“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.”
I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me, night after night. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not fall. Psalm 16:7,8
Almighty ever-living God,
who govern all things,
both in heaven and on earth,
mercifully hear the pleading of your people
and bestow your peace on our times.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Is 49:3, 5-6
The LORD said to me: You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 64 Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts.1 The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations.2 Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary.3
CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”4 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”5 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.
1 Cf. Isa 2:2-4; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 10:16.
2 Cf. Ezek 36; Isa 49:5-6; 53:11.
3 Cf. Ezek 2:3; Lk 1:38.
4 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.
5 Phil 2:7.
That these prophecies were remembered and studied by devout Jews is evident from the words of Simeon, who because of his saintly life, had been promised that he would live to see the promised Messiah. The promise was fulfilled. He was inspired to come to the temple on the very day the Blessed Mother brought the Infant Jesus for his presentation, as the Mosaic law prescribed. Simeon recognized in the Infant Jesus the promised Messiah. He took him in his arms, and sang his “Nune dimittis . . . My eyes have seen the salvation you have prepared for all the nations, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel” (Lk. 2: 27-32).
We too today, twenty centuries later, can sing that “Nune dimittis” with heartfelt joy and gratitude, for we can see, and have seen with the eyes of faith, that our Savior, the Son of God, has come among us, and has enlightened us with the true knowledge of our real purpose in life.
Because of our Christian faith, life has an entirely different meaning for us from what it had for our pagan ancestors. The real pagans today–those who never heard of Christ, or of his all-loving divine Father–and especially the self-made pagans, who have heard of God and of his divine Son who became man, but do not believe in his divinity or his message, must and should, look at human life on earth as a torture invented by some cruel sadistic joker. If they happen to have many of this world’s goods they may he able to avoid some of life’s hardships. But wealth cannot guarantee them good health and peace of mind; in fact, its possession adds to the torture that the thought of having to die very soon must constantly cause them. They must leave it all and end in a hole in the ground, like their pet dog or any other dumb beast of the field.
If, instead, the neo-pagan has little of this world’s possessions, his few years on earth are but a purgatory in preparation for NOTHING.
Let us thank and bless God, with the saintly Simeon and with the millions of devout Christians down through the centuries, for having given us the light of faith, and the source of that light, his beloved Son who came among us. Because of Christ’s coming on earth, and because of the gospel of peace and hope that he has left to us, we know the purpose of life. We know why we are here, we know why we must expect and accept trials and troubles, because we know where we are going, and understand that life’s tribulations, as well as its joys and consolations, are the road which leads us to the true life.
Thank you, God of love, for sending your divine Son to make heaven available to us! Thank you for having given us the Christian faith, which shows us what path to follow in our journey to that real heaven. Please forgive our past forgetfulness of your goodness, and give us the grace to follow our loving Savior more closely in future, so that when death calls us we may be worthy of the eternal life he earned for us. Amen.
Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R/ Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
1 Cor 1:1-3
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
and Sosthenes our brother,
to the church of God that is in Corinth,
to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy,
with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
their Lord and ours.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 752 In Christian usage, the word “church” designates the liturgical assembly,1 but also the local community2 or the whole universal community of believers.3 These three meanings are inseparable. “The Church” is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ’s Body.
CCC 1695 “Justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God,”4 “sanctified. .. [and] called to be saints,”5 Christians have become the temple of the Holy Spirit.6 This “Spirit of the Son” teaches them to pray to the Father7 and, having become their life, prompts them to act so as to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”8 by charity in action. Healing the wounds of sin, the Holy Spirit renews us interiorly through a spiritual transformation.9 He enlightens and strengthens us to live as “children of light” through “all that is good and right and true.”10
1 Cf. 1 Cor 11:18; 14:19,28,34,35.
2 Cf. 1 Cor 1:2; 16:1.
3 Cf. 1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6.
4 2 Cor 6:11.
5 1 Cor 1:2.
6 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19.
7 Cf. Gal 4:6.
8 Gal 5:22, 25.
9 Cf. Eph 4:23.
10 Eph 5:8, 9.
The conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus–the changing of the arch-enemy of Christianity into an apostle of Christ Jesus–was, after the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost day, the greatest benefit God conferred on the infant Church. From the moment he began his apostolate, he devoted himself wholeheartedly and exclusively to the spreading of Christianity among the Gentiles. Every thought of his mind, every bodily energy, and every gift of grace and nature which he possessed, were given to that one end : to make Christ and his message of salvation known to all men. He did not forget his fellow- Jews, but when they rejected him and his master Christ, he turned to the Gentiles.
During the 34 years of his missionary activity, he founded flourishing Christian churches in the principal towns of Asia Minor and Greece. In Rome itself he played a big part in the spread of the faith, from his prison cell. After his release in 62 from his first imprisonment, he spent another four or five years preaching in Spain and Italy, and re-visiting his earlier converts. Finally, in the year 67 or thereabouts, he laid down his life in Rome for the faith for which he had lived.
His apostolate did not end with his death. He has left to the Church a collection of letters, which are a source of encouragement and instruction for all who would live a true Christian life.
Today, he reminds each one of us that being Christians means we are called to be saints in heaven, when our years on earth come to an end. In heaven we shall certainly be, if we appreciate properly our Christian vocation, and live as true Christians, each day of our earthly lives. This does not mean that we must not take any interest in the affairs of this world, nor does it mean that we should neglect the earthly duties, which our own particular walk in life imposes on us. On the contrary living a truly Christian life means that we carry out faithfully and honestly our daily tasks. Our week-days are as important as our Sundays. In fact, if our week-days are dishonestly, that is sinfully, spent, our Sunday display of “Christian devotion” is not only a sham, it is an attempt at deceiving God. In reality, we are deceiving only ourselves.
Paul is still praying and wishing for us that grace and peace which he wished for the Corinthians. We need God’s grace, and his divine help, to live in peace and union with him, and with our fellowman. Paul’s prayer for us will be heard. Christ our Lord will not refuse his most devoted apostle if, but only if, we heed Paul’s words, and try every day to follow the path of faith which he preached to the Corinthians, and is still preaching to us today.
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 408 The consequences of original sin and of all men’s personal sins put the world as a whole in the sinful condition aptly described in St. John’s expression, “the sin of the world”.1 This expression can also refer to the negative influence exerted on people by communal situations and social structures that are the fruit of men’s sins.2
CCC 438 Jesus’ messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, “for the name ‘Christ’ implies ‘he who anointed’, ‘he who was anointed’ and ‘the very anointing with which he was anointed’. The one who anointed is the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed with the Spirit who is the anointing.’”3 His eternal messianic consecration was revealed during the time of his earthly life at the moment of his baptism by John, when “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”, “that he might be revealed to Israel”4 as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest him as “the Holy One of God”.5
CCC 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.6 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”7
CCC 523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way.8 “Prophet of the Most High”, John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last.9 He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom”, whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.10 Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.11
CCC 536 The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.12 Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death.13 Already he is coming to “fulfil all righteousness”, that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.14 The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.15 The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”.16 Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened”17 – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.
CCC 608 After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.18 By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover.19 Christ’s whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”20
CCC 613 Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”,21 and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.22
CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”23 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”24 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.
CCC 719 John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”25 In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.26 He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming.27 As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”28 In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.29 “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. .. Behold, the Lamb of God.”30
CCC 1137 The book of Revelation of St. John, read in the Church’s liturgy, first reveals to us, “A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”: “the Lord God.”31 It then shows the Lamb, “standing, as though it had been slain”: Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one “who offers and is offered, who gives and is given.”32 Finally it presents “the river of the water of life. .. flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” one of most beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit.33
CCC 1286 In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission.34 The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God.35 He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him “without measure.”36
CCC 1505 Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”.37 But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the “sin of the world,”.38 of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.
1 Jn 1:29.
2 Cf. John Paul II, RP 16.
3 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,18,3: PG 7/1, 934.
4 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.
5 Mk 1:24; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14.
6 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.
7 Acts 10:38.
8 Cf. Acts 13:24; Mt 3:3.
9 Lk 1:76; cf. 7:26; Mt 11:13.
10 Jn 1 29; cf. Acts 1:22; Lk 1:41; 16:16; Jn 3:29.
11 Lk 1:17; cf. Mk 6:17-29.
12 Jn 1:29; cf. Is 53:12.
13 Cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50.
14 Mt 3:15; cf. 26:39.
15 Cf. Lk 3:22; Is 42:1.
16 Jn 1:32-33; cf. Is 11:2.
17 Mt 3:16.
18 Jn 1:29; cf. Lk 3:21; Mt 3:14-15; Jn 1:36.
19 Is 53:7,12; cf. Jer 11:19; Ex 12:3-14; Jn 19:36; 1 Cor 5:7.
20 Mk 10:45.
21 Jn 1:29; cf. 8:34-36; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pt 1:19.
22 Mt 26:28; cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 16:15-16; Cor 11:25.
23 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.
24 Phil 2:7.
25 Lk 7:26.
26 Cf. Mt 11:13-14.
27 Jn 1:23; cf. Isa 40:1-3.
28 Jn 1:7; cf. Jn 15:26; 5:35.
29 Cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12.
30 Jn 1:33-36.
31 Rev 4:2, 8; Isa 6:1; cf. Ezek 1:26-28.
32 Rev 5:6; Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Anaphora; cf. Jn 1:29; Heb 4:14-15; 10:19-2.
33 Rev 22:1; cf. 21:6; Jn 4:10-14.
34 Cf. Isa 11:2; 61:1; Lk 4:16-22.
35 Cf. Mt 3:13-17; Jn 1:33-34.
36 Jn 3:34.
37 Mt 8:17; cf. Isa 53:4.
38 Jn 1:29; cf. Isa 53:4-6.
At last the promise, made to Abraham when God commanded him to leave his home, his country, and his kin (Gen. 12:1-3), was fulfilled. The Messiah who would bring blessings to Jew and Gentile (to all mankind) had arrived. Eighteen hundred years of expectation had at last come to an end. During these long years of waiting, God had, through his prophets and through his prophetic actions, renewed the hope in the hearts of his Chosen People. These prophecies and prophetic actions had given indications that the expected one would be someone very close to God, someone who was more than a mere man. Yet, who among the Chosen People could ever have thought that the “Promised One” would be the very Son of God in human nature?
His contemporaries, when he came, refused to believe this truth even though Christ had, during his public ministry, made claims to equality with God the Father, and had proved these claims by miracles (see, for example, the story of the paralytic: “Your sins are forgiven you . . . who can forgive sins but God alone? . . . to prove to you . . . he said to the sick man ‘get up . . . and go home,'” Lk. 5: 17-25).
But we must try to understand how difficult for a strict monotheistic Jew were the thought of three persons in God (the Trinity), and the idea that the infinite God could be in a limited, finite, human nature (the Incarnation). Our Lord himself showed that he understood their lack of faith, when he said on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23: 24).
We, however, have no reason for any such doubts or scruples. The full story of Christ’s conception, birth, life, preaching and miracles, crowned by his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection, is in itself sufficient guarantee and proof that he was indeed the Son of God-made-man for our sakes. The spread of his Church among the Jews and Gentiles is another convincing proof. What sane man would accept self-mortification, undergo trials and hardships, even martyrdom, or give up all the attractions and pleasures of the body, if he were not convinced that the story of Christ, and therefore his gospel-message, were true?
The sad part is that, while we have every reason, in this world and the next, to believe in Christ and follow his teaching, so many nominal Christians live as if Christ himself had never lived and died for them. Their hearts are centered in the pleasures, the power and the wealth of this earth. These are passing things, which they will have to bid goodbye very soon. They devote their energies to getting all this world can give them. Its final gift to them will be a six-feet-by-three hole in the earth.
If we neglect our vocation as Christians, if we forget God’s infinite love for us, as shown in the Incarnation, and if we fail to learn the lesson he taught us : that our purpose in this short life is to earn the eternal life after death, we, too, could become renegades to Christianity, traitors to Christ and our own greatest enemy.
Christ came to make us his brothers and children of the heavenly Father. He came to die for us so that we could live forever. We can deny our heaven-sent brother, we can leave our father’s home, we can lose the eternal happiness that Christ has won for us. God forbid that we should ever be so foolish, so ungrateful to God and Christ, and so harmful to our own real self-interest.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
The Process of Spiritual Growth
It is important for the process of spiritual growth that you don’t just pray and study your faith at times when it happens to cross your mind, when it suits you, but that you observe some discipline… I should say, never begin with thinking alone. For if you try to pull God toward you in the laboratory of rational thought, and to attach him to you in what is to some extent a purely theoretical fashion, you find you can’t do it. You always have to combine the questions with action. Pascal once said to an unbelieving friend: Start by doing what believers do, even if it still makes no sense to you… You can never look for faith in isolation; it is only found in an encounter with people who believe, who can understand you, who have perhaps come by way of a similar situation themselves, who can in some way lead you and help you. It is always among us that faith grows. Anyone who wants to go it alone has thus got it wrong from the very start.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
The Divine Praises
Blessed be God.
Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be His Most Precious Blood.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
Blessed be God in His angels and in His Saints. Amen.