything is a failure. But if we accept in all humility that nothing is ours, that no one is ours; that all, everything belongs to God and we just make use of what He gives us, then surrender is nothing like a defeat or a failure. It's the first and last victory of a war we never have to fight. If nothing and no one truly belongs to us, then what do we have to give up? What is there left for us to sacrifice? Well, our sins are ours; we certainly own those. No. The Son is made flesh so that he becomes sin for us. Even our sins belong to God. Only He can forgive them, and He's done that already. So, what do we surrender? We hand over to God all that we think belongs to us; all that we imagine we own. Jesus said on the Cross, “Not my will but Yours be done.” We surrender to the Cross by freely offering to God what belongs to Him already. He doesn't need our surrender, but we need to surrender so that His will might become our own. 

How does God find us when we are lost? Heal us when we are sick? Lead us when we wander off? All trick questions! There is never a second of our lives when He isn't finding, healing, and leading us. The question is whether or not we are free enough from our attachments to Self and Things to be found, healed, and led. Whether or not we have given over all the weights and burdens and trials that work so hard to snuff the fire of His Spirit in us. Why do we insist on carrying our junk when He has already taken from us? Why do we demand to be punished for sins that were forgiven 2,000 yrs ago? Why do we invite tests and temptations when the war against both ended with a victory on the Cross? Christ's sacred heart split and bled out so that we might have access to the Father through His Holy Spirit. That access—our way in—remains open, has never closed, and will never close. But we cannot fit through if we are stuffed to the gills with pride in Self and bent over clinging to tons of stuff. Are you free to be found, healed, led, mended, rescued, and loved into the presence of the Most High? God knows where you are, but He will not find you unless you will to be found? He will not lead you or heal you unless you freely choose to be lead and healed. Unlike the dumb sheep of the gospel, we can choose to be livestock. And unlike the sheep of the gospel, we can choose to be freed by the Sacred Heart of Christ. 

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe and DONATE! ----->

as terrible as an army with banners

I confess: I'm not a big fan of Chesterton. (GASP!) I know, I know. . .50 lashes and no dessert for a week.  

I find his style just a tad. . .what?. . .contrived? The rapid-fire parallelisms, the easy rotations of adjectives to make a cute point: "It's not that X is Y, but Y is X."

I dunno. Whatever IT is, it isn't found in the quotation below, a quotation from his famous book, Orthodoxy

Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners. 

Here he's offering a critique of Stoicism, a philosophy that could seduce me so easily. . .being an Introvert and all.  He urges Modern Man to worship anything but his Inner Light b/c worshiping the Inner Light too quickly becomes Self worship. If you can't/won't worship the Lord your God, then worship cats or crocodiles. . .anything but one's Inner Light.

Oh. Why am I posting this quotation?  It will very likely appear in this Sunday's homily.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe and DONATE! ----->

Doctrinal Homily Outlines

The USCCB's new document on preaching, Preaching the Mystery of Faith, teaches:

". . .the homilist of today must realize that he is addressing a congregation that is more culturally diverse than previously, one that is profoundly affected by the surrounding secular agenda and, in many instances, inadequately catechized. The Church’s rich theological, doctrinal, and catechetical tradition must therefore properly inform the preaching task in its liturgical setting. . ."

To help with this seemingly daunting task, Kevin Aldrich runs a blog called Doctrinal Homily Outlines

Check it out and use with abandon!
Follow HancAquam or Subscribe and DONATE! ----->

06 June 2013

Loving Neighbors = Loving God

9th Week OT (Th) 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic Church, NOLA 

The scribe who asks Jesus for the first commandment gets a two-fer. He not only recites the first commandment, he teaches its meaning for us mere mortals. To answer the man's question, Jesus quotes the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!” This familiar proclamation of God's sovereignty is enforced by the admonition, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,” soul, mind, and strength. If the God of Israel is Israel's lord alone—that is, Israel has no other gods—then the hearts, minds, souls, and strength of Israel's people cannot be divided among various and sundry deities. Everything we've got goes into the love and honor we give to God alone. If Jesus had stopped here, no one listening to him would've been all that impressed. He's simply reciting what every child in the nation learned as a matter of course. What Jesus does next is unusual. He recites a verse from nineteenth chapter of Leviticus as a corollary to the first commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What does loving God alone have to do with loving our neighbors? 

Lest we think that Jesus just added that verse from Leviticus as an afterthought, listen again to how he ties the first commandment to the second, “There is no other commandment greater than these.” Both commandments are great, no other commandments are greater. I said earlier that adding the quotation from Leviticus in the context of the scribe's question is unusual. The first commandment Jesus quotes is from a lengthy commentary on the 10 Commandments found in Deuteronomy. The second law is a quote from Leviticus, found in a list of various rules for good conduct. Immediately after the rule about loving your neighbor as yourself, Leviticus admonishes against interbreeding different species of animals and against planting fields with different kinds of seeds. Obviously, there's a big difference in the OT btw two laws that Jesus quotes. One is the first commandment of the 10 Commandments, the other is just one of many various rules of conduct. By bringing the two together and dubbing them the Greatest Commandments, Jesus gives practical, real-life force to both. Loving God means loving our neighbors; loving our neighbors is how we show that we love God. There can be no merely abstract or conceptual love for God. If you don't love your neighbors, you do not love God. 

We might not be all that impressed by the originality of this combination—we've heard it before—but the scribe is very impressed by Jesus' teaching. He's so impressed that he praises the Lord, noting that loving God and neighbor is “worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Jesus sees that the scribe understands the connection btw the two laws and says to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” Do we truly understand how loving God and neighbor is worth more than all of our sacrifices, all of our prayers? What is sacrifice and prayer but an expression of our love for and faith in God? We are only able to love b/c God loves us first. When we love one another, we participate in the divine love that God Himself gives us. In effect, we are the rational, flesh and bone means of God loving His creation. A failure to love is more than just a personal flaw, it's a failure to take part in the divine life we have vowed to live. We call it by the innocuous name “lack of charity,” but lacking in charity can cause the death of the soul; it's a mortal sin, a mortal wound to our relationship with God. This is why Jesus calls these two laws the greatest commandments. Violate them and risk an eternity excluded from God; obey them and see yourself ever closer to the Kingdom of God.
Follow HancAquam or Subscribe and DONATE! ----->

05 June 2013

Dogs of God Bark the Gospel!

NB. Adapted from 2008.

St. Boniface (Readings for the Memorial) 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St Dominic Church, NOLA 

One of the Vesper’s petitions from the Commons for Martyr’s goes something like this: “Lord, hold us fast to preaching the gospel even in the face of opposition, persecution, and scorn.” Christian preachers are often tempted to let go of the Gospel when confronted by entrenched opposition. Like water seeking the fastest and easiest route downhill, preachers are coaxed toward taking the most direct path to the dilution of Christ’s teaching and, ultimately, a betrayal of the Spirit that animates us. We see and hear this when preachers begin preaching a Prosperity Gospel—Jesus wants you to be rich!—; or when they begin preaching a Zeitgeist Gospel—Jesus wants us to “fit in” with our times so we can witness from within;—or when you hear the Gospel of Identity Politics—being American, Black, Gay, Male or Female, Left or Right is preached to be more important than being faithful to Christ. All of these, of course, are dodges, ways around the difficult demands of what Jesus teaches us to be and do. They allow us to sift out the hard stuff and celebrate that which most tickles our bored ears. True martyrs (not self-appointed martyrs) present us with an extraordinarily hard reality: they believe the Gospel and die proclaiming it. Could we do the same if called upon to do so? 

St. Boniface, an eighth-century English Benedictine bishop and martyr who served as a missionary to Germany, wrote to a friend, “Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent on-lookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf…Let us preach the whole of God’s plan…in season and out of season.”* Though this sounds benign enough, Boniface died doing it, or rather died because he did it—he barked and refused to be hired as a religious P.R. man for Zeitgeist, Inc. Paul found himself in a similar position. Paul reports in Acts that he was seized by the Jewish leaders in the temple and almost killed because “[he] preached the need to repent and turn to God, and to do works giving evidence of repentance.” Should we be shocked that Paul would find himself the target of the powers-that-be? Not really. Jesus warned his disciples that they would follow him to the cross if they persisted in preaching his word. And it is persistence that most often gets the Gospel preacher and believer into trouble. 

Jesus says, “A hired man, who is not a shepherd…sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away…” The wolf attacks the sheep, killing one or two and scattering the rest. Why does the hired man run? Jesus says, “This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.” A preacher hired by Zeitgeist, Inc. will do the same—cut and run when it looks as though the wolves of persecution, opposition, and scorn come bounding down the hill. The good shepherd will stay and fight. And though he will never lose, he may sometimes die. 

There’s almost no chance that anyone here this evening will be called upon to die for preaching the Gospel.** In the U.S. in the 21st century, the Zeitgeist has learned more subtle ways of tempting us away from the Good Shepherd. Perhaps the most powerful temptation comes from the devil of freedom, or more accurately named, the devil of choice. Dangling before us the illusion of unfettered choice in a marketplace of unlimited options, the devil of liberty coaxes us with a powerful sense of entitlement, a sense of being owed our comfort, our liberty. And so, we stand dumbfounded in the Wal-Marts of religious goods and services, the Winn-Dixies of spiritual options, and we pick and choose. I will preach mercy but not justice; love but not responsibility; forgiveness but not sin. I will preach heaven but not hell; faith but not obedience. With a shopping cart full of our hodge-podge choices, we check-out and pay with our souls, and then go out preaching a gospel half-bought. If our souls must be the currency with which we purchase a spiritual good, let that purchase be our eternal lives with Christ. As the Dogs of God, we can do nothing less than die while ferociously barking the Gospel just as Jesus taught it.

* from the Office of Readings, St. Boniface
** I wrote that sentence in 2008.  Five years later. . .I'm not so sure anymore.
Follow HancAquam or Subscribe and DONATE! ----->

03 June 2013

We don't live rent-free in God's head

Charles Lwanga and Companions 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic Church, NOLA 

Jesus uses the parable of the wicked tenants to retell the story of Israel's turbulent history with God. In a tidy paragraph or so Jesus manages to summarize: 1) the essential relationship btw God and Israel (owner to renter); 2) the repeated failure of Israel to live up to the terms of the lease agreement (refusing to turn over God's share of the harvest); 3) their abuse of God's agents sent to procure His share (rejection of the prophets); and 4) their abuse and murder of the God's son in an failed attempt to steal his inheritance (the Passion and death of Christ). Sad but true: the tenants' behavior probably doesn't shock us. We're all too used to hearing about this sort thing from our fellow human beings. What should shock us, what I hope shocks us, or at least baffles us a little, is God's apparently relentless drive to get His people to hold up their end of the Covenant. Given their repeated fall from His grace and their stubborn refusal to accept His Word, why does God—over and over again—lift them back up, set them back on track, and bless them abundantly despite their disobedience? Why does He do this for us? For you? 

The one word answer here could be: love. He loves us. True. God is love, so it is His nature to forgive and bless. And His patience with our disobedience is surely a by-product of His loving nature. But if forgiveness were just about His love for us, then why do we care if we've sinned against Him? I mean, if we know that He will forgive us everything we do, why does sin bother us? A big part of the answer here is that we love God, so disobeying Him can be painful, spiritually harmful and we feel it. But there's another element at play here that we might not readily call to mind. God's patience with our sin presupposes that we are rational animals; that is, He's patient with us b/c He knows that we are capable of responding to His love rationally, deliberately. Given time with His divine gift of love, we can reason our way out of the habit of disobedience; we are capable of learning not to sin, learning to receive His grace, and working with those received graces to come closer to His perfect Love. Over time, we come to see that sin is not only a violation of divine love, it is also an irrational reaction to the divine word, the Law of Love that Christ himself gives us. The wicked tenants are wicked b/c of their greed, but their greed—given the generosity of the vineyard owner—is irrational, not just illogical, but unreasoning. 

We have long since lost any sense at all that irrational thinking or behavior is a sin. In fact, in our postmodern culture, right reason is considered oppressively patriarchal. “Logic” is not longer logical and “reason” is just an evil way to suppress the glories of emotions. But as followers of Christ the Logos, we are partakers in the divine life, the life of the Blessed Trinity that provides Rightness, Order, Reason, and Truth to the whole of creation. If the wicked tenants had exercised their minds rather than their passions, they might've come to their perfection w/o the threat of death hanging over their heads. Can we say the same? Why do we wait for that nagging sense of guilt to drag us into the confessional? Why do we persist in habitual sin, knowing what it does to our growth in holiness? Why do we refuse to bend our necks to most reasonable rules and treat our freedom in Christ as a license to sin? We can blame passion. But let's put the blame where it belongs: we are being irrational. Not only are we not “feeling right,” we're not thinking right, preferring to indulge the animal part of our nature and letting the rational part wither. Fortunately, God's love for us entails being patient with our thick heads. So, while we enjoy His mercy, let's work on our right reason and make the deliberate choice to live in His love rationally. 

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe and DONATE! ----->

Coffee Cup Browsing

Not good at all:  riots in Turkey. One of the few Muslim-dominated democracies in that region. 

Yup: ". . .when a scandal is systemic, ideological and focused on political ends, it will not just magically end."

Francis quoting Paul VI: ". . .you cannot advance the Gospel with sad, hopeless, discouraged Christians. You cannot."


Follow HancAquam or Subscribe and DONATE! ----->

02 June 2013

“to impress the vastness of [His] love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful…”

NB. Deacons are preaching this weekend.  Here's a version of a 2005 homily that I've reposted a few times over the years and actually preached last year at St Dominic.

Solemnity of Corpus Christi (2012)
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

These are a few of my favorite things: Buttermilk dripped and deep-fried chicken. Butter beans with bacon and onions. Garlic mashed potatoes with chicken gravy. Greens with fatback and vinegar. Squash casserole, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole with a pecan and brown sugar crust. Deviled eggs. Warm biscuits. Homemade, cast-iron skillet cornbread with real butter. Fresh yeast rolls. Pecan pie. Chocolate pie. Mississippi Mud Cake. Bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Can you tell I’m a true blood Southerner?! Each of these and all of them together do more than just expand my waistline and threaten the structural integrity of my belt—each and all of them together make up for me a palette of memories, a buffet (if you will!) of powerful reminders of who I am, where I came from, who I love, who loves me, and where I am going. Second perhaps only to sex, eating is one of the most intimate things we do. Think about it for just a second: when you eat, you take into your body stuff from the world—meat, vegetables, water—you put this stuff in your mouth, you chew, you taste and feel, you smell and swallow, and all of it, every bite, becomes your body. This is extraordinarily intimate! We are made up of, literally, built out of what we eat. If we eat and drink Christ this morning, whom do we become?

What does it mean then for you, for all of us to eat the Body of Christ and to drink his Blood? Thomas Aquinas answers: “Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods.” God became man so that we all might become god. In Christ Jesus, we are made more than holy, more than just, more than righteous; we are made perfect as the Father is perfect. Wholly joined to Holy Other, divinized as God promised at the moment of creation, we are brought to the divine by the Divine and given to participate in the life of God by God. We are brought and given. Brought to Him by Christ and given to Him by Christ. We do not go to God uninvited, and we do not receive from Him what is not first given. Therefore, “take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you…” And when you take the gift of his body and eat, and when you take the gift of his blood and drink, you become what you eat and drink. You become Christ. And all together we are Christ for one another—his Body, the church. In his first encyclical, Deus caritas est, Pope Benedict, writes, “Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become 'one body', completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbour are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself. We can thus understand how agape [divine love] also became a term for the Eucharist: there God's own agape comes to us bodily, in order to continue his work in us and through us”(14). 

Thomas calls the Eucharist the sacramentum caritatis, the sacrament of love. The Eucharist is not a family picnic or Sunday dinner. We’re not talking about a community meal or a neighborhood buffet. All of these can and do express genuine love for God, self, and neighbor. But Thomas is teaching us something far more radical about the Eucharist here than the pedestrian notion that eating together makes us better people and a stronger community! The sacramentum caritatis is an efficacious sign of God’s gift of Himself to us for our perfection. In other words, the Eucharist we celebrate this morning is not just a memorial, just a symbol, just a community prayer service, just a familial gathering, just a ritual. In Christ, with him and through him, we effect—make real and produce—the redeeming graces of Calvary and the Empty Tomb: Christ on the cross and Christ risen from the grave. Again, we are not merely being reminded of an important bible story nor are we being taught a lesson about sharing and caring nor are we simply “feeling” Christ’s presence among us. We are doing exactly what Christ tells us to do: we are eating his body and drinking his blood for our perfection, for our eternal lives. And while we wait for his coming again, we walk this earth as Christs! Imperfect now, to be perfected eventually; but right now, radically loved by Love Himself and loved so that we may be changed, converted from our disobedience, brought to repentance and forgiveness, and absolved of all violence against God’s will for us. 

Thomas teaches us that God gave us the Eucharist in order “to impress the vastness of [His] love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful…” How vast is His love for us? He gifted us with His Son. He gave His only child up to death so that we might live. And He gave us the means of our most intimate communion with Him. We take his body into our bodies. His blood into ours. We are made co-heirs, brothers and sisters, prophets and priests; we are made holy, just, and clean; we are made Christ, and having been made Christs, we are given his ministries, his holy tasks: teaching, preaching, healing, feeding. This Eucharist tells you who you are, where you came from, where you are going. It tells you why you are here and what you must do. And most importantly, this celebration of thanksgiving, tells you and me who it is that loves us and what being loved by Love Himself means for our sin, our repentance, our conversion, our ministries, our progress in holiness. . .

Do not fail to hand on what you yourself have received: the gift of the Christ. Our Holy Father, Benedict, writes, “Faith, worship and [ethics] are interwoven as a single reality which takes shape in our encounter with God's [divine love]. Here the usual [distinction] between worship and ethics simply falls apart. 'Worship' itself, Eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is [essentially broken]”(14). Therefore, walk out those doors this morning and present yourself to the world as a sacramentum caritatis. Walk out of here a sacrament of love—a sign, a witness, a tabernacle, an icon—walk out of here branded by the Holy Spirit to preach, teach, bless, feed, eat, drink, pray, to love, and to spread the infectious joy that comes naturally to a child of God! 

A Southern blessing: as your waist expands to fill the limits of your belt, so may your spirit grow to hold the limitless love of Him Who loves you always.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe and DONATE! ----->