Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Cycle A

Today we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Our Lord. We partake of him every time we received Holy Communion, and in the Eucharist Our Lord sacramentally remains with us always for our consolation and adoration.

In today’s First Reading Moses reminds the people of Israel, just before their entry after forty years into the Promised Land, that the Lord fed them in their need, just as he feeds us through the Eucharist. The manna that the Lord sent to the Israelites during their wandering in the desert is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. Manna was unknown to the ancestors of the Israelites in today’s First Reading. The Eucharist is a food unheard of in human history before the coming of Christ and nothing will ever match it, because it is God himself. In Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel Our Lord’s Gospel describes the bread that he will give as something even greater than the manna the Israelites received in the desert, because manna did not give them eternal life as the Eucharist does. Despite Israel’s infidelity and mistrust the Lord fed them something they’d never seen before. When the first flakes of manna appeared, they had to ask what they were. If manna caused confusion in the desert we can only imagine how mind-blowing it was to Our Lord’s listeners when he taught them that he himself was food sent from Heaven, food they’d have to eat to live forever.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that Holy Communion enables us to participate in Our Lord’s sacrifice of his Body and Blood and in so doing draws us into communion with God and with each other. In ancient religions sacrifices were made and then partaken of to express a communion with the deity to which the sacrifice was being made. In Christian worship God sacrifices himself to achieve communion, and we participate in that sacrifice in order to participate in that communion. Our Lord reconciled us with the Father through the sacrifice of his Body and Blood, and taught us to eat and drink that Body and Blood in order to have communion with him. Breaking bread with someone is a gesture of peace and fraternity. Our Lord let himself be that Bread, let himself be broken so that we could restore communion not only with the Father, but with each other. In every celebration of the Eucharist that bread is broken again for us. Throughout the world, wherever it is celebrated, believers are spiritually one body because through partaking of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist they become united with God and with each other.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord teaches us that he is true food and true drink that nourish us so much that those who partake of him will live forever. The manna mentioned in today’s First Reading was something the people of Israel had never seen before. Moses explained that its purpose was not only to feed man, but to show him that man must rely on the word of God in order to live. Our Lord is the Word of God, and without him there is no life. He is not only truly the Word of God that is necessary for eternal life; he is the bread of life too. Attempts have been made to interpret Our Lord’s words today metaphorically, but he is very clear: “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” This is the Scriptural basis, among other passages, for our belief that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. Through eating his flesh and drinking his blood we remain in communion with Christ and, through him, we remain in communion with the Father. Through eating his flesh and drinking his blood we not only remain on good terms with the Lord; we receive ongoing spiritual nourishment that will one day lead us to eternal life, if we remain in Christ. Christ taught this before he ever raised bread and said, “this is my body”: it required faith in Christ to accept this teaching, and it does even today. It was only at the Last Supper that his disciples really understood that bread and wine would become Christ’s Body and Blood. That Last Supper became the first of many celebrations of the Eucharist, including the one we celebrate today, but they are all thanks to Our Lord and his sacrifice, making himself true food and drink for us.

In today’s Gospel we were taught that the Lord wants to remain with us. Do we want to remain with him? How do we show that desire to remain with him? Reception of the Eucharist is a start, but Eucharistic adoration is the best way to go the distance. We all do a little Eucharistic adoration in the silent moments after receiving Holy Communion (I hope; if not, start there), but do we spend any more time with Our Lord than that? Do we ever come visit him for no other reason than spending some quality time with him? The blessing of having the Eucharist is that Our Lord is sacramentally present; the Eucharist reminds us physically and gives us a place to go and be with him sacramentally, whether we’re participating in Mass or not. If there is an adoration chapel near you, or times of adoration scheduled at your parish, pay Our Lord a visit. You’ll be amazed at how much silent adoration of Our Lord will help your spiritual life.

Readings: Deuteronomy 8:2–3, 14b–16a; Psalm 147:12–15, 19–20; 1 Corinthians 10:16–17; John 6:51–58. See also  Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Cycle C and Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

10th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

Paul reminds us in today’s First Reading that with the Incarnation of Christ our humanity, as fragile and weak as it is, has been entrusted with a true treasure: the grace of God. When we consider the strength and glory of Our Lord, we see how fragile his humanity is, yet Paul reminds us, as Our Lord has shown us, that we may be down at times, but never defeated.

Paul, in imitation of Christ, “dies” each day so that we may live. Our mortality is our fragility, but we know, in the end, that death will not have the last word.

We shouldn’t be discouraged when living the demands of Christianity. Christians have accomplished the most not at the high points of their lives, but at the low ones, just as Our Lord did on the Cross.

Readings: 2 Corinthians 4:7–15; Psalm 116:10–11, 15–18; Matthew 5:27–32. See also 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II.

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Cycle A

Easter ended last Sunday with Pentecost, and this week we have returned to Ordinary time. Today we cap off these first few Ordinary days by going back to the beginning, when everything created started, even history itself: to the Most Holy Trinity. We know God has no beginning or end; he even created beginnings when, as the first words of the Bible in Genesis remind us, he said, “let there be light.” Even now he is always with us, no matter where we are or what we’re doing. We being every prayer reminding ourselves of his presence by making the Sign of the Cross and invoking the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In today’s First Reading Moses implores the Lord to remain with him and his people no matter how stubborn they have been or will be. The Golden Calf incident has just happened in today’s First Reading: the people had made a covenant with the Lord at Sinai and broke it by worshiping a golden calf. Moses, upon coming down from Mt. Sinai and seeing what they’d done, smashed the tablets containing the Ten Commandments (first and only edition) in anger at what the people of Israel had done, rightfully disgusted with them. Moses had the repentant regroup with him to show their return to the Lord, and those who didn’t perished. Even then, Moses was unsure whether the Lord would ever be with them again.

In today’s reading he goes up the mountain to see the Lord’s glory. The Lord promised to take the new tablets he’d made and “reprint” the Ten Commandments again, a sign that the covenant with his people would stand. When Moses beholds the Lord’s glory he sees the Lord for how he truly is: “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” He knows neither he nor the people of Israel are entitled to have the Lord be with them, yet he also knows, in faith, that the Lord will remain with him due to his sure goodness and mercy.

In today’s Second Reading Paul expresses the hope that we now express at the beginning of every celebration of the Eucharist: that the Lord remain with us all. In the First Reading it was through Moses that the people reconciled with the Lord and renewed their willingness to be faithful to the covenant they had struck with him at Mt. Sinai. In every celebration of the Eucharist the celebrant, invoking the Most Holy Trinity, greets the faithful by expressing his desire that the “communion of the Holy Spirit” be with them all, using the same words of Paul: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Along with this communion we pray for the grace of Christ and the love of God, because we know if those things are not present, neither is the communion of the Holy Spirit. Woven in this desire we see every Person of the Most Holy Trinity involved: it begins with the love of God the Father, even before creation, it is restored after we’ve broken it through the grace of God the Son, and it is sustained and fortified through God the Holy Spirit.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that God never distances himself from us; we distance ourselves from him. Despite this, he comes in his Son to help us draw close to him again. God is always present to his creatures, including us, in an existential way: he sustains us in existence every moment. If he were to ever stop thinking about us we’d cease to exist. He never stops thinking about us. We distance ourselves from God in our hearts, and he always tries to close the gap, even though he respects our decision to distance ourselves from him. The Father sent the Son into the world to reveal to us that we had distanced ourselves from him and to give us a way to close the gap. The Son doesn’t condemn us. The distance speaks for itself. Through faith in the Son we close the gap and enable the Lord to be with us not only existentially, but in our hearts.

The Sign of the Cross reminds us that we should do everything in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. Let’s make the Sign of the Cross this week like we mean it: by making it a real invocation of the Triune God who loves us. If you weren’t planning on making the Sign of the Cross anytime this week it means you weren’t planning to pray at all, at least not in a Trinitary way. Bad sign. Try starting and ending each day this week by praying the Sign of the Cross. You’ll be amazed how it changes your perspective on how you should live your day.

Readings: Exodus 34:4b–6, 8–9; Daniel 3:52–55; 2 Corinthians 13:11–13; John 3:16–18.

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Pentecost Sunday, Cycle A

Today the Easter season concludes with Pentecost Sunday, commemorating that day in the budding Church when the Father and the Son poured out the Holy Spirit in a special way on the Apostles and they took up the mission of proclaiming the Gospel throughout the whole world. The Holy Spirit throughout the Church’s history has showered down gifts upon her to keep her faithful to the teaching she’s received from Our Lord, and to keep the fires burning to inspire hearts to turn to Our Lord and be reconciled with God and with man.

In today’s First Reading with wind and fire the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the Twelve in a way that cannot be contained. It’s a sign no one can ignore. A rushing wind and tongues of fire. It draws a crowd. It’s a sign everyone is able to understand. It goes beyond the barriers of language to help humanity reunite once again in the Spirit. It’s the sign everyone has been seeking: the truth about God, the world, and man. Every point of origin the shocked witnesses mention today was a full-fledged Christian communion by the time St. Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles. The fire of the Holy Spirit spread like wildfire, uncontainable.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that the presence and action of the Holy Spirit is often perceived as gifts, gifts for the edification and unity of the Church. The Holy Spirit gifts us the gift of prayer to express in faith that Jesus is Lord. The spiritual gifts are unified in the Church through their source: the Holy Spirit. The ways we serve are unified in serving Our Lord. All the workings of the Spirit in us come from God. Each gift is for our benefit, another’s, or both.

In today’s Gospel we’re reminded of one of the Spirit’s greatest gifts, a gift Our Lord conferred to the Apostles on the eve of his Resurrection: the gift of reconciliation with God. Our Lord first bestows the gift of reconciliation with his dearest friends, the friends who abandoned him in his moment of need: “Peace be with you.” It’s no coincidence that he repeats this desire for reconciliation even as he is breathing the Holy Spirit upon them. It is the Holy Spirit who makes reconciliation possible. The Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and gave him new life so that reconciliation would be possible.

One of the most saddening ways to break off a relationship with someone is to say, “you are dead to me;” In God’s eyes, even in those situations the Spirit can make that person come alive again through the grace of mercy, whether mercy received or mercy given. The separation between God and man, recalled by the story of the Tower of Babel, is reversed by the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost: in pride man distanced himself from God and his fellow man, and communication broke down. Through the gift of tongues the Holy Spirit reestablishes the lines of communication. In the Spirit man reconciles not only with God, but with his fellow man.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday were crowning gifts for the good of the Church and the world. This Sunday is not just a moment to ask the Spirit for more gifts, although they are abundant; it is a moment to take stock of the all the spiritual gifts we have received in gratitude. People receive gifts that they don’t think they really need and chuck them in the closet all the time. Have we relegated any of the Holy Spirit’s gifts to the closet? Paul reminds us today that gifts are for the benefit of someone.

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can best use his gifts.

Readings: Acts 2:1–11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29–31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3b–7, 12–13; John 20:19–23.

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7th Sunday of Easter, Cycle A

On the Seventh Sunday of Easter we are in prayerful expectation of the coming the Holy Spirit next Sunday at Pentecost, just as the first disciples were. The Easter season concludes in a week with Pentecost. How are we preparing for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?

In today’s First Reading, just after the Ascension, the disciples gather, wait, and pray. The angels had to give them a little nudge to see that it was over (see the First Reading for Ascension Thursday), but they’ve taken the hint and come down from the mountain. However, it is not a John 21 moment; they haven’t returned to their day to day affairs as if nothing had happened. Our Lord had promised they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit if they wait, so they don’t just fill their time with mundane little chores; they gather and pray. We are gathered in prayer today, just as we should pray this whole week, awaiting the Holy Spirit.

In today’s Second Reading Peter reminds us that the Holy Spirit will be with us, but the mission we have received will still be tough. Just before his Ascension Our Lord charged the Apostles with going out and baptizing the whole world (see the Gospel for Ascension Thursday). About two millennia have passed. Are we there yet? He promised to be with them always, and that the power of the Holy Spirit would come upon them. If you read the Acts of the Apostles you see he was good on his promises, yet every Apostle but one suffered martyrdom. If we suffer in the name of Christ we know that the “Spirit of glory and of God rests” upon us.

In today’s Gospel we’re reminded that even as we wait in prayerful expectation of the Holy Spirit we know that Our glorified Lord is praying for us too at his Father’s right hand. He may have vanished from the world’s sight at the conclusion of his earthly ministry, but now the Risen Lord has concluded his time with his faithful disciples on earth and ascended into Heaven until he returns one day in the future. All the glory Our Lord asks the Father for in today’s Gospel is now being given to him. He spent his time on earth glorifying the Father through doing his will. Now he can grant eternal life: to know God and to know whom he sent. Now he prays for us to take up the torch, lit by the Holy Spirit, and continue his work.

The disciples today teach us the merits and importance of patient and trusting prayer. Our prayer life at times can be very staccato: almost as soon as one petition or expectation escapes our lips in prayer we’re moving to the next one. Sometimes we just keep asking for immediate things, skeptical Our Lord will truly help. If you’ve never really striven to persevere in prayer for something, now is the time to start. Perseverant prayer is also realistic prayer. Sometimes we try to tie Our Lord’s hands by asking for something very specific in a very specific way. Specificity is okay, but it must be combined with openness to God’s will. In Our Lord’s most anguished prayer in Gethsemane he said, “not my will, by thine be done.”

We all have prayer intentions that are very important to us, faced with dire situations. When tempted by discouragement it’s important to remember all the little prayers Our Lord has answered throughout your life. Good weather on a day you plan to picnic. Good results on an exam. A clean bill of health at the doctor’s office when some ache or pain has worried you. Thanking Our Lord whenever things work out, even if you didn’t dedicate a lot of prayer time, helps to foster more trust that he wants what’s best for you. Remember: he knows what you need before you ask.

Readings: Acts 1:12–14; Psalm 27:1, 4, 7–8; 1 Peter 4:13–16; John 17:1–11a. See also Ascension of the Lord, Cycle A.