Broken, But Not Discarded – Fr. Dennis’ Homily for June 18, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxOne of the most interesting courses I had in grad school explored the psychological root of religion. It was one of the most interesting courses I had in grad school. We looked at the teachings of Jesus, Mohammed, Confucius, and Buddha to examine what each was saying about obtaining wholeness. Behind the road to wholeness lies the psychological root of religion. It is a common root that crosses the major religions of the world. At the core of humanity is a dividedness that seeks wholeness. This has been the experience of mankind and its search for wholeness. This is the psychological root of religion. It took us a whole semester to come to this conclusion, but the journey there was a fascinating one.

I thought about this course this past week when I asked myself the question, “What does receiving the Eucharist mean to me?” My first and only answer to my question was “wholeness.” Every time I approach the Table of the Lord to partake of His Body and Blood, I feel a deep sense of wholeness—a wholeness that reaches down into the very core of my being. This sense of wholeness extends beyond me to you, my sisters and brothers, who also have come to the Table of the Lord to be fed. Jesus at the Last Supper in St. John’s gospel prays, “Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one (Jn. 15:11).” This is the experience of oneness Jesus prayed for on the night before He died for us. We, though many, become one, for as St. Paul tells us, “we all partake of the one loaf.”Oneness is created from the dividedness that lies at the core of our being. In becoming one in the Eucharist, we, the community, as Pope Francis has said, “become in tune with the heart of Christ, to assimilate His choices, thoughts and behaviors.” Think about this for a moment. In our participation in the Eucharist we tune ourselves to the heart of Jesus Christ assimilating His choices, His thoughts, and His behavior. We become what St. Augustine said—we become Christ. He would tell his flock, “Receive who you are and become who you receive.” It is this that we must carry into our world. We are to transform the world as we, ourselves, have been transformed in Holy Communion.

Eucharist is our link between the Christ we receive and the Christ we minister to in the world we encounter.  Let me say this again because we often fail to grasp this important aspect of this Sacrament.  The Christ whom we receive in the Eucharist is our link to the Christ whom we minister to in our world.   This is the reality from which St. Teresa of Avila wrote her famous prayer:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks

Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis

 

Do Come Along In Our Company – Fr. Dennis’ Homily for June 11, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxIt began long ago between God and us. James Weldon Johnson in his poem Creation writes, “This great God, like a mammy bending over her baby, kneeled in the dust, toiling over a lump of clay.…Then into it He blew the breath of life.” God created us—created us in His own image and likeness. Why? Was God lonely and needed some company? Was it because God loves us and wanted to share his divine life with us? Maybe it was a little bit of both of these: out of love for us, God loves to walk in our company.

The scripture readings for this feast of the Holy Trinity have a strong emphasis upon the presence of God. In the first reading, from the book of Exodus (34:4b-6, 8-9), Moses invites God to come along in our company. Moses is asking God to be present to us. St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians (13:11-13), tells us that when we live in peace with one another the God of love will be with us. The gospel of St. John (3:16-18), tells us that God does three things: God loves the world, God gives the Son, and God sent the Son into the world to save us. We live in the presence of God, for we were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. God’s presence is always a mystery, because we live, move, and have our being in God.

The mystery of God calls us to go both beyond ourselves and deeper into ourselves. God, a Trinity of Persons, invites us into relationships that build a community where we encourage one another, where we place the good of the community over the good of the individual, where we live in peace with one another. The fullness of who we are is to be discovered in our relationships with others. The invitation to journey into ourselves is to realize that we are made by God and that God dwells within us. Our world, our society, our government and our city needs models of people who are willing to show others how to go beyond themselves and to go deeper in themselves to discover what God has placed there. We are on that journey.

The four alternative Eucharistic Prayers speak about a God who always walks with us on the journey. My soul resonates to this God who is willing to come along in my company. God wants to be close to us. As we walk our journeys we need to learn how to listen to the God who walks with us. An eighth-grade graduate said this at her graduation, “To listen to God, we need to be quiet and clear our heads of the things that detract from our relationship with God. God wants to talk, so we should listen.” May you have a week of listening to the God who walks with you on your journey.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis

 

Breath of Life – Fr. Dennis’ Homily for June 4, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxWhile studying theology at St. Francis Seminary in preparation for priesthood, I worked as an orderly at Trinity Memorial Hospital. As a part of the hospital personnel I was trained to do CPR. I never had the opportunity to do CPR on a patient, but often witnessed nurses and doctors performing this procedure. It is important when someone suffers from a heart attack to get him breathing as soon as possible. Breath means life.

In the second creation story in the Book of Genesis, God fashioned man from the clay of the earth. When He had finished, God blew into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living human being. The lifeless body only becomes a living person when God breathes His own breath of life into him. The Hebrew word for breath is “ruah” which means wind, breath, air, or spirit. We live because we have within us the breath of God. We live because God breathed into us the breath of life. Most of the time we take this for granted, but it is truly a gift.

In our first reading (Acts 2:1-11), the disciples are gathered into one place and together they experience the descent of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit came not to individuals, but to the group gathered in one place. With our emphasis upon the importance of the individual, we interpret the story as the Spirit coming to the individuals in the room. The Spirit came to individuals only because they were a part of the community that the Spirit created. The Spirit is blowing the breath of life into the group gathered together. They become the Living Body of the Risen Christ. We have here a creation story. Pentecost is a creation story in which the temple Jesus spoke about becomes a living reality—the temple of His Body.

The Church became a living Body of the Risen Lord when the Spirit blew into her the breath of life. St. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they are one body because they were baptized by the one Spirit. He stated, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ (1 Cor. 12:12).” I don’t know if we think of ourselves in this way. The challenge of Pentecost is that we need to go back to what binds us together—the breath of the Spirit’s life. We are who we are as Church because we are a part of the Body of Christ. Pope Francis described the Church with the following words: “The masterpiece of the Spirit (Yes, we are the masterpiece of the Spirit.), which instills in each of us new life of the Risen Christ and places us next to each other (He is right on—this is what church is all about.), to help and support each other, thus making all of us one body built in the communion and love (October 22, 2014 general audience).”  We are indeed the masterpiece of the Spirit linked one to another to be there for each other. Can the others count on us to be there for them? This is what the breath of the Spirit has created among us—a community of believers, a Church, the Body of Jesus Christ.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis