Saturday, April 30, 2011

Altar Boys & Vocations

Some observations about my 2,000-household parish regarding vocations:

We have had a boys-only corps of altar servers for at least the last 10 years; currently there are 49 servers, ranging from 6th grade through college. To have ten at the 11am Solemn Mass is not unusual.

We had one ordination in 2005.

We had another in 2007.

We currently have two seminarians.

Two of our college-age men (including my youngest son) will live in the diocesan discernment house next Fall. That's 2 out of a total of 8 for the whole diocese.

And of course there are also highschool-age servers who are explicitly considering vocations; one of our senior servers plans to go straight from highschool into the seminary.

I do not suggest a direct cause-and-effect here; nonetheless, the boys-only approach has a positive influence on vocations, and is a critical part of an overall conscious intent in the parish to nurture them.

The corps in action (scroll ahead to about 2:00)

2013: Our third former altar boy was ordained  this summer.

2014: Our fourth former altar boy will be ordained this summer.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Wedding Reception

Hey y'all, Lent is over, and last Sunday was Easter. So instead of praying an Act of Contrition for Lent, we have an Easter season prayer, which I will sing because it's also a hymn to Mary that's about 900 years old. It tells her to be happy because Jesus isn't dead anymore:

"O Queen of Heaven, be joyful, alleluia.
For He whom you have humbly borne for us, alleluia.
Has arisen, as He promised, alleluia.
Offer now our Prayer to God, alleluia"

Ok, last week in our Mass class we stopped with the priest saying, "command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty," and referred to that great image of the angel going up to heaven in the Holy Tornado.

Moving forward in the Mass from there, the priest says, "Remember also, Lord [those] who have gone before us with the sign of faith, and rest in the sleep of peace." Who are these people? Saints? Yes. And the priest mentions some of them: "graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs:" John the Baptist, who y'all know; Stephen, who was the first...? He was stoned to death...the first martyr!  Yes. Matthias, who replaced...the bad apostle...Judas! Yes. Barnabas, who traveled with St. Paul; Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus; Peter, the first...pope! Yes. And now a group of women saints: "Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha; Lucy, who was tortured by...putting her eyes out! Yes, and "Agnes, Cecilia, [and] Anastasia." These saints were all among the first Christian martyrs. And I like Anastasia because her name comes from Anastasis, which is Greek for...Easter! Yes, it means "resurrection."

And when the priests asks for "fellowship" with the saints, what's he mean? To be friends with them? Yes, to be part of the Communion of Saints, who are at Mass with us even if we can't see them.

Tell me, when we think about our sins, do we want God's justice? No, we want his mercy! Yes, his forgiveness. That's why we next hear, "admit us, we beseech you, into their company, not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon..."

During the Eucharistic Prayer we're kneeling; when it comes to and end, we stand up. When we stand up, what do we pray? C'mon, y'all know this. "At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say"...the Our Father! Yes, which comes to us straight out of Jesus's mouth in the Gospel of Matthew. And y'all know this line: "and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us..." Well, right after Jesus finished the prayer, he said, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt 6:14) So, if we don't forgive others...God won't forgive us. Right. I expect to spend quite some time in Purgatory burning my resentments away in order to forgive everyone. So even though y'all are way younger than me, y'all may beat me to Heaven, even if I die first as expected. When you zoom past me, say, "Bye, Stratopops, I'll pray for ya!"

Now we get to my favorite part of the Mass. First we say, "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us" how many times? Three! Yes; and who are we quoting? John the Baptist! Yes, and we kneel again. Then the priest holds the Body up, which looks like...bread, yes, and says: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world." And who first said that? John the Baptist. Yes; about whom? Jesus.Yes, when? When Jesus came to be baptized. Yes; where? In the Jordan River. Yes, good. This reminds us that Jesus is just as physically present at Mass as he was when John spoke those words at the Jordan River. It's the Lamb of God, it's Jesus. And what's the deal with the Passover Lamb? You have to eat it! Right. By the way, what did John eat in the desert? Bugs! Yes, tasty when dipped in honey...right, girls? Ewww! Uh-huh...boys? Cool! Yep.

Then the priest quotes an Angel in Revelations: "Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb." This reminds us we're about to share in the Wedding Feast. Let's look at where this comes from in Revelations, which we already know says a lot about the Heavenly Worship that connects to Mass on Earth. But first let's read a bit from Isaiah that you heard earlier this year: "On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines; juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces..." Tell me, is Isaiah describing a snack? No, a feast! Yes, and all peoples are there, not just the Chosen People. And there's no death or tears, so it must Heaven! Yes.

Revelations adds to Isaiah's prophecy: "Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure." And the Lamb is...Jesus, yes. And the Bride is...the Church, yes, which is all the nice buildings? No, it's us!  Yes; and we'll all live in the Holy City, the...New...Jerusalem! Yes.

So Jesus marries the Church...why? Because he loves Her! Yes. So much that He died for Her. And after a wedding, there's...a reception! Yes! So it's a happy feast, but serious, too. And an angel said, "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb...On his robe...he has a name inscribed, King of Kings and Lord of Lords... Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called..."Come, gather for the great supper of God..." So when we eat the feast on Earth...they're eating the feast in heaven?  Yes.

When I was about your age there was a rock band called Genesis. They wrote a song about the Book of Revelations, which is clever: Genesis is the first book in the Bible, and Revelations is...the last one. Yes. The song is called "Supper's Ready." Is it about eating leftover pork and beans around the kitchen table? No it's about the Wedding Feast! Yes! Listen to the last few lines of the song, which ties together all the stuff you've learned about Revelations:

"There's an angel standing in the sun,
And he's crying with a loud voice:
This is the supper of the Mighty One.
The Lord of Lords, King of Kings,
Has returned to lead His children home,
To take them to the New Jerusalem."

So when the priest says, "Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb," use your imaginations.

And then we respond to the know it: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof...but only say the word and my soul shall be healed! Yes. And who said it first? The guy who wanted his servant healed... Yes...who was "this guy"....the popsicle man? No, a soldier. An Imperial Stormtrooper? Ha, no a Roman soldier. Yes, who commanded a hundred men...a centurion! Yes; and he was a pagan; he believed in made-up gods.

I really like the centurion. I always have to pray for faith before Communion because it looks like plain-old flat, dry bread to me. I struggle with doubt even while I believe. But I'm reminded of the faith of the centurion. He believed Jesus could miraculously heal his servant without needing to visit him; and even though he was a Roman officer, the centurion was so humble that he didn't feel worthy to have Jesus come to his house. If a pagan can have such faith and humility then it's not beyond my reach.
This is how the Church uses the Bible to prepare us to receive Jesus at Mass. But you have to know what the verses mean, and think about them, for it to matter. Think about John and Jesus at the Jordan, the Wedding Feast, and the believing Roman officer, and why the stories are put together right before Communion.

What's next? We go up for communion. Yes, and do we go and grab a fistful of communion hosts? No, the priest gives us one!  Yes, just like when Jesus multplied the loaves & fishes: the people didn't take the miracle food: the apostles distributed it to them. And when we eat the host, we eat...the Lamb! Yes. And we eat...Jesus! Yes. And we more guesses? We eat God; we're God-eaters. Why is that good: to eat God? 'Cause God is good? Yes, like eating broccoli, God is good for you, but more than that...imagine I'm a young hunter in a primitive tribe. If I kill a lion, what part of the lion would I especially want to eat? His toes? His nose?...What was the matter with the lion in the Wizard of Oz? He didn't have any courage! Yes, which a lion is supposed to have. So what part of a lion would a hunter want to eat? Umm...his heart? Yes, what would he hope to gain from that? To get the lion's courage? Yes, and maybe his fearsomeness, strength, speed, and hunting skill. People have believed by eating the heart of an enemy or an animal they could gain their power. Does that really work? No. Right. But with communion it's different: what do we get spiritually by eating God? His goodness? Yes, his holiness. Have you ever heard the saying “you are what you eat”? Yes. Well, when you eat Jesus you become more like Him, more holy. And remember the day after the Loaves and Fishes, Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;” so you're doing what Jesus expects you to do- truly, truly.

And after you receive communion, how long is Jesus physically in you? Until your stomach digests, umm, the communion? Yes, for about 15 minutes. So when you get back to your pew, don't daydream: pray while Jesus is in you. I usually thank God for making this little miracle of the Body'n'Blood available to me, but you can pray however you like.

continued in the next post

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Manoah & the Angel

 continued from the prior post

After the priest receives the bread and wine, he says the Invitation to Prayer: "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father." And we reply, "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands..." What's the sacrifice? Jesus? Umm, not yet, what just got brought up at the Offertory? Bread and wine. Yes, there's no change yet...but we're getting there. Is the bread nice and fluffy? No it's flat. Why isn't it fluffy? Because Moses couldn't wait for fluffy bread. Right, for the first Passover the Israelites made their bread without leavening so they could leave Egypt quickly. So our New Passover meal has flat bread, too.

Next we sing the Sanctus, you know it: "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest." Who remembers in the Gospels when people said 'hosanna' to Jesus? He was coming into a town...they were waving palms...Palm Sunday! Yes, when Jesus entered...Nazareth! No...Jerusalem! Yes. People had heard he was the Messiah. Not a meek Messiah, but one like...King David! Yes. But when we say 'hosanna' at Mass, we know Jesus isn't an earthly king...where is he king? In Heaven. Yes. In fact, the first part of the Sanctus, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory" is mostly said in Heaven, not here on Earth. Let's look in Revelations to see what goes on in Heaven while we're at Mass.

In Revelations chapter 4, St. John has a vision of the Heavenly Liturgy: "At once I was in the Spirit, and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! And...round the throne was a rainbow... Round the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clad in white garments, with golden crowns upon their heads." [I draw & talk] Here's the throne...who's sitting on it? God? More specifically, please. Jesus? Good guess, but no. Mary? Well, she's Jesus's mom, but no. God the Father?  Yes. And here are the elders, pretend that's 24 of them....with crowns...there. Who remembers the Greek word for "elder"? Presby-something? Yes, presbyteros; and we shorten it to...priest! Yes; so think of them as priests. And what's a priest's job? C'mon, y'all know this. To say Mass?  Partly, but specifically what do priests do? Aztec priests, Catholic priests, Levite priests, they all...sacrifice! Yes, they offer sacrifice.

"And round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures...the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle." Who might these 4 creatures represent? We have an angel, a bull, a lion, and an eagle...four saints, their pictures always show them writing...MatthewMarkLuke&John! Yes, who are...gospel writers!  Yes, evangelists.

"And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all round and within, and day and night they never cease to sing, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" We say this at Mass because they're saying it in heaven. "And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever.." When they give thanks they 'eucharisteo' in Greek, just like we do with the Eucharist.

Now with all these elders, these presbyters, these...priests, yes, standing around the throne, what should they be doing? Praying? Hmm...tell me again, what's a priests job? To offer sacrifices? Yes, so offering a sacrifice? Yes. So what's missing? A sacrifice? Yes. What would be a good typical sacrifice? A lamb? Yes! John says, "And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain." This Lamb would be...Jesus?  Yes [I add the Lamb]; how about that? It looks like a dog. Please, be charitable. And I need a red marker because the Lamb needs...blood on it! that's a slain lamb! "...and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints...and they sang a new song, saying, "you were slain and by your blood did redeem men for God." So we know the Lamb is...Jesus, yes, and the elders are singing, and playing music, and burning incense, and saints are praying, all of which should remind you of...Mass? Yes. The communion of saints on earth and in heaven are doing the same things. And which of those things do we do at Mass? Well...all of them?  Yes. Heaven and earth are connected at Mass.

So in heaven we have the priest-elders, whose job is to...offer sacrifice, yes, and we have a victim, a... lamb, who is...Jesus, yes. But what's still missing? Do you offer sacrifices on a sofa? No, an altar! Right!

John writes, "And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer" So there is an altar: "and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God." When we burn incense at Mass, remember that our prayers go up to heaven and mingle with the prayers in heaven. [I add  incense and the altar]

Now all of this is like Mass because Mass is like a Passover sacrifice in the Meeting Tent or the Temple. When Moses made the first Meeting Tent, did Moses decide how everything would be? No, God told him what to do. Yes, God said the design was based on the pattern in heaven. The Church, Temple and Tent are all patterned on this worship in heaven.

Back to Mass on earth: after the 'Holy Holy' what do we do? Kneel down. Yes; this is most important part of Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer. The priest says: "...most merciful Father,we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices." And what's being offered at this moment? Bread and wine. Right, maybe $10 worth of bread and wine. If you were God, would you let that offering atone for our sins? No! Why not? It's not good enough. That's right.

The priest then reminds us that all of us saints on earth are praying along with all the saints in heaven: "In communion with...the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse," that is, Jesus's...parents. Yes, and "Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude," who are...apostles. Yes, and "Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus [and] Cornelius"...any idea who these guys are? That's ok: they're the first men to be pope after Peter. And then we hear, "Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian" who are some of the first martyrs. The Church doesn't name all these people to fill up time, but to remind us of all the saints who are praying with us at Mass.

Now, we are still offering bread and wine at this point, but the priest prays, "approve this offering in every respect; make it spiritual and acceptable, so that it may become for us the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ." And when did bread & wine first become Body & Blood? At the Last Supper? Yes, so the priest takes the bread, and prays, "On the day before he was to suffer, he took bread in his holy and venerable hands, and with eyes raised to heaven to you, O God, his almighty Father, giving you thanks (eucharisteo!), he said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying: take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body which will be given up for you." Of course this is straight out of the Gospels. Then he holds the chalice and says, "Take this, all of you, and drink from it. For this is the chalice of my blood; the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me." And what happens? They change into body and blood! Yes. This moment is called the Consecration: when the bread and wine are made sacred, holy.

Then he prays: "look upon these offerings...and...accept them, as once you were pleased to accept the gifts of your servant Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek, a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim." Tell me quick, Abel offered...a lamb! Yes; Abraham offered...a ram!  Well, before the ram...Isaac, yes, his son. And Melchizedek...bread and wine! Yes, and at Mass do we offer bread and wine? Yes! And a lamb? Yes! And a son? Yes! Good; Mass recalls all those offerings.

Now let's look at this handout:

What's that a picture of? Mass. Yes, but it's also like the story of Manoah and the Angel. Remember Samson's parents, Manoah and his wife, were told by an angel that they were going to have a baby. They were so happy that Manoah made a thanksgiving-in-Greek-Eucharist offering to God.  "So Manoah took a young goat with the cereal offering, and offered it upon the rock to the LORD, to him who works wonders. And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground."

 And here's what the priest says next: "In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty..." What does that sound like? It's like what Samson's parents saw! Yes, it's like the angel taking Manoah's offering  from the altar on Earth up to heaven. But the picture and the prayer are both from....Mass! Yes! We don't see the angel who does this, but it's part of our prayer, we believe it happens. Why can't we see this? C'mon, we're blinded by something....oh, sin! Yes, and to believe in something we can't see we Yes. All the saints in heaven can see it, though. And what is the angel taking up? Well, the offering. Yes, but what's being offered at this point? Umm, bread and wine? No, there's no more bread and wine. Oh, Jesus is the offering! Yes. That's Jesus being carried up; not some goat like Manoah offered but a perfect Lamb. And we are offering Jesus to whom? God. More specifically, please...God the Father. That's it.

"What's everybody doing in the picture? Well, they're at Mass. No, I mean their posture, they're all bowing their heads; why is that? No takers...let's read the last bit about Manoah again:  "...the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground." Why'd they fall on the ground? They were scared when the angel took off. Yes, a bit scared I'm sure, but they were in the presence of a miracle, and it made them feel very humble. If I had seen that, I'd have fallen on the ground because I had passed out. People long ago would lie down on the ground in the presence of God, or even a king. Nowadays we just bow our heads, lying on the ground is messy. But notice at Mass, at the Consecration, the altar boys bow way down, their heads almost touch the ground when they bow. They bow like Manoah in the presence of God's miracle.

And in the picture that's Jesus on the cross: are we nailing Jesus on the cross at Mass? No, of course not. He was crucified once. But we offer Jesus's sacrifice at every Mass because Jesus offered himself at the Last Supper. Part of what we "do in memory" of Jesus is offer him when we co-memorate, commemorate, the Last Supper at Mass. That way Jesus's sacrifice is always present at the altar at Mass, just like the slain Lamb is always present at the altar in heaven.

Then we hear, "that all of us, who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son, may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing." Let's review for a second. At the offertory, what do the people bring up to the priest? Bread and wine. Yes, then does the priest offer the bread and wine to God the Father: here's ten bucks' worth of bread and wine, Father, please forgive our sins? Ha, that's silly! Yes, so the priest offers what? Jesus. That's right; that's the perfect sacrifice that atones for our sins. And who turns the bread & wine into Jesus' body & blood? The priest. Wow, he must have super powers. Let's remember, Mass isn't mostly about what people do, it's about.....what God does, yes, so who made it happen? God. Yes. But Jesus works through the priest, so that was a good guess. Then we see in the picture the angel carries our offering from the altar on Earth up to the altar in Heaven...bye! So how do we "at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood" if it all went to heaven? Well, some got left behind? Sort of...think about it this way:

When my wife puts on Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, she spends a fortune, and does a ton of cooking and preparation. The guests know she worked hard for days. When the guests arrive they usually have something with them, what would that be? A present? What kind of present do you bring to a dinner, a power tool? Ha, no, food! Good guess, and maybe for the adults something...wet? Yes indeed. Why do guests bring presents? 'cause they are glad you invited them! You got that right! They are not just saying 'thank you' but showing it by bring a thanksgiving offering. Now if someone brings my wife a nice bottle of wine, does she say thanks, and put it away for another occasion? No, I bet you drink it right then! Right! She says thank you so much, let's open it right's a glass for you, let's all have some. It's like Mass: she does all of the important work; the guests show their thanks by offering a small gift; she is gracious and offers them back some of their offering. God does the same thing: we offer bread and wine; God gives us back Jesus. We offer Jesus; God says thank you, y'all have some too. And when we "receive from this altar the sacred body and blood" do we put it in our pocket for later? No, we eat it right then! That's right! That's how we show thanks at a feast: we eat it all right then! And remind me: what was that Israelite miracle bread called? Manna!  Yes; could they eat it later? No, they had to eat it when they got it. Yes, just like we do when we get our miracle bread.

New topic: tornadoes. Tell me about tornadoes. They blow around? Yes; where do they start? In the sky. Yes, in the clouds. They are powered by the atmosphere; and what happens? They make a funnel and go down to the ground. And what happens to small things they might run over? They get sucked up! Yes, and plopped back down later.

Look again at the Mass picture, see how it looks swirly toward the top? Yes. Well, I like to think of what happens at Mass as a Holy Tornado: God swirls it from Heaven down to our altar, and it carries the angel and the Body & Blood up to the altar in heaven, zhoop! Then it sends Jesus's Body and Blood back down for us to eat, phhhhht! How long do tornadoes last? A few minutes? Yes, and like regular tornadoes, a Holy Tornado is over pretty quick, too. But Masses are being celebrated all over the world, 24/7. Imagine thousands of Holy Tornadoes all around the world, zhooop, zhoop, zhoop, connecting heaven and earth for a few seconds each time. Let's draw that connection [under the drawing of the Heavenly Worship]. This is in church...what's this big blocky thing? The altar? Yes, like the one in heaven. And an altar is for...sacrifice, yes. And we have this guy...the priest,...yes, the presbyteros, the elder, like in heaven. And altar boys burn... incense, yes, heaven. Yes...there we go. And here's the Holy Tornado connecting both altars with the same sacrifice, which is...Jesus. Yes. That makes sense because Jesus is both man...and God, yes, so he fits well into both places.

One last bit and we're done for tonight: this block thing isn't just an altar. What else is it?  When the priest says, "this is my body, this is my blood, do this in memory of me" what are we doing in memory of Jesus? The Last Supper?  Yes, which was...supper? Yes, a meal. So the altar is also...a table? Yes. And this meal isn't just any old's like Christmas dinner at my house...a feast! Yes. We'll learn about that next week, which is our last class. Your suffering will soon be over!

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The People's Work

continued from the prior post

New topic; what's 'incredible' mean? Unbelievable! Yes. 'Incredible' comes from the word 'creed' [on the board]. A creed is what you believe. ¿Cómo se dice "believed" en Español? How do you say "believed" in Spanish? Creer! No, believed, the past tense. Umm...Creido? Yes [on the board under creed]. Somebody digame en Español, "I have believed in the Creed." Umm...He creido en el credo? Yes. In Spanish it's clear that a creed is what you believe.  

So, after the sermon what do we stand up and say together? The Creed? Yes, the Nicene Creed; and you can tell it's a creed because the first words are what? We believe in one God? Yes. Y'all know it already, but let's look at few of the last lines from the Creed before we start on the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

First: "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; and his kingdom will have no end." A couple of weeks ago we learned all about the Second Coming and the New Jerusalem; what book of the Bible was that? Revelations? Yes. And we also say we believe in the Resurrection of...Jesus! Umm, yes, but wait a second and try again. "We believe in the Resurrection of...the...body! Yes, which also is described in what book? Revelations. Yes.

Next: "I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church." What's that mean, the Church is "apostolic?" That the apostles started it? Mmm, almost; how do we know the bishop in Charleston is a real bishop? 'Cause they laid hands on him! Yes, and how far back does laying hands go? Back to the the apostles. Yes, that's why the Church is apostolic.

Let's look at one more line, from the Apostle's Creed. It's very similar to the Nicene Creed. Sometimes we use the Apostle's Creed at Mass instead of the Nicene. "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen." What's the Communion of Saints? Umm....when saints go to communion? Good guess; what's a union [on the board]? What's it mean to be united? To be all together? Yes. Well, a co-union, a communion [comm- is added to union], is when a group of people is so like-minded in what they believe that they're close, like a family. They love each other. So why would we mention the Communion of Saints at Mass? Who are the Cloud of Witnesses? The Saints! Yes, and when we are at Mass...they are too. Yes, we're 'surrounded' by them. So why the Communion of Saints? Is it like the Cloud of Witnesses? Yes, but more. St. Paul calls people who are alive on earth and in God's grace saints, too, not just souls in heaven. So the Communion of saints might Yes, we're part of a huge saint family. We want to get to heaven and the saints there want us in heaven, too. And they'll pray that God gives us the grace to get there, especially if we ask them to pray for us.

Now the Liturgy of the Eucharist starts. 'Eucharist' is the Greek word for 'thanksgiving.' We use that word because at the Last Supper, Jesus "took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves...he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In Greek "gave thanks" is eucharisteo [on the board], it's almost exactly the same as our word Eucharist. So we give thanks, too.

First we have the offertory. What happens? We put money in the basket? Yes, but more important, what do the people bring up to the front of the church? Bread and wine! Yes. Do they bring it up to the altar? No, they give it to the priest. Yes. Why don't the people take it up to the altar?  'Cause they aren't priests! Yes, they aren't set apart for that job. But why do altar boys get to tootle around the altar, they aren't priests either. But they might be priests when they grow up. Yes, or deacons; it's a training period for them.

Now let's have a look at this handout.

You've seen the first two plans before, Moses' Meeting Tent and Solomon's Temple. They're essentially the same, but the Temple is way bigger and made of stone. It doesn't look bigger. Yes, the paper is too small to draw the Temple at the same scale as the Tent. This is more a drawing of what happens in these spaces than a drawing of the spaces themselves. Let's quickly review the Tent and Temple. On the left, the people bring their offering, let's say a...lamb. Yes. They stop at the front of the altar and the priest takes the offering. He washes his hands before he sacrifices and offers the lamb. Behind him is the Holy Space where God's presence dwells. Does Y-H-W-H (don't pronounce it!) have a body? No! Right, so he doesn't dwell there physically. There's a bread offering, an incense offering, candles, and a veil so the Levites can't look right at the Ark. Only the High Priest goes into the very back, where the Ark is guarded by no-nonsense cherubs. What's in the Ark? The Ten Commandments? Yes, and? The miracle bread...manna! Yes, and Aaron's staff. None of those things are God, but they are God's stuff.

Now let's look at the church plan; it's very similar to the other two. The people space is bigger because we all come at once, but how it all works is still basically the same. People bring up the offering, which isn't a lamb...bread and wine! Yes, and who offered bread and wine for Abraham? Melchizedek! Genius, you remember, good. And there are still candles, an incense offering, and a washbasin. Where's the incense? Good question, you tell me: is there a piece of furniture in church for burning incense? No, the altar boy carries it. Yes, so it's not on the drawing, but incense is still burned.

After the priest receives the bread and wine, he says:

 "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands; it will become for us the bread of life...we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands; it will become our spiritual drink."

Speaking of humans doing work, "liturgy" is yet another Greek word. In fact, the Mass is called the 'Divine Liturgy' by the Eastern Churches. Liturgy [on the board] (Leitourgia, λειτουργία), means "people-work;" it's the work the people and the priest do at Mass. What's 'energy' [on the board under liturgy]? Power? Yes, power for what? To make stuff happen? Yes. Energy is the capacity to do work. The -urgy in liturgy is the same as the -ergy in energy; it means work. So let's look at this people-work; tell me the people-work when you hear it again: "...we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands- that's people-work! Yes; and the same for the grapes and the wine.

So we offer bread'n'wine, not wheat'n'grapes. Umm, OK. Well, why not? Because Jesus and Melchizedek used bread and wine? Yes....but maybe there's more to it. If we produce grapes and wheat we work, but the work doesn't change anything. Plant a vine, it makes grapes. Plant a wheat seed, it grows into a stalk of wheat. They're stuff God created. But when we use them to make bread and wine, they stop being wheat and grapes anymore. Human work creates something else in bread and wine: can you get the wheat and grapes back out again? No. Right; it's a permanent change, and there's no more wheat or grapes. It's a bit like the change Jesus will work. So if we first do the people-work, then Jesus can do...the God-work? Yes!

The people's work transforms the plant stuff into something new: bread & wine. Then Jesus accepts these offerings, and transforms them into something new again. Now, trick question: can Jesus make his Body'n'Blood out of wheat and grapejuice? Well, can't Jesus do whatever he wants? Yes, of course....but do you think if we brought up wheat and grapejuice at the Offertory, that they'd become the Body and Blood? No, that wouldn't work. Right. Why not?

OK, last year my younger daughter needed to get an old bike in working order so her boyfriend could ride with her.  I agreed to fix it, but she had to help me the whole 45 minutes or so.  Her help was limited to passing me tools, oilcans, holding the bike steady, turning the crank, paying attention and making observations (e.g., those chainlinks need more oil).  I could've done it alone, but she does not value the working bike if she doesn't contribute to the fixing.  And her contributions, while small, were real.  And would I have fixed the bike if she weren't willing to help as best she could? No! No indeed.  I wouldn't do most of the work if she didn't do a little bit herself. Why not? Because that's how she shows it really matters to her. Yes. Could she just sit inside and surf the net and tell me the bike's important? No, she has to do something, she can't just say it. Yes. If I do the big fixing, she has to do the....ummm, the little fixing? Yes. And at Mass, if Jesus does the big transformation, creating his Body & Blood, we have to do the....little transformation! Yes. First we do our little work by transforming wheat & grapejuice into.....bread & wine! Then Jesus does the big work, changing them into....Body'n'Blood! Yes, like so[on the board]:

Wheat > Bread > Body

Grapes > Wine > Blood

The first steps are up to us, and none of the work is reversible. The Liturgy, the people's work, makes it possible for Jesus to do his work. It's like when married people make babies. It's God's creative power that flows through the parents; but if they won't do their part, God can't do his part. And at Mass, if the people don't do their work, will Jesus do his? No! That's right. He depends on us to do our part. If we don't, nothing will happen. Can you imagine how much Jesus loves us to depend on us? By the way, since Jesus loves us, why does he require us to do something when he's powerful enough to do it all by himself? It's just good if we help. Yes, when we help God, it dignifies us. Just like when my wife used to make brownies with my kids: they were dignified by their work, their contribution. You know what happens to kids who get everything from their parents with doing anything themselves? They're spoiled. Yes. God doesn't want to spoil his kids. God helps those who help themselves as much as they can, just like a loving parent should.

And this is true for other Sacraments. For example, in Confession God will forgive us, but we have to.....confess out loud to the priest! Yes...but how about Baptism, what does the baby do? Ummm....babies can't do anything. Right. They can't even feed they starve? No, the parents feed them. So at baptism, if the baby can't decide it wants to be baptized....? The parents decide for the baby! Yes, the parents act for the baby. But can parents just drop into church after Mass and say, hey we need our baby Baptized quick, or we'll be late for a movie? No, that's silly! That's right, the parents and Godparents have to agree to take charge of the baby's Christian life, to do the work until it's old enough to do it itself."

So y'all see how Catholics first do the People's work, and in response God does His work. And y'all see how my sons & daughters are required to do work for their own good. It's like that in class, too. Honorary sons & daughters, in this class can you just sit there in a stupor? No! What work do you have to do? Pay attention! Yes, and? Answer questions! Yes. I want you to use your brain to....think! Yes. When you participate, and do your work, that makes it possible for me to do mine.

Let's stop here. Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and Forever!

Class over!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sing Along with King David

This post is linked to Sunday Snippets
Last week we got to the end of the Bible. For the next 3 classes we're going to learn about the Mass.

Tell me, was Jesus a good Jew? Huh? Did Jesus do the things a faithful Jew was supposed to do? Umm...yes? Right: he kept the Sabbath, went to Jerusalem for Passover, obeyed the Commandments. Being a good Jew, what did Jesus do on the Sabbath? Go to church! Well, Jesus hadn't founded the church yet, so where'd he go instead? A sss-synagogue? Yes, a synagogue. That's a Greek word, by the way. Now, remember the time Jesus visited Nazareth after he had grown up. What did the men ask him to do at the synagogue? To read? read what? The Torah? Yes genius, good, he read from Sacred Scripture, which did not include the New Testament. Why not? It wasn't written yet? Yes. But that was what Jews did in synagogue on the Sabbath: pray, maybe sing a Psalm, read from Scripture; and then the rabbi, the teacher, would comment on the readings.

After Jesus ascended to heaven, and the apostles were fired up by Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, they went out and began to preach about the Messiah to Jews in Jerusalem. The apostles still considered themselves good Jews; after all, the whole Messiah business was Jewish. So they would tell everyone at the Temple and local synagogues the good news about Jesus. The Book of Acts says "And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people." We can guess that the Christians would still attend synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath, which was...Saturday, yes, and then "break bread" on Sunday, Resurrection Day. What else did they remember when they "broke bread"? What does "break bread" mean: to bust up stale bread and watch it fall all over the floor? No it means to eat!  Yeah...a bread snack? No, dinner. Yes, a meal. What meal might they remember when they broke bread? The Last Supper? Yes, Jesus had said "do this in memory of me." So on Saturday the the Bible? Yes, the Old Testament; and on Sunday...they did the Last Supper. Yes.

Unfortunately, like Christ Himself, the Christians were aggravating the scribes and priests and Pharisees. The temple staff thought that the Romans had taken care of their Jesus Problem. But here it is a couple of months after Jesus was crucified, and now there are a dozen apostles getting everyone at the Temple riled up worse than Jesus did!

One day Apostle #1....Peter! yes, and John were at the Temple. "And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody..." The high priest and the Levites told Peter and John to SHUT UP! about Jesus. Did they shut up? No! Right. Even after they were beaten up by the temple guards, "every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."

But one day Stephen, one of the first deacons, was taken before the high priest and his council and accused of blasphemy, like Jesus had been. He wouldn't shut up either. "Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him...Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him." And as y'all heard before, Stephen was the first martyr; and Saul witnessed his death.

So the Christians figured out that the Jewish authorities considered them blasphemers, not good Jews at all. And they began to stay out of the Temple and the synagogues, and read from Scripture on their own. Eventually they observed the new Sabbath, which was...Sunday, yes. They'd pray, listen to readings from the Bible, listen to comments on the readings, sing a Psalm, and then have a Last Supper meal together. What does that sound like? If you were somewhere on Sunday, and you heard Bible readings and then someone talked about the readings, and you sang a Psalm, and then re-enacted the Last Supper where would you be? At church! More specifically, please, what event at church? Oh, Mass!  Yes, at Mass.

Mass still divides into those two main parts: readings from the Bible, and the Last Supper. The first main part is called the Liturgy of the Word [on the board] because...that's when they read the Bible. Yes, and the second main part is the Liturgy of the Eucharist [on the board], because...that's when we have Communion. Yes. Let's look at them in order. I'm going to read from the Missalette to keep us moving along. I'm not going to read every word, just parts. By the way, sometimes I'm going to use a new English translation of the Mass. We'll start using it in church next Advent (2011).

What happens first at Mass? There's a song. Yes, a hymn. After the hymn, the priest says, "The Lord be with you," and we say...and also with you. Yes, it's a greeting. Then we say the Confiteor, a prayer like an Act of Contrition [time permitting I read it all a bit at a time]:

"I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters that I have greatly sinned"...we are reminding ourselves that we're all sinners, which is why we're at Mass. " what I have done and in what I have failed to do." We tend to notice sins of commission more more than sins of omission; what's a sin of omission? If you don't take care of your little brother! Yes, that's a good one. "And I ask the blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints..." This reminds us that at Mass we're surrounded by St. Paul's "cloud of witnesses," who are...angels and saints. Yes. "...and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God." So we ask all the faithful in Heaven and Earth to pray for us. How do the saints hear us? Umm...I don't know. Me neither, but God makes it happen.

Now that we've told God we've sinned, what do we ask for? For him to forgive us? Yes, to be merciful. We usually sing "Kyrie Eleison" which is Greek for...Lord have mercy, yes, and Christe- Christ have mercy, yes.

Next we sing the Gloria. Who can tell me where the first line comes from: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people of good will." No guesses, you've heard it this year...around Christmas...from Luke's gospel...someone said it about baby Jesus...the Wise Men! No, close though. The angels said it to the shepherds! Yes, good! When you say it, remember the story.

And who said this line: "Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world..." John the Baptist! Yes, genius, when Jesus came to be baptized in the...Jordan River!  Yes.

After the Gloria, the priest says a short prayer, and we...stand on our heads? We sit down! Yes. Now the Liturgy of the Word begins. At Mass we hear a lot of reading out of the Bible, and maybe even listen to it! What's the first reading called? The First Reading? Yes [on the board]. Since it's first, what Testament would the readings come from? The Old? Yes. So we might hear a reading from Genesis or Isaiah.

Trick question: what's next? The Second Reading! Wrong, I win! The Second Reading doesn't come next! The next thing isn't usually read; it's sung. A person in the choir sings part, and we sing part. What is that? King David wrote most of them...Psalms! [on the board] Yes, and why do we sing them? 'cause they were songs? Yes. We looked at some Psalms a few months ago. If you listen to the words you can usually tell what was on David's mind when he wrote each one: he was happy, or sad, or thankful, or feeling remorse. What's remorse? It's means to feel sad and sorry that you did something wrong. So when you sing a Psalm, imagine King David singing it too. Hey, here's a bit from Psalm 141 that tells us something about Mass: "I call upon thee, O LORD...Give ear to my voice, when I call to thee! Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice!" What does incense do? Smell good? Yes; what does the smoke do? Go up? Yes; in a spiritual sense, where is it going up to? Heaven? Yes, like our prayers. When you're at Mass and incense is burned, remember your prayers should rise up to heaven like the incense.

After the Psalm comes...the next reading...The Second Reading! [on the board] Uh-huh. The lector tells you what the reading will be. He might say, "A reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans;" so would the Second Reading be from the Gospels? No, the Epistles! Yes, because "Epistle" is Greek for...letter. Yes. And because Paul and the other Epistle-writers usually wrote letters to scold people or correct their mistakes, Epistles aren't as easy to understand as the Old Testament stories are. They'll become more interesting as you get older.

And all this time we've been sitting down. What now? We stand up? Yes, and sing the Alleluia. What's the next reading? The Gospel. Yes. [on the board] Why do we stand up? 'Cause they're about Jesus. Yes, that's one way we show respect. Gospel readings are always Jesus stories, and they're easy to follow.

And after the Gospel? We sit down. Yes, and the priest...talks. Well yes, but it's a prepared talk, a sermon; and it's usually based on the readings.

This part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, is very much like what Jesus or the disciples would have experienced in the synagogue: prayer, Psalm-singing, Scripture-reading, and comments by the rabbi. We have at least 4 readings every Sunday. Special Masses may have more. For example, the Easter Vigil Mass may have 8 readings, starting in Genesis and ending with the Gospel account of Jesus's Resurrection.

Now tell me: suppose the priest really liked Christmas, so all he wanted to read and talk about year-round was Christmas. Would that be ok? No.Why not? Because it's just once a year? Umm, yes. Look at the whole Bible: it's huge, but Christmas [I hold the Bible and pinch a few pages toward the back] just takes up a few pages. To ignore the whole rest of the Bible would be wrong. To make sure we get a big picture of the Bible, the Church has a schedule of readings. Every three years we go through the whole Bible with readings picked out by the Church from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Epistles, the Gospels, and other New Testament books like Acts and Revelations. Lots of times the readings are connected. For example, suppose you heard this bit of Isaiah for the first reading: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." That's a prophecy; what virgin makes the prophecy come true? Mary? Yes. So what Gospel reading would go with it? Something about Christmas? Yes, or the Annunciation, when Gabriel told Mary she'd have a baby even though she wasn't married yet. Or how about this bit from Psalm 22: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?... a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet..." What does that match up to in the Gospels? When Jesus was crucified! Yes, you see how it works; but you have to pay attention.

Y'all remember that it matters to Jesus not just what we believe, but...what we do, yes, our "works," as the Bible says. If the Church wanted to emphasize that one Sunday, she could schedule readings that included these verses [I have these bits sticky-tabbed to preclude fumbling] :

First Reading from Proverbs 24:12; "Rescue those who are being dragged to death...If you say, "I don't know this man!"....[God] will know it, and he will repay [you] according to [your] works."

Psalm 62:12-13: "Power belongs to God; so too, Lord, does kindness...And you reward each of us according to our works."

Second Reading from Paul's Letter to the Romans: "[God] will reward every man according to his works: to those who by perseverance in good works seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life..." (2:4-7)

And for the Gospel reading, Jesus says, "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." (Matt 16:27) Remember we must! Yes. If the soul has faith, the body...does things! Yes, good works. Faith'n'works, body'n'soul.

So the readings are never just randomly pulled out of a hat; pay attention to how they go together and Mass will be more interesting to you.

continued in the next post

Friday, April 1, 2011

Nomad Church? Pilgrim Church?

Class, we have come to the last book of the Bible (please, don't cry), in which the last things are finally revealed. This book is called...Revelations? Yes. It was written by St. John, the only apostle who wasn't martyred. Among other things in this book, St. John explains what will happen at the end of the world. But to understand this last book, let's do a quick review of the Bible using the timeline on this handout:

Start on the left. This would be the beginning of the Bible...the first book....Genesis. Yes. Who were the first people we met in Genesis? Adam and Eve. Yes, Adam & Eve dwelled with God in Eden. And even though God the Father has no body, they still experienced him in some physical ways, such as hearing him moving around in the garden, and speaking to them. In the beginning, in Eden, Adam & Eve weren't separated from God. Why not? They hadn't eaten the apple yet! That's right, they hadn't sinned. Speaking of separation, what do we call it when souls separate from bodies? Death! And could souls separate from bodies in Eden? No! And why not? There was no sin there. Right. So nothing's dead in Eden.

But what messed this up? Sin! Yes. And after Adam & Eve sinned, how were they separated from God? The angel threw them out of Eden! And not only were they separated from God, they would eventually have their souls separate from their bodies, and die. Man was created to be with God, but since we left Eden, we've been separated. That's what we see next, the situation in the world before Jesus. Can people die? Yes. Do souls die? No they stay alive. Yes; can they go to Heaven? No. Why? Because it's before Jesus. Yes. So the souls of people such as Abraham go to...Sheol. Do souls in Sheol dwell there with God? I don't think so. Me neither. And peoples' bodies the ground. Yes, they turn back into earth.

Now in the middle of the timeline there's B.C and A.D. What's B.C. mean? Before Christ. Yes, this is the situation before Jesus comes, as you said. And what's A.D.? After Death?  Wow, good guess, but no. It's Latin: Anno Domini [on the board]. Anno means "in year," like the ann- in annual; Domini means "of Lord" like the dom- in dominate. In English we say "In the Year of Our Lord," which means what? When Jesus was alive? Yes, the time after he was born; and what event is right on the line between B.C. and A.D.? When Jesus was born? Yes, Christmas. And after Jesus dies for our sins, where do happy souls go in the third part of the timeline? Heaven. Yes, which is wonderful, because who is there? God. Yes; our souls dwell with God, with Jesus. But where do happy bodies go? Well, they still go in the ground. Yes; even though Jesus redeemed us, our bodies don't share in the happiness of Heaven.

Now we come to the last part of our timeline; it's still in the future. Tell me, does Heaven go on forever? Yes!  Well, look again at the timeline. Right...what follows Heaven? New Jerusalem? And what about our dead bodies? They go up to be with the souls? Yes, so the whole person, bodynsoul, lives in the New Jerusalem. What is it, the New Jerusalem? A city? Yes, a pure, holy city, not like cities we know in the sinful world. Yes? How can there be a city instead of heaven? Good question, we'll find out.

But first, a new topic: what's a nomad? Somebody who wanders around. Do they live in houses? No, tents. Trick question: where do nomads start from? Nowhere, they just wander. Yes. There are still nomads on earth...think of some. Gypsies? Yes, good. Any more? Do y'all know about Lapps [on the board] They're nomads up north of the Arctic Circle, they follow reindeer herds. There just aren't many wanderers anymore. Next trick question: where do nomads finish? They just wander, they don't start or finish! Yes.

Who were the Pilgrims, the Thanksgiving Pilgrims? They were people from England who came to America. Yes. And they came here on a schoolbus, right? Ha! They came on a boat, the Mayflower!  Yes, a ship. They were traveling; were they nomads? Sort of. And being sort of nomads, they just wandered around the ocean until they bumped into Massachusetts? No, they were coming here on purpose. I see...and when they arrived, did they grab tents and horses and take off for California? No, they stayed where the Mayflower dropped them off. Oh. They weren't wandering. Then what makes pilgrims different from nomads? They have a destination? Yes. So pilgrims aren't nomads; pilgrims don't wander.

Where did the Pilgrims start? England. And they stopped in...? America. Yes, in Massachusetts. Did they vacation there & then go back home to England? No, America was their new home. And if you live in one place, but journey to another place to live you aren't wandering, or vacationing either. So what do we call any group of people who journey from an old home to a new one? Pilgrims? Yes, the word doesn't refer only to the English Pilgrims who came to America. But those English people called themselves Pilgrims because they did not wander; they knew where they were headed, and when they got there, their journey was over.

Tell me, at Mass, have you ever heard the priest say, "Strengthen in faith and love your pilgrim Church on Earth?" Ehh...I think so...? Of course you heard it, but if you were daydreaming you wouldn't remember. Mass is more interesting when you pay attention and know what's going on.

So, the Church is a pilgrim Church...if it's a pilgrim Church, what is it it wandering? No. Right, it's not a nomad Church. So...if it's not wandering, what is the pilgrim church doing? It's going somewhere. Yes, it has...a destination. That's right...where's it going? No guesses? That's OK. Look at the back of the Bible again: this last called....Revelations. Yes. Revelations tells us, reveals to us, where the Church is going. And are we part of the Church? Yes. Right, all the faithful make up the Church. So if we're part of the pilgrim church that means we are....? Pilgrims. Who are on a...? A trip! Yes, on a journey. Just like the American Pilgrims, we and the Pilgrim Church will end our journey at our...destination.  Yes. Let's see what Revelations says about that destination.

The first thing we'll look at is the Second Coming [on the board]. Tell me, who is coming the second time? Jesus. And when was the First Coming? What? When did he come the first time? Oh...Christmas? Yeah, at Christmas. And later, at the Ascension when Jesus rose up on a cloud, angels told the apostles, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." So, how do we know Jesus will come back? Well, the angels said so? Yes; just checking. And how is Jesus going to come the second time? C'mon, the same way he went up. He rose up to the sky on clouds, so...? Umm, down from the sky on clouds? Yes. Or something equally impressive; I expect everyone will know what's going on. St. John says, "Then I [saw] a white cloud, and seated on the cloud, one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head..." St. John is quoting Jesus and Daniel; y'all have heard "son of man coming on clouds" a few times this year. Who's the Son of Man? Jesus. Yes, and also the Son of God. Fully human and fully divine. By the way, in Revelations, Jesus is never called by his name; instead he's called the Lamb. Why? Because he's the Passover Lamb. Yes, the New Passover Lamb.

Now if I die tomorrow, the first thing I'll do once I'm dead is meet Jesus. We'll review all my sins, and I'll find out where I'm going. Let's be charitable and say heaven. This is called the Particular Judgment, when each person is judged individually right when he or she dies. On the timeline I'd be in the third spot: soul in Heaven, body in the ground. But that's not the end of me being judged.

The Second Coming will signal that it's time for the Last Judgment, when all the souls in Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory get their bodies back. People who are alive at this point are still bodynsouls. Yes? How does God do that if your body is all, you know...all decomposed all turned back in to earth? Yeah. Well, I don't know, but how'd God make Adam in the first place? From dirt! Yep, and remind me, why do we call that first man Adama in Hebrew? 'Cause it means dirt! Yes, earth. So whatever God did that first time with earth, he'll probably do it again. Then St. John says, "I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it...And the dead were their works. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them..."  This rising again of every dead person is what we mean when we recite the Creed on Sunday: "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, the...Res...Resurrection of the Body! That's it! Then St. John says again "all were judged by their works". St. John says it twice just to remind you, it matters what you do, not just what you believe. Now, what is every human made of?  A bodynsoul! Yes, and which part actually does the 'works'? The body! Yes, and if part of the Last Judgment involves what you did with your body, would it make sense to have just souls there? Huh? If a person is going to get judged by his faith and his works, then his soul and his body should both be judged. Imagine just my soul is at the Last Judgment, and I'm going to get in trouble because I did bad things while I was alive, but I say, "Oh dear, that sinful body, it's all rotten and laying in the ground somewhere, don't blame me for what that dirty old thing did. My soul never did a single bad thing, I swear!" A whole person is a bodynsoul, so if Jesus is going to judge the whole person....? the whole person needs to be there? Yes, genius!

So everyone goes to Heaven or Hell with their bodies & souls no longer separated. Adam & Eve's sin caused body & soul to separate, but in the end they become one again. And those who go to Heaven are no longer separated from God by Adam and Eve's sin, but are reunited with Him. Ever since Genesis, people have suffered separation, but in Revelations, everything good is reunited: Creation, Man, and God are all together again, just as they were in Eden. Everything bad is thrown into a "lake of fire," which would be...Hell. Yes, a physical Hell.

Because all the saints, who will dwell with God, have their bodies back, they'll have to live somewhere physical. But not on Earth as it is now, with hurricanes, earthquakes, and diseases. Could weather kill people in Eden? No, there wasn't any bad weather. Why not? Because there was no sin. Yes. Sin doesn't just mess up the spiritual world, but the physical world, too.

And here's what St. John says about this physical place: "I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.... " So we'll have a new home. And not only will Earth be new, but heaven as well, and they will comprise one perfect place like Eden had been. What's comprise? It means to put together: a human being is comprised of a bodynsoul. Should body and soul be separated? No. Right. Well, heaven and Earth shouldn't be separated either, with God dwelling in one place and people dwelling somewhere else.

Then John says, "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." And I know exactly what John means. I remember how beautiful my wife was when she was walking down the aisle to marry me. Why, let's look at my wedding picture [I show the wedding]. She looks like she came down out of heaven just like the New Jerusalem. So, where are we going to live? The New Jerusalem! Yes. Then John says, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." Does anyone remember another time when God told someone "you will be my people, and I will be your God"? OK, this is from Exodus: "I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. I will bring you out of Egypt and to the land I promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob." Who was God talking to? Moses? Yes, Moses and the Israelites. But when God says it in Revelations, it means more. God brings us out of a land of sin, and brings us to a perfect land, a perfect home. And when God says, "you will be my people, and I will be your God," It's like marriage, when the man and wife give themselves to each other...not a contract...a covenant! Yes! It's very romantic.

Here's a question: Jews worshiped God in a temple in Jerusalem; where do Christians worship? In a church! Yes. Now about the New Jerusalem, John says, "I did not see a temple in the city." Why wouldn't there be temple or a church there? .....That's a hard question, tell me this: in Eden did Adam & Eve go to church to visit with God? No. Why not? They were with God already. Yes. But after they got thrown out of Eden, we had the Temple and the Church as ways to stay connected to God, even though sin had separated us from Him. In the New Jerusalem will we be separated from God? No. So why won't there be a temple or a church? Because we'll be with God again. Yes, not another place a long time ago which would be....? Eden! Yes. Imagine we're in the New Jerusalem...I need a volunteer, get up here Jesus! I'm with Jesus, we both have our bodies'n'souls. It's just wonderful being here with you Lord, with my arm around your shoulder. But it's Sunday so I have to go to church now, see you in a hour or so. What's wrong with that? Well, you're already with Jesus! Yes.

So back to pilgrims. When the pilgrims were sitting at home in England were they pilgrims yet? No. Right, they were at home, not going anywhere. When they got on the Mayflower were they pilgrims? Yes! Once they settled down in their new home, were they still pilgrims? Not really. OK. Were Adam & Eve at home with God in Eden? Yes. But then they had to leave. We know from St. John that they and their children, that's us, will someday have a new home with God, the New Jerusalem. Right now we're on a long journey from our old home, Eden, to where? Our new home! Which is called...? The New Jerusalem! And when people are on a journey from an old home to a new home they are called...? Pilgrims! Yes, and that makes us...? Pilgrims, too.

Did the English Pilgrims swim to America? Ha! We already said they took the Mayflower. Oh yeah....I forgot. Swimming is cheaper- why did they take a ship? 'cause it's safe. Yes, to have a safe ocean journey you need a sturdy ship. There's an Italian saint named John Bosco who once dreamed about a ship on a dangerous ocean. The ship is called the Bark of Peter. It wasn't a dog or a tree: the Italian (and Spanish) word for 'boat' is 'barco.' The captain was the Pope. What did the ship represent in the dream? A hard question? OK, What's the Pope in charge of in the world? The Church. And in the dream he's in charge of the ship, so what's the ship? The Church? Yes...the Church is our Mayflower. It carries us safely from our old home to our new one. Is it a wandering Church, a nomad Church? No, a pilgrim Church. Yes, just like we hear at Mass.

So, look again at the Bible. One book in the front...Genesis, yes, about the old home before the journey became necessary, and one in the back about the new home, and all the middle books are about the pilgrims' progress along the way. A pilgrim's journey is called a pilgrimage; we're on a pilgrimage. We know where we're going, and when we arrive, our journey will be over.

When the pilgrims arrive in the New Jerusalem, they become united with God. Like in Eden, there won't be a Church or Temple...once the pilgrims arrived in America, they didn't need the Mayflower anymore, either. St. John explains why the New Jerusalem had no temple. He says, "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple."

Revelations is the end of the Bible, and it marks the end of our pilgrimage. All the things that were messed up and separated by sin are healed and made whole: Man's body and soul are one; God and man are united; even Heaven and Earth are joined forever. John says, "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new...I am the Alpha and the Omega." What are Alpha and Omega? The first and last letters in the Greek alphabet. Yes, genius! What does Jesus mean? That he's the beginning and the end. Yes, as we pray, "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end." Is that "world without end" this world? No it's heaven. Is it? It's...the New Jerusalem! Yes, genius! By the way, what's the second letter in the Greek "alpha-bet"? Beta! Yes!

Hey, next time y'all are in church, look at the big stained glass windows in front [I do a rough outline of the window below]:

See these two little triangles of glass? They have an Alpha and an Omega in them; you have to look closely. They are there to remind you of this passage in Revelations. By the way, most people haven't noticed the Alpha & Omega windows, so point them out to your parents.

And there will be a big celebration in the New Jerusalem. An angel said to John, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel...clear as crystal." So...who's the Lamb? Jesus. Yes, and his Bride is..the New Jerusalem? 
Yes, which St. John said was as beautiful as ....? as....? My wife when we got married! He didn't say that! Yes, but he didn't know my wife either. But I thought Jesus marries the Church. Yes, but the Church isn't a building, right? It's... people, yes. And the people are in the pilgrim Church until it reaches its...destination. Yes, and the people then live in the holy city...the New Jerusalem. Yes. So the Lamb isn't marrying a church or a city so much as he's marrying...the people? Yes, the saints.

And we know from the Marriage at Cana that after a wedding, there's a... party! Yes, Revelations would say a feast.

Speaking of wedding feasts, next week we'll start learning about the Mass. Yes? Mass isn't the same as a wedding. Well...let's worry about it next week.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever!

Class over!