Thursday, 4 February 2010

This is His Life, Labor and the Holy Eucharist. It is also ours.

My dear Catholic friends,

I would like to share a belief with you about the Holy Eucharist.  It has to do with our participating in this sacrament as other Christ's, including  His priesthood.

Because of all the many parables that Jesus told about vineyards, wheat fields, and shepherds, one cannot help but think that these were the places He worked, learned and participated in life, with the earth, and with people, (like His Father-Creator). This is where "he grew in wisdom", observing and experiencing human nature and elevating it to the Spiritual. When Jesus spoke in parables, truly he was speaking out of his own personal experiences. While he was the "carpenter's son", it is very likely he worked as a carpenter. But was there always work for a carpenter to do? If not, what else might he have done to earn his livelihood?

Remember the time when there was a crowd listening to Jesus teach by Lake Gennesareth? Some fishermen had just disembarked from their boats without catching any fish. Jesus stepped into a boat and sat down to speak to the people. When he finished speaking, he told Simon, "Put out into the deep water and lower your nets." (Luke, chapter five) Simon was skeptical and reminded Jesus that he and his fishermen had worked hard all night but caught nothing, yet at the instructions of Jesus he obeyed. When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, so many that their nets began to tear. Another boat and other fishermen came to help.

Imagine Jesus pulling on the nets helping these fishermen haul in their catch. Jesus knew what it was to labor. I am sure he didn't just stand and watch. Simon Peter and the other fishermen were astonished at the catch of fish. Then Jesus told them that he would make them "fishers of men", and he would be there with them, helping them in their labors as they cast their nets over the earth to catch human souls for him. In the gospels, Jesus speaks of labor and laborers many times and in many ways.

We know about the public life of Jesus as recorded in the gospels, we have to assume things about his life prior to that time. We have to assume that he did work for a living, and that what he experienced as a laborer was many times related in his parables. He taught us about heavenly or spiritual things through human and natural events.

In Matthew, chapter twenty, there is the story of men working all day in a vineyard: they were standing in line for their pay; there were some who received a full days pay when they only worked part of a day. There were complaints from those who did a whole day's work and were not paid more. Do you think Jesus experienced this event? Was he standing in this line waiting for his day's pay? Truly He worked, observed, and then taught the positive side of that situation. He saw the owner of the vineyard as a generous man. Jesus related these human events to the divine, revealing God our Father's goodness in rewarding us for our labors, no matter how long or short we labor.

Jesus and His disciples were walking through a wheat field on the Sabbath. They picked the grains of wheat to eat, as they were hungry. This was considered work by the Pharisees who condemned them, but Jesus defended their right to eat and work, even on the Sabbath. (Matt.12)

Then we have the experience of Jesus watching, perhaps even helping some woman, maybe his mother Mary, when he was a child; it is then that one is taken with curiosity and amazement at watching the making of bread, and the working of leaven and the rising of the dough. Such impressions can last a lifetime .and then a wonderful analogy for the reign of God develops! It is a working, growing, developing experience which he lived and we are called to participate in. (Lk.13)

The power of God bathes the world with energy. There is magnetism in the Light of the Creator, which draws the broken seed out of the earth to produce new life. From roots in the earth grows the vine and the branches, - "I am the vine, you are the branches". The vine and the branches together produce the fruit of the vine, wine which we drink as His Life's blood. We drink our life's blood, - the energy and work of God in His people. That same Light and magnetism draws on the Spirit in every human being to grow and flourish in the Spirit of Christ. We are a work in progress. While we are experiencing this work, this energy which is being spent, we are experiencing God within and around us.

"Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, by your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands; it will become for us our spiritual drink."

By our work, spending our energy, whether it be as the farmer, who does the planting and harvesting or the waitress, office or factory worker at the daily grind, teacher, parent, scientist, writer, artist; -workers in all areas of life spending mental, spiritual or physical energy, by free will, we know that this is the Spirit at work in the Body, - our individual bodies, as well as the World-Body. One can say that it is by the Spirit and or energy of God that we live, move, work and have our Being. It is the Spirit of Christ that is continuously at work in us.

All this spent energy, -this Spirit, - what more can be said of it or done with it? Those of us who believe in God offer it to Him, as a sacrifice, in thanks and praise, and when we do it transforms and sanctifies us, hour by hour, day by day. Spiritual growth happens, we become greater in the person of Christ, and we are brought to a new level in our humanity and divinity.

"I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies it produces much fruit." Again a "work" is in progress, the natural, the human, and the divine. The seed of heaven, Jesus Christ, was planted upon our earth. It is here that he lived, worked and died, produced abundant fruit through his particular labors which have lived and grown for more than two thousand years. We who love him continue to bear the fruit which his labor began. The Spirit of Christ which we have inherited gives us the energy to produce "much fruit" in all we do, - our work, joys or suffering,- in our struggles with living, loving, evolving, developing, becoming.. Christ in us, again, continually.

The efforts from the energy of the Spirit in us build and bind us together in the Body of Christ. What can we suppose might have been on the mind of Christ as He holds the live giving bread from the earth in His hands and says, "Take and eat, for this is my body"? As Christ holds the bread of life in His hands, He holds the elements of the world, for bread comes from the wheat and wheat comes from the seed and the seed comes out of the earth; and we the people of God's creation have come out of the earth too. Our body is his body. At the consecration of these elements Christ is holding the whole world and all his people in his hands. "This is my Body. This is my Blood." Jesus the Christ has spent his life's energy transforming the elements of the earth into His Spirit.

We consume the energy which gives us life. "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. It will become for us the bread of life." The elements of nature, -the elements of life are spirit and become spiritualized in us! His presence lives in us, and we in him. We consume his life, his Spirit, and his energy. As we spend these gifts we too are consumed and offer them to God in Christ. The efforts, energy, and labors of Love are unending.
What is it besides work that captures our energy, our love, our spirit? Who among us has not experienced sorrow and joy? The Eucharist is the Pascal experience . . . a memorial. "Do this in memory of me". Christ has died. When we suffer, in any way, a death of family or friend, sickness, loss of income, and to many in the world, hunger and oppression, lack of the necessities of life; there is a dying that is taking place in the human person, an energy which consumes., This we offer to God as sacrifice. "This is my Body, this is my Blood."

Now Christ is raised! He has overcome death and sin. That part of us which has died by our suffering is now risen with Christ, and we have experienced a transformation in His Spirit, grown strong, and live to experience this event over again until we reach the full stature of the Spirit of Christ. And what of our joy? Life's efforts produce its joys too. This is also offered to God. It is the fruit of the vine that we can savor, and no one can take it from us!

-The energy spent, in works, sorrows, joys and growth are spent willingly. We do the duties (labors) that life calls us to because it is none other than the power and Spirit of Love which has possession of us.

There are those today who would deny the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That is like denying Life, Love, Spirit, and Energy in the human person. But because we know the Spirit of Christ, - that life-giving force of Love, we know his Presence in the world, within us and within the Holy Eucharist. In our participation of this Eucharist, we are also participating in our own salvation and redemption story. Jesus has shown us the Way in which we must live, labor and love with His Spirit.

Copyright by Margaret Barry     
This may be shared with credit to the author.
10/21/99 Revised 4/30/02

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Experience of Mass today.

We break into our account of the Stand Up for Vatican II meeting because today has been one of great joy to We Are Church folk who have been praying that Judith would return to Mass. She writes:

The (Stand Up for Vatican II) meeting gave me great food for thought. Subsequent Prayer and reflection brought forth the conviction that if I truly believe what I believe then the only place to be was in my own parish community rather than leading a nomadic, erratic and privatised Catholic existence.

This morning I phoned my parish and asked the time of Mass. Initially I felt that the reception of my call only served to strengthen my alienation from the Church. But this melted away when my phone rang and the gentleman to whom I had been speaking said he had recalled my number because the Mass time he had given me was not quite correct. I much appreciated this, and said so.

An hour later I got in my car and drove the three miles to the church, admittedly in some anxiety and trepidation. Recent media reporting about the Church and the loud voices of those who proclaim they are Traditionalists made me anticipate a pre-Vatican II scenario with cold piety. In the light of current pressures in the Church I did not think the parish would have grown less conservative than it was 14 years ago.

I parked my car and, gathering my courage together, I walked through the church porch and opened the inner door. The lady on the other side greeted me courteously and then looked closer. The smile broadened on her face and she expressed delight in remembering me. It was lovely to see her too. I walked to a pew and prepared myself for the celebration of Candlemas. There was conversation between some of those around me and I was impressed by the care and concern for each other.

As is usual on this day we were invited to go to the back of the church for the procession. Whereas, in the past, this would have been done in almost sullen silence, there was an easy relaxed atmosphere. After a few moments the Priest joined us and we lit candles to begin the celebration. This easy and comfortable atmosphere continued through the Mass.

One of the ladies read the Readings and another was the Extra-ordinary Minister of the Eucharist. I found myself relaxing and thanking God for guiding me back to my community. To exchange the Sign of Peace with these long lost friends was a truly uplifting experience. Everyone received both the Body and Blood of Our Lord and most received the Host in their hands.

After Communion there was a deep peace as we each made our own thanksgiving and then we were sent out "in peace to love and serve the Lord".

After Mass I was not allowed to creep out of the church. Old friends wanted to speak and say how glad they were to see me back. I was overwhelmed by the warmth and welcome.

Without doubt I shall be back next week and hopefully, in time, I will be able to make some contribution to my parish.