Saturday, June 25, 2011


Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ

26 June 2011

St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas

Daily Readings

The grace present in a single Eucharist received by one person is enough to save the entire universe. This is true. It might be hard to believe, given that billions of Eucharists celebrated and received across the world for centuries, are easy enough to ignore. The grace of a single Eucharist is enough to save the world, and the grace of the Eucharist has indeed saved the world already, although the world does not fully know it. Which makes it all the more amazing that I can receive the Eucharist today doubting that I will change very much. I may receive the Eucharist a thousand times or more across the span of my life, and not change very much, at least as far as I can tell.

Part of this is Jesus' fault, of course. He does not force our conversion. Just as the Lord did not force the conversion of the Israelites, who like us were more afraid of conversion than slavery, so too Jesus did not force the faith of the Jews who were skeptical of his claim to give his flesh as real food. At least the Jews were honest, saying they did not believe what Jesus was saying, and realizing that to accept Jesus' words is to accept what the Cure of Ars said about the Eucharist - that if I realized what was really present in the Eucharist, I would die. The Jews, like us were not ready quite yet for this vertical unmeasured life that lies on the other side of death. They realized maybe better than us sometimes that Jesus is either crazy or the way, the truth and the life. They found no middle ground in his words like we do. To receive the bread of which Jesus spoke was to enter into a new faith, and profound conversion. The Jews who first rejected the Eucharist were more honest that we who receive the Lord without much hope of changing. Jesus allows this of course, hiding himself perfectly in a sacrament so ordinary, begging for our faith, allowing Himself to be ignored virtually every time, while never ceasing to believe that in this Eucharist right now a saint can be born, a beyond all odds at this moment a unity in love might be achieved that produces the extraordinary gift of eternal life. If there is one chance in a million, one chance in a hundred billion, that today's Eucharist will produce a saint, Jesus will allow Himself to be spent completely and made present perfectly - body, blood, soul and divinity - by the words of an ordinary priest.

In one sense, 75% of Catholics not receiving the Eucharist regularly is honest, for who of us receives the Eucharist worthily? Yet, of course, in the more important sense, such a statistic is a great tragedy, for most people avoid the Eucharist not out of humility, but out of pride, and an unwillingness to become what we receive in the Eucharist. In rejecting the Eucharist, we pridefully reject the sacrament of unity that will remain forever the surest path to the redemption of every human heart that this world will ever know. If we can imagine a love that the greater chance it will be rejected, the more readily and humbly that love gives itself, then we have discovered the Eucharist. In the Eucharist is that same perfect love that created everything out of nothing, and the same perfect love that even more powerfully recreates a human heart and renews its desire to live in perfect love. To give up on the Eucharist, is to surely give up on ourselves and our neighbor. May we set our pride aside and admit in this Eucharist, that no matter how likely it is that I will become a saint today, still what Jesus is ready to perfectly give to me - his body, blood, soul and divinity - is what I most need to receive. Amen.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Relationship is Ultimate Reality

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
19 June 2011
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
Daily Readings

For God so loved the world that He sent his only Son.

On Trinity Sunday, thankfully we don't have a Gospel for our meditation that reads like a theology textbook. For simple minds like that of your preacher today, we have a simple Gospel. The mystery of the Trinity, deepest and most inaccessible mystery that it is, is known as a preacher's nightmare. What can be more remote and difficult to preach than God's most inner triune life, God who cannot be and is most definitely not a part of the world in which we live, who despite every sharing of himself, even the perfect sharing of his Son, remains in his perfections more unlike us than like us? Theologians have written volumes, and will continue to do so, regarding the possibility of this mystery, revealed to us by the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, that God is an indissoluble and eternal unity of three persons. Yet, thankfully, we don't have their textbooks, as good as they are, for our meditation this morning. Instead, we have one of the most pithy and accessible, and yes memorizable, even for a Catholic, lines in all of Scripture - God so loved the world, that he gave us his only Son.

This scripture challenges us to simplicity. For when we say that God is Trinity we say nothing greater than God is love. Which is to say more than God is a lover who does loving things. He is that, but he is more. To say God is love is to say that in his essence, God is communion. The revelation of the Trinity is a revelation that before we say things like God is almighty, that which nothing greater can be thought, not a part of the world, which adds nothing to his greatness, the only being whose essence and existence are the same, et cetera et cetera, we say that God is love. Before we consider God to be the greatest thing, we consider him to be the greatest person. Deeper to the mystery of God than being the greatest thing, is his being the greatest relationship, the deepest communion.

Our own definition of personhood, then, comes from the definition of the three persons of the Trinity. When we baptize a new baby in the Church, we know that this new being is indeed a human person not because all his potential has been realized, not for the decisions he has made, and certainly not for any kind of independence he has achieved. The poorest definition of a human person is that definition that tries to discover what a person is in isolation, before entering into relationship with others. No, our definition of person is grounded more properly in the three persons of the Trinity, who are so completely persons to each other that they are able to share one nature, in a communion of love where everything is given and received. So too our definition of a human person is greater than the definition of a human being. A human person is one who is in relationship -we become persons when someone knows us and desires us to exist. We know well that this recognition of a human person should begin at conception, but unfortunately does not always, because we focus on an arbitrary definition of a human being instead of the definition of a person. We can have a definition of a human being in isolation, but not a definition of a human person. A human person comes into existence through relationship, and this is an inheritance from being made in the image and likeness of God, who is himself a communion of persons. At a baptism, parents profess to teach their children that their ultimate identity and personhood come from God, who is able to know and to love the child in ways a parent never can, and thus is able to bestow a new kind of life, described to us by Jesus as eternal life.

All this is not to reduce the mystery of the Trinity to something we can fully understand, something simple that those who have written textbooks have missed. The Trinity remains for us the original and most inaccessible mystery, since is truly does name God's inner life, to which we would have no access were this life not revealed to us by Jesus in the mysteries of the Incarnation and our Redemption. The Trinity should always confound us, and yet with joy we know that we have not been set against this mystery, as an insolvable crossword puzzle, but invited into the heart of it, as Jesus has placed us His beloved, at the heart of this ultimate love, this ultimate relationship and community. He wants to share with us his divine life, and so in every liturgy we are invited into an intimate and full sharing in the Trinitarian mystery. The mystery hits our ears, our eyes our minds and our hearts in the sacred liturgy, and it is here where we are invited to contemplate in light of the relationship of Jesus with His Father and their Holy Spirit, the relationships that give us our personhood. Jesus says plainly that those who are not open to relationship are not open to the full discovery of their personhood, and in a way have already condemned themselves to a llife that can no way become eternal.

On this Trinity Sunday, we are reminded that before God is a thing, He is love. He is a love perfect in himself, but a love overflowing into a creation that involves you and me in the most intimate of ways.

For God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son.