Set Apart From The World

Peace to you!

The readings this weekend pique our awareness of tensions that arise while we strive to serve God above all. Fr. Ron Rolheiser, a theologian and spiritual writer, noted in an article for Catholic Northwest Progress that Christians should set themselves apart from the world. But setting ourselves apart does not come without innate tensions. “On the one hand, something in us wants to be different, to stand out, to be noticed as separate and show itself to be unique and independent. At the same time however, we have an equally strong, contradictory impulse that yearns for unity, community, family and intimacy, connection, solidarity and oneness with others and the world.”

Fr. Ron observes that our baptism is at the core of this tension because it is meant to set us apart from the world while drawing us deeply into a family of faith, the Body of Christ. It is in membership with the Body of Christ where we are called to be humble and be part of something much larger and greater than ourselves. Our true fulfillment, identity and happiness does not consist in our own self-determined reality. Rather, it consists in always belonging to and actively being part of the Church that Jesus regards as his very self (remember how he spoke to Paul in regards to his persecution of the Church: Why do you persecute me?).

Interesting dynamic and tension! No less marvelous than the balance of the solar system in which we live or the universe for that matter! But that’s how God does things! This could be the foundation of the Benedictine motto: All things in Moderation!

This weekend’s readings and Gospel help us understand that each of us has been called by God in a special way. God has a plan for each of us and every other person in the world that is unique. This plan includes some vocation and purpose for each one that only they can accomplish. Yet it can only be rightly and fully accomplished in the context of relationship with God and the people we are with day by day.

Jesus calls us out of the world to be with him, trust him and depend entirely on him. God also calls men and women to follow him in a special vocation within the Church to be outstanding witnesses of the true presence of God’s power working in the world. Jesus himself had to fast, pray, and forgive his enemies and struggle to be faithful when everyone else fled away. There is a cost to discipleship for everyone. St. Ignatius of Antioch died as food for wild beasts and he prayed for the gift of grace to do it. A young postulant in a monastery makes a vow of silence and strict enclosure to be separated from the world in a radical way—dead to the world. A priest and a professed religious make a promise of celibacy and an exclusive commitment to serve God alone. A married couple makes an exclusive commitment to each other and must balance the duties of job, marriage and raising a Catholic family in a world that is sometimes too busy and disconnected from morality. We all feel the tensions of “worldly stuff” that can cause us to feel divided or distracted from our highest goal. Yet we also feel the surge of a dynamic power through our communion which, ultimately rests upon the infinite love and mercy of God! May God strengthen you in your resolve to follow him more closely! +++ Fr. Peter

Corpus Christi

Peace to you!

This weekend the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  Upon his return from a victorious battle against other kings, Abram encounters the priest Melchizedek who performs the sacrifice of bread and wine offered to God in thanksgiving for fulfilling the promise of his covenant to Abram.  As a gesture of gratitude to God and the priest, Abram gives a tenth of his wealth in temporal goods.

St. Paul informs the Corinthian community that he has handed on to them exactly what he received in celebrating the Eucharist.  Beyond the text of what we read today, Paul also demands that those who partake of the Lord’s Supper be properly disposed through personal commitment to conversion, mutual respect and charity toward each other.  To participate otherwise, is to sin against Jesus’ commandments to love one another and serve one another.

The action in the Gospel story depicts Jesus and the disciples at work for the sake of the kingdom of God.  They are teaching the people about God and giving care to all according to their needs but special care and attention is given for the sick.  The feeding of the five thousand with the loaves and the fish is an early scriptural image of the Eucharist.  Today we actually have the real and true presence of Christ in the Eucharist: it is his body, blood, soul and divinity; it is not just a symbol.

When we hear the words “Body and Blood of Christ,” we remember (anemnesis) when Jesus instituted the Eucharist with his disciples and we enter more deeply into the New and Everlasting Covenant with Christ and the whole Christian family (past, present, and future) each time we celebrate it.  As we celebrate it, we are also strengthened to actively live it.  For us, Christ’s sacrifice and gift of the Eucharist is not only an event at Mass; it is not only the real presence of God hidden in the gifts of bread and wine, it is also a living relationship that each one of us has with God and his people.  The Eucharist also brings us together as the Body of Christ to be the real and true sign of Christ’s presence in the world.  We have an obligation to respect and love each other as the Body of Christ.  Imagine what our Catholic family could be like if we regarded each other as a Consecrated Host, a living tabernacle of the real and true presence of Christ.   In one of the hymns that we sing at Mass, the words of a prayer of St. Augustine are quoted: “eating your body, drinking your blood, we become what we receive.”  I hope and pray that I continue to grow in recognition of the love and goodness of God in the Eucharist, and that I can be more perfectly the Eucharist to other people.  God’s blessings to you always! +++ Fr. Peter

The Holy Trinity

Peace and grace to you!

This weekend the Church celebrates the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.  It seems fitting that this feast should follow Pentecost because Jesus frequently referred to the Father before and after his death.  Then following his death and resurrection, he promised that the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, would come upon them and remain with the community.  The mighty wind signaled the presence and action of the Spirit among the disciples at Pentecost.  So at this point of revelation, God is understood as three distinct persons but of one divine nature: Father as Origin and Source of All that is; Son as Word of God, Savior and Redeemer; Spirit as the Animator, Indwelling Love and Guiding Light of God’s people, thus comes the Christian knowledge of God as the Holy Trinity.  The Holy Trinity always defies our complete understanding but there are a couple of things that are very clear.  God is completely relational, which is to say that God is an eternal spring of interested and active love!  God is completely in love with each one of us, personally!  Jesus came as a human being to restore the relationship between human beings and God.  Jesus expressed himself as God by being entirely loving and merciful during his life and ministry.  He showed us this love by healing us, embracing suffering and death to expiate us from sin.  Now we have the presence of the Holy Spirit nourishing us with the Word and the Eucharist, guiding us in right faith and inspiring us to continue the work of Jesus in the world.  We have been anointed by the Holy Spirit to act in God’s name in the world because we share in his divine life—what an amazing gift!  One of the greatest things to contemplate is that you and I and all the baptized receive the Holy Spirit inside of us, working within us!  We are sharers in the divine life of the Trinity!

This week the disciples receive a commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  This great commission is yours and mine and we do it when we put our faith in action and trust Jesus’ words “behold, I am with you always!”  May God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter


Peace and grace to you all!

Here it is Pentecost Sunday already!  In the mind of the Church, the time from Easter to Pentecost (50 days) is viewed as 1 great day.  Do you remember how the day began?  It was at the empty tomb where two men in dazzling garments proclaimed “he is not here, but he has been raised.”  At first, the reality of Jesus’ resurrection was hard for the disciples to believe but after frequent surprise visits, their confidence and faith became solidly grounded.  It seems as though Jesus had to lead them through a series of steps to help them transition from being accustomed to his physical presence to his invisible, spiritual presence to the whole community.  As we can see, Jesus was preparing them for a special gift!

Today the Church remembers the gift of the Holy Spirit by which the Church discerns and recognizes the presence and action of God in the community.  In fact, Jesus’ physical and visible presence in the world is now through you, me and the whole Church.  This is God present in mystery!  We all recognize the Spirit at work within us as we hear God’s Word—are not our hearts burning within us?  We recognize the Spirit among us by the desire to act for the good giving dignity, respect and service to one another; this is love.  The Spirit moves us to cross the street of our own comfort zones and beyond our own interests out of ourselves—even to the ends of the earth—to share the good news of pardon, peace and new life in Jesus!  It all begins at home within ourselves just as it did for the disciples.  We give public witness as they did when we use our words and actions to build up the body of Christ and choose to forgive and begin anew rather than descend into harshness or criticism or grudging.

We also recognize that the Spirit empowers each of us with different gifts for service.  I know that many of you have been watchful in prayer and pondering what role of service you might choose for building up the body of Christ at St. Edward, St. Bernard and St. Thomas.  Teaching the faith, assisting the poor through St. Vincent de Paul, singing in the Choir, Lector/Reader, Eucharistic Minister, the Soup Kitchen, Catholic Daughters, or serving on the Bazaar committee, are just a few ideas of many possibilities.  Try to trust that God will direct you and guide you to the place you need to be!  Remember, it is through using our gifts that God is visibly present and this brings joy to you and the community!  May God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter