Only One Message!

Sr. Ann Shields recently wrote that our supreme duty is to evangelize, to bring people “into a life-giving relationship with our heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit”. Exactly how do we do this?
How do we bring back the lost, those who have left the Church? First we need to remember that we aren’t bringing people back to an institution with a lot of rules. Our job is to bring people to Jesus, the God who loves them passionately and longs for communion with them.
We have one message. It is about the God who loves us passionately, who ardently yearns to bless us, the God who wants to pour out His love upon us. It’s about a God who loves us so much that He took our sins upon His back and suffered through the most painful death in history. It is about a God who wants to bless us more than we can imagine, a God who desires a real personal relationship with us, a God willing to let us know Him.
It is about the God of love, an infinite unfathomable love that we don’t deserve. We don’t have to earn His love. In fact we can’t earn it. That doesn’t matter. He knows every sin we’ve ever committed and every sin we will ever commit. He loves us anyway.
It is about the God who loves us so much He created the Church and the Sacraments so that we can draw near and know Him. He waits patiently for us in the Eucharist and ardently yearns to forgive our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This is our message but we also have to demonstrate this love. We need to reach out to those who are hurting, those who need God’s love. We have the power of the Holy Spirit. We can lay hands on or pray with people. We can pray not only for healing but also for those we pray with to know and experience the love of God.
Our job is to bring people to Jesus, to tell them about God’s love. Jesus will take care of the rest.

The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

On Sunday June 22, Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, previously known as Corpus Christi. This used to be a major feast day of the Church with processions and everything — a really big feast, up there with Easter, Christmas, and Pentecost.
We celebrate the Blessed Sacrament to affirm Catholic belief in the Eucharist, but unfortunately for many this feast is so laid back that it might as well be just another Sunday in ordinary time. Why is that? Why do so many Catholics pay so little attention? Could it be that we don’t really understand the incredible gift and love given to us in the Eucharist?
The Eucharist is the heart of our Catholic faith. If we don’t believe in the Eucharist we might as well not be Catholic. Where else can we find so much grace available to us? Where else can we encounter the living Christ in such a concrete way?
We believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist. This Jesus we receive is not a symbol. He is not a watered down version of the Jesus of the Gospels, stripped of His power. No! Jesus is present in all His power and glory. The same Jesus who raised Lazarus and others from the dead is present in the Eucharist. He who fed thousands with a few fish and loaves of bread is present at every Mass waiting for us to receive Him so that we can be fed. The same Jesus who healed the paralytic and countless others is present in every Eucharist. This is the same Jesus who walked on water and calmed the storm. How awesome is that?
It gets better. He passionately longs for us to receive Him. He ardently desires to give Himself to us. He fervently yearns for a relationship with us. It was because of His infinite love for us that He created the Eucharist to be with us. It was not enough for Him to just give up His life for our salvation. He wanted to give us Himself. His love is so great He is willing to wait countless hours for us to visit Him in the tabernacle. What more can He give us? Nothing on Earth can compare with what God has to give us in the Eucharist.
He longs to come to us as often as possible in the Eucharist. It is His desire to pour His love upon us, to bless us beyond our imagination. In every communion there is a virtual Niagara Falls of grace available to those who are truly open to His love.
Yet Mass after Mass we receive Communion and little seems to happen. We leave the church the same people who walked in. Why is that? Perhaps if you ask yourself these question, it will help you examine your readiness to receive the graces of the Eucharist:
Could the fault be mine? Could it be that I come out the way I want to? Could it be that I, in my pride, think I know what is best so I reject the graces that God wants to give me? Do I seek only physical blessings and say no to the spiritual graces that must come first?
Am I really willing to change? Have I sacramentally prepared myself by confession? Am I seeking His blessings on my terms only or seeking to follow His way? Am I afraid to give up control?
Do I desire intimacy with Jesus? Do I really focus on Jesus or am I distracted by the people around me? Do I desire a real relationship with Him or am I afraid to really let Him into my heart?
Do I trust Jesus? Do I believe that He understands what I’m going through and knows what is best for me? Am I afraid that if He really knew me, I would be rejected? Do I understand the intensity of His love and that I don’t have to be perfect? Do I understand that He loves me as I am, accepts me where I am and will bring me to a better place if I allow His grace to change me?
Have I lost the real meaning of the Mass? Am I so used to going through the motions of the outward ritual that I fail to give my heart to Jesus? Am I too focused on parish politics and activities? Am I so busy wondering who’s at Mass or worrying about what Father said or didn’t say that I forget that Mass is a time for me to connect with Jesus?
Am I full of negative feelings towards others? Am I too busy complaining about the traffic, the music, the crowd or lack of attendance to be open to Jesus’ love?
Is my mind elsewhere? Am I so focused on the problems at work or at home that I fail to open myself to the one who has the answer? Am I using the time I should be praying at Mass to mentally tick off my grocery list or the menu at Dunkin Donuts? Am I thinking about the game this afternoon, or the movie I saw last night?
Is it any wonder we get so little out of Communion? Do we think this is what Jesus intended? Is this why He created the Eucharist?
We need to remember that we are called to be a Eucharistic people. Jesus wanted to be at the center of our lives, to be with us, to comfort and console us, to strengthen us, to bless us immensely and even heal us.
We need to remember that in the Eucharist is God Who possesses infinite power, the God of infinite love and mercy who wants what is best for us and avidly longs to bless us. We need to remember that the Blessed Sacrament is most worthy of our attention, reverence and love, and worthy of mental and spiritual preparation and discipline.
Let’s resolve to celebrate this Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in a spirit of reparation for our past offences against the Eucharist and in a spirit of great gratitude for this sublime gift. If we truly get in the habit of examining and improving our prayerful participation in the Eucharist, this feast — and all Masses throughout the year – will fill us with every grace and blessing.

Proud to be Crazy

This weekend the bishop told those being confirmed that one attitude they will face from their peers is the idea that they must be crazy to go to mass every week. The reality is that you have to be crazy not to go to mass.
We live in an insane world. There is the danger of terrorism. Violence is rampant. There have been over 70 school shootings since Sandy Hook and the death toll in our cities some weekends is greater than in Afghanistan the same weekend. There is an epidemic of STD’s, broken families and stories of abuse. Then there is the economic uncertainty. We never know if our finances will survive the next economic downturn. On top of that we see natural disaster after natural disaster, hurricanes, blizzards, floods, tornadoes and wild fires.
The reality is that we are living in a moral cesspool; extremely dangerous to both body and soul. There is an incredible amount of temptation facing all of us today; so many ways to get hurt. We are bombarded by trash virtually every time we turn on the media. Most of TV and movies subtlety attack Christian values. There is pressure to cheat, drink, use drugs and hook up. This is the world we live in yet we are considered crazy for going to church.
We have to be crazy not to approach the source of life, of grace and everything good every chance we can get. Despite what the critics say we don’t eat a cookie at mass but we receive Jesus in all of his power and glory, the same Jesus who performed miracles all over Palestine almost 2000 years ago. He is alive and present at every mass and He cares about each one of us, our problems and concerns. He longs to help us, to comfort us and to bless us in ways beyond our imagination. He is real but too often we don’t believe like little children but have let the lies of the world destroy our faith. We come to mass expecting nothing and that is what we get. We are like the people of Nazareth who could not believe in Jesus.
God has so much to give us at mass if we would only open our hearts to Him. We would experience a love way beyond our comprehension, one that would change us and our world forever. We would know that with Jesus all things are possible including miracles. God loves us passionately with an infinite love and wants to pour out that love upon us. Every mass, every communion is an opportunity to plug into His infinite love and mercy, to receive His grace and strength, to be blessed by God
Isn’t it more crazy to stay home? Don’t we need all the grace and help we can get?
Me? I’m proud the world considers me crazy!

Be Merciful!

There is one verse from the Gospel of Luke that has bugged me since St. Patrick’s Day. Luke 6:36 Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your father is merciful.” Have we forgotten our call to be merciful? Do the attitudes we express reflect our mercy? What do our conversations reveal about us? Are we quick to condemn? Have we made ourselves judge and jury?
Do we really believe in being merciful to everyone or to just those like us? What about the attitude we have for the poor? Does our mercy extend to the poor or do we express the Protestant Ethic that the poor deserve to be poor? Do we support the call for a just minimum wage that will allow people to support themselves? Do we describe the poor as lazy freeloaders? Is this what Jesus meant by his call to mercy?
Are we merciful when it comes to immigrants? Do we recognize them as children of God, our brothers and sisters and often fellow Catholics? Do we support immigration reform of any type? Or do we feel they should all go back where they came from? Is that what Jesus would do?
Think about the attitudes you express in your daily conversations. So many of us are hard-line when it comes to social issues like poverty, civil rights and immigration; is this the attitude we want Christ to have at our final judgment? Do we want Christ to treat us the same way we treat those who made mistakes or blow it? Would we want Him to offer us the same level of mercy we show in our daily conversations? Think about that the next time you are quick to condemn?