Homily for Sunday, December 6, 2015 — The Second Sunday of Advent

The Bible is inerrant in matters of faith and morals. Simply put, it contains what we need to know as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. When read with the eyes of faith and within the teaching of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, it cannot lead us astray.

The Bible is a collection of writings, and it is a collection of many different kinds of writing. It contains histories, songs, prayers, biographies, letters, legal documents, parables, and other types of literature.

Today we are having a pop quiz. How many people think today’s Gospel reading started off “Long, long ago in a land far, far away, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert”?

It didn’t start off that way. Long, long ago in a land far, far away is how fairy tales start off. Today’s Gospel reading starts off In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

Today’s Gospel reading begins with a time and a place; it begins with a litany of rules – the men who ruled the Holy Land – and, indeed, the world – at the beginning of Christ’s public ministry.

Tiberius Caeser succeeded to the throne of the Emperor of Rome in 14 A.D. and he reigned until 37 A.D. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea from 26 to 36 AD; history remembers him as a greedy and ruthless man with little regard for the people he governed. Herod, or Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, ruled from 4 BC to 39 AD. His brother, Philip, ruled in the territory north and east of the Sea of Galilea from 4 BC to 34 AD.

In addition to the state of the civil government, Luke also records the religious leadership of Palestine at the time. Annas had been high priest for eleven years between 6 and 15 AD, when he was deposed by the Roman rulers. He was succeeded by various members of his family over the next three years, until his son-in-law Caiaphas became high priest, a position he would hold for 18 years. Though Annas had been deposed by the Romans, the people of Palestine had no great love for their overlords and Annas continued to have considerable influence for the rest of his life.

This Gospel reading begins not like a fairy tale, but like a news report. The reason for this is that it is not a fairy tale. Rather, it reports actual events from a specific time.

John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Not all of the Bible can be taken literally. This is a simple fact. This does not mean that there are parts of the Bible that are unimportant or that lack meaning. It simply means that there are parts of the Bible that have the whole of their meaning outside of literal events. However, there are also parts of the Bible – and great parts of the Gospel – that do record actual events… that do tell us what really happened… and communicate their meaning both in the events they record and the reality those events represent.

Today’s reading falls into that second category. John, in point of fact, went through the region of the Jordan and proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This happened. It began at a specific time, as we see from this reading. It also ended at a specific time, when John the Baptist was arrested and thereby prevented from continuing to deliver his message. It started when God called him and it ended when the world silenced him.

But – and there is a but – it ended only in terms of that it literally happened. It literally began and it literally came to an end. Beyond that, though, and transcending the end of his ministry, the message of John the Baptist lives on for us today. It has literal meaning as a historical curiosity, but far more importantly it has spiritual meaning because the message of John the Baptist lives on and is present to us today.

We are now in the Season of Advent; we are at the beginning of the second week of the anticipation of the arrival of Our Lord. It is time for us to make straight our paths. It is time for the valleys of our lives to be filled and the mountains to be made low.

It is time for our own winding roads to be made straight and smooth, and for those roads to carry us toward Our Lord and Savior. Those who desire to see the salvation of God must prepare themselves, just as was true for those who heard John the Baptist proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Let us take the time this Advent season to reflect on our own lives, both spiritual and physical. Let us recognize our shortcomings and respond to the Baptist’s call to repentance. Let us recognize our need for forgiveness, both forgiveness by God for our sins and forgiveness from our neighbors for the wrongs we have done. Most of all, let us all examine our hearts and make smooth the path for Christ so that He can come into our lives and walk with us on our journey toward salvation, for without Him we are lost indeed.

Homily for Sunday, October 25, 2015

10/25/2015

Never despair of God’s mercy! God’s love knows no bounds. He does not seek to punish us; He does not desire our destruction. He does not cast us away from Him or curse us.

In today’s first reading, we hear the great prophet Jeremiah calling out to the people of Israel, who are exiled from their land and are captive in Babylon. At first glance, it might seem that God has indeed cast away the Israelites. We hear Jeremiah telling them that the Lord will gather the remnant and bring them back to the Promised Land.

Many think that the Babylonian Exile was punishment for Israel’s disobedience and idolatry. I disagree with this view. It seems much more a case of an event – even a tragic event – being allowed to happen not because it was a punitive action but because it was a medicinal correction. God sought not to punish, but to cure.

Idolatry and disobedience had, indeed, taken hold of much of Israel. It was a sickness that had to be removed for the good of the whole body, less the entire body of Israel die from it. Is a doctor who removes a diseased organ cruel?

Of course not! He is very merciful in the way that God is merciful. If one were in the business of second-guessing God – a business I do not recommend – one might ask why the disease wasn’t removed sooner. The answer – both in terms of salvation history as seen in the people of Israel during their exile and in terms of our own personal salvation – is very much the same.

God desires our salvation, and He gives us what we need to respond to His grace so that our salvation may be realized. However, He does not force that upon us. We are still free and we should act responsibly. The perfect love of God presupposes that we will use our capacity for wisdom and reflection to make good choices and that we will exercise our free will to select that which is best for our own good. This is true for us as individuals and it is true for us as a parish community, as a civil community, and as a national community… just as it was true for ancient Israel as a people.

For us today, in a very real and concrete way, this means we have both God-given rights and God-given responsibilities. We have the right to exercise our free will and we have the responsibility to do so in a manner that follows from a wise and careful understanding of what our authentic good is, both personally and within a community. In other words, since God lets us make choices we are obligated to make the best choices possible. We must do the good and reject the evil. What’s more, we must do that for ourselves and to the maximum degree that is possible within our individual circumstance, we must do it for the communities in which we find ourselves.

The first and most important community in which we find ourselves is the family. Some families are healthy; some less so. The healthiest families are those in which every member is doing his or her best to advance the family… to make being a part of that family a pleasure and not a burden.

In the family, everyone has a choice: they can be satisfied with the status quo. They can keep doing what they’ve always done and they can keep getting what they’ve always gotten. This might be a good thing if the family is healthy and ideal. If not, then it might not be a good thing.

Of course, a person also has the ability to choose to do nothing to make the family better. A person could even actively choose to try to make someone else in the family miserable. In these cases, the health of the family is likely to suffer and everyone will be worse off, including and especially the person who chooses to not seek the best way.

Ideally, a person chooses to seek ways to improve the family for everyone. None of us, I expect, live in a perfect family. There is always room for improvement, and so we should all be working to the best of our individual abilities to improve our families. Yes; the father of the family has more responsibilities for this than the youngest baby, but everyone has rights and responsibilities to the family community – even the youngest members. Even if they are an infant capable of doing nothing other than being taken care of, that in itself is an action proper to their state. It gives other family members the opportunity to demonstrate their love and their own maturity when they care for that infant. Besides, in time that infant will likely grow to maturity and have a family of his or her own; their time will come.

God’s love for us is such that we are equipped with the tools we need to make our communities – our worlds – a better place. God doesn’t send us out poorly prepared and ill equipped to do what we need to do. He sends us out with His grace and His love; He gives us a perfect model in Christ. He sets us on the path and calls us to walk it, and He gives us the grace we need to do so. We are blessed abundantly.

Just as we are called to work for the good of our family community, so are we called to work for the good of the other communities in which we find ourselves: our parish community, our city community, our state and our national communities. Even the world is, in its own way, a community in which we find ourselves. Are each of us called to change the world, to make it a better place? Yes, though the way in which we do that varies widely depending on our state in life. Not all of us can be the President of the United States or the Secretary General of the United Nations. But all of us can carry the Gospel to all of the places we go, and in so doing help fulfill the commandment to spread the Good News to all peoples and lands.

We should look for ways to make all of our worlds — all of our communities —better than they have been before, because this is the response God’s love demands. When we pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we should not let these be empty words. We should be actively working to bring about that reality in all of the places we find ourselves, because that is an honest reflection of God’s love and a wise response in love to what God gives us.

Let us always pray for wisdom and discernment so that we can see the many, many ways in which we are called to make our communities a better place where the love of God and the fellowship of man is apparent to all. Let us always remember that the world is not transformed so much by the action of a few who are mighty, but by the vast multitude seeking the good of all in their individual lives and circumstances.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard… October 18, 2015

Dear Parish Family,

I come from the rural South, and in Tennessee we have a saying that someone “went and got the big head.” In today’s Gospel, the sons of Zebedee done went and got the big head. (Please note, gentle reader, that the act of “done went” compounds the fact of “got” so that “done went and got” is magnitudes worse than simply having “got the big head.”)

But haven’t we all been there at one time or another? Haven’t we all at some point been a little full of ourselves? And haven’t we seen others who are full of themselves? It’s fairly normal to react with indignation at others when they go and (as the saying goes) get the big head; the other ten apostles, Mark tells us, reacted in that way.

Christ, though, seems to react with somewhat more patience and understanding. He warns James and John that they really do not understand what they are asking for and tells them outright it is not His to give.

Let us all pray for the grace to respond a Our Lord responds, not with indignation but with patience. We are called to suffer wrongs with understanding and humility in the manner of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is easy to be indignant; it is the mark of one on the road to sainthood to respond with patience and understanding to affronts, both real and imagined.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Homily for Wednesday, October 14, 2015

“You, O man, are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself.” These words come from Paul’s letter to the Romans, and they very closely echo Our Savior’s own words in the beginning of the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”

These are, I do not doubt, some of the most favorite passages in the Bible among those who need to seriously rethink their life choices but are stubbornly refusing to do so. Am I judging? No; I’m stating a fact.

“Don’t judge me, man. It’s not very Christian.” Sounds both whiney and judgmental, doesn’t it?

Does Our Lord really command us not to use prudence? Does Our Lord really command that we look the other way when we see bad behavior? Christ in fact said that He did not come to judge the world, this is true. He also said immediately following that statement that there is one who will judge.

The simple fact is, we are all judged. The Four Last Things are these: death, judgment, heaven and hell. You will see three of them. Whether the third one is heaven or it is hell depends on the grace of God and on the judgments you make.

Our Lord commands that we condemn no one, and indeed we should not. We lack the perfect wisdom and perfect justice of God; we are in no way equipped to condemn a person. However, we are blessed with sufficient wisdom and justice to judge actions… to make prudential decisions as to whether a given action is right or it is wrong. And we certainly have the ability to set a standard to which those who want to be a part of society must adhere or risk being rejected by that society.

The Lord’s command not to judge is not a pass for bad behavior. Those who would make it such are the very people warned that by their stubbornness and impenitent hearts are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of judgment. Do not condemn your brothers and sisters, for we all are sinners. But do not allow their souls to be lost, either, by looking the other way and pretending not to see bad behavior.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard… October 11, 2015

I would like to say a very special thank you to everyone who came out last Sunday to support Life Chain 2015. It was a bit chilly out, but the support of so many passers by made it seem a little less cold. It is always good to be a witness for those who cannot speak for themselves and to support the sanctity of life.

In today’s Gospel reading, Our Lord tells a rich young man to sell what he has, give it to the poor, and to follow Him. The young man goes away sad, unwilling to take that radical step in discipleship.

Christ then goes on to exclaim to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

This statement worries me, and it seems to have worried his disciples as well, as the Scriptures report that they were amazed at Jesus’ words… so much so that when they questioned Our Lord, He seems to have doubled down on His statement and told them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Now, I’ve heard the stories about camel caravans and a narrow gate in Jerusalem that it was somewhat difficult but far from impossible for a camel to pass through. Those stories are utter bunk, made up by tour guides to reassure wealthy visitors to Jerusalem. Let’s set those stories aside (along with their semi-pelagianistic leanings) and assume that Our Lord meant what He said: that just as a camel cannot pass through the eye of a needle, a rich man cannot enter heaven.

That idea is very frightening, indeed. Compared to the American standard of wealth, I’m not what might be considered overly wealthy. Like many of the parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes, I’m comfortable, not complaining, but not rich, either. However, compared to a standard that encompasses all of the world’s people, I am exceptionally wealthy.

Can I be saved? Can you? Or does our wealth doom us? The answer is simple: left to our own devices, our wealth dooms us. But Christ does not leave us to our own devices; He makes possible our salvation. Still, to those who are given much, much is expected. We have been given great gifts, many of which we receive by simple virtue of when and where we were born. It is incumbent upon us to use some of what we are given in service to Christ and His Church. After all, it was given freely to us and we in turn should give freely to those less fortunate.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Homily for Sunday, September 13, 2015 – the 24th in Ordinary Time

September 13, 2015

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”

There are those who want to divide faith and works; there are those who want to claim that we are saved by faith alone. But, is this claim Biblical? Is this claim based on the firm foundation of Holy Scripture?

The very fact that this is addressed so directly in the Bible is evidence that this is not a new claim. If it had not been an issue in Biblical times, it would not have made it into the Biblical narrative. And so we all should ask, can a person be saved by faith alone?

James doesn’t seem to think so, and so we would do well to pay careful heed to what this author of Scripture has written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

James follows his first question with a second: Can that faith save him?

It would be nice if the answer to that question was a simple, “Yes.” But the next question James asks of his readers makes it clear that the answer is not so simple: “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?”

What good is it? Absolutely none at all. Absolutely none. To merely wish someone well, or even to have a genuine concern for their well-being if you do nothing to help them is no good whatsoever. No real love of Jesus allows room for denying someone with a genuine need when you have the means to help.

And James tells us so when he writes, “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Faith without works is dead. We are not saved by faith alone. We are saved by Christ alone. We are saved by Christ, and Him crucified for our sins. Faith doesn’t get us into heaven. Jesus does. We are able to attain heaven only because Jesus loves us and we love Him in return. And the love of Christ compels us to good works in His Holy Name.

No amount of faith can compel God to allow us into heaven. It is impossible to have faith enough to make God beholding to us.

Now, to be certain, it is equally impossible to merit heaven through our works. It doesn’t matter how much of a social justice crusader a person is — it doesn’t matter if a person seeks to right every wrong and eliminate every injustice — no one earns his way into heaven. That is simply not possible.

We are not saved by faith. We are not saved by works. We are saved by Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ faith and works are united into one reality to which each one of us is called.

True faith demands the love of Christ and the love of Christ demands good works. If we lack works, we lack love… and no amount of faith can fill that void. If we lack faith, we lack Christ… and no amount of good works can fill that void.

There was a photograph that made the social media rounds recently that showed a billboard paid for by an atheist group that claimed you don’t have to believe in God to be good. It encouraged people to “be good for goodness’ sake.” And I suppose they are right, as far as it goes. You don’t have to believe in God to do good. Even a blind pig gets an acorn once in a while.

But — and this is very important — without a firm belief in God you can do good all day long, and there will still be an emptiness at the core of your being. This is unavoidable. We’re human, and as such we are made in the likeness and image of God. We long for God. We can deny that; we can avoid it. We can try to mask that need with drugs or diversions. We can chase after endless false gods. But in the end, all of that will disappoint. Without a true love of God, there is an emptiness in us that cannot be filled.

The Catechism tells us that, “Faith is both a theological virtue given by God as grace, and an obligation which flows from the first commandment of God.” Faith is both a gift from God and a human act. However, faith does not originate in us; it originates from God and from us responding to His call. Works also come from responding to His call. The two are inseparable.

James makes this clear when he writes, “Indeed someone might say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.”

You can’t have one without the other. Faith without works is like trying to hold red. You can’t. You can certainly hold a red object, but it is impossible to have a handful of red.

On the other hand, good works without true faith become a quagmire of relativism and misguided intention. Certainly, no human being is equipped to be the ultimate arbiter of what is right and what is wrong… what is bad and what is good. The wrong belief that we are somehow capable of that is at the core of Original Sin… and yet in our hubris it is a mistake we keep on making. Without God as the ultimate authority, humans are quite capable of calling evil good and good evil. We see that all the time in the world around us.

Finally — let’s be completely honest —good works can (and should!) sometimes take us out of our comfort zone. It can be downright frightening to work on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, the sick, the refugee, those suffering from mental illness, those suffering from addiction, and others in true need. There is a reason they are pushed to the margins, and that reason is they scare people. It is very human to fear what we do not understand, and yet faith calls us to the realization that those on the margin of society are really very much like us: children of God made in His image, just like us. They simply have needs that we do not have, and once we see them with the eyes of faith, we are very capable of helping them to meet those needs.

If true faith was easy, everyone would be doing it. Let us all pray for ample opportunities to demonstrate our faith by our works and to meet those in need, with hands and hearts open in friendship to our brothers and sisters.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard….

August 16, 2015

Dear Parish Family,

Let whoever is simple turn in here; To the one who lacks understanding, she says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.

In the book of Proverbs, Wisdom is personified. She — for Wisdom is a she — offers understanding to the simple. She invites us to her table and offers to share with us the fruit of wisdom.

However, the gaining of wisdom is not assured. It is not enough to merely sit at the table; one must eat the food and drink the wine. In short, one must do.

One must also forsake the way of foolishness in favor of the way of understanding. Wisdom does not fall into our laps; such is not the natural order of things. We must seek her.

It is easy to be the fool. It is easy to be mean spirited. It is easy to be uncharitable. It is easy to be small, and petty, and foul, and every other thing that comes through sloth… through lack of effort… through lack of charity… through a desire to do as little as possible for others while taking as much as we can for ourselves. Being pushy and hateful is easy; any fool can do it. It is basically the default path for fallen mankind — but it was never intended to be.

To be wise is far more difficult. It takes real effort. To be charitable and loving… to defend justice for others… to work selflessly and actively for the betterment of all — these are good and noble not because they are easy, but precisely because they are hard. They do not come naturally because we must, through grace, rise above our base nature and take on the nature of sons and daughters of God. We must work to be what we were intended to be from the very beginning.

Let us all pray for wisdom and understanding, for charity and love, for a commitment to justice, and for the ability to see the good in others as being equal to the good in ourselves. Most importantly, let us always seek to cooperate with the grace that God gives us so that we can rise above our base nature and become what we were intended to be from the very beginning: sons and daughters of God.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Homily for Sunday, 2 August 2015 – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

woman-at-the-well

Consider the Woman at the Well. We read about her in the Gospel of John, two chapters before today’s reading. She encounters Christ privately, as an individual. Our Lord tells her of the living water come down from heaven, and that if she drinks this water she will never thirst. The woman says to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Today, Christ tells a crowd of people about the Bread of Heaven, given by the Father. He tells them, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

This crowd, meeting Christ publicly as a group, responds very much like the Woman at the Well. They ask of Our Lord, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Then Christ makes a statement very much like the earlier statement made to the Woman at the Well. He tells them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

How is this possible? Because Jesus Christ is God. There have been many misunderstandings of Christ’s divinity throughout the ages. The most common one today is the false belief that Jesus was a good man and a good teacher, but that He was not really God. Some even go so far as to state that Jesus never claimed to be God, but that was added to the narrative later.

Clearly, those understandings are wrong. There are two possibilities: Jesus is who he claimed to be, God incarnate, or else Jesus lied to us. I, for one, will not and cannot accept that Jesus lied about anything, most especially not about His nature or His role as our savior. It is not in the nature of the divine to lie.

So, we have the Woman at the Well meeting God singly and a crowd meeting God collectively. Both the individual and the group want the same thing: to be given what Christ has to offer, to have their spiritual needs met, to be shown the path to eternal life and to be given the aid needed to follow that path. And so the people of the Bible have the same needs and wants as we have today, both as individuals and collectively as a group.

And, so how do we have these needs met? By mighty deeds? By bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth?

No. We come to Jesus, for Our Lord Himself says that whoever, “comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

And how do we come to Jesus? We encounter Him in His Word, in Holy Scripture. We encounter Him in His Church — the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. We encounter Him in those around us, who, like ourselves, were made in the likeness and image of God and who through the dignity of their Christian baptism are made sons and daughters of God by adoption. We encounter Him in the Mass, and most especially in the Holy Eucharist.

The Holy Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is not metaphor; this is reality. I had my belief in the True Presence challenged one time by someone who thought that if I truly believed in transubstantiation – that the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ – that I would be unable to approach the consecrated host, much less consume it. That if I thought the Eucharist was really an encounter with God, I would be able to do nothing other than throw myself down before Him and tremble.

And this would be a reasonable argument, except it completely misunderstands both my nature and God’s. This argument assumes I come by force of will and take God. This assumption is false. It also assumes God does not desire our salvation. This assumption is also false.

The truth is I come sinful and sorrowful to receive Our Lord and desire to be made well. God, who desires my salvation, lifts me to Him and grants me the dignity to receive Him. I am truly not worthy to receive Him, but He needs only to say the word and I will be healed. It is not I who initiates Communion; I do not reach into heaven and take God. It is God who initiates Communion by coming down from heaven, searching for me. And searching for you. And searching for every man, woman, and child on this planet. We need only to come to Him, and we will never hunger. We need only to believe in Him, and we will never thirst.

This is also why we have perpetual Eucharistic Adoration here at Lourdes. The real question isn’t how can you approach God for communion; the real question is this: how can you stand not to be in His presence? Sure — the act of believing in Him can be done anywhere and at all times and it should be! But the act of coming to Him involves getting up and going to Him.

We, as Catholics, are required to attend Mass every week. To purposefully and intentionally miss Mass is a mortal sin. More importantly, though, we — as Catholics desiring salvation and eternal union with God — should desire to come to Mass every week so that we can encounter Our Lord in His Word and in the Holy Eucharist.

Shouldn’t we, for the same reason, all be spending at least an hour each week in Adoration? If we truly desire to spend eternity with God, would it not be wise to start with an hour a week now?

The Holy Eucharist is Christ present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. What greater gift could there possibly be from God, who desires our salvation? We need only to believe and to come to Him. We need only to answer His call, which is made in love and made with the desire for our salvation. We can come to Him collectively, which we do when we come to Mass and we can come to him singly, as we do in Adoration. We should be coming to Him both ways; the Bible, which is our guide in faith, tells us of fruitful encounters with Him by both individuals and groups… both formally and informally. Let us pray always for the gift of faith, so that we may hear His call, believe, and come to Him.

Eucharistic-Adoration

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

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August 2, 2015
The 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parish Family,

Buddha did not claim that he was God. Abraham — the patriarch of not only the Jewish faith, but of Christian and Muslim as well — did not claim to be any other than fully human. Moses claimed only to be a prophet and to speak with the Lord. Mohammed made a similar claim as Moses and certainly did not identify himself as Allah. Never did Zoroaster claim to be Ahura Mazda. Jesus alone makes the claim that He is God made flesh for our salvation.

Christ was fully human and fully divine. We should never lose sight of this reality. There are those who will make the claim that Jesus never said He was God. This is simply wrong. He did, indeed, make such a claim, both in word and deed. When the high priest asked Jesus directly if He was the Christ, the Son of God, Our Lord responded, “I am.” His words to Martha after the death of her brother Lazarus also that He is fully aware of His divine nature as do His words to the Samaritan woman at the well when He identifies Himself as the Living Water come down from heaven.

In today’s Gospel reading, Christ tells us that He is “the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” We receive the Bread of Life — Christ Himself — when we receive the Eucharist. Christ’s flesh is real food; Christ’s blood is real drink; what we receive at the Eucharist is really and truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Son of God.

Pascal-Adolphe-Jean_Dagnan-Bouveret_(1852-1929)_Last_Supper_36081

There is no other religion in which the high priest can make a reasonable claim to be God Himself. Christ alone makes this claim and Christ alone should be believed. Thousands of years of Hebrew history anticipate His coming, and two thousand years since show the reasonableness of His claim: Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. He became man for our salvation. When we receive the Holy Eucharist we are receiving His flesh and His blood and entering into communion with Him. When we receive the Bread of Life, we participate in a great movement toward salvation initiated by God Himself, without Whom we have no hope of eternal life.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard