East of Eden by John Steinbeck is one large allusion to the Book of Genesis. The title of the novel is literally taken from Genesis 4:16. One of the crucial passages, in my opinion, comes when one of the main characters, Adam, is debating what to name his twin boys. He settles on Caleb and Aron, but not before discussing Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel because God favored Abel's offering of an animal more than Cain's offering of grain. Lee, Adam's steward, articulates:
We're back in the thick of Ordinary Time and the start of summer, and we're back to hearing the parables in the Sunday Gospels. This 11th Sunday we have two parables dealing with the growth of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mark 4:26-34).
The first parable indicates the Kingdom of God doesn't come suddenly and all at once. There is a process to it: “first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” The Catholic Church didn't get to where it is today, over a billion members worldwide existing in structured dioceses and parishes, immediately after Pentecost. It took time. And there were setbacks and challenges along the way (there still are).
Why are priests unable to marry? I am asked this frequently. Let me discuss Mohandas Gandhi, who took a vow of celibacy.
Celibacy is called Brachmacharya in the Hindu custom and it signifies total self-control. Disintegrating qualities, such as anger and vanity, are eliminated in this way of life. From the position of control, the celibate can make a total gift of himself to others. Gandhi sought to give himself entirely to his countrymen, and so at age 37 he renounced marriage and the pleasures of the flesh. He felt his love for others was more available and authentic. It is for a similar reason that he fasted. He wanted to be less self-centered and completely dedicated to others. “I fasted,” Gandhi said, “to reform those who loved me.”
Jesus healed many people for the three years he was on this earth, but there were many more he did not heal. Were those select individuals in that select spot on the earth in that select time period the only ones to experience Jesus? No. Let us explain using the image of D-Day. Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944 was arguably the most significant event of WWII. But the battle did not end the war. Hitler would not surrender until May 7, 1945. The Allies still had to break out of Normandy, retake Paris, and fight to Berlin. Operation Market Garden would be launched, the Battle of the Bulge fought, the perilous slog through the Hurtgen Forest commenced, and this was only the war in Europe.
Have you ever been called crazy? The kids in school call me crazy all the time. My family and friends do too. Usually this label is justified, for I act like a goof.
But I have been called crazy once or twice by a stranger or distant acquaintance. The individual is curious why I am a priest. How could I give up so much and devote my life to such a strange calling?
I'll admit, sometimes when I step back, I see it as crazy, being a priest and pastor, that is. I think, Man, God, how did you make all this happen?
But I don't have regrets, for I love being a priest. I love being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Following Christ and being a Catholic is, in many ways, counter-cultural. It raises eyebrows or prompts jokes. But it’s so fulfilling. Jesus was called crazy too. His family said, “He is out of his mind” (Mk 3:21).
St. Margaret Clithrowe, a housewife who lived during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, was asked by the judges to promise not to hide priests again. It was illegal and treasonous to be Catholic and to harbor priests. Clithrowe picked up her Bible and said, “I promise you I will hide priests again because they alone bring us the Body of Christ.” The woman was pressed to death on St. Michael's bridge in York. Her death for the priesthood and for the Eucharist occurred four hundred years ago.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi. During the exodus, which we hear about in the First Reading, Moses put lamb's blood on the doorposts of each Israelite. When the Angel of Death came at night to take each firstborn, it passed over each house with the sign of blood, hence the name Passover for the feast. The blood of the lamb saved people from death.
The flesh of the lambs slaughtered by Moses was then used as food, to give the people nourishment for their trek out of Egypt, across the desert, and through the Red Sea. The body of the lamb gave the people life.
We see the parallel. Jesus is the Lamb of God. His real blood, which is in the chalice that we receive at Mass, saves us from sin and death. His real body, which is the Eucharist, gives us life. Blessed be God forever!
The Path to Power, the first volume in Robert A. Caro's series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, spends a fair amount of time describing the land where LBJ was raised, the Texas Hill Country. This fascinating land stands at the crossroads of West, Central, and South Texas. It was once a land of opportunity, but overgrazing in the 19th Century, combined with the constant threat of Native American attack, made it a somewhat desolate place. Residents of the Texas Hill Country were, to say the least, tough. The women were especially strong. Caro describes the brutal nature of household chores: lugging water for miles; hauling wood and then chopping it for the stove, which was extremely difficult to light; ironing shirts with twenty pound iron wedges, literally, without handles; and so on. So arduous was their lifestyle, Texas Hill Country women were noted for their bent-over posture. These figures were heroic, if not saintly.
One of my favorite hymns is "Praise the Holy Trinity." Here are the lyrics:
O God Almighty Father,
Creator of all things,
The Heavens stand in wonder,
While earth Thy glory sings.
O most Holy Trinity,
Holy God, Mighty God,
God Immortal, be adored.
O Jesus, Word Incarnate,
Redeemer most adored,
All Glory, praise and honor,
Be Thine, our Sov'reign Lord. R.
O God, the Holy Spirit,
Who lives within our souls,
Send forth Thy light and lead us
To our eternal goal. R.
The basic premise of a consecration to Jesus through Mary is that Jesus came into the world through Mary and that we can be closest to Jesus through her.
If you've been thinking about entrusting yourself to Mary for the first time or if you're simply looking to deepen and renew your devotion to her, 33 Days to Morning Glory is a guided, do-it-yourself retreat in preparation for a total consecration to Mary. We typically have free copies of the booklet available in church throughout the month of May, or contact the parish office at other times during the year.
One may also begin a consecration with the Immaculata Consecration prayer and renew it each day or as needed with the brief version; both are below.
O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and Earth, refuge of sinner and most Loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy on to you. I, [your name], a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your posseession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you. If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: "She will crush your head," and "You alone have destroyed all the heresies in the world."
Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the Blessed Kingdom of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter, you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
V. Allow me to praise you, O Sacred Virgin.
R. Give me strength against your enemies.
Immaculata, Queen and Mother of the Church, I renew my consecration to you for this day and for always, so that you might use me for the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus in the whole world. To this end I offer you all my prayers, actions and sacrifices of this day.