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Life Symbols

Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

A reflection from Father Tudgay for the Second Sunday of Lent.

Idolatry is an easy thing. We look at our world and we sometimes see the prioritization of many different things, from money, to power, to the control of information, to the control of other people. Even within organized religions, preachers, teachers, religious authorities, and zealots alike can “idolize” the influence that their positions give them. An Idol can be defined, loosely, as an object of human attention or worship that serves as an image or representation of something that is believed to be divine. Idols can, understandably, capture our attention. They can be a person, place, or thing. More elusively, idols can take the form of an idea or an ideal, the perfect situation or circumstance to be captured or apprehended. Usually in the end, idols – whatever form they take – usually leave us empty, exasperated, and just plain spent. 


The role of symbols is important within the Judeo-Christian Tradition. The temptation toward idolatry – making gods out of things or persons who aren’t God – is an understandable human temptation because it expresses the innate human desire for the divine. Our search for God and godlike things reveals that the human person – uniquely created in God’s image and likeness – is inherently religious, that is to say, that we are built to search for the One who created us.  While the Catholic Faith is chock-full of religious symbols, the Eucharist – Jesus’ living presence among us – is the central realty of the Church’s worship. 


Like all things, our religious quest, separated from among the Church’s Magisterium, can lead us astray. The Gospel passage shows Jesus’ reaction to the dilution of the significance of the temple. Rather than being the place where God’s people gather to commemorate his salvific acts, the notion of sacrifice was reduced to commerce. Christ’s intolerance that is on display in the scene from the Gospel prepares the hearts and minds – albeit in a dramatic way – to begin to apprehend the mystery of what will unfold on Calvary. 


At the center of all of the symbolic references that we have in our Catholic faith is the living presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Static in appearance and often misunderstood in its meaning, the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ pulsates with his resurrected life among us and within us. As Catholics, the foundation of our renewal begins with the sacramental intimacy that we experience both at mass and in the sacrament of confession, where Jesus’ living presence transforms, heals, and strengthens. 

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