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Deacon-structing: All Souls

Adoration-of-Lamb

Yesterday we looked at the Book of Revelation and how it is a powerful reminder to those who too easily compromise their beliefs. This message is clear right from the beginning of the book with the letters to the seven churches.

After the letters to the seven churches, and after the first vision of the Throne Room of Heaven (Rev 4:5), we arrive at Chapter 5. There is a scroll and no one can open it, except the Lion of Judah (Rev 5:5). Anyone of Jewish origin at the time would have recognized the Lion of Judah to be the Messiah. But when John turns to see the Lion, all he sees is a Lamb (Rev 5:6). Again, I think that most Christians at the time would know who “the Lamb” is. The Lamb proceeds to open the seal and there are seven seals and the opening of each seal sets in motion a series of events that are described (Rev 6).

Just before the seventh seal is opened, we have this heavenly interlude, which is the first reading on the Solemnity of All Saints. All of the sudden we hear about these “servants” of God who will be marked with a seal on their foreheads (Rev 7:3). This is an echo of Ezekiel 9:4-8 where there is a similar marking to spare a group of people from death (not unlike the marking with the blood of the lamb on the doorposts for Passover in Exodus 12:7, 13). In Ezekiel, they are marked with the Hebrew letter “Tau”, which is very similar to the shape of a cross. It is possible that for early Christians, this comment in Revelation would have been clearly referring to those who are marked with the Sign of the Cross.

Then John hears the number of those sealed: 144,000 (Rev 7-4). That’s 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Those verses are usually omitted in yesterday’s reading, but verses 5-8 actually tell us from which tribes these people come. The twelve tribes are the army of Israel. That was the promise to Abraham. It’s possible that the number 1000 merely meant infinite, and so 12 x 12 x 1000 just meant to say an infinite number of the descendants of the tribes of Israel. It could also be 12 x 12 because there are twelve tribes of Israel and twelve apostles. Later on in Revelation we hear about the New Jerusalem: twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes (Rev 21:12) and twelve courses of stones on which are inscribed the names of the twelve apostles (Rev 21:14). At any rate, it doesn’t mean that it’s a literal number of 144,000; it’s a prefigured number.

We know it’s not a literal number because John never sees 144,000 people. He hears about them and then he looks. What does he see? Not 144,000 people, but a great multitude that no one could count (Rev 7:9*). They are not from Israel, but from every nation. Not from just the twelve tribes, but from every tribe, and not just those who speak Hebrew, but from every language.

And who are these countless people? They are the saints. They are standing before the throne. They are robed in white -– white is the colour of joy and victory. (Note how many times this colour is mentioned in Revelation.) They have palm branches (an echo of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem?) and they are singing, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And then the angels (that we’ve been told are myriad) and the twelve elders (the apostles, perhaps?) and the four living creatures respond with seven acclamations (again the number seven): “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever!”

A very similar scene was described in Revelation 5:12. This is what happens in Heaven. This is the heavenly liturgy. And we are told who these people are: they are the ones who’ve come out of the great ordeal (Rev 7:14). It’s easy to conclude that these are the martyrs, but since they’ve “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb,” it could also be that they are merely all who have been baptized — all who have died in Christ (Rev.14:13); Those whose names are written in the book of Life (Rev 21:27); Those who are witnesses (Rev 6:9); Those who’ve been ransomed (Rev. 14:34);  Those for whom the Lamb was slain (Rev 5:9). That’s all of us. That’s all souls.

And this is good news. Seats are not limited in Heaven. Everyone is welcome. Later on we hear about these “servants” of God — the great and small (Rev 19:5). That means all can be servants of God. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, young or old, male or female. It doesn’t matter if you’re struggling with living a virtuous life. And all of them are blessed and invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). They are blessed! No one is perfect, but everyone is created to be blessed, to be holy. Everyone is created for sainthood.

There is one last tip that you need to know when reading the Book of Revelation. It could be read as a chronology of events — all these things happen sequentially. But perhaps a better way to read it is as if all these things happen simultaneously: the seals are opened at the same time that the plagues are sent. The letters are read as all of this is taking place. All the while, around the throne is the Lamb, who is God, surrounded by the twelve elders, the four living creatures and the myriads of angels and the countless multitudes of people like you and me, who worship continuously. And maybe this doesn’t describe what is to take place in the future for us, but something that happens right here, right now. The heavenly banquet is right here, right now. The wedding feast of the Lamb is right here, right now.

Every time we gather around the Eucharistic banquet, we gather around the throne, with all the souls in purgatory, with the multitudes from every nation, every tribe and people and language, and we say, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And every time we do so at Mass, the twelve elders, the four creatures and the myriads of angels fall on their faces and worship God singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”


* Note: In the same way that John hears about the Lion of Judah and then sees the Lamb, here he hears about the 144,000, but he sees a multitude that no one can count. What he hears is the promise; what he sees is the fulfillment. One is not a replacement of the former, but rather a reinterpretation. Some scholars suggest that these two groups (the 144,000 and the great multitude) are a single group, which John sees from a different perspective.

 

Barnabas and Paul: Contentious Collaborators

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Today’s memorial of St. Barnabas presents us with one of Paul’s great collaborators who played a very significant role in the initial evangelization.  I would like to share with you some reflections about these two men and apostles.  First some thoughts from today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles 11:21b-26; 12:1-3. Barnabas means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36) or “son of consolation”. He was a Levite Jew and a native of Cyprus.  Having settled in Jerusalem, he was one of the first to embrace Christianity after the Lord’s Resurrection. With great generosity, he sold a field, which belonged to him, and gave the money to the Apostles for the Church’s needs (Acts 4:37).

Barnabas spent a whole year with Paul in Antioch, dedicated to the evangelization of that important city.  In the Antioch Church, Barnabas was known as a prophet and teacher (cf. Acts 13:1).  At the time of the first conversions of the Gentiles, Barnabas realized that Saul’s hour had come. As Paul had retired to his native town of Tarsus, he went there to look for him. We could say that Barnabas was in some way Paul’s agent!  He presented Paul back to the Church as the great apostle to the Gentiles.

The Church of Antioch then sent Barnabas on a mission with Paul, which became known as the Apostle’s first missionary journey. In fact, it was Barnabas’ missionary voyage since Barnabas was in charge and Paul had joined him as a collaborator as they visited the regions of Cyprus and Central and Southern Anatolia in present-day Turkey, along with the cities of Attalia, Perga, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.  A wonderful friendship between Paul and Barnabas was born on that journey. Later on, when a second campaign was planned, Barnabas proposed taking Mark as a helper, but Paul resisted the idea.

The New Testament indicates that a “sharp contention” developed between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). They could not reach an agreement, and so they split up. As far as we know, these two remarkable men never saw one another again.  It is a sad story that can teach us much.  Who was right – Paul or Barnabas?  We simply don’t know. Some argue that Paul was just too stubborn to give in. We read that the church in Antioch “commended” Paul and Silas (Acts 15:40), but nothing is said about any commendation of Barnabas and Mark.

This dissension between Paul and Barnabas was not over a doctrinal issue. The rupture involved a personal dispute based upon a judgment call. To their credit, neither Paul nor Barnabas let the conflict distract them from their respective efforts of spreading the Gospel.  Even in our day, there will always be times when men and women of good will disagree in matters of opinion.  But we must agree to disagree in charity, especially if we are ministers of the Gospel.

What can we learn from these stories of Paul and Barnabas?  First of all we know what they had in common.  They were in love with the same man: Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of the world. Despite their human frailty and because of it, they kept focused on doing the will of Christ.  They took the Gospel message to the ends of the earth.

Even in the midst of human tensions and wounded friendships, because they loved the Lord and were loved by the Lord, even more work was accomplished for the sake of the Gospel because of the manner in which their disagreements and frailty were handled.  We learn from them that there can be disputes, disagreements, controversies and sinfulness among the saints! Paul and Barnabas are people like us who often complicate life because of our frailty and problems.  Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness.

The fact that the personal conflict of these two apostles are openly displayed on the pages of the New Testament is evidence that the Holy Spirit guided the evangelists in writing the story of the early Church. No account, however irrelevant it may appear to be, is without importance. They offer us lessons to be mastered, not only about the New Testament, but also about our own personal histories. St. Paul and St. Barnabas, pray for us.

Evangelizing our Elizabeths, Propelled to the Peripheries

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“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’” (Lk. 1:39-45)

The story of the Visitation, celebrated each year on May 31st, presents us with awesome insight into the life and mission of the Christian. Mary, having received in her womb the mystery of the Word made flesh, does not contain this incredible mystery, she does not withdraw for nine months of quiet solitude and private contemplation — rather she sets off “with haste,” propelled by the Holy Spirit to radiate the reality of Jesus present in our midst! Her encounter with God leads her to encounter with others, so that everyone may experience the joy of knowing God in Jesus Christ. The Visitation springs forth as Mary’s response to receiving Jesus in the Incarnation: it is a response that calls her outwards, to the outskirts, to the hill country, to bear “good news” and go out in joyful love and service.

Mary and ElizabethThis is the essence of evangelization: being transformed so that God can use us to transform others. It means sharing the Gospel — “good news” — with those around us, and especially those most in need. Like Mary, our experience of Jesus cannot be lived in isolation, it must overflow and be contagious! Our relationship with God is meant to be lived joyfully in the concrete circumstances of our daily lives and everyday encounters.

In the days prior to the conclave in which he was elected pope, Pope Francis — then Cardinal Bergoglio — spoke the following words about the nature of evangelization:

“Evangelizing pre-supposes a desire in the Church to come out of herself. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all misery.”

This desire is not just for the “Church” in some vague or general sense, but for all of us! We are called to have this desire to come out of ourselves, go to the peripheries and follow the spectacular example Pope Francis has given us since speaking these powerful words. As we celebrate the Visitation, let us ask ourselves: What are the peripheries and hill countries in our own lives? Who are our Elizabeths and what are we doing to bring them the joy of Jesus and his Good News? Our family, relatives, and friends certainly; but also the strangers sit beside on the subway, the panhandler asking for change on the street, the annoying neighbour, the difficult coworker. All of these are the Elizabeths of our day, what are we doing to bring them the joy we have encountered in Christ?

As the Church marks this great moment in the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Elizabeth, may our fears, reticence, and desire for convenience depart, and may we instead embark on a mission of living our Christian joy contagiously. We know that it is the Lord who inspires us to this mission, who accompanies us always, and who will lead us where we are to go. And so today may we too “set out and go with haste” to the hill countries, to bring Christ, to bring the Good News of the Gospel, to live it with joy. In short, may we evangelize.

(Texts courtesy of Oremus Bible Browser and Vatican Radio; Photos courtesy of life.remixed and capfrans.blogspot)

Ambassadors for Christ

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Ash Wednesday – March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday makes one’s faith very visible and public. Not offensively — but also not easy to miss — the sign of our faith shows up in the office, at school, on buses and subways, in lines at the grocery store, or at the gas station. This small symbol of the cross of ashes on our foreheads expresses an important truth: Faith doesn’t happen only at church, but lives among us, in public, every day.

The Scripture texts for the liturgy of Ash Wednesday do not only remind us of sin and death; they are a loud call to overcome sin, to be converted to Christ and the Gospel and to prepare for the new life of Easter. I would like to offer some reflections on what it means to be reconciled to God, to be an “Ambassador for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21), and the meaning of authentic piety and devotion as outlined in Matthew’s Gospel text for today’s liturgy (6:1-6, 16-18). I will conclude with some thoughts on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s profound 2010 Lenten reflection on God’s justice.

Be reconciled to God!

Today — the liturgy tells us — is the “acceptable time” for our reconciliation with God. Reconciliation is a gratuitous gift of God. Reconciliation must involve everyone: individuals, families, nations and peoples.

In the passage from 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, Paul encouraged the fractious Corinthian community to recognize that God has “reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (5:18). Paul speaks of “the new creation in Christ” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) and goes on to tell us: “God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding individuals’ faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that we are reconciled. […] The appeal we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). [Read more…]

Barnabas and Paul: Contentious Collaborators

PB cropped

Today’s memorial of St. Barnabas presents us with one of Paul’s great collaborators who played a very significant role in the initial evangelization.  I would like to share with you some reflections about these two men and apostles.  First some thoughts from today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles 11:21b-26; 12:1-3. Barnabas means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36) or “son of consolation”. He was a Levite Jew and a native of Cyprus.  Having settled in Jerusalem, he was one of the first to embrace Christianity after the Lord’s Resurrection. With great generosity, he sold a field, which belonged to him, and gave the money to the Apostles for the Church’s needs (Acts 4:37).

Barnabas spent a whole year with Paul in Antioch, dedicated to the evangelization of that important city.  In the Antioch Church, Barnabas was known as a prophet and teacher (cf. Acts 13:1).  At the time of the first conversions of the Gentiles, Barnabas realized that Saul’s hour had come. As Paul had retired to his native town of Tarsus, he went there to look for him. We could say that Barnabas was in some way Paul’s agent!  He presented Paul back to the Church as the great apostle to the Gentiles.

The Church of Antioch then sent Barnabas on a mission with Paul, which became known as the Apostle’s first missionary journey. In fact, it was Barnabas’ missionary voyage since Barnabas was in charge and Paul had joined him as a collaborator as they visited the regions of Cyprus and Central and Southern Anatolia in present-day Turkey, along with the cities of Attalia, Perga, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.  A wonderful friendship between Paul and Barnabas was born on that journey. Later on, when a second campaign was planned, Barnabas proposed taking Mark as a helper, but Paul resisted the idea.

The New Testament indicates that a “sharp contention” developed between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). They could not reach an agreement, and so they split up. As far as we know, these two remarkable men never saw one another again.  It is a sad story that can teach us much.  Who was right – Paul or Barnabas?  We simply don’t know. Some argue that Paul was just too stubborn to give in. We read that the church in Antioch “commended” Paul and Silas (Acts 15:40), but nothing is said about any commendation of Barnabas and Mark.

This dissension between Paul and Barnabas was not over a doctrinal issue. The rupture involved a personal dispute based upon a judgment call. To their credit, neither Paul nor Barnabas let the conflict distract them from their respective efforts of spreading the Gospel.  Even in our day, there will always be times when men and women of good will disagree in matters of opinion.  But we must agree to disagree in charity, especially if we are ministers of the Gospel.

What can we learn from these stories of Paul and Barnabas?  First of all we know what they had in common.  They were in love with the same man: Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of the world. Despite their human frailty and because of it, they kept focused on doing the will of Christ.  They took the Gospel message to the ends of the earth.

Even in the midst of human tensions and wounded friendships, because they loved the Lord and were loved by the Lord, even more work was accomplished for the sake of the Gospel because of the manner in which their disagreements and frailty were handled.  We learn from them that there can be disputes, disagreements, controversies and sinfulness among the saints! Paul and Barnabas are people like us who often complicate life because of our frailty and problems.  Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness.

The fact that the personal conflict of these two apostles are openly displayed on the pages of the New Testament is evidence that the Holy Spirit guided the evangelists in writing the story of the early Church. No account, however irrelevant it may appear to be, is without importance. They offer us lessons to be mastered, not only about the New Testament, but also about our own personal histories. St. Paul and St. Barnabas, pray for us.

The Living Heart of Jesus: The Incarnate Love of God

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The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus presents us with the opportunity to reflect on the relevance of this venerable symbol in our daily lives. The image of the Sacred Heart is never mentioned as such in Sacred Scripture, but its meaning can be found spanning each page from Genesis to Revelation.

Today’s readings point to this fact and frame the Sacred Heart in terms of two central themes: love and closeness. They speak of the love of God as a shepherdly love, an involved love, a powerful love; a love that is up-close and personal, that seeks out the lost, heals the afflicted, strengthens the contrite, upholds the humble, and calls men and women of every time and place to be all they can be, to love in return, to have life in abundance: to be holy. We see here that the image of the Sacred Heart is intimately linked with the image of the Good Shepherd. The first reading, where the God of Israel Testament speaks to Ezekiel of how He Himself will tend the sheep of His flock; how He will “gather them from foreign lands” and “lead them out from among the peoples,” pasturing them on verdant mountains, that they may lie down and be at rest. These words are echoed in today’s psalm, the renowned and beloved Psalm 23, which conveys the profound peace of a sheep of God’s flock. The Gospel for today’s solemnity extends this theme and gives it its full depth. It is the story of the lost sheep; but above all, it is the story of the Shepherd, who leaves the ninety nine in search of the one.

This is precisely what the Church celebrates today, a love so profound, so immediate but immense that it defies human reason. It goes beyond any logical constructs and extends beyond our faculty to comprehend. The Sacred Heart is the symbol of God’s incarnate love, a shepherdly love, a dynamic love: a love brought to life by the Incarnation of Jesus. In Christ we realize that our God cares for His sheep not in a general or indifferent way, like a rich uncle who sends cheques but never calls or comes to visit. His love isn’t just an overall affection for humanity. Rather it is an intense solicitude for each and every sheep, each and every one of us that desires relationship and intimacy. God so desires this intimate relationship that He willed to humble Himself and enter the human drama. He chose not just to admire the sheep from afar, but to dwell in there midst, to smell as they smell and devote His entire life and livelihood to their care. In this way the Incarnation is the ultimate seal of God’s desire to be close; the ultimate sign that God’s love reaches out to us, invites us, draws us—personally. There is no red tape between us and the love of God. For by the coming of Christ and the wounds of His death all boundaries and all barriers have been torn asunder. Thus it is appropriate that Incarnation and Passion both feature in the depiction of the Sacred Heart. The heart depicted is a human heart, a fleshly heart, a living heart; but it is also a pierced heart, a bleeding heart, encircled with a crown of thorns and punctured by the blade of a spear.

Jesus’ heart reaches out for us, it goes out in search of us; it pines after us as a shepherd for a lost sheep. Let us take a moment today to imagine ourselves as that lost sheep of Luke’s Gospel. As a sheep loved by the Shepherd, whose loving heart follows after it wherever it may go always seeking the good of His fold, gathering them together in love, and leading them in peace by His gentle voice. Each of us is the lost sheep: as individuals, as communities, and as a human family. God seeks to reconcile us to Himself and loves us so much that He sends Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in search of us, to bear us on His shoulders and bring us back rejoicing to the eternal pastures of the New Jerusalem.

And so today let us take to heart the rich meaning of this ancient devotion; let us allow ourselves to be struck by the love of Christ. In the ordinary moments of our lives, the simple as much as the spectacular, the majestic as well as the mundane, may we be transformed by the knowledge that we are loved and respond with gratitude to love in return. May our hearts beat along with the heart of Jesus, be conformed unto His, and in doing so become channels of His intense, intimate love for each person; that our hearts too may be afire with the incarnate love of God.

[The readings for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart are Ez. 34:11-16; Ps. 23; Rom. 5:5b-11; Lk. 15:3-7.]

Evangelizing the Elizabeths, Propelled to the Peripheries

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“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’” (Lk. 1:39-45)

The story of the Visitation presents us with profound insight into the life and mission of the Christian. Mary, having received in her womb the mystery of the Word made flesh, does not contain this awesome mystery, she does not withdraw for nine months of solitude and private contemplation. Rather she sets off “with haste,” propelled by the Holy Spirit to radiate the reality of Emmanuel, God with us. Encountering God leads her to encounter others so that they too may experience the joy of knowing God in Jesus Christ. In this way the Visitation is Mary’s response to the Incarnation, the indwelling of God: a response that calls her outwards, to the outskirts, to the hill country.

This is the power of the Word of God; a word that is potent, vibrant, and alive. It is a Word that pushes us outside ourselves, propelling us to set out towards others in a spirit of service, humility, and charity. This is the essence of evangelization, being transformed and being an agent of transformation in the lives of others. Like Mary, our radical experience of Jesus cannot be stifled; our relationship with Christ must be lived in the context of the world and in relationship with others. Not so that it may be diluted but so that it might bear fruit. This is the mission of the Church, the Body of Christ, to go out from Jesus, immersed in his presence that we might bear this presence to others. As Catholics, we receive the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and are sent forth at the end of each liturgy to go, to love, to serve; to carry Christ with us into the concrete circumstances of our lives.

In the General Congregations that preceded the recent conclave, then Cardinal Bergoglio spoke the following words on the nature of the New Evangelization:

“Evangelizing pre-supposes a desire in the Church to come out of herself. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all misery.”

This mission to the peripheries, the “periferia” in Italian is precisely what Mary shows us by her Visitation to Elizabeth. Let us ask ourselves, what are the peripheries and hill countries of our lives? Who are our Elizabeths and what are we doing to bring them Jesus? Certainly our own family and relatives, our friends and coworkers; but also the stranger we pass on the street, the neighbour we wish we didn’t have, the people we have to go out of our way in order to appreciate, and the people who cause us to “travel” some distance in order to visit. To all of these we must bring the gift of Jesus; that their hearts like Elizabeth may exclaim with wonder, and their souls like John the Baptist leap for joy. The Church like the Blessed Mother, and we as its members, must be the mysterium lunae, the moon that radiates not its own light but the light of Christ. His presence, his light, and his love we must bear to our brothers and sisters and evangelize in such a way that we are driven to the peripheries, where we encounter God in the Elizabeths and bring the Elizabeths to encounter God. Let us never fear or be reticent, for it is the Lord who draws us to this mission, accompanies us on it, and shows us where we are to go. On this feast of the Visitation, may we too “set out and go with haste” to the hill countries to reach out, to bring Christ, to bring joy, and be propelled by the presence of God’s Word alive in our midst; in short, to evangelize.

(Text courtesy of Oremus Bible Browser and Vatican Radio; Photo courtesy of life.remixed)

I am with you always, to the end of the age

trinity-rublev
A reflection on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year B
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33 “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen as his heritage”
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.” That has got to be one of my favourite passages of scripture. God is with us always, to the end of the age. That’s good news. If you won’t remember anything that I am going to write, at least remember that.

My name is Pedro, which is Peter in Spanish, and growing up, I was always very proud that my patron was the first Pope, St. Peter. But my middle name is Emmanuel – which means “God with us” – now that’s a special name. I was even more proud of my middle name. I love the idea that God is with us. Our God is not a God who is far away, sitting on a throne in heaven somewhere; our God is a God with us. And that is also good news! Today we celebrate a great feast: Today is the solemnity of the most Holy Trinity. Trinity is a fancy word that means “three” and it refers to the reality that our God is one God, three persons.

God is one God, three persons. It’s not three gods. He’s ONE God: “Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is one” (Deut 6:4), three persons. It’s not three aspects of God, or three qualities of God: Creator, redeemer, sanctifier. No, it’s three PERSONS: One God, three persons. It’s hard to understand. That’s why we call it a mystery. But it’s not a mystery like a murder mystery, an Agatha Christie or Scooby Doo mystery that we have to solve. No, when the Church talks about mystery, it means something that’s so amazing, so wonderful that it cannot be fully described in human terms. It cannot be fully understood. It can be partially understood, but never fully. And we use that word, ‘mysteries’ a lot. At Mass you’ll hear the priest speak of “these mysteries that we celebrate”. We also proclaim, “the mystery of faith”. We pray the “Mysteries of the Rosary” and in fact, the word in Greek for sacraments is “mysteries.” So we use that word a lot. And we have a few mysteries: The mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of the Cross… and the mystery of the Trinity is probably the hardest one to understand: ONE God; THREE persons. But we don’t have to understand it. Still, I think that looking at the Trinity tells us something about the reality of God, about the nature of God, which in turn, because we are made in the image and likeness of God, tells us something about our nature as created human beings.

In the first reading, Moses uses several ways to describe God. There are no words to describe God fully, but throughout scripture people use different images to describe God. Moses describes him in terms of what God does: God is creator, God speaks out of a fire, God saves the nation of Israel. By showing what God has done, Moses shows how awesome God is. But God is not just a God who does. God is a being. God is not a ‘doing’. God is a being and because we are created in the image of God, it means that we are beings as well. We are not human ‘doings’, we are human beings. We are not defined by what we do or by what we are capable of doing; we get our dignity by who we are: Created beings, in the image and likeness of God. But God is also not just a force of nature, or THE FORCE, like in Star Wars. God is not a life force or energy, God is not a concept (despite what John Lennon says); God is a person. You can have a personal relationship with God. God is a person and we too are persons. We are persons from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. No matter what you have done, no matter whether you are in a coma, or whether you suffer from an intellectual disability, whether you are conscious or not, you are a person. But God is not just A person; God is THREE persons.

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St. Jerome Emiliani: Place your trust in God alone

Jerome Emiliani
A few weeks ago, during a homily, I suggested that we should take the opportunity of this Year of Faith to do what the Holy Father has proposed: That we learn about our Faith; that we live our Faith and that we share our Faith. Soon after, I thought, ‘why don’t we make this a challenge?’  And so began the Great Year of Faith Challenge (#faithchallenge). Every week starting this week I will be posting a new challenge, to help us learn about, live and share our faith. You can visit my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter to learn more and to check out the weekly challenges.

The first challenge has to do with finding a quote from a Saint and using it to pray with every day. And so I have spent the week with a keen awareness of what a Saint may have said – but with a new sensitivity. It is no longer, “that’s a nice quote,” but “these are truly words to live by.”
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Three important priestly saints


Throughout this past week in the daily gospel readings for mass, we have been working our way through Chapter 17 of St. John’s Gospel, a passage known as Jesus’ great priestly prayer. Quite providentially, these readings bring us up to the feast days of three important “priestly” saints: St. Bede the Venerable, Pope St. GregoryVII, and St. Philip Neri. In reflecting on the lives of these three saints, we are able to see modeled the holiness to which we are all called, as well as the three-fold office of Christ’s priesthood (Priest, Prophet and King) lived out concretely.

St. Bede the Venerable (feast day: May 25) is known as a great historian whose writings have contributed so much to the Church that he is recognized as a Doctor of the Church. His work Ecclesiastical History of the English People is regarded as the foremost source for the history of the Catholic Church in England. It is not only because of his writings, however, that the Church venerates Bede; rather, his ascetic and pious lifestyle makes him a model of virtuous living. St. Bede the Venerable captures for us Christ as priest.
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