Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Eucharist: C.o.o.l. (Part 1)

I was out of town for a few weeks (R&R in the Great Northwest), and unable to post. I hope that everyone finished up the semester well. Congrats to all the new graduates!! I will be posting off and on this Summer, so please keep checking in. I hope everyone has a blessed and fun Summer.

The following is the first part (of three) of an article I've written on the Eucharist. I will post the other two parts in the next week or so. Please feel free, as always, to post your comments and questions.


You’ve seen the crowds grow larger by the day, following one man. You’ve seen him heal the blind, the deaf, and the mute. You’ve seen him cure the sick. You’ve heard his great teachings. You’ve seen him walk on water. All of the signs are there: Jesus of Nazareth is the one to follow. You’ve been sure for weeks now. Your heart is pumping. You’re talking about him with everyone. You have been reading the Scriptures more frequently, reviewing what Isaiah and the other prophets wrote about the Messiah.

You haven’t talked with Jesus yet, but you feel a connection there. The words he uses, the way he speaks, the manner in which he conducts himself… he has such a powerful way about him. But, you haven’t been able to put your finger on it just yet. You just know you want to be near him, and learn from him. He is different, a man set apart from the rest. This man has stirred your heart and mind like no other person has ever done.

And, now, he is introducing a brand new teaching. “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51). He is telling everyone that the bread to which he is referring is his flesh. While you begin to process this, those around you quarrel. People are outraged, but are mainly confused. So, Jesus gets more specific and emphatic. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life… My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (53, 55). Whoa! Jesus of Nazareth wants to give his flesh and blood as food and drink.

This realization spreads through the crowd. It is such a large gathering, and it takes a while for everyone to hear what’s been said. Slowly, people start to leave. “This is a hard teaching…who can accept it?” (60) is what you hear some of them say as they turn away from Jesus. And, you agree, this is a hard teaching. But, you haven’t moved, and aren’t planning on leaving just yet.

You look over at Jesus’ closest disciples. You notice a very perplexed Peter. Jesus asks them if they are leaving, too. Peter says, with probably a very dazed and confused look, “Lord, where are we going to go? You have the words of eternal life” (68). When you hear these words come from Peter’s lips, your heart skips a beat. You are thinking, ‘Has Jesus just been speaking the words of eternal life? Is this, in fact, a message from heaven? Could this be true? Is he really going to give us his flesh to eat? And, will it get us to heaven? Is this the newest, most radical teaching from God? Do I believe what I am hearing?’

Thursday, May 05, 2005

To Jesus through Mary

1. Party time! Tonight (cinqo de Mayo), 5:30 pm, Parish Hall. Come celebrate the end-of-the year / last day of classes! Burritos, beverages, etc.

2. Thank you all for a great year! Tonight is my last event at St Stephen's unless I return this Fall. I will be in a parish for a year before priesthood ordination next May, God willing. Please pray for me!
May is the month of Mary, the Blessed Mother. She plays a special role in the life of the Church and for each one of us. She is the Mother of Jesus and she is our heavenly mother. She said 'yes' to God her whole life, most significantly with her 'fiat' (it will be done) at age 14 in which she agreed to conceive the Savior of the world.

Many people, including Catholics, do not understand or know the Blessed Virgin Mary. First, she is not God; we do not worship her. She is the Mother of God who gave birth to and nurtured the Son of God on Earth. We honor her as a perfect vessel through whom Salvation entered the world in Christ Jesus.

Second, when we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), we celebrate Mary's conception, not Jesus'. Mary was conceived without original sin in her mother, Ann's, womb. God preserved Mary from sin so that she could be the perfect vessel for His Son to become man.

Third, we do not pray 'to Mary' as if she is God. Rather, we ask her to pray for us to God. It's kind of like when we got in trouble with our Dad when we were young and asked our Mom to soften him up for us. Mary is a powerful intercessor, indeed: the common adage is that 'Jesus never refuses his Mother anything'.

Mary has appeared several times on Earth since she was assumed into Heaven 2000 years ago. Through incredibly thorough and intense investigations, the Church has approved several Marian apparitions in places like a) Guadalupe, Mexico (1500s), b) Lourdes, France (1858), and c) Fatima, Portugal (1907). In these apparitions, Mary often has appeared to simple folks with very serious messages from Heaven.

For example, at Fatima, Mary told three little children to pray the rosary every day (mainly, for the salvation of sinners). The rosary is a beautiful, Scripturally-based devotion that helps us to meditate on the lives of Jesus and Mary. Everything about the life of Mary points to Jesus. Just as Jesus came to us through Mary, so we go to Jesus through Mary.

Finally, my other favorite Marian prayer is the Memorare, which is much shorter than the (15-20 minute) rosary. It is especially powerful when we take a specific intention to our Mother in Heaven:

Remember, O most gracious virgin Mary,
that never was it known,
that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help,
or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence,
I fly unto thee, O virgin of virgins, my Mother.
To thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petition,
but in thy mercy,
hear and answer me. Amen.