FROM THE PASTOR’S CORNER:
A word from Pope Francis ~ “We can feel within us a healthy tension between sorrow for our sins and the dignity that the Lord has bestowed on us.”
On this first Sunday of the month of August, we celebrate the 18th Sunday in the season of the Ordinary Time of the Year. While “Ordinary Time” may lack the excitement and the sizzle of the major seasons of our church calendar, there is a stability and beauty to this steady season in which we make our way through a particular Gospel (this year – Matthew) section by section, Sunday after Sunday.
One of the unique aspects of Matthew’s Gospel is that he gives us a structured presentation of Jesus teachings in the form of five major sermons or discourses. Last weekend we concluded our reading from the third sermon or discourse in Matthew’s Gospel – the discourse of parables (Mt 13:1-52). The discourses are followed by collections of miracle accounts and incidents which reflect Jesus’ teaching. This weekend we hear the miraculous account of the feeding of “about five thousand men, not counting women and children.”
As we hear the story unfold, and recognize our own inability to deal with the events of our lives, we may identify with the disciples’ reaction when Jesus suggests that they feed the crowd – “we have nothing.” Once that acknowledgement is made, Jesus steps in. In an action that looks a lot like what we do at every Mass, Jesus takes what is available, blesses, breaks, and provides food for the multitudes! As we hear of the fragments left over, we realize again that with God all hungers will be satisfied.
The Eucharistic analogy of this miraculous feeding story gives invites us to look at our own experience of the Mass. It is not uncommon to hear, “I get nothing out of Mass.” When that happens, I can’t help but wonder, “what do you bring to Mass?” What we bring with us and how we present that can make a world of difference. When I celebrate Mass with a smaller group at a retreat, I often invite the participants to consciously call to mind what they are bringing with them to that Mass. Once they become aware of what they have brought with them, I invite them to place that on the plate with the bread that we will offer to be consecrated. We let God transform whatever we have brought with us as the bread is transformed into the Body of Christ. The interesting thing is that we don’t need to be at a retreat Mass to do this – we can offer whatever we bring with us at any Mass we are at. If we are in a good space as we come for Mass, we can take the blessings we have experienced and are now aware of and place them on the plate to be offered. We can take our gratitude and thanks and give them to God as the gifts are brought to the altar. If we are in a not-so-good space as we come to Mass, if it seems like everything is going wrong around us, we can also place those on the plate with the bread to be offered. We all have our days when we easily identify with the disciples as they confessed, “we have nothing.” Add that to the gifts as they are brought to the altar and let God transform it. Whatever we bring with us, if it is our best day or our worst day, we can offer that with the bread and wine and let God transform them.
Actively calling to mind whatever we bring with us to Mass, good or bad, and then offering that with our gifts, can be a powerful way of offering our lives to the Father along with Jesus who offered his life. And this can be done every time we come for Mass. Whatever we bring with us, we can add it to the gifts that are presented. Add them to the plate or bowl of bread that is presented, and realize again that with God all hungers will be satisfied.
This Thursday, August 6th, we celebrate the major feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The event of the Transfiguration was a spectacular event in Jesus life. Normally we hear this Gospel every year on the Second Sunday in Lent. Hearing it then reminds us of the glory that God has prepared for us if we are faithful to his call. We see Jesus gathered with his closest friends – Peter, James and John. He takes them aside to the top of a mountain. There he shares a moment of prayer with them. During that time he experiences a tremendous union with his Father that his glory as God’s son breaks through his humanity and his appearance is changed. Everything came together in Jesus’ life at that moment. His humanity and his divinity merged together so completely that Peter, James and John saw his glory bursting out of his human body. It was a moment of complete glory when everything in his life fit together in perfect harmony.
Many of us have had brief moments when it seemed that everything in our lives came together in perfect harmony and we saw glory! Briefly recall the moment we proposed to our spouse or were proposed to by our spouse. Didn’t we see glory? And the moment when we held our child for the first time – another moment of glory! Remember when we felt tremendous pride in our children that we thought we would bust! Or we landed the job of our dreams – and all of our dreams came together. Or we may have had a religious experience CRHP, Marriage Encounter, Cursillo or Kairos and we felt a tremendous closeness with God that we didn’t want to end. These were moments of glory when it felt like heaven and earth came together in a perfect union and we didn’t want the moment to end.
For me, being a life-long Cubs fan, a moment of glory was clearly November 2, 2016 at 11:40pm when my dreams came true with the final out and the Cubs won the World Series! I tasted glory and I didn’t want the moment to end. In moments like these, we see glory and were truly given a hint of what heaven must be like. And like Peter, we wanted to erect three tents – we didn’t want the moment to end. Even though our personal moments of glory come and go so quickly, listening to Jesus, living our lives as his disciples, being faithful in the good and bad times, sets us on a path that leads to glory that will never end. For now, our brief moments of glory challenge us to focus our energy on the glory that is unending.
Many other things are taking place in our parish. Please check the online weekly bulletin posted on our website, the emailed Flocknotes and other notices posted on our parish Facebook page. As always, I pray that God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy