Aug 25, 2018

Not From Twitter



Christ spoke words. He did not send Twitter messages. He himself is the undeletable Word. We note from the Sunday Gospel (John 6:60-69), that many of Jesus’ followers and disciples turned away from him, abandoned him, not because they misunderstood his language  – they understood him perfectly. Instead, they could not accept his words when he told them that his flesh and blood were real food and drink that they must actually consume if they were to have eternal life.


If they understood Jesus words symbolically, figuratively, they would not have left him in such great numbers, numbers so great that Jesus reacts strongly, turning to Peter and the apostles asking them if they too wanted to stop following him.


St. Peter may not have had the intellectual “smarts” to explain how bread would be turned into the sacramental heavenly Body of Christ. Instead, in his wonderful peasant faith, infused with God's grace, he knew to trust in the standard of heaven, not earth - that for God all things are possible and that the words of Jesus were not the words of a mere holy man talking about holy bread. These were the words of God himself, providing the means for his disciples to be fed by his very life giving body and blood.


What is to become of the bread and wine during our celebration of the Mass is one of the truly unique, and indeed, astonishing teachings of our Catholic faith, passed down to us from Christ and the apostles. That the bread and wine of the Mass can truly become the substance of Christ’s heavenly body and blood is so astonishingly a part of our faith that we could not even make something like this up, even if we tried!


Is this teaching hard? Yes it is! But this is the language of Jesus, the embodiment of God - these are divine words, not mine or yours. He has the words of eternal life - I don't. We do not write the text book! We can reflect upon his words, we can use adjectives to explain them. And sometimes, we just can't!


Christ speaks to us in terms of the standard of heaven, not earth. Our Faith is never on our own terms. It is always on his. That's what we mean when we talk about the scandal of the cross!  St. Paul understood this when he said, "We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Cor. 1.23) Sometimes we just can't get our head around it. We need the peasant faith of the fisherman, open to God's grace.


As St. Peter reminds us, all we have is Jesus; there is no one else we can turn to for eternal life. We do not turn to philosophers for eternal life, nor to theologians, celebrities or even bloggers! Only Christ.  Let us listen to his words and be prompted by his Spirit to believe what he says is true and life-giving.


Again, this is a message of hope - God’s love and mercy is always greater than our own highest expectations, more than we can ever imagine or ever dream off - and for us on this side of heaven, God's love and mercy for the sinner who he wants to feed with his very own life, is surely the most hardest teaching for us to truly comprehend.

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Aug 18, 2018

Beauty and the Beast

The very moment we come into this world, we need to be fed, we want to be fed. This is our natural state. We are always hungry. We need to eat. In fact, we are told that the word for “mother” in all its various languages throughout the world comes from, is actually coined from the lips of babies reaching out with their lips for nourishment, hence the “m” sound is prominent in "mother" in every language. The need to be fed comes naturally to each of us.


If you could, like a newborn baby craving something to eat, reach your hands into heaven to grasp the substance that feeds the soul, what would it be? Not bread that feeds only the stomach or memories that fills the mind or a feeling of warmth to the heart? No. The substance of heaven is not symbolic, it is not a memory but the real-life resurrected and perfected human body of Christ, his very flesh and blood, his soul, his divinity - the heavenly glorified Jesus Christ.  


Just as we naturally crave to be fed physically with food, our mind with knowledge, and our hearts with relationships, our supernatural soul too is hungry, is restless - unsatisfied until it is fed by God, nourished by the substance of heaven.


When those who first heard Christ speak about having to eat his flesh and drink his blood, they naturally heard his words through their natural senses alone (John 6: 51-58).They did not hear them, as the writer of the Gospel did, spoken through the resurrected and heavenly Christ, whose own physical body had now “evolved” into a glorified state of existence.   


This should remind us that unlike purely spiritual beings, every part of our natural flesh and blood is infused with the heavenly dignity of a soul. That is why heavenly angels stand back and look upon our physical form with wonder and awe. That is also why the devil and his angels look upon us with envy, jealousy and in particular, with lust.


My dear friends, we all hunger, body, and soul, for Holy Communion with God. But what happens when our hunger is misplaced? This is a profound and grievous danger to clergy who are entrusted with feeding the flock in general and those in a position of church leadership in particular.


Psalm 33 (34): 2-3, 10-15 reminds us, “Revere the Lord, you his saints, they lack nothing, those who revere him”. It is a reminder that clergy must always find their own hunger satisfied completely in their vocation and ministry to give their lives with all reverence to God.


If they don’t, the next line of the Psalm reminds us that “strong lions suffer want and go hungry”. In other words, if hunger is misplaced, how easy it is to use and abuse one’s power, position and strength, and like that savage beast, spoken in the Psalm, to prey upon the vulnerable. Such an animal, like a lion prowling about looking for someone to devour (c.f. 1Pt.5:8ff), needs to be enclosed, in a cage, behind bars. And anyone who lets it out, or thinks that by putting a leash on its collar, that the vulnerable will be safe, they should be held accountable for their irresponsibility.


That is why we are all duty bound to tend to the deep wounds of those who have survived the savage and unnatural hunger of any predator, particularly at the hands of wolves in lamb’s clothing.   


St. Paul in our Second reading (Eph 5:15-20), reminds us all to be careful about the sort of lives we lead and that we do in fact live in “a wicked age”. But he reminds us also that we can redeem it, not by overindulging our bodily appetites, even with anger and rage that will blind us to God’s will. He tells us to raise up our minds, our voices, our bodies, and souls always in thanksgiving to our heavenly Father. Such a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving is, of course, the Holy Eucharist before us, Christ the Bread of Angels.


If we are to bring salvation to the substance of this fallen world, first let our own soul’s delight be in the taste of the substance of heaven, Christ’s heavenly flesh and blood. May he then give substance to our own good works to bring the Good Shepherd’s healing to those abused by the wolf and the robber of souls. 

May Mary our mother, who nourished her divine child with her own milk, and stood at the cross of her son, give us comfort and consolation in this time of dark testing in a world always hungry for God.

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Aug 17, 2018

Keeping it together on August 15th


We have reached the climax of the summer. After the spring rains, now everything is in full bloom. Our garden has reached its fullness.  In a manner of speaking, creation has reached it's final and most beautiful expression. The sun is radiant, the sky is blue, the cool breeze from the ocean, the vibrant colors of the land. Even the fields, the crops, the produce of the earth stands ready to be taken up in a harvest. This is why, a summer vacation is perfect right now! We are given a glimpse, through the lens of our Christian faith, of heaven on earth - a hint of paradise!  If only we could press the pause button!


Unfortunately, we know, that because of human greed - the sin of our first parents Adam and Eve that has been passed on and affects everything, what is beautiful will eventually take a fall - literally a season of fall, the autumn - a slow decaying of nature before the death of winter. The sun will slowly weaken, nature’s growth will slow down, even stop, the produce of the earth will feel exhausted, it will need to rest, even sleep.


Is this not the story and cycle of our own lives too.  After the enjoyment of summer, vacation time and the holidays, there is a certain dread that soon it will heads down and back to work, back to school, back into the daily grind. And then, we have to plough through the rest of the year, sacrificing our time and efforts, enduring darker mornings and longer nights, so that we can reach summertime again, once more into the future. If only we could press the pause button!


As important as pictures and photos as reminders of the last days of summer are, God has given us a lasting image of his creation that will never fade.  It is a woman, clothed in the sun. She is not called Mother Earth, or Mother Nature. She has a name - Mother Mary. Of all of God's creation, she is the most perfect rose in God’s garden. A rose that is tender, beautiful, exact. Her stem is strong, her roots are deep, her leaves are crisp, her blossom is perfect, her fragrance is wonderful. This mystical rose radiates with the perfect grace of God. Mary is the Golden Rose that will never wilt, collapse, decay or experience the death of winter, for her immaculate body is full of grace.


This is why, on behalf of all humanity, she alone could respond perfectly to the gift of salvation offered by her eternal Son and Savior of the world. Her “yes” to salvation on our behalf resonated perfectly through every fiber of her body – that body perfectly in harmony with her soul is captured in the Gospel we have heard today. In her “Magnificat”, her song, Mary’s soul sings in joy through her body which is full of the breath of God.


We look to her to show us how to "get it together", how to "keep it together", body and soul.  When we give our bodies too much attention, we risk becoming empty castles that look strong and secure on the outside, but without an inner life.  When we give our minds too much to stimulation, we easily become addicted to fantasies, dreams and make-believe.  When we give our emotions and appetites too much attention, we easily become needy, frustrated, never content. When even when we even give our souls too much attention, we can easily become detached from the goodness and the gifts that God gives us in the ordinary events of everyday life.  


Our bodies and our souls were never meant to be separated, kept secret from each other. When our body is embarrassed by our soul, or vice versa - then we will surely die, not once, but many times.

So let us pray that our physical movements, our public expressions, our secret thoughts, our choices and all our actions will become, with God’s grace, more and more in harmony with Mary's example of Christian discipleship so that the final resting place for our bodies will not be the grave, but our eternal homeland of heaven. May this Holy Mass, where we are fed with the Eternal Body and Blood of Christ shape us more and more, body and soul, into the image and likeness of God’s heaven on earth, so to live with Him forever in a garden of paradise which will be real and lasting.  And that is our prayer. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, a world without end. Amen.

Aug 11, 2018

In the Flesh



John 6: 41-51 The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

It’s not enough to simply say, “Jesus is the answer”. Christ is not a concept. Christianity is not a philosophy of life.  Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God - literally. We are talking about, “real meat and potatoes”!

“The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Let us meditate on this "Flesh" that he gives for the salvation of the world:

1. God becomes flesh and blood in the Christ Child of Bethlehem and is placed in the arms of Mary his mother, who nurses him with tender love and affection.
2. St Joseph trains the young boy's body in the carpenter's shop, felling trees, lifting heavy wood and splitting logs, teaching him the art of skilled labor -  his young body grows and the blood in his veins pumps through his every muscle.  
3. As an adult, Christ's steady hands reached out to heal lepers.
4. His strong arms hold secure a playground full of children climbing upon him wanting his blessing.
5. His voice would rise the dead to life,.
6. His spital would make the blind see.
7. His feet would walk on the waters.
8. His breath would give power to forgive sins,
9. His look would turn the raging sea calm,
10. His roar sends demons fleeing back to hell,
11. His compassionate heart multiplies bread for the hungry,
12. His gentle whisper brings back to life a little girl,
13. His tears raise Lazarus his friend from the dead,
14. His body is glimpsed on a mountain top bursting forth in spectacular heavenly light.
15. On the cross this miraculous human body of a divine person was ripped apart on calvary.
16. On the third day, his whole body rose from the dead and entered into eternity, more powerful than before.

This is the Flesh that saves the world. It's not made of paper, or a concept that we look at, read into and ponder upon. Nor did the Word of God become digitalized and downloaded among us. Christ is a Flesh and Blood Sacrament - his substance is not the stuff of wheat or the juice of grapes. The substance is Christ himself, present in the Sacrifice of the Mass with the power to save the whole world. This Sacrament of his Body is true power. 

So when we dare approach this altar to receive Holy Communion, we do so first knowing ourselves weak and vulnerable, naturally a little fearful and maybe somewhat cautious, but always conscious of our sinfulness and always confident in the love and the strength of Christ who saves me, even now, through his glorious and eternal, real and substantial flesh and blood.

Aug 5, 2018

The Taste of Hope





God's Word this Sunday allows to to reflect on Hope. 
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This supernatural virtue is the antidote to despair.  It is a gift from God that allows us to keep going, even when we find ourselves fighting against the odds. But hope, keeps us fighting - not in desperation, despair or in anger. The gift of hope allows us to reach towards heaven, even when we feel abandoned, lost or when we are “tempted” to despair, or regret (c.f. the Hebrews in the First Reading)  


If we actually desire this gift from God, then he will give us the necessary help, first to realise that union with him is where our lives ultimately point to, and second, that he nudges us every so often to waken us up, to realise but we can easily get side tracked, distracted, thrown off course.


It often takes a rude awakening for us to realise that we have misplaced our hunger for God, with a false god or a false memory (cf. again the Hebrews thinking of the food of Egypt and forgetting that they were slaves!). And so it takes another virtue, that of humility to approach Christ with trust, admitting in truth that we have hungered not for him, but for passing things. But this, admittedly, is easier said than done.


So, in a world so much saturated with the dripping fat of the most flavorful delights to our appetites and cravings, with billions of dollars pumped into thirty second advertising designed to unlock the basement of our natural cravings, how do we cultivate an appetite for Christ the Bread of Eternal Life?


And when you think of it. How does bread, in all its simplicity, compete with, for example, cake with all its trimming, additives and artificial coloring that tantalizes our senses?  We profess that we believe in things visible and invisible, but yet it is the visible things that attract us more so than what we can not see or feel. When Christ calls himself the Bread of Life, it seems quite philosophical and academic - not as exciting as a choir singing Eagles Wings or You Raise me Up!


So how do we, with God’s grace, develop and cultivate an appetite, a hunger that seeks union with God, Communion with Christ.


A few things come to mind.


First, it is important to instill in our children at an early age, a good habit of prayer.  Every child should be able to recite, at least the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Why? Equipped with at least the memory of these heavenly words, when they get older and are tempted to despair or give up, these words, given to us by Christ himself to pray,and the words spoken to Mary by an angel, can often direct our attention heavenward. That simple redirection of our focus in times of difficulty is often times the beginning of the hope and the desire for God’s help.


Second. Pleasure is not a bad word. In it’s purest form, it evokes joy. It is important that we foster innocent and pure delights. For example, God has filled his world with so many natural wonders, miracles of nature that can not be captured in a youtube video or instagram. When is the last time you gazed with wonderment above you at the stars of heaven in the night sky, the miracle of a newborn life, the beautiful complexity of colors captured in a setting sun or the carefully blended flavours of true neapolitan icecream?


Therefore foster innocent and pure delights like these. If you do not, then later, impure delights and immoral pleasures easily rush in to play with the mind - like cheese to a mouse who can not see the mousetrap because he is distracted by the cheddar or the smell of peanut butter smeared on the carefully positioned devise!


This is why St. Paul speaks, in the Second Reading, about “putting away the old self or your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires and be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”

When, with the help of God and with all our strength, we are able to push aside all the false pleasures and fast food solutions and distractions to our deepest hunger for God, then our soul’s desire will be free to seek the invisible Christ, and the pure joy of simple and pure satisfaction of tasting the Bread of Eternal Life.  That is not simply the fulfillment of hope. That’s pure satisfaction. In this Eucharist, we get a little taste of that heaven, which is Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen

Joseph

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