Run Time: approximately 11 minutes. Gospel: Mt 18:15-20.
…we’re made for others. We’re made for the sake of others and the deepest and most important callings in life are about how we recognize – how we acknowledge – that truth of who we are before God and how we live it out. Whether in marriage, or priesthood, or religious vocation, our lives are meant to be built around that fact that I was born to be given and to receive the gift and the blessing of others and the whole of the world and society is built on this.
Run Time: approximately 13 and a half minutes. Gospel: Mt 16:21-27.
… can we speak of the meaning and the purpose and the truth of suffering in this world? I think any proposed gospel that sort of dances around suffering is worse than useless – and it is not of Christ.
We have to have the work of perseverance and that attention, that planning and foresight to have prepared for that day when faith is work and discipleship takes effort and intention. That it won’t just happen accidentally, or just by moving with the momentum or moving along with the wind. And it is a serious project that God has in mind and that He calls us to.
We often think – and I think unfortunately – of following Christ as: “well He’s going to keep me out of hell, or get me into heaven.” When faith is so much more and the life of discipleship is so much more. When we were baptized, each of us was told, and fairly so, that we’d put on Christ and in Him we have new life. And this is the project of faith – that the life of Christ might be alive in me, and be nourished and lived each day. And that takes the whole person. Takes the whole of me.
I don’t know that we think about that so often: That all of the Sacraments, one way or another, draw from the font of grace that is opened at the cross. Baptism that gives new life, born in the waters that flowed forth from His wounded side with His Precious blood. To the sacrament of Confession, where the sins are forgiven and washed away by the power of His cross. Most especially to this Holy Eucharist. Which we ought to remember is that same offering, made to God the Father, in the name of our Lord. It is the same offering of His cross, made present here and now that happened once for all, upon that hill of Calvary. That’s why we’ve begun again to turn together towards the Lord, to show more clearly and more fully, this offering that is made by priestly hands in the name of Christ the high priest. The offering of His cross for the forgiveness of your sins and mine – and the offering of His Body and Blood, pierced for love of us. That is our boast. Not just our acceptance. Not just, ‘well I guess that’s part of the deal.’ It is the boast, that each marriage, each career, each life lived in Christ is in imitation of His cross, and it is in the cross that that life takes meaning and has hope. It is our boast in the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ. That death and sin have been conquered. That my own ego and will have been conquered. It’s selfish “me” has been crucified, and Christ now lives in me. This is our boast. That the powers of this world have no dominion anymore. And that the power of Christ and the life given through Him is now my inheritance.
When I was a younger man, pursuing honestly a very different sort of life, there was a girl. Let’s be honest – when I was a boy there was a girl. … There was on my part the willingness even to do things out of the ordinary. To do special things for her sake, but the real deeds of love just weren’t there. That willingness to put aside what I want, to put aside me for the sake of someone else, just wasn’t there. As much as I thought it was, or wanted it to be. When it came to actually making the choices and doing the works, it wasn’t happening. I guess I had some growing up to do, certainly. But also a lot to learn about what it really meant to use that word ‘love’ it its – in a sense deep enough to warrant that ring and a date and a ceremony and everything else that was going to follow. … The realization that, that love has consequences, and that there are choices that follow. If love is real. I’m working on it.
It’s not about the amount, it’s about the offering, and that’s the difference. These others who came into the treasury made a contribution and maybe have done more to light the lamps of the temple, but she’s made more than a contribution, she’s made a sacrifice. She has made an offering.
What we do… how we spend this life… is a reflection of how we approach this question. We’re told that when we’re baptized, we’re conformed to Jesus as Priest, Prophet, and King. St. Peter says that God has made of us a priestly people. A people for offering, for sacrifice. And all the stuff that comes in between is indeed something, but the sacrifice that God most desires is our very selves. Is my very life and yours, lived out each in our own state of life…
You have to think of the exasperation of Jesus, having just laid out for them the prediction of His passion, and then they come with this. That’s got to be one of those hand on the face moments, maybe eyes raised to the Father. “You sure these were the twelve I was supposed to pick?”
They didn’t hear a word of it. They were too concerned with themselves. And so they begin their reflection upon the kingdom of God with “What do I want?” “O Jesus, we have these needs.” “O Jesus, my life is such that I think it would be best if you arranged the kingdom of God accordingly.” And it is – and we can snicker at it when we look at it in plain relief – but it is so common. We all do it. We all approach the Gospels first at least with some tinge of ‘well this should be good for me.’ Beginning from where I am and then trying to work Jesus into the picture. Even when I was in seminary there was a number of theology courses, courses on the Trinity, and on Revelation, on the Person of Jesus Christ, that sought to begin from human experience, and then we’ll work around to God. If you stick around for the whole semester He’ll get in here somewhere.
And it is important to reflect, to know – to know my own life well, for you to know your life well and to reflect well upon it. But to reflect within the light and the wisdom of God. After all He was here first. He was the one who made the first move. My life didn’t come into being in light of what I wanted, or the way I thought things ought to be arranged. But that God first gave the spark of life.
What we do, as Catholics when we receive Communion, is the most intimate relationship that we can have with Jesus this side of heaven. When we eat His body and drink His blood, we become like that which we eat – we become more like Christ. And we are nourished in our souls to live courageously the message of the Gospel. So what you do today is a reminder to us.
… we also celebrate today the transferred feast of the Ascension. It seems to me that we don’t think enough about this mystery. It is one of the essential mysteries of our faith, but if you don’t recite the rosary regularly the idea of the Ascension hardly ever comes to mind. But it is a crucial part of Christ’s message and mission. It is the culminating moment – the finale, if you will – the moment in which His victory is enshrined in heaven forever. Jesus ascended into heaven as the living and true sacrifice, that which is made present here under the appearance of bread and wine. He presents to God our Father, our humanity – our very flesh – that living sacrifice, our eternal high priest, that continues to be our bridge of communion between God and humanity until the end of time.
When we look then, dear friends, at the Good Shepherd, we see an image of Christ who is truly concerned for us. Not only in the past, not only here and now, but who desires our future wellbeing. The devotion and love which we show towards Christ in our modern way – through the Sacred Heart, through Divine Mercy, through the image of the crucifix – is indeed to be commended. Nevertheless, this approach to Christ does not represent His work in our daily lives in such a way as we see when we tap into the wisdom of those who have gone before us, who placed all their hope in Christ Who was raised from the dead for our salvation.
Fr. Pius Parsch (1884-1954) The Church’s Year of Grace (Liturgical Press, 1953)