Friday, August 24, 2012

To Whom Shall We Go

Last evening as the sun was setting.
The end of chapter six of John's Gospel is almost heartbreaking.  Jesus has offered himself as the fundamental sign of God and gone even further in offering himself in the signs of bread and wine.  Some of the crowd have turned away.  Now some of the disciples find it hard to accept and stop following Jesus.  Jesus is not turning out to be the Messiah they thought he was.
It must have hurt Jesus terribly that even some disciples would leave him.  He turns to the Twelve and, in what must have been a plaintive voice, asks, "Will you also go away?"
Peter, ever the spokesman for the Twelve, assures Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life."
God and Jesus don't always meet our expectations of what they should be or do.  The leadership of the Church is often a disappointment.  Some of us may be tempted to follow no more.
But there is nowhere I would find more satisfaction.  My response is the same as Peter's, "Lord, to whom shall we go."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Real Food and Drink

We are fortunate to live in a time when almost everybody at Mass takes Communion.  We have learned to take seriously the word's of Jesus in John 6:55-56, "My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them."
John uses more vivid Greek than the other three Gospel writers: "flesh" instead of "body,"
"munch" instead of "eat."  The vividness of these words drives home Jesus' meaning that we really are to feed on his flesh and drink his blood, if we want him to remain in us and us to remain in him.
If Jesus wanted us just to adore him in the Sacrament, he would not have given himself to us in such common symbols as bread and wine. 
Jesus is always pointing to the Father.  The Mass is centered on God.  Jesus calls us to eat and drink his flesh and blood so that we will be united to him in his dying and rising and go with him into the loving embrace of our Father.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Charged with God

My earliest memories of prayer are before a May altar that my mother and sister and I made from an orange crate turned on end.  A statue of Mary stood on top.  We brought in flowers from the yard to make a crown for Mary, that was often way bigger than the statue's head. 
Another early memory is a wooden box topped by a crucifix.  There was a window in the box through which we could see each of the Stations of the Cross as we turned a little knob.
In all the rooms of my home now I have crosses and crucifixes and statues and pictures of Mary and other saints.  This use of signs and symbols is peculiarly Catholic.  Material things remind us of spiritual realities.
I also have many beautiful paintings and prints and photographs on the walls of my home.  I find God in their beauty.  I find God also in the Lake and the mountains and forests.  Finding God in the world and people around me comes second nature to my Catholic self.  The Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, said it perfectly:"The world is charged with the grandeur of God."
This characteristic of Catholicism is called "the sacramental principle."  It is one of the most distinctive marks of Catholicism.  We cherish the spiritual dimension of all reality: the cosmos, nature, history, events, persons, objects, rituals, words.  Everything embodies and communicates the Divine.
I found myself thinking of this spiritual value that we find in material things as I reflect on chapter 6 of John's Gospel where Jesus presents himself as The Sign, the fundamental sacrament of God, and where he gives us bread and wine as the precious sacrament of his flesh and blood.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Sign

Thinking of God as air and as Love is valuable to my growing in my relationship with God.  Those kinds of images are not so easy for us human beings to grasp as concrete images, but they serve to remind me that God is impossible to grasp.
God tried various ways to communicate Godself to us.  The Burning Bush.  The prophets.  But God finally decided that they best way was come in human flesh.  God gave us eyes and ears and noses and mouths and hands.  It is through these senses that we get ideas and images into our minds and imaginations.
In John 6:24-35 it is understandable that the crowd wants some sign that will convince their senses that Jesus has been sent by God.  Jesus responds that he himself is the sign.  Jesus is the primordial sacrament of God to our world.  If I want to know what God is like, I look at Jesus.  I see Love in the flesh.  Jesus asks the crowd and me to believe in him, to put myself entirely in his hands. He is the source of my living now in the unending presence of God. Jesus is the bread of life.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

All-encompassing Love

Paul's phrase in Ephesians, "One God...who is over all and through all and in all," helps me to reflect on God who is Love filling and surrounding everyone and everything.  I imagine Love like the air which is everywhere.  I pray to Love, "In you I live and move and have my being."  Sometimes I feel  as if I am moving effortlessly, almost floating, in Love.
Paul's phrase in Ephesians, "One God...who is over all and through all and in all," helps me to reflect Like the air we breathe Love is within me, giving me life.  Love breathes in every human being, making us one.  This unity exists whether I ask for it or not.  Love wants it and it is Love who makes unity happen.
Continuing to think of Love as something like the air, I imagine Love filling and surrounding all the earth, all the planets, all the universes, all space, everything one in Love. 
Our wars, our political and religious differences, seem petty indeed when I live and move and have my being in all-encompassing Love, who is over all and though all and in all.