Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30 That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31 If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32 But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 (TEV)
Seventh, when a man has this hunger and so is prepared for the sacrament, he must carefully avoid receiving it while trusting in his own worthiness. Nor must he merely pray, as some do, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but say only a word, and my soul will be healed” [Matt. 8:8]. I am not rejecting that prayer, but one should be aware of something else. I am referring to the words Christ spoke when he instituted the mass: “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Take, drink, all of you; for it is the cup of the new and eternal testament in my blood, poured out for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins” [Matt. 26:26–28].
Although the priest utters these words softly during mass (would to God that he would shout them loudly so that all could hear them clearly, and, moreover, in the German language), every Christian should have these words close to himself and put his mind on them above all others. For just as they are meant for us all, so they are spoken by the priest in the stead of Christ to all who stand around him. We should take all of these words to heart, placing our trust in them and not doubting that with these the Lord invites us to be his guests at this abundant meal.
928 You are right. “The peak,” you write me, “dominates the country for miles around, and yet there is not a single plain to be seen: just one mountain after another. At times the landscape seems to level out, but then the mist rises and reveals another range that had been hidden.” So it is, so it must be, with the horizon of your apostolate: the world has to be crossed. But there are no roads made for you. You yourselves will make the way through the mountains, beating it out by your own footsteps.
It seems like the last month (or is it the last decade) has brought one more challenge after another. And just s one challenge is climbed and another challenge looms. Not all are mine, yet some I walk over with others, for the church never journeys alone. We weep and laugh together, we strive together, even as we sometimes strive against each other.
The reality St. Josemaria paints is painful, to know this journey isn’t easy, to know the pains we will feel, the times where we are spiritually out of breath and feel like we cannot walk one more step.
Then we look up, and we realize that on this mountain is something worth the effort, something that is worth it, something that will sustain us, give strength to our weariness, and heal our brokenness.
The Lord’s Supper is neither about our worthiness, or a brief confession (often without thought) of our unworthiness. It is about the promise, the incredible blessing of what Christ promised as He broke the bread, as He blessed the cup. He invites us to share in His being broken, that we can also be made whole.
I have seen it over and over again, the sinner, barely able to address their brokenness, finding peace there, at the communion rail.
This mountain is different, it not another challenge, it is the destination. It is the feast with God, long foreshadowed in the Old Testament, and which foreshadows the final feast…
May we never lose our hunger and thirst for it…
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 173.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thoughts of the day:
17 But in the following instructions, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together. 18 First, I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent I believe it. 19 But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized! 20 When you meet together, you are not really interested in the Lord’s Supper. 1 Corinthians 11:17-20 (NLT2)
19 9. We believe, teach, and confess that no genuine believer, no matter how weak he may be, as long as he retains a living faith, will receive the Holy Supper to his condemnation, for Christ instituted this Supper particularly for Christians who are weak in faith but repentant, to comfort them and to strengthen their weak faith.
If liturgy is to survive or even be completely renewed, it is essential that the Church be rediscovered. I add: if people’s estrangement is to be overcome, if they are to find again their true identity, it is indispensable that they find again the Church that is not a misanthropic institution, but the new “we” in which alone the “I” can acquire its foundation and its security.
Paul’s admonish to the church in Corinth is one I think we need to hear today. It is neither easy nor would it make sense to most Christians today.
They might see the admonition as one solely concerned with what I call hospitality, the reason Paul admonishes them is that they don’t wait for each other and that the taking of the Lord’s Supper becomes a testimony to their division and their lack of love for each other. I think it is far more severe than that, for the Lord’s supper is not a simple meal.
It is given to us, this blessed Body and Blood of Christ, to comfort us, to strengthen us, to heal our very souls, to quench the doubts and empower a trust in Him that would result in seeing the world changed.
And yet we neglect it. We put it off and only celebrate it on occasion, or we rush out of church after it, unaware of what we have received, or if aware, minimizing it. We don’t see it as what establishes us, as a “we” (the people of God) and gives a real identity to the “I”.
By the way, in regards to Pope Benedict’s use of misanthropic, I had to look the word up. It is the exact opposite of philanthropic. It is to hate mankind, a charge we have to take seriously, for I do believe many see us that way. It shouldn’t be accurate; but many see us as trying to oppress mankind, rather than freeing them from guilt and shame. In many ways. our poor and unbalanced proclamation of sin and the gospel does this, as we close off communion to only those in the club, or make people think they have to be “good” enough or have a perfect understanding of theology in order to receive the gifts of God.
It is about His ministry, His welcoming us home, it is the feast for prodigals, the feast He throws, giving all of Himself, to lift us up, to nourish us, to help us realize we are united to Him.
It is there, at the altar, that the liturgy goes from being an ordeal to become a blessing of renewal. It is there our hope is renewed, our lives transformed, our hearts and souls healed.
It is what those outside the church need to see evidence of so that they too will be drawn into union with Jesus, through His death and resurrection. It is what those in the church need to have, that they may once again realize their sins do not separate them from God, for God separates the sin from them.
If the church is to find renewal, it will be here… celebrating the love of God given to us all, welcoming us home. All of us.
Don’t neglect this necessity in life, don’t diminish it, hear God’s words, hear what they promise, and then come, take and eat the Body of Christ broken for you… and drink of His blood, poured out for you, that makes you part of His family, and cleanses you of all your sin.
You and I need this… so let us celebrate His love, together! AMEN!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 484). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 248). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
DevotionalDiscussion thought of the day:
15 I am speaking as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I am saying. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17 (NAB)
But suppose you say, “What if I feel that I am unfit?” Answer: This also is my temptation, especially inherited from the old order under the pope when we tortured ourselves to become so perfectly pure that God might not find the least blemish in us. Because of this we became so timid that everyone was thrown into consternation, saying, “Alas, I am not worthy!”
56 Then nature and reason begin to contrast our unworthiness with this great and precious blessing, and it appears like a dark lantern in contrast to the bright sun, or as dung in contrast to jewels. Because nature and reason see this, such people refuse to go to the sacrament and wait until they become prepared, until one week passes into another and one half year into yet another.
57 If you choose to fix your eye on how good and pure you are, to work toward the time when nothing will prick your conscience, you will never go.
61 People with such misgivings must learn that it is the highest wisdom to realize that this sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness. We are not baptized because we are worthy and holy, nor do we come to confession pure and without sin; on the contrary, we come as poor, miserable men, precisely because we are unworthy. The only exception is the person who desires no grace and absolution and has no intention to amend his life (1)
The one thing that kept me going this week could be described with words from a sermon illustration of Tony Campolo, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a comin!” Except for me it was more like “It’s Saturday,Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but Sunday’s a comin!” It was a seriously rough week for me, not just physically, but spiritually. And my level of depression was significant, as I observed a depth of brokenness of the church, ( rather in the group of churches I am a member of) I had not seen before, and I could do little about it.
Let me be honest, I had done what I constantly encourage others not to do, what I tell them often to remember. That God is with you, that He is your refuge, your sanctuary, your peace. At times I stopped looking forward to Sunday, stopped looking forward to sharing in, participating in the incredible blessing that nourishes us, that reminds us that nothing can separate us from Christ.
He has given us His Body, His precious blood, He has drawn us to the cross, that our dead, dried out bones can find life. We have entered into a relationship with Him, where He binds Himself to us in the New Covenant. He doesn’t expect us to heal ourselves, nor does He expect us to be serene when we come to the altar, when we fall at His feet.
In a way, I suppose seeing the brokenness is a good thing, for it drives me back to the cross. After this week, I cannot take my own righteousness for granted, nor that of the church. We must seek the healing that we need, a healing that is found only in the presence of Christ, the one crucified so that our we could join Him in death and rise again with Him (see Romans 6 and Colossians 2)
And so I look forward to that point, 24 hours from now, when I will hear the people I shepherd utter those incredible words, “and also with you”. (for my RCC friends – and with your Spirit) and I will taste and know the goodness of the Lord.
He is our hope, our refuge, our healing, our ever-present help in times of brokenness.
LORD, HAVE MERCY!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 453). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.(from the Large Catechism:Fifth Part: The Sacrament of the Altar)
Devotional thought, late in the day:
23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NLT)
I started this morning by heading out to visit my mother. Along the way, I stopped for breakfast a a place I worked during college. Five years or so ago, they remodelled it. I guess the did recently, restory the walls tables and dining counter. It was like being at home, after a long time ago. (the hostess figured out how long ago… nice girl reminding me how old I am!)
On the way, I stopped at my dad’s gravesite, or more exactly, the National Cemetary columbarium – the wall in which his ashes are now kept. The picture here is of his plaque.
Then my mom and I shared quite a few memories over lunch, which in and of itself brought other memories. Dad’s been gone 4 months tomorrow, and yet… it doesn’t seem like its been that long.
Then one of the first songs I leared on the guitar, (gulp 42 years ago) came on among the music they played in the restaurant. Thoughts of the catholic brother who taught me came to mind. Then, I looked up at the television hanging off the ceiling behind my mom, and there was a game at Pepperdine, where i worked for most of the 1990’s. Without a doubt, that University is fhe finest place I’ve worked for, and watching basketball games in the fieldhouse there was always great. In the 14 years since i’ve left, I haven’t seen them on television once, yet this day, on a television in a restaurant some 100 miles from the campus, in a retirement town, there they are?
Then came the news, a reminder that 20 years ago, (while I was at Pepperdine) we suffered the Northridge Earthquake. At the time, Kay and I were living in this cute i bedroom apartment. Memories of seeing the carpent and linoleum ripped in half – the early morning spent on Topanga Blvd with 600 other victims. We would not live in that place again, save for a night without water, electricity, etc, when they said it was safe – only to wake up the next morning with signs we had to rip through, telling us the building was again red tagged and you weren’t allowed to enter. (nice of them to let us know when they made the decision sometime around midnight!)
Memories abound,,, some are good… some are… well, let’s just say some are. They mean something because of the time we invested, the people we knew.
One of the things that really comes alive in Lutheran theology is the understanding of remembering and the sacraments. Luther’s words about starting and ending each day remembering that you are baptised are often repeated, not because of the act itself, but because of the promises given to us,
Even more, the passage above is precious, for it is more than just memories – it is the process of re-living the moment, of our minds dwelling on and in the moment. All of those memories of past times are very important, but this time with Christ, with comprehending with heart and soul as well as mind – that He is with us, that His love meant dieing for us, and bringing us through that death so that we will live with Him….
There are memories, then there is doing this…
May it be ever more than a distant memory….May it be our lives, lived in communion with Him. AMEN
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day: (why do I write discussion – in the hope someday this is discussed, of course)
“If all those people became so enthusiastic and were ready to acclaim you over a piece of bread, even though the multiplication was a very great miracle, shouldn’t we be doing much more for all the many gifts you have granted us, and especially for giving us your very self unreservedly in the Eucharist?” (1)
In view of these days, when we are arguing and doing battle over what the government can, can’t, should or shouldn’t do for those it governs, this quote by St. Josemarie seems incredibly important. For indeed we get excited about what is physically/financially provided for us, and because of the similarities of those running, the only real argument I can see is about whether people are given to, or have taken from them, money and that which it can buy.
It is never miraculous, the government cannot turn 5 loaves and 2 fishes into enough to feed 12,000 people. And we applaud or crucify those who promise to do something about it, based on its perceived short term affect on us. Yet we waste more time contemplating politics than the ministry of Jesus in our midst. We get more excited about a juicy bit of gossip that we can copy and paste to bash “the other guy” than we do about the word of God which reveals to us that we aren’t alone, that we are loved, that this world isn’t a random and without a purpose.
We aren’t alone.
We are loved…
A little bit of bread, a small sip of wine, a gift that changes everything, that fulfills a promise, that indeed reminds us of the greatest gift, and is a gift that is worth more than any thing,.
Celebrate it, think about what is given you there, as you Take and Eat the Body Broken for you, and you take and drink, the blood outpoured for the forgiveness of sin. All sin.
And may you live, as those God would call to His feast…
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1228-1231). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.