Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
29 July 2012
Dear Friends in Christ,
Tempus fugit. Time flies. Five years ago this weekend, on Sunday 29 July 2007, I celebrated my first solemn Mass at St. Mary’s. Thank you for your prayers, and please do continue to pray for me that, despite my unworthiness, I might become ever more devoted to the ministry to which I’ve been called.
Speaking of time passing so quickly, it’s hard to believe that my “summer job” filling in for Father Newman is already coming to a close. As I’ve said before both in this column and from the pulpit, it is always a joy for me to come home to St. Mary’s. I know that your well-rested pastor is eager to be back among you (and to take back his chair!).
In August, I will return to Duke University to present my thesis, which will be the final task in completing work for a Master of Theology degree, a necessary precursor for any doctoral work that may loom in the future. My thesis paper is in the field of ecclesiology, that is, “the study of the Church.” Specifically, I have written on a 20th century Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac and the nuptial metaphors that he uses in describing Christ’s relationship to his Church.
I think his work is important for us now because it is often tempting to treat the Church as if it were just another institution. While it has institutional elements, the Church is so much more than that: primarily, she is the beloved of Jesus Christ, the bride for whom he gives up his life. Christ’s total gift of himself for his beloved becomes a model for how a husband ought to love his wife, and how a wife ought to receive her husband’s love. Jesus’ gift of himself to the Church is not confined to history, but is prolonged in the gift of the Eucharist, in which Christ’s self-gift is made present in “real time” to each one of us. There is a nuptial dimension to the Eucharist because it is the real expression of the love of Christ for his bride. This love is not expressed by mere sentiment or symbolism, but by action, reality, and fact. Through the Eucharist, the Church is made “one flesh” with Christ, experiencing communion with him and with the other members of his Body. Joined to the God-Man, human nature is elevated to a glorious level, just as water is transformed into wine by Jesus at the wedding feast of Cana. The sacrament of marriage helps us understand the meaning of the Eucharist, and the Eucharist helps us understand the meaning of marriage.
I could go on and on (and since I wrote a thesis about this I actually do go on and on for about a hundred pages), but that’s the Reader’s Digest micro-version.
Again, please know of my prayers for you, and please keep me in yours as well.
Gratefully yours in Christ,