Tuesday, September 24, 2019

It's Not Just a Symbol

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith. Yet, only one-third of Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/08/05/transubstantiation-eucharist-u-s-catholics/).

Only 50% of Catholics know Church teaching on the Eucharist. Batting .500 would be amazing in baseball and many other sports and endeavors. But, roughly the same percentage of atheists (47%) know that the Church teaches that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus.

Almost 70% of Catholics think that the Eucharist is just a symbol, 20% of whom know the Church's teaching on it.

It is not just a symbol.

It is not a symbol of Jesus, or of the Last Supper, or of bread, or life, or the Passover, or anything.

Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor famously defended the Eucharist as more than just a symbol at a dinner party with friends. She writes:
Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the "most portable" person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, "Well, if it's a symbol, to h*** with it." That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest is expendable. (https://muse.jhu.edu/article/20417/summary)
The Eucharist, instituted at the Last Supper, is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. In the sixth chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus teachers His Real Presence in the Eucharist as more than symbolic. Known as the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus's language continues to press toward the fact that He is the Bread of Life.

Notice how His language intensifies with each iteration of this teaching:

  • Verse 35: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
  • Verses 47 and 48: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life."
  • Verse 51: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
  • Verses 53 - 56: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."

As this teaching progresses, people in the crowd murmur, quarrel and leave. In response, Jesus does not back down or soften His language to the realm of symbolism.

He leans in and declares that His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink. At two different times He leads off with the phrase, "Amen, amen". Not one, but two. Not once, but twice.

Truly.

Verily.

It is so.

He is the Bread of Life.

The Eucharist is not a symbol.

Amen.

Amen!

This is really hard to believe, which is why it's a mystery of our Catholic faith.

I've recently been praying for Jesus to help my unbelief. Ever since my daughter, Elizabeth, made her first Communion earlier this year, I have been receiving Jesus under both species. My church growing up never offered the Precious Blood, so in churches where both were offered, I typically only received Jesus's Body.

And, candidly, a cup shared by an entire congregation scared me. Especially during cold and flu season.

But it's not just a symbol. It's not just a cup of wine shared by hundreds of people.

It is Jesus's Precious and holy Blood, poured out for me and my sins. Eating His Body and drinking His Blood puts His life inside of us, "Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1323).

This teaching is hard.

In a sense, though, it is even harder if it's just a symbol.

Why go to Mass every weekend, especially with young kids in tow, if it's only a symbol? I can read the Bible, look at a crucifix, and show up for the important days if that's the case. This is probably why there is a correlation between belief in the Real Presence of Jesus and weekly Mass attendance.
https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/08/05/transubstantiation-eucharist-u-s-catholics/ 

Why receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, unless maybe I've done something really bad, if it's just a symbol? Jesus already died for my sins, and going into the dark confessional is scary.

What's the point of Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Anointing of the sick if they, and the Eucharist, are just symbols, if the life and grace of Jesus does not fill us and change us in these moments?

If it's just a symbol, what other teachings are symbolic? Loving your enemies? Being peacemakers? Offering forgiveness? Going out to encounter those on the margins?

What about the Resurrection...?

It's not just a symbol, and if you believe that it is, start living as if you believe that it really is Jesus's Body and Blood.

And pray that Jesus might help your unbelief.

And mine.

Until then, and especially after, act and pray like a believer.

It's not just a symbol.

Amen.

Amen.


*for another take on this same idea, check out this Word on Fire blog: https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/jesus-may-not-need-our-adoration-but-he-asked-for-it/25556/

Thursday, August 29, 2019

God's Will

As a parent, there have been countless times with each of my three children where my interactions with them were nothing more than either side repeating his/her thoughts incessantly.

"Daddy, I don't want to brush my teeth!"

"If you have teeth, you have to brush them."

"But, I don't want to brush my teeth!"

 "If you have teeth, you have to brush them."

The volume of either line might increase. Maybe the pace of delivery quickens or slows. There might even be tears associated with what is said. But, the content remains the same.

In many ways, I think this interplay is similar to the way that I've interact with God as of late, or maybe forever. And, maybe, like a good parent, or least one that is much better than I am, maybe this is the way that God has chosen to respond to me...or maybe not. It's God's response back to me that has me puzzled. 

At various points in my life, I have had many conversations with God about His will for my life. In most cases, those conversations have been incredibly one sided.

I've told God that I want to know His will for my life.

I've asked God what His will for my life is.

I've offered to God what His will for my life should be.

I've prayed for the wisdom, courage, and strength to know, follow and see to the end whatever His will for me is.

And, despite some whispers, some fleeting breakthroughs of grace, I often don't think I've heard God's reply. Does this mean that I'm not following His will for me? Does this mean I'm not praying hard enough, or often enough, or the right prayers? Does it mean that I'm doing His will and His silence is His way of saying, "Yes. Now go and do it."

But, over the past few weeks and days, I've had some glimpses of how I may be able to find an answer.

The first is in the form of the lead singer for the band Tenth Avenue North, Mike Donehey. Mike recently published a book titled, "Finding God's Life for My Will". I haven't read it yet, but Mike's main premise is that instead of asking God what His will is for our lives, we should ask how we need to change so that we can more closely align our lives to His. In Mike's own words, "God's not after our success, He's after our surrender. He's not after our achievements, He's after our hearts."


St. Theresa of Calcutta had a similar message:

“God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”

Stop worrying about God's will and start following the life of Jesus. God's will for me is that I come to know, love, and serve Him. The best way that I can do that is to be as faithful as I can to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

I can find God's will for my life by putting the life of God in every ounce of my will. 

Another lead came in the form of a question I recently heard posed by a Catholic consulting group to an organization using its services, "How do you discern God's will?"

At face value, this question seems really deep and philosophical. My initial response was, "I have no idea! If I knew that is all that I would do. Ever!" 

But, after my quick frustration subsided, I realized that the question can be much more practical. What am I doing in my life to discern God's will? What habits, practices, behaviors afford God the opportunity to reveal to me His plan? 

The Mass, frequently receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, reading scripture, praying the Rosary, listening to podcasts about the faith, enjoying Christian music like Tenth Avenue North, spending time in silent prayer, performing service to others, sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, dialoguing with other disciples, studying Church teaching, keeping a gratitude journal, doing an examination of conscience, praying novenas...

Our rich faith tradition offers many pathways for God's grace to break through our lives. Having a handful that are used for the purpose of discerning God's will can offer Him avenues to reach us.

He doesn't want our success. He doesn't want our accomplishments.

He wants us to be faithful. He wants our hearts.

He wants us.

He constantly pursues us, trying to find ways for grace to interrupt us and turn us toward Him, closer to Him.

God's will for my life is that I give my life to Him. In doing so and by engaging in practices to actively discern His will, I will find God's life for my will.

And, I will find God's will for my life.

I will find God's will.

I will find God.

I will. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

No Adequate Substitute

One of my daily prayers for my children is that they will hear the call that God has on their lives and that they may have the courage to answer it by saying yes.

Elizabeth dances with many ideas of what she'll be when she grows up. Catherine's list is a bit shorter and more consistent.

As for Gabriel, he says he wants to be a flying bulldozer.

Regardless of what they will do, I pray that they will come to know God, love Him, and ultimately choose to serve Him and that they will be who God created them to be - His disciple.

I pray that my fatherhood offers them rich opportunities to encounter Christ, because I believe that they will come to fulness of life only through a relationship with Him. Christ said, "I came so that you may have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

I believe that Christ desires the good of my children even more than I do. Because of this, I need to bring them to Him. There is no adequate substitute for a relationship with Jesus.

A few years ago, as a member of the Diocese of St. Petersburg Vocation Enrichment Team, I attended a meeting with Catholics from around the diocese to focus on enriching, enhancing and promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The theme for the day: Family - The First Home of Vocations - centered on the role of the family in fostering a sense and acceptance of vocation.

Fr. Alfredo Hernandez, the keynote speaker for the event, retold pieces of his own vocation story, including the simple prayer of his mother for him to discern what God was calling him to do and that if it was priesthood that he would be a good priest.

Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2221 - 2231), Fr. Alfredo mentioned that the role of parents involves moral formation in addition to physical and intellectual nurturing:
2221 The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. "The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute."29 The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.30 
Parents must recognize their role in moral and spiritual formation and they must accept that it is "almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute" for their influence. Such is the important role of parents in the faith lives of their children!

At times, though, this task can seem overwhelming. Given the magnitude of decisions that parents make on an hourly basis regarding the formation of their children, just surviving seems good enough a lot of the time.

One of the best ways to pass on the faith is by modeling the faith. Children come to learn about love, forgiveness, generosity, compassion, loyalty through the examples of those virtues. And while this seems daunting, it can happen in small, yet profound, ways.

Fr. Alfredo recalled that his mother would call him regalcito de cielo - little gift from heaven - and this shaped his sense of generosity and trust in God. We are made to be a gift and we are called to be a gift to others. Fr. Alfredo's mother made this clear to him through the use of this sweet nickname.

He also recounted reciting this prayer as a child with his dad: "Take my heart. Take my heart. It is yours, and not mine." Once again, this faith sharing need not be long or poetic. Instead, it must be heartfelt, authentic, and consistent.

As Catholic educators, we must help parents and families to establish a culture of joy instead of a culture of the temporary.

Our society tells us to love for as long as love lasts, to commit so long as the commitment is easy.

Our God, however, wants us to make a decision for once and all. To be all in. Totally. Close the door from the inside. Have the confidence to make a definitive - lasting - decision. Be open to the possibility of the permanent, and take whatever small step you need to take now so that you can take the next one, and the next one, and the next one...so that you can be ready to take the permanent one at some point.

True joy is borne from the encounter with others, hearing someone say, but not necessarily with words, "You are important to me." True joy is borne from knowing that Christ died to tell us this.

Our families can and need to be the places where this message is first conveyed. But, if it isn't, our Catholic schools must be places that offer both a surrogate message of worthiness and a prescription to help families grow stronger.

From Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, written in 1982 by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education:
The family is "the first and fundamental school of social living" therefore, there is a special duty to accept willingly and even to encourage opportunities for contact with the parents of students. These contacts are very necessary, because the educational task of the family and that of the school complement one another in many concrete areas; and they will facilitate the "serious duty" that parents have "to commit themselves totally to a cordial and active relationship with the teachers and the school authorities". Finally, such contacts will offer to many families the assistance they need in order to educate their own children properly; and thus fulfill the "irreplaceable and inalienable" function that is theirs. (#34)
As Catholic educators, our efforts to partner with families, to communicate early and often, to celebrate the positive while honestly addressing areas in need of improvement, to provide opportunities for involvement, education, prayer, not only develops the relationship between the home and the school for the benefit of the student.

It also sends the message to families, "You are important to me" in more than just words.

True joy is borne from these encounters.

Joy that leads to a fulness of life in Christ, a fulness that only comes by answering the call that He has on our lives.

A joy and a fulness for which there is no adequate substitute.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Encouragement

Encourage - (v) give support, confidence, or hope to (someone)

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Barnabas, Apostle. Interestingly, his name was actually Jospeh. Due to his positive demeanor, though, the apostles called him "Barnabas" which means "son of encouragement". 

He advocated for Saul - St. Paul, before anyone else believed in his conversion. This act alone seems enough to qualify him for this nickname. Barnabas defended Saul, perhaps one of the greatest persecutors of Christians ever, before he became known as an apostle of Christ. Standing up for St. Paul must have brought St. Barnabas much conflict and ridicule.

An encourager, though, supports, offers confidence in, or hope to someone. 

Encouragers play essential roles in our lives. If you think on your own life, consider those people who have encouraged you and your relationship with them. Likely, these relationships are, or at least were, incredibly strong. You probably wanted to be close to this person, growing in excitement during moments together and/or leaving his/her presence having felt stronger, lighter, joyful, hopeful, determined. 

Contrarily, consider people who discouraged you. If possible, you distanced yourself from this discourager. You dreaded your time with him/her. You left encounters with this person feeling dejected, deflated, defeated. 

As a parent, husband, Catholic educator, leader - as a person - I hope to be an encourager. I hope to bring hope to others. I hope to see others as God sees them, encouraging them that becoming the person they were created to be is more than possible. It is necessary. 

I assume that everyone would answer similarly. We want to encourage and be encouraged. 

Given the daily grind of life, and without others to encourage us, encouraging others may be beyond our capacity. Just fighting through our own battles and struggles can leave us feeling drained, with little to nothing to offer others by way of encouragement. 

Enter the Holy Spirit. 

Gerard Manley Hopkins described the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, in the following way: 
For God the Holy Ghost is the Paraclete, but what is a Paraclete?  Often it is translated comforter, but a Paraclete does more than comfort.  The word is Greek; there is no one English word for it and no one Latin word, comforter, is not enough.  A Paraclete is one who comforts, who cheers, who encourages, who persuades, who exhorts, who stirs up, who urges forward, who calls on; what the spur and word of command is to a horse, what clapping of hands is to a speaker, what a trumpet is to the soldier, that a Paraclete is to the soul: one who calls us on, that is what it means, a Paraclete is one who calls us on to good. One sight is before my mind, it is homely but it comes home: you have seen at cricket how when one of the (batters) at the wicket has made a hit and wants to score a run, the other doubts, hangs back, or is ready to run in again, how eagerly the first will cry/Come on, come on! – a Paraclete is just that, something that cheers the spirit of (people), with signals and with cries, all zealous that (we) should do something and full of assurance that if (we) will (we) can, calling (us) on, springing to meet (us) half way, crying to (our) ears or to (our) heart: This way to do God’s will, this way to save your soul, come on, come on! 
No matter our circumstance, the Paraclete is with us, encouraging us, calling us on to do good, to be the people God created us to be, to strengthen us with fortitude, to fill us with wisdom, enlighten us with understanding, guide us with counsel, direct us with knowledge, humble us with piety, and enliven us with fear of the Lord.

Come, Holy Spirit, encourage us! St. Barnabas, son of encouragement, pray for us!

Be encouraged and be an encourager!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Unleash the Power to Conquer

This post is one year late.

ICS Class of 2018, these are my parting words to you. I'm sorry that they are just now getting to you. You've already experienced and most likely finished your first year of high school.

Better late than never.

Transitions are really hard. You know this now a few times over. Your 8th grade year endured changes that neither you nor I intended. We arrived at a theme, and a really good one at that. You designed a t-shirt, and a really good one at that! You volunteered to help lead various initiatives. You showed how you were poised and ready to "Unleash the Power to Conquer".  

But, from what I know, none of this came to fruition.

I hope and pray that you still managed to unleash the gifts, talents, and energies given to you by God to become the people He created you to be. I hope and pray that your stamp last year on Incarnation Catholic School may have been more lasting than mine. The thing about our work is that we are meant to toil for the sake of the Kingdom, not for our own glory, fame or lasting name.

ICS is still making God known, loved and served. The Kingdom is still being advanced. Amen.

The thing about unleashing this power to conquer, though, is that the conquering does not entail an easy fight. I'm sure you've had your share of battles over the past two years. I hope that you've picked up your armor - the cross and the Bible - and that you have fought courageously, if not victoriously. I pray that despite the absence of a t-shirt, the phrase being spoken, or the opportunities to lead as we had collectively envisioned, that you still managed to unleash the power to conquer.

The Spirit - your spirit - cannot be boxed into a pep rally. It wasn't made to fit nicely into a letterhead or on a wall.

It is meant to run wild, live free, and love strong, all for the sake of our King and His Kingdom.

Unleash the power to conquer - your fears, life's battles, transitions, sin, evil, even death itself.


I've been reading my daughters the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. We're on the final book, The Last Battle, but there is a scene from the previous book, The Silver Chair, that I want to share with you.

Prince Rilian has been taken prisoner by the Lady of the Green Kirtle, the Queen of the Underland. Prince Rilian, though, does not realize that he's been taken prisoner, as the Queen has put him under an enchantment, enslaving him as her servant, promising him kingdoms of the Overlands and her hand in marriage if he just continues to serve her.

The enchantment, however, wears off for an hour each day. It is during this time that the Queen has Rilian tied to a silver chair so that he cannot escape. He is told that the opposite is true. The Queen lies to Rilian telling him that the enchantment happens during this hour and that he must be tied up because he becomes such a horrible monster that he would cause destruction unimaginable if loosed.

So, night after night, Prince Rilian suffers through an hour of knowing his true nature, his authentic self, screaming for help, straining to break the bonds holding him captive, only to fall back into his enslaved trance. Caged. Bound. Trapped. Leashed. Conquered.
"Ah," (Prince Rilian) groaned. "Enchantments, enchantments...the heavy, tangled, cold, clammy web of evil magic. Buried alive. Dragged down under the earth, down into the sooty blackness...how many years is it?...Have I lived ten years, or a thousand years, in the pit?"
He had been speaking in a low voice; now he looked up, fixed his eyes upon them, and said loud and clear: "Quick! I am sane now. Every night I am sane. If only I could get out of this enchanted chair, it would last. I should be a man again. But every night they bind me, and so every night my chance is gone. But you are not enemies. I am not your prisoner. Quick! Cut these cords."
"Once and for all," said the prisoner, "I adjure you to set me free. By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you-" 
The story's protagonists, Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum, debate for a while about whether or not to believe him and set him free. He is the first person on their long and arduous journey to say Aslan's name, a sign given to them by Aslan himself that this person would be the long-lost Rilian. Despite their own fears holding them back, they take up swords and release him.
"In the name of Aslan," they said, and began methodically cutting the cords. The instant the prisoner was free, he crossed the room in a single bound, seized his own sword (which had been taken from him and laid on the table), and drew it.
"You first" he cried and fell upon the silver chair. That must have been a good sword. The silver gave way before its edge like string, and in a moment a few twisted fragments, shining on the floor, were all that was left.  
"Had I forgotten (Narnia) when I was under the spell?" asked the Knight. "Well, that and all other bedevilments are now over. You may well believe that I know Narnia, for I am Rilian, Prince of Narnia, and Caspian the great King is my father."
ICS Class of 2018, in your life you will have many silver chairs. There will be countless things that will hold sway over you, challenges that will overpower you, events that will bind and trap you and attempt to turn you into someone you are not.

Unleash the power to conquer and cut each of those silver chairs to pieces. Leave but only a few twisted fragments behind, if anything.

The world, at times, will try to convince you that you are someone you are not. The world will tell you that you are not good enough, smart enough, creative enough, strong enough, pretty enough, tough enough - that you are not enough. In those moments, cut your silver chair and claim your royal birthright.

This won't be easy; it will be hard. Incredibly hard. It will end up being the hardest thing that you've ever done. But, you can do hard things.

You are a child of God.

His royal blood courses through your veins. You were made for greatness, built for holiness and destined for sainthood. Unleash the power to become who you were created, built and destined to be.

ICS Class of 2018, no matter what life will continue to hurl at you. No matter the battle you find yourself fighting, no matter the chair that seemingly holds you captive.

No. Matter. What.

Unleash the power to conquer.  It's not too late...it's better late than never.

Congratulations on your 8th grade graduation and completing your first year of high school, ICS Class of 2018. Goodbye, good luck, God bless and GO IRISH!



-Lewis, C. (1953). The Silver Chair. Scholastic Inc: New York. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

ICS Class of 2019: "Go, you have been sent!"

Dear ICS Class of 2019,

Congratulations on your 8th grade graduation! May God bless you as you journey from the place many of you have called home for the past 9 years. Know that despite your departure, you are a part of a larger family of Incarnation Irish whose bonds cannot be broken by any distance or time.

I cannot believe it has been two years since we have been together and that it was nine years ago that I became your principal as ICS kindergarteners. So much...so much has changed since then, the most important being your maturation, growth, and development into the people that God created you to be. Know that this formation is permanent, not in the sense that it is now completed, but rather that it is ongoing. Never stop never stopping.

I have prayed for you every day and will continue to do so. You are forever in my heart. Please let me know if I can ever help or support you in any way. I am honored to have been a part of your lives and to have you as a part of mine.

In this spirit, I offer to you some thoughts and words. I hope and pray that they may provide some inspiration, wisdom, and if nothing else, a short shot of nostalgia:

The closing prayer at mass is “Go forth, the Mass is ended”, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”, or simply, “Go in peace.” All of these variations derive from the Latin, Ite missa est, which means, “Go, you have been sent.”

Go, ICS Class of 2019. You have been sent. Over the course of your time at ICS, the school, its teachers, coaches, administrators and staff, alongside of our Church and your parents and families have prepared you to be the best versions of yourselves. There is still work to be done and that is true for all of us, but go into the next steps of your lives and be who God created you to be.

Witness to others about the life in Christ that you have because of your time at Incarnation. Do not shy away from being ready to give people who ask an explanation for the hope you have in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:15). Boldly profess and proclaim your faith in Christ, not in a way that divides. Rather, use your faith and the power of the Gospel in the same way that Christ did: to unite, to heal, to love.

Hold fast when your faith will be tested, because it will undoubtedly be put to the test. Whether this happens sooner or later, your discipleship will be questioned, mocked and even persecuted.  Embrace these trials. It is only through extreme heat and pressure that we have diamonds.

In these moments, lean on each other. The gift of community is something that is truly divinely scripted. Our God is Himself relational; therefore, all relationships that are rightly ordered are pathways to holiness. Turn to your parents, teachers, coaches, priests and others who want nothing more than for you to find fullness in life. Believe that we are always better together.

Dive into the Good Book. Make a daily habit of breaking open God’s revelatory Words to us. We have the Words of eternal life. Never forget that the messages contained within the Bible are intended for you, right now, and that Jesus seeks after your heart through its pages.

Return to the Sacraments. Jesus gives us His life in profound ways through the Eucharist and Reconciliation. There is no limit to your reception or to the immense good that your participation can have on both you and our world. Frequent both often. Because of your Baptism you have been set aside for a special purpose - a mission - for which only you can be sent and only you can accomplish. God has claimed you as His own. You have been built for holiness, made for greatness and destined for sainthood. Your Confirmation galvanized these graces and supercharged your spirits for your mission. Stir up the charism of your Confirmation saint and invoke his/her name in your prayers. You have been called, by name, to do great things. Do them.

Fail and grow comfortable with struggle. Do not endure grit for the sake of being gritty, but persevere through the challenges that life will hurl at you for the sake of His Kingdom. Struggle is a sign of growth, whether it be mental, physical or spiritual. Seek out ways to constantly improve and search for opportunities that will be beyond your abilities. Jesus is not found on, nor has he called you to, the safeties of shore. Get into your boats and cast out into the deep. Abandon even your vessels to find the One who knows you even better than you know yourself. In doing so, He will introduce you to your life in Him, a life of abundance, of purpose, of fulfillment. He will give you your mission.

Through it all, continue to make God known, loved and served in all that you think, say and do. Believe that you have no greater purpose than this and that Christ wants nothing more for you than to come to fullness of life in Him. In doing so, may you bring that fullness to a world so desperately in need of it.

Go, ICS Class of 2019, and make Christ incarnate in our world through the gift of your lives. May others see the Incarnation of Christ through your witness to His love, power, majesty and glory.

Go, ICS Class of 2019, you have been sent.

Congratulations, good luck, God bless, and GO IRISH!

Peace,

Mr. Z

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Witness

GospelJN 13:16-20

When Jesus had washed the disciples' feet, he said to them:
"Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.
I am not speaking of all of you.
I know those whom I have chosen.
But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.
From now on I am telling you before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. 
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send
receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."


Ite missa est. 

The Latin form of the words that we hear at the conclusion of every Mass mean, "Go, you have been sent." After having feasted on the Bread of life, nourished and strengthened by the Eucharist, we are called to live out our baptismal mission to be priests, prophets and kings. Christ tells us, through the person of the priest (or deacon), as he told the apostles, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19 - 20).

We are called to witness to the truth that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God; one of the three persons of the Trinity; who suffered, died, resurrected and ascended into heaven; whose death and resurrection we celebrate through the mystery of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives, our "daily bread" that gives us strength for this mission.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known" (CCC, #2472).

We are impelled to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This requires much more than just going to mass and saying our prayers behind closed doors.

This apostolic witness requires a bold profession of faith. It entails always being "ready to give to anyone who asks you a reason for your hope" (1 Peter 3:15). It requires that we embrace Jesus's call to renounce the riches of this world, and to seek out the widow, the orphan, the outcast. We must turn our cheeks and go the extra mile to love even those that persecute us. Christ teaches us to let the children come to Him, becoming like children ourselves. We are to give to Caesar that which belongs to the state, taking seriously our earthly duty to be good citizens. Be humble, meek, poor in spirit, hungry for righteousness. Make peace. Rejoice when we have been counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Wash each others feet. The two shall become one flesh. Remain clean of heart. Repent. Forgive. Love one another and love the Father in heaven, as we have been loved by Him.

In short, be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

This is our striving, our yearning, our desire to be all that God created us to be. Our lives will come to fullness only in Him. All else is vanity.

But, this perfection is not a pre-requisite to being a witness. Rather, our pursuit of it is itself an act of witness.

Jesus did not call the qualified; He has qualified the called.

His grace is sufficient.

Witness about what you have seen and heard so that others may have fellowship with Christ.

Go, you have been sent.