Message: Prayer is the first essential step to becoming a disciple. If you've never done it. why don't you try today?
In our first reading we have a testimony by St. Peter. He begins with these words: "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob." The words underscore that God - although unimaginably different from us - is a person and he relates to us in a person-to-person manner. For sure, he created the galaxies and is the source of life but he also relates to us in a personal way. He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.
This verse was crucial to a scientist named Blaise Pascal. Many know that he developed one of the earliest computers and that he has a programming language named after him, but few know about his intense Christian faith. When Pascal was thirty-one years old, he experienced a profound religious conversion. He realized that God is not only a necessary being who created the universe, but Someone who relates personally to us. On a piece of parchment, he wrote these words: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He sewed them on the inside of his coat and each time they wore away, he replaced them - right up to the time of his death.
I mention Pascal not so much because he combined science and Christian faith, but because he shows the first step in becoming a disciple. We have to recognize that - in Jesus - we can have a personal relationship with God. In her book, "Forming Intentional Disciples," Sherry Weddel tells about a woman very active in her parish. In a conversation with Sherry, the woman admitted that she never prays - not even at Mass. She had missed the first and most basic step: That you and I can have a personal relationship with God, with Jesus, in prayer.
I will speak more about prayer - that personal relationship with Jesus. Today I want to add something because I think it will help us: Personal does not mean private. Let me repeat: Personal does not mean private. True, I can, should and must relate to Jesus in the privacy of my room and my heart, but there is more:
In today's Gospel we hear that Jesus made himself known in "the breaking of the bread." This phrase occurs a dozen times in the New Testament and it involves gathering disciples together, reading from the Scriptures and then offering a sacrifice by taking bread, blessing, breaking and giving it - with Jesus words, "This is my Body given for you."
So, a personal relationship with Jesus cannot be a "head trip." It requires one's entire self: our minds, hearts and bodies. If it's authentic, prayer brings us into a mystical, physical relationship with Jesus and all members of his Body. Jesus emphasized the physical by doing something that at first seems strange: He eats a piece of baked fish in front of his disciples.*
Fr.Leo Patalinghug - the priest chef on EWTN - jokes that Jesus must be at least part Filipino. We see it today in Jesus' predilection for fish - and that (in a different Gospel) he serves fish for breakfast! We may not have the same tastes, but when it comes to great food, all of us are Filipino!
However that may be, Fr. Leo has a lot to teach us about combining food, faith and family. And you and I are members of great family - the Church, the Body of Christ. You may have noticed that when we gather to break bread - to celebrate the Mass - we always pray for our pope and our bishop (Archbishop Peter Sartain). It's not just that they need our prayers - they do, of course - but that by uniting ourselves with them we join with Christians throughout the planet and in our local church here in Western Washington. I am going to say some practical things about that unity in few weeks when we address the Annual Catholic Appeal. I hope you will not take it as one more collection; it expresses the physical unity we have in Jesus.
So I return to Pascal and Peter: a great scientist and a great apostle. They know that God not only exists - he looks at us as more than objects of creation, but as persons. We have to take that relationship seriously. Prayer is the essential step to becoming a disciple. If you've never done it, why don't you try today? Jesus is real. He wants you to approach him, to speak with him, to become his disciple.
As disciples of Jesus, members of his body, we enter a personal relationship with the Father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Amen.
*With his glorified body Jesus has transcended the need for physical nourishment. I might be wrong, but there will no Ivar's Fish & Chips in heaven. In fact, I hope I am wrong! But Jesus is telling there will be a physical dimension - much more wonderful that anything we experience now - but already real in the Body of Christ.
From Archives (Third Sunday of Easter, Year B):
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
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2015 Peru Mission Trip