THE FEAST OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI) ~ Sunday June 18, 2017
Today is our Roman Catholic feast of Corpus Christi in which pause to appreciate and give thanks for the wonderful gift of the holy Eucharist.
I’d like to reflect for a moment on what we Catholics believe about this wonderful sacrament.
We believe in the Real Presence of Jesus — that the bread and wine are transformed into his Body and Blood. Thus, for us communion is an actual sharing in Divine Life, not just a symbol.
It is stumbling block for many ~ not only for many Protestants but many a Catholic who never really gets it because they don’t let it transform their lives.
And ~ um ~ I know some priests who don’t get it or live it either.
As for me, it would be very hard for me to live without the holy Eucharist.
Here’s what I believe and (try to) live:
Communion means union. Closeness and intimacy with our Lord.
And with one another.
In other words, communion is love.
But do we really believe? Do we want to accept the implications of that closeness?
Do we want to be transformed by Jesus’ love?
Do we want to live in common-union with our brothers and sisters?
Do we take for granted this gift ~ for us?
It is given to us so that we might become that gift ~ for others.
So that we might become the Real Presence of Christ in the world!
A couple of years ago in the liturgical magazine Magnificat, editor Father Peter John Cameron, O. P. asked the question:
“What are we celebrating on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi?”
He suggested an answer with the amazing made-up word of J. R. R. Tolkien: eucatastrophe.
(Tolkien, you may recall, is the author of the amazing tales of the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and many other fantasy stories.)
“What is “eucatastrophe?
In one of his letters, Tolkien writes:
I coined the word ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary ‘truth’ on the second plane (….) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made.
Just as the hero of a mythical tale is on the verge of a disastrous dead-end, with his demise looming before him, terrible and inevitable, the eucatastrophe happens:
The good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” ….. this joy is a sudden and miraculous grace …. It denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal defeat …., giving a fleeting glimpse of joy, joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.
Tolkien considered the Incarnation as the eucatastrophe of human history, and the Resurrection the eucatastrophe of the Incarnation.
Eucharist as eucatastrophe
On Good Friday, as the Apostle John stands before the gruesome sight of his friend scourged to a pulp and splayed out on a cross, why doesn’t he cave in despair?
Because of what John had heard the night before. The Lord’s words at the Last Supper and the Lord’s death on Calvary remain caught up with each other.
The beloved disciple refuses to regard the crucifixion as ‘a mere execution without a discernible point to it’ precisely because he lives in memory of the Eucharistic words of his redeemer: “This is my body; this is my blood given up for you.” The sacrifice in flesh and blood happening before his eyes on Golgotha, Jesus pre-enacted at the Holy Thursday Table.
The eucatastrophic words of the Eucharist enable us to see beyond the substance of scandalous failure and disgrace. What seems on the outside to be savage brutality becomes an event of total self-giving love when viewed from ‘within.’ The Eucharistic words foretell that, on Calvary, violence will be definitely transformed into love, and death into life. By the sudden joyous turn and miraculous grace of the Eucharistic words, we penetrate the act of self-giving love offered to us from the cross.
As Pope Francis says, in the encyclical The Light of Faith: ‘To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather his response is that of an accompanying presence . . . which . . . opens up a ray of light'” (# 57)
~Father John Peter Cameron, O. P. , Editor, The Magnificat
For me, the Eucharistic words have sustained me many times with “joy, accompanied by tears” as I experienced my sinfulness, my woundedness, my brokenness.
When I receive our Lord in holy communion I pray deep in my heart ~ and perhaps you can too:
Lord Jesus, You became — You are still — bread-broken
and blood-poured out for the sake of the world.
As I receive the precious gift of the Eucharist
may I become Your body
and Your body become mine.
May Your blood course through my own blood stream.
I want to be transformed by my communion with you, Lord.
Transformed from my self-centered lusts and angers and petty jealousies
Let me become Your Body-broken
and Your Blood-poured-out
into a world that needs You
now more than ever.
To You, Jesus, be honor and glory and praise
this day and forever!
So be it! Amen!
Now, before you go, here’s a hymn to go with it for your reflection. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity ~ Sunday, June 11, 2017
This is the Sunday when we give praise to God as we Christians understand and know God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For me, it’s all about being caught up in ~ getting lost in ~ finding my true self in the awesome dynamic relationship with our God as we come to know that God is love.
The Christian religion is different from the other world religions in that it sees God is intrinsically relational. Other world religions see God in relationship with creation and of course, with humanity. But as the Bette Midler song suggests, there’s no personal relationship there: “God is watching us—from a distance.”
The all-embracing love of the Father and the Son and the Spirit sustains us in existence. We are drawn into the dynamism, exuberance and power of that love.
In God, as Richard Rohr shows us “Everything belongs.” God splashes [his] love on us all with such abundance and exuberance that we’ve discovered that within one galaxy there are billions of suns! You and me included! (Today’s Gospel is John 3:16 ~ God so loved the world . . . we’re all included!)
The Holy Trinity ought to be for a Christian the foundation for a whole new way of being! But we have made the Holy Trinity into a dry, boring doctrine that we dismiss as beyond our comprehension and therefore, irrelevant to our lives.
William Young’s book The Shack brings the doctrine of the Trinity—the very foundation of Christianity—to life in a clever, imaginative description of how three persons in one God might interact with each other and with us. It reveals a God who is so easy, relaxed and delightful in God’s self that we are eager to be caught up and sustained in that delight and love. The image above is the famous Rublev ikon. When I was out west a few years ago, the refectory of the Benedictine Monastery in Abiqui, NW had a painting of this ikon that filled the whole wall behind the Abbot’s place.
Sadly, however, so many of us Christians—Catholic or Protestant—relate to God as if he is eager to trip us up and send us to hell! If that is what we believe, we’re not going to be very interested in relating to him, are we? We’ll want to stay away as far as possible; to relegate God to the periphery of our lives.
The revolutionary notion of Christianity is that we are the “Thou” to whom God relates! We are not just part of God as Eastern religions view the divine. We are co-creators of our world. For me the Father, my elder Brother Jesus and the Holy Spirit are even more real and involved with me than my neighbor Loreto who my dog Shoney and I visit when we walk in the evening as we watch the sun setting.
Here is a story I love to tell when I’ve preached on Trinity Sunday.
My first assignment as a priest was to Holy Name of Jesus Parish across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. I have fond memories of that place, not only of the whole parish but also of its geographical and ecological setting. Today I see it as one of the finest parishes in the continental United States in the wonderful ways in that hundreds of parishioners are involved in 85 ministries.
And so, that first year of priesthood rendered a story that I’ve told on Trinity Sunday almost every year of my priesthood. It’s about some sea turtles. You’ll probably be wondering as you read what turtles have to do with the Trinity. But I’ll save that for the end. It is a powerful connection.
Indialantic, Florida, summer 1969. I had just arrived in the parish and was meeting my new parishioners. Several asked, “Have you seen the turtles yet?” I assumed they were talking about turtles who came to our beach but I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. So I accepted Tony’s invitation, a teen from the youth group I had just met: “Meet me on the beach at 9:00 tonight; bring a small flashlight.”
I was a little early, so I sat on the steps watching the 2-foot waves lap the shore. It soon learned what a joy it was to live across the street from the ocean! I lived there the first three years of my priesthood. That night was a quiet, dark night; there was no moon. I took off my shoes and put them beside a small-sized dune. I could see the light of flashlights bouncing across the sand towards the south but the beach was dark to the north. Apparently, prize turtle-watching happened on the south stretch of beach. Indeed, the most active area for loggerhead turtle nesting is south of Cape Kennedy.
Tony came along and we walked south and the waves washed further up the shore. He quietly explained that loggerhead turtles grew to about 38 inches and had huge heads with short necks and powerful beaks that can break open mollusk shells. He said they weigh from 200 – 350 pounds.
We were silent for a while. I noticed that the flashlights were all turned off; apparently the sea creatures are spooked by light. A dark night is best.
“What will we see?” I asked.
“The huge creature will lumber slowly up the beach to reach an area above the high water line. The tracks she makes resemble caterpillar or tank tracks. She will then turn around facing the ocean and use her rear flippers to dig a hole. Sometimes she will not leave any eggs and fill in the hole again to fool us turtle-watchers. There are sometimes egg poachers around. But if she does lay eggs there will be about 100-126 white-colored eggs about 2 inches in diameter.”
We soon saw some turtle tracks, leading out of the surf up the beach. None of us used our flashlights, keeping some distance and, interestingly, even the children kept silent, as if there were a spell over us.
That was my first experience of turtle watching. I had many more. But there was one night I will long remember. It is that night that I have told in my Trinity Sunday homilies all these years.
I was alone that night — no companion, no other turtle-watchers. The moment opened up for me to be a profound mystical awareness, a moment I still remember vividly. I watched the giant turtle lay her eggs and slowly make her way back toward the surf. I moved a little closer as she came to the edge of the water. It was really dark.
I felt drawn to her by some compelling or impelling force. I wanted to follow the turtle! As it disappeared beneath the waves, I was drawn to follow her, to enter the unknown world beneath the sea.
But I hesitated. I pulled back.
I was on the edge of mystery.
The turtle has its own mystery; the turtle is at home in two worlds — land and sea. We also live in two worlds — the physical and the spiritual, the seen and the unseen. For a brief moment, I was drawn to follow the turtle down beneath the waves. But actually I was drawn into the mystery of the life of God which the feast of the Holy Trinity celebrates for us. And there, too, I hesitate. I pull back. I prefer to get close, but not too close. I prefer to stand upon the shore, to walk along with my toes only in the water, not to plunge in.
The shoreline is highly symbolic. It is the liminal space (the margin) between land and sea. As such, it is a powerful space, a place of mystery in its own right, as any liminal space can be. I have stood on several of the shores of the world and it’s always a powerful experience. Perhaps the shoreline runs down the middle of my soul.
So, what do we make of this feast of the Holy Trinity?
In having this feast the church is telling us we live on the edge of mystery. We live on the edge of God’s wonderful life — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This is not to be solved like a Perry Mason or Agatha Christie mystery. In religious experience, a mystery is to be lived and to be unfolded as we uncover its multifaceted dimensions, as we allow it to envelop and sometimes enrapture us.
The immensity of God’s love is a mystery for us, for sure. But we should not be afraid of mystery. We should not be afraid to immerse ourselves in the mystery of God as the turtle immersed herself in the mystery of the ocean.
The day will come, sooner or later, for me and for you to let go of our hesitancy and fear and to fall into the ocean of God’s love. To no longer live on the edge of mystery but to be immersed fully in the mystery of God’s love — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I had the experience a couple of years ago when I got off the shore and onto a dive boat. After three years, I finally got my Scuba certification, and like the turtles went below the surface of the Atlantic ocean for the first time and entered a brand new astonishingly beautiful, silent world!
There’s a similar story told about the great St. Augustine who lived in the Fourth Century. The story or legend goes that he was walking on the beach contemplating the mystery of the Trinity when he saw a boy in front of him who had dug a hole in the sand and was going out to the sea again and again and bringing some water to pour into the hole. St. Augustine asked him, “What are you doing?” “I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole.” “That is impossible, the whole ocean will not fit in the hole you have made” said St. Augustine. The boy replied, “And you cannot fit the Trinity in your tiny little brain.” The saint was instantly confronted with the mystery of God.
And so, dear friends . . . .
Follow a turtle!
Before we sign off, let’s ask, what about the baby turtles?
They hatch in sixty days and are completely on their own. The hundreds of condominiums on the Florida shoreline are in themselves a threat to the newborn because the little ones are drawn to the light and away from the ocean where they should be. There is a law that only a few lights are to be on the sea-side and these are to be covered. Like so many other little babies they are endangered. May we protect them all!
Now, before you go, here’s a cute music video about “Caretta, the Sea Turtle.” Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full Screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
And to complete our feast day celebration, here’s a lovely rendition of Holy God We Praise Thy Name. Click here
The Great and Glorious Feast of Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 2017
In last Sunday’s blog, we talked about the Feast of the Ascension.
After Jesus left the disciples and ascended into heaven, they were cowering behind locked doors,
despondent, worried, fearful, bewildered, devastated.
“[Then] suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire which parted
and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim (Acts 2:1-21.)
The word for “wind” is important here. “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.”
“When the day of Pentecost came it found the brethren gathered in one place. Suddenly from up in the sky there was a noise like a strong driving wind.”
The Holy Spirit is associated with that wind. The wind that blows where it wills. The wind that stirs things up and gets them moving.
The word for “wind” in Hebrew is “Ruah” — the same as the word for “breath.”
I was trained in meditation to pay attention to my breathing, and I do so almost all the time, even now as I’m writing this..
I often imagine that the Holy Spirit is breath entering me, and when I exhaled, I am breathing out the Holy Spirit as well.
What a wonderful image is breath. Breath is life itself. No breath, no life in the body.
The mighty wind of Pentecost stirred things up as the church was born. The apostles and the others who were part of their company, including the women, were given enthusiasm. No longer afraid, they courageously preached the message that Jesus established a new order for people’s lives. They began gathering the church. The Acts of the Apostles is in effect the gospel of the Holy Spirit.
In the beginning of scripture, there is a story about the tower of Babel, a story that tries to explain why there are so many different languages on the earth that we cannot understand each other, so much discord, so much disharmony.
The story has God confusing the languages of people at Babel (Gen. 11: 1-9) and from that day onward they were scattered.
On the day of Pentecost the opposite happened. People were gathered together. Parthians and Medes and Elamites; people from Cappodacia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia and Egypt — all heard the apostles speaking to them in their own languages.
On the day of my ordination, I was filled with enthusiasm. It was the day before Pentecost, May 24, 1969.
I was reminded of this prophecy of Joel:
“I will pour out my spirit upon all humankind.
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions.
Even upon the servants and handmaids,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” Joel 2:28,29)
Those were the days immediately following the Second Vatican Council. There was a lot of enthusiasm all over the Church. Those of us who were young, had wonderful opportunities to serve.
The enthusiasm that poured onto me and into me lasted the first full three years of my priesthood. The Spirit really touched my ministry, as he did with another priest who was ordained the same day as me.
Nine years later, the opposite happened. My life crashed in upon me. And I was reminded of still another scripture about the Spirit — the prophecy of the dry bones.
“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord:” See I will bring spirit into you that you may come to life again. Breathe into these slain, O Spirit that they may come to life.” (Ezekiel 37: 1)
That’s what Pope Francis is trying to do. Breathe new life into the Church The Holy Spirit will draw the church together in a new way!
~ ~ ~ ~
There is still another thing to note from the Pentecost story. Tongues of fire rested individually on the heads of each person. The Spirit of God has a special relationship with each of us. The Spirit will enliven us according to the gifts and talents of each one.
So this Holy Spirit does wondrous things!
The Spirit is the source of inspiration for all who would design and create.
“There are different gifts but the same Spirit; there are different ministries, but the sameLord; there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in every one. To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
The body is one and has many members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ. It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into the one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit.” I Cor. 12
In the seminary I learned to pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit before each class. And for me it was a powerful devotion. I realized that the work I produced was more than the sum of its parts. I realize that that is still true some 47 years later. If we seek and cooperate with God’s grace, wonderful things can and will happen that are so far beyond what we ever imagine!
The Holy Spirit can make that happen in your life, in your children’s lives, and in mine too.
This Pentecost 2017, with all that is happening in our country, in our world and in the church, may we clearly see our need for the Holy Spirit in our life and ministry. Without the Spirit, there is no meaning. Without meaning, there is no reason to live.
The lesson I relearned as I wrote this reflection is that to seek the Spirit’s involvement in our work is to refuse to settle for mediocrity. As we get older, we may not have the energy of our youth to go for the brass ring, but we still can regain enthusiasm as we go about our work.
The Spirit of God is as close to us as our own breath. I have trained myself to become conscious of my breathing throughout my day. So too can we train ourselves to be conscious of the Holy Spirit from moment to moment, especially in making decisions and beginning your projects at work or artistic endeavors.
May we celebrate today the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in the Church, in our world and in, indeed, all of creation!
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
and You shall renew the face of the earth.
May it be so. May it be so.
Now, here’s the ancient Sequence for the Feast ~ or if you will, a poem that occurs within the Mass . . .
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
And before you go, here is a new song that I found about the Holy Spirit that I liked. Click here.
And if you have time, here also is the haunting chant melody “Veni Creator Spiritus” and the English “Come Holy Ghost.” Click here. Be sure to enter full screen. There are many images of Pentecost in art displayed there.
And here are all of today’s Mass readings.Click here.
MEMORIAL DAY ~ Monday, May 29, 2017
A Memorial Day Prayer
“Most eternal God, as Americans, We want to thank you for this great country. We are not proud, but humbled, that in your divine sovereignty we were born or naturalized in such a nation as this.
Thank you for those serving and who have served in the military that protect this country of ours. Thank you for those men and women in our military services who were willing to give their lives and who gave their lives to fight to keep this country free … “
This was the start of one of my memorial day prayers while stationed on Okinawa, Japan (1999-2002). I felt extremely pastoral on this day of many days. This was my opportunity to speak to God for our people and offer our thanks for those who laid down their lives for their friends.
Memorial Day has special significance for all of us, and it has significant meaning for me as a former military chaplain serving in the United States Navy with sailors and Marines. Our freedom has been protected by people who have served in the military; many gave the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives.
Often, for many of our military who died in action, a chaplain is the last person in charge of their soul. In harm’s way, these faithful servants of God do not just stand beside the men and women in various branches of the service, we wear the uniform.
A chaplain’s work continues much farther than the base chapel. We labor in jungles, deserts, mountains, on ship at sea and in the air; wherever our people are stationed, the chaplain is there.
Our congregation is much different from a neighborhood church. It is primarily younger men and women, and these congregations can change, through transfers and deployments, every two to three years. They also come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, some from the city, and some from the country.
We live, work, and play together; we cry, laugh and bemoan together; we hurt, feel loneliness and anger together; celebrate, rejoice and glorify together. When conducting services on deployments overseas we do not get into our cars and drive to our homes away from our membership and not see them until the next service. We walk to the chow hall or the barracks or even to the brig to do ministry and sometimes that ministry is just of presence.
Memorial Day for military members is a somber day. It is a day to reflect on friends lost, comrades who gave the last measure for the cause of freedom. We reflect on how God has guided us through battles, storms and driving wind. How God has allowed some us to remain to proclaim the honor of our fallen friends, wounded nonetheless but still here.
Our country is still occupied in war; not only are military men and women in constant danger, but their loved ones have many concerned trepidations.
When you pray on Memorial Day you should pray with the intent of remembrance and thankfulness. Before you go out and barbeque or hit the beach I want you to offer a prayer for our fallen military heroes and their loved ones. The following is a beautiful Memorial Day prayer by a colleague in ministry Austin Fleming.
Shall we pray?
In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts,
let each of us name and call on the One whose power over us
is great and gentle, firm and forgiving, holy and healing …
You who created us,
who sustain us,
who call us to live in peace,
hear our prayer this day.
Hear our prayer for all who have died,
whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone …
Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others
ahead of their own
and give us hearts as generous as theirs …
Hear our prayer for those who gave their lives
in the service of others,
and accept the gift of their sacrifice …
Help us to shape and make a world
where we will lay down the arms of war
and turn our swords into ploughshares
for a harvest of justice and peace …
Comfort those who grieve the loss of their loved ones
and let your healing be the hope in our hearts…
Hear our prayer this day
and in your mercy answer us
in the name of all that is holy.
Amen. The peace of God be with you.