Posts Tagged ‘Love’
Almost everyday, we encounter some form of road block or difficulty related to our work, or state in life and or vocation. Our Christian tradition tells us such will be the case for one who follows Jesus. Our ‘language’ for this is typically: “Take up your cross” or “Offer it up.”
When we speak about the cross and its role in the Christian life we immediately think of suffering. Suffering is seldom something we desire to embrace. The topic itself can often be treated with a deaf ear. Recently, a particular grace was offered to help me better understand this spiritual reality.
As I awoke early one morning, I was very aware of a difficult task that lay ahead in the day’s demands. In light of this, the simple phrase came to mind: “Touch the Wounds of Jesus.” Strangely enough, this was a comforting thought. I explored it more prayerfully. As I looked to this challenge in light of the phrase “Touch the Wounds of Jesus” I was immediately aware that only the power that flows from Jesus’ Wounds would bring about a good outcome for this difficulty that could not be avoided. I realized that my efforts in this regard in the past had been insufficient.
As I began working on the task at hand, I faced more challenges, and the phrase was repeated “Touch the Wounds of Jesus.” Now, other thoughts came with it: “Do not become frustrated.” “Do not become impatient.” I pressed on, at peace. I then began to come to deeper understanding that all such frustrations in our daily life, particularly as they relate to our being disciples of Jesus are not just opportunities to Touch the Wounds of Jesus, but are actual experiences, meant to allow that power of His mercy and love flow into us.
Touching the Wounds of Jesus is a meditation on the love of God, the mercy of God, the healing, redeeming power of God. A part of the experience of the Incarnation for us also entails a faith-filled encounter with the Wounds of Jesus. Think of the power that flows from these Wounds – the power of God to forgive the sins of the world. It is precisely this power, this mercy and love of God that we need at work in our life and in all that we do in the Name of Jesus.
For greater context, we can look to today’s Gospel from St. Luke (10:21-22):
“All things have been handed over to me by the Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
The Wounds of Jesus are an important part of the Son revealing the Father to the world. When we suffer in living out our vocation, Jesus is inviting us to touch His Wounds, and in the process, revealing to us the power of God, the mystery of God, the love and mercy of God. This is precisely why the power of God’s weakness is far greater than human strength.
May each of us be willing to allow Jesus to lead us in each moment of our day. May we have the grace to find Jesus in our sufferings, great and small. May we allow the ‘weakness of God’ to be our strength!
Today, couples gathered from around Wyoming to celebrate the beauty and gift of marriage. Many dioceses around the country have such an annual celebration in the middle of winter. I have a feeling that is why it has not been celebrated here. So, we decided that today, we would invite couples who have been married 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, or more that 50 years to come to Casper to celebrate marriage.
I believe 113 couples registered for the event. The longest married couple was celebrating their 73rd anniversary of marriage! The 113 couples together represented over 5,000 years of marriage…that is not a typo…5,000 years of marriage!
Below are some of the main points from my homily today.
The People of Israel put their faith in the promises of God. This faith in God gave them courage.
The People of Israel awaited the salvation of the just. The author of the Book of Wisdom is here recalling the hardships the people endured while enslaved in Egypt. He is also reminding them that just as God saved them from bondage, He continues to act in our day, for our God is a faithful God. Thus, we, too, are to place our faith in God, and find our courage in the fidelity and mercy of God.
HEBREWS (11: 1-2, 8-19)
“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”
I was looking back at my own journal the other day, and was recognizing the many moments that I have struggled, and turned to the LORD, questioning and pleading for what grace I felt was most needed. I began to notice even in my rambling thoughts a recognition in those times of the role of faith. Even though I could not see clearly the next steps to be taken, or did not feel enlightened enough for particular decisions, I never-the-less took those steps and made those decisions…in faith.
I then thought of each of you, and so many other married couples who no doubt live your married lives by faith. None of you could have possibly envisioned the life that lay ahead of you on your wedding day. No doubt there have been hardships. Probably all of you have had moments when it was not easy to continue to love. There were possibly major moves from one job to another or even one city or state to another, possibly even times when there was no income to support you as a couple or family. As Abraham was asked by God to offer his son, some of you have lost children, either through miscarriages or death.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us: “Your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.” Every Christian vocation is a way or path to the Kingdom of Heaven. Every Christian vocation is meant to build up the Kingdom of Heaven. This is certainly the case for marriage.
In marriage spouses are to help each other, their children, indeed all of society find their way to heaven. Pope Francis in a recent address tells us that the pastoral work of the Church does not succeed through our resources, but upon the creativity of love.
Dear husbands and wives, your sacramental life is such a ‘creativity of love’ upon which the Church relies. Our pastoral efforts as Church depends upon your love. Your love is a participation in Divine love. Your love brings new children into the family of God. Without the love of husbands and wives, there will be no more children in God’s family.
Jesus also instructs us today: “Sell your belongings and give alms.” The Christian vocation is not about one’s self. A Christian vocation is always about the Other, and about service and love of others. Jesus warns numerous times in the Gospel not to get too attached to the things of this world. We need to always remain free for greater love.
Every Christian vocation leads to an “inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.” The true, inexhaustible treasure in heaven is God, because God is love. That is why the path to heaven is love. That is how spouses assist one another in getting to heaven, by the path of true love.
“For where your treasure is, there also will your hearts be.” For most couples, their spouse is their greatest treasure. But we must always remember that marital love is to be a participation in a greater love, which is the Infinite, the inexhaustible love of God.
Dear husbands and wives, thank you for your love. Thank you for your fidelity. Thank you for your witness to the world of your believe in the God of Love, and your belief that the true goal of this life is what lies beyond the present world, the Kingdom of Heaven, which the Father wishes to give us.
I hope to have some photos to add to this entry shortly. To all our married couples: keep living the faith, keep loving, and hang in there! Thank each of you for your love and fidelity. God bless you.
Today I had the distinct pleasure of returning to a parish where I served as pastor for nine years to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony for a lovely couple. The groom was only 15 years old when I arrived in 1998 as pastor. I quickly came to know and love his family.
I was very happy when I learned of his engagement to a beautiful and lovely young woman, and more than pleased to accept their invitation to celebrate their special day with them.
Congratulations Steven & Kristina Bauerla!
Below are the main thoughts from today’s homily:
Today’s Gospel, Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, captures Jesus in one of his great teaching moments. I’m sure Kristina can relate to the role of teacher, as well as to the reality that when a teacher teaches, she or he wants others to pay attention, and learn. Equally, we hear today from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians perhaps his equivalent to the Sermon on the Mount, in his great teaching on the reality of love.
St. Paul teaches us that love rejoices in the truth. Love is patient, kind, humble. Love does not seek its own interests; it bears all things, believes, hopes, endures all things. It is reminiscent of his Letter to the Romans where he says: “all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Steven and Kristina, it is good that you are beginning your married life here, before the altar of God, for it is God who created you; God who brought you together; God who will sustain you; God who is your (our) final goal. And we know all this from today’s readings.
Thus, Jesus concludes his teaching on the beatitudes: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you, and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” Such instruction speaks realistically about sacrifice, suffering, and true love.
The Book of Genesis speaks of the intimacy and communion of love God creates us to share with him. Our first relationship (communion) is with God himself. Note how God speaks with Adam. God involves Adam in the process of creation, inviting him to name all the animals. And it is God who says “it is not good for the man to be alone.”
God makes a suitable companion for the man – woman.
This creation account says that God “cast a deep sleep on the man” to take one of his ribs. Actually, the Hebrew verb here is much more expressive than a ‘deep sleep.’ A more accurate translation would be ‘ecstacy.’ This calls to mind a beautiful statue of St. Teresa of Avila carved by Bernini years ago which depicts the great saint in an ecstatic communion of love with God. This is the scene when God takes a rib from Adam to create woman…an ecstatic communion of love between God and the human person.
One may ask: “Why the rib?” My first answer is simply: “God is God.” But also, when the rib is removed, it reveals the heart – the interior place of communion and love. In a sense, it opens the human heart to God. It reveals that the human person left to him or her self, is incomplete. Thus the Church has always taught that the Christian vocation is only and always found in self-gift. This is why Jesus also teaches that it is only in losing one’s life that one saves it. In the same manner, St. Paul teaches that love does not seek its own interests.
Further, the open side of Adam calls to mind the words of the Prophet Ezekiel (36:26) “I will take from you your stony hearts and give you a new heart.”
Ultimately, the open side of Adam foreshadows the pierced side of Christ crucified – revealing his Sacred Heart and the fire of God’s Infinite Love…again…a love expressed in self-gift. Jesus’ love is a complete giving of self for another. Christ gave himself out of love for the Father and love for us. In this self-offering of love, Jesus took his Bride to himself, and his Bride is the Church.
From the open side of Christ, we are nourished by the saving water of Baptism and Eucharist – the very flesh and blood of Christ – the Bread of Life. This life-sustaining intimacy of Christ’s love for us as members of his body, the Church, is the model and definition of marital love.
Kristina and Steven, stay close to Christ and his Church. As long as your marriage and love remain open to Christ – as long as your lives seek to participate in Divine Love itself – you will lack nothing – indeed – your love will continue to grow and bear much fruit.
Remember, your love is a part of something much bigger! Your love is a part of the life of the Church. Your love is a participation in the Divine Mystery. So, my final words of advice come directly from Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount:
Live always humbly before God, that you may be blessed with His Kingdom.
Seek justice in your relations with one another and others, remembering always the poor and the least, and you will know what it is to be satisfied.
Be merciful with one another – always ready to forgive, that you may know the mercy of God.
Live with purity of heart – never yielding the sacredness of your love to the depravities of the world, and you will see God.
Live in peace with one another and all, and you will be known as children of God.
Be ready and willing to bear your share of hardship which the Gospel entails; the hardships which true love requires, and you will rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven!
Today the Church celebrates the birth of St. John the Baptist. We read in Sacred Scripture that this birth was announced to Zechariah by an angel of the Lord. The angel even goes so far as to describe the life mission of John. (Luke 1: 525)
The Sacred Scriptures give plenty of other evidence that we are all created by God, from the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4) Most memorable is the annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary (Luke 1: 26-38) as well as Samson (Judges 13,) and Isaac (Genesis 15:2-6; 18:9-15; 21: 1-8.)
Other passages speak of the work of God forming each of us in the womb. “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works!” (Psalm 139: 13-14) Also, the Prophet Isaiah: “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” (Is 49:1)
These Scripture passages teach us that each human person is intimately known by God, who calls us into being. This fundamental understanding of the origins of every human person speaks to the importance of religious freedom. This is not just a freedom bestowed upon us by others.
Religious freedom is a part of our DNA. We are created by God, for relationship with God and the entire human journey is destined to return to God. The dignity of every human person is rooted in this Divine Origin of all human life.
This relationship with God is carried on in the intimate realm of human conscience, and is given visible expression in many ways, not the least of which is worship. But worship is not the limitation of religious freedom. One’s relationship with God gives expression to love and service of others. It is guided by moral light that dictates “Do this. Do not do that.”
The Second Vatican Council in its document on Religious Liberty states:
“…the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom must be given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a civil right.” (Declaration of Religious Liberty, #2)
St. John the Baptist was a voice preparing the people of Israel for its Savior. Jesus Christ is the Word spoken by God for all eternity. Still today, freedom is fundamental to exercise our voice in favor of the instructive Word.
St. John the Baptist did not limit his voice to a temple. Rather, he spoke wherever and whenever and whatever the Spirit prompted. This is true religious freedom, in search of and at the service of Truth. The Truth of our faith, Jesus Christ, desires only the good for all people. His desire is the desire of the Father, that all come to sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
Let us continue our prayer for a proper respect for religious liberty, and its due protection from unwarranted intrusion by any individual or institution. Let us pray that each person will have a well formed conscience and the freedom to live freely according to its guidance toward the Truth and the common good.
I wish to begin today’s entry with a salute to my classmates (1992) from the North American College. Twenty one years ago today, we entered St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome for our deacon ordinations. There, laying prostrate on the floor in the chapel of the Chair of St. Peter we gave our lives to the Lord for the service of His Church and people. What a blessed walk of life and faith these twenty one years have been! Please, God, may many more young men follow us as such ‘gentle, but ardent servants of the altar.’
Last night found me at Holy Trinity parish in Cheyenne for yet another Confirmation ceremony. Twentynine young people were sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were reminded that we are not our own. We belong to Christ! They were also encouraged to be bold in faith, passionate in their love for Christ, and generous in their service to the Church and God’s people.
Now, to the quirky title of this blog. As some of this readership knows, there was a time when country music was about all I listened to. Sunday, during my last leg of driving back home, I turned once again to a country channel. Merle was singing one of his old hits. I’ve always felt that the many songs of love in country music (as in our own lives) are a mere reflection of God”s love for us.
As I listened to this particular song of Merle’s, I found another basic of Christian life being spelled out symbolically. These are the lyrics:
Here I am again, mixing misery and gin, sitting with all my friends and talking to myself. I look like I’m having a good time, but any fool can tell, that this honky-tonk heaven, really makes me feel like hell.
How often do we follow the ways of the world only to experience the emptiness it offers. Sure, there is a temporary ‘high’ that for the moment drowns our sorrows or takes our minds off what ails us, but when reality dawns once again, we are left empty, and sometimes worse off. We may on the outside appear to be ‘having fun,’ but on the inside, if we are honest with ourselves, we are adrift, in desperate need of an anchor.
Christ has taught us that He is the Anchor. He tells us that the things of this world are fleeting. Obviously, the world is a part of God’s creation, and thus good. We are to live in proper harmony with the world and the people of this world, but not seek to possess them, nor live for these things alone. We belong to Christ. He has grafted us to Himself.
Through the Holy Spirit, Christ has poured His Divine Life into our hearts and souls. This indwelling of Christ is what makes us holy; makes us sons and daughters of God. It is this Divine Presence, this ‘Sonship of God’ within us that is our ticket to heaven. Thus, let us be grateful for this tremendous gift. Let us fully employ our freedom to embrace Christ and always cooperate with His desire to fully nourish His life within us, doing nothing to offend the Holy Spirit.
This is the life of holiness to which all are called.
Today is the Feast of one of my favorite saints, Saint Catherine of Siena. There is a statue near Castle San Angelo in Rome that beautifully represents St. Catherine’s ‘urgency’ to accomplish God’s will; God’s work for the ‘salvation of souls.’ (see picture to the left)
There are many things I admire about this great saint of the 14th century. First and foremost is her love for God and her great desire to live passionately her love for Christ. She had several names for Jesus, perhaps the one she used most in her writings was “Gentle First Truth.” Her life was spent prayerfully discovering the depths of this Truth and preaching it to all who would listen, and quite often to those who would not.
A close second to her love of God and Christ was her love for the Church, most especially demonstrated in her devotion to the Holy Father. St. Catherine was deeply concerned for the state of the Church of her days, and spent countless hours in prayer and fasting and made many journeys working on behalf of the unity of the Church.
St. Catherine put her deep spirituality to practical use in many ways. Along with her love for the Church she wrote many letters of encouragement, even reprimand to people of all walks of life, encouraging greater fidelity to Christ and His Church. So steeped in the Paschal Mystery herself, many of her letters begin with an expressed desire that individuals be bathed in the blood of Christ so as to be washed clean of all selfishness to walk boldly in the life of Christ.
St. Catherine is a great model and intercessor in this Year of Faith and the work of the New Evangelization. Through her intercession, may each of us this day be drawn deeper in love with Christ, grow deeper in love for our Holy Church, and practically express our love caring for those who are struggling in faith.
St. Catherine, Pray for us.
On this Third Sunday of Easter, Jesus appears to his disciples for the third time. This appearance is particularly touching, as Jesus again expresses compassion for and patience with his disciples, while at the same time insisting on their following him as the Risen Lord, while at the same time taking care of his ‘flock.’
Jesus is standing on the shore watching his disciples out on the lake reverting to their former life as fishermen. For Peter, this moment had to call to mind a few other life-changing encounters with Christ. Jesus calls out to his friends: “Have you caught anything?” knowing full well they have been unsuccessful. Then he tells them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” Following Jesus’ instruction leads them to a miraculous catch.
This encounter with the Risen Jesus had to remind Peter of his first meeting with Jesus. Similarly at that time, Jesus instructed Peter to ‘put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch.’ (Luke 5:4) Surely it also reminded all of the disciples of another instruction of Jesus: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Thus, John (the one Jesus loved) was able to recognize and instruct Peter, “It is the Lord.” (John 21:7)
How important it is for us to discover the truth that ‘apart from Jesus we can do nothing.’ This is particularly important in discovering one’s own vocation in life. I reflect upon my earlier life, and see the truth of this. As a young man, I had so much; a great job, a house, I was dating and (in my mind) well on my way to getting married and starting a family.
And yet, despite all of that, even in the numerous and wonderful relationships that were a part of my life, something was missing… And it was not as if I was apart from the Lord or ignoring my faith. I was active in my parish and regularly receiving the sacraments…and yet something was missing. The Lord was calling me to ‘follow him’ and I was following instead my own plan… “apart from me you can do nothing.”
It was only after answering His call to follow Him that my life was complete. It was only after living the life that He created me to live, that my life finally made sense.
Once Peter realizes it is Jesus, he and the other disciples are invited to sit with Jesus and share a meal of fish and bread: “Come have breakfast.” (John 21: 12) This is strong imagery for Eucharist. Then, Jesus has this marvelous interaction with Peter. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these.” (John 21: 15) Three times, Peter professes his love for Jesus. Three times, Jesus instructs Peter to “feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep.”
Finally, Jesus instructs Peter to “Follow me.” (John 21:19) Here in-lies the great commission for the Church; for all of us. We are to recognize that apart from Jesus we can do nothing. We are to hear in a clear and concrete way Jesus’ instruction to “feed my lambs.” We, too, are to follow the Risen Jesus in our life.
The great commission of Jesus is heard again in this touching and very personal encounter between Peter and the Risen Lord. We who know him from our own personal faith experience are to be his witnesses to the world. We are to preach to people and to testify that Jesus is the One sent by God as judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10: 40-43) We are to give expression to our faith by concrete actions of charity. “Tend my sheep. Feed my lambs.”
I pray that all may recognize the ways that the Risen Lord is walking with each of us; calling each of us. I pray that each of us may have the grace and courage to follow the Risen Lord wherever He leads. I pray we may all have the generosity of heart to love those to whom we are sent, that they, too, may know Jesus Christ.
Easter Vigil 2013
Happy Easter! This Holy Night never fails to capture the radiance and abundant life that are ours in God’s Providential love. From Creation, through the Covenants; from the Wisdom of God and His profound patience and mercy, the People of God are ever confident in the faithful, accompanying presence of our God.
Enlightened by His Word as well as the great lights of the heavens, we walk unencumbered by the darkness of our world. This Light is known in its fullness and in person in the person of Jesus, resplendent in His Risen Body. To live in Christ is to know the abundance of Divine Life. To live in the Risen Christ is to know joy, peace, and the fullness of life.
Both nature and faith teach us that apart from the light, we remain in darkness, we remain sluggish. In the dark days of winter, it is easy to feel a loss of energy, even depressed. Sunlight is a natural source of energy to all forms of life. This is just one of the ways nature teaches us the deeper Truth of Faith of the role of Christ in the life of every person. The world without Christ and the Light of His Gospel remain in darkness, sluggish to reach its full potential, meaning, and purpose.
Tonight, the Light of the Risen Christ shines once again upon the world. He is the Light to guide our feet from the shadows of darkness into the ways of peace. (Luke 1:79) Christ completed his humble walk among us as the Good Shepherd, One like us in all things but sin. Christ has completed His self-offering as the Sacrificial Lamb, shedding His life-giving blood upon the cross for our Salvation. He has conquered sin and death, once and for all. He laid down His life. It was not taken from Him. He offered freely for our redemption. (John 10:18) He has taken up His life again, once for all time, because His life is life without end.
This Divine Life, this Life that generates all life, this Life that created heaven and earth and all within them, can never be destroyed. This Divine Life, which God shared with our first parents, which was lost by sin, is now restored. That is why the angels asked the women at the tomb: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.” (Luke 24:5) All of creation owes its life to this Life.
My dear friends each human person, from the moment of conception, is created in the image and likeness of God. The creation account we heard tonight from the Book of Genesis recalls this crowning moment of God’s handiwork by creating us in his image and likeness. But we know that this harmony and holiness was lost through sin. The human person, now scarred by sin and death remains in the image of God, but is deprived of the Glory of God, or His likeness. This Glory, this likeness, is ours once again because Jesus has restored us to the Father’s likeness by giving us again the Spirit, who is the ‘giver of life.’ (CCC 705)
The Risen Jesus comes to us to restore Divine Life. He comes to restore us to a proper and profound relationship with God, and with one another. Christ, in his humility walked this earth that we might know God. Christ in His obedience to the Father took our sins to the cross to conquer sin once and for all. The disfigured body of the Crucified Christ was the means for restoring the beauty of our humanity.
In Baptism, we die with Christ that we might rise to the new and eternal life that is ours in His Resurrection. Thus, the entire project of the Christian life is two-fold; continually die to sin, and live in Christ. This is always and only possible by remaining in Him. (John 15:5-10) Because God has bestowed upon us the dignity of freedom, we always have a choice between loving God, remaining in His love, or not. Baptism grants us the sanctifying grace to always remain strong in this freedom, in this life and death choice. (CCC #1999) In a few moments, we will celebrate the offering of this grace which restores us to Divine Life once again.
Let us always live in the grace that is ours through Baptism and the sacraments of the Church. And when we fail, as in our humanity we are bound to do on occasion, let us be quick in seeking out the grace of sacramental reconciliation.
Let us not starve the Life of Christ given us through the Church. Let us always feed upon the bounty of Life He offers us in His Body and Blood of the Eucharist.
We have been baptized in Christ. He now lives in us, that we may live in Him. Be ever mindful of the words of St. Paul: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)
Therefore, let us no longer be duped by deception and falsehood. Live in the Truth of Him Who lives in you!
May we forever remain in His love, and may His love forever live in and through us for others.
Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! In Him we are victorious!
Happy Easter, Everyone!
Good Friday, 2013
Christ sheds His blood for us that we might be redeemed and made sharers once again in the Life He shares with the Father. This life that Christ shares with us comes through His humility, His obedience, and His suffering. If we are to share fully in the life He offers, we too must be humble before God, obedient to Christ and His Church, and willing to embrace the suffering that life entails.
From the cross, Christ shares with us the fullness of His love. Let us not run from the love which He offers, which is a love that involves a full giving of one’s self.
As the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us today: “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:8-9)
Who does not want a more abundant life today? Greater dignity for all people requires us to embrace the reality of human life. Life is cheap in our culture today. We do not acknowledge or respect its origins, namely that the Divine origin of life is God, who works through the human force of nature. The human source of life ultimately is woman, who through the natural means of love with a man conceives a child in her womb. Just as Jesus nourishes his life within us through shedding His blood on the cross, a woman nurtures the life of a child within her womb by sharing her blood with her child.
Yes, this life within the womb is human, is a child, and is nourished by the life- blood of the mother. For a woman to bring this life to birth, she requires humility, obedience to the laws of nature and to God, and the willingness to embrace the pain and suffering of child-birth. As Christ on the cross, through shedding his life-blood unites his Bride, the Church to Himself, so a husband and wife cling to each other in the same love of humility, obedience and self-sacrifice. For our world to know greater peace and harmony, we must regain a proper understanding and respect for the life of the unborn and the natural means of generating this life through the sacramental love of husband and wife.
Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) His blood cries out to us today for a deeper respect for human life. Who is not concerned in our culture today about the increase of violence? Who can remain unmoved by the massive numbers of innocent people oppressed and killed by dictators and terrorists? Whose hearts are not broken when the lives of innocent children and countless others are murdered in random shootings? What kind of culture, what kind of thinking creates such an environment if not a society that has lost sight of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life?
The first reality of the cross that speaks to us is of suffering. Human life is full of pain and suffering, and much of life is spent trying to relieve or avoid it. Jesus is teaching us today in part that suffering cannot always be avoided. We cannot allow suffering to cause us to withdraw into the safe haven of self. We cannot allow the fear of suffering to keep us from continually giving ourselves in love to our neighbor.
Jesus also teaches us that suffering when associated with Him and His cross can lead to new and more abundant life. The difficulties of our life, down to the most seemingly insignificant detail can have salvific meaning and great power in the hands of God.
Jesus upon the cross teaches us that human relationships are not easy, yet He shows how embracing these difficulties and persevering through them leads to fullness of life. He loved those who crucified Him, and yet He prayed for their forgiveness.
How many in our world today are not willing to make simple sacrifices for those they claim to love? How many marriages today fail because of an unwillingness to embrace the sacrifices that are a part of love? How many couples today simply live together without the benefit of marriage because their own independence means more? How many children are born into the world today without a father to care for them because of such selfishness? In many ways, we are like those referred to by Isaiah: “we have gone astray…each following his own way.” Rather, we are called to live as St. Paul says: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but everyone for those of others.” (Philippians 2:3)
Jesus was obedient to the Father, obedient to death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8) We are called to such obedience. Jesus’ obedience entailed suffering. It is no different for us. But the suffering entailed by obedience leads to endurance. (Romans 5:3) With growth in humility and obedience, we will be able to say with St. Paul: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” (Romans 8:18)
Let us not forget, Jesus’ death was for our sins. (1 John 4:10) Therefore, we too must die to sin if we are to live for Christ. As we venerate his cross today, let us humbly call to mind its purpose; our freedom from sin and our abundant life in Christ. This necessarily means that “we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:11)
Let us live humbly our faith. Let us live obediently our faith. Let us embrace the suffering life, love, and faith entails, that we may gain the fullness of life Christ has obtained for us by his holy cross.
Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Good Shepherd Tonight; Sacrificial Lamb Tomorrow
Tonight, we celebrate the beginnings of the Church as Jesus establishes the two great sacraments of Eucharist and Priesthood. Tonight, we see Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Tomorrow, we will gaze upon Him as the Sacrificial Lamb. (see Zechariah 10:10-11) Tonight He gives us the Eucharist, tomorrow He will become the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world.
Tonight as He washes His disciples’ feet, Jesus models the great commandment to love one another. Tomorrow He will live out the demands of this Great Love as our High Priest, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.
Tonight, Jesus gives us the Banquet of His Love, new and eternal. The cupboard of the Church is the only place this meal is stored. From this Eucharist, we draw the grace to live our lives with the same love. Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) The banquet we celebrate tonight is the means by which this fullness of life is eternally shared with us. From this Banquet of Love we receive the grace to grow in the fullness of charity and life.
Tomorrow we will remember the great out-pouring of this Love. The Blood of Jesus is a stream that flows once and for all times. It is the life-giving stream seen by Ezekiel flowing from the temple. It is a stream that becomes a river, flowing into the sea, renewing all life. (see Ezekiel 47: 1-10) This outpouring of Love is the Cup of Blessing we share; our Communion with the Blood of Christ. (1 Cor 10:16) This Blood of Christ is the great treasure of the Church entrusted to the priests for safe-keeping and distribution. This blood of Christ washes away our sins and makes us worthy to serve the living God; indeed, this Blood of Christ reunites us with God.
God has blessed us in Christ. Through him, at the cost of his blood, we have been redeemed. (see Romans 5:8-9) This is the cup of blessing shared by Christ with his beloved disciples. The meal Jesus celebrated with His disciples was a remembrance of God’s powerful arm that led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. The meal we celebrate tonight is the fulfillment of the Passover Meal, now that God through His Son has freed His people from their sins. This Eucharist is a remembrance of the redeeming work of Jesus and has become as Moses declared, “a perpetual institution.” (Exodus 12:14)
When we eat the Body of Jesus and drink His Blood, we know what it is to share in the Love of God. This intimate Communion of Life in God is what was lost by sin. We must be honest and humble about our need for this Eucharist. Hopefully, our Lenten journey has sharpened our awareness of sin. Hopefully, our Lenten journey has taught us that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. (John 15:5) This is what sin is; to separate one’s self from Jesus; from God. When sin separates us from God, we can do nothing.
We all know this mysterious power that comes over us at times that seduces us and clouds our thinking. This is the mysterious power that came over Judas and led him to betray Jesus this very night. This power is real, and we know that when we give ourselves over to this power, we die. This is the power of sin that diminishes the Divine Life within us. We cannot love both Jesus and the attraction of sin. Jesus said: “You cannot love both God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) We cannot serve two masters. Blessed Columba Marmion says: “we cannot by the same act unite ourselves to someone and turn away from him.” (Christ, The Life of The Soul, p. 170)
If we choose to remain in sin, then we can have no part in Divine Life. We all know what it is like to desire this Divine Life; to desire this intimate walk with God, and yet to fall into sin. It is so defeating! The reality of our experience when we sin tells us the Truth about sin, that it leads to death, and diminishes the Divine Life within us. Yet, our hope is always in the Lord. God allows this struggle within us between good and evil because, as a wise young priest told me just last night: “God knows we can be victorious. But we are only victorious when we remain in Christ, because it is Christ alone who is victorious.” This is why Christ tells us to remain in Him. (John 15:4)
So, my dear friends, we celebrate tonight. We celebrate the priesthood, and those individual priests who hear our sins and grant us God’s mercy. We celebrate the priesthood and those priests who offer us the Eucharist and all the sacraments that are the means by which Christ shares with us the Divine Life. Above all, we revel in Christ who is our victory. We celebrate this Holy Eucharist, our greatest prayer and means of giving thanks to God for all the Good He has done for us. We celebrate this Eucharist; our greatest means of receiving the abundance of Life, Divine Life, from Christ Himself.
Let us learn these lessons of love. As we are renewed in Divine Life and Love tonight and in every Eucharist, may our lives be marked by concrete actions of the same love, expressed to those who are most in need.