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 20, 2020

“… 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 19, 2020

“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 18, 2020

“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 16, 2020

“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

The Sixth Sunday of Easter [A]

The Sixth Sunday of Easter [A]
Acts 8:5-8,14-17  +  1 Peter 3:15-18  +  John 14:15-21
May 17, 2020

“… the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot accept ….”

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click HERE to hear Scott Hahn’s reflection for this Sunday (2:59)

click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (5:15)

click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday

click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday (24:57)

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2017 Regina Cæli address for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Benedict’s 2008 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 2002 homily for this Sunday

+     +     +

references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this Sunday by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:

CCC 2746-2751: Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper
CCC 243, 388, 692, 729, 1433, 1848: the Holy Spirit as Advocate/Consoler
CCC 1083, 2670-2672: invoking the Holy Spirit

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As the weeks of the Easter Season draw on, we hear more and more in the Scriptures at Holy Mass about God the Holy Spirit. We hear less and less about Jesus, or so it seems.

In the forty days between His Resurrection and His Ascension to Heaven, Jesus is—so to speak—weaning His disciples.  He’s helping them realize that He’s not going to be with them in the same way anymore.  He will be with them:  He’ll be with them always, “unto the end of the age.”  But He will not be with them physically as He was during the three years of His public ministry.  He will not be at their sides to point the way or for them to talk with face-to-face.

Yet God the Holy Spirit will make Jesus Christ present in a new way.  In a sense, that’s what the Easter Season is designed by God to lead us to.  Pentecost Sunday is not just the fiftieth of fifty days celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection.  Pentecost is the culmination of the Season of Easter.  As such, Pentecost is the celebraton of God the Holy Spirit making Jesus present in this world in a new way:  that is, the Church.

We hear about this new way in the midst of the Third Eucharistic Prayer at Holy Mass.  Almost the whole second half of the Eucharistic Prayer—following the consecration—is about the Church.  The priest prays one petition after another on behalf of the Church.  In the Third Eucharistic Prayer, in the second petition following the consecration, the priest prays:  “… grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son, and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ.”  This unity in Christ is what the Easter Season leads us towards, and is the heart of the mystery of Pentecost.

This is one reason why the Church calls all of us—her children—together on the Lord’s Day:  not only to be united with God through Holy Communion, but also to be united more strongly with each other.  The Mass—like the whole Christian life—is not just about me and Jesus.  Coming together through the Mass is the greatest way that God has to unite us poor, fallen sinners into the one body of the Church.  The Holy Spirit is the One who helps us see why and how this is.

The Holy Spirit, like the ligaments that hold parts of our physical bodies together, binds us together to make us one body in Christ.  Even when we are separated from our loved ones by great distances, or even by death itself, the Holy Spirit sustains our relationships.  The Body of Christ cannot be diminished or destroyed by distance or death.  Indeed, the Church is not limited to those among her children living on earth (called the Church Militant).  She is also made up of those in Purgatory (the Church Suffering) and in Heaven (the Church Triumphant).

Even more challenging than the barriers of distance and death is that of division.  The Holy Spirit helps us love others even when it is difficult to do so.  The Power of the Holy Spirit helps us love others as God the Father loves them, part of which love is beckoning them into His embrace in Heaven.  If you were to die, only to find your worst enemy at the Pearly Gates as the welcoming committee, would you refuse to enter?  Is your lack of love for your enemy stronger than your love to be with God?

Likewise, the Power of the Holy Spirit helps us love others as God the Son loves them.  More specifically, the Holy Spirit helps us love others as the Son loved them on Good Friday during those hours when He was fixed by nails to the Cross.  In His divine intellect, Jesus at the hour of His death could see every human sinner in history, the future, and that solemn hour.  Not only could Jesus see them, however.  He loved them by offering His life for theirs.

Everyone around us is an important part of our spiritual life, whether we want them to be or not.  Everyone plays a part in our journey on the Way of Christ Jesus.  Sometimes that Way is narrow.  Sometimes it demands reconciliation.  The Holy Spirit is not interested in “cheap love”.  The Holy Spirit leads us into the sort of love that led Jesus to Calvary:  the sort of love which allowed Christ to embrace the Cross as His Father’s gift.

Easter 6-0A Holy Spirit

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 15:22-31  +  John 15:12-17
May 15, 2020

“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

St. Matthias, Apostle

St. Matthias, Apostle
Acts 1:15-17,20-26  +  John 15:9-17
May 14, 2020

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

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 15:1-6  +  John 15:1-8
May 13, 2020

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.”

Jesus today proclaims a powerful metaphor.  He captures the relationships among the Vinegrower, the Vine, and the branches with their fruit.  This metaphor expresses powerfully the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  Within this relationship we see our place as members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

John’s account of the Gospel is the most mystical and sublime of the four Gospel accounts.  Therefore it’s also the most difficult to reach into and meditate upon.  Today’s metaphor opens a window into the sacred Teaching of the Beloved Disciple.

Begin with a simple question:  What is God the Father like as a Vinegrower?  This is a very simple, earthly and earthy image.  If you know anyone who is a gardener (or even more specifically, a vintner), you can picture some of the qualities that this image evokes.  The tenderness, patience, perseverance, and dedication that flow from this image teach us about the Love of the Father for His Son, and for us who are members of His Son’s Body.

Easter 5-3

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 14:19-28  +  John 14:27-31
May 12, 2020

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

One of the blessings of the priesthood is ministering to someone laying on his deathbed.  Its certainly true that there’s often grief—sometimes dramatic grief—on the faces of loved ones surrounding the dearly departing.  Yet it’s rare to see someone who is dying cry.

Why would this be?  It’s not likely that the dying person loves those surrounding him less than they love him.  But his focus is different than the focus of those around him.  Their focus in upon him:  or, more specifically, losing him.  His focus, on the other hand, is the mystery of death, and the many questions posed by that mystery:  “Where am I going?”  “What and whom will I see there?”  “What has my life up to now amounted to?”

In the face of all those questions that fill the mind and heart of a dying person, that person usually experiences one of two things:  either anguish, or peace.  No doubt, you can find many different people to give you many different definitions of peace.  But the peace of the Christian who is dying in Christ is one of Our Lord’s greatest gifts.  Of course, we don’t have to wait until our deathbed to experience this peace.

Jesus speaks about this peace today.  Helpfully, Jesus clarifies what this peace is not:  “not as the world gives do I give it to you.”  The peace that the world seeks is fleeting and based on compromise.  The peace of Jesus, on the contrary, does not need to engage in compromise because it consists in what is truly best for each and all.  As such, it is abiding, as we are called to abide in Christ, and as He wishes to abide within each of us.

Do we believe that this sort of peace is truly possible in this world?  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to fix our lives on this gift, and to abide in it throughout our lives.  However, to do so takes a lot of cultivation of our souls through works of sacrifice and the virtues.  The goal of all this is formation in the natural and supernatural virtues, that within each of us, God’s grace can take root and flower abundantly.

Easter 5-2 Last Supper