Tag Archives: eucharist

Dying To Be Blessed

“I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  Spoken by the Patriarch Jacob, these words sum up the attitude with which we should seek God’s blessings: “I will not let you go”.  However, in today’s Christian culture, it is common to focus on the last part of the verse: “…unless you bless me.”  A web search for “God’s Blessings” displays pages of “accessing the blessings of God” or “4 Steps to God’s Blessin’s”.  Though it is natural and good to want the best of what God has for us, the problem lies in that we’ve generally lost sight of what real blessings are and how to receive them.  God deeply desires to bless us, but those blessings come when we approach and meet Him in the way He has designed: through gift of self.  In Man and woman He Created Them: a Theology of the Body, Blessed John Paul II states that when a person gives of themself, he or she “fulfills the very meaning of…being and existence.”

Because God’s love is ever giving, ever pouring out, from Creation to Cross to Communion, we can only truly experience the blessings of God when we mirror His love by giving ourselves back to Him and pouring ourselves out to others.  Christ summed it up a few weeks ago in the Gospel reading: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it produces much fruit” (John 12:24).  Christ is using a familiar farming analogy to point out that even God’s created universe participates in this economy.  In Minnesota, we could just as easily say, “Unless a student hits the rink 8 days a week, he remains benched; but if he casts aside all things non-hockey, he shall skate” or “If you don’t shovel the snow, you remain at home; but if you break out the snow pusher, you shall attend the Memorial Day Parade.”  Basically, only sacrifice brings blessing.

In fact, name ONE thing of lasting value that did not in some way result from sacrifice and suffering on someone’s part.  This principle is all around us, from marriage to childbirth to national freedom.  For instance, if you hadn’t given up the time to read this article, you could never have been astounded by the blessing of my overwhelming intellect.  The point is that we are created to experience the endless, staggering blessings of God’s love, but we’re not ready to fully receive them until we empty our hands of all that we’re holding in order to cling to Him, never letting go.

A few weeks ago, a 20-person team came from St. John’s to do a week of service on the island of Dominica (dah-mih-KNEE-kuh), where I am currently working as a missionary.  The group prayed every week for four months prior to coming, gave up time, treasure, and talent, sweated, lost sleep, and ran themselves ragged; and when they came home, all they could say was that they felt like they had received far more than they gave.  Beautifully, my leaders down here said they felt the same in return!  The reason for this mutual blessing is simple: when you give yourself to God, He gives Himself back to you, and He will not be outdone. (Think about your sacrifice of walking up to the altar on Sunday vs. the Eucharist you receive in return)

If you want to receive blessings, let go of what you’re holding on to so tightly, and GIVE yourself to Christ.  Live a life that blesses others, regardless of reciprocation.  Just give.  Pay no attention to whether or not they care.  Quit looking for repayment.  Just give like He does, to the last breath and to the last drop of blood.  If you do, when you finally give up your ghost, you will find His breath in your lungs and His blood in your veins, and you will know, fully and eternally, what it truly means to be blessed.

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Peter’s Appetite and the Bread of Life

Gospel

Luke 9:11b-17

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God,…

As the day was drawing to a close,

the Twelve approached him and said,

“Dismiss the crowd

so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms

and find lodging and provisions;

for we are in a deserted place here.”

He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.”

They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have,

unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.”

Now the men there numbered about five thousand.

Then he said to his disciples,

“Have them sit down in groups of about fifty.”

They did so and made them all sit down.

Then taking the five loaves and the two fish,

and looking up to heaven,

he said the blessing over them, broke them,

and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.

They all ate and were satisfied.

And when the leftover fragments were picked up,

they filled twelve wicker baskets.

“Dismiss the crowd so that they can…find lodging and provisions…”

As always, the disciples are thinking so practically, so pragmatically.  They realize that Christ is, indeed, worth following, worth listening to, and, quite possibly, the Messiah; but people have to eat.  It is one thing to listen to good teaching, even teaching from THE Messiah, but, as my Baptist youth minister friend says, “The brain can only handle as much as the rear can.”  If it was me in that setting, and it has been many times, I’d be thinking, “Alright.  Good teaching.  Great sermon.  I’m hungry.”  The disciples seem like the sort of people I’d get along with.  When I’m tired and hungry, I, too, would be willing to walk up to the Son of God, interrupt, and…um… “strongly suggest” that we adjourn for a while and get some Arby’s, or at least a McDouble from the dollar menu (we disciples are a cheap lot).

“Give them some food yourselves”

He’s not clueless.  He knows they don’t have any food, right?  Just in case, let’s tally it up and give him the rundown.  “Okay, here’s the deal, Jesus.  5 loaves, 2 fish.  You pick the 5 people that’ll feed.  No, Peter, you can’t have it.”  On a complete side note, I have always loved that, though there were 5,000 men present and 12 disciples of the Messiah, the ONLY person to have thought to bring extra food was a little boy.  I’d say he’s a prime biblical proof of the existence of an ancient clan of the Boy Scouts of America.

It is at this point that I see a scene in my head.  It’s speculation,  I know.  But I see it go down this way: a staredown for like thirty seconds, as Jesus thinks about how exactly to get his point across in the best way, the disciples think about finding a knife sharp enough to cut the 5 and 2 into 5,000 pieces, and Peter thinks about how good the it will all taste when he sneaks off with it in like 35 seconds.

Staring……………………..blink……………………………

staring……………………..blink……………………………

a sandal shuffles………… someone coughs……………..

blink……………………………………………………………..

Peter quietly sidles towards the Fishloavesnack© ……..

blink ………………………………. and then ………………….

“….have them sit down…”

I personally like that His first step is to get them all comfy.  Don’t leave them shifting and sweating; get ‘em in a receptive, relaxed situation.

“Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish,

and looking up to heaven,

he said the blessing over them, broken them,

and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.”

I see him wink at Peter as He steps between the man and his “precious”.  But, then, all the joking is set aside.  Christ is about to cut through the hunger, the wilderness, the confusion, the ambiguity as to what’s going on.  There, before their eyes, a minimum of 5,013 people watched as a boy’s lunch became their feast.  In a moment, the small became great.  Through Christ, aching hunger is satiated.

We don’t get the scientific narrative of how things multiplied.  We don’t get to know if baskets and hands simply began overflowing.  We don’t read how the atoms and electrons and quarks of each loaf and fish replicated.  What we DO see, un-arguably, is that normal matter (Fishloavesnack©) is played upon by a force greater than itself.

We are witnessing Christ saying, “I am not daunted by your empty bellies and thin faith.  I am not here to feed only your mortal flesh.  What I am doing here, I do to prepare you for what happens in just a few verses.  When I explain the Bread of Heaven, though you are confused, you WILL remember what I can and have done with normal bread.”

So often, it is easy for us (me) to doubt that the Eucharist is what the Church says it is.  We (I) have trouble believing that the silver dollar-sized wafer and the mild wine are, in actuality, transubstantiated.  The “source and summit” can all-too-often look stale and simple.  But the entire history of the Christian Church beckons us (me) to trust otherwise.  The gospel of Luke exhorts us to set aside what measly resources we have and trust our Savior.  His Word urges us to remember the heights and depths of the supernatural that He’s already accomplished by His suffering, death, and resurrection.  Our Lord calmly asks us, right now, wherever we are, to sit down, taste, and see that the Lord is good.

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Things I Didn’t Know

Until the nineteenth century, all Christians agreed that the Church being “caught up” –the rapture, though it was not called that at the time—would occur immediately before the Second Coming, at the close of the period of persecution, and that there are NO Christian writings of ANY kind that fully and blatantly support the concept of “The Rapture” as taught by modern Evangelical Protestantism.  I had no clue.

-When Christ is speaking specifically, and in the singular tense, to Peter in Matthew 16, he is quoting almost word-for-word from Isaiah 22, where the king is leaving his kingdom in the hands of one man, who will possess the keys to the kingdom and be able to bind and loose with the king’s authority.

-There is an easily discernable, unbroken line of apostolic succession leading from Peter to Pope Benedict XVI.

– The 7 books of the Old Testament that Protestants removed were included in the original canon of Scripture AND in the ol’ King James Bible.  There are, at a minimum 75 references to these 7 in the New Testament, whereas Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Obadiah, Nahum and Zephaniah are NEVER quoted.

– I Peter 3:21 explicitly states that, just as Noah was saved through water, “so now baptism saves you”.

– The Word of God as we know it was compiled by a bunch of priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes in a legalized Church that was supposedly invented by Constantine.

-One of the first things Jesus says to His disciples after He rises from the dead is: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven”(John 20:23)

-Not only are the Greek words in the New Testament all very, very literal WHENEVER they reference the Eucharist (John 6, especially), but the earliest Christian writings are very, very clear on what they believed regarding communion. (And they aren’t “Evangelical-friendly”)

– The words “faith” and “alone” never appear together in Scripture, except in James when he says, “It is not by faith alone”.  Martin Luther knew this, but still added the word “alone” after “faith” in Romans 3:28 in his translation of the Scriptures.

– Every, single issue that I used to have with the Catholic Church was 100% accepted by every, single generation of Christians, from Golgotha to today.  Who knew?

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