Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Humility of God: Corpus Christi

The Eucharist is the most central activity of Catholic life. The importance, the value, the significance of the Eucharist can never be adequately described. Whatever praise and gratitude we direct to the Eucharist can only fall short, because the Eucharist is God Himself present among us, and loving us. Love is the gift of oneself, and here we have God giving Himself perfectly and entirely. Of all the libraries full of books that have been written about the Eucharist, I’ll just grab one aspect to focus on, and consider briefly the humility of God.

I don’t know about you, but that phrase sounds a little odd to me: “the humility of God.” Which probably shows how far I have to go in Christian life. Humility is a virtue we praise in others when it pleases us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t underestimate it by a couple million miles.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Image of the Three-Personed God: Trinity Sunday

The Church takes this Sunday to focus on the doctrine of the Trinity, which is God’s revelation of Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three Persons in one God. We call this the most basic doctrine of Christianity. What could be more fundamental, more important, than our teaching about Who God Is? 

Here’s the flip side, though: strangely, this first layer of revelation, this foundation of our whole religion, is one that we talk about little and understand less. Many Christians have never heard anything about the Trinity more helpful than a sort of shrugging “eh, it’s a mystery.” Well if that’s as far as we can go with it, why did God bother to reveal Himself in the first place? Or even worse, they’ve heard it explained as a paradox, a contradiction. Like “Well you’re supposed to believe that God is one and also three, and that doesn’t really make any sense, but that’s why you need faith.” Please understand this: that isn’t faith. Faith isn’t believing something for no good reason. Faith isn’t deciding to set aside Reason and believe something that can’t be believed without turning off your brain. And a Christian mystery isn’t something that makes no sense. It’s something that makes sense of everything else.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Happy Birthday, Church! Pentecost 2014

Happy Birthday, Church.

If you think about it, there are other occasions that we could very well pick as the “birth of the Church.” Like when Jesus taught us to pray the Our Father, we could say that a community gathered to pray in Jesus’ name is the Church, so that’s where it began. Or Holy Thursday, when he washed their feet and instituted the Eucharist: we could very well say that those comprise the essence of our mission and identity, and that the Church was born that day. Or all the way back to the Annunciation, when the Word became Flesh, because the Church is the Body of Christ, and the Body of Christ began to exist in Mary’s womb that day. But instead of any of these very good choices, the Church claims as her birthday this day: Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ascension 2014

Every time I start to say something about the Ascension, I stop myself and think, “no, that’s not right, you can’t say that.” For instance, I might start to speak of the Ascension as the day that “Jesus went away.” But that’s not right; Jesus isn’t gone. How about “the day Jesus returned to Heaven.” That makes it sound like the Second Person of the Trinity had been temporarily absent from Heaven, so… no. Or I might start to talk about “the end of Jesus’ life on Earth,” and that’s not right either. Then I get a light bulb and start to blurt out “the end of Jesus’ physical presence among us.” But for Catholics, believing in the Eucharistic Presence, that’s wrong too.