Friday, April 30, 2010

It's not where it's who

Friday of the 4th Week of Easter
30 April 2010
Year for Priests

For daily readings click here

Where are you from? A lot of times when we meet someone new that is our first question. Where were you born? Where do you live? Have you done any traveling? It is a way to find out if we have anything in common, if we've ever lived close to another person or perhaps if we know some of the same people. Many people love to travel. It is easy to get excited for a big trip, or a long trip. It is fun to see new places.

Of course heaven is a place we to which we would all like to travel. Its promise is greater than anything we can imagine, far beyond even the greatest trip we could plan on this earth. Even greater than any space travel we could conjure up. Jesus is previewing for his disciples in today's Gospel that He will do some traveling in the near future unlike the traveling the disciples are used to. In fact, they will think that they have lost Him, that He has gone away on a trip to which they are not invited. Jesus tells them not to worry. That He will come back and take them to where He is. He tells them to have faith, and to not let their hearts be troubled. He tells them to ponder deeply what they have learned, and they will know the way themselves.

Thomas calls his bluff. He tells Jesus to quit speaking obscurely. He tells Jesus that they have no idea what He is talking about. Thomas is right, in a sense, that where Jesus is going is not a place in an ordinary sense of place. The disciples do not know the way to a place where they have never been. Jesus answers Thomas' good question by saying that heaven is more of a person than a place. I am the way, the truth and the life, He says. No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus reveals through Thomas' question that there is no such thing as place unless there is first a person. The reason there is somewhere rather than nowhere is that love is the ground of all reality. Love is ultimate reality, and all creation and all persons and all places flow from the person of God, who is Love. Jesus reminds his disciples that if they know God, and if they know how to love, they will always know the way.

The Gospel dialogue for today reminds us that as we come to know other people, and to let ourselves be known, the most important question, a question that lies behind where are you you from, and where do you live, and where are you going, is the question of who do you love the most, and who loves you the most? If love is the ground of all being, there is no identity for us, no matter where we have traveled, apart from these fundamental relationships of love.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Introducing people to Jesus

Tuesday of the 4th Week of Easter
27 April 2010
St. Lawrence Catholic Center

For daily readings. click here

Everyone should be an RCIA sponsor at some point. There are few better ways to strengthen one's faith than to pass that faith on to another. We make converts differently now than we did during the days of the first disciples. We hear in today's reading from Acts the disciples having great success making converts. Those first disciples had seen the Lord, and they were eager to introduce others to Him. They were eager to teach people how to be in a real relationship with Jesus Christ who had risen from the dead. In the early days, they did not have as large a tradition to teach as we do today, but they likely spent even more time than we do in RCIA talking about Jesus Christ, who He is and how to be in an enduring relationship with Him. They had a smaller tradition to teach, but they were making tradition by sharing with others their relationship with Jesus. They were called Christians - the ones who belong to Christ. They knew Him well, they were intimate friends with Him, so much so that they were convinced that in building community, they were introducing people not so much to themselves, but to Jesus.

In the same way, being an RCIA sponsor, or evangelizing at any level, is more than just teaching someone how to be Catholic. Evangelization today has to have a striking similarity to evangelization at the beginning. It is taking interest in another person, and letting them get to know you, confident that if your own relationship with Christ is strong, that in meeting you they will really be meeting Christ. Jesus says as much to those who are trying to figure out who He is. In saying that He and the Father are one, Jesus is inviting those who seek to know Him that in knowing Him the person they are meeting just as much is the Father. The difference between evangelization and proselytizing is seen clearly in today's Gospel. Jesus is not commanding obedience to an answer to the question of who He is. He is eliciting faith, by inviting those questioning Him to get to know Him, by drawing upon their relationship with the Father who sent Him.

So it is with us who evangelize today. Evangelizing is not so much about convincing others of the truth of Catholicism, although this is important. It is not so much about teaching another person the ways to be Catholic, although this is important. It is entering into meaningful relationships with others, confident that in letting ourselves be known, those who love us will not fall in love with us as much as they will fall in love with Jesus Christ, who is at the heart of who we are.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Simply following Jesus

4th Sunday of Easter
Good Shepherd Sunday and World Day of Prayer for Vocations
25 April 2010
St. Michael the Archangel Vocation Luncheon

For daily readings, click here.

Listen and follow. Sounds simple. But oftentimes, the simplest things turn out to be the hardest. Keeping simple things simple is hard. Ask any parent if it is easy to get their children to listen and to follow. No, you can practice millions of times, and still not be very good at it. Ask any teacher if it is easy to get children to listen and to follow. Ask any pastor if it is easy to get children to listen and to follow. Nothing could be simpler. Listen, and follow. Yet ask any vocation director if he is having any luck in teaching young people how to listen to Jesus and how to follow His voice, and you will find out, if you didn't already know, that even though it seems simple, it is hard. What is worse, it's not only hard for children. Sometimes, its even harder for adults.

I know my sheep. In the end, we follow the voice of someone who knows us. If I think only I know myself, I will only follow my own voice, and no one else's. We disobey our parents because we think we know better. I ask teenagers all the time if they would allow their parents to pick out who they should date for them, or better yet, who they should marry. It is a reasonable question, but the teenagers react violently. No way would I let my mom or dad pick out who I should date or who I should marry. When pressed, they say that mom or dad, yes, the very people who changed their diapers and have watched them most closely from day one, just don't know them well enough. Our relationship with Jesus becomes complicated for this very reason. We don't simply listen to Him, nor do we simply follow Him, because at some point we decided Jesus doesn't really know us. We think it impossible for Jesus to know us better than we know ourselves.

Yet in choosing not to listen to Jesus something tragic happens in our lives. We lose the very best way to know ourselves. Too often, we experience the voice of Jesus as a voice that is trying to turn us into somebody we are not. The voice of Jesus can be experienced not as a voice of love, but as a voice of challenge. Be this, or else. Do this, or else. It can be a voice of which we are deeply afraid, a voice that leads to a tiresome tug of war between our will and God's will for us. There are few things scarier for our young people than to be invited by our Church to consider a calling to the priesthood or religious life. Such a invitation is experienced not as love, not as an invitation toward self-discovery, but as pressure to become somebody they are not. It is scary as all get out, and when I was asked to consider a vocation at a very young age, I told my mom to leave me alone.

But following the voice of Jesus is not supposed to be scary. It is only scary to the degree that we are prideful and sinful. The voice of Jesus represents for us the very best way for us to discover who we really are. Jesus' voice is not a voice of become somebody you are not, but is a voice of one who loves us and knows us and believes in us. His voice is an invitation to discover who we really are, and to not settle for anything less than the very best that is within us.

Today's Gospel assures us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and following His voice means eternal life for us. This eternal life that we receive more and more deeply as we go through the Easter season is a life that since it is no longer measured by days and hours, cannot be touched by sin and death. It consists simply in listening to God and following Him, trusting that our lives are held together forever by God's love through which all things were made and by which all things are sustained. Whenever we choose to listen to our own voice, it is a decision by us to measure our lives by a standard other than love, and to try to capture a life for ourselves that is measured and is under attack by sin and death, rather than to trust Jesus' promise that His love is the only security we should hope for, for no one can take us out of His hand.

This parish, and its leaders and its families, must somehow become better at refusing to adulterate the words of eternal life that Jesus speaks. I know that, his being a close friend of mine, that Fr. Bill's desire is that this parish would find a way to intensify Jesus' words to trust His voice and to follow Him more closely, and that this trust would be born of a personal experience of God's merciful love. Fr. Bill has always shared with me that even as this parish has passed with flying colors many tests in the last 11 years in showing its heart to God and to the greater community, that another great test lies in whether this parish might raise up many vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the future, even in a climate that seeks to discourage our young people from accepting these beautiful vocations from Jesus.

So today on World Day of Prayer for Vocations, so designated by our Holy Father, we renew our commitment to trying to do a hard thing, listening to Jesus and following Him, as simply as we can. To do this, we must stop trying to make Jesus the center of our lives, and trust more deeply that we are at the center of His life. We must stop asking our young people to put Jesus in their backpacks, and to bring Him along for the ride, and instead have the courage to teach them to respond to a call that will make them infinitely more happy; leave everything, and follow me. We must stop trying to recruit our young people according to the needs of our Church, and instead we must as parents, pastors and teachers show them how to pray, and where they can encounter the voice of Jesus. If we teach our young people how to pray, we will never have to talk them into the priesthood or religious life. It will be impossible to talk them out of it. Finally, as parents, we must do better than telling our kids to do whatever makes them happy, and must instead tell them how happy we would be if Jesus who knows them and loves them even more perfectly than we do would invite them to a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Obedience born of love

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Easter
18 April 2010
St. Lawrence Catholic Center

For daily readings, click here

We are hearing this weekend on the 3rd Sunday of Easter from the very end of John's Gospel. John's Gospel doesn't have a long Pentecost narrative. No fires of tongue or great wind. No dramatic birth of the Church. No great commission - go out into the whole world, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them everything I commanded you, knowing that I am with you until the end of the world. No, the great commissioning in John's Gospel is a breakfast meeting after Jesus is raised from the dead. It ends up with a private instruction to Peter, wherein he is asked to confess His love, and then to follow Jesus wherever He may lead.

Peter receives at the end of John's Gospel the same invitation he heard when he first met Jesus. Follow me. Two words. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is discipleship - to be a follower of Jesus. It is a discipleship born of love. It is obedience born of love. We follow Jesus because we love Him. Christianity in the end is not a philosophy, a morality, an ideology or a culture. It is anot a recipe or instruction manual. It is a decision to follow a person, Jesus, and to follow Him together as His bride, the Church. It is a decision to love a person Jesus, so much so that even when our discipleship costs us more than we could ever imagine it would, still the sacrifice is easy for us, so rich is our love. So deep is our friendship and our communion of love with Christ, that discipleship even when it looks hard on the suface, is easy for us.

In John's Gospel, there is no great distinction between discipleship and apostleship. They appear on the surface to be distinct. A disciple follows. An apostle is sent. A disciple is obedient, going only where the teacher goes, saying only what the teacher says. An apostle is sent out as a representative, going to new places where the teacher has not been and meeting people the teacher has not met. Yet in John's Gospel, the apostles, those who would go out into the whole world and tell the good news of Jesus' Resurrection, receive the same commissioning through Peter that they received when they first became disciples. Follow me.

The way John handles the end of his Gospel will be important for us to remember as we transition in this Easter season toward Christ's Ascension and Pentecost. It is important to keep in mind as we read through the amazing Acts of the Apostles, like we did in today's first reading. The apostles, buoyed by their experience of the Risen Christ, and inflamed by the Holy Spirit, will begin to go out to the end of the world to proclaim the Good News of redemption in Christ Jesus, and their successors will eventually gather greater crowds than Jesus Himself ever gathered. The apostles will fulfill Jesus' prediction that they will do greater things than He Himself did. But in all of this, we must never forget that the Jesus who sends them also goes before them. Even in going out to new places after His Ascension, they are still fulfilling Jesus' command to follow Him, and they are being led by Him to places where alone they would never choose to go. What we see in the apostles is a radical obedience to Christ, doing only what He tells them to do, nothing more and nothing less. It is an obedience born of personal love for Jesus. Being an apostles is an imitation of Christ who came not to do His own will, but only what He saw the Father doing. Jesus said to his disciples only what He heard His Father saying. In the same way, in going out to the end of the world, the apostles say only what they hear from Jesus. They do only what they see Jesus doing within them. In love they are one with the Lord, just as in love Jesus Himself is one with His Father and the Holy Spirit.

There is a certain collapsing in John's Gospel between discipleship and apostleship. On the outside, they seem distinct. There was a time when the disciples listened to and observed Jesus. There was a time after His Resurrection when they began to build the kingdom themselves. But on the inside, there is never such a distinction. They are always being obedient to Christ. The great commission to be an apostle is in the end a challenge to be the best disciple one can be.

Today we hear of career fisherman taking fishing instructions from a carpenter. At least by way of career training, Peter and his fellow apostles would have more expertise in fishing than Jesus. Yet both before and after Jesus' Resurrection, Jesus the amateur tells the pros where to cast the nets. And bingo - they catch a lot! We see in today's Gospel, that in taking up our mission to make the redeeming love of Christ more present in the world, and to make His light shine through the darkness of sin and death, so that man might have life and have it in greater abundance, the most important thing for us is to be the best disciple we can be. It is not up to us eventually to tell Jesus what we are good at, or how we can help Him the most with His mission. Jesus called fisherman and tax collectors, guys who were the least qualified, to establish a Church that would last until the end of time. It is Christ who will provide the fruitfulness of our lives. Do we believe this? Do we trust this? Do we know this because of our love for Christ? The question for us is whether we trust Him enough to dare to go where we would not go. The question if whether we love Him enough to allow Him to call us to a vocation that we would not choose for ourselves. Or if we are in a vocation, to be more faithful to that vocation than we ever thought we would be. Or better said, the question is whether we will allow Him to love us enough to call us to feed his sheep.

As vocation director for the Archdiocese, I know how complicated vocational discernment can be. For most guys, for example, it takes years, if not decades, to overcome their fears of being called to be priests. Yet today's Gospel helps us to boil it down to what is essential. Do we love Jesus enough, when He asks us personally if we love Him, to follow Him? If we can be a disciple, it is easy to be an apostle.

Monday, April 12, 2010

a weekend with family, celebrating God's gifts

This weekend I was able to travel to Park, Colby and Hoxie, Kansas. Little towns, Park being the littlest, but the towns in which I still have family residing. Saturday was my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. I was able to say the Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Park, Kansas, a beautiful old gothic red brick church where so many of my family's sacraments have been celebrated. My grandparents, Leo and Eulalia Ochs, were married there 60 years ago, and what an amazing and fruitful life they have had. What a privilege for their grandson to thank them for the gift of life, the gift of faith, and the challenge that lies before us who wish to honor them by living lives as fruitful as theirs have been. The night flew by, as we watched a video of memories about my mom's side of the family, and celebrated a family that really gets along so beautifully.

Sunday I was at Sacred Heart parish in Colby, Kansas for my niece's (also my goddaughter) first communion. I hope to get some pictures up soon. What a privilege once again, to be able to give Meghann Leigh Elling her first communion, and to spend another special sacrament on back-to-back days with my family. We are proud of Meghann and of her family, my sister Shauna's family, who live such generous lives of faith!

It was a weekend I felt especially blessed to have such strong roots! I am blessed to be from such a strong family!

Supernatural gifts

Monday of the 2nd Week of Easter
12 April 2010
St. Lawrence Catholic Center

Cardinal George of Chicago just published a book - The Difference God Makes! In it, he attempts to answer the question that any believer must answer. How is your life different because God exists? During our 50 day celebration of Easter, a better question would be, "How is your life different because Jesus Christ is truly Risen from the dead?'

We reflect on this question in the context of reading continously during this Easter season, as we do each year, from the Acts of the Apostles. The apostles are changed men, after having seen the Risen Lord. The biggest change is a lack of fear. Instead of running from persecutors, Peter and John in today's selection rejoice that they have been chosen to be accused in the same way Jesus was. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter and John instead of running, are saying 'bring it on!' They welcome every chance to give witness to the Lord's Resurrection, that sin and death have been definitively defeated.

Such is the life of the Christian who has been born again in baptism, as Jesus teaches Nicodemus he must be. Grounded in the virtues, which keep sin from making us afraid of losing our earthly life that must end in death, we launch from our practice of the virtues to fly with the wings of the Holy Spirit, being open to the reality that God who first created the world is far from done, but is re-creating the world at every moment through the victory won by Christ! We Christians are set free by this victory, and become men and women whose lives are like the wind, in some ways measurable, but in many ways unpredictable, as we lay hold of this life begun in baptism that can no longer be measured in years. Our lives, if we have died with Christ and now seek the things that are above, must no longer conform to what is below, but must shine like bright lights that continue to scatter with Christ the darkness of sin and death!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Sunday
4 April 2010
St.Lawrence Catholic Campus Center

Today, it is easy to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it should be! What a beautiful day we gather to celebrate! Christ is truly risen from the dead, just as He said! Alleluia! Alleluia! Our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus is supported by the change from winter to spring, by the new growth of flowers and trees and grass that seemed to be dead, but are now alive. But as we know, we are here to celebrate something much, much more than the circle of life found in nature. We are here to celebrate an altogether different kind of life, a life made possible because Jesus won the definitive victory over sin and death, a life that is in every way eternal, a life that sin and death cannot touch. This faith in the historical and real Resurrection of Jesus has been passed down to us by a great cloud of witnesses, beginning with Mary Magdalene and passing with great care and with tremendous sacrifice by the apostles and saints to our ancestors, all the way to our grandparents and to our godparents, who professed this faith with us or for us on the day of our baptism, when we first received this gift of eternal life. It is easy to believe in the Resurrection today, joined as we are by 150,000 new members of our Church in the United States alone, supported by the beautiful liturgy of the Church, with its sights and sounds and prayers that renew the heart and mind, and gathered with family and friends with whom we pray about what is most important, that life and love are stronger than sin and death! Christ is truly risen from the dead, just as He said! Alleluia! Alleluia! Happy Easter to all!

Today it is easy to believe in the Resurrection. Tomorrow it will be harder. We all know this. For everything we experience today that strengthens our faith in the Resurrection we know there are countless experiences elsewhere that threaten that same faith. We belong to a Church of undeniably inspiring saints, who make faith in the Resurrection so much more real to us. The Church is holy, and She will always be so! That same Church is also home to scoundrels. Sometimes even Her leaders, those trusted most to be examples of God and stewards of His love and salvation, instead have abused the innocent. The need of our Church for purification, and to be called to justice and to make amends, is far from over. With the great progress we have made, with our Church currently being the safest place for children, and with reports of new abuse being virtually non-existent, there is still more to do. Any scandal in our Church makes our proclamation of the Resurrection limp. It is shameful and makes it difficult to share outside of Church the eternal life that we know to be true on Easter Sunday. As a result, our tradition seems easier to ignore, and although our Church continues to grow because of the great spirit of evangelization that is Her mission and life, adding 150,000 new members last night alone throughout the United States, we can note that the fasting growing segment, percentage wise, of the US population are those who claim no religious affiliation at all. What is more, we do not have to go far to hear the arguments of those who have passed from atheism to anti-theism, and who would rather see the Church eradicated than purified, and who mock our beautiful faith in the Resurrection, seeing it as a naive response to fear of death, and ulimately our story as a myth that keeps us fearing a God that does not exist, and is ultimately harmful to human progress. Today it is easy to believe in the Resurrection. Tomorrow it will be harder.

Which makes it all the more important for us today, on Easter Sunday, to know what this eternal life is that we gather to celebrate, as precisely as we can, so that we can truly live it and share it. Against those critics who would see us as immaturely clinging to myths, and fearing Hell, in the hopes that we can get a ticket to a magic life somewhere, somehow, we must profess our faith in an eternal life that we already know and possess and live and share, the life opened for us by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is a life that is not magical, nor is it a life that can be measured by human reason or science. St. John says that this is eternal life, to know the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. You see, eternal life is something really different. It is not time, it is relationship. Eternal life for us is not an unlimited number of days and hours and minutes that somehow add up to eternity. When you add more days and hours, you never get to eternity, you just get more days and hours. Life that is measured is life that ends in death. Eternal life is something different. It is life without measure. Jesus says that whoever seeks to save his life, will lose it, but whoever loses his life, will save it. Which is another way of saying that whoever is measuring His life is already dead. Whoever is measuring days and hours knows nothing of eternal life. Anyone who follows Jesus Christ in the vain hope of getting more days and hours is a most pitiable person indeed, and we are rightfully mocked if in a continuation of this world only, we have placed our hope.

To lay claim to the eternal life that we celebrate on Easter Sunday, the axiom that you do not really start living until you find something worth dying for comes into play. Yet Easter Sunday is more than a spiritual truth that can be found in other religions or philosophies as well. Easter Sunday is the culmination of a real historical story when God entered human history through the incarnation, so that we would no longer be confused about who God is. God did not create us in order to serve Him, He created us out of love, and the cross of Jesus Christ shows something remarkable, that it is not our ultimate duty to please God, but God has made it His ultimate duty to serve us. On the cross, we see the beginning of eternal life, in Christ who out of love had quit measuring His life. On the cross, we begin to see eternal life for what it really is - it is relationship. Because of the cross, eternal life is not something that we are on a quest to earn from God, it is a relationship that begins not with our finding something worth dying for, but in accepting that God took up our human nature and died out of love for us. For the Christian, then, the quest for eternal life is not a contest to see who can live the longest, nor is it a magic trick to fly away and become a spirit or angel. No, the empty tomb is a confirmation that eternal life is a life that while, being fully human, is no longer capable of being measured by time and space. Eternal life is relationship with Jesus Christ, who once was dead, but dies no more, who is the way, the truth and the life.

This eternal life is something we reclaim today once again as we make our baptismal promises. The gift of eternal life is something we received at our baptism. In renouncing sin and choosing to be in relationship with God, we are saying that death is ultimately necessary not because God made it so, or science demands it, but that we who do not always love cannot and should not always live. Rather than stoically resigning ourselves to death today, we choose to die young, knowing that he who chooses to die young heroically lives much longer than one who chooses to grow old selfishly! Whenever we reject sin, we choose to grow younger, and to lay hold of eternal life, for sin is nothing more than a decision to measure life, and to calculate whether or not to return the love we have received from Christ Jesus. In renewing our baptismal promises, we lay hold of a life that can no longer be measured by science or philosophy, as great and as helpful as these are in helping us understand how to be human. But in renewing our promises, we say with faith and great conviction, that man is no longer the measure of love, but because eternal love has truly become man, love is the measure of man. Jesus Christ is the measure of whether we are truly alive! Today we recommit ourselves to our baptism into the death of Christ, and dying to sin with Him, we open ourselves to the reality of a life that is born of relationship with Him, who never sinned. We open ourselves once again to the gift of eternal life, a gift we received yesterday, a gift we receive today, and a gift we receive tomorrow, in a future in which God has promised to re-create the world through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus Christ is risen, just as He said! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The humble institution of the Eucharist

Homily for Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper
1 April 2010
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center

For daily readings, click here

Just when we think our Lord cannot humble Himself any more, out of love for His disciples, He humbles Himself even further.

The institution of the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist that we mark with special solemnity tonight is an extreme extension of the mystery of the Incaration. An extreme extension. Consider this.

At the annunciation, we celebrate the improbable leap that God, who is beyond all time and space and materiality, is conceived among us in time and space, so that we might see His face and not die, but truly live. This human nature is received by God from a woman, and not some ordinary woman, but a sinless virgin, a virgin kept sinless from the moment of Her conception by the grace of the Son she conceived. An improbable story, to be sure, an amazing condescension by God to be present to His people, but a sure bet in one sense, being conceived in the womb of a woman so incomparably perfect. Tonight, as you will see quite readily, Jesus is conceived again and brought forth through the intercession of Mary, mother of the Church, to be sure, but more proximately by three men who are unlike Mary in both gender and sinlessness. Jesus is brought forward physically in time and space again not through the yes of a sinless virgin, but by holy words repeated by sinful men. Talk about trading a sure thing, the incarnation, for a risky venture, the institution of the Holy Eucharist. In this sacrament Jesus gives the Church tonight, Jesus extends His humble birth and trusts ordinary and fallible men to make Him indefectibly present. Whenever we think God cannot humble Himself any more for our salvation, He humbles Himself even more.

When Jesus gave his innocent body into the hands of sinful men to be scourged and crucified, He knew what He was doing, even as He prayed for those who knew not what they did. In the Eucharist instituted by our Lord on this holy night, He arranged that until the end of time His innocent body would be given to sinful men for their salvation by sinful men, His chosen priests, who do not know what they are doing. For as the Cure of Ars, the universal patron of priests has said, if a priest knew what he was doing he would die. Well, I do not expect tonight's Mass to be the Mass when one of the three of us priests will fully realize for the first time what we are doing, but if it happens, don't worry about us - what a way to go! On Good Friday, Jesus knew what He was doing, giving His body over to be crucified. Yet He trusts His Church on Holy Thursday to offer His body again and again, even though we can never fully understand what we are doing.

What is more, Jesus offered Himself along the via crucis in that sinless human nature He received from Mary. This nature, like Mary's, was fully alive, the glory of God revealed in a man fully alive! It is through this nature, the highest nature created by God, the only nature made in His image and likeness, and a nature filled with grace, through which Jesus revealed His divine nature. And yet still, many who looked at Him were unable to answer the question, who do you say that I am? Yet instead of increasing the supernatural signs and wonders that would reduce our need to trust in God's love for us by faith, Jesus institutes the Eucharist, and joins His person to something much more ordinary than a perfect human nature received from a sinless virgin, He joins His person to bread and wine. Instead of forcing us to believe in Him, Jesus instead humbles Himself to purify and deepen our faith, making Himself perfectly and really present, if yet under a veil - body, blood, soul and divinity - through the ordinary and universal elements of bread and wine. Whenever we think God cannot humble Himself any more out of love for us and for our salvation, He does. When He has every reason to stop appearing to his disciples who do not recognize who He is, He arranges to be present all the more through the Eucharist. As hard as it was for many to recognize Him, and as hard as it remains for us disciples to recognize Christ in each other, Christ humbles Himself even more and makes Himself present through a species even easier to ignore than the human person, through the Eucharistic species of bread and wine. We see this in the millions of lapesed Catholics, and the lack of unity that we have as Christians, how easy Christ has made Himself to ignore by choosing to make Himself present through bread and wine. Yet He does because He is more humble than we can imagine. He knows the gift of faith that has been given to us, and He believes in us to respond to His Resurrection in an even greater way than Thomas did, who placed His hands in our Lord's side! Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed!

When Jesus ascended Calvary, so frightening was the spectacle, that most of His disciples, and almost all of the apostles, fled. They denied knowing Him. They locked doors in fear. Yet Jesus in His love for his disciples, does not abandon them, but goes through locked doors, appears to them after His resurrection, sends them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and most of all, as we celebrate tonight, asks those disciples to remember Him through the breaking of the bread. Rather than going away from His disciples even though yesterday, today and tomorrow His disciples did, and do, and will go away from Him, Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist goes ahead of his disciples. Through His gift of the Eucharist, those who flee Calvary can find that Christ has gone before them to Lawrence, and New York, and London, and Moscow, and Tokyo and Johannesburg. Those of us who refuse to go where Jesus is, and who ask to be let off of His cross, find that in the sacrament of the Eucharist Jesus has gone to where we are. As the psalmist says - Where can I go from your love? If I climb the heavens you are there, if I go down to Hell, you are there, if I take the wings of the dawn, and fly to the sea's farthest end, you are there! What is more, He makes Himself small enough in the Eucharist, that those of us who will not leave our place in order to go to Bethlehem or Calvary, have the dignity of having Jesus come most intimately under our roof, though we are not worthy to receive Him.

My friends, tonight is not in the end about whether we can muster enough faith to believe that Christ is truly present - body, blood, soul and divinity - in the Eucharist He instituted on this most holy night. That is important, yes, to find our faith, but not as important as seeing with wonder and awe how God, just when you think He cannot humble Himself anymore, out of love for his disciples and for our salvation, does just that! As the Lord washes our feet tonight, may we see Him anew in the Holy Eucharist as the one who has truly come among us, in ways we can hardly believe, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many! +m