Making the Turn

Image result for quandary peakI want to go to the mountains.  I always want to go to the mountains.  I’ve gone out to Colorado a number of times and it is always sad to drive past the last real mountains on the way back home, just as it is always a joy to drive to see the first mountains begin to take shape as you are heading into higher country and even more of a thrill to drive up into their twists and turns. 

                There are quite a number of holy mountains in Scripture: Mount Horeb, Mount Moriah, Mount Sinai, Mount Tabor, the Mount of Olives, Calvary.  Mountains are a kind of trysting place between God and mankind.  We go up and get closer to the heavens….up there on the mountain God does not have to come so far down to meet us — almost as if we give His back a little bit of a rest.  The giving of the Law/the Beatitudes on a mountain reveals to us that if we live by this teaching we will reach this lofty destination – we will ascend.  In this first reading today, Isaiah describes the Mountain of the Lord.  All peoples will be provided for there with a feast of rich juicy foods and choice wines.  This mountain will definitively end the human experience of death forever – and tears will be wiped away.  The whole Image result for snowboarder dudepicture is so epic it might be worth saying in your best surfer/snowboarder voice: “Woooah, I’m glad God came and saved us – let us party so righteously!!!” And we will dwell with the Lord.

                I used to have this wiry history professor who wore these wiry glasses and he would stump the students.  His quotable quote was, “Don’t try to outfox the fox!”  His most notorious riddles came in the form of ancient political cartoons from the 19th century that he placed towards the end of his tests.  One in particular showed these alligators with open mouths coming out of the water.  But if you turned the whole image sideways, you would see that the alligators’ mouths were bishops’ miters.  The whole thing was an anti-Catholic slam, but you had to make the turn to see both perspectives.  Image result for 19th century political cartoon bishops miters alligators

                Making the turn is critical in our faith.  We have to remember that we are physical, but recognize and move into a spiritual understanding of God and love and creation.  We have to make the turn from the personal way of looking at life to the communal – to the greater communion.  We have to make the turn from seeing God’s invitation as extended to all in a general way to ourselves in an extremely intimate way.  If we fail to make the turn, we run a high risk.  For example, the chief priests and Pharisees who were looking for a Messiah are being addressed by Jesus in the parable of the King and the wedding feast.  But if we think of our future in a physical way – mountains, wine, and food Image result for feast rich foods(good in their own way) – but see what God offers in a merely material way…and the King offers fattened cattle, this may not seem enough.  The one man has his own farm.  The other had plenty of money through his business – the physical doesn’t strike them.  They reject the Lord.  They do not take their bodies to the feast.

                There is another example to watch out for however – the man who goes, but has no wedding garment.  Now, this second string group is interesting in that it includes the good and the bad alike.  How do the bad get into the wedding feast and presumably have a garment?  Well, the bad are invited and show up, but they must not stay bad.  They put on a garment through conversion.  Their garment perhaps is one of great thanksgiving personally for being called to such a feast.  Or perhaps one of imploring King’s mercy and forgiveness; one of the personal repentance needed in relationship to the King they long to see.  Perhaps the man without the garment was one of the bad who merely despairs of not belonging there without the initiative that those others who need conversion take.  The good should not take their status as deserved.  Their garment must be one of gratitude and thanksgiving at the generosity of the King.  Perhaps the man caught without the garment is one who considers himself at home without any additional movement of his soul – that the King is lucky to have him there.  The lack of a proper garment in either direction seems to indicate a failure to make the turn from our previous mode to one centered on God.

                Our whole situation in the world today seems to increasingly call us as a nation, as a Church, as a species to make the turn.  To see ourselves personally called and communally connected to God.  The increasing scope of the disasters that threaten us have the ability to call us to think as a body – one that is threatened altogether.  From North Korea and Iran and their ambitions to the super-volcanoes that have been reported to be charging up to the emerging technologies that may push mankind largely out of the workforce, etc. are all issues against we will rise or fall together. 

God certainly allows these various scenarios as consequences of our own free will, but He wants to unite us in love rather than fear.  And so in the midst of these readings and in the midst of His imagery of juicy rich food and choice wines and fattened cattle that are slaughtered, He extends to us Himself.   We are not merely called to be guests to the party and these foods are not to be treated as merely as something physically nice and yet superfluous.  They are juicy, rich and fattened – not to keep us in our Image result for eucharistlower nature – but to allude to the presence of something hidden.  One of the Church Fathers states that the fattened cattle are fattened with the Holy Spirit Himself.  It reminds me of an old Eucharistic Litany that hails our Lord as the “Bread of Fatness.”  He delivers Himself to us physically (but in a size and manner that does not entice us on its own) and spiritually, having given His very Soul and Divinity into this most sacred food.  If we make the turn together, we can share in the Communion that lifts us up to the mountain of the Lord – together and beloved.  We have been called as guests and should we make the turn we will yet remain as the Bride.       

Look Up, Not Down

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So, I was watching another episode of the Twilight Zone and in it, Oliver Crangle is a bitter man bent over a desk most of his day in his room.  He spends his time either calling up employers and reporting on various people who Crangle has determined are Communists or individuals who are morally objectionable and filing thousands of names away with all that he has learned about them in his efforts to personally identify and root out all evil in the world.  One of the people whom Crangle happens to misidentify is a doctor who Crangle has labeled a murderer, for a patient in his care once passed away.  Crangle has been calling the hospital and demanding he fired, and so his wife pays Crangle a visit to implore him to cease and desist.  Yet, Crangle has no sympathy, and it becomes more apparent to the audience how demented he is as he looks out the lofty window of his high-rise at the people below.  It is hard to tell how he differentiates the evil people that he sees from anyone else as he merely cackles and says, “They’ll all be two feet tall!  At 4 o’clock I’ll turn them all two feet tall!”  The woman leaves, understandably shaken by Crangle’s excitement. 

            This show popped into my head the other night when someone was asking me about the shooting in Las Vegas.  How do we explain it?  What does the Church have to say about such things.  The shooter in Las Vegas looking down out of his window perhaps had a similar view on humanity to Oliver Crangle.  It was all beneath him.  He had determined that he was the law and the arbiter of the law himself.  But before we look down our own noses at anybody – even at such sad examples of humanity as Oliver Crangle and the Las Vegas shooter – our readings today should get us to slow down.  Both of the readings reflect God’s abundant graces and care that He has provided for us.  He has made nothing evil.  But, in the first reading, God speaks about Israel itself as the fruits that were wild when they should have been good.  And the Gospel speak about the leaders of Israel who wanted to keep the fruits of Israel for themselves to the point of murder. 

            It would seem to me that wild grapes would be grapes with a sour taste…some kind of inferior quality.  It is as if God is suggesting that Israel did not want to live and grow according to the Law and so they soured in on themselves – rather than offering their sweetness back to God, they spent all their sweetness on themselves and the flavor went bad.  Aren’t we tempted to do the same thing?  The first reading says that God looked to Israel (and really to us) for judgment, but not in that we judge others or even ourselves, but that we judge the various courses of action we can take – and choose those that correspond to love and self-sacrifice and that bring us into closer communion with God and neighbor even if at our own expense. 

           Perhaps if we had more of a knowledge, a clearer knowledge of what God has in store for us.  Scripture says, eye has not seen, ear has not heard – what God has ready.  But while we don’t know the entirety of the reward we strive to attain, we can look to Christ Himself who did reveal certain attributes when He was with His apostles after the Resurrection. 

             We are told by St. Paul to live above the flesh in this life – to live according to the Spirit.  Well, if we do sacrifice in our bodies and we do not grow sour, then we will experience the conquest of the imperfections inherent to our bodies.  Instead of our spirits seemingly turned all around with pains and sadnesses flowing from our lower nature, rather our bodies will conform to whatever our spirits will.  For example in this life our bodies occupy space to the limitation that other bodies cannot share in that same space.  Our bodies exclude other bodies.  While Christ’s risen Body still occupies space, it is able to move through doors (which is how it is believed that He appeared to the Apostles in the upper room though the doors were locked).  At will, He can allow it occupy the same space as another body without ceasing to be.  The body also becomes incorruptible – in other words – just as the soul cannot be physically damaged or lose its life….Jesus has died and risen no more to die.  The wounds in His hands and His feet hurt Him no longer.  Every resurrected body will enter this same condition.  The spirit is enabled to use the glorified body as in instrument in any activity it desires – as Christ wills that His Body ascend into the heavens to be seated at the right hand of the Father.  All of these gifts shine forth because the soul is completely impregnated by the Spirit. 

            If life is so good (and remember these are just the tip of the iceberg – things we can glean from Christ) and yet we know that we will be joined to everyone more personally with those who are now perfect strangers tighter than some couple married for 77 years.   This is the promise to us if we bear fruit.  Repentance is worth it.  Today’s society needs the self-sacrifice of those who believe in something greater.  Let us then drop out of the conversations wherein some group blames some other group.  Let us look up at others rather than down at them.  Let us think of ourselves as part of the overall problem for we are growing in the same vineyard.  If something is wrong in the vineyard – then on some level we are all in need of mercy. 

            Those last few words remind me of the need to judge my course and leave off with judging persons – whether myself or another.  That Twilight Zone episode ends famously at 4 o’clock.  The man has worked some dark miracle and all the evil people are now just two feet tall, only he’s the only one who shrinks. 

            The Eucharist is the Resurrected Flesh of Jesus Christ and allowing Himself to be with us – He condescends from on High.  Christ gave His Body and Blood to His twelve apostles and spread His life among us that we might live as members, not for ourselves.  This seems like a good idea even with its difficulties in this life.  But if we subject ourselves truly to the Body of Christ and seek to see ourselves as much in the need of God’s mercy as everyone else we will inherit a glory that shares everything we have with others, in exchange for a share in the very glory of God’s infinite love and joy.

Right Where We Want ‘EM!

Back in the day, there were many times when my dad and I would be watching some game and the good guys would be down without much chance of coming back and he would say, “We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em.”  As in, the bad guys are overconfident and we are in perfect position for the comeback of the century.  Perhaps Image result for themistoclesthis was never more true than in the case of Themistocles.  Themistocles lived about 500 years before Christ.  He was a famous admiral and leader of Athens and he knew the threat of the Persian Empire and their desire to seize his country.  So Themistocles inspired his people to construct a fleet of 200 ships.  They were built, put to sea, and manned from bow to stern with sailors and warriors.  Sure enough the Persians came to invade and Themistocles guided the fleet into position to fight in the close quarters around the multi-pronged land of Salamis, but when the Persians swept in with something like 1000 ships – the Greeks did not want to fight and were planning to head home.  Themistocles knew that they could never challenge the Persian fleet on open water and that if they did not fight when they could in the narrow seas and the straits to which he had guided their course, they would lose any advantage against such a huge number of ships and all hope for their homeland would most certainly be lost.  What he did next was gutsy.  Themistocles sent his servant to the Persian King, stating that he, Themistocles, now sought a victory for the Persians and hoped to be rewarded for his change of heart.  He said that the Greeks were ready to try and escape (which was true) and that the Persians could hinder their flight, and destroy all their sea forces if they acted quickly. Image result for battle of salamis The Persians therefore surrounded the whole area with their ships and advanced – tightening the noose – and Themistocles had ‘em just where he wanted!  In other words, so long as there was any opportunity to escape for a time the Greeks had wanted to flee and Themistocles could not rouse them.  However, now that there were surrounded and would have no choice but to fight – fight they would.  With their backs against the wall, they battled like lions and in the close quarters of the straits of Salamis – the numerical advantage of the Persians was lost.  As the Persian ships began to sink, the invaders melted away.

Now, in every good ship there are three types of leaders.  You need a navigator – someone who can see what’s coming ahead and help direct the course.  You need a first mate.  That is somebody who can be a mediator between the captain and the crew and help relay information both ways – up the chain of command and down.  And you need a captain – somebody who is the king, the boss, the 800 pound gorilla, king of the Jungle to ultimately be the decision maker. Image result for helmsman

Themistocles played the role of the navigator/seer over the whole battle – and also the Captain and decision-maker.  But, Christ has all three of these leadership traits and so in the Head of His Mystical Body, the Church, we have prophets (scholars and mystics) – who are like our navigators, priests who fulfil the role of first mate – right there in the trenches, and bishops who wield the authority of Christ the Head in their diocese – ultimately looking to the pope, our Holy Father in Rome for leadership in faith and morals.  But even the pope has to listen to an authority beyond Himself.  He has to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines that have been handed down in the Church.  So, with respect to the Church militant, he is the head.  In respect to God, he is part of the body.

We are constantly called to conversion – to understanding our role about when to lead and when to follow.  The key to conversion is humility.  Jesus Christ Himself “did regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather He emptied Himself taking the form of a slave.”  If Christ humbles Himself, it is so that we can follow His lead.

But, we often fail and we have a word to describe a group of people that loses their sense of humility and forgets how they best operate harmoniously to the point that they seize power – we call it a mob.  That Greek Admiral Themistocles was essentially Image result for mobfacing the beginnings of a mutiny by a mob.  He not only saw the great conversion they required, but had the humility to realize he could not change their hearts on his own.  He had to reach out and influence even his enemies to hem them in on all sides so that they sensed again their need for leadership – they were a body that needed a head.

Christ certainly knows the tactics of the devil and He knows the will of the people.  Time and again they wanted to make Him a king, but only a king of their stomachs – to give them a little more comfort on this earth.  They wanted to carry Him off in mob fashion after the multiplication of the bread and fish, but He slipped away.  So, He casts aside earthly power and He even allows evil to encircle Him and seemingly take every avenue of escape away.  His very life is lost, but never His soul – and His soul returning to lift up His Body has given us all a means of escape.

Christ does the same with us.  He does not try and force His will upon us and allows us to sin.  It is our ways that are shortsighted when we sin.  He established a Church that is a permanent prophet to the world who always proposes the truth and yet is perpetually mocked and ridiculed, even as it teaches the same singular truth capable of liberating mankind from isolation and darkness.  Our Lord has our enemies right where He wants them, and He even allows us to be encircled that we might realize our need to make our stand with Him.  He is the true leader in every facet.  His truth does not change. Image result for Christ Suffered

We may think we would love a God who would adapt to our way of thinking, but then we could not find communion with everyone else.  If God was always changing what was true to satisfy each individual – we would never all share the same truth.  His truth is Love, the Love of a Father for His children, the love of a Brother for His little brothers and sisters, and in the Eucharist – the love of a Father offering Christ His Son and our Brother for us all.  The truth of Christ’s teachings do not change, and we can see the more clearly if we band together in the humble need for conversion.

 

Perspective

Image result for stacks of cashImagine a person who just won the Powerball – hundreds of millions of dollars – and then that same day was complaining because gas prices had just gone up 10 cents and they acted as if their whole day was just ruined!  Wouldn’t you think that person would have to be extremely out of touch with what’s important?  They are now multi-multi millionaires.  Shouldn’t that outshine a couple of dollars at the pump to keep their day in the “good category?” 

            Or imagine a person who was getting married and everyone was all excited for them and there Image result for flower girlwas all of the tremendous run-up to the wedding and all the photos and everything, but then at the wedding they become jealous at the attention that is given for a few moments to the flowergirl – that would be ridiculous.  Hey, you’re getting married – share a little attention – it’s still your wedding – the cuter the flower girl, the more beautiful your ceremony anyway. 

These are completely fictitious examples, and it shouldn’t take much maturity to see how shortsighted these two people would be if they were real.  It is like they are three year olds – they understand what they want, but they have a hard time seeing the bigger picture.  But I would say that this kind of thing often happens to us.  What’s worse is that when we are tempted towards a sort of adult toddler mindset we can find it very hard to trust anyone else trying to help us put things in perspective or point out some other way.

            God’s ways are not our ways, but God does not tell us that because He is happy about it.  You might say the same thing about a three-year old.  As far as the ceiling is above the floor, so high are my thoughts above your thoughts.  Probably so, but I don’t take joy from that difference to the point that I don’t want a three-year old to continue maturing and growing into an adult that can relate to me.  In just the same way, Jesus teaches us this parable to help us reevaluate.  So what’s going on anyway?

            Well, for starters the vineyard can be thought of as the People of God.  The marketplace where all of the workers are originally found waiting to be hired is the world.  The day encompasses human history.  Image result for analog wall clockThe different hours are seen as the different ages of the Salvation history – so dawn till nine would be Adam to Noah.  The age from Noah till Abraham would be 9 o’clock to noon.  Noon to 3 would represent Abraham to Moses.  3 o’clock to 5 o’clock would be Moses to Christ and 5 o’clock to 6 o’clock (the twelfth hour and the final hour of the work day) would be the time of Christ and His Church.  Now God had called the Jews to work in the vineyard from early on in this day.  They share in the covenant and become a people from the time of Abraham.  This parable is a lot like the end of the Prodigal Son parable where the older brother has served the father the whole time and gets angry at the mercy towards his younger brother.  The Jews are the older brother and in this parable the workers who have been out in the field.  The Gentiles are the younger brother and in this case those called by Christ into the People of God.  The Jews did go and work and they do start early in the day.   But work isn’t all bad!  Adam in his sin had disobeyed God.  Work done for others – that is – work done in the vineyard allows us to cooperate with God and gets us outside of ourselves.  Even when the thorns of creation prick us, that is when we suffer in our work, we can remember that Christ was crowned with thorns and made even this suffering into a most holy thing.  The worst of our work can draw us the closest to Christ.  Furthermore, I don’t know too many people Image result for standing aroundwho like standing around.  There is not much meaning to be found standing idle in the world.  Those who labor in the vineyard of the Lord have the potential to unite all of their efforts to God. 

            The problem is not recognizing the payment.  The payment is not only the denarius which represents one day’s labor – or the money to live on through tomorrow.  The payment is life meaning something today with the promise of more.  The payment is life itself or the love of God.  If we want to be grateful for the life we will have in eternity, it is worth our while to start being grateful for the life we have today.  The sacrifices of the Israelites and the Jews especially have been told and retold by the lips of Gentiles in a way that those who came late to the vineyard can never replace.  Their lives when they were lived in love of God are celebrated and honored because they have taken on the meaning of God’s chosen bride. 

            The problem is that all of us want to compare ourselves and how we feel we have been treated.  We compare ourselves to others and we compare ourselves to ourselves.   If we simply accepted God’s gift of life we could begin living our life with eternal meaning (the meaning of Christ’s love) now.  We as Christians, we have been called in this last hour.  While the whole body of the Christian faithful has been working in the vineyard for far less time, we are capable of laboring according to Christ’s teaching of love and grace and sacrifice – and thus with Christ, we can accomplish a great fruitfulness and many Christians have, as the Kingdom of God is now spread throughout the world.  While those coming early have labored according to the Law, the Christians have labored for the Father – and therefore have received Him as their very reward, a reward that is open to all and lacks nothing. 

            Christ calls us to a higher way of thinking, to a maturity that desires even to remain in the field like St. Paul if that is for the good of others rather than go onto our reward.  In the Eucharist, Christ continues to pay us with the gift of Himself, planting Himself in our hearts that we might bring forth a harvest before the day is done. 

Another Way

Image result for nazi officerArchbishop Sheen was once describing the need to change our thinking and he said the following: I have a friend who spent seven years in a communist prison and who was originally a Jewess who became a Christian….one day before the Communists came into her country, Romania, a Nazi called on her husband who was also a Jew who later became a Christian.  And he said to the Nazi, “How many Jews did you kill the last few weeks?”  “Oh,” He said, “25,000.”  “In this particular village, how many did you kill?” “I killed everyone in that town.”  The man said, “Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?”  “Oh,” he says, “God doesn’t exist.”  “There isn’t any such thing as forgiveness.”  “Alright,” says the husband, “my wife is upstairs asleep.  She’s not heard this conversation.  I’m going to ask her to come down.”  When she appeared before them, my friend said to his wife, “Sabina, this is the man who killed your father, your mother, your three brothers and two sisters.” She looked at him for a moment, then threw her arms around him, kissed him, and said as God forgives you, I forgive you.  That forgiveness was the consequence of a Christian philosophy. 

            Christianity has a different philosophy than the world.  It is supernatural.  It involves a faith in Christ and His teaching whereby we actually enter into the life of Christ and our lives should reflect His love and sacrifice, and in doing this we who are Christians allow Christ to live in us.  This is supernatural.  Nothing on the natural level allows us to enter into another’s life or them into us.  The woman in Sheen’s story has Christ living in her – she in essence lives His astounding words from the Cross: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.  This desire to not only follow Christ, but to give Him a permanent apartment in our soul enables us to perform supernatural acts of forgiveness and mercy.

            We are drawing to the close of the liturgical year – the celebration of Christ coming as King at the judgment.  Every Sunday from now till Advent involves a preparation for the end.  Memento Mori.  Remember death.  Remember your last days: set enmity aside.  If we get what we cling to – cling to love, otherwise we will reap hatred and anger – for hatred and love always oppose each other.  Whichever is stronger pushes the other out. 

            Every one of us begins in the same condition as the wicked man in today’s Gospel – we owe a debt to God that we cannot pay.  In other words, He has something that we need.  Other translations explain the debt owed by the wicked man as 10,000 talents.  A talent was a specific weight – usually of gold or silver.  Each talent would be equivalent to about 15 years’ wages.  He owed 10,000 X what he would make in 15 years.  The gulf between what God wants of us and where we are is insurmountable on our own.  Well, if we merely say: “glad I’m not that guy!” we miss the point.  Each sinner has a similar debt that they could never pay on their own.

            Then judgment day: the master calls him to an account: because he can’t pay he is to go into punishment, but he does homage to his lord and is forgiven entirely of his debt.  This is what happens at baptism and through confession.  But in today’s Gospel he goes away a mess.  The homage he gave to the Lord must have been false – he asked for a mercy from the Master that he himself did not want to imitate.  He is ungrateful even in his success.  He has just won the lottery of debt forgiveness.  And yet when he sees this other man doing exactly the same thing he despises him.  How often it is that I notice that what bothers me about someone else is something that I know I do – they remind me of my own weakness and I hate them for it. 

            But there’s another suspicion I have about the wicked man’s urgency to be repaid in full.  He doesn’t know the Master.  With all that he was released from, he has no trust in the goodness of his Lord.  He wants to be repaid so he can try to build up his own security and never have to ask his Master for another penny – because he doesn’t think he can just keep saying I’m sorry – that this Master will have to come down on him.  And so the wicked man comes down on another to avoid the Master coming down on him eventually, and the Master sees how false the homage, the begging, all of the promises of this man really were and reverses the sentence on the wicked man.

            Hatred and resentment churn in our world cyclically.  Just look at what is happening with race in our country and even in our own region.  One group hurts the other and blames them and the other hurts the other and blames them…and it goes on.  Christ came into this endless repetition and breaks the cycle.  That Romanian woman who forgave and kissed the Nazi broke the cycle of hatred with a love that does not come from this world.  It makes no sense without Christ.  He chooses another way.  Rather than coming to collect our debt, He incurs our debt and pays it and shows us that we can break out of the system by knowing the Master, knowing that the Master is Our Father.  Another parable and another microcosm of what God is doing.  He calls us to imitate Him by trusting in the endless mercy of God and then to extend mercy to others.  However, after we have been forgiven, if we choose rather than continuing to seek His mercy by kneeling down again and doing Him homage…if we exact the same little petty sums out of our neighbors in an effort to depend on no one but ourselves – He will not force us out of the cycle and we will find ourselves wailing and grinding our teeth.           

            In Psalm 103 today, the Psalmist sings out “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all my being bless His holy Name.”  He wants his being – body, spirit, mind, emotions to be transformed into praise for the Name of the Lord.  Calling out simply God’s name – calls upon His entire being and the mercy He has for each of us.  It is His mercy, this simple attribute that has given us all that we have – we truly have the opportunity to be transformed entirely into praise for the Name of the Lord if we reflect His mercy on everyone else. 

           

Beyond What We Want

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It’s like that old Twilight Zone television show where a gang of bank robbers gets shot and one of them wakes up walking on fluffy clouds at the golden gate of a celestial city.  A kindly white-robed man offers him everything he wants.  But soon he’s bored with the gold, since everything’s free, and with the beautiful girls, who only laugh when he tries to hurt them, since he has a sadistic streak. 

            “So he summons the St. Peter figure.  ‘There must be some mistake.’ ‘No, we make no mistakes here.’  ‘Can’t you send me back to earth?’ ‘Of course not, you’re dead.’  ‘Well, then, I must belong with my friends in the Other Place.  Send me there.’ ‘Oh, no, we can’t do that.  Rules, you know.’ ‘What is this place, anyway?’ ‘This is the place where you get everything you want.’  ‘But I thought I was supposed to like heaven.’  ‘Heaven?  Who said anything about heaven?  Heaven is the Other Place.’  The point is that a world without suffering appears more like hell than heaven (The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel). 

            It is the fear of suffering that causes me to get nervous whenever I hear God telling Ezekiel in that first reading that if we know someone is in a wicked way and yet we fail to correct the sinner they will die in their guilt, but we will be held responsible.  Correcting them looms large and uncomfortable, (what will they think of me if I mention X?), but then not doing anything is worse.    

            And not correcting someone – well, the punishment starts now even for the evil-doer – even should they think they are enjoying themselves.  The sinner may be enraptured with false allurements and even false loves…The problem is that these allurements and loves are false.  Consider Heaven….it is a place of true love, is it not?  We even use the phrase “true love” in reference to earthly love that bears this heavenly character.  But we specify “true love” as true as opposed to false love, because we have all been wounded by false loves.  False loves may seem for a moment to be filled with promise, but they enslave us and shatter our hearts. 

            Think about a prison: we typically focus on the fact that a prison keeps someone from getting out.  When we see the unchecked sinner moving free enough in the world and seemingly happy by all of their standards we are tempted to draw back from correction.  Why burst their bubble?   Ah, but this prison is spiritual and while they do not seem at all penned in (and even putting aside that they are not likely spiritually moving in any good direction and penned in)…consider the other side of those prison bars – they also keep anyone from getting in to the cell.  When someone is living in falsehood, they are barricaded away from the truth.  Ultimately, Jesus Christ is the fullness of the truth and while they are made to glory in the Truth, He has given us the power to bind or loose our doors to the Truth.  This is why admonishing the sinner is an act of mercy.  To the extent that we reveal the truth of someone’s folly in love, we are giving them the chance to loose themselves from error. 

            Charity is key.  It is good to remember the old phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  Once the London Times put out a question to many of its writers, “What’s wrong with the world?”  GK Chesterton responded in two words: I am.  We are all infected with sin.  We should recall that Christ tells us to remove the beam that is in our own eye, before we seek to remove the speck in our brother’s eye.  And then Christ tells us to talk to people privately – if possible – first.  It’s the old phrase: praise in public/admonish in private.  Then we get to the talk of going with a third party so that the facts can be established – and then the Church.  When the Church gets involved, things usually get interesting.  Sometimes bishops have recognized the need to step up and even correct someone publicly.  They often face ridicule themselves.  We hear the term ex-communication in the most dire of situations.  Even this though is meant as a medicinal measure.  It is given based on the love God has for each and every soul – there might be the need to warn people from following a particular person’s example.  But an ex-communication really is only stating publicly what has already happened spiritually to that person.  Their actions have put themselves outside of the life of grace and the Church commands them to take notice and come back. 

            Why bother with some people?  Aren’t some just too bad to worry about?  C.S. Lewis once wrote: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.  There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” 

            And so we must love the truth, so obscure in our times – we must love it if we are to have any chance to know it and cling to it and help our brothers and sisters to share it with us.  But even the darker pieces of the Good News, like the challenge we receive today outline for us the great calling to  rest entirely in God and His love.  In this Mass, let us offer God our hearts with renewed zeal as the Host is lifted up, for it is in the truth of all of us – of our unity together – sinners though we are – that in our going out of ourselves, we are not only brothers and sisters.  In the Mass, having humbled ourselves in His name, and even joined together in His flesh, He is in our midst and we become His Body.

                  

Beggars before God

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There is a story I heard about Scott Hahn and a priest friend of his when this priest went to visit Rome some years back.  The following story is pulled another site:

Among other activities, the priest was scheduled to have a private audience with John Paul II. On the appointed day, the priest had many hours free. And like a tourist, the priest decided to stop in a basilica to tour and to say a prayer. On the steps of the church were a number of beggars, something fairly common in Rome. Here the priest thought that he recognized one of the beggars. After entering the sanctuary he knelt down to pray, and then it hit him. He remembered how he knew the man. The priest rushed out and approached the beggar. “I know you. Didn’t we go to seminary together?”

The man gave a nod of affirmation. “So you are a priest then?” he said to the beggar. The man replied, “Not anymore. I fell off the deep end. Please leave me alone.” The priest was mindful of his approaching appointment with the Holy Father. “I’ve got to go — I’ll pray for you.” The beggar with the familiar face replied, “A lot of good that will do.”

With that, the priest left the beggar on the steps and departed for his meeting. These private meetings with the Pope are typically very formal. There are a number of people who have been granted a private audience at the same time, and when the Holy Father makes his way toward you, his secretary hands him a blessed rosary, and the pope in turn hands it to you. At this point, one would probably kiss the Pope’s ring and say something heartfelt, such as asking him to pray for you, telling him you are praying for him, or thanking him for his service to the Church. However, when Pope John Paul II approached, the priest couldn’t help himself and he blurted out, “Please pray for my friend.” Not only this, the priest told the entire story. The Holy Father, looked concerned, and he assured the priest that he would pray for his friend. As he moved on, he whispered something to an aide.

Later that day, the priest’s cell-phone was called by Vatican staff.  They told the priest that he and the beggar – the former priest were invited to see the pope for dinner. Excited and curious, he rushed back to the church where he last saw his classmate. Only a few beggars were left, and as luck (or grace) would have it, his former classmate was among the few.

He approached the man and said, “I have been to see the Pope, and he said he would pray for you. And there’s more. He has invited us to his private residence for dinner.”

“Impossible,” said the man, “Look at me. I am a mess. I haven’t showered in a long time… and my clothes …” Sensing the gravity of the situation (and understanding that this beggar was his admission ticket to have dinner with the Pope), the priest said, “I have a hotel room where you can shower and shave, and I have clothes that will fit you.” Again, by God’s grace, the beggar priest agreed. Later, they were off to have dinner with the Pope.

The hospitality was wondrous. At the close of dinner, just before dessert, the Holy Father motioned to the priest who didn’t understand what the Pope was intending. Finally, the pope’s secretary whispered to the priest, “He wants us to leave,” at which point the priest and the secretary left the Holy Father alone with the beggar.

After quite some time, the beggar emerged from the room in tears. “What happened in there?” asked the priest. The most remarkable and unexpected reply came. “The pope asked me to hear his confession,” choked the beggar. After regaining composure, the man continued, “I told him, ‘Your Holiness, look at me. I am a beggar. I am not a priest.’

“The Pope looked at me and said, ‘My son, once a priest always a priest, and who among us is not a beggar. I too come before the Lord as a beggar asking for forgiveness of my sins.’ I told him I was not in good standing with the Church, and he assured me that as the Bishop of Rome he could reinstate me right then and there.”

The man relayed that it had been so long since he had heard a confession that the Pope had to help him through the words of absolution. The priest friend asked, “But you were in there for some time. Surely the Pope’s confession did not last that long.”

“No,” said his friend, “But after I heard his confession, I asked him to hear mine.”

In last week’s Gospel, when St. Peter says to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” he is making what is called a confession of faith.  He reveals this great belief he has in Jesus as God.  It was hidden, but now he makes it known.  But as the Gospel continues today, Jesus completes the picture.  “I am the Christ and I must be raised up on the cross before I can rise from the dead.”  Peter doesn’t like it one bit.  But just like Peter wants a Savior that doesn’t need to atone for sin, we admit that we are sinners, but we don’t believe that we need to be redeemed from sin.

Like the cross, confession might sound like an all-around bad thing, but it is a truly giving thing.  Heck, I like to remind people that most of us go around and confess our sins to everybody but the priest anyway.  We look for happiness in all the wrong places and then we look for justification and peace in all the wrong places.  It is Jesus in the person of the priest who unites us to His cross.  It is Christ who justifies us.  We cannot be freed from sin on our own.  If we have fear of being unreconciled to God – all the more reason to seek the sacrament.  Truly it is a dress rehearsal for our final judgment.  In heaven, we are called to be married to God and to all mankind.  How will we face the rest of mankind if we are not able to face a priest even behind the screen?  You know one of the ever-present lies the devil whispers to us, “what will that priest think of you?!”  You all stood up as sinners.  That’s what I think of all of us.  When I see someone who has the courage and the faith in me to go to confession, my only thought is, “that person has been forgiven of their sins.”

The Blessed Virgin Mary did not conceive the Son of God in her womb by her own power.  Even her humility, her longing for God, her love – these themselves all came from God in preparation for her to made ready for the fructification of the Holy Spirit.  Just so, we are moved by grace to prepare our hearts and souls for God through confession and then Christ is reborn in our souls.  He communicates to us Himself, for we are all beggars called to His cross that we might be called to His throne.

The Greatest Enemy

Image result for book neverending storySo, The Neverending Story was one of the movies that was big in the 1980’s.  It is this epic tale of a kid named Bastian that has run away from class and hid himself in the attic of the school.  He pulls out an ancient book with two intertwining serpents on the cover and he begins to read the story of another boy, Atreyu, a warrior who is sent to save a dying world.  The dying world is basically a representation of the hopes and dreams of all of humanity.  Of course the warrior, Atreyu, has to take on the greatest enemy imaginable.  It’s not a dragon, not a dark wizard, not a Pokémon; rather, Atreyu faces the great Nothing.  The Nothing is exactly what it sounds like – it is a merciless Void.  As humanity loses its hope and its dreams in our world, all of this world called Fantasia begins to collapse and darken, to turn gray and shrink.  As the first boy, Bastian, reads on he comes to this climax where he, this innocent reader and yet this last “bastion” of hope for Fantasia is supposed to give a name to the princess. Image result for neverending story nothing

I thought of this, because in a way our world seems to be suffering from the same Void.  Our imagination does not seem as great as it once was, and our hopes have dimmed, partly because we don’t read books anymore – and now it is the very visual markers of our history that are at stake.  I read yesterday how San Domenico Catholic School in California, in a case that they claim as unrelated to the Robert Lee circus, have removed more than 160 statues of Jesus, Mary and others from their property in the effort to be more inclusive.  How interesting: Jesus Christ is the one figure who never turned anyone away.  He did not quench the smoldering wick or bruise a reed.  To lose Jesus Christ’s image is more than a blow to somebody else’s history, it is to lose our own future, for He is the essence of our faith.  As a Christian, to lose Jesus Christ is to lose yourself…to lose your own identity.  That’s because in a sense the Bible is a lot like that ancient book that Bastian reads – that as we read it, we live through and with the Word Himself.  We are connected with the eternal promise.  But rather than us giving Him a name, it is He who bestows a name upon us.  We read in Revelation 2:17, that Jesus tells white stoneus: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.’”  But, if we lose the fight to maintain our hope in Christ, we lose our true identity.  Without Christ we do not know who we are….and our future becomes the Void.

To a sick world, Christ has come among us in Matthew’s Gospel in a whirlwind of healing people.  He’s healed everybody around to the point that the Pharisee’s have called him the Devil himself.  Sound familiar?!  Once that happens, there’s not much dialogue with the Pharisees.  The Pharisees could not see the transition – that they were called to something higher.  You see the Old Testament is a kind of pattern.  The Old Testament gave people hints towards what kind of messiah to hope for.  Did you know that Elisha the Prophet fed 100 people with just 20 small loaves of barley and some ears of grain?  “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’”  And it was so.  And in our first reading, Eliakim is given this position over the House of David.  The Lord says when he will open the doors to the house of Judah no one will shut them and when he shuts the doors, no one will open them.  Sound familiar?  We could go on and on for everything in the Old Testament points towards miracles Jesus did or things He says.  The pattern of holiness that is etched across the Image result for blueprint for a manentire Old Testament over thousands of years – this pattern of what it is to be holy is now on display in Jesus who is the pattern – all in one man.  We often enough think of ourselves as important or interesting because of what sets us apart.  Maybe you like fancy foods or maybe you have a collection of gadgets or you know rare facts about baseball trivia, etc.  We can feel very particular.  The Son of Man was not a particular man – He did not have His own idiosyncrasies and habits and styled cultivated human preferences.  Rather He was the Old Testament’s pattern come to life: He was the Universal Man.  The reason people thought of Him as Elijah or Jeremiah or another of the Prophets – was because His life reflected the goodness from all of them.  The pattern of holiness had concretized in Human form, but it was all there come to life.  There is a key thing to recall about these figures: Elijah and Jeremiah and John were not recognized in a vacuum.  We can see that they point to the light, because of the wickedness and darkness of the history around them.  If you throw away history you throw away the great pattern of God rescuing us from our sin.  Whitewash the history and you learn nothing from the prophets, for if we lose a sense of darkness, there is no hope for the light.    Image result for who do people say that i am

When Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I am?” He could just as easily have said, What are people hoping for?  This is who they were looking out for in a man to lead them.  Elijah, John the Baptist – they are beginning to hope, but their hopes aren’t great enough.  “Who do you say that I am?”  Who do you want me to be?  Remember that Peter was the one who has just walked his first steps on water.  He is starting to put things together.  “You are the Christ.  The Son of the Living God.”  Few facts are greater and more merciful than the fact that it is Peter was a sinful man.  Why?  Well, because God chose to bestow this knowledge on someone who had passion, but was still a sinner.    And it is Peter, a sinner who is conformed to Jesus to the point of dying on his own cross – the sinner is made holy in the pattern of Jesus.  We can all hope to be conformed to Christ.

In truth, I know what the Nothing really is – it is just another name for sin. Image result for fight against the nothing neverending story You see sin is when we choose something other than God, because anything that is not God eventually fades away and we are left without anything to love.  We are left with Nothing.  Christ told the Pharisees that at the judgment, the Men of Nineveh will rise with their generation – for at the sign of Jonah they repented.  And there was something greater than Jonah there – namely Himself.  Then He said that the Queen of the South will rise with their generation and condemn it, because she came to Solomon seeking wisdom and there was something greater than Solomon in their presence.  I fear that General LEeChrist will give our generation a similar warning, and that at the judgment we will be wishing that it was only Robert E. Lee and the South who will rise to contest with our generation.  For at the end of the Civil War, they surrendered their will and allowed our country to remain united – however imperfectly.  But, there is something greater than Robert E. Lee at stake here – for in this generation, we ourselves have removed Christ from our midst and the school in California nailed the true reason: Christ is not inclusive.  Meaning, He is not inclusive of sin.  In the end, we can’t have both Christ and sin.  We clamor for inclusion, because we do not allow ourselves to admit that we have sin, and we do not repent like the Men of Nineveh, nor do we seek out wisdom.  Without a true turning to Our Lord we face only our own nothingness.

The culture of our country and would seek to use its own keys to lock out anything from this world that it deems unworthy by its ever changing standard.  We can no longer allow the culture around us to supply meaning the meaning in life.  Rather Christ provides the great pattern for all that is light.  He wants to marshal us to storm the gates of the Void with the meaning of repentance, and forgiveness, and love.  We can begin to spread His Presence across every square inch of creation.  In this Mass, let us pray to St. Peter for his successors and the flock scattered abroad – that we might be united in our hope in Christ.  Evermore there is a need to exemplify His goodness and that we may become a living monument to our Lord.

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The Humility of Humor

Image result for st. lawrence the deaconSt. Lawrence the Deacon had a feast day about two weeks ago.  He was martyred by the Romans centuries before, but he is still remembered for two things.  He is the patron saint of cooks for they barbequed him on a gridiron, and he is the patron saint of comedians for at one point he informed his torturers that they could turn him over: he was done on one side.  Then there was St. Thomas More who would not give his blessing to King Henry VIII’s divorce.  After a long stretch in the Tower of London, More had grown a hearty beard and when they took him up to the position beneath the executioner and made him to kneel, he moved his beard carefully off of the chopping block, stating: “This hath not offended the king.”  Once, Mother Theresa also was out begging with a small child and she went up to a baker to see if he could provide some bread.  When she asked at his window, he spat in her face.  Without missing a beat she said, “Thank you for that, now perhaps something for the child.”  She went home with bread.  In the face of evil and injustice and suffering, it is a trait of our Christian faith that the Cross is able to bring out the best in us and the lightest.

The key to the good humor of the saints is humility.  Because they weren’t demanding their rights – they showed how much they deserved them.  Most anybody in their situation would be understandably outraged at the treatment they received, but the saints knew that they were sinners.  And knowing they were sinners they knew they could associate/let themselves be associated not only with death – but even being the butt of a joke – and because they were redeemed, they knew their death was worth it and perhaps – just maybe through a quick joke they would spread the love of the God who gave them their courage.

So, humor can spread the love of God – and win Him glory.  And since humor (something funny) can glorify God (something serious) than funny things must not be the opposite of serious things.  Something can be seriously funny.  The only thing opposite to a funny thing is an unfunny thing.

Confusion can set in because we laugh at plenty of things that are unfunny.  Image result for mockeryMockery is not true humor, for it is not humble.  To make a joke about something or someone with true humor, you first have to see them in a new light.  When something is joked about in a truly humorous way, the thing takes on additional meaning that can be shared in love.  In fact, a joke can help something that had become normal or routine can acquire a fresh delight and be found lovable.  Just think of a lot of nicknames.  Christ famously gives James and John the nickname, “Boanerges” in Mark 3:17.  It meant “Sons of Thunder” and probably had to do with their desire to call down fire from heaven in Luke 9:54.   Somewhere along the line I heard an improbably theory that James and John had a particularly strong digestive issue and Boanerges might have had a double meaning referring to their flatulence.  While this is not likely to be fact, it can at least serve as a great example of how humor can help us to appreciate a less than desirable thing about someone by at least making us laugh.

Now, to be honest, I don’t think Jesus tries all that hard to be funny.  At least not to the people with whom He is speaking.  But, it seems very possible that He saw more Image result for fish temple tax jesushumor than we do in life, but kept it to Himself – and not only that but that He knew these moments would lift spirits for centuries.  Like when Peter is looking to pay the temple tax and Jesus says to go and catch a fish and first one will have a coin to pay for both of them.  It’s as if Christ says, Fine, you think we should pay this ridiculous tax – we’ll pay it ridiculously.  I know a fish who hasn’t paid his taxes in years…He’ll gladly cough up the money.

Christ actually sets up the woman in today’s Gospel to reveal to us a most beautiful humility.  She embodies what I call the principle of being a “spiritual Jackie Chan.”  One of the reasons that makes the martial arts legend Jackie Chan so funny is that he is able to use his environment – tables, chairs, ladders, walls (things that previously have a completely different function/relationship to a normal person) – he can employ everything to his advantage in his action sequences and fight scenes.  Jesus knows this woman – that she is just as flexible as Jackie Chan when it comes to her spiritual life, and so He chooses to put her through the paces.  The first thing Jesus does happens no where else in the Bible.  When He hears her crying out: He does not answer her.  He ignores her.  If we truly pray to God, we are always heard.  Not the Canaanite woman.  Then she goes after His disciples who just want Jesus to get on with helping her (since He always helps people) and then let her get going.  He says she’s not His type.  He’s only there for Israel.  She persists and He says, “You’re a dog.”  We would be lucky to hear Him say this to us – for two reasons.  One, because with respect to God we are far worse than dogs.  We don’t deserve a thing.  But also for the reason that He sets her up with a chance to humble herself even lower and when she does, Jesus can’t help Himself He is so in love with her faith.  Her response is basically, “Well, but I’m just a little dog so all I need is a crumb!”  She gets around/over/under any kind of seeming obstacle that is thrown at her to come closer to Jesus.  She teaches us to have a sense of humility: which is simply a sense of humor – to be willing to be the butt of a joke and therefore receive the heart of Our Lord.  In the end, He does exactly what she wants.

Chesterton once said that angels fly because they take themselves lightly.  We could certainly take ourselves more lightly throughout our world.  This woman was too Image result for woman great is your faithbusy thinking of her daughter to be personally offended at Jesus’ unfunny comment with its racial and national overtones.  This woman’s daughter is in the same isolated condition brought about by the demonic that is threatening so many people – walled off by fear and hatred.  Facing this true problem, the woman shrugs off Christ’s test and she is rewarded.  For Christ didn’t truly care that the woman was of a foreign race to His own.  He cared for her because she was there.  She is the neighbor He tells us to serve.

It is because we are told to carry the cross that our Image result for jesus and womanfaith has the ability to take a joke in the media or to even make a joke at the gallows.  For our belief in Jesus Christ and His ability to make good come from bad – even from things that are horribly unfunny like all those who laughed at Christ on the Cross – our belief in Jesus gives us a foundation for humility and the desire to see the world differently.  May our country be clothed in the humility of the Canaanite woman in the Gospel and in the abundance of her faith.  Let us ask Christ to will remove the demon of alienation from our sons and daughters on every side and one day rejoice at His justice, and His mercy, and His love which are always united to His mirth.

 

 

 

 

Supernatural Harmony

Image result for chaufferArchbishop Sheen used to start his talks by saying: I will not be like the professor who traveled about this country in motorcar and chauffer always giving the same lecture.  One day the chauffer said to him, “I think I’ve heard that lecture of yours a thousand times and I could give it just as well as you.”  “Alright,” said the professor, “you stand up on the platform tonight, give the lecture, I will sit out in the audience in your chauffer’s uniform.”  The chauffer gave a perfect lecture.  But at the end, a hand went up: “There’s a question I would like to ask you.  When you mix that H2SO4 with that NaCL2 and compare it with the photographic plates of the sun, how do you get the equation E=M/C2?”  He said, “That’s the most stupid question I ever heard in all my life and to show you how stupid it is – I’m going to ask my chauffer to answer it.”

         Image result for jesus walking on water   That’s a smart chauffer – walking out on the water in a sense by giving this academic lecture and then like Peter knowing when to call in his lifeline.  Just as chauffer had been on the sidelines for long enough, in the Gospel today, Christ wants to engage us.  He didn’t just happen to stroll by the Apostles by accident.  Nor was He showing off.  His purpose was to get them thinking in a new way.  That humanity is destined for great things through participation in His supernatural life.  Supernatural just means “above nature” or “building on nature.”  It’s not contra-nature.  He’s not fighting it.  He uses His natural legs to walk and walks naturally enough, just above a surface that shouldn’t normally hold a man.  He has found a new harmony. 

            Image result for harmony musicThe word harmony describes two or more realities in a relationship of peace with each other.  Without God, doesn’t the world simply thirst for harmony?  Just think of the current contest between North Korea and our own country.  Where there is no trust there can be no peace and therefore no harmony.  But, how can the Korean government trust a country which hasn’t been technically at peace with them for more than 60 years?  How can we trust the North Korean government which starves its own people?  We’re thirsting for harmony in our relationships with each other.  Think how harmony has been broken down as the family has pulled in so many directions.  Today, the transgender issue is the very embodiment of a lack of peace that a person can fall into within their own body – wanting to believe that a person will find happiness by transforming their body however they want.  Now we have scientists trying to manipulate nature at the genetic level to the point that they hope to control exactly what a person’s DNA will look like and alter it at will.  The Lord says, “Without Me you can do nothing.”  There is no harmony without God’s plan.

            A new harmony is an excellent way of describing the supernatural life for which Christ wants us to thirst – humanity had gone flat and Christ is calling us to life in a new key.  In our first reading Elijah is brought to discover where harmony begins.  Like Peter, he encounters God.  He is told that our Lord will be passing by.  He’s found this hiding place up in a cave in the mountain.  And there are these loud and significant forces of nature.  The rock-breaking wind, the earthquake, the fire….and God’s presence is not in any of them until the whisper….the still small voice.  To whisper is to communicate a secret.  God has chosen to reveal Himself as a sharer of a secret with Elijah.  A mystery.  Elijah is so startled that he recoils in surprise.  God first and foremost to communicate Himself to him.  Everything we receive from God is built on God calling us.  He is always breathing out to us His love.  The problem is there is so much noise and distraction. Image result for catholic monk praying We will only achieve harmony if we quiet ourselves in the morning when we wake or before we go to sleep at the end of the day, and in the quiet if we listen like Elijah.  We will hear silence, and yet we can rest in that silence.  There is a harmony between our quiet and the silence, pregnant with God’s still small voice.  Give God time regularly to be with you and you will grow in the ability to recognize Him in other situations.  This whisper to Elijah is a foreshadowing that God will ever so quietly and mysteriously become a man in human form.  The whispering human voice will take on a human body and even a bruised reed He will not break.

            In contrast to this episode with Elijah, Peter walking on the sea is dramatic, but it flows from the same deep relationship to God.  Peter had begun to realize not only that Jesus is the Son of God, but what that makes him, Peter.  He begins to think that if Jesus merely issues a new command that Peter would then be in a new relationship with the water – that Christ could make him capable of walking on water.  And so it happened.  Walking on the water is simply an example of the supernatural life that Christ is ultimately calling all of us towards in heaven.  Life in Christ is never dull.  Peter is never bored for one moment in Scripture.  He has plenty of downcast moments, but he is in love with God.  He loves who Jesus is and that Jesus is calling him to greatness.  As long as Peter relies on Jesus and lives in the hope that he has put in Jesus, he is able to tread upon all of the cares of this world. 

            When he relies on himself, Peter’s faith goes flat.  He falls out of harmony with Jesus.  This is the result of his sinfulness.  How easily we can lose faith and then like Peter, we sink like a lonely rock. 

            Doubts never completely sink Peter’s faith that this is Jesus.  He doesn’t turn back to his friends in the boat.  He simply cries out, “Lord, save me.” Image result for Peter On the Water Calling Christ “Lord,” Peter puts his eyes on Jesus and his faith is reborn.  God is calling us to be faithful to Him.  He desires our love.  He wants to move us higher into the life of His spirit, that we might understand and know the Father and that we might love and forgive as His children and tread upon the fears of this world and as the world keeps trying to sink itself, to provide a counterbalance of hope.

Every Mass, we hear His word whispered to us in the readings from Sacred Scripture just as Elijah was told the Lord would be passing by and he found him in the message meant for him, the Lord has a message just for you in His intimate and quiet voice.  Every Mass, it is as if we are gathered out of the storm of the world and gathered into the Barque or the ship of Peter.  Every Mass, Christ comes to us in a miraculous way.  He is not walking on the sea, but He is treading underfoot the tumult and chaos of the world.  The sanctuary which represents heaven itself meets you, the faithful, at Communion and if we are living in faith we are living in harmony and we can step out of our old ways to receive His supernatural life.