This is the night.
So in our deacon formation classes, we have a bit of an argument, and I thought it would be fun to air our dirty laundry all over the internet.
Okay, so it’s not all that, but we do get rather excited over this topic.
Is the creation account in Genesis historically accurate, or is it a mythological story designed to tell us more about our spiritual creation without attempting to explain actual events?
Now at first glance, you can see that this can ruffle some feathers. The implications to this question however reach even further, because how you answer this question puts a very different slant on the rest of scripture. Suddenly Job was never born, and Jonah never gets swallowed by a fish. This can even reach into the New Testament and make one question Jesus’ miracles.
This question is not a small one, and folks get really tied up about it.
I’m not going to tell you what I believe, nor am I going to expound the benefits and detriments to either position. I do however have a very serious point to make, and I don’t want you to miss it.
Neither view is the official teaching of the Church.
Yes, I’m serious, and both sides want to claim it is. But the truth is the Church has never defined the scriptures in this way.
In fact this question has been talked about by saints and sinners alike since the first century, without conclusion. Great men and women throughout history have held both views, so don’t go throwing quotes at me either.
I will add this too. The Church will not ever define this. Why?
Because scripture grows. It gets larger with every passing generation. It gets deeper, more full, and brighter. To close the Word down and try to shrink it to fit out times and thoughts is to try to stuff God Himself into a bottle. The Church will never do it.
So believe either with a free and open heart. Whatever you do, don’t criticize the other point of view as heretical or naive, as they are not. You can can be full of faith and love our Lord while at the same time believing in a seven day creation, or the majesty of God working through the mythology of man. It honestly makes little difference.
If it did matter, you can bet the Church would have defined it very clearly indeed.
Argh. My kids drive me crazy. Every day, I assign them work to do on their own, an opportunity for them to learn some responsibility, some diligence, and a chance for me to get some of my work done without standing over them, actively teaching them.
Guess what? My kids aren’t all that great at getting their homework done. The second I leave them, they start to hem and haw, fiddling with their pencils or the cats, suddenly getting hungry and wanting a snack, and going to the bathroom every five to ten minutes. It’s so dang aggravating.
Well, I want to get mad, I really do. There is a problem though.
I was never any better. I got in so much trouble for not doing my homework, that they almost flunked me out of school. I’d do great on tests, I just hated homework.
I’m still going to school. In fact, I have formation classes tomorrow. Our subjects for tomorrow are psychology, theology, and New Testament studies. Guess what?
I’m cramming all my homework today.
Yup, that’s right, I’ve been procrastinating. I’ve been hemming and hawing, trying to get some work done, and fiddling with this blog. Heck, I’m procrastinating right this second.
Ugh. What goes around comes around.
I suppose it’s time for me to stop writing, and get to work.
My theology homework was a breeze and already done, the New Testament stuff is all complete and wrapped up in a bow, but Psychology? Haven’t touched it. Haven’t even cracked the book.
You can tell how excited I am. It is so easy to finish what interests me, but the other stuff is just such a pain.
Dangit, I need to just wrap this post up and plop down and start reading.
You never guess what happened to me the other day. I was out walking the dog, heading downtown in hopes of getting some ice cream or maybe a coffee, and I saw this guy jumping on a…….
NO! It must be done now! I’m leaving!
I have a list. I’m a very organized guy! (Okay, not really, but I do have a list)
Every week, I go to the long term care hospital to bring communion to folks with long standing medical issues. Here in America, this is where we send people to die.
It’s a sad way to put it, but it’s the truth. While you would expect this to be a depressing place, I have found the exact opposite to be true. I am uplifted every time I come here, and have related some of the inspiration I have received here already.
I was told I have a new communicant by the church office, I was to find Bill. He had just been admitted.
I took care of the regulars first, paying attention to the doors as I walked along to see if I saw Bill’s name. We had a great visit as always, and one very nice lady gave me chocolate. I’m not a huge chocolate fan, but I was hungry, so it was a real treat.
I can easily spend several hours in here every time I come. These folks are lonely, and I am often the only visitor they will get all week. As you can imagine, they want to talk, and I do my best to oblige as much as I can.
So by the time I was done with my route, I was running a bit behind schedule. I’m used to it, and my next stop knows I will sometimes be a little late, so it’s no big deal. Nevertheless, I felt rushed as I finally started looking in earnest for Bill.
A couple of the nurses there are Catholic, so when they see me confused, they usually jump to help me out. God bless them or I would be lost most of the time. They found Bill for me. He was sitting in a hallway.
I was a little scared of Bill. He just did not look normal. Something was seriously up with him.
His hands were blue and swollen. He smelled like rotting food. His shirt was filthy from where someone had tried to feed him. I won’t lie, I was pretty uncomfortable.
I’m a brave guy though, and I got down on my knees in front of him so he could see me without raising his head, and asked him if he wanted to receive communion. He didn’t move, but his eyes locked onto mine. They were starting to get that dull blue that often happens with really old people.
He opened his mouth to talk and his whole body started shaking. You could tell he wanted to say something very badly, and just couldn’t get it out. It was seriously starting to freak him out.
So I took a hold of his cold blue hands, and held them and asked him again, this time just asking him to nod his head. Again the shaking. I was thinking I was going to need to grab a nurse, he was in seriously bad shape. Add to that his teeth which were clearly in the process of rotting away, and his foul breath, to be honest, I just wanted to get out of there.
Instead, I squeezed his hand, and told him it was alright, and proceeded to pray for him, and give him communion. He very carefully, very slowly chewed the host, and then he started flipping clean out. This was way beyond a little shaking, he was clearly upset. There was something he really really wanted to say, and just couldn’t pull it off.
So I reached up, grabbed him by the back of the neck while still holding his hands and told him not to speak. I told him there was nothing he needed to say. I told him I was there, I understood, and I would be there again next week and he didn’t have to say a thing. I touched my forehead to his, and prayed the Our Father.
He calmed down immediately and started to cry, staring straight at me. I just stared back. But I’m a busy guy, so on I went on my merry way to my next stop.
Bill died that afternoon.
I have a million things I want to say, a million points I want to make, a million lessons to be gleaned from this experience, but I just can’t be my normal witty self.
The truth is, I was too damn busy and scared to just sit with him, and I am so deeply saddened that it breaks my heart.
Jesus in the palm of your hand.
We were talking in my formation classes about receiving the Eucharist, and one of my fellow candidates made a telling comment. He claimed that being able to receive Jesus in his hand, and to hold the Master of the universe was a powerful humbling experience.
If that is you, then you get it, and I’m totally cool with that. If every time you receive our Lord in the palm of your hand you are humbled by the experience, and feel the weight of such a great responsibility, then I have no issue with you at all.
If you are like the majority of Catholics I see in Mass filing in to get their holy cookie though, I have some serious reservations.
Now let me say right off that there is definite precedent for receiving in the hand. It was most certainly what was done in the early church, but if you think they did it like we do, I’m afraid you are quite mistaken.
Imagine yourself in early Rome, hiding in the catacombs for you life, celebrating Mass in secret. Did you receive the Most Precious Body in your hand? You bet you did, they didn’t exactly make communion wafers back then, so it could be crumbly. We certainly didn’t want pieces of our Lord to fall in the dirt, and the palm makes a great bowl.
What you would not do is pick it up out of your hand. Instead you would bow to your hand, and pick it up with your tongue. Yup, like you were bowing to the King, which of course, you were. It was a very reverent act.
Contrast that to today. At the Christmas Mass, I had to stand by the front pews to make sure everyone actually consumed the host. That’s right, folks would just carry it back to their pews to do Lord knows what with. It’s a pretty scary thought, that after every major holiday like Christmas and Easter, we find hosts just sitting in the pews. I remember one boy who got upset with me for asking him to consume the host, because it would get in his gum.
My goodness, I wish I were joking.
There is a powerful opportunity for education that we are missing here. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, it is the point on which the entire world turns. There is nothing you will ever do, (well, outside of getting baptized) that will ever be as important as receiving the Eucharist. This is the prime teaching moment, and we are totally fouling it up.
Let’s say you are a marginal Catholic. You come almost every week, but just because you feel you are supposed to. Let’s say you come 75% of the time, that’s almost 40 times a year, so 400 Masses every ten years. There are two ways this can work.
In the first, you get in line, and the priest slaps a host down, you pop it in your mouth like a potato chip and head on. Multiply that times 400. How do you feel about the Eucharist?
In the second, you file in line, and when you get to the front, you have to get on your knees, something you almost never do otherwise, and the priest puts the host directly on your tongue, also something you never do. Multiply this times 400. How do you feel about the Eucharist now?
Sometimes what we cannot teach with words, must be taught to the body to really be understood.