What Will Endure?

If what was to fade was glorious, how much more will what endures be glorious. (II Corinthians 3:11) What does endure? What will endure even beyond the “passing away of heaven and earth?” (Matthew 5:18)

chaliceThe answer resounds right in front of our noses. “The chalice of My Blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant.” We do not go too far when we say: Our religion is the Mass.

Not that we do no other acts of religion. We pray at other times and in other places. And we try to act justly and kindly all the time and everywhere we go, out of duty to God. But none of our prayers or religious acts outside of Mass make any sense at all without the Mass.

We do not go too far when we say: Our religion is Jesus Christ. Jesus, the incarnate Word of the eternal Father, makes Himself our sacrifice and our food in the Holy Mass.

Yes, we sacrifice other things; we strive to sacrifice our whole lives to God. But no sacrifice we can make pleases the Father unless we unite it with Christ’s sacrifice. And, in truth, we need make no sacrifice other than the sacrifice of Jesus—since, in offering Himself, He offered everything good and worthy in us. After all, He made us according to the infinite Wisdom He possesses in His unfathomable mind.

Sometimes non-Catholics try to confuse this issue of the absolute centrality of the Holy Mass and the sacred priesthood in the Catholic Church. They note that the New Testament contains relatively few references to the Mass, or the priesthood, or the Real Presence.

But this criticism actually misses the obvious context of the New Testament itself. What is the New Testament? Is it a collection of moral instructions? If so, it is not a coherent one. Is the New Testament an account of first-century Mediterranean-basin history? If so, it is a terrible, practically unreadable one.

The New Testament makes perfect sense, however, as a collection of documents written by churchmen—men who maintained intimate communion with Christ through the Holy Eucharist. Documents, in other words, written by priests of the new and eternal covenant, for the benefit of their people, namely the people who participated regularly in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

The living, breathing reality of the Church—priests and people celebrating Jesus’ Mass together: that is the gloriously glorious thing that will not pass away. Even on the other side of the final and all-encompassing purification of heaven and earth, we will gather together around the altar to offer Jesus and receive Jesus.

Face-to-Face

St. Paul in Prison by Rembrandt

On every page of every letter of St. Paul preserved in the New Testament, we can feel the tension between the fact of his physical removal from his audience and his desire to share what he has with them.

He loves the written word, because it allows him to communicate across the vast Mediterranean. But he hates it, because he would prefer to be there. In most of his letters, St. Paul writes to people he knows well, people he loves, people he would still be with—were it not for the inexorable impulse from above which keeps him moving to spread the kingdom of Christ.

Like all the “books” of the New Testament, St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians bears witness to the inadequacy of written words to convey the Gospel. I & II Corinthians, the canonical gospels, the entire New Testament: really just a beautiful shadow of the immeasurably more beautiful reality to which all these documents testify.

mosesSo: our passage from the first reading at Holy Mass today

The context: I am writing to you again because I wrote before, and yet you still carry on like non-Christians. Yes, my letters have authority. But the real “letter” I want to write is: you Corinthians.

You, acting like members of Jesus’ Body, like redeemed children of eternity. That is the only letter I really want to “write,” and would that I could write it by standing there among you and teaching you in person!

Does St. Paul go on to compare himself to Moses, to the pre-eminent prophet who spoke face-to-face with God and returned to the children of Israel with skin blazing with divine glory? Yes, the Apostle does presume to compare himself to Moses. But only because Christ is Christ. Because Christ is God reconciling to Himself all the sinners who have broken Moses’ holy law.

If Moses’ face shone—if the face of the man who saw God inscribe the Law of justice, in words, shone—then how much more will the face of the Apostle of Christ shine? Christ Who is Justice and Who gives justice to the unjust. Christ the one and altogether true Word of divine love, Who makes all other words sound like gongs and clanging cymbals.

St. Paul wrote with a fire and a zeal, with a sympathy and an insight, that few writers could claim to possess. After all, he wrote as a chosen Apostle of the divine Redeemer, a messenger of Revelation.

But St. Paul would prefer not to write with words on paper. He would prefer face-to-face. Face-to-face with his audience to teach them about coming face-to-face God.

Greetings and Goodbyes

lebron-shaqSo you are saying: “Now the Cavaliers have a lock on the 2010 title.” You are saying the LeBron-Shaq juggernaut will be unbeatable.

I defy these auguries.

Preacher predicts: The Wizards will be a better team than the Cavs in 2009-10…

…Click here for a priest-blog far superior to this pathetic endeavor. The reason it is a better blog is because the blogger is a better priest…

Father Tom King, S.J.  1929-2009
Father Tom King, S.J. 1929-2009
…In 1999, The Hoya newspaper declared that Fr. Tom King, S.J. was Georgetown University’s “Man of the Century.”

He was an irrepressible man of zeal and love. He alone kept Georgetown from falling off the Barque of Peter. He lived in a state of perpetual suspension between heaven and earth.

He is the first Catholic priest I ever spoke with in my life. If it weren’t for him, I would probably still be waiting tables for a living.

Rest in peace, Father King! I will never forget you. Please pray for your unworthy spiritual sons!

…Here is my sermon bidding farewell to the year of St. Paul:

Continue reading “Greetings and Goodbyes”