Love never consumes

Today, in a most special way, we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist, we celebrate our Lord and Savior in what our physical senses perceive as bread and wine.  We celebrate the result of total self-giving; of true and total love.  And this reminded me of a discussion I had with someone at work.  Actually, it was more he teasing me and me finding a evangelizing moment.  We were talking about the Church and he commented to me that after all the Masses in all the Churches in the world; for the duration since Jesus gave us the eucharist; that we had either run out of the true Eucharist or that each piece of bread and drop in a chalice would have the smallest particle ever known to man of Jesus to be able to stretch Jesus until now.  I gave him some quick but earnest answer; however, something that Thomas Aquinas wrote brings this coworker’s comment back to my mind on this Solemnity of the most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

nec sumptus consumitur’  Love never consumes!; and the Eucharist is love in its purest and truest form.  Love always gives, it never takes, and it gives from an inexhaustible source – God.  We give each other our love and the love that is returned strengthens us to give even more.

This wasn’t some new idea that Christ gave us – indeed God’s love for His creation has been witnessed to since the earliest Old Testament times; Exodus 3:2 ”There an angel of the LORD appeared to him in fire flaming out of a bush. As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed.”   In this most normal bush, Moses looked at the result of pure love, it wasn’t consumed, it was changed, it radiated God’s glory.  And we too see this every time at Mass, or during Holy Hour, or during Adoration; every time we gaze on what seems to our physical senses normal bread – we know in our heart, we understand with our faith senses that we are in the presence of the glorious God Almighty.  This strengthens us to go out and give the love given to us – given to us by a God who gave himself to us to eat and who will never be consumed!

It is no wonder that the Church believes the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our faith because it contains the totality of our faith – it contains the inexhaustible gift of Love – it contains Jesus.

Obedience

This week has brought some events that have caused me to reflect on what it means to be ordained; specifically what it means to profess obedience to my Bishop and his successors.  In a certain way, all Catholics are to be obedient to the Vicar of Christ and his Bishops but being ordained means that obedience is part of my being; ontologically I am called to obedience.  This isn’t really an issue as things go along nicely, minor inconveniences and problems give me a chance to offer it up in obedience to my Bishop; in fact I can’t think of a time since my ordination where I had to ‘decide’ in favor of obedience – it hasn’t been necessary – I walked in Bishop Sartain’s and Bishop Siegel’s path and am very happy to do so.  But Christ warns us of what it means to be His follower. He tells us to pick up our cross and carry it. We will all be tried at one point or another and called to live the cross.  So, I frequently pray that I have the strength to walk my profession, my ontological demand of obedience.

Well, this past weekend the Bishop of Marquette Michigan released a letter to his deacons; and among many things he made the statement that deacons shouldn’t preach regularly at Mass.  He went on to explain why, and I must say that he made his point very well, it is his diocese and he has the right.  This got me to thinking about how I would react to his decision if I were one of his deacons.  I hope that I would accept his decision as obedience and love calls me to do.  He is my bishop and I am his deacon.

This was followed by the surprising announcement by Father Corapi, a famous speaker on the Catholic faith, that he was leaving the priesthood.  His message discussed his dissatisfaction with his bishop on how the bishop was handling an allegation against him.  I want to first say that I don’t know anything about his case aside from what has been released in the news, and by Fr. Corapi, and his order.  It is a sad case, and ever since I heard about it I have praying for a resolution.  However, I was struck by the contrast between Fr. Corapi’s actions in his case and how St. Padre Pio handled his ‘unfair’ treatment (For a period of 10 years, Padre Pio was not allowed to celebrate Mass in public while the Church tried to discern if his stigmata was from God or the devil.)  Fr Corapi, seems to believe (rightly or wrongly) that he is being mistreated and therefore is turning his back on his Holy Orders; St Pio patiently, and obediently, lived his calling and his profession to Christ.  Both have had to pick up their cross and decide what to do with it – Fr. Corapi is handing it to someone else (or so it seems) – St Pio carried his as Christ carried all of ours.

Again, I am not trying to judge the truth of the Fr. Corapi case; that isn’t my intention, the plank in eye is way too big – I pray that this all works out. I am reflecting on how I, as an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church would handle my own cross.  I would like to think I would carry it like St Pio.  I pray that when I am asked to – I do.  I ask all of you to pray that I have the strength to carry my cross and not hand it someone else.

Right Relationship – Happy Father’s Day

A few years ago the Vatican came out with a ruling that certain Baptisms were invalid and must be redone.  This ruling came about because certain Catholic clergy thought, for various reasons, to change the words of the sacrament.  Among them were: ‘I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier‘; or ‘I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer‘.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained that the words, first of all, were not biblical; Jesus specifically gave us the formula ‘in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’; and of course, since Jesus gave us these words, commanding us to use them – not using them meant that we were ignoring our Lord’s directions.

Those rejected formulas I just mentioned, failed to express the Catholic belief in the Holy Trinity. The words Jesus gave us about Himself, about God expressed the relationship between the three persons, not their functions; indeed The Father is Creator, as is the Son and so also the Holy Spirit; and all three persons redeem us and sanctify us – for there is unity in all three – actions from God are not split between them as responsibilities – that would limit the totality of God Himself.

But what we see with Jesus’ revelation of God as one substance in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in my opinion, is that God is love, pure and simple.  Love doesn’t exist in solitude, it is communion; and God’s love is perfect communion. True Love is opening our self to the other, doing for the other, living for the other.  I exist for you, I give for you, I sacrifice for you – and I do this freely for you.  Love only can exist in relationship with those around us because love is manifested in relationship – anything else is isolation, self-centered and loneliness.  If any other proof is needed we only need to remember what loneliness feels like – that emptiness within.

When Jesus gave us those Trinitarian words ‘in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’ He was not only showing us who He was, who God is; but He was showing us who we are.  It seems very appropriate that the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity and Father’s Day are together this year because our Father’s Day is, fundamentally, a celebration of relationship.  For most men it isn’t hard to become a Father. But that isn’t what we celebrate on Father’s Day; it is being a Father that is celebrated; it the relationship of a man to his offspring, which we call Father, that is celebrated; that is why we can turn to our Priests and say happy Father’ day – because they are in that relationship with their flock.   And though most people in this country don’t appreciate it, Father’s Day reinforces the goodness of God because it witnesses to right relationships; it witnesses to love; it witnesses to the Holy Trinity.

The Ever-giving Gift

I was talking with residents of Greenleaf prior to a communion service yesterday.  We got to talking about the hierarchy of solemnities and that Christmas and Pentecost are together on the chart, in the Breviary.  I kidded that both are birthdays, one of the differences, however, is that the gifts we get on Christmas morning are given once and the gift we receive on Pentecost is a constantly given gift.

Though this is very simplistic in its depth; it does point out the constancy of today.  God, our creator and redeemer gave us Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit to be our gift of love.  Indeed, this is all God has to give us, Love, because that is what, who He is.  And His love is true love, not the love preferred in society today: self-love, in which we try to dictate the terms of our happiness and actualization. True love, the love from God – the love that is God, is a love that leads to self-renunciation in favor of selfless giving to others; we only need to look at our Lord and savior to see this.  He gives it to us with the Holy Spirit and we, in turn give it those around us.  It is not a onetime gift, Love is not a noun – it is a verb, it is action, it is continual and it is always flowing from on high to us – to those around us – and back again.  Which means that love shows itself by endurance, or as Pope Benedict XVI says ‘by abiding’.  It is not a momentary thing, like the gifts we received as children on Christmas morning which wear out, become obsolete or fade from our consciousness; it is constant, enduring and thus in final analysis eternal.

As we enter into Ordinary time let us take comfort in the knowledge that God has given, and is giving us this enduring, this abiding, this eternal gift, that can’t be taken away and will never grow old.  God gives us His Love, His Holy Spirit to be with us always.

Pentecost, 2011

Pentecost, 2011, Cycle A (06/12/11)

In our first reading we see the Holy Spirit act as sort of a universal translator – and to celebrate the feast of Pentecost Father David decided to let me give the homily to see if the Holy Spirit is still as good a translator now as he was then!

Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates her birthday.  We come together and celebrate when, finally, the disciples, strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit, found the courage, the power, the ability to be Church to those around them.  To proclaim the Good News and witness to Christ Jesus and His saving message.  To Glory in Christ our Savior.  The glory of the Church is nothing other than celebrating the glory of God Himself.

But in our readings today we seem to see two different versions of the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In our Gospel we see Jesus appear to the disciples in the upper room behind locked doors; and by breathing on them he gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit: “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”  And in our first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear the familiar story of the descent of the Holy Spirit from on High:    “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And 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.

I think it is important to note that these are not two different versions of the same event – far from it!  They are two separate events that seem to give the same gift.  The Gospel reading was before Jesus ascended into heaven; and of course the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles was on Pentecost itself which, as we know was after His ascension.  But a question I believe we need to ask ourselves is why did the Lord seemingly give the gift of the Holy Spirit once while on earth, and once from His throne in heaven?  Why, did Jesus as a man, breathe this gift to His disciples on earth and afterwards divinely send it from heaven as a wind and tongues of fire.  Pope St. Gregory the Great said: “it seems to me it is because the precepts of love are twofold – The love of God, and the love of our neighbor!”  In other words; the Holy Spirit, God’s Love, though one gift has two parts – for it is through the love of our neighbor that we learn how we are to come to the love of God.  As we hear told to us in First letter of St. John (4:20-21) “for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

It is through our loving actions, our witness to what the gift of Holy Spirit has done for us; that we are able to make others aware of God’s Love for them.  Through our patient endurance of self-giving love we make real to those we meet, the glory of God!  We radiate the magnificence of the mystical body of Christ, the Church, when we witness to God’s love.  It is true that it is ultimately God who converts the hearts; but it is for the Church – for us – to introduce the unknowing to His gift.  We on earth offer His love – so He from heaven can place in the hearts.

Isn’t this why Jesus created the Church?  To be His true presence here on earth, to help those around us come to know the love of God?  Didn’t he tell His apostles and us: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

All of you, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit – the breath of God – and you all have a heightened awareness of the beauty and the Glory of the Church because you see, hear and feel the Holy Spirit alive in her.  My prayer for all of us is that we become like the apostles on that Pentecost day 2,000 years ago; and go out and breathe on those we meet, share the Holy Spirit by offering our love.  Let those in the darkness, by our actions, have a chance to see this living flame of love descend on them. If we do this then Pentecost isn’t a celebration of a past event but an ongoing celebration of our living God.

Pentecostés 2011

Pentecostés 2011

En la primera lectura vemos al Espíritu Santo actuando como una especie de traductor universal – y para celebrar la fiesta de Pentecostés, padre David decidió dejarme dar la homilía para ver si el Espíritu Santo sigue siendo un buen traductor ahora como era entonces!

Por supuesto, el Espíritu Santo había un poco de ayuda, quiero dar las gracias a Franklin para la traducción de la homilía.

Hoy día, la Santa Madre Iglesia celebra su cumpleaños. Nos reunimos y celebramos que, finalmente, los discípulos, fortalecidos por el don del Espíritu Santo, recibieron el coraje, la fuerza, la capacidad de ser Iglesia para los que les rodeaban. Para anunciar la Buena Nueva y dar testimonio de Cristo Jesús y su mensaje salvífico. Para la gloria de Cristo nuestro Salvador. La gloria de la Iglesia no es otra cosa que celebrar la gloria de Dios mismo.

Sin embargo, en las lecturas de hoy parece ver dos versiones diferentes del don del Espíritu Santo. En el Evangelio vemos a Jesús aparecer a sus discípulos en el Cenáculo con las puertas cerradas, y por la exhalación de su espíritu sobre ellos se les da el don del Espíritu Santo. Y en nuestra primera lectura de los Hechos de los Apóstoles, oímos la historia familiar de la venida del Espíritu Santo de lo alto: “Cuando el día de Pentecostés se cumplió, estaban todos juntos en un solo lugar. Y de repente vino del cielo un ruido como de un viento fuerte, el cual llenó toda la casa en que estaban. Entonces se les aparecieron lenguas como de fuego que se repartieron y se posaron sobre cada uno de ellos. Y todos quedaron llenos del Espíritu Santo. ”

Creo que es importante tener en cuenta que estos no son dos versiones diferentes de un mismo hecho – ni mucho menos! Se trata de dos eventos separados que parecen dar el mismo regalo. La lectura del Evangelio fue antes de que Jesús ascendiera al cielo, y por supuesto la primera lectura de los Hechos de los Apóstoles fue en Pentecostés en sí, como sabemos fue después de su ascensión. Pero una pregunta que creo que tenemos que hacernos es ¿por qué el Señor aparentemente dá el don del Espíritu Santo, una vez en la tierra, y una vez desde su trono en el cielo? Por qué Jesús les sopla este regalo a sus discípulos en la tierra como hombre y luego lo envía como Dios desde el cielo en forma de viento y lenguas de fuego.

El Papa San Gregorio el Grande dice: “me parece que es porque los preceptos del amor son dos – El amor de Dios, y el amor a nuestro prójimo!” En otras palabras, el Espíritu Santo, el Amor de Dios, aunque un de regalo consta de dos partes – porque es a través del amor al prójimo nos enteramos de cómo vamos a llegar al amor de Dios. Como lo escuchamos que se nos dijo en la primera carta de San Juan (4:20-21) “porque el que no ama a su hermano a quien ve, no puede amar a Dios a quien no ha visto. Este es el mandamiento que tenemos de él; el que ama a Dios ame también a su hermano”

Es a través de nuestras acciones de amor, nuestro testimonio, que el don del Espíritu Santo actúa en nosotros y somos capaces de hacer que los demás sean conscientes del amor de Dios. A través de nuestra perseverancia en el amor de Dios y nuestra caridad demostramos a los demás la gloria de Dios! Irradiamos la magnificencia del cuerpo místico de Cristo, la Iglesia, cuando somos testigos del amor de Dios. Es cierto que en última instancia, Dios es el que convierte los corazones, pero es tarea de la Iglesia – de nosotros – el introducir a los que no conocen su regalo. Nosotros en la tierra ofrecemos su amor- y El desde el cielo puede colocarlo en los corazones.

¿No es por eso que Jesús creó la Iglesia? Para ser su verdadera presencia aquí en la tierra, para ayudar a los que nos rodean a conocer el amor de Dios. No dice a sus apóstoles y a nosotros: “Vayan pues, y hagan discípulos a todas las naciones, bautizándolos en el nombre del Padre y del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo, y enseñándoles a guardar todo lo que he mandado. ”
A todos ustedes, mis queridos hermanos y hermanas en Cristo, se les ha dado el don del Espíritu Santo – el aliento de Dios – y todos ustedes tienen una mayor conciencia de la belleza y la gloria de la Iglesia, ya que ven, oyen y sienten el Espíritu Santo vive en ella. Mi oración para todos nosotros es que lleguemos a ser como los apóstoles en el día de Pentecostés hace 2.000 años atrás, salgan y soplen a todos los que encuentren el Espíritu Santo, ofrezcan nuestro amor. Den a los que estén en la oscuridad, por nuestras acciones, la oportunidad de ver esta llama de amor viva, y que la misma descienda sobre ellos. Si hacemos esto, entonces Pentecostés no es una celebración de un acontecimiento pasado, sino una celebración permanente de nuestro Dios vivo.

The Same Way

A line in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles has always intrigued me.  ”This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”  Every time I hear this or read it, I find myself reflecting on for quite a while.  Sometimes, I even get this silly vision of the apostles staring into the sky with a dumbfounded look and then two angels walking up to the apostles both of them staring into the sky as well – sort of ‘Charlie Chaplinesque’.

But in all seriousness, I am really intrigued by these words; because I think many of us tend to have the short-sighted vision as the apostles do –  Jesus went up to heaven by ascending on a cloud.  But, I believe the angels’ words were meant to have us look further back.  Jesus ascension into heaven did not start at that point.  His ascension started at His incarnation. His path to His heavenly home went through the river, to the village, through His people, to a mountain, through His Passion to the cross and the tomb.  His “way”, as the angels called it, went through the blind men healed; the sick cured; the dead raised; the encounters with the Pharisees; the meetings with Herod and Pilate; and, of the course, the obedience shown in the Garden of Gethsemane.  If His path, His way, could have one name (and it does), it would be Love! He witnessed to the God’s love for His creation.

I believe this is what the angels were alluding to with their comments to the apostles “Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” His final return will be glorious and unmistakable, no doubt.  Everyone will recognize it – they might not like it; but they will recognize it – but that will be the end of His return.  His return starts with us living the ‘path’, living the ‘way’.  His return starts with our witnessing to God’s love; by service to the blind and sick of our time; by our visiting the villages and proclaiming this love to our people; by our challenging the leaders of our time to what is true and right; and by our obedience to will of the Father. This is how Jesus will return in the same way as he ascended from us.