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For almost 2000 years, Christians have called Mosul, Iraq home. Today, not one home is left. Persecuted. Killed. And forced to flee. Christians and others have been forced to flee. Hundreds of thousands have been made homeless, destitute from food, shelter and medical care.

Make a difference today: http://ChristiansAtRisk.org/

Elijah’s Power Food, and Ours

Elijah Bol cropped

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – August 9, 2015

I have always loved reading the Elijah cycle in the Book of Kings. The first book, Chapter 18, portrays Elijah as an invincible prophet who fearlessly stands up to king and prophets, but he remains extremely so human in the process! Today’s first reading from 1 Kings 19 presents us with the great prophet who is vulnerable and subject to discouragement and fear.

Let us situate today’s story in 1 Kings. In Chapter 19 we have the aftermath of Elijah’s brilliant victory in the contest with Jezebel and the priests of Baal atop Mount Carmel. Just when Elijah should have been triumphant, he receives a message telling him of Jezebel’s murderous intentions, and he is “afraid” (v. 3). Elijah is persecuted for his faithfulness and for demanding total obedience to one God because such loyalty threatens the powers that be who have their own ideas about whom or what people should worship.

Israel’s fiery prophet immediately flees south into the wilderness of the Negev Desert. His mood is one of defeat and desolation. After all he had done for the God of Israel, his victory now seems vitiated. He has not been given divine protection he was promised and he only wants to die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” There, in the barren desert, Elijah lies down under “a solitary broom tree” and asks God to take his life, claiming that he is no better than his fathers. Elijah bemoans his discouragement at his lack of success in encouraging the Israelites to be faithful.

Energy from above

Suddenly, a messenger (angel) of the Lord awakens him and tells him to eat and drink. Whereas the wicked Jezebel sends a messenger of death to Elijah, the Lord God of Israel sends him a messenger of life, who serves Elijah food and water, two essentials for survival in the harsh wilderness.

Elijah eats, drinks, but then falls asleep again, indicating that he has not yet recovered from his lethargy or depression. The messenger wakes Elijah again and urges him to eat and drink, this time providing a reason, “or the journey will be too much for you” (19:7).

What can we learn from Elijah in the desert wilderness? Here is a man who has given his life totally in faithfulness to the God of Israel. He has been totally “zealous for the Lord.” His desperate cry, “I am no better than my ancestors” reveals a man who no longer believes in himself. He had believed himself to be a spectacularly exemplary servant of God. No one could outdo him in his zealousness. Now he believes it has been all in vain!

Dark night of the soul

Yet the God of Israel does not give up on Elijah. God’s teaching moment begins when Elijah’s famed resourcefulness runs out. Angels from God are needed to feed him in his weakness. Then God leads him through a time of reflection in the wilderness.

His journeying through Negev wilderness lasts for the significant time of forty days and forty nights. As the Hebrews wandered earlier in the wilderness in search of God, this most zealous prophet and servant of the Lord is led on a similar journey. Eventually Elijah comes to the sacred mountain of Horeb, where he spends the night in a dark cave. The dark cave and the dark night are reflective of his “dark night of the soul.”

Mount Horeb is in some Old Testament traditions the name for Mount Sinai, the mountain associated with God’s appearance. Forty days and nights in connection with Mount Sinai recalls the two sojourns of Moses on Sinai for forty days and nights (Exodus 24:18; 34:28).

The point of this moving story is not just that Elijah makes a physical trip to Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai, but rather something much more significant. In an act of sheer grace God intervenes, provides the prophet with life-giving food and water, and suggests a pilgrimage to mountain that is the place forever associated with the source and essence of Israelite faith.

The Elijah story speaks powerfully to those who are worn-out, fearful, or in need of renewal and recommitment to their original call. The story suggests a way forward — eat and drink of God’s life-giving sustenance, return to the core of faith, listen for God’s still small voice. That may be the way to find new energy, new vision, and a new sense of purpose. Elijah must learn that God is not encountered in the sound and fury of loud and spectacular events. God will not be conjured up by the zealous or boisterous activity of the prophet who now stands quiet and broken atop the Lord’s mountain.

Elijah discovers that God is encountered when the activity ceases and the words stop, when the heart is sad and the stomach is filled with pangs of hunger. When Elijah’s mind and heart are finally empty of ambition and self-promotion, God is ultimately heard.

Bread of Life

For Elijah, for Jesus, and for us, bread is fundamental to life. Bread stands at the center of life. Bread is life. And in today’s Gospel (Jn. 6:41-51) we hear about Jesus who is the Bread of Life. Christ is life: He is the bread of life. To eat Jesus’ body and to drink his blood means more than just to believe in him. The image of Jesus as the “bread of life” is at the heart of what renewal in the mystery of Christ is about.

When Jesus says that he is “the bread of life” his emphasis is not on the bread as such, but on himself as the ‘I” who declares it. Jesus is saying that what we long for to nourish our hungers is found in himself, the “I” who identifies his life with the bread he gives (cf. in 6:51). Jesus is more than mere bread for our bodily hunger. He is more than love to satisfy our emotional needs. He is the word that will satisfy our hunger for truth. He is bread for life itself; the total satisfaction for all our human hungers.

For all baptized believers the Eucharist is the primary way of celebrating and sustaining contact with the risen Lord. Let us consider for a moment the highly symbolic actions of Jesus as he gives us the living bread from heaven. Jesus took the bread. He has taken the bread of our lives and joined it with his own. Jesus blessed the bread. He has blessed us with his life. Baptism was the first moment of that blessing. Every other moment of contact with Jesus Christ is a deepening of that blessing.

Jesus broke the bread. Like Jesus, there are moments in our lives when we feel hurt, broken, lost, discouraged, disillusioned, empty, rejected and without energy and hope. We are like Elijah under the broom tree, waiting for our life to end. Yet even in these fractured moments, the Lord Jesus is present to us.

Jesus gave the bread. He gave of his time and his touch. He gave encouragement, but also his challenge. He gave both word and bread to feed and nourish. He gave most fully in giving himself. He gave till there was no more to give, declaring his life and work complete with the words, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Then bowing his head, he handed over his spirit, the same spirit he gave us when he appeared risen from the dead (cf. in 20:23).

In life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has given us a profound example, and challenges us to do the same. “Go and do likewise” is both a challenge and a commission. It is the commission to live the mystery of being bread blessed and broken for others. When life seems to be breaking apart, we should not forget the lesson of the bread broken for us. It cannot be broken without being firmly held in both hands. When it comes to the breaking of bread, or of our lives, both hold the challenge of the mystery of faith.

Let us pray that our sharing in the Eucharistic bread and wine may transform us more and more into what we eat and drink, and that we might truly become living bread, broken and shared with all people.

[The readings for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time are: 1 Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; and John 6:41-51]

(Image: “Elijah Fed By An Angel” by Ferdinand Bol)

Deacon-structing Marriage part 5: Total love

marriage1
Last week we learned that God not only created Marriage, but He has a design for Marriage. This was the plan from the beginning. When the Book of Genesis says that God created humans male and female in his likeness and image and then he blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:26-28), he is, in effect creating Marriage. It is in that fruitful and total union that can only exist between one man and one woman that we come closest to being an image of God.

In Marriage, according to God’s design, we come closest to being an image of God because it is in that fruitful and total union that we come closest to loving another person the way God loves us.

So of course the next logical question is, “how does God love us?”

We could spend the next couple of months studying Scripture, doing research, praying and reflecting on our own experience to try to figure out how God loves us, but the work has already been done. So let me save you the time.

There are four qualities to the way God loves us…

  • First, God loves us freely. God’s love is a gift. It’s free. There’s nothing you can do to earn it; there’s nothing you can do to not have it. You can’t buy it. If you don’t want it, too bad; you have it. And all love is free. If it’s not free, it’s not love. Especially married love has to be free. When couples get married in the Catholic Church they make three promises. The first one is that they’ve come freely and without reserve.
  • Second, God loves us faithfully. This is all over Scripture: God’s faithfulness is everlasting. God’s love is faithful, no matter what. You will always have his love. And again, all love has to be faithful. If it’s not faithful, it’s not love. If it has conditions, it’s not love. And faithfulness means forever. Need I say that especially married love needs to be faithful? The second promise married couples make when marrying in the Catholic Church is that they will honour each other for the rest of their lives: Faithful.
  • Third, God loves us fruitfully. This means that it always bears good fruit; it always leads to good things. God’s love makes us better. Furthermore, God’s love is creative. And all love needs to make us better. If love does not bear good fruit, it’s not love. Love makes us feel better, makes us grow and makes us love more. It is always fruitful (which is why sometimes it’s painful). Married love needs to be fruitful. And the fullest expression of that fruitfulness in married love is that it is procreative. The third promise that a couple will make when marrying in the Catholic Church is that they are open to children.

So God’s love is free, faithful and fruitful and all types of love have to be free, faithful and fruitful.

But there is a fourth quality to the love that God has for us that is not necessary for other types of love, except Marriage. That is that God’s love is total.

God loves us totally. God gives each one of us his total love. He gives himself totally to each one of us. That type of love is not required in any kind of love (in fact it’s not appropriate in other forms of love) except in Marriage.

A husband has to pour himself out totally into his wife, all of himself: emotionally, spiritually, and sexually; his body, his dreams, his fears, his baggage, his fertility, his pain… totally, and his wife has to receive him totally – warts and all. In turn, she gives herself totally to her husband: emotionally, spiritually, sexually, her fertility, her dreams, fears, and pain; all her past… everything, and her husband receives her completely and totally. That is what it means to become one flesh.

God loves us freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally and that is the kind of love that needs to exist in a Marriage, which is why we can say that in Marriage, we come closest to loving another person, the way God loves us: freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally.

What do you think? How hard is it to live this kind of love in your Marriage? Write to me. And come back next week to learn how to make loving this way in Marriage possible.


Photo credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring


DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for August 2015

Pope_Prayer_August

Join us in prayer for the intentions entrusted to us by Pope Francis. For June 2015, we join the Holy Father in praying for:

  • Volunteers– That volunteers may give themselves generously to the service of the needy.
  • Outreach to the Marginalized– That setting aside our very selves we may learn to be neighbors to those who find themselves on the margins of human life and society.

Daily Offering Prayer

God, our Father, I offer You my day. I offer You my prayers, thoughts, words, actions, joys, and sufferings in union with the Heart of Jesus, who continues to offer Himself in the Eucharist for the salvation of the world. May the Holy Spirit, Who guided Jesus, be my guide and my strength today so that I may witness to your love. With Mary, the mother of our Lord and the Church, I pray for all Apostles of Prayer and for the prayer intentions proposed by the Holy Father this month. Amen.

Traditional Daily Offering of the Apostleship of Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month. The Apostles of Prayer offer themselves to God each day for the good of the world, the Church, one another, and the Holy Father’s intentions.

Thank you for praying with us!

In a tradition that is centuries old, the Apostleship of Prayer publishes the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions. To become a member of the Apostleship of Prayer, you need only to offer yourself to God for his purposes each day. When you give God all the “prayers, works, joys and sufferings” of your day, you turn your entire day into a prayer for others. You are joining your will to God’s will. If you feel called to this simple, profound way of life, find out more at Apostleship of Prayer.

Faith At Sea

Cheridan Sanders learns about life on the Rig, as she chats with Alison Carey about faith, work-life balance and what it’s like living 120 miles out to sea.

When you imagine reaching out to the peripheries, setting up shop in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico isn’t exactly what comes to most of our minds.

But one thing I have found you can always count on, no matter how far or inaccessible a human community may be, Christ always finds a way to reach them.

And so here enters Alison, a Deepwater Process Control and Automation Engineer, who is no stranger to adventure as she lives and witnesses in one of the toughest working environments on the planet.

Find out what it takes to live at sea and how opportunities to witness are found even in the most unlikely of places.

How did you come to work on an oil rig? I suppose it’s not something you wake up one day and say you’re going to do? Or is it?

I am a process control engineer (my degree was chemical engineering) and I am based out of the Covington Louisiana (LA) office, but spend around 60 days offshore per year. My main workplace is the office but I am an operation support engineer which requires me to make “field visits” (to our outlying deepwater platforms- some are as far as 120 miles off the coast of LA). Before moving to LA, I worked in the gas plants and oil fields in West Texas and New Mexico. Before that, I was an operations process engineer at a refinery in Philadelphia.

What is your day to day like?

When I am in the office, I work on control systems, monitoring the oil/gas/water separation process via our automation and computers. I interface with the operators daily asking them to make adjustments and finding ways to run the process smoother. I am focused on what we can “topsides” which means that my work boundary starts once the oil arrives at the platform (I am not involved in drilling or production) and ends when our products reach their respective pipelines (to the sales point). When I am offshore, I spend my time working in the control room (the most common visual for a control room would be NASA’s Mission Control Center where one can see all the temperatures, pressures, flow rate, etc. of the fluids moving through our pumps, separators, compressors, treaters, heaters, etc.). I make adjustments to run the process smoother, so we can increase our throughput in a safe and reliable manner.

What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve encountered so far? What was the role of your faith in that experience?

Work/ life balance can be very stressful at times with my job. I think this is true with any career. Do we let our career become our God? When I first started working, especially at a union refinery in the Northeast, I dealt with a lot of hostility. I was severely outnumbered as a female there and struggled with gaining/earning respect. This is not a problem in the Gulf due to (in my opinion) the culture of the people I interact with and also due to some maturity and personal development on my behalf.

Is there anything that surprised you when you started working out in the middle of the Gulf?

I have a great respect for the people who work a 14 day on / 14 day off schedule. They sacrifice so much to provide for their families. This puts great strain on relationships and lifestyles. They do hold Bible Studies and prayer sessions offshore on Sunday nights at many locations, giving the employees a sense of community even though they cannot be with their families. There is a lot of risk with the work we do offshore. In many cases, it can become a life or death situation. People take care of one another, they look out for one another’s safety and well-being. There is a sense of brotherhood that engulfs you when you step off the helicopter and onto the platform. There are so many offshore coworkers who I know would do anything for me- this is the definition of a true Christ-like person. There is an overwhelming sense of ownership and pride that one can sense in this environment from most of the crew.

What are the people like that you work with? How would you describe the environment on the rig?

When you are in the offshore environment, there is a significant pull to get along. At the end of the day, you do not leave work. You have to live with your coworkers so this creates a different environment. Sure there are people who do not get along, but it’s less common than in the office environment. I am also one of the few if not the only female out there. Sometimes this can be awkward, as no one likes to be outnumbered, but once people get to know me, they treat me as an equal or sometimes better. Although my job is not vocational (like a doctor, teacher, etc.) I still see my purpose is to help others in any way. It can be difficult to live offshore for long periods of time because it is so isolated. I keep myself busy and try to make the best out of it. As far as what are the people like? They are normal people. They love their families. They take pride in the work they do which provides energy and a way of life to others.

Alison Carey, a process control engineer, is based out of the Covington, Louisiana office, but spends around 60 days offshore per year.

 

You’ve recently graduated with a Masters of Pastoral Studies from Loyola, what did you take away from that experience? Has your worldview changed at all?

I graduated with my Masters of Pastoral Studies last year from Loyola. It allowed me an opportunity to grow my faith on an intellectual basis. I was using this for working with the RCIA program at my local parish. The program definitely changed my worldview. I was introduced to a new network of people who carried the same concern about how our careers and faith intersected. Spending the time at Loyola allowed me to grow in empathy for others, especially those I work with. Not everyone is viewing life from the same vantage point, and even when talking to other Catholics about their work and faith, the viewpoints were not the same. This realization changed my worldview in that I need to have more patience with others and need to come to them at their own starting point. Jesus approached his disciples as they were out fishing, doing their jobs. This is where Jesus meets me as well.

Something I read recently that describes a little more on the Catholic perspective of the workplace:
Author Chris Lowney wrote a very engaging article about the newly canonized St. Peter Faber. The focus of the article is on the impactful life of St. Faber and the business consideration of his work and teachings

Here is a one paragraph excerpt –

But Faber implicitly challenges businesspeople that their talents are only being used well when they maintain a proper perspective on life. Business and money-making are not the highest ends: “If there were not such a harvest of souls to reaped,” Faber writes. Our destiny lies beyond this world, and we’re here for purposes beyond what we can sell, trade, build, buy, flaunt or own during this short earthly sojourn. That includes, if we are businesspeople, remaining aware that our every business decision impacts, for better or ill, the lives of employees, customers, shareholders and communities.

How do you give witness to the faith in your day to day encounters?

One of the focus areas for my studies is the fact that the faith needs to be lived out. A lot of people justify their dedication by being immersed in ministry. However, practically speaking, we spend most of our time at our jobs. I recall being in high school and our religious teacher telling us we did not have to be sisters or nuns to be holy. We can make any job holy as long as we keep our focus on God, and remember as St. Paul challenges us, that we are always serving God regardless of the task. Keeping this at the forefront of my mind is a daily challenge but one that I am called to do. In an environment as fickle as the energy business, one must be ready for constant change and for a dog-eat-dog world that any for-profit corporation can become by means of their inherent structure. In other words, we come to work to make money, not for social betterment or for a deeper cause.

There are always those among us who are poorer in something. For example, one “ministry” in my job is mentoring younger engineers. It’s a true labor of love to take the time required to prepare them for his or her career. I am mentoring one young lady right now who I took under my wing when I saw she was struggling with some of the same situations I had been through. This empathy provides me a way to mimic Christ in the work place. The poor will always be with us, Jesus prophesized. The poor can be anyone in need- someone who does not have the same amount of knowledge or confidence and needs a little help.

There is also a cliché about engineers and operators and how the two are oil and water. Historically there exists much animosity between these two. As you can imagine, a bad relationship between an engineer and operator can create a daunting work environment when trying to convince a control room operator to make a change when he has been operating that system just fine for 20 years. It takes some finesse to do this successfully- something I learned from a few good mentors and bosses by watching them interact and ask questions with respect and listen to the offshore personnel. This also becomes a way to witness my faith- you will know what I believe by how I treat others. This is my goal. Sometimes I struggle with personality conflicts and with egos and all the messiness that exists when many people are required to meet a common goal. It is how we handle and conduct our business that shows what we truly believe.

Power of authority and position can be resorted to too often in this environment. I would rather people do what I ask because they respect my knowledge and skills rather than doing it because I said so. In order to reach this level with others, significant effort is required to know and honor them as individuals and see how we can work in unity to reach a goal that is beneficial to both.

 


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

 

Ignatius of Loyola – A Conversion for the World

Conversion_Chapel

*Note: This post was originally published on July 31, 2012. 

One of the most spiritually touching moments I had in my life was last year during my work for the national committee of World Youth Day Madrid. I had the opportunity to visit Loyola, the town where today’s saint (St. Ignatious of Loyola) is from.

Why was this trip spiritually touching? Not just because of the company – I went with two Canadian volunteers and an American priest – but also because of what you feel once you set  foot on that land. You feel like there is a straight line between heaven and earth. You feel touched by a peace that is difficult to find in other places.

We departed from Madrid on a sweltering summer afternoon and drove to the Basque country, specifically to Azpeitia wich is the name for Loyola in Euskara the basque language. When we arrived I felt immediately touched by a peace that is difficult to describe. As time passed that peace helped me open my heart and let God get in.

The next morning, I found myself going up the stairs to the famous Conversion Chapel. I couldn’t imagine how special that moment could be. Ignatius’ conversion is a unique episode. During the battle of Pamplona he was hit in the leg with a canon ball. After the leg healed he thought his leg didn’t look good and decided to undergo corrective surgery. That recovery was longer than the first one. During this process of recovery, he asked for chivalric romances (stories of knights) to read but there were no such books in the house, only a copy of The Life of Christ and some biographies of saints. He decided to read these because he thought it would help him to conquer the ladies of the court. Instead, Ignatius realized how empty he was, and how his bohemian life didn’t bring him peace. In that same room where he had his conversion, I could feel how special and how big was the work God started there.

In that Conversion Chapel God planted the seeds of the Society of Jesus which played a major role in the Christianization of the American continent. That reminded me how sometimes God chooses a not-so-perfect seed to make good things come from it.

On that green land lost between mountains of the north of Spain, Ignatius , a son of Loyola, started a beautiful work of God. His conversion led to the conversion of a large part of the world. After that day in the chapel the sense that God uses not the perfect, but the ones he knows can do the work, accompanies me.

As Ignatius discovered God in his life in that room, I discovered where the message of St. Ignatius of Loyola fit on my life. On this 31st of July when the church celebrates his feast I say, St Ignatius, pray for us.

S+L is your home for coverage of the #KofCPA15 Supreme Convention

Knightsblog(Sebastian and Emilie preparing the script for the Knights of Columbus Convention taking place in Philadelphia next week.)

Just listening to the amazing accomplishments of the Knights of Columbus each year at the Supreme Convention is enough reason to celebrate.  The international lay organization is the largest in the Church, donating millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours to help those most in need throughout North America and around the world.

This year Emilie Callan and I will be spearheading S+L’s coverage and we couldn’t be more excited.  It’s the 133rd Supreme Convention and it’s happening in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and America’s cradle of religious liberty.  What better place to celebrate the Knights of Columbus, an organization which is grounded in the principles of fraternity, unity, charity and patriotism?  Look for these themes to get a lot of attention at the Convention.

The location is significant for another reason this year.  Philadelphia is preparing to welcome thousands of pilgrims for the World Meeting of Families, and a million more for the visit of Pope Francis in September!  This will be a primary focus of our coverage this year, which we hope will include exclusive interviews with the Bishops of the host cities of Philadelphia, Washington DC and New York.

Apart from the business side of things, the Knights Convention always provides an opportunity to greet new and familiar folks and to take the pulse of the North American Church.  We are living through a fascinating moment in Church history, and with the visit of Pope Francis to the US on the horizon what better time and place to explore the insights and sensibilities of some of the most active members of the Catholic family.  You won’t want to miss this conversation!

Please join us for comprehensive coverage of the 133rd Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus beginning next week Tuesday, August 4.  For complete details please visit: S+L’s KofC Convention webpage

We’ll see you next week from the City of Brotherly love!.. And don’t forget to share the experience on social media with #KofCPA15

Give Us This Bread Always!

Last Supper Bouveret cropped

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – August 2, 2015

We can certainly understand God’s frustration with his people in today’s first reading from Exodus (16:2-4,12-15).

The God of Israel has just delivered his people from slavery and has set them on the way to their promised land. Yet after crossing the Red Sea and celebrating their victory, the first recorded action in the Sinai proves to be grumbling and dissatisfaction, first over the bitter water at Mara (Exodus 15:22-27), and then more complaining and nostalgic longing for the fleshpots in the land of Egypt, where they were able to eat their fill!

Into this setting of ingratitude and lamentation, God rains down bread from heaven (manna) and quail for their food. The Exodus passage (16:2-4,12-15) contrasts the nonbeliever (who grumbles that the manna and quail are meager nourishment) with the believer (who sees these as God’s generous gifts to the hungry).

A different kind of food

In today’s Gospel text (John 6:24-35) that follows the miraculous multiplication of the loaves, Jesus says to the crowds who were seeking him: “Truly, truly I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you” (John 6:26-27).

Jesus’ hearers continue the conversation and ask him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” (John 6:28). Jesus answers: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). It is an exhortation to have faith in the Son of Man, in the giver of the food that does not perish. Without faith in him whom the Father has sent, it is not possible to recognize and accept this gift which does not pass away.

The miraculous multiplication of the loaves had not evoked the expected response of faith in those who had been eyewitnesses of that event. They wanted a new sign: “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat'” (John 6:30-31). The disciples gathered around Jesus expecting a sign like the manna, which their ancestors had eaten in the desert. But Jesus exhorts them to expect something more than a mere repetition of the miracle of the manna, to expect a different kind of food. He says: “It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:32-33).

Along with physical hunger there is within each of us another hunger, a more basic hunger, which cannot be satisfied by ordinary food. It is a hunger for life, a hunger for eternity, nostalgia for God. The sign of the manna was the proclamation of the coming of Christ who was to satisfy our hunger for eternity by Himself becoming the “living bread” that “gives life to the world.”

What is so startling about Jesus’ remarks in this discourse is that he is not claiming to be another Moses, or one more messenger in along line of human prophets. In giving us the bread of life, Jesus does not offer temporary nourishment, he gives us the eternal bread of his word. It will not pass away. It will nourish and give life forever. Jesus is this bread, and in offering to share it with us he calls us to faith in him.

Jesus invites us to “come to him,” “believe in him,” “look upon him,” “be drawn to him,” “hear him,” and to “learn of him.” All of these verbs invite the active response of our faith (cf. John 6:36, 37, 40, 44, 45). His word is nourishment for our faith.

Those who heard Jesus ask him to fulfill what had been proclaimed by the sign of the manna, perhaps without being conscious of how far their request would go: “Lord, give us this bread always” (John 6:34). How eloquent is this request! How generous and how amazing is its fulfillment! “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”

Grumblings and ideologies

How difficult it was for Jesus’ hearers to make this passage from the sign to the mystery indicated by that sign, from daily bread to the bread “which endures to eternal life”! Nor is it easy for us, the people of the 21st century to make such passages in our own life, from sign to mystery.

At times our grumblings and murmurings about the Eucharist and the Church often rise to fevered pitch, not much different than the grumbling and murmuring of Israel in the desert. Excessive tensions arising from Church politics, gender issues, liturgical practices, language — all of these influence today’s Eucharist — and can lead us to a feeling of God’s absence.

Our Eucharistic celebrations are not taking place at Massah and Meribah — places of murmuring in the desert. We are often stuck in endless arguments between devotion and liturgy, or in a constant dispute between charity and justice. When devotion is treated as the enemy of liturgy and charity as the betrayer of justice, or when liturgy is reduced to private devotion and justice not recognized as constitutive to the Gospel.

Adoration rediscovered

Here is one concrete example to illustrate the above point about liturgy and devotion. Many of my generation have responded very negatively to the younger generation’s rediscovery of Eucharistic adoration and devotion.

Benedict XVI put a great emphasis on Eucharistic adoration and devotion in Catholic life. Many of us have failed to see that our public worship is intimately related to adoration, so much so that that they could be considered as one. Piety and devotion can be springboards to mature faith. Each time we gather together to celebrate the Eucharist as the Christian community, we profess, together with the whole Church, our faith in Christ the Eucharist, in Christ — the living bread and the bread of life.

During the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City that took place in 2008, then-Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines, now Cardinal-Archbishop of Manila, delivered a remarkable catechesis that concluded with a profound explanation of the meaning of authentic Adoration of the Eucharist.

Bishop Tagle said:

“In the Eucharist, the Church joins Jesus in adoring the God of life. But the practice of Eucharistic adoration enlivens some features of worship. We believe that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist continues beyond the liturgy. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament connotes being present, resting, and beholding. In adoration, we are present to Jesus whose sacrifice is ever present to us. Abiding in him, we are assimilated more deeply into his self-giving. Beholding Jesus, we receive and are transformed by the mystery we adore. Eucharistic adoration is similar to standing at the foot of the Cross of Jesus, being a witness to his sacrifice of life and being renewed by it. The sacrifice or spiritual worship of Jesus on the cross is his supreme act of adoration.”

This week let us ask ourselves: What does Jesus’ Eucharistic presence mean for us? Does our participation in the weekly (and for some, daily) celebration of the Lord’s meal transform us into people of gratitude, loving kindness and justice? Let us consider what Jesus requires of us who partake of the Eucharistic banquet. In what ways does the Eucharist symbolize the life we are living and our life symbolize the Eucharist? How do we express gratitude? Is the Eucharist the spiritual exercise giving direction to our life?

May our Eucharistic celebrations continue to transform our parish communities and the society around us into a civilization of love! May they nourish in us a hunger and thirst for justice. May our longing for the Eucharist make us ever more patient and kind with one another. Let us pray that we may truly become what we receive in the Eucharistic meal.

[The readings for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time are: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15; Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; and John 6:24-35]

(Image: The Last Supper by Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret)

Deacon-structing Marriage Part 4: From the Beginning

Thanks to Colleen Dulle who reached out to me via Twitter and shared this video that was made by the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri. Great idea to celebrate marriage! (Maybe Noel in his Weekly Round-up could dig up some other videos people have made about Marriage.)

My weekly round-up has been that in the last two weeks, I’ve preached at two marriages. As a Deacon, I don’t get to officiate marriages very often – mostly, deacons do ‘mixed marriages’, that is when a Catholic is marrying a non-Catholic, because in these cases, more often than not, there is no Mass. When two Catholics marry, chances are that the Marriage Rite will take place in the context of the Mass and when this is the case, the presider of the Mass (which, of course, has to be a priest) has to be the presider over the Marriage Rite. Since my ordination in 2012 I’ve presided over 4 marriages, but have had the chance to preach at several others.

Three of the most common Wedding readings are Genesis 2.18-24 (“Therefore a man shall leave his mother and father and cling to his wife and the two will become one flesh”); 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8 (love is patient, love is kind, etc.) and Matthew 5:13-16 (Jesus talking about divorce and re-instating that the two become one flesh).

I love that word, “cling”. It reminds me of “cling-wrap.” You know the plastic saran wrap that sticks to everything? That’s how a couple has to cling to each other. That’s what it means to be one flesh.

And I love that Jesus doesn’t come up with this out of the blue. He says that “from the beginning it was so….” and then he quotes the passage from, literally, the “beginning”: Genesis 2.

When planning a wedding or deciding to get married, no one ever thinks what God’s plan for their marriage is. But this is a very good question to ask yourselves before you get married: What is God’s plan for Marriage? What is God’s plan for our Marriage? God has a very specific plan for Marriage in general. This is what I’ve been talking about for the last couple of weeks (read part 1, part 2 and part 3).

God has created and designed Marriage. Marriage is not something the Church invented or that randomly evolved out of our need to socially constrict our impulse to procreate. It is not a patriarchal imposition nor is it something that people do because it’s instinct. God planned it. God created it. God designed it.

From the beginning.

God creates the universe. He separates light from darkness, waters from the dry land. He populates the skies with planets and stars and populates the waters and land with plants and animals. Then on the sixth day he creates human beings.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 New Revised Standard Version)

The first thing God does after He creates human beings is He creates Marriage. In fact, as He is creating human beings, He is creating Marriage: In his image and likeness, He created them, male and female. Then He blessed them and said, “be fruitful and multiply.”

God makes us male and female, with the desire for union and fruitfulness because it is in that union that we become an image of God.

Let me rephrase that: It is in the fruitful and total union that can only take place between one man and one woman that we come closest to being an image of God.

This doesn’t mean that we have to be married in order to be an image of God, but in the total and fruitful union that can only take place between one man and one woman we come closest to being the image and likeness of God, because it is in that kind of union (which we call Marriage) that we come closest to loving another person the way God loves us.

If that doesn’t make your head spin, I don’t know what will. This is what God designed from the beginning.

Let me know your thoughts and come back next week and find out how God loves us.


DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

The Strong Arm of the Church: The Knights of Columbus

A household name for many, the Knights of Columbus have grown into the world’s largest lay Catholic organization. But, surprisingly, there’s still a lot of mystery that surrounds these noble men. In light of the upcoming Supreme Convention, we thought you might want to find out why the Knights remain the ‘Strong Arm of the Church’.

Don’t forget to tune in for Salt + Light’s live coverage of this year’s 133rd Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus.