Torch Commentary from the Dominicans
Torch provides a Catholic homily each week by Dominican friars; past homilies can be found on their site here
The Light That Unites Us
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Fr Robert Verrill speaks of his personal discovery of the light of Christ’s truth, and he calls us to focus on Him who unites rather than divides.
When we lament about the divisions we see within the Church, it’s all too easy to say things that perpetuate these divisions. All too often, our lament takes the form ‘if only the laity or our leaders would stop doing X and start doing Y’. Of course, we should all want the Church to be united, for this is what Christ Himself wanted, but the great temptation is to suppose that the source of division lies somewhere else other than within ourselves.
Now lamenting about divisions within the Church is nothing new. Indeed, in the second reading from St Paul, we hear one of the earliest laments about division within the Church in its history. But what is notable about St Paul’s lament is that he doesn’t simply identify what is dividing the Church. He also points us to what is uniting the Church, namely the cross of Jesus Christ. Thus, St Paul says: “Christ did not send me to baptise but to preach the gospel, …, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”
So, in the light of what St Paul says, we should indeed lament divisions within the Church, for divisions risk emptying the cross of Christ of its true meaning. But on the other hand, St Paul also offers us a way of overcoming division: this is to bear witness to what the cross of Jesus Christ truly means. We should therefore be asking ourselves how the cross of Jesus Christ has touched our lives, and we should have the courage to bear witness to this fact.
In the first reading, Isaiah prophesied “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. And in the Gospel, St Matthew tells us that this prophecy was being fulfilled when Jesus Christ began His preaching mission: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. Do we have the conviction that this prophecy has also been fulfilled in our own lives? Do we have the courage to tell others that the light of the cross has removed the darkness from our souls? It is hard to do this without sounding sanctimonious, but this is what we must do if the things that divide us are to be overcome. It is with this desire in mind that I will share with you something of my own story of how Christ has lighted up my life.
Although I have always been a practising Catholic, until a year or so before entering the Dominican Order, I had never really spent much time thinking seriously about the truths of the Catholic Faith. I told myself that thinking about the Faith was for theologians, and that I should let them get on with doing what they do well, while I would get on with doing what I do well.
Yet, looking back on this period in my life, I now realise that the real reason I didn’t want to think seriously about the truths of the Catholic Faith was that I was frightened that if I did, I might discover that they weren’t truths after all. At the back of my mind, I had a deep anxiety that perhaps what I really valued had no value, that perhaps life was without meaning, that perhaps God did not exist.
This was my dark night of the soul, and it went on for many years. That was until one day back in 2004, I was on my own at home sitting in an armchair and struggling to pray in a way that didn’t feel hollow and insincere, when all of a sudden, it was as though the lights were turned on: I knew I was loved by God, and that He had been there beside me all along without my realising it. From that point on, I knew that if I started to think seriously about my Faith, God wasn’t going to abandon me. On the contrary, it seemed like it would be an exciting adventure with Christ leading the way. And so began the journey which resulted in my entering the Dominican Order and being ordained to the priesthood.
Now my story is just one of many stories. Many of us go through periods of feeling lost and confused, but when the light of Christ breaks into our lives, we see that such times of darkness were necessary in order for the seed of faith to take root. And when we begin to see the miracle that Christ is working within us, no worldly pleasure or ambition can compare with it.
It is all too easy for us to see what is wrong with the Church, but to see what is right with the Church requires conversion. Healing within the Church will not come about by trying to focus on the sources of division. It will only come about by looking towards the source of unity. This source of unity is the cross of Jesus Christ that shines in the darkness. It is this light that gives meaning to our lives and sustains the life of the Church. Indeed, it is this light that unites us.
BISHOP ROBERT BARRON
Bishop Robert Barron is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He is also the founder of the global media ministry Word on Fire, which reaches millions of people by utilizing the tools of new media to draw people into or back to the Catholic Faith.
The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner….this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.” (C.C.C.1367)
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that there are both sacramental and spiritual communions. Sacramental communion refers to the physical reception of the Eucharist. Spiritual communion involves “a real longing for union with Christ.” Ideally, reception of the Eucharist involves both dimensions. One must always want to receive regular sacramental Communion. However, St. Thomas tells us that a “complete spiritual Communion can even take place when we are unable to receive sacramentally, because ‘the effect of a sacrament can be secured if it is received by desire.’”
n 2003, Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Ecclesia de Euchristia: it seek to live their life In the Eucharist, “unlike any other sacrament, the mystery [of communion] is so perfect that it brings us to the heights of every good thing: Here is the ultimate goal of every human desire, because here we attain God and God joins himself to us in the most perfect union.” Precisely for this reason it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. This was the origin of the practice of “spiritual communion,” which has happily been established in the Church for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: “When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you” (The Way of Perfection, Ch. 35.)
My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.
Act of Spiritual Communion of St. Francis of Assisi
I believe that You, O Jesus, are in the most holy Sacrament.
I love You and desire You.
Come into my heart. I embrace You.
Oh, never leave me. May the burning and most sweet power of your love,
O Lord Jesus Christ, I beseech You,
absorb my mind that I may die through love of your love,
who were graciously pleased to die through love of my love.
TABERNACLE OF ST FRANCIS - ARCHIVE