Engaging the Gospel – Most Holy Trinity

Most Holy Trinity: Gospel – John 16:12-15

God’s interior life 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,” as the Catechism notes (237):

The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – reveals Himself to men and reconciles and unites with Himself those who turn away from sin (234).

As St. Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 389) wrote,

the Old Testament proclaimed the Father clearly, but the Son more obscurely. The New Testament revealed the Son and gave us a glimpse of the divinity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit dwells among us and grants us a clearer vision of Himself (quoted in 684).

Through the revelation of the Holy Trinity, we see that God exists in an eternal relationship of love, and He “freely wills to communicate the glory of His blessed life” (257) to us:

By the grace of Baptism in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we are called to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here on earth in the obscurity of faith, and after death in eternal light (265).

Question for reflection: When have I felt that God was leading me patiently into a deeper knowledge of Him?

The Resurrection is not ‘just some miracle from the past’

Easter Sunday: Gospel – Luke 24:1-12 (Vigil); John 20:1-9

“If it were simply that somebody was once brought back to life, and no more than that, in what way should this concern us?”

With this pointed question, Benedict XVI called us to deepen our understanding of the Resurrection of the Lord – and what it means for us, our lives, and our eternal destiny.

Christ is truly risen in the flesh, not to resume earthly life as we know it, but to take up a transcendent life in His glorified Body:

If we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution, it is the greatest ‘mutation,’ absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history…

The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which…ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges.

It is clear that this event is not just some miracle from the past, the occurrence of which could be ultimately a matter of indifference to us…

We have been caught up into this supernatural reality through Baptism. Incorporated into Christ, each baptized person is capable of “finding oneself within the vastness of God,” sharing in the intimacy of God’s own life:

The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced.

To live one’s own life as a continual entry into this open space: this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter Vigil.

The Resurrection is not a thing of the past; the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that He holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak.

Easter Vigil Homily of April 15, 2006.

Question for reflection: How am I changed by encountering the Risen Christ?

Engaging the Gospel – Baptism of the Lord

Baptism of the Lord (Year C): Gospel – Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

“Jesus’ public life begins with His baptism by John in the Jordan” (Catechism paragraph 535).

Because the Holy Spirit is visibly present as a dove descending upon Jesus, and the Father proclaims Him as His beloved Son, the baptism of Jesus is another aspect of His “epiphany,” or “the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God” (535).

“The Spirit Who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation” (1224).

Christ transformed Baptism into a sacrament, which purifies us from sin, fills us with sanctifying grace, and brings us into this new creation “ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection” (2174). The baptized person is made “a new creature, an adopted son of God, who has become a partaker of the divine nature, member of Christ and co-heir with Him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1265).

As St. Hilary of Poitiers wrote in the mid-fourth century,

Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water [in baptism], the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father’s voice, we become sons of God.

— quoted in paragraph 537.

Let us always strive to live in accordance with our baptismal dignity.

Question for reflection: When have I felt especially close to God?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 7:31-37

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 7:31-37

By healing the deaf man, Jesus signifies that He is fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading: He has come for our salvation, not only at a specific moment in history, but for us and our age as well.

This “life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies,” remains in the Church, particularly “through the sacraments and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist” (Catechism 1509).

As Benedict XVI observes,

There is not only a physical deafness which largely cuts people off from social life; there is also a ‘hardness of hearing’ where God is concerned, and this is something from which we particularly suffer in our own time. Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God — there are too many different frequencies filling our ears. What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited to our age.

Along with this hardness of hearing or outright deafness where God is concerned, we naturally lose our ability to speak with Him and to Him. And so we end up losing a decisive capacity for perception. We risk losing our inner senses…

…‘Ephphatha’ — ‘Be opened.’ The Evangelist has preserved for us the original Aramaic word which Jesus spoke, and thus he brings us back to that very moment. What happened then was unique, but it does not belong to a distant past: Jesus continues to do the same thing anew, even today. At our Baptism He touched each of us and said ‘Ephphatha’ – ‘Be opened’ — thus enabling us to hear God’s voice and to be able to talk to Him…

But we do appeal to the freedom of men and women to open their hearts to God, to seek Him, to hear His voice. As we gather here, let us here ask the Lord with all our hearts to speak anew his ‘Ephphatha,’ to heal our hardness of hearing for God’s presence, activity and word, and to give us sight and hearing.

Homily of September 10, 2006.

Question for reflection: How have I experienced an opening up to God?

Engaging the Gospel – Most Holy Trinity

Most Holy Trinity (Year B): Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity touches us personally in the deepest core of our being. This revelation – that there is one God, in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is the heart of our faith. “It is the mystery of God in Himself” (Catechism 234) as well as how we are drawn into, and participate in, that divine life (1997).

God’s “innermost secret” is that He “is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and He has destined us to share in that exchange” (221). For this reason the eternal Son of the Father became man in Christ (460).

In today’s Gospel, Christ instructs the disciples to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, illustrating how “the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church’s living faith, principally by means of Baptism” (249).

This is logical because it is through Baptism that we are welcomed into the intimacy of God’s own life (683). The Father adopts us “as His children in His only Son: by Baptism, He incorporates us into the Body of His Christ; through the anointing of His Spirit…He makes us other ‘Christs’” (2782).

“Hence the whole Christian life” is Trinitarian in its essence: “Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him” (259).

Question: When do I remember that God dwells within me?

Engaging the Gospel – Fifth Sunday of Lent

Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year B): Gospel – John 12:20-33

Jesus emphasizes the centrality of the Cross, in His saving mission and in the lives of everyone who would follow him.

Jesus’ “redemptive passion was the very reason for His Incarnation” (Catechism paragraph 607). Through the “great Paschal mystery – His death on the Cross and His Resurrection – He would accomplish the coming of His kingdom. ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself’” (542).

“This gathering is the Church, on earth the seed and beginning of that kingdom” (541) — “born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our salvation” (766).

Jesus calls us to follow His example of total self-giving, affirming that only by dying to ourselves can we enter eternal life. In so doing, the Lord offers each one of us “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the Paschal mystery” (618).

We experience this reality most profoundly in the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. In Baptism, the descent into the water signifies “the descent into the tomb” (628), our “burial into Christ’s death,” from which we rise up “by resurrection with Him, as a new creature” (1214).

Having “become members of Christ” (1213), we are called to “become God’s fellow workers and co-workers for His kingdom” (307). We offer ourselves in union with the Lord’s sacrifice:

In the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of His Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with His total offering, and so acquire a new value.

paragraph 1368.

By embracing our own crosses, we advance in the spiritual life and grow closer to Jesus: “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle” (2015).

Question for reflection: How has dying to myself helped me to follow Jesus more closely?

Engaging the Gospel – Fourth Sunday of Lent

Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year B): Gospel – John 3:14-21

Today’s Gospel features one of the best-known verses in all of Scripture, but precisely because of its familiarity, we can become de-sensitized to its radical power:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.

In His very Person, Jesus embodies God’s love for His people. He confirms the testimony of the prophets who described the covenant relationship with God in the most intimate terms:

In the course of its history, Israel was able to discover that God had only one reason to reveal Himself to them: His sheer gratuitous love…

His love for His people is stronger than a mother’s for her children. God loves His people more than a bridegroom His beloved; His love will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to His most precious gift: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.’

— Catechism paragraphs 218-219.

Precisely because He loves us, God wants to rescue us from our sinful plight, heal our brokenness, and restore us to His friendship: “The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God” (457).

St. Gregory of Nyssa (d. late 4th century) described just how desperately humanity needs a Redeemer:

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator.

— quoted in 457.

Through our baptism, we are regenerated in Christ (1213), and so, “in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ” (1002). We thus begin to experience God’s gift of eternal life, communion with Him, while still here on earth (260, 2796).

Although our salvation originates from this sheer grace of God, we have the free will to accept the divine gift, or to turn away from it. We respond by giving our assent of faith, by striving to live a moral life in accordance with God’s will, by repenting when we fall short, by frequenting the sacraments to strengthen us (1989-2003).

Let us be mindful of the extraordinary gifts God offers us in Christ, and never take his graces lightly (679).

Question for reflection: How have I experienced the love of God?