Monthly Archives: May, 2016

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), cycle C

1st Reading – Genesis 14: 18 – 20

Melchizedek is mentioned in only three places in scripture: this reading plus Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20-7:22.  He is said to be the king of Salem; its name means peace. This place becomes the city of Jerusalem, the center of Israel’s kingdom.

It was customary for a king to be hospitable toward a victorious leader, but there are no ulterior motives here.  Instead, there is a beautiful blessing ritual, to which Abram gives thanks.  Note that Abram did not take his victory greedily.  He only wanted to save his nephew Lot and retrieve the possessions that were taken from him.   For the victory and the blessing, he gives thanks to God.   How do you give thanks to god for the victories and blessings in your life?

Later Christian writers would evoke this episode in history and consider it a prefigurement of Christ.  Jesus would offer the blessing of his life – the effect would be irrevocable and would be the gift of God’s self to the entire world – redemption.  (Birmingham, W&W, p. 560-561).

In exchange for the blessing, Abram offers a tenth of everything.  In Eucharist, we offer ourselves to Christ just as Christ offered Christself.  We are doing as He said to do.  What does this mean for you?  What do you offer?

2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26

This is the earliest written account (maybe 53-55 AD) of Jesus’ Last Supper    and the words that have become our Eucharistic prayer.

From Celebration, June 1998:

Eucharist is about a remembering (anamnesis) that does not simply call to mind the past events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  The Eucharist makes present here and now, within the gathered assembly of believers, the reality of Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. Each Eucharist is a “living remembrance of Jesus’ act of love.” By our participation (offering our ‘hungry selves’, hearkening to God’s Word, sharing peace, and then eating and drinking) in the Eucharist, believers proclaim and are integrated into that death and are given a taste of the resurrected life to come.

We “proclaim the death of the Lord” . . .  What does this mean?  In Eucharist Christ comes to us as the one in whom God participates in the emptiness and negativity of life, as the one in whom God accepts us in the most unrestricted way possible, and as the one who in virtue of this acceptance, lays claim to all that we are and can be. The Eucharist is not simply a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus or the fact that he now lives. Rather, it is a celebration of the fact that it is the crucified one who now lives; it is a celebration of the God who came into the brokenness, the ‘unwholeness’ and the unholiness’ of the human situation, and who came to stay. In Jesus, God has come to be with us where we are. To proclaim the death of the Lord is to find in his death a new definition of ourselves – a new understanding of the meaning of success and failure, of the meaning of life and death, of what it means to be a human person. (John Dwyer, The Sacraments, “Chapter Eight: the Eucharist” p.129-130)

The Gospel – Luke 9: 11-17

It is important to place this gospel story within the context of the overall gospel of Luke.  Chapter 9 had started with Jesus commissioning the Twelve and sending them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God.  After they go out Luke tells us of Herod’s curiosity about Jesus:  “I beheaded John. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”  Then the Twelve return.  They withdraw in private to Bethsaida, but the crowds follow Jesus, and yet, he welcomed them . . . here then, is where the gospel story begins.  It ends with a superabundance of satisfying food.

From “Working with the Word,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:

Too often we narrowly view Eucharist in the context of the Last Supper and its elements of bread and wine. This gospel expands our perception to include the whole event of hungering, and then gathering, blessing, breaking, giving, eating, and being satisfied. Evil diminishes life and enslaves people; God’s kingdom restores life and liberates them from hunger – ‘malnutrition’ and oppression. This story illustrates Jesus’ Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor, the kingdom is yours . . . and the hungry will be satisfied.

It is at Eucharist that we experience most intimately the communion of saints.  Communion of saints in Greek is koinōnia hagiōn.  Koinōnia is any partnership, fellowship, activity, experience or relationship where people come together.  It is togetherness for mutual benefit and goodness (Barclay, The Apostles Creed p. 245).  Hagiōn literally means sacred things, hagiōi meaning members of the Church as saints, or sacred people (p. 247).  Imagine the sacred things as being that which we share in Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus.  In that sense, we are sharing sacred things as a communion (koinōnia) of sacred people.  In the Byzantine liturgy, the priest says, “Holy things for holy people” at the distribution of Holy Communion (Shannon, Catholic Update  May 2005, p.4).  We become the body of Christ.

In the book With God in Russsia by Walter Ciszek  (an autobiography of a Jesuit priest), he recounts being in Poland in a concentration camp and celebrating Mass.  It was forbidden to do so, so it had to be done in secret.  Fasting before Eucharist from the midnight before was common practice then.  Since the inmates were only given 2 meals of gruel a day, giving up the morning meal was a true sacrifice.  If guards did not make it possible to celebrate at the scheduled time, they may go even longer without eating.  So this priest and those he celebrated Mass with truly held Eucharist in deep, deep faith  (Nolan, Hungry, and You Fed Me, p. 273-275).  Consider this as you receive Eucharist this week.

Trinity Sunday, cycle C

On Trinity Sunday we celebrate the very essence of God – and how we experience this essence. And so, by this celebration we hope to come to experience this mystery more deeply within our real and everyday lives. This God of love, truth and life is not a puzzle to be solved, but a mystery to be loved, experienced,  and lived.

From Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God, “Trinity: The Living God of Love”:

Christians do not believe in three gods but in one. What is particular to this faith is the belief that this one God has graciously reached out to the world in love in the person of Jesus Christ in order to heal, redeem, and liberate…

It lifts up God’s gracious ways active in the world through Jesus Christ and the Spirit, and finds there the fundamental revelation about God’s own being as self-giving communion of love . . .  This is about “an encounter with divine Mystery” . . . experiencing the saving God in a threefold way as beyond them, and with them, and within them . . .

‘Trinity theology’ too often has presented its findings as if they were a literal description of a self-contained Trinity of three divine persons knowing and loving each other. This, of course, is not the case, no such literal description is possible . . .  we must think with humility. Our “God is not two men and a bird” even though artists have often depicted the Trinity this way. This art is a meditation not a photograph. (207-208)

God is love – God lives as this mystery of love. We humans are created in this image. “Knowing God is impossible unless we enter into a life of love and communion with others.” “The church’s identity and mission pivot on this point . . .  Only a community of equal persons related in profound mutuality, pouring out praise of God and care for the world in need, only such a church corresponds to the triune God it purports to serve.”  (223)

“The point is, with the three circling around in a mutual, dynamic movement of love, God is not a static being but a plenitude of self-giving love, a saving mystery that overflows into the world of sin and death to heal, redeem, and liberate.  The whole point of this history of god with the world is to bring the world back into the life of God’s own communion, back into the divine dance of life  (p. 214).

1st Reading – Proverbs 8: 22 – 31

The Book of Proverbs is sort of an ‘Owners manual for the Jewish mind, heart and hands. All the chapters tell the reader about a spirit of right living: a life of discipline, restraint, just judgment, and relational sensitivity. This passage is a poetic presentation of how Wisdom assisted in creation. The goodness of creation and of ourselves is affirmed so that we reverence and use well all of that creation.  Larry Gillick, S.J., http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistr/053010.html

This passage in the Old Testament is considered typology…a foreshadow or hint of what may be understood further in the New Testament.  Trinity is not a concept that was revealed well in OT, but this is a prefigurement:  the idea that the Father had company in creation.

2nd Reading – Romans 5: 1-5

Paul insists that standing firm in the midst of trials yields to endurance and a firm hope.  For Paul, the assurance that salvation was a free gift for all inclusively was based on his belief in God’s love shown to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  It was Paul’s firm belief in the triune nature of God that would later be the foundation upon which theologians based the doctrine of Trinity.  For Paul it was the Christian anchor:  hope and endurance come through faith in the Triune God’s transcendent power!  (Birmingham, Word & Worship, p. 554)  How has hope and endurance helped you in the midst of trial?

The Gospel – John 16: 12-15

This passage continues the Farewell Discourse of the Last Supper that Jesus has with his disciples.  Note how gentle Jesus is in not wanting to overwhelm them by only feeding them bits of information that they are able to understand  (Think of how we teach our children!).  “Spirit” in this piece of scripture in Greek is “paraclete”…one who stands by us.  We have a God that stands forever with us.  How does this speak to you?

Original Love

Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…

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7th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

I love the Gospel of John but it can be tricky to read.  Sometimes working through its thick syntax is like trying to walk through a wall of humidity on a hot summer’s day.  I think it is the pronouns.  In a remarkable bit of lame biblical research, I counted 58 pronouns in today’s Gospel making up an astonishing 26% of all the words.  It makes you ask an important question: “What is Fr. Bob really doing with his time?”

But that said, if we can swim through this sea of programs we will reach a destination of tremendous promise and hope.  Let’s focus on a few of those pronouns, beginning with those, as when Jesus says, “Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”  The Gospel breaks out beyond…

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Pentecost, cycle C

The Hebrew word ruah, the Greek pneuma, and the Latin spiritus all basically mean “air in motion,” “breath,” or “wind.” The root word is power. Apart from human and animal power, wind was the main observable energy source in the ancient world. Wind was seen as the ‘breath of God – our own breath coming from that life-giving Breath. It is also interesting to note that in the ancient understanding of wind and water and fire – and thus spirit – we find them possessing what we consider to be properties of liquids. Thus we have the idea of the spirit being poured out. (The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, J. Pilch, p.88-89)

Remember, the Jewish name for God, YHVH (yod, he, vav, he), is really an unspeakable name giving us a deep sense of God’s presence and life. It is a ‘word’ that was not spoken at all, but breathed! The one thing we do every moment of our lives is therefore to speak the name of God. Our first word and our last will be God’s name – God’s essence and Spirit.(R. Rohr, The Naked Now,p 25-26)

The Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11

Pentecost (50 days since Passover; 7 weeks since planting time) originally was an agricultural feast of thanksgiving for the 1st grain harvest.  Later, it came to be also a celebration of the gift of the Law to Moses on Sinai and the establishment of Israel as God’s people.  Because it was the second of Judaism’s three major feasts, Jews from all over Palestine and the Greek territories (the Diaspora) would have traveled to Jerusalem. Luke wants us to notice how this diverse group is the perfect place for the Spirit to be present in power. (Celebration, May, 2002; R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu)

Luke is also telling us this Pentecost story in such a way as to remind us of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  John the Baptist had promised that the Messiah

would baptize “with the holy Spirit and fire” (Lk 3: 16).  Here we see that the fire comes in tongues giving courage, meaning and understanding to the gift of speech.

In many ways this story is the reversal of the Babel story in Genesis 11: 1-9. At Babel, sin (self-importance and false pride) had brought confusion and defeat. Now with the power of God’s Holy Spirit we see a new universal outreach characterized by mutual understanding and respect. Also where there was fear and inaction, there is now new energy and boldness that is rooted in faith in the God of Jesus. This Holy Spirit is still available today; we also need this ability to understand each other despite differences. Luke’s writing to encourage us to be open to the ongoing process of transformation that is the Spirit!               (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship- Yr. A, p. 336; Celebration, May 2002)

Romans 8: 8-17

The terms that Paul uses – flesh and spirit – can be easily misunderstood today.  The word translated as ‘flesh’ is sarx, our wounded, broken, attention-seeking self (little self, trapped, insecure).  ‘Spirit’ is pneuma, or God’s power within us.  Living through Spirit is when we come to know and trust God’s love…our true self  (John Dwyer’s Themes from Romans, p. 77).  Richard Rohr says, “What you seek is what you are.  The search for God and the search for our True Self are finally the same search.”

Here Paul is insisting that baptism is only a beginning. Life in the Spirit is a life of freedom, but it is always a freedom struggling with constant temptation. To live in and with the Spirit of Christ means to live under the lordship of Christ. We are no longer to be controlled by ‘the flesh’ – we undergo a death to this way of living symbolized by the ‘drowning’ of our baptism. But this ‘dying’ really leads to a fuller life – but a life of struggling freedom. We must live in such a way that we continually call out “Abba, Father” even when the full experience of this new life is not quite yet . . . (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu

John 14: 15 – 16, 23-26

One of the main points here is that the Father’s love for the disciples and Jesus’ abiding presence with and in them is the Holy Spirit. Filled with this Spirit, the disciples are able to love as Jesus loves and to keep his commandments and word as he desires. The Spirit is the power implanted within us to remember – to understand — and to ultimately fulfill the mission entrusted to us.  Another Advocate will be with us – Jesus was the first Advocate to come to us. He came in the flesh to help us, defend us and plead a cause – the cause of God’s love. This first Advocate held nothing back – not even his life. But now this Word-Made-Flesh has ascended and sits at the right hand of the Father. But our wonderful God sends us another Advocate; this indwelling Advocate will remain forever. This Spirit continues the presence and the work of Jesus – in and with us. Living this paschal mystery does mean, though, that this good gift has its cost – we still must die to ourselves in order to be the true presence of Christ for others.

(“Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu and Living Liturgy, 2004, p. 140-141)

7th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

Gospel:  John17: 20 – 26

This reading is Jesus’ prayer at his last meal with his disciples.  For whom does Jesus pray, for what does Jesus pray, and why does Jesus pray for it?  Jesus prays for those who would believe in him on the word of the disciples.  He is praying that they may all be united with the same intimacy that Jesus knows with his Father.  The reason for the prayer is to bring people to faith, so people will believe that the Father sent Jesus to the world.  The unity that Christ desired for his disciples would be a result of the living presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit!  This is something that John’s community in particular needed to hear  (W&W, Birmingham, p. 312).  As you reflect on Jesus’ prayer for you, what is most comforting to you, and what might you need to change in order to conform your life more closely to what Jesus wants for you?

It is easy to see the Trinity in Jesus’ prayer.  We are being called to be one with God just as Father, Son and Spirit are one with each other.  This oneness unites us with each other too.  Jesus, as the incarnation…the Word made flesh…is the way.  The cross is a symbol of our oneness…vertical connection with God and horizontal connection with each other.  Michael Downey has more thoughts on this in Altogether Gift:

The incomprehensibility of God lies in the utter gratuity of life and love, in God’s constant coming as gift.  God is inexhaustible Gift, Given and Gift/ing in and through love.  This is who God is and how God is.  Whatever may be known of this ineffable mystery, unfathomable because of the depth and prodigality of this life pouring itself forth in love, is known in and through the gift of the indwelling Spirit of God enabling us to recognize the Word made flesh whose life, passion, and Resurrection are the very disclosure of God’s mystery. 

A Trinitarian spirituality is a whole way of life by which we participate in the mission of Word and Spirit in human life, history, the church and the world, becoming ourselves expressions and configurations of God’s speaking and breathing – now.

The relationality of the three bonded in the one Love spills over into a relationality with the world, thereby making it possible for human persons to enter into this communion in the one Love.

Human personhood is not something achieved in autonomy or independence or self-determination or self-sufficiency.  Rather, human personhood is received in self-donation, being toward, always toward the other and others in relation.