Stumbling into the Presence

Sabrett vendor

Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. (Luke 14:13)

The Lord has always blessed me with generally good health and a solid physique. But I don’t mind telling you: 22-23 years ago, I walked the streets of my hometown spiritually very poor, morally somewhat crippled. As a man of prayer, I was lame. And when it came to the future, I was blind.

Seems like a good day today to recount what happened to me during the noon hour on a rainy Washington day in February of 1991. Maybe that seems like a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. But we would not be chatting here together like this–were it not for the events I am about to recount.

Continue reading “Stumbling into the Presence”

His Dwelling with Us

raiders nazi_officers_ark_of_the_covenant_chase

Let’s start with an antithesis. On the one hand, God dwells everywhere. Nothing could exist at all if it were not upheld immediately by God’s power. On the other hand: We cannot see; we cannot grasp; we cannot know God.

See? Antithesis. Both true. God everywhere. But everything we see, know, conceive: not God. Human beings search constantly for God, Who is everywhere.

Then: God began to work with us to help us deal with this problem. He drew close to the ancient Israelites. He gave them His holy name to invoke. He led them out of slavery to their homeland. He established a dwelling place with them. The Ark of the Covenant.

Continue reading “His Dwelling with Us”

Who Does He Love?

I was sent to the the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 15:24)

Who does Christ love? Does He love the Israelites only? Or everyone?

Christ came as an Israelite, lived among the Israelites, spoke the language of the Israelites, had Israelite friends and associates and generally followed Israelite customs, including the religious customs. The Israelites claimed to have a unique relationship with God, claimed to have been singled-out for special divine favor and closeness. The Lord Jesus never contradicted this idea. To the contrary, He evidently accepted that idea altogether.

The_Head_of_Christ_by_Warner_Sallman_1941Nonetheless, the incarnate Son of God exposed the limits of Israel’s ‘special’ relationship.

The Chosen People did not recognize their own God. Their human king tried to have their divine King killed as a newborn. The Pharisees, supposedly so close to God, obtusely rejected God incarnate. The Jerusalem authorities condemned to death the divine founder of Jerusalem.

Christ shed His blood not just for Israelites, but for all the baptized. He instructed His Apostles to baptize all nations.

We read how, centuries before all this, God grew angry with the Israelites. They doubted His Providence in clearing their enemies out of the Promised Land. “We look like grasshoppers compared to these people. We could never conquer this land.”

We read that the people “spread discouraging reports.” The murmurazio mewled and fussed about how terrible the situation was. God help anyone who spreads discouraging reports about the prospects of the Chosen People! The People of God, united under their legitimate shepherds; the People of God, acting together as a family: that’s an unstoppable force, because the favor of God rests upon us. No enemies can stop the people of God, marching into the future under the loving care of the divinely-instituted hierarchial leadership! Suffering and contradiction will come our way, but that is precisely how we advance the cause of the Crucified.

I think we could say that God grew angry with the murmuring Israelites because the people underestimated His power. God knew perfectly well that the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Canaanites dwarfed the Israelites. The Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Canaanites had much more money than the Israelites. But that doesn’t matter. The point is that God dwarfs everybody.

So, back to the original question: Jesus loves the Israelites. Nothing Christ ever did or said contradicts the idea that He loves His own people. He loves the “home team,” so to speak–the people who built the walls of the Temple and handed down the sacred tradition.

But God help us if we underestimate the power of Christ’s love. God help us if we do anything to discourage the faith. God help us if we spend so much time fighting among ourselves that we forget to look outside and see the souls that need Christ. Christ’s love has infinite power. Christ’s love has the power to unite the home team and the visiting team into one winning team.

[Special Message for my Rocky-Mount, Va., peeps:]

In my humble opinion, unworthy man that I am–in my humble opinion: This summer we missed an opportunity. The Lord opened a door to our future together in this town, and we did not go through it. I blame myself, because I communicate so inadequately. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but no sense dwelling on what’s done. Time moves on.

God never gives up on His Chosen Ones. Let us not doubt that He will open another door for us–sooner rather than later. And there will be one way through it, the same way that always leads to the good future: Jesus Christ.

One of the many things I have learned over the course of the past six weeks is this: In early June, I vaguely thought that moving the tabernacle into the sanctuary would improve our lives by making the celebration of Mass smoother. I thought it would be a practical improvement. Now I see that this is not simply a practical matter. Moving the tabernacle into the sanctuary has to be our #1 spiritual priority. The Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle, and how desperately we need His Presence, and how desperately our neighbors need to find Him here–this will have to be the focus of our efforts for the forseeable future.

Back to our question for today: Does Jesus Christ, present in the Blessed Sacrament–does He love Jew or Gentile? Yes. Does Christ love us, or does he love the people outside the Church? Yes. Does Christ will us to march forward together and evangelize the world with patient love?

God’s Dwelling

If it please the king, and if your servant is deserving of your favor, send me to Judah, to the city where my ancestors are buried, that I may rebuild it. (Nehemiah 2:5)

Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head. (Luke 9:58)

The two readings today present us with a contrast, even a paradox: In the first, we read about the re-building of the Jerusalem temple, the earthly dwelling place of the Lord under the Old Covenant. Then, in the gospel reading, the Lord says that He has no place to rest His head.

Where does God dwell? We know the manifold answer: He exists universally as the cause of everything. His image shines forth in the spiritual dimension of man. He pours out His grace and mercifully unites souls to Himself. He dwells personally in Christ, Who abides with us in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. In heaven, He fills the blessed with Himself in an unending consummation of love.

Perhaps this thought will help to resolve the paradox presented by the two readings: God has no place to rest His head on earth, not because the earth is not His—it is His; He made it, sustains it, consecrates it, and moves it to its fulfillment. But He has no rest on earth, both because He altogether transcends His creation, and because His will for the salvation of every soul consumes Him with zeal and peripatetic restlessness. The Lord has no rest on earth until everyone rests in Him.

So…the Lord dwells in our humble church. Nowhere between Martinsville and Roanoke, or between Danville and Stuart, does the Lord dwell like He dwells in our tabernacle, and on the altar during Mass. We cannot get through life without coming to Christ’s holy dwelling to commune with Him.

But we cannot rest in church anymore than He can. We come to His house, He takes up His dwelling in us, and then He propels us into the great mix outside. He sends us on His mission, because He wills to dwell in everyone as He has been pleased to dwell in us.

When everything is said and done, please God, we will enter forever into the Lord’s dwelling, and we will find rest unlike any peace we have known on earth. In the meantime, though, we cannot rest until everyone dwells in the love of Christ.

Corpus Christi Homily

Are there any P.G., Anne Arundel, Calvert, or Montgomery County homies who can answer this classic rap satire?

My favorite part is the way he reacts to the prospect of riding the Green Line…

…Feast of Corpus Christi!

Here is a homily about the presence of God…

Continue reading Corpus Christi Homily”