Asking a Crucial Question: A Homily for the 25th Sunday of the Year

blog9-19-2015In today’s gospel, the Lord Jesus is asking a crucial question. The word crucial here is selected carefully. It comes from the Latin cruces, meaning “cross.” Indeed, looming over this entire gospel is the Cross. Jesus makes the second prediction of His passion, death, and resurrection. It is in the context of this teaching that the Lord asks the “crucial” question of us: What is most central in our life? Let’s look at this gospel in five stages.

I. The Processional Picture – The gospel text opens this way: Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee. This will be Jesus’ final journey through Galilee. He is heading south, unto His passion, death, and resurrection.

Do not miss, in this first stage, the importance of seeing our own life as a kind of procession, a journey. We, too, are making a journey through this life, our first and only journey. We, too, with every step we take, move closer to our own death and, we pray, our resurrection with and unto the Lord.

All along the way we meet people and find things that will either help us or hinder us in getting ready for life’s true destination. There are people and things that will help us, and people and things that will distract us. Since this is a fallen world, it is a sad and perhaps unfair fact that there will be more to distract and divert us into foolish desires, pointless paths, and frivolous and harmful philosophies. More on that in a moment.

For now, simply note that the Lord is on a procession. He is headed for a critical destination, one that matters, one on which rests our very destiny. We, too, are on such a path, and while we cannot save ourselves we can surely harm ourselves. Our destiny is caught up in the decisions we make on life’s journey. Yes, we are on a procession with Jesus.

II. The Pain that is Proclaimed – The text says that though Jesus was journeying through Galilee, he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them that the Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death, the Son of Man will rise. And while the Lord surely says this in great confidence, knowing what the end shall ultimately be, we must not overlook the pain lurking in this text.

That Jesus seeks to journey quietly through Galilee is likely because He does not want to be diverted by the often-endless requests that surrounded His public appearances. But one can also imagine here a portrait of pain.

In our grief, we sometimes need to draw aside, to be with close friends and family. Large gatherings are not for us during these times.

Yet even as Jesus is teaching the disciples some very difficult things about what He will go through, the apostles are dealing with their own issues. They seem to draw back and get quiet. The text says, they were afraid to ask him any questions about this matter.

The text implies this drawing back when it later recounts that Jesus had to ask them what they were discussing as they journeyed. So it would seem that either they drew back from Jesus, or perhaps Jesus walked some distance from them, alone in His thoughts.

And thus, though we have to read be between the lines to see it, there seems to be a portrait here of Jesus in some pain, and somewhat alone in that pain. And His pain was surely increased by the selfish and egotistical discussion He must have known the disciples were having. He asked them the question as if He did not know, but surely He knew. They were debating as to who was the greatest.

III. Their Pretentious Pride – The text says, They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.

Are you kidding me? No, a very consistent theme in the Scriptures that of the “inept response.” Over and over again Jesus will give a teaching, often with great solemnity, and then immediately thereafter the apostles will give a response indicating that they don’t understand Him at all, that they have completely missed the point. Inept they are, even indecent and pretentious. Having heard the Lord speak of dying painfully at the hands of others, they digress pretentiously into a conversation about which of them is the greatest.

But before we scorn or laugh at the apostles we must remember that we are the disciples. We do this very sort of thing. We divert our attention to all sorts of foolish things that don’t matter. We worry about who’s the big cheese or who’s the most important. How pointless and foolish these conversations and concerns are! How inept of us would-be disciples to get carried away with these sorts of concerns. But we do it every day, dozens of times a day.

This woefully inept and pretentious response of the disciples (and of us), which only increased Jesus’ pain, leads Him to ask the crucial question. It leads us to the central point of this gospel.

IV. The Principal Point – It is at this moment that Jesus asks the crucial question, a question not only for the Twelve, but for us as well. The text says that they came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” They remain silent out of sheer embarrassment, for they had been discussing who among them was the greatest.

What were you arguing about on the way?” Why is this a crucial question? Perhaps if we see the question in other formats it will help. The Greek word that is translated here as arguing is διαλογίζομαι (dialogízomai), which means to reason, consider, ponder, wonder, or debate. The dia, at the beginning of the word is an intensifier and indicates a kind of back-and-forth aspect. And hence we get the concept of a debate or an argument.

With this in mind, perhaps we can hear the Lord asking the question in this way: “What are you discussing as you make your journey in life? What are you passionate about? What peaks your interest? What engages you and what do you choose to engage others about? What is of central interest to you? What is going on in your mind all day long?”

Honestly, it is a sad and embarrassing reality that so many of us who call ourselves disciples are overwhelmingly preoccupied with things that are futile, passing, of little real in importance, frivolous, and oftentimes just plain stupid. And even things that have some relative importance get an undue amount of our attention.

Meanwhile, things that do matter, the things that matter most to God, such as our salvation, our knowledge of Him, our preparation for death and judgment, repentance, love, justice, mercy; what is true, good, decent, virtuous, and beneficial in salvation; prayer, the frequent reception of the sacraments, and things spiritual—all these things rank pitifully low in the lives of most people, even those who call themselves Christians and disciples.

We have four hours for a football game but no time for prayer. We find time for everything else and so little time for God and what matters to Him. We get so passionate about politics, sports, or what some silly television show has recently featured, but have little interest in the fact that so many souls are lost, that so many are deeply rooted in unrepentant sin, that so many don’t know why they were made, and that so many don’t know the Lord or His glorious Gospel. The slightest scare regarding our physical health sends us reeling; meanwhile our spiritual health goes so easily unattended.

Yes, what are we discussing; what are we thinking about as we make our journey? It is a crucial question. It says a lot about where our heart lies.

Do not miss this crucial question. What are you discussing; what are you thinking about on the way? Answer the Lord honestly and let Him go to work.

V. The Paradoxical Prescription – At the heart of the Lord’s crucial question is a diagnosis of our wrongful priorities and worldly thinking. The Lord then turns everything on its end and says, Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

In this particular gospel, their disordered thinking surrounds wrongful notions of importance, leadership, and greatness. The Lord directly addresses these wrongful notions by presenting this deeply paradoxical teaching. The paradox is that the greatest are not those who are served, but those who serve. The cleanup crew at the black-tie dinner get the Lord’s attention more so than those at the head table.

We tend to think of greatness in terms of how much money a person makes, how much authority he has, how much influence he has, or where he lives. None of these things matters at all to God. Yes, we are forever impressed by the rich and the famous, but God looks to the lowly, the poor, and especially to those who serve. A paradox is something that is contrary to the usual way of thinking. This teaching of the Lord’s is very paradoxical from any worldly perspective.

Yes, it is all very paradoxical; it puts to the lie all of our worldly obsessions. When we appear before Him someday, God will not care how much money we made (except the extent to which we were generous to the poor). He will not be impressed with the square footage of our home, the brand of our car, or how wide the plasma screen TV in our great room was. He certainly won’t care who our favorite sports hero was, what team we rooted for, or even if we were popular.

No, what will most impress Him is whether we served, whether we loved, and whether we knew Him and humbly sought to live His truth. He will not care whether we powerfully called the shots, but He will care whether we embraced His vision, lived His truth, and charitably cared for others by serving them in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Did we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, harbor the homeless, visit the sick, ransom the captives, and bury the dead? Did we comfort the afflicted? Did we instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, and pray for the living and the dead? Did we humbly submit to the Lord in our life by seeking to live chastely, to curb and control our anger, and to resist our greed?

The fundamental prescription for us is that we change the way we think. In short, God will want to know if we were rich in what matters to Him.

The greatest are those who serve, who have others in mind, who seek not their own glory and will but the glory and will of God and the goodness of others. This is greatness to God; everything else is foolishness to Him.

In the end, the question resounds, “What are you discussing; what are you thinking as you make your way through this life?” It is the crucial question. And only the Cross and its power can fix our foolishness. For too easily we are like the disciples, debating among ourselves about who’s the greatest; who’s the big cheese; who’s in charge; who gets to call the shots.

What are you discussing as you make your way? It’s a crucial question.

An old spiritual says, simply, “Fix me, Lord; fix me. Fix me for my long white robe. Fix me, Jesus; fix me. Fix me for my journey home. Fix me, Jesus; fix me.”

The Lord Hath Given a Well-Trained Tongue – A Homily for the 23rd Sunday of the Year

Hand with pen is writing " Whats Your Story" on transparent white board.

The gospels do not simply tell us stories of people who lived thousands of years ago. No, the gospels tell us our story, and today’s gospel is no different. We encounter a deaf man with a speech impediment living in a pagan land; this man represents each of us. His story is our story. And, if you are prepared to accept it, you are also Jesus, for His story and His work are largely yours, too. Let’s look at today’s gospel, remembering that it is our story.

I. Note first the PLACE of the gospel. The text says that Jesus went into the Decapolis region. This was an area of ten Gentile (pagan) cities. And while there were believers living there, many more did not believe. In other words, Jesus was in a largely unbelieving region.

And for us who live in the West, this atmosphere of unbelief describes our culture, too. Notice that Jesus does not hesitate to go there or to engage the culture—and neither should we. Something drew Him there. What was it? Was it love? Was it zeal?

What is it that keeps us engaged and sends us forth to draw in our increasingly pagan, indeed worse-than-pagan, culture? Is it love? Is it patriotism? Is it love of God and truth? What motivates you to engage family, friends, and neighbors?

Note, too, regardless of where He was, Jesus did not hesitate to proclaim the Gospel. He didn’t simply wait until He found things comfortable or the timing opportune. He proclaimed the Gospel, in season and out season, in friendly lands and in hostile ones, whether He was praised or persecuted. What about you and me?

II. Next, note the PROBLEM that emerges. A man who is deaf and has a speech impediment is brought to Jesus. Frankly, this describes many of us. In the midst of an increasingly unbelieving culture, many of us have become deaf to God’s truth. And on account of that deafness, we have the speech impediment of being silent in the face of this unbelief and sin.

First, some of our deafness is because we haven’t heard. No one ever told us a lot of things due to bad catechesis, etc. Sadly, too many of our pulpits, whether the pulpit in the Church or the pulpit of the family dining room table, have been silent. So, in a certain and very real sense, we have a deafness that has never heard the Word of God.

But some of our deafness is acquired, for though our ears were opened at our Baptism, we haven’t listened; we have turned a deaf ear and been stubborn. Sometimes there is outright rejection of the Word, but even more frequently it is a case of selective resistance. We are like the teenager who only half-listens to his parents. We “tune out” when less appealing aspects of the Word of God confront us. We say, “There goes that preacher again. I understand he has to say stuff like that, but …”

And so we are deaf, either partially or wholly, on account of our own fault or the fault of others who should have preached to us and taught us.

And, on account of this deafness, or at least related to it, we also have a speech impediment. Those who have never heard have a hard time speaking well. The gospel today seems to link the deafness with the speech impediment.

But there are other causes of a speech impediment when it comes to faith. For example, half-hearted listening leads to half-hearted witness or no witness at all. Lukewarm faith can lead us to remain silent even as we see the world around us falling into decay. St. Paul said, Because I believed, I spoke out (2 Cor 4:13). But too many of us believe in a lukewarm way, so we say little, and, frankly, have little to say.

Another huge source of our speech impediment is fear. We are so terrified of what people might say or think that we say nothing at all. The martyrs went to their deaths for the proclamation of the faith but we are afraid of a few raised eyebrows!

Yes, we are a fearful lot, and that fear is rooted in a desperate and unbalanced need to be liked, to fit in, and to be accepted. Well, we need to get a grip now, because the age of the martyrs may be returning to the West. And if our faith is not strong, we will not be strong.

Fear is a huge factor in our speech impediment.

III. Next, note the PROCESS. Jesus is not interested in running a carnival side show. He takes the man away, alone and apart from the crowd. Let’s examine several aspects of this healing.

A. It is PERSONAL. It is personal in two senses. First, He ministers to the man in a way that respects his dignity. Whatever the causes of his deafness and speech impediment, his healing must be a personal walk with the Lord Jesus. And so must yours be. Jesus is not interested in making a spectacle of you. He heals you for your own sake. And if one day you or I should choose to make a witness of our healing, that’s fine. But that is not why the Lord heals us; He heals us for our own sake because He loves us.

Second, the healing is personal in that it is a way of teaching us that it is easier to wear slippers than to carpet the whole world. In other words, the healing of the world can begin with us. It is too easy for us to merely wait and hope that God will raise up the next Fulton J. Sheen. But what if the Lord wants to take you aside? What if He wants to speak a word to you? What if He wants to get your fingers out of your ears? What if He wants to heal your deafness so that His Word is heard loud and clear?

B. It is PICTURESQUE. There are images at work here. There are the fingers in the ears as if Jesus is placing His words in the man’s ears, opening them to God’s Word. The text says that Jesus, spitting, touched the man’s tongue. It’s as if to signify, “from His mouth to yours.” Jesus puts His own words into our mouth. There is also the command, “Be opened,” as if to say, “Open your mind; open your heart,” and thus, “Open your ears; open your mouth.” The problem is not merely a physical one of stopped ears or a lame tongue. The problem is mental and spiritual as well, a closed mind and a closed heart. Thus the Lord says, simply and without qualification, “Be opened.”

C. The healing is PURE. The text says that when the man’s ears were opened and his tongue was loosed, “He spoke plainly.” The Greek word used here is ὀρθῶς (orthos), meaning straight, without deviation, true, or correct. It is the root from which we get the English word “orthodoxy.” And this is important, because we don’t need eloquent heretics. We need eloquent true believers, people who have heard the true and whole Word of God and are ready to articulate what He says rather than some fake or incomplete version of the Lord’s truth. Give us true prophets, O Lord, not false prophets, who say only what we want to hear or who give us only part of the truth.

IV. Finally, note the PROCLAMATION. The text reports ironically, Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

What, is the Lord kidding? He has healed a man to hear and speak the Word clearly and then tells him to be quiet? Scholars may differ on the interpretation here, but my interpretation is that the Lord is being intentionally ironic and “tongue in cheek” when he says, smiling, “Not a word to anyone now!”

For, when you’ve experienced really good news it’s hard to stay quiet!

What is your story? How has the Lord opened your ears? How has He increasingly enabled you to hear and understand His Word in your life? And how has He loosed your tongue to speak His Word? I am a witness. I was once a shy and poorly catechized young man, frankly disinterested in the things of God, but was taken aside by the Lord, who put His word in my ear, loosed my tongue, and now can’t get me to shut up. Yes, He has done all things well!

And now a final question: How has Jesus used you to unstop the ears of the deaf, communicate His word, and liberate the tongues of others? Perhaps He has used you as a parent, catechist, priest or religious, choir member, lector, or leader, to unstop ears and liberate tongues. Here, too, I am a witness. Thank you, Lord, for using me to impart knowledge, unstop ears, place Your Word there, and loose tongues. Thank you, Lord. You have done all things well, even through me.

Summarizing the Law and Love, Standing on One Foot – The Gospel of the 31st Sunday of the Year

There was an expression common among the Rabbis of Jesus’ time, and perhaps even now, wherein one Rabbi would ask another a question, but request the answer be given, “Standing on one foot.” Which is a Jewish way of saying, “Be brief in your answer.”

And that sort of expression may be behind the question that is raised today by the scholar of law who asks, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”

And in answering, “standing on foot,” Jesus recites the traditional Jewish Shema:

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד.
Šĕmaʿ Yisĕrāʾel Ădōnāy Ĕlōhênû Ădōnāy eḥād.

Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!

The text Jesus cites from Deuteronomy 6 goes on to say:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Deut 6:4-6)

And Jesus adds, also in common Rabbinic tradition: The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Do not miss the point that in discussing the greatest “law,” the discussion centers immediately on the word “love.” The fact is, most of us do miss this connection between law and love.

Truth be told, most of us in Western culture put love and law just about as far apart from each other as any two things can be. For us, law is about police officers and courtrooms, it is about forcing people to do things under threat of some penalty. Love, on the other hand is about doing things willingly, because we want to, rather than because we have to.

But the fact is, as Jesus insists, and the ancient Jewish Shema articulates, love and law are in fact together, and law is an articulation of love.

Consider that a man who really loves his wife does not need a law that says “Do not break her arm, do not verbally or physically abuse her, but rather, support, protect, and encourage her.” Nevertheless, though he may not need the law in writing, he is in fact following the law of love when he observes these and other norms. There is a language of love, there is a law of love, there is an out working of love’s works and fruits. In the end, love does what love is, and love is supportive, enthusiastic, even extravagant in keeping its own norms and laws. Love does what love is.

Thus, when asked about the Law the Lord just says “love.” Yes, love God passionately, with your whole heart, soul, and strength. And as you do this, you will love what he loves, and who he loves, for this is the natural fruit of love. The more I love God, the more I begin to love his laws, his vision, what He values. Yes, all the commandments flow from this simple fact, that I love God. Real love has its roots, it has its laws, its methods, its modes.

Here then, is the whole law, standing on one foot: love God. Let His love permeate you wholly and entirely, and every other commandment will implicitly flow from the this love.

When we love God we stop asking unloving questions like:

Do I have to pray? For how long?
Do I have to go to confession? How often?
Do I have to go to mass? how often? What’s the shortest and most convenient one?
Do I have to read God’s word?
Do I have to make his teachings the priority of my life such that they overrule politics, convential thinking etc.?

Love does not ask questions like these, it already knows the answer, it already lives the answer.

Further, love does not ask:

Do I need to honor and care for my parents?
Do I need to respect lawful authority, and contribute to the common good?
Do I need to respect life from conception to natural death?
Do I need to work to cherish and safeguard the lives of others?
Do I need to live chastely and reverence the gift of sexuality that is so much at the heart of human life, and family?

No, love does not ask questions like these, it already knows the answer, it already wants to live the answer.

Love does not ask whether we must respect each other enough to speak the truth in love, to be men and women of our word. It does not wonder whether it is okay to steal from others or to fail to give them what is justly due. It does not wonder if it should be generous to the poor and needy rather than greedy, or whether to be appreciative and satisfied rather than covetous.

No, love does not need to ask these questions, it does not wonder these things. It knows the answer.

Love is the Law, standing on one foot, and all the rest is commentary.

Now God is merciful and does supply the commentary, in His Scriptures and the vast Tradition of the Church. Praise God for it all.

But honestly, listen to the way most of us talk and think. The saints say, “If God wants it, I want it. If God doesn’t want it, I don’t want it.” Is that the way most of us talk? Hmm…most of us are heard to say, “How come I can’t have it? It’s not so bad…..everybody else is doing it.” Doesn’t really sound like lovers talking does it? My, My, My. Somehow the saints knew the Law of God, and could say it standing on one foot. How about us?

All the commentary is nice, and surely needed. But don’t miss the point: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself.

Love is the Law, and the Law is to love.

Are You a Man or A Mouse? A Reflection on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

This Sunday in many places features the (moved) Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Our Lord.

While you may puzzle over my title, allow me to explain it later. On a Solemn feast like this many things occur that might be preached and taught. Allow three areas for reflection: The Reality of the Eucharist, The Requirement of the Eucharist, the Remembrance of the Eucharist. We will look at each in order.

I. The Reality of the Eucharist – On this solemn feast we are called above all to faith in the fact, as revealed by the Lord himself, that the Eucharist, the Holy Communion we partake of, is in fact,  a reception of the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, whole and entire, in his glorified state. We do not partake of a symbol, the Eucharist is not a metaphor, it is truly the Lord. Neither is it a “piece” of his flesh, but is Christ, whole and entire. Scripture attests to this in many places:

A. Luke 22:19-20 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

B. 1 Cor 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a partaking in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a partaking in the body of Christ?

C. Luke 24:35 They recognized him in the breaking of the bread.

D. 1 Cor 11:29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

E. John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

This last quote is from our Gospel for today’s feast. The passage is a profound theology of the Eucharist from Jesus himself and he makes it clear that we are not permitted to think of the Eucharist in symbolic or metaphor.

As he speaks the words, the bread is my flesh, the Jewish people hearing him grumbled in protest. Jesus did not seek to reassure them or insist that we was speaking only symbolically when he said they must eat his flesh. Rather he becomes even more adamant by shifting his vocabulary from the polite form of eating, φάγητε (phagete – meaning simply “to eat”) to the impolite form, τρώγων (trogon – meaning to “munch, gnaw or chew”).

So insistent was he that they grasp this that he permitted the fact that most left him that day and would no longer follow in his company due to this teaching (cf Jn 6:66). Yes the Lord paid quite a price for his graphic and “hard” teaching (Jn 6:60).

Today, he asks us, Do you also want to leave me? (Jn 6:67). We must supply our answer each time we approach the altar and hear the word, The Body of Christ. It is here that we answer the Lord, Amen as if to say, Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the word of eternal life! (Jn 6:68).

Would that people grasped that the Lord himself was truly present in our Churches! Were that so, one could never empty our parishes of those seeking to pray with the Lord. As it is, only 27% come to Mass regularly. This is more evidence of the narrow road and how few there are who find it. As Jesus experienced that most left him, so too many continue to leave him or stand far away, either through indifference or false notions.

What father would not be severely alarmed if one of his children stopped eating. Consider too God’s alarm that many of us have stopped eating. This leads us to the next point.

II. The Requirement of the Eucharist – When I was a kid I just thought of Church and Communion  as something my mom made me do, it was just rituals and stuff. I never thought of it as essential for my survival. But Jesus teaches something very profound in John’s Gospel today when he was teaching about Holy Communion (the Eucharist). In effect he says that without Holy Communion we will starve and die spiritually.

Here is what Jesus says, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. (John 6:53)

As a kid and even a young adult I never thought of Holy Communion as essential for my life, as something that, if I didn’t receive it regularly, I would die spiritually. But it makes sense doesn’t it? If we don’t eat food in our physical lives we grow weak and eventually die. It is the same with Holy Communion.

Remember in the Book of Exodus: the people were without food in the desert and they feared for their lives. So God gave them bread from heaven called “manna” that they collected each morning. Without eating that bread from heaven they would never have made it to the Promised Land, they would have died in the desert.

It is the same with us. Without receiving Jesus, our Living Manna from heaven in Holy Communion we will not make it to our Promised Land of Heaven! I guess it’s not just merely a ritual after all. It is essential for our survival.

Don’t miss Holy Communion! Jesus urges you to eat.

A mother and father in my parish recently noticed their daughter wasn’t eating. Within a very short time they took her to the doctor who discovered the problem and now the young girl is able to eat again. Those parents would have moved heaven and earth to make sure their daughter was able to eat.

It is the same with God. Jesus urges us to eat, to receive the Holy Communion every Sunday without fail. Jesus urges us with this word: “Unless!” Holy Communion is our required food.

III. The Remembrance of the Eucharist. The word remembrance comes up a lot in reference to Holy Communion and today’s readings. Consider the following

A. Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert…and then fed you with manna (Deut 8).

B.  Do not forget the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt (Deut 8:24)

C. Do this in remembrance of me….(1 Cor 11:24 inter al).

What is remembrance and why is it important? In effect, to “remember” is to have present in your mind what God has done for you so that you’re grateful, to have it so present to you, so that you are different. God has saved us, made us his children, and opened heaven for us. Yet, our minds are very weak and we too easily let this slip from our conscious thoughts. Thus, the summons to an ἀνάμνησιν (anamnesin) or “remembrance” that is so common in the Eucharistic liturgy, is a summons to our minds to be open to, and powerfully aware of what the Lord has done for us, “Don’t just stand or kneel there, forgetting, let this be present to you as a living and conscious reality, that changes you!”

Are you a mouse or a man? So here comes the question. Back in seminary days we were all given the example of a mouse who runs across the altar and takes a consecrated host and runs off and eats it. And we were asked, “Does he eat the body of Christ?” Yes! For the Eucharist has a reality unto itself. “But does he receive a sacrament?” No! A mouse has no mind. It eats the very Body of Christ but to no avail for it has no conscious awareness or appreciation of of what (whom) it eats. And so here comes the question – Are you a mouse or a man?

How do you receive Holy Communion? Do you go up mindlessly, shuffling along in the Communion line in a mechanistic way? Or do you go up powerfully aware of He, whom you are bout to receive? Do you remember, do you have vividly present to your mind what the Lord has done for you? Are you grateful and amazed at what he has done and what he offers? Or are you just like a mouse having something mindlessly put into your mouth?

Some people put more faith in Tylenol than they do the Eucharist. Why? Because when they take Tylenol they actually expect something to happen, for the pain to go away, and for there to be relief and healing. But when it comes to Holy Communion, they expect next to nothing. To them, it’s just a ritual, time to go up and get the wafer, (pardon the expression).

Really?! Nothing? How can this be? Poor catechesis? Sure. Little faith? Sure. Boredom? Yes indeed. At some level it can be no better than a mouse eating a host. We are receiving the Lord of all creation, yet most expect little.

To this the Church says, “Remember!” “Have present to your mind all that the Lord has done for you and what he is about to do. Let this reality of the Lord’s presence be alive in your mind so that it changes you and makes you profoundly grateful and joyful. Become the One you receive!”

Jesus is more powerful than Tylenol and we are men (and women) not mice.

On this Solemnity of the Body of Christ we are summoned to deepen our faith in the Lord, present in the Eucharist, and acting through his Sacraments. Routine may have dulling effects, but it cannot be so that we receive the Lord of glory each Sunday in any way that would be called mindless.

Ask the Lord to anoint your mind so that you remember and never forget.

Only What You Do For Christ Will Last – A Meditation on the Gospel of the Rich and Poor

In fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel which we are reading at daily Mass this week we find the following saying of the Lord:

To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (Mk 4:25 )

The Rich get Richer? Now to one who reads such a text from a merely worldly perspective it might seem the Lord is saying in some fatalistic sense that the rich get richer and the poor just get poorer. But such a reading of this text would be incorrect since it fails to understand that the Lord Jesus is speaking of the Kingdom of God and not the kingdom of this world.  Indeed, the fuller context of Chapter 4 is the memorable parable about the seed of the word that falls on either on the path, on rocky ground, among the thorns, or into good soil. Not only does the Lord give this parable, but goes on to explain the parable at considerable length. So the context of this saying is not the world but the Kingdom of God.

Thus, when the Lord speaks of those who have “more” he does not mean material possessions and the wealth of this passing world. Rather, those who have more are those who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold (Mk 4:20).

Thus, the one who has more is the one who has the Kingdom of God, who has faith, who, by faith, has the Lord and the justice of the Lord, and who stands to inherit all of heaven. He or she is the one who has more.

Note too how the “more” keeps building. To have faith is to have the Lord, and to have the Lord is have saving grace and mercy. And to have saving grace and mercy is to grow in holiness and experience greater and greater healing. And to experience this transformation and share in God’s holiness is to be made ready for heaven. And to be made ready for heaven is to one day have heaven, and to be with God for ever.  Thus to have more and to accept its power is to have more and more and more, until we are spiritually rich in the kingdom. Yes, those who have the Kingdom are the ones who are rich! They may not have the fancy house, with the big car, big salary, big ego and big hair. But they are rich in the only way that really matters or lasts; they are rich in the Kingdom.

So, who are those who have not? They are those who have rejected the Kingdom of God, the Word of God, the grace and mercy of God. They “have not” the Kingdom. And they do not have it not because it hasn’t been offered but because they have rejected it.  These are the ones who are truly poor, who are destitute, who “have not.”

But notice that the text does say they do have something, for the text says, even what he has will be taken away. Now this means he or she has something, but it will not be theirs for long. For what they have is the world and its vain, passing riches. It is theirs now, but like sand slipping through their fingers, it ebbs away and will some be gone. It cannot last no matter how large the fortune is that is amassed.

Consider carefully what the Lord says here. The world’s riches cannot last. Further, they are all but nothing compared to the riches of the Kingdom of heaven. The ones who have the kingdom are those who have and will get more. The ones who have this world, by comparison, have nothing at all, and the little they do have will be taken from them.

Think of a multibillionaire, a captain of industry with numerous homes, corporate jets, luxury yachts, even private islands. He may have amassed a fortune on this planet and own more real estate than even certain governments!

But really, what he has is ultimately so little! If you were to go out into space, not even all that far, and look back you couldn’t even see the earth. Our billionaire may have amassed a fortune, but it is only a portion of a speck of space dust, for the earth is but speck of dust compared to immensity of the things God has made.

Do you get the point? We get real impressed about what is really very little in the end. And our billionaire has this wealth for only a very brief nanosecond of cosmic time. When his little moment is up, even the little he has is taken from him.

There is only one way to be truly rich and that is to receive the gift of God and his Kingdom. Only this will last. Only in coming to possess this do we really have something that amounts to anything. Only this will grow until we are rich. Only those who have the kingdom are rich in any sense of the word. All others really have what amounts to only very little, and what little they have, if it is of the world, will be taken from them.

This song says: Only what you do for Christ will last. Some of the verses say,

You may build great cathedrals large or small,  you can build skyscrapers grand and tall, but only what you do for Christ will last…. You may seek earthly power and fame,  the world might be impressed by your great name, soon the glories of this life will all be past, but only what you do for Christ will last. Remember only what You do for Christ will last. Only what you do for Him will be counted at the end;  only what you do for Christ will last.

 

*

Touched By God at Christmas

There is an old saying that the Lord didn’t just come to get us out of trouble, he came to get into trouble with us. More of that, in a moment.

A uniquely human glory and gift – This Christmas we celebrate that God is not content for us to experience his love for us as some sort of abstraction or intangible idea. He wants to touch us, and have us touch and experience his love. As human beings we are not pure spirit. Our glory is to combine in our person what is spiritual and what is material or physical. At Christmas the Lord gives us an incredible gift, a gift that not even the angels have. To be able to touch our God is a special gift and glory to the human person. There is a beautiful Christmas carol (Ere the Bleak Mid Winter) written by Christina Rossetti that captures this special glory and gift that is ours because of the Incarnation. Speaking of the newborn Christ the song says:

Angels and Archangels may have gathered there.
Cherubim and Seraphim Thronged the air.
But only his mother in her maiden bliss;
Could worship the beloved with a kiss
.

Today, we can touch our God. Today God’s own hand is stretched out to us. Remarkably it is the hand of an infant. And just like every infant does, he squeezes the finger of his mother, and ours too. Yet, do not be mistaken, this little hand made and fashioned us. From this little hand the universe tumbled forth and this little hand and steers the stars in their courses. This hand touches us today and we touch our God. Even the angels cannot do this.

A magnificent mystery is before us. The infinite is an infant. He who looks down upon all creation now looks up from a cradle. He who spoke worlds into existence, now sounds forth with the cry of an infant. Another old Latin hymn captures mystery and the warmth of the moment: Alpha et O, matris in gremio (Alpha and omega is sitting in mommy’s lap). And from his mother’s lap he beckons us to approach and touch him. This day, we touch our God, and God touches us.

We desperately need this touch, this contact with our God, this hand is stretched out to heal and save. We had grown old in our sins, and this infant child draws us back to the joy and innocence of our youth. This outstretched hand of our God will heal the sick and the leprous, raise up the paralyzed and the dead. This hand will drive out demons and rebuke the storm tossed waves. This hand will be nailed to a cross to save us.

He still touches us in the Sacraments – This hand it still stretched out to you and me right now in the sacraments to cleanse us in Baptism, anoint us in Confirmation, feed us in Holy Communion, absolve us in Confession, heal us in the Anointing of the Sick, join some of us in Holy Matrimony and some of us in ordained ministry. Every sacrament has a physical component. In some particular way the Lord touches us to bring us healing and blessing. It is not a different hand, it is the same hand of the Lord that touched everyone of us beginning at Bethlehem.

Invitation – There are some present in every Catholic Church this Christmas feast who are far from this touch of Christ, far from the sacraments. In the name of Jesus Christ I beg you to let Christ touch you, let his outstretched hands feed you with his Body and Blood every week, let him lay hands on you to absolve you in Confession. Don’t block your blessings, don’t stay far off. Let the Lord touch you, not just spiritually, but physically too in the sacraments. The touch and presence of Christ that we celebrate at Christmas is not just spiritual, it is physical, it is tangible, it is real. Jesus is here right now. And he is here waiting for you every Sunday. He HAS to touch us, because if he does not, we won’t get well, and we won’t have the strength to make it home. You see, we’re in trouble. And we need a savior, a savior who knows our trouble and can draw us out of the mighty waters with strong hand and outstretched arm. Let the Lord touch you.

But as I mentioned at the beginning the beginning, the Lord didn’t just come to get us out of trouble, but to get into trouble with us.

Today the Lord meets us where we are. And some us are in trouble right now. All of us have known trouble. And the Lord loves us enough to get down into the trouble with us. You see, he is not born in a palace, or even a comfortable place. He is not born into privilege, He is born in poverty. He is, at least for now, homeless, born in a smelly cave intended for animals, unfit for human habitation. Soon enough he and his family will have to flee for their lives and live as refugees in a strange and foreign land. Later he will endure trials and temptations in the desert, exhausting journeys as he preaches and teaches, inept disciples, fickle crowds, mounting persecution and hatred, crucifixion and horrifying death.

Yes, the Lord knows our trouble, first hand. He doesn’t just “understand” them in some theoretical way. In physically joining our family in the incarnation, he personally experienced our pain, our trouble. St Ephrem the Syrian says,

Whom have we, Lord, like you
The Great One who became small, the Wakeful who slept,
The Pure One who was baptized, the Living One who died,
The King who abased himself to ensure honor for all.
Blessed is your honor!
The heavenly beings were amazed to see how small you became,
And earthly ones to see how exalted

So, the Lord got into trouble with us. But still, there is that outstretched arm of the Lord who touches us physically at his birth. It is an infant’s arm, an infant’s hand. But do not be deceived, it is a strong hand and outstretched arm. It is God’s own arm, God’s own hand, God’s strength. He is the same God who said,

Hear me O House of Jacob, O house of Israel,
My burden, since your birth,
Whom I have carried from your infancy.
Even to your old age I am the same,
Even when your hair is gray, I will bear you;
I will carry you to safety.
(Isaiah 46:3-4)

The Lord has come down into this trouble of ours to lead us out. And he is willing to get into trouble to do it. And today we celebrate that our Lord has joined us, and reaches out to touch us, to heal us and to lead us out. That arm, that hand, that touch, there’s just something about it.

I am mindful of an old song that tells us how important it for us to let God touch us, to let God embrace us. You see, it’s possible that our troubles will overwhelm us. But today there is hope, for God is here to save us. The song says,

I almost let go.
I felt like I just couldn’t take life anymore.
My problems had me bound
Depression weighed me down.
But God held me close, so I wouldn’t let go.
God’s mercy kept me, so I wouldn’t let go.

I almost gave up.
I was right at the edge of a breakthrough but couldn’t see it
The devil really had me;
but Jesus came and grabbed me,
And He held me close,
So I wouldn’t let go.
God’s mercy kept me,
so I wouldn’t let go
.

See, I’m alive today because God kept me, because Jesus came and touched me, and he held me close, so I wouldn’t let go. You see there’s just something about that little hand, that little arm that reaches out to you and me today. There’s just something about the touch of Jesus physically coming among us in the incarnation. At Christmas our Lord touches us, and holds us close.

You Gotta Serve Before You Sit – A Meditation of the Gospel for the 22nd Week of the Year

In the  Gospel for this weekend’s Mass the Lord Jesus summons us to a deeper appreciation for what brings true honor, for makes a person truly great. As you may imagine, what the world thinks of as great and honorable is rather different that what God thinks and sees. Let’s look at this Gospel in three parts and discover it’s paradoxical vision.

1. THE PERSON who HONORS – The Lord is at a banquet and notices how people vie for seats of honor. He gives the following teaching:  When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,  ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment  to take the lowest place. Now what the Lord is really teaching is that at formal banquets it is the host who determines where we sit. This is of course most common in our culture at wedding receptions where seats are determined and assigned by the couple ahead of time. For someone to walk in and sit at the head table reserved for the wedding party is both rude and pompous. The polite and expected thing is to report the entrance table and receive a table number and graciously take your seat.

Now of course the banquet we are invited to is God’s Kingdom. And in that kingdom God has a place for us but we must be clear that it is God who assigns each his place. When a dispute arose among the apostles as to who was the greatest Jesus responded: I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom,  that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom (Luke 22:29). Another time James and John approached and asked for seats at Jesus right and left  (i.e. the places of honor) and Jesus responded: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not my to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared (Mk 10:40). So, our places in the Kingdom are determined by God.

It is a true fact that many miss this point and like to assign themselves places and honors in God’s kingdom. But in the end that belongs to God. Some go through life resentful that they are not as rich as others, or as powerful, or as advantaged. Others wish they were taller, thinner, prettier, smarter etc. They are jealous of what they see as the advantages of others. But be very careful here. It is not for us to determine what is best for us. It is not for us to assign our own seat. Just because we think it is better to be rich than poor does not mean this is correct. The Lord warns how difficult it is for the rich to inherit the Kingdom of God. So being rich isn’t necessarily the blessing we think it is. It is for God to decide what is best for us. Riches, power, popularity, good looks etc. are all things that tend to root us in the world. These things are not necessarily blessings. Having a “good” job like some one else, a family like someone else, a talent like someone else may not be what is best for us. God decides all that and gives us the talents and blessings, as well as burdens and challenges he knows are best. So don’t just walk into God’s Kingdom and seat yourself! Check in with the host and find His will in terms of  your seat. He’s got just the right one for you.

2. THE PARADOX of HONORS– Now another thing to note about this Gospel is how the people were vying for the seats of honor, the important seats. They want to impress folks and be thought highly of. But remember, this is God’s banquet and the qualifications for the seats of honor are very different from worldly honors. In the world we are impressed by things like: bling, brawn, beauty and bucks. We’re impressed by big cars, big houses, big hair, and a big entourage. The limo pulls up and watch the eyes turn. Out come the popular, the powerful, the glitterati and game changers. The cameras flash and the applause ensues. We’re quite impressed actually. This is what WE notice, this is what draws OUR eyes.

But what of God? At the banquet of God’s kingdom, who draws his eye? As God looks around the banquet hall of the Kingdom who catches his eye? The Lord gives that answer in many places in Scripture:

  1. Mark 10:43 Whoever would be great among you must be the servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
  2. Luke 22:26 Rather let the greatest among you become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.  For who do you think is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.
  3. Ps 138:6  Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar.
  4. 1 Cor 1:27  But God chose the foolish and low born  things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are,  so that no one may boast before him.
  5. James 2:5  Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?
  6. Luke 13:30 Many who are last shall be first, and many who are first shall be last.
  7. Luke 1:52 He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.

So, back to our question: In the banquet hall of God’s Kingdom, who catches his eye? Is it not likely those who wait tables? Those who serve? Is it not the lowly, the humble and the servants of all? Here is the paradox of honor in God’s kingdom: It is not about being powerful in the worldly sense. God is not impressed by the size of our house, car or bank account. Our popularity does not impress him. It is our service, our humility, our love for others that catches his eye. Here are the seats of honor, the places closest to God’s heart, they are for those who serve. You gotta serve before you sit in any place of honor in God’s banquet.

3. THE PRESCRIPTION for HONORS – And hence the prescription is clear enough. Jesus instructs us in today’s Gospel: when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say,  ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’   

Now what all this adds up to is that if we want to be great in the Kingdom of God then we had better become a servant. Jesus says, take the lowest place. Serve before you sit. What makes you great is to serve. The greatest thing about us is not our paycheck, our fancy house or any of that stuff. What is greatest about us is that we serve. We are great when we identify with the lowly and humble and seek to serve rather than to be served. We are great when we use our wealth, power, talents and abilities to build up the people of God and extend God’s Kingdom. Even in things which we are paid to do can still be service if serving is the primary reason we do it.

Jesus then adds: When you hold a banquet,  invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. What this amounts to is a complete change in the way we see what is great in this world. Jesus is giving us more than a moralism here (i.e. be generous to the poor). He is offering us a new vision for who is greatest in his Kingdom. We ought to run to the poor, the blind the lame, the afflicted, for they give us the ability to serve and this, in the end,  is our greatest honor: to serve others, especially the poor and afflicted who cannot repay us.

A final dimension of all this is to learn that some of the greatest and most honorable people we know are those who serve US. Since to serve is the greatest honor in the Kingdom of God, we ought to hold in high honor those who wait on our tables, who clean our houses and work places, who do the “dirty work,” those also who serve in our hospitals and all those who care for us and serve us in countless ways. They are doing something honorable and we ought to treat them with respect, kindness, and honor. We ought to give generous tips where that is appropriate, but above all we are to honor them.

For the greatest among you is the servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. (Mk 10:43)

You gotta serve before you sit.

The recorded version of this homily is here: http://frpope.com/audio/22%20Sun%20C.mp3

This song says, “Sit down servant, I can’t sit down….My soul’s so happy that I can’t sit down.  And this video also depicts a wide cultural expression, a Thai Choir singing and African American Spiritual!

The Feast of the Assumption Is Our Feast Too

This year we are privileged to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven on a Sunday. Let’s ponder this feast in three stages:

1. Explained – To be “assumed” means to be taken up by God bodily into heaven. As far back as the Church can remember we have celebrated the fact that Mary was taken up into heaven. We do not just acknowledge that her soul was taken to heaven,  as is the case with all the rest of the faithful who are taken there (likely after purgation). Rather Mary was taken up, soul AND body into heaven after her sojourn on this earth was complete. There is no earthly tomb containing her body, neither are there relics of her body to be found among the Christian faithful. This is our ancient memory and what we celebrate today, Mary was taken up, body and soul into heaven.

2. Exemplified – The actual event of the Assumption is not described in Scripture. However, there are assumptions recorded in the Scriptures and the concept is thus biblical.

  1. It happened to Enoch in the Old Testament The Book of Genesis records: Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away (Gen. 5:24). Hebrews 11: 5 elaborates: By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.
  2.  It also happened to Elijah as he walked with Elisha: And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven….And he was seen no more. (2 Kings 2:11 ).
  3. Some say Moses too was taken up since his grave is not known: He was buried  in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is (Dt. 34:6). The text of course does not say his body was taken up and if it was, it occurred after death and burial. Jude 1:9 hints at the fact when is says, But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses….. (Jude 1:9) Some further credibility is lent to the view of him being   assumed  by the fact that he appears alongside Elijah in the Transfiguration account. Some of the Church Fathers held this view and there is also a Jewish work from the 6th Century AD entitled The Assumption of Moses that represents the tradition of his assumption. But in the end the Assumption of Moses only a view held by some and it not officially held by the Church.
  4. And While it is true that the historical event of the assumption  is not recorded in Scripture nor are there historical accounts of the event, there may be one other scriptural account that evidences Mary’s whereabouts, body and soul.  The Church presents for our consideration in today’s second reading a passage from the Book of Revelation wherein John records his sighting of the Ark of God:

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads… The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. (Rev 11:19 – 12:5)

The Woman is clearly Mary since the child is clearly Jesus. And where is Mary seen? In heaven. Now some may argue the text does not necessarily indicate her body is in heaven but may only be referring to her soul. However the physicality of the description of her is rather strong.  Some also argue that Mary is linked to John’s sighting of the Ark of the Convent which is seen by John in Heaven. He mentions the Ark and goes on to describe the woman clothed with the sun (Mary) and there is a possibility that he is still describing the Ark he sees in Heaven. (I have written on this elsewhere. See here: Mary: The Ark of the New Covenant)  If she is the Ark described  that Ark is clearly described as being in heaven.

So, the Biblical record, while not recording the event of the Assumption, does set forth other assumptions and thus shows that assumption is a biblical concept. Further, Mary’s physical presence in heaven seems hinted at by John and some would argue that the passage actually attests to her physical presence there.

But remember, the Church does not rely solely on Scripture. In this case what we celebrate is most fundamentally taught to us by Sacred Tradition in that the memory of Mary’s assumption goes back as long as we can remember.

3. Extended –  The Feast of the Assumption may be of theological interest to some and may provide for interesting biblical reflection but eventually the question is bound to come: “So What?” How does what happened to Mary have impact on my life and what does it mean for me? The answer to this question is bound up in nearly every Marian Doctrine. Simply put, what happened to Mary in an profound and preliminary way will also happen for us in the end. As Mary bore Christ into he world, we too bear him there in the Holy Communion we receive and in the witness of his indwelling presence in our life. As Mary is (and always was) sinless, so too will we one day be sinless (immaculate) with God in heaven. As Mary cared for Christ in his need, so do we care for him in the poor, the suffering, needy and afflicted. And as Mary was assumed, body and soul into heaven so too will we be there one day, body and soul.

For now our souls go to heaven once purified but our body lie in a tomb. But one day when the trumpet shall sound, on that “great gettin’ up morning” our bodies will rise and be joined to our soul:

For we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”…….Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:51-57)

So our bodies shall rise shall be assumed and joined to our soul.

Improved model!  Now a older woman once said to me upon hearing  that her body would rise: “Father if this old body has to rise, I’m hoping for an improved model!”  Yes indeed! Me too! I want my hair back, my slender figure and knees that work! I  want to upgrade from a general issue late model version,  to a luxury model. And God will in fact do that.  Scripture says:

  1. He will take these lowly bodies of ours and transform them to be like his own glorified body. (Phil 3:21)
  2. But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body…..So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; …..And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. (1 Cor 15:35-49)
  3. Yes we shall also be taken up, assumed, and then shall be fulfilled for us the saying of Job: I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another ‘s (Job 19:25-27).

The assumption of our bodies, prefigured by Christ in his own power and also in Mary by the gift of God, will one day be our gift too. For now, it waits till that “great gettin’ up morning.” Until that day, and on that day,  fare you well, fare you well!

This song is an African American Spiritual and speaks of that Great Gettin’ up morning when our bodies will rise. And if we have been faithful they will rise to glory!

I’m gonna tell you about the coming of the judgement (Fare you well) There’s a better day a coming….In that great gettin’ up morning fare you well! Oh preacher fold your Bible, For the last soul’s converted….Blow your trumpet Gabriel…..Lord, how loud shall I blow it? Blow it right calm and easy Do not alarm all my people….Tell them to come to the judgement…….In that great gettin’ up morning fare you well. Do you see them coffins bursting? Do you see them folks is rising? Do you see the world on fire? Do you see the stars a falling? Do you see that smoke and lightning? Do you hear the rumbling thunder? Oh Fare you well poor sinner. In that great gettin’ up morning fare you well.