08/27/2018 02:54 PM
|The Bread of Life|
In the first three weeks of August the Gospel readings explored John 6 and Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life. We read of the promise that by partaking of him we will receive real life.
St. Thomas à Kempis said, “This most high and venerable Sacrament is the health of soul and body, the cure of every spiritual malady. By it our vices are cured, our passions restrained, temptations are lessened, grace is given in fuller measure, and virtue once established is fostered; faith is confirmed, hope is strengthened, and love kindled and deepened.”2 Jesus is the source of life and when he comes to us in the Eucharist he comes to make a difference in us.
If you have ever tried feeding a toddler who doesn’t know what they want to eat you know how difficult it is to satisfy an unidentified desire. Though they are offered numerous and diverse lunch choices they push them away with dissatisfaction. Usually the issue is not one of hunger for food but of a general attitude of dissatisfaction and hunger of spirit.
The crowds who followed Jesus evidenced a similar hunger of spirit. Like a child’s question, “Mom, what is there to eat?” those who followed Jesus were also asking legitimate questions due to their spiritual hunger. But in a similar way to a child’s boredom and rejection of the choices, these seekers of Jesus rejected and were unwilling to receive the Bread of Life which the Father put before them to satisfy their hunger. Though they responded, “Lord give us this bread always,” by the end of the day they abandoned Jesus and the Bread of Life which the Father sent from heaven.
Dissatisfaction of spirit is often manifest in many ways. Some people have an uneasy restlessness that seeks satisfaction for spiritual hunger in the pursuit of one thing after another. This spiritual hunger often drives people to pursue the latest toy, the latest philosophy, or the latest experience. Like a universal remote control, they are haphazardly flipping through the options of life but never able to settle on anything that fully satisfies their inner hunger. We would do well to heed Jesus’ advice to them to reevaluate their lives and to not continue to expend their energies on things which do not satisfy.
Even as we cannot live without food, so the spirit of man cannot survive and thrive without the spiritual nourishment which is Jesus himself. Jesus is the source of life and when he comes to us in the Eucharist he comes to make a difference in us.
One difference we can expect to see in our life is that our hunger of spirit will be satisfied. Jesus fully intends to reveal himself to us through Sacred Scripture also. It is through the Scriptures that he brings about renewal of our mind, and enables us to know him; his values, his character, his nature, his truths in an intimate way, and so “learn Christ.” It is this relationship of knowing him that removes the hunger of spirit.
1. Source document is Reflecting on Sunday’s Readings, August 5, 2018, by Richard A. Cleveland.
2. The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, “Book 4, Chapter 4”.
07/31/2018 03:00 PM
|Christian Life Involves Transformation|
The process of living a Christian life involves on-going transformation as we follow Jesus. This implies that our destination is fundamentally changed; from the life-path we determine, to discovering the life-map God intends for us as part of his creation.
The word “transformation” recalls the image of a caterpillar as it forms its larval cocoon. After some time passes and underlying processes do their work, a beautiful butterfly emerges. In the spiritual realm Holy Scripture, community, and the Sacraments are fundamental tools that God uses in our spiritual transformation process to unveil the beloved saint he intends us to be.
Gazing into a mirror, using the lens of Holy Scripture, allows us to examine our spiritual condition and to open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit transforming our very souls! To fundamentally see and understand what God intends as fruit from our lives. Our growth in spiritual understanding when acted upon, shifts our very life-path from that which I solely determine to embracing the life-maps of God.
This concept is captured in the book of James, 1:23-25 (NABRE) “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does.”
As does Jacques Philippe in this quote from Called to Life;
“God’s Word is something like a mirror by which we can truly know ourselves, good as well as bad. It passes judgment on our compromises with sin, our attempts to have it both ways and say yes as well as no, but it also highlights and encourages what is best in us.”1
It is natural that our desires and self-interests drive our default perspective. As a follower of Jesus, our orientation shifts with openness to the transforming action of the Holy Spirit. The transformation takes place not in isolation, but as we live our life in community with other Christians and in service to those around us
Now we are empowered for this journey, anchored, transcending our time-bound reality through the Sacraments, channels of God’s grace. Through the Eucharist, we are strengthened, recognize God’s presence, and return to tell those around us. We are transformed into an extension of Jesus himself operating out of love to those in our world. Thus, we see this process in Luke 24:30-31, “
With the Holy Scriptures, in community with one another, and in the Sacraments, transformation is possible, and like the butterfly each of us is unveiled in beauty as loved by God.
1. From Called to Life, Jacques Philippe, page 37.
06/28/2018 11:36 AM
|Reflecting on St. Paul and Conversion|
The conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus should inspire us no matter where we currently stand in our Christian life. Saul was a man, passionate, scholarly, protective of strict religious norms, who persecuted “this Way;” a fledgling group founded on the belief that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Needless to say, Saul believed otherwise and took active steps imprisoning them, and consenting to having these supposed heretics put to death. He set out on a journey to imprison and snuff out this spark of rebellion. But Jesus revealed himself to Saul on that road to Damascus, and it entirely turned Saul’s life around, so much so that his name was changed to Paul, the Saint whose feast we recently celebrated.
So now consider, what does conversion constitute for you and me? Is it an Initial belief in Jesus as the person who is God among us, showing the way, as with Paul, or does it involve making on-going decisions to more actively live our life as a disciple of Jesus? Though we may not be a murderer like Saul, does our conversion make us passionate to live as Jesus leads us, no matter where it may take us?
How do we respond to Jesus’ call? Do we respond like Paul, “Who are you, sir?” and “What shall I do, sir?” When called to interact with someone who is antagonistic and threatening, do we avoid them and rationalize, or do we respond like Ananias who overcame his reluctance and said “Saul, my brother, regain your sight … Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.” (Acts 22:3-16, Lectionary 519)
Throughout the year there are opportunities for each of us to renew our baptismal vows, to examine ourselves, to listen to Jesus voice of direction, to receive a washing away of our sins as we set out without delay to follow Jesus and to be his hands and feet in our world today. We can take heart from the conversion of Saul, to Paul – the person who Jesus called to a radically new purpose beyond Saul’s previous understanding, Saint Paul whose whole life was set on a dramatically different path by his encounter with Jesus. He went from murderer, to an apostle to the gentiles whose inspired writings impact us to this day. From a man with “blood on his hands” to a person sold out and passionate about carrying the Gospel message to all through the experiences of his own life. May we each respond to Jesus’ call as Paul did, completely turning over our lives to the author and creator of all life and purpose.