Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Scripture Reflection for June 26, 2011

Today, Catholics celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. I find it to be a curious feast, since really every Mass is a celebration of the body and blood of Christ. Fr. Radmar Jao, a newly ordained Jesuit priest, beautifully preached today the awe and wonder that we are invited to experience everytime we approach this most Sacred Mystery. Yet, it is a quite natural experience that such awe and wonder is dulled by habit and routine. The feast, then, provides us with an important occasion to reflect and remind ourselves about the faith we take for granted. We believe that Jesus is truly present to us in an immediate and real way, and such a rich encounter can inspire and transform us to become more and more what we eat--the Body of Christ.

As I prayed over the readings today, I found my thoughts focused primarily on the reading from Deuteronomy. Here, Moses tells a people who find themselves in the desert for 40 years that this journey was meant as a test for them to see whether they would keep his commandments in times of strife.

As I listened to the readings, I found myself thinking about a movie I watched recently with some of my Jesuit brothers called Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart where they play a struggling couple attempting to cope with the death of their young son tragically killed in a car accident. In order to cope with their loss, they go to these support group meetings where other couples share about their own loss. In a poignant scene, a couple is talking about how God acts for a reason, and that their child's death happened so that God could have another angel at His side. Upon hearing this, Kidman's character Becca angrily retorts by asking why God didn't simply make a new angel rather than taking her son. The tension is strong in the movie between those who find comfort in God and faith and those who find the notion of God and faith repulsive in the face of tragedy.

Becca's reaction is very real and her anger over any God-talk is quite understandable. Many would not find the response "it happened for a reason" to be very comforting when attempting to process a seemingly senseless death. When reading Scripture, though, we find these feelings are not isolated to the present moment. Even in the Bible, especially in the OT, we read of a people who continuously struggle to make sense of their relationship and faith in God in light of their own struggles. We read of a people continuously in exile, a people who yearn for peace and justice while being battered by violence, war, and oppression. We read of a people who continuously strive to turn their hearts back to God over and over again even in those times when they feel abandoned by Him. Why?

For our ancestors in faith, they found strength in remembering the great works that God had done for them. They continuously go back to that pivotal moment in history when God led them out of Egypt and out of the hands of their captors. They remember the enormous blessing that God bestowed upon Abraham. Their communal memory makes present in their mind the wonders of God, strengthening them to have faith in God and to believe wholeheartedly as they journeyed through the valleys of death.

I imagine that someone like Becca would not find such a move comforting these days. My sense in the movie was that she grew up Catholic and no longer believed a long time ago. What she seems to most deeply long for is a pastoral response--someone to be there for her in her pain and suffering, not someone to recite to her creeds and doctrines. She yearns for a nourishment not given by bread alone.

When we encounter Beccas in our world, we certainly cannot force them to have faith. But, we can perhaps nourish them with an embodied love formed by the grace of God. As Christ sacrificed for us, so too can we sacrifice ourselves for those in need and to share the life we have been given to others. We cannot bring back her son, but perhaps we can begin to ignite hope back into her eyes. Let us become what we are: the Body of Christ.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Scripture Reflection for June 19, 2011

Today Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. Probably one of the most confusing and difficult theological beliefs that we have, since we hold that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are both separate yet One at the same time. Historically, this doctrine posed a major problem for early Christians, since the Trinity evoked polytheism. The Church uses a big philosophical word which is pretty relevant with the new translations coming up--consubstantial--which will replace the line 'one in being with the Father' when we recite the creed. The term 'substance' in philosophy refers to the quiddity or 'whatness' of a thing, and the term 'consubstantial' is meant to express how the Father and the Son are not two essentially different beings but are united as One. St. Ignatius in his autobiography likens the Trinity to three musical keys which are in profound harmony with one another.

As I was praying with Scripture this morning, however, I must admit that most of my thoughts were not on the contemplation of the Trinity. Rather, I found my prayer centered around the words of St. Paul in today's 2nd reading. He writes in 2 Corinthians 13:11-12

Brothers and Sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Mend your ways. Here, St. Paul highlights the fact that we are a broken people. Our lives and actions are in need of healing and repair. The way that we act and treat each other can often be hurtful and harmful, and sometimes we are not even aware that we do such things. I think this is probably one of the reasons St. Ignatius stressed the examen prayer so much. When we get so busy and distracted, we do not allow ourselves the time to reflect on our day. When we reflect, we can take note of things we might not have noticed otherwise in our day. We cannot mend something that we do not see is broken. The first step to healing is to acknowledge that we are in need of healing. Too often, we find ourselves mired in self-deception.

Encourage one another. We are in this together; we cannot do it alone. In my own experience, simple gestures that people offer to me like saying hello or giving a warm smile is enough to brighten my day. These small acts of encouragements are acts of love which can bring so much life. I just got back from a short trip at St. Marys, Alaska, a small town of about 500 people, primarily Eskimo people, and I was struck by how so many of the villagers would wave at you when you drove by. Such small acts expressed how so much life can be found in a place I deemed was a pretty run-down area in the middle of nowhere.

Live in peace. There is a rich and profound depth of meaning in these simple words. It speaks to an inner disposition saturated with an interior quiet and tranquility--a still pond untouched by a surrounding storm. Jesus sleeping on the boat. I find myself most close to this sort of peace when I am faithful to my prayer life. It also speaks to an outward disposition in which we work to end all hatred and violence. When our actions towards one another bring into life the words of Christ: "Peace be with you."

And the God of love and peace will be with you. In doing all of these things, we will find ourselves coming into greater union with God. Our awareness of God's presence in our lives will be heightened, and we will be more apt to see the working of the Holy Spirit around us. The profound harmony of the Trinity will extend to our own personal lives and relationships with one another.

So I pray that we all may mend our ways, that we may encourage one another, and that we may live in peace, so that we may enter into greater life with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

(On a side note, I've been thinking about how I can write a little more frequently on my blog, and it occurred to me that one way I can do this is by writing weekly on a scripture passage. Hopefully this is not a one time thing and that I can keep it up in the future. I definitely would like to be more active in my writing, and I'll be more disposed to write more often now that I am no longer a graduate student)