The Sacred Heart of Jesus

There’s a commercial I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks that I like. It shows little vignettes of people having near miss accidents, who are saved from those accidents by other people. So a woman on the way out of a restaurant moves a coffee cup on the table of a man whose elbow might knock it over at any minute. A man stops to yell to alert a truck parking that it’s about to run into a motorcycle. There’s a whole bunch of them showing people doing little things to help other people. The announcer says something like “when it’s people doing these things, we call it responsibility.”

Have you seen that commercial? I like it, but I think they have the premise wrong. Because I think that when it’s people doing things like that, we ought to call it love. Sure, it’s not the same kind of love that you might have for a spouse or family member or even a friend, but it’s the kind of love that helps us go outside ourselves and work for the good of others.

Today, we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Jesus’ love for us knows know bounds. In today’s Gospel, we see that not even death could limit his love for us. As he hung dying upon the cross, his love for us never wavered. And even after his death, the soldier’s lance helped blood and water to pour from his side. The blood that poured forth from Jesus’ side is the same blood we will be able to partake in this morning in the Eucharist. A blood that nourishes and strengthens us. A blood that cleanses us from our sins. The water is the same water you dipped your hand into on the way in today: the waters of baptism. That water washes our sins away and brings us into the body of the Church. The blood that poured forth from Jesus’ side as he hung on the cross continues to make his love present to us in the Church.

One more way that the love of Jesus is made present in the Church is through you and me. We have to, as one of my professors used to tell us, love what Jesus loved as he hung on the cross. And that means that we are called to love each person we come in contact with, whether it’s our own friends or family members, or even a complete stranger. When we love each person in little or small ways, then some measure of the love that Jesus had on the cross for that person, the love which poured forth from his Sacred Heart, is poured forth upon our world yet again. The love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus isn’t meant just for us to hoard: we are meant to share it, so that that love may grow and abound and spread through all the world.

May the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus draw you in today and be in your heart and in all that you do.

The Body and Blood of Christ: Sacrifice, Meal and Abiding Presence

Today, I didn’t get to preach this homily. I didn’t preside at either of the Masses I attended; I just concelebrated. Which was fine, but I wanted to write a homily anyway, so that I didn’t lose the discipline of doing it. This isn’t as polished as I’d like it, but rather a first (and only) draft.

Today’s readings.

Today we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ: the great gift of God to our Church and to our world in which we receive our salvation and in which the whole world is redeemed. We experience the Body and Blood of Christ as sacrifice, as a communal meal, and as abiding presence.

As sacrifice, we experience Christ’s body and blood as the ritual that frees us from sin. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are present in a memorial way at Calvary, where Christ laid down his life for us on that cross, to pay the price for our sins and the sins of the whole world. This sacrifice is decidedly not like the sacrifice Moses offered in our first reading, but is a perfection of it. Moses’ sacrifice was that of bulls. It was a gory, bloody sacrifice, in which the people were sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice to remind them of the covenant. In our sacrifice today, we participate in an un-bloody way the sacrifice not of bulls or goats, but of our Lord and Savior, who willingly laid down his life to free us from sin. St. Thomas Aquinas points out that if in Moses’ time, the sacrifice of bulls and goats brought people back into covenant with God, how much more does the sacrifice of God’s Son bring us into perfect union with God our Creator? In Christ’s death and resurrection, we are reborn into a living hope of seeing God face to face, something that in Moses’ time, nobody could do and live. Christ’s sacrifice also was not something that had to be repeated time and time again; he did it once for all on the cross, and we in the Eucharist have the opportunity to participate in that one sacrifice in anamnesis: in a memorial way.

As communal meal, we are fed by our Lord and Savior in a most perfect way. When we gather as one body, we bring all that we are and all that we experience to the meal. We bring our daily struggles and imperfections. We bring our pursuit of holiness, with all its successes and failures. We bring our joys and our sufferings, our successes and our losses, our love and our pain. We bring all of this together to the one table of Jesus Christ, united with all of the prayers of the Church on earth and the saints in heaven, along with the bread and the wine, all to become the perfect Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, who fills us perfectly and nourishes our body and spirit. When we partake of the one loaf which is the Body of our Lord and the one cup which is His Blood poured out for our salvation, we who are many become one, and all of our sins and failings and brokenness is bound up and sanctified and redeemed. This one meal fills our every hunger and gives life to our spirit. In this one bread and one cup, we are nourished in a way that we will never hunger and never thirst for anything else, ever again.

As abiding presence, we experience our Lord, who has ascended beyond our sight, in every time and place. At his ascension, Christ promised that he would be with us always, until the end of the age. The Body and Blood of Christ is the visible sign of that presence, the sacrament of his love, present in the Church for the redemption of the whole world. As we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord at Mass, and as we kneel in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we experience in a very real way the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to be with us always. That beautiful sacrament empowers us all to go forth and see Christ’s presence in other ways: in the action of our love and service to one another, in our families and our communities as we reach out to one another in need and are present to one another in joy and in sorrow. The presence of Christ in our Church is made visible in each one of us, and that presence overflows to every corner of our world to preach the Gospel in word and in deed. Through the Eucharist, Christ is truly with us always until the end of the age.

This word, “Eucharist,” means “thanksgiving.” It is truly the thanksgiving of our participation in the life of God through the saving action of Christ on the Cross. It is truly the thanksgiving for the nourishment that we receive through the sacraments and the Church. It is truly the thanksgiving for Christ’s abiding presence in our world.

On this Father’s day, we can also experience that thanksgiving in our fathers, grandfathers, uncles, godfathers and spiritual fathers in many ways. All that these men have been for us in our lives is a visible reflection of Christ’s abiding presence in our Church and in our world. We truly give thanks for each one of them and encourage them all to continue to live as witnesses of the Gospel and of Christ’s love for all of his brothers and sisters. Through their example, may we all take us the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.

myCatholic.com

Are you using myCatholic.com as your start page yet? If not, you definitely should. This is a wonderful service of Sacred Heart Media, which is a great replacement for my Yahoo!, in my opinion.

You can cusomize your feeds, and the look and feel of the page for your interests. It has lots of feeds for Catholic and Christian news and concerns, and allows you to add feeds that you like via RSS. It's completely free, and also ad-free, which I love.

Also, their service is outstanding.  With Yahoo!, you'll never get a human to answer your question.  I had a problem adding my own feed via RSS to my myCatholic start page, and they went above and beyond the call of duty, finding the problem in a plugin for WordPress.  This obviously was more than they had to do, but they were wonderful about it.  So yeah, you need to be using myCatholic for your start page.

Give it a try. You'll wonder what you did without it.

Good Idea: LibraryThing

Library Thing: An Online Book Club?

I stumbled across LibraryThing today. It’s really kind of fun, and I hope it continues to do well. On LibraryThing, you can add your own book library, import your wish list from Amazon (or a list from just about anywhere), and maintain your library online. You can see some random books from my LibraryThing bookshelf on the right sidebar (go ahead and look … I’ll wait…)

Done? Good. Now go to LibraryThing and sign up. You can sign up for free to keep track of 200 books, or get unlimited tracking for $10 for a year or $25 for life. Why would you do that? Simple, if you love to read, it’s a great source of leads on the books you like. The more books of your own that you add, the more recommendations the site can give you from people who read the books you do.

I just started to play with it tonight, but I am really looking forward to exploring it. Now the next time I really need a new mystery novel, I can check for some recommendations and go from there. Very nice. Give it a look-see if you like to read!

The Most Holy Trinity: Solving the Mystery

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed is a good mystery. When I have the chance to just read what I want to read, it’s almost always a mystery novel. I read Agatha Christie all the time growing up, and I’ll often go back to some of her stuff even now. My love for mysteries probably explains why I like to watch “Law & Order” and “CSI.”

If you enjoy mysteries too, you know that the mark of a good mystery is when it doesn’t get solved in the first six pages. It’s good to have to think and rethink your theory, right up until the last page.

Today’s Solemnity of the Holy Trinity is just such a mystery, I think. This is an opportunity for us to once again ask the question, “Who is God?” We could say “God is love” or “God is good.” But that’s all in the first six pages. And those answers bring up more questions than they solve. We know that the Trinity means that we believe in one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But then we would have to explain how one plus one plus one still equals one, and our human minds are at a loss.

If we’re honest, we have to begin our discussion of the Trinity by acknowledging that there’s a lot we don’t know about God. God is incomprehensible, too big for our limited wisdom to encompass, above us and beyond us and invisible to us; too wonderful for us in a very real way. We have yet to see God face-to-face, and until that happens, I don’t think we’ll never know God completely.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t know God at all. Because we’ve been given clues to who God is here and there, and each time we are open and ready to receive those clues, we come to know God in new ways. We’ve seen God active in the Old Testament. Moses points out today the magnificent holiness of God who created us, appeared to Moses himself in the burning bush, and led them victorious out of Egypt into the promised land. The God of the Old Testament is a God who passionately loves his chosen people and intervenes time and time again to bring them back to Himself, when they had wandered away.

In the New Testament, the most obvious clue is in the person of Jesus. Jesus, the Son of the Father, who was present with him in the beginning when the heavens and earth were created, came from heaven to walk the earth, to experience our human condition, to die our death, and in so doing, to help us to know God. In Jesus, God again is a God of love, who seeks out the lost and heals the sick and raises the dead, and who forgives the sinner. In Jesus, we see the ultimate intervention of God in human history to bring his wandering people back to him, by sacrificing his own life on the cross, and rising triumphant over the grave.

In both the Old and the New Testaments, we have countless clues to who God is. But Scripture isn’t the only way we come to know God. We can see clues in the other people God puts in our lives, when the love which God has for his people is lived out in action. There is a clue each time we reach out to the poor, lonely, or oppressed. Another clue is revealed each time we forget our anger and forgive a hurt or wrong. We find still another clue each time we give of our time or our talent to build another person up. Once again, in all of these ways, it is God’s love that helps us to know God in a new way.

Another thing we know about God is that popular notions of who God is are often not helpful clues. God is not One who blesses the rich and the powerful at the expense of the poor and oppressed. Instead, God raises up the lowly and feeds the hungry. God is not the stern dictator who looks for the slightest infraction of the law to condemn the sinner. Instead, God reaches out to the sinner with readiness to forgive that goes beyond our wildest imaginings. God is not the God of easy religion who gives facile and impractical advice to complex problems. Instead, God is with his people in good times and in bad and gives us wisdom to tackle every situation.

More than anything, God is the One who is with us always, as the Gospel says today, until the end of the age. This God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, this God who is infinitely beyond us, this God who created us and who sustains us, this God who laid down his life for us and sent his Spirit to enliven us, this God is God who is with us always, never leaving us, bringing us back to himself, and raising us up time and time again. What more could we hope for?

And that, brothers and sisters in Christ, may be the closest we can come to solving the mystery of who God is for now. Maybe we won’t be able to explain all of the mysteries of God and the Trinity, but if we know that our infinitely loving God is always with us, perhaps we know enough. Because ultimately God is not a philosophy or an idea or a word we can define. Ultimately, God is a relationship: the Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. I think it was St. Augustine who said that the Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved and the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son. God is love itself; a love that goes beyond the imperfect love we can offer; a love that is with us always.

And if the Scriptures make anything clear about God today, it’s this: that this love cannot be hoarded within ourselves. God’s love cannot be contained in us any more than God can be contained in one time or place or people. God’s love must be shared by the believer with people of every time and place, teaching them to observe all that he commanded us, and baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We Christians must continue to provide clues of who God is for others, until that great day when we will see God face-to-face and all the mysteries will be solved once and for all. On that great day, we can sing with the psalmist, “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.”

God’s Discipline

It’s amazing what God’s discipline does in our lives. I know that I often need to be reminded that I am not God, and that God’s purposes are far loftier than my own. Once again, in today’s Office of Readings, Job puts my frequent experiences into words:

Then Job answered the Lord and said:

 

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be hindered.
I have dealt with things that I do not understand;
things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.
I have heard of you by word of mouth,
but now my eye has seen you.
Therefore I disown what I have said,
and repent in dust and ashes.

 

Job 40

It’s that repenting in dust and ashes that is the heart of what Job is saying. Lord, grant that I might repent in dust and ashes for all the times when I think I know better than you do.