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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Give Them Some Food Yourselves!

My deacon did a good job preaching last weekend on the Feast of Corpus Christi. It was certainly a busy weekend given that it was also the Juneteenth holyday and the commemoration of Father’s Day. A week earlier someone shared a critical comment about my lamentation regarding the impoverished numbers at Mass in this post-COVID world.  Yes, I am happy about those who come but I wish more of us were passionate about the Eucharist and willing to do what we can against the overriding indifference from our own about the liturgy.  Friends and family members are spiritually starving themselves! 

As a pastor I often hear complaints about the message when what we really need are more messengers.  For the most part, I can only reach those who come to me.  Further, the Holy Father, who never shies away from making criticism,  suggests that homilies should be no longer than ten minutes.  No, I must disagree.  Sound bites might make good commercials.  But our people need full meals of both the Word and the Eucharist.  Notice that in the Gospel reading (Luke 9:11b-17) our Lord spends the whole day speaking to the crowds.  Indeed, he has spoken so long that the day is drawing to a close and there is a concern about how those who have listened and received him into their hearts might find supper in such a deserted place. The subsequent miracle that follows will both prefigure the Eucharist and testify to the nourishment of Christ’s teaching and presence. There is an acknowledgment of a hunger among the people, not just for physical food but also spiritual food— a share from the banquet table of the kingdom.

We read: “As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”

Too many today have become addicted to a food that does not satisfy.  The world would feed us junk or sawdust while Jesus desires to feed us with the bread that is his very self— a food that gives strength and life. Given the modern voyeurism, some are more willing to watch others dine in the Lord’s presence than to come themselves to the banquet of the Mass. Sold a bill of goods about spiritual communion that only applies in times of desperation, now that the church doors are open, there is a wholesale violation of the Sabbath and the precept of the Church about Sunday worship.  Excuses are made by the healthy and mobile that cannot camouflage mortal sin and a vast horde suffering anorexia of faith. What God permits for the shut-in sick and elderly is forbidden to everyone else.  The failure to approach the altar table at this time is a grievous sin and we must find both our courage and a renewed faith.  Many are starving and do not know it.  Perhaps worse, many are starving and a great number do not care.

Church laws are reactivated and we are called to rise up in Easter joy for a tremendous revival.  God is not dead and neither is his Church.  As Catholics, our temple is not the computer screen or tablet but an altar and tabernacle that hold the Eucharistic Lord.  The laws of the Church are reactivated and we pray that those who were afraid will never again compromise their ultimate loyalty.  The aberration of prostration to men and the state has subsided. What many of us surrendered for a time out of charity cannot be dismissed out of fear or convenience.  Lord, have mercy. The precept of the Church about Mass attendance has been restored.  Christ, have mercy. The dinner bell is ringing.  It is time to come home. Lord, have mercy.

During the pandemic we were also quick to send people away.  Maybe we were too quick?  Maybe the situation was ill-explained? Now we are begging them to come back. We are thankful to the doctors, nurses and emergency personnel who put their lives on the line for us.  We are appreciative for the vaccines and researchers who struggled to make a positive difference.  But when it is all said and done, we cannot place a greater confidence in medicine than in grace. 

Jesus tells his apostles, “Give them some food yourselves.” They did not see themselves having enough for so many.  But throughout, Jesus would have us trust him and NOT be afraid.  Jesus has given us the Word and Eucharist. He is the true food and medicine.  We need to trust Jesus. There will always be more than enough.  Jesus extends or multiplies himself to feed the crowds.  We must be true sentinels of faith to our Church and to the world. The command of Jesus is now given to his bishops and priests.  We are called to feed our people.

Ours is not the proclamation of bad news but the GOOD NEWS that Jesus comes to feed, heal and save us.  Ours is not a message of despair but of hope.  Come back to the pews and sit down.  Listen . . . taste and see . . . be fed, be changed— be made brand new. 

What does Jesus do in the Gospel?

“Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.”

Notice the language that parallels our Eucharist— Jesus “takes the bread,” “looks up to heaven,” “blesses” them, “breaks the loaves,” and “gives” it to the crowd.  The parish is our family home and we are beckoned to the family dinner table.  Why do I feel so heavily the loss of members around the altar table?  It is because I am the “father” appointed to this family.  I do not want my children to go hungry.  Both the clergy and their congregations need to appreciate this need, this obligation and to help spread the summons and bring the flock home. Like our Lord and the food we receive, we must be a people blessed, broken and given.

Synchronicity & the Lepers

The Cleansing of Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19)

We find a peculiar spiritual synchronicity between God’s revelation and our worship and discipleship. Take for instance the story of the ten lepers.

The history of salvation begins not with our search for God but rather with a God who comes in search of us.  Similarly, our worship begins with a procession.  It is always our Lord entering Jerusalem. Hailed by hosannas and palm branches, he comes to lay down his life for us— he dies that we might live.  The priest approaches the altar and cross. 

We read: “As he [Jesus] continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.”

We wander as pilgrims in this world.  This is not our true home.  We have been fashioned for a New Jerusalem, heaven. Our Lord encounters us along the Way. We come to church and encounter Christ.

We read: “As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’”

Similarly at Mass, we come together as a community, not just as individuals.  We are wounded and want to be healed.  The lepers cry out for mercy.  We do the same in the penitential rite: “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”  

We read: “And when he saw them, he said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’”

As with Mass, we hear Scripture and here our Lord cites Leviticus 14 that required lepers to be washed and examined by priests before being declared clean and returning to their communities.

We read: “As they were going they were cleansed.”

The Eucharist is the great sacrament of the paschal mystery.  We are fed and transformed into what we receive. We are remade ever more and more into the likeness of Christ. Grace builds upon grace for those washed clean in baptism.

We read: “And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.”

We come back to the Lord again and again. This is true with our attendance at Mass and in the sacrament of penance.  We fall to our knees and cry out, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.” At Mass we give “thanksgiving” to God, a word that means “Eucharist.”    

We read: “He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, ‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?’”

Why would a Samaritan go to a Jewish priest? Disposed to grace, instead, he goes to the great high priest, Jesus Christ.  The ancient promise given first to the Jews will now be given to the whole world so long as there is a saving faith in Jesus Christ.  The covenant of Christ would make enemies into friends and strangers into family.

We read: “Then he said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.’”

As with the end of Mass, having had a saving encounter with the Lord, we are sent on mission— to proclaim the Good News and to share what we have received.  We are all lepers called to Christ for healing!