Saturday, August 26, 2006

Your Have the Words of Eternal Life

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
12th Sunday After Pentecost
August 27, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Readings: Joshua 24:1-2a & 15-17, 18b; Ephesians 5:21-32
John 6:60-69

You Have the Words of Eternal Life

In John chapter 6 Jesus speaks of His origin, His mission, His giving of Himself. He also identifies our need of the Spirit to help us grasp His words.

Simon Peter declares Jesus’ words to be the words of eternal life. Some of those who followed Jesus as His disciples did not come to the same conclusion. In fact they found Jesus’ sacrificial language disturbing, alarming and difficult to grasp. “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”

Today’s readings challenge us. Some may find the words of today’s lessons hard and difficult to accept. But it is ‘for our good and the good of all His church’ for us to receive the teachings of the church into our hearts. True union with Christ requires us to participate in His sacrifice. Rightly understood, this means living our lives for the betterment of others. The gods of a secular society offer avenues to self-promotion. But the God of Israel in the person of Jesus Christ calls us to love one another the way Christ loved us and gave himself for us. This sacrificial lifestyle is a call for each of us to imitate Jesus who came not to be served but to serve.

Before we denounce St. Paul lets hear him first. It is not true that if St. Paul were alive today he would be writing from a more enlightened understanding. In this passage Christ is shown to be the head of the church and the savior of the body. He also says that wives should be subordinated to their husbands as to the Lord. In fact the wife’s cue is the church, which is subordinated to Christ. So Christ loves the church and gives himself for her because of His great love for her and in response the church subordinates herself to Him who is its savior. Indeed Paul does not depict a true husband as a tyrant King who has subjugated his wife and children. Paul challenges the husbands in the ancient world to love their wife, to love their wife as their own bodies, and to leave their father and mother and be joined in love to their wife and be one flesh. And then St. Paul describes this mutual affection as a great mystery that mirrors the relationship of Christ with his church.

There is no an ancient woman or woman of modern times who would not like to have and hold and submit to a husband St. Paul describes. The husband Paul describes is the priest of his home who is unselfish in giving himself for his bride. The husband’s cue is Christ’s unselfish love for the Church. The wife in this relationship will see herself as the Church sees herself. Namely, she will see herself as holy and undefiled, without spot or wrinkle, being escorted through life in splendor by her priestly husband. If you need a paradigm of the domestic church, St. Paul gives it here. As in the words of Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

In the priestly ministry of Jesus to and for His church we have a paradigm of true relationships that can endure the testing of time. It is this high calling in Christ Jesus the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us. Neither Jesus’ words nor St. Paul’s can be understood apart from the revelation of the Spirit. They cannot be understood apart from a ‘renewing of the mind.’ (Romans 12)

Jesus calls us to an intimacy with him. Our approach to the sacrifice of the mass should be out of love for our Lord. And our response should be a mutual affection for him who loved us and gave himself for us. As his disciples we take his body and blood into ourselves that we may bring Jesus into our homes, our jobs, our towns---for the life of all those our lives will touch.

Let us pray:

Jesus, by your blood you saved us. Jesus, by your power you raised us. Jesus with your body and blood you feed us and in this your love you send us. Amen.

Friday, August 18, 2006

An Invitation to Really Know Jesus

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
11th Sunday After Pentecost
August 20, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Proverbs 9:1-6; Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
Ephesians 5:15-20; St. John 6:51-58

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus explaining that He will give himself for the life of the world.

It is safe to say that we see Jesus in an evangelical moment as we hear him say, “Amen, amen, I say to you, 
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my bloodhas eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” In these words we are compelled to think that we need Jesus. However, Jesus explains his relationship with us in extraordinary words. We know they are not ordinary words because of the comments of the Jews who quarreled among themselves as they discuss as to how this man will give us his flesh to eat. For the first 1500 years or so of the church’s history, this question was not all that hard to answer. It is only since the reformation that the real understanding of the church on this question has been protested.

St. Peter talked about Christians being partakers of the divine nature. How is that possible? Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” St. Paul underscored this truth by declaring that the cup we drink and the bread we eat is a participation in the body and blood of Christ. Indeed, if we are destined to be conformed to the image of God’s son, if we are to grow into the likeness of Christ, as we should, then we must see his flesh as true bread, and his blood as true drink. Remember it is our eternal well-being and the spiritual destiny of our families and friends at stake if we resist knowing Jesus the way he invites us to know him.

The one who ‘feeds on Jesus’ will be a true witness of Jesus Christ. We not only adore Jesus, but we feed on him. He who said ‘This is my body and this is my blood’ desires our heart on this matter. If our hearts are burning with knowing him in the breaking of the bread, then won’t we pray more faithfully, more compassionately, for one another? The earliest followers of Jesus after his ascension into heaven and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit steadfastly maintained their fellowship with Jesus daily through the breaking of bread and the prayers. If the testimony of the early church is reviewed carefully, acts done in the name of Jesus resulted in the lame walking, the dead raised, the blind healed and the poor remembered. It is no accident that if the church feeds on Jesus the church will do mighty and gracious things in Jesus’ name. If the church will be a house of forgiveness then we must know the forgiver. If the church will be a house of refuge for the sorrowful, a house of compassion for those who mourn, a house of hope for the hopeless, a house of love for the destitute, tormented and afflicted, then the church must taste and see that the Lord is good and good to all and for all who feast on him. Indeed Wisdom has built her house; she has set up her seven columns and bids all in the city to come to her lofty table of plenty.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. May we never have any second thoughts about it.

Let us pray.

In the words of the Anima Christi:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy Wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant foe, defend me.
In the hour of death, call me.
And bid me come to Thee.
That with Thy saints I may praise Thee.
Forever and ever. Amen

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Present Looks Very Much Like The Past

Go to this Link to read about my Journey into the Catholic Church.

The Sweet Fragrance of Sacrifice

Readings (19th Sunday in Ordinary Time; August 13, 2006):
I Kings 19:4-8, Psalm 34:2-9, Ephesians 4:30-5:2, St. John 6:41-51

It is commonly understood that we become what we eat.
Junk food diets reduce the human body to sluggish living. Folks on
this food plan are referred to as "couch potatoes." You get the
picture. Today's readings reflect on the adequateness and
appropriateness to 'taste and see the goodness of the Lord.' The
bread that Jesus gives is his flesh for the life of the world. Unless
we eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood we have no life
in us. Eating from the table of the Lord should never be a
perfunctory performance. If we are to be strong in the strength of
the Lord, if we are to encounter the living Lord of eternity and
history, if we are to be imitators of God and of His Christ, then we
must desire to consume him who said, "I am the bread of life."

St. Paul exhorts us to do 3 things that produce the fragrance of
Christ's sacrifice. The way of Christ is learned through the meal of
Christ. It is the picture of the Eucharist that Paul lifts up when he
reminds us to be kind, to be compassionate, to be forgiving toward one

The way of Christ is not seen in the mean spiritedness of selfishness
and self-importance. Be kind to one another is what St. Paul exhorts
today. Kindness is that discipline of life that approaches everything
and everybody as breakable and fragile; in need of tender loving care.
The way of Jesus is not to break a bruised reed. Our approach to one
another and everyone we meet must be with the kindness that reminds
them and us we are all made in the image of God. Violence will never
earn us a place in the hearts of humankind. But no one will ever
forget a kind word or deed. Kindness can mend fences between
disagreeing parties, heal a breaking marriage, or halt war between
nations. The sacrifice of a meek and quiet and kind spirit is like
the aroma of fresh cut flowers; but more importantly it is like the
sacrificial aroma of Christ's life and offering to God.

Secondly, St. Paul tells us to be compassionate to one another. The
Christian life and the heart of the church is about compassion.
Everything Jesus said and did was for our sake, for the life of the
world. To be like Christ is to put ourselves in someone's place and
make their place better for them because we were there. Is there any
future in bitterness, fury, reviling or shouting? There is no future
in malice or self indulgence. The witness of the church is that of
sacrificial compassion for the hungry, the thirsty, the wounded, and
the dying. What believers were to one another they were to all. It
has been said that no one will care how much you know until they know
how much you care. Compassion is the work of faith. It is the sweet
aroma of the Christ who was bruised for iniquities, wounded for our
transgressions and for our peace was chastised.

Lastly, St. Paul calls us to forgive one another. Love does not seek
its own interests. Love does not brood over injury, nor rejoice over
wrongdoing. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all
things and endures all things. The Christian revelation of incarnate
truth is that vengeance is not our domain. Only perfect love casts
out fear and vindication. History in the world and in the church is
replete with unforgiveness. The bitter road of unforgiveness is
littered with broken homes, broken promises, and nations torn apart by
war and revenge. How desperately we need to meditate on these words
of our Lord who said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what
they do." Consider the possibility that there is no longer a reason
to hate, malign, or destroy one another.

It may be that we have not considered enough how the sacrifice of the
mass is not a show but rather a showdown between kindness and hate,
forgiveness and bitterness, compassion and self-centeredness. May we
choose to be the sweet fragrance of sacrifice, Jesus' broken body and
blood, for the life of the world.