Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why Call It Eucharist (Thanksgiving)?

Jesus said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”… And He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My Body which is given for you.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:15,19-20).

It is one of those realizations that leave you speechless. There was something significantly more, qualitatively more, going on in Jesus’ prayer than the traditional, “Blessed are You, L-rd, our G-d, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” Jesus gave thanks to His Father for the True Bread, His Body, that would be broken for us. He thanked the Father that He was able to offer Himself for our redemption! We see how difficult this was for Him when, just a few hours later, we glimpse Him in the Garden of Gethsemane; and yet, almost paradoxically, it was an offering He “earnestly desired” to make.

Historically at Calvary, and sacramentally at Jesus’ final Passover, we see our Lord living out as a man, Who He is from all eternity – the Son of the Father. For it is the Son Who receives all He is from the Father and reciprocates by pouring out Himself to the Father, in the Person of the Spirit. This is the same Trinitarian movement we see in the Cross/Eucharist – but with the Son’s humanity now fully caught up into His outpouring of Love. The Son, Who has received all He is, “gives thanks,” by pouring Himself out in a return of Love. And because He does this as man, His action overwhelmingly atones for – and superabundantly redeems – all sin, man and woman’s rejection of God.

By calling what we Christians “do” Eucharist (the Greek word for “thanksgiving”), we make a profound statement. We have been made sons and daughters in the only Son, and we enter into His Gift of Self to the Father. Like Him, we who have received all we are from the Father, give ourselves back to Him in a movement of thanksgiving/Love - the Holy Spirit pouring forth from Jesus, and carrying us into the arms of the Father. It only makes sense that the Eucharist, what the Church calls “the source and summit of the Christian life,” should be a manifestation of its central Mystery - God’s own Trinitarian Life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Did the Apostles Pray the Rosary?

It sounds like a ridiculous question for me to pose. It's common knowledge that the Rosary didn't take shape for at least another thousand years! Something stood out to me the other night though that gives me pause; I think the "soul" of the Rosary was always present in the Apostles' prayer.

Jesus' instruction at the time of His ascension was, "not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father...before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." And the Apostles did just that: "All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1:4-5, 14). That was how they spent the nine days between Jesus' ascension and the descent of the Spirit on Pentecost.

Of what did their prayer consist? Petition, combined with a great deal of meditation (the "soul" of the Rosary) - thinking and rethinking the things Jesus had said to them, the actions and miracles they witnessed, the meaning of His death, resurrection, and ascension. It consisted of reflecting upon Scripture; when Jesus appeared to them on the night of His resurrection, He had "opened their minds to understand the scriptures...the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms" and how they had been fulfilled in Him (Luke 24:44-45). And this meditation was being done in the presence of Mary. She was engaged in it with them. As John Paul II pointed out so beautifully:
Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51). The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her Son's side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which she recited uninterruptedly throughout her earthly life (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11).
The Apostles spent nine days engaged in this with her, making the Church's first novena. We can see the fruits that emerged - Peter's move to replace the office left vacant by Judas' defection emerged from his reflection upon the Psalms (Acts 1:20) and then the explosion of Scriptural insights he unleashed up the crowd at Pentecost! (Acts 2:16-41) Isn't it likely that the Holy Spirit had been bringing key points of that first sermon to Peter's consciousness throughout the nine days of prayer?

When we today pray the Rosary, when we recite the Hail Mary while meditating upon the events recounted in the gospels and Acts (the fifteen Mysteries), we enter into the Apostles' experience. "With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love" (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 1). And by doing this regularly, daily, our souls grow and become progressively docile to the movement of the Holy Spirit. We receive not one, but several Pentecosts as our eyes open up onto new spiritual vistas and we find ourselves acting with a freedom and strength we imagined ourselves unable to attain. And rightly so - these things can only take root in souls that have been broken up and seeded, over time, through prayer. These souls are made ready for that moment when the Living Water rains down and causes the new life to burst forth out into the open.

We won't see Pentecost without it. Jesus knows how we are made, and He knows how to "remake" us in His image; that was why He sent the Apostles back to the upper room. They needed to spend that time in prayer, in the company of His Mother. My friends, almost two thousand years may have passed, but the prescription remains the same.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

Just read an article over at Catholic News Agency that made me smile. My former archbishop, Raymond Burke, flew into Phoenix, AZ, this morning to preside at a Mass for legal professionals. In the course of his homily he shared his conviction regarding our country: "It is a society which is abandoning its Judeo-Christian foundations, the fundamental obedience to God’s law which safeguards the common good, and is embracing a totalitarianism which masks itself as the 'hope,' the 'future,' of our nation. Reason and faith teaches us that such a society can only produce violence and death and in the end destroy itself.” Prescient.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Who Does God Use?

My greatest joy has always been to speak, and more recently to write, about the Faith. I am not however, a professional theologian nor a philosopher - heck, I don't even play one on t.v. I do not feel particularly dismayed by that though - my favorite religious works were written by a couple of fisherman, an accountant, and a physician. Whatever our educational and occupational backgrounds, if we will just slow down enough to "sit at Jesus' feet" and listen to Him for awhile each day (speaking in Scripture, through His Church in the Catechism, during our Rosary meditations) then we're bound to learn some incredible things, things we will be dying to share with others.

Almost a decade ago, I had the great pleasure of listening to Dr. Scott Hahn speak. The most vivid memory I have of that day was hearing him talk about when Peter and John were hauled before the Sanhedrin, and quoting this verse: "Observing the self-assurance of Peter and John, and realizing that the speakers were uneducated men of no standing, they were amazed. Then they recognized these men as having been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). That is the key to being instruments of God. The shepherd boy in Israel, an unassuming young woman of Galilee, three poor shepherd children in Portugal - it is those who place their hearts before God, very simply, that He uses to communicate with the world.

You know, I often get the impression that we are hesitant to share our enthusiasm and Faith insights with our young. "Oh, kids can't get into the Bible; it's a completely different world." "The Trinity? The hypostatic union and the intricacies of moral theology? That would be gibberish to teens!" Really? Are we talking about the same teens whose high schools offer chemistry, physics, and even calculus? The same kids who read and take tests over works of Shakespeare? And to hear an eight year-old boy explain The Lord of the Rings' Middle-Earth, or a fifteen year-old girl elaborate on the ins-and-outs of vampires and werewolves ala Twilight, I'm pretty sure they could place themselves back into the times and customs of David or Paul.

I praise God for youth ministers and programs like LifeTeen, for priests who challenge their flocks, and catechists with RCIA and adult ed. programs - but it ain't cuttin' it my friends. It's you and I who have to be raised up and empowered to share Truth if this cultural battle is to be won, if the deterioration we see all around us is to be turned back. The Church in the West could be the sleeping giant of the world. If we would awake, we could see a manifestation of Christ come to "full stature." "It was He Who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ, till we become one in faith and in the knowledge of God's Son, and form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature." (Ephesians 4:11-13)

We must live who you are, share what we are excited about with our coworkers and friends. When someone asks if we are reading anything good, we can let them know, "I started going to this Bible study; I never realized how interesting it could be..." When someone asks you to pray for them, take a chance: "I will; but is it alright if I pray with you, right now, too?" And if they are willing, take their hands in yours and speak the simple, heartfelt words that come to mind. Let your loved one experience the Spirit loving and praying for them through you. We don't need to manufacture opportunities to share our Faith, if we're just honest about who we are and what animates us, every conversation can become an open door for God to enter others' lives. Reebok will have nothing on us (Isaiah 52:7)!

But it all comes back to spending time with Jesus - gazing upon Him in the Eucharist, in Scripture, in His Church. It is only by being fused to Him that we "uneducated men [and women] of no standing," become powerhouses. Only by sitting at His feet will we be able to simultaneously tear down what is false, and build up the Kingdom in its place - "conducting ourselves with innocence, knowledge, and patience, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love as men with the message of truth and the power of God; wielding the weapons of righteousness with right hand and left, whether honored or dishonored, spoken of well or ill" (2 Cor.6:6-8).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy Birthday E

Just looked at that last post and realized THE DATE! Well, I have to give a birthday acknowledgment to the man my mama listened to as she raised me - Mr. Elvis Presley. Yes, I went on my first pilgrimage at age 5... to Graceland and the grave of Elvis Presley.

An Infant Lamb

It was an unusual experience. I was laying in bed the other night, in that twilight state between conscious and unconscious, when the words of Isaiah were in my head, "Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth" (53:7). The strangest part about it though was that I was saying those words to myself while seeing this image of Jesus' presentation in the Temple - the infant Jesus, silent as a lamb led to slaughter. My mind registered that Mary and Joseph would have carried Him through the Temple courtyard, bustling with animals to be offered in sacrifice. This struck me as something unique, so I roused myself enough to grab the journal on my bedside table and jot it down. And that's it.

I would like to unpack it more, but don't know what to say at the moment. I recall reading a couple of years back a meditation written by Sr. Lucia (of Fatima) on the presentation, where she felt that Mary was presenting Jesus for sacrifice - but I could see that in only an extended sense: she was offering Him completely to the Lord's service, and His sacrificial death could be seen as implicit in that offering. I don't know. Something to think on.

(Image, Presentation In The Temple, courtesy of:

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Motherhood of Mary

Today's liturgical feast - what an awesome way to begin each year, each new decade, new century and new millenium. The God Who brought this universe into existence, who ordained the orbit of our planets before a single atom was formed, took flesh inside a girl in Palestine. She was the most beautiful creature He ever created - although those living around her day-in and day-out didn't see it. "The LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). And He had brought her into being not to act as a temporary dwelling, a home for a brief nine months, but to be His Mother - the person to whom He would entrust Himself, whole and entire, when He became man. He made her to be the person from whom He would take His flesh and blood (used to redeem the world), the person who would nurse and warm Him with her body. He made her to be His diaper-changer, roommate, nutritionist and chef, educator, sounding board, prayer partner and confidant - to be His Mother. God has really, truly become a man! How now really, truly has a Mother - a Mother He created for Himself! But for Himself alone? The God-Man from His Cross: "Woman, behold your son! Behold, your mother!" (John 19:26-27).

Mary, Mother of God, our mother, may the Holy Spirit make you our companion, our most faithful companion, as we set out to journey through this next year and next decade. We give ourselves entirely into your arms, as the Incarnate Word Himself did, knowing that we shall find Him there, nestled against your heart. May His Spirit nurse us and mature us there in your arms, until it is time to lift us to our Father. Amen.


Why do I enjoy writing so much? It isn't the main reason, but I've got to tell ya - any gig that you can do while wearing fleece pajama pants, that's a gig worth doing.