The Most Holy Trinity [B]

The Most Holy Trinity [B]
Deut 4:32-34,39-40  +  Rom 8:14-17  +  Mt 28:16-20
May 27, 2018

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God….

The end and the beginning of human life are found in the Most Holy Trinity.  We could reflect on this truth from the perspective of one’s own individual life, or that of all mankind, or that of all creation, or that of God Himself.  The dogma of the Most Holy Trinity is the most profound and all-encompassing of all Christian beliefs.  For that reason, this dogma can overwhelm disciples and preachers alike.  But since a journey has to begin somewhere, one might as well begin reflecting on the Trinity in the light of one’s own self.

In the beginning, human life is radically marked by dependence.  Not only is the human person dependent on others for the conception and nurturing of his life.  Many of the facts of his life—such as physical traits, temperament, potential for intelligence—are inherited from others.  As the old saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

By contrast, some would equate human maturity with the advance of one’s independence, as if the apple could pick itself up from the ground and move into the shade of an orange tree.  Many define human maturity by one’s self-determination and personal autonomy.  “No one’s going to tell ME what to do!” seems the creed of modern man.  In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court illustrated this creed, supporting the notion of legal abortion by making the following claim:  “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Where can such logic end?  Where can this creed possibly lead individuals?  Where can this creed lead mankind as a whole, as well as the world in which we live?  What hope can this creed afford?

If human maturity is defined by personal autonomy, then man’s only hope is man himself.  For many unbelievers, this hope seems to bring joy.  Unfortunately, the joy of such autonomy is incapable of ending in anything other than self-worship.  Self-worship can only end in isolation.  As a witness to the logic of this creed, the atheist Sartre professed that “Hell is other persons”.

Jesus Christ, however, reveals to us that Heaven is found amidst other persons.  Indeed, God Himself is other Persons:  three divine Persons, to be exact.  This is the saving truth that the Church celebrates on this Sunday following Pentecost.  The end and the beginning of the human person is the life of the Trinity:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who always are together, act together, and love together, these three being one in Him.

The Church’s life here below consists in inviting more persons into this saving Mystery.  Her mission is to extend the love of the Father and the Son through this world, so as to draw those who live in this world into the life of Heaven.  The love of the Father and the Son for each other is, in fact, the Person of the Holy Spirit.  We pray for His coming not only on Pentecost, but throughout all our days here below, so that the rule of His Love would end for each of us in the joy that is eternal.

St. Philip Neri, Priest

St. Philip Neri, Priest
James 5:13-20  +  Mark 10:13-16
May 26, 2018

“Let the children come to Me; do not prevent them….”

Today’s Gospel passage immediately follows yesterday’s in Mark.  In yesterday’s passage Jesus spoke the truth that marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power, because through God’s power, husband and wife “are no longer two but one flesh” [Mk 10:8].  In today’s passage Jesus becomes indignant and declares:  “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Is it a coincidence that this passage immediately follows Jesus’ teaching about the sacred integrity of Marriage?  The Church has taught for some two thousand years that openness to the begetting and rearing of children is integral to the growth of every marriage:  the intentional exclusion of this goal dissolves the integrity of the particular marriage.

Some might say that these two Scripture passages should not be linked.  Some might say that the point of today’s passage is that each Christian is called to be “child-like”.  In any case, marriage between two persons truly in love with each other and with God will bear the innocence and love for life seen in the child-like.

Friday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time [II]
James 5:9-12  +  Mark 10:1-12
May 25, 2018

“So they are no longer two but one flesh.”

Today’s Gospel passage (corresponding to Matthew 19:1-9) is the springboard from which Saint John Paul II began his series of reflections titled “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body”.  This revolutionary series is often commented upon, but rarely read itself.  Even less often read are the words of Jesus at the end of today’s Gospel passage.

Divorce is commonplace in our society.  Many see it as a “necessary evil”, while others see it as a positively good choice or option.  However, Jesus is very clear.  Divorce from a valid marriage and subsequent remarriage is morally equivalent to adultery, with the difference that while adultery is a mortally sinful act, remarriage after divorce results in a mortally sinful state of life.

Nonetheless, Jesus puts this condemnation within a positive context.  He explains why marriage cannot be dissolved by any human person.  To claim the power to dissolve a marriage is to claim power over God.  To claim this power is to deny the essence of marriage:  that two have become “one flesh.”

Thursday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time [II]
James 5:1-6  +  Mark 9:41-50
May 24, 2018

You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.

Today’s First Reading from the Letter of James makes the apostle sound like an Old Testament prophet.  While St. James is eminently practical throughout his letter, today’s passage focuses squarely on a condemnation of wealth.  More specifically, the apostle condemns those who “have stored up treasure”.  He makes clear that this wealth belonged to those who labored on behalf of the rich one.

St. James uses an ironic metaphor in taking aim at the wealthy.  He warns them:  “You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.”  He is comparing them here to the fattened calf, which in the Parable of the Prodigal Son is sacrificed for the penitent sinner, the son who turns back to his merciful father.  They do not realize that their indulgence is preparing them for the slaughter of eternal punishment.  St. James’ warning is a call to repentance:  to convert from being the fattened calf to being the penitent son.

By contrast, “the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”  He will be their defense on the Day of Judgment.  This is the Father of the repentant because He is the Father of “the righteous one” who on His Cross has won the victory for the repentant.

Wednesday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Wednesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time [II]
James 4:13-17  +  Mark 9:38-40
May 23, 2018

If the Lord wills it….

Today’s First Reading from the Letter of James focuses our attention on a single phrase that we could profitably reflect on throughout this entire week.  St. James encourages his listeners to preface any announcement of their future plans with the phrase, “If the Lord wills it….”

This is a simple phrase.  But we tend today not to prefer what is simple.  We think that complexity is somehow part of everything that’s successful.  Perhaps such thinking is a variation on the false idea that “more is better”.  The more plans we have, surely the more we will accomplish in life.  Don’t we tend to believe that accomplishments are the goal of our life on this earth?

“If the Lord wills it…” we need to do it.  If the Lord wills a course of action for us, then He is with us in its accomplishment.  Indeed, it is He who accomplishes it, with us as His “accomplices”, or perhaps better, the instruments in His Hand.  If the Lord does not will a course of action, we ought to ask if we are wasting our time.

The middle temptation is to think that the Lord does not really care how we lead our lives, or what courses of action we take.  But when we realize the depth of our Lord’s love for us, we cannot fail to recognize the extent of His direction for our lives.  When we realize this, discernment becomes more important to our earthly lives.

Tuesday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time [II]
James 4:1-10  +  Mark 9:30-37
May 22, 2018

Taking a child, He placed it in their midst….

Today’s Gospel passage points our attention back to one of the first lessons of the liturgical year.  This lesson is expressed in the saying, “The wood of the crib is the wood of the cross.”  Another way of expressing the same truth is to say that “the reason Jesus was born into this world was to die to this world”, or perhaps rather, “…for this world”.  We might be tempted at Christmastime to think only of the innocence of the infant Christ, without connecting this innocence to the purity of the Lamb who was slain on Calvary.

It might seem strange for today’s Gospel passage to meander from Jesus’ prediction of His Passion and Death at the passage’s beginning to His holding up a child for emulation at its end.  But this beginning and end are connected by Jesus Himself.  It’s because Jesus, as a divine person, is completely innocent (indeed more so than any child) that He becomes a fitting sacrifice on Calvary.  We may think of innocence as a goal of our spiritual life because it prepares us to be fit for Heaven.  Perhaps spiritual growth might come from seeing innocence as preparing us for a deeper share in Jesus’ Passion during our earthly days.

Mary, the Mother of the Church

Please note that the readings in your missalette or annual hand missal may have the wrong readings for Monday, May 21st.  The reflection below explains why.  Learn more about this new obligatory memorial by clicking HERE.

Mary, the Mother of the Church
Genesis 3:9-15,20  +  John 19:25-34
May 21, 2018

And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

Earlier this year, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, Robert Cardinal Sarah—the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments—announced the institution of a new obligatory memorial for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.  This memorial is to be celebrated every year on the day following Pentecost Sunday.

In his decree inscribing this new memorial into the General Roman Calendar, Cardinal Sarah notes the following:

“The joyous veneration given to the Mother of God by the contemporary Church, in light of reflection on the mystery of Christ and on His nature, cannot ignore the figure of a woman (cf. Gal 4:4), the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.”

“Indeed, the Mother standing beneath the cross (cf. Jn 19:25), accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal. She thus became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit. Christ, in turn, in the beloved disciple, chose all disciples as ministers of his love towards his Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection.”

“This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God.”

OT 10-2

Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost Sunday
Acts 2:1-11  +  1 Cor 12:3-7,12-13  +  Jn 20:19-23
May 20, 2018

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

The historical event that the Church celebrates this Sunday is described not in today’s Gospel passage, but in the First Reading.  In one sense, our focus here at the end of the Easter Season moves beyond the four Gospel accounts to the remainder of the New Testament.

The first four books of the New Testament present the life, death and Resurrection of Christ in His earthly body.  The rest of the New Testament’s books present the life of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.  Christ continued to walk this earth after His Ascension to the Father’s Right Hand, but in a radically different way.  These 23 books—Acts of the Apostles, the 21 apostolic letters, and The Book of Revelation—offer a template or roadmap for us in the 21st century as we struggle to live, not as individual Christians, but as the conjoined members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Today’s feast of Pentecost, then, celebrates this transition from the earthly life of Christ to the Mystical Body of Christ.  The Power of the Holy Spirit alone makes the transition to this life possible.

The Second Reading this Sunday (or at least, the first of two options) focuses on the unique role of the Holy Spirit within the Church.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit is metaphorically called “the soul of the Church”, in contrast to us human persons who are the body’s members.

Saint Paul uses three sets of contrasts to drive home the Holy Spirit’s unique role.  Consider here just the second of these.  While “there are different forms of service”, there is “the same Lord.”  St. Paul here links the “service” of the Church’s members with the one “Lord”.  The Church’s members “serve” their “Lord”.  Perhaps this seems obvious.  But it bears an important consequence for those who choose to practice stewardship as a way of life.

St. Paul is challenging those who trivialize the Power of the Holy Spirit and His Lordship.  In our day when egalitarianism and individualism are so highly prized, we minimize the notion of God as our Lord.  We might more easily consider God the Father as a “lordly” figure.  But we’re less inclined to consider Jesus our Lord, since we want in our day and time to consider Him more as a friend than Lord.

Even less do Christians today consider the Holy Spirit as Lord.  The Holy Spirit is often reduced to a gentle spirit—a breeze, really—who encourages us to follow our spiritual hunches.  Without letting go of the Holy Spirit’s authentic roles of Comforter and Advocate, we need to recognize the Holy Spirit as our Lord.  Christian service serves the Holy Spirit, and aims towards the establishment of His rule.

In the Nicene Creed we profess the Holy Spirit to be “the Lord, the giver of life”.  As Christians, we serve the Holy Spirit who is our Lord.  We serve Him so that His Kingdom of life—that proceeds from the Father and the Son—will rule in our world, so as to bring many through sin and death into the everlasting life of the Trinity.

The Church is God’s means to establish the rule of the Holy Spirit.  The earthly purpose of the Holy Spirit’s varied gifts, service and workings is proclaimed in the refrain of Pentecost’s Responsorial Psalm:  “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 28:16-20,30-31  +  John 21:20-25
May 19, 2018

I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.

This morning’s Gospel passage consists of the final six verses of the Gospel according to John.  The Easter Season draws to a close, then, with an almost parenthetical reminder that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ earthly life are by no means exhaustive.  Nor are they meant to be.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, in composing their accounts of the Gospel, did not aim to give an exhaustive record of Jesus’ saving words and deeds.  For that matter, even if all of the words spoken—and deeds carried out—by Jesus during His earthily life were recorded, that account of the Gospel would not be the “final word”.

Does this assertion sound blasphemous?  Does it reduce the power and beauty of the Incarnate Word?

In truth, it reveals the full intent—the full vocation and mission—of the Incarnate Word.  God’s providential, covenantal, saving Work blossoms through the life of the Mystical Body of Christ:  the Church.  The life of the Church—from her conception in the Sacred Triduum, to her birth at Pentecost, until her consummation on the Last Day—is the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus on this earth.

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 25:13-21  +  John 21:15-19
May 18, 2018

Peter was distressed that He had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?”

On these last two weekdays of Easter, our Gospel passage comes from the epilogue of John’s Gospel account.  In these final days, we hear John’s account of Jesus’ “final word”, which echoes what John records time and time again throughout his Scriptural writings (the Book of Revelation, his three epistles, and his Gospel account).

Jesus’ “final word” is Love—caritas—which in fact is the very nature of the Triune God, and so then also of the “Word made Flesh”.  As we prepare to celebrate the Sundays and other solemnities that flow forth from the Easter Season, we meditate on the meaning of the Caritas Who Is God.  In the weeks following the Easter Season, the Church will celebrate the Solemnities of the Most Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Through each of these, the Church reflects and liturgically celebrates the goodness of God’s very nature:  the Love that the Risen Jesus extends to us.

Today, Jesus calls Peter, the Rock of the Church, to accept this divine caritas as the heart of his own life and ministry.  We pray for our Holy Father, the Pope.  We also pray for ourselves, that no matter what our vocation may be, our lives will also reflect this divine outpouring of love.