Friday, April 8, 2016

What you see, isn't always what you get....

Many years ago I watched this movie about hackers in which one of the young men quoted the bible: "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."  I loved that movie quote.  The thing is, I never would have thought all those years ago that I would have used that very quote today to describe my spiritual journey before becoming Catholic.  I did experience God during that journey.  I experienced his presence, his Scriptures, and even glimpses into his body as kind and loving men and women tried to help me grow closer to Him.  I also experienced the opposite.  Periods in which people would funnel their own hate and bias into scripture and through scripture.  When people would demand you stop asking questions or reading anything outside of scripture.

I think the perfect example would have to be my understanding of the book of Revelation.  For many, many years I thought of revelation as a line by line commentary on current events.  I watched the news to find things that lined up with people in the scripture, events that might have some kind of connection to the Antichrist, the Beast, the Dragon etc.  I honestly lived in fear of those times to come.  Would I be ready?  Would my family make it?  Is there any time left?  Will I be able to stand up to the upcoming 'tribulation' period? I believed our God was going to come and snatch up the Christians and leave the rest of the world behind to suffer in anguish for not choosing him fast enough.  Not very kind of God, and not very lovely to imagine in my mind.

Then I read an amazing book by Scott Hahn, the Lamb's Supper.   I took time to digest the information in that book and to examine it in light of the writings of the first and second century Christians. In a sense, I began to grow up.  I still believe the book of revelation can have things to teach us about the current times.  I also think that it could give us a glimpse into the future, sure.  What I believe first and foremost though is that it is a book written with a preterist perspective that gives us a firm and sincere glimpse into what worship looks like in Heaven.  Not just in Heaven, but a glimpse into the metaphysical reality of what the Mass truly is.  That's an astounding thought isn't it?  This is a written account of what happens at Mass as we all gather together and Heaven kisses earth.

With that in mind let's again read the second reading for this coming Sunday:

I, John, looked and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea,
everything in the universe, cry out: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.” The four living creatures answered, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Think about that for a moment... when you go to Mass and the Eucharist is elevated before you.. when the Priest lifts up the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ before you... that is happening right before your eyes.  The countless numbers of those who have gone on before us are gathered around the Lamb who was slain and calling out to Him.  All of those men and women who you have loved who have died in Christ are now next to you in the pew blessing God with their lips, exalting Him with their souls.   How about you?  Are you joining them in this blessing with your heart?  Are you participating as fully as you are capable with the faculties he has given you?  Do you sing the hymns with the angelic choirs?  Pray with the priest during the collect? Or are you just checking your watch to see if it's time to go?  Glaring around at others judging them instead of focusing on Christ present in a unique and substantial way right before your very eyes?

Just like with Peter, Christ is asking you a simple question when you come forward to Communion.  When the minister raises up the Host and says "The Body of Christ," imagine Christ speaking to you....

"Do you love me?"

How do you respond?  It's interesting that in that encounter Jesus asks Peter three times do you love me, but we lose a hint of it in English.  He asks him do you agape me?  That is do you love me so much you are willing to sacrifice yourself for me?  Do you love me that much?  Peter says I phileo you lord... "I love you like a friend."   Oh how that must hurt.  Jesus asks Peter if he loves him completely, more than life itself.. and Peter responds you know you're my bro man.   So Jesus asks again? Do you agape me?  Again Peter responds you're my bro.. we're friends man.  Then Jesus sighs and asks again... "Do you love me like a friend Peter?"  The Scriptures record that Peter was distressed as he responded "Yeah, that's right.. I love you like a friend."

Then Jesus says to him, there will come a time when you are ready to agape me Peter.. a time when you will grow into the man I have created you to be.. I love you completely Peter, and I accept you where you are.. but I love you too much to leave you there.   When you found out I was dead?  You went back to your old ways, your old life... but that is not what I ask of you... I ask metanoia, change.. So go forth, and take care of my flock.. because you are no longer a child.  "Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  Jesus was speaking of the death Peter was to experience...  Peter was eventually crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus.

Jesus is asking you the same thing when you come forward to receive the Sacraments.  "Do you love me?"  Think of that when you say Amen this time... are you saying "You're my bro"?  Or are you saying "I love you completely, sacrificially, I will give anything for you."  There is a saying that goes around anytime someone wants to justify whatever their 'pet sin' is.  I hear this so often "Jesus loves me just the way I am."  I agree... but he loves you too much to leave you that way.  He has created you for so much more.. He has created you to be perfect, as the Father is perfect.   That is what "charity" means.. it means loving as God loves... loving so fully that you are changed.. you are molded.. you are formed into the image of God that you were made in.   Are you ready for that?  I think all of us, every time we come forward to receive our Lord and Savior, should be asking ourselves.. have I put away childish things?  It's time for us to grow up.  It's time for us to listen to that final command from the Lord when he says "Then follow me."

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."