Category Archives: Religion

Prophet Priest and King

Dear Folks,

In “Sign of Contradiction” by Pope John Paul II, he speaks of the three “munera” (offices, functions, duties) of Christ: to teach, to sanctify, and to rule. “Christ is alive in the Church as prophet, priest and king, thanks to the share in these functions enjoyed by the whole people of God” (Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 10-12; 31).

As prophet we are called to witness to the truth according to our own vocation. He emphasizes that people have a right to the truth, and many forces seek to deny it to us. He speaks about how the world will often manipulate the truth by disseminating some aspects and suppressing others (He said this in 1976; I wonder what he would say now). If we are going to proclaim the truth effectively in this complex world, Jesus’ advice that we be “cunning as serpents and innocent as doves” (See Matt 10:16) is as relevant as ever.

I have spoken a great deal about exercising the priestly function, offering our work and ourselves to the Father united with Jesus’ gift of Self. Also, we consecrate the world by praying for it and by work that develops creation so that it better helps people and show His glory.

The regal function requires special attention. How are Christians called to exercise leadership in the world without “forcing our religion on others” (an accusation frequently and often carelessly made)?

All laws and all governments are forcing certain practices on people based on some idea of what is right and what is wrong. People with little sense of history and philosophy often presume their basic ideas of right and wrong objective and obvious to everyone (and have always been), so that they can boldly assert and expect everyone else to recognize them, as well as condemn people in the past for not practicing them. They then believe that other ideas are biased and irrational, and if they are put forward by a Christian, they are religious beliefs and have no place in public policy. However, many of their ideas were not accepted or even heard of for much of human history. A strong case can be made that many of the moral beliefs that are now taken for granted would not be with us if it were not for the work of Christians. The notion that the life of a peasant is sacred in the same way as the life of an aristocrat or even the emperor would have seemed like madness in most of the ancient world. It was the Judeo – Christian tradition that made possible what was later incorporated into the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights … include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Christianity gets much criticism for not immediately abolishing slavery, as if it should have been obvious from the beginning. However, the notion that slavery was wrong pretty much did not exist until it percolated up from Christian thought. Of course, overturning millennia of human practice did not happen quickly or easily. It required many years of persuasion, but they could not persuade everyone. A pivotal moment in persuasion was when “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was written by the Christian woman Harriet Beecher Stowe. It aroused empathy for slaves, showed the horror of their situation, and shifted the conversation. It was not definitive, however. In the Civil War, they overpowered the forces that were pro-choice on slave holding, and those who profited from the slave industry lost power. Perhaps when slavery was abolished it became possible for more people to believe that society could work without this “peculiar institution.”

I have much more to say, but it will have to wait. How will history look back on Christians today? I hope it will show us tirelessly pushing to protect the lives, the dignity, and the rights of all people. We shall see.

Blessings,

Fr Jim

Sign of Contradiction

Dear Folks,

Last year and this year, my retreat was about going through Pope Saint John Paul’s book “Sign of Contradiction.” This book is the text of talks he gave at a retreat for Pope Saint Paul VI and his cardinals in 1976. He talks about encountering Jesus, who is a “sign of contradiction” or a “sign that will be contradicted” according to the prophecy of Simeon in the temple (Lk 2:34 the Presentation in the Temple). This sign calls for a response, and this response shows who we are and forms us. Whenever people encounter Jesus, they are tested.

The glory of the universe points to the glory of God, but there is an ambiguity. In the midst of the beauty and goodness, there is ugliness and harm. We decide how we will respond, and the Holy Father says it is not determined by the proportions of good and bad we have experienced, but something within us, perhaps grace. (Further reflection on this can be found in Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”).

We go to the story of Adam and Eve: Satan presents God as a rival, someone trying to keep them from the best possible life, and Satan presents himself as a Prometheus figure. In Greek mythology, the gods of Olympus decided to keep fire from humans, so they didn’t rise too high. Prometheus defied the gods and brought people fire, enabling civilization. We can see that the devil has had considerable success in convincing people that sin will bring us a better life. I have heard practicing Catholics describing a food as being so delicious it was sinful. C.S. Lewis’ book “The Screwtape Letters” develops this idea in some interesting ways.

Satan is, of course lying. The world was created according to the Word, and Satin brings anti-Word and anti-Gospel. This leads us to anti-Love. Jesus stands in contradiction to this. Jesus’ love for the Father and His Love for us overcame His natural self-love, so He was willing to die on the cross for us. “The Cross justifies us before God and justifies God before us.” If Jesus believed it was worth that to save us, how can we say anything is too much to ask of us to follow Him? Our complaints against God fade away in the face of the cross. “God wants for man the joy of choosing God, the choice that suffering teaches us to make.”

Jesus reveals to us the meaning of what it is to be human. As we seek to understand ourselves, we start with “Who is Jesus?” Jesus is the one who gave Himself in love, at the cost of great suffering. We exercise our humanity most fully when we choose to give ourselves in love, even at great cost. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind (John 9:39).” In a dark room everything looks the same. When a light is shone, we can distinguish. In our Gospel this Sunday (Luke 12: 49-53), Jesus warns that He will bring division. The more Jesus clarifies, the more people will choose for or against Him. When we truly encounter Jesus, life is different. Be warned.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

Ready for Jesus

Dear Folks,

Our Gospel today talks about being ready at any moment to meet Jesus. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit’ – you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, ‘If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.’ But now you are boasting in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil (James 4:13-16).”

Life is full of things we can neither predict nor control. If things have been steady for a while, there is danger that we will think we can count on things just continuing. Life can change in an instant. Empires can rise and fall with amazing rapidity.

Two books come to mind. “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard talks about the human tendency to think we are entitled not to be affected by change, and how we can choose to stay stuck or to adapt. “Age of the Unthinkable” by Joshua Cooper Ramo speaks of how life is changing faster and faster, compared to previous centuries. He recommends resilience. St. Paul understood resilience: “I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living abundance and in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me (Philippians 4:11b-13).” Our relationship with God gives us something to cling to when the storm hits, and the stronger that relationship, the more powerfully it can carry us through the turmoil.

That brings us to Treasure in heaven. Luke 12 talks about giving alms and talks about a prudent (phronimos) steward who is found doing God’s work when the Lord comes (which could be any time).

Matthew 6 talks about prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and that we must be careful not to do it for the wrong reasons. Story of the rich young man Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30 all tell of Jesus saying that giving alms will bring us treasure in heaven.

With all those in mind, it might be worth rereading the parable of the dishonest steward in Luke 16:1-13, and understand Jesus is talking about stewardship that builds treasure in heaven.

There is a point I want to emphasize really hard: this is not about buying heavenly bitcoin. If we ever reduce Christianity to a business transaction, we have missed the point. Christianity is a love relationship with God, and the more powerful the relationship, the more joyfully we encounter our beloved. Heaven is consummating our relationship with God, and the more our hearts are by our discipleship here, the more we are open to that love in heaven. How do we get our hearts widened? Love relationships stretch us by being attentive to the presence of our beloved (as in prayer), choosing our beloved over other goods (as in fasting), and doing things to please our beloved (as in almsgiving).

May our desire for God ever grow, and enable us to seek first His Kingdom.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

What Really Matters

Dear Folks,
What is truly important? Much talk in our society now presumes that what is most important is getting what we desire at the moment, and we decide our own values arbitrarily. Christianity teaches that we need to learn what is valuable and be transformed to grow in appreciation of it. The problem is that in our sinful state, our desires can often lead us astray. What is bad can often look like something really, really good. We can lock ourselves into a lesser form of life than what God has for us, and it can easily betray us. Daniel Mattson was talking to a priests’ gathering and spoke of his old life saying, “I was as happy as I knew how to be.” And then he traded that for life according to God’s plan, and is very, very glad he did. What God has for us is always more than what the world can give us, though it may carry greater challenges. Mattson also told the story of a class that went to a planetarium and the show included pictures of stars on the ceiling rotating. Everyone felt like the room was spinning, but it was really standing still. The instructor said, “Your feelings are important, but they don’t always tell you the truth.”
The Scriptures talk about the danger of valuing the wrong things and learning what is truly important. “How long, O people will you be hard of heart? Why do you love what is worthless, chase after lies (Psalm 4:3)?” “Who may go up the mountain of the Lord? Who can stand in his holy place? The clean of hand and pure of heart, who has not given his soul to useless things, what is vain (Psalm 24:3-4).” “And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (Philippians 9- 10).”
Many people have a hard time with Catholic teaching because they try to fit pieces of Christian belief and practice into the framework of the world’s life vision. It’s like trying to put pieces from one puzzle into another puzzle. They don’t fit. According to “From Christendom to Apostolic Mission” by University of Mary, “Christians don’t see some things differently than others: they see everything differently in the light of the extraordinary drama they have come to understand.” Unfortunately, many Catholics have been taught bits of doctrine and practice, but not the larger framework (Jeff Cavins calls this “a heap of Catholicism”).
In the Catholic vision, everything is connected to everything else. God created the universe, and made it good, but it is not the greatest good. He made the human race in His image and likeness and made us male and female for a reason. We are made to be a part of something greater than ourselves, to give ourselves in love, to spend ourselves for something greater than ourselves according to the way we were created. We are called to respect the life and dignity of every human being. We are called to family, community, and participation. We are called to meaningful work. We are called to use things that pass away to help us seek things that are eternal. The more we learn about this vision, the more Catholic teaching makes sense, and everything fits together. Then “we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming (see Ephesians 4:14).”
Blessings,
Fr. Jim

Praying the Eucharistic Prayer

Dear Folks,

Our readings today talk about the power of prayer. We know that praying better is not about building technique to be able to manipulate God (an unworthy enterprise that always fails

anyway), but about bringing more and more of ourselves to God, that we may be all His. Part of that is understanding and being more conscious of what we are praying. The Mass, of course, is

our central prayer, and it is good to understand it more and more. Today I’m going to unpack the third Eucharistic prayer. We pray it very often, but perhaps most people don’t give a lot of thought to what we are really saying.

The liturgy of the Eucharist begins with gathering and bringing forward the gifts which represent all we have done with what God has given us. As the bread and wine are placed on the altar, we

intentionally offer ourselves with them, that we may be consecrated.

We pray the prayer over the gifts, then there is the preface, with praises God for His gifts to us. Then comes the Holy, Holy, the hymn with which we unite with the heavenly liturgy (see Isaiah

6 and Revelation 4).

Then we start the Eucharistic prayer proper, and number three begins with praising God for His holiness and the work of creation, and then says how creation is meant to praise Him. God

gathers us to Himself so that “from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name (see Malachi 1:11).”

Then we ask for the Holy Spirit to “graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration, that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is called the “epiclesis” the calling upon, and it is worthy of extra note.

Then we get to the words of institution, recounting what Jesus said and did at the Last Supper, giving Himself sacramentally as He would give Himself on the Cross. This is worthy of extra

special note, and we respond to the moment with proclaiming the mystery of faith.

Next, we speak of celebrating the memorial of the pascal mystery by which we are saved. We remember that in the Bible, remembering means something stronger than we are used to:

making a past event present and effective. (If you read Genesis 8:1; 1Samuel 1:19; Jeremiah 31:34; Luke 1:54 and 72 in that light, I think it will make sense). And we gratefully offer “this holy and living sacrifice.” Jesus died once and will never die again, but His sacrifice has an eternal power, and He allows us to unite ourselves to that sacrifice that we “make become one body, one spirit in Christ.” As we asked for the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into

the body and blood of Christ, so we ask the Holy Spirit to transform us into the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; and Ephesians 4:1-16). We seek to be ever more perfectly the Body of Christ, and the body that is offered to the Father (see John 17: 20-21; and perhaps 1Corinthians 15:25-28). We ask, “May he make of us an eternal offering to you so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect” and we mention the saints. Heaven is receiving God’s love and loving Him in return brought to infinity, and that is being an eternal offering to Him. “May this Sacrifice of our reconciliation, we pray, O Lord, advance the peace and salvation of

all the world,” and we pray that the power of Jesus’ Sacrifice continue to transform the people of the world, both those gathered and those scattered throughout the world. Then we pray for those

who have died. Finally comes the doxology: “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.”

Responding with the Great Amen, the people join in saying the whole prayer. We offer all to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.

This is our faith: God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, gathers a sinful people to Himself by the power of Jesus’ sacrifice, and makes us a part of that union of self-gift, which is heaven

for all eternity, and we want everyone to share in it. To quote an old beer commercial, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Blessings

Fr. Jim

Being with and doing for

Dear Folks,

The essence of religion is a love relationship with God. Every love relationship (or any kind of friendship) has two aspects: first, being with our beloved for the sake of being with our beloved and second, doing things to please our beloved (someone called it “being with and doing for”).

In our story of Martha and Mary, Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus listening while Martha is busy with the tasks of hospitality. Martha wants Mary to help with tasks, and Jesus said that only one thing is required, that Mary has chosen “the better part”. It may seem that Jesus is rejecting the “doing for” as unimportant and “being with” is the better choice. However, anyone who says “all I have to do is have my prayer time and then I don’t have to act on my faith in any way” had better slow down and take a breath. The Gospels don’t let us get off that easily. We just finished reading the story of the Good Samaritan which was definitely a call to action. The Gospel of Luke is especially strong on acts of mercy toward others.

However, we remember that Christianity is not just a to-do list, but a love relationship, so it starts with paying attention to the person.

“Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For Love is strong as Death, longing is fierce as Sheol. Its arrows are arrows of fire, flames of the divine. Deep waters cannot quench love, nor rivers sweep it away. Were one to offer all the wealth of his house for love, he would be utterly despised (Song of Songs 8:6-7).”

Consider all the tasks your loved ones do for you as expressions of their love. If you had enough money, you could probably find people you could pay to do all those tasks, but it wouldn’t be the same. Someone could bake you cookies using your grandmother’s recipe, and serve them to you warm out of the oven, but it wouldn’t be the same as your grandmother doing it out of love. You could probably find people, if you paid them enough, to tell you continuously that they loved you and admired you and you were precious to them, but you know that if you stopped paying them, they would walk out the door and never look back. A love relationship is unique in all reality. That is what God is offering us. That is what God is seeking from us. He doesn’t need our love, but we need to love Him.

Martha was doing tasks, and that was good. Mary was focused on Jesus Himself. Starting with Jesus, she would never neglect tasks that really needed to be done. In fact, one of the key measures of our prayer life is how our behavior is changing. If our prayer is really opening our hearts and minds to God, we will show an increase in the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23).

Let us not presume that by our own power we can become good people and make a better world. If we want a better world, we start by attending more closely to Jesus.

Blessings,

Fr Jim

Focus on Love

Dear Folks,

The essence of the Gospel is the gift of self. The Lord gave Himself completely for us, not withholding the last drop of His blood. By His Pascal Mystery, He empowers and invites us to receive that gift, and to give ourselves to Him in return. In this exchange of love is the fullness of life, the fullness of freedom, and the fullness of joy.

There are two problems. One, we are free simply to refuse. We can choose to live for ourselves and our desires alone. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 16:25; see Luke 17:33 and John 12:25).” The other problem is more insidious and more dangerous. It is the false gift of self. It allows us to tell others (and often ourselves) that we are really committing ourselves, but the reality is different.

We all know about people who claim to be your friend when it is convenient for them but ignore you when it is not. Sometimes people make a commitment and either never intended to keep it or change their minds when they find out it will be harder than they thought.

This can take many forms. In the Scriptures, there is a continual problem of false gifts to God. God teaches His people how to be in relationship to Him (in the Old Testament this is embodied in the Torah, and in the New Testament it is embodied in Jesus). People keep trying to make it something less. Isaiah 1 and Psalm 50 are about those who offer ritual sacrifices but do not follow God’s teaching, as if they could just buy Him off and continue to do what they wanted. The scribes and Pharisees in the Gospels were classic examples of those who went through the motions, but their hearts and minds did not belong to God, and they refused to be corrected.

The Scriptures make an analogy between our relationship with God and the relationship between husband and wife. The book of Hosea, Ezekiel 13 and 23, and other texts compare idolatry with adultery. God made sex as the ultimate gift of self between husband and wife and the power to generate life. People keep trying to make it something less, and that has caused serious harm to people’s lives, to families, and to society as a whole. People are exploited, children are neglected or considered disposable, and people lose the power to connect on a deep level. To use it as a toy, a sport, or a casual interaction harms the people involved. All of Catholic sexual morality is to preserve its power as authentic gift of self.

Some do charitable work but are less concerned about what will really help people than about feeling good about themselves or having other people praise them.

This Sunday we read the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). This story, unique to Luke, is a story about authentic charitable work. It involved an emergency, and someone who helped with nothing to gain for himself. His friends would never praise him for helping a Jew, in fact, they would probably sneer in disgust (such was the hatred between Jews and Samaritans). The man he helped would probably be angry he was helped by a Samaritan, and there could not be expectation of gratitude from him. He took a risk stopping in a dangerous place, used his own resources, and now had to walk instead of ride. He even left himself open to extra cost. He probably even had to deal with a feeling of disgust himself for this victim.

We remember that Jesus Himself is the perfect model of selfless love. He was already on the highest throne in heaven, and had nothing to gain by saving us, but He did at great cost to himself. This is the challenge He gives us today.

Blessings,

Fr Jim

Call to Adapt

Dear Folks,

Jesus said, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few.” I have found that many Catholics see themselves primarily as customers in church, while others see themselves as

co-workers in mission. Jesus instructs us to pray for more laborers.

I don’t think people reject Christianity because their current lives are so joyful and fulfilled.

I keep hearing about how people are less contented and less happy nowadays, and more filled with fear, anger, and resentment. We see a lot of this around us. Many people can’t cope with not getting their way, in fact, we see so many cases nowadays of people going

ballistic when things don’t go the way they should. This suggests their happiness and their hope are very fragile.

Our first reading is a call to rejoice and exult. We remember that when we are inviting people to the faith, or inviting them deeper into the faith, we are not telling them they have to give up the good life for a lesser existence out of fear of divine retribution, but rather to a more abundant, more free, more wonderful life.

Consider Jesus sending out the 72 to proclaim the Kingdom with “no money bag, no sack, and no sandals…(Luke 10:4).” We notice that Jesus had recently sent out the 12, also without the usual travel supplies (Luke 9:1-6). We know that the disciples usually had

some funds, with the common money bag in the care of someone they trusted completely (John 13:9). This was an exercise in doing things the hard way. I am reminded of the boy scout exercise where the scout was sent out to spend the night alone in the woods with a pocketknife, two raw hot dogs, and two matches. It was training in dealing with difficult circumstances. Robert Lewis Stevenson once said, “Life is not about holding good cards. It is about playing a bad hand well.”

The more we grow as disciples, the more we are ready to adapt to circumstances we would not have chosen. Jesus makes us resilient. Knowing that the victory has been won, and if we do not lose faith, we will share in the victory, helps us see bad news in perspective. The bad circumstances are temporary, but the Kingdom is forever. St. Paul teaches the Philippians that we can rejoice even in bad times and harsh circumstances. When things go badly, we can always ask two questions: “God, what do you want me to

learn from this?” and “God, how do you want me to serve the Kingdom in this circumstance?” We don’t need to lose our tempers or get nasty, but patiently keep working to make things better.

If we want people to believe that we have something special, then we have to be different from most people. If people notice that we are continually telling the joyful truth of the Good News and striving to serve in both good times and in bad, that might cause some to ask: “What do they have that makes them like that? I’d like to learn more.”

Blessings,

Fr Jim

Commitment

Dear Folks,

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8). This does not mean that if doubts pop into our minds it kills the power of our prayer. If we look more closely at the text, we see it refers to people who want to follow Jesus sometimes, but then want to switch back and forth between the way of Jesus and the way of the world. Which way is the wind blowing?

When the Israelites were in the desert, they actually became nostalgic for their slavery in Egypt. “The riffraff among them were so greedy for meat that even the Israelites lamented again, ‘If only we had meat for food” We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks the onions, and the garlic. But now we have nothing to look forward to but this manna (Numbers 11:4-6).” This is the classic image of the Christian who has converted but is starting to get nostalgic for his old sinful ways (we remember how they were fun, and not how futile they ultimately were). It is one thing to be faithful when we are full of fervor and we are not (at the moment) being tempted, but when the road is long and hard, that is when we are really tested.

Christianity calls for us even to give up ownership of ourselves. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, who you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).” There has been a lot of buzz about Tim Glemkowski’s book “Made for Mission.” He talks about the core mission of the Church, which is to form disciples. “A disciple is someone who does what Simon and Andrew did when they left their nets and followed Jesus. A disciple is someone who has bade, in Saint John Paul II’s words, a “personal and conscious decision’ to give their entire life to God.” He contrasts this with the rich young man in Matt 19:16-22, who was challenged to give up everything and follow Jesus, instead walked away sadly. Giving our whole lives to Jesus does not necessarily mean that we sell or give away all our stuff, but we now decide that everything we have, including the twenty-four hours of each day and all our skills and opportunities, actually belong to Jesus and are for his purposes. We are now stewards of all these things.

If crisises are coming to our Church (and it is hard to imagine they are not), that will likely shift the cultural Christians from the intentional disciples. Those with shallow commitment will likely drift away, but the intentional disciples will grow stronger.

Have you had an encounter with Christ that has lead you to give yourself entirely to Him?

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

Realizing What a Treasure we Have

Dear Folks,

This is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. We read the story of the multiplying of the loaves and fishes in the Gospel of Luke, which prepares us to learn that Jesus is the Bread of life.

Notice that the Twelve underestimate Jesus, though not unreasonably. They had seen Jesus healing the sick and calming a storm, but this was new. Our natural tendency is to underestimate the gifts of God. Throughout history there have been constant attempts to trim down the Gospel message and make it less than what it is. The Arian heresy said that Jesus is not God, but that God sent one of His creations to suffer. The Docetists claimed that Jesus was not truly human and did not really suffer. These make the message of God’s love less complete, and therefore less demanding on us. Lately, there have been attempts to explain away miracles and even the resurrection itself as not really having happened. I have heard people argue that what really happened with the multiplying of the loaves was that when Jesus started sharing, other people started sharing what they had and there were a bunch of folks who were secretly carrying bread and fish. The first problem with this is that there is nothing in the text that indicates this. If this were a lesson about sharing, why would all four Gospel writers hide the real message so that no one could figure it out until the twentieth century?

We have read many times that 70% percent of Catholics don’t believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. That should amaze and horrify us, but not surprise us. I encountered programs for preparing for first communion that talked about Eucharist as our family meal with nothing about how the bread and wine actually become Jesus, much less how it is our personal participation in Jesus’ sacrifice. I would ask the director why and was told, “Because it was so overemphasized in the past.” I never saw the logic to that, but I know there was a lot of it out there.

The point is that for generations now, we have been led to believe the Catholic faith is much less than what it is. My message is not, “Woe is us; we should be ashamed” but rather, “Oh, we are in for such a treat.” The more we open this treasure we have been given, the more wonderful we will find it is. In 1987 I graduated from a Jesuit school of theology with honors. I had some great teachers. What I have learned about the faith since then has been amazing. What I have learned in the last ten years has been precious beyond diamonds. I am looking forward to what God will teach me next.

You may have heard the story of Joshua Bell, one of the world’s great violinists, with his priceless Stradivarius violin played in a subway station for 43 minutes wearing a t-shirt and blue jeans. Over a thousand people passed by. 27 gave money ($52.17) and seven stopped and listened for a bit. What if they’d had any notion of the great gift they were given?

The challenge for today: think of ourselves as God’s kindergarteners. We have so many wonderful things to discover. Let us look for God to be teaching us. Let us look for God to be touching us. Let us look for God to be changing us into more than what we are now. Especially when we come to Mass this weekend, let us remember what is happening; there is a mystery and a treasure deeper and wider than the ocean. Let us expect God to do

something.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim