I heard the voice of Jesus say

Japan, 1603.  The art of Kabuki Theater begins - and it is something that has never been seen before. Actors emerge onto a stage with painted faces which indicate who their character is.  Their movements are so graceful that often the viewer cannot distinguish which movements are dance forms and which are the acting.  Actors train for years to be able to possess the honor of being in a public performance.  It is as if you are learning an entirely new language - the stylized motions convey the emotions that the heart speaks and the mouth has no words for.

Japan, 2015.  A Kabuki Theater performance is staged.  Actors and actresses perform, pride showing in their actions.  They have trained for year for this.  Not to shine as theater stars themselves, but to accurately portray the Kabuki performance the same way the actors before them did.  A Kabuki performance stands frozen in time - performed the same way over and over again.


The performance given in 2015 is the same performance one saw in 1615.

There is great pride in the preservation of the traditional Japanese theater - the actor who plays the part of a great hero says the same words, does the very same actions and wears the very same costume design that the original master actor said, did and wore.



The Last Supper, 33.  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."  Then he took the cup and when had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from the fruit of the vine from now on until the day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:26-30).

Mass on the First Sunday of Lent, 2015.  The priest leans over the host, elevates it and says, "Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body which will be given up for you." And taking the wine, he says, "Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood.  The blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.  Do this in memory of me."

As Catholics, we gather in Church and are able to participate in the same sacrifice that occurred 2,000 years ago on Calvary.  

Yet our journey does not start by the foot of the cross.  Through the Mass we also are able to experience Christ as we are seated at His Last Supper, and then, (spoiler, my favorite part of the Mass) we join our voices with the angels and saints as we sing in adoration to a God who rose and is in Heaven.  

The Mass is not simply a performance or a ritual performed the same way and preserved for over two thousand years.  The words of consecration are not recited lines said by a priest who wants to be the best priest on the altar since Christ.  Instead, they are Christ's words, spoken by a man who stands in the person of Christ.  

In Luke 10:16, Christ tells his priests that "He who hears you, hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me."  The words "This is my body" does not come from the priest who stands in front of us.  We are not called to eat the flesh of Father fill-in-the-blank and drink his blood.  Instead, the priest acts as another Christ - in persona Christi.
  
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this belief as such: It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person, his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration, which he has received, is truly made like to the high priests, and possess the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ Himself." 

It is not simply a rote rehearsal of words to make sure that we get everything "just right" and preserve the perfect tradition the way Christ would have liked it if he were still here.  Rather, HE is still here, in the very real way through His physical presence on the altar.

It is also not a simple show, costumes included, of bravado and strict and regulated art.  The priest does not 'dress up' as Christ and carry on actions as to imitate him.  Rather, he puts on Christ Himself.  Rather, even the vestments of the priests symbolize this participation in the person hood of Christ. 

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, "The fact that we are standing at the altar clad in liturgical vestments must make it clearly visible to those present that we are there "in the person of an Other". Just as in the course of time priestly vestments developed, they are a profound symbolic expression of what the priesthood means...the essence of the priestly ministry, interpreting the liturgical vestments themselves..."

And then we lay people get to participate in that same sacrifice of Calvary on the altar and receive the body and blood of Christ, crucified and risen, into our bodies through the hands of the priest. 

How beautiful! To be given the actual body of Christ through the hands of His priest, who stands in as another Christ.  Saint John Vianney, patron saints of priests, wrote, ""When you see the priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Saint John Chrysostom, a doctor of the Church, said in 391 AD, "Neither angel nor archangel is able to do anything in respect to what is given by God; rather Father and Son and Holy Spirit manage it all; but the priest lends his own tongue and presents his own hand."

There is great beauty in the priest acting in the person of Christ - and the beauty of interacting with the God of the Heavens and Creator of the Universe in such a physical way.  And while priests are given the honor of such an intimate way do not forget the fact that we too are asked to share in Christ's life here on earth. 

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians chapter five, he wrote, "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children.  Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." 

Act as Christ in your world.  Not as an actor, whose life after he is done impressing people returns to it's state of normalcy or even discontented malice.  Instead, let Christ invade your live and take over so that we can say like Paul in his letter to the Galatians , "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."  

Justin Timberlake and Love

This morning my little six year old brother Liam rushed into my room, waving a Valentine's Day card from our grandparents.  He was ecstatic, but also a little frustrated.  

"They spelled my name wrong!! My name isn't spelled L-O-V-E! It's spelled L-I-A-M!"  

And while this super adorable little man is needing some spelling lesson improvement, he's actually got a beautiful life lesson wrapped into his ability to only recognize the letter 'L'.

Although those in our family know us by our name, what we define as important, our passions and our jobs, we are so much more than that.  And we're more than our plans, hopes and mistakes.  

Because when God looks into your contrite heart, He doesn't see what you think makes you.  Your trip ups, your failings. He sees love.  He sees you - His Child and His creation...and His good.  But sometimes that unconditional and infinite love can be scary.  So we huddle in our plans and hide behind our will and what we perceive as our good.  

It's safe, and it's secure.  And when you take a break from all the security, you realize you feel completely and utterly alone.

And that's now how you were created to be.  Galatians 1:10 says, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."  You don't have to impress people. We strive to follow and obey, and, in essence, fall in love with God.

There is a song that explains this b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l-l-y. And it's by Justin Timberlake. Didn't expect that combination, did you?

The song is called "Mirrors" and while it is regularly sang by a gentleman with a certain lady in mind, but my challenge to you tonight is to read through the lyrics and read it as if God and you are singing it to each other.

Aren't you somethin' to admire?

Genesis 1:31 "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."'

'Cause your shine is somethin' like a mirror
And I can't help but notice
You reflect in this heart of mine


Genesis 1:27 "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them"

If you ever feel alone and
The glare makes me hard to find
Just know that I'm always
Parallel on the other side 


Hebrews 4:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin."

'Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul
I can tell you there's no place we couldn't go .


Matthew 19:26 "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible"

Just put your hand on the glass
I'm trying to pull you through

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." 

You just gotta be strong
'Cause I don't wanna lose you now
I'm lookin' right at the other half of me. 
The vacancy that sat in my heart
Is the space that now you hold 


Romans 8:38 "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love."

Show me how to fight for now
And I'll tell you baby, it was easy 
Comin' back here to you

John 14: 1-3 "
 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."


You were right here all along
It's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me. 

Colossians 3:10 "And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator"

I couldn't get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it's clear as this promise
That we're making two reflections in one 

Song of Songs 2:13 "Arise, come, my darling;my beautiful one, come with me"

'Cause it's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me.
Aren't you somethin', an original
'Cause it doesn't seem merely a sample
And I can't help but stare, 'cause
I see truth somewhere in your eyes


I can't ever change without you
You reflect me, I love that about you
And if I could, I would look at us all the time. 



Romans 5:8
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."


'Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul

I can tell you there's no place we couldn't go.

Romans 8:31 "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"


Just put your hand on the glass
I'll be tryin' to pull you through
You just gotta be strong


1 Corinthians 1:25 "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

'Cause I don't wanna lose you now
I'm lookin' right at the other half of me
The vacancy that sat in my heart
Is a space that now you hold


Romans 5:5 "And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

Show me how to fight for now.
And I'll tell you baby, it was easy
Comin' back here to you once I figured it out
You were right here all along.


Luke 15:20
"And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."


It's like your my mirror
My mirror staring back at me.
I couldn't get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it's clear as this promise


2 Peter 1:4 "Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

That we're making two reflections in one.
'Cause it's like your my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me.

Yesterday is history. 

Psalm 103:12 "He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west."


Tomorrow's a mystery

Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I can see you lookin' back at me.
Keep your eyes on me

Baby, keep your eyes on me. 

Psalm 16:8 "I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-14101A" data-link="(A)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> I will not be shaken."

Now you're the inspiration for this precious song.
And I wanna see your face light up since you put me on


So now I say goodbye to the old me, it's already gone
And I can't wait wait wait wait to get you home
Just to let you know, you are, you are the love of my life.  


You're my reflection, all I see is you

Songs of Songs 8:6 "Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame."


My reflection, in everything I do. 
You're my reflection and all I see is you. 

My reflection in everything I do. 

God has loved you at your darkest.  Your brightest.  Your best and worst.  And despite seeing you at both ends of the spectrum, He loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.

Will you open the door to your heart and let His love into your life?

Will you love Him in return?