Tag Archives: Miracles

From Miracles to the Cross

Jesus Heals the Paralytic, Mosaic at the Sant’Apollinare Nuovo – Ravenna. © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 4.0

13th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday (Year II)

Amos 7:10-17; Matthew 9:1-8

The paralytic and his friends in the Gospels show us that we are never alone in our journey of faith. Together with our fellow pilgrims, we carry one another on a stretcher to Jesus. Hidden prayers are rising like incense from unknown caves and crannies throughout the world in the bosom of the Father. Mary, the saints and the angels also surround us by their love.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”

Spiritual healing accompanied bodily healing; Jesus first reconciled the infirm man to God as God, healing the primordial wound. Hearts blind to divine realities saw only a man in Jesus, and thus charged him with megalomania.

At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. 

For Jesus, forgiving and healing proceeded from the same source; neither was “easier.” But empirical humanity rarely rouses from its spiritual slumber without a dazzling display of power or a dramatic crisis: When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men.

Yet power and crises have limited long-term effect. The miracles of Jesus and the warnings of the prophets did not bring about lasting conversion or prevent their murders. Something deeper needed to be effected in the hearts of persons beyond sight and hearing. 

Those who mocked Jesus at the foot of the Cross challenged him, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down from the cross, that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32). If Jesus had come down with power and might, he would have surrendered to his taunters and shown true weakness. Giving up his life out of love was paradoxically real, divine strength: “the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

The ego is a hard nut to crack. A snapshot of Amos and Amaziah, and Jesus and the scribes, show God knocking on the shell of the “hard hearted” and the “stiff-necked,” and trying to enter their hearts. Miracles and words fell like rain on the shell, but did not penetrate to the interior spirit. The Cross alone cracked the ego and broke down the dam that let the “rivers of living water” flow in.

-GMC

Signs of the Kingdom

Icon of Jesus and the Centurion

Matthew 8:5-17

Jesus’ fame as a healer spread far and wide in Palestine, attracting not only lepers but foreigners like the Roman centurion. Jews did not associate with either group; one was “unclean,” the other was “Gentile.” Both were sources of defilement. 

Jesus tore down walls of division by his compassion towards all people regardless of race, gender, physical and psychological condition, or social status. He must have felt an affinity for the centurion who showed such an unusual compassion for his servant, for under Roman law slaves were classified with tools and chattel. An infirm slave was considered disposable. As the noble centurion reached across social boundaries to help his fellow man, Jesus transcended racial boundaries and offered to go to his Gentile home—a transgression of Jewish law— and heal his servant.

The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

The centurion’s declaration of faith astounded Jesus. The Roman did not know Christ as the Son of God, but ascribed divine power and authority to him, intuiting by his spirit that Jesus could heal at a distance.

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven, but the children of the Kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour his servant was healed.

The racially exclusive court of heaven suddenly widened to include Gentiles in Jesus’ vision of the eternal Kingdom. The presumed heirs may find themselves disinherited, Jesus warned. Heaven is not a national birthright, but the universal communion of the faithful. 

After the leper and the centurion, Jesus returned to Peter’s house where he was staying and healed a third person of marginalized status in Israel—a woman. Peter’s mother-in-law immediately began to serve him as soon as she was healed of her fever. 

Jesus’ love knew no bounds as he healed every disease and infirmity. God had truly come in the flesh to reveal the secret of heaven: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:11). 

As wonderful as miracles are, Jesus wanted above all to lead his people to faith in his Father: “Unless you people see signs and wonders you will not believe,” Jesus admonished (John 4:48). He stood immovably silent in the presence of the sensation-seeking Herod (Luke 23:98-9).

The healing of body, soul and spirit in this world is a sign of the world to come when all divisions in the Body of Christ will be healed and brought to union and communion in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—the miracle of miracles.

-GMC

Father Charles of Mount Argus

Charles mt. argus

January 5 is the feast of the Passionist Father Charles Houben of Mount Argus in Ireland, who was known as a miracle-worker for the many miraculous cures attributed to him. He died in 1893. In 1892, one year earlier, Sherlock Holmes died, as fans of the master detective may know.

I mention Sherlock Holmes because he represents the English Enlightenment that believed everything can be explained by reason. On the case of Father Charles and his many miraculous cures, I’m sure Holmes would say to his colleague Dr. Watson “No such things as a miraculous cure. There’s a reason for it somewhere, and I’ll find it.”

Father Charles was born in Munstergeleen, Holland in 1821. During his time of compulsory military service he first heard about the Passionists. After completing military service and studies he was received into the community by Blessed Dominic Barberi. He made his novitiate in Belgium, ordained a priest and then sent to England. In 1856 he went to the newly established monastery of Mount Argus in Dublin, Ireland, where he ministered for most of his life till his death in 1893.

Charles was shy and timid, not learned or scholarly or a good preacher. He never spoke English well. At Mount Argus, he heard confessions and blessed people with a relic of the Passionist saints. Yet, people saw him as someone close to God and his blessing brought about cures. Increasing numbers of people came to him at Mount Argus seeking to be cured and he was called to homes and hospitals in Dublin to bless the sick.

His reputation grew. His funeral was attended by people from all of Ireland. A newspaper of the time said: “Never before has the memory of any man sparked an explosion of religious sentiment and profound veneration as that which we observed in the presence of the mortal remains of Father Charles,” the Superior of the monastery wrote to his family, “The people have already declared him a saint.”

In his lifetime, though, Charles met with criticism and humiliation, even from members of his own community. In 1866 because questions were raised about his curing ministry, particularly by the medical establishment, Charles was transferred to England, where he remained for a number of years before returning to Mount Argus.

In our enlightened age, we distrust cures.. Whether we’re aware of it or not, like the famous detective, we put our trust in science and reason to solve sickness and suffering. Someone will figure it out. Meantime take some pills.

We forget that cures were among the chief signs Jesus gave in his ministry. “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.” ( Matthew 4, 23) I notice recently pastoral care of the sick is getting dismissed more and more by the medical establishment. I also wonder if, in an “enlightened age” like ours, God might not work more cures, just to show us.

Charles was canonized June 2, 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peters Basilica, Rome. He’s still performing cures.

If you want to make a pilgrimage to Fr. Charles’ tomb start here.

Jesus in Caphernaum

img_0065

  Near the shore of the Sea of Galilee, in Israel, one can visit the excavations of the ancient town of Capernaum. There the Franciscans have built a lovely hexagonal church over the restored ruins of a circular stone house, with the opening for its front door clearly visible. We pilgrims believe in our hearts of faith that this is the house mentioned in today’s Gospel.

      ” On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told Him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left and she waited on them.

     ” When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to Him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door.” (Mk 1; 29-33).

     We believe that right at that door Jesus healed dozens, if not hundreds, of people (including the paralytic, who was lowered with ropes through the ceiling). He might also have preached the Good News of the Kingdom in front of that humble threshold.

     I cannot help but imagine my Lord residing in my own private room within my heart. I know that there, through the Eucharist or prayer, planned or unexpectedly, He continuously “grasps my hand and helps me up”. He stands at the door of my heart and encourages me to serve, to invite all those around me, in my family and community, who might need some of the hope and healing that He compels me to share. This is what I live for.

     And He asks for more: ” Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” (Mk 1; 38). With His holy companionship I am asked to reach out to those beyond the locust of my comfort zone: to the stranger, the different, the unpleasant one,the hopeless one, the one whose political ideas or interests are so different from mine.

     May He give me the strength and faith, and courage, to try and “grasp” the hand that might reject mine. He has given me so much undeserved grace and love. He has given me the eyes to “see Him”. For what “purpose” has He come to me, if not so that I may be an instrument of His peace and love?   

                                      Orlando Hernandez

23rd Sunday B: Hearing Creation Groan

Audio homily follows:

When you’re reading the gospels it’s good to notice where Jesus travels, because it usually offers an insight into what he does. Mark’s Gospel today (Mark 7,31-37) says Jesus leaves the district of Tyre “and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee into the district of the Decapolis.” The cities of the Decapolis, east of the Sea of Galilee, were not Jewish areas; they were where pagans lived. That means that the deaf man Jesus cures is most likely a pagan, not a Jew. In a simple way, through these place names, Mark’s Gospel indicates that Jesus brings life to others, besides the Jews; he comes for all people.

Our story also sees an interesting connection between hearing and speech. The deaf man not only can’t hear, he can’t speak either. His deafness affects his understanding; it impedes his connection with the world and reality around him; he can’t say what he has to say.

The miracles of Jesus are about more than physical cures, of course. The deaf man who can’t hear or speak points to the spiritual deafness that can affect the way we hear God and consequently impedes our ability to speak God’s truth.

Pope Francis will be visiting us in a few weeks. He’ll be visiting three different places. In Washington he will be addressing our government, in Philadelphia he will be speaking about family life, in New York he will be speaking to the whole human family at the United Nations. He has important things to say and we should listen to him.

I think we already know some of the things he’s going to say. His recent encyclical “Laudato Si” was about the care of creation. It wont be a surprise if he speaks about that in all those places. But if recent surveys are right, it seems that American Catholics aren’t hearing the message of that encyclical very well. We don’t seem to hear what’s being said, it’s not entering into our ordinary discourse. Certainly we don’t hear too much about it in our present political discourse.

There’s an ecological crisis, the pope said in his letter. It’s a major issue endangering the whole world, all of its creatures, our human family. It’s especially affecting the poor. We have to do something about it.

Some may deny the crisis exists; some may claim it’s exaggerated; some may just throw up their hands thinking it’s too big to deal with. Some may think it can taken care of gradually by the play of “market forces.”

The pope and many others see the ecological crisis as real, it’s endangering the world and it has to be dealt with now. Recently, Francis asked Catholics and people everywhere to come together on September 1st for a day of prayer about the care of creation. We need an “ecological conversion,” he said. An “ecological conversion.” I must confess I don’t understand all he means by that, but my instincts say he’s right. I need to “hear” what that means– an “ecological conversion.”

I don’t think ecological conversion means that we have to immerse ourselves completely in science, although the pope obviously respects scientific conclusions. We should too. I don’t think ecological conversion means that a few quick moves will fix the crisis, like changing a couple of light bulbs in the house–although again, suggestions like that are important. The pope says that as Catholics we need to “rediscover in our own rich spiritual patrimony the deepest motivations for our concern for the care of creation.”

Pope Francis does that in his encyclical. He sees what the scriptures say about creation, from the Book of Genesis to the writings of the New Testament. He sees the respect we have for creation in our sacraments. The water we use in baptism, the bread and wine we take in our Eucharist, the oil we use for anointing the sick. Our spiritual patrimony has a reverence for creation. In the pope’s words, our spiritual tradition reminds us that we’re called “to be protectors of God’s handiwork.” That call “is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (Laudato Si, 217). We must love God and our neighbor and creation itself.

Caring for creation and an “ecological conversion” are not going to be easy. It means great changes in the way we look at life and live life. We can’t understand all it means. We have trouble hearing and speaking about it, like the deaf man in the gospel. That’s why we need the grace of God. We need to pray for it. And while we’re at it, let’s pray for the pope.

4th Sunday of Lent

Lent 1
Readings (Please read further for Spanish and Swahili versions)
The story of the blind man receiving his sight (John 9,1-41) is a dramatic gospel, not only because of the miracle, but because of the heated exchanges and clever dialogue found in it. Jesus and his disciples, the blind man himself, his parents and neighbors and a divided group of Pharisees all interact vigorously in the story.

Unlike others, this blind man did not approach Jesus. Rather, Jesus approached him. And remarkably, the miracle did not just restore the man’s sight. Blind from birth, he never before had the power to see. Could he represent those who can do nothing for themselves? Nothing at all, except wait for the power of God? He could be all of us.

At the sight of the woebegone beggar, Jesus’ disciples wondered: did he do something to deserve it? Some sin he or his parents had committed? No, Jesus replied. “He was born blind so that God’s power might be displayed in curing him.”

It was Jesus’ message always: God wills to display his power in the poor. God’s power — healing, restoring, creating — goes out to the blind man and others like him. And as Jesus dispensed this power, so too he told his disciples “to carry on while daylight lasts the work of him who sent me.”
God’s power, not our own, is given to the poor. As Jesus’ disciples, we must work to share it with others. Then, perhaps, some of its blessing will fall on us. After all, aren’t we poor too?

“Humbly see your nothingness, never lose sight of it. Then, when His Divine Majesty makes it disappear in the Infinite All that is himself, stay there lost without seeing who you are any more. It’s not important. Follow his divine inspirations. The less you understand, the more ignorant you are in this school, the more learned you become. Neither you or any creature can know the grandeur of God and the divine impression he makes on humble hearts because he delights in them.” ( St. Paul of the Cross: Letter 929)

Lord,
I am blind;
Help me to see.

Spanish

4to domingo de Cuaresma, Año A
Juan 9, 1- 4

Este es un evangelio dramático, no solo por el milagro, sinó también debido a los animados intercambios verbales y diestro diálogo que se encuentran en él. Jesús y sus discípulos, el mismo hombre ciego, sus padres y vecinos, y un fracturado grupo de fariseos todos discuten vigorosamente en este cuento.

En contraste con otros, este ciego no buscó a Jesús. Mas bién, Jesús lo buscó a él. Es interesante que el milagro no solamente restauró la vista del hombre. Ciego desde nacimiento, él nunca había tenido el poder de ver. ¿Puede él representar a todos los que no pueden hacer nada por sí mismos? ¿Nada en lo absoluto, excepto esperar por el poder de Diós? Él nos puede representar a todos nosotros.

Frente al cuadro de este triste mendigo, los discípulos se preguntaban : ¿Será que él hizo algo para merecerse esto? ¿Algún pecado que él o sus padres habían cometido? No, respondío Jesús. ” él nació ciego para qué el poder de Diós sea manifestado en su cura.”

Era el mensaje de Jesús siempre: Diós escoge demostrar su poder por medio de los pobres. El poder de Diós- que sana, restaura y crea- procede hacía el hombre ciego y otros como él. Y mientras Jesús dispensaba este poder, también le decía a sus discípulos ” que sigan con el trabajo de Quién los mandó mientras todavía dura la luz del día.”

El poder de Diós, no el nuestro, es que se le da a los pobres. Como discípulos de Jesús, tenemos que trabajar para compartirlo con otros. Entonces, quizás, algunas de sus bendiciones caerán sobre nosotros. ¿Despúes de todo, no somos nosotros pobres también?

“En humildad nota tu insignifícancia, nunca pierdas vista de ella. Entonces, cuando su Divina Majestad hace que se desparezca en la Totalidad Infinita que es Él, descansa ahí perdido sin ver quien ya no eres. No es importante. Sigue sus inspiraciones divinas. Lo menos que entiendes, lo mas ignorante que eres en esta escuela, lo mas qué aprendes. Ni tú ni ninguna criatura puede comprender la grandeza de Diós y la divina impresión que él hace en los corazones hulmildes porque el se deleita en ellos.” (San Pablo de la Cruz: Carta 929)

Señor,
Estoy ciego;
Ayúdame a ver.

Lent
Jampili ya Nne Mwaka A
Hi ni Injili ya matukio, si kwa sababu ya miujiza tu, ila kwa sababu ya majadiliano motomoto na yenye uelewa yanayopatikana humo. Yesu na wanafunzi wake, kipofu mwenyewe, wazazi wake, majirani na kikundi cha mafarisayo kilichogawanyika, wote wanachangia kwenye hadithi.
Tofauti na wengine, kipofu hakumkaribia Yesu. Bali Yesu ndiye aliyemkaribia. Kwa namna ya pekee muujiza haukumfanya kipofu apate kuona tu. Kipofu tangu kuzaliwa, hakuwahi kuwa na uwezo wa kuona. Inawezekana kuwa anawakilisha wale ambao hawana uwezo wa kufanya kitu chochote wenyewe. Hawawezi kufanya kitu chochote ila kusubiri nguvu na uwezo wa mungu. Kipofu huyo anaweza kuwa sisi sote.
Wanafunzi wa Yesu wanashangaa kama alitenda kitu kilichomfanya astahili kuwa kipofu. Alitenda dhambi au wazazi wake ndio walitenda dhambi? La, Yesu aliwajibu. “Alizaliwa kipofu ili nguvu kuu ya mungu iweze kudhihirika katika kumponya.”
Ulikuwa ni ujumbe wa Yesu kila mara: Mapenzi ya Mungu ni kuonyesha uwezo wake kwa maskini. Nguvu za mungu za uponyaji, kurejesha na kuomba vinamuendea yule kipofu na wengine kama yeye. Vile Yesu alivotoa uwezo na nguvu ya uponyaji, aliwahimiza wanafunzi wake kuendeleza kazi ya mungu aliyemtuma yeye kuifanya.
Nguvu ya mungu si yetu, imetolewa kwa maskini. Sisi kama wanafunzi wa Yesu, inatubidi tufanye kazi na kuishirikisha nguvu hiyo kwa wenzetu. Nasi pia pengine huenda tukapata baadhi ya baraka zake. Hata hivyo kwa sisi pia ni maskini.
Mtakatifu Paulo wa Msalaba
Jinyenyekea na kuona kuwa huna kitu, na usipotese muelekeo. Halafu wakati utukufu wake mungu utatufanya nasi tupotelea kwake. Kaa pale na ujione kana kwamba haupo. Fuata maagizo au maelezo yake mungu. Vile unapungukiwa na kuelewa hapo ndivyo unavyojioana huna kitu katika shule yake. Hamna kiumbe chochote kinachoweza kufahamu alama anayoweka kwenye mioyo ya wanyenyekevu kwa sababu anapata furaha katika hao.(Barua 020, December 21, 1754)

Following Jesus through the Lenten Gospels

Don’t forget we’re following Jesus through lent and the lenten gospels are our guides. During the first weeks we read from the gospel of Matthew, a favorite of the early church, which took us to the mountain in Galilee where Jesus at the beginning of his ministry taught his followers that they are children of God, how to pray, how to forgive, how to live together.

We follow Jesus our teacher.

Today’s gospel is from Luke’s account of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.(Lk 11,14-23) Gathering disciples to accompany him, he teaches them through parables and performs miracles, like healing the man who is mute. Driving out the demon who holds the man makes it more than a physical healing; the miracle is a sign that the kingdom of God has come. The Evil One is powerless before Jesus.

The miracles signify that Jesus is the Messiah. When he heard about them, John the Baptist asked, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus replied they were indeed a sign he was the expected Messiah:

“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Luke 7,18-23)

Jesus is the Messiah.

Next week, the 4th week of Lent, we begin the gospel of John, which take us to Jerusalem where Jesus performs great signs, like the healing of the paralytic and the raising of Lazarus from the dead, but he also engages in extensive arguments about his identity with the Jewish leaders in the temple area.

Jesus is the Son of God.

All that we learn of him leads to the mystery of his cross and resurrection.
There he is our teacher, our Messiah, our Lord.

Lessons from Miracles

The miracle of the loaves and the fish is one of the most important miracles of Jesus mentioned in the New Testament. It’s in all four gospels: Mark reports it twice. Most people who know anything at all about Jesus know this story in some form or another. We read Matthew’s version at Mass last Sunday.

Miracles teach us many things. Defying reasonable explanations, they’re signs that God is present in our world and not distant or uninvolved in human affairs. They’re striking acts of divine love and mercy breaking the usual quiet and unseen presence of God among us. In the life of Jesus, miracles are one of the ways God confirms his divine mission.

Miracles teach us other things too. For instance, the story of the loaves and fish reminds us of  the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament in which Jesus through signs of bread and wine nourishes and supports us on our journey through life.  Just as God sent heavenly food,  manna, to the Jews as they made their way through the desert to the Promised Land, so Jesus gives this Bread as food on our way to eternal life.

Miracles invariably involve ordinary human beings as they unfold. Unfortunately, we sometimes overlook their human dimension.

A little boy had five loaves and two fish, John’s account of the miracle relates. (John 6, 9) He evidently gave them to Jesus. No one seems to remember his name. A small detail in the story, we may say. In this same miracle, it’s the disciples of Jesus who alert him to the hunger of the crowds and after the miracle distribute the bread and the fish to them. Minor details of the story, we may think.

Yet, it’s good to keep in mind that in every miracle Jesus seems to involve people,  who cry out their need, like the blind men along the road, or bring him a request for someone else, like the Roman soldier asking for his servant, or bring him the sick and the needy,  like the care-givers who followed him wherever he went.

The cure of the paralyzed man is one of the most colorful stories in the gospel. Those who brought him to Jesus  (how many were there anyway?) carry the helpless man  to the house where Jesus was and when they can’t get through the door because of the crowds, they climb onto the roof, cut a hole in it, and lower him down before Jesus.

The man was cured and walked out of the house carrying his mat with him. It was a miracle, truly,  but what about those who brought him? Some human cooperation like theirs is found in almost all of the miracle stories of the gospel.  A rare exception may be the story from John’s gospel of the paralyzed man who sat for 37 years near the Pool of Bethsaida and had no one to help him enter its healing waters. No one brought him to the attention of Jesus, it seems. so Jesus spontaneously heals him, because he’s so helplessly on his own.

God seldom acts alone, the miracle stories tell us; he invites human cooperation. Our challenge, then, is to respond and do our part in God’s work in this world.  That response may be as small as the little boy’s response who gave over his five loaves and two fish. But it’s important just the same.

How do we prepare ourselves for this role? I think  by daily prayer.

Loaves and Fish

Christ_feeding_the_multitude

The miracle of the loaves and the fish is one of the most important miracles in the New Testament. All four gospels recall it; Mark mentions it twice. The miracle, which  foreshadows the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, is about important aspects of the gospel message.

The miracle takes place as a crowd of people follow Jesus into a desert place and he blesses them with  nourishing bread and a meal of fish. According to the gospels, they’ve come from their homes, from different towns–some a distance away; they’ve made an effort to see him. Now they’re  tired and hungry.

Some may have come just from curiosity or because others brought them along, but Jesus doesn’t  multiply the bread and the fish to satisfy curiosity. People were hungry and needed food.

John says people came “because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.” So, probably some of them were sick or brought their sick with them.

Mark’s gospel says the miracle happened because, on seeing the crowd, Jesus’ heart went out to them. “He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and so be began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6,34)

“Sheep without a shepherd.” They’re looking for direction, for meaning in their lives, for a sense of who they are and what they’re about. And Jesus offers them a shepherd’s care and a teacher’s wisdom.

But they’re hungry. We shouldn’t  forget the first reason Jesus gives the crowd bread and the fish. His gospel is practical; feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, care for those in need. And what he did, he tells those who follow him to do:  “What do you have, go and see?”

Let’s not forget the practical demands of this story. At the same time, we know that the hunger Jesus addresses is more than physical hunger. All of us are looking for  more than physical food; our hunger is also for the “true bread from heaven that gives life to the world.”

Unlike other miracles Jesus worked, the miracle in the desert benefits, not just one person, it benefits all.

And so, when we come to the Eucharist, we come together to a place where “the hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” (Psalm 145) We come to Jesus whose heart goes out to us.  Once again, he  takes bread and gives thanks. “This is my body,” he says. “Take and eat.”  This is the cup of my Blood,” he says. “Take and drink.”

And we are satisfied; we receive our Daily Bread. And from what we have, we give to others.

End of a Mission

Just finished conducting a parish mission at Immaculate Conception Parish Melbourne Beach, Florida. I’m always impressed with the people you meet in an ordinary parish like this. Here’s where believers meet.

How much power they have! Literally, those I talked to this week reach around the world. I tried to help them realize their potential by pointing out just one thing: they’re reaching out across the world already on the internet, which most of them use.

So I asked them to use their parish website and this blog as a way of thinking together about the gift of faith they’ve been given. We have to stir up the gift of faith we’ve been given, together. It will make us at home in the world we live in and thirst for the world still to come.

Some parishioners took me to a wonderful play on Sunday afternoon in the neighboring parish. It’s called “Miracles,” about the miracles of Jesus, told in gospel songs. Beautifully done, by hometown talent.

I hope they keep doing that kind of thing. We need artists to help us imagine our faith and point out its beauty. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea to combine a play like that with a parish mission, I thought. Maybe some day.

We need to think about our faith as well as approach it imaginatively.
For thinking about faith, I’ve found some books helpful. Here they are:

What Happened at Vatican II, John W. O’Malley, SJ, Cambridge, Mass, 2008
A fine explanation of Vatican II and its blueprint for the future of the Catholic Church.

The Faithful. A History of Catholics in America.  James M. O’Toole, Cambridge, Mass. 2008
A interesting look at the church in America from Colonial days till the present.

A Secular Age, Charles Taylor, Cambridge, Mass  2007
Hard to get into, maybe, but for me it’s the best explanation of the times we live in now.

United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, US Bishops, Washington, 2006
A good modern catechism. In the mission I used the catechism’s approach, which introduced doctrine through the lives of saints and people of faith.

Besides books, there are blogs. It’s getting harder to keep up on things as magazines and newspapers, both secular and religious, decline. Cable news is so often shallow. But here are a few blogs of Catholic interest that I follow. If you know any more let me know.

http://cnsblog.wordpress.com/ Catholic News Service
http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/ The Jesuits, God bless them
http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/ Laypeople write this one
http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/ Plenty of Roman stuff from Rocco