Friday, May 27, 2016

Cycle C The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Gen 14:18-20; I Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11-17

The Pelican is excessively dedicated to its young one. The pelican collects small fish and stores in the pouch at its neck. In the process of feeding them the bird presses the pouch against its neck. There is a reddish tinge at its breast plumage and redness at the tip of its beak.   All these specialties of the pelican have given rise to a legend of the Pelican feeding its young with its own blood.
The mother Pelican pierces its breast, opens her side and lays herself across her young pouring out her blood over the young. The young ones feed on the mother’s blood and revive strength and come back to life. This symbol of pelican was used by the medieval church to indicate the sacrifice of Jesus.

Today we are celebrating the feast of the Body and blood of Christ. The Council of Trent (1545 to 1563), declared that we must honor Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist publicly so that those who observed the faith of Catholics in the Most Holy Eucharist might be attracted to the Eucharistic Lord and believe in the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in this great Sacrament. "

Jesus instituted the Eucharist in deliberate allusion to, and fulfillment of, what happened on Mount Sinai.  He replaced Moses as the God-chosen mediator, establishing the New Covenant promised through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34), by using his own Blood rather than that of sacrificial animals.  By sacramentally consuming the Body and Blood of the God-Man, we are interiorly transformed through the most perfect possible union with God.  Jesus creates a faithful people intimately united with God by means of his sacramental Blood.

We experienced our mother first as a source of food, and through that visible channel we experienced her as a source of love.  God is mothering us, attracting us, trying to tame us frightened creatures.  How do we tame an animal?  By feeding it.  Gradually the animal begins to trust us, begins to believe in our goodwill.  We were (and maybe we still are) like little frightened animals.  We have to be tamed into human society.  Love is invisible and needs a visible channel.  That visible channel is originally food.  This wisdom of the body is taken up and exalted in the Eucharist.  The food which is the Eucharist has the deepest significance.  It is about our relationship with God, the ultimate womb from which our existence came. 
At the heart of that relationship, for Christians, is Jesus.  The great 14th-century mystic, Julian of Norwich, not only called God our ‘mother’, but she called Jesus our mother!  This may seem very strange, even weird.  But she had profound reasons for saying it.  She did not mean that Jesus is like our mother!  She meant the reverse: our mother is like Jesus!  Our mother fed us from her own body.  Our mother’s care for us may well be the best image we have of God  -  and of Jesus.

From the time of the election of the Israelites God’s presence was manifested in various ways among them. Moses received 10 commandments on Mount Sinai. As he brought it to the people they made a Tabernacle and placed the Tablets in it. The presence of God lingered over the tabernacle.

Jesus at his departure instituted the Eucharist to continue his presence with his people. St Francis of Assisi who had a profound experience of Jesus declared, "Just as He appeared before the holy Apostles in true flesh, so now He has us see Him in the Sacred Bread. For in this way our Lord is ever present among those who believe in him, according to what He said: "Behold, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world." (Mt. 28, 20)

When we receive the Holy Communion we become the tabernacle where Jesus is present. So Maximilian Kolbe says, ‘If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” Hence, it is binding on us that we should keep the tabernacle, ourselves, holy.  St Francis de Sales preached to the people, “When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage, welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.”

Vatican II states that as a sacrifice, "the Holy Eucharist is the center and culmination of Christian life" (Lumen Gentium, 11).   Because it enables us to participate in Christ’s sacrifice as a present reality and to benefit from its fruits in our own lives. 

By receiving Holy Communion we become Christ-bearers as Mary was, with the duty of conveying Christ to others at home and in the workplace, as love, mercy, forgiveness and sacrificial service. As we honor Jesus today on this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus, let us devote more time before the Blessed sacrament and draw strength and consolation in our troubling moments. And let’s us adore Jesus with St. Thomas Aquinas' prayer of devotion in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament:  "O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament Divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!" 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Holy Trinity: Proverbs 8:22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
One day St Augustine of Hippo was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on the doctrine of the Trinity. He suddenly saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a hole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little cup, filled her cup, came and poured it into the hole she had made in the sand. Back and forth she went to the sea, filled her cup and came and poured it into the hole. Augustine went up to her and said, "Little child, what are you doing?" and she replied, "I am trying to empty the sea into this hole." "How do you think," Augustine asked her, "that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny cup?" To which she replied, " And you, how do you suppose that with this your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?" With that the child disappeared. Augustine was pondering the mystery of Holy Trinity those days.
Like Augustine we may not be able to understand the mystery of the Trinity. But we can describe the mystery, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." Jesus knew very well that the disciples and his listeners were not able to understand the meaning of his message. Jesus expressed it in today’s Gospel. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." Jesus revealed himself to the people gradually and as understandable to them. First he taught them to recognize in himself the Eternal Son of God. When his ministry was drawing to a close, he promised that the Father would send another Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, in his place. Finally after his resurrection, he revealed the doctrine in explicit terms, bidding them "go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:18)."

The Fathers of the Church used examples to explain the Trinity. Augustine wrote: "You see the Trinity if you see love."  According to him, the Father is the lover, the Son is the loved one and the Holy Spirit is the personification of the very act of loving. This means that we can understand something of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity more readily with the heart than with our feeble mind.
St. Cyril tried to explain the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity using sun as an example.    He said, "God the Father is that blazing sun. God the Son is its light and God the Holy Spirit is its heat — but there is only one sun. So there are three Persons in the Holy Trinity but God is One and indivisible." St. John Maria Vianney used to explain Holy Trinity using lighted candles and roses on the altar and water in the cruets. “The flame has color, warmth and shape. But these are expressions of one flame. Similarly the rose has color, fragrance and shape. But these are expressions of one reality, namely, rose. Water, steam and ice are three distinct expressions of one reality. In the same way one God revealed Himself to us as Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.”
What each of these illustrations has in common is that they are all analogies, and all our language about God can only hint at the reality never grasp or contain God in one image.
The doctrine of the Trinity underlies all major Christian feasts, including Christmas, the Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, the Ascension and Pentecost. All the official prayers of the Church, including the Holy Mass and the Sacraments, begin with an address to the Holy Trinity: “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We are baptized, absolved of our sins and anointed in the name of the Blessed Trinity. We bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross invoking the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we conclude our prayers glorifying the Holy Trinity, saying “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.” 
We are called to become more like the Triune God through all our relationships.  God does not exist in isolated individualism but in a community of relationships.  We are made in God’s image and likeness.  Just as God is God only in a Trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only as one member of a relationship of three partners.  The self needs to be in a horizontal relationship with all other people and in a vertical relationship with God.  In that way our life becomes Trinitarian like that of God. 

The more deeply we ponder and absorb this revelation of God, the more we will love him. And the more we love God, the happier we will be. We were created in order to love God. Whenever we do what we were made to do, we experience meaning and fulfillment. So the more we love him, the more fulfilled we will be. But in order to love him more, we must know him better. An old proverb says, "You cannot love what you do not know."

If we know who God is, if we go beyond vague, fuzzy ideas and really get a clear view of his glory and his goodness, it will stimulate our spiritual taste buds and stir up our love. This is the reason that God has revealed himself to us. Today, on this feast of the Blessed Trinity, we need to ask ourselves: how well do we know God? Have we become satisfied with the bare minimum? Today, when we profess our faith in God, let's really mean it. And let's ask God to stir up our desire to know him better, because if we really want to do so, he will gladly show us how to do so.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Bishop Bob Morgan in his book Who’s Coming To Dinner? tells a powerful story about a Dutch pastor and his family who during the second World War got into big trouble with the Nazis. The Dutch pastor and his family had been hiding Jewish people in their home to keep them safe from Hitler’s forces. They were eventually found out. And one night in the darkness, they heard the sound of heavy boots and the loud impatient knocking on the door. They were arrested and loaded into a cattle car to be taken to one of the notorious death camps. All night long the Dutch pastor and his family rode along in heart-breaking anguish, jostling against one another and against the other prisoners who were jammed into the train cattle car. They were stripped of any form of dignity and absolutely terrified. They knew they were being taken to one of Hitler’s extermination centers. But which one? Would it be Auschwitz, Buchenwald, or Dachau?
Finally, the long night ended and the train stopped. The doors of the cattle car were opened and light streamed into that tragic scene. They were marched out and were lined up beside the railroad tracks, resigned to unspeakable pain, as they knew they would be separated from each other and ultimately killed. But in the midst of their gloom, they discovered some amazing good news… good news beyond belief. They discovered in the bright morning sunlight that they were not in a death camp at all, not in Germany at all. Rather, they were in Switzerland!
During the night, someone through personal courage and daring had tripped a switch… and sent the train to Switzerland… and to freedom. And those now who came to them were not their captors at all, but rather their liberators. Instead of being marched to death, they were welcomed to new life. In the midst of his joy and relief, the Dutch pastor said, “What do you do with such a gift?”
Something like that happened to the disciples at Pentecost. They were afraid, confused, unsure, overwhelmed… and then came this incredible gift… the gift of the Holy Spirit! It turned their lives around… and empowered by this amazing gift, they went out and turned the world upside down.
Today’s Gospel relates how the risen Jesus gave his apostles a foretaste of Pentecost on the evening of Easter Sunday by appearing to them and inviting them  to carry on the mission given him by his Heavenly Father. He then empowered them to do so by breathing upon them and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” 
On the day of Pentecost, Jesus fulfilled his promise to send the Advocate or Paraclete. The gift of the Spirit would enable them to fulfill Jesus’ commission to preach the Gospel to all nations as well. Therefore they were given the gift of tongue to speak to people of all languages.
The Tower of Babel story begins with unity (same language, same words) and ends with disunity (confusion of speech, scattering all over the earth). The people built “a city and tower with its top in the sky,” a figurative way to describe human folly, wanting to be more than what humans can really do. This action results in confusion of language and dispersion of people.
Reader’s Digest once carried a wonderful story of a mother who was describing her family’s visit as tourists to Wales. She was describing her six-year-old son’s reaction the first time he heard the Welsh language being spoken. “Mom,” he said, “it sounds like they’re scribbling with their tongues.” This was the condition of the people of Babel felt about each other.

The story of Pentecost in Acts 2:1 – 11 reverses what the people in the Babel story had done, it begins with people coming from every nation under heaven and speaking different languages.  It ends with people filled with the Spirit still speaking in different tongues, yet united and able to hear different languages yet unmistakably understand the mighty acts of God.
The Holy Spirit helped breaking down barriers. Barriers are things like fear, misunderstanding, prejudice, jealously, envy, resentment, grudges. These are at the root of all the conflicts that threaten world peace. But all those large scale conflicts can always be traced back to conflicts in individual hearts. If we learn to break down barriers in our own hearts, we will become more effective builders of unity in the world around us. One of the barriers that come up most frequently in our daily lives is that of misunderstanding. This is also known as "lack of communication" or "miscommunication".
An international business consulting firm did a study a few years ago about the most common obstacles to productivity. They concluded that over 85% of problems in the business world stem from miscommunication. In family relationships, the percentage is even higher. Jesus has given us the method for breaking down this ubiquitous barrier. He was able to break down mankind's misunderstanding of God and open the way for a renewed relationship of trust. Breathing on the disciples he gave them the power to forgive sins. Forgiveness of sins is an important aspect of restoring communication in our relationships. In this Year of Mercy, we invoke the Holy Spirit to intensify in us His gifts of joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 
It is important to gain a renewed appreciation of the Spirit as the One who builds the Kingdom of God within the course of history and within our own life.
Today is a great day to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle in us the spirit of new life and enthusiasm, the fire of God's love and communication.  Let us repeat Cardinal Newman’s favorite little prayer, “Come Holy Spirit:”

 “Come Holy Spirit
Make our ears to hear
Make our eyes to see
Make our mouths to speak
Make our hearts to seek
Make our hands to reach out
And touch the world with your love.  AMEN.”

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Ascension Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53

Today’s readings describe the Ascension of Jesus into his Heavenly glory after he had promised to send the Holy Spirit as the source of Heavenly power for his disciples and commanded them to bear witness to him through their lives and preaching throughout the world.  The Ascension and Pentecost, together, mark the beginning of the Church.  The feast of the Ascension tells us that the Church must be a community in mission, guided by God’s Spirit and confident of God’s protection even amid suffering and death.
Each Sunday we profess through the Creed, "He ascended into Heaven."  Christ’s Ascension was the culmination of God’s Divine plan for Christ Jesus – his return to his Father with his “Mission Accomplished."  Ascension is the grand finale of all his words and of the works He has done for us and for our salvation.  It is a culmination, but not the conclusion.  As he is now with God in glory, he is now with us in Spirit: "Lo, I am with you always." The feast of the Ascension celebrates one aspect of the Resurrection, namely Jesus’ exaltation.  He did not wait 40 days to be glorified at God’s right hand. That had already happened at his Resurrection. 
The Ascension is most closely related, in meaning, to Christmas.  In Jesus, the human and the Divine become united in the person and life of one man.  That's Christmas.  At the Ascension, this human being – the person and the resurrected body of Jesus – became for all eternity a part of who God is.  It was not the Spirit of Jesus or the Divine Nature of Jesus that ascended to the Father.  It was the Risen living Body of Jesus: a Body that the disciples had touched, a Body in which He Himself  had eaten and drunk with them both before and after His Resurrection, a real, physical, but gloriously restored Body, bearing the marks of nails and a spear.  This is what, and Who, ascended.  This is what, now and forever, is a living, participating part of God. That is what the Ascension, along with the Incarnation, is here to tell us – that it is a good thing to be a human being; indeed it is a wonderful and an important and a holy thing to be a human being.
The apostles aren’t sad at the leave taking of Jesus. Think of the children you see at the county fair who lose the grip on their helium balloon and, as it floats away, they weep. Then turn to the parent, saying, “Buy me another one. Buy me another one.” It’s not like that with Jesus’ apostles. They don’t feel abandoned. The Scripture says they did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God. Under Jesus’ blessing hands this small group of Christians who see Jesus ascend to heaven is the nucleus of God’s worshiping church, a nucleus as strong and powerful as the nucleus of any atom.
In today's Gospel, Jesus gives his mission to all the believers: "Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” This mission is not given to a select few but to all believers. To be a Christian is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer. There is a difference between preaching and proclaiming. “We preach with words but we proclaim with our lives.”
After attending a convention led by Billy Graham a woman wrote to him. “Dear Sir, I feel that God is calling me to preach the Gospel. But the trouble is that I have twelve children. What shall I do?” The televangelist replied: “Dear Madam, I am delighted to hear that God has called you to preach the Gospel. I am even more delighted to hear that He has already provided you with a congregation in your own home.” We are called to begin the preaching in the small community we live in and then go out to the rest of the world.
As we celebrate the Lord’s return to His Father in Heaven – His Ascension -- we are being commissioned to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of life and love, of hope and peace, by the witness of our lives. On this day of hope, encouragement and commissioning, let us renew our commitment to be true disciples everywhere we go, beginning with our family and our parish, "living in a manner worthy of the call [we] have received.”