21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Benedict Groeschel once told me, "The Church will get much smaller before it gets bigger." In our Gospel, Jesus' teaching that his followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood (the Eucharist) to find eternal life turned many people away. But the Church has to get smaller, and more genuine, before it can grow through authentic and powerful witness. People get up in arms about Paul's words in our second reading, "Wives, be subordinate to your husbands." They fail, however, to read the rest of that chapter, where Paul asks all Christians to be subordinate to one another, to put the wants and needs of others before your own, because that is true love, that is what Christ did for us.
Sadly, we see in the recent news from Pennsylvania and the numerous scandals in the Church that some, even the Church's own ministers and leaders, have NOT chosen to follow this path that Paul (in following Jesus) laid out. Rather, they have chosen their wants and needs at the expense of and to the harm of others. Because of that bad example, many will leave the Church and even lose faith in God. And for those who remain, there is now more ammunition to be hurled at us. The Church will get smaller because of this, but it's a time of purification. "The Church will get much smaller before it gets bigger." But it will get bigger...through GENUINE witness to Jesus Christ!
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our Gospel this weekend, Jesus says that one must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. The people of his day and age are scandalized by that - "How can we possibly eat his flesh and drink his blood! That's preposterous!" Does Jesus apologize? Or soften his words? Or say that he's just speaking figuratively? No. In fact, he ups the ante. We miss it in the English translation, but in the Greek, in response to their pushback, Jesus uses a different word for "eat", a more vivid, primitive, and animalistic word, to make sure he clearly gets his point across. Our belief in the Eucharist as the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is at the same time our belief that God wants to be intimately close to us: that He literally wants to just eat us up!
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the spiritual life, it's often the case that when you want to go up, you'll first "feel" like you're going down (emphasis on "feel"). God grows us through struggle and perseverance, and it's in those times when we "feel" like we're going down that God is giving us the opportunity to grow in exactly that place where we feel weak. So the next time you are struggling, don't blame the situation, don't blame yourself or think you're doing something wrong. Perhaps everything is at it's supposed to be. Perhaps you're doing nothing wrong. Perhaps God is giving you the opportunity to grow in this place where you "feel" weak and "feel" like a failure. Maybe what feels like going down is actually going up!
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It seems to be a natural human tendency to begin something new with energy and enthusiasm...then the path begins to get long and difficult...our energy and excitement seem to dry up...we begin to doubt our initial commitment and wonder whether or not the change is really worth it...then we slowly fall back into the way things used to be - not because the old way was better, but simply because we were familiar with it, which makes it easier. That's the experience of the Israelites in the first reading, and in response God gives them manna, bread from heaven, food for the journey, so that they have the strength to continue down this new and better (but not easier) path. Jesus is the new Bread from heaven, the Food for our journey toward heaven here on earth. Every Mass, if we have eyes to see, we receive this Food and are given just enough strength to walk another week on our journey: away from our old (but easy and familiar) bad habits, and toward our God and our better selves.
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the Gospel today Jesus goes up a mountain to preach. This sixth chapter of John's Gospel, surprisingly enough, is all about the Mass and the Eucharist. People come and gather around Jesus, sitting at His feet and listening to His words - exactly what we do as we gather at Mass. Jesus then miraculously feeds thousands - at Mass we are fed with bread and wine miraculously become the Body and Blood of Christ. The more of ourselves we can put into the Mass, the more we will get out of it. So this week I leave you with three practical tips of how to enter more deeply into every Mass and carry that experience with you throughout the rest of the week.