Father Bryan begins to take a look at the very important command, revealed to be the Greatest Commandment by Jesus.
Love: To will the good of the other. (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Results were published from a survey where Catholics in the United States were asked:
1) What they thought the Catholic Church teaches about what happens at Mass during Communion time; and
2) What they believe about what happens at Mass during Communion time.
The results revealed a Church that is divided even in our communal understanding of what the Church teaches. This video clearly presents what the Church teaches about Holy Communion.
Time to get more practical! What are some concrete ways for me to live my life for Jesus? Well, let’s look to Scripture for some answers. Acts 2:42 gives a brief, but clear blueprint from the earliest Christians.
Upon hearing the proclamation of the Gospel in Acts 2, the people around Peter asked, “What shall we do?” Peter’s response: Repent and be baptized.
This video looks at the surrender to Jesus’ authority, repentance, and baptism.
Alright, I’ve heard the Gospel; what’s next??
Before taking any further action, I need to do what humans are meant to do: think. I need to pause consider, for however long or short a time, whether I believe Jesus is who he says he is. Do I have faith in Jesus? If so, that faith will move me on to the next step.
The Kerygma is the foundation of Christian teaching. It is the basic proclamation of what God has done in the person of Jesus, which requires an understanding of all that came before Jesus and what is meant to come after Jesus. Jesus is the center and everything is meant to revolve around him. Here’s a video that proclaims the Gospel. Further videos will explain how to respond to God’s action. Still more will explain what exactly Jesus came to teach and establish.
One of the tricky parts about being a Christian is the fact that we worship a God who is invisible to our physical sight, even if he is “visible” to us by faith. We know that Jesus exhorted Thomas the Apostle (and us) to believe in him without seeing him:
“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:27).
Up to this point in the Gospels, Jesus had been physically present to his disciples and so they were able to interact with him through their physical senses: they could touch him, see him, hear him, even smell him. In this verse, Jesus revealed something new, as he often did, by challenging their basic assumptions about who they expected him to be for them. He knew their expectations and basically said, “I’ve got something different in mind.” Classic Jesus moment right there.
From the moment of the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven until now, Jesus no longer interacts through the physical senses of his followers, unless he miraculously goes out of his way to give a particular gift to someone by appearing to them or allowing them to feel an unexplained hand on the shoulder or something like that, which is fairly rare. The ordinary way for the Christian to interact with Jesus happens not in a physical way, but a spiritual way. Of course, as Catholic-Christians, we can also point to the Sacraments as potential ways to physically interact with Jesus and receive grace from him. Even those, however, bring us to Jesus through signs, even as he is truly, really present within them. As Catholics, for example, we believe Jesus is really present in the Eucharist – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – but our senses still only see and taste bread and wine, while our faith informs our spiritual senses to know that Jesus is there. And even if we decide to grant that the Sacraments are ways for us to interact with Jesus in a more physical way, I would only argue that it points to the extraordinary nature of the Sacraments that allow us to do so – it should only make us appreciate even more these miraculous gifts given to us by Jesus!
This “new” way of interacting with Jesus can make things pretty tricky for us as Christians. Many people have a very difficult time trying to interact with Jesus in a real way, while others make it seem like Jesus “speaks” to them all the time. Then, of course, this makes things even more frustrating for those who rarely, if at all, encounter Jesus in their daily lives: Why isn’t Jesus talking to me like he apparently talks to that person?!? I can’t seem to find him. Fortunately for us, Scripture can supply some help. I was reflecting on a scene from the Gospel of Luke the other day, in the 2nd chapter:
Now [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:41-49)
Even when people were still interacting with Jesus through their physical senses, they sometimes couldn’t find him! As I was reflecting on this scene, there were a number of insights that came my way – we might even say Jesus was “speaking” to me through the reflection. Here are some quick bullet points:
- They had their own expectations concerning the whereabouts of Jesus. How often do I seek Jesus according to my own expectations? Do I only consider looking for him where I want him to be?
- Consider the immense amount of joy and relief when they finally found Jesus. They must have been so relieved! When we can’t seem to find Jesus in our lives, sometimes the reason for this can be that Jesus is allowing us to feel the emptiness caused by the absence of his felt-presence, all so that our joy can be filled up when he reveals himself to us again. It’s like he’s preparing us to experience deeper joy by allowing even our spiritual senses to feel like he’s missing from our lives.
- This is the big point for me: They finally found Jesus in the temple, the place of communal worship. His response to them: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” If I can’t find Jesus in my life, the best place to seek him is in his Father’s house, the Church! It’s where he “must” be! So often when I’m feeling spiritually desolate, I look for new and exciting ways to encounter Jesus. These might provide fleeting moments of good feelings, but they ultimately fade away. What I need to do instead is return to the House of God, the place of communal worship, and there seek Jesus.
This passage provides me with great hope and encouragement that I, too, will find Jesus when it feels like I’ve lost him. Of course, I know he’s always present (Matthew 28:20), but I don’t always feel his presence. The most likely place for him to reveal himself to me is the same place where Joseph and Mary found him, which is the temple; for us as Christians, it’s in the Church. Above all, it would even be best for me to go to the place where he is present in the Eucharist, whether that is in the church-proper or in a chapel reserved for Eucharistic worship. He is truly there, waiting for me to come and visit. There I must go, there I will go, even now.
Here’s a great assistant to your prayer. It’s called the Pirate Prayer. Okay, it’s not actually called that. But if you know how pirates speak, then you’ll never forget this prayer. “ARRR!” Here’s what those letters mean:
Acknowledge your feelings. What emotions are you feeling right now? Admit to yourself that you are feeling them (or maybe it’s just one, or maybe it’s a million at once). These feelings/emotions might be the result of reading a particular passage from Scripture, they might be the result of some interaction with a family member, friend, or stranger, they might be the result of a particular personal achievement or failure, or they might be the result of something else.
Relate them to the Lord. “Jesus, I’m feeling ________ right now. Help me understand why.” “Father, this is how I feel: __________. Help me understand why.” Offer your feelings to the Lord. They can be positive or negative.
Receive from him. Sit in silence and see if he gives you any insights, such as why you’re feeling those things, or what it’s such a big deal to you that you’re feeling those things. (For example, maybe you’re feeling annoyed because you think that you should be perfect right now. You think you need to be perfect right now because of something that happened during your upbringing. What does Jesus say about what happened during your upbringing? What does he say about your expectations of being perfect right now? What does he say about you feeling annoyed? Does he have anything else to offer you?)
Respond to his grace. You’ve just had a conversation with the Lord about things that are going on in your soul and heart. He (hopefully) told you about what he thinks. How do you respond to the truths he told you and the potential lies you believed? Where do you go from here?
A person could repeat this entire prayer a million times a day. And I think it could be very helpful for anyone who gets caught in emotions frequently. It’s good to slow down and recognize that sometimes I am ruled by my emotions. By slowing down and dissecting them, I am actually taking control of the very things that are trying to control me.