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  • Immersed in Christ

Sunday, February 5, 2023, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

by Fr. David M. Knight


View readings for today:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/020523.cfm


Inventory

Is anything wrong with our society? Closer to home, is there anything wrong in your family life? In your work situation? In your social life? Do you ever blame God for any of it? After all, we say that he is our “maker... the Lord our God.” Doesn’t that give him some responsibility?


Input

The Entrance Antiphon calls us to “worship the Lord.... bow down in the presence of our maker.” We “bow down” before him in adoration because he is awesome, all powerful, the one who gave and is giving us right now our very existence. For this we owe him respect and trusting obedience: “He is the Lord our God.”


The Opening Prayer(s) build on this: “Father, watch over your family... keep us safe... all our hope is in you.” God, as the Giver of existence, is all present. He is in all things, sustaining them in existence, giving them power to act. So we say, “No thought of ours is left unguarded, no tear unheeded, no joy unnoticed.” We do say he has assumed responsibility for our well-being. So why are things such a mess?


The prayers Over the Gifts and After Communion focus on God helping us through the “bread and wine” which, having become the Body and Blood of Christ “give us nourishment” and “make us one in Christ.” How does that solve our problems?

The Communion prayer ends with a surprise: “Help us to bring your salvation and joy to all the world.” God is making it our responsibility to straighten things out on earth. That changes the meaning of “all our hope is in you.” Now it means we are trusting in him to help us do what needs to be done. We are the world’s only hope, and our hope is in what God empowers us to do.


The prayers point to the way he does it through the Mass. His Body and Blood “give us nourishment” and “make us one,” united in faith, mutual support and action. But there is more. We must not overlook the power in the Liturgy of the Word. God nourishes, strengthens and unites us through his word:


The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since from the table of both the word of God and of the body of Christ she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life, especially in the sacred liturgy.[1]


Now it all comes together: God’s answer to the darkness of the world is to put his light in us and send us out to “give light to all in the house,” everywhere we are: at home, at work, in social and civic life. Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” But since we are his body, he is in the world as long as we are. He said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” We are sent out “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide their feet into the way of peace.” For this we need to be students of his word.[2]


We need to shine

The Responsorial (Psalm 112) gives the key to all the readings: “The just are a light in darkness to the upright.” Those Christians who are “just,” who live by what they believe, are a “light in darkness” to anyone who is “upright” enough to be open to truth. Jesus said, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice,” and “Whoever listens to you listens to me.”


Whatever religion people follow, if they are in contact with God, they can communicate with anyone else who knows God. John said, “Whoever knows God listens to us.” And if we know God, we will listen to anyone else who does. Light does not reject light. And when believers are unified in light, they are a force to contend with.[3]


Isaiah 58:7-10 puts the emphasis on living the light. In us it shines through our actions. We Christians, especially Catholics, are certainly at fault for not sharing our faith in words. We are embarrassed to show devotion. We don’t take seriously enough the warning of Jesus, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.” But our greatest failure is in living out the faith in action.[4]


Isaiah says, “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech....” We may accuse ourselves of these sins on the personal level — if we ourselves take advantage of others, lie, or destroy acquaintances’ reputations. But do we take responsibility for the ways we as a nation oppress and exploit others economically? Do we repeat the accusations against politicians and public figures that are proliferated on the internet and in the media without checking them out? Do we listen to those talk shows that with a thin veneer of humor are nothing but negative humor and hate? Hate divides, and is the work of the devil. Those guided by the Spirit follow the principle St. Ignatius of Loyola enunciated so well:


Every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it. Further, if one cannot interpret it favorably, one should ask how the other means it. If that meaning is wrong, one should correct the person with love. And if this is not enough, search out every appropriate means through which, by understanding the statement in a good way, it may be saved.[5]


How much would this practice alone help to heal the divisions between “conservatives” and “liberals” in the Church? Not to mention politics!


It is in Matthew 5:13-16[6] that Jesus tells us we are the “light of the world.” At the same time he tells us we are the “salt of the earth.” In the Bible salt brings out the taste in food and preserves it. Metaphorically, it is that which keeps human relationships peaceful and makes speech gracious and intelligent.[7]


Jesus says salt is “good for nothing but to be thrown out” when it goes flat. But light is useless when it is invisible, hidden “under a bushel basket.” So he says to us who know him, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”


This is the answer to the mess the world is in. Christians need to let the light that is in them shine in the darkness. We need to speak out the truth revealed to us. And let it become visible in our actions. Jesus identifies letting the “light shine” with people seeing our “good works.” Not to give us credit for them — that doesn’t seem to enter his mind — but to “give glory to your Father in heaven.” In heaven. Our “works” should visibly be inspired by ideals so far above ground level, beyond cultural human values, that people will recognize we are empowered “from above.” By our Father in heaven.


Letting our light shine doesn’t begin in the marketplace, the voting booth or in the ranks of political protest. It begins at home. In our circle of closest friends. If we don’t share the light of our insights and personal experiences of God with those nearest and dearest to us, something fundamental is lacking in our Christian life and ministry.


How many fathers share with their sons and daughters, not what their children should think about God, but what they themselves feel? How many children have any clue what their parents’ real experience of God is? How many people share this with their friends? With those they date? How many of our neighbors know anything about our religion or what it means to us?


For that matter, how many spouses talk deeply with each other about their experience of God? Or lack of it? (To show one knows what is missing is already to reveal faith and hope). Would it be far-fetched to say that a root problem in Christianity is that Christians don’t swell the light by expressing faith, hope and love in family life?


And what kind of circle of friends do you have if you are not eager to come together regularly to discuss the Scripture and share your responses to it? If all you have in common is drinking, TV, sports and small talk — or even large talk that shies away from God — you aren’t real friends to each other. You are just casual acquaintances in the departure gate, whiling away the time until your flight is called.


In 1Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul tells us what Christian communication is. We don’t exclude intellectual conversation — no one was more “theological” than Paul — but we aren’t really sharing as Christians in the “communion of the Holy Spirit” until we go beyond “the persuasive force of ‘wise’ arguments” and build each other up with the “convincing power of the Spirit.”


Why do we find it so threatening to pray together? To talk about the fruits or failures of our prayer? Don’t we have a common God? Don’t we share the same Father? Isn’t Jesus the Teacher, Friend and Lover of us all? Weren’t we all given the gift of the Spirit who dwells in our hearts? So why do we exclude the Father, Son and Spirit from our conversation as if they were weird relatives we are ashamed of?


Think of what we don’t find it weird to talk about: enslavement to business; the idolatry of sports; the insanity of conformity to the culture; the trivia of style in grooming, dress and housing; addiction to the latest technology. If this is the level on which we share, this is probably the level on which we live — suffocating under our own bushel basket. Do something about that!!


Insight: If it is true that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34), where does this put you?


Initiative: Fill your heart with the words of Scripture. Fill your mouth with them too.

[1] Vatican II, “Revelation,” no. 21. [2] John 9:5; Matthew 5:14-15; Luke 1:79. [3]John 18:37; Luke 10:16; 1John 4:6 [4]Matthew 10:32-33. [5]Spiritual Exercises, no. 22: “Presupposition”; tr. George Ganss, S.J., Loyola Univ. Press, 1992. [6] In Year A the Sunday Gospels are from Matthew. Weekday Gospels are from Mark until Week Ten. [7]Job 6:6; Baruch 6:27; Mark 9:50; Colossians 4:6.


Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

www.ImmersedinChrist.org

Saturday, February 4, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight


View readings for today:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/020423.cfm


Dear Readers: Since the Church is presently engaged in a Eucharistic Revival, we thought it would be helpful to post excerpts from his booklet called Experiencing the Mass, for the next few weeks. (This is not a sales pitch. However, the booklet is available for order on this website for $5 per copy if you would like have a copy.)


In The Interior Castle St. Teresa of Avila says that “in the soul His Majesty must have a room where he dwells alone.” This is the “very interior center of the soul.” It is “where God Himself is, and… there is no need of any door for Him to enter.”[1]


Teresa explains: “I say there is no need of any door, because everything that has been said up to now [about experiencing God in prayer] seems to take place by means of the senses and faculties” [through the intellectual thought process of meditation, for example]. But this dwelling of God in us is on a level too deep for our senses or faculties to reach.


God can give us feelings or put thoughts into our heads whenever he wishes, and he needs no permission from us to do this. But there is a depth, a level of our soul that God will not enter in personal union unless we invite him. And when he is there, we cannot join him in any conscious or experiential way unless he brings us in by an extraordinary gift of mystical prayer. This is the deep center of our souls, deeper than any sense knowledge or feeling, deeper than rational knowledge or thought. This is the level of our being, the level of existence that underlies all the levels of our activity, whether rational, emotional or sensitive. This is a level that is deeper than thought or feeling. This is the level we are invited to be aware of “while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.”


Where God dwells within us is a “doorless room.” But we can sit outside the door just being aware of what is inside. Aware that He-Who-Is is inside us. Not saying anything (and we need not say anything to him). Not doing anything (and not asking us to do anything either). Just there. Giving us himself. Because we are given to him. That is the preview of heaven.


Because it is a preview of heaven, it is not precisely true that in this time of silent awareness we “enclose ourselves privately with Christ.” We do that, but with explicit awareness that we are not alone with him. We are sharing him together with all those present who are also united with him in Communion. We are at the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” It is a communal enjoyment, as heaven is.


We are aware in Communion that the “peace and unity” of the Kingdom is pervading this place. No one is acting. No one is arguing or fighting. No one is actively involved at this moment in any of the activities, pursuits or undertakings that sometimes cause division between us. No one is doing anything. We are all just being with God. Present to God. Present to one another as mutually present to God.


It is a “time out.” We are out of time and into eternity. Nothing exists for us now, during these few moments, except God and ourselves. Jesus and his body. All of us one with God and each other. We are at the “end time” when, in the words of St. Augustine, there “will be but one Christ, loving himself.”[2]


Communion is a time just to experience love. And peace. And the foretaste of total fulfillment.


The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid...

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox....

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea.[3]


This is the experience; this is the foretaste that motivates us to go out from Mass and work for the Kingdom of God. Holy Communion is a launching pad that propels us into persevering efforts to “renew the face of the earth.” The Rite of Communion impels us to stewardship.

[1] VII, ch. 1, no. 5. [2] Homily 10 on the First Epistle of John, no. 3. [3]Isaiah 11:6-9.


Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

www.ImmersedinChrist.org

Friday, February 3, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight


View readings for today:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/020323.cfm


Dear Readers: Since the Church is presently engaged in a Eucharistic Revival, we thought it would be helpful to post excerpts from his booklet called Experiencing the Mass, for the next few weeks. (This is not a sales pitch. However, the booklet is available for order on this website for $5 per copy if you would like have a copy.)


The Communion chant is begun. Its purpose is to express

the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the “communitarian” nature of the procession to receive Communion.


Before the Vatican Council’s reform of the liturgy we were taught to process up to receive Communion conscious only of Jesus and ourselves. Communion was a deep, personal and private moment between God and each one of us. To look around or to sing a hymn at this moment would have been a distraction.


Communion should still be deep and personal; but not private. The Instruction tells us to sing, to “show joy of heart,” to make visible the “communitarian nature” of the procession to receive Communion. Receiving Communion is about as private as Thanksgiving dinner. (In the United States, Thanksgiving is the day of the year that, more than any other, draws families together). The Church wants the receiving of Communion to look as much as possible like a family meal. Because, first and foremost, that is what it is.


The Instruction told us above that “Christ’s gesture of breaking bread at the Last Supper... gave the entire Eucharistic Action its name in apostolic times.” The words “breaking bread” were a common expression for eating together that the early Christians used when speaking of the Mass.[1]


In our day, with large numbers at Mass lining up to receive from a handful of Eucharistic ministers, the Communion procession has the appearance (distasteful to even think about) of people going up to a vending machine to get their sandwich, then going back to their places to eat it alone as isolated individuals. The Church tells us to do the best we can to counter this impression. One way is to sing while going up to receive Communion, because singing expresses “union of spirit.”


Another way is to make a point of looking around at others who are receiving. We should do this conscious that we are seeing each other precisely as people invited to eat at the “table of the Lord.” People whom Jesus himself is feeding, putting into each one’s hands the bread that he has blessed and broken and is now giving to each as the Bread of Life, his own body and blood. This should make us feel differently about one another. Communion is a preview of the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” At this moment we should see everyone as perfect; all as we will be when Christ “presents the Church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes... holy and without blemish.” Communion is a time to see one another with new eyes. Eyes of faith, open to mystery.[2]


When the distribution of Communion is finished...

the [presider]and faithful spend some time praying privately.


There is a time to enclose ourselves privately with Christ. After all have received and the procession is over, the Instruction directs that the assembly “may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence afterCommunion is observed.”


After all have received, we stop singing. We “enclose ourselves” deeply with Jesus present within us. The experience of receiving him physically in Communion helps us enter into the ongoing mystery of his constant, spiritual presence in us by grace.


By the gift of grace, God unites himself to us and us to him “on the level of being.” We need to understand what this admittedly abstract, philosophical phrase is saying. It is saying that we are united with God in a way that is only possible with him. On a level deeper than the union we can have with any other person or creature.


With other people we can only be united on the level of operation. We can carry a box together; or carry on a conversation. We are united in the action of communicating with each other; of understanding the same truth with our intellects, or embracing the same goal or ideal with our wills. But we don’t share in each other’s being. What we call “sharing each other’s life” really means sharing in what we both do. And what we do together is always a blend, a combination of two separate actions, of two separate persons working together.


But with God, by grace, we are united precisely on the level of being, “prior to operation.” We become one with Jesus in such a way that from Jesus and ourselves, united on the level of being, can proceed one operation, one action, that comes from the two of us. We are not united by the operation, through the fact of acting together. Rather, we are united in the operation, in producing together one and the same action that comes from the two of us united already on the level of being.


When we love by grace, there is only one act of love. Because it is our act, it is human. Because it is God’s act, it is divine. Because we are united with God on the level of being, prior to operation, it is one divine-human act of love that is equally ours and God’s. We are loving divinely as well as humanly; God is loving humanly as well as divinely; we are both united in one action of loving in a way that is both human and divine. What has this got to do with Communion?


In Communion Jesus comes just to give us himself. Not to do anything.


In Baptism he comes to incorporate us into his body and share his divine life with us. In Reconciliation he comes to forgive and heal us. In Confirmation he comes to empower us for mission by the Gift of the Holy Spirit. In Matrimony and Holy Orders he comes to work with and within us to establish life-giving communities of love. In Anointing of the Sick he comes to heal and strengthen us for our final act of total abandonment to God. But in Communion he comes just to give us himself. As he does in heaven.


Communion is a preview, a foretaste of heaven.


This doesn’t mean that in Communion we experience ecstasy or feel the joy we will feel in heaven. But we do experience, should experience, are invited to experience the awareness of being united with Jesus, one with God, on the level of our deepest being. We know—and are invited to be consciously aware—that we have God himself within us. We are united to him on the level of our very being. We have as an element of our being (and not just as the effect of a momentary operation) everything we need to be perfectly happy for all eternity. We have Life eternal. God’s own Life. Within us. Ours.


It is not possible to directly experience this Life, or this presence of God within us, in any human way. We cannot perceive it with our senses. Or get in touch with it through our emotions. We cannot really know it with our intellects. (We can only know about it). And no matter what we do or choose with our wills, it does not give us the direct experience of union with God on the level of being.


So what experience does Communion give us? (to be continued tomorrow)

[1] The Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968) says about the phrase “breaking of the bread” in Acts 2:42, “Eucharistic overtones in this community meal are hard to deny (cf. Luke 24:30, 35)... In fact, Luke seems not to distinguish the Eucharist and the common meal.... The ideal first community enjoyed table-fellowship with those who were privileged table-fellows of the Risen One (cf. 1:4; 10:41). Paul’s followers will later have the same fellowship with him as a successor to the Twelve (20:7).” In the New JBC (1990) the same author writes: “Originally the ritual opening of a festive Jewish meal, this was the gesture of the Risen One at Emmaus and recalls the earlier dominical instructions with bread-breaking as well (Luke 9:11-27; 22:14-38). We can consider the phrase a [technical term] for the Eucharist in Luke-Acts.” [2]Ephesians 5:27.


Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

www.ImmersedinChrist.org

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