Benediction Online

Sunday, August 30, 2015

On (not) keeping the rules

A mother was teaching her 12 year old daughter to cook roast lamb. She carefully showed her how she cut off the end of the joint and put it in the pan next to the rest. “Mom, why do you do that?” the daughter asked and the mother had to admit that she really didn’t know, it was how her own mother had always done it. A little later her brother phoned so she asked him, “When Mom taught you to roast lamb, did she tell you to cut off the end? Do you know why?” He didn’t know either, so that evening the 12 year old called her grandmother. “When you taught my Mom to roast lamb, why do you teach her to cut off the end?” “Oh,” said her grandmother, “that was just because my pan was too small.”

The religious establishment of Jesus’ time had expanded the already complex laws from the Scriptures with a ton of rules about how and when and where things were to be done. As I mentioned when we were talking about the feeding of the 5000 a few weeks ago, there were so many rules about eating that it was almost impossible to eat away from home with strangers without severe danger of becoming ritually unclean. So in this morning’s gospel the issue is not simply the hygiene one that our mothers taught us – wash your hands before a meal – especially if you’re going to be eating with your fingers – but that Jesus’ disciples were not even trying to keep all the rules.

And so Jesus uses this as a teaching moment. And what he teaches is quite revolutionary. We aren’t reconciled to God and we don’t live a holy life by keeping to a whole series of rules, because they’re just on the outside. We are called to live a holy life that comes from our hearts. We are called to be transformed from within. Then it is from that inner change that our behavior comes.

I read an interesting article about Pope Francis this week. It was in the Atlantic.[1] The title was “Where Pope Francis Learned Humility” and the subheading said “For the pontiff, being humble is less a character trait than a calculated choice.” Apparently Pope Francis did not grow up as a humble person but in fact was known for his arrogance until he was stripped of all his titles and responsibilities and spent two years in exile and spiritual retreat. After this, his leadership style changed. The journalist, Paul Vallely said, for him “humility was more like an intellectual stance than a personal temperament – a tool he developed in his struggles against what he had learned were the weaknesses in his own personality, with its rigid, authoritarian and egotistical streaks.”

So the journalist suggests that since the Pope is not naturally humble, his humility is a calculated choice. I would see it as being a transformation of his heart. Very few of us grow up naturally humble. None of us grow up without selfishness, pride, envy… these are natural parts of being humans caught in the sin matrix. But these are the very things we are called to change. Not by keeping a lot of external rules but by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and our hearts and transform us into the people that God made us to be; people made in God’s image. But this is not a passive process. It is a very active process. In order for the Holy Spirit to be able to work this way we have to have both intention and commitment. Our intention must be to become Christ-like because the Holy Spirit isn’t going to impose anything on us. Without the intention at a deep level of our being nothing much is going to happen. And we have to have the commitment to review our own internal conversation and to change it.

This is what James is talking about in the second reading when he says, “be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” We can see the fruits of our inner transformation in the way we act differently. But we can also change our inner selves by acting differently. You can fake it till you make it… and to some extent we’re all doing that and we have to.  If you wait until you’re completely peaceful, loving, non-judgmental and joyful before you feed the poor they’re going to get very hungry!

The shadow side of spiritual growth and development is that we can focus on it to the exclusion of those in need. That is subtly self-centered. Some people are called to lives of cloistered prayer where their self-giving is to give themselves up to silence and prayer on our behalf. But that’s just a very few people. The rest of us are called to live our lives in the regular world and find ways to be loving and be Christ-like and have a spiritual practice while we’re making a living, dealing with health issues, looking after our homes and all the zillion other things there are to do.

Rules can be helpful in doing that. Rules can help us to care for others. Rules can help us to care for ourselves. For example, we have a rule that dogs don’t come into the church sanctuary. There are several reasons for that. Many of us are dog lovers and if we all brought our dogs it would be mayhem; not everyone loves dogs like we do and in fact some people are scared of them or allergic to them. In order for us to be truly welcoming we choose to limit dog attendance to the outdoors. Similarly, many of us enjoy alcohol, but there are those among us who cannot drink and for whom the presence of alcohol can be disturbing. In order to be truly welcoming, we need to make sure that when we offer wine at a meal or gathering we always offer enjoyable alternatives.

The Rule of St. Benedict was written to provide a framework for monks living together and worshipping and serving God together. It provides guidelines for living which take into account that we are all different and what is easy for one person may not be for another. Most religious orders have some kind of agreed rule of life that they share together which helps them all to stay on the same page. These can be very simple or quite complex. From time to time it has been suggested that we, here at St Ben’s, might develop a rule of life which individuals could decide to adopt if they wanted to move deeper into spiritual community together.

When I went to a clergy wellness conference earlier this year we were challenged to write a personal rule of life. First we considered our core values and what was deeply important to us. We were encouraged to thing not just about our spiritual practice but about health, money and vocation.  It was fascinating to see how different each person’s rule was. None of them were all encompassing, each one hit on areas which were important issues in their life at the time. Some of them included things like “see my children more often,” or “go to the gym regularly” others were more “spiritual”. It was clear that these were probably not life-long rules but ones which would change as our lives changed.
Here is mine:
Eat plants, not too much
Drink water, plenty
Read, slowly
Center in prayer, daily
Be grateful, beloved

I certainly can’t claim to be living up to it but it is a gentle reminder, a standard against which to compare my actual life and to reflect on how to move from here to there.

The spiritual life is not about keeping complex rules but about surrendering ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit transforming us from within even as we do everything we can to cooperate and to transform ourselves into the people who love. Always remembering that love is not what makes a Subaru, love is blessing all those around us, humans, plants and the environment. 

Always blessing, every day.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Did Jesus intend to offend?

John 6:56-69

I don’t know about you, but personally I find Donald Trump offensive. Yet on Friday night 30,000 people showed up to his rally in Alabama. I admit that I might have gone had it been here in San Luis Obispo. Not because I agree with what he says but I because I am curiously fascinated by just how outrageous, how offensive, and just plain wrong he can be. And, I apologize if I am offending anyone here, but I am horrified at the thought that anyone would want him as our President.

People followed Jesus because they were fascinated by him and excited by his miraculous abilities. But unlike Trump, Jesus didn’t bask in the limelight. When he realized that they wanted to make him king, Jesus quietly disappeared and by the end of this prolonged sermon on the bread of life he was teaching in the small Capernaum synagogue, not a football stadium.

But even though the crowd had dwindled considerably, many of Jesus’ disciples said, “This teaching is difficult… and they turned back and no longer went around with him.”

 “Those who gnaw my flesh and drink my blood abide in me” he said. It’s almost as though Jesus was intentionally trying to offend them.

And he succeeded.

“Many of his disciples turned back and no longer went around with him.” And what is Jesus’ response? He doesn’t seem to put any energy into getting them back. He doesn’t call to ask what went wrong or send them cards inviting them back. He doesn’t worry about whether they’ll pay their pledges or find someone else to take their job on the Sunday schedule. It seems like he just lets them go. Almost as though he doesn’t want a big following.

He does a similar thing in the gospel reading for St Benedict’s day. In that passage, Luke tells us that “large crowds were travelling with Jesus.” (Luke 14:25) Jesus is apparently not as excited about that as we might be because he tells them that they need to consider the cost of following him. Following him will mean leaving their families and even giving up their lives. Following him means carrying the cross. Luke doesn’t tell us whether that thinned out the crowd but I imagine it did.
Which is pretty interesting from our perspective. After all, more is better, right? Didn’t Jesus tell us to go and make disciples of ALL nations? 

We have the impression that the goal is for everyone to become disciples of Jesus. But that doesn’t seem to be his goal. Jesus called a small group of disciples and there were many others who also followed him and travelled with him. In Acts the disciples choose Matthias to replace the deceased Judas, describing him as a man who had been with them from the beginning from John’s baptism all the way through to Jesus’ ascension. So there were more disciples than just the twelve in the inner circle.

But not five thousand. Today, a megachurch is defined as one with more than 2000 members and there are approximately 50 churches which have an average attendance of 10,000 or more. That’s twice the number of people trying to get in on Jesus’ miracles. I wonder what Jesus would say if he were preaching at one of them this morning?

Probably exactly the same as he would say to us, “Those who gnaw my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever chews on me will live because of me….does this offend you?”

We are so used to hearing the stories about Jesus and his teachings that we forget to be offended. We dumb them down and sanitize them and we forget that they are shocking. Jesus was highly offensive. The Donald Trump of his day.

Except that there is a qualitative difference between Jesus and Donald. Jesus was on the side of the poor, the disabled and the marginalized. Jesus was himself poor and came from a place of deep compassion.

Yet he was offensive. Because he turned the religious conventions of the day upside down. Because he died the death of a traitor, ignominiously on a cross. Because he told them they’d missed the point.
I have a sneaking feeling that he would do the same today. I think Jesus would shake us up. Shake us out of our regular safe ways of doing things. I suspect he would laugh at the little wafer and the sip of white port that we have derived from his robust “gnaw my flesh and drink my blood.” But I think he might also grow sad as he looks at the way we his people live, with our often halfhearted discipleship, and he might say, as he said to his inner circle, "Do you also wish to go away?"

And I hope that we would answer with a resounding “NO”. No, we don’t wish to go away; we want to get closer. When we gather in the Eucharist we are coming because we want to be closer to God. We want to chew his flesh and drink his blood even though we know that it will be costly, even though we know that life with the living God is often challenging and will shake us to our very core.
It isn’t a path for the faint of heart. Jesus knew that. He actively discouraged those who weren’t really serious.

So how are we to think about this? If Jesus didn’t expect everyone to become his disciples, in fact actively discouraged them, then what about the idea that everyone needs to follow Jesus to be saved, or else?

I don’t know the answer, but I do know that often we humans get the wrong end of the stick. Maybe the idea was never for everyone to be Jesus’ disciples, but by some of us taking that path and taking it seriously and wholeheartedly we get to transform the whole of humanity. Maybe that’s why we are called to be the salt of the earth. A small amount of salt seasons the whole dish. Even those who heard Jesus’ teachings but went home to their families would have been changed by it. When we come to God we never come alone, we are always bringing with us those whose lives are closely connected to ours.

We are the ones who have been called and have responded. We are the ones who are choosing to be Jesus’ disciples today. We are the ones who long to be drawn closer and closer to God. We are the ones who long to dwell with the living God as we heard from psalm 84 today in the setting by Brahms:

How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!
For my soul, it longeth, yea fainteth,
For the courts of the Lord.
My soul and body crieth out, yea for the living God.
How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!
Blest are they that dwell within thy house,
They praise thy name evermore.
How lovely is thy dwelling place!

And we will get to dwell in that place more and more, as we allow ourselves to be transformed by chewing the flesh and drinking the blood of the one who is the bread of heaven.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Was Jesus a Cannibal?

Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

If that reading sounded rather cannibalistic to you, you’re not alone. It would have sounded that way to the crowd too. The word that Jesus used in these few sentences for eat really means chew and is the word you would use for gnawing meat off a bone. “Unless you chew the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you.”

Just a reminder that Jesus was speaking to the crowd of people who showed up because they saw the miraculous healings he had done. Jesus continued with his great signs by blessing five small loaves and two fish so that there was enough for everyone to eat and twelve baskets left over. They were so excited by this that they figured Jesus was the expected prophet who would free them from the Romans. When Jesus realized that they were going to forcefully declare him king, he withdrew and later joined the disciples on their way across the lake to Capernaum.

But the crowd followed and he told them not to work for food that spoils, but for food which brings eternal life. And that’s the segue into his lengthy teaching about eating the bread from heaven, eating  Jesus. So we can place his discussion about eating his flesh within the context of Jesus comparing working for an uprising against the occupying force, with the work that pleases God and leads to the kindom. And that work, Jesus says, is to believe in the one God has sent (v.29) When they asked him to give them a sign like the manna in the desert, Jesus responded by teaching about himself as the bread of life.

You will remember from last week that the Judeans grumbled about how he could say he was the bread from heaven when they knew his family. In today’s gospel they are even more annoyed – John says they argued sharply among themselves almost coming to blows as they said “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?” And Jesus ramps it up by saying that unless you “chew the flesh of the Son of Man, gnawing the flesh off the bone, and drink his blood you have no life in you.”

Now we know that Jesus liked to use hyperbole to make a point and maybe he’s getting irritated with these people but it is rather over the top. It makes me think of primitive people coming together after a kill and chewing up their victim. OK for Neanderthals but not for civilized people. In fact, rather gross. Especially this early on a Sunday morning.

So why is Jesus evoking bloody images? Images which speak of sacrifice, and not just sacrifice but human sacrifice?

I think it’s because he is challenging the whole sacrificial system of the temple, and beyond that, the sacrificial system of the sin matrix which makes people or groups of people into scapegoats and inhumanely chews them up; the sin matrix which makes some of us feed off the life force of others. In the sacrificial system of the temple and other religious rituals, an animal was sacrificed in order to please or to appease a god. In the sin matrix, people are sacrificed in order to make others richer and more prosperous.

Going back to my Starbucks habit; in order for me to pay just $2.25 for my cup of brew, the grower is paid just 30 to 50 cents per pound. You can get twenty 16 ounce cups from a pound, so of the $2.25 I pay, the grower gets less than 5 cents. Coffee pickers in countries such as Nicaragua can be paid as little as $2-3 per day even though the minimum wage is meant to be close to $6. Not surprisingly many pickers take their children to work alongside them. In Kenya as many as 30% of the pickers are under 15 years old.[1] These people are the victims of my desire to drink inexpensive coffee and the desire of a lot of other people to make money from processing and marketing it. Poor people are among the victims of the sin matrix, sacrificed on the altar of consumption and capitalism.

They are not willing sacrificial victims any more than the sheep and goats and doves sacrificed in the temple were willing victims. But they appease the gods of my desire and my comfort.

I want to make it clear that I know that these people are receiving something for their labor and something may be better than nothing. But there are at least two situations which could be much better for them but not nearly as good for me. First of course, they could be paid a living wage. One which would allow the children to go to school and the family to have clothes and decent food and somewhere comfortable to live, not to mention medical care when they need it, and even the occasional treat. Things which most of us pretty much take for granted... But then I’d have to pay more for my coffee. Another situation could be that the farmers would stop raising coffee as a cash crop and instead start growing food for their families and those around about… which would also raise the cost of my habit. So it’s better for me if they continue to work for a pittance and live in cramped conditions where their health is compromised.

Back to Jesus.

Jesus said, ‘Read my lips, “unless you gnaw on the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you.”’ Scholars tell us that Jesus called himself, “ the Son of Man” because in the book of Daniel, Daniel has a vision and sees the Ancient of Days giving dominion over the earth to one like a son of man. Later writings translated this figure into the Messiah, so it seems as though, in using it, Jesus is claiming to be the Messiah.

Jesus said “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” He is clearly declaring that he is a heavenly being, which means that he is either declaring to be God or to be an angel. Now he uses the name Son of Man which identifies him with God.

We’re so used to hearing it that we don’t realize this is a complete reversal of the normal idea of sacrifice. Instead of humans sacrificing a sheep to bring peace with God, God is sacrificing Godself to bring peace with humanity. Remember what the angels sing at Christmas, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to humanity on whom God’s favor rests.” Peace between God and humanity. That is the intention of the ancient practice of human and then animal sacrifice.
But now it is God who is the sacrificial victim. God doesn’t need our victims but we are so caught up in creating them that to break our cycle of violence, she gives us a sacrificial victim, one who is completely blameless. One whom we can’t pretend deserves what he gets. God provides the meal to bring reconciliation and peace.

We humans are a funny lot. We like to define ourselves by criticizing and attacking others. It’s rather easy for us Episcopalians to be superior about other Christians who are not as broadminded and enlightened as us. It makes us feel good about ourselves. It’s a bonding kind of thing. It’s easier for the President to get us inflamed and patriotic when we can easily see who the bad guy is – the axis of evil or perhaps Saddam Hussein, evil personified. When we’re all worked up about the bad and evil or simply stupid and misguided people out there we have a greater sense of unity.

But that’s not God’s way. Instead of our unity coming from ganging up against someone else, God calls us to find unity in the Body of Christ. Which is a double-entendre; something that can be understood in two different ways. We receive the Body of Christ in the eucharist but we ourselves are the Body of Christ. In the past, human societies gained a sense of peace and cooperation by hunting together and killing an animal for food, or by fighting together against another group. We still do those things.

But that’s not where our unity is to come from in the reign of God. We are called to unity by our participation in the Body of Christ; and we are called to eat God instead of a sacrificial animal, and to drink the blood – the life force – of God instead of claiming the life of other humans.

Sometimes people tell me that they don’t want to deal the social part of church, they just want to pray quietly and then leave. I think they’re missing the point. I agree that the gossip and small talk which often characterizes church coffee hours is tedious and sometimes doesn’t honor Christ very well. But how can we find our unity in Christ if we don’t speak to each other? The last couple of chapters of Ephesians which we have been hearing are all about how we are to live together. Instead of getting drunk with wine, for example, the writer tells us to “be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Being the Body of Christ is more than just symbolically eating the bread and the blood in a wafer and a sip of white port. We are to gnaw on the bread of heaven… to get down and dirty with it; to get it all over our hands and our faces; this is the difference between putting your toe in the swimming pool and jumping right in the deep end. Jesus wants us to engage, to stop coming up with more grumbling, more questions and to start sucking on the juices of the Lamb of God, the Son of Man.

It’s not a spectator sport.

It is something that Jesus gave his whole life to. His sacrifice was a self-sacrifice; it was something that he chose to do. He could have just withdrawn as he did when the five thousand decided to make him king, but he didn’t. He allowed himself to be ganged up on. He allowed himself to be scapegoated in order that we might see and be freed from the sin matrix which constantly makes victims.

And during his life he identified with those victims. He hung out with the poor, the prostitutes and the tax collectors; he saw the lepers and the injured and had compassion on them. And in that great teaching in Matthew he tells us that whenever we take care of someone who is a victim of our society, someone who is excluded or marginalized, we are taking care of him; and whenever we turn away, we are turning away from him.

So this practice of eating the bread of heaven isn’t showing up at church, having an uplifting service, joining in the communion circle, enjoying refreshments and then going on home to continue to live selfishly. No, chewing on the bread of heaven means that what we do here influences every part of our lives so that we constantly and actively seek ways that we can live more simply and produce less victims; that we look for organizations that are empowering the poor and we support them with our money and prayers; and that we use our power as citizens to influence the way our society works, in order to lift up the poor and victimized.

In his encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis makes a clear connection between our failure to care for our environment and our failure to care for the poor. Both the planet and the hungry are victims of the same rapacious economic system which seeks continual financial gain and economic growth at the expense of most of the world’s populations both human and animal. To reverse the trend will require that we, the wealthy of the global society, make different choices and choose to live with less. To live simply so that others may simply live. It’s up to us.

When we gather around the table together we come as the people of God to participate in the sacrament which enables us to know the presence of God in our very selves, and although we experience this as individuals, it is not just an act of individual spirituality for we come representing the poor of the world and the whole of creation. And then, after we have been nourished with the bread form heaven we are sent out, to be the Body of Christ in the world. We are sent out to be God with flesh on.

I want to end with part of a Eucharistic prayer that we use from time to time. Please turn with to page 372 in the red prayer book. We’ll just pray the first stanza here.

Lord God of our Mothers and Fathers: God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah,
Jacob, Leah and Rachel; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us.
Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace 
only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for 
renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one 
body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the 
world in his name.
Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the Bread.


Sunday, August 09, 2015

Bread of Life, or Starbucks?

I wonder. If Jesus is the bread of life, is there such a thing as the bread of death? Bread which is poisoned in such a way that it fails to nourish, in fact it actively destroys those who eat it. I rather think there is.

My mind immediately goes to addiction; to substances and situations which lead people into addictions where they become so attached to a mood-altering substance or situation that they keep going back for more even though it is ruining the rest of their lives. Some of us have faced our addictions and recovered, others still struggle with major or minor addictions.

In fact we have been called an addictive society because we have become so attached to things which make us feel good that we can’t easily do without them. We like good food, good wine, fine things, new things, music, more music… we’re not willing to wait… we want our movies streamed and our television on demand. We are caught up in consumerism and it is killing us. Actually it’s not just killing us it’s killing the planet and the animals and people who live on her.

Changing our lifestyle demands a huge shift. It will require us to be content with less, to be willing to wait, to let go of our addictions.

Yesterday I cleaned two Starbucks coffee mugs out of my car. And I realized that I am addicted to coffee. Not to the caffeine but to the smell and taste and feel of it. It makes me feel good when I buy a cup of coffee. I like coming out of the store with that paper cup in my hand.  But how many trees have been destroyed to support my paper cup habit? How much habitat for birds and critters has been destroyed to grow a cash crop to support my coffee habit? What good could be done if I donated the $700 or more dollars I spend a year to a charity which supports sustainable agriculture in the sub-Saharan region where food is scarce and people die of starvation every day while I am enjoying my Starbucks?

These are big questions. And a bigger one is am I, having realized all this, willing to give up my Starbucks habit? Or can I, at the very least, remember to take my reusable cup with me when I go?
I honestly don’t know.

In the New Testament lesson the writer to the Ephesians says, “Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.” Rather than stealing from the rest of the people who live on this planet by using too many resources, it is time for us to live more and more simply, so that we have something to share with the needy. In my feel good Starbucks coffee moment I am using resources unnecessarily so I am stealing from those who have next to nothing. Stealing from those who live on less each day than the $2.00 I spend on a quick drink.

The only way that we rich folk are going to be willing and able to make the changes we have to make if there is to be any quality of life for our grandchildren and our neighbors’ grandchildren is if we fill ourselves with something else. Something that sustains and brings life. Something that makes the changes to less consumption and less over-indulgence seem less threatening because it is providing what we need to live fully and joyfully.

Jesus said to the people, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
That’s what’s going to sustain us. It’s not regular bread that Jesus is talking about, not even manna which came from the sky like dew. The people who ate that died like everyone else. This bread is going to sustain us so that we live eternally.

Which is confusing when we take it at face value, because of course the people hearing Jesus that day died. The disciples all died. But we can’t take any of what Jesus is saying here as literal. The Judeans got it wrong when they started talking about Jesus’ family because they were listening at the personality level when Jesus is speaking of truths which are way beyond that.

Eternal life is not something that we get when we die as a reward for having been good girls and boys in this life. Eternal life is the gift of God which comes as we participate in Christ, a participation which is symbolized by eating the bread of Jesus. By taking Jesus into ourselves and being transformed into him.

John’s gospel does not include an account of the last supper. This extended conversation about the bread of life is the Johannine discussion of the eucharist, but if we just think about eating the bread of life in terms of this one ritual then we are missing the point just as much as the Judeans. When we eat the bread during the eucharist we are symbolically participating in the body of Christ. But a symbol always points to a deeper truth.

Eating Jesus means becoming like him. And that doesn’t happen by magic. We get to work with the Holy Spirit in the transformation of our own hearts and minds. It’s right there in the reading from Ephesians:
  •  speak the truth
  •  don’t let the sun go down on your anger,
  •   give up stealing;
  • have something to share with the needy.
  •  Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up,
  •  Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,
  •  be kind to one another,
  •  forgive, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
  •   Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

That is what it means to participate in the Body of Christ. It isn’t easy. But we have help. A lot of help.

Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” He’s talking about us. We have been drawn by the great God, we shall also be taught by God. The Holy Spirit is active in our lives, and desires nothing more but to help each one of us discover what it really means to eat the bread which is Jesus and in so doing to find that life beyond life, that deep sustenance which connects us beyond our personalities to the unseen realities beyond.

It is there, in the unconditional love of God, that we find our hearts’ true desire. It is there, in our participation with the Godhead in the heavenly realms that we receive the grace and the strength to be Jesus in today’s world.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come. Amen.