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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

August 16, 2009

Did you notice the constant, intensifying focus on the Eucharist in these last four Sunday readings? We have seen a deepening of the meaning of God’s nourishment through the person of Jesus in light of the Old Testament traditions. This week, we see the Eucharist set against the memory of Lady Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs who helps to give a more complete understanding of the person of Jesus to the Jews.

Lady Wisdom lavishly spreads her table and invites those who are pure of heart to come to her house to partake of the great feast and to relish in the understanding that wisdom brings because it results in life for the people. She says to choose the path that will advance your understanding and you will experience the goodness of life. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians underscores the saving significance of wisdom as it aids a person in discovering the will of the Lord and in living a full life replete with gratitude. A wise person can separate the wine of debauchery from the good wine that Jesus introduces as blood that gives life to his flesh and body.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus has strong parallels with Lady Wisdom, which is especially noticeable in John’s Prologue (1:1-18.) After setting his own feast of loaves and fishes as the Good Shepherd, Jesus now declares that his table is the one that brings the faithful ones to eternal life, but one must be able to access God’s wisdom in order to comprehend the mystery that Jesus is unfolding before them, and yet, if one does not have wisdom, it can be found through eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus. For many, this is a very difficult reality – a condemnatory cannibalistic act - to accept.

He restates that he is (a further “I am” statement that infers God’s name) the living bread that came down from heaven and like Lady Wisdom, he is the source of life and has power over eternal life. This is true communion with God, “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,” and “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day.”

I sometimes invite people to “crunch and munch” when they receive the Body and Blood of Christ because I ask them to knowingly and actively participate in this saving action. I ask them to chew on the Body of the Lord and to drink, not merely sip, the Blood that saves us. Let us approach our Eucharist as one who seeks wisdom that comes from God. It is in this spirit that we can “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Munch away. It is for your own salvation.

Quote for the Week

Here are three quotes from Bernard of Clairvaux:

On Love - “Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit; it is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. I love because I love; I love in order that I may love.”

On Faith - “I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind.”

On Humility - “It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Once the people settle into the Promised Land and become comfortable, they turn from the Lord and worship invoking the anger of the Lord, but the Lord takes pity on the people whenever they select a righteous judge who mercifully leads them. While Gideon was at work to preserve food and wine against the Midianites who threatened to conquer them, he is visited by an angel of the Lord that asks him to help save the people from the Midianite army. As wars rage, the remaining cities fall to the Israelites. As the reign of the judges continued, a foreigner, Ruth, gratefully marries Boaz for his great kindness to her. Boaz is moved upon hearing about Ruth’s compassion to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed who is the father of Jesse who is the father of King David.

As we continue in Matthew, Jesus continues speaking about the Kingdom of Heaven and people realize that it will be difficult to enter, but the Kingdom is also governed by God’s generosity and merciful justice – a different standard than the one we use. We have to choose well. Our actions in this life are very important to God. We must be properly prepared and well-disposed to meet him. We are to deepen our relationship with the Lord so that he can be our compass. Once we find our true north, we can easily orient all of our actions in conformity to his will.

Saints of the Week

On Wednesday, John Eudes, an Oratorian, is remembered for founding the Congregation of Jesus and Mary that is dedicated to the intellectual education of the clergy. He was instrumental in forming the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity and the Religious of the Good Shepherds in Canada.

Thursday is the memorial of Bernard, Doctor of the Church and Abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Citeaux and Clairvaux of strict observance. He became known across Europe for his mystical and theological writings. He preached well and wrote many letters and scriptural commentaries.

Pope Pius X is honored on Friday for his service to the church in encouraging frequent communion for adults in the early part of the 20th century. He also advocated for strong sacramental preparation for children and solid instruction in catechism for both adults and children. In the period prior to Vatican II, reading the bible and daily communion was not yet encouraged for the faithful laity.

On Saturday, we conclude the weeklong octave to Mary in the feast that celebrates the The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast was instituted by Pius XII in 1954 to venerate the maternal rule of Mary over the church in heaven and on earth.

Book Recommendations

I would like to suggest a series of booklets that might make you roll your eyes at first blush. They are the Elf-help series by Abbey Press and each booklet is approximately 40 pages with short one-line suggestions about dealing with some of life’s challenges. While it may seem childlike, the insights are both basic and profound and they deserve some contemplation so that we can each do our inner work. The works are only $4.00 or $5.00 each and they contain items like: dealing with grief, coping with pain, dealing with difficulty people, expressing your anger well, reducing stress, living one day at a time, healing from abuse, self-esteem therapy, acceptance therapy, forgiveness therapy, believe in yourself therapy and many other helpful practices. These are not self-help books, but books on prayer that help to foster awareness. Take a look at one and read it slowly. They are good aids for both adults and youngsters.

Light-hearted Movie Recommendation

Julie and Julia is a splendid movie about the joys of eating. Julia Child is a woman of the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises – she enjoys life and always finds the blessings in whatever challenge she faces. The story is based on an account of a blogger, Julie, who decides to cook over 500 recipes from Julia Child’s cookbook in a year, but the real story is that Julie comes to know Julia through reading the recipe instructions and watching her television show. Julia unknowingly helps Julie get through the difficult times of her life. One caution: Don’t go experience this movie on an empty stomach.

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