Monday: 11th Week in Ordinary Time - Year A - Matthew 5:38-42
Imagine a world where all your best friends live in the same neighborhood, where everything they ever wanted to do or be is right there, waiting for them. You could all stay in the same location.
You could all travel together, to places you'd all enjoy. You might split off for a while here or there, but you'd always come back to each other. If you wanted to visit each other, imagine there being special meeting places for each of you, all in your neighborhood, and no more than a mile or so away. Not 5000 miles.
Imagine no wars. Imagine peace. No electronics. Always acoustic guitars, always singing, always gathering together each day.
Imagine everyone learning from everyone, teaching. Good things, always good things. Imagine if kindness, love, caring, honesty, gentleness, laughter, hugging, smiling, friendship, were the only things all people ever knew.
Teamwork. No government. When making a decision, people thrived on the virtue of fairness, and everyone, of one accord, chose what was really best for all.
Imagine immortality. No pain, grief, or suffering.
Imagine no racism, hate or greed.
Imagine saying, "What a wonderful world!" and truly meaning it.
Remember the warmest hug you've ever gotten, and you will have love.
The most genuine good thing someone has ever said to you, and you will have kindness.
Imagine sharing the spotlight with your friends, being in it together, and you will have fairness.
Remember that we are all human, and you will have equality.
Sing together, you'll have unity.
Keep doing good little things for someone, and you'll build trust.
"The secret to a genuinely peaceful world is within us.
We can make it so, if we all start now.
Right now, pledge to do acts of kindness each and every day
Be gentle, kind, caring, and loving
Always smile. Laugh!
Learn. Teach. Above all, be patient.
Share, be part of a team, and be fair.
Listen. Sing. Play. Be the music.
Remember the ultimate goal of true unity...
And the world will live as one."
Trinity signifies unity in eternity. This is what we all long. But our life, that is practical life does not seem to help this unity. The root of the word "Trinity" originates from the Latin word "trini" which means "three each," or "threefold." "The term has been used as early as the days of Tertullian (200 A.D.) to denote the central doctrine of the Christian religion. God, who is one and unique in His infinite substance or nature, or Godhead, is three really distinct Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Each of these Persons is truly the same God, and has all His infinite perfections, yet He is really distinct from each of the other Persons. The one and only God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; yet God the Father is not God the Son, but begets the Son eternally, as the Son is eternally begotten. The Holy Ghost is neither the Father nor the Son, but a distinct Person having His Divine nature from the Father and the Son by eternal procession."
In other words, in Jesus dwells the Father and the Holy Spirit. And the same can be said about the Father and the Holy Spirit. In each one dwells the other two Persons of God. This truth is supported by a verse in The Letter of Paul to the Colossians. "In Him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily." (Col. 1.19; 2.9) "All the fullness of God means the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The next question that some may ask is, "Are there any biblical passages to support that in the fullness of God, there are Three distinct Persons?" The answer to this is "Yes!" We can quote the closing of the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus told His disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." (Mt. 28.18) And we can quote the closing words of St. Paul in the Second Letter to the Corinthians where He states, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." (2 Cor. 13.13) These biblical passages affirm that while there is One God, there are Three distinct Persons in the Godhead.
God created us and loved us enough to give himself to us. He rejoices in seeing the world filled with his love working through us. The Father is the Creator. The Gift of Himself is the Son. The love that fills the world is the Spirit.
The theologian who best presented God as love was St. Augustine. St. Augustine put it this way. the Father is the One who Loves. The Son is the One who is Loved. The Spirit is the very act of Loving. The Fr. Joe simplification of this for the young people and for himself is that God is love in every possible use of the word. He is the Subject Love, he is the Object love, and he is the verb Love.
Let me read for you the most beautiful passages from St. Augustine's Confessions.
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new. late have I loved you. You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my un-loveliness (I guess he means selfishness), I plunged into the things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called. you shouted. You broke my deafness. You flashed. You shone. You dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you; now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me and I burned for your peace.”
And the most famous passage from St. Augustine.
It is you who move us to delight in your praise. For you have made us for yourself. and our heart is restless until it rest in you.
The essence of God is Love. And we human beings are made in his image. We are integral, whole, when we give ourselves over to God's love. We reflect our very nature and are at peace with the world when we take a step away from our own selfish drives and trust ourselves into the hands of sacrificial love.
Can we describe God? Down through the ages preachers have asked this question; and never more than on this Trinity Sunday, when we preachers have the task of explaining what it means to say that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
A story beloved of preachers tells of how the great fifth-century North African bishop St. Augustine strolled along the shore of the Mediterranean wondering how to explain the Trinity. As he did so, he saw a little girl going back and forth into the sea, filling a small bucket with water which she poured into a hole she had dug in the sand. “What are you doing, dear?” St. Augustine asked. “I’m trying to empty the sea into this hole,” the child replied. “How do you think that with your little bucket you can possibly empty this immense ocean into this tiny hole?” Augustine countered. To which the girl replied. “And how do you, with your small head, think you can comprehend the immensity of God?” No sooner had the girl spoken these words than she disappeared.
The story contains an important truth. God is a mystery. not in the sense that we can understand nothing about God; but that what we can understand is always less than what we cannot. Pope Benedict, who has a special love for St. Augustine, has put the little girl’s shell into his coat of arms as a reminder that God is always shrouded in mystery. One thing we can understand is how people have experienced God.
Our first reading shows us Moses experiencing God in a cloud — a symbol of mystery, for in a cloud we cannot see clearly. The same divine cloud appears at Jesus’ Transfiguration, when his clothes and face shone with heavenly light. A cloud enveloped Jesus at his Ascension. At the Transfiguration Peter, James, and John experienced fear, and bowed down in worship. Moses does the same in our first reading. The witnesses to Jesus’ Ascension also bowed down in worship. This is the first way people experience God in the Bible. as the utterly Other, whose presence inspires awe and worship.
At the very moment, however, in which Moses was worshiping the true God atop Mount Sinai, his people below were bowing down in worship to a golden calf. a deity of their own devising, who made no demands upon them; who symbolized a superhuman virility and power which, the people vainly imagined, they could harness to their own ends. This is idolatry — for the Bible one of the worst sins there is. We become guilty of idolatry whenever we suppose that prayer and other religious practices give us access to some supernatural power which we can turn on or off like the light switch; which we can use to get whatever we want. God always hears and answers prayer. But he does so in sovereign freedom. not at the time, or in the way that we want — or think we can dictate. God is never at our disposal. We are at his disposal.
God’s appearance to Moses at the very moment when Moses’ people were committing the ultimate sin of idolatry shows that God is not only mysterious and fearful. He is also tender and compassionate. He is a God of love. This is how Jesus experienced God. Our gospel reading reflects this experience. “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.”
Jesus devoted the whole of his early life to helping people experience God’s love. He demonstrated this love through deeds of compassion. He illustrated God’s love through stories still told and pondered twenty centuries later. And on Calvary he gave us the supreme example of love.
Following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, his friends came to realize that he had not left them. He was still with them, though the manner of his presence was different. They recalled that Jesus had foretold this.
“I will not leave you orphans. I will come back to you” (Jn. 14.18).
“I will ask the Father and he will give you another to be your Advocate, who will be with you forever — the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 14.15).
“I shall see you again; then your hearts will rejoice with a joy no one can take from you” (Jn. 16.22). This joy at Jesus’ continuing presence is the third way people experience God.
Pondering these three ways in which people experienced God, the Church developed the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The God who is one is also three. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the description, in formal religious language, of how we experience God. He is the utterly Other, who inspires awe and worship. But he is also a God of love, a love so amazing, so divine, so undeserved by sinners like ourselves that he kindles within us an answering love. love for God, love for our fellow humans. And whenever we experience God in either of these ways — as the almighty creator and Father of the universe whose presence inspires awe, or in his Son Jesus in whom we see unconditional love in human form — we are experiencing God in and through the power of his Holy Spirit. The Spirit is God at work in our world, and in our hearts and minds, here and now. The Spirit is God’s love. the love exchanged between Father and Son, the love poured into our hearts — not just to give us a warm feeling inside, but to share with others.
Our second reading, finally, speaks about this sharing. “Encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
The little girl’s words to St. Augustine are true. God is too immense to get into our small heads. But the threefold experience of God is within the reach of all, even of children. God discloses himself to us in these three ways to lift our eyes from earth to heaven; to make us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, what Jesus was and is. channels and instruments through whom heaven comes down to earth.
The Trinity Sunday must evoke in us the sense of unity in our families and institutions. If there is no unity all that happens in and around us will not have any meaning for us. Hence, we must try our best to dialogue, set goals to promote love peace and joy and harmony.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada
Acts 21-11; 1 Cor 12.3b-7, 12-13, Jn 20.19-23
I observed the father of a lad giving him a Dollar just before entering the Church. I asked him why he gave money to the lad before entering the Church? He told me that the child is trained to be generous towards God and people. I was impressed and was really appreciative of the attitude of the father.
There is a story of identical twins. One was a hope-filled optimist. "Everything is coming up roses!" he would say. The other twin was a sad and hopeless pessimist. He thought that Murphy, as in Murphy's Law, was an optimist. The worried parents of the boys brought them to the local psychologist.
He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twins' personalities. "On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford and give the optimist a box of manure."
The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results. When they peeked in on the pessimist, they heard him audibly complaining, "I don't like the color of this computer... I'll bet this calculator will break... I don't like the game... I know someone who's got a bigger toy car than this..."
Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their little optimist gleefully throwing the manure up in the garden. He was giggling. "You can't fool me! Where there's this much manure, there's got to be a Rose!"
The event of Pentecost was to fill the pessimist disciples with the Spirit of courage and joy. In our life there are so many things that happen. We tend to take them simply without analyzing their importance to us. At times we are so accustomed that we do not even think that they are from God. Are we filled with the hope of the Resurrected Lord? Or do we worry about things that matter only concerning our material life? Are joyful? Or do we make things sadder as we pass through them?
There are events so wonderful, and so full of mystery, that ordinary language cannot describe them. Such was the Pentecost event which we celebrate today. In our first reading Luke, the writer, uses symbols to describe something beyond the power of words to portray. The coming of God’s Spirit, he writes, was “like a strong driving wind.” “Tongues as of fire” rested on these first Christians, who suddenly received power “to speak in different tongues.” These three symbols – wind, fire, tongues – are not arbitrary. Each tells us something about God and his mysterious work in the world.
This divine breath gives the Church an astonishing power of self-renewal. Again and again in history the Church has become so corrupt through the sins of its members that people have predicted its imminent demise. Yet time and again the Church has risen, through the power of this divine Spirit-breath, renewed and purified. For this recurring phenomenon there is but one possible explanation the fact that the Church lives not from its own strength, and certainly not from the strength of its members, but from the continual in-breathing of God’s Spirit, who is the Church’s life-breath.
Fire warms because it burns. If combustible material is nearby, fire spreads rapidly. Christianity, it has been said, cannot be taught. It must be caught. Are you burning with that fire? Are you handing it on to others?
Fire also gives light. God sent his Son into a dark world to be the world’s light. This light shines today through God’s continual gift of his Spirit to his Church and to each of its members. He wants us to serve as lenses or prisms of that light. “Your light must shine before others,” Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt. 5.16). And in John’s gospel Jesus warns. “Bad people all hate the light and avoid it, for fear that their practices should be shown up. The honest person comes to the light, so that it may be clearly see that God is in all he does” (John 3.20f).
When we fear God’s light, we need to ask God burn away whatever causes us to shun the light, whatever stands in the way of our spreading the light, fire, and warmth of his Holy Spirit.
That is the message which we have to proclaim. Does any of that message come through in your life? If you were arrested tonight for being a Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you? And if mere presence at Sunday Mass were not enough for conviction, would there be enough evidence then?
That we are Christians in a land undreamed of by anyone on that first day of Pentecost is proof that the Spirit’s “strong driving wind” did not blow in vain. Those first touched by that wind were blown into places, and situations, they never dreamed of. Even those who never left Jerusalem found their lives utterly changed.
This same wind of the Spirit is blowing in the Church today. Is it blowing in your life? Or are you afraid of that wind – of what it might do to you, and where it might blow you? Cast aside fear. The wind of God’s Spirit, like the winds of the sky, blows from different directions. But in the end this wind blows all who are driven by it to the same place. The wind of God Spirit blows us home – home to God.
The Spirit of the Lord has given us the spirit of love, truth, joy, peace, patience, generosity, kindness, goodness, self control and humility. We need to bear witness to them. Then perhaps we could say boldly that we are the children of God and children of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
“(The laity) work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven … (making) Christ known to others especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope, and charity. (Lumen gentium, 31)
“The laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth.”
There are people here who are doing those things every day. Are you? One day the Lord will examine us about how we have responded to the call to be his messengers to others. Here, ahead of time, are some of the questions in that examination.
God won’t ask what kind of car you drove; he’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation.
God won’t ask the area and beauty of your house; he’ll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.
God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your cupboard; he’ll ask how many you helped to clothe.
God won’t ask what your highest salary was; he’ll ask if you cut corners to obtain it.
God won’t ask what your job title was; he’ll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.
God won’t ask how many friends you had; he’ll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.
God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived; he’ll ask how you treated your neighbors.
God won’t ask about the color of your skin; he’ll ask about the content of your character.
The testimony of deeds before words is powerful. You probably know the saying. “What you are speaks so loud that I can’t hear what you say.” Words are cheap and our world is inundated by words. People today are more impressed by deeds than by words.
Bearing witness to Jesus Christ in daily life is difficult. If you doubt that, it probably means that you have never seriously tried it for any extended period of time. With our own resources alone, the task is impossible. But we are not alone. We have an unseen companion in the missionary task. the same divine master and Lord who is saying to us right now, as he said to that little band of weak sinners and doubters on a Galilean hilltop two thousand years ago. “Behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCG
Vancouver - Canada
The Commandment of Love
Todays Gospel is an invitation to love and attain perfection of love of God. In this brief but powerful passage, Jesus reiterates his favorite theme: love. He also promises the Holy Spirit. Finally, Jesus emphasizes the intimate unity of Jesus, God, the Spirit, and the believer.
This unity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit that overflows and penetrates the humanity is a wonderful power that helps us to achieve marvels in our lives. Let us use an imagery: If we were to take out a pen and begin writing, I could record anything I wanted to record. But if I removed my hand, the pen would simply fall on the paper and lie there. My pen has no life of its own. My pen contains all the raw materials I need to write with, but it has no writing ability on its own. In order for this pen to function, it must be joined to the life in my hand. When that happens, my pen can form letters it could never form by itself. I can compose clauses and phrases and put them together to make sentences because it is in my hand, and my hand is alive. When you connect your life to the life of the Holy Spirit, He can write things that you could never write on your own. He can achieve things you could never achieve on your own. When you connect your life to the life of the Holy Spirit, he can write things that you could never write on your own. But if you live in the flesh and rely upon your own power, you will drop like a discarded pen because there is no spiritual life in your flesh, your unredeemed humanity. God helps those who help themselves to Him.
Fifty-seven times Jesus uses love verbs (agapao, phileo). Add to that all of the occurrences of "friend" (which is the translation of philos) as well as the fact that the primary disciple in the Fourth Gospel is an unnamed character called "the beloved disciple," and we might accuse the author of touting a single issue. And why not, for is it not the case that "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life"? (John 3.16).
The passage begins and ends with love. In v. 15 Jesus declares that if his disciples love him, they will keep his commandments. The reader may ask, "What commandments?" Unlike, say, Matthew, nowhere in John does Jesus command us to go the second mile, turn the other cheek, render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. Famously, Jesus gives only a single commandment in John and it occurs in the chapter just before ours: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (13.34-35). He reiterates this in the chapter just after ours: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. (John 15.12-13). We see, then, the overwhelming, repetitive, circular emphasis on love. So, if the preacher is to preach this text, she will have to take up love. Perhaps John would have exulted to hear Bill Coffin's claim to his fellow Christians: "If we fail in love, we fail in all things else."
It's worth noting that love is tied to John's realized eschatology. Jesus gives one commandment: to love. Therefore, judgment and eternal life begin now. At the end of each day, and during each moment of each day, for John, there's only one question to ask yourself: "In what ways did I or did I not love today?" As you reflect upon that, judgment happens. Where you did not love, there lies judgment. But understand that for John judgment is merely diagnostic, not retributive. Jesus constantly asks the characters questions that help them understand their lives and motives more clearly. To the sick man in ch. 5:6: "Do you wish to be made well?"; to Martha in 11.26 "Do you believe this?". He asks questions not because he doesn't know the answers (since John 2.24-25 assures us that Jesus already knew everything); rather, he asks so that we might know, and therefore move forward with clear vision into the truth, light, glory, love, abundant for which God has created us. It's all of a piece.
The Holy Spirit
Admittedly, John's pneumatology is unusual compared to other NT texts. In contrast to Luke, who depicts the Holy Spirit as heavily active in the lives of characters from the beginning of his Gospel until the end of Acts, John insists that the Holy Spirit will come only after Jesus himself departs. Why is this? A clue lies in Jesus' referring to the Holy Spirit not as The Paraclete, but rather as Another Paraclete. Jesus was the first; for the Spirit to be active among them while Jesus was there would have been redundant since they each serve the same revelatory function. What appeared to be bad news to the disciples, namely Jesus' departure from them, turned out to be the best of news for both them and us. While Jesus walked the earth, his ministry was limited to one locale and one person, himself. Upon his departure, his disciples are given the Spirit and moved from apprentices to full, mature revealers of God's love. And this happens not just to the first disciples, but all those who would come later, those who never saw the historical Jesus. You see, the evangelist insists that present believers have no disadvantage in comparison to the first believers. Everything they were taught and they experienced is available to the same degree and with equally rich texture to us.
The word parakletos presents notorious translational difficulty because it has a range of meanings in the Greek, all of which are meant by the author. English translations variously translate it Comforter, Advocate, Counselor, and Helper; perhaps it would be best to keep it in its transliterated form, Paraclete, so as to catch the attention of the hearer with the strangeness; after all, it's strange among biblical authors, too. It appears only five times: four times in John 14-16 and once in 1 John 2:1. It's also best not to shut down possible meaning for the listener by narrowing the word to one meaning. The Holy Spirit is specifically said to do the following: teach, remind (14:26), abide (14:16), and testify about Jesus (15:26). Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit deals in truth.
Christians are familiar with the Trinity, but perhaps the most stunning feature of the Fourth Gospel is what we can term the experiences as Quat-trinity. In John’s Gospel, Jesus insists that the intimate relationship that exists between him, God, and the Spirit also includes believers. The believer does not stand close by admiring the majesty of the Trinity; rather, he/she is an equal part of it. John tries to push at this by grabbing hold of a number of terms and repeating them: abide, love, the language of being "in" (14:17 and 20), and later in the Discourse, an emphasis on "one-ness" (cf. 17:21-23). Johannine believers don't "imitate" Jesus; they participate in him wholly. If the passage is read aloud and preached, the reading should go through v. 23, the pinnacle of the passage: "Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." If God and Christ have made their home with us (John 1.14), how can we imagine there to be any distance between us and God? This, in turn, affects our eschatology. Everything that matters, that is, ultimate intimacy with God and Christ, is available now. What might one hope for beyond that? God is not currently holding out on us in any way--life, abundant life, is available for living from this moment into eternity.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza