Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
On the Feast of Apostles Peter and Paul (Acts 3:1-10; Galatians 1:11-20; John 21:15-19)
Today’s three readings are related to the work of the two chief apostles of our faith. ‘Peter the Apostle, and Paul the teacher of the Gentiles, these have taught us your law, O Lord.’ What connects them is a strange twist hidden in these accounts. There is an unexpected ‘turn’ which is easily overlooked. What is it?
The first miracle of Peter is healing a crippled beggar. ‘He was a cripple from birth, and they used to put him down every day near the Temble entrance called the Beautiful gate so that he could beg from the people going in.’ This first miracle of God, this first miracle of the Church born at Pentecost is this healing. Surely, there were other sick and crippled from prominent families -why this most insignificant beggar is signled out? Not the worthy, not the powerful, not the prayerful, not the rich, not the friens of the apostles. We are invited to contemplate this question… Perhaps, becaue this beggar did his humble task, asking for help, and bringing people’s attention to God’s mercy. Seemingly a menial and unnoticed job. Jesus rewards him with his special attention and gift. This answer is not given to those who excel in their profession, it is not given to the ‘best’. But God’s grace appreciates something in this person’s life. It tells a lot about how God sees people.
A further twist in this first reading is that it is Peter who makes this miracle, in the power of Jesus’ name. Again, not the worthiest of the apostles, not John, who never betrayed their master -but Peter who denied Jesus three times, when his support was most needed.
In our second reading the twist in the story is that Paul has never met Jesus. Neither had he contact with all the apostles. After his conversion, he ‘did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me’ but went to preach Christ to the Gentiles. ‘Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not se any of the other apostles. I only say Jamws, the brother of the Lord, and I swear before God that what I have written is the literal truth.’ The twist in the story is not the lack of meeting, but despite this lack of physical contact and personal meeting, the profound bond with the other apostles. This bond is their love for their Master, and the connecting power of the Holy Spirit. They act for the same purpose: bringing Christ to the newly formed and emerging communities. Extending this bond, web of grace and love.
Also, it is striking that Paul knows that for this mission God has ‘specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb.’
Again, there is so much to celebrate and apply to our lives. Unworthy we may be, like Paul, God, for a reason, for something in us, has chosen us to be part of the bond of love which sustains our churches throughout generations, and throughout the whole globe. Again, while has God chosen us -‘beggars of grace?’
The Gospel reading just amplifies how God is chosing people. Peter, who would have been unworthy to be the chief apostle because of his past, is chosen. He is appointed to this task after unmasking his past unworthiness. ‘Peter, do you love me? Look after my sheep.’
‘Lord, you know everything;you know I love you.’
What is this ‘everything’from our past, which makes us unworthy to join the mission of the Church, the mission of Peter and Paul? What has to be processed in our lives, and let go through Christ’s forgiveness? And why is it that God, so consistently, has been calling us to build up his Kingdom, the beauty and justice of that Kingdom of God, which is such a start contrast to shortcomings of this world? Why is God insisting upon meeting you, calling you, leading to a realisation that you have an important work for this Kingdom?
What cold make us sit at the right place and right time, as in the beggar’s case, that we don’t miss that moment of reawakening – or that moment of reassurance?
Today’s readings are not easy ones. Sometimes God’s word is serious. Prophet Jeremiah has the tone and force of a lamentation prayer. Persecutors are all around the just person, and his only strength is the Lord himself. The Lord is the only strength: we can see that God’s victory will have the last word. In Saint Paul’s letter, we are honestly confronted with the full weight of sin. What it caused to the whole of the human race. However, here too we can see the victory of very sin. Christ’s redeeeming us from sin, the gift considerably outweighed the fall. Our Gospel also starts with the most serious challenge. In a world, which is more open to darkness than to God’s light, in world which refuses to believe - we are called to fearlessApostles! The Lord is our inexhaustible strength. Christ’s victory always has the power to transfrom what is fallen in us! God never forgets our witness to him!
We can sum up this double movement of the pendule in this way: God turns our brokenness into a joyful life with Him. So, actually, these three ‘serious readings’, with their movement from ‘wound’ to ‘joy’, they sum up what happens in our eucharistic celebration. Jesus turns our sadness, our low state, our lack of grace into Life. What is temporary, what is fragmented, what is unfinished, what is marked by sin, is made part of our eternal life. That’s why, our three readings, with the victory that is witnessed in them makes us recognise why the Eucharist is our major ‘aith-anchor’ (Ronald Rolheiser).
Our three readings, with their focus on the fulfilment of our hope invite us to anchor our faith in God’s promises. We need to be living and breathing Eucharist at all time. Not just when things go well in our life, or when we are in church, but when we are really low.
Our readings - just think of the turning point between from being lost and lifted up - invite us to be grateful. We have to have the attitude of gratitude for all the ‘big and small rescues’.
And there is a third message of our readings. Our brokenness they describe is not something to suppress or forget. ‘Being wounded by others, being wounded by sin, persecution’ are part of life, are part of us. Also, when we wound others, when we persecute and discriminate others should be also recognised. That’s why we are redeemed: we are transformed from who we were into God’s victory; into love’s victory, love’s witness.
This latter point is a practical teaching. ‘How do we break the bread, how we are broeken?’ How do we live the ‘Eucharist within (!) our daily lives? When Jesus links the idea of breaking to the Eucharist, the rendering and breaking down that he is talking about have to do with narcissism, individualism, pride, self-serving ambition, and all the other things that prevent us from letting go of those things insude us that prevent us from givign ourselves to others… Eucharist is meant not just to celebrate our joys and gratitude, but also to break us open, to make us groan in anguish, to lay bare our mistrust, to lessen our jealosies and break down the distances that separate us. What the Eucharist asks of us is vulnerability, humilyt, contrition, and forgiveness. Bitterness, hatred, and suspicion are meant to disappear at a Eucharist.’ (Ronald Rolheiser)
So, let us join our Lord at his table with this transparency. Let us recognise, now, in us, the threefold message of our readings. Let us join the ‘pendule movement of love in our Eucharist’. That is, The Lord is our inexhaustible strength. Christ’s victory always has the power to transfrom what is fallen in us! God never forgets our witness to him!
Today’s feast was established in Liége, France, and it extended to the whole Western Church in 1264. On the feast of ‘Christ’s Body’ we celebrate Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. As Pope Francis teaches, the Corpus Christi procession should honour Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist, but should also be a pledge to share bread and faith with the people of the cities and towns where the processions take place. Just as the ‘breaking of the bread’ became a hallmark of the early Christian community, giving oneself in order to nourish others spiritually and physically should be a sign of Christians today.
It echoes well with the question we were asked a year ago. What does it mean for you to be an Ambassador for Christ where you are?On today’s feast, we are asked a similar question: An Ambassador of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist? How do we witness to Christ’s presence in the Eucharist? Actually, this question continues our Easter-reflection. Back then, we were challenged by the task of developing our faith’s ‘Easter Imagination’? What life do you imagine with the Resurrected Lord for yourself and for our church. What church are we dreaming about?
The feast of Corpus Christi is a good occasion to reignite our quest. The feast chellenges us in a very intense and creative way.
First it raises the question: what do we celebrate? What is the Eucharist? I found the ‘old’ answer about the purpose of worshiping Christ in the Eucharist, from the ‘old times’ (Pre-Vatican II). ‘The purpose of the present feast is to glofify the Blessed Sacrament, and to bring souls to the feet of Jesus, the Divine Lover of souls.’ I think, this task remains valid, as the authority of God must be recognised. The sense of ‘usnign our knees’ is particularly important in an age when all authority, religious, political, civic seems to be collapsing or dangereously weakened.
However, in line of the spirituality of our community, I would like to paraphrase the old definition of the feast. The purpose of celebrateing the Eucharistic Presence is to ‘bring souls to the eyes of Jesus’. I would like us to contemplate this emphasis. The Eucharist invites you, and me, us, to see how Jesus sees the world. When we adore the Eucharist in the adoration, the Eucharistic bread is put into the monstrance. We behold the consecrated Bread, in which, the resurrected Jesus is present in person, in his full power and love for us. For the world, it is bread. We see it differently.
Today, we celebrate this wonderful ability to see things differently, through the eyes of our Risen Lord. Let be challenged by this invitation of the Eucharist!
It is a ‘mystical moment’. The Eucharist reminds us that all of us have this ability to share the experience of mystics. We should not be put off by the word. Mystical experience is not something otherworldly. Seeing Christ in the Eucharist, our being focused on the Eucharist, is not a movement into phantasy. No. It is a movement to new ways of seeing. We are so accustomed to characterising, rationalising that it is difficult for us to appreaciate the ‘new world around us.’ Evely Underhill talks of ‘practical mysticism’. Contemplating the Eucharist is thoroughly practical. We are called to see and discover that eternity is with us, ivniting our contemplation perpetually, but we are frightened, shy and suspicious to respond.
So the first step on the mystical past of ‘seeing the Eucharist’ is our effort to see the world differently. The Eucharist teaches our eye and heart that there is more to life that we parpaps initially appreciated. Living a spiritual life is not about isolation. On the contrary, we want to engage the world as Jesus does. There is a different way of seeing the world, in the power of the Risen Lord. There is a different way of transforming the world, and ourselves, in the power of Easter and God’s Redeeming Love.
So we celebrate the fact that our love for the Eucharist is something active and practical. Let us have our ‘Corpus Christi procession’ in a special sense. Dear brother and sister, try to ‘see and hear’ our Liturgy today as an inner procession into the heart of our God. Let us celebrate, discover, and rejoice over this fascinating insight which the Lord wants to share us. When we celebrate mass, when we receive the communion, we are not focusing on the Bread and Wine. We are not singling out the miraculously changed elements. Now, our focus, our seeing is wider. We don’t eat Christ, we eat with Christ. (Julia Winter) When we celebrate mass, it is not an hour: we share life with Christ. We share our working day, the whole of the coming week, actually, the whole of our lives.
So let us see the Eucharist, the world, our Lord differently. Let us learn to celebrate the Eucharist not only with capital E, but with ‘small e’. Let us extend this table of love to our life, to our week, to our day. Let us try to make every day of ours whole!
‘May our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored and loved, with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time! O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine! All prase and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!’
The Catechism of the church teaches us that the greatest mystery of our faith is the Holy Trinity. Though it requires understanding, it primarily requires faith. God revealed himself as one God in three persons. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit share one divine essence (they are ‘consubstantial’ as we pray it in the Creed). God is a communion of Love.
God is always life-giver. That’s why we call him Creator. So when he reveals himself as Holy Trinity, he reveals the ‘secret’ of all Life. Faith, from our part, is indeed required to recognise the Holy Trinity as the source of all life. Faith is required to connect to this source.
Psychology revealed how important it is for the child to identify with their mother and their father. Developmental psychology, and psycho-analysis carefully studied this very important and vital process in our individual formation. They showed how important it is for the child to be severed from their ‘original unity’ with their mother, as before and after the birth they are one. Gradually, the mother has to let their ‘child go’. They help they child on this journey. When they teach their child to speak, they are, symbolically and in reality, handing over them to the father. For our introduction into language is our first absorbing the laws, values, and the culture of society. We could sum up this important process as a journey, supported by our mother’s and father’s love. The child identifies with the love of their parents, and this trust, this faith, this instinct to believe sustains them on becoming an independent, real person.
Today’s feast is an eye-opener. Our ‘individuation’, our becoming our truer self does not stop. We need this second identification with God’s very life. Besides acquiring the language that we speak, we need to acquire the language of Love. This is the language and life of the Holy Trinity.
Christianity, when it stepped onto the stage of history, was not a political or ideological movement. It was the very emergence of a new language which spoke a new life. The first generation of Christians, actually for centuries, were ‘obsessed’ on thinking about this secret which God has shared with us. They wanted to penetrate into the life of the Holy Trinity. They contemplated, prayed, and imitated the love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And this imitation, this fervent desire to live according to this love made a difference. It was not about theology, the life of the whole society, that of a whole culture was based on this vision.
Today we are called to contemplate the fruits of our union with the Holy Trinity. Our murderous instincts, our destructive powers, our desires to dominate, even to kill, are offered an alternative. This is an alternative which requires permanent work. This alternative is laborious, it is daily if not hourly toiling. But when individuals and communities contemplate and imitate the life of the Triune God, we are given wonderful capacities. These constitute us as humans, and keep us humane.
If we speak the language of the Trinity, through this identification with divine Love, we have an imagination to live in peace. We have an ability to tell our stories, to write novels, poetry, to sing. We have the ability to produce art and beauty, and to delight in life and social justice. If one imitates the self-giving life of the Trinity which produced our salvation by the death and Resurrection of Jesus, we have the most beautiful and important ability of ours: to start anew. To begin anew, to rebuild, to grow, to reconcile proceeding even the lowest points of one’s life.
Sadly, actually tragically, we live in a ‘fatherless’ culture. Parental authority, authority in general is lost. The ‘second level of fatherhood’, God as an authority is lost. However techno wiz our society becomes if we are not initiated into the language of love as our mother tongue, uncontrollable forces will organise and take control over our lives. If we don’t have the Trinity as our Loving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we will be threatened by fragmentation, criminality, and the delirium, agitation, false visions. The ‘collapse of the paternal function’, the collapse of our desire for union with the Triune God will inevitably lead to the ‘surge in riots and revolutions… the explosion of the death drive, which threaten globalized humanity today’ (Julia Kristeva, Ch 7 ‘A Father is Being Beaten to Death’ in Julia Kristeva, Passions of Our Time, Columbia University Press, New York 2018), pp.91-100
The Joy of Pentecost
The miracle of the tongues at Pentecost points beyond itself. Those who see it thought that they had been drunk. ‘These men are full of new wine.’ The key is Saint Peter’s reference to prophet Joel, the outpouring of the Spirit in the last days. The sudden influx of the Holy Spirit, like tongues of flame, is the ‘outburst’ of God’s joy. It is the outpouring of the joy between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that Jesus’s mission on earth was completed! The miracle of Pentecost is primarily God’s joy, blended with the joy He ignited in us. We can see God’s rejoicing among us.
To this joy corresponds well what Saint Francis de Sales writes on its depths. ‘By all this the blessed spirits are ravished with two kind of awe, first, at the infinite beauty that they contemplate, and secondly, at the abyss of infinity still to be seen within that same beauty. O God, how marvelous is what they see! O God, how much more marvelous is what they don not see.’ (Ch 15, Book III Treatise on the Love of God)
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..