Tag Archives: Communion

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Handed Over

By Marco Casanova

“The God who once manifested wrath against those who turned to idols by handing them over to their shameful passions has now handed them over to the life-giving, transformative power of the Spirit of Christ.” Dr. Robert Gagnon

St. Paul’s words to the Romans are weighty. They had to be. Ancient Roman culture needed prophetic clarity, not a weird attempt to assimilate Christian faith with pagan toxicity. We share that need today. “Gay Christian” ideology tries to mix the sacred with the pagan. St. Paul speaks a better word to us. The Savior he preaches has power to reorder us in love.

St. Paul’s words on homosexuality are clear and timely. Hear this: ‘They worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…Because of this, God handed them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way…the men were inflamed with lust for one another…and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion’ (Romans 1:25-27). To counter these words with laborious arguments is unscholarly and reduces the Gospel of its power. Dare we dismiss what the Savior brought through St. Paul? This Roman epistle deserves a fair hearing.

To be “handed over” (v. 26) to lust is an important word choice. St. Paul describes the evident homosexual passion of Rome as a byproduct of God handing them over to what they wanted. Boundless desire becomes its own punishment. We do what we want to our own peril.

I handed myself over to guys to momentarily meet my ‘need.’ But my lust lacked life, providing no lasting fulfillment or openness to new life. To hand myself over to same-sex sin consumed me and compelled me towards a dead end. I wasn’t free. I needed Someone to save me.

Back to Romans. After his description of ‘gay’ chaos, St. Paul addressed his mostly Jewish readers: ‘You think you are less in need of mercy than these lustful ones?’ Paul invites us in all our messiness into mercy. Yes, the mercy of Jesus is messy. The God-man, slain on a Cross, handed His heart over to be cut open for us. His body fluids are our cleansing flood (John 19:34). Disciples of mercy don’t hide their pagan messes. We’re not afraid because Jesus isn’t afraid of us.

Jesus broke the domination of homosexuality in me. Jesus freed me for more. That’s what He does. He sets captives free. The power of homosexual passion to consume me was real. Though this creative gift of sex is powerful and purposeful, it enslaved me in its disorder. I enthroned my bodily urge for men and it demanded my worship. Jesus wanted more for me.

In handing Himself over for me, Jesus rescued me from being handed over to lust (John 19:16). Only Jesus can set us free from such captivity.

Following Jesus is disruptive. There are no qualms about that. But let’s not become self-piteous and make our “sacrifice” the focal point. Don’t stop at what you’ve given up. Run to the One who continues to hand Himself over each and every day for you.

Utterly important to me is daily Communion. The Eucharist is His “handing over” made flesh. It’s a tangible, deep, transformative remembrance that Jesus is on a mission to rescue us daily.

Jesus is always on the move to save us, handing Himself over, all over again.

Grounded 2

‘Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has…?’

Hard to identify each little loss—they blur into a haze. Maybe familiar Lenten sacrifices like rich food and wine, or the absence of family and friends with whom to share the leanest of fare? (You can’t ‘zoom’ a meal).

Or is it the now familiar infusion of fear in those around you which challenges your peace? You know, that vow to stay calm, to not let ‘it’ get you. Unless you have no nerve-endings, ‘it’ (covid-19) bangs on your door each time you witness people better than you losing breath. Agitation in the outer courts, clamoring for your core…

Jesus in the Eucharist centers me like nothing else. Partaking of the Body and Blood daily has become for this Catholic convert the centerpiece of my worship. Yep, that is what I miss most in the lockdown—no Holy Meal.

Don’t get me wrong: I love singing simple songs of love to Jesus, hearing Scriptural exhortations to armor oneself in faith, and receiving inspired prophetic prayers. But nothing will do like Christ-in-me, the reception of Jesus in the inner courts, fortifying this warrior in the most profound way.

It took time to get there. I was raised Episcopalian where a slightly diluted Catholic take on communion prevailed; I valued the meal but did not know its Subject. Later charismatic versions were super casual, tough to interpret in their myriad forms. Leanne Payne tutored me in an Orthodox version which opened my heart to more. Then a two-year prep at a local parish before becoming confirmed.

I could hardly wait, for I embraced the Catholic view, as you may well know, that insists on priestly prayers (in the line of Peter) to transform the elements into a re-presentation of Jesus—His real body and blood–every Mass.

Quite a claim. I aspired to this edible Jesus and lived with increasing hunger until that Easter Vigil 9-years-ago. Jesus ‘satisfied my desires with good things’ and I’ve not looked back but knelt forward in daily Mass ever since. Until now.

A virus got in the way. Church doors are locked, no opening in view. I hunger for Him. I can remember Him and many healing meals, can meditate on the Word, and prayerfully agree with Annette about His goodness over our family, but I cannot consume Him. Big loss. I ache for Him, not unlike the wait ten-years-ago.

Only now I’ve ‘tasted and seen His goodness’, passed into Him, consumed and been composed by Him. I hunger and thirst for the One.

If there is a purpose in this ‘ache’, Pope Benedict said it first and best: ‘Do we not often take the reception of the Blessed Sacrament too lightly? Might not this kind of spiritual fasting be of service, or even necessary, to deepen and renew our relationship to the Body of Christ?’

I guess he means that it’s ok to hunger a little, to not take for granted what one now expects. Perhaps many of us do not savor enough the Gift of the Holy Meal.

So I wait again. Help me, help us, O God, to hunger patiently.

‘…If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.’ (Rom. 8: 24b, 25)

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

prayer schedule

prayer schedule

Living Bread, for the World

Long before I centered on the Eucharist as the focus of worship—the real meal that Catholics celebrate–I understood this breaking of bread as how us saints can make known our brokenness to each other in fellowship. ‘Communion’ involves just that—gathering in community before the Crucified in order to place our wounded lives in His. Somehow, He takes the edge off our edginess and makes us better gifts for the world—a little more humble, clear, and merciful.

The meal we share isn’t an official sacrament but rather the common grace of the ‘one another’ that somehow gives us a share in Jesus’ words (Jn. 6:51): ‘I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’

When we gathered in Philadelphia last week for a ‘Gender Matters’ conference, I wondered who would break bread with us. I don’t know many Catholics there (it was sponsored by the Diocese) and I’ve little marquee value. Praise God.

How surprised I was to discover a host of hungry, humble saints from that area who came together to ‘eat’ with us that day—to go further along the little way of offering our wounded lives to Jesus and each other so He can season and solidify us—at least enough for us to convert the world rather than be converted by it! My fear turned to faith as I met person after person whom Jesus had connected to us through one person who knew another person who knew another, etc.

This is the miracle of Jesus’ Church composed of His many members—little grains of wheat, each one, crushed in surrender to Jesus and releasing many seeds in the dying that bears much fruit (Jn. 12:24), especially when we gather in order to become ‘living bread’ together.

The miracle of many members—Archbishop Chaput blessed our gathering as he trusted my colleague Marco Casanova who just finished seminary there in Philadelphia. With Chaput’s go-ahead, Marco began to connect with friends in the area who loved Marco and wanted to know what he was up to. I had come often to Philly to be converted by Christopher West and company (their take of St. John Paul ll’s work is splendid) so he did his part to direct friends our way, including his parents and sister who are now charter members of our Living Waters family. At West’s Institute, I had met moral theologian and bioethicist Dr. John Haas who I respect more than almost any other, so I was incredulous when he agreed to open our meal with a word on the dignity of gendered humanity that blew everyone away.

Especially lovely was a table full of radiant nuns—aptly called the Sisters of Life—who were directed there by my best friends in New York City, Joe and Anne Nolte, who know all about me and love this work anyway! We were hosted in the parish of Monsignor Hans Brouwers who had started Courage in Philadelphia years earlier; his still vital, fatherly advocacy was healing for all of us. We love Courage and took heart in partaking of their pioneering efforts in Philly. Friends from Baltimore who love Courage and Encourage joined us too, as did some cool evangelical friends of Abbey from her Penn State days.

Many more to name, no more room. It is enough to say that Jesus is joining His members together to become a fragrant, nutritious loaf of ‘living bread.’ He is doing it! We need not fear; let us rather behold the Spirit as He unifies saints who together are turning outward to become the ‘real meal’ for a world that will choke on its own poisons until we become what we eat—the healing body of Christ, broken for the world.

Bless you all. Please join us for our forty-day-fast: ‘Becoming Good News’ for the lost and the least, beginning October 16th. More on this next week!

You can purchase “Becoming Good News” in book form directly from Desert Stream or get it from Amazon for your Kindle.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

November 13, 2014: Bridal Bath and Meal

‘On that day a fountain will be opened to cleanse the house of David, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, from sin and impurity.’ (Zech. 3:1)

The Cross and its fountain of blood and water (Jn 19:34) is the source of our cleansing. Immersed, God cleanses us in order to wed Himself to us. As Brant Pitre reminded us, the Cross is bridal—the way Jesus lays claim to us as His ‘spouse.’ He gave all to gain us at Calvary; there, He pledged His life as the evidence of His ardor and commitment to us. He prepares us for communion with Himself through the ‘living water’ released on the Cross. 

Consummation requires purity, just as any marriage couple understands. We want to be clean in body and spirit for each other in the marriage bed. How much more for persons who seek intimate communion with the living God? We first discover this cleansing through the waters of baptism. Then we revisit those waters over and over through the confession of our sins and the reception of forgiveness.

More than merely looking back on our baptism, confession invites the Spirit of Resurrection to stir those waters and to grant us a double portion of God’s grace to go forward and overcome the sin. Through a priest or elder, as well as through trustworthy prayer partners, we do our part ‘to stay in the spray’ of Calvary.

Each confession matures God’s sanctifying work in our lives; every admission of disintegration makes us more whole! I love confession because I know it is the one act I am always free to do that will contribute instantly to intimacy with God. That intimacy requires an ongoing bridal bath. The world is dirty and our hearts are not immune to its filth. Daily life necessitates ongoing confession.

We wash ourselves in holy water in order to partake of the holy meal. Confession precedes communion. And what a feast God has prepared for us! Both Brant Pitre and Christopher West have done marvelous jobs in helping us grasp how communion is a bridal meal, the gift of God that conveys to us and secures in us the spousal union God seeks with us.

Pitre writes: ‘If Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church His Bride, then the Lord’s supper is a wedding banquet in which God gives Himself entirely to His Bride in a new and everlasting marriage covenant.’ Through His broken body and shed blood, Jesus unites Himself to us His bride. That meal is the ongoing way we participate in and celebrate again our spousal bond—God dwelling with humanity through His sacrificial pledge of love. ‘The sincere gift of the Sacrifice of the Cross gives prominence to the spousal meaning of God’s love…the Eucharist is the Sacrament of our Redemption, and of the Bridegroom and the Bride.’ (JPll)

The world distorts our appetites, at once exaggerating and deadening real desire. Communion reminds us of whose we are; it invites us to partake of the very One who alone has power to reorder our desires around perfect Love. The bridal bath and meal grants us the grace to become a holy spouse–good gifts to Himself and others.

‘Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth.’ (Song of Sol 1:2)

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Eastern Midwest Region, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Amy Van Cott – Coordinator:  For strength and vision for Amy, for existing groups and to see new groups established.
  2. International Theology of the Body Congress (www.tobcongress.com): Advance for beautiful teachings of John Paul II throughout the world.
  3. Denver Diocese: Discernment for timing and team of new Living Waters group.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 12, 13, 14, 15

Ache of God

Praying 40 days for repentance over sexual sin would be a vain task unless we encountered His ache of love for us.

Prayer unites us with His ache. Beneath His cross, we witness silently His naked broken body. Like rain from heaven, blood and water flow into our shameful nakedness and unites us with the Love that seeks nothing other than our good. Sexual sinners like you and I concur tearfully with Pope Benedict: ‘Any talk of love must begin with the open side of Christ.’

He aches for us, for our good, hating sin (never us!) only because it destroys us. So He pours Himself out generously, and awaits the time when we might stop beneath His cross and satisfy our misdirected appetites on Love alone.

He aches for us! He wants communion with us! Have you ever felt the acute pain of betrayal when a mere creature violated his/her covenant with you? How much more does our Creator ache when we bypass Him for a mere human image of Himself?

Having suffered to secure us in Love, He wants to waste none of His sorrows. He aches for us to abide beneath the cross, to linger there. He wants to reorient us around His ache for us; He delights when we soak in the water that cleanses and refreshes us, the blood that becomes our new life. We fulfill His ache when we welcome His passion as the foundation of our lives.

40 days of focused prayer may not be enough to reorient us wholly around His ache. But it’s a good start. And when we with broken hearts kneel before the cross welcome the fruit of His broken heart for us, we learn to pray for others.

God gives us His ache for the lonely and the lost; we grieve with Him for those wasting themselves on mere images of God. God wants them, Father to child, Bridegroom to bride. Prayer changes us by orienting us around His ache: first for us, and through our prayers, for the people He made and longs to redeem.

‘How beautiful you are, my darling. Oh, how beautiful! Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face lovely.’ (S of S 2:2, 14)

Please join us starting Friday, September 28th, for our 40 days of repentance. You can download the PDF of the entire 40-day devotional now at : pray.desertstream.org.

If you want us to email you the PDF, or to send you a paper copy of the devotional, email Ann at aarmstrong@desertstream.org.

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