Archive for the ‘Last Supper’ Category

Aphantasia — A Corpus Christi Homily

June 5, 2016

Aphantasia (Greek for “without fantasy”) has been written about since 1880 but it has recently gained increased attention. To understand what I am talking about, picture a red triangle, a horse running, or the house where you grew up. With a moment’s attention you can see them in your mind. However, people with  Aphantasia are incapable of voluntarily forming images in their mind’s-eye.

Blake, a successful 30-year-old software engineer only recently learned he experienced the world differently from others. He relates a conversation similar to this with a Facebook friend:

—If I ask you to imagine a beach, how would you describe what happens in your mind?
    —Uhh, I imagine a beach. What?
—Like, the idea of a beach. Right?
    —Well, there are waves, sand. Umbrellas. It’s a relaxing picture. Are you okay?
— But it’s not actually a picture? There’s no visual component, right?
    —Yes, there is, in my mind. What are you talking about?
—Is it in color?
    —Yes…
—How often do your thoughts have a visual element?
    —A thousand times a day?
—Oh, my goodness…

An African BeachIf someone were to ask Blake to “imagine a beach,” he could ruminate on the concept of a beach: it has sand, waves, heat, sun. He could recognize a beach when he saw one, but even if he were standing on a beach he could not recreate or remember the image with his eyes closed.

Philip is a 42-year old photographer from Toronto. He is happily married, but he cannot conjure up his wife’s face (or any other image) in his mind’s eye. He was recently listening to a podcast presenter describing aphantasia. He says it came as a complete surprise, “I was like ‘what do you mean? People do that?’” He thought it was a joke so he checked with his four-year old daughter. “I asked her whether she could picture an apple in her mind, she said ‘yeah, it’s green’. I was shocked.

A 2009 survey of 2,500 people suggests that aphantasia is the experience of about 2% of people. So far, I have found it in two of my friends, including  a fellow priest. He tells me that when our spiritual director in seminary would tells us to prayerfully picture ourselves, say, at the table of the Last Supper he thought it was just a metaphor. He was surprised to learn that when people “counted sheep” to fall asleep that was more than just a figure of speech.

Disbelief is a common response when people on either side of this phenomena hear that other people do no experience the world like themselves. (“That’s impossible. You’re lying. You’re pulling my leg.”) However, unless we happen to carry around an MRI machine, we have to take our friend at his or her word in order to know the truth. And here we come to the connection with this Feast of Corpus Christi.

An extraordinary experience at the center of our Faith is founded upon a trust in our friend Jesus Christ’s testimony. At the Last Supper, Jesus does not say, “This is like my body,” or “This symbolizes or represents my body.” He says, “This is my body.” Around the year 150 AD, St. Justin Martyr described what early Christians everywhere believed about these words:

“The apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “Do this in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood” … “This food is called among us the Eucharist… For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

Princess Grace (Kelly) Receives The Holy EucharistThe Church has always proclaimed and worshiped Jesus Christ as truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. This belief has been confirmed for us throughout the centuries. The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised would lead us to all truth and remind us of all that he told us, has reaffirmed this teaching in Councils of the Church. Jesus has also allowed Eucharistic miracles to unveil this mystery we cannot normally perceive. For instance, at the Miracle of Lanciano in eighth century AD, a priest who was doubting Jesus’ Real Presence witnessed the bread become flesh and the wine become blood (which coagulated and broke into five globules in the chalice) as he said the words of consecration. In 1971, scientific analysis indicated that, as at similar miracles, the Host was human cardiac muscle. Who would go through such trouble when a fraudster’s more convenient use of pig’s flesh would have been undetectable? The truth is that Jesus gives us his heart in the Eucharist, along with his whole self. You can go to Lanciano, Italy and behold this Host today.

For many Christians, the Lord’s Supper is merely a symbolic commemoration, a ritual that remembers him. But if Jesus is everywhere, then he is nowhere. It then impossible to physically draw near to him any place on earth. Unless you are blessed with a vision of Jesus, you can never see him with your eyes or touch him in your flesh until after your death and resurrection. But with the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, “Behold, I am with you always…

If you have always enjoyed mental images, or if you have received the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion since you were a child, then you may not appreciate the gift you have. If you experience aphantasia, or if you have never believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, then you may not even know what you are missing. So for our non-Catholic family and friends, tell them about this treasure—Jesus wants them to receive him, too. And for ourselves, let us truly appreciate the incredible gift that we are blessed to receive.

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Returning the Favor — Holy Thursday Homily

March 24, 2016

St. Augustine wrote a famous reflection on Proverbs 23:1 :

“If you sit down to eat at the table of a ruler,
observe carefully what is set before you.”

Why? Because you will be expected to provide the same kind of meal for him. This proverb is a practical tip of worldly wisdom, but St. Augustine goes deeper; what is its spiritual meaning for the Christian?

Who is our ruler?  It is Jesus our Lord.
Where is his table? It is here, his altar.
Now carefully observe the food he sets before us: it is the Eucharist, his very self.

Jesus, like others in the ancient world, reclined at table.Jesus calls us to prepare the same kind of meal for him. He says, “This is my body, given up for you. Do this in memory of me.” We must make a gift of ourselves by living our lives for him, and we are to serve him in others for he tells us, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

After washing his disciples feet at the Last Supper where he institutes the Eucharist, Jesus says to his disciples, and to us: “Do you realize what I have done for you? … I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.

Stained Glass Symbols — The Host & Chalice

February 8, 2014

Host and Chalice - Sacred Heart Catholic Church -  Wauzeka WIA Symbol of Christ’s Death

Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist Host and chalice, yet the Host and chalice are symbolic as well. At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which will be given up for you.” Then he took a chalice of wine and said, “This is the chalice of my blood… which will be poured out for you…” When a living creature’s blood is separated from its broken body, death naturally follows. Though Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity are fully present in every fragment of the Host and in every drop of the chalice, the symbolic separation of Jesus’ body and blood points to his sacrificial death.

Sending Another Advocate — 6th Sunday in Easter—Year A

May 29, 2011

At the Last Supper, Jesus told His apostles that He would soon be departing from them. His disciples found this news distressful. Jesus had been their spiritual leader and intimate friend. For the better of three years, they spent almost all day, every day, with Him; sharing breakfasts in the morning, walking down the roads and conversing with Him, watching Him preach and heal n villages, spending evenings with Him around the fire. Not only had he taught them about God, he had also made them more godly men. And so, understandably, word of their Good Shepherd’s departure saddened them.

But Jesus told them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” In obedience to His Father, Jesus was going away, but He told the disciples that they would not be left orphans. God would send them another person to lead and sanctify them. Jesus told them God the Father would send them another Advocate, another Helper, another Guide, to be with them always. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit, who would continue the same work which Jesus had begun in them. The Father had blessed them before by sending them Jesus. Now, at Jesus’ departure, the Lord wanted them to trust and remember this: that they would be blessed again.

Today, this Gospel is fulfilled in our hearing. Father Stoetzel has asked me to read you this letter from him:

Dear parishioners,

Bishop Callahan has asked me to take a new parish assignment beginning July 1st. I will be the next rector of St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral in La Crosse. Also, I am very happy to announce your new pastor here and St. John the Baptist in Marshfield. He is Fr. Samuel Martin who is presently the director of the Holy Cross House of Formation and teacher at Aquinas High School in La Crosse. Please welcome him graciously as he is being sent by the bishop to be your pastor.

I want to thank you very much for the privilege of being your pastor for the past 15 years. My gratitude goes to you for the prayers and many acts of kindness you have shown. Let us continue to pray for one another. Be assured that you will be in my fondest thoughts.

Sincerely,
Fr. Stoetzel

The fact that our bishop has appointed Fr. Stoetzel to be the rector of the cathedral (the bishop’s own parish) says much about Father’s quality as a pastor. We will miss him in many ways. I don’t know Fr. Martin too well, but every encounter I have had with Him has been a positive one. I predict that we will all be very pleased with him when he comes in July and will be blessed by getting to know him better. In the meantime, let’s remember pray for Fr. Stoetzel, as he prepares for his new assignment in La Crosse. Let us also pray for our pastor-to-be, Fr. Sam Martin, as he prepares for us.

Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” The Lord wants us to trust and remember this: that He has blessed us before and that He we will be blessed again.

The Way, Truth, & Life — 5th Sunday in Easter—Year A

May 22, 2011

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The Mass is an encounter with Jesus Christ, leading us to God the Father. Like Jesus Himself, the Mass contains the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus. First, we journey on the Way to Jesus, then we come to the Truth of Jesus, finally we join in the Life of Jesus.

The Mass begins with the sign of the cross, for God is the beginning and end of everything. Next, we confess our unworthiness to approach the Lord, asking mercy for our sins, so that we may dare to take this journey to God. The, from the Holy Scriptures, we hear of God’s words and deeds among the Old Testament peoples and within the New Testament Church. In this, we learn of the providential way that God has prepared throughout time for us to encounter Jesus Christ today. Just as the journey on this Way through history leads to Jesus Christ, so the liturgy of the Word leads to the Gospel. Certainly, Jesus Christ the Word of God is present throughout the entire Word of God which is Sacred Scripture, but for the reading of the Gospel, we all stand up for Him and sing “Alleluia,” “Praise the Lord,” because we have come to Jesus Christ and He is more fully present among us in the proclamation of the Gospel.

The Gospel reading proclaims Jesus, who is the Truth. The homily that follows proclaims that the Truth matters for us here and now and demands our personal response. To this call, we answer with the Creed, proclaiming our faith in who God is and what He has done for us. In the Creed, we proclaim our acceptance of Jesus, the Truth. In the prayers of the faithful, we petition the Lord for our needs and concerns, saying in so many words, “Lord, let your kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven! Let us share you life! Give us your life!” At Mass, the Way leads to the Truth, and from the Truth we long for God’s Life. At Mass, the Liturgy of the Word leads to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The presentation of the gifts is not merely about moving around cash and bread and water and wine. The presentation of the gifts is about the presentation of everything that we have, and everything that we are, to God. We lift up our hearts to be one with our sacrifice. Amidst praises to the Father, the one life-giving sacrifice of the Last Supper, of the cross, and of Heaven becomes present here to us. We join in offering this sacrifice through Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus, in union with the Holy Spirit, to God the Father in Heaven.

Through this offered sacrifice, we join in God’s Life. We pray “Our Father,” because uniting with the paschal mystery, the great Easter deeds of Jesus, gives us life as the Father’s sons and daughters. Then we share with one another the sign of peace, the loving peace that is possessed by God’s holy ones. Finally, at the climax, we partake of Jesus Christ, Life Himself, most truly present in the Holy Eucharist.

Sometimes people say, “I just don’t get anything out of going to Mass. Father, I know that you say all this important and wonderful stuff is going on, but I don’t see it and I don’t feel it. The Mass is boring for me.” I understand. When I was a boy, I made a point of going to the bathroom (sometimes twice) during every Mass, just to break up the monotony. When I would see the priest cleaning the dishes at the altar—that was a good sign, because it meant that the Mass was almost done. I didn’t really know what was happening at Mass, so I really didn’t believe in what was happening at Mass. But as I grew older I began to learn what was happening, and as I grew in faith I began to believe in what was happening, and my experience of the Mass was transformed.

People who say that the Mass is boring resemble St. Phillip in something he said to Jesus at the first Eucharist, the Last Supper: “Master, (we don’t see or feel the presence of God the Father,) show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” And Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (Whoever has been to Mass has encountered my mysteries.) How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (How can you say, ‘The Mass is boring?’)” The awesome mystical realities of the Mass are true, and real, and present and active at every Mass we attend, whether we see them, or feel them, or believe in them, or not.

Jesus Christ and the Holy Mass contain the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and we shall receive from them according to our faith. Let us pray, that at this Mass and every Mass, we may be as fully present to Jesus Christ and His mysteries as they are to us at every Mass.

“I Thirst” — Good Friday

April 22, 2011

Shortly before He died on the cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.” Why did He say, “I thirst”? He was certainly physically dehydrated. As Psalm 22 foretells, His throat was as dry as broken pottery and His tongue stuck to His palate, but there was more reason for His words than just this.

Last night, at the Last Supper, Jesus had postponed drinking the traditional fourth and final cup of Passover. He said “I thirst” so that they would bring Him wine, so that He could drink, and unite the Last Supper and His Passion as one event. However, there is even more reason for His words than this.

Beside the crucifixes, in all of the chapels, in all of her religious houses around the world, Blessed Mother Teresa had written the words, “I thirst.” She understood that what Jesus thirsts for on the cross is us. Mother Teresa wrote, “Jesus is God, therefore His love, His Thirst, is infinite. He the Creator of the universe, asked for the love of His creatures. He thirsts for our love…” 

As we come to Him on the cross today, let us satisfy His thirst with the refreshment we can give to Him.

“Do This…” — Holy Thursday

April 21, 2011

At the Last Supper, the night before he suffered for us, Jesus took some bread. He thanks to God for it and He broke it. And He declared it to be His body which would be given up for others. Then He offered it to those He loved. When the supper was ended, Jesus took a cup of wine. Again He gave thanks and praise to the Father. And He declared it to contain His blood, blood to be shed for all. Then He offered the cup to His disciples and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus ordained His apostles the first priests of the New Covenant. They and their successors would do this in remembrance of Him, throughout the centuries, up to this very night, and until He comes again. When you and I celebrate the Mass we remember Him and what He did, and more than just recalling it, we re-encounter it as that same sacrifice is offered in front of us. But Jesus’ words, ‘to do this in memory of Him’ means more than just coming to Mass.

Jesus is calling and commanding us to do the thing that He is doing. We must give God thanks and praise for what He has given us. We must take our bodies and give them up. We must take our life’s blood and pour it out. And we can do this, for God and for each other, in as many ways as there is to love. The sacrifices of your daily life, at home, at work, and at prayer; the work of washing feet; may not seem significant to you now, but these sacrifices shall your glory in Heaven forever.

As Jesus washed His apostles’ feet He said, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” And when He had finished He said, “If I, … the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” At the Last Supper, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Tonight, He says the same to us as well.

Tobiah Prefigures Jesus

March 3, 2011

In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus declares to his disciples at the Last Supper, ‘I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’ (Mt 26:26, Mk 14:25, Lk 22:18) This is as Tobiah says to the father of Sarah—his rightful and would-be bride: “I will eat or drink nothing until you set aside what belongs to me.” (Tobit 7:11)

In Matthew, Mark, and John, almost the final thing Jesus does on His cross before He dies is to consume some wine from a sponge. (Mt 27:48, Mk 15:36, Jn 19:29) Jesus drinks because the kingdom has come and His marriage to His bride, the Church, is sealed. He loves us as Tobiah loved Sarah, not out of lust (to control and exploit) but “for a noble purpose” (out of love.)  Like Tobiah, Jesus is willing to face death to gain His beautiful bride.

Fatima Rosary Reflections

May 31, 2010

We celebrate May as the month of Mary, but we gather this particular day because 93 years ago Mary appeared to three children outside a small village in Portugal named Fatima. We will now pray the rosary and I will share with you just some of this story of Mary, Our Lady of Fatima.

[Pray the usual introductory Rosary Prayers]

In the year before Mary appeared to them, Lucia age 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta, ages eight and seven, were grazing their sheep in a field. A dazzlingly beautiful young man, seemingly made of light, appeared to them and identified himself as the Angel of Peace. He invited them to pray with Him, and taught them a simple prayer.  I will pray this prayer three times and I invite you to join with me.

“My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love You! I beg pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love You. Amen.”

In the 1st Luminous Mystery we encounter “Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan.” Jesus was not a sinner, He did not need baptism for himself, but He was baptized to become an advocate and intercessor for others. Likewise, let us pray as advocates and intercessors for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, or do not love God throughout the world.

[Pray the First Luminous Mystery]

On another occasion, the Angel of Peace appeared before them holding a chalice in his hands. Above it was suspended a host from which drops of blood were falling into the chalice. The Angel left the chalice suspended in the air, prostrated himself before it, and taught the children this prayer:

“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners. Amen.”

In the 2nd Luminous Mystery we encounter “Jesus’ Miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana.” For them, Jesus changed water into wine. For us, He changes wine into His blood. Are we indifferent to this miracle in our midst, or does it really matter to us? Let us pray that the Eucharist would transform us.

[Pray the Second Luminous Mystery]

On May 13, 1917, after lunch on a clear blue day, the children were praying the rosary. Suddenly, they saw two bright flashes. They looked up and saw, in Lucia’s words, “a lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun…”

The Lady smiled and said: “Do not be afraid, I will not harm you.” Lucia asked her where she came from. The Lady pointed to the sky and said: “I come from heaven.” Lucia asked what she wanted. She said, “I have come to ask you to come here for six months on the 13th day of the month, at this same hour.” They tried to keep it to themselves, word of the children’s encounter with the Heavenly Lady got out. Though they were met with the townspeople’s skepticism and mockery, the children would not deny what they had seen and heard.

In the 3rd Luminous Mystery we encounter “Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God.” Let us pray to be irresistibly led to proclaim what we have experienced in Christ.

[Pray the Third Luminous Mystery]

On July 13th, the incredibly beautiful Lady appeared to them again. Lucia asked her who she was, and for a miracle so everyone would believe. She answered, “Continue to come here every month. In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe.” And the Lady taught them this prayer:

“Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven,  especially those in most need of Thy Mercy.”

In the 4th Luminous Mystery we encounter “Jesus’ Transfiguration.” Sometimes we look at other people and think that they can’t change what they are. The apostles thought like this, but Jesus opened their eyes with His Transfiguration. Let us pray for the grace of transformation; in our family members, in our friends, and especially among those in most need of God’s Mercy.

[Pray the Fourth Luminous Mystery]

At noon on the 13th of October, 1917, some 70,000 people were gathered in the field. With a flash of light the Lady appeared to the children, and Lucia, for the last time, asked her what she wanted. The Lady answered, “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.” And the Blessed Virgin Mary urged the conversion of hearts, as she had many times before, “Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.”

What happened next was reported at the time in an anti-religious Portuguese newspaper, by a reporter who had previously written dismissively about the goings-on at Fatima:

“…One could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and at its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: “A miracle! A miracle!” Before the astonished eyes of the crowd… the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws – the sun “danced” according to the typical expression of the people.”

In the 5th Luminous Mystery we encounter “Jesus’ Institution of the Eucharist.” What the masses saw in the heavens that day was a great miracle. But what we encounter at every Mass is an even greater wonder. Let us pray that we would always have the eyes to see it.

[Pray the Fifth Luminous Mystery, followed by the usual closing Rosary Prayers]

(Primary Source)

The Disciples’ Feet — Holy Thursday

April 4, 2010

This Holy Thursday evening, I would like to talk about feet, the apostles’ feet and our own.

Feet are funny, awkward, and funky. They are lowly, odd, and unclean. This was true in the apostles’ day and it is still true today. Of all the parts of the body, the feet are the most lowly. They are humbly situated on the ground and they’re the only parts of our body which are regularly stepped-on.

Our feet are odd-looking things. They’re like clubs, with knobs and nubs all over. And feet are ackward too. Their range of motion is limited and they’re the only part of the body which we trip-over.

Feet are funky, that is, they’re unclean. Even though the apostles walked everywhere either sandled or barefoot, while we have shoes and socks and daily showers, we remain well-familiar with smelly feet.

We have feet, just like the apostles, so we still have some sense of what it means for Jesus to wash His disciples’ feet. I have been speaking up to now of physical feet, the feet of our legs, but one could say that we also have spiritual feet too, the feet of our souls. The imperfect apostles had these spiritual feet, and so do we.

Perhaps you feel worthless and low, unworthy of Christ’s love, friendship, or help. Perhaps you have been humbled and brought down to earth by others or by an awareness of your sins. Yet, no matter how low you may feel, know that just as He stooped down to the feet of His disiciples, so Jesus is willing to stoop down for you.

Perhaps you feel there are aspects of yourself which are too ackward or limited to be offered to God, parts which you think are of no use or value to Him. Yet, just are Jesus embraced the feet of His disiciples, so He wants to receive even our ackward and limited parts.

Perhaps you feel spiritually unclean because of sin. Know that just as Jesus washed His disciples feet, so He wants to wash you clean.

Jesus stooped down, embraced, and washed his apostles’ feet because He loved them, and He wants do the same for us. By giving Himself to His disciples in the Eucharist, Jesus shows us that He wants to share everything He is with us. By washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus shows us that He wants us to share everything we are with Him.

A Premature Passion? — Palm Sunday—Year C

March 28, 2010

So why did we just proclaim the Passion?  Isn’t the Passion a bit premature? It’s Palm Sunday, not Holy Thursday or Good Friday. Aren’t we jumping the gun? No, like the two disciples Jesus instructed in our opening Gospel, we’re being told what we are going to see. The Church has us recount the Passion on Palm Sunday to prepare us; to prepare us for encountering Christ’s Passover through the special ceremonies and symbols of this Holy Week.

Now the celebration of the Eucharist actually makes the events of the Pascal mystery present for us every time we come to Mass. Jesus’ Last Supper, His Passion and Death, His Resurrection and Ascension into glory, are all truly presented to us at each and every Mass; but during Holy Week, we unpack and encounter these events in unique and special ways.

Today you have waved palms, an ancient symbol of victory, to Christ, welcoming Him into our city. On Holy Thursday, you can go where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved and give company to Christ in his lonely solitude, with Him in His agony before His arrest and with Him as He spends the night awaiting His trial. On Good Friday, you can reverence the crucifix; you can kiss the wood of Jesus’ cross and kiss His body hanging upon it, as He dies for us. And at the Easter Vigil, you can see the sign of the light of Jesus Christ resurrecting out of darkness and death.

And so I invite you to encounter Jesus’ Pascal mystery, at this Mass, at every Mass, and through the special signs and ceremonies of this Holy Week.

The Old New Pattern — Thursday After Epiphany

January 8, 2010

In his first letter to his brothers and sisters in Christ, St. John says that the commandment he writes to them is not new, and yet new. (1 John 2) The commandment he is referring had been given to them years before, by Jesus Christ at His Last Supper. He told His disciples, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)  Love sums up the moral law, and we know how to love from Christ.

Once when Jesus’ opponents were trying to trip Him up they asked Him what was the greatest commandment. He answered, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.”  Then He added, “The second (commandment) is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matt 22) Or, as St. Paul would later put it, “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom 13:10) Love sums up the moral law, and we know how to love through Christ.

It is intuitive for people to understand that we should do good and avoid evil, that we should love good and hate what is evil. Yet that does not mean that everyone agrees as to how we should live this out. Often we see the truths which Christians present in love angrily dismissed by the world as hate. (Frequently the throwing of this charge allows people to dismiss opposing viewpoints without ever giving them serious thought.) Even those in a post-Christian secular culture will agree that somehow “love is the answer,” but how exactly are we to love one another?

Jesus shows us how to love.  He says, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” We can learn from His example especially here, as we witness His Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension in the Mass, but we can also learn from the entire life He lived.

Sometimes it can be hard understand example, or difficult to relate Jesus’ life to the particulars of our own. To help us He gives us the example of His saints, through whom He has continued to live His one, salvific way of life through thousands of different human expressions. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus; He was anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, to restore sight to the blind, to free the oppressed, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Today this Scripture passage is still being fulfilled by Him through the lives of His saints.

“The love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.”  So let us learn what love is through the example of Jesus and His saints, for love sums up the law, and we know how to love through Christ.

Wednesday, 26th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

September 30, 2009

Why do the Jews in today’s psalm begin to mourn when their “captors” ask them to sing one of Zion’s songs? This psalm refers to the time of the Jewish Exile. The kingdom of Judea was conquered by the Babylonian Empire 586 years before Christ. Many Jews were deported from their homeland to the rivers of Babylon in the East. Time passed, and that superpower was conquered by another, and after 50 years of Babylonian Captivity, the Persian Empire allowed the Jews to go home. However, many years passed, and Jerusalem, the city of God, remained in great disrepair.

This weighed heavily on the heart of Nehemiah, who was the cupbearer to the king of Persia. As cupbearer, he was the king’s highly-trusted servant because it was his job to drink of any wine that would be offered to the king, lest that it be poisoned. In the first reading we heard Nehemiah recall in his own words how he obtained permission from the king to rebuild God’s city, the city of his ancestors. Nehemiah is a “type” or foreshadowing of Christ.

As Nehemiah had the consent of his king for his mission, so Jesus had the consent of His father to come to Jerusalem as the restorer of God’s people.

Like Nehemiah before Him, Jesus desired, with all the sentiments of His human heart, to bless His deceased ancestors in their graves, for their blood ran through His own veins.

Like Nehemiah, Jesus wanted to build God’s city, giving it a new glory that would attract all nations to a more perfect worship of God within its walls.

Nehemiah used the timber of the Gentiles to build the earthly Jerusalem. To build the heavenly Jerusalem, Jesus used the wood of the Roman’s cross.

Nehemiah was old cupbearer, who faced death in service of the king. Jesus is the new cupbearer, who drinks from the cup, so that sins may be forgiven.

The cup that Jesus drinks is a cup of suffering mingled with joy. Today, at this Mass, Jesus asks us to follow Him. He says, take this cup, all of you, and to drink from it in remembrance of me.

Tuesday, 25th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

September 22, 2009

I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.

The Jews would joyfully sing these words as they came into Jerusalem, to worship the Lord in His temple. They understood why they should lift up their hearts and give Him their thanks and praise. The Lord was always with them, but He was most especially with them at the temple. It should be the same for us today, whenever we come to Mass. Jesus Christ is always with us, but He is most fully with us at the Mass.

What if your guardian angel appeared to you and carried you through space and time, and gave you a place at the table of the Last Supper? How closely would you listen to Jesus’ every word and prayer?

What if your angel then brought you to the foot of the cross, to witness Jesus’ sacrifice for you? How faithfully would you attend to Him there?

What if your angel then brought you into heaven, among all the saints and angels, into the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? What would you feel? How would you pray?

The truth is that you can encounter the Last Supper, the cross, and heaven at every Mass. The power of Christ brings these realities, through space and time, to you. Jesus’ one sacrifice is really made present to us and we join in the combined worship of heaven with earth.

Granted, all of this is not undeniably-obvious, These realities are veiled to our senses, but encountered through our faith. Just because something is unseen, doesn’t mean that it’s not real. If we never had radios how easily would you believe in radio waves? They’re invisible, intangible, and span time and space, but they’re real indeed, and you can experience them if you are tuned-in to receiving them. How can you be tuned-in at Mass? I offer four suggestions:

First, before Mass, pray for the grace to worship well. I fear that often we do not receive because we never ask.

Second, bring a personal intention to every Mass; that is, a person or a cause that you want Christ to grace through His one sacrifice today. For example, my intention for this Mass is for the Marshfield Area Catholic Schools. Always bring an intention to Mass, because the Mass has more power in the world than we realize.

Third, pray with your whole voice, your whole mind, and your whole heart. Just because you are not always speaking during Mass, doesn’t mean one should ever stop praying. As you hear me pray the Eucharistic prayers make them your own. And when you sing, sing as if you were singing for the Lord, because you really are.

Fourth and finally, direct your eyes, your body, and your thoughts toward the one to whom you are speaking. Most of the prayers of the Mass are directed to our Father in heaven, though some are directed to Jesus Christ. Know the one to whom you are speaking to, and follow through with your eyes and your body accordingly.

As we saw in the Gospel, merely showing up at the house where Jesus is, isn’t enough for a person to achieve the greatest intimacy with Him. Likewise, merely showing up at the Mass where Jesus is, isn’t enough for a person to achieve the greatest intimacy with Him. Those who hear the word of God and act on it in faith and worship, they become the closest to Christ. So let us go rejoicing, to encounter Christ at the Last Supper, at the cross, and in heaven, at this Mass, in the house of the Lord.