We know that with most any accomplishment there is much that goes on behind the scenes. In sports, there’s hours and hours of practice. The same goes for an opera or a play on stage; memorizing the lines, the timing of those lines during rehearsals, and so forth.
With firefighters and police, there’s much studying and real-time preparation before they receive their badges. A couple days ago we had in our city a new class of firefighters come on the job with their graduation from the Worcester Fire Academy. They performed 15 weeks of preparation behind the scenes and are now prepared to perform their duties for real on the streets of Worcester.
Our music ministry prepares every week behind the scenes so they are on the same page. We wouldn’t want Henry playing one song, and Bridget singing another. That would be interesting to listen to. Rather, they are professionals at what they do, with much preparing for the beautiful music we hear and join to sing at our liturgy.
And maybe the best example of behind the scenes work for us in our Catholic faith that happens only a handful of times over the course of one’s lifetime; the choosing of a new Pope. Before the white smoke appears from the famous chimney, all the behind the scenes preparation that goes into a conclave, and in the actual voting that occurs in the Sistine Chapel where a few Cardinals from the College of Cardinals take a short siesta during the process.
This behind the scenes process is no different for Jesus and his Disciples, as we see in today’s Gospel. Our Lord teaches a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven being like a mustard seed that you can barely see. And later on, after the teaching of the story, Jesus reveals to his Disciples behind the scenes, in private, the deeper meaning of the parable. Which makes a person wonder what our Lord tells the Disciples that he didn’t tell the crowds, because the Scriptures don’t let us know. Or do they?
When Jesus teaches a parable, he never wants his listeners to not understand the story’s meaning. That would defeat his purpose. He wants everyone listening to understand some aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven, and what his Kingdom is like. Which is why he uses an image such as a mustard seed and the huge growth resembling the Kingdom of God. Speaking to people who live off the land, they understand this image he uses.
If we want to teach a religious lesson to a 7-year-old, we speak a language they understand. In Religious Education, we don’t teach 3rd -graders from books that are meant for 10th -graders. Jesus teaches parables, such as the mustard seed, to the crowds and his Disciples, knowing that those who hear him understand what he’s teaching.
So, why the private conversation with his Disciples behind the scenes? What do they receive from the Lord that the crowds do not? Here’s my guess; some of it is found in today’s 2nd reading from St. Paul. Jesus doesn’t explain to his chosen Apostles mustard seeds, their size, and how they grow. They already know this. He explains to them in private that we walk by faith, and not by sight. To walk by faith in the Son of God, which is what we do, will allow the seed of our souls to grow large. So he tells them in private, “Teach the world the necessity of faith in me so that their mustard seed will not get squashed and stepped on. Tell them that to walk by faith, and not by the sight of a passing world, that their souls will grow to full maturity.”
He also explains to them in private that the day will come when they would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. In the few instances when I see this in my priestly ministry, it’s such a beautiful thing to witness. Arriving at the point in life when we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord, not to welcome death, but to welcome eternal life, is the mustard seed grown to its fullness. Jesus tells them in private that that’s the point when the mustard seed of our souls is fully realized in this world, and it won’t grow here anymore.
It’s a powerful moment when a person of faith says, “I’m too tired. I’m too tired to fight this anymore. It’s time to go home to the Lord.” That’s a very moving admission on the part of a faithful Christian, and it’s a grace-filled moment, because we live in hope. That’s the sort of stuff our Lord tells them in private that he doesn’t tell the crowds, because the crowds won’t understand that language, but his Disciples will.
And, then he tells them privately, behind the scenes, that we must all appear before the judgment seat of God, so that we receive recompense according to what we did in the body, whether good or evil. He teaches his Disciples the words of St. Paul before Paul ever wrote them. Therefore, he tells them, “Help their mustard seeds to grow through Baptism, through love of neighbor, mercy, forgiveness, and through the many good acts that my people are capable of performing in the body. Teach them to be holy, as God our Father is holy, so that their spiritual plants will reach full maturity in whatever years they have to live.”
It sounds like Jesus gives them an earful behind the scenes, in private. An earful of how to arrive at the Kingdom of Heaven. An earful the crowds were not ready to hear, but his Disciples were ready. We’re ready too, because we’re today’s Disciples of him who is the Good Teacher.
Deacon Kevin Deignan
Deacon Kevin gave the opening prayer.
Mr. Sycks gave a finance overview. Discussed that the church is in a good standing with finances.
Fr. Riley reported on the infrastructure work that is in process at the church including the fence replacement, sidewalk repair, the estimates for the adoration chapel and the restriping of the parking lot. Fr. Riley discussed the replacement of the glass side door to the church. He discussed the goals of Partners in Charity and the upcoming Capital Campaign that will begin in 2019. Fr. Riley discussed the plan for Mike Cahill and his rotation at the parish for the year as he trains to become a deacon in our Diocese. Fr. mentioned the Humanae Vitae talk that is happening Monday by Dr. Klofft and the desire to have more lecture events at the church. He also mentioned that the vacation bible camp will be the last week of June and that the attendance is very good.
Mr. Foster discussed the transition of the parish website to a new platform that is being provided by the Diocese and what we will do to plan a switch over. He also discussed the 4th of July on the Church grounds and how the Boy Scouts will host a cookout fundraiser for those coming out to see the fireworks. During this cookout, the boy scouts will also collect old flags from anyone wishing for them to retire them properly. Mr. Foster also discussed the uptick in facebook use for the church and how it has helped to foster a broader community reach and more exposure to Church activities. We will be increasing the use of the platform so that we can continue to reach families and members of the Church in more ways.
Next meeting was set for some time in September.
Father Riley gave the closing prayer.
It shouldn’t come as any big surprise that the words we speak matter. They matter to other people; they matter to our families, as we can see in the Gospel where Jesus’ family is trying to rescue him from apparent danger because of the words he spoke about himself. And, of course, the words we speak matter to God, for he hears everything; even the words we speak in our minds and in the silence of our hearts.
There are a few themes in our readings this 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Themes that are far from ordinary. But the speaking theme speaks to most of us, if not all of us. interestingly, in the Book of Genesis, where Adam and Eve got caught red-handed eating something they were instructed not to, we have this conversation between God and Adam, who passes it off to Eve, who points at the serpent, who happens to be the devil. This is anything but one, big, happy family in the Garden of Paradise.
What’s startling about the conversation between God and Adam, then God and Eve, is the honesty spoken by the first couple after their act of first disobedience. God asked Adam, “Where are you?” Adam answered the truth; that he hid himself after hearing God in the garden, rustling among the leaves. “Well, Adam, why did you hide yourself?” In hiding, Adam recognized the nakedness of his sin. And in his further honesty, in the unlovely part of married life, he looks over at Eve and says to God, “It’s all her fault. She gave it to me to eat. I only do what my wife tells me. She told me to eat the fruit, and I did.” Then Eve is honest when she says, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
What’s wrong with this picture? Eve is honest. Adam is honest. Everything they say to God is true. But, they lack the fortitude to take responsibility for their own choices. The honest words they speak are lacking a spiritual maturity. Our words are not meant to pass off responsibility for actions that we performed and partake of. We own them before God, and not point fingers.
In the second reading of Paul to the people of Corinth, the Apostle gives us this way of speaking that is meant to go to the heart of all our lives. The speaking is about Christ. Do we all have the language of speaking words for Christ? Paul writes, “We speak, knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his presence.” That’s one, big, happy family.
The language that Paul speaks is the language of the Lord Jesus being raised from the dead. It’s the language of hope. For some folks today, this is a dead language. For Christians, the Lord Jesus being raised is an everyday language of the heart, and a most everyday language of voice. We live in a time when religious talk is trying to be locked into a Sunday morning Church service only, and not in the public square. St. Paul would outright reject such foolishness.
He teaches us the importance of speaking Christ as our first language. The language that Christ is raised from the death chamber that couldn’t hold him. And because of that holy truth, and that he will raise us also, all worldly languages from the political spectrum to ‘How are the Red Sox doing?” are languages that do not overtake the eternal language of the Risen Christ. Speak Christ, and his Mother. This is to be the first language of the baptized.
And in the Gospel, we find this wild scene occurring where they speak the worst of names directed at Jesus. Even worse than a golfer who hits a bad shot. Words are flying out of the crowd and from the scribes that say he’s out of his mind, and that Jesus is possessed by the evil forces. That the Spirit of Christ is evil. The unforgiveable sin. We see clearly how mere mortals will misrepresent and mislabel God. Which is why it’s so essential for us to have a healthy understanding of who Christ is, which comes to us in the teachings of our faith. It’s not like we have to fly to another planet to find a true, accurate, and healthy vision of our Lord. Look nowhere outside our Church.
The most definitive ways of Jesus are love, humility, mercy, forgiveness, friendship, being faithful, and all that is good. Jesus and Beelzebul have nothing in common. Not one thing! Which tells us how confused the crowd is in the Gospel. It’s a crowd we have no business being associated with, unless we’re trying to speak words of evangelization to them.
And even Jesus’ family gets into the act. “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.” All this crowd that followed him from Nazareth, trying to stop his ministry because they think he’s in danger. Their ignorance is not sinful. They’re trying to speak to Jesus because they love him. They want to bring him back home. But that’s not how God’s plan works.
It reminds me of a few guys I know who were called to the priesthood, but their families tried to stop them for various reasons. “You’re not going to give me any grandchildren in the priesthood.” Probably true. “You’re not going to make any money in the priesthood.” Definitely true. But they went ahead to fulfill the ministry God was calling them to, and have found their joy becoming complete. Now they preach and speak about the Risen Lord.
Words matter, and we know this. The honestly of Adam and Eve must be accompanied by spiritual maturity and responsibility. Speak the first language of the Christian spoken by St Paul; that the Lord Jesus is raised, and we are too. And, speak the truth of who he is, and never, under any circumstances, connect the Lord to the one with the pitchfork. They have nothing in common. AMEN.
There’s really nothing more Catholic. It’s a s Catholic as we can become. The Eucharist defines our religious lives second to none. Some who don’t believe or understand the stunning significance and the true presence will call it by names that are not worth repeating here. foolish names that signify foolish ways. So be it!
But for us Catholics, the Body and Blood of Christ defines us as true partakers of the words of our Lord. The Apostles performed the rites and spoke the words that transformed the bread and wine into Him. Into a Divine Person. They did this back in the 1st century, understanding exactly what he meant, since they were there. We continue today this most excellent tradition.
What the Gospel story from Mark, as well as Exodus and Hebrews enlightens us with this week is that when it comes to the Eucharist, we too have work to do. The gift that tells us he is with us until the end of the age doesn’t fall from the sky like magic; and it doesn’t knock on our front door like a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We all have, prior to receiving, work of preparation.
In the Gospel Jesus sends 2 Disciples into the city, not to purchase some already made food in a market, but to prepare a guestroom for the Living Bread that will be given to them by Christ Himself. But they need to prepare the guestroom first, and make it as perfect as they possibly can; with seats, tables, some plates and cups, some bread and wine. There’s a lot of preparation before they all receive Him who is Lord. And therein lies the simple message for Corpus Christi.
Receiving the Eucharist is not simply automatic, and it’s never meant to be. It isn’t just something we do because everyone else is coming forward. Doing my best to not judge with sin, I see this at funerals and weddings; coming forward because… “Hey I don’t want to be left behind!” A person’s disposition when receiving the Lord speaks volumes. The volumes to be spoken are preparation with a good heart and conscience, knowing we are all sinners not worthy of receiving our Lord who makes us worthy through his grace. But at those types of Masses 9Weddings and Funerals) I many times see little or no preparation by way of disposition or response. I’ve said, “The Body of Christ,” and the response has come back, “Thank you.” When I hear that, am I supposed to say, “You’re welcome,” or any Minister of the Eucharist? How about, “Have a good day?”
99% of the time, I’m not critical of people who are polite. And “Thank you” is a polite response to most any saying or action. But not with the Eucharist. The response is “Amen.” Why Amen? Because, “Amen” means “I believe.” The Eucharist is so mysterious, so profound, and so serious, that the response “Amen” means, “I believe all the teachings of my Catholic faith, both doctrine and morals.” That’s the response we give when we receive Communion. We’re not robots who simply say “Amen.” There’s the entire belief of our Catholic faith behind that one word in that holy moment. I exaggerate not.
My point here, as Jesus shows in the Gospel is that there is preparation for reception of this greatest gift. THE number one greatest gift that Catholics receive at no cost. My further point is not to remove anyone from the Communion line for reception of the Lord, but the point that Jesus makes the sacrifice at Calvary, and we have work to perform in order to receive his gift in the Upper Room. And that our reception of the Eucharist is not an automatic exercise.
What is the preparation for us? How do we prepare the guestroom of our souls so that when we say “Amen,” we understand what we say? The first and best preparation for our guestroom for Christ is an examination of conscience. Not to ask ourselves if we are worthy. As I already said, God makes us worthy to receive his Son strictly out of his love for us. But rather an examination of conscience that knows the goodness and cleanliness of our actions and words. Mortal sin means no reception of the Eucharist. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is needed first.
A second preparation is a devoted prayer life. Not having a devoted prayer life is not a reason to stay away from saying “Amen.” But maintaining a devoted prayer life allows the guestroom of our souls to be in a much more solid disposition for receiving our Lord.
And a third disposition is this question that the Holy Spirit planted in my brain, “Do I love my Catholic faith?” Not the one that I create according to my own whims, but the faith that Mother Church preserves and passes on from one generation to the next. Again, it’s not a disqualifier from receiving the Eucharist if I struggle with some aspect of my faith. But more the question, “Am I growing deeper in love with my Catholic faith as I age?”
Jesus tells them, “Go prepare a guestroom for what I’m about to give you at no cost.” As they prepared tables, chairs, dinnerware and food, we on the other hand prepare our souls and bodies for the very same gift they received in the Upper Room. Our celebration today of Corpus Christi is for the Mother of all gifts in the Church, the Body and Blood of Christ, and that each week we have spiritual work to do in preparation for our reception with the response “Amen.”