Thursday, April 28, 2016

When You Eat My Flesh

When You Eat My Flesh (John 6:51-71)

         I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.  Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,  for the life of the world.  … For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.  As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
         To say these last that twenty verses of the Gospel of John are cause for reflection is an understatement that cannot be overstated.  A lifetime is not long enough to absorb their Promise.  A popular bumper sticker comes to mind: “God said it.  I believe it.  That settles it.”  This radical, even divisive, Word from Jesus is so deep from the Bowels of God, that our Ears of Flesh cannot attain them –they can only be grasped by Faith.
         So disturbing was this Word of Jesus that the crowd and many of his disciples left him: After hearing it, many of his followers said, 'This is intolerable language.  How could anyone accept it?'  Jesus did not rephrase, soften or explain his Word as symbolic.  He didn’t even flinch.  He said: It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
         The way of the Flesh –of the World- offers no hope for understanding this Word of his Spirit, this Voice of his Father, the Source and Culmination of Life.  Before his death, Jesus left this parting Word: I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you.
Only in surrendering our spirit into the giving of his Holy Spirit, do we have access to the God-Given-Gift, the Spirit-Capacity to transcend our natural world, which is limited by the logic of our senses.   Only through his Spirit present within us, can our Faith grasp the Reality, the Truth, of his Real Presence in the Eucharist, that when we eat his Flesh and drink his Blood, we Receive our Lord  -his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
When we feed on God, God becomes part of us, and as such, we become part of God.  To eat with someone, has forever been a sign of common bond, of sharing life together.  But now, in our Communion -our Common Union with Jesus- the symbolic is Transfigured into the literal.  In consuming Jesus, we become consumed by him.  In possessing Jesus, he possesses us.
         When we feed on God, we abide in him, and he in us –we make our home in him, we live our life in him, with him, for him and by him.  Having been mingled in Body, our identities become transposed.  Like Lovers Lost in the Other's arms, we become One.
         Surely, Peter must also have been wondering.  “Is this madness, to talk of such Intimacy with God?  Can a sane disciple not walk away from such insanity?  How do I respond to these Words from my Masters Mouth?  …Then Jesus said to the Twelve, 'What about you, do you want to go away too?'   Simon Peter answered, 'Lord, who shall we go to?  You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.'
         Peter was always the one apt to blurt things out.  Perhaps, it was this very weakness, that allowed the Holy Spirit to speak through him -before his mind of flesh had a chance to filter out the Confounding Truth.  Three decades later, John, in putting to pen this foundational discourse, wrote: He taught this doctrine at Capernaum, in the synagogue.  John had the advantage of Pentecost, with its empowering Wisdom, plus thirty years, to reflect and formulate his response to Jesus’ discourse on the Gifting of his Body and Blood.  He framed it as “doctrine”, as a central Truth.  But Peter, he had his back pinned to the wall.  An immediate and public response was demanded of him.
         If John was the Brilliant Theologian, then Peter was the Faithful Dog.  If I was allowed to have only one as my hero, it would be Peter.  Even though he did not understand his Master, he was blindly Faithful.  If Jesus said it, he Believed it to be True.  He was so bonded to his Master that he could leap before he could understand.    
         Lord, lead me into the Faith of Peter, your Rock.  Root me in the Truth of your Word.  As I approach your Living Bread, 0pen my heart -to receive your Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity –that I may draw Life from you; that you, may become part of me; that I, may become true in you.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Gate Keeper

The Gate Keeper (John 10:1-16)

    Like most parables, the Good Shepherd has more than one audience.  Let us consider two: The Pharisees to whom he was speaking; and the Church Today, to whom he is speaking still.  The context, which gave birth to this parable, was the Pharisees’ treachery to the Love of God made visible through an Act of Healing.
Willfully blind and deaf, the Pharisees refused to be converted by the witness of The Man Born Blind but healed by Jesus.  Instead, they the shepherds of Israel, gave witness to depravity.  Reviling Truth, they denied what they saw with their eyes and heard with their ears.  They proclaimed Jesus a sinner –they accused Truth to be an Enemy of God.  They beguiled their flock to maintain a lie.   Jesus responds to their Darkness by revealing his Light.  He tells a simple story about a Gate, a Gate Keeper, Sheep, Thieves, and a Good Shepherd.
In those times, at nightfall, the local shepherds would gather their flocks into a common enclosure, where their sheep would be protected.  The Gate was the only portal through which the Shepherd could come and go.  The Gate Keeper, stood guard over the Gate -allowing only the Good Shepherd access to his Sheep.  The Thieves used the cover of Darkness to scurry through the fences and steal the Sheep.
Parables are stories which unlock Reality, allowing the Unknowable to be revealed through the knowable, giving birth to Truth.  Two fundamental Truths are revealed in this God-Story.  One is Transcendent, pure Gift from the Mind of God: That Jesus is the Christ, the Good Shepherd, the One Sent -to give Voice to God’s Word.  The other is Truth-By-Default, ever present, but hidden by the pain of its discovery: Namely, we arrogant humans are but Stupid Sheep, lost without our Good Shepherd, easy prey for the Thief.
What was known, by all at that time, was that sheep only trusted the voice of their shepherd -of he who provided green pastures and living water.  For this reason, they recognized his voice and followed only him, as babies their mother.  For this reason, the multitude recognized the Voice of God in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, whose Edifying Word was congruent with his life lived.  And for this reason, they did not follow the Pharisees, whose pious but Empty Words did not satisfy their souls.
Jesus’ Story exposed, to the Pharisees, their hypocrisy.  But also, it exposes the Heart of the Good Shepherd, to his Church today –if we are willing to Believe in his Word, to Listen to and Heed his Voice.  
We are children of war.  We are born into a battle for our souls.  We were created for God –to love and worship him.  But the Prince of Darkness, who is the Thief, comes to steal, deceive and lead us into eternal Death.  He is a fallen creature of God, Hell Bent, consumed with foiling God’s Love with Man.  Mortally wounded by the Cross, his power is confined to Darkness.  His works wilt when exposed to the Light of Truth.
The Good Shepherd is God-Become-Man, entering into time and space, to reveal the Truth of our being –our purpose and destiny.  This Jesus is not only the historical Son Of God, who shepherded Humanity into The Light, he is also the Gate, the Word of God, Truth itself –through which alone Salvation is found.  He is the Voice of God.
There are many Voices in our world today.  All of them promising to quench our desires, our thirst for more, to deliver us from want.  We all have wandered from the protection of the Good Shepherd.  Possibly, we have forgotten his intimate touch –his Voice now that of a stranger.  Though he never ceases calling our name, maybe our ears have become untrained, unable to discern between Beckoning Voices.
We are vulnerable.  We can convince ourselves at will which Voice is most convenient for us, thus creating our personal “truth”.  When another Voice, easier or more delightful, teases our ears, we can change allegiance and still stare, unmoved, into the Mirror of our conscience.   How can we, such as we are, know the Voice of Truth?
Truth, the Word of God, enters through the Gate of Jesus.  The Gate Keeper is the one who guarantees that it is the Good Shepherd whose Voice is calling out to the Sheep.  Who is this one of such authority as to certify Truth?  In Jesus’ time, it was the prophet, John the Baptist, who pointed to Jesus and said, “This is the One.”  The Voice from Heaven, also attested saying, “This is my Beloved Son, listen to him.”  And Jesus’ many miracles spoke boldly of a Truth from above.
But what about today, who is the Gate Keeper of Truth?  Who dare lay claim to this Audacious Authority -to certify the Word of God, to attest to what is Truth?   Many would say the Bible is now the Gate Keeper.  It is not an unreasonable claim.  As it is the Word of God, one can argue then, that its Truth testifies to itself.   From a Catholic perspective, this answer is true yet insufficient, for individual interpretation precludes unity –denying the Communion of his Word, the very reason of his Coming.
The Bible is our inviolable authority of Truth, but it is not our only authority of Truth.  We have Sacred Scripture (the Bible) and Sacred Tradition (loosely, the Apostolic Lens, through which Scripture, and all the teaching that flows from it, is received).  In effect, Truth though accessible to the individual, can only be guaranteed by The Gate Keeper -the Apostolic Authority of the Church, that if disregarded, gives free reign to division, and inevitably, religious relativism –where personal opinion displaces tenets of Truth.  
This is a hard pill to swallow in our culture of individual rationalism; where Truth is submitted to the mind, and not the mind to Truth; where the thought of a Gate Keeper is abhorrent; where we chart our own course -to suit our notions and needs; where Truth and Obedience are disconnected; where unchecked, every person becomes their own god.
          Jesus ordained the Role of Gate Keeper because we are, in Truth, Sheep in need of one.   Truth is banished from a heart not humbled by Obedient Submission.  Jesus founded his Church upon the Rock of the First Gate Keeper.  He gave Peter the Keys, not so he could subjugate sheep, but to bind on earth what is bound in heaven – to feed his Sheep, to pasture them in Truth, to ensure the Voice of the Good Shepherd remains Anchored through the tumults of time.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

See, Believe, Come!

See, Believe, Come! (John 6:28-40)

         The crowd, which ate the multiplied loaves and fish the previous day, ask Jesus, 'What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?'  Jesus answers, 'This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent'.  
For the Jew, whose religion was based on externals, this response made no sense.  Their sense of sanctity was based on meticulously performing the works ritualized in the Law of Moses.  They sought purity of heart by external washings.  Now, Jesus is saying they will come to righteousness by an internal Event in their heart.  He is displacing the letter of the Law with a life of Faith.
         This Truth was too radical.  Only after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit –the Seal of his Word- was released upon the Church, would they begin to grasp the Truth.  At this point, the crowd was like deer blinded by the headlights of what was overtaking them.  Disoriented by Truth, they forgot their Miraculous Meal, and they demand a sign to attest to Jesus’ incomprehensible Word.

         Jesus, re-rooting them in the Reality of yesterday’s miracle, tells them that He is the Sign they seek.  He is the True Bread from heaven.  He says, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.”   Only in him will we find Nourishment that lasts.  Jesus just set the Table for True Fulfillment, the Formula for Eternal Life, the Foundation of our Faith.

         It is not enough to know the Truth.  He explains, “…you can see me and still you do not believe.”  To say ‘We see’ is not sufficient.  The faith Jesus is calling us into demands the participation of our life.  To “See” him is to encounter the Truth; to “Believe” is to espouse ourselves to it –to Him; to “Come” to him is to leave our Self behind, to lose ourselves in him –to become one with him, with his mission.

         This is the foundation of his Eucharistic Vision for us: to encounter Jesus; to espouse ourselves to him with a Faith-Filled Yes; and to join our lives to his Mission, in the Union of his Holy Spirit.  This is the path to True Fulfillment, to Life Eternal.   It is his invitation for us to Become our Destiny –to be Betrothed to God.

         And this Proposal is to all: “Now the will of him who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me…  Yes, it is my Father's will that whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and that I shall raise him up on the last day.”

         Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see what you are holding out to me –when I say Amen to those beckoning words “The Body of Christ.”  Embolden my faith to say “YES!” to you with every beat of my heart –to be united with you in the Love of our Father –to live my life empowered by your Holy Spirit, that I may become fully alive.  May I be driven by your Love to share the Hope you sow in my Communion with you, the Bread of Life.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Eternal Life

Eternal Life (John 3)

The Echoes of Easter still stirs our souls: Visions of Death Conquered;  New Birth; and Truth Revealed -the Mercy, the Miracle, the Wonder and Awe; the Promise, the Hope, the Joy –all, begs our Faith to absorb.  In her wisdom, Mother Church leads us, through this third chapter of John, as the Events of Easter seek to penetrate our spirit –its Light wedging open the cracks in our hearts Awakened.
This all seems too good to be true, too simple to be so profound.  How can it be, that if I just Believe in him, in this God-Man, I will be Saved from Perdition?  That I will be Born from Above?  That I will receive, without reserve, the Gift of his Holy Spirit, to accomplish his Divine Plan in my life?  All this can be mine, if I just believe?  Is it like Dorothy -clicking her heals three times?  But, doesn’t even the Devil believe in Jesus?  And what about my doubts, do I then, not believe?  Like Nichodemus, I ask.   “How can that be possible?”
For God so Loved the world… that he sent his only Son… not to condemn the world but that through him… the world might be saved… that everyone who Believes in him may not be lost… but may have Eternal Life.”  This is the Word of God.  It is the key to Easter’s Mystery –the sail which allows us to catch its wind of Truth.
God is Love.  Everything he does, everything he wills, is framed in Love.  We were created out of his Love, for his Love, and to remain in his Love.  It is this framework of Love through which John’s third chapter is revealed.  God our Father, sent his Son, not to condemn us, for we were already condemned by our unbelief, but to Save us from the Darkness in which we walked.  He came as The Light, to show us The Way, to reveal himself -The Truth.
He came as the Light of the World, to show us the way to his Father.  We were enslaved by Sin, we preferred Darkness, so we crucified the Light.  But Darkness could not overcome the Light.  Through his Death and Resurrection, he has become the Doorway to our Rebirth.  The stone has been rolled away.  Eternal Life now awaits all who Believe in his Name, who Prefer his Light, who Choose to live in his Truth.
To grasp this Easter Vision, framed in Love, John contrasts it against the Darkness in which we are found.  We prefer Darkness because our “works” are Evil.  We hate the Light because it exposes the Lie we live, the Death we call life, and our Sinfulness shrivels in its Truth.
In Clinging to Sin, we condemn ourselves to the Darkness of Death –a life apart from God’s Love, outside of his Truth.  This is what he came to Save us from.  Before the Coming of Christ into our life, we were enslaved to an existence without Hope.
In the Blackness of Good Friday, when the Curtain was rent in two, Reality itself was fractured.  History was forever altered.  Since that Easter Sunday, all mankind has come to process the Miracle of being Born from Above.  
All that is required for New Life in Christ is that we Believe in Him; that we Prefer his Way over our way; that we Live in his Truth.  We need only to Repent from our way of Sin; to Renounce living for our Self, and Pronounce our allegiance to our Lord and Savior -to live his Life of Love.
Whatever it takes to be born again from above, has already been accomplished on the Cross, as Free Gift –unearned by us, not bound by our past.  It is guaranteed –actualized- the moment we choose to Believe in the Truth, in he who is Faithful to the Promises of his Word.
The Miracle of Easter is made manifest, not only in the sacred moment of our Surrender, but even more so, it is made evident as his Holy Spirit releases Grace into our everyday lives –into every little step we take on his Pathway of Love.
          These little Steps of Love is our life lived –in and for Christ.  These Steps of Love are what St. John refers to as ‘our works’ which draws us into the Light so that they may be clearly seen.  For it is these works, of a Repentant Sinner, which give Glory to God.  They are the Fruit of his Free Gift of Faith –of living his Truth in Love.  They are expression of his Spirit, with whom we are Espoused -the Image, of him who has Begotten us from Above.