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The Beatitude of Peacemaking in the Body of Christ (Part III of III)

July 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Anthony Lilles, Eucharist, Featured

A troubled reader writes…

“Although I am a convert to Catholicism, I am sad and offended that the Catholics would forget what Jesus would do with regards to breaking bread with any of his children. I too am a Eucharistic Minister and I would never turn anyone down from breaking bread with their fellow man nor make them feel less of a child of God. I was a Lutheran and to say that our wine and bread does not have the same meaning as a Catholic makes me sad. I do so much for the Church because I try to follow in Jesus’s footsteps as best that I can. Separating religions when we all believe in the same God is what will continue our wars amongst the children of God. Jesus did not invent Christianity that separates one another.”

In Part I, we considered our desire for unity and the first place from which that desire comes from: The Prayer of Christ.  In Part II, we looked at the other two places from which that desire comes from: The Prayer of the Church and The Work of the Holy Spirit.  In Part III, we will examine the true source of our disunity and see what we need to do once we clearly understand where this division comes from.

2) The true source of the divisions we suffer: As we see where our desire for holy solidarity comes from, we have found the ground we need to better understand why there is so much division among us.  Saint Hildegard of Bingen provides a horrific description of what divides us in her Scivias:  “And Behold!  A pit of great breadth and depth appeared, with a mouth like the mouth of a well, emitting fiery smoke with great stench, from which a loathsome cloud spreads out.”  (Scivias, Book I, 2) as in Hildegard of Bingen: Scivias, trans. Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop, Classics of Western Spirituality, (New York: Paulist Press, 1990).

The Cloud of Deception: Saint Hildegard explains that this loathsome cloud is nothing other than the fraud of Satan and it was only when humanity fell under this cloud that divisions were fomented among us – starting with the most intimate bond of all: marriage.   As long as we are under the cloud of deception, our integrity is at risk and without integrity, we are robbed of the ground we need to freely stand together in unity.   What is particularly dangerous about this source of division is that Adam and Eve did not know they had been deceived until God revealed it to them.   In the same way, we can be lost in self-deception until the Holy Spirit convinces us of our sin.

The Mystery of Sin: The true cause of our enmity with one another is sin and the consequences of sin.   The wisdom of the Church orders our sacramental practices so that we deal with the reality of sin in our lives rather than pretend that it is not there.   When my heart aches over divisions in the Body of Christ, the real problem is not the Church’s doctrine or practices.  Instead, the real problem is my own sinfulness, my own failures to be faithful to the rich blessings lavished on me by the Lord.

So deep is this mystery in me that I cannot deal with it by myself.  At the same time, if sin and its consequences are not dealt with, these only hurt those I love the most.  It is a lack of love that prevents us from enjoying the communion we so deeply want to share with one another, a love only Christ can give. Only by suffering this truth, by being vulnerable to the Holy Spirit as He convinces us of sin, do we begin to fathom the height and depth of the love of Christ.  It is before the mystery of His inexhaustible mercy that we learn to call out with sincerity, “Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner!”

What we can do: It is for the sake of this saving love that He has ordered the whole life and teaching of the Church, and those who want to share it must be willing to take up all kinds of acts of mercy, penance, suffering, sacrifices, hardships, failures and rejection.   Any love ignorant of such things is not worthy of our Crucified God or our neighbor.   To suffer this knowledge is a great gift – it is to know the truth on which freedom and charity are found.

Christ’s prayer of unity is realized in my own life and in the lives of those entrusted to me only to the degree that I humbly repent of my own wickedness towards my brothers and sisters and beg the Lord for his mercy.  If we consider the prayer of Christ for unity and the mission of the Holy Spirit to convince us of our sin, we begin to see that true unity with one another can only come through personal conversion, a turning away from sin and a turning to the mercy of God.  Only as we humbly attend to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to convict us concerning sin are we able to enter into the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer in our own lives.  It is by personal conversion alone that the dream of the Bridegroom is to be realized and, at the same time, the more I submit my life to Christ and offer myself as an offering of love for His sake, the more His prayer becomes my own.

Becoming a Peacemaker: Every Mass and every time we go to communion, even when we can only receive the Lord in spiritual communion rather than in the sacrament, we are entering more deeply into this humble but bold prayer.   Even when sin and its consequences prevent those who have learned this mysterious cry of the heart from receiving holy communion together, the unity they have in Christ is something that nothing in this world can take away.   This holy communion of suffering and love for one another in Christ bears all things and overcomes all divisions – because there is nothing more powerful than His prayer and His saving power at work in us.   Peacemakers are blessed in the Body of Christ because their faith sees this mystery unfold even when the sorrow of division feels overwhelming.  Such souls know that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

 

 

PS from the Editor:  If you want to read more of Anthony’s insights on the topic of prayer, don’t miss his new book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer.  This book is an experience like no other.  Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.

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About Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. He and his lovely wife, Agnes, are blessed with three children and live in Colorado where Dr. Lilles has worked for the Archdiocese of Denver for over twenty years directing parish religious education, R.C.I.A. and youth ministry as well as serving as the director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese and as coordinator of spiritual formation for the permanent diaconate. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was eventually appointed Academic Dean for nine years. Currently, he is an associate professor of theology and a Board Member for the Society of Catholic Liturgy. Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality. His expertise is in the spiritual doctrine of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Lisieux. In 2012, Discerning Hearts published his book "Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer," a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students and contemplatives about the spiritual life. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute. He blogs at BeginningtoPray.blogspot.com

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  • Joe Catholic

    It is easy to be deceived and the one who deceives us is millions of times more intelligent than we are, he knows the Bible from back to back and has armies that are intelligent than we are and also know the Bible. Every time we try to use our own reasoning part from the guidance of Christ and His Church we definitely (without fail) fall into the wiles and temptations of the deceiver … regardless of who we are. There are lots of very intelligent and learned Theologians that have fallen this way. Every time we try to be nice without the benefit of the wisdom of the Church we fall into the deception of the deceiver (remember that he never sleeps and understands the human psyche right from the time we set foot on this earth up to now.

    This is why St John Bosco would say that the root of all sin is “disobedience” because it is here we make ourselves “wiser” than we really are and wiser than the Bride of Christ. Remember one cannot compare the Catholic Church to any other ‘churches’ because it wasn’t formed by any one of us but rather by Jesus Himself … we had division from the moment children of the Church chose to be “disobedient” to the Church and to the pope and in so doing made Jesus a liar (the gates of hell shall “NEVER” prevail against my church).

    My advise is to follow Church teaching without murmurings and when things do not make sense then pray to the founder of the Church (Christ Himself) for guidance; also read from the Church Fathers and see why certain things are done the way they are. Reading the Church is a work in progress … Christ said He will send the Holy Spirit who shall bring to our remembrance what He taught and shall teach even more … He (the Holy Spirit) shall give to us what is Christ’s and reveal His Glory to us … this is why Sacred Tradition and Magisterial teaching remain sources of authentic Church teaching (Dei Verbum).

    Be still and know that you are protected for as long as you accept that protection as a humble and obedient child of God.

    • LizEst

      You’ve said some very good things here. Thanks, Joe Catholic. God bless you!

    • angeldia

      Wow! You are sooo right! I love St John Bosco and disobedience is the sin of Adam and Eve. You spoke well and made me really think… thanks! :)

    • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

      Thank you, Joe. You know what?. We need to be charitably truthful about the Catholic Church and humbly defend Her when called upon to do so……She was founded by Jesus Christ Himself, the other Churches were founded by men…..very learned men, indeed, but men all the same. And there lies the Truth and the source of the divisions.

  • Rehillek

    Perhaps the understanding of the word communion is misunderstood. If you are not in “communion” with the Holy Catholic Church and do not subscribe to the belief that Christ is really present in the Eucharist and you are aware of this defect you commit sacrilege by giving our LORD’S Body and Blood to the person. I think Joe Catholic has it right. although it is not a matter that laity votes on it is the subject of the Holy Catholic Church’s Magisterium.

  • LizEst

    I am saddened when I hear Catholics say that we believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist (many non-Catholics believe in the “real presence” or the “true presence” as they call it). Jesus IS the Eucharist we receive: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is a fact, a truth, not a belief. For a Catholic to say it is a “belief” only approximates the reality. We, as Catholics, need to speak this truth and not phrase it as “we believe that…” To do otherwise, weakens our witness.

    • Marg

      Thank you Liz for making a definitive statement of Jesus being the absolute Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I have to confess without knowing I have referred to Jesus being present in the Eucharist to my non Catholic friends. I’m very grateful to have friends on RCSD to keep me on the right path as far as the Catholic teachings are concerned, thank you Liz for your posting I’ll now refer to the Eucharist as being Jesus Christ, not His presence! Have a great day and God Bless you!

      • LizEst

        Marg- I used to do it a lot saying, “we believe that Christ is present.” To most, it is just semantics. But, it goes to the heart of the matter. The Eucharist is Jesus. We affirm that every time we receive Holy Communion and we say “Amen.” If we can’t state that to others as fact, outside the communion line, it says something about our faith. When I started to just state as fact, it greatly increased my faith. We know the Eucharist is Christ because He said so…and God can neither deceive nor be deceived.

        A well-catechized Catholic child, when asked where Jesus is, will point to the tabernacle and say, “over there” or “in the tabernacle.” This child will never say, “we believe He is present in the tabernacle.” They speak like that because they have a simple, direct faith. We need to take our cue from them. We must become like little children: simple and direct, speaking the truth in love. God bless you, Marg.

        • Marg

          I found your response very helpful Liz especially from a childs perspective, their simple and direct faith I should pay more heed to! oh to be a child! thank you Liz! Liz please do pray for me at this time! having a difficult time, love and God bless!

          • LizEst

            I am praying for you and yours and will continue to do so. God bless you, too!

          • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

            Marg, I, too, join Liz to pray for you and your loved ones.

          • Marg

            thank you Mary ! your prayers are appreciated, and God Bless you , have a great day!

        • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

          Thank you, Liz. You are right. Jesus was real to us when, as children, we played around the Parish, chasing one another and screaming. The minute we neared the Church entrance, we automatically sobered. Jesus was in there, we knew. There is also an experience one used to get – when Churches always left one door ajar at night. If you entered the pitch dark Church alone at night- save for the small light at the Tabernacle – the Presence of Jesus enveloped you and He was palpable. It is the same even to-day. You feel Him the same way you would feel if someone opens the door at night and the wind, blowing in, tells you the door has opened.

          • LizEst

            Beautiful, Mary! Thank you for that image. God bless you.

  • Plevesque

    I wonder how much the confusion over the Eucharist and communion, have to do with a confusion about the role of the ordained priesthood and the priesthood of the faithful?

  • JoFlemings

    This is so beautiful, Professor Lilles. I hear what you are saying about how this longing for unity is the piercing wound St. Bonaventure talks about in his prayer- it makes complete sense to me that this unity should be first manifest in the closest expressions of Christian charity and oblation in our lives and loves, and it seems there is an effect of expanding grace toward the ultimate fulfillment of Christ’s request in John 17. Professor, you really expressed this with so much depth- this means a lot to me. I get it.

    • Anthony_Lilles

      Thank you for this comment — I am a novice with the writings of Saint Bonaventure. Where can we find this reference? It is something I would like to follow up on more.

      • JoFlemings

        Here is the text of the prayer- I took this one from the ewtn library;

        Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, and with true, calm and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with entire love and longing for Thee, may yearn for Thee and for thy courts, may long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.
        Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and super substantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delightful taste.
        May my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, Whom the angels desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst for Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the fullness of the house of God;
        may it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverance to the end; and be Thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession, my treasure; in Whom may my mind and my heart be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen.

        Read more: http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/Bonaventure.htm#ixzz2ZmEO6sS4

        • Anthony_Lilles

          Thank you for this — it is beautiful!

          • JoFlemings

            It makes me happy that you think so!