Saturday, June 9, 2018

Food For The Journey

It is a longstanding tradition that, before being put to death, a prisoner is given a last meal. It is a way of reminding the executioner that, despite the evil the prisoner may have committed, he is still a man to be treated with dignity and respect. The last meal is also seen as a gesture of reconciliation between the condemned man and his executioner who is simply acting as an agent of the state.

Unfortunately, the death penalty is still carried out in some parts of the world, including the United States. Last year, an inmate named Kenneth Williams was asked what he would like for his last meal before being put to death by lethal injection. In an incredible gesture, he replied that he would like to receive the Eucharist. Whereas a last meal is typically seen as an act of reconciliation between the prisoner and the executioner, Mr Williams made it also an act of reconciliation between himself and Jesus.

We must remember that Kenneth Williams found himself on death row because of several heinous crimes he committed. While driving a getaway car, he struck and killed a man. In another incident, he murdered a college girl. Finally, while trying to escape prison, he killed a deputy prison warden. However, despite the many crimes he committed, he found mercy in Jesus Christ. And, having been reconciled to Christ, he wanted his last act on earth to be communion with the Lord who spilled His blood for our salvation.

In today’s second reading from the Book of Hebrews, we read: “...Christ...entered the sanctuary...with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption…” Later on we read: “...the blood of Christ [will] cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” The blood shed by Jesus on the cross has the power to save us from our sins. It is the very love and mercy of God poured out for us. No sin we commit is so great that it cannot be covered by the blood of Jesus. No sinner is so corrupt and depraved that the mercy of God cannot reach his soul. It is true for Kenneth Williams who experienced the love of God on death row. It is true for us no matter what sins we have committed and no matter how corrupt we believe we have become.

Jesus also had a last meal before He was executed. We read about His “Last Supper” in today’s gospel. Rather than approach this last meal as a time to indulge Himself, He used it as an opportunity to give even more of Himself to His disciples and to us. Offering thanks to the Father, He blessed ordinary bread and wine, transforming them into His Body and Blood. He also commanded the apostles to do this in His memory, so that the gift of His loving mercy could be extended down through the centuries.

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. While every Sunday is a celebration of the Eucharist, we turn with particular focus to the love of Jesus made manifest in this great mystery. It has been the continuous, unchanged and firm belief of Christians from the apostles on down that the bread and wine we offer at Mass truly become the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It is not merely a symbol of Jesus’ continued presence among us but the reality of His presence. It is not merely a memorial of His love but the reality of His love renewed for us again and again. Today’s feast is an opportunity for us to affirm our own faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and to recommit ourselves to worshiping Him and receiving Him worthily every Sunday and, if possible, every day.

Today’s readings, in particular, challenge us to focus on the Blood of Jesus. For practical reasons, it is more customary to receive the Eucharist in the form of bread. We offer the chalice less frequently to avoid spilling the Precious Blood or even sometimes for health reasons. However, whether we receive Holy Communion in the form of bread or in the form of wine, we always receive the entire Risen Lord.

When we focus on the blood of Christ, however, we are focusing on His loving mercy and the power of forgiveness made manifest through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. As we say during Mass, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.” At every celebration of the Eucharist, the saving graces of the cross are made present to us, including the forgiveness of sins.

Of course, for us to receive that forgiveness, we have to show that we are sorry. We do that by changing our lives. If we approach this great sacrament of Jesus’ merciful love without sorrow for our sins and a sincere attempt to bring our choices into line with God’s will for us, we would be receiving the Eucharist in vain. We would still be receiving Jesus but it would not have as powerful a transformative effect in our heart.

Imagine a friend hurts you and asks for your forgiveness. How would you feel if she then went and continued the same behavior that hurt you in the first place? How could your relationship be restored if she continued to hurt you no matter how many times she said she was sorry? Just the same, if we receive Jesus’ mercy without working on putting to an end the sinful behaviour that hurt Him in the first place, our intimacy with God cannot be restored.

Jesus showed His love for us by dying on the cross to save us. He spilled His blood for our salvation. In this Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion, we receive that merciful love. Jesus’ desire to have a personal relationship with us is on full display in this great sacrament. For our part, we must change our hearts and our lives. When we have serious sin on our conscience, we should go to confession as quickly as possible so that we can receive Jesus worthily in the Blessed Sacrament. If we are in a situation that keeps us from being able to receive communion, we should meet with a deacon or priest as soon as possible to get the circumstances resolved so that we can approach the table of God’s healing mercy. What could be more important than receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? We should all be striving to receive the Eucharist worthily every Sunday if not every day if it is the last thing we do.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A New Covenant In Christ's Blood

To understand the Bible, we have to also understand the concept of “covenant”. All of Scripture is a chronicle of the covenant God wants to establish with His People, Israel, and, ultimately, with all people in every generation.  In fact the word “testament”,  as in “Old Testament” and “New Testament”, itself means “covenant”.

To put it simply, a covenant is an agreement by which two people who are otherwise not related create a family bond. It was common in Old Testament times that a weak king would make a covenant with a stronger king. This stronger king would then pledge to protect the weaker one as if he were his brother or son. Unlike a treaty which can be broken by one or the other party at any time or which only is in force for a certain period of time, a covenant cannot be broken and never expires. Just as a father never stops being a father or a daughter never stops being a daughter, the relationships that are created through a covenant remain always in force.

A beautiful example of this that we can all understand is the covenant of marriage. Through matrimony, a man and a woman who otherwise are unrelated become a new family. They pledge to be faithful to one another until they are separated by death. Once two separate, independent persons, they now become one flesh through the covenant of marriage.

Just so, God was not content to simply give life to the world. He wanted to enter into a relationship with the people He created. He wanted an intimate and personal friendship with us. By establishing a covenant with His people, He revealed His desire to draw all persons into His family.

Today’s first reading tells the story of the covenant God established with the people of Israel in the desert after He had liberated them from slavery in Egypt. God promised to be their God and the people, on their part, promised to keep His law. This new covenant relationship is sealed by the blood which Moses poured out on the altar. We call the relationship between family members “blood ties.” Just so, the pouring out of blood symbolizes that God and His people are now united in a blood tie through the covenant.

Though covenant is the central theme of the Bible, we only hear Jesus use the word once. It is at the Last Supper which we heard proclaimed in today’s gospel. The Last Supper takes place at the Feast of Passover when the Jewish people celebrated their liberation from slavery in Egypt and renewed the covenant that had been made through Moses in the desert. When Jesus picks up the cup filled with wine, He says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” While God made a covenant with the people of Israel through the blood that Moses poured out in the desert, Jesus made a new covenant with all those who believe in Him through the blood He poured out on the cross. These new blood ties no longer depend on nationality or race, but are made through faith in Jesus Christ. All who believe now can enter into this covenant relationship with God through Jesus. Through faith and baptism, we are brought into God’s family as His adopted children.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It is an opportunity for us to reflect on the great gift Jesus makes of Himself to His people, nourishing us on our journey through life. It is also an opportunity for us to reflect on the covenant He makes with us. Through the Eucharist, we become one flesh with God. We are united with Him and become related to Him just as a man and woman becoming one flesh through marriage and just as a son and daughter are related to their parents.

Whenever we receive the Eucharist, we are renewing our covenant relationship with Jesus. We are accepting Him once again as our Lord and Savior. We respond, “Amen”, because we believe that Jesus is truly present in the communion we receive. Our “Amen” also means that we accept the responsibilities that come with being a child of God. We pledge to follow the commandments He left us, in particular, the commandment of love. We also pledge to live this covenant relationship in the Church with all those who, like us, have been saved through the Blood of Christ.

The “Amen” we say when we receive communion is not something we should take lightly. Because we are renewing our covenant with Christ through the Eucharist, the “amen” we pronounce is like signing our signature to a legal document. None of us would do that without reading what it is we are agreeing to. Once we sign our name, the agreement is final. We cannot go back and say that we didn’t read it or didn’t understand it.

Just so, we should be sure we understand what the “amen” we say at Holy Communion means. It means that we truly believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist in more than a symbolic way. It means that we embrace all that the Church teaches. It means that we are striving to live a good and holy life. In particular, it means that we have no serious, unconfessed sins on our conscience. If we cannot say “yes” to any of these statements, then we cannot say “amen” to the communion we are about to receive. If we were to receive communion not believing in Jesus’ presence, not embracing the Church He established or not living a good, holy life, then it would be hypocritical for us to receive the Body of Christ.

God loves us. He wants an intimate and personal relationship with each of us. Through the Blood of Christ He has brought us into His family with all the privileges and responsibilities that come with being a child of God. Whenever we receive communion, we are renewing that covenant. Our “Amen” is an act of faith and a commitment to live as children of God. If that “yes” is difficult for us, we can pray for the grace to believe and the strength to live a good life. Then we can claim the inheritance waiting for us in heaven which is ours by covenant through the Blood of Christ.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Communion In The Blood Of Christ

Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, fought passionately on behalf of the poor. To serve the needy, she founded hospitality centers throughout the country which would give shelter to the homeless and provide meals for the hungry. Her concern, however, did not end with the bodily needs of those she ministered to. She also sought to meet their spiritual needs by offering retreats and daily Mass at her hospitality centers.

One morning, a young priest arrived to say Mass at her center in New York. Thinking he would make the Mass more relevant for those attending, he asked Dorothy for a coffee cup and proceeded to use it instead of a chalice to consecrate the blood of Christ. After Mass, Dorothy took the cup and buried it in the backyard. She understood that now that the cup had held the precious blood of our Savior, it could no longer be used for any other purpose. The young priest also got the message and went back to using a chalice for Mass.

At every Mass we use special gold and silver vessels for both the bread and the wine because something precious takes place in them. The bread and wine we offer become the Body and Blood of Jesus our Savior. They are not merely symbols but the real thing. So we set aside the finest vessels we can provide because of the love and reverence we have for our Lord’s Body and Blood.

Though we offer both bread and wine at every Mass, we typically only receive the bread. However in both the bread and the wine, the entire body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus is contained. So when we receive just the consecrated bread, we are receiving the whole sacrament. If it were to happen that at communion we were to run out of hosts, we could offer the cup of His Blood and we would still be receiving the whole Sacrament. When we receive the Eucharist, we are not just receiving pieces of Jesus. Rather He gives His whole self to us in the form of bread and wine.

Today's readings focus on the blood of Christ given to us in the form of wine.
In the Old Testament, blood was understood to be where our life force and energy resided. When you take the blood away from a person or animal, you also take away their life. In the same way, to shed one's blood was to give one's life. So when Jesus tells the apostles at the Last Supper that the cup He is giving them is His blood, they would have understood that it was His life that they were receiving.

In the same way, when we receive the Eucharist, it is the life of Christ that enters us. Communion is like a blood transfusion that we receive from Jesus replacing that which is lacking in our human life - namely, the ability to love and forgive unconditionally - and reviving our anemic spirit.

That is why Jesus tells us in John's gospel that unless we eat His Body and drink His Blood we will have no life in us. There is nowhere else to get the divine life that Jesus is offering us than through the Eucharist. Nothing else this world can offer can replace the very Body and Blood of Jesus. Nothing else can give us the life of our Savior. So we should never fail to come to this table as often as we can to share communion with our Lord who died to save us.

It is also significant that when we do receive the Blood of Christ, we receive it from a cup or a chalice. Drinking from a cup is part of the symbolic act we make in receiving the Blood of Christ. In Jesus' time, to drink from the cup meant sharing someone's destiny or fate. For instance, if a king offered you his cup, he was offering you a share in his kingdom, his wealth and his power. Just so, when James and John ask Jesus to sit at His right and left hand in the Kingdom of God, He asks them if they can drink the same cup of suffering He will drink. For Jesus, the only way to enter the Kingdom of God is to share the cup of unconditional love - a love that is willing to endure death, a love that He showed us by dying on the cross.

Whenever we drink from the chalice of Jesus' blood, then, we are sharing in His self-giving love. We remember His words, "If anyone would follow me, he must deny himself and pick up his cross." When we receive communion, we are not getting a handout but making a commitment to love our enemies, forgive those who hurt us and give to those in need just as He did. We also remember Jesus words, "If anyone would save his life he must lose it." When we receive Jesus' Body and Blood in the Eucharist we acknowledge that we must empty ourselves of our own lives, desires, plans and will to make room for the love, joy and power He wants to pour out into us.

When we gather for communion, then, we are doing much more than meeting an obligation or going through a monotonous routine. We are receiving Jesus, Himself. And we are saying "Amen" to His presence among us and, in particular, to His presence in the least of our brothers and sisters whom we must love and serve. Dorothy Day once said, "The real atheist is the one who cannot see God in his fellow human being." We cannot bow to Jesus on Sunday and refuse to help our sister or brother on Monday. By eating this bread and drinking this cup we proclaim that Jesus has died for us and for all. Now it is up to us to live the reality we celebrate until all the world is charged with the healing and saving presence of God.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Remember Your First Time?

During his trip to the Holy Land in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI had the opportunity to preside over a first communion Mass in Jordan. Many of the young children were refugees from Iraq. At such a tender age, they already know the ravages of war, the destruction it has wrought in their country and the deaths of many of their family members and friends. Also, as Christians in a predominantly Muslim country, they experience discrimination on a daily basis. But for that hour they felt the joy of receiving the Body of Christ from the hands of the Holy Father.

The Catholic News Service, in reporting the joyous occasion, quoted one young girl as saying, "I'm going to receive my first communion from the Pope. Wow! This is something really amazing. It's a dream come true!" Her brother who was also receiving his first communion told reporters, "Words cannot describe what I am feeling at receiving my first communion from the messenger of God, the messenger of peace."

The enthusiasm of these young people cannot help but remind us of our own first communion. Our parents dressed us in white suits and dresses symbolic of our innocence and purity. Up to that time, we had to sit in the pew while our parents and older brothers and sisters went up to communion. Now we would be able to join them in receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. No matter what problems we may have been facing at the time, each of us felt special for that one day because Jesus, our Lord and Savior, would be entering our bodies and souls for the very first time.

Today is a day for us to renew the innocence and joy of our first holy communion. While every Sunday is a celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Church sets aside this Sunday every year to focus and meditate in a special way on the gift that the Eucharist is to us as individuals and as a believing community. As the young boy who received communion from the Holy Father said so well, words cannot describe the wonderful reality of our God who gives us his very flesh and blood in the form of bread and wine. Since Jesus first instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, as we read in today's gospel, to this very day, the Church has always believed that when the priest prays the words of consecration during Mass, the bread is no longer bread but really becomes the Body of Christ. In the same way, the wine is no longer wine, but the Blood of Christ. What we receive in the Eucharist is no mere symbol, but the real thing. Jesus, the Son of God, in his body, blood, soul and divinity becomes our food. When we say, "Amen", we are affirming that we believe that what we are receiving is Christ himself. In fact, the only words that are fitting in the face of such a mystery are the words, "I believe."

Today's gospel reading gives us the story of the very first communion. At the Last Supper, Jesus gathers his apostles together to celebrate the Passover meal. To commemorate how God delivered their people from slavery in Egypt, Jews have a meal with a roasted lamb, unleavened bread and wine. The blood of the lamb is taken and smeared on the doorposts to commemorate how the angel of death passed by the homes of the Hebrew families sparing the lives of their first born sons. The gospel reading of the Last Supper tells us about the bread and the wine, but it doesn't mention that Jesus and the apostles had lamb. That is because Jesus himself was the lamb. He was the one who would be slain and whose blood would deliver us from our slavery to sin. He was the one who would take upon himself the punishment we deserved for our sins.

We recognize this at every Mass when we break the bread which has become Christ's body and say: "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Grant us peace."

It is important for us to take advantage of this feast to reflect on the great mystery we celebrate every Sunday. It is important for us not to lose the wonder and joy we felt at our first communion when Jesus came to make his home within us. In the face of such a wondrous gift that is ours in the Eucharist, we must strive to keep our hearts innocent and pure so that we can receive Jesus' body and blood worthily. Jesus, the Lamb of God, suffered, died and rose again so that his flesh and blood could be the food for our journey. So then, let us prepare our hearts with joy and humility to receive him so that we can then bring him into a world that is starved for mercy and peace.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

God Is A Family

Maci is a young woman with as difficult a start in life as one can imagine.

She was born to parents who were drug addicts. When she was two years old, her father died of an overdose. Young Maci then lost her hearing as the result of a high fever when she was a toddler. Eventually, her mother was arrested and she was sent to live with her aunt.

Though she was able to provide Maci with a more stable home environment, her aunt did not give her the emotional support she needed. Because of all she had been through, Maci began misbehaving at home and at school. It finally reached a point at which her aunt decided she could no longer take care of her. So, she placed Maci in the foster care system.

Like her aunt’s house, Maci benefited from the structure of the group home she was placed in but suffered from the lack of love and emotional support. She yearned to be adopted into a home where she could be accepted and loved. With the help of an adoption agency, she put together a “Forever Family” video in hopes that a family would see it and choose to adopt her into their home.

However, when she entered high school, she began to give up hope of ever being adopted and resigned herself to spending the rest of her childhood in group homes.

All the while, Gigi Kean, a secretary working at her high school, began to take notice of Maci. She was aware of her story and began to admire her for her strength. They eventually became friends.

One afternoon, Maci showed Gigi her “Forever Family” video. Afterwards she said sadly, “I just need to be realistic, no one wants to adopt me. Who would want me?” Maci’s words broke Gigi’s heart. That night, she spoke to her husband and they began the process of adopting Maci.

Having had her heart broken so many times before, Maci didn’t want to get her hopes up. Nonetheless, six weeks before her eighteenth birthday, Maci was adopted into Gigi’s home.

Speaking about the experience, Gigi said, “A child’s need for love, acceptance and the knowledge they will never be given up is the same at age 7 or 17. Age or special needs should never be a deterrent, people just need to understand that these children come with trauma, and love is the most healing thing you could offer.”

We all have a need to belong to a family. We all need a place to call home and the love of parents who will provide for us and never abandon us. Some of us have been blessed to come from strong, loving families. Others of us have not been so blessed. No matter what our circumstances in life might be, there is one family into which we are always welcomed. There is a family which will love us unconditionally, where we will find mercy in abundance and which will never abandon us. That family is the Most Holy Trinity.

On this day, we celebrate God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is a family of persons who love one another and extend that love out to all people. The eternal life of heaven is nothing less than being welcomed into God’s home and becoming a part of the family.

It all begins with baptism. Through this first sacrament, we are adopted as daughters and sons of God, as Saint Paul tells us in today’s second reading: “ received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry out “Abba, Father!” Through baptism and faith, we come to recognize God as a Father who promises to provide for us always. We also recognize Jesus as our big brother who shows us the way to live in our new family. And we receive the Holy Spirit which is the very love of God working within our hearts, minds and souls.

Then, through the sacrament of Holy Communion, we are welcome to God’s table. The center of all family life is the dinner table where we share food and grow in love for each other. Just so, at the center of the family of God is the table of the Eucharist where Jesus gives us His very Body and Blood to eat. In a sense, through this sacrament, God’s DNA is being infused into us. We start to take on the characteristics of the Father who so generously adopted us. We begin to love as He does and to show mercy to others as He does.

In the process, we are also introduced to the family business which is to spread the good news so that others may believe and join this ever growing family. We see this clearly in today’s gospel when Jesus sends the apostles into the world to make disciples of the nations, to baptize them into the family of God and to teach them all that He had instructed them. This is our call as well. We are to carry on the work of God to make known His love and His desire to adopt all people.

Finally, as adopted daughters and sons of God, there is an inheritance due to us. Saint Paul goes on to say in today’s second reading, “if [we are] children, then [we are] heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ”. That inheritance which awaits us is the everlasting life of heaven which is kept there by the Father for all those who join His family and take part in the struggle to bring all people to repentance and faith.

We all desire to belong to a family. Our greatest desire, however, is to belong to the family of God. God is a family - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is not only a doctrine for us to memorize but a reality for us to live. It is the reality of God’s love which He invites us all to share in. It is a reality that is ours through the sacrament of baptism by which we are adopted into the family and given the promised inheritance of everlasting life. Since God has so generously adopted us into His family, let us show our gratitude by taking up our Heavenly Father’s work. Then our family will extend throughout the world to the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

There Is One God

The people of Israel were very different from the other nations that surrounded them. While the Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians and Egyptians worshipped many different gods, Israel worshipped one God. As the Bible shows us, they believed this God to be the maker of heaven and earth. All of creation was under His control. All peoples and nations were under His authority. Nonetheless, He chose Israel to be a people all His own. It would be to them that He would reveal His wisdom and love and through them that He would teach other nations about the truth of His Law.

The other nations only knew about their gods through legends and myths. However, Israel had first hand experience of the one true God. As Moses reminds the people in today’s first reading, it was their God who liberated them from slavery in Egypt, who guided them through a hostile desert and who led them into the place that would be their Promised Land. It was God Himself who gave them a Law to ensure that they would live peacefully in the land He had given them. The God of Israel was no distant god manipulating people from afar. Rather He is a God who is intimately involved with the people He has chosen. He makes Himself part of their history. He lives in their midst.

It was to this people who believed in one God that Jesus appeared. While He was the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Messiah who would definitively establish the Kingdom of God, He challenged the faith of the people of Israel. They had always believed in one God, however this Jesus claimed to be equal to God. Like God, He showed that He had power over nature by calming the stormy seas, multiplying loaves and fish and healing sickness. Like God, He claimed to have power to forgive sin. Finally, He showed Himself to have power over death by rising from the dead. It became clear to those who believed in Him that He and the Father were one. They came to believe that He was God’s Son come down to earth to save His people.

Those who came to believe in Jesus and were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit received the Spirit of God. Those who received the Holy Spirit learned that they were empowered to do the same wonders that Jesus did. All throughout the Acts of the Apostles we read how through the power of the Holy Spirit the disciples were able to heal the sick, endure hardships for the sake of the gospel and, ultimately, win thousands upon thousands of converts for the Christian faith. Through the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian community, believers came to understand that, like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit was also God.

For those first hundred years or so since the resurrection, believers understood that the One God of Israel was Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They might not have been able to fully articulate it in those words. But they lived their faith with the understanding that it was true. It was only later that the name “Trinity” came to be used to identify this belief. However, it was already deeply ingrained in baptized believers. 
It is that mystery that we gather to proclaim and celebrate today. The God of Israel - our God - is a unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While each is a distinct person, they all share the divine nature. This mystery is at the heart of what we believe as followers of Jesus Christ. It is a reality that is at work whenever we gather to worship together.

It is at Mass that we most clearly experience the reality of the Trinity. We begin Mass by making the sign of the cross in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Mass itself is offered to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. We pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit. This Mass on earth takes us up to heaven where the angels sing “Holy, Holy Holy” and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit live in a continual exchange of love for each other. Through our liturgy here on earth we take part in the divine liturgy in heaven - the worship of the angels and saints at the throne of the One God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Before this mystery, the only rational response is to fall down in worship before our God. In the presence of this God who is love and who has loved us, we can only raise our hands and sing His praise. Our hearts were created to be in God’s presence and praise Him. When we lift up our voices in adoration of our God, we become filled with joy. In our life of daily prayer, we should include some time for adoration and praise. During the day today and throughout the week we should each take some time to ponder this great mystery of the One God who is Three Divine Persons, not to try to figure it out or understand it but to contemplate it and allow it to lead us to praise and adoration. It is what our merciful and loving God deserves and it will bring more joy into our lives than we can imagine.

Like the people of Israel, we live in a society that worships many gods. People in our world today run after pleasure, power, wealth and status believing that it will bring them fulfillment and happiness. They sacrifice their health and relationships pursuing what can only lead to frustration and bitterness. By the grace of God, we have experienced the love and mercy of our Heavenly Father. We have come to believe in Jesus who died for our sins and rose to give us the promise of eternal life. We also follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who leads our hearts to praise the living God and who guides our thoughts, words and actions. Like the people of Israel, it is our responsibility to make this living God known to those who worship this culture’s false gods. It is only possible through the Spirit who has been given to us in our baptism. As Jesus orders His disciples in today’s gospel reading, we are to make disciples of all the nations. Then they can share with us the joy we know in worshiping the one true God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Our Bold Claim

As Christians, we make a very bold claim. We claim that God is our Father. We claim that the One who created the universe with all its billions of people knows each of us individually and loves us personally. We claim that He formed each of us in our mother’s womb with the care of a sculptor molding clay. There is not one second of our lives that we go unnoticed by Him. Despite all the world’s problems, He has nothing better to do than care for us.  We do not claim that He is like a father, but that He really is our Father in a way that our human fathers can never be. Therefore, we can bring our cares and concerns to Him. We can count on Him to help us through any difficulty. We can be assured that we are never alone. God, our Heavenly Father, is always by our side sustaining us with an unconditional love.

We make another bold claim - that this love of God became visible in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This Jesus who lived in history was no mere teacher or prophet. Rather, He is the eternal Son of God come down to earth, taking on our human nature, to reveal the love of God. In Jesus, we are able to see and touch God. In his encyclical, God is Love, Pope Benedict writes: “No one has ever seen God as he is. And yet God is not totally invisible to us; he does not remain completely inaccessible.... In Jesus we are able to see the Father.” The love of God, therefore, is no mere feeling or lofty ideal. It is a person, the person of Jesus Christ, who shows the Father’s love by offering His life on the cross for us and by rising from the dead to give us the hope of everlasting life.

If all that were not enough, as Christians we claim another great dignity - that the Father and the Son are alive and active in us and among us through the person of the Holy Spirit. Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is the one eternal God. At the beginning of creation, He was breathed into Adam to give him life. He was present throughout the Old Testament through the prophets of Israel. He was at work in the life of Jesus and raised Him from the dead. Then He was poured out upon the apostles at Pentecost to continue the saving work of Jesus in the world through the centuries. That Holy Spirit now lives within all the baptized, reminding us of our dignity as daughters and sons of God, inspiring us to do good works and strengthening us to live and witness to our faith. The Holy Spirit is the presence and love of God made visible in us through baptism.

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity comes down to this - God is a family. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is the nature of God that He is love and that His love becomes real in the persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Because His love is so great and overflowing, God invites us to become a part of that family. We are rescued from a life of sin and death through adoption into God’s family. And we enter into this family through baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We are sons and daughters of God called to an intimate and personal relationship with the Father, in the Son and through the Holy Spirit. It is so beyond our ability to comprehend that the only appropriate response is awe and gratitude for such a tremendous gift.