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Once I began to grasp what salvation is…i was changed.
If we were asked ‘What gift from God are we most grateful for?” The answer is..?
I think the answers for kids might be –parents, pets, toys, maybe few enlightened ones love,life And for us Adults–spouse, children, friends, life, love..maybe few enlightened ones faith, salvation.
Not bad answers, none particularly wrong, but none completely accurate either.
What is the gift that God gives to us, freely, generously? The gift that Jesus reveals?
St. Athanasius said it best… God became a human, so that we can be God. God’s will is that we become as God. God’s great gift to all humanity is divinity.
Now we are not to be gods, we are not called to be our own little gods of our own little planets, with others subject to us.
We are given the gift to become one with the ONE God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are given the pledge of being incorporated into the divine family; children of God.
We signify this in the Eucharist… God’s covenant made real in the word proclaimed, in the people gathered, and in the bread and wine that become the very body and blood of Christ.
And Jesus revealed this, and revealed the nature of God so that we can know how or what we are to become.
God is Love, God is free, God is unity and harmony. God is compassion. God is healing. Above all God is the one who gave of God’s self; As the Father sent the Son into the world to save the world; as the Son of God gave of himself to become a human person; as Jesus Christ gave of himself into union with all, even unto death.
Jesus also shows us that this gift is not just something we receive after we die, nor is it a gift that is earned. NO! The GOOD NEWS is that we have this gift now! We can, and in fact, must use this gift now!
Look what Jesus did…he cured, he healed, he forgave, all showing how the Love of God is breaking forth, showing the power of the divinity. He showed how the power of God is a reality in the world at this moment, in time and space.
The Supreme revelation of this is the cross and resurrection…that God’s love is more powerful than our own sinfulness. That we cannot deny God’s love, nor can we kill it.
God’s love is real and present, and is ours to have.
What the Gospel of today is challenging us it to make use of that gift that is ours. To live as children of God in the world today…to be free, to be unified and in harmony, to be compassionate, to be love.
I think that for too long, we just assumed our salvation is something that we get once we have died…that it is our eternal reward for dutifully fulfilling our obligations. What a waste of a precious gift…burying it in the dirt.
Jesus is teaching us in the gospel is that the more we use this gift now.. the more we come to know and experience the nature of God, who God is, the more come to know and experience true and full LIFE.
So that yes, when we do die in the future, it becomes natural for us to be assumed into the divine life.
But in the mean time….if we want to be free as God is free, we have to practice that freedom.
That means we forgive others. There is no greater freedom then releasing and being released from the bonds of anger and hate.
We love all. We look at people and see beyond their faults, failures, the superficialities of politics, genders, economics, race, and we see a child of God with amazing potential.
We become humble. We accept and glory in our role as children of God, and understanding that we are not gods.
So we stop trying to control the universe, stop trying to control the people in our lives; and work with the universe, work with the people in our lives.
It is amazing how much more wonderful life is, when we use this great gift of God. It is amazing how much more free we are when we fully, consciously activity participate in this great gift.
Free from our egos; free from the effect of others egos; free from materialism, free from fear.
Free…as God is free, as God will and desires for us.
I know, I know, sounds too simple, too cliche. I thought that too. BUT…once I was shown what this really means, and the power it brings to live life more freely…it is simple, but NOT easy.
Life’s stress makes me forget that I am loved by God. It takes the Spirit to kick my butt and make me remember.
“Church” can be used in many contexts.
It is a noun that describes a particular building and place, an institution, and a group of people united in a common belief.
It is also a verb: We are going “to church”.
So like many things catholic, “Church” is an “and”. Church is not only one of those things to the exclusion of the others, but is one and the others. Which is one of the reasons why our Catholic Faith is so wonderful.
However, I think that we need to focus in on “Church” as a group of people united in a common belief and “Church” as a verb, because scripture is inspiring us to think about them. Inspiring us that if we lose our focus on these two, these other aspects of “church” fall apart.
If our understanding of “Church” falls apart, so goes making this world a better place.
When the first followers of Jesus gathered, those early Christians, they gathered in houses of believers. There were no “formal” church buildings. There was no institution of popes, cardinals, bishops etc. They gathered to pray together, to celebrate what we would call eucharist, to go over scripture in light of Jesus’ teaching, and discern what it all meant in their lives. Then they would go and live the faith. And in doing so, they attracted other believers who would gather with them.
The church at its core is people gathered around Jesus Christ. The church is the men and women who seek the freedom that Jesus Christ has offered to all.
So we must never ever lose sight of this.
We just heard St. Paul exhorting the people of Corinth in this message. Those words he wrote are spectacular. It is all about the community. Well, almost all about the community.
We cannot forget that we do not simply gather to feel good about ourselves and sing “cumbaya”.
We have a mission. We have “To Church”.
The community gathers to experience the salvation of Jesus Christ; and when that experience is sincere, when that experience is truthful, it awakens a desire to spread the message of Christ!
Our mission is to evangelize!
As God loves all people, we respond to God’s love and we wish to have all people be free too. Because the more people who are truly free, the less poverty, the less suffering, the less violence occurs. Our mission is to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, to live that same freedom in our own lives. To announce to the world what the Church is about! Freedom!!
But, we humans, we sinful humans, we lost sight of our mission.
You know in the Gospel, the moneychangers and the vendors were not necessarily bad. They were in fact initially there to help people. Their mission was to exchange roman coins, which had faces and were not allowed, and to provide the sacrificial animals. However, human sinfulness and greed took over. It became a racket, a way for to make more and more money, and to make the money off the poor. This is what Jesus was revolting against!
So we too can start off with good intentions, but…
We can get too focussed on the physical structures…to focussed on rules and regulations, protocols. We can get too preoccupied with other’s and their ways; to protective of our little territories that we have in the parish.
Or we can get too comfortable in the faith, and we stop growing, we stop participating. We may show up for mass, but before communion is even finished, we are out those doors, so that we can get to wherever we think we have to be.
I will tell you that it shows when a church, parish, has lost its mission. It is dead. There is little energy in the mass. Nobody sticks around to socialize afterwards. Nothing goes on during the week, there are no prayer groups, no scripture groups, there is no helping out the poor, the sick.
And I think a huge sign is the size of RCIA; a small RCIA or non-existent RCIA speaks of a parish NOT being attractive, to a parish that is either losing its sense of mission or has lost its sense of mission.
We need to get back to mission! We need to be cleansed on a personal level, parish level and diocesan level, if not universal level.
Each of us has to be willing to let Jesus come in and turn over our tables, and desks and mess up our lives! Each of us has to be willing to let ourselves re-center on the way of Jesus Christ. Ask ourselves what is truly important and our priority? Ask ourselves why we are church and why we church.
On a diocesan and parish level, we are in the midst of preparing for our Synod. A process for all of us to look at our church, our community and say what is to be our focussed mission. This is not just to make us feel good about being Catholic…this is about renewing our local church and renewing our local communities, from Reno to Wells.
With our Catholic Church renewed, we are stronger together, so that our unity, that comes through the Holy Spirit, flows out into our homes, our schools, our workplaces, everywhere.
We, together, help to free our communities of the sins of poverty, bigotry, selfishness. We, together, become a place, a community to which those who are lost can find rest, can re-connect to the love of God. Together, we gather and rebuild and fortify the living stones that build up the Church. We gather and become that visible sign of the invisible reality of God’s love.
We gather and we make a difference
I am big on being a hospitable church. I think it is because as I have travelled around, some parishes I had people greet and welcome me, which made me feel comfortable.
Others…did nothing, one place i remember I sat in the wrong spot and had to move so that someone could have their pew. Not comfortable.
I get distracted easily….I often have several books that I am reading at the same time, many many projects for my work, desires to fish, golf, ski, hike, sleep, eat, drink, beer,
so I need a good retreat and good reminders to myself about what is important, and what are my true priorities.
Relationships are messy things, are they not?
I do not care how much we truly love others, how close we are, there will be moments in relationships when we will not always like each other.
There will be moments when we hurt another or are hurt by another.
And at times those wounds can be so serious that the relationships begin to breakdown; even as parent to child, husband to wife, sibling to sibling.
And people can separate, wounds remain, nothing is done, no healing occurs, resentments build, sadness builds…
then death seemingly comes into play…and we can think it is too late, and we think we have to live with the hurt and carry that to our own graves.
When we go to a Catholic funeral mass, one of the prayers that can be used, in the preface, says something extraordinary, something really quite beautiful….”life is changed, not ended”.
What this tells us is that relationships really never end, they are changed because of death, but they do not end.
The bonds that we forge in life, whether they are strong or weak, do not end. Obviously they are changed, because of death. The people that were in our lives, …we can’t directly interact with them, on the physical level.
But we can still communicate with them, we can still have the relationship.
Jesus’ resurrection is the revelation of this. Death did not end his relationship with us. He maintains it, and we live in it.
Jesus’ love for us, his willingness to see our inherent goodness is still very real and present.
The Father reveals to us in the resurrection of his Son that his own love for us is never ending…his mercy, love, forgiveness, and grace…it is always present for us. This love for us carries over into our own death and beyond
Given to us, so that we can always seek Unity with God and with each other. Given to us so that we can always forgive and be forgiven. Given to us so that we can alway love, even unto death and beyond. Given to us so that we can heal and be healed.
Yet, Death can still disconcerts us. We have regrets, things left unsaid, wounds… sadness…
What our faith tells us is that we can forgive others who have died…and we can ask for forgiveness of those who have died. We can tell our beloved deceased that we love them still. We can remember them. We can heal old wounds and be healed of old wounds.
Death has no power over our relationships.
Jesus came so that we may be one.—Forgiveness and healing always possible. I think not only is it comforting that we can talk to our deceased friends and families, and put to rest those wounds that separated us…
It is NECESSARY that we do so.
We are called to be one, our freedom is to be united with God and with one another.
If we want to be free in this life, it is necessary to clean up the messiness of our relationships, with those still among us and those that have died.
If we want those who have died to be free, and we want to be free, we have to still forgive and be forgiven.
Eucharist is our sign of the capacity to do so. Eucharist is the sacrament that empowers us to do this. We consume the very body and blood of Christ, in defiance of the power of death. We consume it in an act of love, between God and us. We take that cup, the blood of Jesus, to be reminded of the forgiveness of sins, and to remember that to forgive, we too must be willing to let go of our egos.
That in dying to ourselves, dying to those false selves that creates the hurts with others, we will find life, we live in love, we live in freedom.
Of course, I hope we realize that it is always better to NOT wait until someone has died to do this.