Saturday, April 30, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper
21 April 2011
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
Whenever we zig, Jesus zags. Whenever we go away from Jesus, he goes toward us and ahead of us. If we think we have begun to plumb the depths of the Lord's humility, then we have not even begun to know our Lord, and we will have no inheritance with him.
The instant we first used our freedom for evil, when our Lord still remained far away in heaven, Jesus responded by trusting us more, not less. The no of the garden made Jesus yearn for the yes of the annunciation. Whenever we zig, he zags. Whenever we love him less, he loves us more.
The incarnation was a long way for Jesus to go, an unbelievably amazing condescension from our Lord, a move to counter our going away from him by moving toward us in our very nature. Yet Jesus' journey from heaven to Mary's womb was only the beginning. Tonight we celebrate that Jesus allows himself to be moved just the same, and be made present in time and space and matter over and over again, not only by the yes of sinless Mary, but by words spoken by sinful priests. When Jesus instituted this sacrament, and then trod the rode to Calvary, he knew precisely what he was doing. Tonight, he lets himself be moved just as surely, by the liturgy of a Church that cannot really know what she is doing. The distance from heaven to Mary's womb is bigger than the span of the entire universe. The distance from Mary's womb to the tabernacle is perhaps even farther, and the institution fo the Eucharist perhaps an even more amazing condescension from Jesus. And still, Jesus is just getting started on his journey. He still has only begun to form his mystical body, the Church.
It is in the formation of his mystical body that Jesus really zigs when we zag. Our precious Lord never stops being more willing to hand himself over to his enemies, so could it be that he is more ready to ride into the evil of my heart right now, than he was ready to enter into his passion for the first time? It is within the mystical body that Jesus at this moment perhaps goes farther than he did entering Mary's womb or assuming the silence of the tabernacle.
Who do you say that I am? 'I don't know' is my default response. Yet, instead of being disappointed in my answer, Jesus decides to trust my faith even more. He gives Thomas a sign so that the Church's faith would never completely fail, but more often Jesus hides himself. When we doubt, he trusts us more, and hides himself trying to draw out the most perfect faith from us. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed are his words to us. When we doubt him, he yearns for our faith all the more.
When his disciples scattered, Jesus went ahead of them to Galilee. Whenever we go away from Jesus, he goes before us. The more places we find to hide, the more places he appears. So every step of our lives, whether good or evil, he can transform into a step toward him. The extension of the Eucharist around the world is the physical sign of a spiritual reality, spoken of by the psalmist: 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 furthest end, still you are there.
Even if in my pride I refuse to be a part of God's life, he stands ready and small enough to enter under my roof, no matter how worthy I am to receive him. When I spit in his face, he leaves 99 people who are not spitting at him to give me 100X his mercy and attention. When I zig, he zags. He loves sinners so much, that to know ourselves as anything but sinners costs us our relationship with our Savior who loves us precisely where no one else can. For he says plainly that people who are well do not need a doctor. Sick people do.
When my schedule is busy, Jesus waits for me never tempted to look at a watch for he does not wear one. When I am in a hurry, he is more patient. When I zig, he zags. He'll take whatever smallest part of a second I might give him, no matter how pitiable the sacrifice. Just so, the holy hour of his life, suffering, death and resurrection is forever patient, always present in the mystery of His Eucharist, and is waiting to enter into the smallest second of my life, so that I too may enter into eternity in Him, with Him and through Him.
Still, after all of this, Jesus in traveling far in the Incarnation, perhaps even farther in the Eucharist, and maybe farthest of all healing the wounds within his mystical body, does not take away the possibility of my ignoring him. No, he only serves our freedom, only becomes smaller and smaller and makes it more possible for us to reject him. A bruised reed will will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench. He only makes it more easy for us to take him for granted, especially in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Even given how far he has traveled, and how I struggle to take a single step toward him in return, still it is more possible than ever for me to think that what I am doing at this moment is more important than what he is doing. Even knowing Mary to be the greatest, and my pattern of holiness, my project remains superior to letting it be done to me according to His word. Peter's words are really mine. Lord, you will never wash my feet. Our pride desperately hangs on, wanting to have the authority to tell Jesus he has done enough already, and to give him our permission to stop serving our faith, our hope and our love. If we are still stuck there, Jesus reminds us that we do not know who he is, and we will have no inheritance with him. Let tonight, then, be the night when I permit him to wash my feet.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Easter Sunday 2011
24 April 2011
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of KansasDaily Readings
Jesus Christ is Risen just as He said! Alleluia! Alleluia!
This joyful Easter proclamation goes out from the Church to the whole world today, symbolized by the Holy Father giving his Urbi et Orbi (to the Church and to the World) blessing at noon on Easter Sunday in St. Peter's square. It goes out from St. Lawrence as well, as we with incomparable joy join in the Easter proclamation that has given new hope to the world for 2000 years and counting. Jesus Christ is Risen. Jesus Christ is truly Risen. Jesus Christ is Risen just as He said! Alleluia! Alleluia!
This proclamation of our faith should be easy to make on Easter Sunday. The earth is springing to life around us, and the Church is filled with new colors, new flowers, new sounds of Alleluias ringing. Beginning with Mary Magdalene, the first witness of the Resurrection of our Lord, through the apostles, through the countless martyrs of the centuries from every corner of the world, to the millions who are joining the Church this Easter, to the newly baptized here at St. Lawrence who have professed the faith for the first time, to my own parents and godparents who perhaps passed this faith on personally to me, the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ has come down to us who will renew our baptismal promises today. The truth of Easter has beautifully captured since the time of Christ the lives of men and women who yearn to become saints, to live a new and more meaningful kind of life, and has been passed down to us today at great cost. It is a gorgeous faith that brings incomparable hope and meaning to the world and to each person within it. Jesus Christ is truly Risen from the dead, just as he said. We are proud to profess this together, to the world today, in Christ Jesus our Lord!
We are richly supported in our profession of faith today, so much so that our proclamation of Jesus' Resurrection is not so much something we individually generate, but something we receive and pass on. It is a faith in which we live and move and have our being. It is a faith that today of all days surrounds us, and captures us. We should not hesitate to join in the chorus of faith. Yet this does not mean that the renewal of our baptismal promises today should be automatic, or thoughtless. We do not say I do because everyone else is doing it, or because today in this Church is the easiest time all year to proclaim with boldness that I am a Christian. Quite the opposite, today's proclamation should be the most personal and difficult and meaningful proclamation of our lives. We should only say I do if our faith in the Resurrection this year is stronger than it has ever been, only if I can say I do from the depths of my own heart. If Jesus is truly Risen, then the renewal of our baptismal promises on Easter Sunday is the most dramatic moment of the year for me personally. Far from automatic, to renew our promises is to profess that we will live out the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus in a more dramatic way in the days ahead of us. There is no other way to look at it. So although we renew our faith today not only as individuals, but with the support of hundreds right next to us, and in chorus with billions of those in the church who have gone before us and stand with us, still in the profession of faith today we must say a deeply personal 'I do.' It is not automatic, but a challenge to witness today through our baptismal promises our deep personal relationship with Jesus, whom we have come to know intimately as the way, the truth and the life.
For as St. John has taught us - this is eternal life - to know the one true God, and to know Jesus Christ whom he has sent. When we renew our baptismal promises, it is a proclamation that we personally know Jesus. Christianity is nothing if it is not intensely personal. It is the most personal of religions, for God in taking on our humanity made it possible to know him and to love him in the most intimate of ways, and through him to enter more deeply into relationship with one another. It is a faith of intense personal love, a love that is the foundation of life, so much so that the definition of eternal life is to know the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. If we think that eternal life pertains to who gets to live the longest, then we have missed the boat. Eternal life is the fruit of an intense personal relationship - eternal life is more vertical, having to do with dying and rising, than horizontal, pertaining to more time. Eternal life is to know Jesus Christ with all our mind, and our heart and our strength, and so our profession of faith must be the most personal of any proclamation we can make.
Sometimes the Easter proclamation of the Church limps because we rob the Resurrection of Jesus Christ of its intense immediate meaning for us. The Resurrection is not some vain hope of Christians, that by following archaic formulas and doing what God says without questioning, we might get to fly off and be an angel or spirit in some far off place at a time to be determined. No, eternal life is an ever-present and ever-deepening reality. It is an entering personally into the depths of love, a love once powerful enough to create the world and each person in it, but a love shown even more powerful on the cross, the source of the world's redemption. Eternal life, the life of the Resurrection, is nothing else than a love that is stronger than death. What is more, it is not a fantasy. It is not bonus time in a far off place for those who are lucky. It is not time at all. Eternal life is born of an intense personal love that was present to us at our baptism, is perfectly present to us now in the Holy Eucharist, and will be present to us tomorrow in the loving promises God has marked out for us.
Once again, the Resurrection is not a vain hope. For a Christian, it is a present reality. It is something we dare to profess in a world that will never completely understand it. When we turn away from sin and toward love, we grow younger. When we stop measuring life, and instead with self-forgetfulness give and receive the love brought near to us by the blood of the cross, we enter into Jesus' promise that whoever loses his life will save it. When we fulfill Jesus' commandment to love one another as He first loves us, we enter into a life not measured by time but by the depth of our relationships, a life supported by a love that death cannot destroy.
Against those who say the Resurrection of Jesus is an outdated myth, and suffering and death are sure arguments against God, those of us who renew our baptismal promises today proclaim a life that grows stronger as we follow Jesus through his suffering and death, an eternal life that we know to be true because in our conversation with Jesus, he has shown us how to die to self and to live in true freedom. We proclaim the Resurrection to be true because we are right now in the middle of a conversation of love between Jesus and His Father, and know personally the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.The Resurrection is not a vain hope! St. Augustine was fond of saying that he who was willing to share in our death out of love for us, will surely also share with us his life! If our Easter proclamation limps, it is because we have only just begun to understand God's love for us. For Christ redefined life forever through the prism of the cross, and revealed that since God is love, love will always set the parameters for life, not life the parameters of love. The Resurrection then is not some trick, it is the fruit of God's love for us, and it is a certain truth and hope for those of us who have entered deeply into a communion of love with God and with one another.
So with great faith, in the most personal of ways, with more strength than we have mustered before, I invite you to dare to renew with me the promises of your baptism. I invite you to do so not only in the comfort of this safe and holy place, but in solidarity with the millions of Christians who stand in harm's way on Easter Sunday because of their faith in the Resurrection, and in remembrance of the Christian martyrs of the past century, the bloodiest century for Christians in history. I ask you to dare to renew your baptismal promises in the midst of a Church that is exploding in many parts of the world, but is in danger of dying out in other places because of the lack of faith. I dare you to renew your faith right here and now, in the midst of a church that needs to repent of her sins, so that the light of the Gospel may have a new chance to reach the fasting growing demographic in the United States, fallen away Catholics, and those who no longer practice any faith. In rejecting my sins today, and in promising to walk in the light, in the most personal of ways I confess that my sins have discouraged those who might meet Jesus in me, and with me and through me, those who through my witness are yearning to stand in the light of His Resurrection. Most of all, I renew my baptismal promises so that I might renew my vocation to be holy, to be everything I have promised myself I would be, and to bring Jesus' mercy to my own family by what I say and do. I promise to live Jesus Resurrection by bringing his life, his light, his redeeming love that remakes the world perfectly from the inside out, to those souls he has given me to save.
All this we dare to proclaim with unparalleled faith, hope and love, on this beautiful Easter Sunday morning. For Jesus Christ is Risen. He is truly Risen! He is Risen just as he said! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Jesus is not in a hurry, obviously. Lazarus is dying by the second, and he waits two days. Jesus would make a horrible first responder. As a 911 operator, he would be fired. And this is precisely the point.
In the raising of Lazarus, his penultimate sign before heading to Calvary, Jesus shows that his ultimate mission is not to be a superhero who rushes to prevent death. No the mission is markedly different; Jesus comes to conquer death, and to rob death of its power to make us panic. His ultimate mission is to show that love is stronger than death. Jesus waits for two days because in the raising of his friend, Jesus intends to show more love than he has shown in any other sign. In a most extraordinary moment, before Jesus raises Lazarus, he weeps for him. This is something, Jesus' weeping, that we would not see, if Jesus had arrived in the nick of time to save Lazarus, as he had saved many others. Jesus' weeping is critical. It shows that in this penultimate sign, we are seeing something more than what we have yet seen. We are seeing more than Jesus' power to manipulate the laws of the universe, doing favors for those who believe in Him. In this sign, we get a unique look at the love Jesus has for Lazarus, a love that weeps for a friend, and a love that is stronger than death.
When Martha and Mary talk about the Resurrection on the last day, Jesus corrects them and points them to a Resurrection that is much closer, a resurrection happening in the here and now. It is a resurrection measured not horizontally by the gift of more existence at the end of time, it is a resurrection measured vertically right now by the intensity of love that is present. Jesus does not panic when his friend Lazarus is slipping away, because for Jesus, love sets the parameters for life, not life the parameters of love. Jesus lets Lazarus die lest we never learn that love is stronger than death. Jesus loves Lazarus back into life, but the new life that is created is more than than Lazarus emerging from the tomb, it is the increased intensity of relationship with Jesus. The resurrection is more than bonus time. I am the Resurrection and the life, says the Lord. In saying this, Jesus reveals himself as more than a magician who can reverse death, he reveals himself as the one who is always alive because he always loves. Jesus reminds us what life is really all about, that we are only existing, not living, if we are not loving. Jesus is fully alive. He is the resurrection and the life because he always loves. His mission is to reveal that God who weeps over death, but allows it as the pathway to new life, is the one who is the source of life because he always loves us first, and loves us best, and loves us always.
This love that first created the world out of nothing by speaking a word, recreates the world by saying to us who are like Lazarus - Arise -, and makes the resurrection not a vain wish but a certain reality by making his resurrected body perfectly present to us right now in the word of the Eucharist. The raising of Lazarus is the penultimate sign of the love that is stronger than death, the love that makes all life possible. The ultimate and everlasting sign awaits us next week on Palm Sunday at Calvary, when in order to reveal completely the love that conquers death, Jesus will give up his own life, and himself lay three days in the tomb.
For Jesus' ultimate mission is not to hit the panic button, not to respond to 911 calls, not to be a superhero who merely prevents death whenever he can. No, his ultimate mission is to allow death as the pathway to new life, to enter into death himself, to conquer death from the inside out, and to do everything he can possibly do to help us to believe in the love that is stronger than death.
So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to man, and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.