Jim Penczykowski’s Homily, May 31, 2015

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“As we pray, so we believe” is a rough translation of the original Latin expression, lex orandi, lex credendi. 

It is an expression deeply rooted in Christian theology.

Before the Nicene Creed, before the Apostles’ Creed, before the canon of Christian Scripture was established, before even the Council of Jerusalem, the followers of Christ were praying together.

Their praying set the foundation for what they believed and what we believe.

In the succeeding days, weeks, months and years after Jesus’ death and resurrection the first followers continued their custom of praying in the synagogue on the Sabbath and continuing their prayer together the following day centered around a simple meal which was most commonly referred to as the agape (Agape (/ˈæɡəp/[1] or /ˈæɡəpɪ/;[2] Classical Greek: ἀγάπη, agápē; Modern Greek: αγάπη IPA: [aˈɣapi]), which means love: esp. compassion, forgiveness, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God. The noun form first occurs in the Septuagint, but the verb form goes as far back as Homer, translated literally as affection, as in “greet with affection” and “show affection for the dead.”[3] Other ancient authors have used forms of the word to denote love of a spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, in contrast to philia (an affection that could denote friendship, brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection) and eros, an affection of a sexual nature.

Agape developed in Christian theology as the love of God or Christ for humankind. In the New Testament, it refers to the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow man.[4] Although the word does not have a specific religious connotation, it has been used by a variety of contemporary and ancient sources, including biblical authors and Christian authors.)

What we now call our Eucharistic Prayer was known in the Greek speaking world as the Anaphora (ἀναφορά), meaning a “carrying up” or offering.

In the earliest texts of liturgical prayer we know about, there is a strong Trinitarian formula followed.

The prayers are almost always directed to the “father” who is asked to send “the spirit” upon the gifts of bread and wine to make them the body and blood of the “Christ” for us.

This is called the epiclesis (also spelled epiklesis; from Ancient Greek: ἐπίκλησις “invocation” or “calling down from on high”) of the Eucharistic Prayer.

The Jesus prayer itself does not invoke the spirit. 

What Jesus of Nazareth taught when asked how to pray, was to direct our needs to Abba without mediation. 

What is it about the very early prayer invoking the abba of Jesus to send the spirit upon the elements of a meal that was so important to those early followers?

The spirit experience in the festival of Pentecost is charismatic, spontaneous, enthusiastic, ebullient, and lavish.

It is not, however, easy to maintain that level of experience day-after-day-after-day.  Bringing the Spirit of Jesus front and center in our consciousness is part of what the Eucharistic Prayer accomplishes.

Invoking the Holy Spirit is not necessary in the sense that the God of Jesus needs reminding that we need that spirit.

We remind ourselves that we need that spirit in our midst if we are to carry that spirit with us in our daily living, in our mission to be Christ to our world.

The first followers had that power of a mighty wind experience that was and is the very spirit of God in Jesus.

They spoke with power and authority as Jesus had done.

They healed as Jesus had done.

They attracted others to them as Jesus had done.

They reached out to the poor and the marginalized as Jesus had done.

They met persecution and death as Jesus had done.

In our own day, the Spirit works powerfully in those who have a profound experience of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Archbishop Romero comes to mind this day.  A prudent and even shy man whose life is completely taken over by the Spirit of Jesus when his friend is murdered.

A change in his life from gentle and almost shy pastor came with the murder of father Rutilio Grande, a priest…   A Salvadoran Jesuit priest. He left teaching at the University to be the pastor of oppressed and marginalized farmers. This was the event that touched the heart of Archbishop Romero, who cried for his priest as a mother could do for her own son. He went quickly to Aguilares to offer the mass of suffrage, spending the night crying, watching and praying for the three innocent victims. For father Rutilio, and the two peasants who accompanied him. The peasants were now orphaned of their good father and Romero wished to take his post.  In his homily, the Archbishop said “the liberation that Fr. Grande preached was inspired by faith. A faith that speaks to us of eternal life. The liberation that ends in the happiness of God. The liberation that comes from repentance from sin. The liberation that is founded on Christ, the only force of salvation”. Here ends Romero. Since that day his language became more explicit in defending the oppressed people and persecuted priests, without worrying [about] the threats he received on a daily basis. Monsignor Romero spoke of a gift of the Holy Spirit which granted him a special pastoral fortitude, almost in contrast to his prudent and restrained temperament. He says “I considered it a duty to place myself strongly in defense of my church and beside my people, so oppressed and despised”.   Sister Luz Isabel, a religious Carmelite, present at the mass during which Romero was killed, testifies that that … the Archbishop told her “God leads me and he inspires me about what I say”. And his words were not a provocation to hatred and revenge but a brave exhortation of a father to his divided children, who were invited to love, forgiveness, and concord. Gazing upon the beauty of nature and the splendor of the Salvadoran landscape, Romero used to say that the heaven started here on Earth. He looked at his beloved and tormented fatherland with hope in his heart. He dreamed that one day on the ruins of evil would have shone the glory of God and his love. His option for the poor was not ideological but Evangelical.  His charity… His charity extended also to his persecutors, to whom he preached conversion to the good and whom he assured forgiveness, notwithstanding everything. He was accustomed to be merciful. His generosity in giving to whoever asked was, according to witnesses, magnanimous, total, abundant. If someone asked, he gave.  He once said that if he could get back all the money he had distributed, he would have become a millionaire. Pastoral charity infused him with extraordinary strength. One day a he told a priest he was continually threatened with death and that the national newspapers published daily criticisms against him. But, with a smile, he continued, “this does not discourage me. On the contrary, I feel more brave because these are the risks of the pastor. I have to go forward. I do not bear a grudge to anyone”.


Our reading today from Paul’s letter to the Romans could easily have been the scripture that Romero meditated on as he mourned his friend’s death.  “For all who are led …  may be glorified with Christ.”

As heirs with Christ in the reign of God here and now we approach our Eucharistic Prayer with confidence and courage and the strength of perfect love evidenced in our Trinitarian God Life.

We are not observing the Trinity from the outside looking in.

We participate in the life of the Trinity.

When we hear today, “Send your Spirit upon these gifts”, the gifts of bread and wine are extensions of our very selves participating in the perfect love of the Maker, the Christ and the Holy Spirit.

We will go out from this prayer the embodiment of Christ, heirs with him, and filled with his Spirit to heal the sick, to proclaim liberty to captives, to permeate the world with our leaven.

Our apostolates and vocations will vary widely.

Some of us will work in public policy to advocate for reduced sentencing of prisoners; some of us will work in food pantries stocking shelves; some of us will visit the sick or accept a visit from others because we are sick.  In each way that we follow Christ this day and this week we are called upon to pour ourselves out as lavishly as we have received the cup of abundant mercy.

By the light of your Spirit, enlighten the world and dispel the darkness of our times, turn hatred into love, sorrow into joy and war into the peace we so desire, we pray …

For our elected officials and those who hold power that their policies will take into account not only short term economic gain but also the legacy we leave for generations to come, we pray …

For monastic communities, and particularly the Benedictine Women of Madison, that the will grow in love and in numbers, we pray …

For what else shall we pray?

Please mention quietly now those whose needs you carry in your hearts.  For these and all written in our book of intentions, we pray …

Maker of light, from whom every good gift comes,

send your spirit into our lives with the power of a mighty wind,

and by the flame of your wisdom open the horizons of our minds.

Loosen our tongues to sing your praise in words beyond the power of speech,

for without your spirit we could never raise our voice in words of peace

or announce the truth that Jesus is Messiah and Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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