Aug 31, 2015

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Our Gospel is often used by those who quote it in order to make the point that Jesus was focused on the interior, the heart, rather than the commandments. It’s not the rules that count. What matters is whether I am a good person or not on the inside. This line of thinking is used to justify ignoring the commandments of God and of the Church. But is that what Jesus was really saying?  In many places, Jesus reiterates the teaching of the commandments. And in that famous Sermon on the Mount he actually intensifies them rather than loosens them. Following the commandments is precisely a matter of the heart and you can’t fool God through external compliance with them. Left to our own devices, following the dictates of our hearts, if they are not formed by the Gospel, will produce exactly what Jesus tells us: “from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, [and] folly.”

Just look at the continual moral decline of our society. We have freed ourselves from the moral rigors of times past. But has it brought us peace? Are we better off as a society for having ignored the moral laws? Why is it that so few couples that prepare for marriage aren't already cohabitating? For that matter, often there is a previous marriage or the couple has been married apart from the sacramental rites of the Church. Why is it that only 24% of Catholics attend Holy Mass weekly? Why are our communion lines so long but our confessional lines so short? Because we try to live Christianity by halves, when it is in reality a whole endeavor. It is an "all-in" kind of thing.

Christianity is not a matter of being a generally good person. That will not save you. Christianity is what the name implies. Christian means follower of Christ. It means living as he lived. Honestly, lovingly, devoutly, in justice and truth, loving one’s neighbor, caring for the outcast, being in the world but not of it. Yet, so many of us trust what the world thinks and ignore the saving truth of Christ and his Church.

St. James tells us that it is not enough to hear the word, or know about it, we must do it, we must live it. But he gives a rather odd definition of religion. How many of us if asked what Catholicism is about would say “caring for orphans and widows in their affliction and keeping unstained by the world?” He doesn’t exclude from this any other group of those in need, but selects them as representative because they are most in need and unable to repay any help that they receive. All of us come here orphaned from the Garden of Eden, widowed from the first relationship that humanity enjoyed with God. We are by fallen nature lost yet by grace we have been found.

So how do we begin again in the context of our modern society? We must be converted in our hearts. We must die to ourselves and live for him who died and rose again for us. The more completely we turn our lives over to him, the more easily will the world be able to see the God who loves each human person. We prayed at the beginning of Holy Mass for God to put in our hearts the love of his name and deepen our reverence so that he may nurture in us what is good. Love of God and reverence is the source, love of our neighbor is the proof. So long as we reduce our Christianity to noble ideas, a little Church attendance, a bit of help for the poor, from time to time, no one will see a reason to accept a religion which makes us no different than those who have it not at all. You see, being good just isn’t good enough. We must become Christians. On the one hand, perhaps we can fool most people with external piety, perhaps even ourselves, for a time, but God judges the heart. And on the other hand, how will our hearts ever be converted to Christ if we think the truths and rituals of Catholicism are really rather unimportant things. After all, the last thing Jesus gave his disciples before he went to his death, was the sacrificial ritual by which we come into intimate union with him. As St. Augustine reminds us, when we consume ordinary bread, we transform the elements into ourselves but when we consume the holy bread of eternal life, he transforms us into himself. That should leave us asking ourselves whether we have been transformed, in our hearts and in our lives.

Aug 17, 2015

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

When we say to the rest of the world that our God became man we seem foolish. When we say that he became man in order to die for our sake we seem even more foolish. But when we say that, on the day before his suffering, he instituted the Eucharist Sacrifice, gave us his Body and Blood under the forms of bread and wine, and commanded us to eat so that we might have life, we seem the greatest fools who have ever lived.

And yet we are even bigger fools than the world thinks. We profess faith in this Sacrament. We honor it with our lips but we are often unfaithful in administering the sacrament, we are unfaithful in celebrating the sacrament and we are unfaithful in receiving the sacrament. How do we know that this is true? Because our lives reveal it. We listen neither to the Proverb nor to St. Paul.

This is the reason that we do not advance in the way of understanding: we have yet to forsake the foolishness of our sins. The fruit of Holy Communion is a greater unity in the mystical body and an increase of charity. Where the fruit is lacking, we know how we ought to judge.

Jesus says that whoever eat his flesh and drinks his blood remains in him and he in them. This precious gift, when received not merely externally but fruitfully and sacramentally, converts the recipient into a living victim in Christ for the praise of God’s glory.

What does that look like? It looks like the Cross. For our sake he became poor so that we might become rich in grace. He cried out with loud cries and tears in prayer and supplication and he was heard because of his reverence. Does the Lord hear our cries for the poor, the oppressed, the afflicted? Does he see our tears? Have we any?  What of our prayers and supplications? Do we sing and play to the Lord in our hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? These are the fruits of participation at the Lord’s banquet. We do well to check our lives for evidence that our participation is true.

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Cuando decimos al mundo que nuestro Dios se hizo hombre, parecemos tontos. Cuando decimos que se hizo hombre para morir por amor a nosotros, parecemos aún más tontos. Pero cuando decimos que, el día antes de su sufrimiento, instituyó el Sacrificio Eucaristíco, nos dio su Cuerpo y su Sangre bajo las formas del pan y del vino, y nos mandó comer para que tengamos vida, parecemos los más grandes tontos que jamás han vivido. 

Y sin embargo somos aun mas tontos de lo que el mundo piensa. Nosotros profesamos la fe en este Sacramento. Honramos con nuestros labios pero somos a menudo infieles en la administración del sacramento, somos infieles en la celebración del sacramento y somos infieles en la recepción del sacramento. ¿Cómo sabemos que esto es cierto? Porque nuestras vidas revelan la verdad. No escuchamos ni al Proverbios ni a San Pablo.

Esta es la razón de que no avanzamos en el camino de la prudencia: todavía no hemos dejado la ignorancia de nuestros pecados. El fruto de la Sagrada Comunión es una mayor unidad en el cuerpo místico y un aumento de la caridad. Cuando falta la fruta, sabemos cómo debemos juzgar.

Jesús dice que todo el que come su carne y bebe su sangre, permanece en él y él en ellos. Este precioso regalo, cuando se reciben no sólo externamente, sino verdadera y sacramentalmente, nos convierte en Cristo, víctimas vivas para la alabanza de la gloria de Dios.

¿Cómo se ve? Parece la Cruz. Y por nuestra causa se hizo pobre, para que podamos llegar a ser ricos en gracia. Gritó con gran clamor y lágrimas en deprecación y súplica y fue escuchado por su reverencia. ¿Puede el Señor oír nuestros clamores para los pobres, los oprimidos, los afligidos? ¿Ve nuestras lágrimas? ¿Tenemos alguna? ¿Cuál de nuestras oraciones y súplicas? ¿Cantamos y tocamos al Señor sus alabanzas en nuestros corazones?  ¿Damos continuamente gracias a Dios Padre por todas las cosas, en el nombre de nuestro Señor Jesucristo? Estos son los frutos que crecen por la participación en banquete del Señor. Hacemos bien en consultar nuestras vidas por la evidencia de que nuestra participación es cierto.