March 12, 2023

The Bread of Life and the Need of the Human Heart

Even earthly bread, if received with thanksgiving, is food for the heart. It joins us in fellowship and sustains not just our bodies, but something of our spirits too because of the love that it expresses. Yes - bread reveals the love of the one who provided it. This love is more important than the nutrients it contains.  If this is true of earthly gifts, how much more heavenly bread?   

God told Adam that he would need to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow among the thorns and thistles. Adam for his part suffered the labor for love of Eve and their children. So too God loves us - and suffers for us. God rained down manna for heaven when his people found themselves most in need of his providence.  Christ said that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. His bread was to do the will of the Father.  He also declared that He himself is the bread of life.  The Word of the Father is given as food for the heart.

From ancient times, the father of a family would break the bread and give it to the members of the household around his table. The offering of Melchizedek is a revelation of divine fatherhood, the paternal love that God has for humanity.  This is what this mysterious priest mediated to Abraham, father of many nations, when he made that ancient sacrificial bread offering.  Christ fulfills this mediation and endows these ancient cultic acts of taking, blessing, breaking, and distributing. He foreshadows this mystery in the multiplication of the loaves, He discloses its significance in his Bread of Life discourse. He establishes these actions in Him the night before He died. He seals their meaning with the offering of his body and blood on the Cross. The power of what he has entrusted to humanity opens eyes on the road to Emmaus. Hearts filled with fear and doubt are set ablaze with love.

The Eucharist, the great thanksgiving, feeds the heart what it most needs.  Without hope, the heart shrivels. The inevitability of death haunts our existence and crushing circumstances can cause us to lose our way. Something in us goads against death even as its alienating power threatens all that is most dear to us. How do we find our standing when our hearts are weak? Yet, God does not wish us to perish - so He feeds us with the Word of the Father, and our hearts, filled with new and eternal meaning, find strength to love again.

March 9, 2023

Through the Wounds of Christ the Father Transforms our Wounds

To be a Christian is to be plunged into the mystery of the Trinity.  This mystery is one of both primordial and eschatological love for humanity.  Just how radical this love is defies any attempt to articulate. Yet the Word of the Father has spoken it once and for all in the silence that followed his last wordless cry.  The eternal meaning of this love confronts the ancient hostility that man has taken against God.  This hostility overshadows all that is good in the human heart, but this man-made could not hold back the light of God's uncreated love. This light is the life of humanity. It shines on us through the Cross because on the Cross, the Word of the Father reveals a love that no sin, or weakness, no wound or imperfection, no power under the earth, on it or over it can ever overcome.  

Since the definitive triumph of good over evil is revealed in the Cross of Christ, then Christian prayer that is under the seal of that Cross also knows this victory. Put another way, participation in divine life and love flows through the sufferings of Christ. Christian prayer dares to enter those suffering depths.    

The reason such access could only only be given at the price of Christ's blood pertains to the whole reality of sin. We have in our hearts a hostility to the Lord that prevents us from entering into communion with Him.  Contrary to some who accuse God, He is not the stumbling block. Our own indifference attempts to impede His mercy. His justice and righteousness is not the scandal. The scandal is our own hostility. We, by our own actions, close the door to the One who has come to us out of love. He suffers our lack of hospitality even as it is expressed in betrayal, denial, abandonment, the abuse of power, humiliation, and violent aggression. As prayer enters into this mystery of suffering, it discovers the life that he yearns to give. When the Word became flesh, he took into himself our hostility and suffered it in his obedient love.  

Thus, the wounds of Christ, wounds our own hostility has caused, have become sources of grace.  For the love of the Father revealed by Christ is not overcome by the chaos in our hearts.  In prayer, we find this chaos and if we humbly beg, the Father pours his mercy through it. The Father touches the misery, the absence of love in us, through the suffering of His Son, and when He touches our wounds He transforms them from storms of hostility and darkness into sources of divine kindness and light. Such is the power of the Cross.  The wounds of Christ heal our wounds and transform them into new vessels of his love.  

If the Father touches us through his Son, the touch of Christ leaves us the Gift of the Holy Spirit.  With the presence of the Holy Spirit, a taste for eternity lingers in the soul even where misery once robbed it of hope. We find in ourselves not only the desire but the ability to rise above the limits of the present circumstances and see the possibility of a greater freedom and truer love.  A confidence, a freedom is ours because God's own strength floods through our veins.  We have partaken of the body and blood of Christ. In this way, the Holy Spirit lives in the wound of love God grants us - a wound that heals us and helps us realize the great dignity for which we are made.