QotD – Scandalous Humility – 05.26.2016

“By this mingling of water and wine, may we come to share in Christ’s divinity, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

(Eucharistic Prayer)


Something Greater than Spinach is Here

Popeye-raising-spinachGrowing up I hated spinach.  Raw, sautéed, or steamed… all of them were gross.  Then my parents played a card I couldn’t resist.  They told me that if I ate spinach I’d be big and strong like Popeye! Suddenly, the second grossest vegetable (Brussel sprouts were definitely worse) tasted much better.  Since then I’ve like spinach and will eat it in any form (especially spinach artichoke dip or saag paneer, for my friends who know Indian food!)  However, my physique is far from intimidating.

So what happened?!?  Why didn’t the spinach work?  The answer seems kind of simple.  Yes, I ate the stuff, but there was more to it than just downing a can of spinach.  Yet, we take this “just eat spinach” attitude with our faith sometimes.  We want one simple prayer or one easy habit to make us merciful and strong like Jesus.

This desire for ease is not new, but counting on ease can be a great source of discouragement.  That first time that Jesus captivated our attention and revolutionized our lives it all seemed so easy, just like Popeye downing a can of spinach to save Olive Oil.  At some point, though, we encounter a side of our faith that requires perseverance.  When interviewing Chris Padgett, I asked him what a day in his spiritual life looked like.  He candidly answered, “It is a grind.”  Paul described it this way, “Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus, I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.  No, I drive my body and train it” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

Hebrews then expands on this analogy but also helps give us a solution for what to do.  In Hebrews we find, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).  This is the beauty of events like Encounter Cincinnati.  We gather together as witnesses, Reconciliation is made available to us, and our Eucharistic Lord is placed before our eyes to help us persevere in running the faith.  So this Lent, let us make a great effort to come together on March 12.

Additionally, we should not forget that Christ took the form of bread because He is not just the object of our worship, He is also our nourishment.  We have something far greater than Popeye’s spinach here, we are nourished and strengthened by the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.  He is our viaticum, our food for the way.

(Written for the Encounter Blog)

The Body we Adore is the Body Outside the Door

This Sunday you will hear these words proclaimed during the Second Reading:

But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,
so that there may be no division in the body,
but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it;
if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)

These words are a good measuring stick for the authenticity of our Eucharistic devotion.

If the Eucharist is the Body of Christ, and if we, the Church, are the Body of Christ, then my devotion to one should intensify my devotion to another.  Thus, if I truly honor Christ under His lowly guise of bread, then I should have real, tangible concern for the lowliest around me.   This is encouraged by the paradox of the monstrance, the vessel in which the Eucharist is exposed.  A monstrance of gold and jewels surrounds what appears to be a piece of tasteless bread that was even deprived of leaven.  Yet, it is not the gold and jewels that we worship, but the Lord who makes Himself approachable, by lowering himself (get it? no leaven) to reside under the appearance of bread.  But we miss the paradox of the monstrance when we only associate with those the World would call ‘haves’ while we neglect the ‘have nots’ or, even worse, cause them to suffer.  To do so causes the very Body of Christ we adore to suffer.

I leave you with this quote from St. John Chrysostom as rendered in the Catechism of the Catholic Church to draw this to a close:

You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother,…. You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food someone judged worthy to take part in this meal…. God freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not become more merciful (CCC 1397).

Originally Posted on the Encounter Blog: http://www.encountercincinnati.com/encounter-blog/

The Best

“Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
– Headwaiter to the Bridegroom at the Wedding of Cana (Jn 2:10)

This Sunday these familiar words might go in one ear and out the other as your priest or deacon proclaims the gospel.  We are so used to the headwaiter’s words that we have reduced them to the slogan, “Save the best for last.”  What we might miss is that our headwaiter has unwittingly put the biblical narrative into one little phrase.  We serve, worship, love, and follow a God who saves the best for last.

Remember that all throughout scripture God is portrayed as the bridegroom of His people (see Jn 3:27-29).  So listen to the headwaiter’s words addressed to THE Bridegroom, the God-Man, who at a wedding feast manifested his first miracle by providing the best wine.  Are the Eucharistic images hitting you over the head yet?

At the Eucharistic table we are gathered around the heavenly wedding feast.  We recall the mana, the first bread God gave, in the Eucharistic prayer’s line, “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall” (see Ex. 14:4,12-15).  Yet, now we are given the new mana!  We receive the new Bread from Heaven!  A gift that is not an it, but a Him.  He saves the best for last!

So as you approach the Eucharist remember that God saves the best for last.  Do not restrict Him, don’t tell Him he can’t do more or that He can’t do better.  He is a God of surprises because He saves the best for last.  Let Him bless you with the best.

Welcome to the Jordan

A Reflection on John 1:29-51

BeholdA very wise friend of mine told me of a habit he practices while reading scripture.  He said that whenever he encounters the word “behold” he pauses.  He closes his eyes or finds a way to stop from reading ahead and he prepares his mind and heart to behold what he will read next.  It may sound like an odd habit, but it makes tremendous sense. Continue reading “Welcome to the Jordan”

Centurion’s Faith

A reflection on readings from Genesis & Matthew from the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

I love the story of the Centurion and his servant.  I love the way that he identifies Christ as one who cares about the lowest people in society and also has great authority.  I love that in this scene Jesus is described as being amazed and then calls out his disciples on the fact that this Roman oppressor has greater faith than them — ouch!

That said, this might be the first time that I’ve seen the Centurion’s story placed alongside the story of Sarah laughing in denial of God’s promise of a child.  When these two passages are set side-by-side you get an interesting perspective on faith that I think is quite applicable for us as we approach the Eucharist.

For many of us, the Eucharist is a difficult teaching to accept.  It looks like bread and wine.  It smells like bread and wine.  It tastes like bread and wine.  In many ways we can be tempted to be Sarah in this moment and laugh at the prospect of believing that we are being presented with Jesus Christ.  So I find it telling that every Mass we repeat the words of someone in particular.  We don’t repeat an apostle, prophet, or church father.  Instead we repeat the words, or better yet, repeat the confession of faith of the Centurion.  This Centurion, a man of authority, looked at this itinerant rabbi from a region he helped control and a people incapable of throwing off Roman rule.  Somehow, despite the appearances, he saw a man with the authority to cure his servant with a mere word and even from a distance.  And this faith “amazed” Christ.

I’ve often wondered about this idea of “amazing” Christ.  How can I have the faith to amaze my Lord?  I think we access that faith at every Mass.  We look to the Eucharist and we might think, “He looks like bread and wine, He smells like bread and wine, and He’ll even taste like bread and wine.”  But, it is the Centurion’s faith that reminds us that Christ has all authority to approach us in whatever way wishes. Thus, seeing bread and wine, we confess that here is our Lord.  Because when we say the words, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” we aren’t talking to some abstract and distant Jesus sitting on a cloud somewhere.  We are speaking to the Eucharist.  In this moment we can be Sarah, looking at all the externals and denying; or the Centurion, looking at all the externals and believing.

Originally posted on Ite Missa Est