Friday, August 21, 2009


John 20: 1-16

The guys who worked longer thought that they should get more than someone who worked less. Seems logical to you? Well, do you ever say, "I will pray harder" with the expectation that if you do more then you should get more, say from God? Do you then feel that you are better than someone who prays less than you? I call it "the prayer of capitalism." More is better. I don't think Jesus was too much for this way of praying. If you somehow think that you are first (as in better than, or owed something from God) think again. The first will be last.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Feeding on God

John 6: 51-58

When we read in Scripture this gospel about feeding on the flesh and blood of Jesus, we usually think of the Eucharist. John seems to be saying that if you don’t receive Eucharist you don’t have Christ abiding within you, nor do you have the quality of life called eternal.

There are some problems here. In Leviticus, the Jews are taught that it is wrong to drink blood, as when they eat animal or bird flesh. Naturally, Jews would be offended at what John is saying in this gospel. Moreover, the desert monks of the early church did not speak much of Eucharist, or even of Christ. It is not that they believed otherwise, but that they were about some other focus, dealing with their faults and failings. They did not gather much for Eucharistic liturgy. It was the bishops, the developing hierarchy that pushed for communal liturgy.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, we read that “feeding on God, tasting God,” was focused on pondering the Word in the Bible. The Jews would understand Jesus when he spoke about feeding and eating, but in the sense of being nourished by scripture. Wisdom literature speaks about drinking and eating the Word. Early church Fathers spoke about lectio divina, looking for the hidden, deeper meaning in Scripture passages. This would lead to a more direct and deeper discovery of God within. It was called mystical theology. It was a way of pondering a scripture passage.

If the Church wanted people to focus on Eucharist, then why, for so many centuries, was Eucharist not received by the people but once or twice a year, if that? It was not until the early 20th century that Pius X encouraged children to receive First Communion at an earlier age than 12 years old, and for people to receive more frequently.

If you look at the Gospel of Thomas, it talks about each person having the light of God within them. By living a more mystical prayer life we would come into deeper and better contact with this light, such that it would change our lives. There is not much talk about Eucharist. An emphasis on interior prayer, rather than eating flesh and blood, might appeal to a culture that already had a deep respect for meditation, such as India. Is not Thomas revered in Christian India for bringing the faith there? Inculturation means that we adapt the message, the truth, to the culture so that it can be more readily understood and accepted.

I believe that we can combine both these paths, the liturgical Eucharistic, and the meditative scriptural. Have less words and less music at liturgy, and add more time for silence. After the gospel, sit quietly and ponder the word you have just heard. After communion, and even during it, have quiet, so that people can meditate upon that which they have just received, to deepen the Presence, the Light within them. Maybe have one of the parish masses each weekend be of this format. Those who cannot sit still or deal profitably with silence, stay home, and go to another mass. Do some catechesis on silence and solitude. Silence can bring together both Eucharist and Scripture. Christ is present in both.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

John 6:41-51 and Ephesians 4:30 – 5:2

AUGUST 9, 2009


    Visitors to the monastery in the summer sometimes ask me if I am a monk? In the past I have gone through a long explanation of how I am not a monk, but live here with the monks each summer and then go off and work for a living the rest of the year in preaching, teaching, and missions. But I have come to the realization that the very question is misleading.


    I will never be a monk, but I am becoming a monk. The process is never finished. I am not joining the monastery, but I am becoming a monk. Flannery O'Connor, the Catholic writer of the 20th century said, "You don't join the Catholic Church. You become a Catholic." It is a process. The process involves change within oneself over a lifetime. People can change in their sense of themselves, and in their actions or the way that they live their lives.


    My process of becoming a monk can be compared somewhat to someone who is going to night school. When I was in college, I was a full time student. I got my college degree in four years. But there were other people who had full time jobs and went to school only at night. They would get their degree eventually, but it would take them longer than it took me. I am becoming a monk more slowly than the people who live full time at the monastery because I have another job to do for eight months a year. But, hopefully, I am progressing, be it the will of God. One can make a vow in the monastery, but that does not end the process of becoming a monk. People can make vows and then simply stagnate. They resist grace.


    One of my sisters got married a few weeks ago right here in Colorado. With a proper marriage license, the professing of vows in the Catholic ritual, my sister became married legally and sacramentally. She became a wife. She is joined to her husband. But this is only the beginning. It will take her a lifetime to become a wife. Why? Because she will have to deal with the human condition of which Paul speaks in Ephesians 4: 30 to 5: 2. He says that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. That is what we receive in Baptism. Then Paul lists a lot of faults that we have to overcome and replace with virtues. Stop shouting, reviling, being bitter and replace these with compassion, kindness and forgiveness for instance. This takes a lifetime and requires grace and hope that it can be done.


    A woman can become a parent by adoption or giving birth. In one sense she is now legally and biologically a mother. But in fact it will take her a lifetime to become a mother, because she will have to deal with her faults and replace them with virtues. Stop shouting, and reviling your child and replace it with kindness, compassion and forgiveness as Jesus forgives us. This is a long process of growth. I was ordained at a certain point in time, but I am always becoming a priest. We call this, "being in formation." It never ends. It requires change and grace as I come to better know myself, my faults and gifts in the course of my priesthood.


    The neighbors of Jesus did not believe in change. They knew Jesus all his life up to this point in the gospel. They could not see him any way than his past. Jesus was presenting them with a new self-understanding, a growth into being more the Christ in his public persona. They would not accept it. "People don't change," is what we hear from some skeptics. That means you don't believe in grace or hope.


    Where will the grace come from to sustain our hope that we can change and continue on the way of becoming all that we are meant to be in God's plan? It comes from the Eucharist and the Word of God in Scripture. Both feed us. Up to Jesus' time, the people knew the Scriptures as the food from God. Pondering the Word nourished them. But now with Jesus, the Word has become flesh and the Eucharist will also feed us.


    To join the Catholic Church and not enter into the Word or receive Eucharist, is like getting married in a ceremony, but staying selfish, self-centered, and egotistical. You are married but you are not becoming a husband or a wife. That is a lifetime process of change. If we were perfect we would not need the church. Sacraments are for the imperfect person who wants to be more than a slave to the passions.