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The Eucharist and the Hope of Conversion
with Deacon James Keating Ph.D.
An excerpt from the talk by Deacon Keating…
We know that self-involvement is boring because we know all the remedies that Americans try to unleash themselves from that boredom, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. We all know that we are bored because we are constantly anesthetizing ourselves. We are constantly escaping. We are constantly distracted as a culture because the one thing that is weighing us down is what the commercial market, governments, popular culture, everyone tells us that we should be involved in, the self. And the only one who doesn’t say we should be involved in the self is the one we crucified and killed.
That’s how powerful the movement to stay self-involved is, even under anesthesia, the anesthesia of the current culture, because God help anyone who tries to free us or release us from this powerful self-involvement, they will be killed. They will be ignored. They will be, in some way, tortured, relegated to the margins, attacked. That’s how much we love the self.
The remedy to that is Sunday mass. And of course, the reason Sunday mass is dwindling in attention, in a de-attention, and we are closing parish after parish across diocese after diocese is because the mass is the only hour not about the self. There is nothing to attract an American to the mass because its objectivity does not pander to immediate gratification. And the whole culture panderers to immediate gratification. And the one holy and sacred place that refuses to play into our wound is the mass. The one place that refuses to profit off of our wound is the mass. Can we jazz it up a bit? Can you make it more like entertainment? Can you please change the prayers every Sunday so it’s not all predictable? And the mass stands its ground of objective revelation of the one act of God, which is our only way into the freedom from the self.
This is my body given for you. Two thousand years, we are not budging on that objective reality. If you want to be relieved of the burden of the self, you must suffer the mass. It is not entertainment. It is reconfiguration of your first interest. And that is a spiritual chiropractic that hurts like hell. It is a reorientation of your first interest. And to be with God, it cannot be you. It has to be the mystery of God’s own self that fascinates us.
So He gives us baptism and He gives us all the other sacraments to assist in this reorientation. And the drama of our lives is very clear. In the end, will he or will he not become sick of himself? Let’s watch and see. And if he becomes sick of himself in the face of the revealing beauty of God and he participates in what has been revealed, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we call that salvation, and we’ll call that man saved, holy. But it is a wrenching drama.
If you look at the next series of notes there, the Eucharist is the mutual indwelling of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, the Eucharist is God pouring out his love. That’s the gift. The Eucharist is God, the Trinitarian God pouring out the gift, which is his love in order to invite us to receive it. See that passive language? In order to invite to receive. There is no coercion in love. We must trust, surrender, and respond to the grace.
Deacon James Keating, Ph.D., is a professor of Spiritual Theology and serves as a spiritual director at Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, MO.