But Only Say The Word

Though the whole Mass is a mystery, there is one specific part that has always left me wanting to know more.  I was always trying to find some reason for the response the congregation gives after the priest raises the host and chalice after the fractioning.  In the previous translation we responded: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” I have thought over the years ‘what would the Lord say to me that would automatically heal me?’ However, with our new translation my curiosity is being satisfied.  We now respond. “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

On this Feast of the Solemnity of Pentecost, the prayer over the offerings for the day gives me insight to the meaning of the response.

Grant, we pray, O Lord,
that, as promised by your Son,
the Holy Spirit may reveal to us more abundantly
the mystery of this sacrifice
and graciously lead us into all truth.

In hearing this prayer this morning it started to dawn on me that the phrase ‘but only say the word’ is Trinitarian.  We are praying to the Father, and asking that His word, Christ, is spoken to us – and of course speaking, using breath to speak, is the Holy Spirit.

So it occurs to me that my question as to what the response means, in light of the prayer over the offerings, could be answered by translating our new response as:  ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter my soul, but send your Holy Spirit into me and I will be able to discern more easily your will, and understand your destiny for me.  I will be made Christ-like in my desires and love will reign – I will be made whole by your love.’

So now every time I receive my Lord; body, blood soul and divinity I will also open my heart to the very breath of God, His Holy Spirit, so that I can receive God’s grace more abundantly.

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Movement

As I was reflecting on my homily this week I ran across our Holy Father’s Epiphany homily for this year. He was ordaining two priests to the episcopacy and he was reflecting on the wise men. Throughout the homily he mentioned movement; movement of God towards us; movement of the Magi towards truth, towards Jesus; the importance of the Bishop’s role in the journey of the Church and her members. The restlessness we all have when we don’t allow God, allow love to enter our hearts.

Our Church is one of movement, because our Church is one of people, a people who are trying to find their way home; and as such we are constantly learning new things, meeting new people, struggling with new issues, and trying to cope with it all. And because we are human it is very easy, during our journey, to let the strength and the beauty of our faith dissolve to the back of our minds and hearts.

These reflections were one of the reasons that this year’s Feast of the Ascension struck me with the beauty of the liturgical year. Our liturgical year is one of cyclical instruction and worship; cyclical yes, but never nostalgic or reminiscent. The liturgical year continually brings to our minds different aspects of the Faith, to strengthen us and move us forward on our journey.

The feast of the Ascension highlights many aspects of our faith: Christ’s ‘missioning’ the apostles to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” leads them to movement as they: ‘went forth and preached everywhere’. Christ’s ascension into heaven shows mankind their ultimate dignity is nothing less than heaven itself, where with the Angels we are meant to be with God for eternity. The feast instills in us the desire to move forward to attain this God-desired dignity; and it is just one celebration in a year of celebrations!

If we live our lives liturgically we are strengthened, we grow, we move closer to our ultimate meaning as we become more Christ-like. The Church is all about this type of movement and my hope for each of us is that we become the pilgrims that we were intended to be and live our lives within the calendar of faith – and by doing this each of us will move that much closer to God and through us God moves that much closer to those around us.

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi

Una conversación en el trabajo la semana pasada, sobre el ambiente político actual, nos llevo a una pregunta de uno de los grupos para mí.  ‘¿Por qué este año tu Iglesia Católica decidió impulsar su idea de la vida y la familia al resto de nosotros?’

Bueno, yo le señalé que:

1. No es mi Iglesia Católica, es la Iglesia de Cristo.
2. Que la Iglesia Católica, junto con la mayoría de las religiones organizadas han formado siempre sus ideas y creencias conocidas en las sociedades a los que son miembros.  No es diferente que cualquier otra organización secular, o de otra manera.
3. Y, lo más importante, no estamos empujando nuestras ideas, como si fueran ejercicios intelectuales – es quien somos – no se puede separar lo que creemos de quien somos. Y para enfatizar le expliqué lo que nosotros como Católicos hemos estado haciendo durante los últimos 3 meses.  Viendo nuestro año litúrgico una persona puede saber exactamente lo que significa ser Católico y cómo vemos el mundo que nos rodea.

Durante los últimos noventa días, más o menos, hemos participado con la Santa Madre Iglesia, como ella ha celebrado el verdadero significado del ser humano, de ser un miembro del cuerpo místico de Cristo.

Durante los cuarenta días de Cuaresma, vimos dentro de nosotros mismos, para comprender cómo hemos actuado en el último año y cómo nuestras acciones han afectado al mundo, la iglesia, los que nos rodean y a nosotros mismos.  A la luz del amor que Dios nos muestra que hemos intentado llegar a un entendimiento de cómo hemos regresado ese amor en nuestras vidas.

Todo esto nos lleva a reflexionar sobre las razones por las que Dios, por medio de Cristo, hizo lo que hizo por nosotros. Durante el Tridduum Sagrado hemos contemplado el último regalo que nos dio nuestro Dios, un regalo inimaginable e inmerecido, pero que se nos da, no obstante.  Hemos participado con los Apóstoles y caminado con Cristo en su Pasión, el camino que El siguio para que la muerte no tenga poder sobre nosotros.

Con los apóstoles durante los cuarenta días de Pascua hasta ahora, hemos sido testigos de la resurrección increíble de Jesús, en cuerpo y alma, mostrando que a través de Su amor Dios ha garantizado que nuestra verdadera vida, vida en Dios, es restaurada, y si lo aceptamos, nos gozaremos con Él para siempre.  Hemos escuchado las palabras de Jesús, sus enseñanzas sobre lo que significa su regalo, y sus explicaciones en cuanto a, cómo debemos actuar como sus discípulos y qué es nuestra vocación.

Y ahora, con la fiesta de la Ascensión, el momento final de la verdadera Pascua de Cristo, Jesús nos revela por su resurrección a los cielos que Dios desea traer a toda la humanidad a sí mismo.  El Padre nos ha mostrado, a través de Jesús, que la dignidad de la humanidad es una dignidad no menos que el cielo mismo. Estamos destinados a estar en el cielo, estamos destinados a estar con Dios, con sus ángeles en el paraíso. Así es de importante la vida de cada uno de nosotros para Dios.  Esta es una lección que se ha repetido durante miles de años – de la acción amorosa de Cristo hasta ahora.  Esta lección no es un secreto, es, o debería de ser, proclamado en voz alta por cada creyente.  Nosotros pertenecemos a Dios!

Este significado esencial de nuestro destino nos debe llenar de extrema alegría, y la Santa Madre Iglesia celebra con grán exaltación.  Esta Misa comenzó con el Padre rezando la oración de apertura:

Llena, Señor, nuestro corazón de gratitud y de alegria
por la gloriosa ascensión de tu Hijo,
ya que su triunfo es también nuestra victoria,
pues a donde llegó él, nuestra cabeza,
tenemos la esperanza cierta de llegar nosotros,
que somos su cuerpo…

Bellas palabras que se esmeran por expresar nuestra alegría inefable de conocer quiénes somos en realidad destinados a ser, y la esperanza que tenemos de que en última instancia, alcanzar ese destino.

Pero, y para el punto de la pregunta que me hicieron en mí trabajo, esto explica por qué la Iglesia Católica participa en el discurso nacional.  Sabemos que cada miembro de la raza humana es amado por igual, tiene el mismo destino, tiene la misma dignidad – que pertenecemos a Dios!  Nosotros participamos porque vemos esto en cada persona que conocemos y esperamos por su felicidad eterna.  Nosotros participamos porque vemos la dignidad de la humanidad que se reduce a un punto de vista utilitario, y nos preocupa.  Hacemos una contribución a la sociedad porque eso es lo que los miembros de la sociedad tienen que hacer, y las contribuciónes se basan en lo que nuestro Señor nos mandó: – : “Vayan por todo el mundo y prediquen el Evangelio a toda creatura.” Y seguimos a nuestros hermanos, los apóstoles, que “Ellos fueron y proclamaron el Evangelio por todas partes” con la tranquilidad de saber que viene de las palabras de Jesús:  “Y les aseguro que estaré con ustedes siempre, hasta el fin del mundo”. (Mateo 28:20)

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi

A conversation at work last week, about the current political environment, led to a question by one of the group to me. ‘Why has your Catholic Church decided to push their idea of life and family on the rest of us this year?’

Well, I pointed out to him that:

  1. It isn’t my Catholic Church, it is Christ’s.
  2. That the Catholic Church along with most organized religions have always made their ideas and beliefs known in the societies they were members of.  It is no different than any other organization secular or otherwise.
  3. And, most important, we aren’t pushing our ideas, as if they are intellectual exercises – it is who we are – you can’t separate what we believe from whom we are.  And to emphasize this I explained what we as Catholics have been doing for the past 3 months. By looking at our liturgical year a person can know exactly what it means to be Catholic and how we view the world around us.

For the past Ninety days, or so, we have participated with Holy Mother Church as she has celebrated the true meaning of being human, of being a member of the mystical body of Christ.

For the forty days of Lent, we turned within, to ourselves, to understand how we have acted in the past year and how our actions have affected the world, the church, those around us and ourselves.  In light of the love that God shows us we have tried come to an understanding of how we have returned that love in our lives.

All of this led us to reflect on the reasons why God, through Christ, did what He did for us.  During the Sacred Tridduum we contemplated the ultimate gift given to us by our God; a gift unimaginable and undeserved, but given to us none the less. We participated with the Apostles and walked with Christ in His Passion; a path that He walked so that death would have no power over us.

With the apostles for the forty days from Easter until now, we witnessed to the amazing resurrection of Jesus, body and soul; showing that through His love God has guaranteed that our true life, life in God, is restored, and if we accept it, we will rejoice with Him forever.  We heard Jesus words, His lessons about what His gift means, and His explanations as to, as disciples how we should act and what our calling is.

And now, with the Feast of the Ascension, the final moment of the true Passover of Christ, Jesus reveals by His rising to heaven that God desires to bring all humanity to Himself.  The Father has shown us, through Jesus, that the dignity of mankind is a dignity of no less than heaven itself.  We are meant to be in heaven, we are meant to be with God, with His angels in paradise.  That is how important each and every life is to God.  This is a lesson that has been repeated for millennia – from Christ’s loving action until now.  This lesson is not a secret, it is, or should be, loudly proclaimed by every believer.  WE BELONG TO GOD!

This ultimate meaning of our destiny should fill us with extreme joy, and Holy Mother Church celebrates with loud exultation.  This Mass started by Father praying the opening prayer:

O God, whose Son today ascended to the heavens
as the Apostles looked on,
grant, we pray, that, in accordance with his promise,
we may be worthy for him to live with us always on earth,
and we with him in haven…

Or if you were at Mass tomorrow you would hear

‘Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God,
and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving,
for the Ascension of Christ your Son
is our exaltation,
and, where the Head has gone before in glory,
the Body is called to follow in hope…’

Beautiful words that strive to express our inexpressible joy at knowing who we truly are meant to be, and the hope we have that we will ultimately attain this destiny.

But, and to the point of the question asked of me at work, this explains just why the Catholic Church participates in the national discourse. We know that every member of the human race is loved the same, has the same destiny, has the same dignity – WE BELONG TO GOD!  We participate because we see this in each person we meet and we hope for their eternal joy.  We participate because we see the dignity of mankind being reduced to a utilitarian point of view and it worries us.  We make a contribution to society because that is what members of society are meant to; and that contribution is based on what our Lord commanded us: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”-  and so we follow our brothers, the apostles, who ‘went forth and preached everywhere’ with the peace of mind that comes from the words of Jesus: “Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age, alleluia!’ (Matthew 28:20)

Mothers

This weekend Dolores and I drove to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.  We dropped our luggage off at the hotel, got back in the car and drove to the Shrine; within 10 minutes of being there I found myself sitting in the Crypt of the Apparition, looking at the beautiful statue of our Blessed Mother – and I was struck by the intensity of her desire.  It wasn’t from the statue’s appearance that I got this feeling – rather it was from the smallness of the room, the smallness of the whole shrine for that matter and knowledge that Mary truly appeared here with a message.

Sitting there it dawned on that just over six weeks before I was sitting in the apparition chapel in Fatima – on the large ground between two giant basilicas – and looking at Mary; and now here I am in a small place in Wisconsin.  Mary the same there and here I thought.  Mary looking for us there and here I thought, and many other places as well.  Mary searching for her children, wanting the best for her children, wanting our future to be joyful and peaceful – she wants us all to be happy.  In short Mary is a mother – my mother – everyone’s mother.

In my opinion, Mothers’ Day is the celebration of the things that mothers do and feel.  Mary our mother and our birth mothers all have the same sublime vocation, this calling is in their nature.  As it is with the Church; She isn’t called Holy Mother Church for no reason.  She too, through her ministers, clerical and lay, searches with the same intensity in her desire to love her children.  She too wants the best for her children, wants her children to have a good and holy future.

So it got me to thinking about the recent discourse on the meaning of marriage and family – and what might happen if those in society who are striving to redefine these relationships succeed.  What would happen to society if the definition of being a mother was changed – the definition what a family is was changed – how would children be able to understand what Mary was trying to do, how would they understand the special relationship that is between her and us, how would they appreciate the relationship between the church and her members.  How much more difficult would it be for the next generations to understand how intimate the relationship between God, through his bride, is for each of us.

Well, our Holy Father is calling us to a new evangelization and with good reason.  We who know a mother’s love, who know a family’s love, who know God’s love; should have this intense desire to pass on the knowledge about true love – so that the generations to come can feel the joy in celebrating Mothers’ Day that we do.

Montana

Driving back from church this morning I heard on the radio an ad about Montana.  The promotion took the form of an environmentalist discussing the abundant and varied landscapes and habitats that make up the state – and it was very compelling.  But at one point the man started to explain that mankind needed this connection with nature because, and I quote, ‘we are only human, and to thrive we need this most important connection with what created us.’

I immediately thought of today’s Gospel “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”  We are not ‘only human’; or rather to be ‘only human’ does not mean that creation created us.  That is absurd; we are created by the creator. We are made in the image of He who created us.  Without God in our lives we are incomplete, and as the Jesus tells us today we ‘wither’.  God alone gives us direction, gives meaning to our existence.  God has instilled in us the ability to appreciate creation, to desire the beauty of nature, because He created beauty and since we are made in his image it is part of us as well.

We know this truth just as surely as we could see how absurd the man’s comment was in the commercial; but most of society doesn’t.  What the commentator said makes perfect sense to those many, many people who have been numbed to the idea of absolute truth, to the idea of true peace.  Society thinks of the daily struggle as normal and the successes that they achieve as the means to a totally fulfilled life.  This type of existence, disconnected from the Father, disconnected from each other, numbs those living it from the deep seated desire for true beauty, love.   It is up to us, my brothers and sisters to offer this fruit of truth, of peace, of love to those around us by showing them how we live our lives connected to the vine.  Then maybe, we can all see the real beauty that created Montana.

One small little nail, and that is enough

I would like to continue with my reflection on St Joseph and Mary and their witness to living a holy life by making holy the little actions of life.

I am not a great and powerful person in the eyes of the world, I am not even a great power in God’s plan of unity, I am one small little peace in this plan; however I am irreplaceable.

By my acceptance of my part in His plan I realize that every little event in my life, every little action I do is an important piece of the ‘divine fabric’.  I become an integral thread woven with other threads into a fabric that radiates more gloriously than those many single threads laying unwoven.  To do otherwise would mar this tapestry of God, and leave me outside the divine plan.

So I look to Mary and Joseph and see examples of lives lived ‘small’ but within this divine fabric, this sacred symphony of love.  They lived every action of their ‘small’ lives with the humility of just one thread but lived them ‘holy’ as part of the great divine fabric.  They realized that God, through His love, gave them their lives, not to live to their desire, which in the end leaves us unsatisfied, unfulfilled; but to live so as to glorify God, which always leaves us whole and fulfilled.  May the prayers of Mary and Joseph instill in me always the urge strive for holiness in everything I do.

There is an old proverb that ends with the line: ‘the kingdom was lost, all for want of a nail’.  Please God, allow me to be just a nail!