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?

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 22:34-40

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 22:34-40

Jesus distills the essence of the whole Law and Prophets – love of God and love of neighbor – by quoting verses from two different books of the Old Testament.

As Benedict XVI has commented,

The pious Jew prayed daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy which expressed the heart of his existence: ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might’ (6:4-5).

Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbor found in the Book of Leviticus: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (19:18).

Deus Caritas Est, 1.

Jesus thereby emphasizes that these two elements of love of God and neighbor are closely intertwined: “One cannot adore God without loving all men, His creatures. One cannot honor another person without blessing God his creator” (Catechism paragraph 2069).

By citing the Scriptures in this way, Jesus affirms that “the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation” (129).

Because the God-given Law served as a teacher “to lead His people towards Christ” (708), the Church has constantly proclaimed the unity of the Old and New Testaments (128).

“The Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfills the Old; the two shed light on each other; both are the true Word of God” (140). That is why the Church “has retained certain elements of the worship of the Old Covenant” in our Mass, such as “reading the Old Testament” and “praying the Psalms” (1093).

Question for reflection: How does my daily life reflect love of God and neighbor?

Hallowed Be Thy Name

God desires to draw us into His own life. Because He is indescribably holy, we are called to be transformed by His grace and become holy.

This is what is meant by the petition “hallowed be Thy Name,” that God’s Name be made holy in us, and in others. As sinners still on the path to sanctification, we pray for God’s saving plan to be accomplished in our lives.

God has entrusted us with a great mystery of intimacy — His revelation of Himself, first to the People of Israel, and ultimately in the Person of Christ.

But how do we respond to this divine gift? If we treasure the holiness of God and strive to live in accord with His grace, we hallow His Name. On the other hand, if we deliberately indulge in unrepentant sin, or disparage sacred things, we besmirch His Name, effectively telling God that we don’t care about Him or His friendship.

That is why the saints have been so zealous for the Holy Name: God’s friends yearn to glorify Him.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2803-15.

 

Moral Law

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1949-1986:

  • The moral law arises from God’s Wisdom; reflecting the harmonious beauty of His design for us, it points out the right path for us to take for our own good, and our ultimate happiness in eternal life.
  • Its elemental expression is “natural law,” referring to the moral compass inscribed within human nature and discernible by our reason.
  • Implanted in our hearts by God, natural law serves as the building block of civil law and social norms of morality.
  • But since our human nature has been wounded by sin, our ability to discern this natural law readily, and with clarity, has been weakened as well.
  • God, ever desirous of drawing us to Himself, has devised another expression of His Law, through divine revelation; as St Augustine phrased it, “God wrote on the tables of the Law what men did not read in their hearts.”
  • The first stage of this revealed Law was given to the people of Israel: the Law of Moses, enshrined in the Ten Commandments, builds on natural law and teaches us about right and wrong.
  • Although the Law of Moses defines sinful behavior, it does not strengthen us to overcome it; hence the Old Law serves as a preparation for the fullness of revelation in Christ.
  • Christ gives us the New Law, the perfection of divine Law on earth; He fulfills the Law of Moses by deepening the meaning of the Ten Commandments and by purifying our hearts.
  • The Law of the Gospel is a Law of love; of grace, for we are empowered by the Holy Spirit and the sacraments to live accordingly; and of freedom as God’s children, not as slaves.
  • Expressed most vividly in the Sermon on the Mount, the New Law is summed up in the Golden Rule, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you,” and even more profoundly in Jesus’ new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Live Your Faith

The moral law is not a mere checklist of rules, imposed upon us from without.

Rather, it is deeply bound up in our design as human beings: we were created to live in intimacy with God, Whose perfect holiness is reflected in the moral law.

When we sin, we violate this very order within us, in ways that are self-defeating and self-destructive. But we have a sure way out through the grace of God, Who heals us and strengthens us.

As we grow in union with Christ, we become more like Him, and experience greater freedom to live the moral life that is best for us.

God’s Revelation in Sacred Tradition

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 74-100:

  • Sacred Tradition (with a capital T) does not mean customs that have varied over the course of history, according to time and place.
  • Rather, Sacred Tradition refers to the teaching that has been handed on from the apostles and continued by their successors, the bishops.
  • The very term “Tradition” derives from the Latin verb tradere, meaning “to hand down,” “relate” or “bequeath.”
  • The apostles handed on divine Revelation in two ways: orally, by preaching, by developing institutions and framing the Church’s patterns of worship; and in writing, either by themselves or associates, which became the New Testament.
  • Thus Sacred Tradition was already operative in the earliest stages of the Church, even before the New Testament was completed.
  • Indeed, Sacred Tradition is itself responsible for the compilation of Sacred Scripture, through discerning which books are divinely inspired; in other words, no Tradition, no Bible.
  • As a result, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are both expressions of divine Revelation, and we cannot exclude one or the other.
  • Far from being a lifeless object, Tradition involves a living transmission of this teaching, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, until the end of time.
  • This living transmission takes place through the apostles’ successors, the bishops, in communion with St. Peter’s successor, the Pope; together they form the Church’s teaching authority.
  • This teaching authority, called the Magisterium (from the Latin term for “teacher,” magister), is not superior to the Word of God, but instead serves it by explaining, clarifying, and communicating the fullness of Revelation.

Live Your Faith

We too play an important role in the handing on of Sacred Tradition. Through our baptism, we are members of the Body of Christ. We are called to give our full assent to the teaching of the Church, to adhere to it firmly in our daily lives, to form our children in the faith, and to share it with our family members, friends, co-workers, everyone we meet. Let us actively cooperate with the Holy Spirit by opening our minds and hearts to the richness of our Catholic faith, and by passing it on to others.

God’s Revelation in Sacred Scripture

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 50-73 and 100-141:

  • God reveals himself in order to communicate His own divine life to us.
  • Revelation unfolded gradually according to God’s plan of salvation history, involving both deeds and words, until the fullness of revelation in Christ.
  • God’s Word is expressed in written form in Sacred Scripture, the Bible.
  • Derived from the Greek term biblia (“books”), the Bible is the collection of writings that the early Church discerned as the inspired Word of God.
  • Sacred Scripture, therefore, was compiled in the heart of the Church, according to the authority of the apostles and their successors, the bishops.
  • The Church included the Hebrew Scriptures – what we call the Old Testament – because the revelation to Israel is a preparation for the coming of Christ.
  • The authentic writings about Christ, penned in apostolic circles, were also recognized by the Church – what we call the New Testament.
  • The definitive list of all the books in Sacred Scripture is known as the “canon,” from the Greek kanon, meaning a rule or standard.
  • God inspired Sacred Scripture, not in a mechanical sense through dictation, but through the action of the Holy Spirit, Who conveyed divine truths through the literary gifts of the human authors.
  • The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church in the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, illuminating rich levels of meaning, from the literal to the allegorical (symbolic), moral, and anagogical (relating to eternal life).

Live Your Faith

God’s Word is not simply inert letters, or arcane history from a tiny corner of the world. Rather, the Word is incarnate in Christ and alive on the page, with a value for all time to teach truths, probe hearts, and reveal God’s love. How much time do we spend with the Lord by reading the Bible and reflecting on his Word to us? Let us appreciate ever more God’s great gift of Sacred Scripture.

For more, delve into the Vatican II document Dei Verbum.