Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Acts 18:23-28  +  John 16:23-28
May 15, 2021

“The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father.”

The spiritual momentum of the Sacred Triduum and the Easter Season moves us through the Passion and Death, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of the Lord Jesus to the Solemnity of Pentecost.  In the Church’s celebration of Pentecost, we meditate not only on the divine origin and the divine mission of the Church.

We meditate finally upon the divine end of the Church:  that is, her ultimate goal.  This goal is eternal life with and in God the Father.  On this Saturday of the Easter Season, reflect on the relationship between the Blessed Virgin Mary and God the Father.  Think of how, from the time of the Annunciation, throughout the earthly life of her Son Jesus, to the end of her own earthly life, Mary had a unique relationship with God the Father.  God the Father and the human creature, Mary of Nazareth, shared in common their Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  How often Mary must have turned to God the Father in prayer for support, comfort, and guidance!

Though you and I are not privileged with the unique vocation of our Blessed Mother, we are called by God the Father into His divine Life.  In these last days of the Easter Season, pray directly to God the Father.  Thank Him for His Son, Jesus.  Ask Him to comfort you in the face of trial, and for an increase in the virtues of humility and patience.  Ask Him to mold your faith, your heart and your mind in the likeness of His perfect work of creation:  the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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St. Matthias, Apostle

St. Matthias, Apostle
Acts 1:15-17,20-26  +  John 15:9-17
May 14, 2021

So they proposed two, Joseph … and Matthias.

Saint Matthias is mentioned by name only once in the Scriptures, on the occasion of his election to the office of apostle.  By this we see how important this ministry is to the on-going nature of the Church.

It’s fitting that the Church usually celebrates this feast of Saint Matthias during the Season of Easter.  Throughout the first weeks of the Easter season, we hear accounts of Jesus speaking to the apostles.  These words are the Lord’s preparation for His Ascension, and for the Holy Spirit’s descent.  These words are His preparation for the new life of the Church.  His words reveal to us the nature of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.

Hearing about the election of Matthias to fill the vacancy left by Judas Iscariot, we recognize that God the Holy Spirit works through the acts of the apostles and their successors.  Both the apostles’ human selection of two candidates, and the Holy Spirit’s election of Matthias to the apostolic office, are the means by which this vocation is given to Matthias.  Both divine grace and human works work together in the life of the Church, and in the life of each Christian, to continue the saving work of the Lord Jesus.

St. Matthias

The Ascension of the Lord [B]

The Ascension of the Lord [B]
Acts 1:1-11  +  Ephesians 1:17-23  +  Mark 16:15-20
May 16, 2021

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved ….”

Each of us has to go through the experience of leave-taking.  Sometimes other people leave our lives.  At other times, it’s we who have to leave others.  The leave may be forced, or it may be freely chosen.  When seniors graduate from one school to another, or when young people graduate from studies to a job, a familiar setting has to be left behind so that one can grow through new experiences.

As difficult as all this may be, the most radical form of “leave taking” in life—the most dramatic separation between people—is when someone leaves this earth.  That’s one part of what the Church is celebrating on the feast of the Ascension.

The readings today proclaim Jesus Christ taking leave of His followers by leaving this earth:  ascending to Paradise, and—in effect—leaving them behind in the dust.  We hear on this feast the end of the Gospel according to Saint Mark, and the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles.

For the followers of Jesus, the day of Jesus’ Ascension was filled with a great deal of fear and anxiety.  In a way, the day of Jesus’ Ascension is like Good Friday.  We might ask:  why should we celebrate the end of a good thing?  Why do we call the day of Jesus’ death “Good” Friday?  Both the death of Jesus and His Ascension to Heaven point us to one of the central mysteries of our spiritual life:  that those who are bound together by love do not have to grow weaker when they are separated from each other.

In the life of Christ and His Bride, the Church, these two events—Jesus’ Death and His Ascension—were necessary parts of God’s plan of salvation.  In fact, God is never truly gone from our midst:  not on Good Friday, and not today as He rises out of the midst of His followers.

Though Jesus departs, He wants now to appear in new ways.  The Ascension of Jesus—His leaving this earth in bodily form—allowed his followers to assume their calling to be the Mystical Body of Christ:  the Church.  Without Jesus leaving this earth, there would be no reason for the Church to be the Body of Christ on earth.

In our own spiritual lives, we have to be willing to look for God’s presence as He wills to make Himself present.  Back in Jesus’ day, the people of Israel had been demoralized by the Roman Empire.  The nation of Israel had always prided itself on its military power, and then their nation was taken over by the Romans.  “Where was God?” they asked.  When Jesus walked this earth, He claimed to answer their question, and for His answer He was put to death through the acclamation of His own people.  Then, the same question was asked to Jesus’ followers:  “Where is your God?”  On the third day Jesus answered that question by His Resurrection.  But:  He revealed this answer only to His followers.  This is significant.

Why did He make His presence known only to His followers?  Because it would be their job—as the Church—to answer this question to those outside the Church.  It would be their job to speak in His Name as one Body.  But for some days after the Ascension, the apostles and disciples weren’t sure about this great commission Jesus had given them.  They were afraid, and they locked themselves into an upper room to spend the days in prayer.  It wasn’t a coincidence that it was the same upper room where He had given them the gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

Ten days after the Ascension—that is, 53 days after Jesus had given His Body and Blood through the Institution of the Eucharist—Jesus revealed His very Self in a new way.  Through the Power of the Holy Spirit, God bound together the followers of Jesus into the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church.  By the Power of the Holy Spirit, God began on that day to speak through the followers of Jesus.

That day is the culmination of the Easter Season.  That day is Pentecost Sunday, which the Church will celebrate with great joy a week from this Sunday.


Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter

PLEASE NOTE:  Some dioceses will celebrate today the Ascension of the Lord.  For the reflection upon the Solemnity of the Ascension, click HERE.

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Acts 18:1-8  +  John 16:16-20
May 13, 2021

“… you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

Just as the earth has two poles, so the Season of Easter has two poles:  the Resurrection and Pentecost.  Both are solemnities of great joy for Christians.  Yet each is preceded by an event of loss, of “grieving” even.  The Resurrection is preceded by the Death of the Lord, and Pentecost is preceded by the Ascension of the same Lord.  But to use the word “preceded” here is a bit lacking.  The Death and Ascension of the Lord are the “events”—the sacred “mysteries”—that make the Resurrection and Pentecost possible.

Jesus refers to both sets of mysteries—the Death and Resurrection, and the Ascension and Pentecost—by His words in today’s Gospel passage:  “you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”  Today’s Gospel passage is from the sixteenth chapter of John:  part of Jesus’ Last Supper discourse.  In the short-term, then, He is speaking about His Death and Resurrection.  Yet in His divinity, Jesus also knew of His impending Ascension as well as the Descent of the Holy Spirit, so He is also speaking here about His Ascension and Pentecost.

Much of the world today celebrates the Ascension of the Lord.  Some dioceses will transfer the Ascension to this coming Sunday, and celebrate today as a weekday of Easter.  In either case, begin a novena today:  nine days of prayer, longing for the Holy Spirit to come into your life more powerfully, and to help you live more fully your vocation within the Mystical Body of Christ.


Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Acts 17:15,22—18:1  +  John 16:12-15
May 12, 2021

“… when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth.”

St. John Henry Newman, the nineteenth century convert to the Church from Anglicanism, is renowned for many theological works.  One of the more famous is about the process of the “development of doctrine”.  Newman had from boyhood been a keen student of history, and later in life he said that “to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant”.

To make an analogy:  as fundamentalist Christians say that God created the universe, Earth, and mankind immediately (that is, within six days), so the same fundamentalists often say that God created the doctrines of the Church immediately.  If a phrase is not found in the Bible—they insist—it cannot be admitted into mind of a Christian.  Therefore, dogmas such as the “Immaculate Conception” and “papal infallibility” are clearly not Christian—they insist—because the apostles who composed the Bible never used these phrases, or spoke about these topics.

However, if beliefs cannot be accepted by Christians if they are not mentioned in the Bible, then these same people cannot profess a belief in the “Trinity”, since this word never appears in the Bible.  “But,” these fundamentalists might argue, “the belief in the Trinity is in the Bible.  It’s the word “Trinity” that came later, in order to dispel false interpretations of the Bible….”  Yet such a defense supports Cardinal Newman’s teaching, which itself is simply an unpacking of Jesus’ words today:  “when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth.”

Easter 6-3 Holy Spirit

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Acts 16:22-34  +  John 16:5-11
May 11, 2021

“But if I go, I will send Him to you.”

In addition to their divinity, the divine Persons of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit were both sent by God the Father into this world, filled as it is by sin and death.  Their missions differ, yet their missions converge as God’s Providential Will unfolds within salvation history.

Of course, before considering the Son’s and the Holy Spirit’s missions within salvation history, we ought to reflect on their work “in the beginning”.   God the Father created everything in the universe, visible and invisible, through His divine Word, and through the Power of the Holy Spirit.  The creation narratives in Genesis are more suggestive than telling.  Nonetheless, they point us towards contrasts that we ought to reflect upon as we approach Pentecost:  contrasts, that is, between God’s work of creation “in the beginning”, and God’s work of redemption in the fullness of time.

Perhaps the most significant contrast between the missions of the Son and Spirit in creation, and then again their missions in the work of redemption, is that in the latter they manifest themselves incarnately.  Their missions converge within the Mystical Body of Christ.  “In the beginning”, the Word remained the Word.  But in the fullness of time, “the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us”.  “In the beginning”, the Spirit hovered silently over the face of the deep.  But in the fullness of time, He is the soul of the Mystical Body of Christ, animating that Body’s members, so that the Christ’s saving work is carried out “unto the end of the age.”

Easter 6-2

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Acts 16:11-15  +  John 15:26—16:4
May 10, 2021

“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify to me.”

Today Jesus—still addressing us from the Cenacle, at the Last Supper—proclaims the coming of the Holy Spirit. We note from Jesus’ words that—as we profess in the Church’s Creed—the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the God the Father and God the Son.  Jesus Himself describes God the Holy Spirit as the One “whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father”.

In the Creed of the First Council of Constantinople (in A.D. 431), the first ecumenical council to describe at any length the nature of God the Holy Spirit, the council Fathers stated that the Holy Spirit is “the Lord, the Giver of Life [and] proceeds from the Father….”  This council did not state that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.  The phrase “and the Son” (in Latin, filioque) was added by the Church to the Creed later.  Controversy continues to this day as to the propriety of this addition.

Christians of the West accept the dogma of the Holy Spirit’s procession from both the Father and the Son.  We see in the doctrine an expression of the closeness of the Father and the Son, while maintaining their distinction as divine Persons.  God the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son because the Holy Spirit is the Love of the Father and the Son both for each other (not merely the love of one for the other).  Saint Augustine explores the meaning of this great teaching in his very long, profound, and difficult work “On the Trinity” (De Trinitate).  Pray for the Holy Spirit to enter your life more fully, and towards this end, plan to begin a novena to God the Holy Spirit this Thursday.

Easter 6-1 Holy Spirit

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 16:1-10  +  John 15:18-21
May 8, 2021

“I have chosen you out of the world ….”

In this Easter season, we continue to hear in the First Reading about the flurry of apostolic activity that spread through the world following the first Christian Pentecost.  But what of Mary, the lowly Virgin, mother of the child who grew in this world in order to offer His life in sacrifice for our sins?  What about the mother of Him who is the Good News that the apostles spread throughout the world?  Where is Mary at Pentecost?

We might forget that she is the Mother of God, the Mother of Him through whom all things were made.  We might forget that she, too, was present in that upper room.  Why is she there?  She surely had no need to receive that fullness of the Holy Spirit who descended at Pentecost.  Her Pentecost—her Confirmation, so to speak—took place at the Annunciation.  At that moment, the power of the Holy Spirit overshadowed her who had been sinless from the moment of her conception in the womb of Saint Anne.

At the Annunciation of the Good News, God became man:  Christ’s Body began forming within Mary’s womb.  Here in the upper room at Pentecost, that same Holy Spirit descends again, to overshadow the apostles.  Here in the upper room, Christ had offered the first celebration of the Sacrifice of the Eucharist.  There the Church—the Body of Christ—was born, that the apostles might go forth into the world to preach the Gospel and offer their lives in sacrifice for Christ.

Easter 5-6 Mary Trinity

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 15:22-31  +  John 15:12-17
May 7, 2021

“This is my commandment:  love one another as I love you.”

Today’s Gospel passage is often proclaimed at Nuptial Masses.  It speaks to the reality of love.  It gives some concrete form to love.  This concreteness is necessary when one lives—as you and I do—in a culture which equates love with warm, fuzzy feelings.

Today’s Gospel passage was written by St. John the Evangelist, who in one of his epistles tells us that “God is love” [1 John 4:8].  Today John quotes Jesus so as to give shape to the definition of God as love.  In terms of the divine Person of Jesus, John quotes Christ Himself.  The evangelist explains that “no one has greater love than… to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  The setting of today’s Gospel passage is the Last Supper.  As He spoke these words, Jesus knew that He would give the ultimate example of such love the next day.

But the Church proclaims today’s Gospel passage during the midst of Easter.  The reason for this is that Christ doesn’t want His disciples simply to admire His sacrifice, but to enter into it.  To do what our Savior commands, we need the power of the Holy Spirit, whom the Father and Son will send at Pentecost.  In the Spirit of the Father and the Son, you can find the strength to love your neighbor as Jesus has loved you.

Easter 5-5 Trinity Botticelli