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The Real Meaning of Power

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The world is so very wrong about power.  From swords and spears to guns and bombs, the world has always been wrong.  Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon and more recently Hitler, Hirohito, Mussolini, Stalin, and Mao— the names change and the kingdoms rise and fall but they all measured power in terms of violence and intimidation.  However, power is ultimately not measured by blood that is stolen but by blood that is freely surrendered.  Real power is eternal.  Genuine authority and power is not taken by the military arms of short-lived empires but by an eternal kingdom that is inaugurated with a naked and vulnerable child in the straw of a manger.  The great I AM becomes one of us to save us.  No longer the apparition of a bush on fire, he is a human-boy-child with all the fire of God’s love within him.  The LIGHT OF THE WORLD comes to dispel the darkness.  Finite power can destroy, divide, wound and kill.  Infinite power can create, atone, heal and resurrect.  While secular history is filled with kings willing to allow their subjects to die for their ambitions of dominion; sacred or salvation history gives us a king who both makes his subjects members of his royal household and then lays down his life on their behalf.

There are no self-made men.  We imagine that we are substantial and strong.  But in truth, we are next to nothing.  We emerge from nothingness and are utterly dependent.  Most are born and die and the world takes little notice.  However, the Child of Bethlehem is of another sort.  He resembles us but he is the eternal Word.  Before anything was created, he was with God and was God.  He is existence or being itself.  He is the eternal entering into the ephemeral.  He is a sublime innocence that like a blanket will put to sleep and cover all the sins of the world.  What he will accomplish in a few moments in time will have eternal consequences.  All who would approach the divine Child must become children themselves.

We read in Matthew 18:1-5: “At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child over, placed [him] in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.’”

Do we really appreciate the full importance of this direction from Christ?  We must reflect the innocence of the Christ Child.

My father shocked me with a question after my confirmation.  He asked me, “Do you understand the full meaning and consequences of your confirmation?” I asked what he meant.  He responded, “Confirmation means that you can now go to hell.”  I did a double-take… what did he mean?  No one before or since had described the sacrament in this way to me.  As was common years ago, the sacrament was described in terms of maturity in our holy religion, of becoming an adult fully initiated into the faith of the Church.  He said children can only commit little venial sins.  Adults are the ones who can commit mortal sins.  Most priest-confessors would probably agree.  Adults are guilty of far greater transgressions than failing to take out the trash, stealing a cookie or pulling a sibling’s ponytail.  All of us must return to the innocence of childhood if we want a place in Christ’s kingdom.  I suppose that is why our Lord spoke about faith and regeneration as being “born again.”  The old man or woman must be put aside for the new child born in Christ’s likeness.  While we might be adults in years, we must become spiritual children.  Paradise is populated entirely by children.

If we grow old in the world, maybe souls grow younger in purgatory— perfected by the fire of God’s grace?  Nothing of cynicism or sin can enter through the gate of heaven.  Any who would cling to earthly power would similarly be barred. The path to paradise is strewn with earthly weapons rendered as harmless and worldly treasures subtracted of any and all value.  Like a child entering this world, we must enter the next naked except for the wedding garment of the Lamb.

 

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Christmas Poems from Fourth Graders

christmaSt. Mary of the Assumption School – December 1996

These poems are a testimony to faith and to the children’s joy found in Christmas. Every child is a reflection of the child of Bethlehem, precious and irreplaceable. The birth of our Savior is celebrated each year in the love we share with our children.

Melanie T

Christ our Savior,
Christ our Lord,
Christ our Lord is born.

A star shines over Him in Bethlehem,
Marks the great place of his birth
In a manger– in a barn.

Shepherds came from countries afar;
Kings came bearing great gifts;
Angels came singing their songs of love.

People came from countries afar,
Bearing great gifts,
Following the bright star.

Cameron T 

Once there was a woman named Mary
Who was highly favored by God.
God sent an angel to Mary
And asked her to be the Mother of God.

On to Bethlehem, Mary went
To be taxed with Joseph her husband.
The journey was long and hard for Mary.
No space was to be found
And Mary was ready to give birth to God’s Son.
Only a manger was available so
God’s son was born in a lowly place, filled with grace.

Choirs of angels announced the event
And people came from near and far.
Wise men were guided by a star.
All came to give homage to the Son of God.

Gregory R 

In a manger far away
Lay a child on the hay.
Sleeping peacefully through the night,
He will be our guiding light.

Shining above is a star,
watching over from afar.
Three kings have come with gifts in a jar,
Following the yonder star.

Not many people are aware,
That God’s Son, Jesus, is there.
Jesus will always care,
And we are thankful He’s always there.

Angela G 

Christmas is that time of day
When all the children want to play.
They play and play around
Until they fall on the ground.

In a manger far away
Lay a baby in the hay.
He will sleep all through the night
Until he sees a bright light.

While Jesus sleeps and children play–
Yes, that’s what happenss on Christmas day!

Steven B 

O joy! Christmas day!
O dear! My brother Roy,
He’s not up.
O joy! We will open presents!
O dear! My mom isn’t present,
To watch us open the presents,
O dear!

Carrie F 

There lay a manger in a barn
With a baby so nice and warm.
The glorious day this child was born,
We call it Christmas.

When Christmas comes
We shouldn’t think of gifts.
We should think of Jesus;
This gives our spirits a lift.

Christmas is a time of joy;
We go to church and pray
And sing and celebrate
The birth of Christ.

This festive time brings lots of cheer.
We think of those we hold so dear;
Of Christ’s birth, Mary and Joseph, too.
I love this time of Christmas!

Ryan T 

The North Star lit the night sky.
The wise men followed the bright star.
They traveled long and far
And brought gifts for our Savior.

Our Savior was born in a manger
One sweet night.
It became known as Christmas.
To celebrate his coming, we sing songs of joy
And under our tree, maybe a toy,

He died on a cross for our sins.
He hoped one day to bring out the angel within.
Today we continue the teachings that he began.

Freddie C 

There was a star in the sky so very high.
The kings had just said, “Hi” to little Jesus.
As he was lying in a manger.
The new strangers gave Jesus gifts.
While he lied there, everything was quiet,
Not even a sniffle.
This day is known as Christmas.
It is much fun, like no other day.

Maureen S 

It was Christmas Eve, a dark cold night,
Snowflakes were falling like angels in flight.

The Christmas tree with lights all a glow
Filled the room with warmth and only Santa would know.

The presents were wrapped with neatness and delight.
It made us know St. Nick’s flight was just right.

As Christmas day comes to an end,
We know the joy and loving will happen again.

Mary W 

Oh Christmas Day!
What a wonderful way
For God to say he loves us.
To give us his only Son
Was a true sign of his affection for us.

Joe M 

Christmas is the time of year
When everyone is full of cheer.
Yet we should never forget the true meaning of this day
That started with a baby laying in the hay.
The brightest star showed wise men where to come;
They traveled by star instead of by sun.
Little did they know our savior would be lost;
He saved us all by dying on the cross.
We celebrate Christmas, the day God became man.
I celebrate his birthday because I am his biggest fan.

Matthew S 

Baby Jesus will be born tonight,
But some of the inns will put up a fight.
All they say is go away
And find some other place to stay.

They found a stable nice and warm
And that is where Baby Jesus was born.
Three wise men from near and far
Decided to follow a bright star.

They did not rest until they were there
To see this occasion that was rare.

Christmas comes just once a year,
That is why Baby Jesus is so dear.
Although his birthday is once a year,
You should have it in your heart all year long.

Scottie C 

Away in a manger,
Tucked away from danger,
There he lay,
Tucked away in the hay.

As the shepherds arrive,
They lay down by his side.
Kings come each with a great gift
That will surely be left.

The light of the star
Has guided the visitors far.
As they watch the Baby Jesus
He gets up and sneezes.

Tommy A 

When I think of Christmas time,
I don’t think of presents, not me.
I think of the birth of Christ
And of the many people of earth.

I think of sparkling trees, wreaths
And tales galore of Santa’s lore.
Decorations fill the house and lawn,
Lights, of Christmas spirit fill the air.

I think of love spoken near and far
And gifts donated to the poor.
The songs of carolers singing out
The magic, the wonder, of a child of God.

Chris D 

In the manger there he lay
All bundled up in cloth and hay,
Little Jesus there he lie
While three wise men by his side.

Bearing wonderful gifts they did,
Looking at him in that little crib.
What a wonderful sight it was,
The newborn king, there he was.

Christmas is a wonderful thing
Because it is so pleasing.
It is so pleasing because
It’s the birthday of King Jesus.

Carrie T 

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I like Christmas
And so should you.

Christmas spirit
Should be remembered
All year through.

Keep Jesus in your heart,
So don’t think about
A pretty shopping cart.

The wise men brought gifts
And followed the star.
We give gifts,
Right where we are.

Christmas is filled with love
And shared with family
Friends, and God above.

Bethany F 

Christmas is a time to share.
Christmas is a time to care.
You wish you were a holiday prayer.
So God could be with you everywhere.

Then you would go with Him anywhere,
To be with Him side by side.
So that you can see Him every time,
Just keep on praying and you’ll find Him high.

Up above the world so high,
You know you don’t want to die.
Christmas is a time of love,
So love the Lord to get above.

Erica D

Joseph and Mary went on a caravan,
So they could get to Bethlehem.
They traveled both day and night,
But they did not worry with fright.
They asked many if they had a place to stay,
But they all answered, “No, you cannot stay.”
Someone let them use his barn
With animals who meant no harm.
There little baby Jesus was born
And the Noel angel played its horn.
While the three wise men followed a star,
They wondered how long and how far.
When they reached the barn,
They layed their gifts for the baby,
Who deserved the myrrh, frankencense and gold.
Then everyone was happy with love and merrimas
For on every Dec. 25, they call this Christmas.

Richard N

Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Kings and shepherds came to praise him.

His birth gave peace and joy
To every man, woman, girl, and boy.

On Christmas eve we pray for nice weather
So family and friends can get together.

We gather around the Christmas tree
To open presents happily.

Michelle G

At the time when Jesus was born,
There wasn’t a lot of corn.
The name of this time of year is all around the bus,
And it is called Christmas.
This is the time of year when little ones look for Santa,
Especially little Tana.
This is the time of year,
When we get liitle gadgets and gears.
We have a big pine tree in our family room,
Which we like to groom.
This is the time of year
When sugar plums and candycanes dance in our heads,
As our parents tuck us in our beds.
And in the morning,
It won’t be boring,
Because we open presents
And they don’t have any dents.

Patrick C

Christmas is a time of joy,
Children think it’s about a toy.
Christmas is a time of play,
Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.

Christmas is not just for decoration,
Christmas is a time for celebration.
Christmas is a time for thanks,
Not a time to pull some pranks.

Christmas is a time of joy
For every girl and boy.
Christmas is a time for fun,
Christmas is for everyone.

Christopher B

Stars are shining,
Christmas is here.
Baby Jesus is born a’near,
Born in a stable, let’s say a prayer,
Let’s celebrate with holy praise.

Joyous love we have for you
To celebrate all year through!

Steven C

Once upon a midnight cherry
To Mrs. Claus, he said, “Bye deary.”
Over many a house and chimney of brick and stone,
He flew and chuckled, eyes a twinkling–
Suddenly he got an inkling–
As of many children thinking,
Thinking of their Christmas joys,
“Tis some children,” Santa muttered,
“Thinking of their Christmas joys,
Only this, some girls and boys?”

Bridget L 

On Christmas day,
There he lay,
Baby Jesus in the hay,
With the shepherds by his side watching over him.

Then everyone says our Savior is born,
So let’s go to seek
The special Lord– the Lord is born–
Let’s give him thanks and praise.

Then the wise men come on their camels
Bringing their gifts, following the yonder star.
They each bring a special gift: frankencense, myrrh, and gold.

Andrew G

Christmas is near,
Santa is near.
Christmas is near,
Jesus is near.

Time to put up the Christmas set,
Time to put up the Nativity Set,
Time to see the North Star,
But most important, the Christmas Star.

On Christmas, kids might have joy
For a Christmas toy.
But Christmas is about the day
Jesus is born and love us he may.

Robbie C

In a manger a child lay
Asleep in the hay,
Sleeping peacefully through the day,
He will be our guiding light.

Shining above is a star,
Watching over from afar.
Three kings have arrived from far,
Who came by the light.

People are not aware
That the Son of God is here.
His Son will care for us
And we are thankful he is here.

[71] Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This homily will not be preached Sunday as it will be replaced by the message for the Cardinal’s Appeal…

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Readings: 1 Deuteronomy 18:15-20 / Psalm 95 / 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 / Mark 1:21-28

Moses tells his people that prophets like him will be taken from their number and will lead them.  If we are to properly understand what he is saying, then we must look to the prior verses not included here against false worship and divination.  We read: “Let there not be found among you anyone who causes their son or daughter to pass through the fire, or practices divination, or is a soothsayer, augur, or sorcerer, or who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits, or seeks oracles from the dead” (verses 10-11). Moses is emphasizing several important points:

  • They must not corrupt their faith with the worship of other or false gods.
  • They do not have to look outside of themselves as the chosen people for prophets (God speaks to them through their own).
  • They trust the providence of God and do not seek forbidden knowledge.

Echoing the commandments, any violation of these points is condemned as an abomination before the Lord.  Fearful of any direct confrontation with almighty God, the people will be guided by the Lord through his intermediaries.

This pattern is still pursued today in the Christian community.  The new People of God or the Church is called by God and given shepherds who govern and speak in Christ’s name, empowered to extend the ministry or work of Jesus.  The Mass is our great worship where the sacrifice of Calvary is re-presented in an unbloody manner at our altars.  The bishops in union with the Pope constitute the authentic teaching authority of the Church.  We are anointed at baptism into a nation of prophets.  It is that commission that makes us missionary disciples.  Outside the Catholic community, there is no guarantee to any message proclaimed and no assured efficacy to divine mysteries or sacraments.  Catholic Christians, like their Hebrew counterparts of long ago, are warned to steer clear of false worship and the occult.

True religion signifies the end of magic.  Judaism (a natural religion) and Catholic Christianity (a supernatural religion) are both instigated by the same one true God.  We are forbidden to engage in voodoo, oriental mysticism, new age religion, naturalist religion, and conventional witchcraft or Satanism.  Divination of the future is interpreted as a distrust of God’s will for us.  Black magic or spells is condemned because one invokes the demonic spirits.  Similarly necromancy is condemned; an important admonishment when there is a new fascination with ghost hunting.  Christians are warned to avoid Quiji boards, tarot cards, palm readers, and séances.  All of it violates the first commandment of the Decalogue.

The Canaanites worshipped Molech, a false deity judged by the fathers of the Church as a bloodthirsty demon.  Indeed, sometimes his name is still mentioned in Christian circles in regard to the sins of abortion and infanticide. Molech demanded child sacrifice.  Heated with fire, the idol was a bronze statue into which the victims were thrown. The pagans believed that favors and special protection could be merited by such sacrifices.  Might the abortion of millions of children constitute the return of the demon Molech’s reign?  Just another name for Satan, it may be that the devil hides his thirst for human blood behind the semantics employed to disguise the true nature of abortion.  Consciences are numbed to the terrible truth that we are murdering our children.  There is no pro-Choice or pro-abortion Christianity.  Such opposition to the Gospel of Life is not only immoral but renounces the Christ and the God of Abraham.  It assumes the mantle of idolatry. The responsorial psalm also speaks of the need to replace rebellion with fidelity and idolatry with right worship.  Our minds must be opened and our hearts softened to the truth. We are admonished, “Harden not your hearts as at Mariah….” God’s people of old turned away as faithless, fearful and selfish. People today are also tempted away from true faith.  They are afraid to take responsibility for their actions, even parenthood.  They give preeminence to their own wants, even over the needs of others, as with the dignity of persons and the sanctity of life.

The second reading mentions some of the fears or anxieties that can afflict us. While they should be an occasion for heightened fidelity, the opposite is what often occurs.  People forget the goodness that God has shown them. Others get angry or doubt when God does not answer their prayers as they would like.  They wrongly postulate prayer as a demand instead of as a humble request.  It is just such a situation that led people of old astray.  St. Paul urges that believers should be “free of anxieties,” as the concerns of the world might distract us from the Lord and from his service.

The Gospel chronicles our Lord’s visit to the synagogue in Capernaum. He encounters someone possessed by a demon.  Jesus immediately rebukes him, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The “unclean spirit” makes a loud cry and leaves.  The onlookers are amazed both at his power and that he speaks with authority.  As prophets, we can invoke this same authority and power in casting out the demon that secretly devours the lives of our children in abortion.  As prophets, we can proclaim that Jesus is Lord and invite others into the Catholic community of faith.  We are summoned to speak the truth about justice and charity to an oppressive and selfish world.

  • Do we place confidence in the Lord who calls us to take up our crosses and to follow him?
  • Are we prophets— faithful, courageous and strong in proclaiming the truth?
  • Have we been the voice for the voiceless, especially the marginalized and the unborn?
  • Do we avoid the occult and any “false gods” that would compromise our witness?
  • How have we sought to bring the light of Christ against the darkness or demonic in the world?

[68] Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Jonah 3:1-5, 10 / Psalm 25 / 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 / Mark 1:14-20

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Jonah has barely begun his cry of prophetic warning when the people of Nineveh repent and all of them “great and small put on sackcloth.”  Why is there such an immediate reaction? It may be that they had heard the prior story of the prophet Jonah.  The reputation of Nineveh as a wicked city is so severe, that Jonah seeks to flee his divine summons.  Trying to flee by sea, God brings forth a great storm and acknowledging his fault, Jonah has the sailors throw him into the sea.  What we learn here is that the failure of Jonah to be the prophet he has been called to be will result in the death or destruction of others.  He will be held accountable.  Jonah calls upon the Lord and he is swallowed by a great fish.  Later, he is spat upon the shore to continue the mission given him.  Jesus would speak about this as the one sign given in his own regard.  The water symbolizes death and the big fish represents the tomb.  Just as the sea and fish could not destroy Jonah, so too would the sea and the tomb not be able to contain Jesus.  God shows his power.  The people of Nineveh, either out of fear or love of the Lord, would change their ways.  Similarly, after Christ’s victory over death, the apostles would go out to the nations and many would come to repent and to believe.

We are told that the citizens of Nineveh put on sackcloth.  Sackcloth and ashes were signs of humiliation and repentance.  As a coarse material made from goat’s hair, sackcloth was uncomfortable to wear.  Symbolizing desolation or dying to self, many Christian believers would later employ it as a tool for penance.  We would have to die to our old ways and life so as to be reborn and to live for Christ.  Here in the story of Jonah, sackcloth and ashes served as a public sign of repentance before God.  We were told that they even went to the extreme of placing sackcloth on their animals.  They hoped that God might look down upon them, and seeing this incredible expression of contrition and remorse, grant them mercy from the impending judgment.  Of course, God can read our hearts and would not be fooled.  The outward sign rendered by the people of Nineveh worked because the external sackcloth and ashes signified an inward change or disposition.  They were truly sorry for their sins.  We read: “When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.” Similarly, we as Christians should know that as long as there is breath in our bodies, there is no sin that God cannot forgive.  All that is required is a contrite heart and a firm purpose of amendment.

The psalm brings to this theme of repentance and mercy another important component— the change of one’s life.  We read: “Teach me your ways, O Lord. Good and upright is the LORD; thus he shows sinners the way.” Left to ourselves and we do not really know how to be good.  God gives us guidance by his commands.  Without God we would be uncertain as to right and wrong.  Strip the commandments about honoring God from the Decalogue and the remaining laws would become capricious.  If there is no God and judgment, then why follow the rules?  If there is no life beyond the grave, then why sacrifice for others? Love of God for some and fear of God for others is what marks the path between virtue and vice. The second reading emphasizes the shortness of life and thus infers the gravity of the coming judgment.  This world is “passing away,” now is the appointed time.

The Gospel reading has Jesus taking up the cry of John the Baptizer, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” The message of Jonah is now extended to the whole world.  Our Lord calls the apostles to himself because they will be his voice to the nations.  Simon, Andrew, James and John are summoned.  They all immediately leave their nets and our Lord tells them that they will be made into “fishers of men.”  Jonah is thrown into the sea, not simply as bait for a big fish but that the citizens of Nineveh would repent and believe.  Our Lord would make himself the bait in his paschal mystery to draw all men and women to himself.  The apostle Paul would literally speak about the resurrection of Christ as “the hook” of Christianity.  The center of the Christian kerygma is the person of Jesus.  He is the kingdom of God breaking into our world.  The calling of the apostles as “fishers of men” is often associated with the need for priestly vocations.  However, every one of us has been called in baptism as a “missionary disciple.”  Evangelism is not solely the responsibility of bishops, priests, deacons and a few Catholic lay evangelists.  It is an obligation for all who claim to be Christian.  Given this as the situation, the following points are essential:

  • We need a living personal and communal relationship with Jesus.
  • We need a faith informed by Scripture and the teaching Church.
  • We need an apostolate of service that expresses genuine charity for others.
  • We need to be regularly nurtured and healed by the sacraments.
  • We need prayer for spiritual life just as breathing gives physical life.

Why is all this essential?  While almighty God can use broken instruments and even wicked people, to bring about his providence; the truth is that he rarely does so. It is hard to impossible to give what you do not have.  If you do not know where to throw the net or if there is no bait for the hook, it is doubtful that you will catch anything.  The fisherman or –woman, who never makes a catch, may also go hungry.  The faith like love is only real when it is shared or given away.  We must possess Christ if we would give him to others.  We may all be sinners, but when the wounded are contrite, God can bring his healing to us and to all whom we meet.

  • Are the five elements here realized in your life?
  • Can you list any people who are believers because of how God has used you?
  • As a sign of Jonah, how have you died so as to rise in the Lord?
  • Have you promoted or supported vocations to the priesthood?

The Gift of Christ in Holy Communion

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The sacrament of the Eucharist is neglected because many fail to fathom its mysterious depths and meaning.  Even parents allow their children to be spiritually malnourished.  Too many stay away.  Too many no longer believe.

Fortunately, there are some parents mindful of their duty.  They believe and extend what they believe to their children.  The greatest gift they will ever give will be their saving faith in the Eucharist.  Theirs is not a transitory love but a love that embraces the Cross and eternity.

What happens in Holy Communion?    We receive the one who is the Holy of Holies.  God comes to us that we might be made more authentically human.  Indeed, that which is human is divinized and made more than it was before.  Christ grants an apportionment in his living presence that we might have a share in his resurrected life and become flesh-and-blood tabernacles to the divine presence and the grace that perdures.  The Eucharist both directs our attention to worshipping almighty God and invites the sacrament to transgress into the dark and thick boundaries of our inner life.

While we accept the sacrament in time, it touches eternity.  What we have done, we have done.  Harsh words can never be taken back.  Uncharitable acts can never be rescinded.  Much in the way of our history is irreparable.  We cling in conscience to the mercy that God promises and extends.  We can be saved, but not because we are good (left to ourselves) but because God is good.  Memory that sorely needs to be healed and often torments, transports us to those first recollections of kneeling at the altar rail.  We see in the mind’s eye the child we once were, receiving with faith and incalculable innocence, the Blessed Sacrament.  Where did time go? How could we be so foolish? Why did we listen to bad companions?  When did concupiscence get the upper hand and make us slaves to the flesh, inner contradictions to our very selves? Eyes have seen what they should not have seen.  Can these eyes still look with adoration upon the upraised host?  Hands have corrupted us by signs and deeds; how can we still extend them to Christ or to a neighbor in the sign of peace? Lips have exchanged veracity for deception; can they yet proclaim the truth that Jesus is Lord?  Our bodies have embraced lust and deadly sins; can they once again manifest tenderness and real love?

We need medicine from heaven.  We require the real food or rations from the Promised Shore.  Any particular Holy Communion is every Holy Communion— Sunday after Sunday, on weekdays, on holy days, at funerals, at weddings, etc.  There is an eternal dimension to Holy Communion—the hundreds, the thousands, the tens of thousands of receptions.  While the fallen away and spiritually starving can count on their fingers how many times they have taken Holy Communion; those who go to Mass daily might receive over 25,000 times in a lifetime.  Their response to the minister’s words, “The body of Christ,” becomes an eternal AMEN.  It is their yes to the self-donation and surrender of God’s Son.  It is their acceptance of divine mercy.  It is the password for entry into the eternal banquet of heaven.  Akin to vows, we become engaged actors in the marriage of the Lamb.  Always it is the one Christ who suffers and dies once and for all.  It is the risen Christ, body and soul, humanity and divinity.

The eternal now of God simultaneously targets the elderly man from his wheelchair cradling the sacrament in his hand and finds him still as a young child receiving the Eucharistic Christ on the tongue at the altar rail.  Everything that Jesus is encounters everything that we are and all that we will become. The mind’s eye recalls good parents kneeling beside us as we prayed and took Holy Communion.  They made possible that day and all the days since.  They showed us the way by word and example.  We know in faith that they have exchanged their pew for a chair at the banquet table of heaven. We remember them, we pray for them and desire to go where they have gone. They directly see the divine mystery that we know behind sacred signs.

Unity in the Divine Child

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There was a popular movement in psychology advanced a few years ago for people to come into contact or to know their “inner child.” All sorts of self-help books were published that promoted this Jungian archetype.  But I would like to suggest a spiritual dynamic to the hidden child in all of us.  When we recalled our earliest experiences, there was a profound innocence and trust.  Most parents protected their children from the dark side of life and from evil.  That time of innocence resonated with the holiness and perfection of God.  It was easy to believe.  We trusted our parents and felt safe.

While we may not fully maintain our innocence, we should never forget that God is our heavenly Father and that we will always be his children.  What the world strips away, God can restore.  I suspect our yearning and pursuit for holiness is also a remembrance of what we were.  When an infant is baptized, the minister of the sacrament will speak of the child as a young saint in our homes.  Our life and discipleship seeks a recovery of this spiritual trust and perfection.  As Christians, we remember the Christ Child in the manger.  God enters the human family as weak and vulnerable and yet there is something powerful about the child. What will this child become?  What shall he do? How will he change the world?  Everything that God assumes in Jesus Christ takes on an eternal dimension.  God is the everlasting child.  Our restoration into the likeness of grace signals a profound unity with the divine child.  Jesus speaks about this mystery as being “born again.”

Our Lord tells us that to follow him we must become like little children.  All the sacraments, not just baptism, make this possible.  When the old man in sin enters the confessional box, a child with his conscience made clean exits to offer his penance.  The body grows old but the soul is made ever-new.  The burden of the world is cast aside.  Of course, God’s mercy does not leave a vacuum but rather fills with grace what was once possessed by iniquity.

The little-known but courageous figure of Shimei cursed and threw stones at King David, shouting, “Get out! Get out! You man of blood, you scoundrel! … And now look at you: you suffer ruin because you are a man of blood.” Faulted for the blood of Saul, David’s rule was now challenged by his son.  David stayed the hand of his henchman, ready to kill the courageous and vocal critic.  He acknowledged the possible judgment of God upon him. (see 2 Samuel 16:5-14)

Like David, we are all men and women of blood.  Our innocence is spoiled by our sins.  We look upon the crucifix and must acknowledge that we have blood on our hands.  We are the murderers of Christ.  We are all guilty.  Our maturity in years does not necessarily mean that we have grown in the Lord.

I recall a frustrating teacher in school who told his pupils that they all began as “A” students with 100%.  However, with every test and assignment, the points began to be subtracted.  It was only with extra-credit assignments that lost ground might be regained.  When it comes to our heavenly report card, it is only by divine mercy and grace that we might be restored to an earlier purity and perfection.

Darkness & Light

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We find it much easier to appreciate Lent than Easter.  We might get glimpses of Easter but for many it requires an exercise of the imagination where we negate the things of darkness so as to envision the light.  Critics might contend that this is a rather backward way of dealing with things.  Usually it is harder to see in the dark than in the light.  Lent is the season that commemorates the struggle that all mortal creatures must endure.  We know all too well the jagged edge of existence: suffering, betrayal, loss, sadness, sickness, pain, grieving and death.  Many might suppose that these elements epitomize that which is most real.  The cynic or pessimist thus might categorize contentment, belonging, comfort, happiness, fidelity, peace and life as either fleeting or as aberrational to human existence.  Those who deny the Easter mystery might abandon themselves either to despair or to a libertine search for pleasure, making no distinction between the joys that comes with the acquisition of a real or an apparent good.  Of course, they would also be quick to mention the price that one pays to be happy or to anesthetize from pain.  Alcohol brings the hangover and drugs a case of withdrawal.  Sex results in pregnancy and sometimes in venereal diseases.  Gambling brings a thrill but often empties bank accounts.  Sloth weakens muscles and often incurs in homelessness. Gluttony brings to the fore the full ramifications of gravity.  What we do not know and what many disbelieve is the prospect of eternal life, joy, reunion, and contentment.  Those who reject the resurrection necessarily repudiate heaven.  They might reject hell but if life be hard they might accept the existence of more of the same.  Easter requires us to look beyond what we know.  Heavenly happiness is usually reckoned as an extrapolation from transitory pleasure to something lasting and complete.

There is a peculiar commonality between children and the elderly.  The child may be gullible but often easily trusts that there is a world unseen from which God calls us and out of which he sends his angels to watch over us.  We must be cautious that children will be able to distinguish the matters that are real and those which are fanciful like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  The elderly may be discouraged but there is still a profound turning toward the divine mystery.  They are aware that there are more days behind them than before them.  Time in this world is running out and urgency strips away the distractions that many pursue.  They prepare for the world to come and desire to experience the unseen realities that were first presented to them as children.  Is there an ageless guardian angel still by their side?  Will God give back all that the world and evil men have taken away?  Trusting that God is a loving Father, many begin to yearn for the beatific vision and the reunion on the other side of the grave.