Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you!

It is Thanksgiving morning and my pies are all made and cookies are decorated (I was the dessert lady this year). We just got back from Mass and are watching some of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a tradition from Ben’s family’s Thanksgiving mornings that we are carrying on with our kids. They are loving dancing to all the music and seeing the incredible performers. Rosie is especially excited for Santa’s announcement that comes at the end.

Before heading to church I realized I never even drafted a blog post for today and I wondered if I would have a chance to write something. I also had to pause to try and put into words all of the many things I am thankful for this year.

We have so much to be thankful for. 3 beautiful children, a 4th growing well as we anxiously await their birth. We not only have a home that fits our family during our transition, we are in the process of buying a home in Del Rio, where we will be moving early next year. We are surrounded by family without needing to travel, something that Ben and I have not had in our 6 years of marriage. We are healthy, our children are thriving, Ben has a job that provides for our needs. There is much to be thankful for.

I am especially thankful for our Catholic faith and the continuity it gives us as we move from place to place. The familiarity of the liturgical rhythms  offer our kids a sense of security and hominess beyond anything we could provide. Today at Mass I was able to see this in full force with John and it really hit me just how grateful I am for this faith community.

John had a good first half of Mass, but started to get upset when he had to share some of the things he brought into church. His new thing is to be “grouchy” and put on a sour face. This was, of course, during the consecration. As we waited for communion to start, John was at the end of the pew. I told him he had the opportunity to “make a change” (our key phrase for the kids to let them know they need to turn their attitude around or consequences will ensue). Since he was on the end, he could have the job of leading our family to communion, leading our family to Jesus. He stood up a little straighter and said “I can do that Mommy.”

We waited for the pew in front of us to empty and then John led us. He made sure Clare stayed behind him and didn’t run into anyone. He did a good job. When we got back I told him that he did well. He was beaming and said to me,

Mommy, I made a change during communion! I’m not grouchy anymore!

Be still my heart! Isn’t this exactly what the gift of communion, of Jesus’ very Body and Blood, is supposed to do to each of us? What an incredible gift Jesus has given us. Eucharist is food for our journey of life. But it is also a powerful, the most powerful, agent of change in our lives. When we receive Christ, we are more intimately brought into communion, union, with Christ and with each other. We change.

There are a great many things to be thankful for. Eucharist even means thanksgiving! I am so thankful that I didn’t have anything written for today so that I could share this beautiful experience of joy, transformation and gratitude with you.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us!

thanksgivingDaily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Seeing Myself in an Unexpected but Expected Place

We had a rather rough Mass this week. John was having a difficult time listening and had to be quarantined next to Ben away from the girls. Rosie had a tough morning before Mass and some of her sluggish obedience came with us to church. Clare. Well, let’s just say the whole parish community gathered (roughly 300-400 people) knew exactly where Clare was, knew which book she wanted read and knew I was wearing a new necklace.

As you can imagine, I can’t tell you a whole lot about the homily. I did manage to hear some of the Gospel but I have no recollection of the first reading. I only know the second reading was one of Paul’s letters to Timothy because when the reader said it John shouted “Mommy! It’s St. Paul! He’s talking to his brother Timothy!” Very exciting stuff going on here folks, very exciting.

As we approached Communion I wasn’t exactly feeling prepared. I tried as best I could to focus on what I was doing and more importantly, Who I was receiving.

“The Body of Christ”I vaguely heard. I was making sure Clare and Rosie didn’t end up with a different family after receiving their blessing. I don’t think I even managed to make eye contact with the Eucharistic Minister, something which I make a point of doing.

Eucharist: Seeing my reflection in an expectedly unexpected place. Daily Graces at dailygraces.net
CC Public Domain

“The Blood of Christ” I was told, but thoughtfully and directly. The minister had waited for me to look at her after making sure to point Clare in Ben’s direction. This briefest pause made all the difference.

I connected with her over the chalice she was extending to me. We were of similar height and when she offered me the cup which was holding Jesus’ most precious Blood, I looked inside. Many parishes choose to use red wine, for obvious reasons. However, there are some parishes, ours included, that opt for white wine.The lighting was just right. The cup was still rather full and golden in color which enhanced the clarity of the wine.

As I looked into that cup, I saw my reflection.

For that moment, the whole world stopped.

St. Augustine, in one of his sermons on the Eucharist tells us

Be what you see; receive what you are

It was a profound moment. Here in front of me is the Blood of Christ, the most precious gift Jesus gave us. He offers His Body and Blood as true food and drink which transform us more completely into Himself. Lumen Gentium (paragraph 7), one of the encyclicals that is from the 2nd Vatican Council, explains this mystery:

Really partaking of the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another. “Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread”.(1 Cor 10:17) In this way all of us are made members of His Body, (cf 1 Cor 12:27) “but severally members one of another”.(Rom 12:5)

When we receive the Eucharist, which is Jesus fully present in both the Body and the Blood, we are no longer solely ourselves. We are at that moment fully communed with Jesus and with the whole Church, the Body of Christ.

In a way, seeing my reflection in that cup was a physical representation of what was spiritually happening to me. To see my reflection in the Blood of Christ was to see myself in Jesus and Jesus in me. Anyone else getting flashbacks to Simba in The Lion King when he looks in the pond and sees a reflection of his father while hearing the phrase “Remember who you are.”?

This was a moment of clarity, of realizing who I truly am and who I am called to be. I am a child of God, made in His own image. I am called to be Christ, to reflect His love, mercy and forgiveness to each person I encounter. We are all called in our own unique ways to the same mission. So in a way, I should expect to see my face reflected in the Body and Blood of Christ. Not because I am the important one in this image, but rather because Jesus shines through me when I allow myself to be fully united to Him.

It’s a little confusing and convoluted I know, I  rewrote that last paragraph a bunch of times trying to get it right. The main point is this: Jesus. And how our union with Him became clear to me for just a moment when I saw my reflection in His precious Blood. I think if I try to say more I’ll just end up getting you and myself more confused. Often spiritual things like this are beyond our words to describe them, try as we might to fully understand what happened. What matters is that we reflect, we try to understand and we share our experience with others, even if we can’t grasp it all.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

 

“Mommy, Jesus saw a seal! I’ve seen a seal too!”

Raise your hand if remember the incredibly hysterical and spot on book series, Amelia Bedelia. I loved them growing up. I recall one where Amelia went to a school and was told to plant the bulbs with the children, meaning tulip bulbs. Amelia, in true form, has the children unscrew all the light bulbs to plant instead.

We have similar experiences in our house. Small children are so literal, it trips me up some times. One day, I asked Rosie if she wanted some plain crackers. Now, you have to understand that from before their birth, my children are wired for airplanes. Their father is, after all, a pilot. They have lived on very high air traffic bases their whole lives. They wake up to the sound of jet engines, spend the day watching a variety of aircraft circle the pattern and fall asleep to night sorties and engine tests.

So, what do you think Rosie heard when I asked her if the wanted plain crackers? Plane crackers. As in, airplane shaped crackers. Oh the drama, oh the tragedy and hysterics that ensued from John and Rosie after that misstep. Needless to say, when I ask if they want regular ol’ crackers we call them “simple” crackers. It was easier to explain. Once they start reading we will re-visit the topic, hopefully with less meltdowns.

Another such moment happened at Mass this week. In the Gospel reading Jesus said:

Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal (John 6:27)

After reading that (and the title of this post, hint hint), you may be able to guess which work caught John’s attention. Yes, seal. Obviously seals of all kinds inhabit the sea near Capernaum. It was pretty funny and required some quick whispered explanations. John still isn’t quite sure what kind of seal Jesus saw, but we did clarify that it wasn’t the seals from the zoo.

John’s literal understanding of words at this stage reminded me of my post about having faith like a child. It also got me thinking about literal versus figurative language. Since we were at Mass, this particular thought train brought me to the Eucharistic prayer.

In the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke – called synoptic because they are all similar and based on similar sources, sometimes even the same source – see more here) we hear Jesus say exactly and specifically, “This is my body.” and “This is my blood.” If we are to have faith, and perhaps ears, like a child, then Jesus’ meaning can not be mistaken. Jesus told his disciples that the bread and wine truly became his body and blood, the food and drink of the new covenant. In the Gospel of John (where our Gospel readings from last week and this week came from), Jesus tells his followers in a series of talks that unless they eat the flesh of the Son of Man, they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (John 6). Jesus is very specific, even clarifying and re-stating this teaching when queried about it.

Photo from Inmagine.com
Photo from Inmagine.com

The mystery of the Eucharist is a tough mystery to grapple with. How can bead and wine change? How can we be expected to eat flesh and drink blood? The first important thing to remember is that it is a mystery. We will never fully understand the incredible grace we are participating in each liturgy. Second, we have multiple Scripture accounts of the same words of Jesus. This was a community where oral tradition, the stories told, were where records were preserved. Very little was written down and the Gospels were not written as a play-by-play of Jesus’ life. Our earliest Gospel (Mark) was probably written at the earliest, 50 C.E. That’s a full 20-25 years after Jesus’ death. 20 years is a long time for an oral story to change (remember the game “Telephone” from when you were a kid?). But we have the same words of Jesus, written by 3 different authors in 3 different places, plus the extended theology of John. Pretty convincing stuff. Finally, our understanding has not changed over the course of the whole Church. The Eucharist we celebrate today was celebrated by the earliest Christians. We see it in the writings of St. Paul. We also see it in the writings of St. Justin Martyr, a Christian living in Rome and writing around 150 C.E. If you don’t click on any other links in this post, click on this oneJustin writes about what the liturgy looked like in Rome roughly 55 years after the latest written book in the Bible. The consistency with the liturgy we just celebrated this weekend is, for me, beyond words. The liturgy we celebrate today is firmly founded in the traditions and teachings of the apostles. If they took Jesus literally, I think it’s a good bet we should too.