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Church Pew

Breaking Open the Word

The Gospel of Matthew concludes with these words of Jesus, “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 all I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”. This language clearly points us towards the distinction of three separate persons in the Holy Trinity. So, how do we reconcile this notion of three distinct persons, but one God.

There is not an easy answer. As a visual person, I found the wood-carving pictured below, of the Holy Family, from the Holy Land as a means to illustrate the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.

If one observes it from the front, the three distinct persons of Mary, Joseph and Jesus are clearly visible. Yet, these three persons seem to be shrouded by something, they seem to dwell within this “presence.”

However, if you view the Holy Family sculpture from the rear, the three distinct persons in front enter into full union with one another. They seamlessly become one. This oneness manifests itself in a “presence” that is all-encompassing and envelopes the three distinct persons of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. 
 
Perhaps today we are simply invited to reflect upon the mystery of God; to seek to know Him in our willingness to encounter him through our intellect, our heart and our body; and invited to gaze upon him from different prospectives.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
May 26, 2024

The entirety of this week’s gospel calls us to great discussion as to its meaning.  Is it representative, or actual?  Is there symbolism or a genuine plan underway?  Consider the question the disciples ask Jesus: Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  The easy answer would have been something like “Go into town.  Go to the fourth house on the left.  Knock on the door and tell them we are celebrating there.”  

That is not what Jesus does though.  His answer involved finding a man carrying a jar…almost as if Jesus is trying to be secretive…or does Jesus have a supernatural knowledge?  It may be very reasonable that Jesus was trying to withhold from Judas where the Passover meal was to take place.  In that way, Judas could not hatch his treacherous plan before instituting the Eucharist.

We then get into the discourse that is probably the most argumentative words among Christians the last 50 years…”Take it; this is my body…This is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many…”  And yet, these words reveal to us exactly who Jesus is and His intent to share Himself with us in a very personal way.  
At Passover, the Jews killed the sacrificial lamb but it was the priest who received the blood and then shared it over and over with neighbors.  Jesus is telling His disciples, including Judas, the He is the new covenant.  The old covenant is not abolished, but rather, Jesus is fulfilling the old.  This bread is the sacrificial lamb, this blood is the blood of the new covenant.  

Jesus establishes Himself as the priest, our chief priest.  It was the priest who was responsible for blessing the food and sharing it.  We see in our gospel that before Jesus spoke the words noted above, He blessed the food.  He could only do that without an argument from others if He was recognized as the priest.
Finally, they sang a hymn before going to the Mount of Olives – a hymn would have been sung after the Paschal meal….this meal was a celebration of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb.

Corpus Christi
June 2, 2024

As Jesus went about doing good and proclaiming the nearness of the reign of God, some of His closest contemporaries thought He was out of His mind (Mark 3:21). Although they remained sympathetic to Him, Jesus’ family was hard pressed to understand how He had chosen to live His life. He had left His home at Nazareth along with the carpenter business He had probably inherited. In their eyes, He had thrown away security and safety and chosen a path on a collision course with the civil and religious authorities of His time.

Others, less sympathetic to Jesus, accused Him of being possessed by a demon. Still others made an even more heinous charge, one which Jesus called the unforgivable sin, to attribute the power of the goodness and love at work in Jesus to Satan.  The trouble with blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is that it is a perversion of mind which chooses to call light darkness. Persistence in this perversion makes a us resistant to any repentance and closes us off to God’s forgiveness. However, this sin need not be fatal; repentance and forgiveness are always offered by God.

The story of the fall returns us to the fact that human beings have been created as free agents by God. Instructed in the ways of goodness, men and women are nevertheless capable of rejecting it in favor of their own willful and proud desires.

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 9, 2024

Today in Mark’s Gospel Jesus tells two parables. Notice how they are woven together so perfectly. In the first story, He describes how plants grow. He says this is how it is in the Kingdom of God. There is a farmer who plants the seed for grain, but then creation takes over and it grows without the man even knowing how, until it is ripe for the harvest. Only then it’s now time for the farmer to do his work. Then in the next parable, set up from the last story, He asks how can we can compare the Kingdom of God. He is describing the size of the growth. 

The passage as a whole emphasizes the hiddenness and smallness of the quiet beginnings of the kingdom and also underscores the sense in which the sower does not make the kingdom happen by force of will; indeed the sower of the parable doesn’t even water or weed! The sower just sows and then sleeps and rises night and day, and the earth produces of itself, and the mustard plant puts forth its large branches. And inevitably, as day follows night, God’s hidden, mysterious work in the natural world and in us will be fruitful. This shows us that Jesus knew His Kingdom would start only with His little team of followers, but would grow to the ends of the earth.

We know from the earlier parable that some seed like the Word of God will fall on deaf ears and into rocks and among thorns and will not be fruitful, but in this image as in the earlier one we are encouraged not to dwell too much on that. We cannot control what happens after the word is sown. We just sow it. Only that. The sower here just sows and waits in peaceful trust. 

In the telling of these two parables, notice how Jesus makes direct quotes from scripture. He knew how His Church would grow. He loved His Church so much that He gave His life for it. In John 12:24 He stated- “Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies it produces much fruit.”

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 16, 2024

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