The great and the good

The readings for Year B Proper 20 include the disciples’ argument about who is the greatest, and Jesus’ child-assisted response.


“Look,” said Jesus, scooping up a spare small child as it scurried by; “Look. This is what greatness looks like.”

He sat on the floor with the little one and its grubby little feet kicking at him. The child peered into the ears of the Son of Man, and pulled the beard of the Son of God. The child rubbed its snotty nose on Jesus’ shoulder. It wriggled and began to snivel a little.

The disciples waited for Jesus to elaborate, to draw some great lesson, some marvellous metaphor out of this admittedly very physical spiritual encounter with the child. There must be something special about it, they thought.

But Jesus continued to sit on the floor, cradling the little one, wincing whenever it caught its chubby little fingers in his hair and pulled; making soothing, sighing, songful noises whenever it became fretful; like a woman, like a nursemaid, like a mother.

The child’s own mother, a woman of no consequence, one of the servants of the household, hung around the edges of the room a little bashfully, watching as the most honoured guest of all time whispered a lullaby to her drooling child. As the little one’s eyelids drooped, Jesus murmured quietly to his disciples, who had to lean in to hear him,

“Whoever can welcome such a child as this in my name embraces me. And whoever can embrace and welcome me has opened his heart and mind and body and soul to God.”

The disciples, still a little out of sorts from their argument about greatness, could not find it in themselves to dispute or question Jesus’ teaching, since no one wanted to waken the now-sleeping infant who still rested on the knees of the Messiah, who still sat on the floor, and whose right foot had now quite definitely fallen asleep along with the baby.

And now Jesus was stuck on the floor with a sleeping baby, his hands full, his feet with no feeling left in them, and the child’s mother had gone back to work. There was nothing for it but to continue to wait on the baby, serving it with patience and with love.


Another time, talking about greatness, Jesus told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

This was more their pace, they thought. This was a lesson more suited to a man. Heroism. Good stuff. But the image of the infant still haunted their dreams of greatness. They were infected by the suspicion that Jesus really was talking less about grand gestures and more about great love.

Great love doesn’t have to wait for a great gesture. We can practice great love in small matters. We can practice on small children (or even small animals). They have a way of drawing us into the discernment of service: what do you need? What do you want? Why won’t you stop crying? Why won’t you stop laughing? Help me to understand you! How can I best and most lovingly serve you?

Each time we put our own life on hold – our desire, our need, our timetable – for the sake of someone else: letting them take the first or the last piece of pie; letting them go before us in line; giving up our place, our time, our pride and importance: then we are practicing, in our small, everyday ways, giving up our lives for those around us, our friends and our neighbours.

Jesus practiced it when he washed the feet of his disciples, his friends; he was demonstrating and foreshadowing and practicing the service that he preached, and the self-sacrifice that he lived out to the end, and beyond.

Greatness abounds in humility.

Power and pomp cannot feed the people: the hummus, the earth, the small seed, the dirty fingernails, the mud and the rain are more essential, more useful, than parades and penants. A loving arm, and a breast full of milk, is more useful to a child than all the tea in China. Such things are not the seeds of greatness. Small acts of great love, practiced with abandon, with more than occasional regularity; habitual humility and service is not the key to greatness: it is greatness.


We are good at discerning the lessons from this gospel as individuals. We have all taken a couple of mental notes already about how we can practice great love in small ways in the next day or week, and that is marvellous.

But what does a great church look like? What is the institutional image that is akin to Jesus sitting on the floor with the child of a serving girl? The Son of Man, whose dignity cannot be diminished, sitting on his pride and serving the needs of the one who needed him least in the whole household? If that is the measure of greatness, what is the greatest achievement or action of this church that you can remember or imagine?

Given a little time and a few pieces of paper, my loving and generous congregation came up with the following, among others, and in no particular order:

img_7774

A great church

reads the Bible
loves Jesus (they mentioned him a few times!)
welcomes all people to the table (this got said a lot, too)
opens its arms to children (as did this)
sings to God
reaches out into the community
plays well with others
serves its neighbours
has people willing to give of themselves
has people who care for one another
engages with social justice and gun violence prevention
is kind
prays
is willing to share the good news of God


A great church is built upon the greatness of our God; and the greatness of our God is that God so loves the world, that God sent Jesus to sit in the dust, so that all who needed it might find life in him, and dream of the divine, and be cradled by the great love, the amazing graciousness, of God.

Amen.

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Sabbatical: steady

The logistical preparations for sabbatical are their own spiritual discipline. Last week I wrote about the creative stewardship of finances and professional resources – sharing priests across parishes and raising up lay leaders to facilitate one another’s time away.

The stewardship of attention and anxiety has also come to the fore as an important dimension of the discipline of preparing for Sabbath. Preparing to let go of the ability and the need to do – things, details – reminds me of how closely I hold on to the illusion of control, much of the time, without seeming to or meaning to; not out of (I hope) an inflated sense of authority or competency, but quite the opposite, out of my anxiety that if I don’t do what is expected of me, or needed of me, or do it right, that I will fall apart, things will fall apart, and my inward hollows will be exposed.

It’s not good theology: the idea that I can cover up the cracks in my own creation with artifice. It’s not good theology: that I hold the world together, and send it spinning on its axis. It’s not good theology, that it’s all on me; but it’s an old fear, and one with which I have learned to regard with some sympathy. It’s not good theology, and I know that it is not a true story: that my body and mind tell me superstitious tales born of childhood terrors and that magical thinking that protects the powerless and the very small and young.

It has its uses. The upside of being neurotic about leaving every question answered and every drawer tidy in my desk is that I finally have a tidy desk, and hopefully the endless lists and charts of information will be helpful to those taking care of business while I am gone. It’s knowing where to stop that’s key. Things will happen which I have not foreseen – and they will be taken care of. I will have got some things wrong, and my friends and colleagues will sigh and roll their eyes, and roll with it – and they will still welcome me back with good will. I may occasionally feel needed here, but I am not in control, and I am not in charge. I am not essential. I am not (spoiler alert) God.

That which God has created will not be destroyed nor undone; especially that which is formed in the very image of God. I think of ripples in a pond, diminishing over time and distance, further separating and sinking until no trace of them remains. But the changes they have made, as subtle as they may be, to the surface and to the depths and all that dwell therein; those changes are not undone when the memory of the ripple has gone.

What we do now matters beyond our reach and our imagination, then; which is good and terrifying to know. But in time, as memory fades, our impact, the good and the bad, will be become first anonymous, and finally infinitesimally indistinguishable from the layers of creation, of time, that surround us.

That interplay of significance and anonymity; of responsibility and mortality; of duty and humility: I think that is the balance that is trying to strike its loving note, like a singing bowl or a bell, insisting its echo into this scurry of self-fulfilling sabbatical preparation.

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Love, lies, and blessing

The readings for Year B Proper 19 include James’ indictment of the tongue as a “world of iniquity,” Peter’s confession, and Jesus’ rebuke.

The tongue is a fire. … With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters [and siblings], this ought not to be so, writes James.

Get thee behind me, Satan! replies Jesus.

We have heard many tongues speaking of the descent of civil discourse in our country lately. We have read column inches and books are printing straight out of the presses and off the shelves with page after page of critical analysis, conspiracy theory, and plain old gossip. Our heads snap from left to right as words are lobbed across our screens and our scenes like balls at a tennis match. If, as James says, the tongue and its little movements are like a rudder, then we are in danger of being lost at sea.

Get thee behind me, Satan! nods Jesus.

Peter had just made the statement of his life; the defining claim of his career: that this Jesus was, in very fact, the true Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, anointed, appointed by God to redeem the world out of its suffering and sin, out of its oppressive economy of war and one-upmanship, out of death into the life that God had intended for it, for all of God’s creation, from the beginning.

In the very next breath (or at least the next paragraph, the next scene), Peter is telling Jesus that he knows better than the Son of God, the Son of Man, how to do the work of a Messiah; how to do God’s work in the world. From one tongue in Peter’s mouth came the confession that Jesus is Lord, and the proud and preposterous claim that Peter, in fact, held the true keys to the kingdom of God.

Jesus said, You’re not listening, to yourself or to me. If you say that Jesus is Lord, then the next thing out of your mouth had better be consistent with that statement. Otherwise, get behind me, Satan.

Well, we all make mistakes, as James points out. Still, the idea that if we say that Jesus is our Messiah, then whatever else we say or do should make sense in the context of that foundational, ground-breaking, fundamental statement – that seems to be a good principle for working through some of the difficulties and dilemmas we find ourselves facing today, in whatever conversations we find ourselves having.

You can’t bless God out of one side of your mouth and then curse God’s image made flesh out of the other, says James. Experience would suggest otherwise: that we are capable within a minute, within a mile, within one family, one congregation, within one person to bless God and curse ourselves or another within one breath. But what James is saying is that when we fail to love our neighbour as ourselves (or perhaps ourselves as our neighbour), then we fall short of loving God with all our heart and all our mind and all our strength, as we are commanded to do, since we have failed to love God’s image wherever it is to be found.

This is where I find Jesus’ example of anger against Peter to be helpful.

Jesus did not love everything that Peter said, or did. In fact, when Jesus went on to tell the crowd, in front of Peter, that he would be ashamed of those who were ashamed of him and his ministry, his Messiahship – we can’t help but read that as a criticism of Peter’s words and a foreshadowing of Peter’s denial of Jesus, his shame at being associated with Jesus, outside the high priest’s house.

Jesus was hurt, he was frustrated, and for a moment he found it better, wiser even to turn his back on Peter: Get behind me. Get out of my sight, for the sake of my own soul.

Because Jesus is perfect in love, in the next breath he is back on track with Peter, and even after the betrayal before his trial and the desertion, Jesus welcomes Peter back into his resurrected embrace with words of peace. Jesus will not corrupt his own soul, or speech, with bitterness or enduring anger.

James’ advice without Jesus’ humanity is an impossible hurdle. James recognizes that himself: “No one can tame the tongue.” But with Jesus’ humanity, we recognize that there are steps that we can take to feel the anger, the hurt, the outrage, the incredulity, the pessimism, the disgust, the barbs that assault and prick us every day, without cursing the image of God.

A few weeks ago, after putting out invitations to our 90th anniversary picnic, I picked up an angry and anonymous message on our church voicemail. It wasn’t threatening, but the vitriolic, corrosive anger in the caller’s voice upset me. The good thing about a voicemail, though, is there is a separation of time and space between the message, the anger, and its arrival. I wasn’t called upon to respond on the spot, nor to read the features of a rageful person. I was given the gift of time and space to sit and ponder what would make someone so mad that receiving an invitation to a party incited their anger. The more I wondered that, the more I found myself praying for the person who had called, and the people who would cross their path without the insulation of an answering machine. I wondered whether we had, in fact, all unknowing done the work of God that day by absorbing this anger into our own body, safely and harmlessly, turning it into digital nonsense and a memory soon deleted.

The gift of time, to breathe, to pray, is a blessing.

There’s a Graham Greene story in which the characters like to say that we bless what we cannot love.

“I do a lot of blessing myself,” the old man said. “It’s when you want to love and you can’t manage it. You stretch out your hands and say God forgive me that I can’t love but bless this thing anyway.” …

The old man repeated … “We have to bless what we hate. … It would be better to love, but that’s not always possible.”

I think that it’s the Graham Greene version of “bless his heart.”

No one has tamed the tongue, James says, and it is a fire burning our own souls.

Get thee behind me, Satan, agrees Jesus.

When we temper the teaching of James with the humanity of Jesus, we can find a way to live with the tongues in our heads and the secret words of our souls. We do not have to deny the evidence of our senses; we can name what is wrong with the world. We can call out lies and counter them with truth. We take a breath, take a break, even turn away for a time if we need to. We can bless; we can always pray.

We can proclaim that Jesus is Lord, that God is love, and that come what may, the way of the cross is the way of eternal life. We can let it go at that.

We can protect our tongues from bitterness and our souls from shame by keeping to the truth, and holding fast to the hope that Christ has set before us, and following him, step by step, word by word, in the way of the cross, the way of God’s unimaginable love, for all whom God has made in the image of the living God.

Amen.

_________________________________________________________________________

“The Blessing” in Graham Greene, Collected Stories (Viking Press, 1973)

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Holy Cross Day

Ach!

A splinter draws a bead of blood,

as the sting of a dead wasp exacts its revenge,

like a plaited crown of thorns twisted beyond play

the tree protests its perversion;

lungs of the world, breath of life

suffocating under the weight of salvation.

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Sabbatical: ready

I have three more Sundays at church before my sabbatical. I know; I’m spoilt rotten (just wait till you hear where I’m going with it!). I know how fortunate I am to have an agreement with my parish which nods toward the ancient and holy rhythms of sabbath. After six years of service, and during the seventh, provision is made for an extended period of spiritual renewal. Provision made how? you may ask. I’ll come to that. Sabbath rest doesn’t happen without advance planning, whether it be the blessing of a family dinner or the blessing of a two-month break from the usual routines.

This can be a time of renewal and creative energy for the parish, too, though; a chance to look around and take stock of where we’ve come together. An opportunity to imagine something new. An avenue to explore different voices, different roles, a diversity of bodies in the pulpit and at the altar. A stirring up of good and holy trouble.

It can also be difficult to envision how such an adventure will be funded, supported, and sustained. That’s where a little inspiration and a good dose of collaboration and collegiality come in handy.

The inspiration came, believe it or not, from a Facebook complaint. “I’ll never be able to take a sabbatical,” a fellow priest mourned. “My parish just can’t afford it!” Oh dear, I thought; we are also small and strapped for cash. But I think that if we believe in the rhythms of the holy calendar God has called us to – work and rest, wrestling and renewal, research and reflection, prayer without ceasing, play interspersing in a roughly six-to-one ration (except that play gets a pass to intersperse at will, since it serves many purposes) – well then with all of the creativity that such a calendar implies, we should be able to work something out.

A friend had served a neighbouring parish for about as long as I have been here. Our congregations are similar in size. They share a deep faith and some slight but perennial concern about finances and the future. Neither could sustain a traditional sabbatical with months of supply cover. Both have the desire and the love necessary to find a way forward.

So I proposed an experiment. Each of us would take a modest, two-month sabbatical. While my colleague was away, earlier this year, I alternated Sundays between the two parishes. Wherever I was, we celebrated Holy Communion. Wherever I was not, lay leaders read Morning Prayer, and lay preachers either brought their own sermons to the pulpit, or read out the one I was preaching a few miles away, having found it in the handy-dandy Google docs folder set up for the purpose of sharing the same. I was the on-call priest for both parishes. It went really well. Next month, and in November, my friend and his congregation will return the favour to me and mine.

Of course, the possibilities for deepening this partnership and its potential blessings are endless. Some parishioners suggested that the whole congregations alternate between one church and the other (we thought that might be a stretch for our first outing). Our neighbours hosted a picnic over the summer to compare notes and offer advice for Round 2. Lay worship leaders and preachers were able to stretch their skills and test their vocations a little further and a little oftener than usual. The corporate imaginations of both congregations were challenged to think beyond their own buildings, and reminded bodily that their worship was shared beyond their sight, out of their earshot, with generations that they had not yet met.

When I sang in a choir, long ago and far away, we were taught to stagger our breathing through long, sustained notes. As long as we didn’t all do it at the same time, each of us could take a breather from the music, replenish our oxygen exchange, without the note wavering or failing its audience. As long as we supported one another’s rest, no one need gasp for lack of air, and the music (the service, the worship) would continue unabated.

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Love and death

Some sermons are of the moment. Today’s was one such. So I am posting most, not all of it. The readings included the Pharisees and scribes telling Jesus off for unwashed hands, and the love poetry of the Song of Songs.

IT has been a weekend full of funerals, public and private; for those whom we have loved and those whom we have watched from afar, from the epic homegoing of Aretha Franklin to the services for John McCain in Arizona and in Washington, DC. Some of you were at family funerals; some of you were with me at the requiem for Byrdie Lee.

At the heart of any and every Christian funeral liturgy is the promise of God’s enduring love: love that is not defeated nor diminished by death. Love that survives the death and decaying of the body. Love that lasts forever, and which takes on a life of its own.

It is this promise, of God’s presence with us, all of us, the living and the dead, that makes a funeral bearable, sometimes even joyful.

The readings we hear this morning are all about the here and now, this life, this body, these struggles to get by and get on and to get along with one another. Those struggles were obvious, too, at each of this weekend’s more public funerals. They were in the background and in the lives of women and a man who dealt in their lifetimes with conflict, with hardship, with the inhumanity of humans divided by the common and sinful cause of selfishness. Those struggles were present in the funerals themselves and in the reporting around them: the people who did or did not attend, the grace and the grudges, what they wore, where they went with their words or with their hands.

There are legitimate things to report and to reflect upon concerning such things. The Pharisees and other religious groups were not out of line nor outside of normal practice in sticking to certain conventions, traditions, and rituals. Where they ran into difficulties, with their criticism of Jesus, was in elevating such details above the fundamental concerns of Christ: the love of God, and the love of neighbour, and the change that should sweep the world if only we would observe those two commandments to the detriment of any other demands on our loyalty, our allegiance, our tradition. They got into trouble because they tried to use their conventions, their traditions, their local customs and details to diminish the gospel, to undermine the message that Jesus had come to bring; to question the authority of the Son of God himself.

Because he was treading on people’s toes. Because he was rocking the boat. Because he threatened to turn the whole world order upside down, as his mother and her ancestors had prophesied: scattering the powerful in the imaginations of their hearts, and empowering the humble and the meek; the Galilean yokel and the Greek flipping over the sophisticated Jerusalem elite.

The Pharisees were afraid of what such a revolution might do to their status, their stock, and so they set up their conventions, their traditions, their rituals as armour against the onslaught of the kingdom of God.

Of course, God is not deflected by our defences. Many Pharisees came around to Jesus’ way of thinking. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, risked ridicule and worse to flout convention and help Joseph of Arimathea claim his body from the cross. In fact, the two men were members of opposing political parties, but they set aside their differences in order to serve the body of Christ together.

There is something, after all, about a funeral that brings people together, in a common cause of love and remembrance.

The stress of grief can also exacerbate difference and division. The stress of fear, the fear of the Pharisees, led Jesus to point out to them that far from preserving the peace, their insistence on convention above all else put them in danger of all kinds of sin. The twisting away from God’s will, God’s love in order to defend our own position above all else, instead of the love of God and the love of our neighbour above all else, puts us in danger of all kinds of self-deception and malice. It murders the soul.

But love heals. …

… Love heals.

So when my time comes, I think I might ask for a reading from the Song of Solomon. After all, we heard so many times this weekend, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and such affirmation is fine, and well deserved by those we heard eulogized.

But it isn’t the approval of God that fills us with hope in the face of the unknown journey into life beyond death. It isn’t even the mercy of God that helps our souls to sing “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” at the grave.

It is the love of God, unquenchable, unstoppable, unearthed by the truth that accompanies our mortality, that makes our hearts soar even as they sag with grief.

It is the thought that God has whispered to Aretha, John, Dorothy, Byrdie; that God will sing to us almost as a lullaby:

“Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away;

for now the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,

and the vines are in blossom;

they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away.” (Song of Songs)

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Bread of life

The readings for Year B Proper 15 continue to prove the bread of life (no half-baked measures) in the Gospel according to John, while 2 Kings and Ephesians share their wisdom.


Solomon was wise and discerning. The Ephesians are bidden to live as wise, not as unwise people. And the crowd following Jesus around the Galilean countryside continues to struggle with the meaning of his proclamation that he is the bread of life.

In all of our wisdom, hindsight, foreknowledge of the Sacrament we are about to receive, do we understand it any better than they did?

When I was a child, and I first started attending church by myself, drawn to it by the stories of the Bible and the prayer that Jesus taught us, the prayer we learned at school; while the church welcomed me, I was given to understand that I was too young to receive the Sacrament, and unconfirmed. I was an undocumented Christian, my paperwork was insufficient, and my ability to assimilate, to integrate, held suspect.

Even so, I was welcome. I was welcome to pray, and to stay, and even to approach the altar for a blessing, which was, truly, a blessing; but when I returned to my pew, and we began the post-Communion prayer, I knew that my words of thanksgiving for the body and blood of Christ were hollow, and worse, hypocritical, because in the silence of my mind I was saying, “But you didn’t give it to me. You left me out.”

I got Confirmed as soon as I could. I was too young to understand what I was getting myself into. None of us understands the fullness of God’s mercy, God’s providence, God’s unfathomable love. If we did, then we, too, would be gods. But I knew, in my body and in my soul and in the core of my being that what was offered at that altar was something I needed, something I wanted, something I could not live without. I still can’t quite explain it; I still know that it is true.

The people, in the gospel, are still asking for a sign, but they have all the signs that they need. Only yesterday, Jesus fed five thousand of them with five loaves and a couple of fish. Like the manna in the wilderness, Jesus dispensed signs of God’s providential care for God’s beloved creatures, the crowd of humanity, feeding their bodies and soothing their hungry and anxious souls. But one meal is one meal, Jesus tells them, and it will not sustain you forever. A person lives not by bread alone, but by the living will and word and breath of God. And that Word made flesh, that living, ever-living sign of God’s mercy, is Jesus.

In the Eucharist, we re-member Jesus. In physical and concrete form, in solid bread and sweet wine, we rehear, we rehearse his words from the last supper with his friends, when he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, shared it out, giving of himself, giving of God’s mercy and providence, pouring out his blood like wine, his spirit like sweetness, his life like water for the world. We re-member him in the bread, and we invoke his life, his death, his resurrection, and all that is yet to come since his ascension. We re-member him, reconstructing him in bread, and then we break it open all over again, because it is not a museum piece, not a relic, but a living memorial and reminder of God’s continuing mercy, our daily bread, the perseverance of God’s passion for us. We participate in the mystery of the Incarnation. We consume God’s grace. We are resurrected by real food for faint bodies, wine for poor spirits.

We ask the Holy Spirit to make us one with Christ, with one another, because it is not enough to remember; because it is not enough to make private and prayerful connections with the relics of Christ. Because we celebrate in community and as a microcosm of the world, the crowd on the hillside, the people, the children whom God has called into being in order that God might provide for them, in grace, in mercy, in love. Because this bread, the flesh and blood of Jesus, the Incarnation of all that we know of God, is given for the life of the world.

In The Imitation of Christ, classic devotional most often ascribed to medieval monk Thomas a Kempis, he wrote

Thou must take heed of curious and useless searching into this most profound Sacrament, if thou wilt not be plunged into the abyss of doubt. … God is able to do more than [the human] can understand. (XVIII,1)[i]

In other words, when the people tried to pry too hard into Jesus’ meaning, taking apart his flesh, his family, dissecting his words as though they were a recipe, a formula, rather than poetry, a prophecy of God’s grace; their graceless curiosity, their ungracious questioning caused them to fall into grumbling and to fall away and to end up taking apart his very flesh, and dividing his clothing by lots.

There is a Graham Greene short story[ii] in which a baker tries to persuade an altar boy to smuggle him a piece of the consecrated Host, which he dare not approach for himself, but which he longs to examine. It is the tragedy of his life that his hunger is to prove God wrong, to counter Jesus’ claims to be with us, to feed us, to love us.

Still, and without fanfare, without failure, without fail Jesus shows up at the altar, and on the hillside, at gatherings in ancient Galilee and churches in Ohio; bread for the world, unspoiled, incorruptible. We have heard this week of the signal and foul failings of the church, the holy, catholic, and apostolic church of which we are also part; how the body of Christ was abused and desecrated in unmentionable ways. It is a tragedy, and a travesty, and it makes a mockery of our sincere and heartfelt prayers of confession, of hunger, of praise. It damages the soul. It harms the body. It hurts.

Still, and without fail Jesus shows up; bread for the world, unspoiled, incorruptible, inviting us to participate in the healing of our own souls and bodies, in the healing of the world, not ignoring its hunger or hurt, but echoing the incarnation of love with which God has approached us.

The world did not understand Jesus. The world would not accept his self-sacrifice, preferring to keep to its own power, its own wisdom, its own discernment instead of recognizing the foolishness of God which is wiser than human understanding.

None of that stopped or slowed or forestalled or diminished Jesus’ work of salvation. He gave his flesh for the world, his Incarnation to feed the world with God’s mercy, his life to seed the world with the gospel of God’s grace towards all that God has made. He knew what he was doing.

The Imitation of Christ concludes,

Go forward, therefore, with simple and undoubting faith, and draw nigh unto the Sacrament with supplicating reverence. And whatsoever thou art not enabled to understand, that commit without anxiety to Almighty God. …
For faith and love do here especially take the highest place, and work in hidden ways in this most holy and excellent Sacrament. God who is eternal and incomprehensible, and of infinite power, doth great and inscrutable things in heaven and in earth, and His wonderful works are past finding out. If the words of God were of such sort that they might easily be comprehended by human reason, they should no longer be called wonderful or unspeakable (XVIII,4-5)[iii]

Wonderful, unspeakable, and yet so simple. There is bread, and there is wine, and there is Jesus with us. And the mercy of God endures forever.

Amen.


[i] Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, via the Gutenberg Project http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/1653/pg1653-images.html

[ii] Graham Greene, “The Hint of an Explanation,” in Collected Stories (Viking Press, 1973)

[iii] A Kempis, op cit

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