Labor Day

“I will give each of you what your work deserves.”

–Revelation 2:23

We celebrate Labor Day here in the United States today. Did you know that the words liturgy and labor are akin to each other? Liturgy is multi-layered in its definition; the Greeks defined it as “the work of the people.” As Christians, we understand that the work we do is meant to be sanctified labor in our worship of the Creator in the daily round of our lives. Practicing Catholics understand another sense of liturgy; celebrating the Mass is our collected worship of the LORD through the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We give God correct worship in assigning worth (worth-ship) to the celebration of the Mass. The Early Church Fathers understood and emphasized that the continuity of both senses of the word, liturgy, must be retained in our hearts and minds if we are to live the good life of our Faith. Somewhere along the way, humanity lost its sense of labor as worship of Almighty God. The Liturgy of the Church continually helps us recognize the Sacred Scripture’s emphasis of this in the last act of our worship in the celebration of the Mass, as a reminder to continue our worship of God in the labor we do.

The very last action in the celebration of the Mass is the blessing we receive from our priest. Do you remember how the liturgy unfolds in this final action? We bow our heads as we trace the sign of the cross over our mind, soul, and body while the priest asks God to pour out His blessing on us. This Sacred Tradition harkens back to the blessings that are found throughout the Scriptures. Usually, the blessing is given when someone is taking leave of another. In the liturgy of the Mass, we remember Christ’s blessing of his disciples.

“Then he [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” –Luke 24:50-51

This is the intentional communication of this last action in our worship: The Lord has come into our lives, and in the same way that the Lord sent out His disciples, He is sending us out, too. The Mass ends with the Latin phrase that means “Go, you are sent.” We hear it as, “Go forth, the Mass has ended.” to which we respond, “Thanks be to God.”

Sent to do what? We are sent on the mission of all ages; we are sent in peace to bring peace into our corners of the world. We cooperate with the LORD to redeem our corner of the world through our labor. Our question today is, how will we take the good news of Christ into the quotidian labor of our lives? How can the labor of our lives bring worship to our LORD and Creator, and salvation to our corner of the world? The Daily readings this week have been drawing our minds to consider labor as worship; this is how St. Paul puts it in the letter to Colossians chapter 3:17:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

If we worship the Lord through our labor, then we will look at everything we do, doing it in the name of Jesus. How is your offering looking these days? Consider the most mundane and boorish part of your labor; how would it change if our mind ascended to the LORD in worship every moment of that labor?

If we worship the Lord through our labor, then what do our words sound like to him and to others? Do our words assign Beauty, Goodness, and Truth to the Name of Jesus? Do our words reflect his beauty, goodness, and truth to those who labor beside us?

Here’s a thought, what about those who labor before us? Do we speak our gratitude to others for their labor, as we do to our Creator? Let’s get down and dirty with this one? In your workplace, who takes care of your lawn? Who serves you in the IT department? Who serves you by keeping the bathroom clean? Who supplies the kitchen? Who serves you in making your workplace an enjoyable place? Who serves you at the window or table when you dine out? We can give thanksgiving to them through our words of gratitude thereby, we give thanks to God.

If we worship the Lord through our labor, then what should our deeds look like to him and others? Do we join in on gossip and backbiting? Or do we elevate conversations by stopping gossip and backbiting in its track by finding the good in others? Staying silent can be an act of worship to our LORD, but acting on that silence by walking away from those conversations is an act of worship that may leave a greater impact on working out salvation in our corner of the world. Someone wisely advised me to use the “3-strikes and your out” approach to circumstances like this? If after you try three times to elevate the conversation by deflection with your words, walk away. The workplace could do with a little more exercise of the “3-strikes and your out” approach, don’t you think?

If we worship the Lord through our labor, then we take our cues from the actions of Jesus. Today’s gospel account reveals his labor in healing! That is, at the very heart, what salvation is; the salve of God’s grace and mercy pours over our lives, healing us, and that healing is also for all the people we encounter; it’s intended so. Do our words pour healing salve over another’s life? Do our deeds pour healing salve into another’s brokenness?

Jesus, we offer you worship through how we labor when we reveal your goodness in our work, help us to see our labor with the eyes of worship.

Jesus, we offer our words in our labor as offerings of your beauty to others, tame our tongues, help us as we offer our worship to you in the way we speak.

Jesus, we offer the deeds of our labor in sacrifice of worship, thanking you for the ability and privilege we have to use our bodies to glorify you, sanctify every deed we do. May our every action worship you our Creator God.

May the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart be acceptable to you, our LORD, our Rock, and Redeemer.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Hunger Seeking Bread

“One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

The timing of my weekly bread baking and the reading of the Gospel for today couldn’t be more apropos. While I’m writing these thoughts, the aroma of the loaf of sourdough bread baking in my oven has awakened my appetite; I wasn’t hungry before the bread started baking, but now….now I am anticipating the taste of butter on freshly baked bread. I’m counting the minutes until I can remove the bread from the oven, then I’ll count the minutes until the bread will cool enough for me to slice into it. My mouth waters at the thought of it! I’m consumed with a yearning for that bread in my oven, and no slice of store-bought bread is going to satisfy that need!

I wonder if the people who listened to Christ’s teachings on hunger and thirst for bread and water knew something of what I am feeling just now as my bread is baking? I wonder if they allowed their minds to go beyond their physical hunger and thirst into the appetite of the soul Jesus was awakening in them? They were familiar with the Old Testament’s scriptures that foreshadowed The Bread of Life that would be fulfilled in the New Covenant. They would have known the psalms and oracles from the Old Testament that we are reminded of in today’s readings. Let’s consider how from the beginning the LORD has whetted humanity’s appetite for the fulfillment of His promise in the body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.

The psalmist describes the faithfulness of the LORD in psalm 145 by saying, “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” The LORD prepared his people for the ultimate Bread from Heaven that would satisfy the hunger and thirst of their souls. The writer recalls what the ancient Israelites had learned about this heavenly food through the physical hunger they had in the dessert after escaping slavery in Egypt. The LORD poured forth manna from the heavens to satisfy their desires. He brought forth springs of fresh water from the rock to slake their thirst. In delivering them from slavery, He blessed them with the created bounty of bread and water to draw their minds beyond reality to the freedom that comes from the LORD alone.

The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
    and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
    and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Psalm 145

Then through his holy prophet Isaiah, he beckoned His people to himself as their Source of Life. A life lived in covenant with Him. The covenant that made satisfaction between God and humanity for all of time. He drew them through their physical hunger to consider the everlasting covenant that would be fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah. This God/Man would be THE Bread of Life, and the grace would be that we would recognize that our soul’s deepest hunger is satiated in Him.


Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.

Isaiah 55:13

Something our priest said to my husband and me near the completion of our journey to The Roman Catholic Church has come to mind as I have meditated upon the Gospel readings during these days that surround the Bread of Life Discourse that we read yesterday at Sunday’s Mass. Father Fitzpatrick said to us, “You have been hunger seeking bread and now you have found The Bread who has sought your hunger for all these years.” You see we had never been fully-satisfied with the “store-bought bread,” so to speak, that we had hoped would satisfy our deepest longings. We were left weary and malnourished, our hunger drove us to the transcendent Mystery (“to shut the mouth”) of the Triune God present in the holy sacrifice of The Mass and the Truth, Beauty and Goodness of The Faith.

Has it been that way for you, friend? Have you been trying and trying to feast on the created goods of God’s creation and the distractions of this life but still find yourself hungry? I like how Bishop Barron describes how the satisfaction in things and experiences fades away. It is like a fireworks show, bursting before us as we ooh and ahh, but fading away, leaving the sky empty. Leaving us wanting more. We are created for perfect happiness with God and that is ultimately given through the receiving of Christ’s body and blood in The Eucharist. Why settle for eating the stale bread of this life? In the celebration of The Mass the heavens open with God’s bounty of grace through the memorial of Christ Jesus sacrifice for us–pouring into our hunger, filling us with the food that lasts forever.

We still eagerly anticipate the celebration of the Mass? Do you? Do you recognize it as the source and summit of your life? Do you believe it is the only feast that will heal your malnourished soul? Do you prioritize celebrating the Mass above all the things and distractions you enjoy?

Does your spiritual appetite make your mouth water when you hear the priest pray over us the words of Christ,

“Take, eat: this is my body…Drink [from my cup] this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Matthew 26:27, 28

We are hunger seeking Bread, Jesus Christ is the Bread seeking our hunger!

Oh, LORD Jesus Christ you are our salvation, the source and sustenance of our lives. In consuming you we receive the peace that passes all our understanding.

We are infused with your love, mercy and faithfulness and you feed us with the fruit of your Spirit.

May we hunger and thirst for you in the holy sacrifice of the Mass!

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

To my Grandchildren, Chapter II

Don’t

Forget

to

Remember

Do you remember from the first chapter why God created the first man and woman?You are right, God created them to enjoy being with him, to look at Him the way He looked at them. We talked about how everything was perfect, God, man and woman joined together as best friends. What happened that changed the perfect garden that God, the man, and the woman lived in? You are right, the man and the woman decided to look into a creature’s eyes, a serpent who hated God. After that time, when they stopped looking into God’s eyes bad stuff started to happen. They had ugly thoughts about each other, they spoke ugly words to each other. God still loved them very much, he never stopped gazing at them. God knew ugly things would happen because they stopped gazing into His eyes. The first terrible thing, probably the most terrible thing, happened after the man and the woman had their first two sons. What do you imagine is the most terrible thing that can happen? Let me tell you about it.

The man and the woman started a family, their oldest son was named Cain and he liked to play with the dirt; planting seeds and growing vegetables. He was really good at it, God had created him to enjoy taking care of the earth’s dirt. The second son was named Abel and the Sacred Scripture tells us he was a keeper of sheep, do you know what that means? He enjoyed taking care of sheep, we call that shepherding so we could say Abel was a shepherd. God had created Abel to enjoy taking care of animals. From as long as they could remember the sons regularly prepared an offering with their parents to give to God. What do you suppose their offerings looked like? We can’t be sure but we can guess. Sometimes they would give God an offering of the grains grown from the ground and sometimes they would offer God a young animal they had shepherded. It was their way of saying thank you to God for creating them and loving them in spite of their decision to look into the serpent’s eyes and think he loved them. We still do what they did today, our offerings of thanksgiving look a little different than they did then, but it still means the same thing.

As the boys grew older, God began asking Cain and Abel to bring offerings of their own to Him to show Him how much they loved Him. The Sacred Scripture tells us Cain would bring the fruit of the ground he enjoying taking care of and Abel brought the first born of the flocks of animals that he enjoyed taking care of. Somewhere along the way Cain’s attitude changed about giving a offering of thanks to the LORD. We are given clues in Sacred Scripture about how that might have happened. I know you like to play the game Clue when we are together so I know you like clues, too. Professor Mustard will find a clue that could help him solve a mystery. It works the same way in Sacred Scripture, but Sacred Scripture is not a game, it is the Truth. It seems to me that if God wants to give me hints when I read His Sacred Scripture, I better pay attention because it is going to lead me to something important I need to know.

It happened one day that when Cain and Abel offered their gifts to God as a thank you, the LORD had regard for Abel’s offering. Do you know what that means? It’s a word you heard in the first chapter. The other word you can use for regard is gaze! Remember how much God loves to gaze at us, he also likes to gaze at what we enjoy giving to Him. Abel’s offering of a new lamb must have been beautiful to look at. You know what? The Sacred Scripture tells us that God did not regard Cain’s gift to Him. I wonder why? Do you think there was something wrong with the fruit of the ground that Cain brought to give God? Remember about clues. Here’s a clue about why God didn’t gaze on Cain’s offering very long. “Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.” Hmm? That’s a curious clue. Cain probably was jealous of Abel and when he realized God gazed at Abel’s offering longer than He did at Cain’s, he got angry. Not only did Cain feel angry, his face; his countenance fell. That means his look changed. I bet you know what this means because I know sometimes you get jealous of your sister or brother, you may even think that your parents love them more than they love you. I remember feeling that way!

You know what I think? God knows everything, even our thoughts, even when we don’t say our thoughts. God looks into our eyes and knows what we are feeling because He created feelings, too! So this clue about Cain’s feelings tells us something God knows that we don’t know because we aren’t God. Here’s what God did when Cain’s anger and jealousy showed on his face. He asked him some questions. The questions gives us another clue about how the story may end. God asked Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” God looked into Cain’s eyes and saw what He already knew. We use a big word to describe what only God can know, it is omniscience. Omni means “all” and science means, “knowledge”–God alone has all knowledge, or we can put it this way, God is all-knowing. He knows EVERYTHING about EVERYONE at ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. That makes my brain sweat to even think about, doesn’t it do that to you? God is so spectacular that He keeps track of everything and everyone! Would you like to be omniscient? What are some of the things you would like to know?

There are so many words that describe God, but the most important is LOVE. When God saw that Cain was angry and jealous and that Cain assumed that God had rejected his offering, he still loved Cain. Cain was still learning how to love God. We do that sometimes, don’t we? Remember that God is omniscient so He knows what we are thinking and why we are thinking it. And He still loves us! This is a good thing to remember when we read the rest of the story about Cain because he makes the worse choice ever. Can you guess what the worse choice is?

A little while later, Cain tricked his brother. He told Able, “let’s go out to the field.” Cain didn’t want to go to the field just to play soccer. What happens next is the terrible choice–Cain killed Abel! He killed him because he was jealous of him so he thought the solution to his feelings of jealousy was to get rid of Abel. Does that make sense to you? God had a curious way of handling Cain’s terrible choice, instead of yelling and screaming at him, he asked Cain two questions! “Where is you brother?” and “What have you done?” Remember that God knows everything? So, why do you think he asked Cain that question? This question gives us another clue, and it’s about the way God loves us.

God loves you more than your parents and He loves you more than I love you. That’s almost impossible to believe that anyone could love you more than your parents of me. God wants you to choose to love Him just like he wanted Cain to love Him and so would remind Cain about the most important choices he would need to make in order to have the happy life God had planned for Him. And even though Cain ignored God and got mad at God, God still loved Him. Even though Cain did the worst thing ever, God still wanted to Cain to gaze into His eyes and tell him the truth about what he had done.

Do you remember a time you did something wrong and Dad has you a question about what you had been doing? Then you figured out he already knew what you were doing, but he wanted you to admit you did it. The word we use for that is “confess”. The Sacred Scripture is full of stories like Cain’s where God shows His love in the same way as He did with Cain and as Dad shows his love to you. God knows that if you will confess what you did was wrong, then He can help you fix your gaze back on Him. If you don’t confess what you’ve done wrong, then it will be very hard for you to gaze into His eyes. Another thing it will do is it will make it easier for you to keep ignoring God and to keep choosing to do things will eventually cause you to forget how much God loves you.

This leads us to conversation God had with a man named Abram. Abram was scared of a lot of things, but God taught him how to trust Him and quit being scared. We’ll read about that in the next chapter.