Saturday, December 31, 2011

“Happy New Year ” First Week of the Year, January 1-7, 2012

To understand all this week’s readings — and human life itself — see this world as a staging area. That is what it is. To see it as anything else falsifies human existence from top to bottom.

God created humans for one reason only: to share his own divine life and happiness with them forever. But he puts us first in a staging area where we will have time to integrate the human life we receive at birth and the divine life we receive at Baptism. Doing this, helping others to do it, and creating an environment that makes it easier for everyone to do it, is what human life is all about. The beginning of the New Year is a good time to remember this. A good New Year’s Resolution would be to decide on ways to keep ourselves aware of it.

The basic principle is: We make all that is human in us divine by making all that is divine in us human. This began with the Incarnation and birth of Jesus, which we celebrate, fittingly, on January 1, Feast of Mary, Mother of God. Jesus made a seed of Mary’s human flesh divine by making the divine in himself human in her. And when we give our human bodies in Baptism to become the divine body of Jesus on earth, his divinity begins to work with, in and through our human acts of thinking, choosing, speaking and acting, gradually conforming all we are to all he is.

This is what the staging area is for. We use our time on earth to grow into Christ, or let Christ “grow to full stature” in us, by putting to human use all the divine gifts we receive with grace (the life of God in us). The gift of faith lies dormant in us until we put it to work in human reflection, and express it in human thoughts and words: for example, calling God “Our Father” with awareness of what we are saying and pondering what it means.

As we absorb the mysteries of faith, they give us hope, which we express in action by striving for the “perfection of love.” As we translate these divine gifts into human action, all that is human in us operates more and more as divine, by the power of Jesus in us.

This world is a staging area in which humans help other humans to arrive, survive and thrive. We are constantly shifting, and helping others to shift: first from the “arrival dock,” where we become aware of who we are and what our divine-human identity is, to the “instruction area,” where we commit ourselves to learn what the five stages of progress are and how to advance through them (discipleship). When we are mature enough to work, we advance ourselves by helping others advance: first by dedication (as prophets) to making known the Good News of the Kingdom that is our destination; then by surrendering more deeply (as priests) to the reign of Christ in us, letting him express himself through our bodies to enhance the divine life of others; finally, by totally abandoning ourselves to live, work and long for nothing else (as stewards of his kingship) except to bring all in the staging area to the “point of embarkation” for the city that is our true home, that God has prepared for us.

Try keeping this explanation in mind as you read the Scriptures for this week.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

“Merry Christmas ” First Week of Christmas, December 25-31, 2011


Christmas brings families together — at least in memory, when they cannot be physically. And this is what Jesus came to do: to bring the whole human race together as one family whose Father is God; in whom Jesus as Son is visible and growing to “full stature” by the indwelling presence and power of the Spirit.

Christmas is togetherness. And that is the mystery of God’s Being: God is the togetherness of Father, Son and Spirit: the Trinity.

It is striking to see how the roles of each Person of the Trinity appear in the Mass readings for Jesus’ birth:

Vigil Mass: “For the child [Son of the Father] conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

Midnight Mass: A son is given to us.... called: Wonderful Counselor [Holy Spirit], Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince [Son] of Peace.”

Mass at Dawn: They shall be called “The Holy People” [Holy Spirit, Sanctifier], “The Redeemed of the LORD” [Son, Jesus]; “Cared For,” “A City Not Forsaken” [by the Father, God of the Covenant]. And “He saved us... through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he [the Father] poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ [Son] our Savior.”

Mass during the Day: “They see the LORD [Yahweh, Father] restoring Zion.... for the LORD comforts his people [Holy Spirit, the Comforter], he redeems Jerusalem” [Jesus, Son]. “The Word [Son] was with God [the Father].... In him was life, and the life was the light [Holy Spirit] of all people.”

The readings all week tell us what this family is in which we find — and need to be constantly aware of — our identity. We are different. Stephen’s martyrdom reveals us as a people who live to die and die to live forever in Christ. John’s feast focuses us, as he does, on the “koinonia,” “communion, fellowship,” that should not only exist but be visible among us — which requires that we keep ourselves aware that we are all alive in Christ and as Christ.

The readings for the feast of the Holy Innocents reminds us we are a community, not of the righteous, but of the redeemed. Our “innocence” is not in our “perfect record,” but in our incorporation into Christ’s death that “takes away” our sin. When Jesus is held up at Mass as the “Lamb of God,” we are all invited to Communion. We receive Communion, not to proclaim we are “innocent,” but to say we are sinners with hope. Thursday’s readings tell us that to “keep the Commandments” means, first of all, to keep God’s words, his laws, in our hearts. We judge ourselves by the deep faith and desire we find in our hearts, not just by the success or failure of our external law observance. It is “Phariseeism” to judge ourselves or others simply by behavior.

The feast of the Holy Family — three persons united, like the Trinity, in the “communion of the Holy Spirit — promises us a “posterity” from the Father (blessed will be the fruit of our lives). It calls us to embody in our family life the love and truth Jesus embodied as Son, the Word made flesh. And it calls us (in the full text of the alternate reading from Hebrews) to design our family lifestyle by interaction with the Spirit in faith, so that our family life will bear witness to the world that we live here “as in a foreign land,” looking forward to “a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” John tells us, on the last day of the year, that we “know we know God” when our “anointing” by the Holy Spirit keeps us united to one another in the expression of our faith.

Being family is what the life of the Trinity — in God and in us — is all about.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

“Let the Clouds Rain Down... ” Fourth Week of Advent, December 18-24, 2011


This is the week before Christmas. What it is all about is awareness, which is the first phase of growth into the fullness of life that Jesus came to give. Advent alerts us to look forward to the “blessed hope and the manifestation (the liturgy says “coming, advent”) of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Christmas is all about Jesus as Savior.

Saturday (O Wisdom) focused on Jesus as the measuring rod of perspective who “shows us all things framed between their beginning and their end.”

Sunday’s readings make the point that Jesus is a divine Savior who came to give us divine life — not just human wellbeing.

Monday (O Offspring of the Root of Jesse) tells us Christ’s human-divine presence in our up-and-down world (and Church) as a contining member of our sinning race gives us hope.

Tuesday (O Key of David) says the Key to Christianity and Christian living is Jesus leading us out of the “prison” of merely human perspectives and into the freedom of “divine-dimensional” life.

Wednesday (O Rising Dawn) tells us God made human in Jesus is the divine, eternal light of God shining in a new way every day through the changing atmosphere (circumstances) of human life on earth — and through the diversity of his human members’ responses to different situations.

Thursday (O King of Nations) shows us Jesus “politically involved” in bringing unity, peace and happiness to earth by giving us divine gifts that work independently of human power and circumstances — if we remain aware of them and use them.

Friday (O Emmanuel – “God-with-us”) caps our preparation for Christmas by pinpointing the essence of Christianity, which is “God with us.” Paul said the mystery he preached was simply “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

The Christian greeting repeated in the Mass liturgy as “God be with you” is an edited version of the Latin “Dominus vobiscum,” which simply says, “God with you.” That is the whole Christian message in a nutshell. When we answer, “And with your spirit,” we are not narrowing our focus to some kind of spiritual presence of God just in our “souls.” We are calling each other to be aware “in spirit” that God is present in our bodies as well as in our minds and hearts. By Baptism we became the “body of Christ.” He speaks in our human words, touches people with our human hands, helps them through our human actions. We are “Emmanuel” — God still with the human race, God still in the world in human flesh as one of us.

When we say the WIT prayer — “Lord, do this with me, do this in me, do this through me” — we are reminding ourselves of the core truth of our religion, “God with us.” God with us, not just as a companion by our side, but as dwelling within us, acting in us and through us as his own body.

The body born at Bethlehem was just the beginning. Jesus is “born again” every time a baby is baptized.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

“Blessed be the Lord... He promised of old” : Third Week of Advent, December 11-17, 2011


This week is the mid-point of Advent. Three things change. 1. This Sunday the presider’s “chasuble” (“little house” – the all –covering Mass vestment) is rose-colored to express joy. The opening Scripture verse is “Rejoice... the Lord is near.” That is why this is called “Gaudete (“Rejoice”) Sunday.” 2. On Saturday, because it is December 17, we begin using the second Advent Preface, and also 3. the weekday prayers and readings go into “countdown mode,” ruled by the “O Antiphons.” These are seven special “Alleluia” verses that introduce the Gospel, all beginning with “O” and a title of Jesus: “O Wisdom,” “O Lord and Leader,” etc. They invite rich reflection on who Jesus is and what he came to be for us.

My suggestion for this week is to read prayerfully every morning the Benedictus. That is Zachary’s hymn (Luke 1:68-79) found in the Pocket Prayer Guide bound into your reflection booklet entitled “Our Father... in Heaven.” This is a wonderful way to start each day of Advent and Christmas.

It reminds us — and remember, the first phase of spiritual growth embodied in the first phrase of the Our Father is awareness — that God has “come to his people and set them free.” Think of all you would like to be freed from. God has freed you from any and every thing that can really harm you or keep you from “life to the full.”

He has done it by “raising up a mighty Savior” — a man who is God: Jesus. And he is “accredited” — “born of the house of his servant David.” Jesus is still saving us, present and acting through “in house” saviors, the members of his body on earth today. Through sons and daughters of the Father who can trace their lineage back through all the generations of Christians to the community who gathered around the first Twelve Apostles and the historical Jesus.

“Through his holy prophets he promised....” and is realizing the promise through the prophetic voices still being raised in the Church. Voices that speak truth, denounce corruption and call for reform. Voices in which we hear God promising still to “free us from the hands of our enemies,” whoever and whatever they are.

“To show mercy to our ancestors.” Look at the mercy God has shown to his Church! To his sinful Christians who in “Catholic” Europe slaughtered each other for centuries in endless wars, many in the name of religion. Who persecuted Jews and heretics, oppressed the poor, bought and sold ecclesiastical positions and honors. The priests were ignorant, the bishops often without any religious spirit at all: political lords who plundered and fought petty wars for power. Yet God has maintained his mercy toward us— because of “his holy covenant.” Why doubt he is doing it today?

“Free to worship him.” Nothing can prevent us from that. Whether the liturgy is done well or not, we know who awaits us at Mass and what he does for us — and invites us to do with him. We are always free to worship him, without fear that anything or anyone can prevent us. “Blessed be the Lord... He has promised.”

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

For “Those with a Journey to Make”: Second Week of Advent, December 4-10, 2011


Advent calls us to look forward to the Good News. What this really means is to get serious about faith formation.

What Isaiah calls the “Holy Way” is for “those with a journey to make.” It is an axiom in the spiritual life that there is no such thing as standing still. If you are not going forward, you are falling behind. If not growing, you are stagnating.

The “comfort” God offers in Advent is the proclamation that there is a way. We can grow into a more exciting, enriching life if we want to. Jesus designed the Church to be a hotbed of energy, enlightenment and growth. If your parish is not that, someone needs to exercise some leadership. Why not you?

We may have grown up with a distorted, because incomplete, “Fear of the Lord.” True Fear of the Lord is simply perspective. It is the gift of seeing how good God is and how unsatisfying everything else is in comparison. How powerful God is and how insane it is to oppose him. But the Good News is that God uses his power “to give strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound.” It is the Pharisees who pass off “heavy burdens” as religion. Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” Whom do we believe? If we believe Jesus, why are we not eagerly shouldering the “light burden” of growing into the fullness of life?

What is the alternative? If I don’t choose the way of growthful discipleship what am I choosing? To just react haphazardly to stimuli, bouncing blindly off of life’s experiences like a pinball? To follow the values of the culture? To make myself — my opinions, my desires — the criterion of truth and goodness? This is the definition of the capital sin of Pride. It is a straight shot to insanity.

Some say they are leaving the Church because of the priests or the congregations. If so, they were never there because of Jesus. It is really the message they can’t stand, not the messengers. People criticized Jesus himself more than we do the clergy. To accept Jesus we have to accept everyone. And accept to be crucified by them. This is what turns us off.

Our prayer in Advent is, “Lord, make us turn to you.” But we should not expect him to do it by scaring us. God did this through the Old Testament prophets. But when Jesus came, the time for fear tactics was over. Instead of killing his enemies to show us his power, he died to show us his love. The perspective that “Fear of the Lord” reveals to us in Jesus is the difference, not between God’s power and ours, but between his unbounded love and anything we can imagine.

If we accept to follow the “Holy Way” of faith formation — of committed discipleship — we will come to know our Father as he is. And this is “eternal life”: to know the Father, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Beginning: First Week of Advent, November 27-December 3, 2011


We are beginning a new theme. The Immersed in Christ Reflections this year will still be formation in assimilation of the five mysteries of Baptism (what Immersed in Christ and the Christian life are all about), but we are taking another approach. We are showing how, in the petitions of the Our Father, we are both asking for and committing ourselves to each of these five mysteries in turn. The theme booklet, Five Steps to the Father, explains how the first five phrases of the prayer Jesus taught us present the five phases of our growth into the “fullness of life” Jesus came to give.

The Reflection booklet, “Our Father in Heaven,” develops the first phrase, using the Mass readings for the Advent and Christmas seasons. Keep this theme in mind as you read the reflections.

This week is all about mystery: the mystery of the new identity Baptism gives us; the mystery of being real “sons and daughters of the Father” through the mystery of incorporation into Christ; through the gift of sharing, “in him,” God’s own divine life.

The readings focus us on the mystery of knowing God as only God knows himself; the mystery of sharing in God’s own act of knowing himself by sharing in God’s own life “in Christ.” And they invite us to go to the source of our human understanding and expression of this divine knowledge: the Scriptures, the word of God. St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” We can continue: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of ourselves,” because, if we do not read the Bible, we really do not know clearly what we know or where it comes from. Unless we go to God’s own words, our human understanding of our faith is all secondhand. And inevitably “dumbed down.”

This week is challenging. It invites us to ask whether we really want to know God better. Whether we have experienced the mystery of this. What steps are involved in really “hearing” the Good News. Whether we really believe Christ can “make us see.” And whether we really ask him to. Whether we find our security in knowing God or in something else? Whether our religion is real.

This week’s reflections are ruled by Jesus’ prayer to the Father: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

This is the mystery of our life, the mystery of our religion, the mystery we proclaim and become aware of every time we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven....”

This is the mystery of the revealed identity of God and of the identity we receive by Baptism. To enter into this first phrase of the Our Father is to enter into the first phase of our growth toward the “perfection of love” — it is to enter into awareness of our true relationship with God.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

The End that is A Beginning: 34th Week of the Liturgical Year, November 20-26, 2011

Daniel chapters 1-7; Luke, chapter 21.


Sunday, the 34th Sunday of the Year and Feast of Christ the King, begins the last week of the liturgical year. Liturgically, the Church’s “New Year” begins with the first Sunday of Advent, when we begin to focus explicitly, in anticipation, on the event with which Christian time begins: the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Immersed in Christ Reflections this week review and bring to a conclusion a year of formation. Every day we have focused on drawing out of the readings what helps us to understand and enter fully into the mystery we celebrate at Mass. By now we should all be alertly conscious of the five mysteries that are presented in turn during the Eucharistic celebration. We should have acquired the habit of actively celebrating and embracing them during the liturgy. This is what the bishops asked for in Vatican II:

It is very much the wish of the Church that all the faithful should be led to take that full, conscious, and active part in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a redeemed people,” have a right and are bound by reason of their Baptism.

All those who have read and put into practice the Immersed in Christ Reflections for the past year have been formed to do this. They have learned how to enter into the five mysteries of Baptism as they are celebrated, one after another, in the Mass.

This is an experience of the New Evangelization that the last four popes have been calling for. They say we have not truly “heard” the Good News. It has not been effectively preached to us. We have not really been “evangelized” (i.e. told the Good News).

The key to the New Evangelization is to re-affirm — to explain and show people how to experience — what was lacking or “dumbed down” in the religious instruction we received. What was not brought into focus for us was the mystery embodied in every doctrine we profess, every sacrament we receive, every action we are called on to perform; and above all, in every celebration of Eucharist.

A “mystery” is “a truth that invites endless exploration.” Catholics who think they have “learned their religion” have misunderstood everything they were taught (probably because it was not taught). If they are not actively exploring the truths of their faith, they don’t know they are “mysteries.” They think they have “heard” the Good News, so to them it isn’t news any more. That means they never heard it.

Faith formation is not the same as instruction in the faith. Formation is “reiterated instruction combined with insistent intentionality” — in other words, we have to keep telling people the truth until it sinks in (and then, because it is a mystery, it will be in them “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life”); and we have to keep urging and showing them ways to live it out in action.

That is the guiding principle and goal behind the Reflections offered each year by Immersed in Christ. Next year we will take you through the same deep mysteries of Baptism as they are found in the prayer Jesus taught us to say: the Our Father.

“Go: the Mass is ended.” And just begun.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Bottomless Cup: 33rd Week of the Liturgical Year, November 13-19, 2011

1Maccabees chapters 1-6; 2Maccabees chapters 6-7; Luke, chapters 18-20.


The mother of the seven Maccabee boys had a view of life it would be good to wake up with. She told her son, “It was not I who gave you breath and life, nor was it I who arranged the elements you are made of.... It is the Creator of the universe who shaped the beginning of humankind and brought about the origin of everything.”

The starting point of human consciousness should be: “I am basically nothing. Nothing explains my existence except the fact God is choosing to give me being right now. My existence is simply an ongoing act of God.”

This should be encouraging. If God is choosing right now to keep me in existence, he must see it as a good idea. My life on this earth must have some value for him. He is “voting” for me.

So are other people: all those who love me. The truth is, God has arranged things so that no one comes to be on this earth unless, in addition to himself, at least two human beings vote for it: a father and a mother. We are born with a support group, even a fan club!

The same is true of the divine life of grace. God adds that only by the unanimous vote of the Father, Son and Spirit. And, although a single human can give it to us by baptizing us, Baptism is, in fact, an entrance into and reception by the whole Church. And, consciously or not, by every redeemed human being on earth.

Why do they vote for us? Why does God?

God wants us to exist so that we can enjoy what he enjoys. With him and forever. We know that because Jesus told us. But he has another reason: Just as he doesn’t give life to anyone without the cooperation of other humans, he has arranged it so that the life he gives depends on other humans’ work to survive and develop. The same is true (normally, if not absolutely) of the life of grace. We are all our “brother’s keeper,” responsible for the well-being, both human and divine, natural and supernatural, of every other man and woman on earth. We all have a job to do, and God is giving us both existence and divine life so we can do it.

We are stewards. Everything God is giving us, from our existence to the latest good thought he has inspired, is an investment. We are charged to use, to work with, to manage all that we have and are for the good of others. Those are the terms of our existence. When Jesus comes at the end of time, he will ask us how we have given to others what he has given to us.

We mustn’t allow anything or anybody to stop us from doing that.

And nobody can. Love may be the only commodity there is that we can have as much of as we want, just by using it. And we can give it constantly: at every moment, in every situation, and to every person, whether it is received or not. Nothing can stop us from loving except our own choice not to.

To love is to give life. And we have it in a bottomless cup.

Keep this in mind as you read the Immersed in Christ reflections on the readings this week.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Gift and Liturgical Experience of Wisdom: 32nd Week of the Liturgical Year, November 6-12, 2011

Wisdom chapters 1-19; Luke, chapters 17-18

This week’s readings are loaded! The theme of them all, New Testament as well as Old — and of the Rite of Communion, on which Immersed in Christ focuses us during this season—is “wisdom.” But we have to keep in mind what “wisdom” is. It is defined both as “the habit of seeing everything in the light of our last end,” and as the gift of the Holy Spirit that is the logical consequence of that: “the taste for spiritual things.”

It figures: if we really see everything we do, everything we use, buy, seek and experience, in the “light of our last end,” we will have a “taste” for, a desire for whatever leads us to that; i.e. for “spiritual” things. Things like prayer, Scripture reading, Mass, the sacraments, the mysteries of our Baptismal consecration (three of them, remember?), whatever makes us more aware of the mystery of Christ’s presence in ourselves and others, and of the real value and significance of the time we have to work with on earth.

The “end time” is the special focus of the Rite of Communion. If we understand what we are celebrating during this part of the liturgy, we will see how it gives us--and is an experience of--wisdom.

Communion is not just a private, one-on-one experience of receiving Jesus into our bodies and souls. It is a communal experience. The “Bread of Life,” the Bread of heaven, is only served at a communal meal: the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” We receive Christ in communion with others or we don’t receive him. That says already that we can only receive Communion if we accept the condition of total, universal forgiveness and reconciliation that is a characteristic of the “peace and unity of the Kingdom.”

That is the “end time,” the “last end” on which the Rite of Communion focuses us, and which the Gift of Wisdom keeps us conscious of in every choice we make while interacting with the created reality of this world. We evaluate every pleasure, every joy held out to us by asking how it fits, how it prepares us for the total joy of heaven. We deal with every suffering, every loss, trial and challenge, by placing it in the perspective of the “end time,” when “every tear will be wiped away.” More mystically (that is, with more awareness of the mystery of our life as members of the body of Christ on earth), we see how all that we do and suffer here and now, whether through afflictions, hard work, frustrations or other emotional distress, is a participation in the redemptive suffering of Jesus. With Saint Paul, we see that “in our flesh we are completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.” That is the gift of wisdom.

The Rite of Communion is inseparable from the Eucharistic Prayer, when we celebrate and make present the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Seeing Communion in the light of the cross helps us to see our crosses in the light of the communion to which they lead: the full and glorious communion with God and others in the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.”

Keep this in mind as you read the readings and the Immersed in Christ reflections on them this week.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

An Image of the Church: 31st Week of the Liturgical Year, October 30-November 5, 2011

Romans chapters 11-16; Luke, chapters 14-16.


If we take this week’s readings as a whole, they present us with a beautiful, an inspiring image of the Church. It is not in every respect the Church that is — Vatican II was explicit about that: “The Church... will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven, when there will come the time of the restoration of all things.” But in another sense, the true image, even of the sinful, struggling “pilgrim Church” we see, is the image of the Bride of Christ already radiant in splendor. The Church we see is the Church that will be. And she will be “without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish.” No picture of the present is complete without the projection of the future.

Knowing this, and seeing what the Church is called to be, we have to work for that as faithful stewards of the kingship of Christ.

What the readings this week particularly focus on is a Church united by several factors, none yet perfectly realized, but all promised as part of the victory of Christ. What do we see?

1. Equality with diversity. In the Church there are different ministries and different gifts to support them. But no gift and no ministry makes anyone “higher” or more important than another. In every ministry, it is Christ himself who is acting, and the same Spirit of Christ present in every gift. As Paul said, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” we say today: “There is no longer pope or bishop, laity or clergy, male or female; for all of us are one in Christ Jesus.

This does not eliminate the different offices or states of life in the Church. Paul was not saying there were no more ethnic Jews or Greeks, slaves or free people, men or women in the Church. He was saying that “differences make no difference” when it comes to the respect we show all, the acceptance of each one’s gifts and ministry, the right and call all have to speak and be heard, to act and be encouraged. The readings tell us that, yes, there are popes and bishops, laity and clergy, the teachers and the taught (Newman’s ecclesia docens and ecclesia docta), but all are exercising the ministry of Christ, and all must work together in unity and respect for one another. And in love.

2. We are all stewards. We are all charged to find, not faults but ways: ways to honor and respect each other, to serve with graciousness and generosity, to preserve peace through mutual recognition of each one’s gifts and ministry. This is the work of all, and all will enjoy together the fruits it produces.

This week we celebrate the Feast of All Saints. We need to celebrate it every day.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Face of Rome: 30th Week of the Liturgical Year, October 23-29, 2011

Romans chapters 8-11; Luke, chapters 13-14.


The sights of Rome can arouse mixed feelings. I imagine that they might be related to the mixed feelings people had about Jesus and have about Christianity, once they begin to understand it. They come from seeing the divine identified with the human in a single person (Jesus) or in a single human-divine Church (us): the Church that, it could be said, shows its “winner” and its “loser” face in Rome.

Rome is a “boast in buildings” that the Church is a winner. Or, if we go deeper, that Christianity is a winner. Or, if we penetrate to the real mystery, that Jesus is not just a winner, but has won. The great buildings and monuments of Rome honor the triumpth of the Church, or give glory to God, or both, on the buried remains of the Roman Empire.

Sadly, this is also where the “loser” face appears. It really is not clear whether the great churches of Rome were built more to glorify God or the popes. One third of the huge inscription across the fa├žade of St. Peter’s Basilica says “To the honor of the Prince of the Apostles.” Two thirds of the space glorify Pope Paul V, who built it. Other great churches are similarly credited. It detracts.

Are these churches more museums of art or places of worship? For believers, where the art is inspired by worship it inspires worship.

When thousands of pilgrims and tourists gather in front of St. Peter’s every Wednesday to see the Pope, does this make him upstage Christ? Does it minimize local bishops and dioceses? Pope Benedict was humble in dress, manner and speech. He preached on Scripture, and turned attention away from himself to honor pilgrims from all over the world. As he greeted the groups, some cheered, some sang a prepared song. A circus group did an acrobatic act. It was fun. The pilgrims had fun with the Pope.

This in itself makes one think: When do people meet with bishops just to have fun? To mix informally? What if bishops held an “open house” every week or month? Just to mix; to make mutual appreciation visible? To give a sense of a diocese enjoying each other? Would it put another face on the hierarchy? Would laity and bishops both grow into a new image of themselves as Church?

This week’s readings are all about the “stewardship of love”—preserving the memory of God’s gift of love. Making it present through celebration: by remembering with faith and looking forward with hope. Showing in our dealings with every person that the “Kingdom of God” is in fact here, and that it is growing in “length and breadth and depth and height” in every heart. And will grow to embrace the world. If nothing else, Rome supports that.

The columned galleries that form the half-circle enclosing the space in front of St. Peter’s were intentionally designed to symbolize the arms of the Church embracing the whole world. The Pope speaks for us all when he welcomes every race and nationality to the diocese that symbolizes Christian unity. In every parish church, and in every office and home, each of us is charged with the same stewardship of love. To walk into any parish should be like an audience with the Pope.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Who dat?" Who Indeed?: 29th Week of the Liturgical Year, October 16-22, 2011

Romans chapters 4-8; Luke, chapters 12-13.


On my way to Rome, I stopped in New Orleans for a wedding. American bride; Serbian groom. Five generations present on each side. The scars of war. Pain of refugee exile. All enveloped in laughter, kissing and dancing, children playing and children promised. Life experienced as love. Love not erasing divisions but making divisions a non-thought. As they will be at the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” Nothing but celebration: the celebration of life given and to be given through love. God was there.

It is so simple: where God is, there is love. Where love is, there is God. Where God and love are together, all divisions drop out of existence. The word “foreign” becomes foreign to reality. People are people just being people. That is all that counts. As it does for God.

I turn to the readings for the week. They are all about power: “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, now and forever!” There is no power but God’s; all other is illusory. But we live by the light of illusion. We think that law-observance has power to save us from sin. Or that sin has power to make us happy apart from God. Or that the powers at work in this world—the powers that create the conditioning of culture, and the power that cultural “programming” has over every one of us—are so strong, so entrenched, so omni-present there is no hope of overcoming them through wisdom, justice or love.

We dare not (or care not) to interact with God, unconvinced that his power is identical with his love. God’s love turns all his power to our good. God exercises power by lavishing love. Yet we dare not (or care not) to approach him. We deal with him through the “intermediaries” of written laws, written words of prayer (using another’s words to speak to him, not daring to trust in our own), the written words of others’ thoughts that we do not make our own through confrontation and reflection incarnated in personal choice. Our “religion” is immersion in a system; it is not immersion in Christ. We live the law, but we are not saying and experiencing in our hearts law transcended in the refrain of Paul: “I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me!” For Paul, Christ was the law; the law was Christ, and to live in lovc was the law of laws.

Love is relationship. And the reality of relationship is interaction. To live in love as persons and with persons, we must interact as persons with other persons. This is the life of the Trinity: what gives identity to the Three Persons as Father, Son and Spirit, what makes them distinct as Persons yet one in nature as God, is the mystery of relationship. The mystery of their interaction with One Another.

And this is what gives us our identity as made in the image of God, made in the image of the Three Persons. We were created and re-created by grace to be persons establishing our identity through our relationships with God and other persons. That is, through our interactions as free, self-orienting intellectual beings whose self-orientation has been swallowed up in surrender to the all-absorbing magnetism of the Attraction of God.

When all are drawn by love into the eternal celebration of Life undistinguishable from Love, we will all be one in Christ, dancing at the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.”

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Mystery of Rome : 28th Week of the Liturgical Year, October 9-15, 2011

Romans chapters 1-4; Luke, chapters 11-12


When I wrote these Reflections, I did not know I would be in Rome when they were read. Re-reading them, I think nothing could prepare me better for the trip.

Rome presents a mixed image of the Church. What impresses tourists—the magnificent buildings, precious works of art, the regal pomp and splendor, are a distraction, if not a challenge to faith. The recorded reaction of Jesus to the magnificence of the Temple buildings in Jerusalem—the historical predecessor of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome—was: “You see all these? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another.” Clearly, he wasn’t impressed. Probably no city on earth has been the site of more ecclesiastical mismanagement and mendacious maneuvering than Rome. Rome is a place of visible corruption and invisible mystery.

We mustn’t forget the mystery. It is because he is Bishop of Rome that he has the added task of keeping all the bishops united. Rome is a symbol of unity because both Peter and Paul died there, united in faith despite differences in charism that should have divided the Church. The pope gets his special importance from Rome, not Rome from the pope.

Rome is a symbol of unity and a source of division, even while faith in the papacy keeps those divisions from dividing the Church. Current Vatican policies have caused outrage in the Irish government, brought Austrian priests to the verge of schism, evoked protests from priests and theologians in Ireland, Germany, Australia and America. At Vatican II, Archbishop D’Souza of India denouncd the centralization of power in the Vatican and the “letter that kills” when canon law is rigidly applied throughout the world. “Love is endangered,” he said, “by the present practices of the Roman Curia.” The examples he listed have all been repeated within the past year. Lord Acton’s words return: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Then we read Sunday’s prayer: “Make love the foundation of our lives. Send us your Spirit, the source of unity.” We read that Mass is (should be, can be) an experience of the peace and unity of the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” As people “called to belong” and “called to holiness,” we find the readings urging us to faith and hope in the “end time,” when all divisions will be overcome.

We see the Church—all of us—urged to be the “sign of Jonah” by living in a way that cannot be explained unless Jesus is alive and living in us. We are reminded that, to guide the Church into the way of love, each one of us must first strive to learn the heart of Christ in prayer.

It comes down to each one of us. We are the Church. If we seek union of mind, heart and will with the Father “in Christ” and by the Holy Spirit, we will be united with God and one another. In love.

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

To Understanding Through Action : 27th Week of the Liturgical Year, October 2-8, 2011

Jonah chapters 1-4; Malachi ch. 3; Joel chs.1-4; Luke, chs.10-11.


The readings are about Jonah’s cultural narrowness that made him resist doing God’s work; about societal conversion, about keeping the “end time” in view to give us direction and hope—and how the Rite of Communion helps us do this. In short, the focus is on our call to transform the world as stewards of the kingship of Christ. And to do it through truth and love.

Two weeks ago I was observing the Church trying to do this on Guam. Last week I was speaking in Illinois to “Cursillistas” committed to “transforming environments.” Next week I will be giving a parish mission in Mississippi, preaching the Immersed in Christ plan as a means to live out fully our baptismal commitment to be Christ and be Disciples, Prophets, Priests and Stewards of his kingship. If we live out these five fundamental mysteries of Christian life, we will have “life to the full” and communicate it to others. All the Reflections I write for Abbey Press teach and develop understanding of these five mysteries and support commitment to living them. But I am taking a new approach.

So far I’ve been “top down”—explaining the five mysteries and ending with a very simple, practical suggestion for making each one an experienced element of life. But on Guam, talking to school children, I began instead with the five simple suggestions, and gave as much explanation of the mysteries as I could to help the children live them with understanding and motivation. Now I am going to take the same approach with adults. Starting with you!

Do these five things and you will grow into understanding of the five-fold mystery of divine life that you received at Baptism.

1. Form the habit of saying the WIT prayer all day long: “Lord, do this with me, do this in me, do this through me.” You will grow into awareness of the new identity you received when you became Christ through Baptism (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 795).

2. Put a bible on your pillow and promise God you will never sleep without reading one line. You will experience, over time, the mystical gift of divine enlightenment as a disciple.

3. Promise God you will never ask again whether something is right or wrong, but whether it bears witness to the values taught by Jesus. You will gradually become aware of the “Gift of the Spirit” empowering you to bear witness to Christ as a prophet.

4. In every encounter with another person, surrender to letting Christ in you express himself to give healing and life. Without being explicit, let your words and actions express an attitude toward each consistent with your faith, hope and love. This turns every encounter into life-giving ministry as a “priest in the Priest” and a “victim in the Victim,” giving your “flesh for the life of the world.”

5. Make a point of noticing anything around you that could be changed to make the world better. Just noticing is an expression and an experience of the responsibility you accepted as a steward of the kingship of Christ. Do what you realistically can to change things, but notice everything. This is a mystical awareness of accepting your divine commission to establish the reign of God.

If you do these five things, you will grow into the mystical experience of the mystery of your Baptism. If you do them, you will understand what I try to explain. If you do not do them, anything I try to explain is useless.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Will and the Way: 26th Week of the Liturgical Year, September 25-October 1, 2011

Zechariah chapter 8; Nehemiah chs. 2, 8; Baruch chs. 1, 4; Luke, chs. 9-10.


Two images give a key to the readings. 1. A large ship under way has such forward inertia that, even after the rudder is swung over, it takes miles for the ship to actually move in the new direction. 2. Stampeding cattle are deaf and blind to everything but their panic. Cowboys can only stop their headlong rush by racing their horses to the front and gradually turning the leaders to the side until they begin to “mill” in a circle. Both images tell us something about leadership in the Church.

First, big changes take time, both in society and in the Church. Even when authorities call for an alteration in course, as the bishops did at Vatican II, and “swing the rudder” by new legislation, the Church as a whole takes a long time to get on the new course. An example of this is the Mass: in spite of the “new liturgy,” the centuries of practices that excluded the laity from “full, active, conscious participation” still keep people from seeing the Mass as a “communal prayer” — or even understanding what that means. So people still participate as isolated individuals, sitting apart from others or in back, not singing, making the responses without personal investment in what they are saying, and frequently not even paying close enough attention to the words the presider is speaking during the Eucharistic Prayer to pray them with him. No wonder some want to return to the Latin: even in English they don’t really listen to the words. And if they are not united with others in communal prayer, the individualism of the old “quiet” Mass that left all alone with their devotions seems better to them. Mindsets take time to change.

Cultural conformism is like a stampede. People are rushing blindly in whatever direction the “herd” has taken. This is true even in the Church, in both clergy and laity who don’t “go aside” as disciples to listen personally to the voice of Christ. When those in front have closed their eyes to where they are going and to what is going on around them, and their ears to what the Spirit is saying, the “blind are leading the blind” — in a stampede to destruction.

The answer is for those who see what is happening to “ride for the lead.” To gradually replace the leadership of those who are not leaders. To make tiny but consistent changes in their own way of participating at Mass; of participating in the guidance of their parish and diocese by communicating with those “in charge”; in their way of speaking and acting at home, at school, at work; in the kind of conversations they initiate (for example, on the “forbidden topic” of religion); in the news they keep up with (for example, news of the Church on the internet); in the approach they take to politics: to the fundamental philosophies and motivations of the people and causes they oppose or support (bearing in mind the lies both parties tell about each other and the “spin” in any reporting).

The key to everything is an activated and activating awareness of responsibility for establishing the “reign of God” wherever we are and however we can. Where there is a will, there is a Way — who is also the Truth and the Life.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

To Make the Kingdom Come: 25th Week of the Liturgical Year, September 18-24, 2011

Ezra chapters 1-9; Haggai chs. 1-2; Zechariah ch. 2; Luke, chs. 8-9.


I am on the island of Guam, where I was invited to give the keynote at the Archdiocesan Catechetical and Liturgical Conference, and then spend a week speaking of Immersed in Christ in the schools. I am looking out from the hotel’s sixteenth floor at a beach where, for all I know, Americans and Japanese died in the recapture of Guam in World War II. Now, I am told, the Japanese make up ninety percent of the tourism Guam lives on. And I ask, as I look at the dozen high-rise hotels in sight of mine, what does Jesus want us to think of all this?

From the readings this week, I think he wants us to be conscious that he is going to come again to gather together everything I see — and don’t see — under his headship, making all of redeemed humanity one in the peace and love of the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” Whatever I see from my balcony; whatever I don’t see but can guess at; whatever went on here during the horrors of war; whatever is yet to come — he has already brought it to fulfillment in the time-frame of God. And, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

The readings encourage us to make it so.

But he wants us to make it so by being now what we are trying to bring about: a community united in love, working together as one body now “under his headship,” a Church filled with love, joy and peace, radiating the “fruit of the Spirit.” We must dedicate ourselves to being now what we will be when we actually see realized “the blessed hope and manifestation of the great glory of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Yes, inescapably this requires us to live out and experience all five mysteries of Baptism — the new identity we have “in Christ”; the divine enlightenment offered us as disciples; the empowerment to bear witness as prophets by lifestyles that cannot be explained without the “gift of the Spirit”; the repeated surrender to Christ living and wanting to express himself in us and through us in ministry to all we encounter; and the total abandonment of ourselves in persevering, inexplicable hope to the work of transforming Church and world as stewards of his kingship. Yes, all of these. But this week the focus is on the last: exercising leadership in union with authorities in the Church.

All of us are called to be leaders. Leadership is not the same as authority. Only a few people are invested with authority. We follow them out of commitment. Leaders are people we follow freely, because we believe they are pointing us in the right direction.

The job of authorities is to hold the Church together. The task of leaders is to move it forward. These are two different functions. Both are essential. Each depends on the other.

The Church is not a “democracy.” But when we say that, we have to ask, “What, then, is it?” It is not a monarchy; not a dictatorship. What, precisely, is our form of government in the Church?

The Church is a community meant to be guided by communal discussion, prayer and discernment. There is no model for this kind of government in civil society. In important matters, by the time an authority makes a decision, everybody should have had a hand in it. In this way, all are called to exercise leadership. For this, leadership and authority must work together.

God’s ways are not our ways, but as stewards of his kingship we are committed to trying to adapt human life to his ways. The Church is being renewed, and we are called to renew it. And through the Church the world will be renewed

To believe this is to work for it. To work for it is to take initiatives. To take initiatives is to be a leader, a steward of the kingship of Christ. This is our baptismal commitment.

I think Jesus is saying this to all of us as we look out from all of our windows.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Peace I Give You: 24th Week of the Liturgical Year, September 11-17, 2011

1Timothy chapters 2-6; Luke, chapters 7-8


The Rite of Communion can be summed up in one word: “Peace.”

This may not be what we are most conscious of. We may think of Communion as a time of intimate personal (and private) union with Jesus in our hearts. And except for the word “private,” it is that. The truth is—shocking to our generation—there is no “private” union with God or with Jesus. Christian union with God is only “in Christ”—that is, in the shared union we have with others as members of his body. Without union with others, we have no graced union with Jesus, the Father or the Spirit.

Communion expresses this. There is no such thing as “private Communion” in the Church. Even Communion to the sick is brought by a minister coming from the Mass to bring the communal celebration to one unable to be present. And Mass is never a private devotion. Priests are forbidden by Canon Law to celebrate Mass completely alone except under exceptional circumstances. Communion is a time for us to be intensely aware of one another.

“Peace” is the most frequently-used word in the Rite of Communion (seven times) because Communion is meant as a preview of the “wedding banquet of the Lamb,” Christ’s description of heaven. Those who do not share the Bread of Life together in the “peace and unity” of total mutual forgiveness and love simply do not share it. The same is true on earth. When Paul says (1Corinthians 11:29), “For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves,” he is talking about recognizing each other as the body of Christ.

This week’s readings show that those who most disturb the peace and unity of the community are those who judge others as not being in “good standing” because of their perceived non-observance of rules. They do not “discern” the faith and love that makes people Christ’s body, but see only the externals of words and “works” whose significance in another’s life they presume to interpret. In making this judgment they “eat and drink judgment against themselves.”

It is natural for us to make these human judgments. That is why the readings stress that the “peace and unity” of God’s kingdom is a mystery. The “blessed hope” we are awaiting is the “manifestation (epiphania) of the glory” of the Lord Jesus Christ, when in all the redeemed we will see Christ himself brought to “full stature.” This is divine hope, not human optimism. It depends on the vision we have of each other by the divine gift of faith. And the love we have for each others is divine love, based on seeing each other as we are as sharers in the life of God and as we will be when that life is brought to fullness in us all. Those who quibble and criticize are seeing with human eyes, shutting themselves off from mystery and shutting themselves out of “full, conscious, active participation” in the Eucharist. Peace is the sign of the Spirit in our hearts.

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Preview of Heaven: 23rd Week of the Liturgical Year, September 4-10, 2011

Colossians chapters; 1-3; begin 1Timothy; Luke, chapter 6


How many Catholics experience Sunday Mass as a “preview of heaven”? Would it make you feel sad, threatened or hopeful to hear that this is what it should be for you?

“Sad” would suggest you’ve given up. “Threatened” that you hear you aren’t measuring up. “Hopeful” that you are open to the good news that there is more in the Mass than you dream of.

And there is. If you don’t experience the Mass as a preview of heaven, it means that either 1. you don’t understand it; or 2. you don’t pay attention to it; or 3. you are not really participating “fully, actively and consciously.” That is, that you are not celebrating. Chances are, it is all of the above.

That is what this year’s Reflections should remedy. If you read the 87-page theme booklet that accompanied them (Experiencing the Mass) and have kept yourself focused through the Reflection booklets, you should be having a much different experience of Mass—if, of course, you are applying at Mass what you read.

Now we are beginning the last Reflection booklet for this year, and it’s focus is on the last part of the Mass: the Rite of Communion. This part of the Mass is most explicitly a “preview of heaven.”

It is designed to be a preview of the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” The communal enjoyment of Jesus as “Bread of Life,” Bread of the heavenly banquet. This Bread is only served in a communal meal: no private room service, no take-outs. By nature it is Bread that Jesus “takers, blesses, breaks and gives to his disciples to distribute.” (Although portions can be taken to the sick). And to receive it we must gather with the community in total mutual forgiveness, reconciliation and love. In the “peace and unity of the kingdom” that characterizes this communal sharing and union with Jesus Christ we experience a preview of heaven.

That is not as far-fetched as it sounds. During the Rite of Communion all conflicts are set aside. We have all given the Sign of Peace to each other. Jesus has come to each and to all. If we pause in silence for a moment as the liturgy directs us to do, we can simply be aware of that peace and unity as foreshadowing the gathering of the whole human race together “in Christ” at the end of the world. All will be well. “There will be no harm or ruin on all his holy mountain.” All will be love; all will be peace. And Jesus will be “all in all.” We will all be one, rejoicing in God, rejoicing in one another, sharing the life of Father, Son and Spirit. That is heaven.

To experience a tiny taste of this in the Rite of Communion is to experience a taste of heaven. It should motivate us to go out and invite everyone to the wedding feast. Motivate us to transform social structures and renew cultures to “make straight the way of the Lord” for all to receive him. Motivate us to embrace each other in our sinfulness now as we will embrace each other in our perfection when Christ has “grown to full stature” in us all and there will be “but one Christ, loving himself” (St. Augustine). We in him, he in us, as he is in the Father and the Father in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

We just have to make ourselves aware of what we understand, of what is happening, of what it foreshadows, and let Mass be for us the “source and summit” of all we live and long for.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Communion—More Than We Thought!: 22nd Week of the Liturgical Year, August 28-September 3, 2011

1Thessalonians chapters 4-5; begin Colossians; begin Luke with chapter 4


What is different—in fact, unique—about the Immersed in Christ daily reflections, is that they are designed to give formation. They are not a series of stand-alone thoughts that give you an unconnected insight or boost each day. For roughly ten weeks at a time they keep developing one theme (five per year), using the readings from Mass to explain the same thing from different angles, urging for seventy-plus days in a row various ways to live out just one of the five mysteries of Baptism. Instead of random thoughts, they give formation— defined as “reiterated instruction with insistent intentionality”—or “Say it till it sinks in; urge doing till it takes root.” This week we are changing themes.

Since we began Ordinary Time after Pentecost (June 13), we have been showing how we both learn and live out our baptismal consecration as Priest during the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass. (This year we are showing how all five mysteries of Baptism are celebrated successively during Mass). From now until Advent we will focus on the Rite of Communion and on what it says about our baptismal consecration and commitment as stewards of the kingship of Christ. This involves the mystery of the “end time.”

Communion looks like a bunch of individuals going up to get a sandwich out of a vending machine! That is not the image the Church desires, but so far we have not been able to give Communion the appearance of a family meal that the instructions call for. We don’t touch that this week, but we do point out five things Communion is that we may not have noticed.

1. A pledge: when we receive the chalice, we “drink to the Covenant.” Eating the sacrificed Victim says that we accept and make our own all that has been expressed in the Mass.

2. A shout of defiance: The words, “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world... Blessed are those who are called to the wedding banquet of the Lamb” really say, “Blessed are those who are going to die!” We fear nothing. Who kills us just gets us into the party.

3. An anticipation of Christ’s triumphal return, We put ourselves into the “end time,” waiting in “joyful hope.”

4. A foretaste of the “peace and unity of the Kingdom.” We take a moment after Communion to just “feel” in silence how it will be when Christ in every person is making all humanity one as we are at this moment.

5. A sacrament; that is, a human, physical experience of interaction with God. We make physical contact with Jesus Christ.

All this motivates us to go out and ready the world to receive the reign of God. This is our work as stewards.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Surprise! Surprise!: 21st Week of the Liturgical Year, August 21-27, 2011

1Thessalonians chapters 1-4; Matthew, chapters 23-25.

I like this Sunday’s readings because they give a chance to clarify a few things that might be sapping our joy without our even noticing what is wrong.

The first is the feelings we bring to Church. They are just as important as the feelings we bring to a wedding (joy) or to a funeral (sympathy). We need to think about what will get us “in the mood.” Have we ever been taught that as an obligation?

Then there is the meaning of “mercy”—that is has to be based on a recognition of relationship. That invites us to look at what God’s goodness toward us is based on, and what attitude our help to others needs to come out of to be truly Christian.

Monday we begin 1Thessalonians. Take this week to read it all. It makes us appreciate the Intercessions during the Eucharistic Prayer. (What intercessions?” Pay attention!) And a great principle: “What we do not praise we will not appreciate.” Men: if you do not understand that, ask your wife.

Tuesday – Wednesday paint a beautiful picture of the unity we should experience at Mass and show us how to get into it. Not by laws (not mentioned once in the Eucharistic Prayer) but through steady, selfless service and attentive awareness that what we celebrate is what we are, and what we celebrate consciously is what we become. By praying for each other in the Eucharistic Prayer Intercessions (found them yet?) we give support and draw support.

And how about the two lists of saints in Eucharistic Prayer I? Had you ever noticed how inclusive they are by categories and gender? How many of the names can you identify after twenty to fifty years of hearing them?

Thursday takes us into the mystery of past, present and future made present in the Mass.

Friday reminds us “It is God’s will you grow in holiness.” And explains the stages we grow through. Guess how many?

Saturday explains the “three elevations” during the Mass, the three “great deeds” of Jesus they express, and the three anointings that consecrate us to continue them in our lives. Omne trinum perfectum (Google it).

Monday, August 15, 2011

E pluribus unum: 20th Week of the Liturgical Year, August 14-20, 2011

Judges chs. 6,11; Ruth chs. 1,2,4; Matthew, chs.20-23.


Everyone knows the Latin words on our coins mean “Out of many one.” But how many think about this fundamental principle of our country every time they spend a dime? It may be the same at Mass.

Sunday: Unity is a unifying theme in the liturgy. We declare our communal identity in the Introductory Rites; “pledge allegiance” in the Gloria; become “one mind” in the Liturgy of the Word; present many hosts to be made “one bread, one body” at the Presentation of Gifts; and bask in the peace and unity of the “wedding banquet of the Lamb” in the Rite of Communion. But the core mystery of union is made present in the Eucharistic Prayer.

Monday: The recurring duo throughout history of Israel’s infidelity and God’s mercy are combined into the revelation of God as steadfast love. The main events through which his love saved us—Christ’s Passion, Resurrection and Ascension with its promise of Return— are made present as one in the Anamnesis: a “remembrance” that makes the past alive.

Tuesday: In the Anamnesis we “recall and encounter” the Lord “with us” now as offering himself on the cross, rising, seated at the right hand of the Father, and returning in glory. At Mass all these moments are one, and all are present to us.

Wednesday: Jesus died for us and accepts to rule over us because of the Covenant—which God established for our benefit, not his. The full meaning of anamnesis (and “Do this in remembrance of me”) is: 1. God makes a covenant; 2. he establishes a sign of it (the events of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, made present in his Body and Blood on the altar); 3. the sign is offered to God in Eucharist so that God will “remember” and act once again according to the covenant. All is in a spirit of thanksgiving.

Thursday: Jesus “gave thanks” when he offered his Body and Blood, because his offering was not a “punishment” or a “payment” for our sins, one which God was bound in “justice” to exact, but a process—and the only possible process—by which sins could be truly “taken away.” He gave thanks that this process was the will of the Father in the shared love of Father, Son and Spirit. His Incarnation made it possible for him to incorporate us, with our sins, into his body on the cross so that we could be one with him and our sins could be “taken away” by our dying “in him.” We give thanks for this mystery.

Friday: Unity (in one shared divine life and “communion in the Holy Spirit”) is the essential characteristic of the Church; and the essential characteristic of unity is love. We show love when we minister to each other in word and action.

Saturday: To love is to give life; not only physically, but spiritually. When law replaces love it kills. Jesus condemns those who enforce laws heedless of the burden they are imposing. This is more likely when authorities “separate” themselves from others by accepting marks of prestige. In the “communion of the Holy Spirit” there is no “higher” or “lower,” but all are one in Christ.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wholly Holy: 19th Week of the Liturgical Year, August 7-13, 2011

Deuteronomy chs. 10, 31, 34; Joshua chs. 3, 24; Matthew, chs.17-19.


We can all use the word “holy” correctly in a sentence. But what does it mean? Not in itself (various meanings), but to us? How much place does the sense of the “holy” have in my consciousness? How much difference might it make if it were more?

Sunday: The Eucharistic Prayer is prefaced by the acclamation, “Holy, holy, holy!” and celebrates how God’s holiness and ours is made visible 1. in an event (Calvary, made present in Eucharist); 2. in the union (“communion/fellowship in the Holy Spirit”) made possible by that event and realized during Mass; and 3. in the perfection of that union at the “wedding banquet of the Lamb” (experienced in preview in the Rite of Communion). Eucharist thus celebrates the “source and summit” of Christian life.

Monday: The opening words of the Eucharistic Prayer “Lord, Father, you are holy indeed,” give us reason to keep our Covenant with God who is to be loved with all our heart and soul because he is All. The All Holy, the “fountain of all holiness.”

Tuesday: When we “cross over” from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we are aware of crossing over from what could be (but isn’t) just a human prayer service into the mystery of the event, the sacrifice, that made us divine. At Baptism we “became Christ” by dying and rising in him. At Mass we offer ourselves with him and in him for the life of the world.

Wednesday: At the moment of the “Consecration” during the Eucharistic Prayer we are aware of the awesome holiness of the Church—all of us—whose united prayer God unfailingly answers by changing the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus.

Thursday: God uses visible signs—the Ark of the Covenant, Eucharist—so that “we may know” his holiness present among us.

Friday: We get to the heart of our religion when we remember we were saved by an event that was a personal act of love. And that Person was the All Holy God. To “celebrate” is to “single out for grateful remembrance.” That is Eucharist.

Saturday: To choose God we must choose him as All by surrendering all. We did this at Baptism by giving him our body. We died in him and rose to live ONLY as his risen body on earth. We offer ourselves again: through him, with him, in him, at every Mass.

Mass puts us in the presence of the Holy. If we really keep aware of this at Mass (body language, silence during the celebration, reverence of heart) it will help us keep a sense of holiness of God—in us and around us—all week. Especially if we remind ourselves.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Best Thing in Life is Free: 18th Week of the Liturgical Year, July 31-August 6, 2011

The Best Thing in Life is Free
Eighteenth Week of the Liturgical Year, July 31-August 6, 2011
Numbers, chapters 11-20; Deuteronomy chapters 4-6; Matthew, ch. 14-17.


This week invites us to probe our faith. What do we really believe will make us happy on earth? What do our choices say we believe it is?

Sunday: “Come to me... Why spend your money for what fails to satisfy?” Do we really believe that interaction with God can give us what we want here and now? And do we believe God will give us happiness free? A serious question.

Monday: We will be disappointed if we seek satisfaction through achievement in work; even in ministry. But disappointment and failure can lead us to deeper dependence on God. And through this to real joy.

Tuesday: Religion is most disappointing to legalists who find their satisfaction in the achievement of keeping all the rules. They have little vital, personal contact with God. And they blind others to it. Focusing on any achievement opens us to jealousy, which just turns desires into torture.

Wednesday: Serving God through ministry is not satisfying to those who think it is so hopeless—or think they are so inadequate—that they give up before they start. When we “think big” we should think of how big God is.

Thursday: Evcn the greatest ministers have faults. History shows it. And faulty people can be great ministers. If we trust in God instead of what we see in ourselves or others, we will discover this.

Friday: We sometimes get the most encouragement by looking backwards: remembering the “great deeds” of God. If we look back to the resurrection, we can learn to see the risen Jesus in ourselves and others right now. Seeing his life in us gives us the courage to “die” to everything else. If what we die to is ultimately worth nothing outside of God, do we get God “free” no matter what we sacrifice?

Saturday: The ministry of the Church will be unable to heal the world of violence and war until we accept completely Christ’s command of perfect love. Perfect love casts out fear, including the fear of losing whatever we fight to defend in war.

The Transfiguration gave Jesus and his disciple-witnesses a preview of the glory he and they would enter into. By looking backwards to it the disciples could keep their faith when they saw Jesus crushed in his Agony in the Garden. When our prayer is darkness and defeat, we need to look back and remember the moments on the mountain top.