The Gospel of Matthew in today’s reading is concerned with the necessity of reaching and living in the highest of love, that is the love of God. He helps us to let go by not holding so tightly the natural love of family in which we are born.
Really Jesus gives the list of tendency we have to limit ourselves and our acceptance of others.
Stopping our growth in love:
In our love of father or mother ‘more than’;
In our love of son or daughter ‘more than’; and
In our self-love by avoiding the costs of discipleship of loving others.
Letting Go Frees Up Our Hands
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
The amazing expanse that is your life is beyond the known and comfortable. Jesus is describing the willingness to lose one’s self-limiting importance and capacity and cleaving to Jesus so you will find the infinite graces of the life that is lived Christ.
Making no mistake here that this homily is not about a self-help program or merely about personal growth for the sake of growth.
This is about the relational growth in the person of Jesus.
Jesus prescribes that we receive him and in receiving him we receive the Father. There are many ways in which to receive Jesus especially in the Eucharistic gift that is Holy Communion.
Here though Jesus outlines the two basic ways to receive him, the reward hinted at and the outcome that comes from that.
A prophet and a prophet’s reward. The reward of receiving the prophet is what the prophet offers. A prophet speaks in the name of God. A prophet prescribes knowing and understanding God and relational reality of God. Jesus being a Prophet rewards us with knowing and trusting the Father. This is Faith.
A righteous man and a righteous man’s reward. The reward of receiving a righteous man is the gift of being in right relation with God and Man. Jesus being a righteous man through his behavior brings us the hopeful expectation that righteousness brings. Acting righteous with others is the very essence of hope, hope for oneself, hope for the other, hope for peace with God and peace with your fellow man. This is Hope.
Ah, the charity of Jesus. It is always described by inference of the natural spiritual outflow of Faith and Hope. Faith and Hope yield Charity founded in the love of the Lord.
Saint Jerome said this about the cold water: That none should say, I am poor and therefore cannot be hospitable, He takes away even this plea by the instance of a cup of cold water, given with good will. He says cold water, because in hot, poverty and lack of fuel might be pleaded. And whosoever shall give to drink to one of the least of these a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.
This is Love (Charity).
So by now you have guessed I am speaking to the rewards of the gifts of the theological virtues. Faith, hope and Love (Charity). Jesus in his most gentle way is making an example of his life in these virtues whos power comes from the Father through the Holy Spirit.
Death-Life or Life beyond Death
Saint Paul describes the letting go in these terms: because of Christ’s ultimate victory over death… Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
So a life limited as described in the beginning (the list I wrote above), is a death-life and holding firm in faith and hope we can life, the Life beyond the worries of death.
Greetings on this the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: JER 20:10-13; PS 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35; ROM 5:12-15; MT 10:26-33
Please be forewarned this is a hard hitting homily.
A good priest friend of mine celebrated his 55th year ordained a priest. As part of his reflection on the year completed and the year to come he said, ‘Next year I will be holy’.
Knowing him in excess of 20 years I recognized the twin message. A bit of humor at his own expense and a recognition that sanctification is a lifelong process. It requires all the disciplines of the Church recommended for priests as well as the prayers of the faithful to help priests on their path of sanctification. In fact, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus includes the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. Maybe I should have prayed harder for him in 2020.
Never the less, he didn’t fail to examine his conscience as a part of his annual memorial of going prostrate and the kissing of the marble before the Lord.
Pitfalls and pratfalls abound in life. Jeremiah faced the constant possibility of any and all ‘misstep of mine’ would be the vector by which the attacks come. Sure enough this is a common reality that all of us should be able to relate to his situation in the ordinary sense of it. Office politics is a common phrase for it. Palace intrigue is the arena Jeremiah operated in the ancient Washington, DC.
In his case he was urging behavior in opposition to the popular sentiment. A stiffened necks and disobedient hearts had moved them to despise the warnings of Jeremiah and to look for any opportunity to destroy him.
Jeremiah was given a very difficult task about speaking the truth. Simply, ‘If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece. (Jer 15:19b). Not an easy task. Every prophet must master his desire to grow angry with a righteous anger that tramples the violator and the prophet together. Jesus instead insists upon being meek and humble.
Precious and Vile Time
We live in a precious and vile time. A time of contradiction and a fear that transcends viruses and bad governance but rather a fear of our own desires and the truth about those desires. The truth that exposes and reveals the inner fears we possess, rather, that possess us.
In modern language we call it rationalization.
Curses and Curses
(No names, true stories).
I have many acquaintances on LinkedIn from a long career in business. I also have many acquaintances of people I worshiped with in the Church. Both groups are on LinkedIn.
Years ago when our daughters were young my little girl developed some foul language. She taught another girl the same. Not the finest moment in the life but a story worth telling.
The parents of the second girl came to my home and retold the story as they know it. Fair enough I insisted my daughter listen to the complaint as it is in fact serious business to use foul language.
But things turned ugly. The father grew angrier and angrier as he told the same story over and over again. I would interject we understand and certainly apologize and will work to not repeat the problem. He insisted in repeating the story each time getting more and more agitated. I mean seriously agitated. Knowing something of people who have made a practice of entering in to a rage by slowly increasing volume and increasing the intensity of their feelings and comments something had to be done. Finally, I had to call an end to the diatribe. I explained he has made his point repeatedly, there is no point continuing and knew if I didn’t stop him this would enter possibly violent rage.
It took a bit to get him to stop and leave my home.
Story One Redux
Reading this man’s posts on LinkedIn he expresses by way of shares and link his disapproval of the Black Lives Matter movement. It hit me. Hard.
This man could barely contain himself over kids using bad words so much so that he might just have gone into a rage over it. Yet he explicitly will not defend Black men wanting to defend their family and children from implicit and overt racism.
In today’s Gospel Jesus warns ‘Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known’.
This error in thinking is described by Our Lord as FEAR. FEAR and all its entrapments. Fear of the different, fear of competing interests, fear of losing what you rightfully gained, and fear of every bias we are exposed to by the race baiters.
Being fearful and afraid are the enemies of the Christian life.
Even still Jesus warns if you deny him he will deny you. Period. You cannot act like a trapped animal or a discovered thief wanting to fight your way out of it.
Christian men who congratulate themselves on pious speech and the defense of proper grammar and yet scoff at men fighting for their very families by way of the BLM movement are fearful pagans. There is no Christ in them.
Met another former coworker in the grocery store yesterday. Pleasantries. Why aren’t you wearing a mask? Literally the litany of science denying, political advantage promoting excuses and proclamations.
I assured him that Covid-19 is very deadly not just for the aged whom he cares nothing for but for any who get sick. It is a complete gamble. I described my work in these days.
How many people have you seen die?
Really you ask such a question.
Can you be so willfully ignorant as to make claim the pandemic is a figment of imagination. Fear. Fear that your advantage will be lost by way of a virus.
He literally said the annual pneumonia deaths are equal to the COVID-19. Of course the difference is 3 months verses 12 months. The correlation is times 4. Madness. Fear of ideological loss nationwide allows him to calculate the death of old people as a statistical noise.
Natural death is not when we willfully allow those vulnerable to be subjected to mortal danger. There is no Christianity in this position.
Story Two Redux
Tomorrow I visit another family. In this case I must explain what induced coma is and the survival rate is 20%. In this case I have to describe how to be sanitary and isolation focused when six family members are infected and the head of household may never come home again. What did these people do wrong? Nothing, except be alive in a time where the President makes jokes about slowing down testing to improves his popular standing. A family facing possible annihilation. The Department of Health shrugs the shoulders. The newspapers write the warm fuzzy articles.
Even still Jesus warns if you deny him he will deny you. Period. You cannot act like a trapped animal or a discovered thief wanting to fight your way out of it.
Fear is Your God
How can it be that people are being discarded so thoughtlessly? COVID-19 families, do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. The Lord in his great love will answer you.
How can it be that people are being denied the fullness of BLM? Black families, do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. The Lord in his great love will answer you.
I say Fathers, Happy Father’s Day. Your Father in Heaven wants you to protect your families. Be persistent in BLM. Protest, march, speak up and let’s stop the madness.
But for you who act pious O warn you that you deny these little ones. Then know the certainty of Divine denial.
Triduum of the Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Gospel Reading: MT 5:43-48
Theme: Universality of Divine Love and the particular love we are given to share.
October 20th, 1672 Fr John Eudes first known instance (using various names)
One of the seven Feasts of the Lord in Ordinary Time Universal are: Transfiguration of the Lord, Triumph of the Cross and Feast of the Dedication. Western specific: Trinity, Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart of Jesus and Christ the King.
Eph 3:8 – boundless riches of Christ. Jn 19:37 – reparation and contemplating the pierced heart of Jesus since the first day.
Sacred Heart of Jesus is the revelation of the Father’s love.
Introduction to the sacred time between Corpus Christi and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Greeting and Opening Prayer.
Introduction to the Mystery.
Triduum Prayer Service preceding the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The symbol of the love with which Jesus continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings without exception.
The wholeness of the Heart of Jesus is present in the heart of a Priest.
Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony, and his Passion and gave himself up for each one of us: “The Son of God . . . loved me and gave himself for me.”
He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, “is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings” without exception.
Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis: “The new evangelization needs new evangelizers, and these are the priests who are serious about living their priesthood as a specific path towards holiness” (n. 82). Holy Thursday, by taking us back to the origins of our priesthood, reminds us also of the duty to strive for holiness, to be “ministers of holiness” to the men and women entrusted to our pastoral service. In this light we see how very fitting is the suggestion put forward by the Congregation for the Clergy that every Diocese should celebrate a “Day for the Sanctification of Priests” on the Feast of the Sacred Heart.
1. “So that your love for me may live in them” (Jn 17:26).
Christ prays in the Upper Room. Re prays on the evening in which he instituted the Eucharist. He prays for the Apostles and for all those “who will believe through their word” (Jn 17:20) down the generations and centuries. He is asking the Father that all “may he one”, as the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father: “That they may be one in us” (Jn 17:21).
To be one: the unity of Divinity and the unity of communion of the Persons – the unity of the Father in the Son and of the Son with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Unity through Love.
Christ prays for love: “So that your love for me may live in them” (Jn 17:26).
Christ reveals the secret of his Heart. Precisely this human Heart of God’s Son is an ineffable sanctuary which contains all the treasures of love: it is a Heart “overflowing with goodness and love” (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus).
2. The prayer offered by Christ in the Upper Room continues in the Church: from century to century, from generation to generation, it is a perennial “source of life and holiness” (ibid.). But there are particular moments in history, specially chosen places and persons who almost discover and reveal anew this perennial and undying truth about love.
Source: Pope John Paul II canonizes Claude La Colombiére May 31, 1992
Scripture Reading and Reflection. We are given to experience and share love in the same intentionality of God the Father – fully, unreservedly and universally. Loving the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the efficacious pathway to the Father. Reference Peter’s restoration Do you love me?
Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Gospel Reading: Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Eph 3:8-9 – Hidden and revealed in plain view (Paul).
Eph 3:10-12 – through the Church.. God.. be made known to the rulers and authorities (including) in the heavenly places.
Jn 1:14 – the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Rev 21:3 -Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race (and in the human person).
Theme: Selflessness of Divine Love and the particular acts of love we are given to share.
Gosh, you may be thinking, ‘No! Not another Lent homily’ After all, we treat this Gospel message of Jesus Christ quite extensively during Lent. The three disciplines of Lent are… Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Nope, not going there. Not a repeat.
The Heart of God’s Son becomes, for the Apostle, the source of strength for all human hearts.
Hidden and Revealed
Short funny story – Father Son Bible and College…. hidden cash at different places in the bible but never found by Son.
The Christ was hidden in the Old Testament. Jesus was hidden in the womb of His Mother. Jesus’ early life was a hidden life of the Holy Family of Nazareth.And Mary held all this deep in her heart.
We seek to be hidden in God or we seek to hide from God and in the end we reveal how we are with God. Let me repeat.
We either seek to be hidden in God or we seek to hide from God and in the end we reveal how we are with God.
Example of the Western Wall, Herod’s Temple, Jerusalem, Israel. Also known as the Wailing Wall where people write supplications on little slips of paper and insert into the cracks in the wall. It is a massive and impressive wall invoking the knowledge of the power and towering strength of God and His ability to protect His people.
It is said, there are enough crevices in the Wailing Wall to contain all the prayers of every human person.
It is in these hidden places in the massive wall they place their prayers. The God of such symbolic magnitude nevertheless provides the hidden spaces for the most intimate hopes of people.
The sacred wound of Jesus is bidirectional. There is the outpouring of Grace upon the world. It is also the entry to the hidden place where God lives which is in the center of the heart of Jesus and what could be in the center of your heart as well.
Story #1 – Gift from Sito Tralala in Barangay Gordon Heights, Olongapo City, Philippines.
Story #2 – Gift from coworker at ChoicePoint (now LexisNexis).
Gifts from the Heart are precisely from where Jesus wants us to give our gifts. Giving from the Sacred Heart of Jesus (a font you have access to) is the gift par excellent. Give generously.
So then hide! Hide in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let your prayers flow with divine grace, your gifts flow from the divine place and your sacrifice be from the divine place.
(It is advantageous to read the first reading from today – 2 KGS 2:1, 6-14. Here you will see the hidden calling to the heart of Elisha [step it up] and the heart of Elijah [give it up]. Hidden, God at work and the gift giving.
Note: Due to technical problems the radio broadcast started at 6:15 PM. I had to restart the WiFi router but it took a little while to figure out what the problem was.
Gospel Reading: Mt 6:7-15
Eph 5:25b-27 – Christ loved the Church. He gave himself up … to make holy, purified in word and water.. without stain.. to present her (you) to the Father.
Jn 3:30 – He must increase and I must decrease. CHALLENGING THOUGHT: John the Baptizer moves aside so we can see Jesus. Jesus moves aside so we can see the Father.
Our Priests are always challenged like John and Jesus, how can I be present and yet point them to the Father’s love? The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is also the Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests.
Theme: Direct access to the source of Divine Love and the particular intentionality of love we are given to share. In the Our Father, Jesus intentionally points us to the Father, not to himself, but to the source of all love. Abba, Father!
Jesus loves with an Everlasting. A love which he shares with the Father. Jesus is gentle and humble. Jesus shepherds us.
Story. Mother dressed kids for Holy Mass.
Story: Fr Nobert and a charming story of his new suit and his parish home in Les Irois, Haiti.
(Don’t tell my brothers I put this photo here. They would not be happy)
Priests would share the same thoughts as they try to prepare us for Holy Mass too!
Blood Poured out. Old and New. At the giving of the Tablet and at the Cross.
Jesus hares his Father with us. Jesus makes for the fullness meaning of the word OUR.
Solemnity of the Most Sacred HEart of Jesus
Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. We prepared during the Triduum three major aspects of this feast.
The selflessness and inexhaustible riches coming from/contemplation of the pierced heart of Jesus and in the heart of our being-sanctified Priests. Love unreservedly.
The selflessness nature of the hidden and revealing place of the Heart of Jesus. Loves source is the Father. Our acts are perfect when sourced from the Father’s love.
The selflessness of John the Baptist and Jesus, Son of God, making way for us to be revealed to and the revealing of the Father’s Love. The Our Father par excellence. Our priests and our Jesus prepare us. Love speaks in the deepest groans.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus speaks about the hidden things and revealed things all in the service of Love. It doesn’t require exceptional qualities of a person to receive the Father but simply an accepting heart.
This spiritual journey from not knowing to knowing is what Jesus offers. In ancient times and in today’s time the journey seems so complicated and arduous. But Jesus reassures us that to find the Father of Love you need only Jesus. Here you find rest, guidance, knowledge and the pathway of eternal life. He is not the task master. He is not a demanding God but for the commandment to be like him meek and humble of heart.
God bless you.
Please leave a comment or a ‘Like.’
It’s like yelling into the Grand Canyon and hearing only my own echo.
Lord, I come to you at the start of this novena with a muddle of desires. Give me courage, to listen to what you want to say to me about these desires and give me the strength to accept your loving desires for me and for my loved ones.
Three Our Father, three Ave Maria, one Glory be.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.
Lord Jesus, the needs of your people open your heart in love for each of us. You care for us when we are lost, sympathize with us in loneliness, and comfort us in mourning; you are close to us where we are weak. You love us most when we love ourselves least; you forgive us most when we forgive ourselves least; and you call us to spread your love in whatever way we can.
Lord Jesus, your heart is moved with compassion when we are suffering, when we need your help, and when we pray for each other. I ask you to listen to my prayer during this Novena, and grant what I ask. (Mention your intention silently.)
If what I ask is not for my own good and the good of others, grant me what is best, that I may build up your kingdom of love in our world.
LITANY OF THE SACRED HEART of JESUS
V. Lord, have mercy on us. R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. R. Christ, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us. God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us. God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us. Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us. Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mother’s womb. Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God. Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty. Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God. Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High. Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven. Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity. Heart of Jesus, vessel of justice and love. Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love. Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues. Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise. Heart of Jesus, King and center of all hearts. Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Heart of Jesus, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead. Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased. Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received. Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills. Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy. Heart of Jesus, rich to all who call upon You. Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness. Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our offenses. Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with reproaches. Heart of Jesus, bruised for our iniquities. Heart of Jesus, obedient even unto death. Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance. Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation. Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection. Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation. Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins. Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who hope in You. Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in You. Heart of Jesus, delight of all saints.
V. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, R. spare us, O Lord. V. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, R. graciously hear us, O Lord. V. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, R. have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, meek and humble of Heart, R. Make our hearts like Yours
Let us pray.
Almighty and eternal God, look upon the Heart of your most beloved Son and upon the praises and satisfaction which He offers You in the name of sinners; and to those who implore Your mercy, in Your great goodness, grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reign with you forever and ever. Amen.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.
Citations: Unless otherwise noted, content is is my own or from various homilies by Pope John Paul II. Usually it would be obvious which is which. Really good stuff – JPII, bridging and recapitulations, mine.
The Christian belief of a triune God can be a challenge for those of other traditions. It is a revelation that comes about after the Pentecost event when the gift of the Holy Spirit is poured out.
Parts of Triune belief are rather easy. If God is Father and God is unchanging then one would conclude He is Father from all eternity. If so then Son (Jesus) is Son from all eternity. If the Son is co-eternal with the Father then he is equal in substance to God because there is no intermediate step or time of becoming Son rather he simply is the same substance of the Father since there is no division within him (he is One).
It get harder to accept the Holy Spirit using that same logic. Instead one must consider the experience of the Holy Spirit. Believers who surrender to the love of God in baptism and confirmation experience the personal relationship (we call it personhood) of the Holy Spirit. In addition, one would consider the mission of the Spirit which is a natural outflow form the Divine love expressed between Father and Son (here you are good to reread the Gospel of John and see how the love between Father and Son is a crucial component of the Gospel message and always presented within the continuing mission of the Holy Spirit to ‘sanctify them in the truth’.
So much is written on the topic and ‘getting it’ is a fleeting endeavor. Bringing into alignment Faith and Reason is a worthy journey but one that will never end in this life.
I don’t want my inferior attempts to bruise your faith in any way. So allow me to say it this way.
God has revealed to us that at His center is a dynamic, perpetual, always refreshed, never changing mystery of love. He is self-giving even within himself. He wants us to experience him not as simply ‘God’ like so many pagan thinking. Rather as a divine, all powerful self-giving love in the person of the Father who loves us without end, in the person of the Son who redeems us from our follies, and in the person of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us from the inside out.
Perhaps the first reading might help.
In Sunday’s reading the first is the giving of the Law a second time. Yes, the tablets of the Commandments had to be recreated and represented to the people.
What happened? You recall that after the first set of tablets were given Moses came down from the mountain and found the people had rebelled casting the bronze calf.
Moses was not pleased. In fact Moses anger burned hot, he threw the tablets to the ground and they shattered at the foot of the mountain.
Hey, Moses was a good man of course. He even challenged God to not harm the people as God had warned Moses the people had revolted. But… but…
When Moses saw the golden calf his true, deeper feelings came out. He was pissed! His piety was enraged. He in that moment decided to deny them the Law and went about cleaning up the mess by slaying 3,000 sinners.
[Note: please allow the author of the Exodus his writing as he is writing to illustrate deep spiritual meaning. That being at the core Moses had more sanctification to go through for surely his outrage and outrageous murder was not the will of God. But I don’t want to ruin the story].
In the intervening time period (we are in Exodus 32, 33, 34 – sorry forgot to tell you) Moses is changing. Moses is being sanctified.
When Moses was ready he was given gifts.
A new set of tablets to replace the old ones.
A theophany. God appears to Moses.
God says, ‘the Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’.
Moses quickly bowed his head and worshiped.
The LAW was given and poorly received in the heart both by Moses and the People although in different ways.
This time, the LAW is encased in the understanding of mercy, grace, steadfast love and faithfulness.
By now you should be able to accept this conclusion.
The TEN COMMANDMENTS are NOTHING (shattered) if not encased in the relation of mercy, grace, steadfast love and faithfulness.
Paul, knowing all this, perhaps for the first time prescribes a similar reengagement.
Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
So the Gospel message on Trinity Sunday honors the Trinity in this way. The very center of the inter-dynamics of God is love. God is love. Superabundant love. Beyond natural love. Self-giving, self-denial love.
We are condemned only if we refuse the way of sanctification. Moses for all his beautiful piety needed a serious realignment.
God provided. Moses accepted. And then the true meaning of divine law can then take root.
This is our journey too.
If you are using the divine law as a hammer, then perhaps you think everyone is a nail to be pounded into your view of righteousness.
When Jesus spoke on the Mount and gave us the Beatitudes he gave the most important one last in the Gospel of Matthew.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
I am sure it is easy to get stumped on this one. How is this about forgiveness?
And yet it is exactly about forgiveness. Blessed are those who having been criticized and punished for doing what is right and instead respond with forgiveness for this is exactly what the Kingdom of heaven is about (the forgiven).
Forgiveness even in the face of injustice.
Forgiveness even when one has harmed the innocent.
The Work of the Church is Forgiveness
In today’s Gospel the reading builds to exactly this. Let us see the steps leading to this conclusion.
Jesus brings his Peace (blessed are the peacemakers)
Jesus breathes on them.
Disciples receive the Holy Spirit.
Jesus sends them.
Disciples are to forgive (blessed are the persecuted).
The Council of Trent established definitively that the Gospel of John 20:23 specifically gives the Church the Sacrament of Reconciliation as power in Christ and the responsibility to offer forgiveness again and again.
Forgiveness: fully, completely, generously, forever, without reservation.
And yet with discernment. With an eye to justice. With consideration to restitution. Not so as to deny a pathway to forgiveness but to allow the fullness of the necessity of forgiveness.
Law of Love is the Law of Forgiveness
You have heard it said from Jesus, this is my command, love one another as I have loved you.
But, ahem, how can love be commanded? Isn’t love, de facto, a voluntary act not subject to command?
Yet, indeed it is. For the law of love is the law of forgiveness of which we can certainly be held accountable.
This new law is a life principle, a way of being, that Jesus calls us to life.
Theme of My Life, Theme of the Church
The Psalmist says it well Let my theme (meditation) be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the Lord.
Pentecost is a harvest festival. A harvest of charity. Jesus having placed the charity of God for all to see and experience on the cross of redemption is due his harvest. Pentecost harvest.
This is the theme of the Church. This is her mandate from Jesus.
Forgive sins. Teach those who are not ready for forgiveness, and wait like the Father of the Prodigal Son for any sign of readiness to be forgiven.
In the first attempts at commentary they were on FaceBook which are lost to me as this is a service I no longer subscribe. I remember telling the story of “Policia!”. I wish I had the content available to me again as a retelling would be a shadow of the post given in the hour of the encounter. Even the photo I took of the makeshift memorial for Victor I cannot find. I simply remember the father mourning his son and expressing / accusing from the deepest parts of his soul, “Policia”.
Of my earliest posts were in regard to the shooting of Victor Arango of Lake Worth 24 y/o Thursday, June 7 2012. These posts won’t make a lot of sense without the current event, well, current. Nevertheless…
I go to a lot of doctors a lot. The building these various doctors are in is rated an Energy Star building for its innovative energy saving design.
I’m not complaining as I appear to be the youngest among the clients. Basically my fellow patients are all in the shape of a ‘C’. So I count myself fortunate.
Anyway, the front door is a source of shared giggles among my familiar strangers. You see it’s an automatic door.
I have gotten so good at making the door perform that I can walk full stride to the door, raise my hands like Moses and declare ‘Open says-a Me” and the door swings open. Seamlessly I glide through the doors at full stride to the delight of all present.
As time goes by I get a few good snarks like, ‘Moses has nothing on you’.
I guess you have to be there to appreciate the humor.
Well, I certainly have no superior skills or magic like powers.
Whatever I preach or prophecy about is always contained within and sourced from the sacred Scriptures and the Church. Not my own wisdom. I only own the presentation and application.
But Jesus is different.
Jesus is the one Moses spoke of who is the prophet worthy to be followed. And the test of worthiness is in the fulfillment and verification of the prophecy (See Deuteronomy 18:15ff).
The Gospel of John chapters 14-17 are of primary significance during the Easter season. Among many purposes one purpose is to provide the prophecy with its eventual fulfillment and verification.
Jesus predicts his arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. All this prior to the events. Prophecy.
The Gospel of John sets the stage for the recognition of the authority and truthfulness of Jesus’ words as fulfilled and verified (for the reader, in time).
His primary message is love.
Voice of Love
Jesus is the voice of love itself.
In revealing the divine love in the gift of the coming Advocate (the Holy Spirit) in today’s reading.
But he presages the gift with the commandment ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments’.
Powerful Gifts of Love
Our first reading from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles tells of the deacon Philip in Samaria proclaiming the Christ in power! Unclean spirits expelled and those paralyzed and sick being healed. So powerful (Simon the magician who was power hungry previously) even those who had no use for love were being converted. So then baptized into the Name. Philip called for the Apostles Peter and John to lay hands upon them to receive the gifts of the holy Spirit.
Clear indications of the Sacramental system of heavenly graces. These are the powerful gifts of love (Baptism and Confirmation).
Long-serving Gift of Love
The Psalmist also provides us with a longer view. Here the psalmist speaks to the ancient saving work of God in the Exodus event. The psalmist wants us to recall the saving acts of God are past, present and future.
Gentle Gift of Love
Peter’s letter gives us the active agency of this divine love. All that was done and to be done in the Name must be done in gentleness and reverence for the one who is love and the power of love.
Commandment of the Gift of Love
And, finally, in the Gospel reading itself, Jesus sets the stage…. In all my prophecy (Jn 14-17), I am making now before my trial (Jn 18), all of it is based in divine love and the commandment to love like the divine has asked us.
Worldly Uncertainty but Divine Presence
We preach the world is uncertain, unaware and unconcerned with godly things. But we are. We concern ourselves with the commandment of love in all we do. In all our communities. In all our commerce. In every endeavor that humankind engages. Love first then do whatever you will.
In the gospel reading yesterday two of the disciples questioned Jesus.
Thomas wanted Jesus to show them the Way. Philip wanted Jesus to show them the Father.
This is a progression of questions Thomas first, Philip second. Each of their questions were a reflection upon what Jesus had just proclaimed.
Where I am going you know the way – Thomas then asked his question If you know me, then you will also know my Father – Philip then asked his question.
In summary, Jesus provides a four part answer with a 5th as observation.
(1) The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own (Unity of purpose) (2) The Father who dwells in me is doing his works (Work in common) (3) Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me (Trust in person) (4) or else, believe because of the works themselves (Trust in the work) (5) whoever believes in me will do the works that I do (Work in common).
Jesus is equating the Way with the Father in both person and in activity. If you ever question what Believing is… it is in the doing.
Perhaps this will help, what is Mother? In the final analysis it is the person and the doing that makes for Mother.
Note: Mass for this 4th Sunday of Easter will be done via live streaming.
However, I will not be there this week. Instead I will be assisting Father John Perez at the Veteran Administration Medical Center. Father John asked me to preach this Sunday. It is televised in the VAMC CCTV system but not on the internet. I will be dividing my time between the Guatemalan Mayan Center and the VAMC for the next few months. One really bright spot. I will be ministering the Rite of Infant Baptism at Sacred Heart in a restricted attendance early morning Mother’s Day. Very excited to add to the Body of Christ through Baptism.
You can view the Sacred Heart Mass on-line at one of these two places:
It comes as no surprise that gates and gating are a common architecture and practice in the ancient world.
I thought it would be fun to list out a sampling of the types of gates there were besides the obvious category of a gate to a city. There are so many!
Sheep gate – major entry
Fish gate – major entry
Gate of inspection
House or Tribe (name tribe of Israel) gates
As Veterans we can particularly relate to the Muster gate. I recall as you do too, how often we were called into action with a Muster command. Quickly you would check your appearance, grab your weapon and assemble at the muster location in formation for inspection. Woe to those who showed up without their weapon! Mustering is a calling account for who you are and how you are in respect to your responsibilities and community.
Mustering we know well.
Being called to account we know well too. On active duty we know what is expected of us.
In our faith tradition we know mustering as:
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
In today’s Gospel reading we begin the discourse of Jesus Christ known as the Good Shepard discourse. We focus on this teaching and revelation of Jesus Christ today through the Sheep gate dialog.
The Sheep gate and Fish gate are the two named gates leading to the Temple area. Unlike the Dung gate, we shouldn’t assume that the commerce of fish and sheep are restricted through these gates. These names are symbolic and religious names invoking the providential care of the Lord. The Mustering gate and Dung gates we may assume have a particular practical purpose.
Jesus uses the practice of gating as a teaching tool in understanding the true path forward and the passage a gate brings about.
Gates then firstly are a place of taking account as already mentioned in the Mustering gate. Gates offer a before and after realization: before I am here and now I am there.
Gates as used by Jesus can be authentic or false.
Gates can have a bountiful purpose or a nefarious purpose.
Gates need to be evaluated before going through them. Just like in the horror movies! You know what I mean. Who hasn’t yelled out, ‘Don’t open that door!’ as the actors play out scenes in a suspense thriller!
Jesus Enters the Gate
Jesus is describing a very important point here. Jesus himself has lived the life in the incarnation. He has faced every important test and temptation of life as we do. He has passed through this gate himself. He bore the ills and pains of the many. He lived without sin. He mustered through the Sheep gate and he is testifying to the account of his life. He is the first to enter the gate of death and to return again resurrected. He therefore is the worthy Shepard. One to be followed.
He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.
There is no doubt he is comparing his behavior to those of the leadership who act as thief and robber by comparison.
Jesus is the Standard Jesus is the Gate
“Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. A worthy one to follow who offers not what thieves offer and not what robbers offer. They offer misery and grief. They steal and slaughter and destroy.
Jesus instead offers life, abundant in this life, security and peace in everlasting life.
He Calls you by Name
Jesus calls you by name and offers to lead you through the pathways of life. He offers as a Shepard the sacred bread for you to sustain you so you may…
This is a season of celebration. Graduation from High School is a notable achievement and one that should be celebrated!
There can be little doubt that the expectation of the High School graduate of today is way beyond the Class of 1975, my graduation year. You are tasked with far more in respect to skills attainment, personal emotional growth and social responsibility.
You have persevered through some very difficult events and circumstances. School shootings, a rarity, now a norm. Political and economic upheaval regionally and nationally. Weather events of size and scale never before seen.
And now Coronavirus COVID-19. This last one encompassing the difficulties of all the others yet on a worldwide scale and in each of our families.
There can be no doubt in my mind that these events impacted your development and family harmony in a variety of ways. Events such as these test our understanding of personal autonomy, family unity, community cohesion and national identity.
In this season we celebrate you in this bittersweet historical time. You’ve mastered what we asked you to, completed assignments, challenged your thinking process and garnered an openness to the wider world that now awaits you.
We do without hesitation nor reservation celebrate you and your success!
May I outline for you what you have accomplished? And our greatest hopes for you as one in the same!
You have proven you can think for yourself. You patiently (sometimes not so much) allowed us to pour into you data, history, and content in massive quantities. As you absorbed this voluminous knowledge base we asked you to assess, calculate, extrapolate, interpolate, evaluate and dissect what we are telling you. Critical thinking became your best ally. You rightly questioned: What is factual? What is true? What is verifiable? What is reasonable?
You have proven you can be charitable. Although some counter currents exist (and strong currents at that) you have accepted that acceptance of what is different from you is a core competency of charity. Speaking out against injustice, however you have grown to see it, is a part of you now. Accepting what you should, tolerating what is difficult, and resisting what is beyond the boundaries of charity. To borrow a phrase, ‘you can see the holy in the practice of another’.
You have proven you have excellence within you. Did you think you would escape Aristotle in this graduation address? Never! The most obvious examples of your arête is your voluntary participation in sports, music, arts, and social clubs. Having decided there is something in you beyond how you know yourself you allowed your innate desire for excellence to compel you to the fine arts, clubs and being a member of a sport teams. Here you combined knowledge and charity with your inner desire to excel and produced what only you can produce. Producing a new sound with personal flourish, a disciplined athletic sculpting the body/mind in a specialized unity, and bringing forth an expression of the theater that is a reflection of the divine drama.
Isn’t it something?! You can think with charity and act with excellence!! Is there any greater compliment? I think not. This is the hallmark of a High School graduate. This is your foundation to encounter life in all its glory and all its difficulty.
Congratulations Class of 2020
Don’t let the inconvenience of virtual ceremonies and distanced parties bring too much sadness. Rejoice in your achievement. Rejoice in the achievement of your classmates and friends.
Think with clarity.
Act with Charity.
Excel in doing.
Each of these modifies the other. All must be present. And they are present… within you!