Tag Archives: Fear

The Ask

“The Ask” is a fundraising term meaning the moment when the fundraiser, gauging that the donor is sufficiently convinced in the efficacy and need of the cause that the donor is ready to actually make a financial commitment, makes the actual request for the person to make a contribution.

When “the ask” is of God, I find things seem complicated. On the one hand, Jesus assures us that the Donor will give: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [1] [Mt 7:7-8] Again, He says all we need is faith: whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. [Mt 21:22] According to Jesus, in dealing with God, it is always good if you’re not just being selfish, if this need is a communal need: Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.[Mt 18:19][2]

With a non-profit here on earth, any donor wants to be certain, (a) that the cause is truly worthy of support, (b) that the need is great; (c) this organization is legit and actually does something to address this need, and (d) that the money will be used wisely and well for the purpose for which the donation is made, and not to pay exorbitant salaries or just to elicit more funds.

God is the same way. He (a) loves us unconditionally, (b) knows we need Him because He created us; (c) wants to be certain that we truly trust Him, and (d) that we show we believe in Him, and love Him by our actions: we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. [1Jn 3:21-22] And what pleases Him is that we love Him and show that love by loving everybody else: whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. [Mt 25:40]

When dealing with God, we have an “in” with the Donor; we go through the Donor’s Son. Jesus does “the ask” of the Father. “Jesus…[is] the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners. He is ‘able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.’ [Heb 7:25]”[3]

Our own fear and bumbling cause us to make inappropriate “asks.” You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. [James 4:2-3] However, the Divine Factotum, the Specialist in Everything, Love and Truth Himself, the Holy Spirit, not only teaches us what to say but even makes “the ask” for us when we are dumbstruck before the majesty of God, or fixated on the wrong thing, or can’t figure out what we really need: In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. [Rom 8:26]  And the Donor knows “the ask” is legit: The one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. [Rom 8:27]

As the deluge of continuous mail from the same organization asking for money even when I have had no contact with it for years attests, persistence is the name of the Donor game. If one “ask” does not do it, keep at it and wear down the Donor’s resistance. Jesus illustrated this explicitly in one of my favorite parables, a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’” The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. [Lk 18:1-8]

By my persistence, I show God I’m serious, I am truly in need, His people for whom I am praying are in need, we all need His help, His grace, His mercy. Our cause is just and worthy of His assistance.

But, like Job, I am fearful of the LORD: I put my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, I will not reply; twice, but I will do so no more. [Job 40:4-5] I know that I do not know for what I should ask: Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes. [Job 42:6] I am as fearful coming before God as Esther was coming before the King, but I desperately need God’s help: My Lord, you alone are our King. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my handdeliver me from my fear. [Esther Gk Version C: 14-30]

But, though His sacred word, God assures us of his love: But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and truth. [Ps 85:15, 103:8; 145:8; James 5:11] Therefore, we pray “Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.” [4] and “we dare to say: Our Father….”[5]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Hereafter, NABRE.

[2] God’s answer to the prayer of two or three envisages a different situation from one that involves the entire congregation. In addition, the object of this prayer is expressed in most general terms as anything for which they are to pray….For where two or three…midst of them: the presence of Jesus guarantees the efficacy of the prayer. This saying is similar to one attributed to a rabbi executed in A.D. 135 at the time of the second Jewish revolt: “…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them” (Pirqê ’Abôt 3:3). NABRE Notes on Mt 18:19-20

[3] CCC 2634

[4] Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 88. CCC 1037

[5] CCC, Pt. 4; Sect. 2, Art.2, I.


Learning from Judas…and Jesus…

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?” He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve.[1] [Jn 6:70-71] What must it have been like for Jesus to know throughout His entire ministry that Judas, one of the Twelve, would betray Him? What was it like when Jesus first met Judas, perhaps a young idealist who dreamed of the restoration of Israel to its former glory, of freedom from the tyranny of all the oppressors who had taken away their freedom, from Rome, the last and subtlest, whose iron fist in a velvet glove type of rule by proxy through pseudo-Jewish puppets who lulled the masses into somnambulant acquiescence or at least compliance. Jesus read his heart; He did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. [Jn 2:25] He knew from the beginning that His attempt to enable Judas to see what type of Messiah He intended to be, what type of Savior His Father sent Him to be, was for the whole of humanity, not just Israel, would be futile. Though He would enter Jerusalem hailed as the Messiah, he came, humble, and riding on a donkey, [Zach 9:9] Judas wanted a conquering hero on a rampant, defiant, charging war horse.

But Jesus took a chance. He chose him as an Apostle anyway. He knew Judas was a bad apple, his misguided fanaticism might infect the others. But that was exactly what Jesus came to repair, to call His followers to resist, to draw them away from eating the serpent’s apple. And maybe, just maybe, but continually nurturing him, welcoming him, befriending him, keeping him close, maybe Judas might change.

Why did Jesus keep Him on? Why did He promote him to the inner circle? Why did He trust Judas with the group’s funds [Jn 13:29] even though Judas was known to be a thief, [Jn 12:6] at least by some? Perhaps because Jesus shared His Father’s unconditional Love and eternal optimism, the Father who loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life [Jn 3:16]…And His Son agreed to go! Maybe it was because His Father did not send…[Jesus] into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [Jn 3:17] And that world included Judas…and everybody who was like Judas. Though Judas might condemn himself by his choices, Jesus was there to save him, not condemn him.

At the Last Supper, Jesus made numerous attempts to get Judas to change his mind. Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, [Jn 13:21] was certainly heard loud and clear by Judas as pointing to himself. Even when Judas tries to cover up his thoughts and plans and asks Jesus in turn: “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.” [Mt 26:25] So Judas knows without a doubt that Jesus knows his plan. Even then, Jesus is implying, “Change your mind, repent, come back to Me,” to transform the subterfuge, Surely, it is not I into a declaration of fidelity.

Even when Peter speaks for all there is again a direct reference to Satan wanting to have his way with all the disciples. Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.[2][Lk 22:31-32] Was this the difference between Peter’s betrayal and Judas’?

In a direct way, Jesus prays for Judas. If prayer is dialogue, a conversation, between God and man, certainly Jesus, the God-Man had much self-initiated dialogue with Judas. So he dipped the morsel and [took it and] handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot.[Jn 13:26] How closely this action parodies Communion, Jesus giving a morsel of bread. But it is the horrible parody of Communion. This is not Jesus Body and Blood but an identification of a betrayer. Jesus reaches out, feeding Judas, symbolically urging him to come back from the brink, to eat His true body and drink His true blood and be saved, [Jn 6:53]. But after Judas took the morsel, he has not received Jesus, but Satan entered him.[Jn 13: 27] Evil and hatred, not goodness and love are the outcome.

But even in Jesus final words during the Last Supper to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly,” [Jn 13: 27] with Satan standing there at the door of choice, Jesus forces it to be left open. A “halfhearted commitment to the faith is nauseating to Christ;”[3] indeed, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. [Rev 3:16] Judas still has a sliver of a chance, either ask Jesus for forgiveness and help or go and betray him. Here Jesus is saying, “Time is preciously short. Make a choice. Whatever you are going to do, do it now!”

So he took the morsel and left at once. And it was night. [Jn 13: 30] The word translated here as so can also be translated as “wherefore, consequently, accordingly, these things being so.”[4] In other words, the choice having been set before him, Judas chose to refuse the morsel of repentance and take the morsel of betrayal and leave.

Without commentary, we might think that Jesus did not grasp to its essence the enormity of the betrayal; on the contrary, he understands that non-existence would have been better. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.[Mt 26:24] But, in spite of it all, He still loved him.

The real kicker in this scenario is that all the Apostles would have their faith shaken for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed.” [Mt 26:31; Zech 13:7] And, when push comes to shove: all the disciples left him and fled.[Mt 26:56]

Even after Judas left, Jesus does not condemn him. When Judas betrayed him with a kiss, Jesus once more reaches out to him and calls him “Friend…” [Mt 26:50] Had he repented, if he had wept bitterly [Lk 22:62] like Peter, even then when it was too late to save Jesus from persecution and death, Jesus would have told Him: “Your sins are forgiven you.”[Lk 5:20; 7:48; Mt 9:2] He would have prayed to the Father: “Forgive…[him] for…[he knows] not what…[he is] doing.”[Lk 23:34] Jesus would even have told the others, just as He says to me, reminding us of our betrayal: Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone. [Jn 8:7] And finally, He would have turned to Judas and said: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.” [Jn 8:11]

It is speculated that Judas was frustrated that Jesus had not become the conquering Messiah of his expectations, throwing off the yoke of Rome and returning Israel to its heyday. Judas thought that by having Jesus arrested, he would back Jesus into a corner and force him to finally show His might and power.

Judas was not alone in this hope. When Peter was ready to fight and drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? The way of unbelievable might and power is available to Jesus; if one angel of death can slaughter all the firstborn of Egypt in a single night, what overwhelming odds would 60,000 such heavenly warriors provide. All He has to do is ask. But as Jesus is keenly aware, then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?” How would His Father’s will be fulfilled; how would His perfect obedience make up for the disobedience of Adam, Eve and all of us, their offspring; how would infinite mercy and forgiveness show up vengeance and violence for the evil and distortion they truly are?

Even after the Resurrection, when Jesus had been with the Apostles for forty days and they were now convinced of His reality, the true implications of the crucifixion had not yet penetrated their understanding. They were back to their old way of thinking: Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? [Acts 1:6] They hadn’t quite got the real, the true picture yet. Jesus, however, knows that they do not yet get it and that it will take the Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—…[to] teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. [Jn 14:26] Concerning their question He replies: It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. [Acts 1:7]

Judas’ plan is underway. He keeps tabs as it evolves. However, things don’t go the way his thought they would. The Sanhedrin condemns Jesus and Judas sees that Jesus does nothing, absolutely nothing. Worse than nothing, He makes things worse by spouting off about His Heavenly coming: The high priest said to him, “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.’” [Mt 26:63-64] That was the kicker; that put that last nail in the coffin. Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy; what is your opinion?” They said in reply, “He deserves to die!” [Mt 26:65-66]

This is not the way according to Judas that it was suppose to work out. Jesus was suppose to triumph, bursting forth as the military Messiah Judas craved, wielding a flaming sword, striking down the blind Sanhedrin, terrorizing and demolishing the imperious Romans.

Finally realizing that Jesus was not going to rise up a conquering hero, that he was not even going to defend himself, that he was a totally different type of Messiah, a innocent Messiah, a just Messiah, an obedient Messiah, Judas deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off [Mt 27:3-5a][5] But Pandora’s box could not be closed; history could not be rewritten. Judas’ betrayal scene was over, the Sanhedrin’s condemnation had begun. Try as he might, Judas could not put Satan’s evil genii back in the bottle. The fate of Jesus was out of his hands.

Unlike Peter, he did not weep for his sins, did not realize the love bond he had with Jesus was still there from Jesus side, did not accept the mercy of the Father even then, but he seems to have despaired of being forgiven and hanged himself.” [Mt 27:5b][6] I say “seems” because no one knows what demons, literal and figurative, drove him to do what he did. And no one on earth has plumed the depths of the love and mercy of God who is patient with…[us] , not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. [2Pet 3:9]

What can I learn from Judas? What can I learn from Jesus? First, I can learn to love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. [Mt 5:44] Jesus was serious about this with Judas as with the chief priests with the scribes and elders who mocked him [Mt 27:41] on the cross, I must echo Jesus plea: Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. [Lk 23: 34] If I really want to follow Jesus, if I am totally committed to patterning my life after His, if I am given the strength and the courage to pick up my cross day after day after day, then I have to reach out in love to the Judases in my life, not just those who are overtly hostile to me, but to those who are betrayers among my friends and family, then I can and must do this. Then, like Jesus, I need to continually offer love and forgiveness, even though the traitor be my other self, my comrade and friend, you, whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in the house of God. [Ps 55:14-15] Only then will I be a child of my heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. [Mt 5:45]

Second, when I face the depths of despair like Judas, no matter what I have done, no matter what evil I have committed, Jesus is always there, reaching out, giving me another chance to grab onto Him, to accept His love, to recognize Him as the only one who can restore me to sanity, to look at Him and see the face of the mercy of God. I have the same choice as Judas, falling headlong [Acts 1:18] into despair and killing myself, spiritually if not physically, or looking up and crying out: “Lord, save me!” If I do, I know in my heart of hearts, that each and every time, without fail immediately Jesus [will stretch] out his hand and catch me. [Mt 14:30b-31a] Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Robert J. Karris, OFM, commented on this passage in TNJBC, p. 716: “31: Satan…Luke contrasts the effects of Satan’s attacks have on Judas and Peter. Jesus’ efficacious prayer saves Peter from the fate of Judas (see Acts 1:15-19). you all: The Greek here is pl. whereas in v 32 it is sg. Peter is representative of Satan’s sifting (see Amos 9:9) of all. 32. The implicit Christology is deep, and the church is consoled that its Lord can save it too from the power of Satan. turned back, converted: The Gk espitrepsas does not mean locomotion, but moral conversion (see 17:4; Acts 3:19; 9:35; etc.). your fellow Christians As Acts 15:23,32, show, this is the translation of aldelphous, I lit., “brethren.” Examples of Peter’s strengthening of the church can readily be seen in Acts 1-11,15.

[3] NABRE note on Rev. 3:15-16.

[4] Lexicon :: Strong’s G3767 – oun; Blue Letter Bible, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/ lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3767

[5] According to Benedict Vivlano, O.P., commentator on Matthew in TNJBC, the story about Judas’ death “probably began as an etiological legend to explain how the potter’s field came to be called ‘the field of blood.’” P. 671.

[6] According to Benedict Vivlano, O.P., commentator on Matthew in TNJBC, the story about Judas’ death “probably began as an etiological legend to explain how the potter’s field came to be called ‘the field of blood.’” P. 671.

Fear Not!

I have lots of fears…instinctive, hard wired fears are knee-jerk self-preservation fears: against earthquakes, fires, floods, guns, terrorists, cancer, hell itself. Even Jesus seems to have “feared” and asked His Father to remove the cup of suffering and death from Him. I think it is safe to say he would not be fully human if He did not experience some of these hard-wired fears. These may be knee-jerk reaction fears, but they are in response to real things that can hurt, harm, devastate, kill me. Self-preservation kicks in and fear urges me to flee or fight.

Evidence of this type of fear is rampant in the Hebrew text. A good example occurs when God is making His covenant with Israel through Moses. There, He makes it abundantly clear of His power and might: Now as all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blast of the shofar and the mountain smoking, they became afraid and trembled.[1] [Ex 20: 18a] They were even afraid of Moses face after he had seen God; they insisted that he wear a veil. [Ex 34:30-35]

However, Moses’ explains that this instinctive fear is a test, a reminder of the consequences of not obeying God: “Do not be afraid, for God has come only to test you and put the fear of him upon you so you do not sin.”[Ex 20:20] Here, my temporary, instinctive human fear is given a salutary reason; the fear comes from God for my benefit, because He loves me and knows He needs to get my attention, to strengthen my faith, the increase my trust, to draw me back to His love.

God is with me always, I do not need to truly fear such passing occurrences. Everything that happens to me is within the loving purview of God’s providence for me. Jesus reminds me: do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna, [Mt 10:28] which is precisely what martyrs did and do…terribly frightening prospect in the abstract, but, with faith, I am promised that I will be Spirit reinforced and strengthened in the moment.

“Fear of the Lord” is a constant refrain running through the Hebrew Scripture.[2] This Fear engendered by confrontation with the omnipotence, the overwhelming majesty, the Holiness of the Divine, is a combination of awe and reverence with a realization that this is the God against whom I can and have sinned and before whom I must stand and account for my actions. Such fear is a grace given us so that I am given a constant reminder of God’s presence and a perpetual restraint on my propensity to sin, the omnipresent realization of God’s Justice.

This “Fear of the Lord” is the fear to which God calls Abram before he makes the first covenant with him: Do not fear, Abram! I am your shield; I will make your reward very great. [Gen 15:1] God puts Abram’s reaction to the unknown, to a confrontation with God, to the consequences of obeying God in context, in perspective.

This “Fear not!” is a frequent refrain of Jesus.[3] Many of the events prompting his statement combine the “Fear of the Lord” reaction to Jesus’ manifestation of his divinity with instinctive self-preservation reaction to perceived “threats,” e.g. ghost-like appearances of Jesus walking on the water, all of a sudden appearing though locked doors, or Him being transfigured into the Christ with Moses and Elijah.

Though Jesus is constantly telling me to “Fear not,” He can say it all He wants; but sometimes it just doesn’t register…my ongoing fear is that I am constantly being called by Him: “‘Come!’ [Mt 14:29] get up, get out of your boat of complacency, my zone of conformity, of control, of comfort, and start walking on the water, start carrying that cross, start following Me.”

When it comes to God, my relationship with fear is very complicated. Letting go of the familiar is tough enough. But what Jesus, what the Father, what the Holy Spirit ask of me each moment of my life is to leave the past behind, to forget the future and to step off into the Eternal Now, the Kingdom of Divine Providence, to encounter God’s perpetual choice.

Like Indiana Jones when confronted with the unseen bridge to the cave of the Holy Grail, each step seems to be a step into oblivion. Each is a step of faith, a step into the trompe l’oeil that is God, the solid stone upon which my faith must be built, upon which rests all of creation, all of being itself. He hides within, beneath and above the next flag stone, the next blade of grass, the next tread on the stairs to eternity, bearing me up, urging me on, assuring me of His unconditional presence. His unconditional love holds my hand as I, with trepidation, take one step, then another forward.

When I believe, I cross without fear; when I doubt, when I, in fear and trembling, look over the edge into the abyss of nothingness, when I fall prey to the skepticism, the cynicism, the disbelief of the world, I panic, stumble, fall.

Help me, Lord, confront the instinctual fears with which You challenge me daily, knowing these are as much reminders of Your love and care for me as the brilliant sunrise and the flowers of the field. Help me to cling to that salutary “Fear of the Lord” which helps me to remain in awe and reverence when the splendors of Your creation become too commonplace and my awareness of Your presences is dulled by familiarity. Keep my attention on You and not the roaring clamoring texts of the passing world, the wind of viral opinion nor the waves of climate change, corporate greed and oppression, lone gunmen, and racial and religious violence. Instead, help me to heed You and fear not was I step off the complacency of control, pride, hubris and ignorance onto the invisible but sure footing of Your providential Eternal Now. Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] 120 times per listings in the Concordance of the New American Bible, Archive, Vatican, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_FA7.HTM

[3] 20 times in the Gospels plus 7 additional times in the Letters and Revelation. Ibid.

Separation or Union

Sin, from Adam and Eve on, makes us co-conspirators, collaborators with the enemy, Eros lovers who seek to possess the other, dominate and control the other. Only obedience to God allows us to be free and to be agape lovers, loving one another without possession, control or domination. Giving in to the serpent’s temptation, Adam and Eve turned away from God.

Sin damages relationships, corrupts them, attempts to enslave others and even God, attempts to force them and Him to conform to my will. Their failure to obey God damaged their relationship with Him. In addition they damaged their relationship with each other, either trying to coerce the other to “eat the apple for my sake;” “Look, I ate it and nothing happened to me….Opps, I never noticed before, we’re naked. I don’t feel right;maybe we better put some clothes on.” Nothing happened???

“Sin” comes from the Old Norse snt-ya which is a collective form from es-ont, “becoming,” via the notion of “to be truly the one.[1]” By sinning, one focuses solely on oneself, trying to become like God, the true One. I close in on myself, rather than flowing out; focuses on my becoming as I direct, rather than focusing on the other. It is ego centric, solipsistic; I become isolated, fearful. My universe collapses, becomes minute, infinitesimal; it revolves around oneself rather than including, joining and revolving with the Creator’s cosmos. It becomes ridiculously comical when observed from the outside.

Even as we faced the consequences of our actions, God’s mercy is present and salvation is promised. We know that in our own lives turning away from God has painful consequences. However, if we choose to follow Jesus and obey God, we find happiness, comfort, strength, truth and salvation. Love heals and solidifies relationships, serves, protects, follows the will of God and others.

Our God is not a harsh judge but rather a loving parent who desires to have all his children together for eternity. We were given a gift called free will and what we do with that gift will determine our destiny. You see, if we choose to ignore the embrace of God, it will not be forced upon us. If we accept God’s love, it will be returned for all time.[2]

Using free will, our most precious gift, we can either choose to embrace God or to reject Him, to accept His love or reject it. It’s there for the taking; we only have to want it, to reach out and accept it.

When I turn away from You, Lord have mercy.

When I turn away from others, Christ have mercy.

When I am afraid to face my sin, Lord have mercy.

[1] “Sin,” Online Etymological Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php? allowed_in_frame=0&search=sin&searchmode=none

[2] “3 minutes a day” 6/3/15; http://www.loyolapress.com/assets/Bookcovers/99979_together-for-eternity.swf

Peek-a-Boo: In honor of Easter

Do we realize that Jesus played hide and seek after the Resurrection? Here He just pulled off the greatest event of forever and He’s playing peek-a-boo with His followers: in Matthew, He has his angel tell the women: “Now toddle along, and He’ll see you in Galilee…Don’t just stand there gawking, shoo…you’ll see him there.” [A literal translation (chortle) of Mt 28:7]

And then, as if Jesus can’t wait that long to see them, He pops up anyway: Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.[1]

The women’s response is not only touching, it is very telling: They see him, they approach, embrace his feet, and do him homage. [Mt 28:8] It’s the same with Mary Magdalene…she just says: Rabbouni [Jn 20:16] and hugs Him. Complete love, complete recognition, complete trust, complete faith.

But all the men, except John [Jn 20:8], seem much more skeptical. When two of his disciple walk with Him miles on the road, not only do they not recognize Jesus immediately as the women do, but they don’t really hear him in the intonation of his speech when he hails them, questions them, chides them and then interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures which must have been quite a long monologue. They don’t even see that its him until He does something familiar.

The same with the apostles: instead of joy and exuberance, they are startled, terrified and think that they are seeing a ghost. [Lk 24:37] Jesus has to encourage them to look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have… they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed. [Lk 24:39,41] So finally he asks for something to eat, and take the fish and eats it in front of them. [Lk 24:43] So they’re finally convinced and tell Thomas “We have seen the Lord.”[Jn 20:25] Does he believe the at least ten witnesses…nope: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” [Jn 20:25] Now, Jesus is very patient and invites Thomas to do just that, in order that he might not be unbelieving, but believe. [Jn 20:27]

Even when Jesus meets them later during their fishing expedition in Galilee, they still don’t recognize him, none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” but his actions speak louder than simple visual recognition and they realized it was the Lord. [Jn 21:12]

The men don’t get it…there’s none of the complete love, complete recognition, complete trust, complete faith we see immediately in the women, but instead startled fear, terror, continued incredulity, even downright total skepticism. You would think that the guys, especially those who had been with Him from the beginning, from the witness of John the Baptist, from the fishing nets. But no childlike faith on their part. They think they’ve been around the block a few times, they know what’s real and what’s fishy. They’re cued into the flight or fight instincts. And, since they don’t “understand” this, since this appearance of a totally dead man, not only crucified, but skewered with a lance through the heart, is “not possible,” they are going to need a lot of convincing to get them to believe…so there!

Anyway, back to the women: Note how comfortable Jesus is with their oohing and ahhing. To wit, He says: “It’s ok now, it’s alright, dry your tears. I’m here. Now run along and tell the guys to go to Galilee. I’ll meet them there.” [Another literal translation (chortle)…Mt 28:9]

Would that I were more like the women and John than like the men from Missouri!

[1]  Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.”

The Eucharist? In honor of Holy Thursday

Am I any different when from attending the Eucharist or not? To be honest, it’s a good question. A fair question. Another way of asking the same thing is: does the dint of repetition so dull my appreciation of what it is that is happening that I am totally unphased by its reality and intended impact on my life? The honest answer is both probably and at least sometimes.

There are three aspects of the Eucharist which should have an effect on my life, Sunday after Sunday. They are the Community, the Word and Communion. And they should affect me, and the effect should be the way the 1st great Commandment says I should respond to God: with my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole mind, and with all my strength.

Community: I cannot celebrate the Great Thanksgiving, the Eternal Sacrifice, alone. Even priests, by canon law, are not allowed to do so, except under extreme circumstances. It is a communal celebration, a community response to our Loving God, a gathering, a coming together for a meal of the Faithful, i.e. those who Believe, those who have said Yes to Jesus, those who have endured the joys and sorrows of life and look to God to make sense of it all. I cannot know what faith is until I learn about it, until I experience it in community. Though I read all the tenets of the Church, study the Scriptures, delve into the history of the religion, ponder the lives of the saints, if I do not have viscerally experiential faith, lived faith as witnessed to and experienced in community, until I am an “Intentional Disciple,”[1] committed body, heart, mind and soul, I have nothing. Faith is the step beyond all the books, the study, the pondering. It is the Yes to the Mystery of God, not just in Church, but in everyday life. As Hebrews says: Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. [11:1][2] Faith comes from the heart, the gut, but it encompasses the entire me; it is the bedrock of my existence, the source of all my strength, the keystone of all my actions, the touchstone of all my thoughts, the philosopher alchemist’s stone that turns the lead of ordinary life into the gold of Divine Life.

The interaction of the community, their support of my faith by their very presence, is singularly important to my maintaining my grip on God. It is not just their presence, but their own faith manifested through their words, yes, but, during the liturgy and beyond, primarily through their actions, their reverence, their piety expressed in their facial ecstasy or agony, their burdens brought before the Lord for Him to bless, to lighten, to reassure, to strengthen, to encourage, to be in silence alongside each as each picks up her or his cross and renews commitment to carry it for another week, another day, another hour. It is this acting out of faith, this living out of faith before the LORD, the offering of oneself as one’s only worthy sacrifice to be placed on the paten with Jesus, which imperceptibly causes a spiritual earthquake registered in heaven, a tectonic shift in the world toward the ever proximate eternal Kingdom of You, God. That is the first evidence of what effect the Eucharist has on me.

The Word: But, like the necessity of community at the Communal Feast, The Great Thanksgiving, the Eucharist, while I cannot gain, keep, insure and pass on my faith in isolation, neither can I hope to learn of my faith alone, or only from the actions of the community. “I believe in God,” but what then? What forms that substance of the “hoped for,” the “things not seen.” Granted they are not seen, hoped for, but they must be known, at least partially, to even be seen as worthy of hope.

Things that I was told at my mother’s knee, memorized in Religious Education, absorbed in many other ways in my life, these are reinforced, renewed, reexamined with reverence and joy each Sunday, first in the readings, the recording of God’s word and work on earth and in heaven.

I cannot keep true faith on my own, for my mind wanders where it will. I conjure up multiple interpretations of each and every verse and have no idea, no external criterion, as to whether I am right or not. As in a court of law, I cannot be both the accused and the judge, both present the evidence and then judge it impartially, particularly if the evidence in itself can be contradictory, inconclusive, uninformed, and, since I am fallible and limited in intelligence, experience, understanding, resources, time, and perspectives, often wrong. I need an exterior reliable source of the Truth, for I cannot verify anything on my own absolutely.

Part of this Truth is the revelation in the Scriptures which are read to me at the Eucharist. The Liturgy of the Word, God’s Word, God’s revelation to us of Himself, is the mental substance of my faith. But just as the Word was passed down from the Apostles, formulated in the Early Christian Community, until, some years later, it was written down, not just by one person, but by multiple persons, as in the case of the four Evangelists, and written about by many others, some of whom are included in the New Testament, e.g. Paul, Peter, John, James, the Author of Hebrews, just as this happened in the Early Christian Community, it continued through the centuries. The Apostolic Tradition was passed down from generation to generation within the Church, guarded by the deliberations of its leaders, its understanding refined and formulated into what today is called the Magisterium or Teaching of the Church. Since Jesus himself said that the Holy Spirit was the one who would guide us in the truth, teach us everything and remind us of all that he taught [Jn 14:36; 16:13] and that both Jesus, himself, and the Spirit would be with us forever [Mt 28:20; Jn 14:16], this process called Tradition reveals the Truth even today and has the guarantee of God Himself.

The homily or sermon “breaks open” the scripture for me, shows me what’s inside the readings, what they mean to me today. I like the personal stories that illustrate how this passage is manifested today, in this world. It helps me see the connection with my own life. Granted, each verse, each word is grist for the etymologists, the scholars, the exegetes, the biblical historian to place in the context of the day, of the author’s audience, of the implications on the rest of Scripture, of Tradition, of doctrine, of the entire Magisterium. But the practical implications of the verse here and now is something I can take out with me into the world and proclaim by my words, my actions, my life.

The Sacrifice and the Meal

For many, Sunday service stops here. Loving community, preaching the Word…that’s all they have. Granted, that’s a lot. God’s there in their midst [Mt 18:20], Jesus and the Holy Spirit are with them always, even to the end of the world [Mt 28:20 and Jn 14:16,26], but it’s not enough. I need more, we all need more to not just survive but to thrive as God’s sons and daughter, witnesses and molders of the Kingdom in the midst of the world.

But what if they were right…what if there were no Eucharist…no Last Supper…No Body and Blood to eat and drink? What if the reenactment of the Last Supper were just a memory, were just to be pantomimed in the present as a reminder, were just a pleasant spiritual experience but nothing more?

The spiritual and institutional implications are staggering. On the spiritual level, there would be a desert, the desert of the world, between baptism and death, and I would have to cross it without any sustenance, any spiritual food, without the manna of the New Exodus, to keep me going, to keep me growing, to heal and comfort me when I was damaged by sin, to accompany me when I picked up my cross each day and prepared to follow You, Jesus. There would be nothing worthy to offer You, Father, to extend Your sacrifice on the Cross into now, into eternity, Jesus. We would not be taken up into You and be able to offer ourselves with You, now as a worthy sacrifice to the Father in reparation for my sins. We would not have the opportunity to visit You, to experience your “Divine Radiation Therapy,” to just sit in your company when we have no where else to go[3], to know you are here now with me, not just an historical figure of 2000 years ago. We would not be able to see You as the Cosmic Christ, the sum and substance of the universe, and be part of Your entrance as King of the Universe into the presence of the Father, that entrance which extends from Your Ascension to Your Second Coming.

And Your Church on earth would have no focal point, no physical presence around whom to gather, no meal to share, no table at which to be. We might have built some churches, but for what reason…they would be empty hulls, devoid of Your presence. The community would be fragmented with only Your Word to hold them together, and as many interpretations of that Word as suited the person, the time or the place. The meal, the breaking bread together, would no longer weld us to You and to each other. Our cohesiveness would depend solely on human ties, which are easily broken, damaged, severed, rejected, and ignored. There would be no unity, no oneness as a sign of the true Church. There would be no true holiness, for even with Reconciliation to tied us over during our desert sojourn, our inherent moral weakness would soon crumble and disintegrate. Nor would we have any ‘boots-on-the-ground” Companion, Savior and Leader in each community to hold a world-wide, catholic, universal body of the faithful cohesively and continually together; we are too much control freaks to put up with that without the intervention of the Holy Spirit and the presence of Jesus to call us back to the essential obedience to the Father, obedience unto death [of self], even to death on the cross. [Phil 2:8]

Ultimately we would all perish from our sins, for Jesus made it very clear: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. [Jn 6:53] There would be no way around it; He was gone, ascended. We could not eat His flesh and drink His blood, so we would not have life in us. And although Jesus would have been raised, only whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and so, not being able to eat and drink of Jesus, He would not raise us on the last day. [Jn 6:54] So we would be faced with a Savior who came to save us from our sins, but we would not be able to access that salvation, we would not be eligible to be saved, the tantalizing goal in sight but unattainable, beyond our reach. It would be as if Jesus were not raised…the ultimate Catch-22. As Paul rightly pointed out: If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all. [1 Cor 15:19]

The result: a desolate world, without hope, without a future; we would join the world in ultimate personal despair, silent screamers, unheard, unheeded, deserted by an unloving, unknown, evil God.

But the Last Supper happened. Do this in memory of Me was pronounced as part of our Great Commission and governs for all time. And we have a very, very, very, very loving and caring God who is with us here, now and will be until the end of time and forever. A God who sent his only Son to become man, to show us how to live…and die…and feeds us Himself that we may rise renewed to live forever.

To do this we must become Him, and God used the most elemental physical transformation as a vehicle for the most divine spiritual transformation: we must become what we eat and drink. Only he and she who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. [Jn 6:54] By eating His flesh in the form of host and drinking his blood in the form of wine, He enfleshes us with His flesh and pumps His blood through our sinful veins. We now have the blood of the New Covenant which is given for us and many for the forgiveness of the very sin into which He came.

But that’s not all there is; there is so much, so much more. “The Christian word for all reality is Incarnation. The Word (the theory, the theology) became ‘flesh’ because words can’t get you there, only experience can.”[4] When Jesus said: Do this in memory of me, [1Cor 11:24; Lk 22:19], poieite means “be doing!” It is the present active case, i.e. “do it now!” Being in community and hearing the Word can be very humbling, very spiritual, very sanctifying, but they are also very receptive, very passive activities. However, the clarion cry, the rallying cry, the command: “Do it now!” leaves no one behind. We all must rise up, we must participate. There is no going back!

In this eternal Sacrifice, Jesus is ready once again to be offered to the Father in obedience, in worship, in reparation. But He wants me with Him, He wants me to join Him in offering myself right along with Himself. But what do I have to offer? A few bucks in the collection basket? God certainly doesn’t need that nor does He want just that. What does God want from me? What could He who created all from nothing, is totally self-sufficient, indeed, is the provider of all that we have, not visa-versa, what could we possibly offer to Him which He does not already not only have, but created. The one thing that I have, that is totally mine, that He gave me by, through and from birth, is my self, “my way” as Tony Bennett and the world would have it. He gave me a free will, and, in order that it be free, in order that it remain free, He holds it sacrosanct and will never ever force His will upon me.[5]

It is the same thing He has always wanted. It is what He wanted Adam and Eve to freely choose to give Him and He didn’t get, what holiness consisted of throughout the ages, what Mary and Jesus offered to the Father: not my will but Yours be done. [Mk 14:36; Lk 22:42] OBEDIENCE, ob-audiere, listening to God’s will and doing it, regardless of whether He is asking me to build an ark in the middle of nowhere, to leave my homeland and travel to a foreign country, to defy the might of Pharaoh, to dig holes through the city wall, to become an unwed mother, to die the horrible, painful death of a criminal which I, of all people ever born or ever will be born, don’t deserve. OBEDIENCE, plain and simply, obedience now, obedience then, obedience forever.

For this reason, when he came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me[6]; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” [Heb 10:5,7]

Am I ready to give God the one thing he wants? The one thing that would cement our relationship of love for all eternity? The one thing that that He did not ask of me before He asked it of Himself in the person of His only Begotten Son? The one thing that will require me to die to my control-freakish existence and place all that I am, sins, warts and all, and all that I “can be,” my entire future, all that control, all those choices, all that suffering of the severing of selfishness to be born again is selflessness, to place all of me in His Love, His Hands, the same hands which spread themselves on the cross to accept the nails. Is it that lingering fear that when Jesus says Follow me, it will certainly not be a romp in the park, but a life without a place to lay my head, that future being with Him always is achieved by picking up my cross daily is, not just carrying the cross but being stripped, being laid on it, being nailed to it, and hanging there with Jesus from 9 am to 3 pm[7] each day, every day, again and again, until I die?

Yes, but this is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If I want to be with Him, I buy into the whole ball of wax, the whole magillah.[8] What Jesus is asking me at each Eucharist is, literally, self-sacrifice, i.e. the sacre-facere, the making sacred or holy, of my very self, by offering me in unity with Him to the Father, in worship, in reparation, in love.[9]

But not only does Jesus invite us to join with Him in offering ourselves to the Father. He then turns around and becomes our sustenance, our life-giving food. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. [Jn 6:51, 53-54]

As discussed above, Jesus is very clear. The Jews are trying to force him to recant, to take back these words, to mollify, to soften the bluntness, the starkness of these words by modifying them, by saying: “Well, I really didn’t mean actual flesh and blood, only their spiritual equivalents.” The problem with that is that, in a sense, if He would have said that, He would have denied His very Incarnation, His becoming flesh and blood. We can’t have it both ways. Either we don’t believe He is the Son of God, or, if He is, then what He says is Truth itself and, if we want to be part of the action, part of Him, part of His life eternal, we have to accept what He says on face value.

Now Jesus does not reveal how they are to eat His flesh and drink His blood until the Last Supper and then only to those present, not to those who heard his words in the Temple. Only later does the world know that the Lord’s Supper, the Breaking of the Bread, [Lk 24:35; Acts 2:42[10]] is the vehicle, the means by which we eat His flesh and drink His blood. Yet, later on, it is the Lord himself who reveals this fundamental, critical revelation to Paul: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you [1 Cor 11:23], the most ancient version of the words of consecration, predating the evangelist’s written versions.[11]

Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. [1Cor 11:25-26] Not only are we to eat this bread and drink this cup, not just any bread or any cup, but we are to do it, proclaiming His death until He comes. His death is the sacrifice, His resurrection is the result. What we consume is what we become, part of the very sacrifice is what we offer, that, as Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins, we, the sinful, join in that sacrifice. The result is that we might have eternal life.

Paul verifies this: For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him…Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as [being] dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus. [Rom 6:5-9,11]

Judge for yourselves what I am saying. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?[1Cor 10:15b-16] Paul knows that Jesus takes this very seriously, and hammers it home: Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. [1 Cor 11:27] “If the Corinthians [and we] eat and drink unworthily, i.e., without having grasped and internalized the meaning of his death for them, they will have to answer for the body and blood, i.e., will be guilty of a sin against the Lord himself. (cf. 1 Cor 8:12)[12]

The purpose of Communion is communion, i.e. union with Jesus, with God, with each other. Now union without love can vary from tolerated to frightened to angry and frustrated: stuffed in an elevator union, thrown in with a bunch of misfits union, to a police holding pen union, or closer to home, it may be even having holiday dinner with the whole family, including the parties you don’t like union. But what if you took on Christ, took on Jesus’ eyes of the heart, took on God’s so-loving-the-world point of view…

From the wisdom of Caryll Houselander:

“Just as we cannot depend upon feelings to know that Christ is in ourselves, we cannot depend upon appearances to know that He is in others. That which is true of the Host is true of people. We cannot discern God’s presence through our senses, but faith tells us that we should treat one another with the reverence that we give to the Host. We need to bring other people faith like that which we bring to the Blessed Sacrament. It is really as easy to believe in one as in the other. We have exactly the same reason for believing in both: the word of Christ.” The Reed of God, 152.

But, you object, “He can’t be talking about communion with those types of people. They’re not like me!” And Jesus says to me: “What you did to these, the least of my brethren, you do to Me. Are you not that sinner, THE sinner for whom I suffered and died to give you a chance? Are you not like them, my loved ones, the least of my brothers and sisters? Do you really wish to do to them what you never thought you would do to me? But you crucified me, you joined the crowd and called for my crucifixion, you taunt and spit on me…every time you turned your back and left me, disobeyed me, swelled up with pride, wanted everything around you, found yourself herding pigs and wanted to eat their corn husks.”

“We should never come to a sinner [including myself] without the reverence that we would take to the Holy Sepulchre. Pilgrims have travelled on foot for years to kiss the Holy Sepulchre, which is empty. In sinners we can kneel at the tomb in which the dead Christ lies.” The Reed of God, 170-1

“And this include you. You are the sinner in whom I lie dead. I, JESUS, THE CHRIST, LOVE YOU, so much that I became a man, showed you how to live, and then I suffered and died for you. But you don’t love yourself enough to love Me.

“When I come to you in Communion, our union, I want to know you, to love you, to be with you…and with all around you who have eaten and drunk Me…and I want you to know, to love and to be with them too.”

That’s how consuming His Body and Blood is suppose to change me. Granted, it doesn’t always, make that “usually,” work that way, at least with me. But that’s not His fault. If I put up barriers, am distracted, thinking of the things I am going to do after Church, that is not His doing, His thoughts…He stands at the door and knocks. I must let him in.

When I do this, and it is often, and when I come to, when I awake from my day dreams and realize what I am doing, where I am, Who is with me, the only thing that I can do is throw myself on His mercy, rely on His Love for me, know that, in His goodness, He waits for me no matter where I am, goes and finds me and brings me back and rejoices over me. He has walked through the valley of the shadow of death for me, and protects me, even there, with his crook to bring me back to Him, and his staff to ward off all that would harm me physically and spiritually. Then Jesus and I laugh at me and say: “That’s you, Paul, all over. The dreamer, the ponderer, the sleepy-head.” And He says: “I’m glad you’re back.”

Sometimes We have so little time to be together during those moments that I just have to say: “Do Your thing. I have to get up and pray the final prayer and move on.” And He says: “I will. Go, I am with you always, even to the end of the world…and beyond.”

The priest echoes his sentiments in the final words of the Eucharist: “Go, the Mass is ended.” Some paraphrase the words: “Go, live out the Eucharist in the world.” Jesus, the Word, is received, His message was passed down to me and it is my responsibility to pass it on to others. For my response, I’ll take a cue from Mary’s response to her receiving Jesus: “Here I am, Your servant. Let it be done to me according to Your will.” “Is Mary’s ‘let it be’ just passive acceptance of her fate or is something lost in translation?…The Greek phrase ‘let it be’ denotes more than passive acceptance; it carries also the desire to fulfill God’s will. In today’s vernacular, a modern-day Mary might say ‘Bring it on!’”[13] With her, and with her help, let me always say: “Bring it on!!!”

[1] See Sherry A. Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus (Huntington, IN, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2012)

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[3] Once I read a story about St. Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney (The cure’ of Ars) a 19th century French priest who once noticed a peasant come in to the church and stay for hours in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The Saint asked this man what do you say during all that time before Jesus in the Eucharist? The Peasant replied, “Nothing, I look at Him and He looks at me.”

[4] R. Rohr, OFM, Jesus: Human and Divine: A Map of Reality; Thursday, March 19, 2015

[5] Note that this is exact the opposite of my instinct to control, not only myself, but everything and everyone around me so that they will do my will. It is the ungodly explosion of this innate will to control that is behind all sin, all evil, all violence, all oppression, all imposed suffering in the world. And it is this innate will to control that all who obey, from Noah and Abram through Mary and Jesus through the Church and the Saints, voluntarily give up in deference to God’s will.

[6] “As usual, the author follows the Septuagint text. There is a notable difference in Heb 10:5 (Ps 40:6), where the Masoretic text reads “ears you have dug for me” (“ears open to obedience you gave me,” NAB), but most Septuagint manuscripts have “a body you prepared for me,” a reading obviously more suited to the interpretation of Hebrews.” NABRE Note for Heb 10:5-7.

[7] “Mk:15:25 It was nine o’clock in the morning: literally, “the third hour,” thus between 9 A.M. and 12 noon. Cf. Mk 15:33, 34, 42 for Mark’s chronological sequence, which may reflect liturgical or catechetical considerations rather than the precise historical sequence of events; contrast the different chronologies in the other gospels, especially Jn 19:14.” NABRE, Note for Mk 15:25.

[8] The Hebrew word for ‘scroll’ is megillah…thus, the whole Salvation saga as it was written in the Scriptures and continues to work itself out in our world today.

[9] Mt 5:23-24 speaks of wanting to offer my gift at the altar and recalling that my brother has something against me and the need to be reconciled first and then come and offer my gift. The Holy Spirit revealed to me that for me at this time, the “brother,” the person with whom I must be reconciled is my very self. If I am not truly myself, if I am but an onlooker, not willing to realize my sin and do something about it, not willing to recognize the God who dwells in me, that “He who eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood abides in me, and I in him.”(Jn 6:56), if I do not recognize myself as a temple of God, am a coward unwilling to face myself and take responsibility for all of me, if I prefer to place a façade before the world, if, in essence, I am outwardly preening myself for my false humility while inwardly cowering and not recognizing and utilizing the gifts that God gave me, then I am not reconciled with myself, brought my true self in line with myself, made whole again with myself…and I cannot truly offer that one gift that God wants of me, my very self, to Him, for I do not first possess me myself.

[10] 10. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

[11] “[11:23–25] This is the earliest written account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. The narrative emphasizes Jesus’ action of self-giving (expressed in the words over the bread and the cup) and his double command to repeat his own action.” NABRE, Note for 1 Cor 11:23–25.


[12] NABRE footnote on 1 Cor 11:27.

[13] Howard Craig, Daily Inspiration from JesuitPrayer.org, March 25, 2015

“What can we do?”

Jn 6:28 So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” [1]

Faced with the world falling apart around me, I am bewildered, frozen, totally without any idea of how to answer this question in today’s world.

You have just told the crowd who came seeking You because You fed them bread and fish: Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. [Jn 6:27a]. Their question, and my question, is “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?

There are two ways I ask this: (a) one is of the overwhelming helplessness at my inadequacy to accomplish what God lays out for me to do; and (b) the other is the “playing dumb” posture of pretending that I don’t already know what God wants of me.

The first position, the answer of which could leave me with great humility and awe and comfort that God does work out my greatest happiness even though I am not able to do so, instead usually leads me to frustration and anger at the impossible task and goal God has given, aka dumped, on me! I mean, how can I be expected to “accomplish the works of GOD,” for heaven’s sake [literally]?

The second, the answer of which could fill me with joy and relief that God has placed in my heart how I am to serve him, instead usually has me saying: “Forget that!” and wandering off the reservation, seeking to do everything “my way,” without paying any attention to what God wants nor what you, my “supposed” brothers and sisters, are due and need.

Both exhibit a supreme lack of trust and faith. Both raise the same specter of pride and control, the first from the position of inadequacy and desire for control, the second of self-reliance, self-salvation, the flaunting of “control.” Both are viewing Your creation, the universe, the world, as orbiting around my ego; in the first, I’m on the pity-pot, in the second, on a pedestal.

You have made it extremely simple and blatantly clear what You expect in the next verse: Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”[Jn 6:29] Granted, the crowd was having a bit of difficulty identifying Jesus as “the one He sent,” i.e. their Messiah, the Son of God Himself. But from the perspective of 2000 years of pondering “these things in her heart,” [Lk 2:29] the Church, following Mary’s example, has had a great deal of time to come to understand and accept You, Jesus, for what You are, the Christ, the Son of God.

Indeed, even having been put so simply, so succinctly, when I think about it, true faith, deep, abiding faith, faith to move mountains, is totally beyond me. I wish I were Thomas, uttering “My Lord and My God.” [Jn 20:28]

Instead, I am one of your disciples who am unable to drive out the mute spirit from the boy. You are truly justified, Jesus, when you berate me: O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? I throw myself with the boy’s father at Your feet: if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us, explicitly expressing the doubting “if.” You call me on it: ‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith. With the father, I cry out: I do believe, help my unbelief! [Mk 9:19-24]

What a Miserable one I am![Rom 7:24] I cannot achieve the very faith for which You chastise me for not having. I am between a rock and a hard place…a no-win situation!

You gently remind me to be humble, for human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God. [Mk 10:27; Lk 18:27; Mt 19:26]. As the NABRE note says: “Achievement of salvation is beyond human capability and depends solely on the goodness of God who offers it as a gift.”

What am I to do in the meantime? How am I to survive this total meltdown? How do I face the next father with a possessed son, aka a dying spouse, no job, ebola, undocumented, living in poverty, hooked on coke? Your solution, here and always: start with prayer and move on from there! [see Mk 9:29]

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Lao-tzu

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.