Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi

”O sacred banquet in which Christ is received, the heart replenished with grace, and the pledge of eternal life bestowed!” As we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we are focusing our attention on the sacrament that is source and summit of our Catholic faith. It is in the Eucharist that Christ, who took flesh in Mary’s virginal womb, offers Himself to each one of us as the source of divine life and fountain of grace (CF. Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 55). In the Eucharist we encounter the Risen Lord and are drawn into communion with the life-creating Trinity. The Catechism puts it this way: “The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through Him to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (CCC #1325). 

When we say that the Eucharist is the "source and summit of Christian spirituality" we mean, that Christian spirituality flows from the Eucharist as its source, the way light streams from the sun. And that Catholic spirituality is realized in and ordered to the Eucharist as the summit to which all our actions are ultimately directed. Through the Eucharist God and man are brought together in a bond of love. Through the Eucharist we are drawn into the life of the Trinity, who is Love itself. Simultaneously, this deepened love of God leads us to a greater love of neighbor. The priest Melchizedek offered bread and wine to celebrate God’s blessing and the Lamb of God felt pity for the people that followed him into the wilderness and fed them with bread from heaven. 
The one who showed his love for those who followed Him and fed the multitude in the wilderness has become our living bread so that we might come to fullness of life in Him. This Bread is blessed and broken as food for our journey because of God’s loving kindness. Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus: “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not parish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). We ponder the mystery whereby perishable bread is transformed into Christ’s glorious and life-giving Body by the power of the Holy Spirit. By entering into communion with Christ’s sacramental Presence, we corruptible human beings are given a foretaste of future incorruptibility. “God is love.” His is not a sentimental, emotional kind of love but the love of the Father who is the origin of all life, the love of the Son who dies on the Cross and is raised, the love of the Spirit who renews human beings and the world. Thinking that God is love does us so much good, because it teaches us to love, to give ourselves to others as Jesus gave himself to us and walks with us. Jesus walks beside us on the road through life” (Pope Francis, Angelus, May 26, 2013) 
“O sacred banquet in which Christ is received!” It takes my breath away to think that Jesus Christ who emptied himself of the grandeur that was His as God and made himself nothing by taking the nature of a slave (Cf. Phil 2: 6-7), emptied bread of its substance to make it His living and life-giving Body. And then to think, we who enter into communion through the Bread of Life are filled with the grandeur of God’s only-begotten Son. Through the Eucharist, Jesus is fulfilling the promise he made to the apostles before his ascension. ”Behold I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mat. 28:20). The Feast of Corpus Christi reminds us that we need to be present to Him who has promised to be present to us. In gratitude to Him who gave Himself to us entirely, we should respond by giving ourselves to Him entirely. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, the re-creation is signified. Corruptible bread becomes the incorruptible Body of Christ and individual members of the human race are brought into communion with the Trinity. 
In the celebration of the Eucharist we are given a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy that is celebrated in the New Jerusalem, our heavenly homeland. What we eat becomes part of us; but when we take the Eucharist we become part of Jesus and enter into his life. By the vision of faith, we come to recognize the risen and glorified Lord in the breaking of the bread. Through our participation in the paschal sacrament we are conformed to Christ. This bond with Christ sets us on fire with love of all our brothers and sisters. In order for this bond of love to be established, it is essential we are aware of what we are doing whenever we gather around the table of the Lord so as to be actively engaged in the sacred rite and enriched by its effects. Our daily lives need to reflect the communion we receive and the Eucharist we celebrate. Having partaken of the bread that was blessed and broken, we commissioned to give ourselves, pour out ourselves in the service of others and in the love of God.   
This is why we celebrate a feast in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ. With grateful hearts, we bless the bread and pour out the wine, recalling how God has fed the hungers of our hearts and healed the wounds of our lives. The Eucharist reminds us that we are loved by God and redeemed by the blood of Christ who died on the Cross because of our sins and rose from the death for our justification. Not only today, but every time we partake of the Blessed Eucharist, we must be willing to pour out our own blood, sweat and tears to build up the fraternity, the brotherhood and sisterhood of human kind, and strive to build up a nation that stands in fraternity with the other nations of the world. May your Sacrament, O Jesus, be a light to the mind, strength to the will, and attraction to the heart; may it be a support to the weak, comfort to the suffering, viaticum of salvation to the dying, and for all may it be a pledge of future glory. Amen (St. John XXIII, Jesus, King of Nations)

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Keep Praying!

Prayer is a powerful antidote to evil. Saint James proposes it as the occupation of the person of faith, no matter what the circumstances. He seems to be echoing the sentiments that the apostle to the Gentiles wrote the church at Thessalonica, “Never stop praying” (1 Thes. 5:17). If you are suffering – keep praying. If you are in good spirits – keep praying. If you are sick -- keep praying. If you have sinned – keep praying. If you know someone who has strayed from the truth – keep praying. The believer is to pray with the tenacity of a child who knows his Father’s love for him. When we pray, we do not look to our worthiness or merit. No, we trust in God’s gracious kindness and mercy that has made us His own. Recall these words spoke through the Prophet Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine: (Is. 43:1).

God’s favor and mercy are extended to all those He has made His own in the blood of His Son. Because He has redeemed us, we are precious in his sight. Because we are His children, He calls us to come to Him in faith and confidence. We believe that we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. When we pray, we are to remember the fascination we had as children when we played with fire. Jesus said as much : “Let the children [within you] come to me; do not prevent them” (Mk. 10:14). Jesus told us that we need to change our attitude: “I assure you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enjoy the blessings of the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3).

Despite the fact that we often forget we are God’s Children, God never forgets that He is out Father.
We have to rediscover the joy of our youth when we were teachable and willing to depend on our heavenly Father. We need to be renewed in spirit so that we might entrust ourselves with child-like abandonment into the love and care of God and so discover the Father’s deepest mercy. Let us live in the joy of the children of God and manifest the Spirit that transforms the world.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Have Love for One Another

“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13: 35).
Through Baptism, God recreated us in the image of His Son. He has conformed us to the image of His Son. Since Christ is the love of the Father made visible and tangible, we are to extend God’s love to the whole of creation. Having been confirmed in the faith, we are called to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom by the lives we live. God is love and those who abide in love abide in God. The world will know that we are followers of Christ if we love the people God loves.

The law of God is love and the name of God is mercy. Those who are disciples of Christ are called to show compassionate love and infinite mercy to all we meet. The Father manifested His love for the world by sending us His Only-begotten Son. The Son manifested His love by sending His disciples into the world. The love of God which we have received as a gift, we are to give as a gift. Leo the Great put it this way: “Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God's own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member” (Leo the Great).

This is how the world will know that you have been crucified with Christ and that your life is now hidden with Christ in God, if you have love for one another. Just as Christ showed His love for us by surrendering himself for the life of the world, so also are we to lay down our lives so that others might live.

Faith that does not manifest itself in acts of love is lifeless. Grace is not grace unless it is lavished upon others. Only the empty vessel can be filled. Remember what the apostle to the Gentiles wrote: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2. Cor. 4:7). Since our citizenship is in the kingdom of light and life, we are to have nothing to do with the works of darkness and death. We are clay lamps that bear the Fire of the Spirit. We are challenged by the Risen Lord to let our light shine before all people so that they may know the depths of love and become obedient to the will of God and the demands of faith.

We who have contemplated the Lord’s glory, are commissioned to make the Light of Christ visible to the whole world. As light was the beginning of the first creation, so the Light of Christ is the beginning of the new creation. Through the power of the Resurrection, man who was created in the image and likeness of God is enabled to share the very life of God. “The Lord, who is the Spirit, makes us more and more like him as we are changed into is glorious image” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Having been made in the image of God who is love, we are to make known the love God has lavished on us in Christ. “Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave” (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 18).

This is how all will know that we are disciples of Jesus, if we ascribe all our works to the mercy of God the Father and to the love of the risen Christ. Christ works in us not only to will and to do good; but He also works in us making what we do successful.

In his first Letter, St. John wrote: “Greater is He who is in you the he who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). The word of God is a word of truth and grace. His works are works of mercy and compassion. All that God says and does flows from the boundless love of His heart. All men will know that we are children of God if, like Him, we are merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abundant in kindness and truth. Listening for and appreciating the love of God allows us to live the commandment to love others.

Through the mystery of the Incarnation the Beloved Son came into the world to seek out and find the lost. Rich in mercy, He laid down His life to save sinners and to recreate them in His holiness. Moved by pity, He redeemed mankind and while on earth showed compassion to all who came to Him.

In Him who is risen from the dead, all things are recreated. His victory over sin and death is the cause of our joy because the old order of things has passed away. Christ, our Paschal Lord, makes all things new. The joys that Christ imparts are like an effervescent fountain, pure, refreshing, abundant and eternal.

“As we have borne the image of the earthy, so let us also bear the image of Him Who is from heaven, we must greatly rejoice over this change, whereby we are translated from earthly degradation to heavenly dignity through His unspeakable mercy, Who descended into our estate that He might promote us to His, by assuming not only the substance but also the conditions of sinful nature, and by allowing the impassibility of Godhead to be affected by all the miseries which are the lot of mortal manhood” (Leo the Great).

This is how we can know that we have truly put on the new person, if we strive to look at others with eyes of Christ and to love them with the heart of the heavenly Father. The distinguishing character of a disciple of Christ is not some outward garb or austerity of life but fraternal love and compassion for those in need. Then we will manifest the depth of God’s love for the human race. “Merciful God and Father of all, wake us from the slumber of indifference, open our eyes to [others’] suffering, and free us from the insensitivity born of worldly comfort and self-centeredness” (Pope Francis).

--Father Jerome Machar OSCO

Being Open to the God of Surprises

The People of God were united in their profession of faith: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). Believers were to attend to these words with the ears of their hearts and ponder them whether they were at work or at rest. The more they would ponder these words, to more they would be united in faith and love, thus truly anchored in their identity as the People God had called to be His own. The strength to be human rests in a faith rooted in the Incarnation. God so loved the world that He became a human being, binding the human race to Himself for all eternity. Because God has loved us, we have an anchor for our souls. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says: “This steadfast hope leads us into God’s inner sanctuary” (Heb. 6:19). 

This hope is meant to serve as a bond of unity, and not to be a cause of division. This hope flows from God’s eternal purpose and draws us into the communion of love that is the Trinity. Greater is He who draws us together than the theological-philosophical arguments that tend to drive us apart. I find myself reverting back to comments made by Pope Francis at the end of the 2014 Synod. “[There is] a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals. [Likewise] the temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.” 

The promises of God can be depended on. Our fidelity to the Truth is not served when we turn a deaf ear to those we do not understand. It is impossible to love God when we hate the brother with whom we do not agree. As God cannot be love one minute and hate the next, we too must find the path to purity of heart and unity of spirit. It may seem that we are in this world like a ship at sea, tossed up and down. We need an anchor to keep us sure and steady. May we cling to the anchor of our soul as we seek to know the Truth. And may we live the Truth in compassion and love.  

Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Monday, May 9, 2016

Be Not Afraid

Then the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Be not afraid, go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.” The words spoken to the apostle to the Gentiles echoes those addressed to Isaiah the prophet: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will support you with my right hand” (Is. 41:10).

The God of salvation speaks tenderly to His spokesmen. He called them both by name and knows them intimately. God goes on to say: “I have put my words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of my hand, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth” (Is. 51:16). We need to learn how to speak the truth in love.

We have only to recall the words of the beloved disciple, “You belong to God, my dear children. You have already won the victory; for greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1Jn. 4:4).

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! Because He is truly risen, He has conquered death and restored life to all the children of Adam and Eve. “Where sin abounded, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant” (Rom. 5:20).

The Light of Christ has come into our lives and revealed the darkness of sin for what it was, thereby making us children of the Light. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Christ has established a field hospital to bind up our wounds and nurse us to abundant life. God’s every word is directed to bringing us to fullness of life in His Son. Having been redeemed by His blood on the cross, we have become a new creation.

As members of the new creation, we have reason to trust the God of our salvation. The Psalmist wrote: “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him” (Ps. 62:5). Because God is faithful, we have nothing to fear.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer” (Ps. 18:2). By His grace God supports us and by His providence He delivers us for evil. Trusting in God, our hearts find peace. We have no need to fear what anyone can do against us. With God at our side, we need not be afraid to speak the Gospel of Life and Truth. Pondering His Word, we strengthen our faith and hope.

Paul was right when he wrote, “If God is with us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31) The Lord Himself has chosen to be our inheritance and we can be confident that all that He does is for our blessing. God is always with us to shield us from harm and to guide us on the path to life.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO