Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

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Canticle of Zachary

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: because He hath visited and wrought the redemption of His people.

And hath raised up a horn of salvation to us, in the house of David His servant.

As he spoke by the mouth of his holy Prophets, who are from the beginning.

Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us.

To perform mercy to our fathers, and to remember His holy testament.

The oath which He swore to Abraham, our father; that He would grant to us,

That being delivered from the hand of our enemies we may serve him without fear,

In holiness and justice before Him, all our days.

And thou child, Precursor of the Emmanuel, shalt be called the Prophet of the Most High: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, to prepare His ways.

To give unto His people the knowledge of salvation, unto the remission of their sins.

Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us:

To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death; to direct our feet in the way of peace.

COLLECT

O God, who raised up Saint John the Baptist

to make ready a nation fit for Christ the Lord,

give your people, we pray,

the grace of spiritual joys

and direct the hearts of all the faith fully into the way of salvation and peace.

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.

READING 1

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Is 49:1-6

Hear me, O coastlands,

listen, O distant peoples.

The LORD called me from birth,

from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.

He made of me a sharp-edged sword

and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.

He made me a polished arrow,

in his quiver he hid me.

You are my servant, he said to me,

Israel, through whom I show my glory.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,

and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,

yet my reward is with the LORD,

my recompense is with my God.

For 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, he 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.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:

you know when I sit and when I stand;

you understand my thoughts from afar.

My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,

with all my ways you are familiar.

I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

Truly you have formed my inmost being;

you knit me in my mother’s womb.

I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;

wonderful are your works.

I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

My soul also you knew full well;

nor was my frame unknown to you

When I was made in secret,

when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.

I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

READING II

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Acts 13:22-26

In those days, Paul said:

“God raised up David as king;

of him God testified,

I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;

he will carry out my every wish.

From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise,

has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.

John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance

to all the people of Israel;

and as John was completing his course, he would say,

‘What do you suppose that I am’ I am not he.

Behold, one is coming after me;

I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.”

“My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham,

and those others among you who are God-fearing,

to us this word of salvation has been sent.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way.1 “Prophet of the Most High”, John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last.2 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”.3 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.4

1 Cf. Acts 13:24; Mt 3:3.

2 Lk 1:76; cf. 7:26; Mt 11:13.

3 Jn 1 29; cf. Acts 1:22; Lk 1:41; 16:16; Jn 3:29.

4 Lk 1:17; cf. Mk 6:17-29

GOSPEL

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Lk 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child

she gave birth to a son.

Her neighbors and relatives heard

that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,

and they rejoiced with her.

When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,

they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,

but his mother said in reply,

“No. He will be called John.”

But they answered her,

“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”

So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.

He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”

and all were amazed.

Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,

and he spoke blessing God.

Then fear came upon all their neighbors,

and all these matters were discussed

throughout the hill country of Judea.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,

“What, then, will this child be?”

For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

The child grew and became strong in spirit,

and he was in the desert until the day

of his manifestation to Israel.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062418-day-mass.cfm

BENEDICTUS

What John was Born For

According to a splendid saying of Pascal, a single soul is worth more than the entire visible universe. But if we are to grasp this truth in a vivid way, we must be converted; we must as it were do an interior turnabout, overcome the spell visible reality cast over us, and acquire a sensitive touch, ear, and eye for the invisible. We must treat the invisible as more important than all the things that thrust themselves upon us with such force day after day. “Be converted”: change your thinking, your outlook, so that you perceive God’s presence in the world; change your thinking so that God may become present in you and through you in the world. John himself was not spared the hard task of changing his thinking, of being converted, of undergoing what De Lubac calls “the alchemy of being.” His change in thinking began with his having to proclaim, as one crying in the wilderness, a man whom he himself did not know… But John’s real suffering, the real recasting as it were of his entire being in relation to God, began in earnest with the activity of Christ during the time when he, John, was in prison. The darkenss of the prison cell was not the most fearful darkness John had to endure. The true darkness was what Martiun Buber has called “the eclipse of God”: the abrupt uncertainty John experienced regarding his own mission and the identity of the one whose way he had sought to prepare.

Pope Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

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Magnificat:

 

 

My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid: for, behold from henceforth all generations shall call me Blessed. Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His name. And His mercy is from gene ration unto generation, to them that fear him. He hath showed might in His arm He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.  But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

O Lord,
give us a mind
that is humble, quiet, peaceable,
patient and charitable,
and a taste of your Holy Spirit
in all our thoughts, words, and deeds.

O Lord,
give us a lively faith, a firm hope,
a fervent charity, a love of you.

Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation
and all dullness in prayer.
Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you,
your grace, and your tender compassion toward us.

Give us,
good Lord,
the grace to work for
the things we pray for.

–St Thomas More, 1478-1535

COLLECT

O God, strength of those who hope in you,

graciously hear our pleas,

and, since without you mortal frailty can do nothing,

grant us always the help of your grace,

that in following your commands

we may please you by our resolve and our deeds.

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.

READING I

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Ez 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:

I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,

from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,

and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;

on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.

It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,

and become a majestic cedar.

Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,

every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.

And all the trees of the field shall know

that I, the LORD,

bring low the high tree,

lift high the lowly tree,

wither up the green tree,

and make the withered tree bloom.

As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

APPLICATION

Fr. O’Sullivan did not publish applications for this week so I have chosen substitutes.

Together with the more usually cited Daniel 4:10, 20-21, Ezekiel’s allegory of the cedar tree is a source of the imagery of the mustard bush in the gospel reading. The cedar stands for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy after the exile. The shoot or twig (see Isa 11:1) refers to a descendant of Jehoiachin, the last Davidic king before the exile.

The beasts and birds represent the nations of the earth. This indicates that the prophecy expects the kingdom after the return from exile to be more than just the mere restoration of the status quo before the exile; in fact, it is to be the realization of the messianic kingdom. It is therefore legitimate to say that this prophecy finds its ultimate fulfillment in the kingdom of Christ, of which the church on earth is a foretaste.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

(cf. 2a) Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,

to sing praise to your name, Most High,

To proclaim your kindness at dawn

and your faithfulness throughout the night.

Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,

like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.

They that are planted in the house of the LORD

shall flourish in the courts of our God.

Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

They shall bear fruit even in old age;

vigorous and sturdy shall they be,

Declaring how just is the LORD,

my rock, in whom there is no wrong.

Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

READING II

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2 Cor 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters:

We are always courageous,

although we know that while we are at home in the body

we are away from the Lord,

for we walk by faith, not by sight.

Yet we are courageous,

and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.

Therefore, we aspire to please him,

whether we are at home or away.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,

so that each may receive recompense,

according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 164 Now, however, “we walk by faith, not by sight”;1 we perceive God as “in a mirror, dimly” and only “in part”.2 Even though enlightened by him in whom it believes, faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.

CCC 769 “The Church. .. will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven,”3 at the time of Christ’s glorious return. Until that day, “the Church progresses on her pilgrimage amidst this world’s persecutions and God’s consolations.”4 Here below she knows that she is in exile far from the Lord, and longs for the full coming of the Kingdom, when she will “be united in glory with her king.”5 The Church, and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials. Only then will “all the just from the time of Adam, ‘from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,’. .. be gathered together in the universal Church in the Father’s presence.”6

CCC 1005 To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”7 In that “departure” which is death the soul is separated from the body.8 It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead.9

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.10 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.11

CCC 1681 The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the light of the Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ in whom resides our only hope. The Christian who dies in Christ Jesus is “away from the body and at home with the Lord.”12

1 2 Cor 5:7.

2 l Cor 13:12.

3 LG 48.

4 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei, 18,51:PL 41,614; cf. LG 8.

5 LG 5; Cf. 6; 2 Cor 5:6.

6 LG 2.

7 2 Cor 5:8.

8 Cf. Phil 1:23.

9 Cf. Paul VI, CPG § 28.

10 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

11 Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.

12 2 Cor 5:8.

APPLICATION

We are still in that part of 2 Corinthians where Paul is defending his apostleship against the attacks of the false apostles. His emphasis on his apostolic sufferings had led him to speak about his confident hope of resurrection. Despite the fact that the gospel is committed to frail earthen vessels, there is no room for despondency. In speaking once more of his hope, Paul drops the metaphor of a “tent” for this frail earthly existence and speaks directly of the body. He can, he says, face the dissolution of the body, already presaged in his apostolic sufferings, with confidence because God will replace it with the resurrection body. And that will be a great gain, for in this present body we are absent from the Lord; we are certainly “in” Christ already as members of his body but not yet “with” Christ (as the false apostles taught, overemphasizing the “already”).

In the letters of his middle period, Paul is coming to take seriously the possibility of his own death before the parousia. This hope of resurrection is not just a dreaming about “pie in the sky when we die” but provides a powerful motivation for life now—to please the Lord. It must be our aim now to please the Lord because at the parousia we will all have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

This belief in a Last Judgment according to our works is not a hangover from Paul’s earlier Judaism, nor is it inconsistent with his message of justification by faith and grace alone. Faith must, if it is genuine, work in love. We are responsible for our sins and failures even if our good works are the fruit of the Spirit. If we receive a reward for our good works, this reward is not a prize for good behavior but the fulfillment of our human destiny.

Excerpt for Readings I and II are from: Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today. Reginald H. Fuller and Daniel Westberg. Liturgical Press. 2006 (Third Edition), pp. 198-202.

GOSPEL

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Mk 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:

“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;

it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land

and would sleep and rise night and day

and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,

he knows not how.

Of its own accord the land yields fruit,

first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,

for the harvest has come.”

He said,

“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,

or what parable can we use for it?

It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,

is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.

But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants

and puts forth large branches,

so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

With many such parables

he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.

Without parables he did not speak to them,

but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061718.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 543 Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations.1 To enter it, one must first accept Jesus’ word:

The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.2

CCC 546 Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching.3 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.4 Words are not enough, deeds are required.5 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?6 What use has he made of the talents he has received?7 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”.8 For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic.9

1 Cf. Mt 8:11 10:5-7; 28:19.

2 LC 5; cf. Mk 4:14, 26-29; Lk 12:32.

3 Cf. Mk 4:33-34.

4 Cf. Mt 13:44-45; 22:1-14.

5 Cf. Mt 21:28-32.

6 Cf. Mt 13:3-9.

7 Cf. Mt 25:14-30.

8 Mt 13:11.

9 Mk 4:11; cf. Mt 13:10-15.

APPLICATION

Commentary: Peter Chrysologus

The mustard seed grows into the biggest shrub of all.

Brothers and sisters, you have heard today how the kingdom of heaven, for all its vastness, can be compared to a mustard seed: “the kingdom of heaven,” says the Gospel, “is like a mustard seed.” A mustard seed! Is that the sum of believers’ hopes? Is that what the faithful are longing for—a mustard seed, the blessed reward of virgins for their long years of self-restraint, the glorious prize won by martyrs at the cost of their blood? Is this the mystery no eye has seen, no ear heard, no human heart imagined; the mystery past telling that the Apostle assures us God has prepared for all who love him?

Let us not be too easily disappointed by our Lord’s words. If we remember that “God’s weakness is stronger than human strength, and God’s foolishness wiser than human wisdom,” we shall find that this smallest seed of God’s creation is greater than the whole wide world. It is up to us to sow this mustard seed in our minds and let it grow within us into a great tree of understanding reaching up to heaven and elevating all our faculties; then it will spread out branches of knowledge, the pungent savor of its fruit will make our mouths burn, its fiery kernel will kindle a blaze within us inflaming our hearts, and the taste of it will dispel our unenlightened repugnance. Yes, it is true: a mustard seed is indeed an image of the kingdom of God.

Christ is the kingdom of heaven. Sown like a mustard seed in the garden of the Virgin’s womb, he grew up into the tree of the cross whose branches stretch across the world. Crushed in the mortar of the passion, its fruit has produced seasoning enough for the flavoring and preservation of every living creature with which it comes in contact.

As long as a mustard seed remains intact, its properties lie dormant; but when it is crushed they are exceedingly evident. So it was with Christ; he chose to have his body crushed, because he would not have his power concealed.

We too must crush this mustard seed, in order to feel the force of this parable. Christ is king, because he is the source of all authority. Christ is the kingdom, because all the glory of his kingdom is within him. Christ is a man, because all humanity is restored in him. Christ is a mustard seed, because the infinitude of divine greatness is accommodated to the littleness of flesh and blood.

Do we need further examples? Christ became all things in order to restore all of us in himself. The man Christ received the mustard seed which represents the kingdom of God; as man he received it, though as God he had always possessed it. He sowed it in his garden, that is in his bride, the Church. The Church is a garden extending over the whole world, tilled by the plough of the gospel, fenced in by stakes of doctrine and discipline, cleared of every harmful weed by the labor of the apostles, fragrant and lovely with perennial flowers: virgins’ lilies and martyrs’ roses set amid the pleasant verdure of all who bear witness to Christ and the tender plants of all who have faith in him.

Such then is the mustard seed which Christ sowed in his garden. When he promised a kingdom to the patriarchs the seed took root in them; with the prophets it sprang up, with the apostles it grew tall, in the Church it became a great tree putting forth innumerable branches laden with gifts. And now you too must take the wings of the psalmist’s dove, gleaming gold in the rays of divine sunlight, and fly to rest for ever among those sturdy, fruitful branches. No snares are set to trap you there; fly off, then, with confidence and dwell securely in its shelter.

(Sermon 98: PL 52, 474-76)

Peter Chrysologus (c. 400-450), who was bom at Imoly in Italy, became a bishop of Ravenna. He was highly esteemed by the Empress Galla Placidia, in whose presence he preached his first sermon as bishop. He was above all a pastor, and many of his sermons have been preserved.

Edith Barnecut, O. S. B. As a consultant for the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, Sr. Edith was responsible for the final version of many of the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours. Copyright © 1993, New City Press.

All Rights Reserved.

Journey with the Fathers

Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels – Year B, pp. 66-67.

Edith Barnecut, O. S. B., ed.

BENEDICTUS

Faith as the Seed of Life

The Lord uses the image of the mustard seed, as being the smallest of all grains or seeds, out of which in the end a tree will grow in which all the birds of the air will be able to nest. The mustard seed comprises, on the one hand, smallness – wherein I am wretched – but at the same time the potential for growth. In that way there is in this mustard seed a profound depiction of faith. Faith is seen thereby not as the mere acceptance of certain propositions, but s the seed of life within me. I am only a true believer if faith is present within me as a living seed, from which something is growing and which then truly changes my world and, in doing so, brings something new into the world as a whole… The experiment of life can only become clear for me if I truly give myself up to the will of God, so far as he has made it known to me… Sometimes, precisely by the breadth of our vision, in that we can see so many glimpses of divine reason in reality, this really does add breadth and scope to our image of God, and we stand before him with greater reverence and even with humility and awe.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Domine Iesu, Noverim me (Lord Jesus, Let Me Know Myself)

St. Augustine; (354-430)

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know Thee,

And desire nothing save only Thee.

Let me hate myself and love Thee.

Let me do everything for the sake of Thee.

Let me humble myself and exalt Thee.

Let me think of nothing except Thee.

Let me die to myself and live in Thee.

Let me accept whatever happens as from Thee.

Let me banish self and follow Thee,

And ever desire to follow Thee.

Let me fly from myself and take refuge in Thee,

That I may deserve to be defended by Thee.

Let me fear for myself, let me fear Thee,

And let me be among those who are chosen by Thee.

Let me distrust myself and put my trust in Thee.

Let me be willing to obey for the sake of Thee.

Let me cling to nothing save only to Thee,

And let me be poor because of Thee.

Look upon me, that I may love Thee.

Call me that I may see Thee,

And for ever enjoy Thee. Amen.

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The Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

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“Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Short Prayer After Communion

Sweetest Jesus,
Body and Blood most Holy,
be the delight and pleasure of my soul,
my strength and salvation in all temptations,
my joy and peace in every trial,
my light and guide in every word and deed,
and my final protection in death. Amen

St. Thomas Aquinas

COLLECT

O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament

have left us a memorial of your Passion,

grant us, we pray,

so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood

that we may always experience in ourselves

the fruits of your redemption.

Who live and reign with God the Father

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Ex 24:3-8

 

 

When Moses came to the people

and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD,

they all answered with one voice,

“We will do everything that the LORD has told us.”

Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and,

rising early the next day,

he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar

and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.

Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites

to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls

as peace offerings to the LORD,

Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls;

the other half he splashed on the altar.

Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people,

who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.”

Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,

“This is the blood of the covenant

that the LORD has made with you

in accordance with all these words of his.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

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”,1 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”.2

CCC 2060 The gift of the commandments and of the Law is part of the covenant God sealed with his own. In Exodus, the revelation of the “ten words” is granted between the proposal of the covenant3 and its conclusion – after the people had committed themselves to “do” all that the Lord had said, and to “obey” it.4 The Decalogue is never handed on without first recalling the covenant (“The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.”).5

1 Jn 1:29; cf. 8:34-36; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pt 1:19.

2 Mt 26:28; cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 16:15-16; Cor 11:25.

3 Cf. Ex 19.

4 Cf. Ex 24:7.

5 Deut 5:2.

APPLICATION

God called Abraham from his home in Mesopotamia and promised him and his descendants a homeland of their own in the land of Canaan. God’s purpose in doing this was to enable him to fulfill his eternal plan of elevating man to divine sonship, through the incarnation of his own divine Son. Christ, the Son of God made man, who would bring this blessing of sonship to all mankind, was to take his human nature from a descendant of Abraham. Hence’s God’s very special interest in the Chosen People. The detailed covenant he made with the Israelites, after he had miraculously freed them from the slavery of Egypt, was the first pact he made with the people as a whole. On his part, he promised to lead them into the land he had promised to them through Abraham; there he would protect them from their enemies and prosper them, provided they were loyal to him and to his commandments. This pact, or covenant, was solemnly sealed and ratified with the blood of the sacrificial victims, sprinkled on the people and on the altar.

Like the whole of the Old Testament this was a representation and a preparation for the real, the new Testament, the new Covenant which God was to make not only with Abraham’s descendants, but the whole human race through Christ. When he came, he made a new pact between God and all men. In this pact God promised an ever-lasting home in heaven to all men and divine assistance on their way, provided they kept his commandments. This new and eternal covenant was signed and sealed with the precious blood of Christ who offered himself to God the Father as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.

We are celebrating today in this annual feast of Corpus Christi the second and final covenant. The story of the first covenant is read for us to show us how the whole Old Testament, the whole of God’s dealings with Abraham and his descendants, were a preparation and a foreshadowing of the greater things he was to do for us, the Chosen People of the New Testament. God promised to lead the Israelites into Canaan and make them prosper there in their earthly concerns. That they would share in the future blessing, the incarnation, was only very vaguely hinted at. He gave them Moses, one of themselves, a son of Abraham, to be their leader. He agreed to accept the sacrifice of sheep and oxen and farm produce as a token of their reverence and respect. To us, on the other hand, he has opened his own heavenly kingdom and has given us all the necessary means to merit it. He has guaranteed us an eternal happiness. He has given us as our leader his own divine Son. The sacrifice with which we can show our reverence and gratitude to him is not a token. It is a sacrifice which gives God full honor and glory, for it is the sacrifice of his own beloved Son.

What return are we asked to make for these extraordinary privileges and promises? Nothing more than was asked of the Israelites. We are to keep the laws laid down by Christ. They include the Decalog and the cultic laws of the New Testament. One might say: surely, no sane man would refuse to pay so little for so great a reward! Yet, unfortunately, there are many Christians who do not keep the commandments. They forget all that the good God and his only begotten Son has done for them. They become so immersed in the pleasures and things of this passing world, that they have no time to think of the real world which lies ahead. They are willing to risk their own eternal future for the sake of some passing pleasure or some trifling gain.

The Chosen People at Mount Sinai unanimously and willingly promised to keep God’s commandments. Within a few weeks they forgot their solemn promise and rebelled against God. Because of their rebellions, their journey from Sinai to Canaan was so prolonged that none of the adults who were led by God out of Egypt reached their Promised Land. Christians, too, forget their baptismal promises, promises often repeated in adult life. Should they continue in this state of revolt against God, they too would find entrance to the eternal home denied them.

However, God is ever merciful, ever ready to forgive and forget our past. On this feastday of the precious Body and Blood of our Savior, let us revere that sacred Blood while we renew once more our firm resolve to do all that our heavenly Father asks of us.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18

I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.

How shall I make a return to the LORD

for all the good he has done for me?

The cup of salvation I will take up,

and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.

Precious in the eyes of the LORD

is the death of his faithful ones.

I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;

you have loosed my bonds.

I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.

To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,

and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

My vows to the LORD I will pay

in the presence of all his people.

I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.

READING II

Christ Panto.gif

Heb 9:11-15

Brothers and sisters:

When Christ came as high priest

of the good things that have come to be,

passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle

not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation,

he entered once for all into the sanctuary,

not with the blood of goats and calves

but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

For if the blood of goats and bulls

and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes

can sanctify those who are defiled

so that their flesh is cleansed,

how much more will the blood of Christ,

who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God,

cleanse our consciences from dead works

to worship the living God.

For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant:

since a death has taken place for deliverance

from transgressions under the first covenant,

those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

CCC 522 The coming of God’s Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the “First Covenant”.1 He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming.

CCC 579 This principle of integral observance of the Law not only in letter but in spirit was dear to the Pharisees. By giving Israel this principle they had led many Jews of Jesus’ time to an extreme religious zeal.2 This zeal, were it not to lapse into “hypocritical” casuistry,3 could only prepare the People for the unprecedented intervention of God through the perfect fulfillment of the Law by the only Righteous One in place of all sinners.4

CCC 580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son.5 In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but “upon the heart” of the Servant who becomes “a covenant to the people”, because he will “faithfully bring forth justice”.6 Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself “the curse of the Law” incurred by those who do not “abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them”, for his death took place to redeem them “from the transgressions under the first covenant”.7

CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.8 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.9 Therefore his being put to bodily death10 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”11

CCC 614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.12 First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.13

CCC 662 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”14 The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands. .. but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”15 There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him”.16 As “high priest of the good things to come” he is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven.17

CCC 1085 In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. During his earthly life Jesus announced his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated it by his actions. When his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history which does not pass away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father “once for all.”18 His Paschal mystery is a real event that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.

CCC 1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. .. this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”19

CCC 1564 “Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.”20

CCC 2100 Outward sacrifice, to be genuine, must be the expression of spiritual sacrifice: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. .. ”21 The prophets of the Old Covenant often denounced sacrifices that were not from the heart or not coupled with love of neighbor.22 Jesus recalls the words of the prophet Hosea: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”23 The only perfect sacrifice is the one that Christ offered on the cross as a total offering to the Father’s love and for our salvation.24 By uniting ourselves with his sacrifice we can make our lives a sacrifice to God.

1 Heb 9:15.

2 Cf. Rom 10:2.

3 Cf. Mt 15:31; Lk 11:39-54.

4 Cf Is 53:11; Heb 9:15.

5 Cf. Gal 4:4.

6 Jer 31:33; Is 42:3, 6.

7 Gal 3:13; 3:10; Heb 9:15.

8 Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20.

9 Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6.

10 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.

11 Jn 4:21; cf. 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22.

12 Cf. Heb 10:10.

13 Cf. Jn 10:17-18; 15:13; Heb 9:14; 1 Jn 4:10.

14 Jn 12:32.

15 Heb 9:24.

16 Heb 7:25.

17 Heb 9:11; cf. Rev 4:6-11.

18 Rom 6:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12; cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

19 Council of Trent (1562) Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, c. 2: DS 1743; cf. Heb 9:14, 27.

20 LG 28 cf. Heb 5:1-10; 7:24; 9:11-28; Innocent I, Epist. ad Decentium:PL 20,554A; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2,22:PG 35,432B.

21 PS 51:17.

22 Cf. Am 5:21-25; Isa 1:10-20.

23 Mt 9:13; 12:7; Cf. Hos 6:6.

24 Cf. Heb 9:13-14.

APPLICATION

If any of the first readers of this Epistle felt any temptation to return to the Jewish religion, the comparison between the value of the sacrifices offered on the day of Atonement by the Jewish high priest and the sacrifice offered by Christ on Good Friday must surely have put their minds at rest. The Jewish high priest was a man; Christ was the Son of God in human nature. The high priest had to atone for his own sins as well as those of his people, Christ was sinless. The high priest offered as sacrifice sheep and calves, things in themselves that had no value for making atonement or for honoring God; Christ offered his own human body, an offering that had infinite value in atoning for sin and in giving honor to his Father : for he who made the offering was the Son of God. The high priest had to repeat this ritual of atonement each year; Christ’s offering was made once and for all, for it had infinite value for all men for all time.

Do we really appreciate how fortunate we are to be members of the new Chosen People, rather than to be living under the old dispensation? The Old Testament was the only true religion, the one religion that in its day taught a knowledge of the true God, but how limited was its knowledge, how empty of power and efficacy were its ritual observances, how little did the Israelites know of the infinite love and mercy of God compared with what our Christian religion teaches us?

Today’s feastday is a striking reminder of this infinite love of God. Not only did the Son of God die on the cross for our salvation, but through his divine power he arranged to leave to his Church the power to repeat that self-same death in an unbloody manner each time the holy sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated. Every Mass said renews the efficacy of Calvary. The high priest of Christianity enters once more into the heavenly holy of holies; infinite glory is given to God; infinite atonement is made for the sins of men, and the floodgates of heaven are opened to pour down a superabundance of divine grace on mankind. We surely have “the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven” and one who at the same time understands and sympathizes with us in all our human needs and weaknesses. Therefore, not only did he open heaven for us and show us the way but he bequeathed to his Church for all time his precious Body and Blood, to be offered to God as an infinite atonement. At the same time his Body and Blood are our spiritual food in this life.

The Blessed Eucharist is a sacrifice and a sacrament. Corpus Christi is the feastday of the Blessed Eucharist. Both sacrament and sacrifice are closely united. In the Old Testament times, the priest offering some animal to God as sacrifice and the person or persons for whom he offered the sacrifice, ate part of the victim as a sign of their close intimacy with God. It is the same with the Blessed Eucharist. The receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ is an essential sequence to the offering of Christ in the sacrifice of the Mass. Jesus Christ becomes present on our altars to re-enact the sacrifice of Calvary and also to be our spiritual nourishment. This is his intention for he said, when instituting the Eucharist : “take it and eat: this is my body,” and of the cup he said : “Drink all of you from this, for this is my blood” (Mt. 26: 27).

While it is the priest alone who is empowered to consecrate at Mass, all who are present are the offerers of the sacrifice and should, therefore, partake of the sacrifice. They should, in other words, receive under one or both species during the Mass. This community participation in the eucharistic sacrifice was stressed and practiced very much in the early Church and down through the first centuries. In recent years the faithful have been urged to renew this very spiritual practice. We give infinite honor to God by being present and by participating in the offering of the Mass. But we participate fully and receive the full benefits of this sacrificial act only when we partake of the sacrifice with our fellow-worshipers by receiving Christ in Holy Communion.

For those who feel they are seriously unworthy to receive Christ in the Holy Communion, the merciful means of obtaining forgiveness is within easy reach. For those who feel unworthy of such an honor because of minor faults and failings committed during the week, a heart-felt act of love of God will cleanse them of such minor faults and failings. God is the God of love and mercy. His presence in the sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist is proof of this. Let us strive to be always ready to welcome him into our hearts when he is present with us on our altars.

Sequence — Lauda Sion

Laud, O Zion, your salvation,

Laud with hymns of exultation,

Christ, your king and shepherd true:

Bring him all the praise you know,

He is more than you bestow.

Never can you reach his due.

Special theme for glad thanksgiving

Is the quick’ning and the living

Bread today before you set:

From his hands of old partaken,

As we know, by faith unshaken,

Where the Twelve at supper met.

Full and clear ring out your chanting,

Joy nor sweetest grace be wanting,

From your heart let praises burst:

For today the feast is holden,

When the institution olden

Of that supper was rehearsed.

Here the new law’s new oblation,

By the new king’s revelation,

Ends the form of ancient rite:

Now the new the old effaces,

Truth away the shadow chases,

Light dispels the gloom of night.

What he did at supper seated,

Christ ordained to be repeated,

His memorial ne’er to cease:

And his rule for guidance taking,

Bread and wine we hallow, making

Thus our sacrifice of peace.

This the truth each Christian learns,

Bread into his flesh he turns,

To his precious blood the wine:

Sight has fail’d, nor thought conceives,

But a dauntless faith believes,

Resting on a pow’r divine.

Here beneath these signs are hidden

Priceless things to sense forbidden;

Signs, not things are all we see:

Blood is poured and flesh is broken,

Yet in either wondrous token

Christ entire we know to be.

Whoso of this food partakes,

Does not rend the Lord nor breaks;

Christ is whole to all that taste:

Thousands are, as one, receivers,

One, as thousands of believers,

Eats of him who cannot waste.

Bad and good the feast are sharing,

Of what divers dooms preparing,

Endless death, or endless life.

Life to these, to those damnation,

See how like participation

Is with unlike issues rife.

When the sacrament is broken,

Doubt not, but believe ‘tis spoken,

That each sever’d outward token

doth the very whole contain.

Nought the precious gift divides,

Breaking but the sign betides

Jesus still the same abides,

still unbroken does remain.

Lo! the angel’s food is given

To the pilgrim who has striven;

see the children’s bread from heaven,

which on dogs may not be spent.

Truth the ancient types fulfilling,

Isaac bound, a victim willing,

Paschal lamb, its lifeblood spilling,

manna to the fathers sent.

Very bread, good shepherd, tend us,

Jesu, of your love befriend us,

You refresh us, you defend us,

Your eternal goodness send us

In the land of life to see.

You who all things can and know,

Who on earth such food bestow,

Grant us with your saints, though lowest,

Where the heav’nly feast you show,

Fellow heirs and guests to be. Amen. Alleluia.

GOSPEL

41772313_1_x.jpg

Mk 14:12-16, 22-26

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,

when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,

Jesus’ disciples said to him,

“Where do you want us to go

and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

He sent two of his disciples and said to them,

“Go into the city and a man will meet you,

carrying a jar of water.

Follow him.

Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house,

‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room

where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘

Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.

Make the preparations for us there.”

The disciples then went off, entered the city,

and found it just as he had told them;

and they prepared the Passover.

While they were eating,

he took bread, said the blessing,

broke it, gave it to them, and said,

“Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,

and they all drank from it.

He said to them,

“This is my blood of the covenant,

which will be shed for many.

Amen, I say to you,

I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine

until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Then, after singing a hymn,

they went out to the Mount of Olives.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060318.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

CCC 474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.1 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.2

CCC 574 From the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, certain Pharisees and partisans of Herod together with priests and scribes agreed together to destroy him.3 Because of certain acts of his expelling demons, forgiving sins, healing on the sabbath day, his novel interpretation of the precepts of the Law regarding purity, and his familiarity with tax collectors and public sinners4 –- some ill-intentioned persons suspected Jesus of demonic possession.5 He is accused of blasphemy and false prophecy, religious crimes which the Law punished with death by stoning.6

CCC 1328 The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called:

Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein7 and eulogein8 recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim – especially during a meal – God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification.

CCC 1335 The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist.9 The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ.10

CCC 1339 Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum: giving his disciples his Body and his Blood:

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover meal for us, that we may eat it. ..” They went. .. and prepared the passover. And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”… And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.”11

CCC 1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”12

CCC 1403 At the Last Supper the Lord himself directed his disciples’ attention toward the fulfillment of the Passover in the kingdom of God: “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”13 Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns her gaze “to him who is to come.” In her prayer she calls for his coming: “Marana tha!” “Come, Lord Jesus!”14 “May your grace come and this world pass away!”15

1 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.

2 Cf. Mk 13:32, Acts 1:7.

3 Cf. Mk 3:6; 14:1.

4 Cf. Mt 12:24; Mk 2:7,14-17; 3:1-6; 7:14-23.

5 Cf. Mk 3:22; Jn 8:48; 10:20.

6 Cf. Mk 2:7; Jn 5:18; 7:12, 52; 8:59; 10:31, 33.

7 Cf. Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24.

8 Cf. Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22.

9 Cf. Mt 14:13-21; 15:32-39.

10 Cf. Jn 2:11; Mk 14:25.

11 Lk 22:7-20; Cf. Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; 1 Cor 11:23-26.

12 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1642; cf. Mt 26:26 ff.; Mk 14:22 ff.; Lk 22:19 ff.; 1 Cor 11:24 ff.

13 Mt 26:29; cf. Lk 22:18; Mk 14 25.

14 Rev 1:4; 22 20; 1 Cor 16 22.

15 Didache 10, 6: SCh 248,180.

APPLICATION

Our divine Lord said: “greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15: 13). Christ carried out this act of love when he laid down his life for us on the cross. Because he was more than man, he was also capable of greater love than any man could show, and this he proved on the first Holy Thursday night. As man he could die for us only once, but being God as well, he ordained that this death of his could be repeated sacramentally time and again under the form of the separation of his precious blood from his body (what happened on Calvary) by means of the separate acts of consecration of bread and wine. This he did himself in the first instance. He then gave the power and the command to repeat this supernatural transformation when he said to his disciples: “do this as a memorial of me” (Lk. 22: 19; 1 Cor. 11 : 24).

Our Savior not only became man, lived among us and died on the cross for our sakes, but in his love for us, and because of his divine power, he arranged to leave to his Church the power to re-present once more to his heavenly Father and ours, his fully-atoning sacrifice of the cross under the Eucharistic form. He thus enabled us to partake of that sacrifice as our spiritual nourishment during life. This is what our Savior did for us on Holy Thursday night in Jerusalem. That he could do it we have no doubt, because we admit he was God and man. He hid his divinity under the cloak of humanity while he was on earth as the incarnate Son. That he could hide his humanity, his body and blood, under the appearance of bread and wine is hardly any more difficult for divine power.

We have his own infallible word as witness and we have the indisputable fact that his disciples and their converts took him at his word, in the full literal sense, from the very beginning of the Church. The Eucharist, or the Mass as it was called later, was the one and only corporate act of worship which the Christian community offered to God, from the very first days of the Church. And, it must be remembered, all the first Christians in Palestine and many of them outside of Palestine, were Jews. Into them were instilled from childhood the need and grave duty to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, petition and placation to God. On becoming Christians, they ceased offering the Jewish sacrifices, for they were convinced that they had in the Eucharist the true sacrifice which replaced all the offerings prescribed in the Old Law. It was a true sacrifice, which of its very nature, gave infinite honor, infinite thanksgiving and infinite atonement to God.

With such evidence from sacred scripture, and from the tradition of the Church from its very infancy, it seems strange that some who still claim to be Christians say they cannot admit that Christ left us his real body and his real blood in the blessed Eucharist. If he did not, he deceived the Church, a statement which is blasphemous for anyone who admits Christ’s divine nature. The Church was not deceived.

“Thou hast said it, O Lord, and thy word is true,” this is the solid basis of our belief in the Blessed Eucharist as a sacrifice and as a sacrament. As a sacrifice: every time we participate in the celebration of the Mass we are offering a perfectly acceptable sacrifice to God, we join together as his Chosen People to render him the thanksgiving, the honor and atonement we owe him. When we partake of that adorable sacrifice and when we eat of the bread and drink of the wine which has become the body and blood of Christ, we receive Christ within us and we become intimately united with him and with one another.

“What return can I make to the Lord for all he has done for me?” The answer is: almost nothing or very little indeed. My finite love is puny indeed beside the infinite love of God. But that does not exempt me from doing what I can. The widow’s mite was appreciated. I can attend the sacrifice of the Mass devoutly as often as I possibly can, and I can and should receive my Savior into my heart every time I participate in the Mass. I know that I am not worthy and never will be worthy to receive him under my roof. I am more unworthy perhaps than the Roman centurion who first said this to Christ, but it is not the healthy who have need of the physician but the sick. I need all the spiritual help I can get in this life. What greater source of help and strength could I get than Christ himself, the very author of my salvation?

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan OFM and used with permission from Ignatius Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Sacrificial Aspect of the Eucharist

In the fundamental prayer of the Church, the Eucharist, the heart of our life is not merely expressed but is realized day after day. At the most profound level, the Eucharist has to do with Christ alone. He prays for us; he puts his prayer on our lips, for only he can say: This is my Body – This is my Blood. Thus he draws us into his life, into the act of eternal love by which he gives himself up to the Father, so that we are made over into the Father’s possession with him and that through this very act Jesus Christ himself is bestowed upon us. Thus the Eucharist is a sacrifice: being given up to God in Jesus Christ and thereby at the same time having the gift of his love bestowed on us, for Christ is both the giver and the gift. Through him, and with him, and in him we celebrate the Eucharist. Communion with him is that communion with the whole, without which there is no communion with Christ. A part of Christian prayer and of the Christian act of faith is committing oneself in faith to the whole, overcoming one’s own limits. The Liturgy is not the setting up of some club, an association of friends; we receive it from the whole Church, and we have to celebrate it as coming from the whole and directed toward the whole. Only then do we believe and pray aright, when we are living it in the context of this act of self-transcendence, of self-abnegation, directed toward the Church of all times and of all places; this is what Catholicism essentially is. That is what we aim at whenever we step out of the zone of what is ours to unite ourselves with the pope and this enter into the Church of all nations.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from Christ’s side, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints
and with Thy angels
Forever and ever
Amen

The Anima Christi is a prayer from around the 14th century.  It is still widely used by many Catholics and Orthodox after receiving the body and blood of Our Lord,
Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.

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The Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity

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“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer of Thanks

O eternal God! Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; the beginning and end of all things; in whom we live and move and have our being; prostrate before Thee in body and soul, I adore Thee. I bless Thee and give Thee thanks. What return can I make to Thee, O God, for all that Thou hast done for me? I will bless Thy Holy Name, and serve Thee all the days of my life. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me bless His Holy Name. Amen.

COLLECT

God our Father, who by sending into the world

the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification

made known to the human race your wondrous mystery,

grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith,

we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory

and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty.

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.

READING I

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Dt 4:32-34, 39-40

Moses said to the people:

“Ask now of the days of old, before your time,

ever since God created man upon the earth;

ask from one end of the sky to the other:

Did anything so great ever happen before?

Was it ever heard of?

Did a people ever hear the voice of God

speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?

Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself

from the midst of another nation,

by testings, by signs and wonders, by war,

with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors,

all of which the LORD, your God,

did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

This is why you must now know,

and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God

in the heavens above and on earth below,

and that there is no other.

You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today,

that you and your children after you may prosper,

and that you may have long life on the land

which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH – CCC

CCC 708 This divine pedagogy appears especially in the gift of the Law.1 God gave the Law as a “pedagogue” to lead his people toward Christ.2 But the Law’s powerlessness to save man deprived of the divine “likeness,” along with the growing awareness of sin that it imparts,3 enkindles a desire for the Holy Spirit. The lamentations of the Psalms bear witness to this.

1 Cf. Ex 19-20; Deut 1-11; 29-30.

2 Gal 3:24.

3 Cf. Rom 3:20.

APPLICATION

The mystery of the Blessed Trinity was not revealed in the Old Testament because God saw that his Chosen People were not yet ready to accept such a mystery. Living, as they were, surrounded by adorers of many gods, any knowledge of the Trinity of persons in the one God, might have weakened their monotheism. It was only when Christ came on earth claiming (and proving his claim) that he was the divine Son of God, and promising to send the Consoler, a third Person in God, to strengthen and guide his disciples that this doctrine was fully revealed. It was accepted without question from the very first days of the Christian Church, first of all because it was Christ who revealed it, and, secondly, because it was felt that the Church had proof of the existence of three distinct Persons in the one God in that each of them played a part in the founding and spreading of Christianity. The Father sent his Son on earth in human form, and raised him from the dead when he had carried out his Father’s will. The Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to direct and govern the Church founded by the Son.

While we admit the fact that there are three distinct Persons in the one God and have valid reasons for doing so, we still do not understand how this is. Of course, if God could be fully understood by our finite minds, he would not be God, but a limited being like ourselves. Let us be content today to say how privileged we are to know of this doctrine and even more so to know that each of the three divine Persons has played a part in giving us a share in their life. When we get to heaven we shall see and understand it all more clearly with the added light of the Beatific Vision, which will be given to our glorified bodies.

In today’s reading from the book of Deuteronomy we see how privileged the Chosen People of Israel were, how wonderful God had been in his dealings with them, and how all he asked for in return was that they should keep his commandments. These were for their own good. Sad to relate, they did not keep his laws! They quickly forgot all that he had done for them and turned to adore lifeless idols, pagan “gods” who could not help either themselves or anyone else. This was ingratitude and meanness of a high order, but let us remember that everything that God did for the Jews, he did for us too. Through his dealings with them he was preparing the way for the incarnation.

Do we return due thanks to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for this immensely greater love? Before we criticize or judge the Jews of old, let us see if our own consciences are in order before God. We owe him obedience for far weightier reasons than the Jews had. He set them free from the slavery of Egypt; he has set us free from Satan’s power. He gave them Canaan as their homeland; he has prepared heaven, the place of unending life, for us. He made Moses, one of themselves, the mediator between himself and the Israelites; he has given his own Son to be our mediator. In return for it all and as a token repayment, we are asked to keep his commandments!

God is surely not asking too much of us. Any generous Christian would not only do this, he would look for further means of showing his gratitude to the Blessed Trinity. All the saints did so and earned the honor of God and the respect of man. We all want to be saints. Let us begin today not merely to keep the commandments but also to do some extra bit each day to show our sincere gratitude to God. God will never be outdone in generosity.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22

Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Upright is the word of the LORD,

and all his works are trustworthy.

He loves justice and right;

of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.

Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made;

by the breath of his mouth all their host.

For he spoke, and it was made;

he commanded, and it stood forth.

Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,

upon those who hope for his kindness,

To deliver them from death

and preserve them in spite of famine.

Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own..

Our soul waits for the LORD,

who is our help and our shield.

May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us

who have put our hope in you.

Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

READING II

-8

Rom 8:14-17

Brothers and sisters:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,

but you received a Spirit of adoption,

through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit

that we are children of God,

and if children, then heirs,

heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,

if only we suffer with him

so that we may also be glorified with him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH – CCC

CCC 257 “O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!”1 God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the “plan of his loving kindness”, conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: “He destined us in love to be his sons” and “to be conformed to the image of his Son”, through “the spirit of sonship”.2 This plan is a “grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”, stemming immediately from Trinitarian love.3 It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church.4

CCC 259 Being a work at once common and personal, the whole divine economy makes known both what is proper to the divine persons, and their one divine nature. Hence the whole Christian life is a communion with each of the divine persons, without in any way separating them. 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.5

CCC 693 Besides the proper name of “Holy Spirit,” which is most frequently used in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, we also find in St. Paul the titles: the Spirit of the promise,6 the Spirit of adoption,7 the Spirit of Christ,8 the Spirit of the Lord,9 and the Spirit of God10 – and, in St. Peter, the Spirit of glory.11

CCC 793 Christ unites us with his Passover: all his members must strive to resemble him, “until Christ be formed” in them.12 “For this reason we. .. are taken up into the mysteries of his life,. .. associated with his sufferings as the body with its head, suffering with him, that with him we may be glorified.”13

CCC 1265 Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,”14 member of Christ and co-heir with him,15 and a temple of the Holy Spirit.16

CCC 1302 It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

CCC 1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, “provided we suffer with him.”17

The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of “him who strengthens” us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ. .. in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth “fruits that befit repentance.” These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father.18

CCC 1499 “By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ.”19

CCC 1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.20 They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.21

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. .. If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.22

CCC 1972 The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who “does not know what his master is doing” to that of a friend of Christ – “For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” – or even to the status of son and heir.23

CCC 1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.24

CCC 2543 “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”25 Henceforth, Christ’s faithful “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”; they are led by the Spirit and follow the desires of the Spirit.26

CCC 2572 As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham, “who had received the promises,”27 is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him. Abraham’s faith does not weaken (“God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering.”), for he “considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead.”28 And so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father who will not spare his own Son but will deliver him up for us all.29 Prayer restores man to God’s likeness and enables him to share in the power of God’s love that saves the multitude.30

CCC 2639 Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS. It shares in the blessed happiness of the pure of heart who love God in faith before seeing him in glory. By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits to bear witness that we are children of God,31 testifying to the only Son in whom we are adopted and by whom we glorify the Father. Praise embraces the other forms of prayer and carries them toward him who is its source and goal: the “one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist.”32

1 LH, Hymn for Evening Prayer.

2 Eph 1:4-5,9; Rom 8:15,29.

3 2 Tim 1:9-10.

4 Cf. AG 2-9.

5 Cf. Jn 6:44; Rom 8:14.

6 Cf. Gal 3:14; Eph 1:13.

7 Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6.

8 Rom 8:9.

9 2 Cor 3:17.

10 Rom 8:9, 14; 15:19; 1 Cor 6:11; 7:40.

11 1 Pet 4:14.

12 Gal 4:19.

13 LG 7 # 4; cf. Phil 3:21; Rom 8:17.

14 2 Cor 5:17; 2 Pet 1:4; cf. Gal 4:5-7.

15 Cf. l Cor 6:15; 12:27; Rom 8:17.

16 Cf. l Cor 6:19.

17 Rom 8:17; Rom 3:25; 1 Jn 2:1-2; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1690.

18 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1691; cf. Phil 4:13; 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17; Gal 6:14; Lk 3:8.

19 LG 11; cf. Jas 5:14-16; Rom 8:17; Col 1:24; 2 Tim 2:11-12; 1 Pet 4:13.

20 Cf. Isa 11:1-2.

21 PS 143:10.

22 Rom 8:14, 17.

23 Jn 15:15; cf. Jas 1:25; 2:12; Gal 4:1-7.21-31; Rom 8:15.

24 Cf. Jn 1:12-18; 17:3; Rom 8:14-17; 2 Pet 1:3-4.

25 Rom 3:21-22.

26 Gal 5:24; cf. Rom 8:14, 27.

27 Heb 11:17.

28 Gen 22:8; Heb 11:19

29 Rom 8:32.

30 Cf. Rom 8:16-21.

31 Cf. Rom 8:16.

32 1 Cor 8:6.

APPLICATION

About the year 57-58 that is to say, less than thirty years after the resurrection, St. Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome. It was a church he was very anxious to visit (he had had nothing to do with the spread of the faith there). The Roman Christian community was made up of Jew and Gentile converts. It is evident from St. Paul’s words that they were quite familiar with the doctrine of the three divine Persons in one God. We know, of course, that they had received baptism in the name of the Blessed Trinity. Therefore, they had accepted the fact about the true God before becoming Christians. To do this was not, humanly speaking, easy for a Jew or a Gentile, but we must remember that the early Christians did not rely on human logic or human thinking. The grace and the power of God was with them in generous measure.

For a Jew, the very essence of whose religion was strict monotheism, there was one God and one God only. The three Persons must at first mention have sounded like many gods, something abhorrent to his nature. Yet, thousands of Jews accepted this doctrine from the very first days of the Church (all the first Christians were Jewish converts). They were convinced that God, although he was strictly one God, had revealed that there were three Persons in that one divine nature. If God revealed this knowledge of his innermost nature and if it did not contradict the unity, the oneness of God, how could they refuse to accept this revelation? For the Gentiles also, this doctrine must at first sight have seemed a stumbling block. They were sick and tired of their own pagan gods. Was Christianity offering them three instead of many gods? Again, aided by God’s grace, they realized that Christianity was not preaching three Gods but three Persons who in some mysterious way are in the one and only God.

We Christians of today are no more advanced than the early Jew and Gentile converts were as regards the mysteries of faith. We cannot examine the Godhead scientifically, and prove to ourselves from cold logic that there are three Persons in God. But like them, we too know that we have the word of God for it and God is the God of truth. His word is stronger and more convincing than any human proof or logic can ever be. Like the early Christians, we also have had the experience of the three Persons, each performing a distinct role in the work of our salvation. The Father created us and planned an eternal life for us. He sent the Son to enable us to fill the role his Father had planned for us. After the Son’s ascension, both the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to sanctify, give courage and strength to the Apostles and those who would join them.

This threefold activity is still going on in the life of each one of us–the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are cooperating to bring us to heaven. Why? We may well ask. The Blessed Trinity is infinitely perfect, infinitely happy in heaven. God needs nothing from us. Here again is where our small, finite intelligence fails us. We can understand human love and human generosity which at their greatest are but temporary, passing things and of necessity very limited in quality and quantity. But God’s love for us is infinite. It is completely and entirely without self-interest. God does not act out of need but out of nature. His very nature is goodness and so he is moved by that nature to share his goodness, his happiness with those who are able to appreciate it, that is, with us men.

It has been very clearly and very definitely revealed to us that God loves us with an infinite love. This is the basic message of the New Testament. The three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are still proving this fact to us. In this life we cannot understand why, but we can and we must show our gratitude for this fact of divine generosity and love.

Today, on this special feastday of the Blessed Trinity, let us resolve to make ourselves less unworthy of their divine love: by doing what is asked of us, by living our faith in charity, and by keeping ever before our minds the eternal future that awaits us. The day is not far off when, please God, we shall meet the Blessed Trinity face to face. Then we shall understand a lot more about the three divine Persons in God, and the infinite love and mercy shown to us by these three Persons.

GOSPEL

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Mt 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,

to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.

When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.

Then Jesus approached and said to them,

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

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,

teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052718.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH – CCC

CCC 2 So that this call should resound throughout the world, Christ sent forth the apostles he had chosen, commissioning them to proclaim the gospel: “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”1 Strengthened by this mission, the apostles “went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.”2

CCC 75 “Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel, they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline.”3

CCC 80 “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.”4 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own “always, to the close of the age”.5

CCC 189 The first “profession of faith” is made during Baptism. The symbol of faith is first and foremost the baptismal creed. Since Baptism is given “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”,6 the truths of faith professed during Baptism are articulated in terms of their reference to the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

CCC 232 Christians are baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”7 Before receiving the sacrament, they respond to a three-part question when asked to confess the Father, the Son and the Spirit: “I do.” “The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity.”8

CCC 543 Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations.9 To enter it, one must first accept Jesus’ word:

The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.10

CCC 644 Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. “In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.”11 Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord’s last appearance in Galilee “some doubted.”12 Therefore the hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the apostles’ faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.

CCC 645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.13 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm.14 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.15

CCC 691 “Holy Spirit” is the proper name of the one whom we adore and glorify with the Father and the Son. The Church has received this name from the Lord and professes it in the Baptism of her new children.16

The term “Spirit” translates the Hebrew word ruah, which, in its primary sense, means breath, air, wind. Jesus indeed uses the sensory image of the wind to suggest to Nicodemus the transcendent newness of him who is personally God’s breath, the divine Spirit.17 On the other hand, “Spirit” and “Holy” are divine attributes common to the three divine persons. By joining the two terms, Scripture, liturgy, and theological language designate the inexpressible person of the Holy Spirit, without any possible equivocation with other uses of the terms “spirit” and “holy.”

CCC 730 At last Jesus’ hour arrives:18 he commends his spirit into the Father’s hands19 at the very moment when by his death he conquers death, so that, “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,”20 he might immediately give the Holy Spirit by “breathing” on his disciples.21 From this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”22

CCC 767 “When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church.”23 Then “the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun.”24 As the “convocation” of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them.25

CCC 788 When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit.26 As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.”27

CCC 831 Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race:28

All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one. .. The character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit.29

CCC 849 The missionary mandate. “Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men”:30 “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age.”31

CCC 857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:

she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,”32 the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;33

with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching,34 the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;35

she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:36

You are the eternal Shepherd

who never leaves his flock untended.

Through the apostles

you watch over us and protect us always.

You made them shepherds of the flock

to share in the work of your Son. ..37

CCC 860 In the office of the apostles there is one aspect that cannot be transmitted: to be the chosen witnesses of the Lord’s Resurrection and so the foundation stones of the Church. But their office also has a permanent aspect. Christ promised to remain with them always. The divine mission entrusted by Jesus to them “will continue to the end of time, since the Gospel they handed on is the lasting source of all life for the Church. Therefore,. .. the apostles took care to appoint successors.”38

CCC 1120 The ordained ministry or ministerial priesthood is at the service of the baptismal priesthood.39 The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church. The saving mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person.40 The ordained minister is the sacramental bond that ties the liturgical action to what the apostles said and did and, through them, to the words and actions of Christ, the source and foundation of the sacraments.

CCC 1122 Christ sent his apostles so that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.”41 “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.”42 The mission to baptize, and so the sacramental mission, is implied in the mission to evangelize, because the sacrament is prepared for by the word of God and by the faith which is assent to this word:

The People of God is formed into one in the first place by the Word of the living God. .. The preaching of the Word is required for the sacramental ministry itself, since the sacraments are sacraments of faith, drawing their origin and nourishment from the Word.43

CCC 1223 All the Old Covenant prefigurations find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus. He begins his public life after having himself baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan.44 After his resurrection Christ gives this mission to his apostles: “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”45

CCC 1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.46 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.47 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.48 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

CCC 1444 In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ’s solemn words to Simon Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”49 “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head.”50

CCC 2156 The sacrament of Baptism is conferred “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”51 In Baptism, the Lord’s name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession. The “baptismal name” can also express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue. “Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to see that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment.”52

CCC 2743 It is always possible to pray: The time of the Christian is that of the risen Christ who is with us always, no matter what tempests may arise.53 Our time is in the hands of God:

It is possible to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop,. .. while buying or selling,. .. or even while cooking.54

1 Mt 28:19-20.

2 Mk 16:20.

3 DV 7; cf. Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15.

4 DV 9.

5 Mt 28:20.

6 Mt 28:19.

7 Mt 28:19.

8 St. Caesarius of Arles, Sermo 9, Exp. symb.:CCL 103,47.

9 Cf. Mt 8:11 10:5-7; 28:19.

10 LC 5; cf. Mk 4:14, 26-29; Lk 12:32.

11 Lk 24:38-41.

12 Cf Jn 20:24-27; Mt 28:17.

13 Cf. Lk 24:30,39-40, 41-43; Jn 20:20, 27; 21:9,13-15.

14 Cf. Mt 28:9, 16-17; Lk 24:15, 36; Jn 20:14, 17, 19, 26; 21:4.

15 Cf. Mk 16:12; Jn 20:14-16; 21:4, 7.

16 Cf. Mt 28:19.

17 In 3:5-8.

18 Cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

19 Cf. Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30.

20 Rom 6:4.

21 Cf. Jn 20:22.

22 Jn 20:21; cf. Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47-48; Acts 1:8.

23 LG 4; cf. Jn 17:4.

24 AG 4.

25 Cf. Mt 28:19-20; AG 2; 5-6.

26 Cf. Jn 14:18; 20:22; Mt 28:20; Acts 2:33.

27 LG 7.

28 Cf. Mt 28:19.

29 LG 13 §§ 1-2; cf. Jn 11:52.

30 AG 1; cf. Mt 16:15.

31 Mt 28:19-20.

32 Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14.

33 Cf. Mt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:7-8; Gal 1:1; etc.

34 Cf. Acts 2:42.

35 Cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14.

36 AG 5.

37 Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.

38 LG 20; cf. Mt 28:20.

39 Cf. LG 10 # 2.

40 Cf. Jn 20:21-23; Lk 24:47; Mt 28:18-20.

41 Lk 24:47.

42 Mt 28:19.

43 PO 4 ## 1, 2.

44 Cf. Mt 3:13.

45 Mt 28:19-20; cf. Mk 16:15-16.

46 Cf. Jn 3:5.

47 Cf. Mt 28:19-20; cf. Council of Trent (1547) DS 1618; LG 14; AG 5.

48 Cf. Mk 16:16.

49 Mt 16:19; cf. Mt 18:18; 28:16-20.

50 LG 22 # 2.

51 Mt 28:19.

52 CIC, Can. 855.

53 Cf. Mt 28:20; Lk 8:2.4.

54 St. John Chrysostom, Ecloga de oratione 2: PG 63, 585.

APPLICATION

The reason why these five verses, that conclude the final chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel, were chosen for today’s Mass is evident. The three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are mentioned by name in this Gospel.

All those who would enter the new kingdom of God, the Church, were to be dedicated in the ceremony of baptism to the Blessed Trinity; they were to enter into a fellowship with the three divine Persons. Whether Christ himself gave the exact words for the form of baptism does not concern us here, but from 2 Cor. 2: 21, it would appear that this form was in use from the earliest days of the Church. We are aware that we ourselves were dedicated to God in our baptism and destined to have an eternal fellowship with the Trinity in heaven. We are aware, too, of the part played by the three divine Persons in making that eternal happiness and friendship with the Trinity available to us. While the essence of the Trinity, or the way in which there can be three Persons in the one God, is a mystery which our limited minds cannot even begin to solve, we have no hesitation in accepting the existence of this deepest mystery of our religion. It was no less an authority than Jesus Christ himself who revealed it to us. With his guarantee for its truth, we are left in no doubt as to the existence of this mystery. We can safely wait for a greater, if not a complete understanding in heaven.

Today, as we honor the Blessed Trinity, our predominant thought must be one of gratitude to each of the three Persons for all they have done and are still doing for us. First, to God the Father, who in his love planned not only our creation as intelligent human beings, the highest and noblest of his creatures on earth, but planned to give us adopted sonship as well. Secondly, let us show our deepest gratitude to the all-obedient, all-loving Son of God, who carried out to the letter the divine Father’s plan for our adoption, by sharing with us our humanity so that we could share in his divinity. Thirdly, let us be eternally grateful to the Holy Spirit–the fruit of the love of Father and Son–who has come to dwell in the Church and in each member of the Church, in order to fill our hearts with a true love of God, and to direct our faltering steps toward the everlasting happiness which awaits us beyond the grave.

We know only too well how unworthy we are of this love of the Blessed Trinity which has been poured out on us. The greatest saints were unworthy of this infinite love. Our unworthiness should not, and must not, stop us from availing ourselves of this divine love and from doing what we can to prove how we value and sincerely appreciate the love and goodness of the Blessed Trinity for us. In return for this love, Christ asked us, his followers, to keep his commandments. This is the one genuine proof we can give of our gratitude for all that these three Persons have done for us.

We are so weak that we often let the passing things of this world turn our thoughts and actions away from God and from our own eternal interests. We forget Christ and his commandments at times and let the world rule our hearts and minds. However, even for sinners like us there is hope and encouragement in the infinity of God’s love. Let us not forget it: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit know all our weaknesses, they knew them before they arranged to make us sharers in their own eternal happiness. They know, also, that those of us who try and try again to rise above our human weakness will finally share with them their heaven.

This possibility is open to all of us. The Blessed Trinity will exclude nobody from heaven. If some fail, the fault will be entirely and completely their own. May God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit grant us the courage and strength to overcome our human weaknesses! May they give us the grace to live and die in their love so that we may share their eternal kingdom of happiness!

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan OFM and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Sustaining Force of the Blessed Trinity

The Spirit does not speak, as it were, from himself, but is a listening to and a making clear of the Son, who in turn does not speak on his authority, but is, as the one sent by the Father, his distinct presence. The Father also gives himself to the Son so completely that everything that he has belongs to the Son. Each of the three Persons of the Trinity points to the other two. In this circle of love flowing and intermingling, there is the highest degree of constancy to everything that exists… What sustains us is the movement of the heart and spirit that leaves itself and is on the way to the other… It is only if each Christian makes his whole being available to the Word in the passage of time that time can as a whole be open to Christ… The Trinity, then, provides us with the means by which both the individual and the community of the Church can disentangle the confusion of time. We shall not solve the problems that trouble us today by theorizing, but by spiritual means, my entering, in other words, into the form of the Trinity… The selflessness of those who bear witness to Christ gives authenticity to the Church, just as Christ’s selflessness bore authentic testimony to himself and to the Spirit. It is in this way that a living interrelationship can develop, that growth can come about and that we can be led into the fullness of truth, a truth that is richer and greater than anything that we can invent.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

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Petition to the Holy Trinity

Most Holy Trinity, Godhead indivisible, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our first beginning and our last end, since Thou hast made us after Thine own image and likeness, grant that all the thoughts of our minds, all the words of our tongues, all the affections of our hearts and all our actions may be always conformed to Thy most holy will, to the end that after having seen Thee here below in appearances and by means of faith, we may come at last to contemplate Thee face-to-face in the perfect possession of Thee forever in paradise. Amen.

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Pentecost Sunday

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Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,

and whose sins you retain are retained.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Prayer For the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, divine Counselor, I adore You as my true God, with God the Father and God the Son. I adore You and unite myself to the adoration You receive from the angels and saints.

I give You my heart and I offer my ardent thanksgiving for all the grace which You never cease to bestow on me.

O Giver of all supernatural gifts, who filled the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with such immense favors, I beg You to visit me with Your grace and Your love and to grant me the gift of holy fear, so that it may act on me as a check to prevent me from falling back into my past sins, for which I beg pardon.

Grant me the gift of piety, so that I may serve You for the future with increased fervor, follow with more promptness Your holy inspirations, and observe your divine precepts with greater fidelity.

Grant me the gift of knowledge, so that I may know the things of God and, enlightened by Your holy teaching, may walk, without deviation, in the path of eternal salvation.

Grant me the gift of fortitude, so that I may overcome courageously all the assaults of the devil, and all the dangers of this world which threaten the salvation of my soul.

Grant me the gift of counsel, so that I may choose what is more conducive to my spiritual advancement and may discover the wiles and snares of the tempter.

Grant me the gift of understanding, so that I may apprehend the divine mysteries and by contemplation of heavenly things detach my thoughts and affections from the vain things of this miserable world.

Grant me the gift of wisdom, so that I may rightly direct all my actions, referring them to God as my last end; so that, having loved Him and served Him in this life, I may have the happiness of possessing Him eternally in the next.

Amen.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori

COLLECT

O God, who by the mystery of today’s great feast

sanctify your whole Church in every people and nation,

pour out, we pray, the gifts of the Holy Spirit

across the face of the earth

and, with the divine grace that was at work

when the Gospel was first proclaimed,

fill now once more the hearts of believers.

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.

READING IPentecost_Panel_large.jpg

Acts 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,

they were all in one place together.

And suddenly there came from the sky

a noise like a strong driving wind,

and it filled the entire house in which they were.

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,

which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

and began to speak in different tongues,

as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.

At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,

but they were confused

because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,

“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?

Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?

We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,

inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,

Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,

Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,

as well as travelers from Rome,

both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,

yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues

of the mighty acts of God.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”1 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.2 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.3 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.4 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.5

CCC 696 Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who “arose like fire” and whose “word burned like a torch,” brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel.6 This event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes “before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah,” proclaims Christ as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”7 Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”8 In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself9 The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions.10 “Do not quench the Spirit.”11

CCC 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.12 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,13 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.14 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.15 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.16

CCC 2623 On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of the Promise was poured out on the disciples, gathered “together in one place.”17 While awaiting the Spirit, “all these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer.”18 The Spirit who teaches the Church and recalls for her everything that Jesus said19 was also to form her in the life of prayer.

1 Mk 16:19.

2 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.

3 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.

4 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.

5 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.

6 Sir 48:1; cf. 1 Kings 18:38-39.

7 Lk 1:17; 3:16.

8 Lk 12:49.

9 Acts 2:3-4.

10 Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), 577 ff.

11 1 Thess 5:1.

12 Cf. Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2.

13 Cf. Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8.

14 Cf. Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14.

15 Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18.

16 Cf. Acts 2:38.

17 Acts 2:1.

18 Acts 1:14.

19 Cf. Jn 14:26.

APPLICATION

Pentecost day is called the “birth-day” of the Church. The Apostles had already received the Holy Spirit on Christ’s first appearance to them after his resurrection (Jn. 20: 22). But on Pentecost day the descent of the Holy Spirit was a public manifestation intended to impress and amaze the crowds of local and foreign Jews who thronged Jerusalem on that great festive occasion. The signs and wonders that manifested his coming brought these Jews in huge crowds to the place where the Apostles were staying, and immediately the gift of tongues was used by the Apostles to explain the occurrence. It was a marvel wrought by God, a necessary consequence of the sojourn of Christ among them. He was the Christ whom the Jews had crucified but whom God had raised from the dead, thus proving he was the promised Messiah and his own beloved Son. Christ had chosen the Apostles to bring his good news to all nations – the good news that all men were once more reconciled to God their Creator, and were now adopted sons of God and heirs to heaven.

Today was the day chosen for the opening of this mission of the Apostles. That they were backed by the divine power of the Holy Spirit was proved not only by the gift of tongues but more especially by the change his coming wrought on the Apostles. From this day forward they were men dedicated to one purpose and to one purpose only, to bring the good news, the Gospel of Christ, to the world.

When Peter, representing the eleven, preached Christ, crucified, raised from the tomb by the power of the Father, and now seated at his right hand in heaven, he raised the Christian standard aloft. He and his fellow-Apostles (including Matthias and Paul later) gave their lives gladly to plant it throughout the Roman empire. The remaining twenty six chapters of the book of Acts and the inspired letters of the Apostles tell the story of the growth of the infant Church. It was brought about by frail and mortal men, turned into spiritual heroes by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Twenty centuries separate us from those heroic men of God, but the truth of their labors is with us still thanks to the same Holy Spirit who has remained with the Church down through the years. From generation to generation the message and the means of salvation have been handed down, sometimes through periods of peace and evident progress, but more often through years of persecution and apparent near-extermination. The Church survived because men of God valued eternal life, and the Church as the means of reaching it, more than their own comfort or personal safety.

Our own generation too needs men of principle, men of generosity, men who will put the eternal values before personal conveniences or earthly gain. The Church today has her enemies. They shout loud and long – the same centuries-old themes are put to some of the present-day pop music. But we need not fear. The voice of the Holy Spirit is still as strong as it was on that first Pentecost day in Jerusalem. His powers are divine and will never diminish. He is still at the helm of the barque of Peter and will continue to bring millions to the shores of the eternal kingdom as he has done during the past two thousand years.

“Come, Holy Spirit, enkindle in the hearts of the faithful the fire of divine love.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34

Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!

How manifold are your works, O LORD!

the earth is full of your creatures;

Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the LORD endure forever;

may the LORD be glad in his works!

Pleasing to him be my theme;

I will be glad in the LORD.

Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

If you take away their breath, they perish

and return to their dust.

When you send forth your spirit, they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

READING II

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1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13

Brothers and sisters:

No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;

there are different forms of service but the same Lord;

there are different workings but the same God

who produces all of them in everyone.

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit

is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,

and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,

so also Christ.

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,

whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,

and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 249 From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church’s living faith, principally by means of Baptism. It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal faith, formulated in the preaching, catechesis and prayer of the Church. Such formulations are already found in the apostolic writings, such as this salutation taken up in the Eucharistic liturgy: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”1

CCC 308 The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”2 Far from diminishing the creature’s dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God’s power, wisdom and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for “without a Creator the creature vanishes.”3 Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God’s grace.4

CCC 683 “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”5 “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!”’6 This knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son.

Baptism gives us the grace of new birth in God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit. For those who bear God’s Spirit are led to the Word, that is, to the Son, and the Son presents them to the Father, and the Father confers incorruptibility on them. And it is impossible to see God’s Son without the Spirit, and no one can approach the Father without the Son, for the knowledge of the Father is the Son, and the knowledge of God’s Son is obtained through the Holy Spirit.7

CCC 694 Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As “by one Spirit we were all baptized,” so we are also “made to drink of one Spirit.”8 Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified9 as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.10

CCC 790 Believers who respond to God’s word and become members of Christ’s Body, become intimately united with him: “In that body the life of Christ is communicated to those who believe, and who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ in his Passion and glorification.”11 This is especially true of Baptism, which unites us to Christ’s death and Resurrection, and the Eucharist, by which “really sharing in the body of the Lord,. .. we are taken up into communion with him and with one another.”12

CCC 798 The Holy Spirit is “the principle of every vital and truly saving action in each part of the Body.”13 He works in many ways to build up the whole Body in charity:14 by God’s Word “which is able to build you up”;15 by Baptism, through which he forms Christ’s Body;16 by the sacraments, which give growth and healing to Christ’s members; by “the grace of the apostles, which holds first place among his gifts”;17 by the virtues, which make us act according to what is good; finally, by the many special graces (called “charisms”), by which he makes the faithful “fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church.”18

CCC 801 It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church’s shepherds. “Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good,”19 so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together “for the common good.”20

CCC 1227 According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christ’s death, is buried with him, and rises with him:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.21

The baptized have “put on Christ.”22 Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies.23

CCC 1267 Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ: “Therefore. .. we are members one of another.”24 Baptism incorporates us into the Church. From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New Covenant, which transcends all the natural or human limits of nations, cultures, races, and sexes: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”25

CCC 1396 The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body – the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body.26 The Eucharist fulfills this call: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread:”27

If you are the body and members of Christ, then it is your sacrament that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive. To that which you are you respond “Amen” (“yes, it is true!”) and by responding to it you assent to it. For you hear the words, “the Body of Christ” and respond “Amen.” Be then a member of the Body of Christ that your Amen may be true.28

CCC 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.29

CCC 1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:30

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. .. For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.31

CCC 2003 Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning “favor,” “gratuitous gift,” “benefit.”32 Whatever their character – sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues – charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.33

CCC 2670 “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”34 Every time we begin to pray to Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who draws us on the way of prayer by his prevenient grace. Since he teaches us to pray by recalling Christ, how could we not pray to the Spirit too? That is why the Church invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, especially at the beginning and the end of every important action.

If the Spirit should not be worshiped, how can he divinize me through Baptism? If he should be worshiped, should he not be the object of adoration?35

1 2 Cor 13:14; cf. 1 Cor 12:4-6; Eph 4:4-6.

2 Phil 2:13; cf. 1 Cor 12:6.

4 Cf. Mt 19:26; Jn 15:5; 14:13

5 1 Cor 12:3.

6 Gal 4:6.

7 St. Irenaeus, Dem. ap. 7: SCh 62, 41-42.

8 1 Cor 12:13.

9 Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8.

10 Cf. Jn 4:10-14; 738; Ex 17:1-6; Isa 55:1; Zech 14:8; 1 Cor 10:4; Rev 21:6; 22:17.

11 LG 7.

12 LG 7; cf. Rom 6:4-5; 1 Cor 12:13.

13 Pius XII, encyclical, Mystici Corporis: DS 3808.

14 Cf. Eph 4:16.

15 Acts 20:32.

16 Cf. 1 Cor 12:13.

17 LG 7 # 2.

18 LG 12 # 2; cf. AA 3.

19 LG 12; cf. 30; 1 Thess 5:12, 19-21; John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 24.

20 1 Cor 12:7.

21 Rom 6:3-4; cf. Col 2:12.

22 Gal 3:27.

23 CE 1 Cor 6:11; 12:13.

24 Eph 4:25.

25 1 Cor 12:13.

26 Cf. 1 Cor 12:13.

27 1 Cor 10:16-17.

28 St. Augustine, Sermo 272: PL 38, 1247.

29 Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.

30 Cf. 1 Cor 12; Jn 15:1 4.

31 St. Athanasius, Ep. Serap. 1, 24: PG 26, 585 and 588.

32 Cf. LG 12.

33 Cf. 1 Cor 12.

34 1 Cor 12:3.

35 St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio, 31, 28: PG 36, 165.

APPLICATION

These verses of St. Paul are very suitable on this the feast day of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. Not only did he make his presence felt by the external exercise of his powers, on that first Pentecost day, but he continued to do so for some years until the Church had laid solid foundations in the Gentile world.

These gifts of the Spirit were foretold in the Old Testament as signs of the Messiah’s arrival (see Joel 3: 1ff; Acts 2: 16ff), and were manifested in the early Church in Jerusalem (Acts 2: 4), Samaria (8: 17), Ephesus (19: 6), Rome (Rom. 12: 6), Galatia (Gal. 3 : 5), and in Corinth. St. Paul has much to say of the gifts given in Corinth because there was evidently some abuse of them or some dissensions because of them in that city.

But for us the important point to bear in mind today on this, the anniversary of the public manifestation of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, is the infinite love of God for us, his Chosen People of the new covenant. Through the Incarnation men are empowered to become adopted sons of God; through baptism we become members of Christ’s body, his Church. Through the direct reception of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are made active members of the Christian Church, with all the strength and powers necessary to be effective members, on active service daily, true soldiers of Christ.

Let each one of us take an honest look at himself today, and ask himself: Am I really an active member of the body of Christ? Am I spiritually healthy, living in God’s grace and thus helping the whole body to be healthy? Or am I a diseased member, and not only sickly and weak through my personal sins, but spreading that sickness and weakness to my neighboring members by my bad example? But perhaps I can claim I have no very big sins and give no grave scandal, but I am lukewarm in the practice of my religion. I haven’t much time for things of that sort. If I am one of these two types – a diseased member or a lukewarm one, I could hardly call myself a soldier of Christ on active service. Deserters and dishonest draft-dodgers are not at the front.

Thank God, a large percentage of Christians do strive to remain healthy members of his mystical body – they may weaken now and then but they call on their divine physician and put things right again. This is as it should be, but is it all that is expected of us?

The Holy Spirit came to us in confirmation with his gifts and graces to enable us to work for the whole Church, for the whole body of Christ. We are made soldiers to form an army that will work together for the protection of our nation and our freedom. No man is put into military uniform in order to look after his own interests. We too are not made soldiers of Christ in order to save our own souls only – we are soldiers in order to help our fellow-Christians and all men in their common fight against sin and Godlessness. We must then take an active part in the battles of the Church, against everything that impedes the practice of the Christian virtues.

There is a place for everyone in the Church’s line of battle. We need not search far to find it. We need not be physical or intellectual giants in order to fulfill the role destined for us. What we need is sincerity and a bit of moral courage; sincerity in our belief that it is the future life that counts – the present is only a few years of training; moral courage to face opposition and criticism from enemies and often from false friends. When God and the Holy Spirit are on our side, we need not worry about the opinions or sneers of worldly-minded men. If we are true soldiers of Christ we shall win our battles, not by crushing our enemies but by making them too children of God and our brothers for all eternity.

GOSPEL

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Jn 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week,

when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,

for fear of the Jews,

Jesus came and stood in their midst

and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,

and whose sins you retain are retained.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/052018-mass-during-day.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,1 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,2 than for the ordinary People of God.3 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;4 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.5 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,6 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),7 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.8

CCC 643 Given all these testimonies, Christ’s Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact. It is clear from the facts that the disciples’ faith was drastically put to the test by their master’s Passion and death on the cross, which he had foretold.9 The shock provoked by the Passion was so great that at least some of the disciples did not at once believe in the news of the Resurrection. Far from showing us a community seized by a mystical exaltation, the Gospels present us with disciples demoralized (“looking sad”10) and frightened. For they had not believed the holy women returning from the tomb and had regarded their words as an “idle tale”.11 When Jesus reveals himself to the Eleven on Easter evening, “he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.”12

CCC 645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.13 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm.14 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.15

CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”16 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.17 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.18 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.19 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.20

CCC 730 At last Jesus’ hour arrives:21 he commends his spirit into the Father’s hands22 at the very moment when by his death he conquers death, so that, “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,”23 he might immediately give the Holy Spirit by “breathing” on his disciples.24 From this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”25

CCC 788 When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit.26 As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.”27

CCC 858 Jesus is the Father’s Emissary. From the beginning of his ministry, he “called to him those whom he desired;. .. And he appointed twelve, whom also he named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach.”28 From then on, they would also be his “emissaries” (Greek apostoloi). In them, Christ continues his own mission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”29 The apostles’ ministry is the continuation of his mission; Jesus said to the Twelve: “he who receives you receives me.”30

CCC 976 The Apostle’s Creed associates faith in the forgiveness of sins not only with faith in the Holy Spirit, but also with faith in the Church and in the communion of saints. It was when he gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles that the risen Christ conferred on them his own divine power to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”31

(Part Two of the catechism will deal explicitly with the forgiveness of sins through Baptism, the sacrament of Penance, and the other sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Here it will suffice to suggest some basic facts briefly.)

CCC 1087 Thus the risen Christ, by giving the Holy Spirit to the apostles, entrusted to them his power of sanctifying:32 they became sacramental signs of Christ. By the power of the same Holy Spirit they entrusted this power to their successors. This “apostolic succession” structures the whole liturgical life of the Church and is itself sacramental, handed on by the sacrament of Holy Orders.

CCC 1120 The ordained ministry or ministerial priesthood is at the service of the baptismal priesthood.33 The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church. The saving mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person.34 The ordained minister is the sacramental bond that ties the liturgical action to what the apostles said and did and, through them, to the words and actions of Christ, the source and foundation of the sacraments.

CCC 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.35 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,36 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.37 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.38 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.39

CCC 1441 Only God forgives sins.40 Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” and exercises this divine power: “Your sins are forgiven.”41 Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.42

CCC 1556 To fulfill their exalted mission, “the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration.”43

CCC 2839 With bold confidence, we began praying to our Father. In begging him that his name be hallowed, we were in fact asking him that we ourselves might be always made more holy. But though we are clothed with the baptismal garment, we do not cease to sin, to turn away from God. Now, in this new petition, we return to him like the prodigal son and, like the tax collector, recognize that we are sinners before him.44 Our petition begins with a “confession” of our wretchedness and his mercy. Our hope is firm because, in his Son, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”45 We find the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacraments of his Church.46

1 Lk 2:34.

2 Cf. Jn 1:19; 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19.

3 Jn 7:48-49.

4 Cf Lk 13:31.

5 Cf. Lk 7:36; 14:1.

6 Cf. Mt 22:23-34; Lk 20:39.

7 Cf. Mt 6:18.

8 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

9 Cf. Lk 22:31-32.

10 1 Lk 24:17; cf. Jn 20:19.

11 Lk 24:11; cf. Mk 16:11, 13.

12 Mk 16:14.

13 Cf. Lk 24:30,39-40, 41-43; Jn 20:20, 27; 21:9,13-15.

14 Cf. Mt 28:9, 16-17; Lk 24:15, 36; Jn 20:14, 17, 19, 26; 21:4.

15 Cf. Mk 16:12; Jn 20:14-16; 21:4, 7.

16 Mk 16:19.

17 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.

18 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.

19 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.

20 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.

21 Cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

22 Cf. Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30.

23 Rom 6:4.

24 Cf. Jn 20:22.

25 Jn 20:21; cf. Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47-48; Acts 1:8.

26 Cf. Jn 14:18; 20:22; Mt 28:20; Acts 2:33.

27 LG 7.

28 Mk 3:13-14.

29 Jn 20:21; cf. 13:20; 17:18.

30 Mt 10:40; cf. Lk 10:16.

31 Jn 20:22-23.

32 Cf. Jn 20:21-23.

33 Cf. LG 10 # 2.

34 Cf. Jn 20:21-23; Lk 24:47; Mt 28:18-20.

35 Cf. Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2.

36 Cf. Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8.

37 Cf. Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14.

38 Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18.

39 Cf. Acts 2:38.

40 Cf. Mk 2:7.

41 Mk 2:5, 10; Lk 7:48.

42 Cf. Jn 20:21-23.

43 LG 21; cf. Acts 1:8; 24; Jn 20:22-23; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7.

44 Cf. Lk 15:11-32, 18:13.

45 Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.

46 Cf. Mt 26:28; Jn 20:23.

APPLICATION

The liturgical cycle, which each year represents to us God’s mercy and kindness in our regard, closes today with this great feast of Pentecost the public solemn descent of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, on the Christian Church. During Advent we try to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Son of God to dwell as man among us. Christmas recalls to our minds and hearts the great act of divine love. Lent prepares us for the sufferings endured by Christ during Holy Week on our behalf. Easter is the feast of triumph, Christ’s triumph over death, the guarantee of our final triumph and union with him in his eternal glory. Pentecost crowns Christ’s work among us. The Holy Spirit comes to abide with the Church, directing and effectively aiding its leaders to preserve, explain and spread the gospel of hope and love which Christ had brought on earth. This same spirit helps and aids each member of the Church to live a life of holiness by following the teaching of Christ and by helping his fellowman to do likewise.

Briefly, this annual series of Church feast days recalls to our minds the infinite love of the Blessed Trinity for us finite, mortal men. At the same time it shows us the part played by each of the divine Persons in the eternal plan to share with us the perfect peace and the unending happiness which they enjoy in their heavenly kingdom.

God the Father created us with the intention and plan to raise us up to adopted sonship with him. God the Son took human nature so that we might share in the divinity. Representing all men he gave perfect obedience and reverence to the Creator “even unto death on a cross,” and thus merited sonship for us. The Holy Spirit, the “fruit of divine love,” came from the Father and the Son to bring to perfection the work of our sanctification. Thus the three divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity have cooperated in the great work of infinite love and condescension which opens for us a future of unending happiness, if only we have the common sense to appreciate what has been done for us, and the simple common decency to do in return the few relatively easy little tasks asked of us.

May the Holy Spirit today fill us with gratitude for all that God has done for us.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. used with permission of Ignatius Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Holy Spirit is Love

The gift of God is the Holy Spirit. The gift of God is love – God shares himself as love in the Holy Spirit… The presence of the Holy Spirit makes itself known in the manner of love. Love is the criterion of the Holy Spirit as against unholy spirits; indeed, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit himself and, in that sense, the presence of God. The essential and central concept summing up what the Holy Spirit is and what he effects is, in the end, not “knowledge” but love… The basic criterion of love, its “proper work,” so to speak – and, thereby, the “proper work” of the Holy Spirit – is this, that it achieves abiding. Love shows itself by being enduring. It can by no means be recognized at a given moment and in the moment alone; but in abiding, it does away with uncertainty and carries eternity within it. And thus in my view the relationship between love and truth is also thereby given: love, in the full sense, can be present only where something is enduring, where something abides. Because it has to do with abiding, it can occur, not just anywhere, but only there where eternity is.

Pope Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to St. Justin Martyr

St Justin, pray for us that we would defend the faith, not just in word, but in deed as you showed by your life and death as a martyr for Christ.

O God, through the folly of the Cross You taught your martyr Saint Justin, the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ; grant us, by his intercession to avoid all the deceits of error, and to become steadfast in faith. We make our prayer 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.

St. Justin writes about the Mass

“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place. And the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then, when the reader has ceased, the priest verbally instructs us and exhorts us to imitate these good things. Then we all rise together and pray. And, as we said before, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought. Then, the priest in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability. And the people assent, saying ‘Amen.’ Then, the Eucharist, is distributed to everyone, and everyone participates in that over which thanks has been given. And a portion of it is sent by the deacons to those who are absent.”

“We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.”

St. Justin Martyr (“First Apology,” c. 160 A.D.)

http://www.catholic-defense.com/mass.html

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The Ascension of the Lord

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Jesus said to his disciples:

“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

OPENING PRAYER

Ascension Prayer

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God,

that we who believe

Thine only-begotten Son our Redeemer,

to have ascended this day into heaven,

may ourselves dwell in spirit amid heavenly things.

COLLECT

Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God,

and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving,

for the Ascension of Christ your Son

is our exaltation,

and, where the Head has gone before in glory,

the Body is called to follow in hope.

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.

READING I

Christs-Ascension.jpg

Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus,

I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught

until the day he was taken up,

after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit

to the apostles whom he had chosen.

He presented himself alive to them

by many proofs after he had suffered,

appearing to them during forty days

and speaking about the kingdom of God.

While meeting with them,

he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,

but to wait for “the promise of the Father

about which you have heard me speak;

for John baptized with water,

but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,

Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons

that the Father has established by his own authority.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,

and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,

throughout Judea and Samaria,

and to the ends of the earth.”

When he had said this, as they were looking on,

he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.

While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,

suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.

They said, “Men of Galilee,

why are you standing there looking at the sky?

This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven

will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 126 We can distinguish three stages in the formation of the Gospels:

  1. The life and teaching of Jesus. The Church holds firmly that the four Gospels, “whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up.”1

2. The oral tradition. “For, after the ascension of the Lord, the apostles handed on to their hearers what he had said and done, but with that fuller understanding which they, instructed by the glorious events of Christ and enlightened by the Spirit of truth, now enjoyed.”2

3. The written Gospels. “The sacred authors, in writing the four Gospels, selected certain of the many elements which had been handed on, either orally or already in written form; others they synthesized or explained with an eye to the situation of the churches, the while sustaining the form of preaching, but always in such a fashion that they have told us the honest truth about Jesus.”2

CCC 333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God “brings the firstborn into the world, he says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”4 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: “Glory to God in the highest!”5 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.6 Again, it is the angels who “evangelize” by proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection.7 They will be present at Christ’s return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.8

CCC 474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.9 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.10

CCC 512 Concerning Christ’s life the Creed speaks only about the mysteries of the Incarnation (conception and birth) and Paschal mystery (passion, crucifixion, death, burial, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension). It says nothing explicitly about the mysteries of Jesus’ hidden or public life, but the articles of faith concerning his Incarnation and Passover do shed light on the whole of his earthly life. “All that Jesus did and taught, from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven”,11 is to be seen in the light of the mysteries of Christmas and Easter.

CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”12 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.13 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.14 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.15 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.16

CCC 672 Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel17 which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace.18 According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church19 and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.20

CCC 673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,21 even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”22. This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.23

CCC 697 Cloud and light. These two images occur together in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory – with Moses on Mount Sinai,24 at the tent of meeting,25 and during the wandering in the desert,26 and with Solomon at the dedication of the Temple.27 In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and “overshadows” her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus.28 On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the “cloud came and overshadowed” Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and “a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’”29 Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his ascension and will reveal him as Son of man in glory on the day of his final coming.30

CCC 730 At last Jesus’ hour arrives:31 he commends his spirit into the Father’s hands32 at the very moment when by his death he conquers death, so that, “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,”33 he might immediately give the Holy Spirit by “breathing” on his disciples.34 From this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”35

CCC 735 He, then, gives us the “pledge” or “first fruits” of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as “God [has] loved us.”36 This love (the “charity” of 1 Cor 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received “power” from the Holy Spirit.37

CCC 857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:

she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,”38 the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;39

with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching,40 the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;41

she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:42

You are the eternal Shepherd

who never leaves his flock untended.

Through the apostles

you watch over us and protect us always.

You made them shepherds of the flock

to share in the work of your Son. ..43

CCC 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.44 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,45 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.46 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.47 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.48

CCC 1556 To fulfill their exalted mission, “the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration.”49

CCC 1565 Through the sacrament of Holy Orders priests share in the universal dimensions of the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles. The spiritual gift they have received in ordination prepares them, not for a limited and restricted mission, “but for the fullest, in fact the universal mission of salvation ‘to the end of the earth,”’50 “prepared in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere.”51

1 DV 19; cf. Acts 1:1-2.

2 DV 19.

3 DV 19.

4 Heb 1:6.

5 Lk 2:14.

6 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19; 4:11; 26:53; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43; 2 Macc 10:29-30; 11:8.

7 Cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7.

8 Cf. Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9. The angels in the life of the Church

9 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.

10 Cf. Mk 13:32, Acts 1:7.

11 Acts 1:1-2.

12 Mk 16:19.

13 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.

14 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.

15 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.

16 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.

17 Cf. Acts 1:6-7.

18 Cf. Is 11:1-9.

19 Cf. Acts 1:8; I Cor 7:26; Eph 5:16; I Pt 4:17.

20 Cf. Mt 25:1, 13; Mk 13:33-37; I Jn 2:18; 4:3; I Tim 4:1.

21 Cf. Rev 22:20.

22 Acts 1:7; Cf. Mk 13:32.

23 Cf. Mt 24:44; I Th 5:2; 2 Th 2:3-12.

24 Cf. Ex 24:15-18.

25 Cf. Ex 33:9-10.

26 Cf. Ex 40:36-38; 1 Cor 10:1-2.

27 Cf. 1 Kings 8:10-12.

28 Lk 1:35.

29 Lk 9:34-35.

30 Cf. Acts 1:9; cf. Lk 21:27.

31 Cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

32 Cf. Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30.

33 Rom 6:4.

34 Cf. Jn 20:22.

35 Jn 20:21; cf. Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47-48; Acts 1:8.

36 1 Jn 4: 12; cf. Rom 8:23; 2 Cor 1:21.

37 Acts 1:8; cf. 1 Cor 13.

38 Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14.

39 Cf. Mt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:7-8; Gal 1:1; etc.

40 Cf. Acts 2:42.

41 Cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14.

42 AG 5.

43 Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.

44 Cf. Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2.

45 Cf. Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8.

46 Cf. Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14.

47 Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18.

48 Cf. Acts 2:38.

49 LG 21; cf. Acts 1:8; 24; Jn 20:22-23; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7.

50 PO 10; OT 20; cf. Acts 1:8.

51 OT 20.

APPLICATION

The Ascension or the return of Christ to heaven, in his human but glorified body, is the culmination, the sign and seal of the accomplishment of his salvific mission on earth. He, the Son of God, the second divine Person of the Blessed Trinity, became man, lived and died on this earth so that we men could live with God forever in heaven. By his death on the cross, he reconciled sinful man with his divine Creator. His human death earned for us a share in the divine life. His resurrection is the divine guarantee that we too shall rise again, and his ascension to the Father is the prelude to our entrance into God’s everlasting kingdom.

Christ, our Savior, our intimate friend, who suffered hardships, humiliations, and finally the painful and degrading death on the cross for our sakes, while here on earth, is now seated in the place of honor at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is there as our representative and as our intercessor. He has gone to heaven to prepare a place there for us. He said to his Apostles (and through them to all of us) at the Last Supper: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places…I am going to prepare a place for you and then I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be” (Jn. 14: 2-3).

What a consolation, what a source of joy this feast of the ascension is for any true believer! It is the natural desire (indeed the supernatural desire, for it is instilled in our very nature at creation) of every human being to keep on living–death is the negation of everything we love and have. However, we know that earthly death awaits every one of us. Our human make-up is of its nature mortal. How sad it would be, and how dreadful it must be for those who do not believe in God, if the grave were the final end for us.

We Christians know it is not the end but rather the beginning and today’s feast is the reminder of this consoling fact. We shall all leave this world some day soon, but for a true Christian, this thought should be a cause for joy rather than sadness. We leave this valley of tears to go on an eternal holiday. Christ has won this divine heritage for us; he has promised he is preparing a place in his own heavenly home for us and he is helping us on our way there. What have we to fear from earthly death? It is not the entrance to a perpetual prison but rather the door to our eternal happiness.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

All you peoples, clap your hands,

shout to God with cries of gladness,

For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,

is the great king over all the earth.

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;

the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.

Sing praise to God, sing praise;

sing praise to our king, sing praise.

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

For king of all the earth is God;

sing hymns of praise.

God reigns over the nations,

God sits upon his holy throne.

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

READING II

c194a715310cc8bed12523e70f66c6b1--orthodox-christianity-orthodox-icons.jpg

Eph 1:17-23

Brothers and sisters:

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,

give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation

resulting in knowledge of him.

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,

that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,

what are the riches of glory

in his inheritance among the holy ones,

and what is the surpassing greatness of his power

for us who believe,

in accord with the exercise of his great might:

which he worked in Christ,

raising him from the dead

and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,

far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,

and every name that is named

not only in this age but also in the one to come.

And he put all things beneath his feet

and gave him as head over all things to the church,

which is his body,

the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 158 “Faith seeks understanding”:1 it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love. The grace of faith opens “the eyes of your hearts”2 to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation: that is, of the totality of God’s plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery. “The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by his gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood.”3 In the words of St. Augustine, “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”4

CCC 272 Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus “the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”5 It is in Christ’s Resurrection and exaltation that the Father has shown forth “the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe”.6

CCC 648 Christ’s Resurrection is an object of faith in that it is a transcendent intervention of God himself in creation and history. In it the three divine persons act together as one, and manifest their own proper characteristics. The Father’s power “raised up” Christ his Son and by doing so perfectly introduced his Son’s humanity, including his body, into the Trinity. Jesus is conclusively revealed as “Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead”.7 St. Paul insists on the manifestation of God’s power8 through the working of the Spirit who gave life to Jesus’ dead humanity and called it to the glorious state of Lordship.

CCC 668 “Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”9 Christ’s Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God’s power and authority. Jesus Christ is Lord: he possesses all power in heaven and on earth. He is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”, for the Father “has put all things under his feet.”10 Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history. In him human history and indeed all creation are “set forth” and transcendently fulfilled.11

CCC 669 As Lord, Christ is also head of the Church, which is his Body.12 Taken up to heaven and glorified after he had thus fully accomplished his mission, Christ dwells on earth in his Church. The redemption is the source of the authority that Christ, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, exercises over the Church. “The kingdom of Christ [is] already present in mystery”, “on earth, the seed and the beginning of the kingdom”.13

CCC 753 In Scripture, we find a host of interrelated images and figures through which Revelation speaks of the inexhaustible mystery of the Church. The images taken from the Old Testament are variations on a profound theme: the People of God. In the New Testament, all these images find a new center because Christ has become the head of this people, which henceforth is his Body.14 Around this center are grouped images taken “from the life of the shepherd or from cultivation of the land, from the art of building or from family life and marriage.”15

CCC 830 The word “catholic” means “universal,” in the sense of “according to the totality” or “in keeping with the whole.” The Church is catholic in a double sense:

First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.”16 In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him “the fullness of the means of salvation”17 which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost18 and will always be so until the day of the Parousia.

CCC 2045 Because they are members of the Body whose Head is Christ,19 Christians contribute to building up the Church by the constancy of their convictions and their moral lives. The Church increases, grows, and develops through the holiness of her faithful, until “we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”20

CCC 2632 Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ.21 There is a hierarchy in these petitions: we pray first for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming. This collaboration with the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is now that of the Church, is the object of the prayer of the apostolic community.22 It is the prayer of Paul, the apostle par excellence, which reveals to us how the divine solicitude for all the churches ought to inspire Christian prayer.23 By prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom.

1 St. Anselm, Prosl. prooem. PL 153 225A.

2 Eph 1:18.

3 DV 5.

4 St. Augustine, Sermo 43, 7, 9: PL 38, 257-258.

5 1 Cor 1:24-25.

6 Eph 1:19-22.

7 Rom I 3-4; cf. Acts 2:24.

8 Cf. Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 13:4; Phil 3:10; Eph 1:19-22; Heb 7:16.

9 Rom 14:9.

10 Eph 1:20-22.

11 Eph 1:10; cf. 4:10; 1 Cor 15:24, 27-28.

12 Cf. Eph 1:22.

13 LG 3; 5; cf. Eph 4:11-13.

14 Cf. Eph 1:22; Col 1:18; LG 9.

15 LG 6.

16 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Smyrn. 8,2:Apostolic Fathers,II/2,311.

17 UR 3; AG 6; Eph 1:22-23.

18 Cf. AG 4.

19 Cf. Eph 1:22.

20 Eph 4:13; cf. LG 39.

21 Cf. Mt 6:10, 33; Lk 11:2,13.

22 Cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3.

23 Cf. Rom 10:1; Eph 1:16-23; Phil 1911; Col 1:3-6; 4:3-4, 12.

APPLICATION

St. Paul reminded the Ephesians nearly nineteen and a half centuries ago of the marvelous generosity and goodness of God who had made them Christians and sharers-to-be in the glory of Christ, which was the eternal glory of God. The words the Apostle wrote to those first converts were written for us also and are as applicable to us today as they were in the year 61 A.D. He prayed that God would enlighten their minds to try to understand and appreciate the marvelous things God had done for them through the Incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Which of us can say that we really appreciate, as we should, these same marvelous things God has done for us? Because Christ came on earth we have been given the power to go to heaven. As mere creatures we have no such power and not even the slightest claim to any such extraordinary gift. We, as creatures, are by our very nature, mortal. Death on earth should be our final end. But because the infinitely good and generous God wished to raise us up to the status of adopted sons of his, and to make us capable of sharing, in as far as our limited nature could, in his eternal life and happiness, he sent his divine Son on earth to share in our humanity.

This is the mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of God’s love for us, a love of which we are utterly unworthy. Today we are commemorating the final act in this drama of divine love. God the Son, returning to his Father, bearing our human nature and guaranteeing to each one of us that, we too, when we leave this earth, will find our true life, our unending life, in the home of the Father with Christ, our true Brother.

Cast your eyes heavenwards today, where Christ now dwells surrounded by millions of our fellowman, and say to yourself: There is my true home, there is where I shall be forever at peace with God, with neighbor and with myself. Millions of my fellowman have already got there. I have the same weaknesses which they had. I have the same strength and helps that they got. Why should I not make it? The one and only person who could stop me from getting to my heavenly home is myself. Could I ever be so foolish? God forbid!

GOSPEL

7th+c.+Ascension+Icon.jpg

Lk 24:46-53

Jesus said to his disciples:

Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer

and rise from the dead on the third day

and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,

would be preached in his name

to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things.

And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you;

but stay in the city

until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany,

raised his hands, and blessed them.

As he blessed them he parted from them

and was taken up to heaven.

They did him homage

and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

and they were continually in the temple praising God.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051318-ascension.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 112 1. Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.1

The phrase “heart of Christ” can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.2

CCC 627 Christ’s death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of the union which the person of the Son retained with his body, his was not a mortal corpse like others, for “it was not possible for death to hold him” 3 4 and therefore “divine power preserved Christ’s body from corruption.” Both of these statements can be said of Christ: “He was cut off out of the land of the living”,5 and “My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption.”6 Jesus’ resurrection “on the third day” was the sign of this, also because bodily decay was held to begin on the fourth day after death.7

CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”8 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.9 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.10 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.11 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.12

CCC 730 At last Jesus’ hour arrives:13 he commends his spirit into the Father’s hands14 at the very moment when by his death he conquers death, so that, “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,”15 he might immediately give the Holy Spirit by “breathing” on his disciples.16 From this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”17

CCC 981 After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles “so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.”18 The apostles and their successors carry out this “ministry of reconciliation,” not only by announcing to men God’s forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ:19

[The Church] has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit’s action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us.20

CCC 1094 It is on this harmony of the two Testaments that the Paschal catechesis of the Lord is built,21 and then, that of the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church. This catechesis unveils what lay hidden under the letter of the Old Testament: the mystery of Christ. It is called “typological” because it reveals the newness of Christ on the basis of the “figures” (types) which announce him in the deeds, words, and symbols of the first covenant. By this re-reading in the Spirit of Truth, starting from Christ, the figures are unveiled.22 Thus the flood and Noah’s ark prefigured salvation by Baptism,23 as did the cloud and the crossing of the Red Sea. Water from the rock was the figure of the spiritual gifts of Christ, and manna in the desert prefigured the Eucharist, “the true bread from heaven.”24

CCC 1120 The ordained ministry or ministerial priesthood is at the service of the baptismal priesthood.25 The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church. The saving mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person.26 The ordained minister is the sacramental bond that ties the liturgical action to what the apostles said and did and, through them, to the words and actions of Christ, the source and foundation of the sacraments.

CCC 1122 Christ sent his apostles so that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.”27 “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.”28 The mission to baptize, and so the sacramental mission, is implied in the mission to evangelize, because the sacrament is prepared for by the word of God and by the faith which is assent to this word:

The People of God is formed into one in the first place by the Word of the living God. .. The preaching of the Word is required for the sacramental ministry itself, since the sacraments are sacraments of faith, drawing their origin and nourishment from the Word.29

CCC 1304 Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.30

1 Cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-46.

2 St. Thomas Aquinas, Expos. in Ps. 21, 11; cf. Ps 22:14.

3 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 51, 3.

4 Acts 2:24.

5 Is 53:8.

6 Acts 2:26-27; cf. Ps 16:9-10.

7 Cf. I Cor 15:4; Lk 24:46; Mt 12:40; Jon 2:1; Hos 6:2; cf. Jn 11:39.

8 Mk 16:19.

9 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.

10 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.

11 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.

12 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.

13 Cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

14 Cf. Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30.

15 Rom 6:4.

16 Cf. Jn 20:22.

17 Jn 20:21; cf. Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47-48; Acts 1:8.

18 Lk 24:47.

19 2 Cor 5:18.

20 St. Augustine, Sermo 214,11:PL 38,1071-1072.

21 Cf. DV 14-16; Lk 24:13-49.

22 Cf. 2 Cor 3:14-16.

23 Cf. 1 Pet 3:21.

24 Jn 6:32; cf. 1 Cor 10:1-6.

25 Cf. LG 10 # 2.

26 Cf. Jn 20:21-23; Lk 24:47; Mt 28:18-20.

27 Lk 24:47.

28 Mt 28:19.

29 PO 4 ## 1, 2.

30 Cf. Council Of Trent (1547): DS 1609; Lk 24:48-49.

APPLICATION

The death of a member of his family or of a loved friend, must be the saddest event imaginable in the life of an atheist. He is one who really is convinced that there is no God, no future life and therefore that the relative or friend is to turn into dust in the grave, never to be met with again. The thought that every day that passes is bringing him too nearer to that same sad fate, death, which will be the end of all his ambitions, all his enjoyments, the end of everything he thought he was or had, must be something hard to live with.

Thank God, we have the good fortune to know, and reason and faith convince us of this truth, that death is not the end of man. It is rather the real beginning. Today’s feast—the Ascension of our Lord in his human nature–to his Father’s and our Father’s home, is the confirmation and the guarantee of this doctrine of our faith. We shall all rise from the grave with new, glorified bodies and ascend to heaven, as Christ did. There we’ll begin our true life of eternal happiness.

While it is true that even for good Christians the death of a beloved one is a cause of sorrow and tears, this is natural as we still are of the earth earthly. Yet the certitude that our beloved one has gone to his true life and will be there to meet us when our turn comes, is always at the back of our minds to console and comfort us. What all human beings want is to live on forever with our dear ones. Death breaks that continuity but only for a little while. That break is necessary for the new life to begin.

It is only in heaven that this natural desire of an unending life with all those we love can be realized and death on earth is the door to that eternal life.

Look up to heaven today. See Christ ascending to his Father and our Father. Say: Thank you, God, for creating me, and for giving me, through the Incarnation of your beloved Son, the possibility and the assurance that if I do my part here, when death comes it will not be an enemy but a friend, to speed me on my way to the true, supernatural life which you have, in your love, planned and prepared for me.

It was written, and foretold, that Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory. The servant is not above the Master. I too must suffer. I too must accept the hardships and the trials of this life, if I want, and I do, to enter into the life of glory. Christ, who was sinless, suffered hardship and pain. I have earned many, if not all of my hardships, by my own sins. I should be glad of the opportunity to make some atonement for my past offenses, by willingly accepting the crosses he sends me. These crosses are signs of God’s interest in my true welfare. Through him he is giving me a chance to prepare myself for the day of reckoning, for the moment of my death which will decide my eternal future. For every prayer I say for success in life, I should say three for a successful death, a death free from sin and at peace with God.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Ascension

The Ascension of Christ means that he no longer belongs to the world of corruption and death, which conditions our life. It means that he belongs completely to God. He, the eternal Son, has taken our human being to the presence of God; he has taken with him flesh and blood in a transfigured form. Man finds a place in God through Christ; the human being has been taken until the very life of God. And, given that Go embraces and sustains the whole cosmos, the Lord’s Ascension means that Christ has not gone far away from us. But that now, thanks to the fact he is with the Father, he is close to each one of us forever. Each one of us may address him familiarly; each one may turn to him. We can live with our backs turned to him, but he always awaits us, and is always close to us… Jesus told his disciples everything, as he is the living word of God, and God can give no more than himself. In Jesus, God gave himself totally to us, that is, he gave us everything. In addition to this, or together with this, there can be no other revelation able to communicate something else, or to complete, in a certain sense, the revelation of Christ. In him, in the Son, we were told everything, we were given everything. But our ability to understand is limited; for this reason the mission of the Spirit consists in introducing the Church in an ever new way, from generation to generation, into the grandeur of the mystery of Christ… Thus, the Holy Spirit is the force through which Christ makes us experience his closeness.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

King of glory, Lord of hosts, Who this day has triumphantly ascended above all the heavens, leave us not orphans; but send upon us the promise of the Father, the Spirit of Truth, alleluia!

Additional readings

The Angels of the Ascension

http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Angelology/Angelology_012.htm

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – B

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“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.  This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

 Cardinal Mercier’s Prayer To The Holy Spirit

 “O Holy Spirit

Beloved of my soul

I adore you.

Enlighten Me

Guide Me,

strengthen Me and Console me.

Tell me what I ought to do

and command me to do it.

I promise to submit to everything

that you ask of me

and to accept all

that you allow to happen to me.

Just show me what is your will.”

COLLECT

Grant, almighty God,

that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy,

which we keep in honor of the risen Lord,

and that what we relive in remembrance

we may always hold to in what we do.

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.  Amen

READING I

 42ae513cf2c1da0c0621d3d7c5d43a2e.jpg

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48

When Peter entered, Cornelius met him

and, falling at his feet, paid him homage.

Peter, however, raised him up, saying,

“Get up. I myself am also a human being.”

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said,

“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.

Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly

is acceptable to him.”

While Peter was still speaking these things,

the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.

The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter

were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit

should have been poured out on the Gentiles also,

for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.

Then Peter responded,

“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people,

who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?”

He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

APPLICATION

“God shows no partiality but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” These inspired and inspiring words of Peter, the head of the Apostles, removed any doubts which his fellow-Jewish-Christians from Jaffa had as to the right of Cornelius and his household to be baptized and become Christians like themselves. They should also have opened the minds of all Jewish converts to the mission of Christ as a mission of salvation for all nations and not for Jews only. Unfortunately, there were some who exaggerated their own claims on God and who still looked down on the Gentiles. There were among the Jewish-Christians those who grudgingly admitted that Gentiles could be received into the Christian Church, but only if they became Jews first by accepting circumcision.

These people were a serious embarrassment to St. Paul in his missionary activity among the Gentiles. They followed him through Asia Minor telling the converted Gentiles that they were not really members of the Christian Church for they had not first become Jews. These “Judaizers” as they were called, were causing such upsets among the Gentile converts that Paul and Barnabas were forced to ask the Apostles, assembled in the first Council of the Church in Jerusalem, to give a definitive answer to this question (Acts 15: 1-2). They did, and the false teaching of the Judaizers was condemned. Gentiles could and should be received directly into the Church, without passing through any form of Judaism or without accepting any of the Jewish ritualistic practices.

God, through the Holy Spirit, has been with his Church right down through the ages and from its very beginning. The case of conversion of Cornelius, narrated in today’s reading, happened in order that Peter, the head of the Apostles and the principal speaker at the Council of Jerusalem, should have visible proof from God that he wished Gentiles to be taken directly into his Church without any of the Jewish ritual observances. Peter’s address to the Council, describing what happened at Caesarea, silenced all opposition and settled this question for all time. But before the vision of the clean and unclean animals shown him in Jaffa, and the proofs of the presence of the Holy Spirit which he witnessed in Caesarea, Peter too had his narrow judaizing tendencies.

The lesson for all Christians is that God has been, and will be, always with his Church. Christ has committed it to the care of mortal and fallible men but he has given them (and us) the assurance that he will be with them always even unto the end of time (Mt. 28: 20). Today, many devout and sincere Christians are worried because of evident dissension between theologians on moral and dogmatic questions. Since the second Vatican Council there has been a flood of writings from the pens of reputable theologians and sometimes from men with less depth of knowledge and less balanced judgement. This is but a natural consequence of the winds of change to which the saintly Pope John opened the windows of the Church.

Ever since Trent (1546), when the cold-war with the Reformers began, the Catholic Church had remained rather static in its exposition of faith and morals. While the world around us had made giant strides in the study of man and the world in which he lived, and also in the study of ancient literature and culture, our seminary text-books were faithfully copying the sixteenth century expositions of the theologians of that day. This in itself was right as far as it went, since the defined dogmas of the Church remain fixed for all time. However, it did not go far enough; it paid little or no heed to the immense growth in secular knowledge, or to the change in terminology and linguistics which the new philosophies had introduced. Scripture especially which, with Tradition, is the basis of all theology, was very much neglected, to the detriment of our people’s knowledge of the revealed world of God.

Thanks to the Holy Spirit, who worked through Pope John and Vatican II, that has all been changed, or rather is being gradually changed. As in all change, there must be upsets and a disturbance of the status quo ante. There will be naturally men who oppose change, and on the other hand there are likely to be men who want to change too much. We are going through this period of change at present, and some people are surprised, if not shocked, at some of the moral and dogmatic pronouncements of present-day writers. Knowing, as we do, that the Holy Spirit is with the Church we need have no fear. She has had similar experiences in the past—nearly all her great General Councils were preceded by disputes between theologians and would-be theologizers. The Councils, guided by the Holy Spirit, defined and expounded the true faith.

Truth will prevail; we can look forward confidently to the day when present disputes will end. Our Christian faith and morals will continue to be expounded authoritatively with the backing of the Holy Spirit, by the successors of the Apostles whom he sent to teach all nations.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 761 The gathering together of the People of God began at the moment when sin destroyed the communion of men with God, and that of men among themselves. The gathering together of the Church is, as it were, God’s reaction to the chaos provoked by sin. This reunification is achieved secretly in the heart of all peoples: “In every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable” to God.1

 

CCC 781 “At all times and in every race, anyone who fears God and does what is right has been acceptable to him. He has, however, willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness. He therefore chose the Israelite race to be his own people and established a covenant with it. He gradually instructed this people. .. All these things, however, happened as a preparation for and figure of that new and perfect covenant which was to be ratified in Christ. .. the New Covenant in his blood; he called together a race made up of Jews and Gentiles which would be one, not according to the flesh, but in the Spirit.”2

CCC 1226 From the very day of Pentecost the Church has celebrated and administered holy Baptism. Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd astounded by his preaching: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”3 The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the God-fearing, pagans.4 Always, Baptism is seen as connected with faith: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,” St. Paul declared to his jailer in Philippi. And the narrative continues, the jailer “was baptized at once, with all his family.”5

1 Acts 10:35; cf. LG 9; 13; 16.

2 LG 9; Cf. Acts 10:35; 1 Cor 11:25.

3 Acts 2:38.

4 Cf. Acts 2:41; 8:12-13; 10:48; 16:15.

5 Acts 16:31-33.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4

(cf. 2b) The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done wondrous deeds;

His right hand has won victory for him,

his holy arm.

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

The LORD has made his salvation known:

in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.

He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness

toward the house of Israel.

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

All the ends of the earth have seen

the salvation by our God.

Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

break into song; sing praise.

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

READING II

1 Jn 4:7-10

Beloved, let us love one another,

because love is of God;

everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.

Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.

In this way the love of God was revealed to us:

God sent his only Son into the world

so that we might have life through him.

In this is love:

not that we have loved God, but that he loved us

and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

APPLICATION

It is told that when St. John was too old and feeble to say Mass, he insisted on being carried to the Church on Sundays to preach to the congregation. Sunday after Sunday his sermon consisted of one short sentence: “Little children, love one another.” After some weeks of this repetition, the presiding priest had the courage to say to the Apostle: “Father, could you not say something more?” The answer that he got was: “No, for if they do this they are doing everything.” Undoubtedly the Beloved Disciple was the Apostle of love. His gospel and Epistles are dominated by the thought of “the Word made flesh,” the mystery of God’s love for us which brought about the incarnation. Having been made children of God, we must, of course, love God for this gratuitous gift; but the real proof of our love of God is our love for our neighbor.

“He who does not love (his neighbor) does not know God.” This hardly needs proof. If we do know God we know the marvelous thing he has done for us in making us his children and heirs to heaven through the incarnation, and the natural and supernatural reaction to such knowledge should be the, desire to do something for God in return. And God himself through Christ has told us what we can do for him—we can be charitable toward his little ones, our fellow-children of God on earth. Everything kind and good we do for them, we are doing it for himself, he tells us (Mt. 25: 40).

Therefore, we are expected, and what is more, we are commanded to love all God’s children. This is the way in which the good God allows us to make some little return for all he has done for us. Generous souls would not need a commandment, they would rejoice at the opportunity of doing something for God, but most of us are not too given to generosity, and so God has given us a commandment to do our duty. On the fulfilling of that commandment our own eternal welfare will depend. “I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick, I was in prison, and you visited me; well done good and faithful servant enter into the joy of the Lord.”

These are words we all would like to hear when called to judgement. We shall hear them if we keep our part of the contract. If we carry out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, whenever and wherever we can, we need have no fear about God doing his part. We may not have much of this world’s goods, and we may not be able therefore to help our neighbor much in his bodily needs, but we can help him with our prayers, with words of consolation and encouragement. There is a little poem on kindness written by Father Faber which brings out what a help even the poorest of us can be to his neighbor, if only true charity inspires us. It runs like this:

“It was but a sunny smile and little it cost in the giving, But it scattered the night like the morning light, And made the day worth living.

It was only a kindly word, a word that was easily spoken, But it was not in vain for it chilled the pain, Of a heart that was nearly broken.

It was but a helping hand and it seemed of little availing, But its clasp was warm and it saved from harm, A brother whose strength was failing.”

Which of us is so poor in spirit, so weak in charity, that he cannot give a sunny smile to his neighbor whenever he meets him, or speak a kind word to someone in need of consoling, or give a helping hand, be it ever so little, to one in greater need than himself?

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 214 God, “HE WHO IS”, revealed himself to Israel as the one “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”.1 These two terms express summarily the riches of the divine name. In all his works God displays, not only his kindness, goodness, grace and steadfast love, but also his trustworthiness, constancy, faithfulness and truth. “I give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness.”2 He is the Truth, for “God is light and in him there is no darkness”; “God is love”, as the apostle John teaches.3

CCC 221 But St. John goes even further when he affirms that “God is love”:4 God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret:5 God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.

CCC 457 The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who “loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins”: “the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world”, and “he was revealed to take away sins”:6

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. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state?7

CCC 458 The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God’s love: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”8 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”9

CCC 604 By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that his plan for us is one of benevolent love, prior to any merit on our part: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”10 God “shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”11

CCC 614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.12 First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.13

CCC 733 “God is Love”14 and love is his first gift, containing all others. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”15

CCC 1428 Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”16 This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.17

CCC 1604 God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love.18 Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator’s eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: “And God blessed them, and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.’”19

CCC 2822 Our Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”20 He “is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish.”21 His commandment is “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”22 This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses his entire will.

1 Ex 34:6.

2 Ps 138:2; cf. Ps 85:11.

3 I Jn 1:5; 4:8.

4 l Jn 4:8, 16.

5 Cf. I Cor 2:7-16; Eph 3:9-12.

6 I Jn 4:10; 4:14; 3:5.

7 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Orat. catech 15: PG 45, 48B.

8 I Jn 4:9.

9 Jn 3:16.

10 I John 4:10; 4:19.

11 Rom 5:8.

12 Cf. Heb 10:10.

13 Cf. Jn 10:17-18; 15:13; Heb 9:14; 1 Jn 4:10.

14 1 Jn 4:8,1.

15 Rom 5:5.

16 LG 8 # 3.

17 Ps 51:17; cf. Jn 6:44; 12:32; 1 Jn 4:10.

18 Cf. Gen 1:27; 1 Jn 4:8, 16.

19 Gen 1:28; cf. 1:31.

20 1 Tim 2:3-4.

21 2 Pet 3:9; cf. Mt 18:14.

22 Jn 13:34; cf. 1 Jn 3; 4; Lk 10:25-37.

GOSPEL

Image result for St. John Love one another icon

Jn 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.

Remain in my love.

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,

just as I have kept my Father’s commandments

and remain in his love.”

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you

and your joy might be complete.

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.

No one has greater love than this,

to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

You are my friends if you do what I command you.

I no longer call you slaves,

because a slave does not know what his master is doing.

I have called you friends,

because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you

and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,

so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.

This I command you: love one another.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/050618.cfm

APPLICATION

It is only a few weeks since Good Friday when we commemorated the agonizing death of Christ on Mount Calvary. This was an excruciating, shameful death even for hardened criminals who deserved it. But for our loving Savior, the innocent lamb of God, one who had never offended God or neighbor, it was something of which the whole human race should be ashamed forever. What caused Christ that torment and death on the cross was our sins, the sins of all mankind and not the spite and hatred of his Jewish opponents, who were only instruments in the tragedy. Atonement had to be made to God for the sins of the world, so that men could reach the eternal inheritance which the incarnation made available to them. However, not all the acts of the entire human race could make a sufficient atonement to God. A sacrifice, an expiation of infinite value was needed. The death of the Son of God in his human nature was alone capable of making such an expiation.

That Christ willingly accepted crucifixion for our sake, that he gave the greatest proof of love which the world has ever known, by laying down his life for his friends, did not make his sufferings any less, did not ease any of the pains of Calvary. His agony in the Garden before his arrest shows this: he foresaw all the tortures and pains which he was to undergo and sweated blood at the thought of what awaited him. But he was to keep his Father’s commandment: “not my will but thine be done.” We Christians must have hearts of stone, hearts devoid of all sense of gratitude, when we forget what Christ has done for us and deliberately offend him! Alas, this is what all of us do sometimes, and many of us do all the time. Christ died to bring us to heaven but we tell him, by our sins, that he was wasting his time. We do not want to go to heaven, we are making our happiness here!

How far can human ingratitude and thanklessness go? Christ told us, through the disciples on Holy Thursday night, that he had made us his friends, his intimates. We are no longer servants in the household, who merely earn their daily wage and have no intimacy with the family and no hope of ever sharing in the family possessions. Instead, we have been adopted into the family by Christ becoming man, we have been guaranteed all the rights of children: intimacy with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the future sharing in the eternal happiness of that divine household. Christ’s incarnation made us God’s children; Christ’s death on the cross removed sin. Sin is the one obstacle that could prevent us reaching our eternal inheritance.

Because God gave us a free will we can in a moment of folly, a moment of madness really, deprive ourselves of the privileges and possessions which Christ has made available to us. We can choose to exchange an eternity of happiness for a few fleeting years of self-indulgence on earth. We can fling Christ’s gift of love back in his face and tell him we don’t want it. God forbid that we should ever act like this, that we should ever forget God’s purpose in creating us. It is a marvelous thing to be alive, if we have hope in a future life. If nothing awaited us but the grave, then to live on this earth, which is a valley of sorrow and tears for the vast majority, would be the cruelest of jests. But of this we need have no fear. Life on earth is but a short prelude to our real existence. If we use this brief period as Christ has told us how to use it, death for us will be the passage into the eternal mansions. Be grateful to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, love the Blessed Trinity; prove your love by loving your fellowman. By doing this you are fulfilling the whole law and the prophets; and you are assuring yourself of the place in heaven which Christ has won for you.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. used with permission of Ignatius Press

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 142 By his Revelation, “the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company.”1 The adequate response to this invitation is faith.

CCC 363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person.2 But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,3 that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

CCC 434 Jesus’ Resurrection glorifies the name of the Savior God, for from that time on it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the “name which is above every name”.4 The evil spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in this name.5

CCC 459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”6 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!”7 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.”8 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.9

CCC 1108 In every liturgical action the Holy Spirit is sent in order to bring us into communion with Christ and so to form his Body. The Holy Spirit is like the sap of the Father’s vine which bears fruit on its branches.10 The most intimate cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the Church is achieved in the liturgy. The Spirit who is the Spirit of communion, abides indefectibly in the Church. For this reason the Church is the great sacrament of divine communion which gathers God’s scattered children together. Communion with the Holy Trinity and fraternal communion are inseparably the fruit of the Spirit in the liturgy.11

CCC 1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment.12 By loving his own “to the end,”13 he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”14

CCC 1824 Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”15

CCC 1970 The Law of the Gospel requires us to make the decisive choice between “the two ways” and to put into practice the words of the Lord.16 It is summed up in the Golden Rule, “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; this is the law and the prophets.”17

The entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the “new commandment” of Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us.18

CCC 1972 The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who “does not know what his master is doing” to that of a friend of Christ – “For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” – or even to the status of son and heir.19

CCC 2074 Jesus says: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”20 The fruit referred to in this saying is the holiness of a life made fruitful by union with Christ. When we believe in Jesus Christ, partake of his mysteries, and keep his commandments, the Savior himself comes to love, in us, his Father and his brethren, our Father and our brethren. His person becomes, through the Spirit, the living and interior rule of our activity. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”21

CCC 2347 The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends,22 who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.

Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.

CCC 2745 Prayer and Christian life are inseparable, for they concern the same love and the same renunciation, proceeding from love; the same filial and loving conformity with the Father’s plan of love; the same transforming union in the Holy Spirit who conforms us more and more to Christ Jesus; the same love for all men, the love with which Jesus has loved us. “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he [will] give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.”23

He “prays without ceasing” who unites prayer to works and good works to prayer. Only in this way can we consider as realizable the principle of praying without ceasing.24

CCC 2815 This petition embodies all the others. Like the six petitions that follow, it is fulfilled by the prayer of Christ. Prayer to our Father is our prayer, if it is prayed in the name of Jesus.25 In his priestly prayer, Jesus asks: “Holy Father, protect in your name those whom you have given me.”26

1 DV 2; cf. Col 1:15; I Tim 1:17; Ex 33:11; Jn 15:14-15; Bar 3:38 (Vulg.).

2 Cf. Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41.

3 Cf. Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6 30.

4 Phil 2:9-10; cf. Jn 12:28.

5 Cf. Acts 16:16-18; 19:13-16; Mk 16:17; Jn 15:16.

6 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.

7 Mk 9:7; cf. Dt 6:4-5.

8 Jn 15:12.

9 Cf. Mk 8:34.

10 Cf. Jn 15:1-17; Gal 5:22.

11 Cf. 1 Jn 1:3-7.

12 Cf. Jn 13:34.

13 Jn 13:1.

14 Jn 15:9, 12.

15 Jn 15:9-10; cf. Mt 22:40; Rom 13:8-10.

16 Cf. Mt 7:13-14,21-27.

17 Mt 7:12; cf. Lk 6:31.

18 Cf. Jn 15:12; 13:34.

19 Jn 15:15; cf. Jas 1:25; 2:12; Gal 4:1-7.21-31; Rom 8:15.

20 Jn 15:5.

21 Jn 15:12.

22 Cf. Jn 15:15.

23 Jn 15:16-17.

24 Origen, De orat. 12: PG 11, 452c.

25 Cf. Jn 14:13; 15:16; 16:24, 26.

26 Jn 17:11.

BENEDICTUS

The Ascension

The Ascension of Christ means that he no longer belongs to the world of corruption and death, which conditions our life.  It means that he belongs completely to God.  He, the eternal Son, has taken our human being to the presence of God; he has taken with him flesh and blood in a transfigured form.  Man finds a place in God through Christ; the human being has been taken into the very life of God.  And, given that God embraces and sustains the whole cosmos, the Lord’s Ascension means that Christ has not gone far away from us, but that now, thanks to the fact he is with the Father, he is close to each one of us forever.  Each one of us may address him familiarly; each one may turn to him.  The Lord always hears our voice.  We may distance ourselves inwardly from him.  We can live with our backs turned to him, but he always awaits us, and is always close to us…  Jesus told his disciples everything, as he is the living word of God, and God can give no more than himself.  In Jesus, God gave himself totally to us, that is, he gave us everything.  In addition to this, or together with this, there can be no other revelation able to communicate something else, or to complete, in a certain sense, the revelation of Christ.  In him, in the Son, we are told everything, we were given everything.  But our ability to understand is limited; for this reason the mission of the Spirit consists in introducing the Church in an ever new way, from generation to generation, into the grandeur of the mystery of Christ… Thus, the Holy Spirit is the force through which Christ makes us experience his closeness.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – B

Christ_Tree_of_Jesse_(Athens,_16_c_).jpg

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive, into my mind that I may remember, and into my soul that I may meditate. Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy. Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end. May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy. Amen.

Saint Anthony of Padua

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us,

that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism

may, under your protective care, bear much fruit

and come to the joys of life eternal.

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.

Amen.

READING I

icon-Peter-and-Paul.jpg

Acts 9:26-31

When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples,

but they were all afraid of him,

not believing that he was a disciple.

Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles,

and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord,

and that he had spoken to him,

and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.

He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem,

and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord.

He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists,

but they tried to kill him.

And when the brothers learned of this,

they took him down to Caesarea

and sent him on his way to Tarsus.

The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.

It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord,

and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.

APPLICATION

Although the verses of today’s reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, begin with Saul and his first visit to Jerusalem, the point of interest for us is the growth, and marvelous spread of the Christian faith among the Jews of Palestine. “The Church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up.” If we were dealing with human achievement and human endeavor only, we would have an incredible story in those few words. During his public life of over two years Christ had traveled around Palestine. He had worked many miracles, but evidently these were soon forgotten. He had stated that he was the promised Messiah, but very few, if any, believed him. On many occasions he had referred to his sonship with the Father, but even his disciples did not grasp that. The leaders of the Jews were against him from the very beginning, and the people followed their leaders. Like their leaders, the Jews of that day were looking not for a spiritual kingdom after death, but a prosperous, wealthy kingdom here on earth in their own lifetime. So, with the few exceptions, all his calls to repentance and to love of God and neighbor fell on deaf ears. His death at the hands of his enemies was the last straw – that proved the absurdity of his claims to be the Messiah and the Son of God.

Yet what do we find a few years later, after the apparent failure of Calvary? Thousands of those same Jews who ignored or derided Jesus while he was amongst them, were becoming his fervent followers and ardent admirers. They were spreading his teaching among their neighbors. There is no natural explanation for such a change of attitude in a whole people. There is, of course, a supernatural explanation for this change of mind: the resurrection. This fact alone explains the change of outlook on the part of thousands of Jews: this alone explains the fearless courage of the Apostles – the one-time timid group who huddled in an upper-room behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” Now they were confronting the very Sanhedrin in their stronghold, preaching the risen Christ in the streets of Jerusalem and throughout the land of Palestine. Their power of working miracles, and the visible assistance of the Holy Spirit was moving not only the ordinary laity but many of the priests and leaders in Jerusalem itself, to accept Christ and Christianity (see Acts 6: 7).

This fact. the resurrection of Christ, is the very foundation stone of our Christian religion. If it had not happened, no Jew would have been converted in Palestine, no Apostle would have the foolhardiness to preach of one who had failed. The Church which Christ promised would have been stillborn and would never have survived. But it did exist and it spread. It is still in existence and will be, as long as men are on earth who must be directed to heaven.

The resurrection of Christ is not only the solid basis of our faith, it is also the guarantee for us that we too shall rise, in glorified bodies like his, one day. That day will be our real birthday, the day we are born to unending life. Let us thank God for his love and mercy; he could have ignored us and left us to our fate, but his infinite love did not let him do so. His goodness moved him to share his eternal happiness. That we shall do, if we do what is asked of us while we are here below. When the crosses of life come our way (and who can avoid them?), let us grasp them firmly. We want, and we hope, to be like the risen Christ hereafter; we shall if we, like him, carry our cross cheerfully whenever he asks us to do so.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32

I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.

I will fulfill my vows before those who fear the LORD.

The lowly shall eat their fill;

they who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your hearts live forever!”

I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.

All the ends of the earth

shall remember and turn to the LORD;

all the families of the nations

shall bow down before him.

I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.

To him alone shall bow down

all who sleep in the earth;

before him shall bend

all who go down into the dust.


I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.

And to him my soul shall live;

my descendants shall serve him.

Let the coming generation be told of the LORD

that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born

the justice he has shown.

I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.

READING II

icon-holy-trinity.jpg

1 Jn 3:18-24

Children, let us love not in word or speech

but in deed and truth.

Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth

and reassure our hearts before him

in whatever our hearts condemn,

for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,

we have confidence in God

and receive from him whatever we ask,

because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

And his commandment is this:

we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,

and love one another just as he commanded us.

Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,

and the way we know that he remains in us

is from the Spirit he gave us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 208 Faced with God’s fascinating and mysterious presence, man discovers his own insignificance. Before the burning bush, Moses takes off his sandals and veils his face in the presence of God’s holiness.1 Before the glory of the thrice-holy God, Isaiah cries out: “Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.”2 Before the divine signs wrought by Jesus, Peter exclaims: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”3 But because God is holy, he can forgive the man who realizes that he is a sinner before him: “I will not execute my fierce anger. .. for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst.”4 The apostle John says likewise: “We shall. .. reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”5

CCC 1781 Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. The verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God:

We shall. .. reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.6

CCC 2631 The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like the tax collector in the parable: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”7 It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer. A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that “we receive from him whatever we ask.”8 Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer.

CCC 2778 This power of the Spirit who introduces us to the Lord’s Prayer is expressed in the liturgies of East and of West by the beautiful, characteristically Christian expression: parrhesia, straightforward simplicity, filial trust, joyous assurance, humble boldness, the certainty of being loved.9

CCC 2822 Our Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”10 He “is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish.”11 His commandment is “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”12 This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses his entire will.

CCC 2845 There is no limit or measure to this essentially divine forgiveness,13 whether one speaks of “sins” as in Luke (11:4), “debts” as in Matthew (6:12). We are always debtors: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”14 The communion of the Holy Trinity is the source and criterion of truth in every relation ship. It is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist.15

God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.16

1 Cf. EX 3:5-6.

2 Is 6:5.

3 Lk 5:8.

4 Hos 11:9.

5 I Jn 3:19-20.

6 1 Jn 3:19-20.

7 Lk 18:13.

8 1 Jn 3:22; cf. 1:7-2:2.

9 Cf. Eph 3:12; Heb 3:6; 4:16; 10:19; 1 Jn 2:28; 3:21; 5:14.

10 1 Tim 2:3-4.

11 2 Pet 3:9; cf. Mt 18:14.

12 Jn 13:34; cf. 1 Jn 3; 4; Lk 10:25-37.

13 Cf. Mt 18:21-22; Lk 17:3-4.

14 Rom 13:8.

15 Cf. Mt 5:23-24; 1 Jn 3:19-24.

16 St. Cyprian, De Dom. orat. 23: PL 4, 535-536; cf. Mt 5:24.

APPLICATION

The sincere, active faith and charity which St. John demanded of the first and second generation of Christians in Asia Minor is still demanded of all of us today. Nineteen centuries have elapsed since John wrote that letter, but the essence of the Christian faith has not changed in all those years. If anything, the need today for a living faith, that is, a faith lived daily, and an active charity, is greater than it was in the first century after Christ. The opponents of the Christian faith (the unbelievers, the Agnostics and the humanists) are more numerous in our world today than they were then in Asia Minor. What these opponents of our faith need is not rhetoric or apologetics or logical argument but the living example of sincere Christians. There is far too much counterfeit Christianity – a nominal adherence to Christ – while he and everything he taught are denied in practice. Perhaps, therefore, unbelievers and others have some excuse today for despising the Christian religion.

But what they are despising is the counterfeit, the false currency, which is being passed around as Christianity. Some of them, it is true, may not accept the real faith if it is put before them in the lives of true Christians, but many will, and we have, therefore, a grave obligation to put it before them. Instead of denouncing atheistic communism, humanism and all the other substitutes for the truth which men have invented, let us show them the truth by living it to the full. Let us convince them that the future life which God has planned for us, and made available to us through his divine Son Jesus, is a fact of which we are certain and for which we are ready to sacrifice every earthly power, pleasure and gain. If we are true Christians we must desire and hope that all our fellowmen will become obedient to God, for this is God’s desire. That is why his divine Son became man. But, as St. John tells us today, it is not enough to desire and hope for this blessing for all our neighbors, we must show our true desire “in deed and in truth.”

This we shall do if we ourselves live up to the teaching of our Christian faith. There are many historical explanations for the loss of the true faith in many of the once Christian nations of the Western world, but the basic cause is the lack of a living, active faith and charity in those who by their position, education and influence, were the leaders of the people. The “isms” of today, the substitutes for true religion, would never take root in a truly Christian soil; they took root and they spread where Christianity was but a name, or worse still a veneer which covered injustice and corruption.

We Christians owe a debt of reparation to all lapsed Christians. We have a grave obligation to bring our brothers who have been led astray by lax and false Christians, back on the true road to heaven. Let us begin today to put our own house in order. Let us see to it that our conscience is right with God and resolve to keep it so. Then we can hope to exercise a quiet but effective influence on our neighbors who have wandered off the highway. Christ told his followers to let their light (of faith and good works) shine before men. If we have not been doing so let us begin today. There are millions groping in the darkness of spiritual despair; we can light their way to God. In God’s name let us do so!

GOSPEL

The Vine.jpg

Jn 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.

He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,

and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.

Remain in me, as I remain in you.

Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own

unless it remains on the vine,

so neither can you unless you remain in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches.

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,

because without me you can do nothing.

Anyone who does not remain in me

will be thrown out like a branch and wither;

people will gather them and throw them into a fire

and they will be burned.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you,

ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.

By this is my Father glorified,

that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042918.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 308 The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”1 Far from diminishing the creature’s dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God’s power, wisdom and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for “without a Creator the creature vanishes.”2 Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God’s grace.3

CCC 517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,4 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:

already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;5

in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;6

in his word which purifies its hearers;7

in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;8

and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.9

CCC 737 The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This joint mission henceforth brings Christ’s faithful to share in his communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit prepares men and goes out to them with his grace, in order to draw them to Christ. The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to them, recalls his word to them and opens their minds to the understanding of his Death and Resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist, in order to reconcile them, to bring them into communion with God, that they may “bear much fruit.”10

CCC 755 “The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing.”11

CCC 787 From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings.12 Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: “Abide in me, and I in you. .. I am the vine, you are the branches.”13 And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”14

CCC 859 Jesus unites them to the mission he received from the Father. As “the Son can do nothing of his own accord,” but receives everything from the Father who sent him, so those whom Jesus sends can do nothing apart from him,15 from whom they received both the mandate for their mission and the power to carry it out. Christ’s apostles knew that they were called by God as “ministers of a new covenant,” “servants of God,” “ambassadors for Christ,” “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”16

CCC 864 “Christ, sent by the Father, is the source of the Church’s whole apostolate”; thus the fruitfulness of apostolate for ordained ministers as well as for lay people clearly depends on their vital union with Christ.17 In keeping with their vocations, the demands of the times and the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostolate assumes the most varied forms. But charity, drawn from the Eucharist above all, is always “as it were, the soul of the whole apostolate.”18

CCC 1108 In every liturgical action the Holy Spirit is sent in order to bring us into communion with Christ and so to form his Body. The Holy Spirit is like the sap of the Father’s vine which bears fruit on its branches.19 The most intimate cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the Church is achieved in the liturgy. The Spirit who is the Spirit of communion, abides indefectibly in the Church. For this reason the Church is the great sacrament of divine communion which gathers God’s scattered children together. Communion with the Holy Trinity and fraternal communion are inseparably the fruit of the Spirit in the liturgy.20

CCC 1615 This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy – heavier than the Law of Moses.21 By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.22 This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.

CCC 1694 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, Christians are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” and so participate in the life of the Risen Lord.23 Following Christ and united with him,24 Christians can strive to be “imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love”25 by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the “mind. .. which is yours in Christ Jesus,”26 and by following his example.27

CCC 1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:28

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. .. For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.29

CCC 2074 Jesus says: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”30 The fruit referred to in this saying is the holiness of a life made fruitful by union with Christ. When we believe in Jesus Christ, partake of his mysteries, and keep his commandments, the Savior himself comes to love, in us, his Father and his brethren, our Father and our brethren. His person becomes, through the Spirit, the living and interior rule of our activity. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”31

CCC 2732 The most common yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith. It expresses itself less by declared incredulity than by our actual preferences. When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought to be urgent vie for priority; once again, it is the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love? Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a last resort, but do we really believe he is? Sometimes we enlist the Lord as an ally, but our heart remains presumptuous. In each case, our lack of faith reveals that we do not yet share in the disposition of a humble heart: “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”32

1 Phil 2:13; cf. 1 Cor 12:6.

2 GS 36 § 3.

3 Cf. Mt 19:26; Jn 15:5; 14:13

4 Cf. Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14; 1 Pt 1:18-19.

5 Cf. 2 Cor 8:9.

6 Cf. Lk 2:51.

7 Cf. Jn 15:3.

8 Mt 8:17; cf. Is 53:4.

9 Cf. Rom 4:25.

10 Jn 15:8,16.

11 LG 6; cf. 1 Cor 39; Rom 11:13-26; Mt 21:32-43 and parallels; Isa 51-7; Jn 15:1-5.

12 Cf. Mk 1:16-20; 3:13-19; Mt 13:10-17; Lk 10:17-20; 22:28-30.

13 Jn 15:4-5.

14 Jn 6:56.

15 Jn 5:19, 30; cf. Jn 15:5.

16 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; 5:20; 1 Cor 4:1.

17 AA 4; cf. Jn 15:5.

18 AA 3.

19 Cf. Jn 15:1-17; Gal 5:22.

20 Cf. 1 Jn 1:3-7.

21 Cf. Mk 8:34; Mt 11:29-30.

22 Cf. Mt 19:11.

23 Rom 6:11 and cf. 6:5; cf. Col 2:12.

24 Cf. Jn 15:5.

25 Eph 5:1-2.

26 Phil 2:5.

27 Cf. Jn 13:12-16.

28 Cf. 1 Cor 12; Jn 15:1 4.

29 St. Athanasius, Ep. Serap. 1, 24: PG 26, 585 and 588.

30 Jn 15:5.

31 Jn 15:12.

32 Jn 15:5.

APPLICATION

The words of consolation and encouragement which our Lord spoke to his Apostles on Holy Thursday night were intended to console and encourage all his followers for all time. They encourage and console us today, and we need encouragement to persevere on the road to heaven. Living a truly Christian life is never easy. We have always the attraction of the world, and the temptations by the agents of evil, to make that life less easy still. But in our own day these difficulties have increased a hundredfold. The attractions of this world have been multiplied by the increased comforts, pleasures and means of self-indulgence which science and technology have put within our reach. Human nature, always inclined to choose the easiest way out, has been given so many means of escape from the strain of self-control that even for a fervent Christian it is frequently very difficult to avoid these worldly allurements.

Having the ordinary comforts of life and the possession of some of this world’s goods, is not wrong or anti-Christian, but the natural temptation is to get more and more of these comforts and riches, and the point is soon reached where this becomes the only purpose in life. When this sad stage is arrived at God and our future life are forgotten; this world becomes our idol and our prison. The temptations which the agents of evil put in Christ’s way are also multiplied today. The communications media are now very technically improved and perfected and can be, and sometimes are, a means for good. Unfortunately more frequently they are the channels of bad example. The evil deeds of men have more “news value” than their good deeds. And it is so much easier to follow the bad example! Permissiveness, rejection of authority, glorification of unlawful sexual indulgence, drug addiction, and other such crimes are placed before the minds and the eyes of the youth of today, and are unfortunately copied by far too many.

It is indeed hard to swim against the current; it is so much more pleasant to allow oneself to be carried along without effort by the rushing tide. But when there are rocks and shoals ahead, the thoughtless and ease-seeking swimmer will end in grief. Our Lord has warned us today, as he warned his first followers, to abide in him, to remain closely united with him, as is the branch to the vine, if we hope to bear fruit worthy of heaven. He promises us that if we remain closely united to him, that is, if we strive daily to keep his commandments, he will be ever ready to answer our requests, and to heed all our prayers. The sincere prayer today of every man who is trying to lead a Christian life is for the grace to overcome the allurements of the world, the flesh and the devil. Let us take courage, then. Christ has promised to remain beside us during life if only we stay close to him. While we remain healthy branches of the vine, Christ, we will be on the road to heaven. Our daily tasks, our work as well as our prayer, our recreations as well as our rest, our joys as well as our sorrows, will give glory to God and prove that we are worthy to be called disciples of Christ.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Ignatius Press

BENEDICTUS

Mary the Great Believer

Mary is the great believer who humbly offered herself to God as an empty vessel for him to use in his mysterious plan. She did not try to live according to human calculation but put herself completely at the disposal of God’s mysterious, incomprehensible design. All she wanted to be was the instrument and servant of the Word. Therein lies her true fame: that she remained a believer despite all the darkness and all the inexplicable demands God made on her. She believed even in the face of certain incomprehensible facts… Today God is still mysterious; indeed he seems to have a special kind of obscurity in store for each person’s life. But could he ever render any life as dark and incomprehensible as he did Mary’s? This is the real reason for her greatness and her being called blessed: she is the great believer. Consequently, she is represented to us not as a distant haloed figure but as for ever the young girl who entered Elizabeth’s house with the shining light of mystery on her brow and surrounded by the radiance of purity and half hope. But, like Elizabeth, Mary cannot remain silent at this moment. It is said that, even today, under the influence of a great joy simple Arabian women will improvise a song in which they pour forth the hidden poetry a simple heart composes when moved by a powerful joy. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary deflects Elizabeth’s praise from herself to God the Lord. It is he who deserves all praise. In so acting, Mary has shown the way for all future praise of herself: it is to be praise of God as he is mirrored in his graciousness to human beings.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

the promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children forever.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – B

 

Cover Good Shepard.jpeg

“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to St. Joseph by Pope St. Pius X

O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in the spirit of penance in expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations; to gratefully and joyously deem it an honor to employ and to develop by labor the gifts I have received from God, to work methodically, peacefully, and in moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from it through weariness or difficulty to work; above all, with purity of intention and unselfishness, having unceasingly before my eyes death and the account I have to render of time lost, talents unused, good not done, and vain complacency in success, so baneful to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all to imitate thee, O patriarch St. Joseph! This shall be my motto for life and eternity.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

lead us to a share in the joys of heaven,

so that the humble flock may reach

where the brave Shepherd has gone before.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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1 Acts 4:8-12

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said:

“Leaders of the people and elders:

If we are being examined today

about a good deed done to a cripple,

namely, by what means he was saved,

then all of you and all the people of Israel should know

that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean

whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;

in his name this man stands before you healed.

He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,

which has become the cornerstone.

There is no salvation through anyone else,

nor is there any other name under heaven

given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

CCC 432 The name “Jesus” signifies that the very name of God is present in the person of his Son, made man for the universal and definitive redemption from sins. It is the divine name that alone brings salvation, and henceforth all can invoke his name, for Jesus united himself to all men through his Incarnation,1 so that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”2

CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.3 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.4 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.5 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:

… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.6

CCC 756 “Often, too, the Church is called the building of God. The Lord compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the corner-stone. On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles and from it the Church receives solidity and unity. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God in which his family dwells; the household of God in the Spirit; the dwelling-place of God among men; and, especially, the holy temple. This temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. As living stones we here on earth are built into it. It is this holy city that is seen by John as it comes down out of heaven from God when the world is made anew, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.”7

CCC 1507 The risen Lord renews this mission (“In my name. .. they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”8) and confirms it through the signs that the Church performs by invoking his name.9 These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly “God who saves.”10

1 Cf. Jn 3:18; Acts 2:21; 5:41; 3 Jn 7; Rom 10:6-13.

2 Acts 4:12; cf. 9:14; Jas 2:7.

3 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Th 2:14-15.

4 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.

5 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.

6 NA 4.

7 LG 6; Cf. 1 Cor 3:9; Mt 21:42 and parallels; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:7; Ps 118:22; 1 Cor 3:11; 1 Tim 3:15; Eph 2:19-22; Rev 21:3; 1 Pet 2:5; Rev 21:1-2.

8 Mk 16:17-18.

9 Cf. Acts 9:34; 14:3.

10 Cf. Mt 1:21; Acts 4:12.

APPLICATION

Clear and logical as was this discourse of Peter, and moved as he was by the Holy Spirit to deliver it, it fell on deaf ears as far as the vast majority in that Jewish high court was concerned. They had long since desired a political Messiah who would set up a world-wide kingdom for them. Not only did they want to be free from the hated Romans, but were ambitious to govern all the Gentile nations. Their ambitions and desires were of this world–worldly. Christ’s talk of repentance, mortification and preparation for the world to come found no responsive chord in their hearts. He was not the Messiah they wanted; hence he was an impostor, a perverter of the people, and so they called on the hated Romans to nail him to a cross.

Now his followers were claiming that God had proved that he was the Messiah and, what was more, that he was divine, by raising him from the dead. They were working miracles to back up this claim, and surely it is well known that God does not work miracles for impostors and sinners (see Jn. 9: 31). The reasonable attitude for them to take, even at this late hour, would surely have been to check the evidence. But no, they had already made up their minds and would not change them. No evidence could shift the wall of personal pride which they themselves had built. “There is none so blind as he who will not see,” was surely verified in the case of the leaders of the Jews.

Let us leave their judgement to God and turn our scrutiny on ourselves and on our acceptance of Christ. Do we ever allow temporal interests and worldly ambitions to come between us and our Savior? Are all our dealings with our neighbor strictly according to the commandments of God? Do we ever succumb to the temptation to make an easy dollar to the detriment of our neighbor, forgetting our Christian obligations? If we are employers, do we pay our workers a just wage and respect their rights as fellowman? If we are workers, do we work honestly and fairly giving a right return for the wages paid us? Do we accept all men as our brothers, as sons of God, who like ourselves are on the road to heaven, and are we always ready to give them a helping hand when and if they need it? Finally are we, by our faithful observance of the Christian life, a lamp shining brightly, helping the many unfortunate ex-Christians who have left the path of Christ, to return to their Savior and to the true road to heaven?

“There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved.” We Christians are dedicated to the sacred name of Jesus Christ by baptism, but it is only those who live up to the obligations of their Christian baptism who are worthy to bear that name and to share in the eternal salvation which it guarantees.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.

Or:

Alleluia.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures forever.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD

than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD

than to trust in princes.

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.

or:

Alleluia.

I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me

and have been my savior.

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

By the LORD has this been done;

it is wonderful in our eyes.

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.

or:

Alleluia.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;

we bless you from the house of the LORD.

I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me

and have been my savior.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his kindness endures forever.

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.

or:

Alleluia.

READING II

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1 Jn 3:1-2

Beloved:

See what love the Father has bestowed on us

that we may be called the children of God.

Yet so we are.

The reason the world does not know us

is that it did not know him.

Beloved, we are God’s children now;

what we shall be has not yet been revealed.

We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,

for we shall see him as he is.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 163 Faith makes us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision, the goal of our journey here below. Then we shall see God “face to face”, “as he is”.1 So faith is already the beginning of eternal life:

When we contemplate the blessings of faith even now, as if gazing at a reflection in a mirror, it is as if we already possessed the wonderful things which our faith assures us we shall one day enjoy.2

CCC 1023 Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face:3

By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints. .. and other faithful who died after receiving Christ’s holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died,. .. or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death,. ..) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment – and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven – have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.4

CCC 1161 All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the “cloud of witnesses”5 who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man “in the image of God,” finally transfigured “into his likeness,”6 who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ:

Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.7

CCC 1692 The Symbol of the faith confesses the greatness of God’s gifts to man in his work of creation, and even more in redemption and sanctification. What faith confesses, the sacraments communicate: by the sacraments of rebirth, Christians have become “children of God,”8 “partakers of the divine nature.”9 Coming to see in the faith their new dignity, Christians are called to lead henceforth a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.”10 They are made capable of doing so by the grace of Christ and the gifts of his Spirit, which they receive through the sacraments and through prayer.

CCC 2519 The “pure in heart” are promised that they will see God face to face and be like him.11 Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God. Even now it enables us to see according to God, to accept others as “neighbors”; it lets us perceive the human body – ours and our neighbor’s – as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty.

CCC 2772 From this unshakeable faith springs forth the hope that sustains each of the seven petitions, which express the groanings of the present age, this time of patience and expectation during which “it does not yet appear what we shall be.”12 The Eucharist and the Lord’s Prayer look eagerly for the Lord’s return, “until he comes.”13

CCC 2822 Our Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”14 He “is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish.”15 His commandment is “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”16 This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses his entire will.

1 1 Cor 13:12; I Jn 3:2.

2 St. Basil De Spiritu Sancto 15, 36: PG 32, 132; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 4, 1.

3 1 Jn 3:2; cf. 1 Cor 13:12; Rev 22:4.

4 Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000; cf. LG 49.

5 Heb 12:1.

6 Cf. Rom 8:29; 1 Jn 3:2.

7 Council of Nicaea II: DS 600.

8 Jn 1:12; 1 Jn 3:1.

9 2 Pet 1:4.

10 Phil 1:27.

11 Cf. 1 Cor 13:12; 1 Jn 3:2.

12 1 Jn 3:2; Cf. Col 3:4.

13 1 Cor 11:26.

14 1 Tim 2:3-4.

15 2 Pet 3:9; cf. Mt 18:14.

16 Jn 13:34; cf. 1 Jn 3; 4; Lk 10:25-37.

APPLICATION

During this holy season of Easter, while our thoughts center on the glorious Christ who rose from the dead and returned to heaven, our thoughts should follow him there, and dwell for a while on that happy place for which we were prepared by God and elevated by the incarnation of his divine Son. St. John gives us a little glimpse of that future home of ours in today’s reading: we shall be glorified like the risen Christ he tells us, and we shall see God as he is, not through the veil of faith as we now see him, but in reality. In another book, “Revelation,” John gives us a further glimpse into the heaven which awaits us: “Behold the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them and they shall be his people and God himself will be with them” as a Father among his children, “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21: 3-4).

Heaven, therefore, as St. John describes it, is a state wherein every happiness a man can desire will be attainable, the vision of the infinitely perfect God is the guarantee of this, and every sadness and cause of sadness will be forever removed. In heaven man will have no sorrow, no pain, no regrets; instead he will have everything that is pleasing, beautiful, and good. We all have experienced some moments of happiness in our lives, moments when everything was going smoothly and happily for us, when we had no pain or sorrow or fear. We knew, however, that these were but fleeting moments, they could not, and they did not, last, for that is of the very nature of our temporary life on earth. In heaven, however, these happy moments will be turned into an eternal state, a state that will have no end.

It is hard for us, in fact it is impossible, to form any complete concept of the joys of heaven. All our ideas, all our images are derived from our earthly surroundings. St. Paul, who was given a vision of heaven, tells us that he could not describe to his converts in Corinth what he had seen, because human language had no words or images to describe it. “I knew a man in Christ,” he says, “who fourteen years ago, was caught up into paradise and heard things which must not and cannot be put into human language” (2 Cor. 12: 2-3). That vision of St. Paul, that glimpse of what awaited him, made him willing to sacrifice everything on earth, even his very life, in order to reach the heaven God had prepared for him. “For Christ I have accepted the loss of everything and I look on everything as so much refuse if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him . . . I have not yet won but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me” (Phil. 3: 8-12).

Without having the privileges which St. John and St. Paul had we have a sufficient idea of heaven to make us all desire it. But like these Apostles, and all the other millions of saintly men and women, we know that we must “work our passage” to reach that abode of God. We must stay on the path of the Christian commandments, ever ready to count as nothing any earthly thing that would lure us off their path. During our earthly life we must keep God and Christ daily before our eyes if we hope to live in perfect happiness with them in the hereafter.

GOSPEL

Good Shepart 1.png

 

Jn 10:11-18

Jesus said:

“I am the good shepherd.

A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

A hired man, who is not a shepherd

and whose sheep are not his own,

sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,

and the wolf catches and scatters them.

This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd,

and I know mine and mine know me,

just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;

and I will lay down my life for the sheep.

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.

These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,

and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

This is why the Father loves me,

because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.

I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.

This command I have received from my Father.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042218.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 60 The people descended from Abraham would be the trustee of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church.1 They would be the root on to which the Gentiles would be grafted, once they came to believe.2

CCC 553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”3 The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.”4 The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles5 and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.

CCC 606 The Son of God, who came down “from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him who sent [him]”,6 said on coming into the world, “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.” “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”7 From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father’s plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”8 The sacrifice of Jesus “for the sins of the whole world”9 expresses his loving communion with the Father. “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life”, said the Lord, “[for] I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”10

CCC 609 By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end”, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”11 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.12 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”13 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.14

CCC 614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.15 First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.16

CCC 649 As for the Son, he effects his own Resurrection by virtue of his divine power. Jesus announces that the Son of man will have to suffer much, die, and then rise.17 Elsewhere he affirms explicitly: “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. .. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”18 “We believe that Jesus died and rose again.”19

CCC 754 “The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.”20

CCC 764 “This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ.”21 To welcome Jesus’ word is to welcome “the Kingdom itself.”21 The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the “little flock” of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is.23 They form Jesus’ true family.24 To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new “way of acting” and a prayer of their own.25

1 Cf. Rom 11:28; Jn 11:52; 10:16.

2 Cf. Rom 11:17-18,24.

3 Mt 16:19.

4 Jn 21:15-17; Cf. 10:11.

5 Cf. Mt 18:18.

6 Jn 6:38.

7 Heb 10:5-10.

8 Jn 4:34.

9 1 Jn 2:2.

10 Jn 10:17; 14:31.

11 Jn 13:1; 15:13.

12 Cf. Heb 2:10,17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9.

13 Jn 10:18.

14 Cf. Jn 18:4-6; Mt 26:53.

15 Cf. Heb 10:10.

16 Cf. Jn 10:17-18; 15:13; Heb 9:14; 1 Jn 4:10.

17 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:9-31; 10:34.

18 Jn 10:17-18.

19 I Th 4:14.

20 LG 6; cf. Jn 10:1-10; Isa 40:11; Ezek 34:11-31; Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4; Jn 10:11-16.

21 LG 5.

22 LG 5.

23 Lk 12:32; cf. Mt 10:16; 26:31; Jn 10:1-21.

24 Cf. Mt 12:49.

25 Cf. Mt 5-6.

APPLICATION

The image of Christ as our Good Shepherd has always appealed to human nature. One of the earliest paintings of Christ in the Roman catacombs represents him as carrying an injured sheep on his shoulders. This is a manifestation of love which touches our innermost feelings. We do not mind being likened to sheep in this context. There is something innocent about a sheep, and at the same time a lot of foolishness. Does not this describe the vast majority of men, even many of those who openly oppose Christ? Is there not something very sheep like about the man who, because God gave him a limited intellect, thinks he knows all things and needs no further help from God? The sheep who thinks it knows as much, and even more, than the shepherd and sets out to fend for itself, is no more foolish than the man who thinks he can do without God’s revelation and God’s Church.

Indeed we all act like sheep on many occasions, when it comes to the things that concern our spiritual welfare. We often ramble off from the flock to nibble at little bits of forbidden pasture. However, we have a Shepherd who understands us, one whose patience and love are infinite. He is always ready to go after us when we stray too far; his voice is constantly reaching out to us–in missions, retreats, sicknesses, crosses and other various ways. How many times have we already felt his loving grace calling and helping us back to the safety of his fold?

There are many who are not so fortunate as we, who either through no fault of their own or through their own fault do not hear his voice and do not know or follow him. This is an opportunity he gives us to show how we appreciate all he has done for us. He died on the cross for all men. He wills all men to profit by his death, and his statement “them also I must bring” is a direct appeal to us to cooperate with him in this work. Every Christian is a missionary. The very fact of living the Christian life in its entirety, in the midst of our fellowman, is of itself a powerful example to outsiders. It influences for good the lax Christian and the non-Christian. It makes them stop and think and look into their consciences. This is generally the first step on the road back to God.

The devout Christian will not stop at good example only. If he truly loves God, he must truly love his neighbor and must want him to have a share in his own good fortune. He knows there is welcome and room in heaven for all men, and he knows that the greater the number there the greater will be God’s eternal glory. He will strive then by every available means to help his neighbor into Christ’s fold.

After good example, prayer will be his most potent weapon. Day in, day out the devout Christian must pray for the conversion of his fellowman who are wandering aimlessly in the barren desert of this life far from God. He must also learn all he can about the truths of his faith in order to be able to help honest Enquirers. He must also cooperate with any parochial or diocesan societies for the propagation of the faith, insofar as his family and financial state allow him.

The sermon preached by our Savior nearly two thousand years ago is still echoing and re-echoing around the world, calling on his faithful flock to do all in their power to help those other children of God who are still outside the fold. Do not shut your ears to this call of Christ today. Give him a helping hand by helping your fellowman to see the light of the true faith.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscian Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Good Shepherd

The human race – every one of us – is the sheep lost in the desert which no longer knows the way. The Son of God will not let this happen; he cannot abandon humanity in so wretched a condition. He leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the cross. He takes it upon his shoulders and carries our humanity; he carries us all – he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep… When the shepherd of all humanity, the living God, himself became a lamb, he stood on the side of the lambs, with those who are downtrodden and killed… It is not power, but love that redeems us! This is God’s sign; he himself is love… God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man. One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. “Feed my sheep,” says Christ to Peter. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s work, the nourishment of his presence, which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

When in Desolation

Lord, listen to my prayer, turn your ear to my appeal. You are faithful, you are just; give answer.

Do not call your servant to judgment for no one is just in your sight.

The enemy pursues my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead, long forgotten. Therefore my spirit fails; my heart is numb within me.

I remember the days that are past; I ponder all your works. I muse on what your hand has wrought and to you I stretch out my hands. Like a parched land my soul thirsts for you.

Lord, make haste and answer: for my spirit fails within me. Do not hide your face lest I become like those in the grave.

In the morning let me know your love for I put my trust in you. Make me know the way I should walk; to you I lift up my soul.

Rescue me, Lord, from my enemies; I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will for you, O Lord, are my God. Let your good Spirit guide me in ways that are level and smooth.

For your name’s sake, save my life; in your justice save my soul from distress.

In your love make an end of my foes; destroy all those who oppress me for I am your servant, O Lord.

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Third Sunday of Easter – B

Road to Emmaus.jpg

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

OPENING PRAYER

Mighty God,

in whom we know the power of redemption,

you stand among us in the shadows of our time.

As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,

uphold us with knowledge of the final morning

when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,

we will share in his resurrection,

redeemed and restored to the fullness of life

and forever freed to be your people.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Amen.

COLLECT

May your people exult for ever, O God,

in renewed youthfulness of spirit,

so that, rejoicing now in the restored glory of our adoption,

we may look forward in confident hope

to the rejoicing of the day of resurrection.

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.

READING I

Crucifixion.jpg

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Peter said to the people:

“The God of Abraham,

the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,

the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus,

whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence

when he had decided to release him.

You denied the Holy and Righteous One

and asked that a murderer be released to you.

The author of life you put to death,

but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.

Now I know, brothers,

that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;

but God has thus brought to fulfillment

what he had announced beforehand

through the mouth of all the prophets,

that his Christ would suffer.

Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 952 “They had everything in common.”1 “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy. .. and of their neighbors in want.”2 A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods.3

CCC 995 To be a witness to Christ is to be a “witness to his Resurrection,” to “[have eaten and drunk] with him after he rose from the dead.”4 Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him.

CCC 2790 Grammatically, “our” qualifies a reality common to more than one person. There is only one God, and he is recognized as Father by those who, through faith in his only Son, are reborn of him by water and the Spirit.5 The Church is this new communion of God and men. United with the only Son, who has become “the firstborn among many brethren,” she is in communion with one and the same Father in one and the same Holy Spirit.6 In praying “our” Father, each of the baptized is praying in this communion: “The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”7

1 Acts 4:32.

2 Roman Catechism 1, 10, 27.

3 Cf. Lk 16:1, 3.

4 Acts 1:22; 10:41; cf. 4:33.

5 Cf. 1 Jn 5:1; Jn 3:5.

6 Rom 8:29; Cf. Eph 4:4-6.

7 Acts 4:32.

APPLICATION

In the early days of the Church in Jerusalem the resurrection was the topic of conversation among the friends and enemies of Jesus. The latter did their best to deny the fact, but in vain; the followers of Jesus kept claiming that it was a fact, and worked miracles in proof of that claim. In today’s reading the cure of the cripple-from-birth is one such miracle. Peter worked this miracle ” in the name (that is, the person and power) of Jesus of Nazareth (3: 6), whom the God of the Jews had glorified and had raised from the dead.” If Christ had been an impostor, as the Pharisees and scribes had stated (Mt. 27: 63), God would not have raised him from the dead and glorified him. Before a large gathering in the temple precincts in Jerusalem, Peter makes this claim only a few weeks after Christ’s death on the cross. The people were impressed. In spite of the opposition of their leaders the number of Jews who became followers of Christ increased daily, “the total number of whom had now risen to something like five thousand” (see 4: 4, the same day this miracle took place). This was a large percentage of the inhabitants of Jerusalem at that time.

No true Christian can have the slightest doubt about the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. The growth of the infant Church in Jerusalem and in Gentile lands is sufficient proof of it. Men and women do not attach themselves to one who has failed, nor do they take on a new and demanding form of life without sufficient conviction. Yet, there are men and women who, like the leaders of the Jews, still refuse to open their eyes to the light and who shut their minds against the most convincing evidence. Such people need help. One of the best ways of showing how grateful we are for the true faith is a willingness and eagerness to spread that faith to our fellowman. Christ became man for them too, he died on the cross for their sakes, and God the Father raised him from the dead so that they too may rise in glory one day. As true Christians, and true lovers of Christ, it is our duty to give a helping hand to those brothers of ours who are sorely in need of help.

However, you may say: “What can we do; we are not missionaries nor preachers? We are not theologically equipped to enter into dialog and convince unbelievers.” The fact is, that without becoming missionaries, preachers or theologians every Christian can act as a missionary, or preacher, or theologian without leaving his home and employment and without opening a book. The Christian who prays often and fervently for his fellowman and who lives his Christian life to the full, is a preacher and a missionary wherever he lives and works. In his daily actions he is showing forth Christ. His abounding faith and charity, his unshakable hope in the eternal future which awaits him, will do more to enlighten the mind and will of unbelievers than all the skill of preachers and all the theology of great writers.

Are we not grateful to God and Christ? We are convinced that heaven is the pearl of great price compared with which everything this world has to offer is but as a grain of sand to the desert. We know that God wants all his adopted children in heaven. For that purpose we know that Christ humbled himself even to the death of the cross. We know also that Christ is counting on us to help him to bring them to heaven. Would we refuse him this return for all he has done for us? Would we be true Christians who love God above all things if we did not love our neighbor as ourselves? We want heaven for ourselves; we must want it for them too. Through the grace and mercy of God our prayers and the good example of our Christian lives will be the means of converting many sinners and unbelievers to Christ. He in turn will reward them and us with eternal life.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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.’”1 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”2 as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest him as “the Holy One of God”.3

CCC 591 Jesus asked the religious authorities of Jerusalem to believe in him because of the Father’s works which he accomplished.4 But such an act of faith must go through a mysterious death to self, for a new “birth from above” under the influence of divine grace.5 Such a demand for conversion in the face of so surprising a fulfillment of the promises6 allows one to understand the Sanhedrin’s tragic misunderstanding of Jesus: they judged that he deserved the death sentence as a blasphemer.7 The members of the Sanhedrin were thus acting at the same time out of “ignorance” and the “hardness” of their “unbelief”.8

CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.9 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.10 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.11 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:

… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.12

CCC 599 Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”13 This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God.14

CCC 600 To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”15 For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.16

CCC 601 The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin.17 Citing a confession of faith that he himself had “received”, St. Paul professes that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.”18 In particular Jesus’ redemptive death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant.19 Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God’s suffering Servant.20 After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.21

CCC 612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,22 making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. ..”23 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death.24 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”.25 By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”26

CCC 626 Since the “Author of life” who was killed27 is the same “living one [who has] risen”,28 the divine person of the Son of God necessarily continued to possess his human soul and body, separated from each other by death:

By the fact that at Christ’s death his soul was separated from his flesh, his one person is not itself divided into two persons; for the human body and soul of Christ have existed in the same way from the beginning of his earthly existence, in the divine person of the Word; and in death, although separated from each other, both remained with one and the same person of the Word.29

CCC 632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.30 This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.31

CCC 635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”32 Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”33 Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”34

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. .. He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him – He who is both their God and the son of Eve. .. “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. .. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”35

CCC 674 The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus.36 St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.”37 St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?”38 The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”,39 will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.40

CCC 1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:

The Church. .. will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.41

CCC 2666 But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. The divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: “Jesus,” “YHWH saves.”42 The name “Jesus” contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray “Jesus” is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.43

1 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,18,3: PG 7/1, 934.

2 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.

3 Mk 1:24; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14.

4 Jn 10:36-38.

5 Cf. Jn 3:7; 6:44.

6 Cf. Is 53:1.

7 Cf. Mk 3:6; Mt 26:64-66.

8 Cf. Lk 23 34; Acts 3: 17-18; Mk 3:5; Rom 11:25, 20.

9 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Th 2:14-15.

10 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.

11 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.

12 NA 4.

13 Acts 2:23.

14 Cf. Acts 3:13.

15 Acts 4:27-28; cf. Ps 2:1-2.

16 Cf. Mt 26:54; Jn 18:36; 19:11; Acts 3:17-18.

17 Is 53:11; cf. 53:12; Jn 8 34-36; Acts 3:14.

18 1 Cor 15:3; cf. also Acts 3:18; 7:52; 13:29; 26:22-23.

19 Cf. Is 53:7-8 and Acts 8:32-35.

20 Cf. Mt 20:28.

21 Cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-45.

22 Cf. Mt 26:42; Lk 22:20.

23 Phil 2:8; Mt 26:39; cf. Heb 5:7-8.

24 Cf. Rom 5:12; Heb 4:15.

25 Cf. Acts 3:15; Rev 1:17; Jn 1:4; 5:26.

26 1 Pt 224; cf. Mt 26:42.

27 Acts 3:15.

28 Lk 24:5-6.

29 St. John Damascene, De fide orth. 3, 27: PG 94, 1097.

30 Acts 3:15; Rom 8:11; I Cor 15:20; cf. Heb 13:20.

31 Cf. I Pt 3:18-19.

32 Jn 5:25; cf. Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9.

33 Heb 2:14-15; cf. Acts 3:15.

34 Rev 1:18; Phil 2:10.

35 Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 452C; LH, Holy Saturday, OR.

36 Rom I 1:20-26; cf. Mt 23:39.

37 Acts 3:19-21.

38 Rom 11:15.

39 Rom 11:12, 25; cf. Lk 21:24.

40 Eph 4:13; I Cor 15:28.

41 LG 48; Cf. Acts 3:21; Eph 1:10; Col 1:20; 2 Pet 3:10-13.

42 Cf. Ex 3:14; 33: 19-23; Mt 1:21.

43 Rom 10:13; Acts 2:21; 3:15-16; Gal 2:20.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9

(7a) Lord, let your face shine on us.

When I call, answer me, O my just God,

you who relieve me when I am in distress;

have pity on me, and hear my prayer!

Lord, let your face shine on us.

Know that the LORD does wonders for his faithful one;

the LORD will hear me when I call upon him.

Lord, let your face shine on us.

O LORD, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!

You put gladness into my heart.

Lord, let your face shine on us.

As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep,

for you alone, O LORD,

bring security to my dwelling.

Lord, let your face shine on us.

READING II

Exomologisi-Confession.jpg

1 Jn 2:1-5a

My children, I am writing this to you

so that you may not commit sin.

But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,

Jesus Christ the righteous one.

He is expiation for our sins,

and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.

The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep

his commandments.

Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments

are liars, and the truth is not in them.

But whoever keeps his word,

the love of God is truly perfected in him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 519 All Christ’s riches “are for every individual and are everybody’s property.”1 Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation “for us men and for our salvation” to his death “for our sins” and Resurrection “for our justification”.2 He is still “our advocate with the Father”, who “always lives to make intercession” for us.3 He remains ever “in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us.”4

CCC 605 At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God’s love excludes no one: “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”5 He affirms that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many”; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us.6 The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.”7

CCC 606 The Son of God, who came down “from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him who sent [him]”,8 said on coming into the world, “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.” “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”9 From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father’s plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”10 The sacrifice of Jesus “for the sins of the whole world”11 expresses his loving communion with the Father. “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life”, said the Lord, “[for] I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”12

CCC 675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.13 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth14 will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.15

CCC 692 When he proclaims and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls him the “Paraclete,” literally, “he who is called to one’s side,” ad-vocatus.16 “Paraclete” is commonly translated by “consoler,” and Jesus is the first consoler.17 The Lord also called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”18

CCC 1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, “provided we suffer with him.”19

The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of “him who strengthens” us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ. .. in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth “fruits that befit repentance.” These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father.20

CCC 1720 The New Testament uses several expressions to characterize the beatitude to which God calls man:

the coming of the Kingdom of God;21 – the vision of God: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”22

entering into the joy of the Lord;23

entering into God’s rest:24

There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom which has no end?25

CCC 2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.26 He is “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”27 The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us. .. and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”28

1 John Paul II, RH II.

2 I Cor 15:3; Rom 4:25.

3 I Jn 2:1 Heb 7:25.

4 Heb 9:24.

5 Mt 18:14.

6 Mt 20:28; cf. Rom 5:18-19.

7 Council of Quiercy (853): DS 624; cf. 2 Cor 5:15; I Jn 2:2.

8 Jn 6:38.

9 Heb 10:5-10.

10 Jn 4:34.

11 1 Jn 2:2.

12 Jn 10:17; 14:31.

13 Cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12.

14 Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.

15 Cf. 2 Th 2:4-12; I Th 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; I Jn 2:1 8, 22.

16 In 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7.

17 Cf. I Jn 2:1.

18 In 16:13.

19 Rom 8:17; Rom 3:25; 1 Jn 2:1-2; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1690.

20 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1691; cf. Phil 4:13; 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17; Gal 6:14; Lk 3:8.

21 Cf. Mt 4:17.

22 Mt 5:8; cf. 1 Jn 2; 1 Cor 13:12.

23 Mt 25:21-23.

24 Cf. Heb 4:7-11.

25 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 22, 30, 5: PL 41,804.

26 Cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; 1 Tim 2:5-8.

27 Heb 7:25.

28 Rom 8:26-27.

APPLICATION

It is a consolation for us to hear the saintly St. John, the beloved disciple, declare that any one of us, even the best of us, can sin. He loved God and fully realized what lengths God has gone to in order to share heaven with us. The very thought of offending God must have been something abhorrent, something detestable. Yet he knew that all Christians had not received as many graces as he had, and he, therefore, understood that their love could grow cold at times and that they could occasionally offend God. Coming from so great a saint as the beloved disciple, this understanding is consoling. He is but reflecting the mind of Christ, his Master, whom he loved so much. John had lived with Jesus for about three years. He saw how kindly he treated sinners.

The Mary Magdalenes of Galilee, the adultress of Jerusalem, the tax-collectors all over Palestine, were all treated with kindness and understanding. If they but asked for forgiveness, even if only indirectly, they were forgiven their sins. In the apostolic circle too, Jesus had been merciful and patient with his worldly-minded disciples. Many months after they had joined him, John himself and his brother James were angling for positions of power (and maybe wealth) in the earthly messianic kingdom which they thought he would set up (Mt. 20: 20). All the Apostles deserted Jesus when he was arrested in Gethsemane. That night Peter denied that he ever knew him. However, when they later realized their faults and repented they were freely forgiven. Even Judas would have been forgiven his act of betrayal had he but repented.

We sinners–and we are all sinners in many ways–are dealing with a forgiving God. What is more we have the forgiving Christ as our Advocate in heaven. Through his passion and cross he has already earned for us the right of forgiveness. On our part all that is needed is the humility to admit that we are sinners and the resolve to turn away from our sins. God and Christ will do the rest. Our Lord has left to his Church his sacrament of mercy. From a delegate empowered by Christ to do so, we can not only receive forgiveness for our sins but a declaration that they are forgiven us. This mercy of God and his divine Son should arouse in us a desire and urge to try to return a little bit of love for all that had been and is being done for our salvation. “Whoever keeps his word,” St. John says, “in him truly the love of God is perfected.” If we strive to keep the laws of God, if we try to live the Christian life, we will have the true love of God in us, we will be moving towards the state of perfection which will be ours in heaven.

Should some over-powering temptation, or some unexpected assault of the enemy make us lapse momentarily, we have the guarantee that God will accept us back, if we but avail ourselves of the means his mercy has placed so easily within our reach – sincere repentance and, where possible and as soon as possible, the placing of our sins at the feet of his representative in the sacrament of penance.

What earthly mother was ever so kind, so patient, so tolerant toward the children of her womb as our God in heaven is tolerant, patient, kind and merciful toward us his weak mortal children?

GOSPEL

Revealing Christ in the Scriptures.jpg

Lk 24:35-48

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,

and how Jesus was made known to them

in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,

he stood in their midst and said to them,

“Peace be with you.”

But they were startled and terrified

and thought that they were seeing a ghost.

Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?

And why do questions arise in your hearts?

Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.

Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones

as you can see I have.”

And as he said this,

he showed them his hands and his feet.

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,

he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”

They gave him a piece of baked fish;

he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,

that everything written about me in the law of Moses

and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

And he said to them,

“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer

and rise from the dead on the third day

and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,

would be preached in his name

to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/041518.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 108 Still, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book.” Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, a word which is “not a written and mute word, but the Word is incarnate and living”.1 If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures.”2

CCC 112 1. Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.3

The phrase “heart of Christ” can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.4

CCC 572 The Church remains faithful to the interpretation of “all the Scriptures” that Jesus gave both before and after his Passover: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”5 Jesus’ sufferings took their historical, concrete form from the fact that he was “rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes”, who handed “him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified”.6

CCC 601 The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin.7 Citing a confession of faith that he himself had “received”, St. Paul professes that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.”8 In particular Jesus’ redemptive death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant.9 Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God’s suffering Servant.10 After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.11

CCC 627 Christ’s death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of the union which the person of the Son retained with his body, his was not a mortal corpse like others, for “it was not possible for death to hold him” 12 13 and therefore “divine power preserved Christ’s body from corruption.” Both of these statements can be said of Christ: “He was cut off out of the land of the living”,14 and “My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption.”15 Jesus’ resurrection “on the third day” was the sign of this, also because bodily decay was held to begin on the fourth day after death.16

CCC 641 Mary Magdalene and the holy women who came to finish anointing the body of Jesus, which had been buried in haste because the Sabbath began on the evening of Good Friday, were the first to encounter the Risen One.17 Thus the women were the first messengers of Christ’s Resurrection for the apostles themselves.18 They were the next to whom Jesus appears: first Peter, then the Twelve. Peter had been called to strengthen the faith of his brothers,19 and so sees the Risen One before them; it is on the basis of his testimony that the community exclaims: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”20

CCC 644 Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. “In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.”21 Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord’s last appearance in Galilee “some doubted.”22 Therefore the hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the apostles’ faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.

CCC 645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.23 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm.24 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.25

CCC 652 Christ’s Resurrection is the fulfillment of the promises both of the Old Testament and of Jesus himself during his earthly life.26 The phrase “in accordance with the Scriptures”27 indicates that Christ’s Resurrection fulfilled these predictions.

CCC 702 From the beginning until “the fullness of time,”28 the joint mission of the Father’s Word and Spirit remains hidden, but it is at work. God’s Spirit prepares for the time of the Messiah. Neither is fully revealed but both are already promised, to be watched for and welcomed at their manifestation. So, for this reason, when the Church reads the Old Testament, she searches there for what the Spirit, “who has spoken through the prophets,” wants to tell us about Christ.29

By “prophets” the faith of the Church here understands all whom the Holy Spirit inspired in the composition of the sacred books, both of the Old and the New Testaments. Jewish tradition distinguishes first the Law (the five first books or Pentateuch), then the Prophets (our historical and prophetic books) and finally the Writings (especially the wisdom literature, in particular the Psalms).30

CCC 999 How? Christ is raised with his own body: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself”;31 but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, “all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,” but Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” into a “spiritual body”:32

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel. .. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. .. The dead will be raised imperishable. .. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.33

CCC 1094 It is on this harmony of the two Testaments that the Paschal catechesis of the Lord is built,34 and then, that of the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church. This catechesis unveils what lay hidden under the letter of the Old Testament: the mystery of Christ. It is called “typological” because it reveals the newness of Christ on the basis of the “figures” (types) which announce him in the deeds, words, and symbols of the first covenant. By this re-reading in the Spirit of Truth, starting from Christ, the figures are unveiled.35 Thus the flood and Noah’s ark prefigured salvation by Baptism,36 as did the cloud and the crossing of the Red Sea. Water from the rock was the figure of the spiritual gifts of Christ, and manna in the desert prefigured the Eucharist, “the true bread from heaven.”37

CCC 1329 The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.38

The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meat when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread,39 above all at the Last Supper.40 It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection,41 and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies;42 by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.43

The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.44

CCC 1347 Is this not the same movement as the Paschal meal of the risen Jesus with his disciples? Walking with them he explained the Scriptures to them; sitting with them at table “he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.”45

CCC 2625 In the first place these are prayers that the faithful hear and read in the Scriptures, but also that they make their own – especially those of the Psalms, in view of their fulfillment in Christ.46 The Holy Spirit, who thus keeps the memory of Christ alive in his Church at prayer, also leads her toward the fullness of truth and inspires new formulations expressing the unfathomable mystery of Christ at work in his Church’s life, sacraments, and mission. These formulations are developed in the great liturgical and spiritual traditions. The forms of prayer revealed in the apostolic and canonical Scriptures remain normative for Christian prayer.

CCC 2763 All the Scriptures – the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms – are fulfilled in Christ.47 The Gospel is this “Good News.” Its first proclamation is summarized by St. Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount;48 the prayer to our Father is at the center of this proclamation. It is in this context that each petition bequeathed to us by the Lord is illuminated:

The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect of prayers… In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them.49

1 St. Bernard, S. missus est hom. 4, 11: PL 183, 86.

2 Cf. Lk 24:45.

3 Cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-46.

4 St. Thomas Aquinas, Expos. in Ps. 21, 11; cf. Ps 22:14.

5 Lk 24:26-27,44-45.

6 Mk 8:31; Mt 20:19.

7 Is 53:11; cf. 53:12; Jn 8 34-36; Acts 3:14.

8 1 Cor 15:3; cf. also Acts 3:18; 7:52; 13:29; 26:22-23.

9 Cf. Is 53:7-8 and Acts 8:32-35.

10 Cf. Mt 20:28.

11 Cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-45.

12 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 51, 3.

13 Acts 2:24.

14 Is 53:8.

15 Acts 2:26-27; cf. Ps 16:9-10.

16 Cf. I Cor 15:4; Lk 24:46; Mt 12:40; Jon 2:1; Hos 6:2; cf. Jn 11:39.

17 Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1; Jn 19:31,42.

18 Cf Lk 24:9-10; Mt 28:9-10; Jn 20:11-18.

19 Cf I Cor 15:5; Lk 22:31-32.

20 Lk 24:34, 36.

21 Lk 24:38-41.

22 Cf Jn 20:24-27; Mt 28:17.

23 Cf. Lk 24:30,39-40, 41-43; Jn 20:20, 27; 21:9,13-15.

24 Cf. Mt 28:9, 16-17; Lk 24:15, 36; Jn 20:14, 17, 19, 26; 21:4.

25 Cf. Mk 16:12; Jn 20:14-16; 21:4, 7.

26 Cf. Mt 28:6; Mk 16:7; Lk 24:6-7, 26-27, 44-48.

27 Cf. I Cor 15:3-4; cf. the Nicene Creed.

28 Gal 4:4.

29 Cf. 2 Cor 3:14; Jn 5:39, 46.

30 Cf. Lk 24:44.

31 Lk 24:39.

32 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 801; Phil 3:21; 2 Cor 15:44.

33 1 Cor 15:35-37,42,52,53.

34 Cf. DV 14-16; Lk 24:13-49.

35 Cf. 2 Cor 3:14-16.

36 Cf. 1 Pet 3:21.

37 Jn 6:32; cf. 1 Cor 10:1-6.

38 Cf. 1 Cor 11:20; Rev 19:9.

39 Cf. Mt 14:19; 15:36; Mk 8:6, 19.

40 Cf. Mt 26:26; 1 Cor 11:24.

41 Cf. Lk 24:13-35.

42 Cf. Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11.

43 Cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17.

44 Cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34.

45 Cf. Lk 24:13-35.

46 Cf. Lk 24:27, 44.

47 Cf. Lk 24:44.

48 Cf. Mt 5-7.

49 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 83, 9.

APPLICATION

Our Lord’s glorious resurrection is the crowning miracle of his sojourn on earth among men. It is the foundation and cornerstone of our Christian religion. His death on Calvary proved that he was really human; his resurrection proved he was also divine. During his public life he had claimed to be God. Had that claim been untrue God the Father could not have raised him from the dead. By his death he made atonement for the sins of the world–“he nailed them to the tree of the cross”; by his resurrection he opened the gates of death for all men and made them heirs to the eternal life.

We need hardly delay to prove the fact of the resurrection of Christ, for without it there would have been no Christianity, no Christian Church. In the story of the appearance which precedes today’s Gospel, we are told how two of Christ’s disciples were so depressed and disorientated by his death that they were giving up all interest in the dead Master and were returning home at the first opportunity (the Sabbath, Saturday, had intervened and they could not travel on that day). The Apostles were no better since Good Friday. They had remained behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. They had no hope left. They too would have left Jerusalem that Sunday were it not for the story brought by Mary Magdalene that Christ’s body had been taken from the tomb. When the risen Christ appeared to the ten Apostles (Thomas was absent) they thought he was a ghost, so far were their thoughts from a possible resurrection.

When the truth sank into their minds, however, they became changed men. After Pentecost day they fearlessly proclaimed to the Jews, of whom they had been frightened, that Christ whom those same Jews had crucified, had risen and was now glorified by the Father. Thousands of Jews in Jerusalem had come to believe in Christ, because they were convinced he had risen and was the Messiah and the Son of God, as he claimed to be. The four Evangelists testify to the truth of the resurrection and we have the exceptional witness of St. Paul whose radical change of life can have only one explanation – he saw the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.

Of the fact of the resurrection we can have no doubts; Christianity is inexplicable without it, and Christianity has existed for more than two thousand years. A more important point for consideration today is what this resurrection means to us. “If Christ has not risen,” says St. Paul (1 Cor. 15: 17), “vain is your faith, for you are still in your sins.” But “Christ has risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Our faith then is not in vain, for the founder and foundation of our faith is the Word of God who cannot deceive or be deceived, and his resurrection is the guarantee of our resurrection. He is the “first fruits,” the earnest of the full harvest that was to follow after our earthly death. We shall all rise again, in glory if we have been faithful during our time on earth, in a less pleasant state, if we have not followed Christ here below.

Human life has always been the great enigma for philosophers down through the ages. The resurrection of Christ, which causes and guarantees our resurrection, is the one and only explanation of that enigma. If death were the end of man, with all his gifts of intellect and will; if the grave were to enclose forever this noble being whom God has raised above all other earthly creatures and has endowed with super-mundane gifts and aspirations, then indeed man’s sojourn on earth would be an inexplicable enigma. But the gifts God gave to man were not simply to help him to make a precarious living and enjoy a fleeting happiness, interspersed with much sadness, for sixty, seventy or even a hundred years. No, they were intended to last for eternity and to reach their real fruition in eternity.

With St. Paul then, we may well sing out today : “O death where is thy victory, O death where is thy sting? … thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15: 55-57). Yes, Easter time is a time of rejoicing for every true Christian. It is a time for Alleluias, for praising and thanking God. Our happy future is within our reach. Our eternal happiness has been won for us by Christ and is within our grasp, if only we hold fast to the true faith of Christ, taking the rough with the smooth, going through our lesser Gethsemanes and Calvaries as Christ went through his great ones. If we do this we can hopefully await the angel who will roll back the stone from our grave one day, and allow us to enter into the glory of the eternal Easter in heaven.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Giving Form to Fellowship

The most beautiful portrayal of the way we are traveling is offered by Luke in the story of the disciples going to Emmaus. This is traveling together with Christ the living Word, who interprets for us the written word, the Bible, and turns that into the path, the path along which our heart starts to burn and thus our eyes are finally opened: Scripture, the true tree of knowledge, opens our eyes for us if at the same time we are eating of Christ, the tree of life. Then we become truly able to see, and then we are truly alive. Three things belong together on this path: the fellowship of the disciples, the Scriptures, and the living presence of Christ. Thus, this journey of the disciples to Emmaus is at the same time a description of the Church – a description of how knowledge that touches on God grows and deepens. This knowledge becomes a fellowship with one another; it ends up with the Breaking of Bread, in which man becomes God’s guest and God becomes man’s host. Christ is not someone we can have for ourselves alone. He leads us, not just to God, but to each other. That is why Christ and the Church belong together, just as the Church and the Bible belong together. Giving actual form to this great fellowship in the concrete individual fellowships of diocese, of parish, of ecclesial movements, is and remains the central task of the Church, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It must become possible to experience this fellowship as a pilgrim fellowship with our cares, with the Word of God, and with Christ, and it has to lead us onward to the gift of the Sacrament.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.

Saint Augustine

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Divine Mercy Sunday – B

The-Maesta-Altarpiece-The-Incredulity-of-Saint-Thomas-1461_Duccio.jpg

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to the Divine Mercy from the Diary of St. Sister Faustina

You expired, O Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls and an ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us. O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.

Amen. (Diary 187)

COLLECT

God of everlasting mercy,

who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast

kindle the faith of the people you have made your own,

increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed,

that all may grasp and rightly understand

in what font they have ben washed,

by whose Spirit they have been reborn,

by whose Blood they have been redeemed.

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.

READING I

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Acts 4:32-35

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,

and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,

but they had everything in common.

With great power the apostles bore witness

to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,

and great favor was accorded them all.

There was no needy person among them,

for those who owned property or houses would sell them,

bring the proceeds of the sale,

and put them at the feet of the apostles,

and they were distributed to each according to need.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 952 “They had everything in common.”1 “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy. .. and of their neighbors in want.”2 A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods.3

CCC 995 To be a witness to Christ is to be a “witness to his Resurrection,” to “[have eaten and drunk] with him after he rose from the dead.”4 Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him.

CCC 2790 Grammatically, “our” qualifies a reality common to more than one person. There is only one God, and he is recognized as Father by those who, through faith in his only Son, are reborn of him by water and the Spirit.5 The Church is this new communion of God and men. United with the only Son, who has become “the firstborn among many brethren,” she is in communion with one and the same Father in one and the same Holy Spirit.6 In praying “our” Father, each of the baptized is praying in this communion: “The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”7

1 Acts 4:32.

2 Roman Catechism 1, 10, 27.

3 Cf. Lk 16:1, 3.

4 Acts 1:22; 10:41; cf. 4:33.

5 Cf. 1 Jn 5:1; Jn 3:5.

6 Rom 8:29; Cf. Eph 4:4-6.

7 Acts 4:32.

APPLICATION

In this brief glimpse of the life of the first Christian community in Jerusalem, St. Luke (the author of Acts) emphasizes the ideal of Christian brotherhood, which animated the first Christians so much that many of them gave their possessions gladly for distribution among those of their brothers who were short of the necessities of life. As is clear from the incident of Ananias and Sapphira nobody was compelled to sell his possessions or to give all he possessed to the community (see 5: 4), but those who did so were setting a lofty and praiseworthy ideal for all time.

While the vow of poverty, taken by religious, is an imitation of this early Christian ideal – the religious gives all that he or she has or may have to the community – such an act of abdication is of necessity restricted to relatively very few. The vast majority of men and women need personal possessions to support themselves and their dependents. The life of religious is governed by two other vows, obedience and chastity, which make the observance of poverty not only feasible but desirable. The life of a religious is regulated by obedience: he can be moved not only from one occupation to another but from one place to another, even from one country to another. Personal property would be a serious impediment here. The vow of chastity means that the religious will have no spouse and/or family to provide for, and so the chief need for personal possessions is removed.

But, granted that our Christian religion does not demand of all of us that we should follow the example of the first Christian community in Jerusalem, we still have an important lesson to learn from today’s reading. While we can, and the vast majority of us must, retain our personal possessions, we must still be always ready to share them with those in need. We are not the real owners of what we possess; we are only the administrators of the property God has given us. He is the real owner, and he expects us to use what he has given us justly and charitably.

We use our possessions first and foremost to provide for our own needs and the needs of those depending on us. That charity and justice begin at home is true in this sense, but they do not end at home. While we provide for the needs of the home let us not exaggerate these needs; let us not indulge in luxuries for ourselves and our family, while there are neighbors on the brink of starvation. We need, today especially, a revival of that wonderful spirit of fraternal feeling which led many of the first Christians to sell all they possessed and distribute the proceeds to the needy. However, instead of selling our possessions, we need to use them well and wisely, so that we can give a helping hand not only to our fellow-Christians but to men and women of every nation and creed who are in need of help.

Four-fifths of the world’s population today are living in poverty, and some on the starvation line, through no fault of their own. One-fifth are living a life of comfort and sufficiency, many of them actually in luxury. While we may not be and most likely are not, among the latter, there are things we too could and should do without if we allow Christian charity to govern our lives.

Have a good look at your home, your way of dressing, your meals, your recreations and entertainments and you may find many occasions for saving a dollar to give to relief organizations. When you put on your heavy winter overcoat think of the poor, naked children in Africa and elsewhere who have not even a little shirt to keep out the cold. When you sit down to your four-course dinner think of the unfortunates who would be glad of one bowl of rice a day. When tempted to spend a night drinking with your friends stop and think of the thousands of children dying for want of a bottle of milk. The Christian community in Jerusalem earned the respect of all for their charitable behavior. All you can do for your needy neighbor may not earn you any headlines in the daily papers, but if you do what you can you will be printing your name where alone it matters. You will be inscribing yourself in the Book of Life which is kept in heaven.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.

Let the house of Israel say,

“His mercy endures forever.”

Let the house of Aaron say,

“His mercy endures forever.”

Let those who fear the LORD say,

“His mercy endures forever.”

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.

I was hard pressed and was falling,

but the LORD helped me.

My strength and my courage is the LORD,

and he has been my savior.

The joyful shout of victory

in the tents of the just:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

By the LORD has this been done;

it is wonderful in our eyes.

This is the day the LORD has made;

let us be glad and rejoice in it.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.

READING II

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1 Jn 5:1-6

Beloved:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,

and everyone who loves the Father

loves also the one begotten by him.

In this way we know that we love the children of God

when we love God and obey his commandments.

For the love of God is this,

that we keep his commandments.

And his commandments are not burdensome,

for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.

And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

Who indeed is the victor over the world

but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,

not by water alone, but by water and blood.

The Spirit is the one that testifies,

and the Spirit is truth.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 694 Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As “by one Spirit we were all baptized,” so we are also “made to drink of one Spirit.”1 Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified2 as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.3

CCC 1225 In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a “Baptism” with which he had to be baptized.4 The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life.5 From then on, it is possible “to be born of water and the Spirit”6 in order to enter the Kingdom of God.

See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from his death. There is the whole mystery: he died for you. In him you are redeemed, in him you are saved.7

CCC 1847 “God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us.”8 To receive his mercy, we must admit our faults. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”9

CCC 2780 We can invoke God as “Father” because he is revealed to us by his Son become man and because his Spirit makes him known to us. The personal relation of the Son to the Father is something that man cannot conceive of nor the angelic powers even dimly see: and yet, the Spirit of the Son grants a participation in that very relation to us who believe that Jesus is the Christ and that we are born of God.10

CCC 2790 Grammatically, “our” qualifies a reality common to more than one person. There is only one God, and he is recognized as Father by those who, through faith in his only Son, are reborn of him by water and the Spirit.11 The Church is this new communion of God and men. United with the only Son, who has become “the firstborn among many brethren,” she is in communion with one and the same Father in one and the same Holy Spirit.12 In praying “our” Father, each of the baptized is praying in this communion: “The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”13

1 1 Cor 12:13.

2 Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8.

3 Cf. Jn 4:10-14; 738; Ex 17:1-6; Isa 55:1; Zech 14:8; 1 Cor 10:4; Rev 21:6; 22:17.

4 Mk 10:38; cf. Lk 12:50.

5 Cf. Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:6-8.

6 Cf. Jn 3:5.

7 St. Ambrose, De sacr. 2, 2, 6: PL 16, 444; cf. Jn 3:5.

8 St. Augustine, Sermo 169, 11, 13: PL 38, 923.

9 1 Jn 8-9.

10 Cf. Jn 1:1; 1 Jn 5:1.

11 Cf. 1 Jn 5:1; Jn 3:5.

12 Rom 8:29; Cf. Eph 4:4-6.

13 Acts 4:32.

APPLICATION

“This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.” In one short sentence, St. John, the beloved disciple of Christ, expresses the profoundest philosophy ever put before thinking man. We have had many philosophers and many searchers after the meaning and purpose of rational life on earth. We have had many attempts at explanations, but all have failed, for none of them satisfied the innate desires and total capacity of human nature. Of all the beings on our planet, man alone has the faculties for perceiving the truth and for enjoying the beautiful. While he shares with the animal kingdom the impulse to self-preservation and the perpetuation of the species, he has within him powers that surpass all animal instincts and raise him above the material world where he lives and moves. He can perceive beauty, truth, love, joy and happiness. With his will, which is motivated by the good, he can and does desire to possess these supra-mundane “goods,” not only for a few short years but forever.

How can man do this? How can he fulfill that desire for perpetual happiness, that longing for unending love, that craving for eternal beauty and joy especially if his life is to end forever in the grave and if the same dreary fate is to await him as awaits the dumb animals? This is where the goodness and infinite generosity of God steps in. It was he who gave us these spiritual faculties. Of their very nature they seek for spiritual fulfillment, and therefore he has planned for us an existence after our earthly death, in which all our rational desires will be fulfilled.

This is the message of the Christian faith. St. John says that it conquers and puts in its proper place, in relation to man, our world and all its false attractions. This is the good news which Christ came on earth to establish and announce to men. God has planned a future life of perfect happiness for all who will accept it. Through sending his divine Son in our human nature, he has elevated our nature and given us a new status, the status of adopted sons. It gives us a right to the eternal kingdom of the Father. Our mortal life, if left to itself, would end naturally in the grave. But through the incarnation it is transformed into a new and everlasting life. As the preface of the Mass for the dead says : “life is not taken away (from us) rather it is changed.” Death for the adopted son of God is not the end but the beginning of the true, beautiful and happy, unending life.

This is surely a story of victory and the true philosophy of life. Our Christian faith alone gives the answer to all the problems which have disturbed men down through the ages. We, therefore, have the truth. We know the real facts of life and death. We have God’s revelation through Christ, but we must put our knowledge into daily practice. It is not enough to be a Christian, nor enough to know where we are going, “it is not those who say to me ‘Lord, Lord’ who will enter into the kingdom of heaven but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt. 7: 2 1). We must live as Christians, and travel the road marked out for us by Christ. We must do the will of God every day of our lives.

We must love God, then, and love our neighbor who is a fellow-child of God like ourselves. We must keep God’s commandments. When we truly realize what reward awaits us, the keeping of the commandments will not be a burden but, as St. John says, a pleasure and a privilege. Our Christian faith is surely the victory which overcomes the world.

GOSPEL

King of Mercy.jpg

Jn 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week,

when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,

for fear of the Jews,

Jesus came and stood in their midst

and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,

and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,

was not with them when Jesus came.

So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said to them,

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands

and put my finger into the nailmarks

and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside

and Thomas was with them.

Jesus came, although the doors were locked,

and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,

and bring your hand and put it into my side,

and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples

that are not written in this book.

But these are written that you may come to believe

that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,

and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040818.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”1

For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”2

CCC 442 Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, for Jesus responds solemnly: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”3 Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles. ..”4 “And in the synagogues immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’”5 From the beginning this acknowledgment of Christ’s divine sonship will be the center of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church’s foundation.6

CCC 448 Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as “Lord”. This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing.7 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.8 In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: “My Lord and my God!” It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: “It is the Lord!”9

CCC 514 Many things about Jesus of interest to human curiosity do not figure in the Gospels. Almost nothing is said about his hidden life at Nazareth, and even a great part of his public life is not recounted.10 What is written in the Gospels was set down there “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”11

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,12 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,13 than for the ordinary People of God.14 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;15 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.16 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,17 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),18 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.19

CCC 643 Given all these testimonies, Christ’s Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact. It is clear from the facts that the disciples’ faith was drastically put to the test by their master’s Passion and death on the cross, which he had foretold.20 The shock provoked by the Passion was so great that at least some of the disciples did not at once believe in the news of the Resurrection. Far from showing us a community seized by a mystical exaltation, the Gospels present us with disciples demoralized (“looking sad”21) and frightened. For they had not believed the holy women returning from the tomb and had regarded their words as an “idle tale”.22 When Jesus reveals himself to the Eleven on Easter evening, “he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.”23

CCC 644 Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. “In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.”24 Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord’s last appearance in Galilee “some doubted.”25 Therefore the hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the apostles’ faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.

CCC 645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.26 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm.27 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.28

CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”29 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.30 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.31 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.32 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.33

CCC 730 At last Jesus’ hour arrives:34 he commends his spirit into the Father’s hands35 at the very moment when by his death he conquers death, so that, “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,”36 he might immediately give the Holy Spirit by “breathing” on his disciples.37 From this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”38

CCC 788 When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit.39 As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.”40

CCC 858 Jesus is the Father’s Emissary. From the beginning of his ministry, he “called to him those whom he desired;. .. And he appointed twelve, whom also he named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach.”41 From then on, they would also be his “emissaries” (Greek apostoloi). In them, Christ continues his own mission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”42 The apostles’ ministry is the continuation of his mission; Jesus said to the Twelve: “he who receives you receives me.”43

CCC 976 The Apostle’s Creed associates faith in the forgiveness of sins not only with faith in the Holy Spirit, but also with faith in the Church and in the communion of saints. It was when he gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles that the risen Christ conferred on them his own divine power to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”44

CCC 1087 Thus the risen Christ, by giving the Holy Spirit to the apostles, entrusted to them his power of sanctifying:45 they became sacramental signs of Christ. By the power of the same Holy Spirit they entrusted this power to their successors. This “apostolic succession” structures the whole liturgical life of the Church and is itself sacramental, handed on by the sacrament of Holy Orders.

CCC 1120 The ordained ministry or ministerial priesthood is at the service of the baptismal priesthood.46 The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church. The saving mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person.47 The ordained minister is the sacramental bond that ties the liturgical action to what the apostles said and did and, through them, to the words and actions of Christ, the source and foundation of the sacraments.

CCC 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.48 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,49 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.50 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.51 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.52

CCC 1441 Only God forgives sins.53 Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” and exercises this divine power: “Your sins are forgiven.”54 Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.55

CCC 1461 Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation,56 bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops’ collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

CCC 1556 To fulfill their exalted mission, “the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration.”57

CCC 2839 With bold confidence, we began praying to our Father. In begging him that his name be hallowed, we were in fact asking him that we ourselves might be always made more holy. But though we are clothed with the baptismal garment, we do not cease to sin, to turn away from God. Now, in this new petition, we return to him like the prodigal son and, like the tax collector, recognize that we are sinners before him.58 Our petition begins with a “confession” of our wretchedness and his mercy. Our hope is firm because, in his Son, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”59 We find the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacraments of his Church.60

1 DV 11.

2 DV 11; cf. Jn 20:31; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pt 1:19-21; 3:15-16.

3 Mt 16:16-17.

4 Gal 1:15-16.

5 Acts 9:20.

6 Cf. I Th 1:10; Jn 20:31; Mt 16:18.

7 Cf Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al.

8 Cf. Lk 1:43; 2:11.

9 Jn 20:28,21:7.

10 Cf. Jn 20:30.

11 Jn 20:31.

12 Lk 2:34.

13 Cf. Jn 1:19; 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19.

14 Jn 7:48-49.

15 Cf Lk 13:31.

16 Cf. Lk 7:36; 14:1.

17 Cf. Mt 22:23-34; Lk 20:39.

18 Cf. Mt 6:18.

19 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

20 Cf. Lk 22:31-32.

21 1 Lk 24:17; cf. Jn 20:19.

22 Lk 24:11; cf. Mk 16:11, 13.

23 Mk 16:14.

24 Lk 24:38-41.

25 Cf Jn 20:24-27; Mt 28:17.

26 Cf. Lk 24:30,39-40, 41-43; Jn 20:20, 27; 21:9,13-15.

27 Cf. Mt 28:9, 16-17; Lk 24:15, 36; Jn 20:14, 17, 19, 26; 21:4.

28 Cf. Mk 16:12; Jn 20:14-16; 21:4, 7.

29 Mk 16:19.

30 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.

31 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.

32 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.

33 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.

34 Cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

35 Cf. Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30.

36 Rom 6:4.

37 Cf. Jn 20:22.

38 Jn 20:21; cf. Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47-48; Acts 1:8.

39 Cf. Jn 14:18; 20:22; Mt 28:20; Acts 2:33.

40 LG 7.

41 Mk 3:13-14.

42 Jn 20:21; cf. 13:20; 17:18.

43 Mt 10:40; cf. Lk 10:16.

44 Jn 20:22-23.

45 Cf. Jn 20:21-23.

46 Cf. LG 10 # 2.

47 Cf. Jn 20:21-23; Lk 24:47; Mt 28:18-20.

48 Cf. Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2.

49 Cf. Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8.

50 Cf. Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14.

51 Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18.

52 Cf. Acts 2:38.

53 Cf. Mk 2:7.

54 Mk 2:5, 10; Lk 7:48.

55 Cf. Jn 20:21-23.

56 Cf. In 20:23; 2 Cor 5:18.

57 LG 21; cf. Acts 1:8; 24; Jn 20:22-23; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7.

58 Cf. Lk 15:11-32, 18:13.

59 Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.

60 Cf. Mt 26:28; Jn 20:23.

APPLICATION

It may surprise and amaze us that the Apostles were so reluctant to believe that Christ had risen from the dead, to live forever in glory with his Father in heaven. But we must remember that during their two or three years with him they saw nothing in him but a mere man, one with divine powers, but yet a man; certain prophets of the old covenant had some such powers also. Christ had “emptied himself” of his divine nature, and he had foretold his resurrection many times. But that he could be really God, as well as man, was something they could not then grasp, and if he was a mere man death had to be the end.

Their slowness of faith had its value for the future Church and for all of us. If they had been expecting the resurrection, and anxiously looking forward to it, people could say that they imagined it, that they persuaded themselves it had happened. Indeed, there have been men proud of their acuteness of judgement, who have said that the story of the resurrection is a story of mass hallucination, although all the evidence proves the opposite. Their conviction that it could not happen, could not be removed from their minds except by impressive evidence that it had. Hallucination is born in a mind already expecting and hoping for the imagined fact.

We can thank the Apostles and especially Thomas, the last to give in, that our faith in the resurrection and divine glorification of Christ is that much the stronger. Our Christianity which would have ended before the first Easter week had passed, if Christ had not risen in glory, spread rapidly to the then known world and is still spreading, because its author was none other than Christ “our Lord and our God.” How prophetic were the words of Gamaliel at the meeting of the Sanhedrin which tried to prevent the Apostles from preaching the new Christian faith: “If this plan or work is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow it” (Acts 5: 38-39).

 

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

On this occasion we encounter two mysteries: the mystery of human suffering and the mystery of Divine Mercy. At first sight these two mysteries seem to be opposed to one another. But when we study them more deeply in the light of faith, we find that they are placed in reciprocal harmony through the mystery of the Cross of Christ. As Pope John Paul II said in this place: “The Cross is the most profound bowing down of the Divinity towards man … the Cross is like a touch of eternal love on the most painful wounds of humanity’s earthly existence” (August 17, 2002). Dear friends who are sick, who are marked by suffering in body or soul, you are most closely united to the Cross of Christ, and at the same time, you are the most eloquent witnesses of God’s mercy. Through you and through your suffering, he bows down toward humanity with love. You who say in silence: “Jesus, I trust in you” teach us that there is no faith more profound, no hope more alive and no love more ardent than the faith, hope and love of a person who in the midst of suffering places himself securely in God’s hands.

Address to the Sick at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki on May 27, 2006.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

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A Prayer of St. Sister Faustina

“O Lord. I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, O Lord, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, O Lord, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor.

May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me” (Diary 163).

Posted in agnostic, athiest, Benedictine oblate, Bible Study, Catholic, Christian, Divine Mercy, Easter, faith, Heaven, hell, Holy Spirit, Lent, Liturgy, Mary, mercy, Pentecost, prayer, Resurrection, The Word of God, Uncategorized, Virgin Mary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord – The Mass of Easter Day

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“They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”

OPENING PRAYER

Open to me the gates of holiness:

I will enter and give thanks.

This is the Lord’s own gate

where the just may enter.

I will thank you for you have answered

and you are my savior.

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

This is the work of the Lord,

a marvel in our eyes.

This day was made by the Lord:

we rejoice and are glad.

O Lord, grand us salvation;

O Lord, grant success.

Blessed in the name of the Lord

is he who comes.

We bless you from the house of the Lord;

the Lord God is our light.

Go forward in procession with branches

even to the alter.

You are my God, I thank you.

My God, I praise you.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;

for his love endures for ever.

Psalm 118: 19-29

COLLECT

O God, who on this day,

through your Only Begotten Son,

have conquered death

and unlocked for us the path to eternity,

grant, we pray, that we who keep

the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection

may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit,

rise up in the light of life.

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.

READING I

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Acts 10:34a, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said:

“You know what has happened all over Judea,

beginning in Galilee after the baptism

that John preached,

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth

with the Holy Spirit and power.

He went about doing good

and healing all those oppressed by the devil,

for God was with him.

We are witnesses of all that he did

both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.

They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.

This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,

not to all the people, but to us,

the witnesses chosen by God in advance,

who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

He commissioned us to preach to the people

and testify that he is the one appointed by God

as judge of the living and the dead.

To him all the prophets bear witness,

that everyone who believes in him

will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

APPLICATION

This passage from Acts has been selected for Easter Sunday not only because the resurrection is mentioned in it, but especially because St. Peter in his first discourse to a Gentile makes the resurrection the basic doctrine and the crowning proof of the truth of the Christian faith. As St. Paul says: “If Christ has not risen, vain is our preaching, vain too is your faith” (1 Cor. 15: 14). And like Paul, St. Peter stresses the truth of the resurrection by citing witnesses, including himself, who had not only seen the risen Jesus but had spoken to him and actually eaten with him.

There is no room for doubt but that Apostles and disciples had thought that the sad events of Good Friday had put an end forever to the mission of love and mercy of their beloved Master. In spite of his previous references to his resurrection, they had completely forgotten it and were convinced that the tomb near Calvary was the end of all their hopes. They had locked themselves into the room of the Last Supper for fear of the Jews – two of them had set off for home on the Sunday morning, down-hearted at the Master’s failure; the others were waiting for an opportunity to slip out of the city quietly. But the resurrection changed all this. The unexpected, the unhoped-for happened. Even the most skeptical of them all, doubting Thomas, was eventually convinced of its reality. Had they been hoping for it, or even thinking of it, there might be some reason to suspect it was only an hallucination, the result of their “wishful thinking,” but the very opposite was the case. They were hard to convince even when it happened.

All this was intended by God – the basis of our Christian faith was proved beyond doubt. Christ, who had died on the cross on Good Friday, was raised from the dead by his Father on Easter morning. He returned to heaven in the full glory of the divinity which he had hidden while on earth, together with his human body, now also glorified. There (in heaven), as God and Man, he pleads for us at the right hand of the Father until the day when he who redeemed all men will come to judge them all.

The Alleluia is repeated often during the Easter ceremonies. It is a Hebrew word, which means “praise ye the Lord.” It is our attempt to give verbal expression to our joy and gratitude for all that God has done for us. We are no longer mere humans living on this planet for a few short years. We are citizens of heaven, made children of God the Father by Christ our Brother. And he has gone before us to his and our kingdom to prepare a place for us. He conquered death. Our earthly death has, therefore, now no real fears for us: it is not the end but the beginning of our true lives. It is only after our earthly death that we truly begin to live.

There is only one death now which we can fear – the spiritual death of serious sin which can keep us from our true heavenly life. But while this is a possibility for all of us, it is only a possibility. The sincere Christian who realizes what God has done for him and what is in store for him, will never be so ungrateful to God or so forgetful of his own best interests as to let some temporal and passing pleasure, pride, or profit, come between him and the eternal home which God’s love has prepared and planned for him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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.’”1 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”2 as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest him as “the Holy One of God”.3

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.4 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”5

CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.6 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.7 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.8 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:

… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.9

CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”10 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.11 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.12 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.13 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.14

CCC 679 Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He “acquired” this right by his cross. The Father has given “all judgment to the Son”.15 Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.16 By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.17

CCC 761 The gathering together of the People of God began at the moment when sin destroyed the communion of men with God, and that of men among themselves. The gathering together of the Church is, as it were, God’s reaction to the chaos provoked by sin. This reunification is achieved secretly in the heart of all peoples: “In every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable” to God.18

CCC 781 “At all times and in every race, anyone who fears God and does what is right has been acceptable to him. He has, however, willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness. He therefore chose the Israelite race to be his own people and established a covenant with it. He gradually instructed this people. .. All these things, however, happened as a preparation for and figure of that new and perfect covenant which was to be ratified in Christ. .. the New Covenant in his blood; he called together a race made up of Jews and Gentiles which would be one, not according to the flesh, but in the Spirit.”19

CCC 995 To be a witness to Christ is to be a “witness to his Resurrection,” to “[have eaten and drunk] with him after he rose from the dead.”20 Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him.

CCC 1289 Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name “Christian,” which means “anointed” and derives from that of Christ himself whom God “anointed with the Holy Spirit.”21 This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means “chrism.” In the West, the term Confirmation suggests that this sacrament both confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.

1 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,18,3: PG 7/1, 934.

2 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.

3 Mk 1:24; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14.

4 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.

5 Acts 10:38.

6 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Th 2:14-15.

7 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.

8 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.

9 NA 4.

10 Mk 16:19.

11 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.

12 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.

13 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.

14 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.

15 Jn 5:22; cf. 5:27; Mt 25:31; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim 4:1.

16 Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.

17 Cf. Jn 3:17; 5:26. 588 Cf. Jn 3:18; 12:48; Mt 12:32; I Cor 3:12-15; Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-31.

18 Acts 10:35; cf. LG 9; 13; 16.

19 LG 9; Cf. Acts 10:35; 1 Cor 11:25.

20 Acts 1:22; 10:41; cf. 4:33.

21 Acts 10:38.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23.

(24) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

or:

Alleluia.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures forever.

Let the house of Israel say,

“His mercy endures forever.”

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

or:

Alleluia.

“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;

the right hand of the LORD is exalted.

I shall not die, but live,

and declare the works of the LORD.”

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

or:

Alleluia.

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

By the LORD has this been done;

it is wonderful in our eyes.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

or:

Alleluia.

READING II

 

Risen with Christ.jpg

Col 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,

where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ your life appears,

then you too will appear with him in glory.

APPLICATION

Children at boarding schools draw up calendars and mark off each day which brings them one day nearer to the end of the term. Finances mark off the months, the weeks, the days that separate them from, the great day when they will be united forever, they say, to their beloved one. Seminarians count the years, months, weeks to the great day when they will be ordained and say their first Masses. Parents look forward anxiously to the day when their children will be educated and safely settled in life. In fact, we are all always looking forward to a happier day which is to come some time. All this is very natural and very human, because our present life is not our permanent life; our present home, this earth, is not the real home destined for us by our loving Creator.

We were created for unending happiness in heaven, and it is only when we get there that our desire and our quest for some greater happiness will end. From then on, we will always enjoy and possess that all-satisfying happiness.

Today, Easter Sunday, St. Paul reminds us that we have this happiness within our grasp. We are moving steadily and more quickly than we realize toward it. The Holy Trinity, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, have already done, and are daily continuing, to do for us, all within their power. All that is needed is that we do the little that is asked of us.

St. Paul tells us we must “mind the things that are above not the things that are on earth.” We must never let the “things of earth,” the pleasures, the power, the possessions which we can or could, have in this life, block or impede us on our upward journey. Does this mean that we must all return to the deserts of Egypt, as some early Christians did? By no means. We are not forbidden to have the lawful pleasures of life. We are not forbidden possessions or power if they are used justly. All we are forbidden is the unlawful use of the things of this world.

And as regards minding the things that are above, this is not something calling for extraordinary self-sacrifice or unnatural mental activity. All we are asked to do is to try to stay in God’s grace, and do our daily chores whatever they be, as well and as diligently as we can. We are expected to recognize our natural weakness and to turn to God frequently for pardon and for help.

Whilst there are saints in heaven who lived lives of extreme self-mortification and did extraordinary things for God and for their neighbor, it is an encouraging and consoling thought that there are millions of unknown saints in heaven who lived normal lives, unnoticed by the world and maybe even by themselves. They are people who kept in God’s friendship all their lives, or got back quickly to it, if they sometimes forgot or offended their heavenly Father.

What millions of others have done, I can do too. We are aided by God’s grace as they were. God wants us in heaven. He has an Easter resurrection planned for us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 655 Finally, Christ’s Resurrection – and the risen Christ himself is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. .. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”1 The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians “have tasted. .. the powers of the age to come”2 and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may “live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”3

CCC 1002 Christ will raise us up “on the last day”; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. For, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already now on earth a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ:

And you were buried with him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. .. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.4

CCC 1003 United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains “hidden with Christ in God.”5 The Father has already “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”6 Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day we “also will appear with him in glory.”7

CCC 1420 Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life “in earthen vessels,” and it remains “hidden with Christ in God.”8 We are still in our “earthly tent,” subject to suffering, illness, and death.9 This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin.

CCC 2772 From this unshakeable faith springs forth the hope that sustains each of the seven petitions, which express the groanings of the present age, this time of patience and expectation during which “it does not yet appear what we shall be.”10 The Eucharist and the Lord’s Prayer look eagerly for the Lord’s return, “until he comes.”11

CCC 2796 When the Church prays “our Father who art in heaven,” she is professing that we are the People of God, already seated “with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” and “hidden with Christ in God;”12 yet at the same time, “here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling.”13

[Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven.14

1 I Cor 15:20-22.

2 Heb 6:5.

3 2 Cor 5:15; cf. Col 3:1-3.

4 Col 2:12; 3:1.

5 Col 3:3; cf. Phil 3:20.

6 Eph 2:6.

7 Col 3:4.

8 2 Cor 4:7; Col 3:3.

9 2 Cor 5:1.

10 1 Jn 3:2; Cf. Col 3:4.

11 1 Cor 11:26.

12 Eph 2:6; Col 3:3.

13 2 Cor 5:2; cf. Phil 3:20; Heb 13:14.

14 Ad Diognetum 5: PG 2, 1173.

GOSPEL

magdelene at tomb.jpg

Jn 20:1-9

On the first day of the week,

Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,

while it was still dark,

and saw the stone removed from the tomb.

So she ran and went to Simon Peter

and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,

“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,

and we don’t know where they put him.”

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter

and arrived at the tomb first;

he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.

When Simon Peter arrived after him,

he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,

and the cloth that had covered his head,

not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.

Then the other disciple also went in,

the one who had arrived at the tomb first,

and he saw and believed.

For they did not yet understand the Scripture

that he had to rise from the dead.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040118.cfm

APPLICATION

As we said above, the accounts of the resurrection of Christ differ in many details in the different writings of the New Testament, but the fact of the resurrection stressed in all of them, was the basis of the new Christian Faith. Had it not happened, Christianity would have been stillborn. It would have disappeared from Jerusalem and the world on that first Easter Sunday. Peter and his companions would have returned to their fishing-nets and boats on Lake Genesareth, and Christ the good and the kind man who had helped so many, would have been forgotten in half a generation.

But Christ was no mere man of kindly acts and words of wisdom. He was the Messiah, promised for centuries. He was the suffering servant foretold by Isaiah, whose perfect obedience to his Father had led him to the Cross and the grave. But above all, he was the Son of God who had emptied himself (St. Paul) of his divine glory in order to be the perfect human servant of the Father, and who was now raised by the Father with his divine glory restored, and his glorified resurrected body sharing in that glory. This was the divine plan of God for mankind, through Christ, and because of Christ’s (the new Adam’s) perfect obedience, all mankind would be made worthy of divine sonship, and worthy of one day rising like Christ from the grave in glorified bodies.

Is all this too good to be true? It is, if we make God to our image and likeness, as so many opponents of Christianity do. He is God and his love is infinite and incomprehensible to us. What God can see in me and my fellowman will always be mystery to me, but then I have not the mind of God. All I know and all I need to know is that I have sufficient proofs that God loves all men. The Incarnation, death and resurrection of his Divine Son for man’s sake is the greatest proof of love for us that even the omnipotent God could give. He has given it. As a necessary consequence from this act of divine love, we are guaranteed our resurrection from the dead to a life of unending happiness and glory if we do not, in extreme folly, reject God’s offer.

Today, let us thank God once more for Easter and for all that it means for us. Our personal Easter mornings not far away from even the youngest among us. We have a few Calvaries to climb perhaps in the meantime but what are they when we see our glorious Easter on the horizon?

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscian Press.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith1 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery.2 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”3 His humanity appeared as “sacrament”, that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission

CCC 640 “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”4 The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ’s body from the tomb could be explained otherwise.5 Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection. This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter.6 The disciple “whom Jesus loved” affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered “the linen cloths lying there”, “he saw and believed”.7 This suggests that he realized from the empty tomb’s condition that the absence of Jesus’ body could not have been of human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus.8

CCC 2174 Jesus rose from the dead “on the first day of the week.”9 Because it is the “first day,” the day of Christ’s Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the “eighth day” following the sabbath,10 it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord’s Day (he kuriake hemera, dies dominica) Sunday:

We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.11

1 Cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24.

2 Cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7.

3 Col 2:9.

4 Lk 24:5-6.

5 Cf. Jn 20:13; Mt 28:11-15.

6 Cf. Lk 24:3, 12, 22-23.

7 Jn 20:2, 6, 8.

8 Cf. Jn 11:44; 20:5-7.

9 Cf. Mt 28:1; Mk 16:2; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1.

10 Cf. Mk 16:1; Mt 28:1.

11 St. Justin, I Apol. 67: PG 6, 429 and 432.

BENEDICTUS

The Easter Flame

As we wait in the night-dark church for the Easter light to be struck, we should experience the consoling realization that God is fully aware of the night by which we are surrounded. In fact, he has already struck his light at the heart of it… The night enables us to appreciate what the light really is. It is brightness or luminousness that enables us to see; that shows the way and gives direction; that helps us to know both others and ourselves. It is warmth that strengthens and brings mobility; that consoles and gladdens. Finally, it is life, and this tiny quivering flame is an image of the wonderful mystery that we call “life” and that is in fact profoundly dependent on light… At this moment we are not only celebrating the Resurrection; we are also being given a distant glimpse of the second coming of the Lord, whom we are advancing to meet with lamps lit… Something of the joy that marks a wedding should be ours on this night so bright with candles. We should also ask ourselves the question: “Will I be one of those who sit at God’s table? Will my lamp have enough oil for the everlasting wedding feast?” But perhaps it is even more Christian to ask ourselves the right questions about the present. The world is indeed dark, but even a single candle suffices to bring light into the deepest darkness. Did not God give us a candle at baptism and the means of lighting it? We must be courageous enough to light the candle of our patience, our trust, our love. Instead of bewailing the night, we must dare to light the little lamp God has loaned us: “The light of Christ! – Thanks be to God!”

Pope Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Dear Jesus,

help me to spread

Thy fragrance everywhere I go.

Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love.

Penetrate and possess my whole being

so utterly that all my life

may only be a radiance of Thine.

Shine through me and be so in me

that every soul I come in contact with

may feel Thy presence in my soul.

Let them look up and see no longer me

but only Jesus.

Stay with me and then I shall begin

to shine as you shine,

so to shine as to be

a light to others.

-Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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