Archive | March, 2013

He descended into hell …

31 Mar

west-virginia-trip-october-2011-338

Our resurrected Lord enters into the darkness of our soul and brings eternal light and life. The call and invitation are one and the same: Follow me!

It’s part of our faith and it is expressed in our creed: Jesus died and descended into hell.

He did so to call the righteous from that place of darkness, where souls could not see God, into the heart of God, into eternal light, joy and peace.

An ancient Holy Saturday homily dramatically proclaims this descent of the Savior into hell. The unknown homilist, with graced imagination, has Jesus calling these souls to follow him into heaven:

“Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form one person and we cannot be separated” (See Liturgy of the Hours, Book II, pgs 496-498).

One person? As in the Person of the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity?

Is this not heresy?

I think not. Being that “one person” in Christ is perfectly realized in heaven. However, we begin to experience it here on earth. Baptism makes us one with Christ in the Father and through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Here on earth, since we are prone to sin, we constantly strive through God’s mercy to become more and more “one person” in Christ. Our homilist has given us a clear statement of the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ.

St. Paul speaks of this reality, of being one in Christ and of the need to strive for God:

  • “I have been crucified with Christ, yet, I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” Gal 2:19b-20).
  • “So, then, my beloved … work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:13).

Pope Benedict XVI with a sense of urgency called the Church to a renewal of faith, a rejuvenation of apostolic zeal, to a depth of faith that would overflow from the lives of Catholics to all people throughout the world.

If we are truly Catholic, we are one in Christ, one Body with one Shepherd. If we are truly Catholic, we embrace this call to be in Christ and we embrace the mission of Christ – to bring his redeeming life, death and resurrection to everyone in our lives.

This takes humility, charity and vulnerability possible only through total dependence on God.

Pope Francis is showing us that humility, charity and vulnerability are the powerful evidence and energy of the Christian life.

Let’s be “one person” in Christ.

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Eucharist: Miracle of Presence

28 Mar

Photo by Ray Hosler

Nighttime is like our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. There is light, beautiful light, but more is promised with the dawn of greater understanding.

“Eucharist” can mean different things to different people; it is more than any human can fathom; it is mystery – but, in faith, a mystery that excites one’s imagination and offers an intimate experience of God.

The ‘Way’ We Enter into Eucharist

Eternity is timeless – no beginning and no end. It is a perpetual NOW. Everything Jesus did on earth is eternally present to the Father. So in the Mass, you enter into the one reality of salvation – all of salvation history. You especially enter into the reality of the Last Supper, the passion and death of Jesus, his resurrection and appearance to his disciples.

You are there – in the Upper Room, on Calvary, at the empty tomb, on the way to Emmaus. In real-time, you experience what is eternal. That’s the power of the liturgy.

For just a moment, reflect on some of the parts of the Mass to see how we enter into Eucharist.

The Liturgy of the Word

After the entrance hymn and procession, the expression of sorrow for sin and the opening prayer, you enter into the Liturgy of the Word, the great “listening” part of the Mass.

  • First, there are the Old Testament readings. God speaks to us today through ancient history – we witness the creative, saving and majestic power of God, and the frequent faithlessness of his chosen people; we hear the voices of the prophets and  join in the praise of the psalms.  This is more than a mere remembering of the Old Testament: We live it because it is the living, powerful word of God. He speaks to us now as he did back then to the Hebrews.

  • Then, in real-time, we enter into the eternal presence of Jesus and the timelessness of his own words. The Holy Spirit brings to life those sacred words from Paul and the other writers; Jesus speaks to us today in the gospels; we see him manifest his power in miracles and his mercy in forgiving sinners.

The Offertory

In the Offertory, we are offering more than money. We bring to the altar our entire lives. In gratitude, we offer the Father all the blessings we receive – food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, faith and hope. We also bring to the altar our pain, weakness, temptation and our sinfulness. We bring all this to Jesus who has died for us, to Jesus whose death and resurrection we will witness in real-time in just a few minutes.  

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

It can seem like mere replaying of a scene from Passion Sunday – “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” That was the cry of the people who spread their cloaks and palm leaves before the Lord who came into Jerusalem on the first day of Holy Week, the week in which he was to be betrayed, suffer, die and rise again.

But those words ring out in history, find root in our own hearts as we this day cry out: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

He is coming, really coming – right here in our midst, here on our altar. We are going to receive him, the Bread of Life, our Savior, our Lord and our Brother. He comes to us, not riding on an ass, but as food for mind, body, spirit and soul. This is really Jesus –Son of God, Son of Man, Son of Mary.

He comes to us and we are made one in him. We draw ever closer to the Father, in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.

The Eucharistic Prayer

It is through the power of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son, that we have the Eucharist.

Just think about the words of the Eucharistic Prayer: 

“Make holy, therefore, we pray, by sending down your Holy Spirit like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Think, too, of the words of consecration: “This is my Body given up for you,” and “This is my Blood poured out for you…” I added the emphasis because Jesus is acting freely. He is giving and pouring out – for love of us. He is dying in obedience to the Father – for your sake and mine.

In the face of such a gift of salvation, we may want to pray: “How, dear Lord, can I respond to such selfless and pure love? Help me, Lord to live and die for you.”

Then, with the priest, we address the Father: “Through him, with him and in him all honor and glory are yours Almighty Father …” And we respond with a great “Amen!”

  • There is a great truth here. We know that we go to the Father only through Jesus. And we want to go with him. But it’s important to realize what it means to go IN him.
  • IN HIM, we are the Body of Christ. In him, we call God Father. In him, by the grace of baptism, you can look at God intimately and say, “Father, I am your son” or “Father, I am your daughter.

The Lord’s Prayer

When we pray together the Lord’s Prayer, we are doing more than merely saying words Jesus taught us to say. It is no stretch, because we are the Body of Christ, to see ourselves with our Lord and those early disciples who have just asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

  • We pray together, with Jesus, to the Father. We join with Jesus and we pray “through him and with him and in him.”

  • In your personal and private prayer, have you ever asked the Lord Jesus to pray with you this prayer to our Father? Try it. You may well experience a new depth in prayer. Think for a moment on one particular phrase in the Our Father: Forgive us … as we forgive others. What comes to mind? Jesus on the Cross? Jesus in his agony praying for his executioners and tormentors – and for you and me? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The Greeting of Peace

This is a very important action of worship. It acknowledges that we are one in Christ, that we love one another that we want to be close to one another in the Lord. The peace greeting also underscores the need to forgive one another. How can you honestly offer peace with anger and resentment in your heart? As you wish peace to those immediately around you, you offer it to everyone in your parish church and to all believers worldwide – for, you see, we are one body in the One Lord.

The Plea for Mercy

Anyone who believes in God must admit he or she is indeed a sinner and in need of God’s mercy. We also pray for peace of mind, heart and soul, for peace in our Church and in our world.

“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us … grant us peace.”

Behold the Lamb of God!

Here is the proclamation of prophesy fulfilled!

“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.”

Here is the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice once and for all.

The Hidden Mystery

There! There it is! The hidden mystery – the truth and completion of Communion: When you receive communion, you receive the total Christ – his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Since his divine nature is the one and same nature he shares with the Father and Holy Spirit, you receive, “through him and with him and in him,” the Father and the Spirit.

You enter ever more deeply into the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity. You affirm your communion with all the saints. The saints are one with God. You and I are one in God. We are all together in God, basking in his merciful and everlasting love.

The Sending

But being in God’s love is not the end of the Mass. The command is there: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Go and make disciples, the Lord tells us, share my love with all people of every nation, show them the joy of living in faith, expand my kingdom on earth.

And enthusiastically we say, “Amen!”

“So be it! We believe! We live for the Lamb of God!”

The desire and need to belong

2 Mar

Family

Belonging to God is belonging to his family, the Church.

It was, in one way, nostalgic.

But, it was also new and exciting.

A trip Louisiana, for a parish mission, put me in the midst of my Cajun culture. The same warm-hearted people with the same “never give up” conviction that, in the end, all will be well.

What’s new? The older generation was very literate. Of course they were. Our generation was one of the first that, in great numbers was able to attend and graduate from high school – and many more went on to higher education.

Prior to our generation, especially in rural areas, kids often dropped out of school to work on the farm or otherwise help support their families.

The mission was in Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in the city of Scott, which shares a boundary with Lafayette. Father Thomas Voorhies is pastor and his associate is Father Mario Romero – both full-bloodied Cajuns, at least by our own definition of Cajun.

And, I realized anew how easy it is to belong in Cajun land. There is no place on earth warmer than a Cajun heart. You want to belong? You belong.

It’s amazing, that precious sense of belonging. And I knew I belonged there just as surely as I belong in Florida, in the Diocese of Orlando, and in St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Altamonte Springs.

The theme of the mission was growth in our Catholic faith –to respond to Jesus’ call to follow him, to enter into a deeply personal relationship with him, to delve more deeply into Holy Scripture, to realize more fully the meaning of the Mass and to revisit marriage as missionary and a witness to the Eucharist.

I was deeply impressed with the dedication of the priests and the enthusiasm and commitment of the parishioners.

So, one insight gained over the weekend and three nights of the mission is the need, sometimes smothered in distractions, to belong to God.

 So, if you wish, begin to pray for the “sense of belonging” to God. Then move into a prayer that says, “Lord, I want to belong to you.” Finally, you will be able to pray with all sincerity and fervor, “Lord, I belong to you.”

Belonging to God – that’s the best “belonging” of all.