Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jesus is doing His works, rapture or no rapture.

5th Sunday of Easter A
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas

Amen. Amen. I say to you. Whoever believes in me will do the works I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.

Perhaps this line from Jesus is a small consolation prize for all of us who missed the rapture yesterday. The severe thunderstorm warning was not the end, at least not for us, and I'm planning on good weather today, not utter destruction, so that I can fish with my dad a little bit. But these words from today's Gospel of course are not meant to be a small consolation prize. What profound words at the end of the Gospel! Those of us who believe in Jesus will do his works, right here and right now - today! and will do greater ones than these, because He is going to the Father.

These lines from Jesus are important to my own vocation story. The opportunity to do his works, and greater ones if I might dare to believe him, helped to make the priesthood the answer to what I wanted to do with my life, and made everything else pale in comparison. To spend my life doing his works, sharing life with him, became the purpose of my life and the greatest joy of my heart.

Jesus offers in these lines a different picture than that painted by yesterdays rapture predictors, as pitiful as the prediction was. Christians are not to be selfish individualists, trying to predict that moment when God will finally put this world out of its misery and havy pity on a predestined few. No, this is a most impoverished view of Christianity. Christians instead are to be those who are doing the work of Jesus here and now, allowing Jesus, just as Jesus first allowed the Father, to be present and at work in them, with them, and through them. Without believing in Jesus' promise to come and to take us to the Father any less, nor desiring heaven, that place so beautiful that if we saw it we could never turn our gaze back to earth, any less, Christians are ready for heaven to come to earth not only in the most unpredictable of moments, but also in constant and enduring ways. More important than searching for that perfect moment when God will whisk us away to heaven, is to know that God wishes to make the present moment perfect by visiting his people and continuing his saving works in us, and with us and through us.

When those who have not yet met Jesus through the sacraments are able to laugh at Christians as superstitious and ultimately selfish, which happens whenever the rapture is falsely predicted, then the full proclamation of the Gospel suffers. God has made his dwelling place with men; this is the mystery of the Incarnation that we proclaim in all its fullness. God in becoming one of us has more reasons than anyone could count to be patient with us, as his patience is directed toward our salvation, and toward Jesus' desire to not lose one of those the Father gave Him. The prophetic urgency of the Christian then, is not only to proclaim that man is running out of time, but to proclaim with even more urgency the need to beg God for more time, so that he can continue his saving work in us, and with us and through us. This is what makes Christianity the most humanitarian of worldviews, and a faith that we must share urgently with those who have only the most superficial knowledge of the heart of Jesus Christ.

Let us be those who in addition to inviting the world to be ready for the rapture, and to trust in God not in themselves, invite those who are not yet members of the Church to become living stones in the spiritual house founded on the cornerstone who is Jesus Christ. This is the great humanitarian mission Jesus left us, while promising to work in us, with us and through us for the redemption of the entire world. Let us share the mission with joy as long as Jesus gives it to us, and let us ask Him urgently to give it to us more! and know ourselves most perfectly as a holy priesthood working together here and now as his Church, his mystical body, to build a heavenly kingdom that will not pass away.

Amen. Amen. I say to you. Whoever believe in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, for I am going to the Father.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I am the gate


4th Sunday of Easter

Good Shepherd Sunday and the World Day of Prayer for Vocations

15 May 2011

St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center

Amen, Amen I say to you. I am the gate for the sheep.

I am the gate for the sheep. We more familiarly know Jesus to be the good shepherd, and indeed he is. But in today's passage he repeats twice with emphasis that he is the gate. Anyone who does not use the gate, but climbs over the fence, is a thief and a robber.

Those who are called on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations to help Jesus shepherd his flock, especially those priests who long one day to be called a pastor, one who gathers God's family together, must pass through the gate that is Jesus. Jesus promised to be with his Church most perfectly through the gift of the Eucharist, so the Eucharist can be considered the gate through which a priest must come and go. A priest can be simply defined as a man who is always either celebrating the Eucharist or bringing people to the Eucharist. If this is true of a priest, then his vocation is authentic. He is a good shepherd. If this is not true, he is a thief and a robber.

The Eucharist is the gate through which every Catholic Christian comes and goes. To be sure, through the action of the Holy Spirit each one of us has a radically unique relationship with Jesus, which means that each of us is called by him to a vocation that is ours and no one else's. Yet to make sure that we are following Jesus' voice and not our own voice, we must follow him together. The Eucharist is the gate through which we come and go. The less our vocation is filtered through the gate of the Eucharist, the greater the chance that we are being led by thieves and robbers.

Whatever we feel called to do in life, must make sense in relation to Jesus' voice as we hear it at Mass, where the good shepherd is always giving his life for the sheep. Whatever I have decided to do with my life, must be able to be confirmed and deepened by Jesus' voice as we hear it at the consecration - this is my body, broken for you. This is my blood poured out for you.

It is often said that the moment after receiving the Eucharist is the best moment for discerning one's vocation. For it is at this moment that we are most inclined to hear Jesus' voice not with fear - not as do this because I told you so, or do that, or else - but with trust. We fear Jesus' voice when our pride tells us that Jesus cannot know us as well as we know ourselves, when our selfishness tells us that it would be foolish to turn any decisions over to him. We trust Jesus' voice when we realize he only desires to free us to be what we have always wanted to be, and to live a life of love that is measured by the beauty of his glorious cross. May Jesus then, fully present in the Eucharist, be the gate by which we come and go through life, and arrive at the true discernment of the vocation he has given to us, and to no one else.

Amen, Amen I say to you. I am the gate for the sheep.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mary, teach us how to go to Mass

3rd Sunday of Easter
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
8 May 2011
Daily Readings

The paschal victory of Christ which we celebrate during this long Easter season is a victory for yesterday, today and forever. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is for us a past, a present and a future. He is doing right now what he did yesterday, and what he will do tomorrow. The disciples on the road to Emmaus, in the aftershock of the paschal events, obviously needed a visit from the master to understand this new mixing of time.

The paschal event is the hour of history meant to contain all other hours, including the present moment. Jesus' suffering death and resurrection if it is be the hour of the world's redemption, must be an ever present hour, an hour that never fades as the clock of history keeps ticking. It must be an event that happened in real historical time but yet an event that never ends nor fades from memory like other events do. If this were not true, our doing this Eucharist in memory of the paschal event would be a futile exercise indeed, for none of us historically were there. The power of our memory is not what makes Jesus present right now. If the disciples who were the first to hear of the Resurrection were headed west instead of east just hours after these things had come to pass, what power could our distant memory of these events have to get us moving in the right direction?

The paschal events thus must themselves have the power to come forward in history, or they cannot accomplish what we need them to. This of course is the lesson of Emmaus. Before Emmaus, the empty tomb was confusing to the disciples. They did not know what to do. After Emmaus, confusion gives way to excitement that Jesus Christ is truly Risen, which means he is eager to visit his disciples. Being a Christian, then, cannot be a figuring out on our part what to do in response to a past event; no, it is an excitement of being visited by One who wishes to live his paschal events anew in us, and with us and through us.

We receive the Eucharist, then on Mother's Day, and we rejoice rightly now with Mary, mother of the Eucharist. For unlike the disciples on the road to Emmaus, our mother Mary was, is and will always be excited to show us how to be visited by Jesus. After someone in the crowd shouted 'Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that nursed you' Jesus gave his mother higher praise by saying 'Rather, blessed is the one who hears the word of God and observes it.' Jesus then teaches us how to honor all of our mothers, of course by praying for them and their vocation, of course by remembering to thank them for the irreplaceable and irreducible love that they have shown us, but most of all, by asking Mary the spiritual mother of us all to lead us in a fruitful reception this Sunday of the Holy Eucharist. What better thing could we do for our mothers than to receive the Eucharist with the same burning hearts of those first disciples? Mary, the pattern and perfection of motherhood, and of every Christian, always corrects those of us who might come to Mass proudly as one of the many things we need to do, toward her humble excitement that Jesus will acoomplish more in us, with us, and through us, that we could possibly hope for or imagine, if only we allow it to be done to us according to His word. May all mothers be blessed by Mary today, and like her help us to trust in God, and to remain with her on that beautiful path of suffering love that begets life that is stronger than death. Amen.