Thursday, August 16, 2012

"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

This week we come to the climax of John 6. Next week we’ll consider the disciples' suggestion that Jesus “tone down” His teaching. That’s the conclusion. This Sunday, August 19, 2012, though, Jesus confronts us with the necessity of the Eucharist for salvation. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

As you know, this is the fourth of five Sundays devoted to the Sixth Chapter of John, the discourse on the Bread of Life. This week’s Gospel reading gets right to the heart of its Eucharistic message. Jesus says, “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood you will not have life within you.”

His Flesh to Eat?

The Gospel relates that when Jesus taught the crowd that his very flesh is the true bread that has come down from heaven, the Jews argued among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB draws us further into the discussion. Was Jesus advocating pure cannibalism with such vivid imagery and language? Some followers even leave Him because they cannot accept this teaching. To make matters most, Jesus did not offer any explanation when they asked him for one.

Father Cusick says there are many who also murmur today in protest, who quarrel amongst themselves and who dispute against Christ and the truth which he teaches for our salvation. Many live in ignorance of this greatest gift of God to mankind, the fruit of the sacrifice of Calvary. But, Fr. Phil Bloom reminds us that in no uncertain terms, Jesus tells what we must do to have His life in us: To eat of His Sacred Body and to drink of His Precious Blood.

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio tells us that Jesus did not come to make us decent, law-abiding citizens. He does not want us just to exist. He wants us to live, to be bursting with vitality, even with divine life. And so this Sunday, brothers and sisters, let nothing separate us from Him in the Eucharist. Jesus is the Way, the way is the Truth, and the Truth is Life-giving. As Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS explains, it is our Lord alone who can lead us through the valley of the shadow of death into the joys of eternal life

The Sacrament of His Real Presence

There are some people who reduce this sacrament to a meal of fellowship. There are some people who equate the sacrament of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church with meals of fellowship in some non Catholic churches. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says these actions are not the same. For us, the Eucharist is Jesus Christ who gives us ultimate food and drink. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says it is actually the most simple gift of all: bread that is His body and drink that is His blood poured out for us. And, Fr. James Gilhooley adds, it is not He who needs us. It is we who need Him.

We need to calm down and receive peacefully this body and blood of Christ into our own fleshly selves. When we receive communion we enter into the mystical. In fact, the earliest word to explain the action of the Eucharist was the mysterium, the mystery, the mystical. When we receive Communion or come to adoration, we come before the dynamic, powerful Presence who speaks to us through the life He has given us. The marvelous paradox of our Eucharistic relationship with Jesus, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino explains, is that the more we have Him, the hungrier we are for Him. We can’t get enough of Him. We never will until we are fully united to Him in heaven.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains that Love is the key to the wisdom that Jesus revealed. And the gospels tell us that we are “inside” or “outside” the true circle of love, depending upon whether or not we grasp this wisdom. Being in the state of grace means making that decision to put God first. For sure one can fall from a state of grace, Fr. Phil Bloom points out. For example, by choosing not to attend Sunday Mass or commiting some other grave sin. In that case we need sacramental confession before we receive Jesus in Communion. In line with this, we ask you to explore our Burning Question for the week: Who can receive Communion?

Our Eternal Union With the Father Through Jesus

Jesus comes for a purpose: our redemption, our eternal union with the Father through Jesus. To attain that union, we must receive Jesus in a physical form. Because He is the Son of God, this bread of life is truly life-giving in the full sense of eternal life. Fr. Omer Prieto explains it is what allows us to enter into that flow of life that courses between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And to the extent that this happens, through our commitment to God's unselfish way of loving, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says our eternal life will be assured. This is the Eucharist as seen through the eyes of faith.

When we look at the Body of Christ before receiving it in Communion, it is hard for us to see Christ in it. But when other people look at us after we have received the Body of Christ we sometimes act as though we had not received it. We have taken it for granted, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS points out. What we see in the Eucharist, the goodness and joy of life and the pains and shortcomings of that same life, is the same tension that we need to hold up each day within our ordinary lives. The challenge, Fr. Ron Rolheiser points out, is just how do we do that?

The Assumption and Marian Teachings

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 was the feast day of the Assumption of Mary. Msgr. Charles Pope notes that this feast do not simply celebrate something about Mary herself, but also what God, who is mighty, does for her, and how, to a large degree we, will come to share in the blessings she receives. For as Mary is taken up body and soul, so shall we one day be taken up, not in soul only, but in body too.

Catholic convert Brianna Heldt laments that anytime a Protestant friend asks what her primary obstacles were to becoming Catholic, Mary inevitably comes up. Some of the Catholic doctrine on this subject is difficult. And yet what was initially an obstacle to her conversion eventually became a joy for her to embrace.

Eventually we learn to understand that Mary is, of course, not equal to Christ. Jesus, though possessing a complete human nature, is the Eternal Word made flesh. Mary is only a creature. But she is a unique creature.And as Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains, she is the highest of all creatures. This is not just because she was born without the handicap of original sin. Eve and Adam were born free of sin as well, but it did not stop them from sinning as soon as they had the chance. Mary instead chose, with the help of God’s grace, to preserve her God-given purity throughout the whole of her life.

Freedom & the Dignity of Work

Nothing offers a fuller sense of satisfaction than a task well-performed. It doesn’t matter if that task is washing the kitchen floor or guiding a classroom of middle school students towards a lesson’s objective. Inherent in who we are as humans, as Blessed John Paul points out, is the need for a person to contribute to his or her family or neighborhood or culture in a discernable way. Cheryl Dickow says this is what separates us from the animals but also is what gives us dignity. Work is an opportunity to unite with God and give glory and honor to His kingdom.

Denise Bossert is one who celebrates the miracle of going to work. She reports that when her non-sacramental marriage ended, she wanted to go to sleep for about a decade and wake up with a different life. But her Dad quickly dragged her away to get her substitute teaching license. Now she realizes that Work was good therapy. Dad knew it was true. Even the Church knows it’s true. There is a dignity in work. It restores hope, it gets us dreaming again. It helps us to pinpoint our strengths. It can even become a prayer. Thus we hold the unemployed and the underemployed in our hearts as we pray for work security.

And once again, we go back to the topic of religious freedom. Randall Smith wonders aloud why it is that “freedom” for most "tolerant" people is always freedom from Catholicism? As an example, he recalls announcing to his own parents that he was going to become Catholic and how scandalized and upset they were. And this from two people who had always insisted that, “Any way is right if it’s right for you.” Any way was “right,” as it turned out, as long as it wasn’t the Catholic way.

Bible, Prayer and The Body of Christ

Sherry of writes about stumbling across this great quote from Mother Teresa: "Jesus will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your weakness. Only then, his hand will be free with you." If this is true, it may be one explanation for the fact that relatively little fruit is manifested in our parishes where only 48% are certain that you can have a relationship with a personal God. That has to be one of the big contributors to our communal tepidness and powerlessness.

Is everything in the Bible historical? What do the teachings of Jesus reveal? Jimmy Akin writes that everything in the Bible is historical in the sense that it was written in historical times. So the biblical books are historical documents in that sense. But what about the content of the biblical books? If you open up the Bible to a random passage, does that mean what you are reading is automatically history? Absolutely not, he explains. Meanwhile Dan Burke explores how we can move from saying our prayers to praying our prayers. And Randy Hain talks about Catholic men and the responsibility they ahve to be strong fathers and husbands, leaders in our parishes, good stewards in the community and humble followers of Christ. He shares his "Seven-Point Checklist for Catholic Dads."

Cheryl Dickow shares how ironic it is that, as a Catholic, the most difficult part of having a chronic health issue isn’t the health issue itself. But rather, it is this big question: Should I pray for healing…or should I carry my cross? She says it is that question that often keeps us spiraling through a journey that is already burdensome and often overwhelming. Related to this, Judith Costello shares the story of a friend who was visiting last week after stopping to see an old friend. She watched in awe as this friend and her husband brought their friend to Church. It took them 20 minutes to get her in and out of Church because the friend is severely handicapped. It was such a sweet action and it made her think, “This is what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ.”

College Success, the "Dark Knight" & the Cinematic Christ

For those who have ears to hear, we share the list of what we deem to be the most essential ways to thrive at college. Incidentally, thisnis presented from a Catholic perspective, so some of these may need to be adjusted according to your own frame of reference.

And finally, Rev. Robert Barron tackles Batman. He says in one way or another, all religions deal with the problem of evil, both how to explain it and how to solve it. He notes that the solution to suffering proposed by the film "The Dark Knight rises" is not a shift in consciousness, not the extinction of desire, not the correct following of the law, and not a direct confrontation with evil. It is, instead, a heroic act of love on the part of a savior willing to take upon himself the dysfunction that he fights. This he says makes Batman, unavoidably, an icon of Christ.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Who can receive Communion?
FEATURED BLOG: Seven Point Checklist for Catholic Dads
PASTORAL HISPANA: La Eucaristia es prenda de la gloria futura

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