Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Good Start

This week's first readings are taken from what has to be the most charming book of the Bible, Tobit. Tobit reads more like a fairy tale than scripture; it has a mysterious character with a secret identity, a rags-to-riches plot line and even a wedding and a "happily ever after"! Maybe it is a fairy tale; the Bible is a library with books of every description, why not fairy tales, too? (Although in this case it is an "angel tale.")
Today's passage is an elaborate cut-and-paste that shows us the twin predicaments of the elderly Tobit and the beautiful young Sarah. Both are miserable and in a very reasonable state of depression. And both are praying for death. But God has something better in mind. (Doesn't he always?)
What is interesting is how they begin their prayer: both of them start not with a description of their sorry state, but with acclamations of praise. This Jewish prayer tradition is something that many of us may have lost track of (even though it is firmly ensconced in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church's official prayer, which begins with the "Invitatory" psalm, calling us to praise).
Cue the "Sound of Music" (the title itself is from the psalms):
Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.
When you read you begin with A B C.
When you pray you begin with...
Blessed be!


Nichole said...

Hi SR. Anne,
This is a random question, but if someone received they're first communion normally, then left the church and returned years later, would they have to go to confession before receiving communion again?

xaipe said...

Interesting you should ask! As I did my (ugh!) exercises this morning, I was thinking about an ancient expression that is still used in the Eastern Church to remind people about how big a deal Communion is. The priest says, "Holy things to the holy."
This is a reminder that anyone who comes to receive Communion should be "holy." And that holiness (we're not talking canonized holiness, but what Catholics call "the state of grace"), that holiness can't just be something private: our inner feeling, or maybe the personal conviction that "I'm basically a good person." There needs to be a certain verifiable exterior "holiness," too. That means the Church has a right to set some "minimum requirements" for those who come to Communion. And one of those minimum requirements actually is going to Mass every single Sunday.
A person who doesn't fit these criteria can still be "a good person," very dear to God, and sincerely seeking God. That's not the issue. Communion is a double thing: it is not just "communion" (or close, living union) with Jesus; it is a statement of communion (close, living union) with the Church, too! If a person has been away from "close, living union" with the Church's life (expressed through Sunday Mass, a life of prayer and participation in a parish), then part of what Communion means isn't there.
And so confession would be the best Sacrament for a person in that situation to receive. The sacrament of Penance would help the person address the deeper issues that were a part of their being far from the life of the Church for a length of time; confession gives a new beginning of that "close, living union" with God and the Church (all those other people in the pews).
Probably, someone who has been away from active Catholic life for a number of years also needs a bit of instruction on an adult level; perhaps they have questions, or misunderstandings, regarding aspects of Catholic life and faith. Penance would be the next good step on the journey that is Catholic living, but confession wouldn't be an "end" in itself; it makes no sense unless a new life is really beginning. And then Communion is the pinnacle expression of that new life.
For whomever's sake you were asking this, I will pray for them.

Nicci Marie said...

Thank you!!