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Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord

March 12, 2013

A reflection for the 4th Sunday, Lent, Year C
First Reading: Joshua 5:9, 10-12 (or 1 Samuel 16: 1, 6-7, 10-13)
Psalm: 34 “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (or 23 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”)
2nd Reading 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (or Ephesians 5:8-14)
Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 (or John 9:1-41)

“He longed to fill his belly with the food of the pigs.” That makes me sad. But not because there are people in the world today that are that hungry – children that are this hungry; people who live in darkness, but because all of us, at some level, are that hungry. We are all hungry, we all need to be satisfied. We are all in darkness and need to see; we all hunger for truth. This is one of the deepest longings of the human heart.

I think that’s what we’re seeing happening today. Pope Benedict announced that he was retiring almost four weeks ago and every day, on every major news network, there has been something about the Church: CBS, CNN, ABC, BBC and in Canada, CTV, shows like Canada AM; City TV, CP24, CBC TV and Radio; every day have some segment about the Church. Sure they want to talk about sex scandals and women’s ordination, but even when they speak about those issues, the coverage has been fairly positive. They’ve had young Catholics, who love the Church talk about their experiences – this is very positive. And did you see Peter Mansbridge’s interview on the National with Cardinal Marc Ouellet? It’s very positive coverage. And that’s because people are hungry and people are in darkness. And people know deep down inside that what the world offers is not food and is not light – it’s not the fullness of truth. And, I think that they sense that the Church can offer us Truth. But society doesn’t give us permission to talk about Church and God. Sure we can ask the big questions, who am I? Why Am I here? What’s the purpose of my life? from a philosophical point of view, but we definitely cannot talk about Church and we feel that we cannot talk about Jesus.

But when these things happen – or when there’s the death of a pope or even when Easter comes around – it’s like the ban is lifted and people are given permission to talk about Jesus – and that’s what’s happening right now. People are being allowed to talk about what the Church has to offer; what Jesus has to offer. People are in darkness and people are hungry and Jesus can satisfy our hunger and lift our darkness; Jesus fulfills our deepest longings. And the Church, because it is the Church of Christ can also fulfill our deepest longings. And a way the Church does this, practically, is through the Sacraments.

Remember learning about the Sacraments? A outward sign of an inward Grace or “a visible sign of invisible Grace”? And Grace is a gift from God , but not just any gift, but the gift of God’s very Life. God gives us his very life. Grace is like having a little piece of God’s life inside us. And because God’s life fulfills our deepest needs, and the Sacraments are a sign of Grace, the Sacraments fulfill our deepest needs: Each one of the Sacraments fulfills our deepest human longings:

  1. Baptism fulfills our deepest need to belong, to be part of a family;
  2. Reconciliation fulfills our deepest need to be reconciled, to be forgiven – to be set free; to see, to have light, to come out of the darkness (that’s what happens to the blind man in today’s Gospel)
  3. Eucharist fulfills our deepest need to be fed, to be nourished.
  4. Confirmation fulfills our need to be someone, to do something of value, to grow up and do something of worth, to be active citizens, to be sent, to be on mission;
  5. Marriage fulfills our need to be loved and to love someone as God loves us: Freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally;
  6. Holy Orders fulfills our deepest need to serve; to be of service to others – and this is not just for people who are ordained – their ordination is a sign to all of us of our call to service just as married people are a sign to all of us of the love that God has for us;
  7. And Anointing of the Sick fulfills our deepest need to be healed and to live forever – Everyone wants to live forever. That’s why I have a blog and I’m on Facebook and Twitter and I have a Radio and TV program and I want to write books; because I want to live forever. [Maybe I should be putting my trust in Christ and not in all those things.]

So the Sacraments fulfill all our deepest longings. If you can think of other human longings they probably fall into one of these seven categories. That’s why there are only seven Sacraments and each Sacrament represents a way in which Christ is present to us, fulfilling our longings: as one who welcomes us, who forgives us and takes away our darkness, frees us, nourishes us, calls us to service and love and heals us and gives us new life.

Now that’s the invisible part of the Sacrament. But each Sacrament also has a visible part. In way all Sacraments are visible in the way that we live them. We have to live a Sacrament. A Sacrament is not just the day that you came to the altar and said, “I do.” It’s not just one day. It’s every day that you live marriage with your spouse.You can’t see love, but you can see love manifested in the way a husband and wife love each other. If you are baptised into the family of the Church, but you never go to Church or participate in the community, then, do you really belong? Of if you go to Confession and the priest says, “your sins are forgiven” but you don’t go and reconcile with your brother or your sister, is that really reconciliation? We have to live our Sacraments.

And because we are physical people, a people of senses, we have symbols, which are also physical, to remind us of the invisible part of the Sacrament: We have the water and the oils and the bread and the wine and the couple – the couple is the matter of the Sacrament of Marriage and we have the sins that are confessed. And we hear the words, “your sins are forgiven.” For some reason, because we are physical people, we need these physical signs. In John’s Gospel, Jesus makes mud, why? He could’ve just done a Jedi mind trick and healed the guy. Why does he make mud and sends him to wash in the pool of Siloam (which means “sent”)? Because having these signs helps us know that a Grace is being received.

When the prodigal son returns home, why does the Father put a ring on his finger and give him a new robe and sandals? Why does he have a party for him? Because all those are signs of the deepest longings which are being fulfilled. In fact, if you look at the story of the prodigal son, all the Sacraments are represented: he sees the light (comes to his senses), he is reconciled, he gets up and goes, he is welcomed, brought back into the family, he is fed, he is loved, healing takes place, presumably he is called to service with his Father and therefore to new life.

And the Church is the same. It has an invisible part – the part that is heavenly, that is divine – and then there’s the part that we see; the ritual, the hierarchy, the Vatican, the Pope… But this is not the fullness of Church. The fullness of Church is what we cannot see; all the visible things point to a greater reality. And I think that’s what all this fascination with the Catholic Church is about. People are hungry for the divine and the recognize at some level that the Church points to a greater reality. All our ritual, conclaves, Sistine Chapels, vestments, papacy, Cardinals, Masses, incense, candles, music…. all that points to a heavenly reality, which is invisible, but very real. And that is what we all long for. We long to be satisfied, we long to come home like the prodigal – to be nourished; we long to see; to have the darkness lifted; to know the fullness of Truth. And Jesus Christ fulfills all these longings.

Lent is a time to look inside to explore our longings and needs and why they are not being fulfilled. But we have to remember that there is an invisible reality that we long for. That’s why today we don’t wear purple but rose. Rose reminds us of the glory that is to come. It’s not a surprise that the most beloved Psalm is Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd and if the Lord is my shepherd, there is NOTHING I shall want. That’s why today’s readings also invite us to get up and go to the house of the Father, where all our longings will be fulfilled and to come; “taste and see (those are two very phyisical things) the goodness of the Lord”.

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From → English, Reflections

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