Part II: 12 Things to Know and Share about the Assumption of Mary

Here is part two of “The Assumption of Mary: 12 Things to Know and Share” from ncregister.com. May this coincide with Bishop Campbell’s homily last Sunday to deepen our understanding of and belief in Mary’s Assumption. And thus, may we more fully honor her.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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7) How did the recognition of Mary’s Assumption develop in the East?

John Paul II noted:

There was a long period of growing reflection on Mary’s destiny in the next world.

This gradually led the faithful to believe in the glorious raising of the Mother of Jesus, in body and soul, and to the institution in the East of the liturgical feasts of the Dormition [“falling asleep”—i.e., death] and Assumption of Mary.

8) How did Pius XII prepare for the definition of the Assumption?

John Paul II noted:

In May 1946, with the Encyclical Deiparae Virginis Mariae, Pius XII called for a broad consultation, inquiring among the Bishops and, through them, among the clergy and the People of God as to the possibility and opportuneness of defining the bodily assumption of Mary as a dogma of faith.

The result was extremely positive: only six answers out of 1,181 showed any reservations about the revealed character of this truth.

9) What Scriptural basis is there for the teaching?

John Paul II noted:

Although the New Testament does not explicitly affirm Mary’s Assumption, it offers a basis for it because it strongly emphasized the Blessed Virgin’s perfect union with Jesus’ destiny.

This union, which is manifested, from the time of the Savior’s miraculous conception, in the Mother’s participation in her Son’s mission and especially in her association with his redemptive sacrifice, cannot fail to require a continuation after death.

Perfectly united with the life and saving work of Jesus, Mary shares his heavenly destiny in body and soul.

There are, thus, passages in Scripture that resonate with the Assumption, even though they do not spell it out.

10) What are some specific Old Testament passages?

Pope Pius XII pointed to several passages that have been legitimately used in a “rather free” manner to explain belief in the Assumption (meaning: these passages resonate with it in various ways, but they don’t provide explicit proof):

Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers, have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption.

Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist:

“Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified” (Ps. 131:8);

and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord’s temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven.

Treating of this subject, they also describe her as the Queen entering triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer (Ps. 44:10-14ff).

Likewise, they mention the Spouse of the Canticles “that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense” to be crowned (Song 3:6; cf. also 4:8, 6:9).

These are proposed as depicting that heavenly Queen and heavenly Spouse who has been lifted up to the courts of heaven with the divine Bridegroom [Munificentissimus Deus 26].

11) What are some specific New Testament passages?

Pius XII continued:

Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos (Rev. 12:1ff).

Similarly, they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women”(Luke 1:28), since they saw, in the mystery of the Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve [Munificentissimus Deus 27].

12) How can we apply this teaching to our everyday lives?

According to Pope Benedict XVI:

By contemplating Mary in heavenly glory, we understand that the earth is not the definitive homeland for us either, and that if we live with our gaze fixed on eternal goods we will one-day share in this same glory and the earth will become more beautiful.

Consequently, we must not lose our serenity and peace even amid the thousands of daily difficulties. The luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon.

We may be sure of it: from on high, Mary follows our footsteps with gentle concern, dispels the gloom in moments of darkness and distress, reassures us with her motherly hand.

Supported by awareness of this, let us continue confidently on our path of Christian commitment wherever Providence may lead us. Let us forge ahead in our lives under Mary’s guidance [General Audience, August 16, 2006].

FAQs About the Assumption of Mary

I have another list from ncregister.com to help us celebrate the feast of the patroness this Tuesday, August 15. After last week’s “Ten things…about the Transfiguration”, below is the part one of “The Assumption of Mary: 12 Things to Know and Share”. Next week will be part two. May each of us more fully honor our Lady by deepening our understanding of and belief in her Assumption.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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1) What is the Assumption of Mary?

The Assumption of Mary is the teaching that:

The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory [Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus 44].

2) What level of authority does this teaching have?

This teaching was infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950 in the bull Munificentissimus Deus (Latin, “Most Bountiful God”).

As Pius XII explained, this is “a divinely revealed dogma” (ibid.).

This means that it is a dogma in the proper sense. It is thus a matter of faith that has been divinely revealed by God and that has been infallibly proposed by the Magisterium of the Church as such.

3) Does that mean it is an “ex cathedra” statement and that we have to believe it?

Yes. Since it is a dogma defined by the pope (rather than by an ecumenical council, for example), it is also an “ex cathedra” statement (one delivered “from the chair” of Peter).

Because it is infallibly defined, it calls for the definitive assent of the faithful.

Pope John Paul II explained:

The definition of the dogma, in conformity with the universal faith of the People of God, definitively excludes every doubt and calls for the express assent of all Christians [General Audience, July 2, 1997].

Note that all infallibly defined teachings are things we are obliged to believe, even if they aren’t defined “ex cathedra” (by the pope acting on his own).

The bishops of the world teaching in union with the pope (either in an ecumenical council or otherwise) can also infallibly define matters, but these aren’t called “ex cathedra” since that term refers specifically to the exercise of the pope’s authority as the successor of St. Peter. (It’s Peter’s cathedra or “chair” that symbolizes the pope’s authority.)

4) Does the dogma require us to believe that Mary died?

It is the common teaching that Mary did die. In his work, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ludwig Ott lists this teaching as sententia communior (Latin, “the more common opinion”).

Although it is the common understanding of that Mary did die, and although her death is referred to in some of the sources Pius XII cited in Munificentissimus Deus, he deliberately refrained from defining this as a truth of the faith.

John Paul II noted:

On 1 November 1950, in defining the dogma of the Assumption, Pius XII avoided using the term “resurrection” and did not take a position on the question of the Blessed Virgin’s death as a truth of faith.

The Bull Munificentissimus Deus limits itself to affirming the elevation of Mary’s body to heavenly glory, declaring this truth a “divinely revealed dogma.”

5) Why should Mary die if she was free from Original Sin and its stain?

Being free of Original Sin and its stain is not the same thing as being in a glorified, deathless condition.

Jesus was also free of Original Sin and its stain, but he could—and did—die.

Expressing a common view among theologians, Ludwig Ott writes:

For Mary, death, in consequence of her freedom from original sin and from personal sin, was not a consequence of punishment of sin.

However, it seems fitting that Mary’s body, which was by nature mortal, should be, in conformity with that of her Divine Son, subject to the general law of death.

6) What are the earliest surviving references to Mary’s Assumption?

John Paul II noted:

The first trace of belief in the Virgin’s Assumption can be found in the apocryphal accounts entitled Transitus Mariae [Latin, “The Crossing Over of Mary”], whose origin dates to the second and third centuries.

These are popular and sometimes romanticized depictions, which in this case, however, pick up an intuition of faith on the part of God’s People.

10 things you need to know about Jesus’ Transfiguration

“10 things you need to know about Jesus’ Transfiguration” is a handy online piece below from National Catholic Register as we celebrate this great today. While the author focuses on St. Luke’s account of this glorious event, today’s Gospel is from St. Matthew. One point about Matthew’s depiction of the Transfiguration is that Jesus is mainly presented as the new Moses. Also, #2 below focuses on this as an experience of the Kingdom which coincides with all of the parables of recent weeks about the Kingdom. I hope and pray that like Peter, James, and John, we all have a glimpse of the glory of Christ which will help our faith in tough times.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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1. What does the word “transfiguration” mean?

The word “transfiguration” comes from the Latin roots trans– (“across”) and figura (“form, shape”). It thus signifies a change of form or appearance. This is what happened to Jesus in the event known as the Transfiguration: His appearance changed and became glorious.

2. What happened right before the Transfiguration?

In Luke 9:27, at the end of a speech to the twelve apostles, Jesus adds, enigmatically: “There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” This has often been taken as a prophecy that the end of the world would occur

before the first generation of Christians died out. The phrase “kingdom of God” can also refer to other things, though, including the Church–the outward expression of God’s invisible kingdom. The kingdom is embodied in Christ himself and thus might be “seen” if Christ were to manifest it in an unusual way, even in his own earthly life.

3. Did such a manifestation occur?

Yes, and it is the very next thing that Luke relates: The Transfiguration. Some—that is to say, the three disciples who accompany Jesus up the mountain—are promised that they will personally witness the coming of the Kingdom of God ‘in power.’ On the mountain, the three of them see the glory of God’s Kingdom shining out of Jesus…We thus may have the key to understanding Jesus’ mysterious statement just before the Transfiguration. He wasn’t talking about the end of the world. He was talking about this.

4. Who witnessed the Transfiguration?

The three who are privileged to witness the event are Peter, James, and John, the three core disciples. (Andrew was not there or not included.)…

5. Where did the Transfiguration take place?

Luke states that Jesus took the three “on the mountain to pray.” This mountain is often thought to be Mt. Tabor in Israel, but none of the gospels identify it precisely…

6. Why did the Transfiguration take place?

The Catechism explains it this way:

Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent onto the ‘high mountain’ prepares for the ascent to Calvary.

Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: ‘the hope of glory’ [CCC 568].

7. What does Luke–in particular–tell us about this event?

Luke mentions several details about the event that the other evangelists do not:

  • • He notes that this happened while Jesus was praying.
  • He mentions that Peter and his companions “were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.”
  • He mentions that Peter made his suggestion to put up booths as Moses and Elijah were departing.

8. Why do Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain?

Moses and Elijah represent the two principal components of the Old Testament: the Law and the Prophets. Moses was the giver of the Law, and Elijah was considered the greatest of the prophets. The fact that these two figures “spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” illustrates that the Law and the Prophets point forward to the Messiah and his sufferings. This foreshadows Jesus’ own explanation, on the road to Emmaus, of the Scriptures pointing to himself (cf. Lk. 24:27, 32).

9. Why was Peter’s suggestion misguided?

The fact that Peter’s suggestion occurs when Moses and Elijah are preparing to depart reveals a desire to prolong the experience of glory. This means Peter is focusing on the wrong thing. The experience of the Transfiguration is meant to point forward to the sufferings Jesus is about to experience. It is meant to strengthen the disciple’s faith, revealing to them in a powerful way the divine hand that is at work in the events Jesus will undergo. This is why Moses and Elijah have been speaking “about his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Peter misses the point and wants to stay on the mountain, contrary to the message the two heavenly visitors have been expounding…

10. What can we learn from this event?

The Transfiguration was a special event in which God allowed certain apostles to have a privileged spiritual experience that was meant to strengthen their faith for the challenges they would later endure. But it was only a temporary event. It was not meant to be permanent. In the same way, at certain times in this life, God may give certain members of the faithful (not all of the faithful, all the time), special experiences of his grace that strengthen their faith…

Sell All That You Have

I’ve been meeting with a young man who desperately wants to experience the presence of God. He was raised as a Protestant, so he has had Christ in his life from the beginning. He converted to Catholicism in college, but has struggled with signs from the Lord. For his relatives, faith seems to come more easily and naturally (supernaturally?) than it does for him.

He and I talked months ago when he was going through a bit of a “dark night.” This means that his spiritual life was in darkness, and that God seemed hidden. He was still not seeing any signs. Then, we met about a month ago, and God had revealed Himself in dramatic ways to this young man. He was so happy!

So, when we got together for dinner last Tuesday, the first thing he said was that he was fasting. I asked why, and he said it was to help overcome his doubts about God and Heaven. Our waiter was not too happy!

Last Tuesday was a feast day in the Church: the feast of St. James the Apostle. Catholics don’t fast on feast days. It’s like when Jesus says, “as long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast” (Mk 2:19). We apply this to the feast days of certain saints who had the bridegroom with them in extraordinary and major ways. So, feast days are celebrations of God’s grace through particular persons.

I waited for a moment to tell this to the young man so as not to jump all over him for fasting. I figured he didn’t know about feast days. But, then again, he was telling me about how he had been going to pray at a Catholic church during his lunch break each day (he really wants to experience God), so maybe he had some “church” in him. I told him about the feast day and the meaning of it, and he responded very well. The next thing he said was, “Waiter, I will order after all.”

We reviewed the past month, and it turns out that he had received some signs from God. So, why had he returned to doubting God and Heaven again? Because he had been reading a book each day by a “humanist” (i.e., atheist). He is an avid reader and thinker, and he didn’t even realize the effect the book was having on him. It was about the time that he started the book that his doubts began. This led to many sleepless nights, and a lack of peace. And yet, God kept showing him signs, the biggest of which happened last Monday (the night before our dinner).

We discussed what happened that day – the sign that he received – and how he slept well Monday night. He vowed to put down the atheist’s book, and start reading Bishop Robert Barron or C.S. Lewis again. Smart move! Then, with the whole feast day thing – which really is evidence of God and Heaven – he walked away from our dinner totally at peace.

Do you and I long for the Kingdom of Heaven like this young man? Do we desire Christ so much that we will make chapel visits or fast in order to see or hear Him? These questions apply to today’s Gospel parables of the buried treasure and the pearl of great price.

Notice the desire of the person who finds the buried treasure and the merchant who finds the pearl: each of them “sells all that he has”. These two images represent the Kingdom of God, and specifically Jesus Christ. When we find Christ and His Kingdom, we desire Him above all things. We are so filled with joy – like the person and the merchant – that we will sell all that we have for Him.

My friend was like the merchant “searching for fine pearls.” He has been searching for Christ. He gave up his lunch break and some food in order to find Him and the treasure of heaven.

What are we willing to sell in order to receive the riches of the Kingdom? Do we have the joy of people who have found the pearl of great price which is Christ?

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Our Faith Grows as a Mustard Seed

Last week, I focused on “growing and sowing” with the parable of the sower and the seed. This week, our Lord speaks of a seed in another parable: the mustard seed. Once again, each of us can individually reflect on how our journey of faith has grown like a mustard seed. Our faith was so small at our Baptisms; but with the nourishment and watering of God’s grace – especially in the Eucharist – it has grown to be good sized. We can also look back on our parish history to see how it has been like a mustard seed growing over the past 100 years.

But, we can also reflect on our sowing. Our evangelization attempts are like planting mustard seeds around us in our neighborhood and in our families. No matter how small the sowing might seem to us, God can make it grow into something huge! Bishop Robert Barron provides some examples from the history of our Church to show how Christ has grown the mustard seed of faith in spectacular ways in a brief commentary on chicagopriest.com. May this happen in our parish and in our families!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants…so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade” (Matthew 13:31).

The first Christians understood Jesus to be speaking of his Church, the mystical body that began in the smallest way, but has come in time to be home to the nations of the world. The mustard seed of the Church began with a thirty-year-old man, dying on an instrument of torture, his disciples having fled, and his enemies mocking him. But it grew into the Body of Christ composed of billions of people in every country on the planet, and many more in heaven.

Watch this pattern repeated up and down the centuries. Francis of Assisi was something of a drifter, a young man who had repudiated the way of his father and was following the prompting of the Lord. Most people saw him as crazy, dangerous, and deranged. Soon, he attracted followers, and their number grew into the hundreds. The first

Franciscan missionaries were stoned, chased away, or killed. But within a hundred years of Francis’s death, they were a world-wide organization—a mustard seed, indeed.

Mother Teresa left the relative comfort of her convent behind high walls in Calcutta and walked out into the streets of the worst slum in the world. Anyone seeing her with ordinary eyes would have written her off. But soon enough, she attracted followers who established her order in Calcutta, then around India, then in Venezuela, Rome, New

York, London, and around the world. Another mustard seed.

(At this time) what mustard seed can you plant that might grow into a great tree where the birds of the air make their nests?

Our Job is to Get Busy Sowing

In preparing some thoughts on the parable that our Lord uses in today’s Gospel, “the sower and the seed”, I came across a fruitful (pun intended) article from Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio at crossroadsinitiative.com. It’s excellent because of the content, and that it is brand new (dated 7/10/17)! The insights and stats are current which are extremely valuable given that our culture changes so rapidly.

It is my hope that the seed (Word of God) brings much sowing and growing in our lives!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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“To respond to this parable adequately, we must view it from two different angles. The first is to look at the story as if we are the seed.

Many who hear the gospel never seem to “get it.” The message is stolen before it ever takes root. Then there are the 50% of Catholic kids who receive the sacraments but disappear somewhere between age 18 and 25. Shallow roots fail to equip them to take the heat of our pagan culture. Then there are the 89% of lifelong, regular churchgoers who, according to George Gallup, have values and lifestyles identical to those of their pagan neighbors. Their faith has been neutralized by bad theology and worldliness. They may look like wheat plants, but their religion is fruitless.

Then there are those who stay out of serious sin, manage to do some good for some people, but all in all produce a mediocre harvest.

Finally come the few who are not satisfied with just getting by. They sink their roots deep into Scripture, Tradition, prayer and the sacraments, and produce a bumper crop. We call these people saints.

Addressing us as seed, Jesus is saying: “be careful. If you don’t make the effort to get thoroughly rooted in your faith, you just might not make it. If you do manage to survive,

you might produce absolutely nothing. But you are called to grow and bear much fruit (John 15), to yield 100 fold, to be a saint, to leave a mark on the lives of many that will last forever. Don’t settle for anything less!”

On the other hand, we can look at the parable as if we were the farmer.

Vatican II and all the Popes since have stated unequivocally that each of us is called to be an evangelizer, to tell others that Jesus Christ changes lives eternally and that the place to encounter him most fully and grow most rapidly is within the Catholic Church.

“But,” you may protest, “I tried it a few times and got nowhere. I just don’t have the personality, don’t have the gift”

Jesus, the Son of God, indisputably had both the personality and the gift. Yet when he sowed seed, much of it still ended up as bird food. Consider the thousands he fed with loaves and fishes, the multitude that heard his sermon on the mount, the throngs that welcomed him on Palm Sunday. Yet on the day of Pentecost, there were only 120 left in the Upper Room, awaiting the Holy Spirit.

Notice, though, that the fruit borne by these 120 plants eventually filled the whole world!

To get the few that bear fruit, lots of seed must be sown by lots of people. So regardless of whether or not we think we have green thumbs, we farmers are being commanded through this parable to get the seed out there, sowing it everywhere we go, undeterred by the birds, the weeds, and the scorching sun.

So the parable of the sower has a twofold message: as seed, our job is to get busy growing. As farmers, our job is to get busy sowing.”

Come to Him for Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”
-Mt 11:28

This popular saying of our Lord in today’s Gospel is one of our favorites! We love, love, love hearing about rest from Christ. Yes, we are tired from all the good work we try to do. Yes, we have many burdens from the stresses of life. But, just the idea of rest…true rest…ahhhh.

The best opportunity for receiving the rest that can only come from Christ is in prayer. Prayer brings rest to our souls, spirits, and even bodies. If you are a prayer, then you know what I mean and have experienced this. Prayer calms us, and gives us a sense of the presence of the Lord. It is that presence that we experience when we come to Jesus. So, how can we come to Jesus to receive His rest?

In the world, daily prayer takes us to Christ. It can be hard to find a quiet, peaceful place to enter into the presence of Christ. Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say it took the first twenty minutes of his daily holy hour to just calm down, be rid of the noise of the world, and be quiet with God. Daily Mass is the best opportunity for us to come to Christ and encounter His Real Presence in the Eucharist. Catholic devotions like the rosary help us to raise our hearts and minds to the things of Heaven which inherently bring (eternal) rest. Retreats are very effective in bringing rest to those who take a break from the labors and burdens of the world. In a way, daily prayer is like a mini-retreat every day. This has been my experience with my daily Holy Hour.

Here are some verses from the Psalms which speak of the Lord’s rest. Also, following the Psalms is a Christian poem about the true rest of Christ. When I write each week that I wish you to know the peace of Christ, I also wish that you know the rest of Christ. May you know the peace and rest of Christ this week.

Fr Greg

“ In the Lord I take refuge”.
Psalm 11

“Fear and trembling overwhelm me;
Shuddering sweeps over me.
I say, ‘If only I had wings like a dove
That I might fly away and find rest”.

Psalm 55

“ Return, my soul, to your rest;
The Lord has been good to you.
For my soul has been freed from death.
My eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling”.
Psalm 116

“Happy those whom you guide, Lord,
Whom you teach by your instruction.
You give them rest from evil days,
While a pit is being dug for the wicked”.
Psalm 94

Freedom to Pursue God’s Plan

As we commemorate our nation’s independence this Tuesday, two thoughts come to my mind. The first is a reminder of my recent trip to Ghana which is celebrating their 60th year of independence from Great Britain in 1957. They have done so much to be a developed and stable country in such a short amount of time! The second thought is about the spiritual and moral state of the USA. I was going to lay out some of my own reflections, but found similar (and much more profound) thoughts from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. The following are excerpts from an interview he did in March 2017 with cruxnow.com.

We know that our country is not perfect, but the main thing that we honor and celebrate on July 4th is the freedom as individuals and as a nation to pursue perfection, to be who we really want to be, and who God wants us to be. On Tuesday, thank God for our freedom, and pray for all Americans!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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Lots of bishops publish books, but often they’re pretty churchy. (Your new) book is really an exercise in cultural criticism.

“I’m very pleased, of course, by other things and cultural developments…we certainly live in a world where people can be healthier and happier than in the past. One thing in my mind is that I have many friends who have children with disabilities, and it’s obvious over the course of these last many decades that our country, our society’s care for people with disabilities has gotten much better. People are much more included in the life of our communities.

But at the same time, it’s a culture that kills people with disabilities in the womb in ways that never happened before. Very few children today who were born with Down Syndrome because people can detect that early on and children are aborted.

So the same society, with the same kind of technology, can use it in ways that serve us more radically generously or ways that are more radically selfish and sad. So that’s the kind of confusion that I write about in the book…

In terms of Church practice the numbers of people attending Christian services on Sunday whether they’re Protestants or Catholics is much less than it was in the past. The Gospel principles in terms of family life are not as embraced as they were in the past. I think that we live in a much more diverse society in the United States than before in terms of people accessing other forms of religious faith. It used to be that we defined our country as a Judeo-Christian country in terms of our heritage, but there’s a resistance to even talk that way among some of the elites of today…”

You write that the election of Barack Obama in 2008 was a watershed moment for America, the advent of a new way of conceiving American society no longer based on a shared set of values rooted in Biblical faith.

“… (Leading our country to a different direction vis-a-vis legalized gay marriage, imposing contraceptive practice on insurance programs, and the focus on transgenderism) demonstrate a watershed that is going in the direction that is contrary to traditional Christian moral principles…”

You’ve been sharply critical of some early moves by the Trump administration, for example on refugees and immigrants.

“I certainly will continue to do that…”

If we live in a culture that’s in some ways post-Christian, what’s the Church supposed to do?

“Well, first of all we need to be aware of what’s going on in the world around us. Many people of my generation are somewhat anxious about what’s going on, but they haven’t really analyzed in a serious way how we got from where we were to where we are today, and in the book I try to point out some of the factors that were active in our culture that led to where we are today. We have to be aware of it, but then we also have to have hope that we can live in this culture in a way that we can be full-throated, committed Christians and pass that on to our children…”

How?

“The answer is, you have to be personally converted into the faith. You can’t pass it on if you don’t have it. Parents are going to be more important in the life, the faith life of their children than they have been in the past, because in the past the culture supported that faith life. The schools basically supported that faith life. The Christian communities were strong. People would go to church and that would support that faith life.

It’s really going to be the family that’s going to be the primary tool that God will use to evangelize, beginning with their children of course. But then families associating

together in smaller groups, support groups of one another will be very important in the future as well. As parishes are supposed to be, but they’re institutions now rather than support groups.”

My Flesh for the Life of the World

All of the signs are there

You’ve seen the crowds grow larger by the day, following one man. You’ve seen him heal the blind, the deaf, and the mute. You’ve seen him cure the sick. You’ve heard his great teachings. You’ve seen him walk on water. All of the signs are there: Jesus of Nazareth is the one to follow. You’ve been sure for weeks now. Your heart is pumping. You’re talking about him with everyone. You have been reading the Scriptures more frequently, reviewing what Isaiah and the other prophets wrote about the Messiah.

You Can’t Put Your Finger on It

You haven’t talked with Jesus yet, but you feel a connection there. The words he uses, the way he speaks, the manner in which he conducts himself. He has such a powerful way about him. But you haven’t been able to put your finger on it just yet. You just know you want to be near him and learn from him. He is different, a man set apart from the rest. This man has stirred your heart and mind like no other person has ever done.

It’s So Confusing

And, now, he is introducing a brand-new teaching. “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51). He is telling everyone that the bread to which he is referring is his flesh. While you begin to process this, those around you quarrel. People are outraged but are mainly confused. So, Jesus gets more specific and emphatic. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life… My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (53, 55). Whoa! Jesus of Nazareth wants to give his flesh and blood as food and drink.

Too Hard to Accept

This realization spreads through the crowd. It is such a large gathering, and it takes a while for everyone to hear what’s been said. Slowly, people start to leave. “This is a hard teaching…who can accept it?” (60) is what you hear some of them say as they turn away from Jesus. And, you agree, this is a hard teaching. But, you haven’t moved, and aren’t planning on leaving just yet.

You look over at Jesus’ closest disciples. You notice a very perplexed Peter. Jesus asks them if they are leaving, too. Peter says, with probably a dazed and confused look, “Lord, where are we going to go? You have the words of eternal life” (68). When you hear these words come from Peter’s lips, your heart skips a beat. You are thinking, ‘Has Jesus just been speaking the words of eternal life? Is this, in fact, a message from heaven? Could this be true? Is he really going to give us his flesh to eat? And, will it get us to heaven? Is this the newest, most radical teaching from God? Do I believe what I am hearing?’

What Would You Do?

This is the beginning of the pamphlet I wrote years ago, “C.O.O.L.,” which has been in the vestibule of our church for a while. My goal was to place you (and any reader) in the scene of John 6 which is the Gospel for today’s feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). You’ve heard this Gospel passage many times, but what would it have been like to be there when it was first heard by anyone? Would you have been with the crowd, and rejected the “hard” teaching? Or, would you have been with the Apostles and stayed with the Lord because Jesus has the “words of eternal life”? Please meditate on this.

Two significant points from this scene which is known as the Bread of Life Discourse

  1. The Jewish crowds took Jesus’ teaching about the Eucharist literally. They had a pretty visceral reaction to all the talk about flesh and blood – they quarreled, grumbled, etc. When Jesus heard this, he didn’t back off; in fact, he went deeper. He repeatedly referred to his flesh and blood: “flesh” five times, and “blood” four times. And, when he said we must eat his flesh, he actually used the word, “gnaw” (“whoever gnaws on my flesh”). After hearing all of this, the crowds decided to leave the Lord. They rejected the Savior. They walked away from salvation. They did all of this over the teaching of the Eucharist. How many Catholics have done the same whether knowingly or not?
  2. Jesus didn’t stop them from leaving. He didn’t say, “Wait, hold on. I wasn’t speaking literally.” In John 3, he does this with Nicodemus. When Jesus teaches Nicodemus about baptism and being “born from above,” Nicodemus thinks this means for a man to literally “reenter his mother’s womb and be born again.” The Lord basically said, “No, I wasn’t speaking literally. I meant to be ‘born of water and Spirit.’ He doesn’t make this correction with the crowds in John 6 because he was speaking literally about the Eucharist.

Both of these points help us considerably to interpret John 6 as a literal teaching. So, what we celebrate today and every time at Holy Mass is really and truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ!

As we honor our fathers today and thank God for all the daily bread they have provided us, we thank our Heavenly Father for the greatest sustenance which is the Bread of Life.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

More About the Third Person of the Trinity

I’ve been talking much about the Holy Spirit the past few Sundays which is always a good thing. But, I’ve been wondering if some of you might be thinking what a friend of mine said years ago: “I have a hard time understanding the Holy Spirit as the third ‘person’ of the Trinity.” He asserted that some of the images that the Bible gives seem to present the Spirit as “a force (reminds me of Star Wars).” If you feel this way or just struggle to grasp the personhood of the Holy Spirit, this article from catholic.com should really help.

We glorify the three divine persons of the Most Holy Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg