Monday, June 3, 2019

Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, martyrs

(Acts 19:1-8; John 16:29-33)

After two or three days without sunshine most people become gloomy.  Think of how somber it must feel to have only an hour or so of sun for a number of weeks.  This is the experience of those working in Antarctica now and in the Arctic region in December.  Perhaps it might describe the lives of those disciples whom Paul meets in today’s reading from Acts.

Christianity without the Holy Spirit is sheer will power.  It is trying to love without feeling, trying to think without peace of mind.  The Holy Spirit provides heightened awareness and greater urgency so that one can do what it difficult.  Once the disciples of the passage receive the Holy Spirit, they begin to praise the Lord and make the necessary connections between him and their daily lives.

Next Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit.  We should be asking God now to renew the Spirit’s presence within us then.  We want to see each person as a brother or sister so that we might love them as Jesus commands.  We want to feel the Father’s closeness so that we might thank Him as is our duty.

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Luke 1:39-56)

Visits usually are said to be visitations when they are pre-planned and follow a prescribed form.  A bishop makes visitations to parishes to check financial and sacramental records.  Families have visitation rights to see their loved ones in prison.  Today the Church celebrates the most famous visitation of all: Mary going to the home of her kinswoman Elizabeth.  Neither planned nor formal, her visit qualifies as a visitation because of the dignity of the one whom she carries in her womb.

Mary bears the Messiah, the anointed king of Israel.  She takes him to meet the prophet of the country with whom he is to collaborate.  Most people, of course, do not realize what is happening.  But the child-prophet within Elizabeth’s womb has no trouble making recognizing his lord.  He leaps for joy in his presence.  Mary and Jesus will not stay very long, but the two –Jesus and John – will meet again.

The same Jesus makes more than a visitation to us.  With the Father and the Holy Spirit he makes our souls a place of residence.  That truth should make us joyful like John.  We should also turn to him in every need.  Whether to resist temptation or to find work, he is there to help us.  

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 18:1-8; John 16:16-20)

A novel about couple undergoing a trial in their marriage reaches a climax when an adolescent dies in a freakish accident.  At his funeral the youth minister says that the boy is much happier now because he is with the Lord.  Realizing that these words will sound platitudinous, she urges the distraught congregation to have faith.  She reminds everyone of a verse from Ecclesiastes saying: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  She has God in mind.  He can hold together any people who are struggling, be they a couple with a marriage problem or a community overwhelmed with grief.  Jesus intimates the same kind of faith in today’s gospel.

The disciples seem naively unaware of the ordeal that Jesus faces.  When he tells them that in a little while they will no longer see him, he is referring to his impending crucifixion.  But then they will see him because God will raise him from the dead.  Earlier Jesus urged his friends to have faith in him.  To overcome the grief they are about to experience they will need to trust in God.

Death separates us from those whom we love.  We believe that God will raise up from the dead all who believe in him.  Yet when it swallows up those about whom we care about the most, we can hardly help but wonder.  At such a moment we are wise to retreat into prayer and mutual support.  Doing so, we will not have to wait for the general resurrection to experience God’s glory.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 7:15.22-18.1; John 16:12-15)

No doctrine of the Church is harder to grasp than the Holy Trinity.  How the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are both three and one almost defies explanation.  They are not three individuals making up a collective like a three-person volleyball team.  The three persons have but one mind and one will.  The Son, of course, has taken on a human nature, and his body is part of his heavenly presence.  But this extrinsic quality does not explain the real difference among the three.  They differ only by their relationships – one is Father; one is Son; and one is the life or Spirit among them.  In today’s gospel Jesus reassures his disciples with reference to the unique triad and unity of the Holy Trinity.

Jesus underscores the unity of the Trinity when he says that the Spirit will teach only what it receives from him.  In turn Jesus passes on only what he has received from the Father.  One might ask whether only the Spirit would be present to Jesus’ disciples or to Christians today.  No, Jesus has said in this same discourse that all three are present to his disciples.  The Church would formulate the Trinity’s presence in this way: “The Father is present to us through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.”

Although they are one, we can develop a relationship with each of the three divine persons.  To do this daily we can make an examination of conscience with the three in mind.  We can say, “Thank you” to the Father, the source of all things, for any good that we have experienced during the day.  We can say, “Forgive me,” to the Son who died because of our sins for any sins we committed.  And we can say, “Please…” to the Holy Spirit who is sent to help us for any special need we have tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 16:22-34; John 16:5-11)

Television lawyer shows often picture defense attorneys acting as prosecutors.  In order to exonerate their clients, they uncover evidence that proves another guilty of the crime.  In today’s reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus tells how the Holy Spirit will perform this dual service. 

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit, “the Advocate,” a fitting name for a defense attorney.  He says that the Advocate will convict the world “in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation.”  The Spirit will prove the world guilty of sin for refusing to follow the teaching and example of Jesus.  In doing so, it will show the righteousness of Jesus.  And it will condemn Satan, the prince of the world, for his pride and deceit.

Obviously, the Holy Spirit is a valuable ally in life.  It is a kind of free gift of membership in the discipleship of Jesus.  We want to treasure the Holy Spirit and make use of his assistance.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 16:11-15; John 15:26-16:4a)

The Catholic Church bases its health care ethics on the human person’s innate dignity from conception until natural death.  It exhorts medical professionals to honor this dignity by refusing to take part in abortion, assisted suicide and other contradictory procedures.  In doing so, the Church has been criticized.  Doctors who refuse to render death-dealing services have also been threatened with censure.  Jesus warns of such developments in today’s gospel.

He is telling his disciples to expect persecution because they follow his teaching.  He has specifically in mind the harassment of Christians for seeing himself as the Son of God.  But with the coming of the Spirit to complete his teaching, Jesus would include other doctrines. 

Much of Catholic health care ethics is derived from natural law and not from explicitly gospel sources.  Nevertheless, Catholics will have to abide by it even if it means not practicing medicine because of state persecution.  However, we pray that society comes to recognize the truth of natural law morality.  We pray as well that it honors the freedom of citizens to practice their respective religious beliefs.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:22-31; John 15:12-17)

An old song said, “Love makes the world go round.”  A high school teacher challenged this idea.  He told his students that love does not make the world go round.  Rather, he said, money does.  He was referring to the idea that money motivates most people to work which, in a way, sets the world in motion.  An astrophysicist would give another answer.  She would claim that the earth spins on its axis because of the way it was formed.  The swirling gases and dust from which the earth was formed started the rotation which has never ceased. 


With today’s gospel in mind we might ask ourselves, what does love do then after all?  Love puts us in harmony with God.  Since God’s very being is love, we share God’s life when we love others.  There is the difficulty of how to identify true love.  St. Augustine can help us here.  He once preached, “What does love look like? It has hands to help others.  It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy.  It has eyes to see misery and want.  It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men and women.  That is what love looks like.”

As we all know, it is easy to talk about love but quite another thing to live.  The novelist Dostoyevsky wrote that love in action is “a harsh and dreadful thing.”  It requires sacrifices that we would be loath to make except for the good of the beloved.  For God, the greatest good, we should be ready to make great sacrifices.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:7-21; John 15:9-11)

Humans today, as in any age, desire pleasure.  They crave the satisfaction of their senses from sex, food, or drugs.  Pleasure is not necessarily bad, but there is something much better.  Joy brings more beneficial satisfaction.  Pleasure is an agreeable sensation which passes quickly and must be renewed.  Joy, which comes from having done something well, fills the soul for a long time.  Pleasure is opposed to pain; they cannot coexist at the same time.  Joy is often accompanied by suffering in the quest to do something well.  Parents may take some pleasure in the vacation in Honolulu which their children gave them for their anniversary.  But they will feel joy after raising their children to be loving, honest, and hardworking human beings.  In today’s gospel Jesus teaches his disciples how to find joy.

He says that joy is the fruit of love.  When the disciples love one another like he has loved them, their spirits will be filled with joy.  When they lend a helping hand in time of need or a shoulder to cry on in distress, they will feel the joy of love.  All of God’s commandments are oriented to bring joy to those who keep them.

As we grow older, we should come to the realization that joy is what makes life worth living.  Experience teaches that more than forever eating tasty foods or exploring picturesque beaches, we become truly satisfied when we have given of ourselves in loving others.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:1-6; John 15:1-8)

Thomas Aquinas thought of virtue in a way that might surprise many.  He saw it as a good quality of the mind that disposes humans to live righteously.  So far, no surprises.  But Thomas went on that no one can make bad use of a virtue.  This idea is provocative.  “Cannot a terrorist show courage in a holy war” someone might ask, “so how can it be said that no one can make bad use of it?”  Thomas accepted the Christian tradition that true virtue is infused by God when the person surrenders to God in love.  It is a gift which no one can use badly because it comes from God and remains related to Him as a gift of his love.  The beginnings of virtue may be sown when God enters the soul at Baptism.  In any case no one can make bad use of a gift that keeps her in a relationship with God.  The same idea can be found in today’s gospel.

Jesus exhorts his disciples to remain in him as he remains in them.  Both he and the Father will come to them with the Holy Spirit.  The presence of all three will guide the disciple’s actions to always act in ways that conform to divine love.  In this way their actions cannot be anything but good.  Jesus uses the illustrative image of a vine and its branches to describe how virtue is transformed into benefits for others.  He says that the Father will act like a gardener pruning the vines’ branch.  Just as the pruned branches yield a greater harvest so life attentive to the Father’s commands will result in many blessings.

Our responsibility is to remain in Jesus by following his (and the Father’s) law of love.  We are to go beyond the Golden Rule.  Jesus tells us to love others as he has loved us.  We are to make sacrifices for the good of others as Jesus died to free us from sin.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 14:19-28; John 14:27-31a)

What is this peace of Christ that is unlike any other?  One biblical expert sees it as “being freed from sin and united to God."  Perhaps it is the same composure that drives Paul onward to preach the Good News despite just being stoned almost to death.  Paul does not harbor great resentment toward the Jews.  In fact, he maintains a great love for them.  He writes later, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3).  

The same peace is found among the families of the twenty-one Coptic Egyptians whom ISIS martyred four years ago.  The families proudly wear t-shirts with pictures of their beloved in martyrs’ array – white robes and crowns superimposed on their heads.  The author of an article on the martyrs has written provocative comments about the village where sixteen of the martyrs lived.  He says: “All the houses I visited shared one common feature: The household was not in mourning. Condolences and expressions of sympathy seemed out of place. They struck me as somehow elevated to another plane.”

We are not likely to feel Christ’s peace because our faith wavers.  We wonder if the legacy which the apostles have handed down is true.  We feel the cravings of sex and pride that our times offer.  To feel that peace we must do as Jesus preached from the beginning: “’Repent and believe…’”

Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 14:5-18; John 14:21-26)

The first reading sounds more like a situation comedy than an episode of true history.  Sometimes, however, reality is stranger than fiction.  In any case, people have an odd penchant of adulating men and women as if they were gods and goddesses.  Today athletes and entertainers have godlike status in the eyes of the public.  A Tom Brady or a Nicole Kidman command immense salaries and attention to the banalities of their lives.

In the biblical passage Paul and Barnabas are worshipped as gods after facilitating an instant healing.  The two apostles take advantage of the opportunity to explain God’s love for them.  They tell the pagan townspeople that such a mighty deed is but an extension of the care God shows in creation.  Still like many today the people in the reading refuse to abandon their fantasies.  They continue to prepare sacrifices for the apostles.

Unfortunately the attention paid to athletes and entertainers often detracts from worship of the true God.  We know of people who do not go to church on Sunday in order to watch a football game.  Many as well accept the caprices of entertainers as norms for everyone.  The situation leaves us with a double responsibility.  We must be careful not to fall into these vices.  And we must instruct our youth that the living God demands righteous living.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 13:26-33; John 14:1-6)

In today’s gospel Jesus declares himself as “…the truth.”  He means that he is the highest truth because he reveals God the Father.  In reaching for this truth, the scholar does not abandon the truth found in nature.  The physical sciences discover much that leads to God.  Nor should people think that the truth that is Jesus is different from the truth they are supposed to tell in daily life.  When we conform our words to reality, they will eventually tell of Jesus.  Nevertheless, God still belongs to another order than humans.  Jesus, who is one with the Father, has made Him known as much as humans are capable of understanding.

The pregnant gospel passage hints in different ways to the Father.  He is beneficent, that is, ready to shelter those who come to Him in need.  To reach Him one must follow Jesus, the way.  Jesus has just washed the feet of his disciples and told them to do the same to one another.  To follow Jesus, then, is to care for one another by providing service.  Finally, God bestows life.  More than being the source of life, God gives life in its fullness sense.  He enables humans to thrive, to be all that they can be.  In the end this means that all humans become Jesus-like.

Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.”  We might say that he is the true roadmap to happiness.  When we follow him we will neither lose our way nor become tired and disillusioned.  We will find ourselves ever satisfied, ever grateful.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 13:13-25; John 13:16-20)

Once in a while we may hear religious sisters talk about their “missions.”  They speak of where they have served as where they have been missioned.  They say something like, “Denver was my first mission, and then I was missioned in Milwaukee.”  Today’s gospel helps us to think of all Christians as having a mission.  Whether it be to some far off city or in the neighborhood where they were born, Christians are sent off to serve.

Jesus is speaking with his disciples at what we call the Last Supper or the Lord’s Supper.  He is preparing them to go out to the world and preach the good news.  He implies that they can be confident of the claims he will make about himself because he will predict all that happens to him.  Then he says that anyone who receives them receives him and God the Father as well: Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."

We were sent forth as “other Christs” on the occasion of our Baptism.  The sending is renewed at every Eucharist.  Occasionally, the mission is explicit.  “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” is one of the four approved dismissals at the end of mass.  Whether the priest or deacon uses that wording or not, we are being sent on a mission.  The Lord has allowed us to partake of his Body and Blood not only for our own edification.  Rather, he expects us with this Eucharistic food to assist others on the way of salvation.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 12:24-13:5a; John 12:44-50)

Perhaps the greatest mind in the Age of Enlightenment belonged to the English scientist Isaac Newton.  Newton mapped with mathematical accuracy the laws of mechanics and of motion.  He was also a philosopher and theologian.  The poet Alexander Pope lyrically summed up Newton’s achievements, “God said, ‘Let Newton be,’ and all was light.”  In today’s gospel Jesus speaks of himself also as coming into the world as light.

As light Jesus performs two great services.  First, he uncovers human sinfulness so that people may repent and be reconciled.  Some desire privacy so that their sins may not be known.  But Jesus does not allow them to fool themselves by speaking to their consciences.  More importantly, Jesus shows humanity how to love.  Because of him, the highest measure of love will not have anything to do with sex.  It will be counted in the degree of sacrifice one makes for the good of others.

Sometimes we feel reluctant to allow the light of Christ to shine on us.  We may take pleasure in our sinfulness or we may hate others so much that we do not wish reconciliation.  When these conditions invade our being, we should turn to Jesus in prayer.  His light will provide gentle warmth to draw us out of our funk into his grace.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Feast of Saint Matthias, apostle

(Acts 1:15-17.20-26; John 15:9-17)

Today’s first reading relating the election of Matthias contains one critical message.  The apostles considered it necessary to select a replacement for Judas.  Having twelve men who would testify to Jesus’ resurrection was essential. Why is this?  Shortly the Holy Spirit will descend upon the group of Jesus’ disciples to begin the mission to the ends of the earth.  If this new reality was to be the New Israel then it would have to be modeled after the Old Israel.  Each apostle would represent one son of Israel, one of the nation’s twelve tribes.

After all, Israel is really more than a nation or a country.  It is a people with an identity and a mission.  It belongs to God and is to reflect his holiness in the world.  This people has been formed over centuries by God’s Law.  Of course, it failed to live it fully because it lacked the Holy Spirit.  Now it will receive the Spirit so that it may accomplish its mission.  The Spirit will also compel the people outward to gather adherents around the world.

The Church is the New Israel, the people of God.  Its success in exemplifying holiness is reflected in its saints.  Sadly sinners belong to the Church as well.  It will take more centuries to achieve universal sanctity, but there are signs of progress.  But more than time, universal holiness depends upon our living the Law that Jesus summarizes in today’s gospel.  We are to love one another as he loves us.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 11:1-18; John 10:11-18)

At the Second Vatican Council discussion of religious freedom became a burning issue.  Some felt that a social policy protecting the freedom of each person to worship as he or she thinks is necessary.  They argued that the inner sanctum of conscience must not be forced.  Others thought a policy favoring Catholic belief where possible would be preferable since only the Church professes the fullness of faith.  Adherents to this thinking charged, “Error has no rights.”  The American Jesuit John Courtney Murray countered that neither error nor truth has rights since both are abstractions.  People have rights, one of which is to pursue religious belief as the person sees fit.  In the reading from Acts today the Christian community in Jerusalem grapples with a similar issue.

Jewish Christians are upset by the news that Peter not only baptized Gentiles but ate at their table.  They demand some explanation since the law forbids taking foods that are not kosher.  Peter explains that he was only following the will of the Holy Spirit made known to him in a vision.  Evidently Peter’s explanation convinced his critics.  They too recognize the work of the Holy Spirit.

It is easy for one to say that the Holy Spirit or “the spirit” moved her to do something.  But such a defense for an innovation begs more justification.  The Holy Spirit is not just the Spirit of peace and tranquility but also of wisdom and prudence.  We must question actions that veer from established norms.  Are they motivated out of love? Do they contradict the teachings of Jesus? Are they reasonable?  Only after receiving the appropriate answers to these questions may we accept the actions as the will of God.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 9:1-20; John 6:52-59)

Paul is so central to the establishment of Christianity that the story of his conversion is told three times in the Acts of the Apostles.  The accounts differ in details but all convey the central point: Paul was called directly by the Lord to missionary service. 

Interestingly, Jesus did not choose Paul because of his preaching ability.  Paul himself disclaims any charism for proclaiming orally the word of God. However, his gifts of theological profoundness and willingness to suffer make him a great missionary.  There is another factor, however, that contributed even more to Paul’s accomplishments.  Today’s reading mentions it.  Paul was “filled with the holy Spirit.”  The Spirit provided the zeal with which Paul worked.  More than that, it crowned all of Paul’s abilities and efforts with love of God and neighbor.  Paul’s profundity and his long-suffering were so productive because he cared deeply for others.

The same Spirit, of course, is ours.  It is bestowed as we enter the Church, the community of love.  It grows when we come together to share Christ’s Flesh and Blood.  Reversing the natural process, we become what we eat – more like our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Today the Church remembers two saints who, like all others, testified to the power the Holy Spirit.  St. Antoninus was the Dominican archbishop of Florence.  He oversaw the religious affairs of the city at his historical moment of greatness at the beginning of the Renaissance.  We also commemorate Fr. Damien, missionary to the lepers of Hawaii.  He took care of the outcasts so selflessly that he became one himself.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 8:26-40; John 6:44-51)

Last year an article questioning the value of the Old Testament appeared in a leading religious journal.  The author drew attention to the work of a German scholar who says that the Old Testament should no longer be used in Christian churches.  The scholar believes that it does not contain references to Christ as the Fathers of the Church took for granted.  Also, the scholar holds that reading the Old Testament as if it did insults the Jewish people.  Both readings today, however, point to a different conclusion.  They show that it was not only the Church Fathers of the third, fourth, and fifth centuries who read the Old Testament as a treasury of coded references to Christ.  They demonstrate that the New Testament authors did the same.

In the reading from Acts, Philip instructs the Ethiopian that the reference in Isaiah referring to the Suffering Servant foretells the mission of Christ.  In the gospel Jesus says the verse, found also in Isaiah, “They shall be taught by God,” refers to himself.  There are probably hundreds of other passages from the Old Testament incorporated in the New.  Before the gospels were written, the apostles saw the correlation between Jesus’ life and the writings of the Old Testament.

The Church long ago declared the validity of the Old Testament as the inspired word of God.  We must see its value not only in what is foretells of Christ but also in what it teaches independent of those references.  We are to study it, teach it, live it and cherish it.  In doing so, we will draw closer to Jesus, our Savior.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 8:1b-8; John 6:35-40)

In a story taking place during World War II a Paris museum entrusts its locksmith with the richest diamond in the world.  The locksmith demonstrates great skill in his work.  He also takes impeccable care of his blind daughter.  More than anyone else he can keep the diamond away from the Nazi invaders.  In today’s gospel Jesus tells how the Father has entrusted him to take similar care of God’s people.

The Gospel of John tells of God’s love for the people of the world.  He sent his Son to bring the people out of darkness.  He intends to give them the fullness of life.  However, not everyone wants to follow the Son to eternal life.  But those who do will not be lured away by evil nor will they perish as they approach their goal.  Jesus gives himself as bread for the journey.  He will also raise to life any who die before the end is reached.

The first reading shows how Jesus’ followers embraced his promise.  Persecuted in Jerusalem, they go forth to preach salvation in Jesus to others.  We can have confidence then in both what Jesus says and in what his followers do.  Remaining a Christian may become more challenging as people around us give up practicing the faith.  But with such witnesses as these strengthen us rather than cause us to worry.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 7:51-8:1a; John 6:30-35)

Stephen’s speech can be heard as incendiary.  He accuses the Jewish leaders of not observing the Law.  But so did Jesus!  Indeed, Stephen’s actions quite closely imitate those of Jesus.  He too at his execution asks forgiveness for its perpetrators.  Like Jesus he dies commending his spirit to God.

Stephen’s exemplary behavior will have immense effect.  One of its witnesses, Paul of Tarsus, will do an about turn in his stand toward Jesus.  Evidently at the moment he finds Stephen’s words contemptible.  But in short time he will, like Stephen, give testimony to Jesus’ righteousness.  He too will suffer death for proclaiming Jesus as Lord.

There is plenty for us to imitate in Stephen’s story.  We should proclaim the Lord Jesus by our willingness to suffer for the truth.  Most of all, we should pray for our enemies, especially those who may persecute us. Then our lives also will attract others to Jesus’ righteousness.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Monday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 6:8-15; Acts John 6:22-29)

Since Vatican II the Church has admonished Catholics who think of “the Jews” as guilty of Jesus’ death.  Nevertheless, the term is used especially in the Gospel of John to indicate the rivals of Jesus.  This reference reflects the time and place of Jesus’ life.  It is more correct to think of “the Jews” as those who do not understand his teaching.  Unfortunately, it would include many baptized Christians today.

For example, many Christians seek the satisfaction of their sense appetites more than freedom from sin.  These are precisely the people whom are labeled as “the Jews” in today’s gospel. They do not understand that Jesus fed the multitude to signify his fulfilling a deep-seated spiritual need.  He bestows the wherewithal to love one’s neighbor.

We do want to love our neighbor even if we do not express ourselves always in this way.  We want to live in peace with everyone.  We want justice to reign and every valid need met.  Following Jesus’ teaching, this hope may be better realized.  Remaining like “the Jews,” we will likely find continued rivalry.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, apostles

(I Corinthians 15:1-8; John 14:6-14)

Try standing on one foot with your eyes closed. If you last fifteen seconds, consider your balance remarkable. Eyes open and focused make the same feat easy. As sight enhances balance, Jesus' disciples need a new source of vision to understand what he is talking about in today’s gospel.

The reading begins with Jesus responding to a remark made by Thomas.  The latter said that since the disciples do not know where Jesus is going, they cannot know the way.  Jesus tells him that to know him is to know the Father.   Now Philip, whose feast day we are celebrating, speaks up.  He obtusely asks Jesus to show the disciples the way to the Father.  It should have been obvious to him and the other disciples that the Father is in Jesus and he is in the Father.  They have only to look at him to find the Father.  But they have trouble seeing this truth because it requires the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will come shortly with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

The Spirit provides us with a new way of seeing. It is like a physician having a MRI when making a diagnosis or a soldier having a night vision device on midnight patrol. His presence allows us to accept Jesus' teaching as not so much demanding as life-giving.  From it we know that Jesus will assist us in our every need.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Memorial of Saint Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Acts 5:27-33; John 3:31-36)

The Church in its first few centuries had to come to a common understanding of its belief.  One of the most perplexing issues was exactly who is Jesus Christ.  From passages like today’s first reading he might be understood as a most virtuous man whom God raised from the dead.  He would be of the order of Elijah or Enoch, an ancient patriarch who is said to have been assumed into heaven.  But surely the Gospel of John has more in mind when it says in today’s passage: “The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to the Son.”

The debate about Jesus reached its climax in the early fourth century.  A priest named Arius took the lesser view of Jesus.  He thought that putting Jesus on the same level as God would be like calling a cat a lion because it has teeth and whiskers.  Today’s patron St. Athanasius opposed the minimal view.  He rightly saw that God cannot be compared to earthly things.  Both Jesus and the Father are of another order or substance.  The Council of Nicea affirmed his position: Jesus and the Father are the same along with the Holy Spirit.

All this may sound heady and impractical.  But belief in Jesus as God affects us significantly.  Because he and the Father are one, we can feel confident in following him.  As guide and end, his teaching cannot lead us astray.  We can also pray to him.  He has the power to help us in our every need.