In the breaking of the bread

And Jesus was known in the breaking of the bread.  The Gospel reading last Sunday comes from Luke and talks about how the disciples were slow to believe that Christ had risen.  They were so focused on what was going on in their lives that they didn’t even recognize Christ when he walked with them to Emmaus.  It was only after He had blessed and broken bread (in the same manner he had done just a few days earlier at the Last Supper) that they realized He was with them.  It was in the breaking of the bread that they realized Christ was still within their midst.

In the mass we have every Monday night as a JVC community with Padre Oscar (in English) we reread the Gospel from Sunday, because Padre thinks it has such a powerful message.  It stops you and makes you think about where Christ is found.  A quick side note: for the homily in these masses Padre usually gives us a few thoughts and then asks us for how we feel or think so it normally becomes a discussion of the Gospel instead of a homily, and therefore some of these thoughts may be co-opted from my community mates.   Before He died Jesus told the disciples that He would rise, that he would be with them again in this world and the next.  But they were slow to believe, as they were most of the time.  It’s amazing how dense the disciples could be at times.  For us, how many times during the day do we come face to face with Christ, but can’t or don’t see Him?  We are all called to be Christ-like and we know that Christ works though us, so why are we slow to recognize all the ways in which Christ talks to us in our day-to-day?  He is in the child who runs into the comedor to hug me, or in the community mate who sparks a change in thinking, or in the mother who comes to ask us for medication because her child is ill.  Christ is in everyone and everything, but we often fail to recognize Him.  We become so wrapped up, like the disciples, with what we can see/hear/feel that we fail to acknowledge the risen Christ in the physical world we inhabit.

But I think Jesus knew all this.  He know how dense his disciples could be, he knew that if they could deny him while he was alive as Peter did three times, that they would have a hard time recognizing Him in the world after the resurrection.  I think for this he left us tools to remember His gift to the world.  And as is pertinent to this gospel reading, the breaking of the bread is a wonderful celebration left for us so that we may come to know Christ better in the breaking of the break.  “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. (Lk 22:19) ”  In this action we are remembering Christ, and in this action we recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread.  We celebrate the Eucharist every day all over the world, but often we forget this global community as we leave mass.  We just finished celebrating the breaking of the bread in the manner in which Jesus showed us, but we forget that it is in this breaking of bread He is known.  We leave this recognition in church, and forget that the Eucharist is not the only way Jesus reveals Himself.  While the breaking of the bread can be the “ah-ha” moment of duh, this is Jesus, we must remember that He is walking with us along the camino of life; He is with us in everyone we interact with, in everything that we do, in all that we are.

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Advent…

The front half is a bit of reflection on my part while the back half looks at the traditions of Christmas that I´m beginning to see.

Advent began yesterday which means that a new liturgical year has begun.  Hard to believe that its been a year has passed.  But the beginning of this new year is not about looking back at the year that was as we usually do with the end of the calendar year.  While there is bit reflection, it goes a bit further back than the past 365 days and is focused on the birth of Christ…he was born as we all were (although not the virgin bit).  He lived a life like we live (mortal) and he died as we all will.  So instead we begin this year looking forward in preparation of what is to come in the birth of Christ.  And while looking forward to the birth of Christ, we can´t forget to live in the present moment.  We must call to mind the meaning of Christ´s teachings, and how that looks in our day-to-day lives.

Yesterday I went to mass in this large church that was packed with people.  It wasn´t the mass I have been going to because I am now living with my host family.  The church is literally right outside their front door.  It was very different from the Jesuit mass I´ve been going to over the last few weeks.  The Jesuits just have a different feel to their masses some how.  This mass I went to though was cool.  They handed out the readings before hand so that you could follow along, and before each reading someone got up to explain the importance of the reading or author or book that the reading comes from.   Very useful for me given that I´m still working on my language skills.

The homily though had some very Jesuit tendencies, namely that it was packed full of insights both into the texts and into life…although a bit longer winded than most Jesuits I know.  As we look to the birth of Christ we must not forget to prepare for that birth.  What does this mean?  How do you prepare for something that already happened?  Christ left us teachings for how to prepare for this occasion, and I would even say that more than preparing for His birth we are preparing for His Kingdom which is to come.  The preparation I speak of (or the priest spoke of) must then come from a remembering of His teachings and a living out of those teachings.  While there are some outward signs that one is preparing for the Nativity, and here the priest pointed to some of the more obvious ones and also the more commercial like the Christmas tree, lights on the house, etc, the more important signs of preparation can be seen in how one lives his/her life….more thoughts to come.  Cara´s mom sent us a daily advent reflection book so I´ll keep you posted.

 

Some Christmas things Tacna style:

  1. All the advertising here includes people bundled up and with snow…even though its Summer!  (seems like the US has exported X-mas too)
  2. They also drink hot chocolate.  (still summer)  But the hot chocolate is not the same as the US.  They use butter or oil in it in addition to chocolate.
  3. Advent wreaths are also a big deal…everyone brought their wreath to mass on Sunday to have it blessed.  My family´s wreath sits on the dinner table.
  4. Paneton (fruit cake) is HUGE!  They love the fruit cake.
  5. Christmas presents are opened at midnight on Christmas Eve and I believe then followed by dinner around 1am.  My family will go to mass at 10pm.
  6. …more tidbits as I come across them.

The Invitation

I went to a different kind of church yesterday.  Elevation Church is a form of “mega church” or “pop church” that sprang up in Charlotte a few years ago and has seen tremendous growth in membership.  This was my second time attending, and the experience makes me think about what going to church actually means.  There is no doubt in my mind that the worship experience at Elevation is one that makes people think about Christ in their lives, and I’ll seek to explain more about this church experience at a later date.

Yesterday’s message from Pastor Furtick was about accepting the invitation to the banquet that Christ has prepared for us.  He started with the parable of the banquet found in Luke 14:16-24:

16But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many;17and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’

18“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’

19“Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’

20“Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’

21“And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’

22“And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’

23“And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.

24‘For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.'”

(NAB from biblegateway.com)

So how does one go about accepting Christ in his or her life?  The first step is to not make excuses.  As the parable shows there are three who are initially invited to the banquet.  But each one has an excuse.  The first must inspect his field which he has recently purchased, the second must try out some new oxen, and the third simply has a wife which he must attend to.   Pastor Furtick went on to examine the excuses more closely.  To the first Pastor Furtick questions, “Who buys a field before inspecting it?”  To the second, a similar question of “who purchases oxen (or car) before taking them/it for a test drive?”  And to the third, he simply questioned the priority of relationships in the man’s life.

Translating this to modern times in a way that people, and especially students, could relate to, Pastor Furtick illuminated the problems as such: materialism, excessive busyness/caught up in responsibilities, and disordered priorities of relationships.

Many people today have replaced God with things.  We strive to have the newest, the best, the most expensive things because we believe these things can bring us happiness or security.  While  in actuality the only thing that can truly bring us happiness and security is living a life in the footsteps of Christ.  When we give ourselves over to a greater cause, a greater movement than ourselves, we humble ourselves before God and appreciate the gift of life He/She gave to us.

Excessive busyness is something all of us can relate to.  Who doesn’t have a million things that they could be doing?  I know that even when I don’t have a million things that I could be doing, I am searching for things to do.  I constantly have too much on my plate.  Does this detract from my relationship with Christ?  Most certainly.  One of the goals I set for myself coming out of JVC orientation was to be more deliberate in my prayer life.  Try to incorporate the morning and evening prayer times that we had at orientation into my “real” life back in Charlotte.  It is something that I have failed to do with any consistency.   A lot of the blame can rest on me being caught up in responsibilities or being excessively busy.   Some can rest on slothfulness too.

Finally disordered relationships.  The man whom Jesus invited to the banquet had a wife to attend to.  He could not come because his wife was more important.  Who in your life comes before Christ?  Shouldn’t the woman that you marry help you come closer to the Kingdom?  If the wife you have chosen takes you away from Christ, then maybe she isn’t the woman you should marry?  How many of us place relationships in our lives ahead of our relationship with Christ, with Church, with God?  We do a lot of things to please other people.  We seek acceptance from our peers, and we just want to be liked.  But at what expense?

In sum, what is blocking you from accepting the invitation to the banquet of the the Kingdom?

This whole idea awakened in me a quote from Thomas Merton that I sat on for a while back in 2008…in talking about “atheists” Thomas Merton writes in The Seven Storey Mountain:

In a certain sense, these people have a better appreciation of the Church and of Catholicism than many Catholics have: an appreciation which is detached and intellectual and objective.  But they never come into the Church.  They stand and starve in the doors of the banquet–the banquet to which they surely realize that they are invited–while those more poor, more stupid, less gifted, less educated, sometimes even less virtuous than they, enter in and are filled at those tremendous tables.

The idea of knowing the Church, knowing Catholicism (or Christianity), in such a way that I know how it works, but not why it works was on my mind for one reason or another.  I would feel confident stating that I know  more than most Catholics about the Catholic Church.   But in no way could I say the same thing about God/Jesus.  Especially two years ago when I was most decidedly on the outside looking in.  I was seeking that intellectual understanding of Faith, something I thought I could find through academics.  And indeed I did to some degree.  But it wasn’t until I accepted the invitation into the Church that I began to more fully understand what C/church actually is, what relationship with Christ actually is, what it means to follow Christ, and a whole lot more.  When you move beyond the academics, and into the reality lived, your understanding evolves in such a personal way.

Christ has a spot at the table for all of us.  Verse 22 from above says, “Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.”  Even after the invitations have been sent there is still more room.  And this continues to be true.  There is always room.  Something that the atheists Merton speaks of undoubtedly know but do not believe.  The invitation to God’s table is a standing invite.  And as I am slowly discovering, there is more to learn from inside the banquet hall (church) than from outside.  Eventually the intellectual atheists run out of room for discovery, and the only next step for them to continue learning about God is to accept the invitation.

Will you accept the invitation?

The Narrow Way

I went to the 5pm mass today downtown at St. Peter’s.  The Gospel for today was Luke 13:22-30 discussing the need to strive towards the “narrow gate.”  And the likelihood that most who strive towards the narrow gate will fail.  A difficult Gospel to preach on for sure as the priest acknowledged at the start of his homily.  The homily was a little long, the voice a little monotonous, the Church a little warm, but the questions asked were great: Do we make the narrow way narrow?  Is the way actually quite wide, and we make it narrow by adding to our own bulk?

We are called by Jesus to drop what we are doing and follow him.  Just as Simon was called to be a fisher of men (and thus in doing so, not a fisher of fish), we are called to follow Christ in such a way that we are the fishers of men.  Luke 5:11, the tail end of the Call of the First Disciples, says “And when they had brought their boats to land, the left everything and followed him. ”  The priest today highlighted the need for us to seek the narrow way by shedding our outer layers.  Only when we have let go of our fears, and our wants, and our insecurities and we truly be followers of Christ, can we truly find this narrow way that Christ speaks of.
In making his point the priest referenced a Charlie Brown cartoon (which sadly my quick google searches could not find) in which Charlie is excited for to play in the snow.  But before he goes out into the weather he bundles up.  Charlie being Charlie over prepares for the snow and cannot fit through the door frame due to the excessive amounts of clothing he is wearing.  This rightly frustrates Charlie’s attempts at playing in the snow.

Like Charlie, we must in seeking the narrow way shed some (if not all) outer layers down to the individual we were when we were created in God’s image.

And to go along with this…Check out “Lead me Lord” on the right hand side of LAG’s Facebook page…”Lead me Lord by the Light of Truth to seek and find the narrow way…”