Christmas Weekday

Lectionary: 209

This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and Blood.
The Spirit is the one who testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.
So there are three that testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the Blood,
and the three are of one accord.

When the chief chaplain at the VA asked me to conduct a discussion among Veterans about “values” I naturally spoke of rituals, ceremonies and celebrations. As a Catholic priest I cannot imagine a value that is not celebrated in a visible, tactile and real-time fashion. If this ritual doesn't stop us in our tracks and cause us to address one another respectfully and honestly, it has no value. 
In today’s first reading, when Saint John speaks of Jesus Christ who came through water and blood, he refers to the ceremonies we call Baptism and Eucharist. There is no suspicion in his teaching that these signs might not be real, that our prayers might be a pretense or put on for show. God does not lie, neither do his "sacraments;" the Holy Spirit testifies to the water and blood.

The conversation occasionally arises among the Veterans; they ask if I drink wine during the Mass. This worries those who grew up thinking any kind of alcohol is anathema to a Christian. (A scruple endemic to the United States with our peculiar history of prohibition.)

I assure them I do not drink alcohol; “I drink the Blood of Jesus Christ.” They readily accept that explanation; perhaps because their military training would not allow them to challenge a chaplain; perhaps because they realize we Catholics are very serious about our sacraments. 

During this Christmas season, as we have celebrated the Birth of Jesus I have been impressed again by the weight and beauty of this doctrine. There would be no salvation if the Lord God were not born of Mary; if he had not been crucified and raised; if he had not given us his body to eat and blood to drink. He insisted on the night before he died that we should "Take and eat, this is my body; take and drink, this is my blood."

These are not mere symbols like wearing a football jersey makes one a football fan. Ingesting the Lord we become his body. We pray because his Spirit moves us to pray. We make sacrifices because his Spirit moves us to generosity. We fast because we are hungry and thirsty for something other than common food and drink. 

Our Catholic values, celebrated with our rituals, make a difference because we are different, because we are the Body of Christ, animated by his Spirit and returning to the Father. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.