There’s just something different about when a priest gives a message. Sure, we hear the sermon every Sunday at mass but when he gives a message outside of mass, there is just something quite different I can’t explain. This was the feeling we must have all felt when one gave such at our New Year program at Divine Mercy Parish, Lekki using 3 anchor passages.
Psalm 119:105-114 was one which is close to my heart. I remember my last fellowship at my former office in the midst of uncertainty, an ex-colleague referred in particular to verse 105 which says “Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light for my path.” How true that has been in my life!! John 1:1-4 and 10-14 was also used and I can’t help get goosebumps whenever I read the first verse of John – “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The last anchor passage given was 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 which we are all familiar with at the mass during Consecration, but little did I know that I would encounter this all too familiar verse in a different way by the time the message was over.
The priest started by referring to John 1:10-11 stressing that the world did not know Jesus who was the very person through which the world was made. I have recently become a mom for the third time and I wonder how uncanny it would be if my daughter turns to me shortly after breastfeeding and outwardly pushes me away. I can’t even imagine how hurt I would feel in this non-acceptance; this outright rejection. After the nine months of gestation, the sleepless nights and all the drama that surrounds “baby friendly,” she turns around and knows me not. Yet, this is an iota of what we did and do to Christ each day when we fail to know him by coming closer to Him. May we never lose sight of the need to know Him and draw constantly to Him each day in Jesus name. Amen.
So here I am musing over this pathetic case of the world not knowing Jesus when the priest goes on to mention our separated brethren and the move towards ecumenism. I am excited about this reference to ecumenism since it is my calling as the Mission of this website expatiates. However, he then outrightly says “We are not the same.” I cannot believe he said that. I mean, isn’t the whole point of ecumenism to play down the differences in order for all Christians to focus on God because after all, we are worshiping the same God, right? As if to confirm my doubts, he repeats – “Yes, we are not the same.” Huh?!! He stressed that if we believe that Catholics and non-Catholics are the same, then we are being ignorant since the key difference is the Eucharist. Hmmm…the Eucharist.
Then the message took on a new spin that would not allow my head to settle until I compiled it in this summary which I now give. He mentioned that he would often ask our separated brethren what they meant when they would insinuate that the Catholic church is not a “Bible-believing church.” After all, what is the bible if not the Word of God? Who is the Word of God if not Jesus? What is the Eucharist if not the Body of Jesus? Who are the only Christians who believe in taking the REAL BODY of God in the Eucharist if not Catholics?
So, if Catholics believe and have both the Word and the Body in their full worship, how could the Catholic Church not be “Bible believing?” I never thought of it in this logical sequence. Instead, I would often smile and wonder how such insinuation could be made when the actual compilation of the bible was by Catholics before all the disunity started. I guess the ignorance of the scriptural bases of what is actually going on in Catholicism is another factor but this should not deter us in our move towards unity. At least it won’t deter me, for although such key difference exists, we can overcome them by focusing on Christ and our relationship with Him.
CHRISTIANITY AS RELATIONSHIP
Love is One
The priest then went on to talk about Christianity as a relationship stating that love in ONE thing since God is love and love is God. This oneness of God and love reminded me of 1 John 4:8 where it says “Those who do not love, have not known God, for God is love.” It is no wonder that the world did not know Jesus and it still doesn’t, since it is in dire need of love. He further stated that although love is one there are several expressions of love and the expressions of love are a function of the degree of closeness. He gave the example of being able to hold hands with someone as an expression of love, but not being able to embrace or kiss that same person due to the degree of closeness.
Then he stated what we all know – that the most intimate person is the one to whom you give your body. What I did not relate it to until he said it, was that the Eucharist is that thing; that giving of the body in intimacy. It is no wonder that the Eucharist lies at the heart of Catholicism as it is an expression of God’s intimate relationship with us and the height of intimacy.
He stressed that God is the love and we are the beloved as seen vividly in the Book of Songs of Solomon. He then asked us to whom does God give his REAL BODY in the Eucharistic? Who believes in the REAL PRESENCE of Christ in the Eucharist? The answer was clear – only Catholics.
Proximity & Affection
Since proximity means affection, the priest urged us to strive to understand the level of intimacy that exists between us and God in order to understand the closeness and not stray from Him. He drew our attention to us visiting loved ones and stressed that we need to make frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament to nourish this proximity. After all, if we visit our loved ones, why can we not stop by and visit Jesus in church? This hit home because at such times when I feel moved to just stop by and visit the church, I hear a voice within saying “Dd, God is everywhere so you can pray in your room and you don’t really have to go out.” Sometimes, the voice even gives biblical backup like “Dd, why go all the way to church to visit? After all, the kingdom of God is within you.” I wonder where that voice is when I decide to drive to the mainland for a barbecue party or to say hi to a friend two hours drive away.
The priest stressed that Jesus longs for us to come and visit Him since the memory of any visit lingers in the mind of the person who is visited and the gesture of the visit, however brief, is always well received.
Punctuality, Dressing & Attitude Inside Mass
For as long as I can remember, I have always known that I should not be late to mass and I should dress well to church. Some people may call that a result of brainwashing since God sees the heart but I give kudos to my mother who instilled such discipline in me from a tender age. Growing up, we would always ensure that we were seated at the pews on time and spend some minutes actually meditating before mass. The days that we wouldn’t, would see my mother so distraught as if it was the end of the world. Then I couldn’t understand what was the big deal. Now, I find myself in the same boat – distraught if late for mass and I wonder if my children are thinking the same thoughts I did with my mom.
The priest mentioned that we should see mass as a date with God; as a date with our Creator and when we viewed it in this way, we would never be late for mass. He stressed that we must understand that we are in a loving relationship and must be punctual just like we would not be late for a date with a loved one. He stated that we should also see mass as a conversation with somebody you love so that you would not be distracted. He cited the example of going on a date with a loved one and being immersed in whatever is going on between yourselves irrespective of your surroundings because the conversation is sweet.
Then he referred to dressing in the church. I always used to wonder why people abroad would dress so casually to church. Did they not have fine clothes? Did they not know what “putting on your Sunday best” meant? Well, I must admit that I actually slipped from time to time when abroad-even once being tempted to simply slip on my sweatsuit without a shower and head to Sunday mass, giving the excuse that I would go jogging thereafter. Other times I find myself being tempted to do same giving the excuse that I want to be comfortable. Funny enough, I am hard on my children when they say such and make them put on their “Sunday best.” Isn’t that ironic?
It was as if the priest was talking directly to me when he asked us how we dressed when we went out on a date with our spouses or with our girlfriend or boyfriend. Ofcourse, we put on our best so why don’t we for God? He also referred to those who reveal their body in their dressing and asked us whether wives do same when on a date with their husband. He explained that as a wife, there was no need to entice your husband and to reveal your body since he was already yours and said that there was also no need to reveal same since you were coming to God who was already yours. This makes perfect sense especially when we know how husbands and men in general behave when they catch other men feasting their eyes over their wives and trying to make eye contact with them. Why would you think that the relationship with Love and the Beloved would be any different?
CHRISTIANITY AS VOCATION
He mentioned that we should not only see Christianity as a relationship but also as a vocation and referred us to Luke 24:13-20, 25-27 and 30-32. He stressed verses 30-32 where the disciples eyes were opened upon the breaking of the bread and stressed their “ardent yearning” and burning within when the Word was shared. He urged us to have this same fire when listening to the homily at mass so our eyes too can be open when the time came to break bread in the Eucharist. Indeed, he stressed that this is the only way for the Word to fully come alive on the table of the Eucharist.
He stated that vocation involves service and serving Jesus, so as Jesus’ disciples, we must find time to sit at the feet of the Master in order to be enlightened. This sitting at Jesus’ feet allows us to gain insight for us to share and get direction while the Eucharist strengthens us. He warned us against sin which bars us from receiving the Eucharist.
It was only recently that I got the full import of this ban of receiving the Eucharist “unworthily.” We all know that satan entered Judas Iscariot, as seen in Luke 22:3 and John 13:27 but it is John’s citation which brought it home to me which says “And as Judas took the piece of bread, satan entered into him.” Satan entered Judas WHEN he took the bread. Luke completely ignores this and just says that satan entered Judas and I will not hypothesize on whether satan would have entered Judas if he did not take the bread. All I do know is that he took the Eucharist unworthily and brought condemnation unto himself. Since this has hit me, I take the words we say at mass very solemnly –“Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Now, if I don’t hear that word, that “go ahead” from the Master, I do not even think about receiving Holy Communion. I must hear his word. I don’t even want to risk it. I must be sure not to bring condemnation upon myself. We all must be.
The priest reminded us that we are guided by the Word of God and strengthened by the Eucharist so we should renew our commitment to study His Word in 2017. He asked us how we could retain so many quotations from Shakespeare, movies and the like but found it difficult to retain a single bible verse. He replied that it was because we were not trying hard enough and yes, I am guilty of that. Tell me to give you quotes from notable judges in caselaw, literature, movie scripts and I am on the roll. Now, ask me to give you 10 bible verses to quote from and I start saying “God sees my heart” or “He will write His words in our hearts.”
May God grant us to the grace to love His Word and Body and put this all into practice in Jesus name. Amen.