Tag Archives: Eucharist

Thoughts Upon The Cross: Speak Life

by Howard Hain

Sandro Botticelli, The Last Communion of Saint Jerome, early 1490s (detail)

Botticelli, “The Last Communion of Saint Jerome”, early 1490s, (detail), The Met


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Heal us.

In the form of bread.

Our tongues like cribs.

You come to rest.

A sacred place.

A mother watches.

A father can hardly believe.

Greatness simply conceived.

Silent.

Yes let us be.

Help us not to speak.

No words can be.

No thoughts except those that flee.

Yes.

Hold our tongues.

Into quiet place.

Stillness.

Let us wait.

Till hear You cry.

A hungry child.

Tucked in for night.

A drop of milk.

In reality blood.

In the form of wine.

The angels sing.

Holiness explodes.

Heaven down to earth.

Saints to and fro.

Blessings forth.

Grace abounds.

The sick are healed.

The blind can see.

The lonely find friends.

Children unwanted?

They finally reach home.

We look.

We see.

We wonder.

How could it be?

It’s Him!

It’s Him.

Right there.

The One nailed to the tree.

Alive again.

Within my mouth.

And at my right hand.

And to the left.

And straight ahead.

And there!

Yes, there too!

In that hopeless situation.

We thought all was lost.

But, no, it’s Him.

He really does care.

And He calls us over.

To Himself.

And yes.

Silence changes forms.

It’s again time to speak.

What else can we do?

The Eternal One.

The Son of Man.

The Conqueror of Strife.

Let us smile at one another.

Let us speak life.


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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435728

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Bread from Heaven

Jordan satellite
You can see lush green land around the Lake of Galilee, in the upper part of this  Google satellite picture of Palestine. It’s good farmland now and it was good farmland at the time of Jesus.

Herod the Great and his son Herod Antipas,  Galilee’s rulers then, created a network of roads and large cities – Tiberius, Sepphoris and Caesarea Maritima on the sea– to export goods from Galilee to the rest of the world. The economy was doing pretty well in Jesus’ time, historians say.

Does that information help us appreciate the miracle of Jesus feeding the crowd bread and some fish, which we’re reading about in John’s gospel today and into next week? This miracle wasn’t simply about feeding the poor: Jesus was making a divine claim.

“I am the bread of life”,  Jesus says, source of your blessings and everything that is. God the creator works through me.  Moses asked for bread for his people journeying from Egypt.  Jesus says: “I am the bread of life.”

Jesus makes a divine claim in this miraculous sign, feeding a multitude. The crowd then wants to make him king, (John 6, 15) but the kingship they see doesn’t approach the kingship that’s his. It’s much too small. Jesus rejects their plan.

It was also a dangerous time. Herod Antipas and the Romans would crush anyone threatening to interfere with their profitable kingdom. Jesus rejected their efforts.

In a wonderful commentary on Jesus as the bread of life, the early theologian Origen says that Jesus calls himself bread because he is “nourishment of every kind,” not just nourishment of our bodies. He nourishes our minds and our souls; he brings life to creation itself.  When we ask “Give us this day our daily bread,” we’re asking for everything that nourishes our “true humanity, made in the image of God.”

Jesus is the bread that helps us “grow in the likeness of our creator.” (On Prayer 27,2) Sometimes– in fact most of the time–we don’t know the nourishment we or our world needs, but God does. “The true bread come down from heaven”  knows how to feed us.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

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Morning Thoughts: Taste and See

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“What does it taste like?”

This is the main question I hear from eight-year-olds who are about to make their First Holy Communion.

At first, I confess, I saw it as quite cute, “childlike” if you will— their little focus on the very obvious—the actual physical experience of eating something—something they have never eaten before.

But once again, the “teacher’ plays the fool. No, not “plays” the fool, in this case the “teacher” is actually the fool.

Grownups can be so busy moving on to the “real” point that they often miss the healthiest part of the meal.

And we think it’s the children who are obsessed with sweets?

———

Of course, I was not the one to correct my own error. The only true teacher, Jesus, and the only true guide, The Holy Spirit, once again came to the rescue.

———

It was about 8:20 on an ordinary weekday morning. I had just left the pew and got in line to receive Communion. And as I walked toward the altar I found myself quietly asking: “What does it taste like?”

There I was, a full-fledged adult, a “mature” believer, in line with all the eight-year olds of the world—though with one great exception—I was probably the only one who lacked sincerity.

Not that I didn’t really wonder what it tastes like. I did. But my “bigness” wouldn’t leave good enough alone. I quickly translated the simple into the complex: “What does it taste like?” became “What is heaven like?”

Not a bad question, of course. But not the one being asked. Once again, I was rushing right to dessert. But not so the eight-year-old. No, the eight-year-old is much more straightforward, sincere, genuine, and ironically, no nonsense. He and she are much more down-to-earth, which in this case, strangely enough, brings them much closer to heaven.

Their question is simply what it seems. They have no hidden pomposity dressed up as profundity. They are simply asking a quite simple question.

“What does it taste like?”

And if there’s any need for more elaboration concerning such a straightforward question, it should only make their point simpler, not more complex. For example, I guess in order to help us adults see more clearly what they mean, perhaps it’s safe to say that the eight-year-old is literally asking: “What does this thing that I am about to put in my mouth, that you tell me is the real, actual body of Jesus Christ, a man who died almost two-thousand years ago, really taste like?”

Good question.

And to allow the eight-year-old in me to answer, I say, it kind of tastes like cardboard.

Good answer.

It’s dry, bland, you might even say, stale.

Kind of what you’d expect, at best, from something two-thousand-years-old.

Kind of what mankind has tasted on a daily basis since the beginning of time, since the time Adam and Eve were sent forth from the garden to work for their daily bread.

Life can be like cardboard.

It can be dry, bland, you might even say, stale.

It can even be what we come to expect.

At least for us adults, for those of us who only take things at face value.

For, you see, the child in his or her utterly face-value question reveals his or her astounding trust and playfulness within the much deeper mystery of what truly exists but cannot be seen. For there is another question, one that eight-year-olds don’t ask nearly as often when it comes to First Holy Communion.

They hardly ever ask: “How can that be?”

They move right past the “how” to get to the “taste and see.

———

No matter the age, what brings sincerity is faith, and what increases faith is sincerity.

Therefore all questions safely asked from under the umbrella of faith are not questions casting doubt.

No, they are genuine gestures of childlike wonder, that simply ask in one way or another:

“What is this faithful reality going to be like for me?”


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“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

—Psalm 34:9


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: Short and Simple

tintoretto-christ-washing-the-disciples-feet-1548-49

Tintoretto, “Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet”, 1548-49

 


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Pray, brothers and sisters,

that my sacrifice and yours

may be acceptable to God,

the almighty Father.”


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Tall and handsome.

Big and powerful.

Profound and exciting.

A great adventure starring a great hero.

Doing the dishes.

Just the right combination of hot and cold.

Mostly hot of course.

And the cold, that splash of sobriety is so we don’t get burned.

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, I commence the dishes…

———

The sponge is important.

It need be clean and effective.

For how can one wash with something dirty?

And yet, even the best is hardly perfect.

After a single use it’s bound to show signs of deterioration.

So you add more soap and hope for the best.

Our Father, who art in heaven…

———

The circular motion of water, upon and around each dish.

Turn, turn, turn…

Rinse, rinse, rinse…

Like the axis of the earth.

The equator slightly tilting back and forth.

Side to side, to ensure proper runoff.

Such a delicate balance.

Then put aside to dry.

Sunlight works best.

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…”

———

The drain cannot be ignored.

The little netting, catching all sorts of iniquities.

Now very clean hands.

Cleansed thru humility.

The dignity of work.

Reach down.

To grab what has been left below.

The rejected, the unwanted, the forgotten food.

A Eucharistic portion.

Not washed into the drain.

Yet separated from what is considered clean.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

———

I find two towels work the best.

One, somewhat clean, to wipe down the faucets and the edge of the sink.

The other to dry shriveled-up hands.

And to be hung, upon the little bar.

The one that crosses the oven door.

Awaiting the warmth.

The warmth that bakes our daily bread.

May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.”

———

It is all really very simple.

Short and simple.

He died. We live.

We die. He lives.

One dirty dish at a time.

One Eucharistic encounter at a time.

Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”


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Thanks be to God.”

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—Howard Hain

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Morning Thoughts: Such Small Spaces

 

ingres-madonna-of-the-host

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, “Virgin Adoring the Host” ca. 1850s

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Lord God, how is it You fit in such small spaces?

The Creator of all, the Maker of all things, He who knows every hair on every head—how is it Lord You fit in such small spaces?

The Light of Light, the King of Kings—the Heaven, the Earth, and all their Glory—how is it Lord You fit in such small spaces?

How is it Father that You fit in a cradle?

How is it Lamb of God that You fit in a host?

How is it Author of Life that You fit in a word?

How is it my Lord and my God You fit in such small spaces?


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: Acceptance Speech

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Just start walking.

Leave the pew behind.

Everything else falls away.

All that was dead comes to life.

Pastures and valleys. Fields and streams.

Tiny violet flowers on the walls of quarries.

Wood and stone. Water and wine.

Teardrops and smiles.

A poor boy gets in line.

Just a taste. A nibble. A crumb from the table.

But he looks at his clothes.

But it’s all he’s got.

Just keep walking.

You’ve left the pew behind.

Everything else has fallen away.

All that was dead has come to life.

A thorny bush now a fruitful tree.

A man raises his hand:

“The Body of Christ.”

A child opens his mouth:

“Amen.”

A shepherd boy ascends to the throne.


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—Howard Hain

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28th Sunday C: The Gift of Life

 

To listen to this week’s homily, please select the audio file below:

Some years ago, I visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC with a cousin of mine who fought in that war. We were passing along the wall where names of those who were killed in that war were inscribed, when he stopped and pointed to a name.

One day, he said, his artillery unit was ordered to a forward position; he was the officer in charge. Just as he was ready to get into the helicopter, word came that he was wanted for a meeting at headquarters, so he got out of the helicopter and told a junior officer to take over; he would join them as soon as he could.

That day the unit took heavy fire; the name he pointed to on the wall was the officer who took his place.

“Why am I living and he’s not?” That’s a question he keeps asking, he told me. “Why am I alive?”

That’s really the ultimate question in today’s readings. The lepers who were cured by Jesus were facing death. There was no cure for their disease. Leprosy was so frightening then that those affected by it were driven from their homes and families to live in isolated places and forbidden to go near anyone. Jesus gave them the miracle of life.

It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor. Namaan, the Syrian general, whom we read about in our first reading, was one of the most powerful people in the world, but he had leprosy; it was a death sentence. In desperation he went down to Israel looking for a cure, a miracle. Washing in the Jordan River, he received the miracle of life.

The ten lepers were cured, our gospel reading says, but only one was truly thankful. The other nine seem to take the life they were given for granted. Do those nine represent most of us? The one who was thankful was a Samaritan.

Namaan, the Syrian, was also thankful. He went to the prophet Elisha after being cured and offered him gifts. No, the prophet said, life is God’s gift, not mine, and he wouldn’t take anything from the Syrian.

“Then at least let me take some dirt from this place, ‘two mule loads of earth,’” Namaan says, “so that I can take it back with me and  stand on it and remember and give thanks to God for what I have received here. “ He won’t forget the gift of life and how to use it.

That’s the great challenge we all face–not to forget that life is a gift and it’s been given to us by God to live well every moment, each day, as long as God gives it to us.

Our church is a place of thanksgiving. Above all, our church is a place where we give thanks. Our Mass is also called Eucharist, an act of thanksgiving. “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” “It’s truly right and just” that we do this. In this place we remember the God of Life who gives us life. Here too we receive a promise of life beyond this, greater than this, through Jesus Christ.

We have been given the gift of life, a precious gift. Don’t take it for granted. We thank God for it and try with all our strength to live it as we should.

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