Sunday, May 29, 2016

Never Be Hungry Again

Today is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, also known as Corpus Christi.  I want to recognize that many of the thoughts and images in this post come from Father Tom Doyle, the Director of Andre House in Phoenix, Arizona, a place where hospitality is extended to the homeless through feeding and meeting immediate needs.  Father Tom knows a little about feeding the hungry.

Have you ever wandered around your kitchen, opening cabinets, opening the refrigerator, looking for something but you don't know what?  Or have you ever sat in front of your TV, remote in hand, flipping through the channels but not knowing what you want to see?  Maybe you waste time popping around the internet, through your social media accounts, kitty videos and news websites without a specific purpose.  You're looking for something, but you don't know what.

Our lives are filled with episodes of hunger:  hunger for food, material things, money and love.  To quote Mick Jagger, you can't always get what you want, but if you try some time, you find you get what you need.  But do you really want to settle?

When the crowds followed Jesus and his disciples into the desert, they weren't sure what they wanted.  They were curious, but certainly they were looking for hope and truth.  The apostles weren't sure either.  When they realized they had 5,000+ people without food, Jesus sent them scrounging for what little food they could find - 5 loaves and 2 fishes.  At that point people weren't thinking so much about what they wanted, but what they needed.

Jesus delivered both.  He multiplied the loaves and fishes.  He fed over 5,000 men, women and children.  Most importantly, he gave them hope and truth.  He gave it to them in a tangible way.  It wasn't just talk or philosophy - it was reality.

But wait - there's more!  After feeding more than 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, there were 12 baskets left over.  You can't run out of God's mercy or generosity.  It's boundless.  So you will get what you want and what you need.

Don't settle - don't go hungry.  Find the bread of life in Jesus.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Happy Birthday Church!

Happy birthday Church!  Did you know that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church?  The birth of Christianity is celebrated this day - the day voices of all races and languages came together and heard each other with one voice.  Acts 2: 1-11.  So let's party!  The Holy Spirit is the guest of honor and will blow out the candles.  St. Peter set the table and St. Paul brought the guests.  But this is no ordinary birthday party.  We are guests, but the guest of honor is bringing the gifts. The Holy Spirit brings wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.  Isaiah 11:2-3.  Everything is set at the table and the party is ready to begin.  Will you be there?

The most important part of the party is to accept the gifts that God gives us through the Holy Spirit.  He is the guiding force in our lives, in everything we do, but only if we accept the gifts given freely.  I need to live in Him, walk beside Him and love through Him (the Holy Spirit), with Him (Jesus Christ) and in Him (God the Father).  I choose to stay close to the Church because I know it will survive all trials and the gates of Hell shall not prevail over it.  Matthew 16: 17-19.  And there are trials - both for the Church and for each of us personally.  Hold onto the Rock and wait for the day when we will all speak with one voice -  just like the first Pentecost.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Spiritual or Religious?

I believe in many things.  I believe in the laws of gravity.  I believe there is a tiny code of DNA in my cells that maps my traits and physical characteristics.  I expect that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  Those are solid beliefs and they are part of the backbone of my life.

I also believe in God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It is a solid belief and the backbone of my life.  But is it really the same as a belief in those other things?  Of course not.  I don't just believe in God, I have faith in Him.  I trust Him, I serve Him and I love Him.  That requires more than a belief and requires more effort to maintain.  For me, faith is more of a relationship than a statement of fact.

When I hear someone say they are "spiritual" but not "religious," it reminds me of the differences between belief and faith.  I am not suggesting that people who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious do not have faith.  However, it is my experience that people who describe themselves as "spiritual" are usually not people who worship in a church.  They draw a distinction between spiritual and religious because "religious" people generally belong to a church and adhere to a creed.

I know some argue that the sacraments, the mass, rosaries and other elements of the Church are ritualistic and the focus becomes the method of worship and "the rules" instead of the "spirituality."  I would respond that Jesus Christ and His mother gave those to us because God wants us to be united in worship and community.  Those "rituals" provide us with the framework to maintain a relationship with God, an opportunity to serve Him in a community that shares His love.

I fear that being "spiritual" is a belief that God is real, but somewhere far removed from daily life.  He's an abstract (agnostic) concept, like gravity or chromosomes.  I will admit that even with a creed, formalized worship and a church community, there are times when God is still an abstract in my life.  However, it's those "rituals" that sometimes keep me engaged when I feel disconnected from God.  I would much rather have "religious" than "spiritual" when I'm wandering in the desert of a dry faith.  After all, isn't the goal to love and serve God in the Way established by Christ while keeping the Holy Spirit involved in your daily walk?

So can someone be both "spiritual" and "religious"?  Is it even required?  Is one better than the other?  Regardless of how you label it, we are called to know, love and serve God.  While I may not always have both a "spiritual" and "religious" life, I think practicing my faith as a member of Christ's Church gives me the best shot at a relationship in which I know, love and serve Him.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Acting It Out

Don't you just love reading the Acts of the Apostles?  It's that book in the Bible right after the Gospels.  It begins with Jesus' ascension and gets right into the business of the early Church.  Most of the structure of the Roman Catholic Church began right there in the Acts of the Apostles.

It's messy.  There are many fits and starts, failures and triumphs, hope, joy and despair.  There are miracles too and many, many conversion stories with the best being that of Saul to Paul.

It's a busy time.  Right from the start, God has to nudge the apostles to get going.  As they are standing looking at the sky after Jesus' ascension, two men appear and ask why they are just standing there (Acts 1:10).  It's time to get busy with the business of beginning a ministry.  Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they must begin a Christian community and spread the Good News.  The Holy Spirit does not disappoint and the brave apostles (together with Paul and Barnabas) successfully convert scores to become followers of Christ.

As beautiful and inspirational as that was, there were also administrative details.  I hear people sometimes complain about the "details" in the Church and how it is so obsessed with them.  There are so many little rules and bureaucracy.  It all began there in the early Church, as chronicled in the Acts of the Apostles.  It was easy in the beginning.  They met, prayed, shared food and took care of each other (Acts 2:42-47).  Then they traveled and converted people far and wide, people with different cultures, languages and traditions.  There must be uniformity and organization in a movement, especially one that addresses fundamental questions of doctrine and faith.

Then, as now, the Church is ONE.  It was spread out, but it was unified in a faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.  Everyone was welcome to share in the unity.  Christians lived as a community - not solitary believers worshipping God in their own ways.  If it takes a little administration, a little herding of cats, the goal of the "little details" is singular as Jesus prayed it would be:

I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You.
Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me,
That they may be one even as We are.
(John 17:11)