St. Francis of Assisi has been my patron saint for as long as I can remember. I have always had a devotion to him, the simple, humble aristocrat-turned beggar of Assisi. His radical ways of living have always touched deeply at my heart, as they have at so many others across the ages. Francis, was ordained as a Deacon. Never a priest. And he LIVED his Diaconate in every sense of the work Diakonos…service. Francis lived a life of radical hospitality. He welcomed all, stranger, muslim, Christian, woman, child, etc as Christ. Ever since his encounter with the poor beggar man, wherein Francis gave him his cloak, Francis lived a life for others. He lived his life as an alter Christus (another Christ).
Francis had a great love for the Church, he had a great love for the people of God, a great love for the Liturgy in all its splendor, and he had a great love for beauty. Francis lived the radical hospitality, which the Gospel demands with such fervor that he saw God’s presence in the beauty of each part of Creation. Whether it be Sister Moon, Brother Wolf, Sister Breeze, Brother Leo, Sister Clare, or even Sister Death…from whom no mortal can escape. Francis saw the presence of God, the incarnation of Christ in every living being. He lived the mystery of the Incarnation, because he honored Christ’s presence, wherever and whenever he found it.
Francis was joyful. There’s no doubting that. Read any commentary you ever could on him, watch Bishop Robert Barron’s The Pivotal Players episode on him (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING SO) and you will see a man, faced with trials, with sin, with struggles, yet as he walked he sang. As he received he gave. As he lived, so he loved.
Francis abandoned the pleasures of the flesh, the pleasures of the world, because he had seen that only Christ, could provide what he needed. He had fallen deeply and madly in love with the Bridegroom of the Church, and sought to offer his own life with Christ to the glory of God the Father. Francis embraced his trials. He received the Stigmata. He founded religious communities. He created the first “living” Nativity Scene. He rebuilt physical church buildings. He prayed often. He went away to quiet places for retreats. He stirred up the ardor of faith in men of no faith. He loved without being loved in return. Why? Because he embraced the Radical Hospitality of the Gospel. He embraced a life of joy. He embraced Christ, present in all of humanity and creation, with all of its boils, warts, pimples, scars, etc. because he saw the beauty of the Creator within.
St. Francis of Assisi, lived a life of radical surrender to the workings of the Spirit. He lived a life of radical hospitality and love. He lived a life of joy as he embraced the cross.
May we have the strength and courage to do the same.
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for me and for us, that we might be made worthy to share the light of Christ in Heaven with you. Amen.
“Owe no debt to anyone, except the debt that binds us to love one another. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. Love never wrongs the neighbor, hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 13:8, 10
The above reading from Romans comes to us in the Liturgy of the Hours during Mid-day prayer this morning. It is a helpful reminder for us as we continue throughout our day to ask ourselves if we have loved the other as other. Love in its truest form always takes us outside of ourselves to see the other as no longer other, but as someone we have come to know and see Christ in.
A few days ago (Friday, I think.) we heard from the book of Ruth where Naomi has reminded Ruth that she is not bound to stay and care for her. Ruth in turn says to Naomi:
“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.…” – Ruth 1:16
Ruth shows us that even though she is not bound to Naomi’s family anymore that it is important to welcome the foreigner, the stranger. “You people shall be my people, and your God, my God…”
So, the question remains; How are you?; How am I?; loving today? Am I searching for Christ in those that I meet? In the stranger? In the new seminarian I meet walking down the hall? Am I welcoming? Do I extend some form of hospitality to them?
Now, this is all fine and dandy, but practically, how does it apply to my life? How do I recognize the presence of Christ in another?
“Were not our hears burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” – Luke 24:32
Luke reminds us in The Emmaus story, of Christ’s presence present in those small moments, but also in those chance encounters. Let us not look past another, because of what they wear, who we think they are, how they sound, but let us listen with the help of the Spirit to the voice deep inside of Christ, burning within our hearts and calling us to love those that we encounter just as much as we love ourselves!
“Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in You.” – St. Augustine of Hippo
St. Augustine, who’s Feast we celebrate today recognizes that incredible power that comes about from listening and casting ourselves onto and into the Heart of the one who loves much. We were made to love like Christ. We were made to allow our hearts to rest in Him, in the one for whom they burn.
So, I ask us to consider again: How have I loved today? Do I need to start again? Do I need to seek forgiveness? How can I love more like Christ? Christ came to fulfill the law, and the way he did that was through his message of love and mercy. How can I love someone else as passionately, as personally, as whole-heartedly as Christ loves me, as he loves you?
St. John of the Cross reminds us that “at the end of our lives we shall all be judged by Charity.” We shall each be judged by how we loved. How will you love today?
Update: 7/28/17 I learned this morning that Ms. Sharon Speaks passed away around 2am this morning.
Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and all of the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, Rest In Peace. Amen.
May Mary, our Mother of Mercy wrap the Speaks family under her mantle of love during this time. Amen.
Read the original post below:
Prayer request: A few months ago I was blessed to be able to participate in the Gennessaret Retreat (for the chronically ill)at the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph after the invitation of Tom and Amy Payne. It was an incredible weekend experience and a beautiful chance for me to witness the powerful love of God and his healing touch and care for his people.
While on the weekend, I met Ms. Speaks there as well as her husband and was overjoyed at seeing the love and care they had for each other. Listening to her speak of how moved she was by the retreat and how she had never had the experience of love like she did on the retreat brought tears to my eyes.
Here in front of me was a woman who much like the woman with a hemorrhage in the Scriptures, had faith. She wanted to be healed. She longed to be healed. Yet, until the Retreat she hadn't trusted like she wanted to in Gods love and healing mercy for her. Through the graces of the discussion, prayer, and communal time on the retreat, she was able to reach out and touch the Lord's garment. Now, she wasn't healed bodily of her illness, but she was healed through her will. She shared with us, that through the retreat, she was able to give her "yes" to God in accepting where she was in life and uniting her suffering with his in the cross.
Ms. Speaks spoke volumes to me through her love and trust in the Lord who loves her so very much. Part of the weekend included a time of Anointing and Washing of the Feet of our "guests." I being the photographer I am, snapped this picture of her and her husband as her feet were being washed. It was an incredibly moving and vulnerable moment. And I feel so blessed to have been able to capture some aspect of "love in action."
I found out this evening that she is currently in the process of dying. As I reach out my hand in faith asking the Lord like the woman with a hemorrhage and like Ms. Speaks did, to heal me of my own infirmities, I invite you to join me in praying for her peace. Praying for her family. And praying for her soul, that she too might share in the abundant life of Heaven with Jesus Christ for ever.
May Mary, our Mother help her to continue to give her "Yes" to the Lord that his will might be done and that he the Master who asks: "Who touched me?" Will know and welcome her with great joy into his Heavenly Homeland forever. Amen.
No, not the hit by Ne-Yo, but rather this beautiful quote by St. Anselm…
“Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me as I seek, because I can neither seek you if you do not teach me how, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in desiring you; let me desire you in seeking you; let me find you in loving you; let me love you in finding you.” – St. Anselm
I experimented for the first time the other evening at Made for More Camp on taking photos with long exposures during our candlelit Adoration in the Pavillion. I have never really taken many photos at night before, so I was a little leery about “stepping out” into the unknown to see what I could do. I was having to think back to Professor Foley’s class and remember some of the techniques he taught us. Aren’t these shots fantastic?!? I was very pleased with how they all turned out.
“Duc in Altum.” “Go into the deep!” we hear Christ Jesus say in Luke 5:4 as he instructs the fishermen to cast their nets deep into the other side so that they might haul in a catch. St. Peter, dumbfounded (as I would be too.) at the amount of fish they were hauling in exclaims: “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” But Christ, lovingly responded to him: “Do not be afraid. From now on, you will be Fishers of Men.” (Luke5:10)
How often am I like Simon Barjonah? How often do I doubt that the Lord can work wonderful, and miraculous things through my life? Often, too caught up inside myself to continue on, I exclaim like Peter: “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Yet, Christ always extends his hand and says softly: “Rise up, my beloved son! For I have called you by name and you are mine!”
At our Made for More Camp this past week, I always am and was again greatly inspired by the young men who were present. They, like Peter followed the invitation of our Lord to cast their nets into the deep. During the camp they were challenged and had the opportunity to grow in prayer, brotherhood, laughter, and receive practical information on how to better discern where the Lord was calling them.
On Wednesday, my car broke down when I was coming back into Bowling Green from a trip to Nashville with some other seminarians. Something to do with the passenger rear brake… I think. It’s just what I needed. Something to go wrong with my car. GREAT. I was not happy. I was not humble. I was afraid, mad, and said quite a few words I shouldn’t. Then I prayed. I said a Hail Mary, I asked our Lord to let me make it back to St. Joseph, where I knew I could at least figure things out.
Lo and behold, I became more calm. And I was able to make it back to the parish safely. Brother Victor helped me look at my car the next morning and drove behind me as I went excruciatingly slow, hearing the grinding and banging and bumping of my tire. I prayed the whole way. I had to stop focusing on myself and my strengths and what I can do and trust in the unknown. I like Peter and the young campers had to trust in the Lord that he would get me to where I needed to be, and do so safely.
I’m a perfectionist. I’m OCD. I like to be in control of things in my life. As I have sat here at St. Joseph, with time for prayer, reading, working on projects I needed to finish for the Cathedral, and responding to emails from the week, I have had to let go of what I want and rely completely on what the Lord wants, and what he wills. IT DRIVES ME UP THE WALL. Yet, it’s good practice for me. It’s time spent well, listening, praying, trusting, and relying on Him who is always there for me; whenever my car breaks down, whenever I have a rough day, whenever I’m joyful and singing with happiness. He is always there, asking me to trust, to rely, to have faith.
The Psalm at Mass today comes from Psalm 128: “See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.” Fear him, honor him, and trust in him I have indeed done and have to continue to do, as my car is still in the shop and I have absolutely no idea what is exactly wrong with it, nor whether I will have both arms and legs after I pay for it.
But bless me he has. I have had a roof over my head, food in my stomach, friends to laugh with, and a wonderful God to praise. I have and continue to put out into the deep. I continue to grow and go into the great unknown and trust that all will happen as He will it, because He wills it, when He wills it.
Last Thursday started off for me as a pretty normal day. I got up at 5:30 like normal. I watched the news, checked Instagram, then checked Facebook, prayed the Office of Readings, got showered, shaved, put my clothes on, tied my shoes, packed my backpack and was headed down the stairs, iPad in hand as I loaded the iBreviary app in preparation for Morning Prayer with the Fathers in the kitchen.
I ate some little chocolate piece I shouldn’t have, followed by some deliciously sweet cantaloupe, prayed Morning Prayer with the priests and was walking over to the Office to meet with Donna, my Pastoral Year Supervisor by 9.
It was still a normal day.
Donna and I chatted for a bit about ministry that week, what I was getting into after returning from a week on the Hill, what I needed to do with the First Communion and Confirmation retreat days coming up, etc. And before I knew it, my phone buzzed telling me that my 10am appointment had arrived and was waiting for me in the front office. As I walked to the front I looked down at my grey/orange sneakers I was wearing with my khakis, (Yes. I know, sneakers AND Khaki’s?? REALLY? Corey?!?) and thought to myself about how comfortable they were. (I knew I was going to be walking a lot that day, so I wanted comfort over style.) (ooh, Tyler Grant snapchatted me…)
It was still a normal day, and a pretty normal conversation to have with myself in my head.
I was happy to meet with a friend from my home parish of St. Ann in Morganfield and discuss some different things with her about starting a blog and catch up from when we had last met. It was a joyful visit and one that brought a big smile to my face. As I walked her to the door, I thought of what a nice surprise her visit had been and tried to remember what the readings were for Mass, which I needed to go and select music for.
I ran over and selected music relating to Psalm 32: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor,” an Easter hymn practiced and was good to go.
Still, it was a normal day. Still, I was doing what I normally did. Still, it was a normal Thursday.
After Mass, I played organ for a few moments, ran over to the house to eat some taco salad and return just in time for my 2pm meeting with a few of the staff about reaching out to parishioners who we hadn’t heard from in a while.
2 hours after that, I realized that I needed to figure out what I was going to be discussing with the Welcome-back Catholic group that evening, but as I could barely keep my eyes open, I decided instead to hand that off to the Holy Spirit temporarily, and go lay down for a quick 20 minute siesta. (And I had to check Snapchat…)
Still, a normal day.
After my siesta, I arose, read a little bit from a commentary on Holy Week and headed over to church to grab my binder and head to the Loft to accompany Vespers on the Wicks. I knew what direction I wanted to take the welcome back group in that evening. I finished the psalms, finished the recessional, changed my shoes and headed down to run over to the house for a book I left before going over for the Welcome Back group.
And then my day went from normal, to weird.
One of the parishioners came walking down the sidewalk when she saw me and I could tell that there was something she wanted to chat about. Oh no, I thought. She probably wants to say something about not knowing which Meinrad Psalm tone I was using for each psalm…again. I know I gave her a handout with them on it…
“Corey, there’s a man back there with his dog, he asking for a place to stay.” “I don’t know of anywhere in town that he can stay with a dog…hmmmm. If you tell him I have to grab something, I’ll be right out and speak with him, though I’m not sure there is anything I can do.”
Weird. I needed to move. I was now 6 minutes late to my meeting, and I don’t EVER like to be late. So, as I entered the house I ran into Fr. Jerry. “Oh, Hello!” he exclaimed. “Hello, I responded.” “What’s going on?” “Not too much, just have to run over for the Welcome back group. Hey, there’s a guy outside who asked _____ if we could put him up for the night. He has a dog. I don’t know anything about him, and I don’t think there are any places here that allow dogs in the motel. Anyway, I told her that I would go talk to him on my way over to the office.” “Well, I don’t know of a place either, but if you think he’s honest and really needs a place, let me know and I’ll cover the cost for the night for him.”
I ran upstairs, grabbed my book, ran back down, and thought, well this will be easy. I’ll tell the guy “there’s no place in town that allows dogs, sorry, I can’t help you, I’ll pray for you though. Bye.” Then as I rounded the corner of the Cathedral and was greeted by this large dog barking and sticking its’ tongue out toward me, a gentleman with a large unkempt beard, two huge canvas back packs and an interesting accent because he as missing some teeth it hit me.
“The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
Gosh. What a ____ I was being. Here I was, running about doing the “Lord’s Work.” And I had no time to talk to and encounter this gentleman who was obviously uncomfortable and worn out. So, I said “Hi, I’m Corey, welcome to St. Stephen’s. How can I help you?”
Long story short, (because I’m already 1010 words in on this post) the gentleman was traveling from California to New York. (Yeah, big-red flags in my head.) And he needed a place to spend the night, with his big, lovable, terribly smelly but cute dog; Bear. I couldn’t help myself, this was not the normal me. I pulled out my phone, called a couple cheap motels we normally use and realized that I was right and that they did not permit dogs.
Crud. Here is this guy, who had come from Henderson that morning, took the whole day to walk over and I couldn’t do anything to help him. Then, I pulled out my phone, asked Google and sure enough there was a motel 3 miles down the road who’s manager told me they did accept dogs. The look on the man’s face as he scratched his dog’s head in the fading evening sunlight and said: “God’s blessed us again Bear, it’ll be okay” brought tears to my eyes. I told him that I had a two hour meeting, but that I would call down and reserve him a room, or I would meet him there when my meeting was done. I gave him directions like 4 times, because he was confused, said good bye, shook his hand, pat Bear on the head, and went to my meeting.
After a phone call to the motel and great welcome back group, breaking my normal routine I realized that I needed to go down to the motel and pay for this man’s room in person. So I turned up the radio, rolled the windows down and headed down Frederica. As I was nearing the motel, I saw this man with his dog walking on the opposite side of the 4-lane road. It had been an hour and fifty minutes and they still were not there. I figured at the rate they were going with the weight of his bags it’d be another 30 minutes before they got to the motel, so what did I do?
I, Corey Bruns, neat-freak, OCD, can’t handle nasty smells turned my car around and pulled over right beside them, got out said hello again, opened my trunk and said come on in, you can ride with me. WHAT THE HECK WAS I THINKING?!?!?! I don’t even let my Mom’s dog Rebel who goes to the “Spa” once a month in my car. Yet, here I was with a strange man on the side of the road, putting his bags in the trunk and letting him climb in my front seat with his smelly dog sitting on the floor-boards. This was definitely not a normal day.
So we went to the motel, the kind manager gave me a discount since the price had gone up since we talked on the phone, I signed forms, and of course the gentleman didn’t have any ID on him besides a rather wrinkled and torn piece of paper from a DMV in … California. “Dear God, I prayed. Don’t let him break things in the room, or steal things from them, and don’t let him be an escaped inmate that now knows where I live and what I drive.”
And then it came back to me:
“The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
There I went, spouting off to God my prejudices and judgements, so instead of pulling out my company credit card so that Father could cover the cost, I pulled out some cash I received from a generous friend that day and paid for the room. As we walked out of the office, Bear, who had been barking up a storm wagged his tail and jumped up and licked the gentleman on the face, happy to see his friend again.
Then, breaking my normal-ness again, I asked: “Have you eaten? Let’s go put you and Bear in your room and then we can go get the two of you something to eat.
So, we went to Wendy’s. To a God-awful long line, where I had to step outside of myself, turn on my “normally” extra-extroverted side and make small talk for 17 minutes. (I have OCD, remember I count things.) After ordering food in the drive-up for my new friend and his dog (and discussing why bear couldn’t have the chocolate frosty) I thought, hmmm. Maybe he’ll kill me and steal my car when I drop him off. So for that, I upgraded his order to a large, to which he responded: “Lord, you always take care of us, thank-you for Corey.”
I could have smacked myself I was so angry that I had judged him…again. I slipped him my business card, and left my number on it, asking him to call me if he still has the card when he gets to New York, as I’d like to know that he made it safely. I told him that I would pray for him every day and I asked him if he would do the same for me. So I shook his hand, waved good-bye to him and Bear and drove off from the motel, wondering what the heck just happened.
It’s taken me about a week to process “what the heck happened.” I had no idea that this gentleman would come into my life on Thursday. I had no idea that my “normal-day” would be turned upside down from a large smelly hunk of fur who tried to climb up and sit in my trunk of my clean, pristine Volvo.
I had no idea that I would be so prejudiced and judgemental to a man who simply needed a helping hand on his journey to get a job that would provide for himself and his dog he had rescued along the way.
Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the Triduum. We celebrated the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, his walk on the long road to Calvary (New York), blistered feet, cuts, and scrapes, carrying his cross (2 huge canvas backpacks), and being assisted by Simon of Cyrene, who was pressed into service because others told him he was needed.
Thursday, of the Second Week of Easter was in no way a normal day for me. On Thursday, of the Second Week of Easter, I woke up and went through my day not connecting the Scriptures I had read and heard later at Mass with my life until this man entered it.
On Thursday I met a man created in the image of Jesus Christ, and his dog Bear. On Thursday, not just the Lord, but I was able to hear the cry of the poor. My Thursday was anything but normal. My Thursday caused me to grow and stretch myself beyond what I had ever done before. Why?
Because on Thursday, I met Jesus Christ and his dog.
So ended a conversation I had recently with my mentor for my Pastoral Year. Both Fr. Jerry and I had stayed up way too late enjoying a drink, celebrating Easter and discussing different aspects of my time at St. Stephen Cathedral. The school year ends in just a matter of weeks and I was discussing my final evaluation with Father, talking about areas I have grown in and areas that still challenge me.
Since that conversation, I have taken the “rhetorical question” Father Jerry asked me to prayer, asking our Lord, what it means to me and in my discernment at this time. “Can I be a weak priest?” Maybe it would help a bit if I put this statement into some context.
I have been called many things in my life and during this Pastoral Year. I heard a new one on Monday; “Chief bottle-washer.” I honestly had no idea what that meant, so I asked some of our office ladies. They responded that it was the same as when I say: “Im a jack of all trades and a master of none.” I’m a talented individual. I’m not bragging by this statement, but honestly acknowledging that God has blessed me with many gifts. I’m a musician, a woodworker, a photographer (amateur), I can fix plumbing problems, I’m a gardener, I’m a techie, I’m a decorator, I’m a extrovert, I’m a host, I’m an MC, I’m a cook, I’m a Youth Minister, I’m a graphics designer, I’m a team player, I’m a doer, I’m a leader, I’m a man of community, I’m a friend, I’m a tractor-driver, I try to be generous with my time, I’m many many things. God has blessed me abundantly, and for that, each day I am truly thankful.
With being a man of many talents I pray, and work that I will be a good investor, a good sharer, and user of my talents, like we hear Christ speak of in Matthew 25:14-30 in the Parable of the Talents. At the same time that I have and use all of these talents I like any other man am weak. I have weaknesses and challenges like anyone else, though I don’t always show them. This gets to the heart, I think of what Fr. Jerry was challenging me on and encouraging me to grow in. He also said: “I think that sometimes people like to see their priest mess up and make mistakes. They’ll talk about it for a long time after, not because they think it’s funny, or like to see someone do something wrong, but they want to see that their priest is human.”
In the Exsultet, which I was blessed to chant at the Easter Vigil at St. Stephen Cathedral this year, is an ancient hymn of praise, recounting the blessings and workings of God through man across the centuries, from the first fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, to the saving of the Israelites from the Egyptians in the Red Sea, to the coming of Christ, the Son of God and Man to redeem the world and draw it back to his Father. There are countless beautiful images of light versus darkness, with the light always triumphing and coming over the darkness, allowing the mercy, love, and strength of God to show. As I sang “the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor,” I was filled with love. I made the chant my prayer, recounting how God was “leading them (the people) to grace and joining them to his holy ones.” As I sang of how “This is the night, when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld” I also sang of how the first sin of Adam and Eve was indeed a “happy fault, which earned for us so great and glorious a redeemer!” I chanted of how that happy fault, which wounded the world was necessary for salvation. I love that line: “happy fault.” Yes, sin is bad, yes when we fall we sometimes do so pretty hard, yet it is what comes after that defines us. It is what comes after that makes us into the better men and women God has called us to be.
I have a lot of gifts. I also have a lot of weaknesses. I have a lot of faults, which through the grace of God I continually try to turn into those “happy faults,” and use them to become a better man. I can be cynical, I can gossip, I can curse like a sailor, I can be angry, I can be selfish, I can make it all about me, I can be jealous, I can be lazy, I’m the king and first card-carrying member of the procrastination club, I can be a perfectionist, I can be overly OCD, I can judge others, I can be a lot things and do a lot of things that separate me from God, the church, and the community as a whole. Yet, like Venerable Bruno Lanteri I remember and act on: Nunc Coepi! Being again! I rise and turn my fault into a happy fault, I use it as a stepping stone into something greater that God has called me to do.
So. Can I be a weak priest? Can I let another see my wounds? Can I allow the Lord to not only work through my strengths and gifts, but also through my weaknesses? Can I let my weaknesses transform me more after the Heart of Christ into who he wants me to be and not just what I think I should be?
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,* in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
Father Jerry’s question will continue to be a challenge for this hard-headed, german-blooded, blessed seminarian who is just trying to make sense of what the Lord is asking of me each day. It is something that will take time to become more “okay” with. Bearing our wounds to another, letting another know that we are broken, that we have faults, that I have shortcomings, is never easy. But it is necessary.
As Christ hung upon the cross, stripped of his dignity, bearing everything from the weight of our sins, to his own human emotions had to be rough. But, the Resurrection, the story of new life doesn’t come easily. It is only through hardships, through trials, through faults-made happy, that we are able to glimpse and better come to understand the loving God who made us and calls us to be His.
Pray for me, as I continue to try to be okay with being a weak seminarian and hopefully one day a weak priest, for it is only then, that Christ will more fully be able to dwell with me. Pray that: “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;…”*
” for when I am weak, then I am strong.” *- 2 Corinthians 12:9
“John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’
I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.
I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
“Behold the Lamb of God.” This line is one of my favorite lines of the Mass. Look! Behold! This is Jesus, the Christ! Look, see Him here hidden under the Eucharistic Bread and Wine! “Blessed are those called to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb!” “Blessed, special, Holy, thankful, are those who are called to receive him in Holy Communion.”
Each Wednesday I go and bring our Lord in Holy Communion with me to visit our parishioners in the Hospital. Each Friday I go and visit the home bound, always bringing Jesus along. I use a pyx which was given to me by my sister-in-laws mother who has since died of cancer. Each time I use it I think of Ms. Janet and day a prayer for her and ask her to intercede for me and those who I will visit that day. I also ask for the intercession of the others I have brought communion to, using that pyx who are no longer of this world but have passed away.
There is a tradition in the Church to pray the rosary as you transport the Eucharist, asking our Blessed Mother to help us as she was the first to bring Christ to the world. I too pray my rosary and ask for our Lady to intercede for me and those I visit. I never know who, or even what I might encounter when carrying our Lord, but I do know that I always am filled with his grace and his love. Without which, I couldn’t go and bring Him to others.
The people I visit are always thankful to receive our Lord; some will comment on how it is so nice to have received a visit and to be able to receive our Lord in Holy Communion. I too, am always thankful after having an encounter with someone and our Eucharistic King.
At the end of the communion rite as I hold the host above the pyx and say: “Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him, who takes away the sins of the world, blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.” I am always filled with an immense sense of gratitude and wonder at Christ who comes to feed us and give us what we need under the form of this simple host I hold in my fingers.
One of my visits to a person who died shortly thereafter involved me holding the host and saying those words like normal. As I did that, I noticed that the catheter bag was beginning to fill up. My first thought was one of shock and I began to worry about what I should do in this situation. I closed my eyes, took a breath, and began the prayer again: “Behold the Lamb of God.” As I said those words I opened my eyes and saw the person there behind the host. I saw Christ and looking through the host to the person I saw Christ in them. Christ, the all powerful God who became man including every aspect of our humanity. Including the need to relieve ourselves and the ability to do so even in a catheter bag, during a communion visit. Through this person, expressing a perfectly normal part of their humanity I recognized the Incarnation, I saw the humanity of the God-child born in Bethlehem. I saw Him who wanted to come to this person under the form of bread, the one who had died for them, and who now wished to bless them with his presence through this “Supper of the Lamb.”
Those words bear more of a special weight now. Each time I say them, I think of the person who is deceased and hopefully with God at his eternal Supper. I ask for her prayers. I find that the many different people who touch my life through my ministry at the Cathedral, or the parishes I have been at before leave my heart wounded with the love of Christ in unique ways. When I say different words, use different objects, see different pictures, my heart is filled with the love of Christ for his flock. I have a closeness with these people. I have a desire to serve them and love them more like Christ. And I am encouraged to constantly seek to find Christ through them.
And as I say those words: “Behold the Lamb of God…” I, like the person on the receiving end, look upon the face of our Eucharistic King and see Him who has come to visit us, who has come to visit me in the “Supper of the Lamb.” And I think and I pray that I might always be blessed to be called there to the side of the Lords flock, looking and gazing together upon the Lamb of God.
“Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” – Psalm 138
Each and every time that we invoke the name of the Lord, he answers us. It might not always be in the way which we desire him to answer, yet he is always there and always answers. We read in Isaiah 55:8:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways.”
One of the things which Father Jason, my Vocation Director and I talked about recently was that at the end of our lives we will not be judged so much by what we have done wrong, our sins, yes those will be taken into account, but we will be judged by our faithfulness. Christ will not ask us why did you lie to your mother when you broke the vase? Why were you unfaithful to your wife? Why did you abort your child? Instead he will ask us, “How did you remain faithful to me?” “What did you do after you fell?” Christ asks each of us for our faithfulness. He is a loving and merciful God, if we pick ourselves up each time we fall, if we go and place our trust, our hope, our faith, our love in Him, nothing else matters. We always end up falling, sinning, but it’s in those moments of standing back up and re-orienting ourselves toward God that Christ extends his mercy towards us, calls us to Himself, and sanctifies us through his Blood.
How will we remain faithful to him? How each day can we give completely of ourselves to the work of the Lord in our lives? In today’s Gospel, Christ teaches his disciples (us) how to pray. He teaches us through this prayer how we can remain faithful in the simplest way. Now, this is different from the normal Lord’s Prayer or Our Father that most know how to pray, as the one Christians normally use comes from the Gospel of Matthew, and not Luke. Luke’s version is a little shorter and is different yet very much the same at its core.
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Christ teaches us through the Lord’s Prayer and the parables after that what we ask will be given us by the Father, in his way, but still if we ask we shall receive, if we seek, we shall find, if we knock the door to Eternal Life will be opened up to us.
How do we remain faithful to Christ?
We go to him each day and we ask for our daily bread, we ask for what we need, knowing that it will be done as is in his kingdom, we ask for forgiveness of our sins, knowing that we too must forgive others of theirs towards us. And we ask that God will not abandon us, that he will help us to stay faithful to him, especially as we walk through the final test, the temptations of the world, at the end of our lives, at every moment where we know we need God’s help.
May we pray the Lord’s Prayer with great fervor in our lives. May we give completely of ourselves to His will, towards the movings and calling of His Spirit, and may we through the grace of God always stand up when we fall, turn back to the Lord with all our heart, may we always stay faithful to him, who is first and always faithful to us. Then, we will know the mercy and faithfulness of Him like the Psalmist knows as he prays:
“Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” – Psalm 138