This Sunday we celebrate the great feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. For Catholics, both Roman and Independent, this Sunday is a feast that celebrates a great spiritual mystery and reality: that the bread and wine of the Eucharist became fully and truly the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is in this gift of the Eucharist that our Lord Jesus truly gives Himself to us, drawing us in to Himself and bringing us together with our brothers and sisters. St. Paschasius Radbertus, a 9th century theologian and abbot, wrestled with the concept of the Eucharist and what it really means in our lives. He says that the gift of the Eucharist allows Christ to more fully dwell in us: “If the Word had become flesh, and we truly consume the Word as flesh in the Lord’s food, how can it not be justly judged that He dwells in us by His nature.” As we regularly participate in the Mass and receive the great gift of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we are transformed by His dwelling within us.
In our world today, we tend to lean toward materialism, believing only what we can experience with our senses. In this case, our senses tell us that it is not the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that we receive in this great mystery. Rather, our senses tell us, it is mere bread and wine. In our Gospel passage for this great feast, we see Jesus give a more concrete understanding of what it means to have salvation. He said to the people: “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” What a detestable thought to people with such strict dietary laws and practices which forbid the drinking of blood, and here was this man saying that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life! As some of the disciples started to walk away and leave Him, Jesus doubles down, and tells the apostles, His dearest followers, that they can leave too if they’d like. If this was meant as mere symbol or conjecture, He would not have allowed His followers to walk away so easily. Instead of stopping them, He adjures them all the more: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
What a gift this is! The Lord of all creation gives Himself into our hands, at the hands of the priest, to be consumed by us that we might take Him into ourselves and be transformed by Him. What a precious gift!
I urge you, the next time you partake of the Eucharist, to say a prayer asking Jesus to more fully come into your being, and to TRANSFORM you. Transform you into all that you can be in His name, in His person, in His Body and Blood which is within you. As we dwell in the Lord, so too does He dwell in us. Let us not look to materialism, but to Our Lord, who is the source and fount of all life and salvation.
Proverbs 16:18 (KJV)
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
I’ve often heard this Proverb quoted, but never thought much about it. I once thought I was not prideful, until I was called to be a Dominican Sister. Yet still, I looked to others to guide me on my spiritual path. The problem is when we begin to confuse biblical knowledge with the will of God, we then become prideful. As illustrated in 1 Peter 3:13-22:
“ Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good. But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you–not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, . who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. “
I cannot begin to interpret the Bible, as to the will of God. I just know that when we begin to use the Bible as a weapon, to suit a random purpose,. We forget who gifted, and empowered us, with His word.
(c. 480 – February 10, 542)
Twins often share the same interests and ideas with an equal intensity. Therefore, it is no surprise that Scholastica and her twin brother, Benedict, established religious communities within a few miles from each other. Born in 480 of wealthy parents, Scholastica and Benedict were brought up together until he left central Italy for Rome to continue his studies. Little is known of Scholastica’s early life. She founded a religious community for women near Monte Cassino at Plumbariola, five miles from where her brother governed a monastery.
Scholastica had been consecrated to God from her earliest years. She was accustomed to visiting her brother once a year. He would come down to meet her at a place on the monastary property, not far outside the gate. One day she came as usual and her saintly brother went with some of his disciples; they spent the whole day praising God and talking of sacred things. As night fell they had supper together. Their spiritual conversation went on and the hour grew late. The holy nun said to her brother, “Please do not leave me tonight; let us go on until morning talking about the delights of the spiritual life.” “Sister,” he replied, “What are you saying? I simply cannot stay outside my cell.”
When she heard her brother refuse her request, the holy woman joined her hands on the table, laid her head on them and began to pray. As she raised her head from the table, there were such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated. Sadly, he began to complain. “May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?” “Well, she answered, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.”
So it came about that they stayed awake the whole night, engrossed in their conversation about the spiritual life. Three days later, Benedict was in his cell. Looking up to the sky, he saw his sister’s soul leave her body in the form of a dove, and fly up to the secret places of heaven. Rejoicing in her great glory, he thanked almighty God with hymns and words of praise. He then sent his brethren to bring her body to the monastary and lay it in the tomb he had prepared for himself.– from Dialogues by Pope Saint Gregory the Great
Scholastica and Benedict gave themselves totally to God and gave top priority to deepening their friendship with him through prayer. They sacrificed some of the opportunities they would have had to be together as brother and sister in order better to fulfill their vocation to the religious life. In coming closer to Christ, however, they found they were also closer to each other. In joining a religious community, they did not forget or forsake their family but rather found more brothers and sisters.
Saint Scholastica is the Patron Saint of:
To show us where innocence leads, you made the soul of your virgin Saint Scholastica soar to heaven like a dove in flight. Grant through her merits and her prayers that we may so live in innocence as to attain to joys everlasting. This we ask through our Lord.
~In Jesus’ Name,
What you are is God’s gift to you.
What you become is your gift to God.
We have survived Black Friday and made it through Cyber Monday!!!!! As always at this time of the year, our thoughts turn to gifts: giving and receiving, what we want to give, what we want to receive, what will please those we love, the shopping, the ordering, the wrapping, the general hustle and bustle of the Christmas season centering around gifts ad infinitum, donating to the people with the red kettles and bells so the less fortunate can have gifts…..
And then there’s the practice of ‘re-gifting,’ passing along that unwanted or unusable gift that we were given, to someone else, so that they will have SOMETHING, and so that they too, can possibly pass that pink and orange and green plaid scarf along, re-gifting it themselves to someone else who won’t use it either….and sometimes by some freak chance that unwanted item comes back to us several years later….and not much too worse for the wear…. And is re-gifting, as amusing (and cheap) as it may seem, necessarily a bad thing?
Why all this focus on gift-giving and gift-receiving at this time of year? The union of Christmas and gift giving was a gradual one; actually, the full story of the bright packages beneath the tree, like most of our Christmas customs, begins in the days before the birth of Christ. In ancient Rome, gifts were exchanged during the New Year’s celebrations. At first these gifts were simple, such as a few twigs from a sacred grove and small items of food. Many gifts were in the form of vegetables in honor of the fertility goddess Strenia. During the Northern European Yule, (yep, the yuletide season is a pagan thing) fertility was celebrated with gifts made of wheat products, such as bread and alcohol.
Like many of the old and pagan customs, exchanging gifts was difficult to get rid of even as Christianity spread and gained official status. Early church leaders tried to outlaw the custom, but the people cherished it too much to let it go. St. John Chrysostom urged no compromise with heathen abominations, but he, too, failed in this tenacity of hanging on to the tradition of gift giving. Since there was no general agreement about the exact date of the birth of Jesus, it must have seemed helpful to have it supersede the Saturnalia, so the rebirth of the sun became instead the birth of the Son of God, and the church leaders looked for a Christian justification for the practice of all this gift giving. This justification was found in the Magi’s act of bearing gifts to the infant Jesus, and in the concept that Christ was a gift from God to the world, bringing in turn the gift of redemption and everlasting life.
What you are is God’s gift to you.
What you become is your gift to God.
Wikipedia defines a gift as the transfer of something without the expectation of receiving something in return. Although gift-giving might involve an expectation of reciprocity, a gift is meant to be free. By extension the term “gift” can refer to anything that makes the other happier or less sad, especially as a favor, including forgiveness and kindness.
God’s gifts to us are free and clear. He has given us the gift of His Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He has given us the gift of eternal life: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NIV); The gift of salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 (NIV); And the gifts that are unique to each of us: “We each of us have our own individual gifts: But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1Corinthians 7:7 (NIV)
Besides the obvious gift of His Son, and the forgiveness that we receive through Him whom we receive by faith, what other gifts has God given specifically to you? What talents have you received? What blessings have been given to you?
We learn about the 7 Gifts of the Spirit in Isaiah 11:2-3: “2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;” (NIV)
And more importantly, what are you doing with those gifts? What are you giving back to God? What are you “becoming” as you use your gifts and talents? Which of the gifts that you have been given are you “regifting?” In other words, when we’ve received a gift from God, do we share that gift with others? Do we “regift?” We are told in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV) Jesus himself addresses this very thing in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. By using our gifts, they multiply and we bring others to know God, and by recognizing what we have been given and using them for God’s glory, we are giving back to God.
What is the most precious thing we can give to God? The most precious gift we can give is what God wants the most. God wants us to make the fervent attempt to repent, get right with Him, and not lead a double life, trying to follow two contradictory paths, but living our lives according to His will. God simply wants us to give ourselves to Him. This is the best gift we can give! Our gift to Him is how we respond to the gifts He has given us which are the gifts of life and of grace. We can best do this when we are headed in His direction, following His precepts with a grateful, willing heart and mindset, and by striving to be the best that we can be by becoming what it is that He wants us to be.
Barbara Streisand sings in “The Best Gift:”
The best gift
That I ever got
Didn’t really weigh a lot
It didn’t have a ribbon ’round
And it sometimes made a terrible sound
The best of all it seems to me
It wasn’t ‘neath the Christmas tree
And yet, I guess I’d have to say
That it made all the other presents twice as gay
The best gift that I’ve ever known
I’d always wanted most to own
Yet in my dreams of sugar and spice
I never thought it could be so nice
The best gift that I ever get
Was sometimes dry and sometimes wet
Was usually pink but oftentimes red
As it lay so innocently in it’s bed
The best gift of the year to me
The one I hold most dear to me
A gift that simply drove me wild
Was a tiny new born child…
As we celebrate the birth of THE tiny newborn Child, God’s greatest and best Gift to us, let us strive to make ourselves the best gift we can give to others, and to God. Amen.