The common theme of today’s readings is the work God gives us to do as the followers of Jesus: to love God and our brothers and sisters through hospitality, generosity, commitment, and charity. The readings also remind us of the sacrifice demanded of Jesus’ disciples and the suffering they will endure for their Faith when they bear witness to him.
I like this story about how we see God in one another to know charity: There is an old legend about the famous monastery which had fallen on very hard times. Its many buildings were once filled with young monks, and the chapel resounded with the singing of the choir. But now it was deserted. People no longer came there to be nourished by prayer. Only a handful of old monks remained. On the edge of the monastery woods, an old rabbi had built a tiny hut. He came there from time to time to fast and pray. No one ever spoke with him, but whenever he appeared, the word would be passed from monk to monk: "The rabbi walks in the woods.” One day the abbot decided to visit the rabbi and bare his heart to the rabbi. As he approached the hut, the abbot saw the rabbi standing in the doorway, his arms outstretched in welcome. It was as though he had been waiting there for some time. The two embraced. As he entered the hut, he saw in the middle of the room a wooden table with the Scriptures open. They sat there for a moment, in the presence of the Book. Then the rabbi began to cry. After the tears and all was quiet again, the rabbi lifted his head. "You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts," he said. "You have come to ask a teaching of me. I will give you a teaching, but you can only repeat it once. After that, no one must ever say it aloud again." The rabbi looked straight at the abbot and said, "The Messiah is among you." The Abbot stood in stunned silence. Then the rabbi said, "Now you must go." The abbot left without ever looking back. The next morning, the abbot called his monks together in the chapter room. He told them that he had received a teaching from the rabbi who walks in the woods, and that this teaching was never again to be spoken aloud. Then he looked at each of his brothers and said, "The rabbi said that one of us is the Messiah." The monks were startled and thought to themselves: "What could it mean? Is brother John the Messiah? No, he's too old and crotchety. Is brother Thomas? No, he's too stubborn and set in his ways. Am I the Messiah? What could this possibly mean?" They were all deeply puzzled by the rabbi's teaching. But no one ever mentioned it again. As time went by, though, something began to happen at the monastery. The monks began to treat one another with a reverence. They were gentle with one another. They lived with one another as brothers once again. Visitors found themselves deeply moved by the genuine caring and sharing that went on among them. Before long, people were again coming from great distances to be nourished by the prayer life of these monks. And young men were asking, once again, to become part of the community. Jesus said, “He who receives you receives me.” Hospitality…because in one another we see the face of Christ. It is the first step in Christian Discipleship.
Today's Gospel lesson concludes Jesus' great “missionary discourse” in which he instructs the twelve apostles on the cost and the reward of the commitment required of a disciple. The first half of these sayings of Jesus details the behavior expected of his disciples, and the second half speaks of the behavior expected of others towards the disciples. Even Jesus’ shameful death on the cross is not too high a price to pay, if one is to be a true disciple, we must follow with our crosses and put God before all things thus we are able to love as Christ loves. Jesus assures his disciples that whoever shows them hospitality will be blessed. Those who receive Jesus receive the One who sent him. Also, those who help the "little ones," (believers) and the poor, the sick, and the needy will be rewarded.
Happy Father’s Day to all who have or had fathers, grandfathers, or stepfathers, or who are fathers, grandfathers, or stepfathers! These holidays of our culture are not exactly high holy days of the Church, but they do give us reason to pause, to pray for, and to reflect on our fathers whom we honor. Five weeks ago, we offered Mass for our moms. Today, on this Father's Day, we are doing the same – offering our dads, living or dead, on the altar of God during this Holy Mass and invoking our Heavenly Father’s blessings on them. Modern America appears to be unique in its honoring of fathers on a special day. Today we celebrate, congratulate, and pray for the men who continue to reflect the Divine qualities of fatherhood as they lovingly establish, nourish, and maintain their families. Fathers are a blessing, and we thank them for blessing us with lives of strength, courage, dedication, endurance, and love.
Many fathers today are role models, like St. Thomas More and St. Louis Martin (father of the Little Flower), heroes of our Faith. Even in these days, fathers are expected to be the providers for, and the protectors of, the family. They are also supposed to be attuned emotionally and spiritually to their wives and children and to be able to balance careers with family life. Fathers struggle to overcome temptation and conflict. They make sacrifices day after day for their families. They try to give their youngsters the kind of model that, surely, they deserve above all else, a model of goodness, holiness, faithful men of God, Catholic gentlemen, trust in God, and fidelity to the teachings of the Church. This is what Father's Day should remind us of. This is a time for all fathers to reflect upon their duties as responsible and well-integrated men. True fatherhood demands commitment. Commitment demands maturity, sacrifice, and love. Fatherhood also demands responsibility. Every true father will take responsibility for all of his actions. Our nation has an urgent need for good fathers. But while the idea of fatherhood is a good one, the reality we see on earth is sometimes quite different. Some fathers abandon their children, beat them, ridicule them, ignore them, abuse them, and so damage them psychologically for life. Even good fathers have their limits. Unfortunately, we unduly sentimentalize fatherhood, the media often ridicule and make fun of it, and we treat it with contempt. We are reminded time after time of the number of children growing up fatherless because their fathers have abandoned them or their fathers have been unfaithful.
We are given examples of five Fathers from The Bible: Enoch, a father who walked with God as a great man of Faith. Noah, who was concerned about saving his children; he taught them about righteousness. He also walked with God, leaving a great example to follow. Abraham, who was given the title "Father of all of them that believe". He trained them as mentioned in Genesis 18:19. Joshua, who trusted God when others would not. Joshua didn't care what other fathers were doing; he and his family were going to serve the Lord! St. Joseph the Foster Father of Jesus who is the Patron Saint of Fathers. Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph the patron of the Universal Church in 1870. Having died in the "arms of Jesus and Mary" according to Catholic tradition, he is considered the model of the pious believer who receives grace at the moment of death, in other words, the patron of a happy death. As the family is attacked in this world especially fatherhood we need St Joseph to intercede and aid the fathers to live their faith and lead their families.
Today we celebrate the Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. May our Blessed Mother Mary, mother of Jesus, bless you and help you in your lives of faith to grow closer to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I would like to congratulate you today because you have come to Mass to receive Jesus in your lives in a very special way. As your Pastor, our Parish Community, your parents, teachers and relatives we are proud of you for studying and learning about Jesus to prepare for this day and that you have said yes to Jesus’ sacramental grace and love. Our Lord Jesus Christ blesses you on this special day in your lives and the rest of your lives as you practice your Catholic faith and receive Jesus’ body and blood for your salvation and sanctification.
Here are some questions to think about. Why is this the happiest day of your life? It is because you are receiving the God in your life. Jesus our God and Savior, as the Guest of Honor into your hearts and lives, for the first time, in Holy Communion. Somebody very, very important is coming to stay with you, bless you, protect you and guide you. That is why we have all these celebrations. The next question is, how does Jesus come to our hearts? Jesus comes to our hearts in the form of consecrated Bread and Wine. Do we see Jesus in the bread and wine? No. Can we taste Jesus or touch Jesus or smell Jesus in the Holy Eucharist we receive today? No. Then why do we believe that we are receiving Jesus in Holy Communion? It is because Jesus said that he would be there in the consecrated Bread and Wine. Nothing is impossible for God. So Jesus is really present in the consecrated Host and Wine. Ever since his Resurrection on Easter Sunday Jesus has had a glorified body. In Holy Communion we are receiving that glorified Body of Jesus to nourish our souls. That is why we cannot see or touch or taste Jesus’ human body and blood when we receive Holy Communion.
The next question is why does Jesus come to us as Bread and Wine, as food and drink? You know the reason. We cannot live many days without eating or drinking. Food and drink are essential for the life of our bodies. In the same way spiritual food is essential for the life of our souls. And the Food for our souls is the Body and Blood of Jesus. That is why Jesus said that we will be spiritually dead if we don’t receive his Body and drink his Blood. Thus, we have to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. We have that opportunity every time we participate in a Holy Mass. Then, before we receive Jesus, we ask his pardon and forgiveness for our sins and with great reverence and respect.
A final question: What will we do after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion? First, we will invite Jesus into our heart. Next, we will thank Jesus with joy for coming to our heart. Then we will want to tell him all our needs and the needs of our parents, relatives, teachers and friends. Finally, we will be very happy when we remember that we are carrying Jesus to our homes and schools as Jesus’ mother Mary carried Jesus to her cousin Elizabeth. Because that is true, we will want to behave well because we know we are carrying God Himself in our heart and soul. When we are alone, we can tell Jesus living in our soul about our joys and worries, and about our parents, relatives, teachers, pastors, friends and their needs. We also need to ask Jesus to make us good boys and girls, sons and daughters who honor and obey our parents as their loving, well-behaved children and who behave well in school. Then we need to ask him to help us to succeed in our work at school and at home.
I would like to thank everyone who prepared these boys and girls to receive their first Holy Communion and to remind the parents, grandparents, guardians, and relatives of these children that it is how all of us in the family and all of us who are in the parish family practice our Faith every day – at home, with the neighbors and in our work – that is going to influence our children. Bring them to Mass and continue to teach them their faith to love God and be wonderful disciples of Christ. Hence, we all need to continue to train them in Catholic Christian faith and its practice, not only by advice but more by good, joy filled and holy Catholic Christian lives. Soon at the moment of First Communion Jesus will be very close to you and you will be able to feel that he is with you. May God bless you always.
Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).
Today, the first Sunday after Pentecost, is the solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity. The mystery of the Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith. Through it, we learn who the one true God is and how He reveals himself to mankind, “…reconciling and uniting himself to men.”
Liturgically, we have returned to Ordinary Time. With a deeper sense of the recent Paschal mysteries; we are encouraged to, “…be open to the action of divine Grace, to progress in love of God and of neighbor” and to enter more deeply into the life of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) definition of Holy Trinity:
The mystery of one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The revealed truth of the Holy Trinity is at the very root of the Church’s living faith as expressed in the Creed. The mystery of the Trinity in itself is inaccessible to the human mind and is the object of faith only because it was revealed by Jesus Christ, the divine Son of the eternal Father.
CCC 237 The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the “mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God.” To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
The dogma of the Holy Trinity
CCC 253 The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity.” The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e., by nature one God.” In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council: “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.”
CCC 254 The divine persons are really distinct from one another. “God is one but not solitary.” “Father,” “Son,” “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.” They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.” The divine Unity is Triune.
CCC 255 The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: “In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.” Indeed “everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship.” “Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son.
From the first letter to Serapion by Saint Athanasius, bishop
It will not be out of place to consider the ancient tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church, which was revealed by the Lord, proclaimed by the apostles and guarded by the fathers. For upon this faith the Church is built, and if anyone were to lapse from it, he would no longer be a Christian either in fact or in name.
We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being. It is a wholly creative and energizing reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the holy Trinity is preserved. Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is above all things and through all things and in all things. God is above all things as Father, for he is principle and source; he is through all things through the Word; and he is in all things in the Holy Spirit.
Writing to the Corinthians about spiritual matters, Paul traces all reality back to one God, the Father, saying: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone.
Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.
This is also Paul’s teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we possess the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.
The Father is Love, the Son is grace, the Holy Spirit is their bond of fellowship; O blessed Trinity. The Father utters the Truth, the Son is the Truth he utters, and the Holy Spirit is Truth; O blessed Trinity.
Let us adore the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit; Let us praise and exalt God above all for ever.
Blessed be God in the firmament of heaven; all praise, all glory to him for ever. Let us praise and exalt God above all for ever.
You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you:
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You, Christ, are the King of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free
you did not spurn the Virgin’s womb.
You overcame the sting of death,
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come, and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting.
Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance.
-- Govern and uphold them now and always.
Day by day we bless you.
-- We praise your name for ever.
Keep us today, Lord, from all sin.
-- Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
Lord, show us your love and mercy,
-- for we have put our trust in you.
In you, Lord, is our hope:
-- And we shall never hope in vain.
God our Father,
who by sending into the world the Word
of truth and the Spirit of sanctification
made known to the human race your wondrous mystery,
grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith,
we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory
and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. -- Amen.
These are extraordinary times. I have never experienced an Easter quite like this as a Priest in separation without Mass in community or being together with my community of Faith, family and friends during this season. I believe these are unique times that call for a deeper response in faith and life as a People of God as one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith. These are times when we can grow from the challenges before us. This means we must deepen our response to God who is always present among us by prayer and conversion. The most important things are to remember, God loves you always and “Jesus is Lord, He is risen!” (Rom 10:9).
Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church for three reasons: The Resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian Faith because it is the greatest of the miracles, for it proves that Jesus is God; Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection; Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement. Easter is the ultimate example of God’s presence where we believe in the Resurrected Christ who is beyond all earthly limitations who can be everywhere at anytime. Especially in the Eucharist which unites us as the Body of Christ through Spiritual Communion. Take this to heart and find strength, belief and a deeper faith in the glory of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. In the words of the Holy Angel “Do not be afraid”. Jesus told his disciples and us so many times, “Do not be afraid”. We must have a faith that truly believes the words of Jesus especially in these difficult times.
Let Jesus’ words console and strengthen our resolve and determination as disciples. Jesus' own words testified to his Resurrection from the dead in Mark 8:31; Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in Me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11:25-26). Jesus will raise us up on the last day, but it is also true, in a sense, that we have already risen with Christ. By virtue of the Holy Spirit, our Christian life is already a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ. St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your Faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, then your Faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins… But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor 15:14, 17, 20). In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our Faith in Christ, a Faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross..." (CCC 638).
In this time, we have before us a means to find new life in the words and example of the readings and Gospel when we truly believe it and live it. We must choose to live as Christ by how we love and care for one another. In the first three readings we hear of the promise and love of God to his chosen people. In the Epistle, living for God through Christ Jesus means we seek a union and discipleship to follow him. In these last three days of the Sacred Triduum we experience great sorrow and then the great joy: through the death of Christ on the Cross on Good Friday, his descent into Hell on Holy Saturday to redeem those who awaited him, and today in this Holy celebration of Easter, the glorious Resurrection. Our sorrows and anxieties need to be left behind so we carry on by trust in God. We are given a joy of hope in the life and presence of Christ so to be one with him and one day experience our own Resurrection to be with God in Heaven. Why? Because we believe. That means we must seek the new life that lets go of the old self and death to sin and seek to be amongst the living.
Pope Francis in his Easter Vigil Homily encourages us in his commentary on the Angel’s words: ”Why do you seek the living among the dead? The women hear the words of the angels, who go on to say: “Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee” (Lk 24:6). Those women had lost hope, because they could not recall the words of Jesus, his call that took place in Galilee. Having lost the living memory of Jesus, they kept looking at the tomb. Faith always needs to go back to Galilee, to reawaken its first love for Jesus and his call: to remember him, to turn back to him with all our mind and all our heart. To return to a lively love of the Lord is essential. Otherwise, ours is a “museum” faith, not an Easter faith. Jesus is not a personage from the past; he is a person living today. We do not know him from history books; we encounter him in life. Today, let us remember how Jesus first called us, how he overcame our darkness, our resistance, our sins, and how he touched our hearts with his word... Dear brothers and sisters: let us put the Living One at the center of our lives. Let us ask for the grace not to be carried by the current, the sea of our problems; the grace not to run aground on the shoals of sin or crash on the reefs of discouragement and fear. Let us seek him in all things and above all things. With him, we will rise again.”
Although we cannot be together now, we will be together in the future. We must have enduring and persevering faith, hope and love. We must rise to the occasion of these extraordinary times and live the Gospel by our lives as witnesses. We are called to give glory to God by our prayers, devotions, acts of mercy and trust in God. Although separated, we are still the Body of Christ. I pray someday soon, God willing, we will be gathered together again under one roof as a People of God in Mass and the Sacraments. This Mass Intention and spiritual communion in the Eucharist celebrated this day is for you as a Parish. Remember that our prayers unite us together with Jesus Our Risen Lord as we pray for one another, our Parish, Bishop Joe, Diocese, community, nation, Pope, the whole Catholic Church and those affected by the COVID19 virus. May the special blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you always. Jesus Christ is Risen, Alleluia!