Monday, May 5, 2014

Reverence: 3rd Sunday of Easter

            In this passage from Luke—best known as the Walk to Emmaus—Jesus gives us the basic outline of the Mass.  First, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”  Then, having been convinced to remain with Cleopas and his companion for dinner, Jesus “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.
Then Luke provides a powerful description: With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”  At the exact moment of the breaking of the bread Jesus vanished—humanly.  Yet with the eyes of faith the disciples recognized Jesus’ true presence in the Eucharist!
            At Mass today, we experience the same gifts in the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Right now we are in the Liturgy of the Word with the readings and homily.  My goal whenever I preach is to explain how the readings at Mass—from “Moses and all the prophets”—point to Jesus.  And how awesome it is that in a few moments I will quote verbatim the description of Jesus’ breaking the bread and consecrate Jesus’ Body and Blood once more!
How do we respond to such gifts?  Consider two succinct lines from St. Peter.  In the Acts of the Apostles Peter assures his audience that “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.”  This shows we can be confident in the truth of our beliefs as they were passed down the centuries both orally and in written.  It also suggests that those of us called to Christ ought to be witnesses to him as well.
A powerful insight into witnessing Christ in our lives comes in the second short line from St. Peter, this time from his first letter: “…conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning…”  We have largely lost an attitude of reverence—respect of the sacred—in our society.  Just look at prime time television or the news to think about how God and others are treated.
When I think of reverence, I first think of how we act toward God, especially in church.  Reverence is why we should dress up for Mass.  Parents—it is prom season and suits and dresses are being purchased left and right.  Have you ever considered buying your son or daughter a special outfit for Sunday?  Reverence is why we bless ourselves with holy water as we enter church, genuflect to the tabernacle before sitting down, shut off our cell phones, spit out our gum and show respect to God.
Yet reverence—the recognition and respect for the sacred—is not limited to church.  We are called to revere one another, because each of us has inherent dignity having been made in the image and likeness of God.  Do you revere your spouse?  Children?  Coworkers?  People you can’t stand to be around?  Do you look past any conflict or hurt to recognize God’s presence dwells within this person too?
We should also foster reverence for God’s creation.  Some of the great mystics could see a tree and contemplate God.  (To be clear, God is neither in the tree nor is the tree part of God).  They could do so because they immediately recognized the hand of the Creator in all of creation.  Everything in the natural world, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, reveals God’s glory in creation.  We owe this creation a sense of reverence.
Finally, we should also revere stuff.  (Our society errs here in that it passes from reverence to worship of material things).  My Dad was diligent about taking care of his possessions—house, vehicle, equipment, etc.  In so doing he saw them as gifts that were to be cared for.  He tried to instill such care in me, but I confess I have a ways to go to properly clean and maintain these gifts in my own life!
I saw a great example of this attitude just yesterday.  My friends from Ghana are both in Minnesota now (more info on that later), and I drove Fr. Robert to a diaconate ordination.  On the way we picked up some delicious McDonald’s breakfast.  As Fr. Robert cleaned up the garbage after the meal, he asked where I wanted the napkins.  I said, “Just put them in the bag and I’ll throw it away later.”  His response: “Ben, you can use these.”  Where I saw a piece of trash, Fr. Robert saw a gift that still could be used.
When we cultivate reverence in our irreverent world, we more fully witness to Jesus Christ.  Please, God, people will notice that we are different and be inspired to share in a reverent way of life.

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