Martyrdom Multiplies

In the early days of Christianity the blood of martyrs was the lifeblood of the Church. The more they were martyred the more Christianity grew in numbers and fervor. That paradox has been noted down through the centuries.

Perhaps it has something to do with ‘the meaning of life’. People are attracted to causes because causes give their lives meaning. Today we see young people from wealthy nations flocking to ISIS to join up. When questioned about it some cannot explain, but most say it is because it gives them something to believe in, yes it is a negative thing, they say, but still it makes their lives have meaning.

On the other side of the coin, Christians in the Middle East are being martyred by ISIS and yet the Christian Church is growing stronger every day. This paradox points out how deep is the drive within us for meaning for our lives.

Perhaps, on a smaller scale we might consider the things in our lives that make us feel good about ourselves and double down on them. “Helping others” is one of the greatest ways to do just that.

We should do ourselves a favor and find something that we can do that ultimately serves others and then give ourselves to that task on a regular basis. In the Book of Matthew we hear, “What you do for others, you do for Me”.

Food For The Journey, Homily

Homily, Aug 08-09, 2015: Cycle B, Food for the Journey

We are at that point in the Liturgical Cycle where for five weekends our Gospels are taken from John 6 and talk to us about Jesus being the Bread of Life. These are foundational for our understanding of Eucharist.

Msgr started the series two weeks ago sharing about the hunger for physical food throughout our lives. Last week we shifted over from physical food to the idea of Jesus being spiritual food throughout our lives.

This week, we hear the ‘less than sparkling reactions’ of some of the people who were having difficulty believing Jesus’ words of “I am the bread that came down from Heaven.” They began to “MURMUR” about Him being Joseph & Mary’s son, so how could He say He came down from heaven.

Next week & the week, after we will hear His message continue to evolve.

Obviously, this much time, 5 weeks out of 52, or 10% is devoted to it because it is a central theme of our faith.

What really strikes me about the readings this week in general is not the Gospel that continues the theme of Jesus giving His flesh for the life of the world, but rather, the First Reading in which we can all see ourselves in Elijah.

Actually, the reading itself is a rather nondescript reading about Elijah going into the desert and being fed by an angel who told him to get up and eat and drink or else the Journey would be too long.

Indeed, Elijah has a 40-day journey ahead of him. Therefore, you could say the theme of Eucharist this week moves on into the realm of it being “Food for the Journey” of our lives.

What we do not realize just reading these few verses in first Kings 19, is that Elijah is trying to cross the desert because he is fleeing from Queen Jezebel.

Jezebel had sworn to kill him in retaliation for his rather heavy-handed treatment of her false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel.

Elijah decided to flee to the desert, because he knew that the soldiers would not think he would go there.  No one could survive crossing the desert on foot. That is where we find Elijah in that first reading.

He had, had enough.  He was out of food and water.  More than that, he just didn’t have the strength or the stamina to continue to do God’s work.  He laid down under that broom tree, and he said to God, “Look, I just can’t do this anymore.  I just can’t continue my mission to Israel.”  And, he fell asleep.

Now none of us has had a crazy Queen chase us, but we understand Elijah’s feelings, don’t we. We’ve been at that point at one time or another in our lives…tired of getting up every day to the same job, to the same environment, with the same drama. But, hey, that’s our desert. It’s less intense but spread over a longer period.

God gave Elijah the power to complete his mission and He is right there with the wherewithal we need to keep on keeping on with our own mission.

Our mission is living out God’s unique plan for the life to which He calls us.

Although the plan is unique, it encompasses a position in life that we share with many people.  For example, most people are called to marriage, to be husbands, wives, and parents, though each person is called to be one in a unique way.

The same can be said for all vocations in life. It takes a tremendous amount of strength and determination to be a good husband or good wife, a good parent, a good child, a good priest, a good nun, a good Dominican brother, or a good friend.

It takes a great effort to be a true follower of Christ.  It takes great determination to allow God’s plan for us to take place.  It is much easier to just give up and settle.

We have a gift far greater than Elijah received.

It is Jesus Christ Himself who gives us the nourishment we need to complete the work with which we have been entrusted.  And, we are not given just a hearth cake and a jug of water; we are given the very Body and Blood of the Lord to help us complete the journey.

We have received the gift of Jesus Christ. The eternal Word who became one of us.  Though, I think sometimes it is difficult for us to comprehend the depth of this gift…hard to get our mind around it.

You know, there are times while in the line to receive communion, I realize I am coming forward because that is habitually what we do, not because of what the Eucharist can do. Shame on me.

He is God.  And, He is ours. He is the only God who died for His people. We are not alone on our journey of life.  He is with us always. That is the promise we receive from Him at our Baptism. No, He didn’t promise us a rose garden. No, He didn’t promise to answer all of our prayers the way we want them answered. He promised to be with us always, through ups & downs.

With the nourishment He gives us, the Eucharist, we can live our lives well & not settle, because the Lord is living in us and working through us with His Food for our Journey.

Conversion, Richard Rohr Meditation

Thérèse of Lisieux, Part II: Conversion

As a child, Thérèse experienced both great love and great suffering. Having lost four babies prior to her birth, Thérèse’s family truly cherished her. Thérèse’s father called her “my little Queen.” But due to her mother’s breast cancer, Thérèse had to live with a wet-nurse from the fragile age of three months to fifteen months. This early separation, along with the death of her mother when Thérèse was four, may have contributed to Thérèse being overly sensitive and needing to please others in order to feel secure and connected. She also experienced mild depression as she held her grief and her need for consolation inside. Thérèse often felt guilty for being dramatic or making a fuss about seemingly small things. It was as if she no longer had her feelings; her feelings had her. Thérèse described the years between her mother’s death and age fourteen as “the most painful” period of her life. But God uses everything, and these wounds became sacred gifts that readied her for what she surprisingly called her “complete conversion.” [1]

Thérèse’s conversion took place just before her fourteenth birthday when she, her father, and two of her sisters had returned fromMidnight Mass early Christmas morning. Her tired father made a comment to her sister Celine which Thérèse overheard: “Well, fortunately, this will be the last year!” He was referring to the little charade they always played where Thérèse pretended to believe in Papa Noel and opened gifts with joy to please her father. Now she felt she’d been making him unhappy instead.

Thérèse’s sensitive heart was shattered. But then the miracle she’d been praying for happened. Instead of bursting into tears and running up the stairs to her room, as she would normally have done, she felt Jesus give her immediate strength and deep foundation. She was able to remain calm and participate joyfully in the family tradition, as if her father’s criticism had not happened. Joseph Schmidt describes this new freedom: “By grace stripped of falseness, Thérèse now saw herself more clearly mirrored in the eyes of God, a child of God. . . . [She realized] the violence she was doing to herself by . . . being untrue to herself. . . . On that Christmas Day, she had been able to stand her ground emotionally, take the next step, and not be intimidated by her feelings.” [2] She claimed it was a complete victory over her egocentric emotions for the rest of her life! Most of us never enjoy such a victory, or even deem it as necessary.

It seems like such a little thing, but that is actually what makes it so important in the end. Thérèse was all about “doing small things with great love.” An experience of inner freedom and grace allows you to be more compassionate both with yourself and with others. This is at the heart of much Eastern Meditation practice. Looking at yourself from a calm distance, you begin to see your own patterns and understand that so much of your behavior is habitual, knee-jerk reactions. Your immediate feelings are almost always due to childhood conditioning, but they are so deep in your unconscious that you have no idea why you’re doing what you’re doing. We are indeed unconscious. [3] Even St. Paul says that about himself (Romans 7:14-24).

So much that we humans do, positive or negative, is automatic brain response; there is very little free-will involved. Every time we choose love, grace, and humility over our habituated brain reactions, we expand our realm of freedom. And love can only happen in the realm of freedom. Thérèse was a master at finding such freedom inside of very small spaces. Thus she called it her “little way.”

Center for Action and Contemplation