Saturday, August 12, 2006

What do you see? (Sunday homily)

The great question of the Gospel of John is,
“What do you see?”
The conflict was between the earthly,
that everyone saw, and the heavenly reality,
which took faith.

In today’s Gospel,

Jesus tells them he’s from heaven;
but his critics “murmured” saying,
we know where you came from: here!

For Jesus, it’s not “either or”;
that’s a problem for his hearers—

and often, for us.

We see this with the Church.
The human side of the Church

is all too visible,
and we have a hard time seeing the Church
is divine as well.

Let me illustrate by looking at the Creed,
which we will recite together in a moment.

The Creed begins with the Father;
then the Son; then the Holy Spirit.
Then we come to the Church—
after which, we profess “one baptism,”
our hope of resurrection, and the life to come.

So, the Creed seems to be four sections:
Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Church.

Now, if I had a chalk board,
I’d draw a diagram

with three points—a triangle:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Where do we put the fourth point

—the Church—us?
The Catholic answer is,

right in the middle!

See where that puts us?

Right in the heart of God!
That’s where baptism puts us in the first place;
and when we commit mortal sin,
confession puts us back.

See how important that is?
When we understand the Church,

in relation to God—
right in the very life of the Holy Trinity—
then we see that the Church

is both human and divine:
Just like Jesus Christ!

That being both heaven and earth together
is a two-way street.
This church isn’t just an ordinary building;
it’s an embassy of heaven!
God himself is here in the tabernacle:
we’re in his throne room!

This is what our whole lives

as Catholics are about.

If we think of God as far away,

we might wonder,
“why should he care about this or that sin?”

But when we see ourselves

in intimate union with God,
then we see how our sins
“grieve the Holy Spirit,”
who seals us to God!

We’ve been talking about the Mass

the last two weeks,
so let’s apply this to the Mass.
In recent decades we’ve had a huge swing,
from when Mass was very formal,
to where it was extremely loose and casual.

In recent years, the pope and the bishops
have called us back to more formality,
and more uniformity with the whole Church.

Some don’t like that;

some don’t see why that matters.

Well, if Mass is merely a human reality,
we can create and shape it as we like.

But this is a divine reality,
belonging to the whole Church,
across the world, across time,

uniting heaven and earth!
It’s not really “our” Mass, or “my” Mass—

it’s His Mass.
The ritual and formality help us
experience the divine reality,
in and beyond the human.

How we dress or act,

at Mass, isn’t all-important;
but it has some importance.

It surely would be easier if,

instead of our ushers,
we had the cherubim at the doors!
If, instead of our ceiling,
we saw Seraphim hovering overhead;
if, instead of images of the saints,
we saw them alive,

casting down their golden crowns
as Jesus offers his sacrifice to the Father.

That all happens at every Mass!
But we don’t see it—it takes faith, and effort.
So, servers: do I stress being very diligent?
For all of us: does it matter

how intently we participate?

I said a moment ago

that Christ places his Church
at the center of the Trinity;
that makes the Mass

the center of the Center.

Living our lives at the center of God’s life,

here on earth, leads us
to being there, forever, in eternity.
The one flows into the other.

So we’re never “part-time Catholics.”
Shopping, doing business,

what we do with our money—
either it’s with God, or apart from him.
When we remember

we’re always at the Center of God,
how would that affect

our choices on the playing field,
on a date, in our marriage?

Does it seem like it’s just about “rules”?
Again, that’s seeing the earthly

but not the heavenly.

So what do we do?

Look at our first reading.
The great prophet, Elijah,

is at a low point—
he’s ready to die!

The king is faithless and weak;
The people seem to be deserting God.
The priests and prophets are all false.
He feels very alone.

Wow—sounds like today!

You and I, the Church,

face the same journey—
not just here on earth,

but from here to heaven.

Our “food for the journey” is the Eucharist.

I said the Church is at the Center of the Life of God;
The Mass is at the center of the Church;
And the Eucharist is what binds it all together:
Truly Jesus, both God and man.

As the great theologian Henri de Lubac said,
The Eucharist makes the Church;
and the Church gives us the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is heaven and earth united!

But you and I have to decide what we see:
Is Jesus only a man—or is he God too?
Is the Church only a collection of sinners—
or is Christ’s Body, under his leadership,
filled with his Spirit?

Is the Eucharist only wine and bread—
Or truly Jesus the God-Man,
heaven come to earth, to lift us to heaven?

What do you see?


Anonymous said...

Fr Fox,

What's the reasoning behind the formatting (i.e. style) of your sermons looking like poetry rather than prose?

Simply curious, that's all.


Fr Martin Fox said...


It's really simple: when I type out my homilies, I do it in 16 point type "sense lines" -- because that's a lot easier for me to scan when I preach.

When I post them online, I don't care to do a lot of re-formatting, so I pretty much leave it as is, except I break up some of the longer lines, so it looks nicer. (It would take a lot longer to format it in proper prose style.)