Archbishop Oscar Romero and the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

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SALVADORAN ARCHBISHOP OSCAR ROMEROThe movie “Romero” tells the story of the events leading up to the assassination and martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. (Archbishop Romero will be canonized a saint this coming fall.) Romero served as archbishop during a painful time of violence and unrest in his country. During this conflict, the archbishop made the choice to stand beside the poor and for this he was killed.

There is a powerful scene in the movie where the archbishop arrives at a church in his diocese which had been taking over by the government military. The soldiers had desecrated the church and were using it as sleeping quarters. The church tabernacle has been opened and the vessels stolen and the consecrated hosts had been spilled out on the floor. The archbishop, who was not a confrontational man, had come to collect the consecrated hosts. Entering the church he was blocked by an officer who yelled at him to exit immediately. As he retreated back to his car the archbishop was met by a crowd of people (his flock from that parish) who had gathered outside the church.

The movie presents an unspoken moment when the archbishop and these people – the poor, the elderly, youth, men and women – simply stare at one another. Nothing is said. These people are the body of Christ and their silent presence is what gives the archbishop the courage he needs to walk back into the church, past the officer and up to the ransacked tabernacle. Dropping on his knees, the archbishop gently begins to pick up each consecrated hosts. The officer grabs a machine gun, aims at the altar area above the archbishop and shoots up the back wall, yelling at Romero to stop and leave! The archbishop hunkers down on the floor underneath the gunfire. Once the shooting has stopped, he silently begins to pick up the hosts again. Eventually, Romero gets all the hosts just as soldiers pick him up and force him from the church.

It was his love of the Body of Christ both in the consecrated hosts and in the people of the Church that gave Romero the courage he needed in that moment. Just as the archbishop gently picked up each host scattered on the floor that day did he also seek to gently and truly heal the suffering of his people as well as the wounds of his society at that time.

Today, we as church, reflect on this great truth which Jesus leaves us when he says, “This is my body.” and “This is my blood.” The bread and wine – through the working of grace – truly becomes the very body and blood of Christ. Romero knew this in his heart and his action of gathering those hosts even under gunfire witnesses to his understanding of this great and holy mystery that we celebrate and receive every time we gather for Mass.

The unspoken encounter between the archbishop and the people gathered outside their church also gives witness to Romero’s understanding that the Eucharist taken and received transforms the people into the Church, the Body of Christ. We can say at this moment within the film the true “church” was actually the people gathered outside. In retrieving the consecrated hosts, Romero is returning the Eucharist back to the Church, to the people who are the beloved of God. This is the work of a true priest.

Every time that we gather for Mass, we gather with our Lord and his disciples in that upper room and in wonder we hear anew those words spoken by our Lord, “This is my body.” “This is my blood.” In wonder we take, we receive and we ourselves are transformed into the Body of Christ.

As we gather with the Lord and his disciples we also gather in wonder with all the holy men and women of the centuries who have cherished and received these words and this truth given by our Lord. Among this throng of witnesses with whom we stand is the soon-to-be canonized Archbishop Oscar Romero. May we learn from him and come to know as he knew – this is the Body and Blood of Christ and through our partaking of it we are transformed into the Body of Christ.

The “author of life”

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St. PeterIt is said that a tree is known by its fruit and in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we can see that the tree of the resurrection is already bearing amazing fruit! And, here specifically, in the life of Peter.

Peter is boldly addressing the people of Israel. That same man who, not that long ago, denied knowing Jesus, who had run away, who had hidden behind locked doors is now proclaiming Christ publically. Peter has received courage through the resurrection but there is an element to this courage that is important to note. Peter receives the courage of love.

Again, not that long ago, Peter had drawn a sword in defense of Jesus and had struck and wounded another person. But today he is not proclaiming the sword or judgment or retribution. He is proclaiming Christ boldly to all the people of Israel and even those directly responsible for the death of Christ. He is saying that yes, they denied the “Holy and Righteous One” and rather asked for a murderer to be set free but he is also proclaiming that forgiveness and mercy is possible in Christ. To the very ones who killed his lord and master, Peter is offering life and hope in Jesus! He even goes on to say that they acted in ignorance and that by their action God has brought to fulfillment what had been proclaimed beforehand about how his salvation was to be brought into the world.

Peter receives courage through the resurrection of Christ but he also receives a healing of his own heart which allows him to receive and live the courage of love. Peter, when he reminds the people that they asked for the release of a murderer contrasts that with their action of putting the “author of life” to death. It is a specific title and one not used by Peter anywhere else in the Gospels.

Jesus is the “author of life” and in Jesus there is no place for hate, for violence or for retribution. There is only life … only life. To welcome Christ as the author of life means to allow Christ to remove all that is false within our hearts – the desire for hate, and for violence and for retribution. Peter knew the risen Lord and Christ removed these false and evil desires from the heart of Peter. Three times on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, the risen Lord – the author of life – asks Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Three times Peter says “yes”.

It is not just courage that Peter receives in the resurrection of Jesus; it is the courage of love and it comes from knowing and being known by – and loved by – the author of life.

The same courage of love is offered to us and it comes from knowing and allowing ourselves to be known and loved by the author of life.

Christ “lifted up” (4th Sunday of Lent – B)

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christ-on-the-cross-sketch-eug-ne-delacroixNicodemus is an interesting figure in the gospel. He is a devout man and someone who is intrigued by Jesus. Nicodemus believes the Jesus is a teacher of God and that the signs which Jesus does prove that God is with him yet Nicodemus wants to fit Jesus into his own paradigm, into his own narrative about how God should act. Before the passage we just heard we are told that Nicodemus comes to Jesus, “by night”. Nicodemus is attracted to Jesus but he is still in the darkness of his own presumptions. How often we are like Nicodemus. How often we know people like Nicodemus.

The dialogue that Jesus has with Nicodemus is a continual invitation (using a play on words) by Jesus to Nicodemus to take that necessary step in faith into the fullness of life – the Kingdom of God – that Jesus alone is the way into. It is an invitation to step away from our limited certainties of how things are and will always be (including God) into God’s own free action of love.

One such invitation (and play on words) is found in the term “lifted up”. “Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The Greek word for “lifted up” is a word that has a double meaning. First, it does mean a physically “lifting up”. Just as Moses hoisted the image of a serpent as the means for the healing of the people so will Jesus be physically hoisted upon the wood of the cross for the healing of the world. The Christian God is a God of paradox – and eternal and immutable God who was born, who suffered and who died. If we are to be Christian then we must enter into this paradox and learn what it both teaches about God and also about ourselves and where true life is found and lived.

The Greek word for “lifted up” also means “exaltation”. For the Christian to be authentic in his or her life that means that Christ/God must be exalted. Simply put, Christ/God must be the center of the Christian’s life and anything or anyone else that would vie with God for this center must be put in their proper place.

Our lives must be centered on God. If this is done then everything we do and all we are derive from God. We will be moral, honest and honorable. We will seek to tell the truth and not distort the news. We will not spread falsehoods. We will not gossip. We will pursue righteousness, devotion, love, faith, patience and gentleness. God must be exalted in the life of every Christian and this means that God alone is the center.

We can all be like Nicodemus. Attracted to the light of Christ yet still clinging to the darkness of our own presumptions. Jesus’ invitation to Nicodemus is his invitation to us. Take that step in faith – the mystery of a God who suffered and was lifted up on a cross and a God who must be exalted in our lives.

Chinook Winds and Christ

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chinook windsOn my recent vacation in the Canadian Rocky Mountains I learned about the chinook wind. The chinook wind is a rapid climate phenomenon produced by specific atmospheric conditions interacting with the stark geography of the high mountains. If all the proper conditions line up correctly a chinook wind is produced which is a steady stream of warm air that flows down from the mountain tops into the valley below on the eastern side of the Canadian Rockies. This wind has been known to sometimes melt thirty inches of snow in the course of a single day! The largest temperature shift produced by a chinook wind was recorded in the seventies when the wind moved the temperature from forty degrees below zero to forty-five degrees above zero in a twenty-four hour period. In the frigid cold of a Canadian winter the chinook wind is a promise of spring and an end to winter.

The beginning of Mark’s gospel can almost be read as the movement and power of a chinook wind! Jesus appears on the scene, he is baptized by John in the Jordan, he overcomes the temptations in the desert and he begins his ministry by calling his first disciples. He casts out demons, he cures many people of their illnesses and in today’s gospel we have our Lord healing a leper. “If you wish,” says the leper, “you can make me clean.” All of this within the very first chapter of Mark’s gospel!

Mark wants us to know that in Christ the grace, life and salvation of God has poured forth into our world and into our hearts – so long frozen and locked in sin and death! Something utterly new and unique is occurring within this man called Jesus! Jesus teaches, he heals, he casts out demons, he calls people with his own authority and he neither acts nor speaks like the scribes and the Pharisees.

It is interesting and telling that it is the people in need – the leper, the person who is ill, the one possessed by a demon, the poor, the flock without the shepherd – who first recognize this and realize that something new is occurring. The leper kneels before Jesus and says, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Those persons caught up in their own power and need to control – be that political, religious or social – do not recognize (throughout the gospel story) Christ both for who he, himself, is and for the grace and salvation he brings. They are locked within themselves. The people who are in need, the people who recognize their poverty are the ones who are open to the great wind of mercy, life and hope that Christ brings and who receive that life!

Christ brings life and healing but we, on our part, must recognize that we need life, that we are mortally wounded and that, without Christ, we are lost! We must be honest enough to continually admit our need, our frailty and our weakness. This is not just a recognition for the beginning of our faith journey but rather an honest assessment needed for every day of our faith journey! Christ does not come just to encourage or to applaud our efforts. Christ comes to give us life and salvation and without him we are both lost and we are dead!

Today’s gospel passage ends by saying that Jesus remained outside in the deserted places, yet “people kept coming to him from everywhere.” They recognized and they knew that something utterly unique was occurring in this man named Jesus – the very pouring forth of the mercy and life of God into our world! May we also recognize this.

Eli and vocation promotion

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samuel-and-eli2It is helpful to know some of the background to today’s first reading. Eli had two sons but neither were fit by their actions which were sinful to receive the blessing of God. When Eli finally realized that God was calling Samuel this would have been in his awareness and he would have realized that God’s call to the youth Samuel was also a judgment on his two sons. They would not receive the blessing; rather Samuel would. Eli could have tried to thwart what was going on in favor of his two sons but he did not. When he realized what was occurring he instructed the youth (who was not his son) to respond by saying, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

Eli was faithful to God and that very faithfulness aided the young Samuel in answering God’s call for him in his life. Eli is a witness to faithfulness, to looking beyond self-interest and to doing what is right for the next generation.

Here is a question and a challenge that I want to put before all parents, grandparents and adults in our community. Have you ever encouraged your child, your grandchild or a young person you know to just consider a possible calling to the priesthood or religious life? If you have then you stand with Eli and his witness. If you have not then frankly you have no right to ever complain if you ever believe that a priest or religious is too busy to meet your needs at a certain time.

Yes, vocations to priesthood or religious life are a mystery of God’s grace but vocations also do not emerge from a vacuum. I think we would all view it as foolish if a farmer were to think that a crop would just automatically spring up from an unworked plot of land. Yes, for a good crop there must be the grace of good sun, good rain and good temperatures (all of which is beyond the farmer’s control) but there must also be the work of tilling the ground, planting the seeds, and plucking the weeds. Often, we expect an abundance of vocations from unworked land! It doesn’t work that way. And it is not just the job of the priest or religious. That is another myth. It is all of our job. It is the Church’s job to stand with Eli and to be a witness as he was a witness – a witness to faithfulness, a witness to looking beyond self-interest and a witness to doing what is right for the next generation.

In John’s gospel the first words spoken by our Lord is the question we hear him ask the two disciples of John who are following him. “What are you looking for?” This question is put before each one of us. It is put before each follower of Christ and it is put before each generation of the Church. It is asked by our Lord to the young generation and only in answering this question will joy be found. To downplay the question, to try to ignore the encounter, to try to qualify and set limits for our youth is to do a disservice. The question must be asked! Every follower of Christ must answer! Every generation must answer! It is the job of the Church to stand in witness with Eli – to help and encourage the young Samuels.

Epiphany – You shall be radiant at what you see

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Flight~ Rose Datoc Dal

“Flight by Rose Datoc Dall

Have you ever noticed that there is a lot of walking and journeying in the Christmas story? We have the calm and silence of the manger scene but before, after and all around that is almost constant movement. The angel Gabriel is sent to announce God’s plan to Mary. Once Mary gives her “yes” we are told that she sets out “in haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Joseph and the very pregnant Mary have to journey to Bethlehem to register for the census and because of Rome’s census the whole world seems to be in movement! Then, once the child arrives, the small family has to flee to Egypt for protection! The shepherds are told to leave their flocks in order to see this newborn child and the three magi arrive from the east searching for the newborn king of the Jews and once they encounter him they are told to return home by a different route. The only one who seems incapable of movement is King Herod sitting on his throne and grasping onto power in suspicion and fear.

Here is a quote by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, “Brothers and sisters, break free from whatever ruts you have settled into! Whoever does not want to be set free – well, suit yourself – but don’t say you are living in Christ’s spirit. You can continue in the old ways and be a part of Christianity, but not of God’s kingdom. You can live in Christianity but not in Christ; the gulf between the two is great. You can settle down and feather your nest and think, “Now I’ve got it made,” but you’ll never win eternity. That is something altogether different. The “city” we have now does not interest us; it cannot last. Instead, we seek the future city – the one God sets before our eyes – of which Christ is ruler.”

“Instead, we seek the future city – the one God sets before our eyes – of which Christ is ruler.” In the prophet Isaiah, we hear these words, “Rise up in splendor! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you … Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance … (but then the prophet goes on to add) … Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow …” If there is a glory to the Christian it is not in our own merit nor is it in chasing after what the world holds and values – our radiance and our glory as Christians is found it what we see and what we seek – the future city, our true home, the Kingdom of God which God has set before our eyes.

So, the life of the Christian must then always be a life of movement and journeying by its very nature! The Christian is not allowed the luxury of “settling down” in this world with it’s limits. Herod was quite content to settle down in the limits of this world and he committed atrocities.

“Rise up in splendor!” the prophet proclaims to us. Rise up in the grace of Christ! Rise up in your worth as a child of God! Set your life by that worth and nothing else! Rise up in defending the dignity of all our brothers and sisters against the “Herods” of our time with all their sad thoughts and fearful plans! Live by what God has set before our eyes – the future city where Christ is ruler! Don’t just take the name “Christian” but live in the Kingdom, live in Christ!

Walk! Walk with the angel Gabriel and the shepherds and the magi! Walk with Isaiah and the prophets and the great company of saints! Walk with Joseph and Mary! Walk with our Lord himself! We are meant for the Kingdom of God and only there alone will our hearts find rest.

Rise up in splendor! You shall be radiant at what you see!

Rejoice! God’s freedom is not our freedom!

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Third Sunday of AdventScripture tells us that God’s ways are not our ways and neither is God’s freedom our freedom.

We look at the world and we see the injustice, the wrongs committed, human dignity is denied, nations threaten other nations, fear is pervasive and confusion seems to abound. We profess that God will certainly answer all of this but, so often, we then just assume that God will answer it as we would – through a show of power, force and dominance!

We are not alone in this, it has been the human fallback since the beginning – a sad result of our fall from the Garden of Eden. The people of Israel also held this. Their land was occupied by the world’s superpower, their kingdom was destroyed, their culture and religion was at odds with all of their neighbors yet, the idea of a messiah began to grow in the heart and hope of Israel, but they easily assumed that it would be a strongarm messiah who would vanquish the Romans, overcome all foes and restore Israel as the nation above all nations!

How little we understand the freedom of God.

God would send the messiah but simply and quietly – not leading an army but rather feeding the poor, healing the sick and preaching the Kingdom. The political oppression of Israel and the tumult among the nations was just the backdrop to the true story of God’s messiah and the oppression he came to confront and overcome – the oppression of sin and evil rooted deep in the human heart.

John the Baptist understood something of the freedom of God, so when he was questioned about his identity and the hope of the messiah, he was able to respond, “…there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” The messiah is not recognized because God’s freedom is not understood. God does not need the force of the world’s power nor is God bound by the terms of the world in accomplishing his will. God’s word is enough. God’s Spirit has been given.

The single most important event in human history (outside of creation itself) is accomplished by Jesus in his death and resurrection in a small part of a vast empire and the powers of the world barely noticed it. God’s freedom is shown in this! Now, in Christ – as adopted sons and daughters – we also have been given this freedom and this hope.

Here is a simple question to reflect upon that can lead us, I believe, into a little deeper awareness of the freedom of God and now our freedom as his children. The question often asked at this time of year is “How am I, how are we, going to celebrate Christmas?” But here is a different question, “How am I, how are we, going to give Christmas?” Christmas is the celebration of God’s light and God’s freedom breaking into our world! How can I give that light? How can I live that freedom? It is an appropriate question to reflect upon on this third Sunday of Advent when we rejoice in the coming of Christ! Christ came that we might have life and that we might live the life we receive for others! Christ invites us into the very freedom of God.

How am I, how are we, going to give Christmas and learn (in a deeper way) the freedom of God?

“Be watchful!”

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Icon of ChristA few weeks ago we had the reading of the parable of talents in Matthew’s gospel. Three servants are given different amounts of treasure to invest for their master while he is away – one is given five talents, the second is given two and the third is given one talent. On the master’s return we learn that the first two servants doubled what was entrusted to them (and were therefore rewarded generously by their master) while the third servant buried the talent in the earth that he had been given. He neither lost nor gained anything for the master and was therefore chastised for his laziness and was punished by being cast into “the darkness outside.”

I refer to this because I think we can learn something from this parable about what our Lord means when he says, “Be watchful!” in today’s gospel.  The action of the third servant – in contrast to the first two servants – was the opposite of being watchful.  The burying of the talent entrusted to him was, in essence, an act of ignoring the master. 

It is safe to assume that the third servant, after tucking away his talent, went about the business of his day and what he wanted to accomplish – not really thinking about the master until the day he showed up again. The first two servants, working to increase the talents given them, were active and they were continually thinking about and focused on the master’s return. They were not going about their own plans but were planning and working for their master even as he was away. Their doubling what had been entrusted to them demonstrates this attitude.  The first two servants were watchful where the third was not.  The first two disciples were mindful of the master. 

The watchfulness that our Lord calls us to is not a watching in order to be entertained or amused or even scandalized by the ever-present corruption of sin and evil that we find in life.  All of this is a passive watching.  The watching that our Lord calls us to is an active engagement – just like the first two servants.  This is where we find ourselves, these are times and situations we find ourselves in – now, what are we going to do about it?  How will we live our lives today in a way that increases what the master has entrusted to us?  The first two servants worked hard – anticipating the return of the master.  They did not just sit passively bemoaning the state of things. 

By working hard, the first two servants demonstrate both their obedience to and even their love for the master.  The third servant might have spoken quite eloquently about how he had hidden the talent away in order to present it safely back to the master upon his return but, in reality, his heart was not connected to the master.  The third servant was more focused on what he wanted to do and what he wanted to accomplish with his time.  The first two servants show their love for the master by their willingness to work hard, get messy in the process and even risk what had been entrusted to them in order to bear fruit. 

The watchfulness our Lord calls us to is a watchfulness found in a life being lived in faith, in hope and love and in service to one another.  The prophet Isaiah (from the first reading) knew this type of watchfulness when he wrote, “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!”  “Be watchful!” says our Lord – live in such a way that your life anticipates and yearns for the return of the Master!     

 

Closed Secularism and the Failure of the Third Servant

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Parable_of_the_Talents_002.jpegIn Mt. 25:14-30 we find our Lord sharing the parable of the talents. Three servants are given different amounts of treasure to invest for their master while he is away – one is given five talents, the second is given two and the third is given one talent. On the master’s return we learn that the first two servants doubled what was entrusted to them (and were therefore rewarded generously by their master) while the third literally buried the talent away that he had been given. He neither lost nor gained anything for the master and was therefore called out on his laziness and was punished by being cast into “the darkness outside.”

The three servants did not own these talents. This is important to note. The talents were given and entrusted to them by the master upon his departure with the expectation that they would be returned and increased upon his return. The master is the only one in the parable who has a rightful claim on the treasure. I do not believe that the parable is about developing our own skills, gifts and abilities (as important and praiseworthy as this might be) but rather about something much deeper and transformative. The Christian has been given things by God in Christ – things that we have no claim to on our own – and the Christian is expected to make these things grow and will be judged accordingly.

Before getting into what I believe is one set of things given to us by God in Christ I would like to propose that the temptation to live according to a closed secularism – so prevalent in our world today – is the temptation and failure of the third servant. (For a helpful presentation of the distinction between a “closed” and “open” secularism, I would refer you to the book Church, Faith, Future: What We Face, What We Can Do by Fr. Louis Cameli.)

The third servant, out of fear, buried the talent entrusted to him. God calls us to the freedom of his Kingdom but such a freedom can be frightening. Remember the Israelites yearning to go back to the bondage of Egypt? Burying something away is a way of side-stepping and avoiding the responsibility of freedom. Burying also means ignoring. It is safe to assume that the third servant, after tucking away his talent, went about the business of his day and what he wanted to accomplish – not really thinking about the master until the day he shows up again. The first two servants, working to increase the talents given them, were active and they were continually thinking about and focused on the master’s return. They were not going about their own plans but were planning and working for their master even as he was gone. Their doubling what had been entrusted to them demonstrates this attitude. Finally, burying is choosing the lesser and valuing it over that which is higher. In our modern sensibility we stumble with this imagery but the highest goal of the servant should be that of seeking to fulfill the will of the master. The third servant placed his own security and his own designs over the task entrusted to him by his master. He therefore chose that which was lesser.

In the choice for a closed secularism we are in essence burying what has been given us. We are choosing the world before the Kingdom of God. We are side-stepping the true freedom of living as a son or daughter of God with its duties and responsibilities (and abundant graces) for the shallow pseudo-freedoms of choosing our next form of entertainment and/or distraction. We are ignoring the call and promise of God for the business of what we think our day should be about and therefore we are choosing that which is lesser over that which is greater.

Now, what has been given us by God in Christ that we have no claim to on our own? One gift, I believe, are the theological virtues and when we choose to live according to the narrative of the closed secular we, in essence, bury what has been given and entrusted to us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that the theological virtues have their origin, motive and goal in God. These virtues, in the Christian understanding, are gifts from God and can only be brought to fulfillment through our having relationship with God. If God and the realm of the divine is bracketed out of our reality we sidestep the responsibility of the freedom of a child of God, we ignore God in favor of our plans and preoccupations and we lose sight of the greater in favor of that which is lesser.

Faith, rather than being the virtue that confirms our belief in what God has said and revealed is reduced to an allegiance to what I and my particular group believe and hold to be true above all else. Hope, rather than being that virtue anchored in the coming Kingdom of God – the virtue which pulls us forward through the tumults of life – becomes (at best) a naïve optimism rooted in the ever-changing slogans of the day. Charity, rather than being the love of God above all things for his own sake and our neighbors as ourselves for the love of God, becomes a bargaining with a God relegated to the role of being the source of my comfort and a care for those people within my own personal echo chamber – a care which allows only a grudging acceptance for those people without.

How do we avoid the failure of the third servant? We learn from the first two servants. We do not bury what has been given us by co-opting and choosing to live by the narrative of the closed secular. We remain active, living in such a way in the reality of today as to keep the Master in our thoughts and anticipate his return. We live in such a manner as to make the talents of true faith, hope and love grow in our hearts and in our world!

The temptation of closed secularism is the failure of the third servant. As in all the parables, there is much to learn here if we have the ears to hear.

Do not let self eclipse the Son.

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get behind me satanI am not much into church signs and I am glad that we do not have one here at St. Dominic’s because I am not witty enough to post a profound thought each week. I did see one church sign thought the other day that I did like though. It was, “Do not let self eclipse the Son.” Since we all survived the recent solar eclipse we can now breathe a sigh of relief! But the church sign thought is good and it connects well with the today’s gospel (Mt. 16:21-27).

We are told that after our Lord shares how he must go to Jerusalem, suffer and be killed; Peter takes him aside and begins to rebuke Jesus, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Peter’s self – expressed in his view or our Lord and his view of how our Lord is to fulfill his mission and how the Kingdom is to be brought about – attempts to eclipse the Son. The temptation is there for all of us. In subtle and not so subtle ways we can easily fall into the same error – we can try to tell God how to do his job, we can try to tell the gospel what it really means but this is foolishness. It is like the moon trying to tell the sun how to shine. No real light is shed, only shadows are cast.

What struck me for the first time in praying over this gospel is that Jesus “turned” before rebuking Peter. Peter had taken Jesus aside. Peter was conversing with and rebuking our Lord to his face. By then turning, our Lord already had his back to Peter when he said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” It would do us well to take our Lord at his words here. We are told that our Lord was tempted in every way but never sinned. Our Lord is tempted by this rebuke and these thoughts of Peter. Peter’s words, even his care for Jesus in that moment, was an obstacle for our Lord. In Jesus’ response we can see that the thought is there with which our Lord wrestles, “Maybe there is another way to fulfill the mission? Maybe there is another way to usher in the Kingdom? Maybe I do not have to go to Jerusalem?” The temptation is there and it is real but our Lord does not sin. He does not turn away from God’s will. Rather, he very physically turns his back to this limited, human way of thinking which is not God’s way of thinking.

Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans (Rom. 12:1-2), “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” This is part of the path of discipleship – to learn how to turn away from our human ways of thought and to think as God thinks. It is not easy. In fact, it might actually be the hardest part of discipleship. We like our presumptions and our views and our way of doing things. Lord, you mean this too? This also has to be offered up and denied and taken to the cross? Our Lord responds, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

But how do we go about this renewal of the mind according to the will of God? We turn and we turn to God! There is something almost dramatic and even jarring about our Lord’s turn from Peter and his words “Get behind me, Satan!” Our thoughts and presumptions can entangle and trap us, even those which on the surface seem so normal, so commonsensical and even caring and reasonable. There is a power to the sharpness of our Lord’s response. No, there is another way. There is God’s way and by that way I will live, whether understood by others or not! Jesus shows this to us in this moment and he shows that all things – even our presumptions, our thoughts and our way of doing things – must give way to the truth of the Kingdom.

Do not let self eclipse the Son. Be transformed by the renewal of your mind!