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 22, 2021

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.

Easter 7-6 Ascension

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 25:13-21  +  John 21:15-19
May 21, 2021

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.

Easter 7-5 Ascension


Acts 2:1-11  +  1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13  +  John 20:19-23
May 23, 2021

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.

Almost 2000 years ago on this day, the Church was born.  The Church would be nothing without the Holy Spirit.  The Church couldn’t have been born without the Holy Spirit, and she could not live today without the Holy Spirit.  Where the Church is strong, it’s because of the Holy Spirit.  Where the Church is weak, it’s because the Holy Spirit is not given His due.

In saying “where”, we don’t just refer to different parts of the world.  It’s true that the Church is stronger in some parts of the world than others.  Certainly the Church in the Western world is not as strong—that is, doesn’t live the Gospel with as much fidelity—as the Church in many third-world countries.  In those countries where the Church has fewer material resources, the Church tends to be stronger:  this is a paradox that simply points to the fact that the Christian Faith is based upon the Cross.  It is in giving that we receive, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

When the event of Pentecost occurred almost 2000 years ago, the apostles were greatly changed by their “encounter” with the Holy Spirit.  How were they changed?  The Holy Spirit didn’t make them taller, richer, or stronger.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t try to change us in these ways because He isn’t interested in our bank accounts, or the vehicles we drive, or our looks, but only the state of our souls.

So how were the apostles changed?  What did the apostles “get out of” their encounter with the Holy Spirit?  It was a spiritual change, certainly, but we need to be more specific.  The apostles didn’t receive the Holy Spirit in order to help them “feel good” about their relationship with God.  The apostles didn’t receive the Holy Spirit in order to tickle the ears of others by preaching about sunshine and daffodils, but instead to call others to an adult faith:  that is, to a catholic faith that preaches and lives out even the “hard teachings” of the Church.

This is just as true today.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to apostles and prophets, clergy and lay people, in the first and twenty-first centuries, in order to build the Church on earth by means of self-sacrifice.  The Holy Spirit is given to make possible greater self-sacrifice.

We receive the Holy Spirit in simple ways.  We receive the Holy Spirit by reading Scripture, by devoutly receiving the sacraments, and by carrying out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  But as we receive Him—as we grow spiritually—the gifts and graces of the spiritual life that we receive are to be laid at the feet of others.

We see this when we look at the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.  Through Baptism, a person becomes a member of the Church:  an individual member of the Mystical Body of Christ.  Through Confirmation, a person is prepared to offer his or her life in service for the sake of the Church, for the sake of that Body of which he or she is one member.

The Holy Spirit leads us in our spiritual life.  He leads us in making decisions about how to serve the needs of others.  There are countless opportunities to do good all around us each day of our lives.  But we cannot take up all of those opportunities.  The Holy Spirit helps us discern in this regard.

Likewise, we sometimes ask God to help us accomplish something:  to help us see how to get something done that we want to do.  We often need to realize, though, that the Holy Spirit is not going to show us how to do something that He has no interest in us doing in the first place.  If we do not feel that God is guiding us, it may be because that path would lead us in a direction that God does not want us to travel.

At this conclusion of the Easter season, ask God to help you to be open to the Presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.  Ask this not simply for your own sake, but to help you seek and serve the needs of others.  For we cannot find salvation on our own.

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 22:30; 23:6-11  +  John 17:20-26
May 20, 2021

“… so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in Me and I in You.”

There are many types of unity.  For example, if two persons agree about a political issue, and join a common party, these two persons have political unity.  If two persons agree about a moral teaching, or agree to act in common on behalf of a moral goal, these two persons have moral unity.  If two students study for doctorates in physics, specializing in the same topic, and become the two foremost experts in the world about that topic, these two persons bear a certain intellectual unity.

Two persons can also be united by far less significant matters:  their nationality, the clothes they wear, or the physical space they share (whether in an elevator, a house, or a courtroom).  Two siblings are united by their parentage, and identical twins enjoy an even more specific genetic unity.  Beyond physical traits, siblings—or a parent and child—can be united by psychological traits, temperament, or even predispositions towards certain virtues and vices.

None of these is what Jesus is preaching about in John 17:21.  Jesus is preaching about something far more profound.

The tiny word “as” in Jesus’ petition to the Father unlocks the petition’s meaning:  “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in Me and I in You.”  Reflect, meditate, and contemplate the meaning of the Unity that the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity not merely have or share, but essentially are.

Ascension medieval 6

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 20:28-38  +  John 17:11-19
May 19, 2021

“… that they may be one just as We are one.”

Of the four Gospel accounts, John’s is the loftiest and thus is symbolized by an eagle.  In the vocabulary of theology, John has the highest Christology.  One can make the case that the Last Supper discourses—found in John 13-17—make up the loftiest part of John (with the possible exception of the prologue in John 1:1-18).  Within the Last Supper discourses, the seventeenth chapter of John is commonly titled the “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus, and is the loftiest part of these discourses.  All of this is stated to point out that in this last week of Easter, we are certainly breathing rarified air.

It’s from today’s Gospel passage that St. John Paul II took the title of his twelfth encyclical letter:  Ut unum sint [“That They May Be One”].  It was his only encyclical about ecumenism, and was promulgated in 1995, with St. John Paul already looking toward the Great Jubilee of 2000.  Yet he anticipated the Jubilee somewhat wistfully, because he knew that it would not be celebrated with the followers of Jesus united according to the desire that the Lord expressed in John 17:11.

Ecumenism was a topic close to the heart of Pope John Paul II, who was of Slavic heritage, and who grew up along the cultural border between East and West:  Orthodox and Catholic lands.  He longed both for the unification of the Eastern and Western Churches—in his phrase, the “lungs of the Church”—and for the reconciliation of Protestant ecclesial communities with the Catholic Church.

Slowly and prayerfully re-read today’s Gospel passage.  As you continue your Novena to the Holy Spirit, pray that you will accept the Gift of the Holy Spirit in His fullness, ut unum sint.

Easter 7-3 Ascension

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 20:17-27  +  John 17:1-11

“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”

We are approaching the end of the Easter season.  For seven weeks we have heard of the events surrounding the Resurrection, and how these events have touched the lives of those who encountered Jesus, such as Mary Magdalen, Peter, and Thomas.  We have heard how the lives of these followers of Jesus were changed because they believed in the events they witnessed.  The Church today is also made up of followers of Jesus, those whose lives have been changed by their encounter with the Body of Christ.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus speaks candidly to His Father about the mission He was given and how He had fulfilled that mission.  What is it, though, that Jesus accomplished?  He was a failure in the eyes of the world.  It takes eyes of faith to see anything worth imitating in Christ Jesus.  The sort of vision that sees in Jesus a Messiah, a Savior, is the vision that we acquire only slowly in life, and which along the way we might even lose at times.

Yet with those eyes of faith we can see that each of us has been given a mission in Christ.  In various ways, we are to proclaim the good news of salvation to others.  We hear much on the news of violence and despair in the world.  Such news clouds the vision that Jesus wants us to have:  that suffering and death do not have to have the last say in our lives.

How has the resurrection changed our lives?  Coming to the end of this year’s celebration of Lent, the Sacred Triduum and Easter, are we more determined to live the message of Jesus?  Are we more aware that He lives not only for us but in us?  Will we make the necessary changes in our lives to mirror the life of Jesus?

Easter 7-2 Ascension

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 19:1-8  +  John 16:29-33
May 17, 2021

“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

This coming Sunday’s celebration of Pentecost is the backdrop for all our weekday readings this week.  Wherever we Christians are, we are united in the Mystical Body of Christ, and together we are praying this week for a greater openness to the Gift who is God the Holy Spirit.

However, we receive God the Holy Spirit not for our own plans and purposes.  He comes to us in order to ‘equip’ us for the vocations that God the Father gives us.  The providential plan of the Father, and the grace of the Spirit, cannot be separated:  both meet in the life of Christ’s Mystical Body, within which we live.

Each of us is called first through Baptism to holiness.  For most Christians, this baptismal vocation—the vocation to live as members of the “priesthood of all believers”—is deepened by a further call from the Father.  The vocation to Holy Matrimony, or to Holy Orders, or to consecrated religious life, gives specific form to one’s baptismal vocation.  Even more specifically, each Christian daily discerns the call of the Father to make small sacrifices with great love, as St. Thérèse of Lisieux teaches us.  So we beg the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit.

Easter 7-1 Ascension

The Seventh Sunday of Easter [B]

PLEASE NOTE:  In some dioceses, the Ascension is celebrated on the Thursday that is the fortieth day of Eastertide instead of being celebrated on the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  This year’s Ascension reflection is found HERE.

The Seventh Sunday of Easter [B]
Acts 1:15-17,20,20-26  +  1 John 4:11-16  +  John 17:11b-19

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.”

Your life as a Christian resembles the life of each of the apostles, whom we’ve been hearing a lot about during the past six weeks of the Easter season.  Like the apostles, we know that we are blessed as Christians to share in the life of Jesus.  We know that we are blessed to have been redeemed by Christ, and to have the chance to enter Heaven by means of our faith in Jesus dying on the Cross.

Like the apostles on the day of the Ascension, though, we find ourselves in life not always sure what to do next.  Whether in regard to a relationship with another person, a job situation, schooling, our prayer life, or our moral life, we’re often left wondering.  These conundrums in life force us to turn to God for help, and—what’s even more difficult at times—they force us sometimes to wait for God’s answer.

“Waiting”.  That’s the word that describes us during these days that stretch between the feast of the Ascension and the feast of Pentecost, which the Church will celebrate next Sunday.  Following Jesus’ ascension to Heaven, the apostles weren’t exactly sure what to do, even though they’d been told by Jesus to go out and preach the Gospel to all the nations.  Maybe the apostles wanted more of a blueprint than Jesus had provided.  Like most of us, they probably wanted an exact road map telling them:  “James, you go to this town and preach to these people.  Peter, you go to this country and preach to this tribe.”

Your life as a Christian resembles the life of each of the apostles as they wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  They waited.  And they waited.  For nine days they waited in the Upper Room where Jesus had instituted the Holy Eucharist.  Finally, on the tenth day, God the Father and God the Son sent God the Holy Spirit down from Heaven to fill the apostles’ hearts, minds, and souls.  The Holy Spirit didn’t provide them with an exact blueprint for building the Church.  But His gifts did help them speak when it was necessary, listen when it was necessary, and pray when it was necessary.

These three things—acting, listening, and praying—must be equally balanced in our lives, and all of them must be done for God.  If this seems a tall order, we ought to remember that God has given us a blueprint of how to follow Jesus.  In fact, this blueprint has a name.  Her name is Mary.

Your life as a Christian resembles the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was and is the first and best disciple of Christ.  Mary was with the apostles during those ten days following the Ascension of Jesus.  She who had been full of grace—by the power of the Holy Spirit—from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception was not necessarily leading the apostles in prayer, but nevertheless she was guiding them, as only a mother can do.

Just as Jesus had entrusted Saint John to the care of His Mother Mary atop Calvary, all the others apostles in turn were entrusted to her maternal care at Jesus’ Ascension.  There was Mary in the Upper Room where her Son had celebrated the Last Supper, the first Eucharist with them.  By her words, by her silence, by the example of her life, and by her intercession, she cared for the apostles as their mother in Christ.  Here was the woman who had given birth to their Lord.  Here was the woman who had been faithful to their Lord even on the Cross, as most of them had not.

If we turn our minds back to the Cross, we recall how greatly our Lord Jesus was faithful to His mother.  The occasion of His first public miracle was at the wedding at Cana.  Jesus said, “my hour has not yet come”, but Mary told Jesus that there was someone in need, and Jesus listened to her.

Mary’s will is always God’s will.  With a mother’s love she bore the weight of seeing her only son die on the Cross.  Yet she knew that His death would bring about the salvation of mankind.  Above all, it is at the Cross that we see Mary’s fervent intercession and spirit of waiting for God providentially to bring great good out of great evil.

Ascension by Francisco Camilo (1610-1671)

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