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May 23, 2016 | Volume 91 Number 15

COLUMNS

Believe as you Pray »

In Light of Faith »

photo: Genevieve McQuade

believe as you pray

Corpus Christi

Genesis 14:18-20
Psalm 110:1-4
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Luke 9:11b-17

W ho among us can conceive of an endless treasure?

Well, maybe the treasure part, even an abundant treasure, but an endless one? Dream on.

Unfortunately, some may have what seems like unending lack of treasure or ongoing hardship instead. We might think of great need for food, clothing, shelter, and health deprivations that continue without sufficient relief.

And others, despite having plenty, may have an endless craving for more goods thinking that will fill up their inner abyss.

All are real physical and mental sufferings or discomforts aching for peace and safety.

That ache can be unrelenting, a soul-hunger that craves sustenance, vitality, and hope.

In our gospel this week, we hear that Jesus spoke to the enormous crowd about the kingdom of God. As a sign of the kingdom arriving in him, he healed those in need.

Might there be ever so small a link between a need for a cure and dreams of perpetual treasures?

Aware of the large multitudes growing hunger and distance from their homes, the Twelve asked Jesus to disperse the people from this deserted place in order to obtain lodging and food.

Jesus told his disciples: “Give them some food yourselves.”

But there was a problem. Only five loaves and two fish were available, hardly enough for a few, let alone the five thousand men (plus women and children, no doubt).

Even so, Jesus proceeded to bless the paltry amount, and gave it to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. Thousands ate; they were satisfied. Satisfied!

And when the leftovers were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets with so much more than what they had at the start.

Many of us have heard this account of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and are perhaps desensitized by its repetition.

This weekend, listen with a vulnerable humility and amazement.

God cannot be outdone in his generosity and the abundance of his care and provision for us, feeding our spirits, making us one with his Body and Blood.

In our first reading, Abram gave a tithe, a tenth of all he had. After the feeding of the thousands, there were baskets of fragments.

Our God gives us all He has. All.

The Son of God in the Body and Blood of Christ, though broken and shared among us, is not a fragment of Christ, nor a tenth, nor a leftover, nor diminished, but wholly given, every time.

The Eucharist is the cure for the deepest needs of our souls.

The more fragmented we are, the remoteness of our inner desert place, the greater the cure of our soul-hunger.

As we celebrate this day of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, let us grasp how phenomenal this gift is, a gift without equal.

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in light of faith

Fear Not

It has been said that some form of “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid” appears 365 times in Scripture.

While the number is not factual, the injunction appears with greater frequency than any other in the Bible.

Some sources have set the number at 103, while others, which apply a broader version, place the number closer to 500.

But regardless of the exact number of times the message is conveyed, the number 365 has a symbolic value. Since it coincides with the number of days in a year, the number 365 serves as a reminder that we need to place our trust in the Lord every day of the year.

Fear is a human reaction. The first thing that Adam and Eve did when they sinned was to hide from God because they were afraid.

When we come face to face with our own sinfulness, we tremble. Oddly enough, we do the same thing when we come face to face with our own goodness.

When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the salutation “Full of grace,” she was told, “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (Lk 1; 30).

Life is a journey that is filled with unknowns and conflicting feelings. We look for signs and we seek reassurance because we find it difficult to believe that God could love us.

But when we give in to such thinking, the only thing that remains is fear. Not only is fear anathema to trusting in God, but it gives rise to a culture of pessimism.

There is always a case to be made for pessimism which explains why during the Mass the priest asks God to free us from undue anxiety. Fear and pessimism feed on the negativity and obscure the presence of goodness in the world.

War and violence, poverty and addictions of every kind, a culture of death, even the current state of our political culture — which has sunken to a historical low — have the potential to instill in us a morbid state that regards everything as a moral threat.

While it is natural to become alarmed by the presence of evil in the world, to succumb to fear mongering is an affront to Christian principles. There is nothing prophetic about being a pessimist.

Pessimism is contagious. It suppresses human aspirations for good and depresses a sense of the possible.

The culture of pessimism, which is rampant in our world today, is a direct affront to the Holy Spirit. Rather than holding fast to the gifts of the Spirit, pessimism provides grounds for alarm and collective suspicion that creates hostility and division. Our current political climate is a prime example of what happens when we see only what is wrong with our country and the world in general.

It is part of the human condition to suffer, not because God is a vengeful God, but because life is an ongoing pilgrimage of purification.

Along with his peace, the only thing that Jesus promised his followers in this world was the cross. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9; 23)

To deny ourselves is to deny the culture of evil that threatens to derail us. It was not easy for Jesus and it will not be easy for us.

The cross no longer stands on Calvary, but is embedded in the challenges and suffering that are part of life. Not knowing what form the cross will take is frightening, which is why Scripture reminds us, not once, but again and again: “Do not be afraid.”

Lest we lose sight of the reality that the cross is also a sign of victory, we are reminded during every Eucharistic celebration that our faith journey does not end with the sacrifice on Calvary, but with our participation in the heavenly banquet, a prototype of what awaits us in the New Jerusalem. Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus promised, “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you.” (Jn16; 22)

We need not be afraid because we have been given food for the journey. The awesome reality is that God comes to us because we are created in his own image and likeness and therefore, we are a reflection of God’s own goodness.

We have the potential to do great things, but only if we embrace the grace of optimism. The grace of optimism is not a denial of evil, a pie in the sky kind of faith, or wishful thinking.

Rather it is rooted in the childlike trust that allows us to see beyond the cross because to do otherwise is to deny the presence of God in the world and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Like the apostles of old, who were filled with the Holy Spirit at that first Pentecost, we are called to boldly proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus.

Therefore, let us pray that we do not fall prey to the culture of pessimism that is rampant today, but live each day by placing our trust in the Lord who promised to be with us until the end of the world.

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