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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8th Ordinary Sunday, Cycle C

Today’s readings remind us that if we truly want to recognize, do, and praise the good that we and others do we need Our Lord’s help and the wisdom to not judge a book by its cover.

In today’s First Reading Sirach teaches us that the truth worth of anyone, including ourselves, is when a trial by fire shakes us up and makes us show who we truly are and how we live. He focuses on a person’s words being the true measurement of their faults or virtue. Appearances are not enough. He gives three examples of a process for evaluating the worth of a “fruit.” With the sieve you sift out the undesirable, which remains in the sieve and lets the desirable pass through. With the firing of pottery it adopts its definitive form and strength, or its definitive deformation and flaws. With cultivating a fruit tree it’s easy to see whether you’re successful or not: good and abundant fruit, or a withered tree with little to no fruit. In all three of these processes it is the result that matters. The process doesn’t automatically produce a good outcome, just like we or others aren’t automatically good or evil.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that it is thanks to Our Lord that this process of telling good from evil, even among the well-intentioned, is not in vain. Our corruptibility and mortality due to Original Sin would lead to spiritual as well as physical death if left to their own devices. Original Sin disfigured us, but also disfigured our view of good and evil. We need help to correct it. Paul encourages us to see that Our Lord will clothe that corruptibility with incorruptibility: the grace that transforms us and heals us from the wounds of Original Sin, although we still are subjected to weakness and temptation in this life, in eternity we will be purified of it, once and for all. Our Lord clothes our mortality with immortality by sowing the seed of eternal life in us from the moment we believe and are baptized. His victory over death swallowed it up for himself and for us. If we persevere in Christ we will share in his victory over sin and death.

Our Lord in today’s Gospel reminds us that we must try to see and live clearly before helping others, or it will be a case of the blind leading the blind. He also warns us that being a “bad boy,” despite how culture today paints it, is never a good thing. If a blind man were to offer to help you cross the street you would either charitably decline, think he was crazy, or maybe convince yourself he had super powers. We live in a society where people seek the virtuous thing to do, the logical thing to do, or the craziest thing to do, and are willing to get advice from or give advice to anyone. We have to invest time, prayer, and reflection to determine the solid foundation on which to live and to be guided. We can’t just invent this on our own: we need help from Our Lord, and we need help from solid people and solid traditions. If someone recognizes something to be evil, they avoid it; that is Ethics 101. That is why evil often tries to masquerade as good, to appear glamorous. Our Lord teaches us not to judge people, but he does teach us to judge actions: evil people do evil things, just as good people do good things.

Sirach teaches us this week that the just are tried by fire. Assess how you faced your last trial (if you’re currently undergoing a trial, put that on hold, since it is not resolved yet—the aftermath is just as important). Evaluate that trial starting outward with all the others involved or affected, as well as the circumstances, and then move in to yourself, all the way into your heart and your conscience. Today’s readings give you several ways to assess your handling of the trial. Did you profit from the wisdom of others or their foolishness in facing the trial? Did wisdom or foolishness come out of your mouth as a result? Did this trial end up making others better, nobler, holier? Did make you better, nobler, holier? Did it help you identify the good and evil in your life and in others’ lives?

Readings: Sirach 27:4–7; Psalm 92:2–3, 13–16; 1 Corinthians 15:54–58; Luke 6:39–45. See also 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and Saturday.

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7th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Lord through Sirach makes a strong case for the benefits of having wisdom in your life. Society today has a tendency to seek immediate results in an immediate way–success, gratification, etc.–but often lacks the most important thing: wisdom. Wisdom is ultimately an insight into the big picture of things and the ability to apply that wisdom to life’s decisions, big and small.

As Sirach describes today, embracing Wisdom paves the way for being blessed by the Lord. He describes bringing wisdom into your life as a process. It can be unsettling, even painful, at first, because wisdom sheds new light on you attitudes and your actions, and part of that process is a realization of the foolishness in your life too. In yesterday’s First Reading Sirach taught us that the Lord is the source of all wisdom. He’s written wisdom into all of his Creation and when we discover that, we discover blessings and happiness.

St. Paul describes Our Lord as the Wisdom of God (see 1 Corinthians 24,30). In Christ we find the Wisdom of God incarnate. Let’s welcome him and his wisdom into our life.

Readings: Sirach 4:11–19; Psalm 119:165, 168, 171–175; Mark 9:38–40. See also 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.

 

7th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Today’s readings remind us that Our Lord has taught us a truly human way of living, giving us an example in his earthly life so that we gradually learn to treat others not necessarily as they treat us, but as how Our Lord would treat them.

In today’s First Reading not-yet-King David is being pursued by King Saul and an army because Saul is envious of David and knows he will deprive him of his throne. David and his men come upon Saul and his army while all are asleep, and he easily sneaks up to Saul himself. This is the second time David had a chance to ambush and kill Saul (cf. 1 Samuel 24). David spared his life to show his loyalty, and Saul acknowledged that he would one day be king and stopped pursuing him. Now Saul was pursuing him again, and David’s servant Abishai was urging him to do what he should have done the first time: slay his enemy while he had the chance.

David kept to a code that was more important than political expediency: if the Lord has not struck down his king, David would not do so either. When he spirits away Saul’s spear and water jug he has every right to gloat, but instead he appeals to Saul to see that David means him no harm and has no pretensions against his rule. David knew, and teaches us, that if we seek justice, we must remember that it is for the Lord to mete it out, not us.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that we have been made in the image and likeness of God and are called to show it. The first pages of Sacred Scripture teach us that Adam and Eve were created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). Then they Fell. Hard. Even the fallen humanity ushered in by Adam and Eve reflected God, but it also gave him a “bad name” in Creation. Not only was the image and likeness disfigured in them, but they were too wounded and weak to restore it.

Enter the new Adam: Jesus Christ, who not only showed us the true image and likeness of God to which we care called, but filled us with his Spirit so that we were capable of living it through a life of grace, transforming a simply “earthly” life gradually into a “heavenly one.” With the Incarnation of Our Lord we see that image and likeness taking flesh to show us what it means to be in the image and likeness of God. If a transformation in the Spirit is supposed to be taking place within us, then it should be reflected in our actions and attitudes toward others.

Our Lord in today’s Gospel teaches us how we should respond to being mistreated, a response aided by grace and the Spirit, rising above the fallen earthly attitude of just responding in kind. If David in today’s First Reading simply respected King Saul and wished him no harm, Our Lord teaches us more: to love those are enemies to us.

We were all enemies of Our Lord when he died for us (cf. Romans 5:8-11). He was subjected to blows, scourging, spitting, and ridicule and didn’t respond in kind. He was stripped of his clothing and his life was taken from him. He teaches us to “Do unto others as you would have them do to you,” but he qualifies that by saying we should not only love those who love us, but also those who hate us.

Do we expect to be loved? If we expect to be loved, why would we expect ourselves to be exempt from loving? What should move us to love instead is the fact that Our Lord and others love us even when we don’t love them in return. Not just as what is due to those who love us, but as the way to truly live in the image and likeness of God.

A serious obstacle to holiness is making enmity with someone a two-way street. Make a list in prayer this week of people who have wronged you or don’t seem to like you, either personally or as a Catholic. Transformation in Christ comes through effort and grace, so pray for each person on the list this week and make a conscious resolution to harbor no ill will toward them.

Readings: 1 Samuel 26:2, 7–9, 12–13, 22–23; Psalm 103:1–4, 8, 10, 12–13; 1 Corinthians 15:45–49; Luke 6:27–38.

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Today’s readings remind us that a relationship with Our Lord is not optional in our lives if we truly want a fulfilled and complete life. A life without the Lord is ultimately a life without hope. What he taught, did, and experience in his life has ramifications for ours from here to eternity.

In today’s First Reading the prophet Jeremiah describes the importance of a relationship with the Lord in terms of favorable conditions for growth and unfavorable ones. Jeremiah condemns those who put their trust in human beings and the flesh and turn away from the Lord, but believers are not mistrusting people. What is he trying to say? The example of the barren bush teaches us that trust in human beings and the flesh at the expense of Our Lord is ultimately a withered life that just limps along and subsists as best it can, monotonous and agonizing. It is a dry and arid life, compounded by the fact that human beings and the flesh are ultimately mortal and finite. Even putting your trust exclusively in those things is futile in the end: you’ll be separated from others and from health by death. Putting your trust in the Lord changes your life dramatically: it doesn’t mean you or others won’t follow the earthly course of life and die, but it does mean that you’ll have a new source of life that weathers adversity, even the adversity of physical death, and is not only subsistence living, but thriving in this life and the next.

In today’s Second Reading Paul teaches us that a life without the Lord is ultimately a futile life, because a life with the Lord is a life redeemed and transformed by the Resurrection into a life of hope. Paul is shocked when he hears Christians are denying that the Resurrection happened. He teaches them that if Christ didn’t rise from the dead it would not just be bad news for Our Lord, but for all of us. If Our Lord didn’t rise from the dead, neither would we. If death had the last word, there would be no reason to hope. Why? What does Christ’s Resurrection have to do with us today and every day? Our Lord’s life is so fruitful, like the well-placed plant in today’s First Reading, that it gives life to all of us constantly, even eternally, if we let it. He is the “firstfruits” of those who have fallen asleep: we too, redeemed by him, will rise from the dead. However, that requires turning to him for redemption, and if Christ did not conquer death in the Resurrection, he did not conquer sin either, and we remain in a sinful life that is as finite, fleeting, and arid as the bleak desert bush of today’s First Reading. But Christ has risen from the dead, conquering sin and death not only for himself, but for those who believe in him. We now live a redeemed life hoping that one day he will raise us from the dead too.

In today’s Gospel we hear Luke’s account of the Beatitudes and the consequences of not only living them, but ignoring them. The well-placed plant in today’s First Reading stays green during heat waves and fruitful during droughts: it draws on a deeper source that is undiminished by adverse conditions. The Christian who draws from hope in Our Lord, hope in the promises he makes in the Beatitudes, draws from something undiminished by poverty, hunger, sorrow, or persecution. He knows that there are bad seasons and good ones in life, but a good harvest will ultimately come. Luke’s account also recalls Our Lord’s warning to those who would put their trust in other things, like the barren plant of today’s First Reading. Those who trust in riches, a full belly, a perpetual good time, and the flattery of others, separated from Our Lord, will find how fleeting and ultimately unsatisfying those things truly are in comparison to what Our Lord offers: a resilient life that thrives and blossoms in eternity.

Even in the spiritual life we can fall into routine and superficiality, but that’s because we stop making an effort to go deeper in our relationship with Our Lord. That enormous source of water described by Jeremiah today is the mystery of God. We can try to plumb its depths, but we never will. It never goes dry or gets stagnant. Dryness can occur in the spiritual life when Our Lord is trying to show us that we must go deeper in our relationship with him than mere sentimentality, than an empty stomach, a diminishing bank account, or sorrow. If we truly place our trust in him he will help us to spiritual grow with profundity.

Readings: Jeremiah 17:5–8; Psalm 1:1–4, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16–20; Luke 6:17, 20–26.