Sunday, August 20, 2017

PRAYER THAT MOVES GOD


Lay people make up about 99% of the Church. The pope, bishops, priests, deacons and religious make up the rest. Now, God reveals Self and speaks to all of us. The Church officially recognizes this, calling it sensus fidelium. So today, instead of a homily, I thought we would take a few minutes of silence to see what God wants to say to each of us. What do you think? [Pause]

OK, I’ll give you my take. There are two key themes in today’s readings: first that we are called to be inclusive, and secondly the power of prayer. Is there's anything our country needs more today than prayer and to be united?

A leading politician dies and goes to heaven. As St. Peter escorts him in, he is shocked to see members of the other political party. They, in turn, stare at him and are speechless. He asks St. Peter, Why are they speechless? St. Peter replies, Because you're the last person they expected to see you here.

If there’s anything Jesus taught us, it is that we are called to be inclusive – to be one - not "us" and "them". Indeed that was his last prayer…not just to be kind in church, but to change our way of thinking...our way of living.  

Let’s look at today’s readings. From Isaiah, Foreigners will worship in my temple…for my house shall be a house of prayer for all. In our Responsorial Psalm we sang, Let all the nations praise you. In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul speaks of God’s mercy upon all.

And in our gospel, Jesus goes to pagan territory and there encounters a Canaanite - ancient enemies of Israel. Why did Jesus go to Tyre and Sidon? Perhaps, down deep he knew, as he says to his disciples at the end, Go to all nations and proclaim the Good News of God’s great love for all.

One thing we know for sure is that Jesus was not exclusive. He ate with all kinds of sinners: Pharisees, prostitutes, and tax collectors. He loved all. Still does.

We know this, and we seek to be most welcoming and inclusive at Our Lady of Good Counsel. But does this carry over into the rest of the week?

We are called Christians because we are his disciples …we want to follow him…to have that same attitude…especially when we gather to pray and break bread in God’s house.

But even more important than whether we receive Holy Communion is how we live holy communion.

Now regarding the second theme, we all love our children and know what’s best for them. We know what we need to do for their best interest. Still, at times, they have a way of changing our minds.

Does that also happen with God? Well, amazingly, that is what happened in our gospel passage. The Canaanite woman spoke up to Jesus and caused him to change his mind. 

Jesus said he was not there to cure Gentiles, but when he saw the faith of this mother, he was moved to do it. He saw things differently and did something he hadn't intended to do. The Canaanite woman caused him to change his mind, and make a miracle happen.

The first thing to bear in mind is that today's gospel passage is not just some historical story, but rather it is the Word of God speaking to us live today. What is God saying to us?

Perhaps that we shouldn't be all that surprised that our prayer can move God, just as Jesus was moved to change his mind. In part, this was because Jesus was a human being, like us in all things but sin. Though we may not think of him that way. 

We must remember that Jesus accepted human limitations - he got hungry and thirsty, just as we get hungry and thirsty. He had to learn to read. He had to die, as you and I have to die. And, like us, he sometimes changed his mind.

But perhaps there’s more. Perhaps, since we are made in the image and likeness of God, our willingness to change our mind also reflects God’s willingness to do so as well.

This has great implications for prayer. Some people say, Why should I ask God for this or that? God already knows everything and God knows what I'm going to ask before I ask it. Besides, God is changeless.

Let’s not be so quick. Remember God is a mystery. Let us not pigeon-hole God as if we know all about God and how God behaves. More importantly, we’ve all experienced the power of prayer. Perhaps our prayer does indeed influence God.

By “prayer” we mean not just going through the motions. There is a real conversation going on, as there was with the woman in today's gospel passage. Which means that prayer is nothing more than simple conversation...and we all know how to converse...we talk and we listen...heart-to-heart.

The Canaanite woman reminds me of another resourceful and witty woman - St. Teresa of Avila, who lived 500 years ago. She had a very special relationship with God, and she wrote a great deal, describing her experiences with God. One of the famous stories about her is the time she was riding in a donkey cart and it was overturned, throwing her into the mud. She said to Jesus, If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!

In one of her books, Teresa gives us some advice on prayer: Remain in the Lord's presence continually, and speak to him, pray to him in your necessities, and complain to him about your troubles; be merry with him in your joys. All this you can do without set prayers, but with words that come from the heart. 

In another place she simply says, Avoid being bashful with God, as some people are. 

That's a refreshing thought. We need to give that a try... perhaps today, this week. I suspect that few of us really talk to Jesus that way. We can learn from the Canaanite woman and from St. Teresa. 

We might discover how close Jesus really is to us, and how close we are to him. We might discover how easy it is to pray. After all, Jesus is our brother. And we can talk to him as one of the family.

We might also discover that prayer can move God and make miracles happen. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

SAILING WITH JESUS


Storms. We're used to them in Florida. And we have one in today's gospel. Let's look at it.

First, let's set the scene. It takes place in the Sea of Galilee, which is about seven miles by 13 miles, and over 150 feet deep. It's a large body of water.

Jesus came walking on that water, the gospel says, during the fourth watch of the night. That would be between three and six a.m. - the darkest part of the night.

The apostles are in a storm. A bad one. We've all seen them. Been in them. Perhaps while driving. We know the fear. But in a boat, in the darkest part of the night, in 150 feet of water? That is terrifying.

Speaking of the boat, it was probably about seven feet by 25 feet. Not a very large boat to be sailing on a body of water that large and that deep, but it's what they had back then.

So that's the scene, during the darkest part of the night, a storm is blowing, and the disciples are in a small boat. And where's Jesus? Not in the boat with them. At the beginning of this passage he was up on a mountain. Then he appears at some distance, walking on the sea.

You know the rest of the story. What do we learn from this scene?

The Sea of Galilee represents our world. You and I were born into this time and place. This is the piece of history on which we sail...where we spend our lives. It wasn't our choice, but here we are, and we can't escape into the past or the future. This is the sea we sail.

The darkest part of the night - the fourth watch. That represents whatever darkness there is in our life. May not know why. Part of our life is dark, not bright. We've all got those dark places.

The storm represents the problems in our life, problems great and small, which we can't seem to control, any more that the disciples could control that storm. Some are on the world scale. We worry these days about terrorism and the threat of nuclear war, 65 million displaced people - refugees - driven from their homes, alternative truth, health care for the poor and elderly, the ever-growing divisiveness in our country, and more. You and I can't seem to do much about these.

There are also problems in our Church. We seem to be just as divided here as well. Something that bothers all of us very much is that we haven't been able to inspire many of our youth and young adults to follow us in the path of faith that we were given by our parents. They don't go to Church regularly, if at all. We haven't been able to pass on our faith very well.

Then there are the storms in our personal lives. I can't list these for you, but we all have them. They churn in our stomach, and they're with us every day, and like the storm on the Sea of Galilee, we can't seem to control these either. Each of us has our own.

What about the small boat? That represents each of us. We face all these things and we feel small. We're tossed about by them, like that small boat on the Sea of Galilee. We're just trying to make it through the storm.

And Jesus, where is he? Of course, we believe in Jesus. That's why we come here to be with him in the Eucharist, but in these dark places and stormy places in our lives - he just doesn't seem to be part of them. He seems one step removed, looking at them from the outside. He can seem as far away as on that mountain, or nearby as he was on the sea, close to the boat, but not in it.

So what do we do? Well, I think we can learn something very, very helpful from this passage. We do what the disciples did. We cry out to him, and we bring him into our darkness, into the storm. We bring him into the boat! That's the key. And indeed that's what we do when we receive his Body in ours.

That dark place in my life? The storms in my life? Sometimes, I sit and talk to Jesus who may seem far away. Sometimes, I try to run from them and go somewhere to find Jesus, rather than bringing Jesus into the boat. That's the mistake Peter made. Jesus is willing to come here. He wants to come here. We have to let him in. But too often, we talk to him as though he were one step removed from us as we face the darkness and the storms.

Another thing. When we call the Lord into our boat, no need for some long-winded prayer. We need straight talk. Direct talk. Peter, when he was sinking didn't say, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, and I praise you and thank you for your goodness, and I was wondering if you would please turn toward me and be with me. No, Peter yelled, Lord, save me!

We need to talk straight to the Lord about the problems in our world, our Church, our personal lives. We need to speak clearly, emotionally.

What happens when we do that? Well, all the problems don't evaporate. But the storm inside me calms down. And the darkness in me brightens. And when the Lord gets into my boat - my life - I feel deep peace. In this gospel passage, when Jesus got into the boat the wind and sea became calm...and the twelve did too.

Today as you receive the Eucharist, feel the presence of our Lord in you, and this week as you think about the storms in our world, our Church, and in your own personal life, remember you're not sailing alone. He's with you... in your boat. Feel his peace. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

SUPERMAN


A while back, though it seems like yesterday, I spoke with children and parents in our Family Faith Formation program, regarding today's gospel passage about the Transfiguration of Jesus. I asked the children, What happened to Jesus in the gospel today?

Lots of little hands shot up. I called on one who answered, Jesus was changed. So I asked, Was he no longer Jesus?

They said, Yes, but he shone like the sun...and his clothes were like a bright light.

Someone else said, God spoke to him.

Let’s see, I said, Jesus was the same…and yet different. And God spoke to him.

Could that be true of us also? The kids were hesitant. So I asked, Do we know of anyone else who is the same, and yet different?

After waiting a bit, I gave them a clue…l unbuttoned my shirt to show a Superman T-shirt underneath. Both kids and parents burst out laughing. 

Then I asked, What do we know about Superman? Once more the children were quick to answer: He came from somewhere else. He was very powerful.

A little girl yelled, He was both Clark Kent and Superman …and he had a job to dofight evil.

I thanked her, and added, Jesus also had special powers because he came from another place, and he, too, came to fight evil.

And I asked, Do you believe we came from another place? Once again, without waiting to be called on, several children yelled, Yes, we came from God.

Well then, I asked, do you believe we have special powers? Do we have the power to make people feel better?

And I shared the following story: A mother told her son, Johnny, I need you to come home immediately after school today because I have some very important things to do. Johnny was a very obedient and loving eight-year old, and said he would.

Three o’clock came and went but Johnny was nowhere to be seen. Thirty minutes later, still no sign of Johnny, so Mom called the school and was informed that Johnny had left as usual when school ended. At four, Mom was getting angry and worried. She called some of the moms of Johnny’s friends and learned that Johnny had walked from school with Susie. When five o’clock came and Johnny was still not home, Mom was livid.

Finally, Johnny arrived, and Mom yells, Where have you been? I told you I needed you home immediately after school. Johnny explained that he noticed Susie was sad because her dog had died, so he walked her home. Now Mom is feeling kinder and not a little proud of her son. She asked, What did you say to her?

Johnny said, I didn’t know what to say. She sat on the porch and cried, so I did too.

Fighting evil is not about performing great miracles, but about being aware of someone who is hurting and being moved with compassion to help them...and we will amaze ourselves at the results. As St. Francis of Assisi said, Start by doing what is necessary, then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. 

That’s how we become like Jesus. The transfiguration is about radiating the truth of our being...as children of God. In a way, we are like Superman! Though at times we may limit ourselves, choosing to act only like Clark Kent.

And we actually do have an “S” within us...within our heart, waiting to be discovered. It doesn’t stand for Superman or Superwoman, but Saint. Saints are those who let the bright light of Christ shine through them. 

The more we become aware of the needs of others and respond with love, the more we not only believe that we came from God and have the power to help others, but the more we also discover this radiant, holy presence in us.

And maybe we, too, will hear God say to us, You are my beloved child. I would bet on it.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

THE GREAT TREASURE


Ask something of me, and I will give it to you. So says God to Solomon.

Imagine God saying that to you. What would you ask for?

Perhaps to find some great treasure…and God would say, I will give it to you.

Both God's invitation and God's response would fill us with great joy. Filling us with joy seems to be God's joy as well.

Like a parent who delights in their child discovering and opening a hidden present. God is like that, too.

Such is the message of Jesus' two parables today of the treasure and the pearl. They catch our imagination. We can picture a poor farmer working in the field, with a hoe or something like that, and by accident, just beneath the surface he hits something hard, clears the soil, and finds a wooden box with a great treasure.

The other parable involves not a poor man, but a well-to-do merchant who travels to far-away places. One day he sees a pile of so-so pearls and suddenly in among them is a pearl that looks like the rest, but his trained eye can see that it is a magnificent pearl worth a fortune.

Now, Jesus didn't tell these fascinating stories just to entertain his audience. He is telling us something about God, and teaching us how to find God...and joy.

Let's see, in both cases the valuable discovery was right there in front of everyone else. The treasure was just beneath the surface of a field that people passed by or walked through all the time. The pearl was in open sight, on a table with all the other pearls. It's just that nobody noticed.

Here's what I'd like you to do. Take just a few seconds now and look ahead to the things coming up in your life this week. It doesn't have to be something special - just the regular stuff of the week. Take a few seconds to think about your schedule. [Pause]

Okay. Now, the panorama of the week is in your mind ...just beneath the surface of everything in it, and mixed together with everything that's part of it, is a great treasure. It is God. Imagine. God mixed in with all that. God is in all this week's stuff, present, active, with us, asking us to take notice.

What a treasure! What joy! To have God here - especially in some of the things that aren't entirely pleasant, or are boring. What a great treasure to have God here!

Now, I, too, thought about my schedule: celebrating Mass, preparing a homily, visiting the sick, breaking bread with a friend, communing with God and nature on the beach or at the St. Johns River, reading a book while being serenaded by birds, or fighting construction traffic all around us, perhaps in a driving down-pour. This week I'm going to think about God being with me even when stuck in traffic, of all places. It may not be easy.

But that's the point. God is with us in everything, and it's especially difficult to notice God's presence in the not-so-good parts of our lives, or in the hum-drum, routine parts of our lives. But God is there, even though God's presence can go unnoticed - just like no one noticed the treasure in that field, or that priceless pearl mixed in with the others.

Now I know and you know that God is everywhere. But that can be just an abstract thought. It's different when we picture God in the day-to-day things of life. You see it's not God looking down on us from a distance. It's God in the midst of it all.

Remember, we're not pretending God is here. We are realizing and experiencing the up-close presence of God with us.

And...God isn't here as a spectator. God is part of it. This is God's world. We are God's daughters and sons. God is here in the thick of it to be with us.

Did you notice in both parables...the result was joy? The treasure of God's presence is always uplifting. It brings a certain peace, a certain sense of purpose, a joyful feeling.

I close with a thought that I hope will help you, and me, notice the presence of God all week long. One of the small parts of the Mass, but an important one, is what we do at the very end. As a matter of fact, it's how the Mass got its name. 

When the Mass was said in Latin, the priest said, Ite missa est, which literally means, Go, you are being sent, although often translated, Go, the Mass is ended. The Latin word missa is the word for sending. (In aeronautics we have the English word, missile, which means something sent into the air.) Missa is where the word Mass came from.

At the end of Mass, we don't just get up and leave. We are blessed and sent. In other words, we come here for an hour, to find the great treasure, so that we can live our faith with joy during the other 167 hours of the week.

We are blessed and sent with peace and joy. I pray that this ritual at the end of every Mass will help us carry God's presence into the week, to joyfully discover this great treasure even more.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

GOD'S FLOWER GARDEN


What's your picture of heaven? Today, in describing the kingdom of heaven, Jesus speaks of wheat and weeds. Let's see what these tell us about heaven.

To begin, what is a weed anyway? What makes a weed a weed?

Like everything else, when in doubt just Google it. I did. Here's what I learned. A weed is defined as any plant that is growing where it is not wanted. In other words, while you can point to a certain plant and say, That's a rose, there isn't any plant that is defined as a weed.

It's simply a plant that grows where it's not wanted. One person's weed might be another's wild flower. We call dandelions weeds even though they can dress up a field, can be used for food, and their roots are being studied for possible anti-cancer properties. 

Thus, in the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh, Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them. And from Mother Teresa, God can turn any weed into a flower.

I'm reminded of a story of a perfectionist who kept his lawn immaculately manicured. Never was a blade out of place. His lawn was the pride of the neighborhood. Then one day a weed began to grow. Hard as he tried, he could not get rid of it. He tried pulling it out by its roots. He tried every kind of herbicide. Nothing worked. 

Then on a drive in the country he spotted a Farmer's Co-op that specialized in seeds and plant chemicals. He stopped in and asked the old proprietor if he'd ever seen a weed like the one he had from his lawn. The old man said he had. So he asked, What's the best way to deal with it? The proprietor said, Love it. Just love it.

Well, of course he thought the old man was crazy. But after he got home, he thought, Oh, what he heck, and began to love the weeds. It wasn't long before his lawn was overrun with them. One day a neighbor walked by and saw him sitting on his porch admiring his front yard. He yelled to him, Hey, you've lost your perfect lawn. He smiled and yelled back, Yeah, but I just love my flower garden.

While we may see others, or ourselves, as weeds, God's loving eyes see us a flowers in God's flower garden.  Now that’s an image of heaven we may not often picture. 

Last week, I recommended opening the gospels at random daily to see what God wants to say personally to us. Often, even when we do this, we can make the mistake of looking for a "should". We read a passage and then we want to apply it to our life. That's where the "should" comes in. We say, Therefore, I should stop doing this or that...Therefore, we should tend to our lives as we tend to our plants...And so on.

The problem with this is that we miss the fact that many scripture passages are not trying to teach us how to behave. They teach us something about God, for us to simply understand and appreciate. 

Instead of focusing on our behavior, let's just think about what God is like. The more we understand God, the more we understand ourselves, because we're made in the image and likeness of God. Then let that be the guide for our actions and our entrance into heaven.

Once I went to console a friend, grieving because her granddaughter had committed suicide. She was in torment because she felt that her granddaughter would never enter heaven. Knowing of her goodness, I said that no doubt she herself would not be denied entry. And if upon entering, God were to say to her, Will you do me a favor and watch the gate while I attend to some other matters? St. Peter will be here shortly. Of course she would not refuse God. Then I asked, Suppose that while you were guarding the gate, your granddaughter were to show up. Would you let her in? In a heartbeat, she said. I loved her so much. I asked, Would God love her any less?

Last Sunday, I visited a friend at Flagler Hospital, who had said I had been too easy on her when she came to confession. As I was leaving, her daughter asked, Were you tougher on her this time? I said, I was as tough on her as she is with her grandchildren...(whom she had told me she adores). 

That's the image of God we have in today's readings. Our gospel parable tells us that God isn't angrily looking forward to punish us when we fail. God is more like a loving grandparent who is patient and caring with the grandchildren. 

To those who say, But Jesus said the weeds will be burned at the end, my response is, Yes, but will there be "weeds" at the end, or only flowers? What is a weed? Can't be any of us, because God wants each of us so much in God's garden.

Listen again to what the Book of Wisdom says of God, You judge with much clemency...and lenience. Our Psalm adds, God is good and forgiving...merciful and gracious.

And Jesus tells us that God is like a gentle farmer. The servants wanted to go and pull up the weeds, and the farmer says, Well, let's not be too hasty, too quick to judge. Let's give it some time. We might pull out some wheat thinking it's a weed. 

That's God speaking. It's a picture of God that Jesus himself gives us. And it's the way God treats us, because God loves us very, very much.

It's wonderful to have a God like that. It's wonderful to have a heaven like that.

That's it. No "shoulds". Let's simply enjoy God. When we do that, love and gratitude and heaven come naturally.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

FAT COW!


A woman is driving on a two-lane country road. Another car approaches from the opposite direction. When the two cars cross, the man in the other car yells at her, FAT COW! She immediately yells back, PIG! Now, she is feeling so good about being able to respond so quickly, she pats herself on the back. As she makes a turn on the road - POW! - She collides into a fat cow sitting in the middle of the road. The moral of the story: Women never seem to understand what men are trying to say.

And perhaps at times we fail to understand our Lord. Today, Jesus quotes Isaiah, 750 years earlier, saying to us, You shall hear but not understand. Maybe it's part of our human DNA.

What is it that we do not understand about today’s parable of the seed and the soil? What do these two words say to you?

Of course the seed represents the Word of God, and the different kinds of soil represent us who receive the Word of GodLet's delve into both. 

A seed is something that has life in it. By using this analogy, Jesus reveals that the Word of God is alive. It isn't simply information. It isn't simply instruction. It is God speaking to us "live". This has always been a Catholic emphasis.

We believe that when we listen to the Word of God, or read it thoughtfully, we are hearing God speak to us live. We aren't listening to or reading something God once said. God is speaking to us now. 

Just as in the Eucharist the Lord uses bread and wine to be present to us, so, too, in scripture God uses words as a vehicle to be present to us, to speak to us, to act upon us - like the gentle rain falling upon the ground in today's first reading, and like the seed that is sown in today's gospel.

The Second Vatican Council document entitled The Constitution of Divine Revelation says, The Church has always venerated the divine scriptures just as she venerates the Body and Blood of the Lord. That is a remarkable statement that might come as a surprise to many Catholics.

This means that we listen to scripture differently than we listen to any other words. We receive it as we receive the Body of Christ. We are not receiving information. We are receiving the Lord who speaks to us "live". We cleanse our minds of all other thoughts, and we tune in to the Lord speaking to us. 

When we do that, thoughts come to us that might have been the farthest thing from our minds, and thoughts that sometimes seem to have little connection with the actual words of the text. It may be a word of comfort, or a nudge, or a flash of insight. It is God who is speaking to us personally. 

Remember the gospel passage about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? The Risen Lord was walking with them (although they didn't realize it) and the Lord was opening up the scriptures to them. That is exactly what happens when we prayerfully listen or read the scriptures. The seed in today's parable is the Word of God.

Now let's look at the soil. The gospel speaks of the different kinds of soil on which the seed fell - the footpath, rocky ground, thorny ground, fertile ground. We usually think of that as representing different kinds of people. Well, perhaps it also represents different parts of our lives - our private life, our family life, our work life, our social life, and so on.

Part of our life may be rich soil where we receive the Word of God very openly and it takes deep root. But it may not occur to us to let the Word of God affect other parts of our life. To use a stereotypical example, the movies sometimes portray a Mafia Don who goes to church, is dedicated to his family - and routinely kills people, or orders their killing. The Word of God never enters that "other part" of his life.

We don't go around killing people, but we might have parts of our life where we don't let the Word of God enter.

May we all receive this parable of the seed and the soil into all parts of our lives. 

Many of us call our parents every day to hear their voice. It would be good for us to do the same with God, not just to "check-in" on Sunday at Mass. It's easy to connect with God daily. It can change a day. It can change a life.

Make that your goal this week. Open the bible, at random if you wish - preferably the gospels - take a few lines of scripture each day, and let the Lord speak to you through those words. See what the Lord wants to say to you.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

PEACE AND COMFORT


Sometimes, the simplest truths are the deepest truths. The trouble is, because they're so simple, so basic, we don't spend much time thinking about them. They're just there.

We have one of those truths in today's passage from Matthew's Gospel. Jesus says, No one knows the Father except the Son...and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. Then, the very next thing Jesus says is, Come to me all you who are weary and are burdened.

Let's step back and look at that.

We call ourselves daughters and sons of God. Perhaps we think of this as a metaphor. We know our human frailties. Can we really be God's daughter or son? How can we be divine? Especially when we feel so burdened?

But God is so good and magnanimous that God calls us God's very children. Indeed Jesus said, I go to my Father and your Father.

This speaks volumes of how God sees us. How uplifting is that!

I see it every week as I visit those who are terminally ill or need a life-saving organ transplant. Their faith in God, knowing God is with them, that they are God's very own, gives them strength, and hope, and comfort.

This simple but profound truth makes a world of difference. Jesus came from the Father so that we could join ourselves to him. Jesus became one of us so that he could bring us into the same relationship with the Father. There's an old saying in our faith tradition, The divine became human, so that humans could become divine.

This is real, not "let's pretend". Jesus said, I came so that you may have life and have it to the full. I came to share with you the same Spirit that is in me. You will have God's own life within you, and you will come with me to God, and you will share in my own relationship with the Father. We will stand before God and I will say, 'This is my sister, my brother. These are your sons and daughters.' WHAT PEACE! WHAT JOY!

This is God's pure gift. And it is real. We are joined to Jesus Christ. We're not half-brothers, half-sisters. We receive the gift of his own Spirit. We have God's life within us. And Jesus takes us where we thought only he could go - to the heart of the God. Jesus says to us, You are what I am.

That's why we said two weeks ago, Have no fear!

All this becomes clearer when we think about Baptism. The traditional form of baptism is to be totally immersed in the water. The water represents Christ, and by entering the water we are joined with Christ, "grafted" into him, as it were. Moreover, we are vested in white, and by doing so we put on Christ, affirming our oneness with him.

Then there is Confirmation. We are anointed with the Chrism (the same word from which we get the word Christ), and the Spirit comes upon us, and stays with us. We receive the same Spirit that overshadowed Mary when she conceived Jesus, the same Spirit that descended upon Jesus at his baptism in the River Jordan. We have new life within us, God's life. We become sons and daughters of God.

As St. Paul reminds us today, The Spirit of God dwells in you. 

Then there is the Eucharist. When the bread and wine are brought forward and placed on the altar, they represent us. We then join with Jesus as he gives himself entirely into the hands of the Father. We join with him in giving ourselves entirely to God

That's why we said last week, Give our all to him and for him!

And when we come forward to receive the bread and cup, it isn't simply a private audience with Jesus. The body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus become part of our own body and soul. We become what we receive. No wonder Jesus says to us, Come to me, and I will give you comfort. I will give you rest.

That's the simple truth of it. Jesus came so that we could become one with him and so that he could bring us into his own relationship with God. It's not complicated. But it is profound. And it's the key to everything else we believe. It's the key of life!

If we let ourselves think about this truth, let ourselves truly believe it, then life is different. Every day looks different. All our burdens, fears, and tribulations are relieved. And death looks different too.

This week, think about it, and believe it. And ask yourself, What will I do to accept Jesus' invitation to go to him...and to see myself as he does...as God's daughter...God's son?