Sunday, June 26, 2022

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


 June is the month of many weddings.  Here's one daughter emailing from Australia: 

Dearest Dad, I am getting married soon. He lives in Scotland. We met on a dating website, became friends on Facebook, had long chats on Whatsapp, and he proposed on Skype. I’m coming home soon, need your blessing and checkbook for a big wedding. Love and thanks. Your daughter, Lilly.  

And here's dad's response:

My Dear Lilly, Wow! I suggest you get married on Twitter, get kids on Amazon, pay for it all through PayPal, and when you get fed up with him, sell him on eBay. Love, Dad. I presume dad’s response was “tongue in cheek!” The internet definitely has changed the way we communicate.

Long before apps, the word of God takes us back to the 9th century BC. God calls Elisha to succeed Elijah as a prophetic voice. Elijah here placed his mantle, a symbol of authority, over Elisha, who answered God’s call with a “yes.” He didn’t know how life would unfold; he simply trusted in God’s design, in God's unconditional love for him.

God also calls us to live a life of discipleship. Today! What is our response? Jesus makes it clear: don’t look at what we’re leaving behind. Move forward in faith.

God sends each person into this world with a special message to deliver, a special song to sing, a special act of love to bestow, notes Jesuit Fr. John Powell, in his book Through Seasons of the Heart. None of us is too young, too weak, or too old. Each of us has a mission to fulfill, given to us by God himself. As our life unfolds with its challenges and opportunities, do we trust in God's unconditional love for us?

We may sometimes judge others, like James and John in today’s Gospel. Jews generally considered Samaritans foreigners. The two disciples wanted to obliterate these Samaritans. But Jesus rebukes the disciples. He indicates discipleship is making God our first priority.

Paul, in his letter to the Christian community in Galatia, proclaims that Jesus freed us from our worse selves (a life of vice) so that we can choose our better selves (a life of virtue). Yes, the Spirit of God lives and moves and breathes within us so that we can become our authentic selves, true sons and daughters of God and heirs to the kingdom of God. 

How are we using our freedom? This insight of St. Paul’s particularly intrigued me. Becoming our better selves is what joy and happiness are all about. 

Many think that if they get enough money, fame, or power, they’ll be happy. But if so, explain how celebrities who “had it all” have gone off track. Happiness has to factor into life: work with its stresses; relationships with tensions; disappointments with dreams; guilt about what one did or didn’t do; health; and ultimately death.

Bishop Robert Barron, of “Word on Fire” fame, cites Michael Jordan as an example of someone who became his happiest not by playing basketball any way he wanted but by mastering the basics. So too with our discipleship with Jesus. 

So, what are the basics?

In the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes the kind of character we should have. The first four steps focus on our relationship with God. The next four steps, with one another.

Disciples recognize that only God can fill their emptiness. That’s what it means to be poor in spirit. An awesome Creator gifted us with life. Disciples realize their fortune to be alive and are grateful. Knowing that only God can heal and gift them with eternal life, they are gentle, considerate and unassuming.

Yes, disciples, above all, hunger for a right relationship with God.

The next four beatitudes or attitudes have to do with our relationships with one another. Fortunate are they who forgive wrongs done to them and let go of their anger. They realize how much they themselves need God’s mercy. Fortunate are they who are pure in heart, who have integrity, openness, and authenticity in their relationships with others; they will see God face to face.

The literary critic H. L. Mencken described conscience as the “inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking.” That is a good guide for transparency in our relationships. Fortunate are they who don’t stir up conflict but try to be at peace with themselves, with others, and with God.

And lastly, fortunate are they who try to do the right thing in all decisions, small and great, that affect work, career, family, relationships, life.

In the Gospel, Jesus says: follow me.  Today I pray that, with God’s grace, the beatitudes will inspire us to live in a right relationship with God and one another in grateful happiness forever.



Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Happy Father's Day

The word “father” or “dad” evokes various qualities my father possessed in abundance -- qualities all good fathers possess:

Love (he truly cared for us),

commitment (he stuck by us),

communication (he was ready to listen and give his advice),

spirituality (we went to church together whenever we could),

and above all, we spent time together.

Our gratitude to fathers for all they do on behalf of family life.

Another interesting occurrence this week: Tuesday, June 21 is the "longest day of the year" with 3 hours and 31 minutes more daylight than its December counterpart. Enjoy the day!

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, in Latin “Corpus Christi” and in Greek, “eucharistia” or thanksgiving. Let us reflect upon the significance.

There have been many impressive meals in the course of human history. Some intimate, some grand.

At the first supper, so the Book of Genesis says, the meal of forbidden fruit was a catastrophe. There are state banquets, like the ones at Buckingham Palace, where royal staff take three days to set the table. And there’s the Passover meal, the Seder, in remembrance of the Jews’ deliverance from their oppressors in ancient Egypt.

Now the meal table is often the center of family life. Memorable things often take place. Families celebrate important transitions—birthdays, marriages, graduations, retirements—as they gather around a table.

And in our global Christian family, the altar or table of the Lord is the center of our faith community. We gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, to re-enact the mystery of the dying and rising of Jesus Christ so that we can re-experience our salvation, the gift of God's life in us.

Now consider what the word of God has to say to us today. The Book of Genesis takes us back almost four thousand years to a mysterious kingly figure, Melchizedek. He blesses Abram. They celebrate with bread and wine. This story, for many, prefigures the Lord’s Supper.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Christian community at Corinth in Greece, highlights the sacredness of the Lord’s Supper. Paul saw some attendees were drunk; others weren’t sharing the food. So Paul reminds them: This sacrificial meal reenacts the life-giving death/resurrection of Jesus, the new and everlasting covenant God made with us. It should be celebrated reverently.

This Lord’s Supper soon developed into the structure we know: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

In the Gospel, after speaking with people and healing those in need, Jesus satisfies the hungry crowd. People have so many hungers. Some hunger for bread; others for justice and freedom; and still others for peace. Jesus here satisfies physical hunger. This wonder prefigures the Eucharist where the bread and wine become the body and blood of the living Christ.

To understand, we have to focus on three phrases of Jesus at his last supper. 

Jesus said: This is my body…this is my blood. The bread and wine become his real presence.   The living Christ sacramentally is alive among us in these signs of bread and wine by the power of the Spirit.

The second phrase: Do this in remembrance of me. The same victim who died once for us centuries ago at Calvary so that we can have God’s friendship once again returns sacramentally to this sacrificial meal today and every day. 

The third phrase: Take and eat…take and drink. Jesus invites us to become one with him, to form us into a vibrant faith community. Paul wrote: because the bread is one, we, though many, are one body. The living Christ by the power of the Spirit also empowers us to reach out compassionately to others.

Giacomo Puccini, who wrote such operas as La Boheme and Madame Butterfly, discovered he had cancer while writing Turandot. He died before he finished. For the world premiere of Turandot, Puccini's friend Arturo Toscanini conducted magnificently up to where maestro Puccini had left off. And then Toscanini stopped and cried out: thus far the master wrote.

But the opera thereafter continued to its finale, to thunderous applause. Where Puccini left off, others picked up the torch.

And where Jesus left off his earthly ministry, He asks us to continue that ministry until He comes again in glory. Yes, Jesus has no hands but our hands to do His work; He has no feet but our feet to lead human beings to Him; and He has no voice but ours to tell others the good news, that Jesus Christ is gloriously alive. And because He lives, we live.

Yes, the Eucharist unites us as the mystical body of Christ and empowers us to be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus in our homes and workplaces and communities, until He comes again in glory to transform this universe of ours into a new heaven and a new earth. Let's do our part here on earth by doing all the good we can, to all the people we can, in all the places we can, as long as ever we can. Amen


Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity


 Children have lively images of God. One of my favorite stories features a school cafeteria. The apple tray held a sign: “Take only one. God is watching.” So at the cookie tray a youngster put a note: “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.” 

Now that's one child’s image of God.

The Bible gives us many splendid images of God. A walking companion, a God as tender as a mother, a God who wants to share wisdom with us, in many ways. Then there are the images in the parables of the good shepherd, and the forgiving father and his prodigal son, and the last judgment in which we will account for what we have done or not done with our lives.

These many splendid images cannot capture fully the inexhaustible reality of God.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the feast of the triune God. We begin every liturgy “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” and are sent forth at the end with the blessing of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

St. Augustine wrote in his autobiographical Confessions, “Thou hast made us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.” Yes, we were born to live in relationship with God: yes,the triune God abiding within us; the ultimate relationship. Today’s feast highlights that relationship we have with the triune God.

The word of God takes us back to the wisdom literature of ancient Israel, the book of Proverbs. The author personifies wisdom as a woman, as creative energy, as a playful companion who witnesses the mighty acts of God in this manifold universe. The early Christians saw Jesus in this wisdom image, God’s Word made flesh among us. We might pray for the wisdom to know what truly matters.

Paul, in his letter to the Christian community at Rome, waxes eloquently about the saving work of Jesus Christ. Through him we have a right relationship with God, and the essence of that relationship is in the practice of faith or trust in God, hope or anticipation of something yet to come, and love or giving our all. 

As a saying goes, good things come in threes. In the Gospel, Jesus in his farewell alludes to the mystery of the triune God: The Spirit that comes through Jesus and the Father will guide our global community into all truth. We pray the Spirit of truth will guide us in our daily lives.

The mystery of the triune God (a God who is one yet distinctive in Father, Son, and Spirit; a God who is love) invites us to reflect upon our relationship with God and one another. 

I like to think most people do have a relationship with God. We are forever trying to make better sense out of our lives. Especially in moments of crisis, people often ask the most fundamental questions. What is the purpose of my life? Where is my life going? These are religious questions, questions we cannot help but try to answer.

As we go through our own human development, we are trying to better integrate our lives, or get our act together, so to speak. When we are young, we have so many hopes and dreams. As we move through the middle years, we may not be as dreamy eyed. We want to live for something greater than ourselves, something with ultimate meaning.

At times, we wonder. Life seems to be marred by too many tragedies.

At other moments, experiences lift us up. A starry sky, the joy of friendship, the golden rays of a sunset, the accomplishment of a goal. Such experiences can take us out of ourselves and into the presence of an awesome power. We begin to experience the transcendent dimension of our own lives. Yes, we say, there must be a purposeful and gracious God who is responsible for this magnificent universe and for creating our very lives.

Christianity says that there is indeed a gracious God who can heal the brokenness of human life. Yes, this God became flesh in Jesus and is alive among us by the power of the Spirit. That is the mystery of the triune God, a God who is one in three modalities or “persons”: Father, Son, and Spirit.

This triune God, the model of self-giving love, empowers us to reach out in love to one another with compassion, forgiveness, a smile, a kind word, a helping hand. And in reaching out to one another in love, we become like the triune God in their self-giving love.

And so let us pray on this feast, to quote the musical Godspell, for the grace to see the triune God more clearly, love this God more dearly and follow this God more nearly in our daily lives. Amen.







Sunday, June 5, 2022

Pentecost




Today we celebrate Pentecost – the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples. The lesson is simple yet profound: the triune God lives within us; and we within God. To paraphrase St. Paul: we are living temples of God.

Pentecost is not easy to celebrate visually. People in some medieval churches dropped burning straw from the ceiling to recreate the “fiery tongues.” That stopped when it set afire some churches. As for the dove symbolizing the Spirit, birds were released in French cathedrals. That was discontinued when people complained that something other than the Spirit dripped from the rafters.

Today, except for red vestments symbolizing fire, there's not much to see on Pentecost Sunday.

Yet the image I like best is “breath of God” or “gush of wind.” It's something you feel, “catching” the Spirit. 

This is no happenstance hurricane or lightning (GO BOLTS). The power and energy and vitality of the Holy Spirit is moving wherever it wants, to recreate whatever it touches. Remember how the “dry bones” in the Book of Ezekiel felt God's Spirit bringing the “dry bones” back to life.

The power and energy and vitality of the Spirit is within us. It inspires us, moves us, so that we can be a channel of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-discipline.

Pentecost begins the mission of the Church, the people of God, your mission and mine, to continue the saving work of Jesus Christ. One way is by embodying the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom (to recognize what truly matters), intelligence (to discern what's true), courage, compassion, good judgment, and wonder and awe to worship the great God of this universe.

The word “Pentecost” is a Greek word meaning “fiftieth” – the fiftieth day after Passover. In the Christian tradition, Pentecost gradually celebrated the one aspect of the entire paschal mystery: the death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus and descent of the Spirit.  

The Book of Acts describes how the Jews had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival. And suddenly the Spirit -- described in images of wind and fire (symbolizing power and energy and vitality) -- was poured out upon the disciples and emboldened them to preach the Gospel fearlessly: eventually to people around the then-known world.

The word of God asks: Do we do what's right? I always think of that clarion call: “If not you, who? And if not now, when?”

The letter of Paul to the Christian community at Corinth speaks about all the gifts the Spirit bestows upon us for the common good. Our own 21st century often lauds the individual over the community. Paul’s words are a powerful reminder to public officials, especially: to seek the common good in making the laws of our country.

The Gospel describes a post resurrection appearance of Jesus where the risen Christ breathes upon the disciples (as God breathed life into us in the Book of Genesis) and in that gesture bestows the Spirit.

Now, what does the Spirit do within us?  

It’s an awesome truth of our faith: the God of the universe, the triune God, lives within us. Yes, we are new creatures, with a destiny of eternal life with God. That life has already begun in us, in the waters of baptism and nurtured in today's word and sacrament.  And if you want to see what the Spirit can do, look at the early disciples: cowards hiding in an upper room and then transformed into heroes proclaiming from the rooftops that Jesus Christ is gloriously alive.

Let us pray on this feast that the Spirit whose gifts we already possess will empower us to live more fully the results of the Spirit’s presence: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-discipline--gifts which St. Paul describes so powerfully.  

The same Spirit of God who spoke through the prophets of ancient Israel,

who overshadowed the Virgin Mary in Nazareth,

who energized the disciples in Jerusalem,

and who lives within the Church community and guides human history toward its ultimate fulfillment—

that same Spirit lives and breathes within us

and can transform us ever more fully into “living temples of God.”  

So, we pray today,

“Come, Holy Spirit anew into our lives, and re-energize us so that we can see God more clearly, love God more dearly and follow God more nearly." Amen



















The Mystery of Faith Pentecost


Today we celebrate Pentecost – the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples. The lesson is simple yet profound: the triune God lives within us; and we within God. To paraphrase St. Paul: we are living temples of God.


The Gospel describes a post resurrection appearance of Jesus where the risen Christ breathes upon the disciples (as God breathed life into us in the Book of Genesis) and in that gesture bestows the Spirit.


The image I like best is “breath of God” or “gush of wind.” It's something you feel, “catching” the Spirit. 


This is no happenstance hurricane or lightning (GO BOLTS). The power and energy and vitality of the Holy Spirit is moving wherever it wants, to recreate whatever it touches. 


Pentecost begins the mission of the Church, the people of God, your mission and mine, to continue the saving work of Jesus Christ. One way is by embodying the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom (to recognize what truly matters), intelligence (to discern what's true), courage, compassion, good judgment, and wonder and awe to worship the great God of this universe. 


In the Christian tradition, Pentecost gradually celebrated the one aspect of the entire paschal mystery: the death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus and descent of the Spirit.  


It’s an awesome truth of our faith: the God of the universe, the triune God, lives within us. Yes, we are new creatures, with a destiny of eternal life with God. That life has already begun in us, in the waters of baptism and nurtured in today's word and sacrament.  And if you want to see what the Spirit can do, look at the early disciples: cowards hiding in an upper room and then transformed into heroes proclaiming from the rooftops that Jesus Christ is gloriously alive.


The Spirit inspires us, moves us, so that we can be a channel of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-discipline.

Let us pray on this feast that the Spirit whose gifts we already possess will empower us to live more fully the results of the Spirit’s presence: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-discipline.  


The same Spirit of God who spoke through the prophets of ancient Israel,

who overshadowed the Virgin Mary in Nazareth,

who energized the disciples in Jerusalem,

and who lives within the Church community and guides human history toward its ultimate fulfillment—

that same Spirit lives and breathes within us

and can transform us ever more fully into “living temples of God.”  


So, we pray today,

“Come, Holy Spirit anew into our lives, and re-energize us so that we can see God more clearly, love God more dearly and follow God more nearly. Amen