Friday, September 24, 2010

Turn, Turn, Turn

"Turn, Turn, Turn." Folks of a certain generation will recognize those words as the title of a song by the Byrds that came out in the '60's and used the words from today's first reading at Mass, Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11.

It's actually a pretty grim view of life. Time is depicted as a series of cycles--ups and downs, good times and bad. Because God, as the reading says, "put the timeless into their hearts," people ask questions like, "Why?" "To what end or purpose are all these cycles?" "Is that all there is?" "Why do I feel that there should be more?"

Why? Because God created each of us with the "timeless" in our hearts. There is more. We're made in God's image and likeness. There is something immortal about us. We're made by Love and for Love.

Jesus redeems time from its meaninglessness. Who is Jesus? That's the question in today's Gospel (Luke 9: 18-22). Peter gets the answer right, telling Jesus He is "the Christ of God," the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Savior. Immediately, Jesus rebukes him. Why? Because of all the misconceptions surrounding "the Christ." Jesus teaches that "the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected ..., and be killed and on the third day be raised." He is not a political redeemer who will help Israel shake off the Roman rule. That would simply lead to one more cycle of war and victory and peace for a while, or war and defeat and further suffering. No, Jesus is not a political redeemer or messiah. He is the Redeemer of time itself. The Redeemer of death.

This is what He did on the Cross. His victory over time and death on the Cross continues in the Eucharist.

Now, in every celebration of the Eucharist, the timeless act of the Redemption breaks into time. The moment of His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave is made present in every Mass. This is the true focus of the Mass. It is the Holy Sacrifice in which Jesus' perfect offering of Himself is made present again in time.

Blessed Louis Guanella, the founder of the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and the Servants of Charity wrote a little book called "The Angel of the Sanctuary." In it we find these words: "In the Holy Mass, the Christian spiritually sets his heart for Mount Calvary, where he witnesses the agony and death of Jesus Christ, and finally his glorious resurrection."

At every Mass we are present at that moment because it is a timeless or eternal event that breaks into time. At every Mass we are able to unite ourselves to Jesus' perfect offering. We offer ourselves with Him to the Father in a perfect act of love.

In his Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," Pope Benedict wrote that the Eucharist is a mystery to be believed, celebrated, and lived. We believe that in every Eucharist the eternal event of the Redeemer's death and resurrection is made present. We celebrate that event accordingly, with loving reverence. And we live it. We participate most fully in the Eucharist when we make an offering of ourselves with Jesus. Then, having communed with the Body and Blood of Christ, we leave the celebration to live the offering we have made.

We renew that offering often, beginning each day with a Morning Offering. We strive to recall that offering throughout the day as we offer our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings, every thought, word, and deed, every breath and heart beat. And at the end of the day we make a review of the offering that we have made.

In this way, time is redeemed. It is no longer an ongoing and meaningless cycle that ends in death. Every moment of the day, joined to Jesus' perfect offering on Calvary and in every Mass, becomes significant, eternally significant.


  1. Fr. Jim, I lectored at Mass this morning and after reading this I've had that song in my head! This is a great concept, the redemption of time through the daily offering, and being present in a timeless moment by offering ourselves, with Jesus, in the Eucharist at Mass.

    I'm having a hard time catching up on my reading because nearly every time you post something, you mention a book that I just have to read! I'll be looking for "The Angel of the Sanctuary" the next time I'm at the Library! I'm looking forward to your next post and hopefully a chance to learn more about Blessed Louis Guanella!

    Thanks for writing this blog, through it I can almost feel as though I am traveling along with you on all of your retreats and growing so much through your words written here!

  2. Sorry, Anne. You won't find Fr. Guanella's "The Angel in the Sanctuary." I have a collection of his writings here in my room at the retreat house, but there was only a one page excerpt from that particular work. I doubt that the entire work, which was a booklet actually, has been translated into English.