Friday, April 24, 2009

Nothing Will Be Wasted

When they had had their fill, Jesus said to his disciples,
"Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted."
John 6:12

We waste an awful lot. Food, time, energy, water, money. The list goes on. Ours is a disposable society.

Everything is important, but nothing matters much.

We waste words. Many speak. Few say anything. No wonder so few listen.

We waste opportunities. They fly by every second of our lives. Every once in a while, we grab one and make the most of it. Most pass by unnoticed, never to return.

We waste knowledge, emotions, actions.

We waste joy, sadness, courage, fear, conviction, uncertainty, pleasure, pain.

We waste people. If we're honest, we'll admit we often pay attention only to those whom we like, and who like us.

We waste death. Life is cheap.

We waste the grandeur of mystery, the glorious gifts that drench us from above each and every moment we spend on this earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is budding all around us, but we see dimly.

More than anything, we waste love. God's love. Love of ourselves. The love of others.

But all is not lost. Not even close.

In John 6, Jesus feeds 5,000 people. All they had were five barley loaves (the food of the poor) and two fish. It wasn't much. In fact, in wasn't anything at all. They needed food, but had too little. Jesus fed them all. They had their fill.

Often overlooked, though, is this passage: "When they had had their fill, Jesus said to his disciples, 'Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.' " It's an important sentence. Why do you think Jesus cared about all the leftovers? Why did the writer of the gospel feel it necessary to report this? As the end of John says, Jesus did many other things that were never recorded. This one was.

Much more than a meal is going on here. Jesus is providing more than food for the hungry. These acts--this mystery--signifies something else, something much greater.

For those who need, who have nothing (which is all of us in one respect or another), God provides. He gives us Himself. Jesus gathers us, feeds us, fills us with bread from heaven. The Body of Christ becomes what it receives. We are what we eat, as the saying goes.

Then, when we're finished, Jesus tells US: "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." Fragments, scraps, crumbs, crusts, tidbits, particles.

Garbage, waste, trash is what we call them.

But nothing will be wasted, Jesus says. Nothing.

After everyone has received Communion at Mass, the priest and/or Eucharistic ministers consume whatever remains. They don't throw it out. Nothing is wasted.

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. ... The one who feeds on me will have life because of me," Jesus says (John 6:51, 57). We are fed by His life, and our lives as Christ are commissioned to feed the lives of others, to gather all the fragments.

Nothing will be wasted. No matter our need, nor how little we have.

Not food, time, energy, water, nor money.

Not words.

Not opportunities.

Not knowledge, emotions, nor actions.

Not joy, sadness, courage, fear, conviction, uncertainty, pleasure, nor pain.

Not people. Those we like nor don't like. Those who like us and those who don't.

Not even death. The Resurrected Christ in us gathers all the barley loaves of the poor, all the fragments and crumbs, whatever seems small and useless, and makes us One.

Nothing we have, do, or are is wasted. Everything belongs. It all matters--this grandeur of mystery, this glorious gift that drenches us from above each and every moment. We may still see dimly, but the Kingdom of Heaven buds all around us. Especially in all the leftovers.

God's love is not wasted. Not one crumb, no matter how crusty. Taste and see.

Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
From Christ's fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Matthew 10:8; John 1:16

Sunday, April 12, 2009

If It Dies, It Bears Much Fruit

To everyone who conquers,
I will give permission
to eat from the tree of life
that is in the paradise of God.
-- Rev. 2:7

A lifeless body in a tomb.



Wrapped in burial cloths of misery, fear, and failure.

A decaying grain concealed in darkest land.

Mystery awaits the morn.

Thin light spreads over a horizon unaware of what the earth cannot contain.

The soil is soaked with divinity’s dew.

The seed of humanity sheds its rotten garments.

The wound within opens.

A tender shoot appears.

It emerges above the soil.

Pulled toward the rising sun, it is green, full of sap.

Roots crack through and discard the seed’s hard but fragile casing…

… surge through and clutch the earth…

… drink from the brimming river.

The stalk grows thicker, taller.

Stems become branches.

Buds blossom and leaves unfurl.

Within them the birds of heaven sing their song.

Hanging there is ripened fruit.

Good for food.

Pleasing to the eye.

Desirable for gaining wisdom.

Fruit better than gold.

A woman enters the land.

She seeks a burial plot, and finds the tree.

She is amazed at what has arisen there.

Taking some of the fruit, she eats.

Urged by an angel, she shares it.

Naked again, eyes are opened.

Wrapped in the light of faith, hope, love.



A vibrant body in a garden.

Planted in the house of the Lord.

Still bearing fruit when they are old.

Surrounding the Tree of Life.

Singing Alleluia!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Christ's Descent into Death

You have laid me in the depths of the tomb,
in places that are dark, in the depths.

Psalm 87:7

This morning, for vigils of Holy Saturday here at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, we heard the following reading. It is a wonderful meditation for this day of silence, waiting, and preparation for Holy Easter. Indeed, it is a wonderful reflection for each day of our lives united to the Resurrected Christ. — Br. Francis

THE PASSION is simply the record of Christ’s descent into the realm of death. This is a matter which is seldom explained, and for that reason we may fail to understand the cosmic magnitude of Christ’s passion.

Death is an evil force which, along with sin, dominates the human race. Sin and death are two names for what is really the same thing—the death of the soul and its consequence, the death of the body.

What exactly did Jesus do during his passion? He descended into death. He went down into death’s domain; he fell into its power. The depths of the earth do not mean the grave alone; they include the nether regions. Orthodox theology understands the resurrection not simply as Christ leaving the tomb, but as Christ rising up from the underworld.

The two ideas are not the same; the theological implications of the second are far more profound. Christ went down into the realm of death in that manhood of his which was under death’s dominion, and there was an actual moment when death was able to gloat: “I have won!”

But in answer to that boast we have Saint Paul’s splendid retort: “O death, where is your victory?” Death, whose name is Satan, believed that on the evening of Good Friday he had gained an everlasting victory, since Christ himself was now his prisoner.

Then all at once on Easter morning the gates of death burst apart and its strongholds were laid bare. O death, where is your victory now?

Christ was only able to conquer death by first becoming its prisoner. His purpose in submitting to death was to free the human race from its power. This fact gives a realism and incomparable grandeur to the death of Christ; this is the meaning of the word “redemption.”

Redemption does not mean some kind of ransom or settling of accounts between Christ and Satan. It means Christ’s conflict with the powers of evil, his victory over them all and his conquest of the kingdom of death.

This throws light on the rites of baptism as practiced in the early years of the Church. The descent into the baptismal font which Saint Paul likens to the entombment of Christ was a ritual representation of this descent into death. The newly baptized Christian was incorporated into Christ’s death before emerging victorious with him.

Christ’s victory is a victory for the whole of humanity. We all have to reproduce in ourselves the entire mystery of Christ—his passion, resurrection, and ascension—and baptism is a symbol of that conformity with the mystery of Christ which must continue during our whole lifetime.

Through our daily death to self, Christ’s victory over the power of evil continues to work in us until we are totally free.

— Cardinal Jean Daniélou, S.J.
(Le mystère de l’Avent, 162-164)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

This Cross

Straining under the weight, too weary to even stumble.

Staggering, unable to press forward.

Tears and sweat sap strength.

Anguish deeper than pain and fear.

There is simply nothing left.


Welling up, despair cries out.

Yet, its very sound is one of hope -- faint but fearless.

Why, O Lord?

Ears open to the voice of sincerity, humility, faith.

I can hear my nothingness.

See my dignity.

Touch my identity.

Something sterner than death arises.

Beating in harmony with a force other than being.

There is light, and it sings.

This cross I have, I must need.
Why is beyond the mind's eye,
guarded by Truth and Love.

The reply rises softly, lingers, prods.


Always present.

Rarely heard.

Help me with this cross.
It belongs to me.
Help me with it.
Together, we carry it.
With one another, and for all others.


This cross only makes sense if it is borne for another's sake.

Mystery enlightens.

Weakness is made strong.

Back straightens. Feet steady.

This cross is still here.

But now it embraces all.