Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection, June 2, 2013: Give them some food...

What does it mean to break bread together? or to share a cup?

In our reading from Genesis this Sunday, the priest-king Melchizedek wants to befriend the nomad Abram.  His first step is to bring out bread and wine.  Blessing Abram and God alike, Melchizedek informs Abram that it is God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, who graces him.  And that relationship, as Psalm 110 reminds us, is forever – a faithful connection of relationship established between God and God’s priest-king, the ideal of whom is, of course, Jesus himself.

Jesus, too, breaks bread with others, participating in commensality as a way of teaching others to go forth and do the same, to be bread for one another.  He does this first, in Luke’s Gospel, in the feeding of the five thousand, taking the five loaves and the two fish, saying the blessing over them, breaking them, and giving them to his disciples – precisely the order of events we experience in Eucharist, at Mass.  Jesus also breaks bread with his disciples at the Last Supper.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul gives the community of Corinth the formal words of institution that Jesus used there:  This is my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.  This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. Christ, Paul suggests, continues to transform us and the world in the body and blood he shares with us – we are not only remembering the past, we are experiencing Jesus present with us in the moment, and we are sharing a hope for the future, a hope that we too will one day be seated at the messianic banquet.  In Eucharist, we are transformed.

When we participate fully in the Mass, Eucharist gives us grace and challenges us to go forth with new knowledge from our history to build God’s kingdom now, with our lives.  Everything we are flows to Eucharist, and everything we are flows from Eucharist; Eucharist is where God is most present and real to us as a Christian community.  Sharing the same bread, the same cup, thus represents a moment of intimacy, the intimacy of Eucharist, the intimacy of Thanksgiving – and when we are sent forth, transformed, we are to become what we have received:  bread for the world.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Christian God is not a lonely God

The Christian God is not a lonely God

Because the Christian God is not a lonely God, but rather a communion of three persons, faith leads human beings into the divine communion.  One cannot, however, have a self-enclosed communion with the Triune God – a ‘foursome,’ as it were – for the Christian God is not a private deity.  Communion with this God is at once also communion with those others who have entrusted themselves in faith to the same God.  Hence one and the same act of faith places a person into a new relationship both with God and with all others who stand in communion with God.  

If the Trinity is the very epitome of relational love, then (former Pope Benedict wrote):  The Church’s charitable activity [is] a manifestation of Trinitarian love... 'If you see charity, you see the Trinity,’ wrote Saint Augustine. 
--Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est

Each time the Spirit moves you to open your heart in love to another, 
you are acknowledging the consummate form of relational love 
that is the ever-elusive Trinity!  
Seems so simple…

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Parish Quilt On Display

A quilt of Our Lady of Mount Carmel made by master quilter and parishioner Gail Anguilo is on display at the Senior Art show at the Mill Valley Community Center from now until the end of May.  If you have never had a chance to appreciate the intricate details of this beautiful piece -- from bushes to individual bricks -- do stop by the Community Center this week and check it out!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection, May 26, 2013: The love of God has been poured out into our hearts...

Since it’s so, so hard to get one’s head around the idea of the Trinity (one God in three persons??), perhaps we might consider, this Trinity Sunday, simply recognizing that our belief in a Trinitarian God is to acknowledge a belief that love is relational.  The Trinity is relationship:  the love that is God captured in such completeness that that perfect union exists among the three members.  The Trinity makes the concept of God’s love for us a living idea – dynamic, not static.  It is always and everywhere in the process of being realized for us.  It will not leave us alone:  there is no rest, if you will, from the love of God.  And it’s not only a dynamic, it is the dynamic, giving creation its existence, giving us our very lives, so that we, too, might enter into relationship with God in preparation for the perfect union that is heaven.

How is all of this reflected in this Sunday’s readings?  In our reading from Proverbs, Wisdom (who will later be identifed with Jesus) is in relationship with God from the beginning of creation.  There is an intimacy between Wisdom and God, a closeness and commonality of will that is expressed in reciprocal love:  I was his delight day by day.  And it is through this relationship that God so clearly cherishes that we, humankind, were loved into existence at the creation of the world.  Moreover, within the beauty of that creation, Psalm 8 suggests, God graces mankind with a particular kind of dignity – You have made him little less than the angels – and with that dignity comes the responsibility to care for God’s creation as stewards over the works of God’s hands, vessels of God’s activity on earth.

Our reading from Romans clarifies the role Jesus himself plays in this relationship.  To be at peace with God, Paul tells us, is possible because Jesus has reconciled us to God through his death and resurrection, making access to God (and thus, relationship) available, if only our hearts are open to it.  Even our afflictions – an inevitable part of the journey through which the Spirit guides us – allow us to be drawn more deeply into the love that has been revealed by Christ.  What’s more, love, God’s gift, has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit – and that Spirit, John’s Gospel tells us, will guide us to all truth, the Truth that is God’s love.  This is not a once-over-and-done-with deal; it is the process of a lifetime that bears us ever onward toward perfect relationship, the perfect Trinitarian relationship the Son knows with the Father and with the Holy Spirit, the perfect relationship that we aspire to:  that is heaven.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Photo source

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why do we make the Sign of the Cross?

Why do Catholics make the Sign of the Cross as we enter and leave the church?

It’s such a simple gesture, one we often accomplish without thinking about it, yet crossing ourselves as we enter and leave the church is a powerful symbolic reminder of the identity the Spirit calls us to live as members of the Body of Christ. 

We are first marked by the Sign of the Cross at baptism, as a reminder that we are called to live our life for and in Christ.  Transformed by water and by the Holy Spirit, in baptism we become one with Christ, joining our body to the head that is Jesus.

When we enter the church, then, we dip our finger into the holy water font and make the Sign of the Cross ourselves, so that we might each remember what calls us together, namely, our communal participation in the sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist, that is at the core of our identity as Christians.  It is like our creed:  we are joined as one body by the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

And when we leave?  We dip our finger again, of course, but this time so that we might remember what we are called by the Spirit to be as we go forth:  a source of life-giving water, a revelation to others of the gift that is God’s love... 

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Pentecost Sunday Gospel Reflection, May 19, 2013: Receive the Holy Spirit...

At the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus tells the apostles that they will soon be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  And then, in chapter 2 of Acts, we have Luke’s version of Pentecost, when, as promised, the Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles with tongues as of fire, where fire is symbolic of a new beginning for them – a moment of radical transformation.  And then, just after the passage we hear at Mass this Sunday, Peter tells the crowd, Repent and be baptized, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… To what end?  So that they might proclaim, he says, the mighty acts of God.  Remarkably, that same gift – or set of gifts – that is the Holy Spirit is also meant for us today – and so is the radical transformation it entails!

In this Sunday’s Gospel from John, Jesus himself breathes on the disciples, saying, Receive the Holy Spirit.  As in the Creation story in Genesis where God breathes life into the world, Jesus’ breath confers new life upon the apostles, and they are radically changed, made new, as we, too, are made new each time we open ourselves to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives:  Lord, send down your spirit, and renew the face of the earth (Psalm 104).  And if we are open to that transformation, then the Holy Spirit will make it possible for us to proclaim – with courage and conviction – that Jesus Christ is Lord (1 Corinthians), a statement that speaks to our identity as the Body of Christ as strongly as the moment we make the Sign of the Cross when we enter church. United in one purpose, thanks to the Spirit, we are better able to live our newly transformed existence in the context of God’s infinite love, and to go forth to share that love with the world – the best proclamation possible of the mighty acts of God!

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Photo source