Importance: 1) The last two precious gifts given to us by Jesus are the Holy Eucharist as our spiritual food on Holy Thursday and Jesus’ mother Mary as our spiritual Mother on Good Friday 2)Corpus Christi is the celebration of the abiding presence of a loving God as Emmanuel – God with us – in order to give collective thanks to our Lord for his living with us in the Eucharist. 3) The feast also gives us an occasion to learn more about the importance and value of the “Real Presence” so that we may appreciate and better and receive maximum benefit from the Sacrament.
We believe in the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist because 1)Jesus promised it after miraculously feeding the 5000. 2) Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist during his Last Supper. 3) Jesus commanded his disciples to repeat it in his memory. 4) “Nothing is impossible for God.”
We explain the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist by: the Aristotelian philosophical term “transubstantiation” which means that the substance of the consecrated bread and wine is changed to the substance of the risen Jesus’ glorified Body and Blood by the action of the Holy Spirit, and its accidents (like color, shape, taste etc.), remain the same.
Scripture lessons:This year's readings for the feast emphasize the theme of Covenant blood because the ancient peoples sealed covenants with the blood of ritually sacrificed animals, and Jesus sealed his New Covenant with his own Blood shed on Calvary. Today’s first reading describes how Moses, by sprinkling the blood of a sacrificed animal on the altar and on the people, accepted the Covenant Yahweh proposed and made with His People. In the second reading, St. Paul affirms that Jesus sealed the New Covenant with his own Blood, thereby putting an end to animal sacrifices. Today’s Gospel details how Jesus converted this ancient ritual into a Sacrament and sacrifice. Instead of the lamb’s blood, Jesus offered his own Divine/human Body and Blood, and instead of sprinkling us with blood, he put it into our hands as Food: "Take, this is my Body" (He did not say "This represents my Body”), and “This is my Blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many.”
A Sacrament and a sacrifice: Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist both as a sacramental banquet and a sacrificial offering.As a Sacrament, a) the Eucharist is a visible sign that gives us God’s grace and God’s life and, b) as a meal, it nourishes our souls. As a sacrificea) the Eucharistic celebration is a re-presentation or re-enactment of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary, completed in His Resurrection. b) We offer Jesus’ sacrifice to God the Father for the remission of our sins, using signs and symbols.
Life messages: 1)Let us appreciate the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, by receiving Him with true repentance for our sins, due preparation and reverence.
2) Let us be Christ-bearers and conveyers: 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, through love, mercy, forgiveness and humble and sacrificial service.
3) Let us offer our lives on the altar along with Jesus’ sacrifice, asking pardon for our sins, expressing gratitude for the blessings we have received and presenting our needs and petitions on the altar.
THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST [C] (May 29)
(Gen 14: 18-20; I Cor 11: 21-26; Lk 9: 11b-17)
Anecdote # 1: “I would like to say Mass.” Dominic Tang, the courageous Chinese archbishop, was imprisoned for twenty-one years for nothing more than his loyalty to Christ and Christ’s one, true Church. After he had spent five years of solitary confinement in a windowless, damp cell, he was told by his jailers that he could leave it for a few hours to do whatever he wanted. Five years of solitary confinement and he had a couple of hours to do what he wanted! What would it be? A hot shower?A change of clothes? Certainly a long walk outside? A chance to call or write to family? What would it be, the jailer asked him. “I would like to say Mass,” replied Archbishop Tang. [Msgr. Timothy M. Dolan, Priests of the Third Millennium (2000), p. 216]. The Vietnamese Jesuit, Joseph Nguyen-Cong Doan, who spent nine years in labor camps in Vietnam, relates how he was finally able to say Mass when a fellow priest-prisoner shared some of his own smuggled supplies. “That night, when the other prisoners were asleep, lying on the floor of my cell, I celebrated Mass with tears of joy. My altar was my blanket, my prison clothes my vestments. But I felt myself at the heart of humanity and of the whole of creation.” (Ibid., p. 224). Today’s feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus constantly calls us beyond ourselves to sacrificial love for others.
# 2: The greatest work of art in St. Peter’s Basilica: One of the seminarians who gives tours of St. Peter’s told me of an interesting incident. He was leading a group of Japanese tourists who knew absolutely nothing of our Faith. With particular care, he explained the great masterpieces of art, sculpture and architecture. He finally concluded at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, trying his best to explain quickly what it was. As the group dispersed, an elderly man, who had been particularly attentive stayed behind, and said, “Pardon me. Would you explain again this ‘Blessed Sacrament?’” Our student did, after which the man exclaimed, “Ah, if this is so, what is in this chapel is a greater work of art than anything else in this basilica.” (Msgr. Timothy M Dolan in Priests of the Third Millennium, 2000 p. 226). Today’s feast of Corpus Christi is intended to make us value and appreciate the worth of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
# 3: Communion on the moon: The Lord's Supper ensures that we can remember Jesus from any place. Apollo 11 landed on the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969. Most remember astronaut Neil Armstrong's first words as he stepped onto the moon's surface: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." But few know about the first meal eaten on the moon. Dennis Fisher reports that Buzz Aldrin, the NASA Astronaut had taken aboard the spacecraft a tiny pyx provided by his Catholic pastor. Aldrin sent a radio broadcast to Earth asking listeners to contemplate the events of the day and give thanks. Then, blacking out the broadcast for privacy, Aldrin read, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit." Then, silently, he gave thanks for their successful journey to the moon and received Jesus in the Holy Eucharist surrendering moon to Jesus. Next he descended on the moon and walked on it with Neil Armstrong. (Dan Gulley: "Communion on the Moon": Our Daily Bread: June/July/August, 2007). His actions remind us that in the Lord's Supper, God's children can share the life of Jesus from any place on Earth — and even from the moon. God is everywhere, and our worship should reflect this reality. In Psalm 139 we are told that wherever we go, God is intimately present with us. Buzz Aldrin celebrated that experience on the surface of the moon. Thousands of miles from earth, he took time to commune with the One who created, redeemed, and established fellowship with him. (Dennis Fisher)
Introduction:The feast and its objectives: Today, we celebrate the solemn feast of Corpus Christi. It is three feasts in one: the feast of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the feast of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the feast of the Real Presence of Jesus in this Sacrament. Corpus Christi is a doctrinal feast established for three purposes: 1) to give God collective thanks for Christ’s abiding presence with us in the Eucharist and to honor Him there; 2) to instruct the people in the Mystery, Faith and devotion surrounding the Eucharist, and 3) to teach us to appreciate and make use of the great gift of the Holy Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and as a sacrifice. In the three-year cycle of the Sunday liturgy, there is a different theme each year for this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. In Cycle A the theme is the Eucharist as our food and drink; in Cycle B the emphasis is on the Eucharist as the sign of the covenant; and in Cycle C the theme focuses on the priesthood of Jesus. Although we celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday, the Church wants to emphasize its importance by a special feast, formerly called “Corpus Christi.” It was Pope Urban IV who first extended the feast to the universal Church. This is one of the few feasts left in which we observe a procession and a sung “Sequence.”
The historical development: Today's celebration of the Body and Blood of the Lord originated in the Diocese of Liege in 1246 as the feast of Corpus Christi. In the reforms of Vatican II, Corpus Christi was joined with the feast of the Precious Blood (July 1) to become the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord. We celebrate today Christ's gift to us of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life together as the Church. 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. "The Catholic Church teaches that in the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the God-man are really, truly, substantially, and abidingly present together with his soul and divinity by reason of the Transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This takes place in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass."
The Biblical foundation: Our belief in this Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist derives from the literal interpretation of the promise of Christ to give us his Body and Blood for our spiritual food and drink, as found in St. John's Gospel, Chapter 6, and also in the four independent accounts of the fulfillment of this promise at the Last Supper (Mt. 26; Mk. 14; Lk. 22; 1 Cor. 11). Eucharistic theologians explain the Real Presence by a process called transubstantiation: the entire substance of bread and wine is changed into the entire substance of the risen and glorified Body and Blood of Christ, retaining only the “accidents” (taste, color, shape) of bread and wine. Can there be a religion in which God is closer to man than our Catholic Christianity? Jesus does not believe that he is humiliating himself in coming to us and giving himself to us in his Flesh and Blood to be our spiritual Food.
Scripture lessons:Today’s Scripture readingscontain three themes: the Eucharist as blessing or praise of God (action of Melchizedek in Gen 14: 18-20), the Eucharist as memorial of what Jesus did at the Last Supper (1 Cor 11: 21-26) and the Eucharist as food for the multitudes (Lk 9: 11-17). The never-ending supply of bread with which Jesus fed the multitude prefigured his own Body, the consecrated Bread that sustains us until he comes again. The Eucharist is also a re-enactment of Christ’s sacrificial Self-giving. The Jews offered animal sacrifices to God, believing that life was in the blood, and the animal blood was a substitute for human lifeblood. Following this Jewish tradition, Jesus offered his own lifeblood as a substitute for the lifeblood of all human beings and, so, sealed the covenant made between God and humankind (1 Cor 11:25), bringing new life to the world. The Corpus Christi readings remind us of Jesus’ offering of his Body and Blood which serves in the Church as a lasting memorial of His saving death for us. We renew Jesus’ Covenant by participating in the banquet of his Body and Blood, a banquet that, through his death, gives us life.
First reading: Genesis 14: 18-20: Abram was the earlier name of the patriarch Abraham, founder of the Chosen People who became our ancestors in the Faith. This story tells us how Melchizedek, the neighboring Canaanite king and "priest of God Most High," welcomed Abram as he returned after defeating some local "kings" who had kidnapped his brother Lot, and recovering from them the captured property. Both Melchizedek himself and the character of his offering prefigure Jesus. In an act of thanksgiving, this mysterious king-priest blessed Abraham, offered bread and wine to Godand shared these with Abraham. Abraham affirms his Faith in the true God whose name he knows and to whom he has sworn an oath (v 22). Jesus became known as "a priest according to the order of Melchizedek"(Psalm 110:4). Jesus, priest and king, is the Eternal Priest and King of Kings who offered a sacrifice of Bread and Wine during his Last Supper. Jesus is infinitely greater than Melchizedek, in that He is the sacrifice and the offering, the Bread and Wine. Melchizedek offered a gift of gratitude to God. Jesus’ gift is also called the Eucharist, meaning thanksgiving.Like Melchizedek’s offering of gratitude to God, the Eucharist is our sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for all that He has accomplished in and through Jesus. Although the bread and wine mentioned in Genesis 14 are highly suggestive of the Eucharist for us, the sacrificial meal originally probably had no Eucharistic significance beyond reminding us of the hospitality which should be part of every celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
Second Reading, I Cor 11: 21-26: Today, on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we listen to Paul's account of the Last Supper.This is one of the few places in his writings where Paul solemnly states that he is handing on a tradition possibly originating in the mid-30s. Paul supports the authenticity of his interpretation of the Last Supper of Jesus, describing it as a direct revelation received from the risen Jesus. Then he gives the earliest account of what Jesus said and did during the last meal He celebrated with His followers. The words Paul quotes are very similar to those ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. This earliest written account of the institution of the Lord's Supper in the New Testament emphasizes Jesus' action of self-giving as expressed in the words over the bread and the cup and his double command to repeat his own action. Paul has to be very clear about his authority here, because he's correcting the Corinthians severely. Misconduct at the Eucharist is one of several abuses for which the Apostle takes them to task. To proclaim the death of the Lord is to confess one's Faith in the whole mystery of Christ and all that he means for us. The refusal of some of the Corinthian converts to imitate Jesus’ death by dying to their own vested interests had been creating chaos in Church gatherings. Paul believes that since Jesus gave us the Eucharist in the context of his dying for our sake, we should experience it only in the context of our dying to ourselves for his sake. Thus, all Christ’s disciples are challenged to promote community, to be united and to hold possessions in common.
Today’s Gospel (Lk 9: 11-17): Theologically, the miraculous feeding of the crowd of five thousand men could be understood as a type or prefiguring of Jesus’ gift of the Eucharistic Bread that would spiritually nourish those who believed in him. Christologically, the taking, breaking and giving of the loaves anticipated the “taking” of Jesus in the garden, the “breaking” of his body during his passion and Jesus’ “giving” of himself as a sacrifice for the sins of humankind. The description of the miracle also points out the disciples' role in the miraculous feeding of the multitude. Only after they give him what little they have can Jesus bless, break and give it back to them to distribute to the hungry crowd. Luke tells us that Jesus demands all his followers to “share what little they have” when they gather for the Lord’s Supper. No matter how insignificant or small our gift, it could be the very thing Jesus blesses to satisfy the hunger of those around us. To die by becoming one with each other and to die by sharing ourselves are at the heart of the Eucharist. If those elements are missing, our rubrics and actions are meaningless. In Greek the word koinonia is used by the Christian writers to describe both the Eucharistic communion and the communion of wealth. For the first Christian communities the two things were the same (cfr. Acts 2:42-45).
Exegesis:Theological significance: Vatican II states that as a sacrifice, "the Holy Eucharist is the center and culmination of Christian life" (Lumen Gentium, 11). Why? 1) Because it enables us to participate in Christ’s sacrifice as a present reality and to benefit from its fruits in our own lives. 2) Because it helps us to worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the most perfect way. 3) Because it strengthens our charity and unity with Jesus and each other in a joint offering of his Body and Blood to the Father. 4) Because it gives us a lasting memorial of Christ’s suffering, death and Resurrection, reminding us of our obligation to make loving sacrifices for others. The Eucharist is the Mystery of our Faith, the mystery of our Hope, the mystery of our Charity. Why do we celebrate the Eucharist some 2,000 years later? We do this because Jesus told us to do so: “Do this in memory of me.” St. Augustine in the 5th century AD said it best when he said: “It is your Mystery, the Mystery of your life that has been placed on the altar.” This Holy Memorial is known by various names: 1) "The Eucharist” because Jesus offered himself to God the Father as an act of thanksgiving; 2) "The Lord’s Supper"--or “Breaking of the Bread”-- because we celebrate it as a meal; 3) "Holy Communion" because, we become one with Christ by receiving him; and 4) "Holy Mass” (holy sending), because it gives us a mission: “Go in peace glorifying God by your life.”
Jesus replaces the Old Covenant with the New Covenant: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, the final-age people of God, 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.
The Jewish Passover is transformed into the Eucharistic celebration: Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist while eating the Passover meal, the feast on which the Jews gathered annually to commemorate their ancestors' deliverance from Egyptian slavery. This foundational event began the night God "passed over" the Israelites while punishing their oppressors, who had resisted His will. Israel was "saved through the blood" of sacrificial lambs sprinkled on doorways. (There are some modern Bible scholars who doubt whether Jesus’ Last Supper was strictly a Passover meal because many items of the Passover meal are not mentioned). In the second half of today's Gospel, Jesus' words and gestures are understood as mediating the fullness of salvation through Blood that would be his own. That night he offered "the Blood of the (New) Covenant," as Blood to be drunk rather than sprinkled. Moreover, since it was his own, this Blood needed no further identification with God by splashing against an altar. Finally, the Blood was "to be poured out on behalf of the many(a Semitism for 'all')." Thus, the new and perfect Paschal Lamb accomplished for people of every nation what Mosaic sacrifices only imperfectly achieved for the Jews. Giving of both "Body" and "Blood" establishes the context of Jesus' sacrificial death, a New Covenant sealed with his Blood.
The Sacrament and the sacrifice: Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist during the Last Supper as a Sacramental banquet and a sacrificial offering. As a Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist is an outward sign in and through which we meet Jesus who shares his life of grace with us. “In the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist the Body and Blood, together with the soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained" (CCC #1374). In this Sacrament of the Eucharist, we do meet Jesus, the Risen Lord who comes to us under signs of Bread and Wine to nourish and strengthen us for our journey through life. The Eucharistic Meal is a great mystery because during the Eucharistic celebration the substance of bread and wine are converted into the substance of the risen Jesus' Body and Blood, while their appearances (or ’accidents’) remain. We believe in this transformation of bread and wine (called Transubstantiation), because Jesus unequivocally taught it and authorized his apostles to repeat it. As a Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist imparts to us Jesus’ abiding presence in our souls. In addition, we share in his Divine life, which is an assurance of eternal life and the basis for the conviction that we are children of God the Father. God shares His life with Jesus and with all other people. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of our union with Jesus. In this Sacrament, Jesus gives us his own Body, broken for us on the cross and his precious Blood poured out for us, in order that our sins may be forgiven. The Eucharistic celebration is also a sacrifice because it is the re-presentation or re-living in an unbloody manner of Christ’s Death on Good Friday and of his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.By means of signs, symbols and prayers, we share in Christ’s passion, death and Resurrection made really present for us in an unbloody manner. This re-presenting, this re-living of the One Sacrifice of Christ, which is the heart and point of every Mass, assures us of Jesus’ love for us and of his forgiveness of our sins. Through this sacrifice, the risen Jesus becomes present on the altar, offering himself to the Father through the ministry of the priest.
Life Messages: 1) We need to receive this message of unity and sacrificial love: The Eucharist, (the Body and Blood of Christ), teaches us the importance of community, the bond that results from this sacrifice. John Chrysostom says: “What is the Bread actually? The Body of Christ. What do communicants become? The Body of Christ. Just as the bread comes from many grains, which remain themselves and are not distinguished from one another because they are united, so we are united with Christ.” Just as numerous grains of wheat are pounded together to make the host, and many grapes are crushed together to make the wine, so we become unified in this sacrifice. Our Lord chose these elements in order to show us that we ought to seek union with one another, to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us into Our Lord Jesus Christ and to work with Him in the process. Christ is the Head and we are the Body. Together we are one. That which unites us is our willingness to sacrifice our time and talents to God in our fellow members in Christ’s Mystical Body. This is symbolized by our sharing in the same Bread and the same Cup. Hence, Holy Communion should strengthen our sense of unity and love.
2) We need to prepare properly to receive Holy Communion: We have tarnished God’s image within us through acts of impurity, injustice, disobedience and the like. Hence, there is always need for repentance, and a need for the Sacramental confession of grave sins, before we receive Holy Communion. We should remember the warning given by St. Paul: "Whoever, therefore, eats the Bread or drinks the Cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the Body and Blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the Bread and drink of the Cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the Body, eat and drink judgment against themselves." [1 Cor. 11:27-9]. Hence, let us receive Holy Communion with fervent love and respect -- not merely as a matter of routine. St. Paul is speaking also of the Mystical Body of Christ, i.e., the people of God gathered at the altar. Such a union, plainly, means that our outward piety towards the consecrated Bread and Wine cannot coexist with rudeness, unkindness, slander, cruelty, gossiping or any other breach of charity toward our brothers and sisters.
3) We need to become Christ-bearers and -conveyers: 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 humble and sacrificial service.
As we celebrate this great feast of faith, let us worship what St. Thomas Aquinas did not hesitate to call, "the greatest miracle that Christ ever worked on earth ...... My Body ........My Blood". Before the greatness of this mystery, let us exclaim with St. Augustine, "O Sacrament of devotion! O Sign of unity! O Bond of charity!" Let us also repeat 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!" (L/16)
(Prepared by Fr. Tony Kadavil (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Introduction:The mystery of the most Holy Trinity is a basic doctrine of Faith in Christianity, understandable not with our heads but with our hearts. It teaches us that there are three distinct Persons in one God, sharing the same Divine Nature. Our mind cannot grasp this doctrine which teaches that 1+1+1 = 1 and not 3. But we believe in this Mystery because Jesus who is God taught it clearly, the Evangelists recorded it, the Fathers of the Church tried to explain it and the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople defined it as a dogma of Christian Faith.
Importance in Christian life: 1) All prayers in the Church begin in the Name of the Holy Trinity and end glorifying the Trinity.
2) All Sacraments are administered (we are baptized, confirmed, anointed, our sins are forgiven and our marriage blessed and our Bishops, priests and deacons ordained) in the name of the Holy Trinity.
3) Church bells ring thrice daily, reminding us to pray to the Holy Trinity.
4) We bless ourselves, and the priest blesses us, in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Biblical proofs:There are only vague and hidden references to the Trinity in the Old Testament. But the New Testament gives clear teachings on the Holy Trinity.
1) At the Annunciation, God the Father sends His angel to Mary, God the Holy Spirit overshadows her and God the Son becomes incarnate in her womb.
2) At the baptism of Jesus, when the Son receives baptism from John the Baptist, the Father’s Voice is heard and the Holy Spirit appears as a Dove.
3) At the Ascension, Jesus gives the missionary command to his disciples to baptize those who believe, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
4) In John, chapters 15-18, we have a detailed account of Jesus’ teaching of the role of each Person of the Holy Trinity:
a) God the Father creates and provides for His creatures.
b) God the Son redeems us and reconciles us with God.
c) God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, strengthens us, teaches us and guides us to God.
Life messages: 1) Let us respect ourselves and others because everyone is the temple of the Holy Spirit where all the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity abide.
2) Let us have the firm conviction that the Trinitarian God abides in us, that He is the Source of our hope, courage and strength and that He is our final destination.
3) Let us practice the Trinitarian relationship of love and unity in the family relationships of father, mother and children because by Baptism we become children of God and members of God’s Trinitarian family.
4) Let us practice the I–God–my neighborvertical and horizontal Trinitarian relationship in society by loving God living in others. (Fr. Tony) L/16
HOLY TRINITY (May 22):Prv 8 : 22-31; Rom 5: 1-5; John 16: 12-15 (L-16)
Anecdote # 1:Simplified explanations by Ss. Patrick, Cyril and John Maria Vianney: The shamrock, a kind of clover, is a leguminous herb that grows in marshy places. St. Patrick, the missionary patron saint of Ireland, used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. The story goes that one day his friends asked Patrick to explain the Mystery of the Trinity. He looked at the ground and saw shamrocks growing amid the grass at his feet. He picked one up one of its trifoliate leaves and asked if it were one leaf or three. Patrick's friends couldn't answer – the shamrock leaf looked like one but it clearly had three parts. Patrick explained to them: "The mystery of the Holy Trinity – one God in Three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - is like this, but more complex and unintelligible.” St. Cyril, the teacher of the Slavs, 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.” Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQLfgaUoQCw&feature=player_detailpage
# 2: Trinity prayer of Tolstoy’s monks: Three Russian monks lived in a faraway Island. Nobody ever went there. However, one day their bishop decided to make a pastoral visit to learn more about their religious life. But when he arrived he discerned that they did not know even the Lord’s Prayer. So he spent all his time and energy teaching them the Our Father and then left them, satisfied with his pastoral visit. But when his small ship had left the island and was back in the open sea, he suddenly noticed the three hermits walking on the water – in fact they were running after the ship. When they approached it, they cried out. “Dear bishop we have forgotten the Lord’s Prayer you taught us. The bishop, overwhelmed by what he was seeing and hearing asked them, ”But dear brothers, how then do you pray?” They answered, “We just say, there are three of us and there are three of you, have mercy on us.” The bishop, awestruck by their sanctity and simplicity said, “Go back to your island and be at peace.” (Adapted from Leo Tolstoy- The Three Hermits" (Russian: ТриСтарца, a short story by Russian author Leo Tolstoy (Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy), was written in 1885 and first published in 1886 in the weekly periodical Niva (нива).
# 3: "But that is impossible, my dear child:”There is a very old and much-repeated story about St. Augustine, one of the intellectual giants of the Church. He was walking by the seashore one day, attempting to conceive of an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity. As he walked along, he saw a small boy on the beach, pouring seawater from a shell into a small hole in the sand. "What are you doing, my child?" asked Augustine. "I am trying to empty the sea into this hole," the boy answered with an innocent smile. "But that is impossible, my dear child,” said Augustine. The boy stood up, looked straight into the eyes of Augustine and replied, “What you are trying to do - comprehend the immensity of God with your small head - is even more impossible.” Then he vanished. The child was an angel sent by God to teach Augustine a lesson. Later, 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. Evagrius of Pontus, a Greek monk of the 4th century who came from what is now Turkey in Asia and later lived out his vocation in Egypt, said: "God cannot be grasped by the mind. If God could be grasped, God would not be God."
Introduction:Today’s feast invites us tolive in the awareness of the presence of the Triune God within us: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Holy Trinity, a doctrine enunciated by the ecumenical councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, is one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity and the greatest mystery of our Faith, namely, that there are Three Divine Persons, sharing the same Divine nature in one God. “There is one God, Who has three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each Person is God, yet there is still only one God” (C.C.C. #234, #253-256).We have Father Who is the Creator, Son the Redeemer and Holy Spirit the Sanctifier and the Counselor. The doctrine of Three Persons in one God, equal in Divinity yet distinct in Person, is not explicitly spelt out in the Bible. Even the very word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. But 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. Throughout the world, church bells can ring three times a day inviting Christians to pray to God the Father (the Provider); God the Son (the Savior); and God the Holy Spirit (the Sanctifier). 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.”Today’s readings convey the fundamental mystery that the Triune God reaches out to people in love, seeking the deepest communion with them.
Scripture lessons: Today’s readings from Proverbs, Romans, and John are all about "pouring out." God pours Self out in Word; God and Word pour out the Spirit to help us pour ourselves out; andthe Spirit pours forth Faith and strength and character. Instead of spelling out the doctrine of Holy Trinity, today’s readings summarize the effects of the Trinity in our daily lives. The Book of Proverbs reflects on Wisdom, a quality which that book identifies with God. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, teaches us that we have peace with God the Father through Jesus Christ, and that the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. In today's Gospel, Jesus, the Son of God, mentions the role of the Holy Spirit, His close relationship with God the Father and what the Holy Spirit is going to do for us as we go about our daily tasks.God has revealed to us three separate functions that are carried out by the three Persons. He has told us that it is proper to attribute to God the Father the work of creation; to God the Son, the work of Redemption, of reconciliation and of healing, and to the Holy Spirit, the work of guidance in truth, in the work of teaching and in the work of sanctification. As the Father, God has brought forth the created universe and even our very selves. As God’s Son and our Brother, Jesus, He has made known a God Who hears our cries, Who cares, Who counts the hairs on our head and Who loves us so passionately that He became one of us, to suffer for our sins, to die that we may live. As Spirit, God remains with and within us as Paraclete: Guide, Advocate and Consoler.
Exegetical notes1) The development of the Trinitarian doctrine in the Church. The oldest doctrinal formulation of the Church’s belief in the Trinity is found in the Apostles’ Creed which has served both as the basis of instruction for catechumens and as the Baptismal confession of Faith since the second century. Later, the Nicene Creed, originating at the Council of Nicaea (AD 325), stated the doctrine more explicitly. This creed was introduced into our Western liturgy by the regional council of Toledo in AD 589. God has revealed to us three separate functions that are carried out by the Three Persons. He has told us that it is proper to attribute to God the Father the work of Creation, to God the Son the work of Redemption and to God the Holy Spirit the work of Sanctification. Our knowledge of God as Trinity is made possible by God, Who has chosen to reveal Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Father, God has brought forth the created universe, including our own being. As Son, Jesus has made known a God who hears our cries, who cares, who counts the hairs on our head and who loves us so passionately that He became one of us in order to suffer for our sins, and even to die for us. As Spirit, God remains with us and within us.
2) The Triune God as seen in the Old Testament: 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 how Yahweh visited 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.
3) Clear doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament.
a) The Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38), describes how God the Father sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to announce to her that God the Holy Spirit, would "overshadow" her, and that God the Son would be made flesh in her womb.
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.
c) John (Chapters 15 through 18), presents 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.” (Confer also Matthew 28:19; John 10:30).
Life messages: 1)We need to respect ourselves and respect others. Our conviction of the presence of the Triune God within us should help us to esteem ourselves as God’s holy dwelling place, to behave well in His holy presence, and to lead purer and holier lives, practicing acts of justice and charity. This Triune Presence should also encourage us to respect and honor others as "Temples of the Holy Spirit."
2)We need to be aware of God as the Source of our strength and courage. The awareness and conviction of the presence of God within us, gives us the strength to face the manifold problems of life with Christian courage. It was such a conviction that prompted the early Christian martyrs, when taken to their execution, to shout the heroic prayer of Faith from the Psalms: "The Lord of might is with us, our God is within us, and the God of Jacob is our helper" (Psalm 46).
3)We need to see the Trinity as the model for our Christian families: We are created in love to be a community of loving persons, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in love. From the day of our Baptism, we have belonged to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How privileged we are to grow up in such a beautiful Family! Hence, let us turn to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in prayer every day. We belong to the Family of the Triune God. The love, unity and joy in the relationship among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit should be the supreme model of our relationships within our Christian families. Our families become truly Christian when we live in a relationship of love with God and with others.
4)We are called to become more like the Triune God through all our 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. Modern society follows the so-called “I-and-I” principle of unbridled individualism and the resulting consumerism. But the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity challenges us to adopt an "I-and-God-and-neighbor" principle: “I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people.” Like God the Father, we are called upon to be productive and creative persons by contributing to the building up of the fabric of our family, our Church, our community and our nation. Like God the Son, we are called upon to reconcile, to be peacemakers, to put back together that which has been broken, to restore what has been shattered. Like God the Holy Spirit, it is our task to uncover and teach truth and to dispel ignorance. (Trinitarian spirituality: “The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that it belongs to God’s very Nature to be committed to humanity and its history, that God’s Covenant with us is irrevocable, that God’s face is immutably turned toward us in love, that God’s presence to us is utterly reliable and constant.... Trinitarian spirituality is one of solidarity between and among persons. It is a way of living the Gospel attentive to the requirements of justice, understood as rightly ordered relationships between and among persons.” Dictionary of Spirituality)
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.
(Prepared by Fr. Tony Kadavil (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Pentecost literally means 50th. It is a feast celebrated on the 50th day after the Passover feast by the Jews and a feast celebrated on the 50th day after the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus by the Christians. The Jewish Pentecost was originally a post-harvest thanksgiving feast. Later, the Jews included in it the remembrance of God’s Covenants with Noah after the Deluge and with Moses at Mt. Sinai
The event: On the day of Pentecost 1) The Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary as fiery tongues. 2) The frightened apostles were transformed into fiery preachers and evangelizers and were given the gift of tongues by a special anointing of the Holy Spirit. 3) The listeners experienced a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit through the apostles’ gift of tongues: they heard Peter speaking in their native languages. 4) The early Christians became powerful witnesses and brave martyrs for their faith in Jesus.
The role of the Holy Spirit in Christian life: 1) As an indwelling God, He makes us His Living Temples (I Cor 3:16). 2) As a strengthening God, He strengthens us in our fight against temptations and in our mission of bearing witness to Christ by transparent Christian lives. 3) As a sanctifying God, He makes us holy through the Sacraments: a) He makes us children of God and heirs of heaven through Baptism. b) He makes us temples of God, warriors and defenders of the Faith, through Confirmation. c) He enables us to be reconciled to God by pardoning our sins through Reconciliation. d) He gives us spiritual nourishment via the Holy Eucharist by converting bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood through Epiclesis. 4) As a teaching and guiding God, He clarifies and constantly reminds us of Christ’s teachings. 5) As a listening and talking God, He listens to our prayers and enables us to pray, and He speaks to us mainly through the Bible. 6) As a giver of gifts, He gives us His gifts, fruits and charisms.
Life messages: We need to permit the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives:
1) by constantly remembering His holy presence and behaving well;
2) by praying for His daily anointing so that we may fight against our temptations and control our evil tendencies, evil habits and addictions;
3) by asking His daily assistance to pray, listening to God through meditative Bible reading and talking to Him; and
4) by asking the help of the Holy Spirit to do good for others and to be reconciled with God and others every day.
Pentecost (May 15) Acts 2:1-11; I Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23
1) “Lower your bucket-- taste and see”: More than a century ago, a great sailing ship was stranded off the coast of South America. Week after week the ship lay there in the still waters with not a hint of a breeze. The captain was desperate; the crew was dying of thirst. And then, on the far horizon, a steamship appeared, headed directly toward them. As it drew near, the captain called out, "We need water! Give us water!" The steamship replied, "Lower your buckets where you are." The captain was furious at this cavalier response but called out again, "Please, give us water." But the steamer gave the same reply, "Lower your buckets where you are!" And with that they sailed away! The captain was beside himself with anger and despair, and he went below. But a little later, when no one was looking, a yeoman lowered a bucket into the sea and then tasted what he brought up: It was perfectly sweet, fresh water! For you see, the ship was just out of sight of the mouth of the Amazon. And for all those weeks they had been sitting right on top of all the fresh water they needed! What we are really seeking is already inside us, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be embraced: the Holy Spirit of God Who has been living within us from the moment of our Baptism. The Holy Spirit is saying to us at this very moment from deep in our heart, "Lower your buckets where you are. Taste and see!" Come, Holy Spirit! Fill our hearts, and set us on fire! Amen.
2) "Well, Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore.” It happened in Galveston, TX. A woman was cleaning the bottom of the cage of her parrot Chippie with the canister vacuum cleaner. She was not using an attachment on the tube. When the telephone rang, she turned her head to pick it up, continuing to vacuum the cage as she said, "Hello," into the phone. Then she heard the horrible noise of Chippie being sucked into the vacuum. Immediately she put down the phone, ripped open the vacuum bag, and found Chippie in there, stunned but still alive. Since the bird was covered with dust and dirt, she grabbed it, ran it into the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held the bird under the water to clean it off. When she finished that, she saw the hair dryer on the bathroom sink. She turned it on and held the bird in front of the blast of hot air to dry him off. A few weeks later, a reporter from the newspaper that originally published the story went out to the house to ask the woman, "How’s Chippie doing now?" She said, “He just sort of sits and stares." Today’s Gospel tells us that it was what happened to the apostles. They all were traumatized by the arrest and crucifixion of their master and bewildered by his post-Resurrection appearances and his command to prepare for the coming of his Holy Spirit. Many of us can identify with Chippie and the apostles. Life has sucked us up, thrown cold water on us, and blown us away. Somewhere in the trauma, we have lost our song. Hence, we, too, need the daily anointing of the Holy Spirit to keep us singing songs of Christian witnessing through agápe love. http://www.biblestudyresources.com/devotionals/jesus/he_keeps_me_singing.htm
3) Treasure within: An old beggar lay on his deathbed. His last words were to his youngest son who had been his constant companion during his begging trips. “Dear son," he said, “I have nothing to give you except a cotton bag and a dirty bronze bowl which I got in my younger days from the junk yard of a rich lady.” After his father’s death, the boy continued begging, using the bowl his father had given him. One day a gold merchant dropped a coin in the boy’s bowl and he was surprised to hear a familiar clinking sound. “Let me check your bowl,” the merchant said. To his great surprise, he found that the beggar’s bowl was made of pure gold. “My dear young man," he said, “why do you waste your time begging? You are a rich man. That bowl of yours is worth at least thirty thousand dollars.” We Christians are often like this beggar boy who failed to recognize and appreciate the value of his bowl. We fail to appreciate the infinite worth of the Holy Spirit living within each of us, sharing His gifts and fruits and charisms with us. On this major feast day, we are invited to experience and appreciate the transforming, sanctifying and strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit within us. This is also a day to renew the promises made to God during our Baptism and Confirmation, to profess our Faith, and to practice it.
Introduction: The Jewish Pentecost: Both the Jews and the Christians now celebrate Pentecost. Along with the Feast of the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, Pentecost was one of the major feasts of the Jews. During these three great Jewish festivals, every male Jew living within twenty miles of Jerusalem was legally bound to go to Jerusalem to participate in the feast. The word Pentecost is Greek for “pentecostes” which means “fiftieth.” The feast received this name because it was celebrated fifty days after the Feast of the Passover. Another name for the Jewish Pentecost is Shebuot or "The Feast of Weeks“ (the "week" of seven Sabbaths between Passover and Pentecost). It was originally a day of thanksgiving for the completion of the harvest. During Passover, the first omer (a Hebrew measure of about a bushel), of barley was offered to God. At Pentecost, two loaves of bread were offered in gratitude for the harvest. Later, the Jews added to the Feast of Pentecost the element of Yahweh’s Covenant with Noah, which took place fifty days after the great deluge. Still later, they made this feast an occasion to thank God for His Sinaitic Covenant with Moses, which occurred fifty days after the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt.
The Christian Pentecost: Pentecost marks the end and the goal of the Easter season. For Christians, it is a memorial of the day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and the Virgin Mary in the form of fiery tongues, an event that took place fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus. The Paschal mystery of the Passion, the Death, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of Jesus culminates in the sending of the Holy Spirit by the Father at the request of His Son on Jesus' disciples. The feast also 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. But years ago, This Rock Magazine reported that there are now 34,000 Protestant denominations which means that, on the average, more than sixty-nine new denominations had sprung up every year since the Reformation began in 1517. So whose birthday is it anyway? You could say, Pentecost is the birthday of the Church Jesus established nearly 2,000 years ago. Today’s Scripture readings remind us that Pentecost is an event of both the past and the present. The main theme of today’s readings is that the gift of the Holy Spirit is something to be shared with others. In other words, the readings remind us that the gift of the Holy Spirit moves its recipients to action and inspires them to share this gift with others.
The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-11), describes in detail the miraculous transformation that took place during the first Pentecost, thus fulfilling Jesus’ promise to his apostles. There was first “a noise like a strong driving wind.” Then there were “tongues as of fire” resting on the disciples, and each of them was filled with the Holy Spirit. The first manifestation of their reception of the Holy Spirit came when the apostles began to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, and everyone there (regardless of their many different native languages), was able to understand them “in his own tongue.” The Jews in the crowds came from sixteen different geographical regions. The miracle of tongues on Pentecost thus reverses the confusion of tongues wrought by God at the Tower of Babel, as described in Genesis 11. Later, the Acts of the Apostles describes how the Holy Spirit empowered the early Christians to bear witness to Christ by their sharing love and strong Faith. This "anointing by the Holy Spirit” also strengthened the early Christian martyrs during the period of brutal persecution that followed.
In the second reading (I Cor 12:3-7, 12-13), St. Paul explains how the sharing of the various spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit enriches the Church. He refers to the varieties of gifts given to the Church as coming from the same Spirit Who activates all of them in Christians for the common good. They are described as the gifts, fruits and charisms of the Spirit. They may take different forms like prophecy, teaching, administration, acts of charity, healing and speaking in tongues, and they may reside in different persons like apostles, prophets, teachers, healers and so on. Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit in his Letter to the Galatians “What the Spirit brings is … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control” (5:22). He continues, “Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit” (5:25). Paul insists that these spiritual gifts are to be used in the present time for the benefit of others, for the common good and for the building up of the Body of Christ.
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 sending 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 also enable them to fulfill Jesus’ commission to preach the Gospel to all nations. Today’s Gospel passage also tells us how Jesus gave to the Apostles the power and authority to forgive sins. “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” These wonderful words, which bind together inseparably the presence of the Holy Spirit and the gift of forgiveness, are referred to directly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But they have a much wider meaning. Those words remind us of the Christian vocation we are all have, to love and forgive as we have been loved and forgiven, in the world of today, which is often fiercely judgmental and vengeful.
Exegetical notes: Role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and of the Church: 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 Corinthians 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" (Romans 5:5). "No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:3). Moreover, we know that it is the Holy Spirit Who teaches us to pray (Romans 8:26). By the power of the Spirit, we also know the Lord Jesus through his Church. Pentecost Sunday is the birth date of the Church. It is the Holy Spirit who enlivens, enlightens, guides, and sanctifies the Church. The Psalm refrain for this Sunday 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 (John 20:21-23). The Holy Spirit both confirmed the apostles in Holy Orders as priests and empowered them to forgive sins by His power, a work which He continues today in each of our priests.
The action of the Holy Spirit in the daily lives of Christians: The Spirit is that Paraclete (a Greek word that is translated as Counselor, Comforter, Helper, Encourager, or Enabler), Who quietly works in us and through us every day behind the scenes in the basic activities of our lives and the lives of the people around us. He is there in all his fullness wherever people worship and pray in the name of Jesus. When we believe and trust in Jesus we have that Faith through the Holy Spirit’s work in us and the Holy Spirit filling us. The Holy Spirit leads us to turn away from our sinfulness and reassures us that we are still loved in spite of our sin and that Jesus died on a cross just for those moments when we rebel against God's way. He confronts us and urges us to take a good look at ourselves and where we are heading, to make a U-turn, to leave the old behind and try something new. He’s not afraid to challenge us and stretch us to go and do things for Christ – things we have never done before or ever imagined ourselves doing. He’s the One Who says to us, "Stop being so self-focussed. Stop looking into yourself all the time and being depressed by what you see, or fool yourself into thinking that what you see in yourself is enough to get you through! Look up, look away, look to Jesus and let him turn your around; let him take control!"
The Holy Spirit, the Helper is quietly at work: in the sincere concern of a friend for our health; in the generosity of those who give us so much help; in the inner strength we discover in times of crisis; in those moments when we admit that we have been wrong; in making a tough choice; in the resilience of people who face one bad thing after another; in times when we have dared to love even though it was hard to do so. The Holy Spirit, the Helper is quietly at work: in our taking on responsibilities that we once thought beyond us; in our refusing to let the greed of society take over our soul; in our giving thanks always even though times have been hard; in our rising above past failures and putting past hurts behind us; in our finding a central core of peace in the midst of turmoil; in an adult patiently teaching a child self-esteem and self-control; in the person sitting quietly beside a hospital bed; in a parent praying for a troubled son or daughter. The Spirit calls us to repentance, to turn our lives around; He calls us to Faith and to take up our cross and follow Jesus. However we look at the Holy Spirit, He is always our Helper, always helping us to be what God made us to be. He helps us to be truly great, namely, to be servants to one another. Likewise the Spirit promotes Jesus in our lives; He gathers us around the cross of Jesus; He changes our lives, helping us to be more patient and forgiving, to seek new beginnings in our relationships with one another and to let the power of God's love have the final say over the conflicts we get into. He is available to us every moment of every day as we face the choices between self-centeredness or being the God-centered people the Spirit has called us to be in Christ.
Life messages: 1) We need to permit the Holy Spirit to direct our lives: a) by constantly remembering and appreciating His Holy Presence within us, especially through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; b) by fortifying ourselves with the help of the Spirit against all types of temptations; c) by seeking the assistance of the Spirit in our thoughts, words, and deeds, and in the breaking of our evil habits; d) by listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the Bible and through the good counsel of others; e) by fervently praying for the gifts, fruits and charisms of the Holy Spirit; f) by renewing our lives through the anointing of the Holy Spirit; and g) by living our lives in the Holy Spirit as lives of commitment, of sacrifice, and of joy. We are called to love as Jesus loved, not counting the cost. As Saint Paul exhorts us, "Walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16, 25).
2) We need to cultivate the spirit of forgiveness. The feast of the Pentecost offers us the chance to look at the role which forgiveness should play in our dealings with others. Thus, we are challenged to examine our sense of compassion, patience, tolerance and magnanimity. Learning to forgive is a lifelong task, but the Holy Spirit is with us to make us agents of forgiveness. If we are prepared on this day of Pentecost to receive the Holy Spirit into our lives, we can have confidence that our lives will be marked by the Spirit of forgiveness.
3) We need to observe Pentecost every day. "It will always be Pentecost in the church," affirmed Blessed Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, on Pentecost Sunday 1978, "provided the Church lets the beauty of the Holy Spirit shine forth from her countenance. When the Church ceases to let her strength rest on the Power from above which Christ promised her and which he gave her on that day, and when the Church leans rather on the weak forces of the power or wealth of this earth, then the Church ceases to be newsworthy. The Church will be fair to see, perennially young, attractive in every age, as long as she is faithful to the Spirit that floods her and she reflects that Spirit through her communities, through her pastors, through her very life" (The Violence of Love, The Plough Pub. Co., Farmington, PA: 1998). [Archbishop Oscar Romero was beatified May 23, 2015 by Pope Francis.] Archbishop Romero’s declaration reminds us -- as does today’s Gospel -- that Pentecost is not just one day, but every day. Without breath, there is no life. Without the Spirit, the Church is a field of dry, dead bones. The Venerable Fulton J. Sheen once said about the Church, "Even though we are God's chosen people, we often behave more like God's frozen people--frozen in our prayer life, frozen in the way we relate with one another, frozen in the way we celebrate our Faith." [Bishop Fulton J. Sheen was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in June, 2012.] 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 repeat 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.”
[Cardinal Newman was beatified September 19, 2010 by Pope St. John Paul II.]
4) We need to be Spirit-filled Christians: Spirit-filled people acknowledge their weaknesses, ask for the strengthening, anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit every morning, ask for His forgiveness every evening and pass on that forgiveness to those who sin against them. Spirit-filled people are praying people. Paul encourages us, "Pray on every occasion as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray for all God's people" (Eph 6:18). They are praying and worshipping God in their families and parishes. They try to grow continually in their Faith, and they seek out every opportunity to discover Christ and what it means to be children of God. Spirit-filled people are people who allow the Spirit to change their lives through their daily reading of the Bible and the frequenting of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. Spirit-filled people speak words that heal, restore, make people happy and build people up instead of tearing them down. Spirit-filled people pass on the love of God to the people living around them by their acts of kindness, mercy and charity. Hence, let us pray for a spirit of love instead of hate, a spirit of helpfulness instead of non-cooperation, a spirit of generosity instead of greed and a spirit of gentleness instead of ruthlessness.
Introduction:Today’s readings show us the effects of the abiding presence of God in His Church and of His indwelling in each one of us. The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us how the Holy Spirit indwelling in the Church helped the apostles to solve a major doctrinal problem about the Gentiles becoming Christians, which shook the very foundation of the early Church. The second reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, describes the Church as the Heavenly Jerusalem, a city united in love, with the victorious Jesus residing in it and in each of its members replacing the holy presence of God in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Gospel passage reminds us that the Holy Spirit, abiding within us, is our teacher and the source of all peace. The passage offers a vision of hope. Jesus promises his followers that the Holy Spirit will come and instruct them in everything they need to know.
Life messages:1) Let us be aware of the abiding presence of God within us: We live in the New Covenant of Jesus, daily facing uncertainty, conflict, and temptations. It is the abiding presence of God within us that enables us to face the future with undying hope and true Christian courage. The Holy Spirit Whom the risen Lord asked His Father to send upon His Church prompts us to turn to His Holy Scriptures for support and encouragement, enables us to learn the Divine truths, and grants us His peace at all times. However, to be able to receive these gifts, it is necessary for us to spend a little time each day in personal prayer talking to God and listening to Him. We must deepen our relationship with Jesus, learn to get in touch with him, and sincerely love him. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, we will know His plan for our life and His solutions to whatever problems we face. We will be able to love our fellow human beings, and there will be a core of peace within us. The Holy Spirit teaches us through the Scriptures and preaching during the Holy Mass. Jesus loves us and comes to us in Communion. When the Mass is ended, we go forth in the peace of Christ -- all this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
2) We are not alone: One of the great social and ethical problems of our time is isolation. Today approximately 25% of all adults live alone. Spouses, parents and children often live as virtual strangers to one another. This is unfortunate because we never need to be alone. Jesus can always be present to us. He shares with us his joy and replaces the burden of our guilt with the freedom of forgiveness. He takes our grief and turns it into joy. We need only allow Jesus into our lives to be rid of this loneliness. Oneness with Jesus is the greatest gift we can give our children, our friends, or those who see no purpose in life. We can help to bring people to unity with Jesus, a unity that will change their lives. As we celebrate this Eucharistic meal, our Mass, let us celebrate in a special way the price Jesus paid for our redemption. May this Eucharistic celebration empower us to lead a true Life of the Spirit!
Easter VI (May 1): Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Rv 21:10-14, 22-23; Jn 14: 23-29
Anecdote: # 1: Helen Keller’s indwelling God? The story is told that after Helen Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan, had given her the names of physical objects in sign language, Miss Sullivan attempted to explain God and tapped out the symbols for the name "God." Much to Miss Sullivan’s surprise, Helen spelled back, "Thank you for telling me God’s name, Teacher, for He has touched me many times before." How could Helen Keller have known about God? Although she was blind and deaf, Helen Keller knew God, for God had shown Himself to her. That is “revelation” of an indwelling God about whom today’s Scripture readings speak.
# 2: Temples of the Triune God: St. Francis of Assisi was an ardent advocate of the doctrine of the indwelling of God in man. It enabled him to love every one equally whatever his status in life. One day he met a fellow who had no love for God. As they walked along they met a man who was blind and paralyzed. St. Francis asked the sightless cripple: “Tell me if I were to restore your eyesight and the use of your limbs, would you love me?” “Ah,” replied the beggar, “I would not only love you but I would be your slave for the rest of my life.” “See,” said Francis to the man who maintained that he could not love God, “this man would love me if I gave him his sight and his health. Why don’t you love God Who created you with eyesight and strong limbs?” That is what Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel. If we love him because of the countless blessings he has given us by “keeping his words” he will start dwelling within us in the company of his Father and the Holy Spirit, making us the temples of the Triune God. (Msgr. Arthur Tonne)
# 3: “The most unpromising boy in my class:" A schoolmaster in France was discouraged with one of his students. He wrote in his roll book concerning this student: "He is the smallest, the meekest, the most unpromising boy in my class." Half a century later, an election was held in France to select the greatest Frenchman. By popular vote, that meekest, smallest, most unpromising boy was chosen. His name? Louis Pasteur, the founder of modern medicine. When he was seventy-three, a national holiday was declared in his honor. He was too weak to attend the ceremony in Paris, so he sent a message to be read by his son. The message read: "The future belongs not to the conquerors but to the saviors of the world" [Edward Chinn, Wonder of Words (Lima, Ohio: C.S.S. Publishing Co., Inc., 1987), p. 18.] Louis Pasteur was driven by a great purpose. Your name and my name may never be a household word like Pasteur's, but we, too, can be driven by a great purpose. Christ can give us that purpose. But there is one thing more Christ gives us. He gives us the presence of the Holy Spirit as promised in today’s Gospel. A healthy sense of identity and a driving purpose are not enough in themselves. One thing more is needed. It is the in-dwelling Spirit of the living God.
Introduction:Today’s readings show us the effects of the abiding presence of God in His Church and of His indwelling in each one of us. The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us how the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the Church, helped the apostles to solve a major doctrinal problem, which shook the very foundation of the early Church. The second reading, taken from the Book of Revelation describes the Church as the Heavenly Jerusalem, a city united in love, with the victorious Jesus, residing in it and in each of its members replacing the holy presence of God in the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Gospel passage reminds us that the Holy Spirit abiding within us is our teacher and the Source of all peace. The passage offers a vision of hope. Jesus promises his followers that the Holy Spirit will come and instruct them in everything they need to know.
The first reading:Acts 15:1-2, 22-29: The first major controversy in the infant Church was about "what one do to be saved." For the first 15 to 20 years of the Christian era, all Jesus’ followers were Jewish. During that period, any Gentiles who wanted to become Jesus’ disciples were expected first to become Jews. They had to attend Sabbath synagogue services and keep the 613 Torah laws. This situation began to change when a few “liberal” Christian communities like the newly founded Church of the Gentiles in Antioch, began to admit Gentiles into their number without demanding that they first be converted to Judaism. Some of the Judeo-Christians from Judea and Jerusalem argued that the new Gentile converts must observe the Mosaic Law of circumcision, dietary regulations, purification rituals, etc. The issue couldn't be settled on a local level, although Paul and Barnabas tried that at first. Hence, they had to go to Jerusalem to consult the apostles. The apostles convened the first synod at Jerusalem and, with the clear leading of the Holy Spirit, decided that the Gentiles need not become Jews first, to be saved as Christians. The decision was momentous for two reasons. First, it marked a significant break of Christianity with Judaism. Second, it put the burden of salvation on God rather than on man. In other words, it is God’s love that saves us -- not prayers, sacrifices or keeping of the Law, which are only expressions of our gratitude to God. We see Saint Paul wrestling with this question, first in Galatians, then, in a more polished way, in Romans.
The second reading, Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23: The Book of Revelation was written to bolster the Faith of the persecuted early Christians. It describes the Church as the Heavenly Jerusalem, a city united in love, with the victorious Jesus residing in it. While the earthly Temple was often thought of as a reflection of the Heavenly Temple, there will be no Temple in the New Jerusalem because the Almighty and the Lamb will be the Temple. They will provide all the light that is necessary, so there will be no need for the sun or the moon. Ancient Jerusalem had long been for the Jews a token of God's presence with them. God had aided them in capturing and holding it, in making it their capital, in building the Temple there, and in returning to it after their exile in Babylon. Within the holiest chamber of the Jerusalem Temple, they kept the stone tablets of the Law, given by God, in an enthroned chest known as the Ark of the Covenant. God dwelt in a particular way in the space above the ark. This is, in the end, a metaphor for the Church, which is called to reveal to the human race God's presence among us.
Exegesis:John (Chapter 14) continues to recount Jesus’ farewell discourse after the Last Supper. Today's Gospel passage explains the doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Trinity in the human soul, and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
1) The abiding presence of God in the human soul: The promise of God's abiding presence must have been of great comfort to John's community who knew that the Temple in Jerusalem -- the symbol of God's presence with His people -- had been destroyed by the Roman army. In today's Gospel passage, Jesus tells us that the one thing in life which we can always trust is God’s presence. God inhabits our hearts so deeply and intimately that we become the visible dwelling place of God. His living and life-affirming Presence is always with us, yet '"hidden" in the very things we so often take for granted. Thus, we are invited to look for and encounter "God-with-us," yet "hidden" -- hidden in the person sitting next to us, in the words we speak and the songs we sing at worship.
2)Condition for the indwelling of the Holy Trinity: Jesus teaches us the condition for this indwelling of the Holy Trinity, namely, we have to show our love of God by keeping his word. And this keeping of his word will be facilitated by the Holy Spirit, God's Holy Breath.
3) The role of the Holy Spirit is twofold: a) to "teach" the disciples and b) to “remind" them of what Jesus has already taught them” (v. 26). Jesus affirms that even though He will no longer be visibly with them, he will continue to be present among them through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of truth will continue teaching them and helping them to understand and to build on what Jesus has already taught them. The Advocate will bring no new revelation because God has already revealed Himself in Jesus. But the Advocate will deepen their understanding of the revelation given by Jesus.
4)Jesus gives his followers four gifts: First, he gives them his love, which will enable them to keep his word. Next, he gives them the Holy Spirit, who will teach them everything they need to know. The Holy Spirit is the abiding love of God available to us, enabling us to accept the friendship of Jesus, while imitating Him, the Master. Third, he gives them His peace to strengthen them against fear in the face of trouble. Here "peace" is not just the absence of conflict, but also the far wider concept of shalom, the total well-being of the person and community. The promise of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will bring a peace that will quell their fears of the unfolding darkness ahead. “In Johannine language, peace, truth, light, life and joy are figurative terms reflecting different facets of the great gift that Jesus has brought from God to the world. 'Peace is my gift to you,' is another way of saying, 'I give them eternal life' (Jn 10:28) (Raymond E. Brown). The Holy Spirit is available as Comforter and Guide to those who believe in Jesus and follow in his way. The One God -- the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – is pure Love. This Love, the Triune God, comes and lives in us, takes up residence in us and lives in our body. When God’s love lives in us, and we live in Him, there is much more peace in our families, our Churches, our offices. Fourth, Jesus rewards them with the assurance of his second coming.
Life messages:1) Let us be aware of the abiding presence of God within us: We live in the New Covenant of Jesus, daily facing uncertainty, conflict, and temptations. It is the abiding presence of God within us that enables us to face the future with undying hope and true Christian courage. The Holy Spirit, sent upon the Church by the Father at the request of the risen Lord, prompts us to turn to His Holy Scriptures for support and encouragement, enables us to learn the Divine truths, and grants us His peace at all times. However, to be able to receive these gifts, it is necessary for us to spend a little time each day in personal prayer, talking to God and listening to Him. We must deepen our relationship with Jesus, learn to get in touch with him, and sincerely love him. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, we will know His plan for our life and His solutions to whatever problems we face. We will be able to love our fellow human beings, and there will be a core of peace within us. The Holy Spirit teaches us through the Scriptures and preaching during the Holy Mass as well as in our prayer and our private reading of Scripture. Jesus loves us and comes to us in Communion. When the Mass is ended, we go forth in the peace of Christ -- all this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
2) We are not alone: One of the great social and ethical problems of our time is isolation. Today approximately 25% of all adults live alone. Spouses, parents and children often live as virtual strangers to one another. This is unfortunate because we never need to be alone. Jesus can always be present to us. He shares with us his joy and replaces the burden of our guilt with the freedom of forgiveness. He takes our grief and turns it into joy. We need only allow Jesus into our lives to be rid of this loneliness. Oneness with Jesus is the greatest gift we can give our children, our friends, or those who see no purpose in life. We can help to bring people to unity with Jesus, a unity that will change their lives. As we celebrate this Eucharistic meal, our Mass, let us celebrate in a special way the price Jesus paid for our redemption. May this Eucharistic celebration empower us to lead a true Life in the Spirit.
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (email@example.com) and published in the CBCI Website.
Introduction: Today’s readings are about renewal and new things: The New Jerusalem, a new Heaven and a new earth, and a new commandment. The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, describes how the small Christian communities helped the work of renewal in their members by their agápe love, imitating the agápe love of Paul and Barnabas. The second reading, from the Book of Revelation, explains how God renews His Church, the New Jerusalem by being present in her members and in their parish communities and liturgical celebrations. "See, I am making all things new."Today’s Gospel passage gives us the secret of Christian renewal as the faithful practice of Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13: 35). Jesus has added a new element to the Old Testament command of love by teaching us that the true test of discipleship is to love other people in the same way that he has loved us, with sacrificial, unconditional, agápe love. Hence, the renewal of Christian life means a radical change of vision and a reordering of our priorities in life. Such a renewal brings us to embrace new attitudes, new values and new standards of relating to God, to other people and, indeed, to our whole environment.
Life messages:1) Let us learn to love ourselves so that we may learn to love each other. The old commandment (Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18) says: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We cannot learn to cherish others and care for them if we have never learned to do the same for ourselves. We live in a world that denies our basic human worth. How do we reclaim our basic worth? We can become whole and holy only when we learn to love ourselves properly, acknowledging the fact that we are children of God and that the Triune God resides in our souls, making our bodies the “temple of the Holy Spirit.”
2) Let us love others in our daily lives: We are asked to love as Jesus loved, in the ordinary course of our lives. We love others by responding to their everyday needs with love and compassion. We love others by comforting and protecting those who have experienced loss. We love others by serving others in every possible way no matter how small, seeing the face of Jesus in them. We love others by forgiving rather than condemning, by challenging rather than condoning. Finally, we love others by sacrificially sharing our time, talents and blessings with them.
3) Let us demonstrate our love for others in our gatherings and parish assemblies: When we are assembled as a religious or social community, we have an opportunity to demonstrate our love for one another. People must see Christians as people who interact with a love and concern for one another that reveals their strong love and appreciation for each other. They should see in us a quickness to appreciate and readiness to forgive, even as Christ has forgiven us.
Anecdote # 1: Catherine Lawes who transformed a notorious prison with love: In 1921, Lewis Lawes became the warden at Sing Sing Prison in New York state. No prison was tougher than Sing Sing during that time. But when Warden Lawes retired some 20 years later, that prison had become a humanitarian institution. Those who studied the system said credit for the change belonged to Lawes. But when he was asked about the transformation, here's what he said: "I owe it all to my wonderful wife, Catherine, who is buried outside the prison walls." Catherine Lawes was a young mother with three small children when her husband became the warden. Everybody warned her from the beginning that she should never set foot inside the prison walls, but that didn't stop Catherine! When the first prison basketball game was held, she went ... walking into the gym with her three beautiful kids, and she sat in the stands with the inmates. Her attitude was: "My husband and I are going to take care of these men and I believe they will take care of me! I don't have to worry." She insisted on getting acquainted with them and their records. She discovered one convicted murderer was blind so she paid him a visit. Holding his hand in hers she said, "Do you read Braille?" "What's Braille?" he asked. Then she taught him how to read. Years later he would weep in love for her. Later, Catherine found a deaf-mute in prison. She went to school to learn how to use sign language. Many said that Catherine Lawes was the body of Jesus that came alive again in Sing Sing from 1921 to 1937. Then, she was killed in a car accident. The next morning Lewis Lawes didn't come to work, so the acting warden took his place. It seemed almost instantly that the prison knew something was wrong. The following day, her body was resting in a casket in her home, three-quarters of a mile from the prison. As the acting warden took his early morning walk he was shocked to see a large crowd of the toughest, hardest-looking criminals gathered like a herd of animals at the main gate. He came closer and noted tears of grief and sadness. He knew how much they loved Catherine. He turned and faced the men, "All right, men, you can go. Just be sure and check in tonight!" Then he opened the gate and a parade of criminals walked, without a guard, the three-quarters of a mile to stand in line to pay their final respects to Catherine Lawes. And every one of them checked back in. Every one! They learned the commandment of love as practiced by Catherine. [Stories for the Heart compiled by Alice Gray (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1996), pp. 54-55.]
# 2: "Wow! I would like to be that kind of brother.” In the lovely book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, there's a story about a man who came out of his office one Christmas morning and found a little boy from a nearby project looking with great admiration at the man’s new vehicle. The little boy asked, "Does this car belong to you?" And the man said, "Yes. In fact my brother gave it to me for Christmas. I've just gotten it." With that, the little boy's eyes widened. He said, "You mean to say that somebody gave it to you? And you didn't have to pay anything for it?" And the man said, "That's right. My brother gave it to me as a gift." With that the little boy let out a long sigh and said, "Boy, I would really like..." And the man fully expected the boy to say, "I would like to have a brother like that, who would give me such a beautiful car," but instead the man was amazed when the little boy said, "Wow! I would like to be that kind of brother. I wish I could give that kind of car to my little brother." Somehow that child understood the secret of the “new commandment” of love, which Jesus gave to his apostles during his last discourse, as described in today’s Gospel: “Love one another as I have loved you.” True love consists, not in "getting" something from the lover, but in "giving" something to the loved one. The most familiar example of this type of love is a mother’s love for her child.
Introduction: Today’s readings are about new things: the New Jerusalem, a new Heaven and a new earth, and a new commandment. In the reading taken from the Book of Revelation, God tells us that His saving and healing work in the world is ongoing: "See, I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5a). The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, describes how the small Christian communities helped the work of renewal in their members by their agápe love, imitating the agápe love of Paul and Barnabas. The second reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, explains how God renews His Church by being present in her members and in their parish communities and liturgical celebrations. Today’s Gospel passage gives us the secret of Christian renewal as the faithful practice of Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13: 35). Jesus has added a new element to the Old Testament command of love by telling us that the true test of discipleship is to love other people in the same way that he has loved us.Hence, the renewal of Christian life means a radical change of vision and a reordering of our priorities in life. Such a renewal brings us to embrace new attitudes, new values and new standards of relating to God, to other people and, indeed, to our whole environment. For most of us, “renewal" is something that comes at different stages in our lives, each time bringing us to a deeper understanding, insight and commitment.
First reading: Acts 14: 21-27:Each Jewish synagogue served the Faith community year round as a) a House of Prayer (b) a House of Study and (c) a House of Assembly or Socialization. When Jesus came upon the scene, he also fostered the idea of small communities. He gathered a small group of twelve men to travel with him, to share prayer, ministry, Faith and values. He promised his followers that wherever two or three would gather in his name, he would be present among them. After his death and Resurrection, Jesus’ disciples tried to establish small Christian communities wherever they found a welcome. Paul and Barnabas knew that evangelization and Baptism were but the first steps in a lifelong process of turning to, and being transformed by, Christ. Hence, in their subsequent visits to Christian communities, they continued to instruct their converts. Already in the first Christian century, believers understood that catechesis is a cradle-to-grave endeavor. Paul and Barnabas also considered their mission an extension of the small community’s outreach to the world. Because of this they were accountable to the Christian community that had sent them. Therefore, they returned to relate all that they had done, careful to credit their success and the increasingly universal character of the Church to God, who “had opened the door of the Faith to the Gentiles” (v. 27). It is a welcome sight to see modern Christian communities, which are criticized for too much structural set-up,returning to their first century roots by establishing congregations that are a network of individual Christians, bound together in prayer, faith, mutual support, service, missionary outreach and accountability. We may not be called to the same kind of missionary activity as were Paul and Barnabas, but we must be as unselfish in our service of others as were these early Christians.
Second Reading, Revelation 21:1-5a: The Book of Revelation was written to bolster the faith of persecuted early Christians. Today's passage begins the final section of the book. The scene is really a vision of the new age of eschatological fulfillment inaugurated by the death and Resurrection of Jesus. The ancient city of Jerusalem had long been for the Jews a token of God's presence with them. God had aided them in capturing and holding it, in making it their capital, in building His Temple there, and in returning to it after their exile in Babylon. Within the holiest chamber of the Jerusalem Temple, they kept the stone tablets of the Law given to Moses and placed in a chest known as the Ark of the Covenant. God dwelt in a particular way above this chamber. These details give richness to the image of the “New Jerusalem" spoken of in Revelation. The image is also a metaphor for the Church, which is always called to reveal God's presence among us. Today’s passage from the Book of Revelation (21:3) gives us the assurance that “God’s dwelling is with the human race." It affirms the fact that God is present at every moment of human history, even those most desperate and threatening. Jesus' death and Resurrection have created a state in which a once-distant God is now present to every person and in every situation. Moreover, Jesus has given us the insight and power to transform everything in our lives by practicingagápe love in our interactions with people. It is through this constant love-centered interaction among us that the "new earth, the new Heaven and the new Jerusalem" can begin to come into existence - not at some unknown future time and in some other place but here and now.
Exegesis:Today's Gospel reading comes from Chapters 13:1--17:26 of St. John's Gospel, known as "The Last Discourse," which took place at the Last Supper, on the night before Jesus went to the Cross. In these chapters, Jesus has left urgentmessages for his Apostles and for us – things that he wanted to tell us before he went away.This farewell discourse is a powerful and intimate part of Jesus' teaching on the Christian concepts of glory and love.
The Christian concept of glory: The glorification mentioned in today’s passage refers, above all, “to the glory which Christ will receive once he is raised up on the cross (John 3:14; 12:32). St. John stresses that Christ's death is the beginning of his victory: his very crucifixion can be considered the first step in his Ascension to his Father. At the same time it is glorification of the Father, because Christ, by voluntarily accepting death out of love, as a supreme act of obedience to the Will of God, performs the greatest sacrifice man can offer for the glorification of God. The Father will respond to this glorification which Christ offers Him by glorifying Christ as Son of Man, that is, in his holy human nature, through his Resurrection and Ascension to God's right hand. Thus the glory which the Son gives the Father is at the same time glory for the Son.” (The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries). As Christ's disciples, we also will find our highest motivation and glory by identifying ourselves with Christ's obedience in our daily lives, especially by keeping his new commandment of sacrificial, unconditional and forgiving agápe love.
The new commandment: In the second part of Jesus’ farewell discourse, he gives his followers a new commandment: they must love one another as he has loved them. They would be known, not by the sign of the fish or even of the cross, but by their mutual love, the fruit of their conversion. Just as Solomon, in the story of the disputed child, was able to discern the identity of the true mother by her love, so will the world be able to identify the true disciples of Jesus by their love for one another. The command of Jesus is both new and old. It repeats the precept of Lev. 19:18 to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. What is new is that this love characterizes the new life inaugurated by Jesus and is proof of one’s love for God (1 Jn. 4:7). Jesus’ new commandment calls for love without limits, conditions, or prerequisites. This love opens our eyes to facts that we might otherwise overlook: that the poor in the world belong to our family; that those who live in despair may be saved by our care of them; that peace can come to the world through our efforts
The nature of Christian love:Jesus speaks ofagápe, a love that requires total commitment and trust. It is the kind of love with which God loves us, a love that should be the model of the love we have for others. This love should be more than just a warm feeling toward others; it should be a compassionate gift of ourselves to meet the spiritual and bodily needs of our brothers and sisters. Agápe implies a reaching out to others in a caring attitude for their wellbeing without expecting any favor in return. It is strong, positive, difficult, determined action. Jesus repeats the command to love one another three times, first explaining what it is ("a new commandment"), how it is to be applied ("as I have loved you"), and finally noting that this love would stand as the trademark of his disciples. Not only is this a new commandment, but also, Jesus teaches, it is the greatest. To love, in fact, is to know God—"Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8). The early Christians practiced this love literally. That is why Tertullian stated that the heathens held the Christian congregations in high regard: "See, how these Christians love one another." The fact is that Jesus' death and Resurrection served, not just as an example of how to love, but as the agent that actually freed us from our selfish love through His indwelling presence. It was this new kind of love which was manifested by the first disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45), and in the Churches in Macedonia (2 Cor 8:1-5). It was a love that was attentive to the poor and the needy. During his life on earth, Jesus Himself was lovingly present to those who were not at all lovable. He allowed himself to be moved with pity and compassion when he encountered those in need, and he was moved to tears in the midst of sadness. He openly shed tears at the tomb of Lazarus. He shed tears also over the city of Jerusalem. Even the anger that Jesus displayed in the Temple was rooted in love -- the love for His Father and for His Father's house. Jesus loved by serving others, by helping them and by healing others. His was a love that healed and built up, that challenged and inspired people. It was a deeply forgiving and sacrificial love. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (15: 13).
Life messages:1) Let us learn to love ourselves so that we may learn to love each other. The old commandment (Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18), says: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How do we learn to cherish others and care for them if we have never learned to do the same for ourselves? We live in a culture that devalues life and worships death—a culture in which people drug themselves into oblivion. Women and girls are willing to starve themselves to fit some unrealistic media image of beauty and worth. People and relationships are sacrificed on the altar of “workaholism.” How are we to love ourselves when we are told over and over again that we are unlovable? How do we reclaim our basic worth? We can become whole and holy only when we learn to love ourselves properly, acknowledging the presence of the Triune God in our souls, making our bodies the “temple of the Holy Spirit.”Only those persons who are fully convinced that they are themselves lovable because God has loved them and so brought them into being can reach out comfortably and unconditionally to love those who themselves cannot love but can only hurt and hate and destroy. It is through constant love-centered interaction with God and each other that the "new earth, the new Heaven and the new Jerusalem" can begin to come into existence.
2) Let us love others in our daily lives: We are asked to love as Jesus loved, in the ordinary course of our lives. This means that we should love others by allowing ourselves to be moved with pity for them. We love others by responding to their everyday needs. We can show love by materially sharing with those who have less. We love others by comforting and protecting those who have experienced loss. We love others by serving others in every possible way no matter how small. We love others by forgiving rather than condemning, by challenging rather than condoning. We love others by responding to the call of God in our lives and by walking in the footsteps of Jesus. We love others by making sacrifices for them. This is how the world will know that we are the Disciples of Christ.
3) Let us demonstrate our love for others: When we are assembled and have guests, we have an opportunity to demonstrate our love for another. They must see Christians as people who are glad to see one another, who are willing to take the time to visit with each other and who know each other's names. Our assemblies may be the only time some guests have the opportunity to see Christians interact with love and concern for one another, an interaction that reveals the strong love and appreciation for one another which the members have. Christians will often sin against one another and offend one another. But others should see in us a quickness to forgive, even as Christ has forgiven us.
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (firstname.lastname@example.org) and published in the CBCI Website.