Friday, August 31, 2012

Catholic Q&A: Part 28

This post continues my series of short answers to common questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

Are you allowed to have two Eucharistic Adorations going on at once in a parish in two different locations? One for those who wish to adore in silence and one for a charismatic group?

Well, you can have Mass in one location and Adoration in a separate location at the same time, but I haven't heard of adoration in two different locations at the same time. There's no instruction against it (at least that I am aware of), but it is bad pastoral practice. The Eucharist is supposed to be a source of unity for a parish, not division. What you could do is have one extended period of adoration in one location during which you have two different periods of devotion - one for silent prayer, one for charismatic prayer - and one closing Benediction for both groups according to the rubrics. That would be more acceptable.

Did Jesus insult Herod when He called Herod a "fox"? (cf. Lk 13:31-32) I thought insulting another person was a sin.

I'm not so sure that Jesus was insulting Herod when He called Herod a fox. Herod was known for his shrewdness, and if anyone can stand in judgment of Herod it is Jesus.

Ever read Mt 23? Jesus goes off on the scribes and pharisees, calling them "hypocrites" six times (vs. 13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29), as well as "children of hell" (vs. 15), "blind guides" (vs. 16, 24), "blind fools" (vs. 17), "blind men" (vs. 19), "serpents" (vs. 33) and a "brood of vipers" (vs. 33)! But even here, the same thing applies. Jesus was standing in judgment of these people because He has the authority to do so. But we do not.

Now, this doesn't mean we should refrain from speaking the truth. But, we better make sure we are in full possession of it, and when we speak it, we should speak it with love (cf. Eph 4:15). Let Jesus be the one to stand in judgment of people. There are better ways to get your point across then by using insults. For example, instead of saying, "You're an a-hole", try saying, "You are being mean to me." Even less caustic insults, like "stupidhead" or "butthead" are not good to use, even if you simply think them or say them silently to yourself, because they foster hatred in your heart towards other people.

Does everyone outside the Church receive the grace necessary to lead them to the Church? If so, then why do so few people cooperate with it? What about those who don't seem to ever think of religion or the meaning of their life?

It would be more accurate to say that everyone receives the grace sufficient for salvation. Sometimes this salvation comes as a full member of the Church, sometimes it does not (since we believe as Catholics that it is possible for people of other ecclesial communions and religions to be saved).

Why do so few people cooperate with it? The reasons are probably too numerous to list. The most common causes are ignorance, sin (which clouds the mind and weakens the will), and the force of culture, environment, and upbringing.

As for those who never think about religion or the meaning of their life, they are certainly in a perilous position before God. But, there is always hope for such people, and we need to pray that the spark will light within their hearts (as it was lit within mine) that leads to repentance and conversion.

Is it acceptable for a priest or a male religious to think of himself as “married to Jesus”?

I've always understood the priesthood or the religious life to be a marriage to the Church. The priest or male religious represents Christ, and the Church therefore is his bride. However, it is also true that we are all called to the most profound union with God, and this relationship is often presented in the Bible in marital terms.

Many of the great mystics, fathers, and saints of the Church who were men spoke very openly of their tender affection for Christ, of wanting to kiss Him, caress Him, recline at His breast, etc. While none of this should be objectionable, it is also true that every man has to come to terms with his love for Christ as man, and this does not happen overnight. Until then, it may be helpful for the priest or male religious to consider his marriage as one with the Church, which is itself a very meaningful image.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Monday, August 20, 2012

John 6 and the RCIA Process

In most parishes across the country, the RCIA process is soon to begin. As such, my pastor gave me the opportunity to speak during his homily time (after he gave the homily, of course) during each of the Mass times over the weekend to encourage the parishioners to invite people to come and consider the Catholic faith.

In preparation for this short talk, I thought it might be good to look at what we've heard so far from John 6 and see what might apply. When I did, I was struck by something. Twice in yesterday's Gospel reading, Jesus says, "whoever eats this bread will live forever." He says it once at the beginning of the passage (vs. 51) and once at the end (vs. 58). By God, an inclusio!

In case you're wondering, an inclusio is a literary device in which the same word, phrase, or sentence appears both at the beginning and the end of a passage. The purpose is to emphasize that whatever is being repeated is in fact the main theme or message of the passage that it is bracketing.

As an apologist, I've often been tasked to defend the Eucharist. On such occasions, I've turned to John 6 more times than I can count. Yet, for some reason, I never noticed this inclusio before. What it means is that, for vs. 51-58, we need to come away with the truth that whoever eats this bread will live forever.

As much as the Bread of Life Discourse is about eating and about the true food that Jesus is, it is also very much about Jesus as the source of eternal life:
  • "Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life,* which the Son of Man will give you" (vs. 27).
  • "For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (vs. 33).
  • "Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst" (vs. 35).
  • "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day" (vs. 40).
  • "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life" (vs. 47)
  • "this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die" (vs. 50)
  • "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever" (vs. 51)
  • "Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you" (vs. 53).
  • "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day" (vs. 54).
  • "Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me" (vs. 57).
  • "This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever" (vs. 58).

As Catholics, we are privileged to receive this amazing food. How can we not want others to receive it, too? We all have people in our lives with the words of the crowd on their lips: "Sir, give us this bread always!" (vs. 34). This is where the RCIA comes in.

When you extend that invitation, when you step out in boldness and challenge someone to consider the Catholic faith, you are inviting them to a supernatural banquet. You are much like Wisdom from yesterday's Old Testament reading:
Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns;
she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
She has sent out her maidens; she calls
from the heights out over the city:
"Let whoever is simple turn in here;
To the one who lacks understanding, she says,
Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding." (Prov 9:1-6)
Doesn't every person long to come and dine at this table? With your invitation, you can satisfy that longing. You can point them in the direction of Wisdom's table. More than that, you can give them the eternal life that Jesus tells us over and over is firmly rooted in Him and the food that he provides. You can give them "forever"!

Seen in that light, this simple invitation becomes a very important one ... but do not be afraid! You are not asking anyone to convert tomorrow! You are asking him to come to one meeting, to give the Church Her say, to hear Her out, to see if he is not convinced by what She has to offer. If this person says, "No thanks", then at least you know that you have played your part. Then, move on to the next person! If just 10%, or even 1% of all the parishioners in the pews on Sunday asked one person to give the RCIA a try, you'd have a classroom full of inquiring minds!

It is possible. It can be done. It starts with you. Right now, ask yourself: Who might I ask to come and consider the Catholic faith? It could be a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend, a family member, even the person sitting next to you. RCIA does not happen unless everyone takes this invitation seriously. Do you have something special as a Catholic, or do you not? If you do, how could you not want to share it?

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, August 17, 2012

For the Feast of a Preacher

Before the reform of the General Roman Calendar today was the feast of St. Hyacinth. I like reading more about the saints of the old calendar. It's like meeting an amazing person for the first time. Of course, the lives of the saints are always interesting and edifying, regardless of how popular they may be today.

The Church's Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch provides the following information about St. Hyacinth:
While a canon at the cathedral of Cracow, Hyacinth journeyed to Rome, was impressed by the preaching and miracles of St. Dominic, and from the hand of Dominic himself received the habit of the newly-founded Order. Upon returning to his native land (1219), he established monasteries of his Order beyond the Alps at Friesach, Prague, Olmiitz, and Cracow.
From the Breviary we have this miracle. With three companions Hyacinth had arrived at the banks of the river Weichsel during their journey to Vischegrad, where they were expected to preach. But the waters had risen so high and had become so violent that no ferryman dared to cross. The saint took his mantle, spread it out before him, and with his companions rode across the raging waters. After saying his Office for the day, he died in 1257 with these words on his lips: "Into Your hands, Lord, I rest my spirit!"
That's some flying-carpet type stuff right there! Pretty amazing ... and I wouldn't presume to question its historicity. For more on the life of this great Dominican preacher, see the following links: Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Christ: The Source of Eternal Life

What did Jesus mean when He said that if we eat the bread from heaven we will not die? (cf. Jn 6:50-51)

In my post on last Sunday's gospel reading, I discussed how Jesus preserves us from hunger and from thirst. In today's gospel reading (Jn 6:41-51), we see that He even preserves us from death. But how?

First, we must identify this bread from heaven. What is it? Or, better yet, who is it? Jesus said earlier in Jn 6, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (vs. 33). Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life” (vs. 35). Jesus Himself is this bread. He is the one who has come down from heaven to give life to the world. And this is nothing new. Earlier in John’s gospel, Jesus already told us this:

“No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:13-15)

The newness comes in Jesus’ command that we must eat this bread in order to receive the eternal life that it provides. But, what does it mean to eat this bread? As I understand it, this notion of eating the bread from heaven develops as one progresses through chapter 6.

Jesus began by connecting eating with believing. In vs. 40, He said, “Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life.” And again in vs. 47, “Whoever believes has eternal life.” Yet, in vs. 50 and 51, He said, “This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” So, to “eat” is to believe in Him, since both lead to eternal life.

However, after vs. 51, we see that Jesus took the message one radical step further. Not only must you believe in Him, but you must actually eat His flesh and drink His blood. We will hear these “hard sayings” in next Sunday’s gospel. My point here is only to say that to “eat the bread from heaven” means both to believe in Him and to consume the Eucharist.

Now that we know what this means, we can finally answer the initial question. Eating the bread from heaven gives us eternal life in that:
  1. He who believes in Christ, not just intellectually but wholeheartedly, follows Him and strives for the life of grace that leads to eternity in heaven; and
  2. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive the grace that we need to live that life of grace and holiness.
Yes, one day we will all die. Yet, if we stay close to Jesus, especially in the Eucharist, our souls will live on forever with Him, and when He comes again, our bodies will be glorified.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Christ: The One Who Satisfies

In today’s gospel reading (Jn 6:24-35), Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst" (vs. 35). Yet, Christians still hunger and thirst. What gives?

I think there are at least three ways to understand this passage. Perhaps we could call these the natural, sacramental, and supernatural meanings of the passage.

Regarding the needs of this world, the natural meaning of the passage, we believe that God can and does provide for His children. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Mt 7:11). “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Mt 6:26). “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' ... But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:31, 33). God will give us what we need.

From a sacramental point of view, could this not also be a reference to the Eucharist? We are in John 6 after all! We’re building up to the “hard sayings” of Jesus, through which He tells the crowd that His flesh is food indeed and His blood is drink indeed. So, when we read in vs. 35 of coming to Jesus and never growing hungry or thirsty, we should see here that Jesus is beginning to outline his intention for giving us the Eucharist. He wants to feed us and sustain us with it, both physically and spiritually. Jesus taught us to pray for “our daily bread.” This is it, folks.

Finally, there is a supernatural meaning to Jesus’ words. We could also call this the eschatological meaning, since it very much concerns the end times. We are all well aware of the fact that many people, even though they have come to Jesus, still grow hungry and thirsty. In this life, we get hungry, we eat, we’re not hungry anymore, but after a while we grow hungry again. It will always be this way … until Jesus comes again. On that day, everyone who is with Christ will receive a glorified, perfect, incorruptible body. On that day, there will truly be no more hunger, no more thirst, no more sickness or suffering or weakness or weariness or imperfection of any kind.

But we have to come to Jesus. Now. And we have to stay with Him. Keep on asking, seeking, knocking. Keep on praying for your daily bread. Keep on receiving the Lord in the Eucharist with a pure heart. Then, when Jesus comes again, the words that He has spoken in today’s reading will truly come alive for you.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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