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About gregrowles

Born Sydney, live Sydney Australia. "People who are intimidated by you talk bad about you with hope that others won't find you appealing

SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-10  There is a verse in our first reading from the Book of Wisdom that calls to mind the parable of the wheat and the weeds in today’s Gospel. The verse reads: “your sovereignty over all makes you lenient to all.” This is the way Jesus presents God in the parable he tells in the gospel. Jesus’ God is a God of leniency, a God of patience, a gardener God who is confident of the development of a tiny seed. Jesus shows us a God who, in the words of the first reading, gives ” your sons the good hope that after sin you will grant repentance.” As Pope Francis says God never tires of forgiving us — it’s just we who tire of asking.

So, what about the parable of weeds among the wheat? Jesus lived in an agrarian society, so it isn’t surprising that he used farming metaphors as concrete images to explain the mysterious nature of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of heaven is like someone who has sowed good seed, yet an enemy has come and sowed weeds among the wheat. Jesus is quite specific about explaining what is happening in the story, but what are the implicit values transmitted to those who have ears to listen?

The kingdom of heaven is messy and complicated and will encounter opposition. In fact, evil exists in the world, and may not be easily rooted out. As the householder wisely advises his slaves, it is not a good idea to pull out the weeds, for their roots are entangled with the wheat and pulling them out will damage the crop. Jesus explains that at the end of the age, the angelic reapers will collect the weeds and throw them into the fire, while the wheat will be gathered into God’s kingdom.

We wonder, along with the servants in the story, where these weeds came from. ‘Let’s root up all those weeds! In another passage of Scripture Luke 9:54 the disciples of Jesus say: “Let’s burn up those cities which won’t welcome you! Let’s put them right and show them who’s boss! Let’s have the kingdom now!’ But Jesus says to them in effect: ‘Wait! Let God be God! Let the wheat and the weeds exist for now side by side! Wait till God is ready to start the harvest and sort things out!’ Be like God, be patient, and wait!’ We ask too why does God allow evil to grow in God’s kingdom? What can we do about it?

Scholars tell us that the weeds in the parable are likely darnel, a weedy grass that looks like wheat until it matures. While the plants in the field are young, the good wheat and the invasive weeds are indistinguishable and intertwined. Then the heads of the wheat droop over, while the heads of the weeds stand up straight. The image is of humility and pride. Is it up to the humble, true followers of Jesus to identify and destroy their proud, hypocritical neighbours? Is the destiny of wheat and weed fixed, or is there a possibility of redemption? There is a difference between weeds and people. We might argue that weeds are weeds forever, while people, if not torn out by the roots, might be redeemed by God’s grace. We cannot be certain who is good and who is evil.

In the parable, the householder says, “In gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest.” He counsels patience and faith in God’s justice. It is important not to damage the roots of the wheat. A good steward must do what is best for all, even if the weeds will survive in the short term.

What does this narrative tell us about the values and culture of the storytellers?

• We acknowledge the presence of evil in the world,
• While evil may be redeemed, that redemption may not happen in this world,
• It is not our job to judge, and
• We believe in God’s judgment at the last day.

Does Jesus’ parable encourage passivity? Or is Jesus offering guidance on how to live in a complicated world? While we wait for God to judge at the last day, how are we to live? Knowing that evil seed grows, that evil roots are allowed to flourish, how are we to live?

Through the parable of the weeds among the wheat, Jesus reminds us that we live in a hostile world, that good and bad are intermingled, that we must live cooperatively for the good of all, and that we ought to leave judgment to God. We are to concentrate on growth in our relationship with God and God’s creation – all of God’s creation including what is evil. By the work of our hands, motivated by the love of God resident in our hearts, bit by bit we reveal God’s love to those who do evil which they believe is good for them. To live in the presence of a just God who meets us where we are, who is with us and will keep us, wherever we go. We become standard bearers who are not overbearing. We are welcoming and inclusive!

 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-14Over the next few weeks, the Gospel readings will consist of the entire 13th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Throughout this teaching, Jesus will offer several parables to illustrate for his listeners what he means by the kingdom of heaven. In this parable, he’s not only addressing his first disciples but, as with all scripture, he’s addressing us too. This parable is an invitation to ask, how can we make the soil of our hearts more fertile to receive the seed that is the word of the kingdom? How can we be the good soil so we can produce grain a hundredfold, and be part of a great effect that makes more and more seed, that can be sown near and far and take root in places we may never dream of.

Gardeners and farmers tell us that soil that is good for planting has particular characteristics: good soil has a lot of humus—decayed material like grass roots and leaves—that encourages good nutrients, good drainage and good aeration. Good soil has room for water and air to move through it and get to seed and plant roots. And although it seems like it’s just an inert substance, good soil is full of life. In some places, good soil for planting exists because fire has burned off all the useless weeds and saplings, preventing forests from growing. So, good soil seems to be the result of letting some stuff go, die even, perhaps getting burned away.

The same may be said of our hearts. To be receptive to the word of the kingdom, we may need to let some old, false ideas go, die even. To let idols, go or have them taken from us may feel as painful as having them burned away, but letting them may be the first step in making healthier soil. Letting in life-promoting, wholeness-producing understandings of Jesus and the true nature of God’s reign can turn worthless clay into soil good for planting. We can be the good soil in which seeds take root and grow into healthy, seed-bearing grain. The sower is often taken to be God or Jesus, and that’s a good analogy. God in Jesus flung the seed of the word of the kingdom wherever he went, and it found good soil in some places where others thought nothing good or holy could grow. God in Jesus never said a word about some people deserving to hear good news and others not. Jesus sowed the word of the kingdom, wherever he went.

To the first disciples, to the early Church, to us, Jesus says, there is nothing wrong with the seed. The sower is dependable. But here’s what happens when the seed falls on different kinds of ground. Trust the sower. Trust the seed. Be good soil. Be good soil, but take a clue from the sower too.

So far so good, however What if Jesus’ word for us has as much to do with the sower as the soil?

Perhaps Jesus has another good word for us in this parable: an explanation and reassurance that has to do with the sower rather than the soil. Perhaps Jesus has an invitation for us to be sowers and not just soil.

The sower’s approach to sowing is carefree, to say the least. The sower flings seed as he goes, with seeming disregard for where the seed will end up. Shouldn’t the precious seed be saved for careful deposit in some meticulously prepared narrow furrow where it has a better chance of germination and survival? Not with this sower. To this sower, it’s as if the seed is so precious, he can’t hold on to it—it must be shared. To hold onto the seed would be to squander it. This sower’s method seems to be to fling the seed as he goes, letting it land where it will, and keep going. This sower covers a lot of ground, not sticking to one pathway or field or territory. The point, for this sower, is to sow, and he does.

Jesus doesn’t say, “I am the sower.” He just says that the sower sows the word, wherever the sower is, wherever the sower goes, and sometimes the word gets snatched away by the devil, and sometimes people fall away because the following is costly and risky, and sometimes the cares of the world choke the word, and sometimes, sometimes, the word bears an abundant harvest.

So, Jesus is not only saying to be good soil, to be open and receptive. Jesus is also saying, “Sow!”

Don’t worry about whether you think the soil you’re walking over is good or bad, receptive or not. Don’t be saving up seed for the places you think will be the most fertile. This seed is so precious, it must be shared, and there’s plenty more seed where that came from. Not every bit of fruitful sowing is going to happen in the tidy rows of our pews, although by God’s grace it can happen even there, for the Word of God brings the hope of a strong, enduring relationship with God and, through God, with all creation. God plants the seed of his Word because God is interested and cares for creation. We must be aware of the “signs of the times” and reflect on how God’s Word leads to hope and unity. We have God’s promise: The Word is fruitful and establishes the Kingdom of God.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-13Today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel comes after a discourse in which Jesus reproaches people who have witnessed his mighty deeds yet still lack belief. In this context, today’s Gospel explains the reason for this unbelief and reveals what is necessary for faith, and also continues to enhance our understanding of discipleship as last week’s Gospel did. Jesus prays aloud to God, in thanks for having hidden the purposes of what God is up to in Jesus from the wise and wonderful of his age. He then says something that has become so famous that you could be forgiven for not truly listening to what he says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We are all weary and heavy-laden. Each of us is dealing with something, or a whole litany of somethings. But Jesus is inviting us into something completely different. Jesus first names our spiritual state. This is an amazingly compassionate thing to do, to notice and name, to tell the truth of a situation. Sometimes it is enough simply to have someone notice our weariness and burdens. This noticing, without judgment or fixing, is a lesson in empathy for all of us. That might be the distinction between empathy and pity, by the way.

Then Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon ourselves. This is an interesting image that most of us might not understand. A yoke is for a donkey or other beast of burden. It is a collar that harnesses the animal for whatever work that the master wants the animal to do, like pulling a cart or ploughing a field. The yoke is a symbol of servitude and labour. But the yoke that Jesus is offering is easy and light.

What does this mean, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”? In our world and society, clever and never-ending marketing would have us believe that each and all of us are deficient in some way. Jesus and, God, accepts us precisely where and what we are with no exceptions. The world has become exceedingly sophisticated in laying heavy burdens upon us. The largest companies in the world deploy deeply effective psychological understandings on us to encourage us to feel that we must buy into some lifestyle to be the happiest or most authentic self we can. This has been captured most recently by the acronym “FOMO,” or “fear of missing out.”

Now the world is not some separate creation or arena of evil. The world, as the church has usually described it, is that which does not proclaim Christ as Lord, so it does not live by the light burdens of Jesus and instead heaps up heavier and heavier burdens.

Jesus does not expect or desire for us to take on more and more, his burdens are an unburdening. His work is a rest. What this looks like in a daily practice is a constant reminder that we are enough, we are sufficient. This is not some mere positive thinking, feel-good humanism. Our sufficiency with God is not about our own inherent goodness, though there may well be some inherent goodness in us, it is about God’s goodness and love and acceptance of us. So, we remind ourselves every day of God’s goodness and love.

And then, we can extend God’s love to those whom God presents us with each day. The yoke of Christ does not prevent all pain, or take away our sorrow and burdens. Rather, the yoke teaches us that these burdens can be shared, transformed, taken up into the heart of God, and returned to us as life. That’s the kind of yoke, too, that Jesus offers one that fits, one that promises strength and rest.

Jesus invites us today to wear that yoke the one he offers. It’s a yoke that promises strength. It’s a yoke that promises rest. It’s a yoke that promises life. Jesus offers us a yoke that fits. And, when we wear it, he promises to walk beside us every step of the way.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-1The conditions of discipleship outlined in Matthew’s Gospel underline for us a truth—choosing anything with one’s whole heart has consequences. Choosing life with Christ means that every relationship we have must be understood from a new perspective, and for many in Matthew’s community, this choice brought division to their family.

Matthew then outlines for his community and for us the reward of hospitality offered to Jesus’ followers. To welcome another in Jesus’ name is to extend hospitality to Jesus himself. We have many opportunities in our daily life to reach out to others, to be a welcoming presence and a sign of God’s love.

Just so we get this straight: whoever welcomes you welcomes Jesus, and whoever welcomes your friend or neighbour or family member or work colleague or mother-in-law or next-door neighbour and so on and so forth…welcomes God. The bottom line emphasis seems to be on inclusion, reciprocity, welcome and doing for others—all those things it takes to build up community, to include the stranger as neighbour. Jesus and the early disciples and later apostles put a high value on welcoming and proclaiming the presence of God.

So, just pause for a moment and think about what we’ve been hearing about today, division, exclusion, keeping people separated, kicking people out. Now there may be legitimate and compelling reasons to consider the economic impact or national safety issues in such things, but if an inhospitable, exclusive attitude goes along with these ideas, then they are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus who talked so very much about welcome, inclusion, hospitality.

Such an understanding of hospitality, of the obligation of welcome, dates to well before the time of Jesus. It was a matter of survival and community health which translated into the religious understanding of what God wants of us. Still today hospitality is a primary ethic of the cultures and peoples of the Middle East. Whether one is brought into a family home of Muslims, Christians or Jews, there is joy in welcoming, there is the belief that it is desired of God, the welcoming of strangers who are strangers no longer, but beloved friends, believing that in welcoming people into one’s home they are earning their crown in heaven, doing as God would have them do in welcoming the living God among us. Where and how do we experience such welcome today?

“Jesus said, ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’” Is this what we hear? Or do we hear, instead, words of separation, words of breaking relationship, words of opposition and repudiation?

So many of the ugly attitudes playing out on the world stage and in the evening news have spilled over into our popular culture, showing up in a variety of television shows with comments about the increase in bullying not only among children in our schools, but flowing out into our neighbourhoods, showing up in stepped-up immigration strictures among other things.

Where is our witness to welcoming others, and thereby welcoming Jesus and the one who sent him?

This Sunday comes just after the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul last Thursday and that is important to note. Think about Peter and Paul. They did not agree on many things, didn’t get along at all, and finally went their separate ways in the proclamation of the Gospel. Peter insisted that the early believers must follow Jewish ways, must be circumcised, must hold to the Law. Paul’s vision led him to distant lands proclaiming faith in a risen Christ and urging believers to conform their lives to that faith. What they had in common, though, was the conviction that God had visited humanity in Jesus, and that Jesus had brought something new and remarkable to humankind demonstrated in a way to live, a way to relate and a way to witness to God’s love. And they both understood that the welcome of God was an invitation to a place in God’s kingdom.

We may believe differently about the details of faith, as Peter and Paul certainly did and as Christians often do. But for us as Christians, the question of the day growing out of this gospel text asks: What does it mean to welcome, and how do we do that? What does it look like in our churches, in our neighbourhoods, in our national policies, in our very attitudes?

Jesus didn’t say that we must agree on everything, but he clearly told us to be welcoming. Like Peter and Paul, we won’t all agree on everything. And as we live our Christian faith in daily practice we are called to be welcoming, for in welcoming others we welcome God. As the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us, when we welcome strangers, we may be entertaining angels unaware.

 

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-1In today’s gospel, Jesus instructs his apostles about the cost of discipleship. Christianity just is not an easy life, he seems to say.

Our commitment to Christ will be put to the test. We will hear whispered warnings and denunciations, as Jeremiah does in today’s First Reading. Even so-called friends will try to trap and trip us up.

As Jeremiah tells us, we must expect that God will challenge our faith in Him, and probe our minds and hearts, to test the depths of our love.

This section of Matthew’s Gospel should be read in the context of Matthew’s intended audience, a Jewish-Christian community. The Gospel alludes to the dangers and persecutions that this community has most likely already faced and will continue to face. To reassure this community, Matthew recalls for them the encouraging words of Jesus that we read today. Do not fear death, for the forces of evil may kill the mortal body but they cannot kill the soul.

And that beautiful, poetic image: the sparrow, worth half a cent, is cared for and loved by God. Every sparrow. And every hair on your head. In this Gospel passage then, Jesus might be understood as putting suffering in perspective. The disciples of Jesus are called upon to keep their focus on God.

Jesus lays out two fundamental principles of Christianity: First, we are not spared from suffering, and, second, when we suffer God suffers along with us.

First, suffering: we may not be flogged before governors or hated by everyone—but we do struggle. We contract diseases, grieve the death of loved ones, lose jobs, and undergo a myriad of nasty experiences—some trivial, and some catastrophic.

And part of what Jesus seems to be saying in this passage—in his own exaggerated manner —is that we will most probably continue to suffer. The Christian life is not a magic fix to the woes of this mortal life.

If it were, we would not have the manifestation of any evil or hate in the world. Instead, everything would just be lovely.

Imagine: No mass murder of Coptic Christian children in Egypt. No Manchester or London bombings. No killings in Paris, Ferguson, Orlando. No war in Iraq or Afghanistan

And as beautiful a picture as that might be, it is a picture of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, what we hope and pray for, what Jesus came to earth to proclaim was coming, and—let’s face it—what is not yet here.

So how are we to live in this world where hate and violence are so rampant? We need the help of God.

And that’s the second point: our God is with us. “He shall be called Emmanuel, God with us”—remember that from Christmas? The promise made by Jesus is that we are not alone in our struggles. God is here, to comfort us, to help us through the difficult times, to show us the way when we don’t know where to turn, to help us when we cannot help ourselves—and certainly to rejoice with us in good times.

We will sometimes suffer in this mortal life, but God is with us—to comfort and guide us.

Perhaps we might think of these two things when we consider the many current controversies that we seem to be entwined in—in the church, in our nation, maybe even in our families and communities.

Voices on both sides of every issue want resolution—they want to be out of the struggle. And they seek to do this by legislative action, human edict, and having one winner—all based on contradictory interpretations of the same text or tenet.

But could it be that no less than our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ is calling us not to make an end to our struggle, but to be in the midst of it?

And could it be that, once we accept our place in the very midst of it, the Holy Spirit could show us the way forward?

That’s, at least, how Jesus seems to imagine it. Oh, we all have opinions of our own—make no mistake about that. But we must be interested in opposing views—hearing them and respecting them. We must not dare to presume that our view is the right view—or the only view.

We might not face the same type of persecution, but we do experience difficulties as we endeavour to live a Christian life. Sometimes we let the opinions of others prevent us from doing what we know to be right. We need the reminder that what God thinks about us is more important. And so, these readings are an encouragement to hold on, to take courage, to trust in God’s presence and care in our lives and in our struggles. God may not be able to take our pain away, or fix the wrongs we have done, our give us some magic answers to our search for direction in life. What these readings testify to, though, is that God is indeed there, gazing at us, looking on us with care and love. God’s eye is on the sparrow. We are reassured by the promise that God cares for us and protects us.

 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

THE MOST SACRED HEART OF JESUS

1-10What can we say about the Sacred Heart of Jesus? It’s a heart that overflows with the love of God. From this heart, which was pierced at Calvary, flows a torrent of grace — a crucified, merciful, burning, passionate love flowing out for you.

The love within Jesus’ heart is a crucified love because it gives everything and does not let even the deepest pain hold it back from loving. It’s a love that chooses willingly and joyfully to suffer for those whom Jesus loves. This is why most images show the Sacred Heart surmounted by a cross and surrounded by thorns. No pain, no suffering, was too much for Jesus to bear — because he wanted you to live with him.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus overflows with a merciful love. It is a never-ending fountain of mercy and forgiveness, and day after day, Jesus pleads with us to open the doors of our hearts to this mercy.

This is a heart that overflows with a burning love. Images usually depict flames of fire coming out of Jesus’ heart to symbolize the intensity of his love. This fire of divine love changes, transforms, and purifies everyone it touches. It can ignite a fire, empowering you to love Jesus in return and to go on to love others as he does. In the words of St Bonaventure: Let it transform you into the very image of Christ.

Finally, the Sacred Heart of Jesus overflows with a passionate love. Jesus wants to be with you, to embrace you in your joys and comfort you in your afflictions. Learn how to welcome this passionate love into your heart, and you will know an intensity and depth of love that you would have never before thought possible.

“Jesus, I adore your most Sacred Heart! By the power of your Spirit, ignite the fire of your love in me. Make my heart like your own — overflowing with crucified, merciful, burning, and passionate love for you and all your creatures.”

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a French nun, claimed to have received visions of Jesus Christ during the octave of Corpus Christi, 1675. Jesus told her, “Behold this heart that has loved men so much, and has been loved so little in return,” and asked Margaret Mary for a feast of reparation on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi. Margaret Mary reported everything she saw to Fr. de la Colombière, superior of the small Jesuit house at Paray. He acknowledged the vision as an action of the Spirit of God, and directed her to write an account of the apparition. He also made use of every available opportunity to circulate this account through France and England.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST

1-5“Blessed, praised, and adored be our Lord Jesus Christ on his throne in glory and in the most Holy Sacrament of the altar.” So, goes a prayer said by some priests when they return to the sacristy after a Eucharist.

Today we celebrate “The Body and Blood of Christ”, or “Corpus Christi”. It’s a feast added to the calendar in the 13th century to celebrate the institution of the Eucharist outside Holy Week. Maundy Thursday, of course, celebrates the institution of the Eucharist, but there’s so much going on otherwise that day that it was felt we needed another occasion to commemorate this event and in a more festive way than is possible in the shadows of the Passion. On this day, we acknowledge and celebrate the meaning of the Holy Eucharist wherein we are spiritually fed by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the forms of consecrated bread and wine, and fed also by the prayers of the whole Church.

All the Post Communion prayers that we use during the year recognize the importance that the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist has for us, that points up that importance in ways that go beyond our daily spiritual nourishment to touch on the higher dimensions of what takes place when we have participated in this Holy Sacrament. There is a prayer I say after Mass that goes, God of abundance, you have fed us with the bread of life and cup of salvation; you have united us with Christ and one another; and you have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth. Now send us forth in the power of your Spirit, that we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world and continue for ever in the risen life of Christ our Saviour. Amen

When I was in seminary some years ago one of the questions on a mid-term examination for Liturgy class was to “write briefly what participation in the Holy Eucharist meant to you.”

My answer to that question was that “when I participate in the Eucharist, especially now of receiving Communion, whether I feel it or not, I am united with Christ and with all of God’s people in heaven and on earth.” A few years ago, when I prayed a prayer for Corpus Christi that began “God of abundance”, and said the words, “you have fed us with the bread of life and cup of salvation; you have united us with Christ and one another; and you have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth,” I was struck with a strong recollection of that examination and the answer I had written to the question about what participation in the Holy Eucharist means to me.

Although I would have agreed with the truth conveyed by the final sentence of the prayer; “now send us forth in the power of your Spirit, that we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world and continue forever in the risen life of Christ our Saviour;” at the time of that examination I would not have felt that truth with the conviction that it now holds for me.

What undergirds and validates those truths that I hold concerning the Holy Eucharist is my conviction that our Lord Jesus Christ is really and truly present both in the sacramental elements of the consecrated Bread and Wine, and in the efficacy of the prayers that we offer when we gather to celebrate our Lord’s presence with us in this Blessed Sacrament.

Many years ago, I read in a book about the Anglican Church in the era of the first Queen Elizabeth a statement purported to have been made by that Queen about her own belief in the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. “Christ was the Word who spake it, he took the bread and brake it, and what that Word did make it, I do believe and take it.” This is in reference to Jesus’ words, “This is my body, this is my blood; take them in remembrance of me.” This I do take and believe with my whole heart.

This is the mystery that is at the heart of our Eucharistic theology. In the elements of bread and wine, Jesus’ Body and Blood are truly present. When we share in the Body and Blood of Christ, Jesus himself comes to dwell within us. We are made one flesh with Christ. We have His life in us and have our life because of Him. This is what Paul means in today’s Epistle when He calls the Eucharist a “participation” in Christ’s body and blood. We become in this sacrament partakers of the divine nature. This communion with the Lord makes us one body, brings us eternal life, and sends us forth to be Christ’s Body in the world.

The Body and Blood of Christ in heaven, in the consecrated bread and wine and in human hearts is one and the same. We expose our blindness when we perform reverences before altars, tabernacles, monstrances and such and fail to see and honour Christ present in our neighbour. The same reverence is due them. And didn’t Christ himself on that last night also genuflect before them and wash their feet?

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2017 in Uncategorized