Life is Eucharist and Eucharist is life!

christ-dancing_heimo-christian-haikala2

A guest post written by Fr. Joel Fortier. 

When we connect to each other in love we connect into a larger reality we call God…Christ, the ground of our being, our common ground, our God connection in the Spirit. It is The divine Presence, the mystery of Christ in us, and the Presence in which we live and move and have our being, which is within and without us! Through Christ, in the Spirit, all glory and honor be to you almighty God, Father/Mother of all life.

That is the direction of all life, assimilation into Christ, into God.

When we live in love we live in God, and God in us. It is the human connection; in fact, it is what it means to be human, to share Divine life, to live in the Spirit. Spirit and matter are one. It just keeps changing forms. Change is inevitable. It happens whether we like it or not.

So we must learn to live with it, to unite ourselves to the will and purpose of God, which is always to live in love, to die to our smaller selves in order to rise and discover our true, larger self that we are part of, in God.

When I live in love I live in God, and God in me.

The fulfillment of our lives is in coming to recognize, discover, and embrace our true and larger self. It is a matter of ultimately coming to God; of welcoming God, allowing ourselves to be caught up in the breath and love of God for us and all creation; to go with God in the Spirit, to be in the flow and river of divine love and mercy which is always creating, guiding, and directing the universe in a symphony of unending dying and rising, of coming to new forms of living and loving, always moving out of ourselves into a larger reality.

What a wonderful adventure life is! The call of discipleship, our vocation in life, is to go with it! To follow Christ, to go where he has gone, into the heart of God!

It is the loves of my life that have helped me realize this. I am eternally grateful to God for the people and opportunities God has brought into my life. They are the means and sacraments to me of Christ’s presence in my life; the joy of my life.

Life and Eucharist is a matter of sharing, it is in the sharing, in the breaking of the bread of the Eucharistic, and the bread of our lives, that we come to know, experience, and recognize Christ…and so give thanks. “Were not our hearts glowing within us!”

Life is a banquet!

Life is lived always in relationship or it isn’t lived at all! Life is intensely personal, but it is never private. It is always a shared experience, a sharing first of what God has given us, God’s own life. God has loved us into being! And we reflect the image of God in which we were created when we share, when we live in love.

Life is Eucharist and Eucharist is Life! Life is an adventure into the heart of God! Our love has infinite divine dimensions!

Let us go with Christ into the Heart of God. Through Christ, in the Spirit, all glory and honor be to you Almighty God! Amen.

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Born in 1942 to French Canadian parents, Fr. Joel Fortier, along with his three siblings grew up in an environment steeped in Catholic spirituality and practice. He entered the University of Illinois before seminary to study Psychology, Education, and Philosophy. In 1969, Joel was ordained with a Master of Divinity from St. Meinrad Seminary for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois with extensive work and training in inner city parishes, and peace and justice movements. Joel received his Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He has worked with Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and Charismatic movements integrating with parish pastoral ministry. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet. Fr. Joel was the Pastor and founder of The Lisieux Pastoral Center of St. Theresa Parish in Kankakee, IL,the Pastor of St Isidore Parish, Bloomingdale IL, and most recently the Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. Now retired from full-time parish ministry since 2013, Fr. Joel continues to live out his core statement: “To help make love happen, anywhere and any way possible.”

Life and love are stronger than hate and death

© Yongsung Kim

© Yongsung Kim

A reflection on the Feast of Christ the King, by Fr. Joel Fortier.

The Second Coming…the coming of the Kingdom of Christ the King, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, King of Kings…a Kingdom of priests, a Kingdom of truth, justice, peace and love.

The second coming is a process, not an event. The Kingdom of God is already here, indeed has always been here. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is in your midst, within you…at hand!  [Lk 17:21] The coming of the FULLNESS of the Kingdom begun with the Incarnation and was inexorably established in the victory of the Cross and Resurrection. Christ is drawing all things into a unity of love and understanding, of justice and peace. That is the process we are caught up in now: the process of dying and rising with Christ.

The battle has indeed been won and we are called to share in the victory and power of the cross, not by our own power or military might, but by our utter vulnerability in love. Such is the way and victory of the cross. Life and love are stronger than hate and death. The battle is won and we share its victory.

As we experience this process of the Kingdom coming to be in fullness, we discover that we are not separate; individuated yes, but not separate. We are all connected and sustained by God’s love, the ground of our being, the common ground we share with all creation and all peoples; the ground from which we have all emerged…star dust…all energy…the Christ, thru whom all things came to be, in whom we live, and move, and have our being; the ALPHA and the OMEGA, the point from which we have come, to which we are all headed, drawn by God’s love, thru Christ, in the Spirit, to share in the very nature and Being of God: Love.

On that great day when all things are drawn into the fullness of unity and love, Christ will be “all in all”, it will be the FULL revelation of Christ; the second coming, the fullness of the Incarnation and the glorification of all creation, indeed what the Resurrection and glory of the Risen Christ is all about; and of what is meant by “the resurrection of the body on the last day”, when all things are drawn up into Christ, through whom they have come, and presented as embodied consciousness, embodied love, back to God as gift, the source of all goodness and life.

We are created to share the very life of the Trinity. That is what creation is all about, the wondrous mystery of the Universe coming to be in Christ, created by love for love! Come Lord Jesus come! O Christ of the Cosmos!

We yearn, long, and look forward to the second coming of Christ; for the full revelation of God’s glory in all creation. Because of this, the fundamental attitude of a Christian is HOPE, indeed as it is for all people. All creation groans with the expectation of full consciousness, it is an impulse to love, and desire for full communion in love with God. It is what the reality of the Eucharist is about, holds, and reflects, O Sacrament Divine! Food for the journey home! Come pilgrim let us walk together on this great adventure of life, a journey of love.

Come Lord Jesus come! Show us the path to Peace, lead us in your ways! Let your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

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Born in1942 to French Canadian parents, Fr. Joel Fortier, along with his three siblings grew up in an environment steeped in Catholic spirituality and practice. He entered the University of Illinois before seminary to study Psychology, Education, and Philosophy. In 1969, Joel was ordained with a Master of Divinity from St. Meinrad Seminary for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois with extensive work and training in inner city parishes, and peace and justice movements. Joel received his Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He has worked with Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and Charismatic movements integrating with parish pastoral ministry. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet. Fr. Joel was the Pastor and founder of The Lisieux Pastoral Center of St. Theresa Parish in Kankakee, IL,the Pastor of St Isidore Parish, Bloomingdale IL, and most recently the Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. Now retired from full-time parish ministry since 2013, Fr. Joel continues to live out his core statement: “To help make love happen, anywhere and any way possible.”

Born around the table

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

“Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink”. [John 6:53-55]

Eww… Forgive me, Jesus, but that is kind of disturbing. “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” [John 6:52] No matter how Jesus’ words are re-framed or explained in the context of God’s gift of manna from heaven to the Israelites, and God’s gift of Jesus as the bread from heaven to the world, many of us are still left with the feeling we don’t get it. Unlike simple (and unsatisfactory) examples of 4-leaf clovers, pretzels, and trefoils employed by some to explain the Trinitarian doctrine of three persons in one God, this third part of Jesus’ bread of life discourse defies imagery and abstract language.

Still, in order for us to advance in our understanding we really need to stop being so literal and focus on what Jesus is saying about how eating the bread of life will transform us.

Jesus utilized the food analogy for spiritual purposes. Recall that analogies compare one thing to another in a way that is “like” but “not like” the reality being described. Analogies are never intended to be literal. Phew! Thank you, Jesus! The key here is to identify the traits of the one thing that hold true (food and drink satisfy physical hunger) in the context of the teaching (unlike manna from heaven which temporarily relieved physical hunger, Jesus is the bread from heaven who satisfies spiritual hunger for all of eternity).

Food and drink have the power to transform us from within. To that end, two foodie films came to mind as I prepared this reflection. One is King Corn, a documentary exposing America’s corn-based food supply. The film is described as “a humorous and touching documentary about two best friends who decide to move to Iowa to grow an acre of corn after finding out through laboratory hair analysis that their bodies are primarily made out of corn.” If you doubt this is true, please search for and watch this movie, and get back to me. http://www.kingcorn.net/the-film/synopsis/.

What we put in our bodies, be it food, drink, or outside influences including opinions, art or media really, truly does impact the health of our mind, body and soul [Eph 5:15-20].

The second film, and one I have seen many times, is Babette’s Feast, a culinary drama set in 19th century Denmark in which a renowned Parisian chef takes refuge as a housekeeper/cook for two aging spinsters. Much like Wisdom dressing her meat and mixing her wine [Prv 9:1-6], Babette spreads a table for the townsfolk. Each time I see this film, with its emphasis on the preparation of a final meal and the eventual transformation of the characters from a kind of death to life, I note deeper themes of Eucharist: service, sacrifice, forgiveness and reconciliation. You will want to experience some authentic French cuisine with friends after watching this film. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092603/.

Babette's feast

© 1987 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

It has been said that the church was born around the table. It has also been mentioned that the prominence of meal sharing in Jesus’ ministry points to the humorous conclusion that Jesus ate his way through the gospels.[1] But as the bread of life discourse reveals, the real meal is Jesus’ ongoing and unconditional sharing of self.

Jesus’ flesh and blood represent his life; Jesus’ life discloses his  consciousness of being one with God. His flesh and blood refer to his earthly ministry and willing sacrifice, his union with God, and what he continues to do through his church, the body of the living Christ [1 Cor 12:27].

This consciousness of Jesus, this oneness with God, and mission to reunite God and creation is the “this” which Jesus at the last supper refers to when he says “do this.” It is the meal, the mission, the union: all of it. The whole loaf. The doctrine of real presence is more readily consumed with this understanding. Christ is truly present.

When we receive Eucharist, we give our fiat, we say “yes, please” to taking Jesus’ consciousness and all that it entails into our bodies. In this way, we become the host. Imagine the transformation of Christ’s church today if every person stepping forward to take communion was attentive to this point.

We have many ways to be aware of God: in nature, in human relationships, in worship, and in prayer, just to name a few. But Eucharist is different. It is the one act in which we physically eat what we profess to believe.

The communal act of receiving Eucharist runs the risk of becoming a meaningless ritual, a symbolic reenactment that tells us the mass is almost over. But when it is properly understood as taking in Christ’s consciousness it is impossible to remain unchanged, and even more impossible to deny the requirements of discipleship.

Today’s readings can be found here. 

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[1] Particularly in Luke’s gospel. Robert J. Karris, O.F.M.’s book Eating Your Way Through Luke’s Gospel is a good read on the topic. (Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2006)

Whose Meal is This, Anyhow?

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood (Corpus Christi) (B)

I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories and play our songs again
When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name
No one recognized me, I didn’t look the same
–Garden Party ©1972 Words and Music by Rick Nelson

If you are of a certain age you know the words to this song. You may have heard it a thousand times on your Radio Shack™ AM transistor radio which you bought with your babysitting or paper route money. Ricky Nelson, the wildly popular 50s teen idol and co-star of the Ozzie and Harriet TV series, wrote the song in response to an experience he had in 1971 while performing with other musicians at Madison Square Garden. The lyrics describe his sense of being unwelcome in a community to which he thought he still belonged. Although Nelson performed his old hits he was literally booed off the stage because he didn’t fit the clean-cut image the audience expected. His shoulder-length hair, bell-bottom pants, velvet shirt and attempt to perform newer music was more than the audience could stand. He exited the stage and did not come back.(Ironically, “Garden Party” rose to the top of the charts, obviously pleasing a different, more welcoming crowd.)

The boundaries the Church sets up around the Eucharistic table are like a “garden party” experience for many baptized Catholics who share the status of persona non grata. Readers of this blog already know I stand shoulder to shoulder with those who find themselves no longer welcome in the Church of their baptism. Oh sure, they are “welcome.” Anyone is “welcome” so long as they don’t expect to be invited to the table. I am well versed in Church teachings on this subject, but I also have a fair understanding of the Gospel message and feel confident in stating that Jesus would welcome our alienated brothers and sisters.

Much has been written on the topic of Christian hospitality and welcoming. I own several titles related to widening the welcome of the church. The Church absolutely loves the word “Welcome!” We hang banners, we insist “all are welcome” and host welcome events; we train parishioners to greet worshipers on the way in, and invite them to return on the way out. Some churches have marketing committees for the recruitment and retention of parishioners. This is all very sincere and these are very worthwhile efforts. But while the four percent of Catholics cited in a recent CARA survey, considered to be “core members” (and who are likely on the welcoming committee), work tirelessly to build community, church attendance dwindles. It is not just alienated adults leaving the Church, most young people now eschew affiliation with any organized religion. These are our sons and daughters who on their confirmation day were told they were the future of the Church!

As a Eucharistic minister I have looked spiritual hunger in the eye. People come, eyes brimming with tears, their open hands extended. They look at me and say amen! So be it. As Pope Francis says, “Who am I to judge?” We come to the table broken, needy and empty handed. We also come joy-filled, celebratory, and thankful. Above all, we come as sinners. We respond to the invitation simply because our Host loves us and has chosen to share the feast of his life with us.

The meal we share in the Eucharist prepares us to be Christ to the world. “Jesus obviously knew the power of meals,” author John E. Burkhart says, “so he shared them gladly, graciously using them to question and erode the various boundaries religion and society had erected between people.” When the church decides who among all of Jesus’ invited guests can sit at the table and who cannot, it pushes Jesus back into the kitchen and shows his guests to the door. Is it for the sake of the gospel that we reduce the number of seats around the table that Jesus has set?

In the Eucharist, Jesus is both the Host and the meal. It is his meal, and everyone present should remember that the Host knows who has been invited.

Food for Life

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood (Corpus Christi) (A)

The Church was born from Jesus’ table ministry and grew in great numbers around the tables of early Christians who experienced the Risen Lord in the sharing of the Eucharist. The act of taking the Body and Blood of Christ into our own bodies is different from ingesting an ordinary, worldly meal since unlike regular food which provides temporarily nourishment, the Eucharist feeds and sustains us for life. But that’s not all. Worldly meals presume boundaries, invitation lists, and disproportionate servings. It’s an unacceptable truth that many don’t eat at all. Jesus’ table ministry included guests who would have been excluded from most tables, and everyone had their fill.

It is essential for Catholics to remember that Eucharist is an activity. When we share this food, we become what we eat; we become what we drink, and are transformed. If we partake, and become one with Christ, we are duty-bound to attend to the worldly nourishment of those who do not have enough to eat. As an evangelizing people we are called to be that one bread, one body, one blood for others. We are called to be Eucharist.

Today’s readings can be found here.