Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

There is in us this innate desire to live, and not to die.  Sure, we have days when we feel more dead than alive; days, like the prophet Elijah, when we’re tempted to pray for death.  Yet, in our saner moments all of us want to live, not die.  This is painfully apparent when witnessing the countless refugees fleeing Syria; on the run from the dark regime of violence and the senselessness of war. 

Not long after my Dad died, I was holding his wedding ring in my hand and noticed etched inside the words:  Now and forever June 16, 1951.  It expressed on my parent’s wedding day the enduring nature of love; love that cannot die.  I believe this is the hope every newly married couple clings to as they hold on to each other.

For the past several weeks, we’ve been hearing the Bread of Life discourse from John’s Gospel and that concludes this 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Through words, Jesus reveals that those who “eat of this bread”—his flesh, his blood—will “live forever”, and has “eternal life”. 

This notion of eternal life—the “Now and forever” promise of Jesus’ words—is not meant simply for the hereafter.  This eternal life promised to each one who adhere their life to Christ can be experienced in the here and now; within this mortal life.  How?

In his book “Reasons of the Heart” Father John Dunne describes the terrain of the Christian path as “loss and recovery”.  We must undergo loss, a kind of death on this path.  The self that is unreal must die before I can recover the self I was meant to be and known to God.  Simply, this is what conversion involves: putting to death what keeps my life toxic; more dead than alive.  It’s like the addict who, after recovery, feels resurrected, reborn and alive once they ‘die’ to the toxic nature of addiction and recover the more enduring qualities that keep life in sobriety.   

In one way or another, all of us are ‘addicts’ as we futilely  feed that ‘hole in the soul’ in ways that leave us famished and, like Lazarus, bound and unfree.  Yet, when recovery and the work of conversion happen we’ll begin to see as if for the first time the enduring nature of things and experience the ‘forever nature’ of the here and now.  A friend just sent me words by Fr. Richard Rohr that capture the essence of eternal life that can be ours when we begin to see and live for God:

Look around you, wherever you are and find something of beauty.  Sit in silence, observing without words or judgment.  Let this beauty teach you the mystery of Incarnation, of God’s indwelling presence in all creation.  As Simone Weil says, “The beauty of the world is Christ’s tender smile for us, coming through matter.”

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

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