Sunday, October 28, 2018

Asking and Getting

October 28, 2018 –– 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 10:46–52
Asking and Getting

Today’s Gospel tells the story of a man asking Jesus for something. Asking Jesus for something today takes us to the subject of prayer, and I think a lot of people approach prayer with the theological sophistication of Huckleberry Finn:

Then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing came of it. She told me to pray everyday, and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn't so. I tried it. Once I got a fish-line, but no hooks. I tried for the hooks three or four times, but somehow I couldn't make it work. I asked Miss Watson to try for me, but she said I was a fool.  She never told me why, and I couldn't make it out no way. 

Haven't there been times when we’ve all felt that way? You asked God, praying quite sincerely for something, and it didn't happen. So prayer becomes a big mystery. Like Huck Finn, we “[can’t] make it out no way.”

The blind man in today’s Gospel asks Jesus for what he wants. Bartimaeus kept asking. Others discouraged him. He kept asking. This man knew he was blind, and he believed Jesus could do something about it. He surely thought, “This is my one chance to turn everything around,” and so he kept calling out all the more.

James tells us in his letter: You do not have, because you do not ask (4:2b). Sometimes we do ask, but God does not give us what we ask.... for our own good. James goes on to say: You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (4:3). Yet in another place Jesus says: Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Matt 7:7,8).

We need to know that prayer is not merely “asking God for something.” Prayer is not a formula to learn and master. Prayer and true desire are intimately connected. How often do we really ask Jesus for our heart’s desire? When we ask for something half-heartedly, we are not asking out of desire. When we ask, but do not continue to ask, are we not showing that we are not desperate? And if we are passionate, is it for the right things?

All of us are passionate about something. It can be anything from a sports obsession to material possessions to politics to.... knowing God. When we are passionate about something, others close to us know it. What are we passionate about? How often do we ask Jesus for our heart’s desire?

What are we to do? First, let’s understand that the focus of prayer is God himself. Jesus told his followers to seek first the kingdom of God, and other things will be given as well. Bartimaeus was healed of his blindness, but another phrase follows: he received his sight and followed [Jesus]. If we turn again and again and again to the Lord––if we follow Jesus, our passions will more and more begin to match his desires for us. Then our prayers will be answered in amazing ways. Jesus also said: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you (Jn 15:7).

May the Lord give us hearts that are passionate for him, so that we desire the things he so graciously wants to give us. And then let’s ask, because our Heavenly Father loves to hear from his children.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What Do We Want?

October 14, 2018 –– 28th Sunday in  Ordinary Time
Wisdom 7:7–11 / Psalm 90 / Hebrews 4:12–13 / Mark 10:17–30
What Do We Want?

As a child I knew just enough of Arabian Nights to be aware of the story about Aladdin and a genie who would grant wishes. In my youthful naiveté I spent more than a few minutes fantasizing about that. In a more mature state of mind I think more now about the the way that our desires have a lot to say about who we really are.

The biblical story of Solomon brings the fantasy into real life. After inheriting the throne of his father David, 

the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Solomon answered, “….give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong….”
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings (1 Kings 3:5, 9–13).

The first reading from the book of Wisdom gives the witness of this story from Solomon himself. It should raise with us not only the fantasy of a genie offering us wishes, but the reality that God invites each one of us to ask great things!

What are we asking of God? What is the desire of my heart?

We get another perspective on this question when we come to the Gospel reading. A young man comes to Jesus and seems to want eternal life. Jesus knows this man needs first to face the reality of what he really wants––where his heart is, so Jesus gives a huge challenge: give everything else away. In response, the young man turned away from Jesus, for he had many possessions.

We have this blunt truth: not only did the young man have many possessions, his possessions had him. So a key issue in today’s readings is this basic question: What is the desire of my heart?

We all need help with this. We cannot know our hearts by ourselves. We rationalize too easily for our own advantage. So the Hebrews reading tells us that God gives us his Word, which is able to discern reflections and thought of the heart. That is one reason the Scriptures are read and proclaimed when Christians gather. We need to be taken beyond our own limited perspectives. Only in going beyond ourselves will we inherit eternal life.

Jesus says a hard thing (and his disciples were “blown away”): How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. It doesn’t matter what our relative wealth is. We can be inordinately attached to anything from the very impressive to the paltry. Jesus warns that things (the so-called riches of this world), and even our families (if given priority above God himself) can get in the way of God’s Life working in us.

If we can be honest, I think stories like this young man who turned away frighten us. Like the disciples, we hear what sounds impossible. Instead of being able to hear Jesus lovingly call to us what is most important, we instinctively recoil from significant things it seems we must give up. A classic example of this is St. Augustine’s request that God make him chaste…. but not yet! Though he could see the value of chastity, Augustine enjoyed his promiscuity and was afraid to ask the Lord to remove something he liked.

We can have a fear of inviting God to cleanse us of everything distracting so that we seek and love him above all else. So here’s what we do. Ask for the grace to pray, “Lord, if I’m not chaste, at least give me the desire to be chaste,” or “Lord, if I don’t share sufficiently with the poor, at least give me the desire to do be more generous.” If we make even a start to desire what God is offering, we will find that he knows how to give what he really wants us to have. Jesus says: All things are possible with God.

What is the desire of my heart? “Lord, help me to want what you want me to want.”

In another Gospel we find Jesus saying, Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all the other things will be added.

God knows what we need. Most of all we need him. What is the desire of my heart? “Lord, help me to want you more than anything else! That is more than a wish. It is a request the Lord will give to all who ask.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Marriage and Meaning

October 7, 2018 –– 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 2:18–24 / Psalm 128 / Hebrews 2:9–11 / Mark 10:2–16
Marriage and Meaning

Human sexuality is in crisis. It is under attack. This should not surprise us when we consider the place it holds in God’s design. We believe that God has given us “Manufacturer’s Instructions” for how to live in this world he created. There are several things about marriage from the Scriptures for today which need particular attention because they are so at odds what is being fed into popular opinion.

The first is the very nature of humanity. Just a few years ago one of today’s battlegrounds would have seemed impossible and labeled insane: the debate about gender. This is not the setting for delving into the particular arguments about that. What we need today is to hear Jesus affirm the truth upon which our physical identity is based: From the beginning God made them male and female. This must be the starting point for all Christians with any discussion about gender.

Then there is the nature of marriage. Holy Scripture gives us God’s affirmation for human existence: It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a suitable partner for him. Jesus gives his sanction to this and repeats the early revelation: For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

It is out of this union that humans show many of the ways we are in the image of God. There is the unity of two complementary people. This is meant to mirror the unity of the Trinity and the true nature of Christ and the Church. There is also the gift of extending creation, so that out of the union of husband and wife there are children. This is the domestic church that can so pervasively give a tangible witness of God’s character and glory throughout the earth.

For this to happen in its fulness and have proper stability, marriage must be permanent. The initial question for the Gospel reading was the Pharisees asking Jesus if divorce was okay. Jesus said no, and that the reason the law of Moses made allowance was hardness of heart. The words of Jesus are part of our marriage liturgy: What God has joined together, no human being must separate. We should always remember that Jesus is calling us and, through his grace, taking us to the place of “heart” that God designed in the beginning. We were created to show who God is.

I want to emphasize a phrase: through his grace….  I know that the issue of our sexuality has been a cause of major struggle and guilt for many, many people––especially in the Church. I remind us all of something John declares in his Gospel: God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (3:17). What God tells us about something so basic as our sexuality is always for our good. Knowing that we fall short and need his mercy and grace, we have forgiveness through God’s Son. We should always remember: God forgives us so he can heal us and make us holy. Salvation is a whole package!

So marriage, as God intended it, is at the very core of what it means to be human. Yet there is the exception of celibacy, either by circumstance or choice (and celibacy always means chastity; there is no place for twisting “celibacy” to mean merely “unmarried” yet sexually active). We need to think through the implication of the unmarried. Although humanity cannot show the fulness of God without marriage nor continue our existence without reproduction, an individual person does not have to be sexually active to have a full and satisfying life.  The single life lived rightly is also a vocation that shows the glory of  God. This, too, is in major conflict with contemporary opinion which seeks to give preeminence to the god of eros. We are witnessing in our social order the anger and upheaval that happens when sensuality is turned into an idol and given free expression. It is vicious.

The world around us is speaking out and acting out in ways that go against what God intended for human sexuality. The more a society rebels, the more that frustration and––ultimately––violence will affect the people. We have these straightforward words from Scripture that have been affirmed by the Church for 2000 years. Let’s not lose sight of what God has said as we live in tumultuous days. God tells us what we need to know for our own good: From the beginning God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. There is meaning in marriage.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Battle With “Self”

September 23, 2018 –– 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom  2:12, 17–20 / Psalm 54 / James 3:16–4:3 / Mark 9:30–37
The Battle With “Self”

Jesus was preparing the disciples for his coming death, and all the while they were selfishly discussing among themselves who was the greatest. We so easily get the truth about life backwards. What seems to give life only leads to death. Jesus dares us to believe that what appears to be death is the way to life. Jesus is telling us––and showing us through his sacrificial love: If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.

It’s easier to be like the disciples that day than to be like Jesus. We are too easily aware of our status with one another. We can too easily keep record of how many times we have been asked to do the dirty work. We can too easily gravitate towards those who are most like us. We can too easily use our opinions selfishly. It is popular opinion, not Jesus, that says “Take care of number one.”

More things affect our approach to life than we are usually aware of. A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, were invited to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups––porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some quite exquisite––telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the alumni had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the expensive and nice looking cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is natural for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the main source of your problems and stress. What was offered to all of you was the coffee, but you also went for the best cups…. and then some of you began eyeing each other's cups.” 

I remember John Michael Talbot telling about a little spat at the monastery. All the residents live communally, but some were quarreling with each other because there were a few favorite coffee mugs, and not everyone could have one. Maybe it’s coffee that shows our true colors!

We can say, “Well, everyone does that….” Or, we can ask the Holy Spirit to let us truly see ourselves. If we are willing to open ourselves totally to Jesus we will see self intruding far more than we would have imagined. Someone pointed out to me years ago how easy it is for most people in front of the line at a potluck dinner to take the nicer pieces of fried chicken (and for those in the back of the line to be a bit resentful). Growing up into Jesus means giving up what makes us look good on the surface––even always doing what is most convenient for us––so we can lovingly serve others. This is essentially the opposite of popular opinion.

To use the coffee illustration, God’s Life is the coffee; possessions and our position in society are the cups. The outward things are just containers for true Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we can live. If we concentrate on the cup––our appearance, our status, our possessions––we will tragically take for granted the “coffee” of life that God has provided for us.

It may seem little, but this is one of the battlegrounds for our soul’s salvation. Who is going to sit on the throne of my heart? I have to ask myself this question regularly. When the little sins are allowed to grow, they can develop into the hatred and animosity described in the earlier readings. There is a voice which is at war against God speaking into the ear of our souls, I me mine, I me mine, I me mine (George Harrison got that one right). Let’s be careful about the voices we listen to and the impulses we obey.

Jesus came to save us from ourselves. As we follow him, our calling is to be his witnesses in this world by the way we give and serve and love.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

To Whom Shall We Go?

August 26, 2018 –– 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Joshua 24:1–2a, 15–17, 18b / Psalm 34 / Ephesians 5:21–32 / John 6:60–69
To Whom Shall We Go?

Christian Faith would be easy if we never faced the challenges of pain and temptation and doubt. Of course, without those things Christian Faith as we know would not exit. The essence of Christian Faith is the hope we have in spite of hard things because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There are all kinds of hard things. There are the hard things we bring on ourselves when we make choices that have bad repercussions. There are times when hard things “ricochet” on us when other people close to us make bad choices. There is also a hard side to nature; St Paul tells the Romans the creation was subjected to futility (8:20) when Adam and Eve abdicated their role in the Garden as vice-regents of God. This means we are subject to things like disease and accidents, floods and drought, hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanoes.

Perhaps the hardest thing of all is our difficulty with spiritual understanding. Until we are willing to lay aside the autonomy of wanting to think for ourselves (which strikes at the heart of the Original Sin), we will not be able to hear God and understand what he says.

God often says and does the opposite of what we, in our brokenness, expect. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus describes an “upside-down kingdom.” At the core of Christian Faith is the belief that we win by giving up and we live by dying. That is hard, and even in the Church it is rather easy to find some teachers who explain it all away. But if we change the essence of Christian Faith to something that is more palatable––less radical, we no longer have Christian Faith.

From the beginning Jesus, and then the Church, said hard things…. loving our enemies and being willing to lay our own lives in love for others. And then there is today’s Gospel where many of the first disciples reacted against Jesus when he said: The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood enjoys eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. My flesh is real food, my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives continually in me and I in him (Jn 6:56–58). John tells us they said, This saying is hard; who can accept it? Then many of his disciples turned away.

If we are honest, too often we want God to come to us on our terms rather than us continually coming to God on his terms. We come up to something hard; our weak humanity cries out and we are tempted to turn away.

So Jesus asked the Twelve, Do you also want to leave? Forever the leading spokesman, Simon Peter answered him, Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Eternal life…. The Life of God is always out to shatter death. If we choose something that leads to death (thinking it will make our lives more easy and pleasant), we will find ourselves fighting against the very Life of God. There is ultimately nothing harder than that.

We are facing some horribly hard things in the Church right now because some people, as leaders in the Church, embraced things that cause death instead of Life. So we go to the heart of our Faith and turn again and again to Jesus.

Jesus knows the pressures and discouragements we face. It with great tenderness that he asks us the same thing he asked the Twelve so long ago: Do you also want to leave?

Let’s recognize the truth of what Peter said: Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Let’s give the answer that Joshua so boldly proclaimed to all of Israel: As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

I have no idea what our many hurts are, but I know we all have them. I also know all our questions will not be answered, but out of all the options in this world none are better than what Jesus offers us.

I know that serving the Lord will not shield us from all hardships, but we follow the One who died and came back from the dead to show that this world is no match for God.

Our hope is not in anything merely human. As the Psalmist said, Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

To whom shall we go? As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. He alone has the words of eternal life.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

What must I do to have eternal life?

Sunday: 12 August, 2018 –– 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19:4–8 / Ephesians 4:30–5:2 / John 6:41–51
What must I do to have eternal life?

Belief in a world “beyond” this one is almost universal in human nature. Rising out of this comes a common question––and it is a question people asked Jesus again and again in one form or another: What must I do to have eternal life? Isn’t that the concern for each of us? Isn’t that why we come to church? Isn’t that what we ultimately want from a homily? What must I do to have eternal life?

There is a reason people asked Jesus this question, and it is why people still turn their attention to Jesus today. A few chapters later in John’s Gospel Jesus explicitly says: I have come that they may have life....  In the previous section of this sixth chapter––this Bread of Life Discourse––Jesus has told the people: I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. Then Jesus says, This is the will of the Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life.

The people did not understand what Jesus was saying. There were questions. There was misunderstanding. There was disagreement. There was offense and anger. If we take an honest look around today at all who claim to be listening to Jesus, it seems that not so much has changed. There are questions. There is misunderstanding. There is disagreement. Unfortunately, there is still offense and anger. And yet there is an underlying unity; we all want an answer to our deepest anxiety: What must I do to have eternal life?

In today’s Gospel reading we can find Jesus giving the answer to this question three different ways. Hear this carefully: Jesus is not giving three different answers; Jesus is giving the answer three different ways. It seems not everyone understands this. I say this because the three ways Jesus speaks of eternal life have been separated into different emphases of Christian expression, as if one is exclusive of the others.

The first is what we do. This is implied when Jesus says: Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. The natural context for this saying would be the Commandments (which Jesus quoted when questioned another time by the Rich Young Ruler). Some denounce this approach to God as “salvation by works” (as if faith and good works are opposed to each other). Perhaps a little story will provide a correction.

 A man dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in."

"Okay," the man says, "I attended church every Sunday."
"That's good,” says St. Peter. "That's worth two points."

"Two points?" he says. "Well, I gave 10% of all my earnings to the church."
“Wow!” answers Peter. “Let's see, that's worth another two points. Did you do anything else?"

"Two points? Whoa! How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans."
"Fantastic, that's certainly worth a point, " responded Peter.

"Hmmm...," the man says, "I was married to the same woman for fifty years and never cheated on her...."
"That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points!"

"THREE POINTS!!" the man cries, "At this rate the only way I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God!"
Peter says, “You got it…. Come on in!"

There are those who teach “faith alone.” Jesus does say: Whoever believes has eternal life. This is a major theme in John’s Gospel and St Paul’s letters. It was Paul’s answer to the Philippian jailer: Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved….  So many Evangelicals say that believing is simply “accepting” that Jesus did it all for us. There is a great truth here. Christian Faith is indeed a total trust in Jesus. There is a strong personal––individual––element to saving faith. The danger, though, in emphasizing “belief” more than anything else is that Christian Faith is reduced to an abstraction––a cognitive head-trip. “Believing in Jesus” is more than a mental check list.

The third way Jesus answers the question of eternal life is familiar to Catholics, but just as puzzling to many others today as it was when Jesus first said it: I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever....  Catholic Faith, from the earliest testimony of the Church Fathers, teaches that when we come to Communion we are literally partaking of Jesus. This was one of the compelling realizations that drew me into the Catholic Church. Yet it is important to understand that eating the living bread is more than a mechanical gesture.

So, the question remains: What must I do to have eternal life? Is it by “listening and learning” so that we do right things? Is it by “believing”? Is it by “eating the living bread”? Surely when asked this way we can see that it is supposed to be all of them! “Believing” means we will “listen and learn.” As we “listen and learn” we will discover that part of Christian Faith is a mystery––a union with Jesus’ very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. These three answers, which Jesus gives to our questions about eternal life, all interface with and support each other.

The other two readings today give support to this. It was when Elijah believed, listened to and obeyed God that he was fed in a supernatural way. Then––notice what the Scripture says––he was transformed: strengthened by that food he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God....

You and I are on a journey. We want to get to the mountain of God: eternal life. How do we know that we are believing and listening and learning (which is another way of saying “obeying”)?  What results can we expect?  What should be the effect in us when we eat the living bread? We find that answer in the Epistle reading: our faith affects us in basic, tangible ways.

When we feed on Jesus––when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist (in true faith, as the Church teaches, and not holding on to unconfessed sins)––we are nurturing the life of his Spirit in us. And when the Holy Spirit of God is freely at work in us, we are being transformed into different people.... distinctive (holy) people, in the name and power of Jesus.

What does that look like? It looks like…. Jesus (that’s what eternal life is: the life of Jesus in us). What must I do to have eternal life?  Believe.... listen and learn.... eat the living bread.... expect to be transformed.  Jesus wants his eternal life to grow into its fullness in us!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Life of God in Us

August 5, 2018: 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15 / Psalm 78 / Ephesians 4:17, 20–24 / John 6:24–35
The Life of God in Us

Saint Paul tells of an old self and and a new self. We’re all too familiar with the “old” and it’s not very good. God did not intend awful things; he created us to know and obey him, but he also gave us the dignity of choice. Long ago the choice was made to disobey God and choose by ourselves what is right and wrong. That is why something is horribly wrong in the world. We were not created to live without God.

But God did not abandon us. He could have left us to self-destruct. Instead, he became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ. And when people killed Jesus in anger because his life revealed the evil of their own lives, God let it happen. Jesus took the evil, and even death itself, and absorbed it. Then he rose from the dead to show that God is bigger than evil and death, and God invites everyone to believe it.

In today’s Gospel Jesus says we are to believe in the one [the Father] sent. This is not mere mental assent––a mind game; it is an issue of spiritual ownership and control. And so Paul gives the Ephesians this exhortation: you must no longer live as the Gentiles [people who do not know God] do, in the futility of their thinking (4:17). There is a right and wrong way to live in this world. Trying to live life by our own understanding brings havoc; opening ourselves to God’s ways leads to life. We are called to live out of the truth we confess. Each week we declare together: I believe…. It’s not just words; it is something to embrace and live.

Through Jesus Christ and the regeneration of the Spirit, Christians have been given new life. Our old self––the old person we were––was crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20). Paul tells the Corinthians: if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2Cor 5:17). It is because Christians have a new self that we can be exhorted to put away the practices of the old life––a life lived by ignoring the reality of God’s truth.

Christian faith understands that the old life is death. The old life is rooted in Adam and the lie our first parents believed: that disregarding God can make us happy or give lasting comfort and security. That is the futile thinking (the futility of their thinking) of Paul’s opening words.

The alternative to futile thinking is to be renewed in the spirit of your minds. Paul says this is based in righteousness and holiness of the truth. We do not know how to do this by ourselves; it takes wisdom––God’s wisdom that comes to us as Jesus lives in us.

How does this happen? First, it is a gift of God. God’s grace brings death to life. Our Faith starts there: believing that, in his love, God has chosen to do for us what could never do for ourselves. 

But life must be sustained. Life needs to grow. So we find that God provides this too, but we need to be open to God’s ongoing gifts of grace. This happens on what we might call two levels.

One is an ongoing attitude of faith. It is staying open to the Lord. It is doing disciplines like prayer, spiritual nurture, and obedience. This is what is usually called the personal part of faith.

But it’s not all up to us individually. Yes, Jesus wants us to have a personal relationship with him, but he takes us beyond ourselves with graces that go beyond what we could ever do alone.

Christian Faith is not only “a personal relationship with Jesus.” Christian Faith is being adopted into the family of God. Christian Faith is being incorporated into the life of Jesus’ Body, the Church. And in the Church we are given graces––Sacraments––that go so far beyond what we can ever do by ourselves. This is the corporate part of faith. 

Jesus nurtures us with his very self. This has been astounding people from the time Jesus first proclaimed it:
Amen, amen I say to you… the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…. I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

The Holy Spirit brings us to new life so that we are not left to the ravages of life without God. The life of the Spirit in us helps us grow in understanding and new patterns of living. But we are not left to our own efforts––Jesus feeds us. In the Church we are given the grace of the Eucharist, the bread of heaven,  who is Jesus Christ our Lord.

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