Saturday, May 26, 2018

HOLY     TRINITY [B]: Dt 4:32-34, 39-40; Rom 8:14-17; Mt 28:16-20

The feast of the Holy Trinity invites us to live in the awareness of the presence of the Triune God within us. “There is one God, who has three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Each Person is God, yet there is still only one God” (CCC #234, #253-256). Father, Son and Spirit are not parts of God, but One God. Easier said than understood!

All the official prayers of the Church, including the Holy Mass and the Sacraments, begin with an address to the Holy Trinity. 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 and of the Son and of the 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.”

The early Christians started talking about a Triune God. This wasn’t to make God more logical and understandable and acceptable to human ways of thinking. In fact, the idea of the Trinity intensified the Mystery and awesomeness of God. They observed that Jesus had a unique relationship with the Father and that the Holy Spirit had a unique relationship with the Father and the Son. Against all sorts of odds, against all human logic, and in the face of mounting opposition, the Church maintained that Jesus Christ is true God, equal with the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is God, equal with the Father and the Son.

Since Yahweh, the God of Israel, was careful to protect His Chosen People from the pagan practice of worshipping several gods, the Old Testament books give only indirect and passing references to the Trinity, and the Jewish rabbis never understood them as references to the Holy Trinity.    Genesis 1:26 presents God speaking to Himself:  "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness."    Genesis 18:2 describes Yahweh visiting Abraham under the appearance of three men, an event that the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates as the “Trinitarian Experience of Abraham.” In Genesis 11:7, before punishing the proud builders of the Tower of Babel, God says, “Come, let Us go down among them and confuse their language. “These passages imply, rather than state, the doctrine of the Trinity.
In the N.T. we get a clearer understanding of the Trinity.
 a) The Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38), describes how God the Father sent angel Gabriel to Mary to announce to her that God the Holy Spirit, would "come upon” her, that “the power the Most High will overshadow” her, that the Son would be made flesh in her womb: “Therefore, the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
 b) During the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:  16-17), the Holy Spirit was shown descending on Jesus in the form of a Dove, while the Voice of God the Father was heard from the clouds, saying, “You are My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased” (Luke 4:22).
 c) John Chapters 15 & 18 present the detailed teaching of Jesus on the Persons of the Holy Trinity.  
 d) In the preaching mission given by the risen Lord to the disciples, Jesus commanded them to baptize people “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19; John 10:30).

St. John of Damascus, a great Eastern theologian of the eighth century, said we should think “of the Father as a root, the Son as a branch, and of the Spirit as a fruit, for the sustenance of these three is one.”    
A good illustration of the Trinity comes from world-renowned scientist Dr. Henry Morris. He notes that the entire universe is Trinitarian by design. The universe consists of three things: matter, space, and time. Take away any one of those three and the universe would cease to exist. But each one of those is itself a trinity. Matter = mass + energy + motion. Space = length + height + breadth. Time = past + present + future. Thus the whole universe witnesses to the character of the God who made it (cf. Psalm 19:1).

Richard of St.Victor Said: For God to be truth he has to be one; for God to be love: He has to be two; for God to be Joy he has to be three.
It is a mystery and therefore it cannot be really understood. Therefore it is not necessary to understand it before we can believe it.
One parishioner said, “The Trinitarian God is a lot like our pastor. I don’t see him through the week and I don’t understand him on Sunday.”

Thomas Edison, the inventor, once remarked: "We don't know what water is. We don't know what light is. We don't know what electricity is. We don't know what heat is. We have a lot of hypotheses about these things, but that is all. But we don't let our ignorance about these things deprive us of their use." The truth of that statement is real. Most of us do not know how an electric light works, how a telephone or a TV works, but this does not prevent us from using them. Let us try to apply the same common sense to our Faith in the doctrine of the Trinity.

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.  “I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and with other people.” 
St. Francis Xavier’s favorite prayer was: “Most Holy Trinity, who live in me, I praise You, I worship You, I adore You and I love You.”  Let the Son lead us to the Father through the Spirit, to live with the Triune God forever and ever. Amen.” 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Pentecost: Acts 2:1-11; I Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23 

There are transitional moments in life that confirm something tremendous has taken place. One of those moments occurs in a teenager's life and in lives of the parents of that particular teenager, when a mom or a dad gives to him or her the keys to the car for the first time for a solo run. What a transitional moment this is! It's going to be a step of growth for you. It's a time when you release your child into an adult world. It's a change in your son or daughter's life from which they are never going to turn back. It's a moment in which you are giving your child an adult responsibility.
It is a transitional moment for the child also because the teenager recognizes that he/she has been given a great responsibility. It's an adult responsibility. He also realizes that this is something that he needs to take care with because great trust has been put in him/her. Teenagers need to prove to their parents that the validity of their faith in them is correct.

In the Scripture for today, Jesus does something very similar for His followers. Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Jesus is tossing the keys to the kingdom to His disciples. He is demonstrating that He is accepting them as His followers but He is also demonstrating to them that He is entrusting to them the message of the gospel. He is showing them that He believes in them.

The feast of Pentecost commemorates the official inauguration of the Christian Church by the apostolic preaching of St. Peter, which resulted in the conversion of 3000 Jews to the Christian Faith. Pentecost is, thus, the official birthday of the Church. It is the Holy Spirit who enlivens, enlightens, guides, and sanctifies the Church. The Psalm refrain for this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 104) says it so well: “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”  We know Jesus through the Sacramental Mysteries of the Church, and Holy Spirit is at the heart of the Sacramental life of the Church.  Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders are the Sacramental Mysteries through which people receive the seal of the Holy Spirit.  It would be impossible for us to receive Jesus in the Eucharist without the descent of the Holy Spirit at the Epiclesis of the Divine Liturgy.  Even the forgiveness of sins comes through the Holy Spirit (Jn 20:21-23). 

At Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended, notice that the Spirit “filled the entire house”, and then the apostles were “all filled with the Holy Spirit”, and then they fill the streets of Jerusalem where, speaking in the languages of the known world, they signify that the Spirit fills the inhabited world with God’s blessings. On the day of Pentecost, those touched by the Holy Spirit were accused of being drunk, or maybe crazy. Today, believers are still considered to be weak, foolish, or emotionally unstable. But more and more studies are showing that religious believers are more emotionally and mentally stable than the average population. Religious faith is linked to lower blood pressure and lower rates of drug use, alcoholism, suicide, and mental disorders. Therefore remaining an active member in the community of believers is significant.

D.L. Moody once called on a leading citizen in Chicago to persuade him to accept Christ. They were seated in the man’s parlor. It was winter and coal was burning in the fireplace. The man objected that he could be just as good a Christian outside the church as in it. Moody said nothing, but stepped to the fireplace, took the tongs, picked a blazing coal from the fire and set it off by itself. In silence the two watched it smolder and go out. “I see,” said the man. The message was clear to him. Away from the active community of believers we cannot get the support to sustain ourselves in grace.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is something to be shared with others. If we are led by the Spirit, then, we shall have “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” If we desire to these gifts of God, then we have to receive the Holy Spirit, and seek daily to “be directed by the Spirit.” As Pope Francis said recently: “Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace. For in the words of León Bloy, when all is said and done, “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”

How beautiful is the thought that the Holy Spirit lives within us!  Saint Paul reminds the Corinthian community of this fact when he asks, "Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?" (I Cor. 3:16).  It is the Holy Spirit who develops our intimacy with God.  "God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, ‘Abba!' ('Father!’)” (Gal 4:6).  "God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5). "No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. 12:3).  Moreover, we know that it is the Holy Spirit Who teaches us to pray (Rom.8:26).  

There was once an Eskimo who used to take his two dogs for a bet-fight in the town square. One was a black dog the other was white. The people gathered week after week to see the dogs fight and betted heavily. On some days, the black dog won and on others the white. No matter which dog won, the Eskimo made money. The secret behind duping the people was that he would feed well the dog which he wanted to win. Do we feed our spiritual self and keep it strengthened by the daily anointing of the Holy Spirit to win over the carnal person? "

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.  Let us pray Blessed John Henry 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 12, 2018

THE FEAST OF ASCENSION OF OUR LORD [B] (Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23 or 4:1-13; Mk 16:15-20)

Today’s readings describe the Ascension of the Lord Jesus into his Heavenly glory after promising the Holy Spirit as the source of Heavenly power for his disciples and commanding them to bear witness to him by their lives and preaching throughout the world.  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 “Mission Accomplished”.  Jesus’ Ascension is the grand finale of all his words and works done for us and for our salvation.  It was a culmination, but not the conclusion.  One wonder is that though Jesus is now with God in glory he continues to remain with us, dwelling within us together with the Father and the Holy Spirit: "Lo, I am with you always." The Feast of the Ascension celebrates one aspect of the Resurrection, namely Jesus’ exaltation.  The focus of this Feast is the Heavenly reign of Christ, and the Lord’s being  “seated at God’s right hand,” meaning He alone will be in control of the continuing plan of salvation through the Holy Spirit, unrestricted by time, space or culture. Jesus has gone to heaven so as to direct operations more fully here on earth. That’s why we pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

We need to live a life of Christian joy in the presence of the ascended Lord. According to Luke, the disciples "returned to Jerusalem with great joy." Apparently, Jesus' exaltation and final blessing gave them, as it gives us, the assurance that, though absent, Jesus is still present, present even in the pain and sorrow we undergo. That is why St. Augustine assures us, “Christ is now exalted above the Heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his Body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?' and when he said: 'I was hungry and you gave me food.' While in Heaven he is also with us; and while on earth we are with him.

When the trials of life feel too heavy to bear, we must remember that Christ will come again in glory, the same glory in which he arose from the tomb, the same glory in which he ascended, and the same glory in which he currently abides.
A priest, Walter Ciszek by name, was in Russia for 23 years, five of which were spent in the dreaded Lubyanka prison in Moscow and ten of which were spent in the harsh Siberian slave labour camp. He was finally released from Russia in 1963, in exchange for two Soviet spies held in USA. He died in 1984 at the age of 84. After release he wrote a book He Leadeth Me. In this book he tries to answer the question: “How did you manage to survive in Russia?” He says: “I was able to endure the inhuman conditions in which I found myself because I experienced somehow the presence of God. I never lost my Faith that God was with me, even in the worst of circumstances.” What was true of Fr. Walter Ciszek is true of each of us. Jesus is with us; God is with us in the power of his Holy Spirit.

"Like the first apostles, we too share in the mission of spreading Christ’s kingdom in the world today. Yet we do not have to become missionaries in Africa to do this. Whether a teacher in the classroom, a businessman in the workplace, a college student on campus, or a mother raising children in the home, all Christians play a crucial role in helping build the kingdom where God has called them to serve. 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.” By bringing the extraordinary witness of Christian truth, virtue, and love into our ordinary, daily endeavors, we can help transform our culture into the kingdom of the risen and ascended Christ."

Ruddell Norris was a conscientious young man. But he was also a shy young man. He found it hard just to talk to people, much less to discuss religion with them. Then one day he got an idea. Ruddell did a lot of reading, and he was aware of the many pamphlets about the Catholic faith. So he decided to set aside a part of his weekly allowance to buy pamphlets. Ruddell placed his pamphlets in places where he thought people would pick them up and read them. For example, he placed them in waiting rooms and in reception areas. One day a young woman who was a friend of his family told his parents how she became a convert and how her husband returned to the Church. "It all started with a pamphlet," she said. "I found it in the hospital waiting room." You can imagine the boy's excitement when he learned of the impact just one of his pamphlets had. He just tried to obey the missionary command of Christ.

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.”
Anyone who has truly experienced God's saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love." Our great hope is that one day we too will be ascending to Heavenly glory provided we complete our part of the mission entrusted to us by the ascending Lord.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

EASTER VI [B]: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; I Jn 4:7-10; JOHN 15: 9-17  

During the Second World War Dr. Ernest Gordon, later Chaplain of Princeton University, was a prisoner of war in Thailand. In his book, Through the Valley of the Kwai, he reflects on the difference between two Christmas seasons he spent in prison. He says that during the Christmas season of 1942 there were thousands of American soldiers in that prison who robbed the sick among them, mistreated one another, and did not care whether the other prisoners lived or died. During the following year, a healthy American soldier began giving his food to a sick buddy to help him get well. In time the sick prisoner recovered, but the buddy who had given him food died of malnutrition. The story of the man who sacrificed his life to save a buddy made the rounds of the camp. Some of the prisoners remarked that he was a lot like Christ. Some of the soldiers began to recall passages from the Bible they had learned years earlier under far different circumstances. One of the passages stated, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Some who were Christians took heart and began to witness to other men. The prisoners began to ask about Christ and to meet for Bible study. When they began to know Christ as Lord the entire atmosphere in the camp changed from despair and desperation to hope and compassion. When Christmas of 1943 arrived, Dr. Gordon said, 2000 prisoners assembled for worship. They sang carols and someone read the story of the birth of Jesus from a Gospel account. Much more was different. In spite of their hunger, prisoners who were well, shared food with the sick to help them gain strength faster. They cared for one another. They agreed that the difference came about because of faith in Christ and people who lived his love in the midst of unloving circumstances. After telling the parable of the vine and branches, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches the disciples that they are to remain bonded to him as branches are bound to a vine.  They are to obey his commandment of love, just as he has obeyed his Heavenly Father’s will by fulfilling His commandments and remaining inseparably bonded with his Father.  Jesus’ unconditional, forgiving, selfless, sacrificial love for us must be the criterion of our love for others.  The highest expression of this love is our willingness to lay down our lives as Jesus did, for people who don’t deserve it.

G. K. Chesterton once said that the really great lesson of the story of "Beauty and the Beast" is that a thing must be loved before it is loveable. A person must be loved before that person can be lovable. Some of the most unlovely people I have known got that way because they thought that nobody loved them. The fact of the matter is that unless and until we feel ourselves loved, we cannot love. That's not only a principle of theology but of psychology and sociology as well. Just as abused children grow up to abuse their children, loved children grow up to love their children. Loved persons are able to love. Unloved persons are not. Christianity says something startling. It says that God loves and accepts us "just as we are." Therefore, we can love and accept ourselves and in so doing, love and accept others.

Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, “Because you are precious in my sight, I love you (43:4).” After Mother Theresa received the Noble Prize, someone asked her, “How can we solve the world’s problems.” She replied, “Go home and love one another.” The thing that is destroying the world today is: hatred and intolerance. It is only love, which can save the world from destruction. And love shall be the only thing that is eternal. Therefore Jesus tells his disciples that by their love, others will know that they are his disciples. And love can transform the world around us.

The power of Christ's love and friendship in no way negates the reality of this world's ability to hate.  That is why Jesus closes with a clear command that we must love one another, and even love those who hate us. Jesus says to pray in his name and the Father will grant that grace to love irrespective of the harm done to us.

This week: think of one small thing we can do to ease the burdens of others, especially of your spouse; think of one small thing you can do to make your boss's or coworker's job just a little bit easier; think of one small thing you can do to bring some encouragement and joy into your parents' lives; think of a friend or relative who is suffering, and think of one small thing you can do to help support them.

Jesus gives the assurance that "Love will always bear fruit." At times it may appear to us that to do good to certain people is a waste of time; people are often ungrateful, and on occasions those to whom we have done good turn against us. But, we should not get discouraged; because we do not know when, how and where love will bear fruit. It is the assurance of Jesus that "Love will bear fruit." It bore fruit in the life of Mother Theresa. It bore fruit in the life of Pope John Paul. It bears fruit in our lives. May God help us in our attempt to show his love to our brothers in small little ways. Amen.