The Feast of Corpus Christi
Everything that we have is a gift from God. Most of us know that but in the hectic lives that we live we are not always as conscious of that reality as we should be. Among the gifts that God has given us, the greatest is his Divine Son who assumed human nature in order to deal with us in a way that we could grasp and understand. His Son, our Savior, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, whom we call Jesus of Nazareth, continued the process of giving when, on the night before he was to die, he gathered with his apostles in the upper room. In that upper room, he gave the apostles and all who would come after them in faith the gift of his continued presence, the Body of Christ, the Holy Eucharist.
Simple words, simple actions, awesome and unbelievable implications. Taking a loaf of bread and then a goblet of wine, Jesus of Nazareth looked around at those that followed him for the last three years and said THIS IS MY BODY. A moment later, with the goblet, he said THIS IS MY BLOOD. With those words, from his infinite presence, he gave first to the apostles, and then to all who would come after them, a way of intimacy and continued presence that was unimaginable before.
Did you receive communion the other day? When that occurred you were one with Jesus and you can say with St. Paul, “I live not I but Christ lives in me.”
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One of the things that I really love about Roman Catholic traditions is the way that we have divided the entire year into phases or chapters that center around Jesus of Nazareth. Part of the year prepares for his coming. That is Advent. Part of the year marks the time when Christ was present among us. That is from Christmas Day until fifty days after the Resurrection. The third chapter and the longest begins with Pentecost and continues until Advent begins again. It is really a wonderful system where throughout the year we are constantly reminded of the need to have our lives centered on Jesus of Nazareth, to know him better, to love him profoundly and to motivate ourselves to walk in his footsteps.
I love Pentecost because on this day the spotlight swings away from the life of Jesus of Nazareth and shines squarely on us. Jesus came to be our savior, to be our redeemer and he accomplished that, but He wanted to have the human family involved in its own salvation. He wanted us to be partners with him in preaching the good word of God’s love for the human family.
Regretfully, sometimes we don’t get as much out of the Scripture readings as we should when we are at Sunday Mass. I would suggest that you take three or four minutes and open up your bible to Acts of Apostles 2:1-11. The story related there is short but awesomely dramatic. It provides a jump start for this little band of battered, confused men who now have the responsibility of carrying forward the work of Jesus and, believe me, they do well. Next week we will see that Peter gave one of the most successful homilies in the history of the Church. Following the reception of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the apostles go out into the streets of Jerusalem and Peter preaches to the crowds and the text says that, “There were added that day three thousand souls.” That would certainly have been the shortest RCIA in Church history.
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Photo: Nicole Grimes
May 20, 2012- Feast of the Ascension
The 12 apostles spent more than two fairly quiet years walking after Jesus as he moved back and forth from Galilee to Judea, frequently passing through Samaria. They heard his preaching, they saw his miracles, they were committed. But then things began to get a little rough.
In that first Holy Week, which was ushered in by the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we saw two trials, one religious and one civil, and then the crucifixion. Finally, and most astounding, the resurrection itself. Then came those forty days of strange and mysterious visits when, from time to time, Jesus would suddenly appear among the apostles conveying extremely important messages which would help the Church to understand itself and to develop according to the mission that they had received from Jesus.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension and once again, we are dealing with startled, stunned and frightened apostles. There was Jesus standing and speaking to them, and then suddenly he begins to ascend to heaven and then disappears. What are they to do? In the next scene, they are facing heaven and two men in white were standing beside them. They said, “Why are you Galileans standing here looking into the sky? Jesus has been taken up from you into heaven and will come back again in the same way.” Would that make for shock, for wonder, for confusion? You bet. Now begins ten more days of fear and anxiety. That unpleasantness will come to an end in ten days as we celebrate the third most important feast in the life of the Church, PENTECOST and the descent of the Holy Spirit.
That question from those angels was really a challenge to us as well. Why are you standing here? You have got a job to do. Let’s get with it. We also need to know that in our heart of hearts we are being asked: Why are you standing here staring into space? You share in the missionary responsibility.
Let’s get with it.
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Image from http://www.holytrinitygerman.org/Corpus_Christi_2006.html
Yes, our spiritual life is union with God through Jesus Christ. It flows from our faith and our sacramental lives. That is absolutely unchanging but how we manifest our spirituality can certainly shifts with the passage of time. I would like to use an example of a change.
Tuesday, January 3rd, is the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Traditionally, Catholics have bowed their heads at just the mention of that name and it is important to maintain that respect.
When I was a kid, the biggest men’s organization in the parish was the Holy Name Society. On the first Sunday of the month, all the men of the parish before Mass would gather in the parish hall and then process into the church marching behind the Holy Name banner. They would receive communion as a body. To me, as a kid, that procession was an impressive sight. All in the Holy Names Society were all so committed to avoid cursing and the desecration of God’s holy name, and to receive the Eucharist every month. I am sure that these generous members did other things for the parish as well, but they would have done it as parishioners not just on the basis of their membership in the Society.
Today, the Holy Name Society is moribund almost everywhere because the reasons that brought it into existence do not exist in the same sense. In the early part of the 20th century, most men failed to go to communion with any frequency. They went to Confession before Easter Sunday and often felt that as the year unfolded that they were unworthy to receive communion. Now, thanks be to God, Eucharistic participation is wonderfully high. Thus, the Holy Name Society slowly ended.
Other more meaningful spiritual organizations have been formed. Cursillo Movement, the Christian Family Movement, Christ Renews His Parish and a half dozen other groups and organizations have come into existence. They call their members to a far more intense response to their faith in Jesus Christ and a far greater commitment to the faith life of the parish.
Regardless of which organization or movement a person belongs to, our goal must always be living in Christ and for Christ.
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Sunday, November 20th
Today is a glorious day in the life of the Church. It also brings to a close another liturgical year. The first and third readings are so inspiring that it is hard for me to choose one or the other today. I will try to touch on both even though the smallness of the space here can’t possibly do justice to the concepts that are unveiled before us today.
The Gospel excerpt is one of the most popular in the Christian community. It is that wonderful scene in Matthew’s 25th Gospel in which Jesus himself describes Judgment Day when He himself judges the nations, judges humanity, judges each and every one of us. What is His criteria for reward or failure? Simply, our commitment to our brothers and sisters, our willingness to help them, our willingness to sacrifice on their behalf. This text provides a great motivation to be both just and generous. We will all be there one day and we certainly do want to hear Jesus say to us, “Come you have my Father’s blessing!”
But let’s at least take a moment to look at the first reading from the book of Ezekiel, where the image is sheep, an enormous flock of sheep with Jesus as the shepherd. This text is written centuries before the birth of Jesus but the Church has applied it to Jesus himself as the shepherd of his flock, and that flock is the great community of faith also called the Church
In the final day of Judgment, the relationship between Jesus and his people is decided and the criteria is love and generosity. Let’s make the cut!
Viva Cristo Rey and Viva Christ the King!
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I really like the feast of All Saints and enjoy celebrating it. One reason is because the Feast of All Saints is a big tent feast. Everybody is in it. We are all together. While we haven’t achieved eternal life, we are certainly candidates for it. We are on our way, and most important today is that we are on our way together.
Another reason why I like the feast is that I grew up in a parish named All Saints. My mother was in the parish when it started in 1907. It was a young diverse Catholic community out on the northern edge of Houston and about three miles from downtown. Today, All Saints would be considered an inner-city parish but it has a lot of life. Gentrification has made it young again.
We are a very mobile society and over the course of several decades, Catholics might live in a good many parishes. That is understandable but there is a certain sadness to it, since it causes so many of us to be spiritually rootless.
All Saints was a marker in my life. My mother, father and three siblings were buried from that church. I made my First Communion, Confirmation and celebrated my first Mass as a priest at the altar of All Saints. Later, as a bishop, it would be the first church where I would celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. To me, All Saints in the Houston Heights is a sacred place that provided me with clear markers for my spiritual journey.
All Saints! Such a crowd. Think of it- millions, millions, and millions of men and women who faced an unbelievable range of difficulties and burdens in this life but maintained their faith in Jesus Christ or lived good lives according to their consciences. Not all the saints are saints at this moment. All of us are, however, on the journey to sanctity and we are on that journey together!
Special thanks to the young saints at my parish, St. Theresa’s here in Austin, pictured above.
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Throughout the liturgy of the Church year, celebrations in honor of Mary, the Mother of the Lord, appear since the earliest generation and it is still very true today. Today we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, which is the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life.
The early Church listened carefully and fervently what was said about Mary, the mother of Jesus. The 11th chapter of Revelations tells us that, “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” The early Church began to mull over their awareness that Jesus was born free of sin. They were struck with awe about the honor that had been given to his mother and the idea began to quickly spread. She also was free of original sin. During the Reformation, this view would be a cause of great dissension and controversy in the Christian community. It is a concept to which Roman Catholics have held since the first generations and holds to it strongly today.
A more practical thing to think about is that quote from Revelations. We talk about Mary being a queen, of course. We are using very human, earthy concepts. However, we need such concepts in order to flesh out this awesome reality. Mary is Queen of Heaven and earth. This title is thus an image that has nothing to do with eternal reality but it does give our minds an image of a sign in which to convey awesome power and authority. If we use such earthly terms, we must be conscious of their limitations. We are simply trying to say that if Mary is Queen of heaven, she exercises that role by standing beside her Divine Son.
Just as baptism makes us brothers and sisters of Jesus so faith in his wonderful mother provides yet another family tie. We are children of Mary. Luke’s Gospel tells us about Mary’s journey to visit Elizabeth. That scene presents us with that magnificent hymn which we call the Magnificat and in it, she states that, “all future generations shall call you blessed.”
This is certainly true as far as life within the Church is concerned. Hail Mary!
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Tomorrow is the Feast of Corpus Christi. The Church all over the world will be celebrating a central issue; the continued presence of our Divine Lord in the midst of his faithful people, a presence that is made possible by the Holy Eucharist. The Gospel will challenge us to place ourselves as simple pilgrims mixed in with that great multitude that had been following Jesus through the centuries. The Apostles will express concern that there are so many people and practically nothing to eat. Jesus challenges them to feed the people pointing out the reality of their helplessness. Then unfolds before their eyes the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.
The reformed liturgy that flowed into our lives with the Second Vatican Council has many beautiful aspects. One that I love the most is the Eucharistic procession on Sunday. We went from kneeling as isolated individuals at the communion railing to forming a living procession of faith, all of us moving together towards our blessed Lord and towards our eternal salvation. Let’s try and think of that more clearly on Sunday morning.
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