Children of Light and Children of the Day
November 7, 2023
This Sunday’s second reading (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11) exhorts us to wakefulness and eagerness for the Second Coming of Christ, which we Christians believe will be the final event in human history, the culminating mystery for which we pray at every Eucharist (We await His coming in glory—Eucharistic Prayer B). My guess, however, is that, although participating in and encouraged by such prayer of the Church, the Second Coming is not always on the horizon of our concerns or wishes. I mean, really. We have work, relationships—both joyous and complicated, bills to pay, health issues to address, everything on our activity and shopping list—not to mention wars in different parts of our world. We’re busy! Such can be the case with me. I secretly yearn for Christ’s coming, but my yearning is not prominent every day.
St. Paul does invite us daily to “keep awake and be sober”, reminding us, however, that such yearning is super-natural. It does not automatically position itself alongside all the above: “Hmm, let’s see. Today’s to-do list: clean the basement, bake a cheesecake, exercise, call Mom, and yearn for the Second Coming”. “Put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation”, St. Paul tells us. We have been given these three gifts to enable us to be in relationship with the One for Whose coming we long. Yearning for the Second Coming is thus a gift—a gift, however, that does require our freely chosen participation. What St. Augustine (+430) and St. Catherine of Siena (+1380) teach us regarding salvation really applies to all aspects of our relationship with God, including the Second Coming, “God will not save us without us”. Simply dare to believe and hope and love each day, as you call upon the Holy Spirit, “awaiting his coming in glory” (Eucharistic Prayer D). Doing so will ensure that you are a child of light and a child of the day.
Yours in Christ Who is coming,
The Guest Has No Clothes
October 10, 2023
This Sunday, we continue Matthew’s gospel, 22:1-14. Like last week’s
gospel, there is more killing of servants—those sent to gather the guests for the
king’s banquet. Very messy. In the end, the doors are thrown wide open to
anyone who would like to attend, but one guest comes ill-prepared. “Friend,
how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” the king asks. The poor
fellow is then bound and cast into the darkness. Had we been there, one of us
likely would have intervened, “Relax on the dress code!” or “You could have just
asked him to leave.” Bizarrely excessive, n’est-ce pas?
The audience is particularly important to situate: the chief priests and
elders, who have transformed authority (service of the common good) into power
(control of the common good). I believe Jesus is addressing the presumption
and entitlement. The wedding robe symbolizes the appropriate inner attitude in
one invited to the celebration of God. It would seem: awe and humble
gratitude. None of us has a right to God.
The expulsion of the guest does not suggest that God is prone to bursts of
rage. It reveals the Father’s vulnerability with respect to the Son, Whom He gives
to us. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son.” (John 3:16).
When you give what is dearest to you, you are vulnerable. And, if ever someone
takes the gift for granted and/or presumes the gift is theirs, you are
understandably hurt and angered. The expulsion reveals that there is no room
for anything unloving in the presence of the One who is love. Do we seek
God with awe and humble gratitude? We are talking about attitudes not
emotions. It is not about feeling awe and gratitude. It is about focusing the eyes
of one’s heart in faith so to know that God is awesome. Ask for this gift…
In awe with you,
The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive
June 20, 2023
St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (in what is now France) in the late 2nd century, in his monumental work written about 185AD, Against Heresies, says that
Life in man is the glory of God (sometimes rendered “the glory of God is man fully alive”; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.
Much to unpack here. Suffice it to say that Saint Irenaeus highlights the privilege that we have as disciples of Christ. God really albeit obliquely reveals Himself through the beauty and wisdom of the physical universe. We dare to believe, however, that, in the Incarnation, God has come infinitely closer to us, in intimate revelation and relationship, giving everlasting life. It is in this relationship through Christ, fully manifest in the vision of God, that we are fully alive. May we each grow in this relationship, and thus in aliveness.
Yours in Christ,
The Bread That I Will Give
June 6, 2023
This coming Sunday is Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) Sunday—the Body of Christ experienced particularly in the Eucharist (Communion). Now, you may have noticed that the Eucharist is a gift that we cannot give to ourselves at home. Indeed, it can be argued that it is the deepest reason that we come to church. We gather in church, as Church, because God “assumed” a human body, now shared in the Church, in a special way, in the Eucharist. Of course, Jesus shares with us his whole Person—always.
Corpus Christi is beautifully captured in Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life in John’s gospel chapter 6 (verse 51): I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. His declaration is a bit overwhelming if taken more than symbolically, so overwhelming that it prompted many of the disciples in his hearing to part ways with him. Nowadays, different Christian denominations understand this differently. In this “denomination”, in this part of the Universal Church, we take it more than symbolically. We believe that a mysterious gift is bestowed in an encounter that is guaranteed. Divine love is given, making of us Sisters and Brothers. How amazing: we receive the Body and thus become the Body, the Mystical Body of Christ. We do well to give thanks.
In thanksgiving with you for this gift,
My Eyes are Filled
May 30, 2023
Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (+390) was born in 329 to Greek parents in southwest Cappadocia, a province of the Roman Empire (now modern central-eastern Turkey). He was eventually ordained a priest and a bishop. He was a man of prayer and an assiduous theologian. He is one of the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church. He died a hermit in 390. Paul Tillich (1886—1965) the German-American Lutheran theologian, says that Gregory “created the definitive formulae for the doctrine of the trinity”.
As we approach the Feast of the Holy Trinity (this Sunday, June 4), let us hear Saint Gregory, as he tell us of his eyes being filled (with tears, with light or with wonder—or all of the above):
No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the splendour of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Three than I am carried back into the One. When I think of any of the Three, I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light.
Yours in the Trinity,
The Secret of Happiness
May 23, 2023
Allow me to appeal to my Belgian heritage…. Joseph Mercier was a professor of philosophy at the University of Louvain and Archbishop of Brussels from 1906 to 1926, the year of his death. Noted for his staunch resistance to the German occupation of Belgium from 1914–1918, during the Great War, he that he was invited to visit the United States by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. He is also noted for his deep spirituality, which radiated in his interaction with people. On the upcoming feast of Pentecost (Sunday!), when we celebrate the Holy Spirit, the Promise of the Father, the Consuming Fire, the Comforter, allow me to share with you a secret from Fr. Mercier (he won’t mind!) :
I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to the things of sense and your ears to all the noises of the world in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctity of your baptized soul (which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit), speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him:
Oh, Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do; give me your orders. I promise to surrender to all that you desire of me and to accept all that you permit to happen to me. Let me only know your will.
If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it, and you will arrive at the gate of Paradise, laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity and happiness.
Yours in the Holy Spirit,
“We Too Are Already in Heaven with Him”
May 16, 2023
This coming Sunday, we celebrate the Ascension (traditionally celebrated on the
sixth Thursday after Easter, moved to Sunday for the sake of our communal
celebration). We dare to trust and anticipate blessing, as our parish is named
after this mystery of Christ.
In preparation, let us be enriched by the insights of Saint Augustine (d. 430):
Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set
your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right
hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on
earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too
are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not
yet been fulfilled in our bodies.
Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth
all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this
when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and
when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food. Why do we on earth not
strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and
love that unites us to him?
While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with
him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot
be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by
He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he
withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was
in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement:
No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended
from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. These words are explained
by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one
ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the
Son of Man by his union with us, and we, by our union with him, are
children of God.
So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many
members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so
is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body. Out of
compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended
alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but
Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no
distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity
cannot be separated from the head.
(Sermo de Ascensione Domini, Mai 98, 1-7: PLS 2, 429-495)
Yours in our Ascended Lord,
Yearning for Oneness
May 9, 2023
As Christians, we believe the Church to be, first and foremost, a mysterious spiritual ever-lasting reality of which we become a part, into which are swept up by grace. We are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. And so, we are bound to one another wherever we may be, whatever we may feel. This is Christ’s own doing! As says Professor Scott Hahn (from my alma mater, the University of Steubenville), The Church is the Body of Christ, and as such it is both heavenly and earthly. The Church is the communion of saints, and it includes as members both angels and shepherds—cherubim and seraphim, and you, and me. And, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who died in Auschwitz in 1945, reminds us, “The temple of God is the holy people in Jesus Christ. The Body of Christ is the living temple of God and of the new humanity.” (The Cost of Discipleship, published in 1937).
Because we are bound to one another, we inevitably yearn for oneness. Awareness of the yearning can come and go—but that is another question! This yearning surely comes from the Holy Spirit, Who “intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Let us yearn for oneness. Let us labor to welcome the oneness, tearing down whatever walls we, at times, allow to divide us. And, in this labor, let us be encouraged by the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (d. 1892), English Baptist preacher: God loves the Church with a love too deep for human imagination: He loves her with all His infinite heart. Therefore, let her sons and daughters be of good courage; she cannot be far from prosperity (from “Morning and Evening”, published in 1865).
Yours in Christ, “Head of the Church” (BCP, page 369, Eucharistic Prayer B),
You Are a Royal Priesthood
May 2, 2023
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people…now you have received mercy. (this Sunday’s second reading, 1 Peter 2:2-10)
You may have heard it said that, by grace—in particular, the grace given through Baptism—we share in the priestly (as well as prophetic and royal) mission of Christ. We are a “royal priesthood”. What does this mean, however? Although, strictly speaking, not necessary, we are mediators of grace for one another. What a privilege! God wants to make use of little old (or young) me to touch others, to love and bless others. How creative and merciful and magnanimous of God.
There is, of course, as second, distinct participation in the one Priesthood of Christ, given through the sacrament of the “apostolic ministry”, “Holy Orders”. It has three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate. This priesthood, centered on the sacraments and the life that flows therefrom, and only for this earthly pilgrimage, is entirely at the service of the royal priesthood, which lasts forever. In other words, the ordained ministers of the Church are but (hopefully, grateful!) “unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10) for a time. Together, we are all turned towards the great High Priest, Jesus, the “author of our salvation” (Eucharistic Prayer B, BCP, p. 369), Who lavishly showers us with blessing and with Whom we shall live for all eternity.
April 25, 2023
This coming Sunday (the fourth of Easter) is traditionally called, by some Christians, “Good Shepherd Sunday”. The Risen Lord, in the Gospel of John (10:11,14), declares himself the Good Shepherd. But what exactly is Jesus revealing? Having little experience with shepherds and sheep, the analogy may seem distant and abstract for many of us.
Well, we at least know that a shepherd is a sort of care-taker. Jesus takes care of us. And the more caring, the “gooder”, the better! Indeed, Jesus goes to loving extremes in caring for us. As Saint John says (10,11), the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Now, ought not the Eucharist, a guaranteed encounter with Jesus, reveal to us something about Him as our Good Shepherd? I would venture to say “yes”. Indeed, listen to what Saint Peter Julian Eymard, a French Catholic priest, who died in 1868 (founder of two religious communities: the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament for men and the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament for women) says about Jesus in His care-taking:
Is not our Lord as meek and humble in the Blessed Sacrament as He was during His life on earth? Is He not always the Good Shepherd, the Divine Consoler, the Changeless Friend? Happy the soul that knows how to find Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, and in the Eucharist all things!
The relationship between sheep and the Good Shepherd is one of intimacy and safety. Let us rejoice in being sheep! Our Risen Lord knows where He is leading us: to verdant pastures, where He gives us repose for our souls. Let us follow in faith, hope and love…
THE REV. DOMINIQUE PERIDANS