Embracing ‘Already but Not Yet’

A few years back I was blessed to participate in the Catechetical Institute (Class of Padre Pio) at Saint Andrew Catholic Church in Elk River. I expected it to be a great learning experience: a deep dive into the what and why of Catholic teachings. I did not expect it to be as convicting, converting, and hopeful an experience as it was.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is a systematic overview of the Catholic faith with lots of references to sacred scripture, saints’ writings, and other Church documents that flesh out the teachings in more detail. But the overall theme of the book—and the foundation of all Church wisdom and teaching—is God’s plan of salvation, culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

One of the great mysteries of that plan, emphasized again and again throughout the institute, is the sense of already, but not yet:

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Never Just a Number

Note: This post appeared in the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin for Sunday, October 18, 2020.

In case you haven’t notice, election season is in full swing. Pollsters, pundits and politicians are slicing and dicing the American people to predict what is likely to happening on Election Day and afterward. Republicans versus Democrats. Liberals versus conservatives. We are counted and calculated by culture, color and creed—to what end?

My son’s theology teacher recently gave me a copy of a book I’ve meant to read for years now: Society and Sanity by Frank Sheed. I started it last night, and for a book written in the 1950s, its relevance even in the first few pages is staggering. Sheed opens his book by making a simple and eloquent case: In order to create a society in which we humans can live together in peace, happiness and freedom, we must know what it means to be human.

We need a clear understanding of what we are and why we are before we can clearly conceive of our happiness and how to achieve it.

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Liturgy and Sacraments: The Spirit at Work in the World

Blogger’s Note: This was my final short reflection paper for Module II of the Catechetical Institute, on liturgy and the sacraments. I continue to be drawn toward the person and activity of the Holy Spirit, which I’ve been slow to comprehend in the past.

The Spirit is the fuel of the Church, the energy and life force of the Body of Christ. And we can’t get him through heroic effort. We can only get him by asking for him. That’s why, for the past two thousand years, the Church has begged for this power from on high. Jesus told us that the Father would never refuse someone who asked for the Holy Spirit. So ask! And ask again! Realize that every liturgy is a begging for the Holy Spirit. (Bishop Barron, Daily Gospel Reflection 5/8/18).

The second pillar of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), “The Celebration of the Christian Mystery,” pertains to liturgy and the sacraments. The opening paragraphs (CCC 1066-2068) connect back to the first pillar, “The Profession of Faith,” by re-asserting God’s plan outlined in the Creed:

“For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth ‘the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.’” For this reason, the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ accomplished the work of our salvation (CCC 1067).

The liturgy in its various forms celebrates the great mystery of Jesus’ saving mission. It is the “public work” (leitourgos) of the Church: the “participation of the People of God in ‘the work of God’” (CCC 1069), which manifests her as a visible sign of communion between God and man (CCC 1071).  The Church is born on Pentecost, the new Body of Christ on earth following the ascension of the resurrected One, and Jesus acts “in and with” this body through the sacramental economy (CCC 1076). The fruits of this mystery are shared liturgically, especially through the sacraments, “efficacious signs” (CCC 1131) instituted by Jesus and entrusted to the Church to give us the grace we need to live lives of holiness. Continue reading

Book Break: Three Quick Reviews

I am doing something I’ve never done before: I’m sharing three spiritual-book mini-reviews at once, and two are for books I haven’t finished (and may never finish). The books are:

All three are recommended reading, so why not finish them? Read on!

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Book Break: Three Quick Reads

I’m playing catch-up on “reviewing” a few faith-building books I’ve read in recent months. I recommend all three, depending on where you and your family are on your faith journey.

Blessed Are the Bored in Spirit by Mark Hart

cee7e-boredinspiritMark Hart is a former Catholic youth minister, self-proclaimed Bible geek, and vice president of LIFE TEEN…and a recovering cultural Catholic who was just going through the motions in his younger years. Blessed Are the Bored in Spirit: A Young Catholic’s Search For Meaning is a short (less than 150 pages), light, and humorous look at the temptations, attitudes, and obstacles that keep teens and adults lukewarm in their faith. If you’ve heard Hart speak (as in this video we shared at LIFT this past year), you’ve got some idea of the tone and level of this book. I recommend it for teens, young adults, and family discussions.

Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft

19ac5-jesusshockThe title and cover of Peter Kreeft’s 176-page Jesus Shock make you wonder if it’s by that Peter Kreeft. It is. Kreeft  is a professor of philosophy, lecturer, and author of countless books on theology, philosophy, history, and apologetics — but Jesus Shock is the result of asking God, “What do You want me to write?” The answer, he says, was “Me.” Kreeft asks questions of his readers to help them probe their knowledge of and attitude toward Jesus, and uses Scripture to show how the Incarnation, the God-Man, the Word of God and Savior of the World, is everything we long for and anything but boring. This a somewhat deeper and more academic read that Mark Hart’s book, and more clever than humorous, but still very accessible for adults and motivated teens. It’s a good book for self-reflection or discussion.

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

5a453-weightofgloryAnd now for something completely different: The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis is a collection of beloved homilies, lectures, and essays by the great writer and apologist, on topics as diverse as the problems with pacifism, why study of the liberal arts matters, the challenge of forgiveness, the incoherence of a strictly scientific worldview, what membership means (and what it should mean), and more. These individual pieces are not directly related to each other, except by authorship, but they present a picture of Lewis’s Christian outlook and concerns about the direction of modern culture that have stood the test of time and are perhaps more relevant today than ever. If you enjoy Lewis’s writings beyond the Narnia series, or if you want to dig more deeply into Christianity in the modern world, brew some coffee, get comfortable, and enjoy. This book is great for personal reflection and deeper discussion, especially if you like stretching your intellectual muscles a bit!