COR THOUGHTS 221: The Stunning Miracle of Mercy

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The readings this weekend are all about mercy and forgiveness. The Gospel parable of the unmerciful servant demonstrates that – “and this is daunting,” admits the Catechism – God’s “mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us” (CCC 2840). Forgiveness, however, is often misunderstood. It does not mean saying to someone who has wounded you, “It’s okay.” If it were “okay,” there would be no reason to forgive the person. Furthermore, forgiveness does not remove the offender’s responsibility before God. Rather, forgiving someone means releasing that person to God’s justice and mercy. As the Catechism wisely observes, “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (CCC 2843). The hurt that the sins of others cause us is real. But, if we have the courage to allow the miracle of mercy to work in us, that hurt can be transformed into prayer, into intercession. Sin committed against us can become – if we allow it – an occasion of salvation, both for us and for the person who sinned against us. We pray that God would forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. “This crucial requirement … is impossible for man. But ‘with God all things are possible’” (CCC).

COR THOUGHTS 220: Our Bodies Tell the Story of Love and Communion

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In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). Why two or three? Because that’s the basic building block of communion. This is how we “fulfill the law,” as Paul says in this week’s second reading: by loving one another. The Church is the embodiment of the call of the whole human race to live in love and communion. And that call to love and communion is revealed most fundamentally in our creation as male and female and the call of the two to become “one flesh.” Here, in the normal course of events, the union of the “two” leads to a “third” – the organic growth and expansion of human communion. When true human communion grows, without a doubt, Christ is “in the midst of them.” Christ’s promise to be in our “midst” is all the more telling when we link this with the words of Zephaniah: “the Lord is in your midst” (3:17), which literally means “the Lord is in your womb.” When we love one another rightly, we “conceive” Christ. Our bodies tell that story. Our bodies reveal the divine mystery.

COR THOUGHTS 219: Desire Is God’s Signature Imprinted with Fire in my Soul and Body

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The Psalm for this Sunday’s Mass speaks of deep, aching desire: “for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts” (Ps 63:2). Pope Benedict XVI comments: “Not only my soul, but even every fiber of my flesh is made to find … fulfillment in God.” Even when we try to run from God, like Jeremiah in this week’s first reading, “it becomes like fire burning in my heart” (Jer 20:9). Yes, whatever a person might do, the desire for the Infinite remains in man, says Benedict XVI, “like a signature imprinted with fire in his soul and body by the Creator himself.” What are we to do when our bodies are burning up with desire and crying out for satisfaction? Right in those moments when we are most tempted to take satisfaction into our own hands, we must instead “offer our bodies as a living sacrifice” to God, as Saint Paul tells us in the second reading (see Rom 12:1). Or, as Christ says in this week’s Gospel, we must deny ourselves and follow him (see Mt 16:24). And that means entrusting every desire, every cry of our hearts – even as we taste the bitter sufferings of Christ – to the One who alone can fulfill us, and has promised he will.

COR THOUGHTS 218: Flesh and Blood in Communion with God

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In this Sunday’s Gospel we read about Peter’s famous proclamation of Jesus as “Son of the living God.” Jesus responds, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Mt 16). Christ intentionally contrasts “flesh and blood” with his “heavenly Father” – God with man. And, yet, the contrast itself opens the way to the astounding truth of God’s plan for reconciling man to himself: the eternal “Son of the living God” has taken on “flesh and blood” … and that is who is standing before Peter. “Flesh and blood” is now welcomed into eternal communion with the heavenly Father. This is the “depth” of what Peter realized in calling Jesus “Son of the living God.” In Christ, Simon is no longer merely “son of Jonah.” He, too, can become a son of the heavenly Father, an heir to glory and bliss beyond all telling. And so can we. If we let this truth sink in, we will spontaneously exclaim with Saint Paul in the second reading: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”

The Enfleshment of Ultimate Meaning

[NOTE: This post was originally written for AffirmingGender.com. It was published April 7, 2017.]

I recently saw a video promoting a world beyond the so-called “limits of male and female” in which an activist dismisses the human body as a “living meat skeleton.”

Much is at stake in the confusion today, both in the secular world and in our churches, about the meaning of the body. We live in a world that insists our bodies are meaningless. But that is to insist that human life itself is meaningless.