Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Cycle C (2)

The Gospel reminds us today that all the Father has, all the Son has, and in turn all the Holy Spirit will declare to his disciples is of the whole Trinity.  The hallmark of our Christian faith is that there is One God in Three Persons, or we risk writing off God in one way or another by considering the Father as aloof, utterly transcendent and beyond our daily lives and interests, authoritarian; considering Jesus Christ just another rabbi or wise man, sharing some human teachings with us and giving good example, nothing more than a social worker; or considering the Holy Spirit as just another one of those flighty inspirations and sentiments that never results in anything.

Today’s readings remind us that everything we are, everything for which we hope, and everything expected of us and that we expect from God comes to us from the whole Trinity. What are expectations and what are the Trinity’s?

In the First Reading we see the Trinity relishing in the creation of the world. The wisdom of God is speaking and reminiscing of the moment of creation. He describes himself as the forerunner of God’s wonders, before the earth was made. In these words, we are reminded that God the Father made the world with his Son in mind, gazing upon him in eternity with love.

The Son in turn, begotten by the Father, as we profess every Sunday in the Creed, delights over creation and the human race. This hearkens back to the first chapters of Genesis, when the Spirit of the Lord hovered over the face of the deep, ready to begin creation with “let there be light.” When the Lord creates man, he breathes his own spirit into him, a Spirit of life, making him a living being and wanting to create men in his own image and likeness. We see that spirit of play and artistic relish that reminds us of God’s total freedom to create us, without any need and restraint, and with us in mind as his true masterpieces, made in his image.

In creating man, the Trinity had an even more special masterpiece in mind, a masterpiece that would in part craft itself. He gave us the freedom to conform our lives to this masterpiece of life that he wanted to see brought about in each of us. In faith and love we could trust in him to show us the way to be a true masterpiece, a masterpiece of moral beauty, truth, and love. When Adam and Eve sinned they chose their distorted image of God as the model to imitate, and the image of God was disfigured in them. As a result, just as God warned them before eating of the fruit, spiritual death ensued. Nevertheless, God’s delight in us and desire for our glory would not let the story end there.

As the Second Reading reminds us, God became man to show us that true masterpiece and image of God that he had in mind from all eternity. As Paul reminds us, through our Lord Jesus Christ we have peace and access to the glory of God again. God created the world with his Son’s image in mind, and Jesus, by becoming flesh, by becoming a man, shows us exactly what God had on his mind when he created us. That image of God found in Christ shows us how we can restore the image of God in us that was disfigured by sin. By Christ becoming man our likeness is restored as well: the flow of spiritual life is reopened by Jesus’ Passion and death, and poured into us by the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, as we profess in the Creed every Sunday. Full of that divine life, we happily put up with the sufferings and struggles of daily life, knowing that the glory of God will come for us.

As the Gospel reminds us, God is not just the origin of our existence, but the purpose of it as well, the end toward which we’re all headed. It is not the end in terms being finished, it is the beginning of eternal life with the Trinity. Jesus became man and suffered and died to reconcile the world with God, the Father of mercies. He does this by sending the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the disciples during the Last Supper that the Holy Spirit, of which Jesus was full during his entire earthly mission, would come after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven to constantly keep Christ among us and give us life through the sacraments, as well as guidance and strength to be faithful to the image of God that Jesus Christ had restored in us. As the Lord, the giver of Life, the Holy Spirit continues to keep the Church united around Christ, proclaiming the Gospel to the world through her words and example. Jesus reminds us that the Holy Spirit will not say anything apart from what the Father and Son share. The Trinity is and always will be united as the source of our existence, our hope, and our life.

The Lord delighted in creating you. Have you ever asked yourself what he had in mind when he created you? He has endowed you with the freedom to decide how you live your life, but also revealed to you the ways you can end up on a road to nowhere. If the Lord has a purpose for you, what would it be? Ask him this week.

Readings: Proverbs 8:22–31; Psalm 8:4–9; Romans 5:1–5; John 16:12–15. See also Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Cycle C and Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

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Mary, Mother of the Church

On Calvary, when the Lord told Mary, “Woman, behold your son!” and his beloved disciple, “Behold your mother!” (see John 19:26-27) Mary didn’t just become the mother of St. John the Evangelist (believed to be the “disciple” described in his Gospel); she became the mother of all believers. The Second Vatican Council would later describe Mary as our mother “in the order of grace”:

This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and [difficulties], until they are led into the happiness of their true home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix. This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator (Lumen Gentium, 62).

The Heavenly Father has adopted us through Baptism, making Our Lord our big brother and Mary our Mother. From the moment Mary accepted the invitation to become the Mother of God (at the Annunciation) she has never stopped watching over us, Our Lord’s “brothers and sisters,” with maternal love. She still does from Heaven, continuing to work with her firstborn son, Our Lord, until we all make it to our heavenly home.

Let’s give our mother in the order of grace the honor she deserves today.

Readings: Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 87:1-2, 3 and 5, 6-7; John 19:25-34.

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Pentecost Sunday, Cycle C (2)

Some people call Pentecost Sunday the birthday of the Church, but, while a lovely thought, that’s not entirely accurate. Today, the last day of the Easter season, we celebrate when the Church “goes public”: the frightened men in the upper room are emboldened by the Holy Spirit to go out and proclaim the Good News, and the Holy Spirit helps them to be understood. Some see this moment as reversing what happened at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9): if the pride and hubris of men led them to division and misunderstanding, the Spirit of the Lord brings them back together again into one people through reconciliation with God and with each other.

The places named in today’s First Reading by the astounded Jews are all places where the Church first spread, aided by the Holy Spirit. The inspiration of the Apostles by the Holy Spirit was always meant to inspire all believers. Like the tongues of flame descending on the Apostles, the Holy Spirit wants to enflame hearts. We’re all called to not only let our hearts be enflamed by the Holy Spirit, but to share that flame with others as well. The devout Jews recalled today are from all over Asia Minor, as well as far flung places like Rome and Cyrene. They went out and brought enflamed hearts to their native places, and shared the flame of an ardent faith inspired by the Holy Spirit.

As St. Paul reminds us in today’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13), it is thanks to the Spirit that we can pray at all. Pentecost Sunday is a special day for celebrating the many gifts the Holy Spirit lavishes upon the Church. Throughout the Easter season we’ve seen the Spirit emboldening, instructing, dissuading, and strengthening the disciples as they started to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Just as we are the Mystical Body of Christ, a Biblical image of the Church, the Holy Spirit is like the Soul of that Body, giving the Body form and life that makes the Church visible as a living thing. With the Holy Spirit’s help the Church is not just a conglomeration of people who agree on certain teachings, but a communion of life and love that wants to welcome everyone into the fold, reconciling them with God in the process.

In today’s Gospel the Risen Lord gives the Apostles a special infusion of the Holy Spirit that helps them reconcile sinners with God and helps people to see when they haven’t. Pentecost Sunday is not just a day for celebrating the Holy Spirit’s gifts that enable us to be in communion with each other; it is also a day for celebrating the Holy Spirit’s role in bringing us into and maintaining our communion with the Most Holy Trinity, which we’ll celebrate next Sunday. Without this gift of reconciliation through the Holy Spirit there is no communion, and without this communion, little by little, divisions and misunderstandings are sown. Through the Holy Spirit we remain unified and united, among ourselves and with God.

The Church has a beautiful prayer to invoke the Holy Spirit. Take some time this week to pray it in first person:

Come Holy Spirit, fill my heart and kindle in me the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and you will renew me.

Help me to know what is right and to rejoice always in the Spirit’s consolation. Amen.

Readings: Acts 2:1–11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29–31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3b–7, 12–13; John 20:19–23.See also Pentecost Sunday, Cycle C, Second Sunday of Easter, 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), Cycle C, and Pentecost Sunday.

7th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C (2)

Pentecost, the end of the Easter season, is only a week away, and today’s readings remind us that, like the first apostles and disciples, we must let ourselves be shaped by the Word and his Spirit. That may involve taking a new direction in life, drawing closer to the fount of grace in order to achieve a glorious life through giving witness, even unto death, of the glories Our Lord has worked in us and will work through us.

In today’s First Reading St. Stephen, the first martyr, is speaking in a language that his persecutors understand. It is a message that comes with the power of the Holy Spirit, who’s coming on Pentecost to energize the budding Church for her mission that we’ll celebrate in a special way next week. He bears Our Lord’s own words: “Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Those words brought death to Jesus as well, because they were a testimony that Our Lord was the Messiah. Stephen’s testimony went to martyrdom, and that martyrdom bore fruit: Saul became the great apostle St. Paul.

In today’s Second Reading St. John reminds us that Jesus’ Word is above all an invitation to enjoy eternal life. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”—the Church, that bride described by St. John—in the power of the Holy Spirit extends that invitation that Christ may come into her life and the life of all believers. Let the hearer say, “Come.”—he wants that invitation to be repeated on our lips as well. He wants Christ to come into our lives, and to come into the lives of those to whom we give witness. That invitation is to satisfy a deep need in man that mankind can satisfy in no other way: “Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.” That life-giving water is grace, the love and life of God, which unites us to God and to each other and lets the glory of God shine within us.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord prays for those who will believe in him through the words of his disciples. Like St. Stephen, we must bear the word of Jesus so that others can believe. It means giving witness, it means taking the blows of ridicule, misunderstanding, contempt. We may not suffer a physical martyrdom, but there may be a character assassination, ridicule, and scorn. Through Jesus’ word, he prays that we will be united as he is united to his heavenly Father. Through Jesus’ word, he prays that we will share the same glory that his heavenly Father has given him, and through that unity and glory he prays that the world will know that he was sent by his heavenly Father and that the heavenly Father loves them as much as he loves Jesus.

Irenaeus described the glory of God as being man truly living his life: Gloria Dei vivens homo. Man glorifies God by living his life in truth and love to the maximum degree, bolstered by the grace and love of God. Not just passing things, so many toys that are new, then boring, then discarded—money, career, pleasure, power. Not just surviving in an evil and troubled world. Living the Gospel in all its fullness. Eternal life started in our hearts the day of our baptism and wants to grow, to take hold of us and transform us. That growth is made possible by Christ in the power of his Spirit. His word must become our word. His Spirit must become our Spirit, and through faith and prayer and sacrifice we make his words our own, and his Spirit will fill us and transform us.

Readings: Acts 7:55–60; Psalm 97:1–2, 6–7, 9; Revelation 22:12–14, 16–17, 20; John 17:20–26. See also 7th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C, 7th Week of Easter, ThursdaySt. Stephen, First Martyr, and 3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday (2).

Ascension of the Lord, Cycle C (2)

After forty days of being with the disciples after his Resurrection, which we have celebrated during these forty days of the Easter season, Jesus has crossed into Heaven to take his place at the Father’s right hand, as the prophecies foretold for the Messiah. The Father has crowned him with the glory he merited by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and in turn he is eternally asking the Father for each of us–by name–to receive the graces we need to join him one day in eternity and to help others get there too.

In today’s First Reading Saint Luke recalls why he decided to make his writings a two-volume set. The work of salvation is not done until everyone has an opportunity to be saved. The Lord’s Ascension is just as important for the Church as his Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Like the disciples in today’s First Reading, we are awaiting the Lord’s return in glory, but we also know that in Ascending to Heaven he is not just sitting up there on his hands. He and the Father are preparing to send the Holy Spirit to his Church, just as we await on Pentecost Sunday a week and a half from now, and then our part in his saving work goes into high gear, as attested to by the Acts of the Apostles. Our Lord also speaks on our behalf to the Father for all eternity, interceding for us. We need the whole Trinity’s help in fulfilling our mission throughout history: to help Our Lord in Heaven to continue his saving work on earth.

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds what Our Lord won through his victory over sin and death. The Lord returns to Heaven in glory for what he suffered and endured for us. Taking his place at the Father’s right hand is taking the highest place of honor next to the Father’s, not only as his Son, but as his Son who has pleased him. Our Lord does not just receive glory. He receives reward as well. Even as he was preparing to ascend he told his disciples that all authority had been given to him by his Father (see Matthew 28:18). He doesn’t just rest on his laurels. He puts that influence to work for us and our efforts to help share his Gospel with the whole world.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord imparts a blessing even as he is taken up into Heaven. He doesn’t stop imparting blessings, even today. In a little over a week he’ll impart once again the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Easter season is longer than any other season except for Ordinary Time, and before his Ascension the days he spent, risen from the dead, were some of the most precious on earth for his faithful disciples. It was quality time just for them. He’s looking forward to spending that quality time with us in Heaven, and from eternity he is doing everything in his power to make sure that happens. As the Easter season nears its conclusion in ten days we too should be rejoicing as we recall all the blessings he has imparted to us during these forty days. We should also rejoice over the blessings to come.

If you don’t feel you’ve received any special blessings this Lent and Easter it may be that you are not looking hard enough. Eighty-six days (from Ash Wednesday to Ascension Thursday) is a long time to have not received anything special from Our Lord. The Holy Spirit is already around. Ask the Spirit to help you recall the blessings you’ve received in these days so that the joy you’ve experienced this Easter season continues throughout the year.

Readings: Acts 1:1–11; Psalm 47:2–3, 6–9; Ephesians 1:17–23; Luke 24:46–53. See also Ascension of the Lord, Cycle C and Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.