Mass has been a fountain from which I have been drinking for as long as I can remember. The Eucharist has meant more to me than words can say. To me the liturgy is where it all comes together, where Jesus and all who are dear to me gather to celebrate hope against hope. Mass is a reunion--with all the pleasantness of a summer picnic.
Although my reflections below include profound truths, it's the reality that's important The liturgy is a fountain from which we can drink when we're in the desert or on an oasis, in good times and bad.
In the Jubilee year 2000 I was privileged to preside at a eucharistic liturgy in Jerusalem where Jesus lived, died, and rose 2000 years ago. In my homily at this Mass of the Resurrection I said that the Risen Jesus is present sacramentally. I believe that the Risen Jesus today has grown since he prepared breakfast for his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection. (John 21) It is that Risen Jesus who is present in the Eucharist.
The Eucharist makes present the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The question I ask myself is how can I join more closely in the Eucharist with the Risen Jesus? Certainly I can be more attentive to the liturgy of the Word, how God acted in the first covenant and in the second. Certainly I need to remember that I won't be able to get closer to the Risen Jesus if I try to by-pass the mission, message, life, and death of Jesus. "Dying Jesus destroyed our death." (Acclamations after consecration in Eucharistic Prayers) "Every time then, you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes!" (1 Corinthians 11.26) "Greater love than this no one has." (John 15.13) Jesus lived and died to reconcile the human family to God, to one another, and to the earth. ("The world itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. Yes, we know that all creation groans and is in agony even until now." Romans 8.18-25. Fr. Donald L. Gelpi, S.J. The Firstborn of Many, a Christology for Converting Christians, I. To Hope in Jesus Christ, p. 408 ff)
Jesus invites us to join in this act of love. Death with a small "d" can mean many things. Certainly it means dying to my self-absorption and rising to listen to the stories of others even when these stories are painful and a shock to my prejudices and pre-conceptions. Certainly the stories of the Christian Palestinians, for example, are painful and to some they may come as a shock as they did to the loving young Jewish woman Anna Baltzser. But sometimes real listening can be the best way I can join myself to the passion and death of Jesus.
"Every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can match its claim to efficacy, nor equal the degree of it. . . the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fountain from which all her power flows." (Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, No.'s 7 & 10)
As I rode up Mt. Thabor, I realized it is a very high mountain. We needed a van, gas, and a skilled driver. How can I prepare to climb the summit of the liturgy? I suggest small, faith-based communities such as Christian Life Community that can assimilate their light and dark graced stories, how God has loved them, how they have taken that love to others, reflect on theological values, discern the present signs of the times together, and engage in social action. Entering into the message, mission, life, and death of Jesus and taking up the task of reconciliation will succeed only if we let Jesus breathe into us his Spirit.
The many kinds of hungers in our world speak to us of the need of redemption. We all have a hunger for genuine peace and security, for meaning in life, for appreciation and encouragement. We have a hunger to be needed, to have a task to do. We have a hunger for true friendship.
Few of us know the pain of a physical hunger that can be all absorbing, the central obsession of those chronically malnourished. The Eucharist is incomplete everywhere in the world as long as anyone is hungry anywhere in the world. If there is one hungry human person, as a church I feel we have not sacrificed enough, we have not entered sufficiently into the message, mission, life, and death of Christ. Jesus broke the bread, a symbol of sharing. Jesus gave his life. We need to pay the price for a more humane world.
What are the structures that keep people hungry? How do we get so entrenched into our own mind-sets and prejudices that we cannot see or hear the cries of the hungry? When Jesus fed the multitude, did he physically multiply the loaves? Or did the example of Jesus inspire others in the crowd to share with their neighbor? Is the problem today that we are not producing enough food in a healthy sustainable way or that we do not share the abundance that is already there? Or perhaps both? "Keep your Church alert in faith to the signs of the times and eager to accept the challenge of the gospel. Open our hearts to the needs of all humanity, so that sharing their grief and anguish, their joy and hope, we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation." (Eucharistic Prayer, Masses for Various Needs III) (For some of the above themes I recommend Monika K. Hellwig, The Eucharist and the Hunger of the World, 1992)
"Thanks to science and technology, human society is able to solve problems such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or developing more just conditions of life, but remains stubbornly unable to accomplish this. . . we are simply not willing to pay the price of a more just and more humane society." Very Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education. October, 2000. (See also this web page under "Economic Democracy")
St. John Chrysostom in a homily on the gospel of Matthew, chapter twenty-five, joins the liturgy and those in need. "Do you want to honor Christ's body? Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honor him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. . . What we do here in the church requires a pure heart, not special garments; what we do outside requires great dedication. . God does not want golden vessels but golden hearts. . Of what use is it to weigh down Christ's table with golden cups, when he himself is dying of hunger?. . Do not adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all." ( The Divine Office, Vol. IV, 181)
"The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren. 'You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother. . . You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food someone judged worthy to take part in this meal.'" No. 1397 Catechism of the Catholic Church
Structures are the way we organize our world and our lives externally and internally. Government, corporations, the church, the family are external structures. Our values, attitudes, philosophy of life are internal structures.
In his visit to Brazil in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI, stated the importance of structures: "The encounter with Christ in the Eucharist calls forth a commitment to evangelization and solidarity; the Eucharist awakens a strong desire to proclaim the Gospel and to bear witness to it in the world so as to build a more just and humane society. From the Eucharist a civilization of love springs forth that has and will continue to transform Latin America, making a Continent of Hope, a Continent of Love.
How can the Church contribute to the solution of urgent social and political problems such as poverty, the growing distance between the rich and the poor, drugs, alcohol, false pleasures? . . Just structures are a condition without which a just order in society is not possible, but structures neither arise nor function without a moral consensus on fundamental values, and the need to live these values, even when living God?s values goes against personal interest. Contact with God is essential if Latin America wishes to find consensus on common moral values or the strength to live according to our values.
Just structures will never be complete in a definitive way. As history continues to evolve, structures must constantly be renewed and updated. . friendship with Jesus is essential if we are to bring about just and loving structures.
We need to have concern for the human community but also for the protection of the natural environment of which we are all a part.
What must I do so that my life has meaning?" (See Origens, May 24, 2007, Volume 37, No. 2.)
Although not using modern vocabulary, renewing and up-dating external and internal structures and connecting liturgy and love of our neighbor was integral to the first covenant. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Reform your ways and your deeds, so that I may remain with you in this place. Put not your trust in the deceitful words: 'This is the temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord!' Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood." (Jeremiah 7.3-6) (Also Isaiah 1.11-19)
"All you who are thirsty, come to the water; You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat." (Isaiah 55.1)
"If you would offer me holocausts, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream." (Amos 5.21-24) True worship must be an expression of justice. "Take away the noise of your songs." If you are unjust do not raise your arms in prayer. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves clean. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged." (Isaiah 1. 11-19)
The Liturgy and Peace
"The Mass in particular is a unique means of seeking God's help to create the conditions essential for true peace in ourselves and in the world. In the eucharist we encounter the risen Lord, who gave us his peace. He shares with us the grace of the redemption, which helps us to preserve and nourish this precious gift. Nowhere is the Church's urgent plea for peace more evident in the liturgy than in the Communion Rite. 'Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you. Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom.'
Therefore we encourage every Catholic to make the sign of peace at Mass an authentic sign of our reconciliation with God and with one another. This sign of peace is also a visible expression of our commitment to work for peace as a Christian community. We approach the table of the Lord only after having dedicated ourselves as a Christian community to peace and reconciliation. As an added sign of commitment, we suggest that there always be a petition for peace in the general intercessions at every eucharistic celebration." Challenge of Peace, God's Promise and Our Response. No. 295 US Catholic Bishops.
"In the midst of conflict and division, we know it is you who turn our minds to thoughts of peace. Your Spirit changes our hearts: enemies begin to speak to one another, those who were estranged join hands in friendship, and nations seek the way of peace together. Your Spirit is at work when understanding puts an end to strife, when hatred is quenched by mercy, and vengeance gives way to forgiveness. . . Lord our God, your Son has entrusted to us this pledge of his love. We celebrate the memory of his death and resurrection and bring you the gift you have given us, the sacrifice of reconciliation.
Therefore, we ask you, Father, to accept us, together with your Son. Fill us with his Spirit through our sharing in this meal. May he take away all that divides us. May this Spirit keep us always in communion with N. our pope, N., our bishop, with all the bishops and all your people. Father, make your Church throughout the world a sign of unity and an instrument of your peace. You have gathered us here around the table of your Son, in fellowship with the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and all the saints. In that new world where the fullness of your peace will be revealed, gather people of every race, language, and way of life to share in the one eternal banquet with Jesus Christ the Lord." (Eucharistic Prayer II, Mass of Reconciliation) "Because the loaf of bread is one, we, many though we are, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Corinthians 10.17)
The Liturgy and Real Presence
The real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist allows us to respond in attentive presence to others. "I am in your midst as one who serves." (Luke 22.27) "This is my body which will be given up for you." (Luke 22.19) As Jesus is really present to us, we can be really present to others. Jesus listens to us. We can be co-redeemers with Jesus by actively listening to others. The real presence of Jesus can give us the grace to be really present even to those with whom we disagree. We likewise need to listen to ourselves, what our bodies, emotions and thoughts are telling us. (See Regis A. Duffy, O.F.M., Real Presence, Worship, Sacraments, and Commitment.)
The Liturgy and Our Common Home, Planet Earth
The Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love: “Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world” (St. John Paul II) The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. The world which came forth from God’s hands returns to God in blessed and undivided adoration; in the bread of the Eucharist, “creation is projected towards divinization; towards the holy wedding feast, towards unification with the Creator himself.” Pope Benedict XVI. Thus, the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation. Laudato Si Pope Francis, No. 236.
The Liturgy and Salvation
"Jesus is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in everything He might be pre-eminent, for all the fullness (pleroma) was pleased to dwell in Him and to reconcile all things to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross." (Colossians 1.18-20) Pleroma designates the plentitude of divine creative and saving power. "The effects of His saving death penetrate the whole of creation." (Gelpi, The Firstborn of Many, I. 431) "The Father has put all things under Christ's feet and has made him thus exalted, head of the church, which is his body: the fullness of him who fills the universe in all its parts." (Ephesians 1. 22, 23) "That infilling transforms the Church into Jesus' instrument for extending the divine fullness to all creation. The Church, then in accomplishing its mission mediates the fullness of salvation to a sinful world, the fullness of Christic life." (Gelpi, The Firstborn of Many, I. 440)
Feast of Christ the King: Loving and wise God, You raised Jesus from death to life. Open our hearts, put the Heart of Jesus next to our heart, let Jesus be our Pacemaker and Peacemaker, free all the world to rejoice in the peace of Christ, help us to be spiritually free to exult in the justice of Jesus, in a Vision of Hope, to find our home in God's love. Bring the whole human family together in the love of Jesus whose reign is with you and the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Colossians 12-20.)
Preface of Christ the King: "Father you anointed Jesus Christ, your only Son, with the oil of gladness, as the eternal priest and universal king. As priest he offered his life on the altar of the cross and redeemed the human race by
this one perfect sacrifice of peace. As king he claims dominion over all creation, that he may present to you, his almighty Father, an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace." Annointed in baptism and confirmation as prophets, kings, and priests, we can join with Jesus in the Spirit working to offer to the Father a world of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love, and peace.
On the Feast of Christ the King, I cite Fr. John L. Mckensie Dictionary of the Bible Truth: In Pilate John represents the world as asking What is Truth? Jesus can answer this in a unique way because for this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. Jesus Himself is the way, the truth and the life. ( Jn 14.6.) In Hebrew scripture the true is not merely an object of intellectual assent, but that which demands a personal commitment. A person who is true is someone who is steadfast, someone you can rely on.
Application to today: Let us join Jesus in bringing together those near and far by pursuing a
Vision of Hope: Purpose: In joy and in the Spirit to favor love over hate, hope over despair, faith over doubt. To envision internal and external structures that will make our planet sustainable and our human family more ethical and moral; practicing active non-violence, waging peace, seeking to establish security and justice; insisting on basic human rights; working toward economic democracy and committed to forming a democratic world federation to act as a legal governing body for the Family of Nations---(See Love in Truth No. 67 Pope Benedict XVI www.vatican.va) Envisioning, going forward, searching for old and new ways and structures in a balanced and peaceful manner, through collaboration, negotiation and mediation to promote, refine, and implement a vision of hope."
Membership: Any person willing to educate themselves and others and then work in their own situation and in their own way to implement a vision of hope in accord with one's time, energy, relationships, and commitments.
For my own vision see this total web-site www.xavier.edu/frben
The Liturgy and Oneness
When Pope Paul II visited Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 4, 1979, he began his remarks with the words of the offertory prayers at Catholic Mass: "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer which earth has given and human hands have made." Wheat is planted in the earth, harvested, and made into flour. Flour is baked into bread and brought to the altar. The earth, our work become the Eucharistic Christ. If we bring the loaves of our efforts to Jesus, Jesus can multiply the loaves.
With Fr. Pierre Teihard de Chardin, S.J., I believe that the Eucharistic Christ is not just the spiritual center but the physical center of the universe. (See Fr. Christopher F. Mooney, S.J. Teilhard de Chardin and the Mystery of Christ, p. 70 ff) Gravitational fields, magnetic fields, indeed all of nature is interconnected and one. Wheat is planted, feeds on the minerals of the earth, is harvested by human hands, ground into flour, baked into bread and brought to the altar. The wheat contains physical creation, past and present. Human work transforms the wheat into bread. If the wheat for the Eucharist is produced in a way that disrupts the web of nature, I feel uncomfortable offering such bread to become the body of Christ. If the bread for the Eucharist is produced in a way that oppresses the farmers and farm workers or the workers who process it, I feel uncomfortable offering such bread to become the body of Christ. In a wedding liturgy I attended recently of alumni of Dorothy Day House the eucharistic bread was grown organically.
Jesus transforms the bread into His body. In faith and love human persons, human work, physical creation are all united in the Eucharistic Christ.
Accept the eons of earth's slow change
The millennia of the soil's formation
The centuries of seed selection by peasants
The years of farmer cultivation of the land
The hours of millers and bakers, truckers and clerks
Divine plans, human hands, co-workers, co-creators
This earth, this work, this bread
One with you, our Creator!
One with you, our Bread of Life!
"Through the human person evolution crossed the threshold of reflection into the 'noosphere, the mysterious realm of the person. . . in Teilhard's system it is the free circulation of love energy between persons that centers humankind upon that ultimate Pole of convergence called Omega. .this Center of centers is personal, 'loving and lovable at this very moment' drawing human persons and all of creation to Himself by radiating and activating the love energy of the world. The body of Christ forms the physical Center for humankind and the whole world. The Body of Christ is new, an organism moving and alive in which we are all united physically, biologically. If we want to form a correct idea of the Incarnation, it is not as its beginnings that we must situate ourselves but as far as possible at its definitive terminus." Teilhard de Chardin and the Mystery of Christ, Christofer F. Mooney, S.J.
Physical creation is essential for sacramental life in the Christian churches. Without bread, wine, oil as visible signs, there are no sacraments. In the sacraments Christ comes again to create a new heaven and a new earth and present it to the Father. Physical creation, ourselves, and Christ are one, physically one. The physical environment is one with us and with Christ. As friends or husband and wife grow together over the years, we strive to become more one. A pre-eminent way in which we become more one with the earth and one another is through the Eucharist of the Christian Mass.
"All the communions of all men and women, present, past and future, are one communion. . . Christ is discovered in every single reality around us, and shines like an ultimate determination, like a Centre, one might almost say like a universal Element. Through our humanity assimilating the material world, and the Host assimilating our humanity, the Eucharistic transformation goes beyond and completes the transubstantiation of the bread on the altar. . . In a secondary and generalized sense, but in a true sense, the sacramental species are formed by the totality of the world and the duration of creation is needed for its consecration. In Christ, we live and move and are." (Chardin, The Divine Milieu, 102-104)
Through the Eucharist all creation is being drawn to Christ as to its center. But I think we have to grow a better grade of wheat and bake a better loaf of bread before Christ will come and consecrate the world fully into His body.
Clock time was defined by the Greek philosopher Aristotle as the number or measure of motion according to before and after. According to clock time we are now in a new century, a new millennium.
Temporality has been described the German philosopher Martin Heidegger as our active integration of our past and our stance toward the future which makes us more genuinely present. If I hurt someone I love, I worry even in the midst of whatever I'm doing now until I have a chance to redeem myself. A family reunion at Thanksgiving or Christmas may be more present to us than reading this web page now. In fact a future event like Christmas can determine what I'm doing now in the way of preparation. Temporality is not disconnected points of time but a unified whole, our grip on time as it were. Your temporality and my temporality are different because your past and my past have been different. Out goal is to integrate our past and unite our future.
Theologians like Fr. Godfrey Diekmann, O.S.B., have discussed how but there has been general agreement on the reality: "The liturgical year is no cold and lifeless representation of past events, no mere historical record. Rather it is Christ himself, living on in His Church. . . the mysteries of Christ are now constantly present and active. . . the cause of our salvation. . . the priesthood of Jesus Christ is a living and continuous reality through all the ages to the end of time." (Pope Pius XII) When we enter liturgical time, we enter a different mode of existence which unites past generations to the present and looks to the future.
The liturgical season of Advent is testimony that the first Christians were definitely a Church of the future. The first Christians lived in constant expectation and anticipation of the Parousia, the final coming of Christ, the full establishment of the reign of God.
Christians today can be a church of the future if they learn to vision a world different from what we now have. It is this world, these structures, these relationships which will be transformed and transfigured in the world to come.
"The Eucharist is a formal exercise in Christian faith, a period of time set aside in which we feel our faith commitment in a way that strengthens us for a more directly engaged Christian mindfulness in the world. Second, in the Eucharist we practice retrospective mindfulness insofar as we remember the past in a way that makes our present living more mindful. When we 'acknowledge our failures' and 'call to mind our sins' in the penitential rites, we engage in an act of retrospective mindfulness. . . the liturgy of the Word followed by the liturgy of the Eucharist helps us see that the history of God's saving activity, as recalled in the readings, now achieves reality in this present moment through the consecration. The Eucharist displays the third form of prayer insofar as it represents the supreme act of communal mindfulness in which we as a community become aware of the depth of God's action in the present reality." (Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, "Christian Mindfulness, A Path to Finding God in All Things," William Rehg, S.J., 34/3 May 2002, pp. 15, 16.)
I would add that the homily can help us to read the signs of the times in the light of the gospel. "Jesus opens the Scriptures for us and breaks the bread." (Eucharistic Prayer III, Masses for Various Needs.)
Continuity of This Life and the World to Come
"The expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age. . . After we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, solidarity and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of what we are and what we do, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured." (Vatican II, "The Church in the Modern World" No. 39) "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."
Jesus Grows, We Grow
"The people of Nazareth who spent some thirty years observing Jesus were certainly convinced of his growing humanness. 'Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not his sisters our neighbors here?' They found him too much for them" (Mark 6.3) He was all too normal, too thoroughly human, in his growth, to be the Messiah. Apparently, they had seen him learning how to tie on his sandals, to play games with the village kids, to plant and garden with Mary, to reap and gather with Joseph, and later to become the handyman who roofs houses, mends implements, follows the crops, and cuts irrigation ditches. They would agree with St. Luke that he 'progressed in wisdom, stature and grace.' (Luke 2.52, 2.48) (David J. Hassel, S.J. "Jesus Christ Changing, Yesterday, Today, and Forever" Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 24.3; May 1992, pp. 1-25)
As a human being, would not Jesus continue his growth in human knowledge after the resurrection? Would not his emotions expand, his affection for the women and men disciples become warmer, his human skills in communication sharpen, and his imagination take on new creativity?
Does Jesus' growth as a human being stop when he ascends into heaven? Or does his human personality continue to grow right up to this very day? In The Teacher XIV, 45-46, St. Augustine describes how Christ the Word illuminates every insight we enjoy. In On Free Will (III, xxii, 63-65) Augustine says Christ strengthens every decision we make. That is, Jesus shares in our every insight and decision; Jesus co-insights and co-decides.
Christ then shares in every true insight and good decision of every person during the last two thousand years, whether that person is an artist or farmer or fashion designer or musician, or plumber or scientist or table waiter. The risen Christ is then not only developing with each new insight and decision shared with us but also gathering into his human personality all that is true, beautiful, and good in each of us and in every culture, no matter how primitive or sophisticated we may be." Jesus shares our sufferings and anxieties and grows with us because of them. Jesus then contains within his human personality all that has happened in the last two thousand years. This would be too immense a burden if the divinity of Jesus were not supporting his human personality. 'The fullness of him who fills the universe in all its parts.'" (Ephesians 1.22)
Risen Jesus Comes to Us in the Eucharist
Thus Jesus brings to us today in the Eucharist and in our meditation and prayer all the riches of the past twenty centuries, as much as we can take, as much as we allow him to give us. "I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2.20)
Through many challenges and adversities, in a spiritual journey God led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the promised land. Jesus had his own ministry in Galilee, his journey to Jerusalem to confront the leaders of his day, his passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus continues to grow today joined to the human family as we struggle to reach the starting point of civilization. Each time I am united to Jesus in the Eucharist or through prayer and reflection, Jesus can give me the best of history. To the extent I assimilate Scripture, history, my own past, the past of others and other groups, I too am able to grow. Although I need natural and certainly supernatural help to do this, the Risen Jesus can co-feel, co-insight, and co-decide with me and with whatever group works and prays with him. (See on this web site the section on Ignatian Spirituality)
Risen Jesus and the Future
When the Risen Jesus remembers the multiplication of loaves, he puts it in the context of hungry people today. When we read the gospel stories of the multiplication of the loaves, we need to understand their meaning for here and now. We also need to understand their meaning for the future. The Eucharist will help us to move forward with the Risen Jesus. "He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people and he shall be their God who is always with them. He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away." (Revelation 21.3,4)
The Liturgy and Social Justice
Fr. John A. Coleman, S.J., Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, writes in Church, (Spring, 2001 Published by the National Pastoral Life Center) that the intrinsic connection between the Liturgy and Social Justice needs to be evident in local parishes. "Where I regularly worship every offertory procession includes a procession of food for the homeless brought to the altar. At the end of the liturgy, the people who are to take the food to the homeless (in the same way that those taking Communion to the sick of the parish are) are blessed and deputed to be present to the hungry homeless of Santa Monica, in the name of the whole congregation. . . the general intercessions are meant to broaden the vision of the local assembly, to lift the gathered people beyond their immediate problems, worries and needs, to make them conscious of all God's children, scattered far and wide over the planet, millions of them suffering hunger, malnutrition, ignorance, homelessness, political torture. . .If the farm workers who pick the grapes are not paid just wages, then the wine we offer at the offertory as "the work of human hands" is tainted."
I hesitate to consecrate bread not organically grown and upsetting the order of nature. (See Food and Farming under Economic Democracy.
We celebrate the love of Jesus poured into our hearts. (Romans 5.5-11) We also celebrate the love we have been able to share with others through our prayer (I like to make acts of love in my prayer), through our families and religious communities, through our work, through Interfaith Business Builders, Citizens for Global Solutions, Christian Life Community, Justfaith, Bellarmine Chapel, the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, NAACP, and through others like our city, our state, our nation, the United Nations, the hope in action of a Democratic World Federation, through the human family.
Ephesians 3.14-19 "I pray, neeling before the Father, . out of his infinite glory, May God give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God. Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: glory be to God from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen."
I want to add for reflection words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "A final problem that we must solve to survive in the world house that we have inherited is finding an alternative to war. . . Do we have the morality and courage to live together and not be afraid? President John F. Kennedy said: 'We must put an end to war or war will put an end to us.' War is obsolete. . . Every nation must develop an overriding loyalty to humankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. (P. 221). This is a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all women and men.
When I speak of love, I am speaking of that force which all the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is the key that unlocks the door. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the First Epistle of St. John 4.7-16: 'Let us love one another: for love is of God: and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. God is love. .If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us.'
This may be our last chance to choose between chaos and community."
On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make this journey on Life?s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs re-structuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries and say: This is not Just. . .A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: This way of settling differences is not just.
-Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Beyond Vietnam. Address given at Riverside Church in New York, 1967.
“He read the first lesson from I Corinthians: 15: 20-28: ‘Christ is now raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. . .Christ must reign until God has put all enemies under his feet, and the last of the enemies is death. . . so that God may be all in all.” He led the people in Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd. . . Though I walk in the valley of the shadow, I fear no evil. You are at my side with your rod and staff to give me courage. . .And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.”
The gospel reading was from John 12: 23-26: “The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified. . . Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains only a grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. ..”
The homily took only ten minutes. Romero spoke of Sarita’s simple dedication to building the kingdom of God, the encouragement she gave to her children. “You just heard in the gospel of Christ that one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and that those who try to fend off the danger will lose their lives. But whoever out of love for Christ gives himself to the service of others will live, like the grain of wheat that dies, but only apparently dies. If it did not die, it would remain alone. . .Only in undoing itself does it produce the harvest.”
He read a passage from Vatican II: The expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age. . . That kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns, it will be brought into full flower.”
He exhorted all to follow Dona Sarita’s example, each one undertaking the task in her or his own way, with hope, with faith, with love for God. “This holy Mass, the Eucharist, is an act of faith. To Christian faith at this moment the voice of diatribe appears changed for the body of the Lord, who offered himself for the redemption of the world, and in this chalice the wine is transformed into the blood that was the price of salvation. May this body immolated and this blood sacrificed for all nourish us also, so that we may give our body and our blood to suffering and to pain—like Christ, not for self, but to give concepts of justice and peace to our people. Let us join together, then, intimately in faith and hope at this moment of prayer for Dona Sarita and ourselves.”
At that moment a shot rang out.”