Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

We always start our prayers by making the Sign of the Cross to remind us of the greatest mystery of our faith: the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. It is not a mystery as seen on TV where CSI checks a crime scene, fingerprints and DNA evidence, witnesses: it’s something so big that it doesn’t fit into our head. We couldn’t have ever figured out on our own that God was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God revealed Himself to us as the Holy Trinity. Jesus came and said he was God’s Son, and that meant God was his Father. And Jesus promised to send his Spirit after he ascended into Heaven, so the Holy Spirit was God as well. This is something so mysterious that we believe it because Our Lord taught it to us and we believe in him.

Toward the end of today’s Gospel Our Lord tells the disciples to go out and baptize everyone in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. On the day of our baptism a priest or deacon poured water on our head three times, and each time he poured it he said I baptize you in the name of the Father … and of the Son … and of the Holy Spirit. And in that moment what St. Paul describes in the Second Reading today happened: we received the Holy Spirit who made us into adopted sons and daughters of God. And so whenever we start our prayers, we remember this day of our baptism by making the Sign of the Cross and remembering the Holy Trinity and how God came into our hearts through our baptism.

So when we pray this week, as we make the Sign of the Cross, let’s thank each Person of the Most Holy Trinity for wanting to come and be in our hearts and show us God as He truly is. Thank God the Father for creating us and revealing himself to Israel as the One True God. Thank God the Son for obeying his Heavenly Father and coming down and becoming man to show us that God was Our Father and to enable us to become his adopted children. Thank the Holy Spirit for transforming us into God’s adopted children and for bringing the Holy Trinity into our hearts and helping us to understand and live this great mystery of our faith.

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:32–34, 39–40; Psalm 33:4–6, 9, 18–20, 22; Romans 8:14–17; Matthew 28:16–20.

8th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

In today’s Gospel the chief priests, scribes, and elders try to throw their weight around, but Our Lord asks them a simple question that shows where their real center of gravity lies. They try to corner him with the question akin to “Who do you think you are doing these things?”, and he responds by asking them who they though John was. He’s not intimidated by their position, influence, or even their threats. Even when someone is in authority over us there is a level of dignity that no position or influence can take away, and that dignity is shaped by our conformity to the truth and to the just thing to do. They have a bankrupt position on their side; Jesus has the truth, and the truth is what sets us free.

From their narrow-minded interest in self-preservation they have a dilemma with no good outcome: to acknowledge that John’s work came from God, which would be to acknowledge that’s John’s testimony to Jesus before his death shows from where Jesus’ own work and authority comes, making their question to Our Lord pointless, or to acknowledge that John’s work did not come from God, which in the sphere of public opinion would be political suicide (maybe material suicide too). Although the passage doesn’t spell it out it’s likely that they thought John was just another effective political player. John sacrificed his life in the defense of an uncomfortable truth; the chief priests, scribes, and elders fear the consequences of publicly acknowledging what they believe to be true, and that shows their true center of gravity. As a result they choose to appear ignorant before the crowds in order to ensure their safety, and at the same time show that self-preservation is their greatest truth.

What’s our attitude before uncomfortable truths? Do we play them close to the vest so as not to get burned? Our Lord has promised that the truth will set us free. Let’s not be afraid of seeking the truth or testifying to it, especially when it means our discomfort or the discomfort of others in order to achieve a greater good.

Readings: Sirach 51:12c–20; Psalm 19:8–11; Mark 11:27–33.

8th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year I

In today’s Gospel it may seem that Our Lord is expressing his frustration with a fig tree that doesn’t satisfy his hunger, much like you’d kick a vending machine that took your money and didn’t give you anything, but Jesus is expressing something to keep in mind in the events that follow: if the Creator finds something in his creation that does not produce fruits, in the end it will never produce fruit again and ultimately be fruitless in any meaningful way. The First Reading recalls the godly ancestors of Israel’s past, and how their glory lives on through their progeny: they have produced fruit, and their fruit has endured in the holy generations that have descended from them, just as Our Lord has asked the disciples to do (cf. John 15:16). At the same time who can forget Our Lord’s chilling words about Judas, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Mk 14;21).

It is Jesus’ actions that communicate this truth in today’s Gospel, not so much his words. When Jesus enters the Temple and drives out the money changers and other merchants, if we cast the scene like a movie, we could also see the story cutting back to the fig tree withering even as Jesus is driving out those who are in his Father’s house seeking their own interests instead of the interests of God. Their activity maybe profitable, may be a shortcut to get from point A to point B, but, in the eyes of God, something fruitless and ultimately leading to a fruitless life in the things that matter. Our Lord was doing the right thing, driving out those who’d not come to the Temple for the right reasons, in contrast to the chief priests and scribes who were plotting to kill him and concerning themselves with public relations instead of ensuring the Temple area was treated as a house of God.

The verdict Jesus pronounces using the fig tree today is not a verdict that we’d hear until the end of our earthly life, but it is a reminder to consider what fruits our lives are producing. Let’s ask Our Lord to help us seek to bear fruits that are pleasing to him, and ultimately to make our entire life fruitful.

Readings: Sirach 44:1, 9–13; Psalm 149:1b–6a, 9b; Mark 11:11–26.

8th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year I

Bartimaeus in today’s Gospel teaches that our prayer is shaped by how we have received the word of God in our lives. To the onlookers he is just another beggar buttering up a Rabbi for a handout, or someone who should just accept the cards life has dealt him, but the language of his plea and his persistence show that he sees an opportunity passing by that may never return: he believes that Jesus is the Messiah, which is why he calls him “Son of David,” a messianic title. He acknowledges the need for a savior He asks for Jesus to have pity on him: John the Baptist preached that repentance was required, conversion, and Jesus from the beginning of his mission on earth preached the same message of repentance. Bartimaeus was showing that he got the message.

When we pray our understanding of the Gospel shapes how we pray, along with all the Christian prayers formulated by those who have gone before us and from the Lord himself, as is the case with the Lord’s Prayer. Those words go from being the repetition of formulae handed down to us to becoming our words, either taking those words and making them our own or using them to inspire our own conversations with God. They also help us see what we should pray for: the things we and others need, not necessarily the things we want, such as our daily bread, health, and forgiveness, as opposed to winning big in the lottery, being popular, not having any crosses in our life, etc.

Bartimaeus’ prayer led to a heart to heart encounter with Our Lord, and he received what he wanted, but knew he didn’t deserve: to be able to see. His prayer goes from formulae to a simple and heartfelt conversation with Our Lord. Let’s ask Our Lord for the grace for us to see today how to speak with him heart to heart about what we really need, and with the same humble outlook as Bartimaeus.

Readings: Sirach 42:15–25; Psalm 33:2–9; Mark 10:46–52.

8th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year I

James and John in today’s Gospel are on a different wavelength than Our Lord: Jesus has just told them of his impending Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and all they are thinking of is the glory and the share of the glory they’ll receive. Jesus warns them that they are not on the Christian wavelength of glory: it is through the Cross that we achieve the only glory that matters–serving and pleasing God in gratitude for all he has done for us.

James and John are on the wavelength of ambition; Jesus is on the wavelength of service. In the exercise of authority it is very easy to switch from one to the other, usually in the direction of ambition, which is driven by self-interest either to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of others. James and John’s ambition provokes an immediate reaction from the other disciples: they know ambition when they see it and see their ambitions being infringed upon as well. When Jesus asks James and John whether they are prepared to receive the same baptism as him, and drink the same chalice, he is asking them whether they’re ready to suffer. In the end they will, to their credit: James was beheaded, as the Acts of the Apostles recalls, and John was exiled and imprisoned and, according to tradition, miraculously survived an attempt to execute him. But Jesus also touches on the key to not switching from the wavelength of service to ambition: recognizing that if you seek any place or path for your life, it should be out of a desire to serve, and, ultimately, you don’t have a right to it. Even Jesus himself takes the place and the path willed by the Father, and he does so as an example to us.

Let’s strive today to seek the place and path for our lives where we can best serve others, not just ourselves.

Readings: Sirach 36:1, 4–5a, 10–17; Psalm 79:8–9, 11, 13; Mark 10:32–45.