Somewhere in our world, there is a baby cradled safely in a mother’s arms, surrounded and protected by love that defies all explanations. Somewhere, there is an adult child gently stroking the hand of a dying parent, an escort on the final steps of a long journey. Somewhere, there are essential workers expending every energy on the safety and care of the suffering, the forlorn, the forgotten. Imagine the love that drives and shapes each scenario actually pervading other interactions. Imagine we were able to transcend differences, link to commonalities, and choose to do the right thing.

This week’s Gospel reading, from Matthew 10, posits such a possibility. The phrases are powerful and challenging, but the essence of each line suggests that differences have always been divisive. And yet, the message is clear. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” There, within each of us, the divine resides. It is up to each of us to live like that, to dare to welcome and to celebrate that reality. Teresa of Avila pulled it together with a slightly different perspective.

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

That perspective is the reminder of what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ. It is to become Christ himself for others, to be far more than an image and truly bring the presence of God to another human being. It is a call to be the best self at all times: to be generous, kind, truthful, empathetic, and purposeful. It is to remember, in all humility, that making Christ manfest to one another is a critical resposibility of all Christians. In any and every interaction, there is that chance to look compassion on the world, walk to do good, to bless all the world.

Now more than ever, that message can make a dramatic difference in the world that we live in. The divisive rhetoric, labelling and accusations, fearful exchanges, threats and destruction dominate so much of contemporary conversation. But this Gospel message asks for more, asks for the pause to think about what really matters. Teresa of Avila provides that more in her thinking about Christ’s presence in the world. Listening, embracing and living the message is a daily challenge for every Christian. To live that challenge demands a real consciousness of other, an attentiveness that places other first and self second. It is the very selflessness that Christ brought to the world. Listening, caring, doing, are redemptive acts. It is time to imagine a new world, one where the discord and the drama are left behind and the presence of God can be experienced in every interaction. Imagine what a world like that could look like.

Without Condition

Junetenth. Father’s Day. Black Lives Matter. Tulsa Oklahoma. Coronavirus. America divided: splits, issues, defind the police, DACA. Tumultuous times. Anxieties. Stress. Loss. Grief. And for Catholics, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time. But these are no ordinary times. Or are they?

Struggle defines human life experience. M. Scott Peck captured that reality in the opening lines of the Road Less Travelled: “Life is difficult.” Expectations might deny that, but the truth of it spills out in the power plays and interactions that characterize daily communication. Seeking to outdistance that truth, outrage, frustration, denial and grief jockey for human expression. Seeping into the public sphere, awkward insecurities, misinterpretations of issues and lack of clarity can inhibit real communication about the difficulties and ways of introducing effective change. But if we can maintain a basic understanding that life is difficult, compassion can seed empathy and growth can take place. And if we can believe that there is no need for fear or anxiety, that normal is actually difficult and none of us are immune from that, there is a chance to move beyond where we are.

That is exactly the invitation from the readings this Sunday. The liturgical world refers to this as “Ordinary Time”, but these readings are all about overcoming fear and trusting God’s love. There is Jeremiah’s lament contrasted so deeply with his confidence in God. Romans 5 is a reminder of the overflowing of God’s grace, and John’s Gospel begins with the admonition. “Fear no one.” Trust and confidence are the cornerstones of love; love is the cornerstone of life. That sort of love, deep and certain, concrete and clear, a definitive choice, empowers strength, redefines courage. The idea that God chooses the gift of unconditional love during ordinary times is extraordinary by any standard. Most importantly, in both the mundane and the incomprehensible, there is the rhythm of this love waiting to be found, to sustain and to energize each one through the challenges life represents.

Now is the moment to trust in the fact that even ordinary life is difficult, that there are challenges that can be met with confidence in this unconditional love. There is the chance that in the midst of such tumultuous times, the message of the Gospel offers hope, a perspective for looking at the string of events that are occurring. It means looking at the world with feet firmly planted on the ground, knowing that the earth is shaped by far more than what can be seen. It is a testimony to the idea that in even the most difficult of moments, God is present and offers more than what can be imagined. Stress and anxiety may be the companions of difficult lives; there are ways to address it. And the readings of the Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time speak to this very moment.

Corpus Christi

Dissonance has become routine for us now: there are protest rallies and pandemic warnings, demands and losses, side by side. Credibility and confusion are nearly synonymous, and subjectivity often disguises truth. Who to believe? What to believe? How to live in a world like this? We condemn what we have been given, loathe one another’s perspectives, find home on the soap box of media. What is possible now? How can we make a beginning of a world better than this? On this Corpus Christi Sunday, there are clues.

Re-discovering what we have in common as human beings might be the first step. We are masters at discovering and celebrating difference. And yet, over these past weeks of lockdown, we have proven that we can comply with directives for the good of all and that we reserve the right to differ. We are experts at using social media to bare souls and expose injustice. But we use it for labelling, derision, negation and bullying as well. And sometimes, we do not see the difference. We have challenged and discredited our social institutions, and we are rewriting our history. But we are not all quite in agreement over either of those. So how can we mind a moment and name what it is that makes us human?

Corpus Christi is the reminder that we are all happily and hopelessly human. We share a comon need: food and sustenance. Corpus Christi is a celebration of what binds us together as humans; it is the feast that invites us to look at the sameness, to discover as Paul did, that “…we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one loaf.” (2 Cor 10) To imagine, in our world of difference, discouragement, disdain and discrimination, that we are actually all one body is an enormous movement towards recognizing that which we have in common.

Corupus Christi is also the reminder that we need one another; within that single body, we cannot be whole without all the parts. The body system is complicated and multi-faceted. Imagining that enables us to see the uniqueness of each member of the human family, to appreciate the depth of need for one another and the possibilities for expressing that with gratitude and understanding. And there is the practical point that if we are indeed one body, then protecting and preserving that is a responsibility that falls to all of us.

For Catholics, there is the final point as well: we belong to God as fully as we belong to one another. The belief that God exists, cares, and invites us to co-create our world gives power to the understanding that we need one another. It also provides actionable steps: it is ours to choose to be attentive to the needs of each part of the body, to care as lovingly for one another as God does for us.

That is a tall order. In reality, the presence of the Eucharist, that central element in every service, is the gift of the one loaf, the gift that noursihes us. We sustain one another in the way God sustains us: with the one loaf.

No Ordinary Time

In the midst of a pandemic, the US has exploded with social unrest and anger. Loss and grief have edged into soul-searching confusion challenging personal and national identity, flooding social media with accusations and rumors, and energizing the need to address our flawed brokenness. The safety of our self-understanding has been upended first by the virus and now by the rage. We are a nation that has lost a sense of cultural literacy, a common narrative, systems that are trusted. Instead, we have become a nation of multitudinous voices competing for recognition, change and improvement. Everyone is talking. Dare we listen to one another? Dare we open dialogue?

As Catholics, this is a moment that demands attention. It is about the most treasured of gifts: life itself. Foundational to the conviction that each life matters is the essence of human responsibility: to care for each life in ways that are nurturing, viable, and effective. This rests alongside the reality that each individual possesses personal choice and personal responsibility; that is exercised in wider communities creating networks of communicating, caring and compassion. And in the odd way that so often happens, the lectionary readings for Sunday, June 7, speak to all that with simple elegance.

Even within the chaos of this moment, God is present. There is the scene of Moses, tablets cut and ready, promising a god of mercy and compassion, slow to anger. Then there is Moses’ request for the company of God on the journey ahead…in spite of the acknowledgment of the obstinate nature of the people. The Responsorial Psalm is from Daniel; strikingly, the passage points to th presence of God in all things, all moments, what is real and what is only imagined. Second Cornithians carries the theme into a different arena: to strive to encourage one another, to find a common mind or common ground, to live in peace and know the presence of God even more deeply. Finally, there is the lynchpin of the Gospel: that above all, God wishes to save the world. And so, God gave his only Son to the world.

Tidily, the readings provide somwhat simple and clear guidelines for navigating these challenging times. The reminders are explicit: God is present; it is ours to acknowledge that, to explore and celebrate it. With that in mind, it is ours to actively support and encourage one another, to become collaborators in creating peace in our world. Investing trust in God, we become the wayfinders of this era. We become co-heirs in creation. We become people who value life, know purpose, and live compassion.

The choices lay bare before us. In a calamitous world, there is the chance to become harbingers of peace. It will require the conviction of Moses, the devotion of Daniel, the zeal of Paul and the certainty of the Gospel writer. It can be done. It has been done in the past and can be done once more. Essentially, human beings have been entrusted with choice. It is all up to us, to our responses, our values and our beliefs. It is time to offer the best of ourselves on the journey.