‘Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Dedication to Jesus
Lord Jesus Christ,
take all my freedom, my memory, my understanding, and my will.
All that I have and cherish You have given me.
I surrender it all to be guided by Your will.
Your love and Your grace are wealth enough for me.
Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I will ask for nothing more.
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.
As the number of disciples continued to grow,
the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows
were being neglected in the daily distribution.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community,
so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit,
also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas,
and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
They presented these men to the apostles
who prayed and laid hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread,
and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly;
even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 595 Among the religious authorities of Jerusalem, not only were the Pharisee Nicodemus and the prominent Joseph of Arimathea both secret disciples of Jesus, but there was also long-standing dissension about him, so much so that St. John says of these authorities on the very eve of Christ’s Passion, “many. .. believed in him”, though very imperfectly.1 This is not surprising, if one recalls that on the day after Pentecost “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” and “some believers. .. belonged to the party of the Pharisees”, to the point that St. James could tell St. Paul, “How many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; and they are all zealous for the Law.”2
CCC 2632 Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ.3 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.4 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.5 By prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom.
1 Jn 12:42; cf. 7:50; 9:16-17; 10:19-21; 19:38-39.
2 Acts 6:7; 15:5; 21:20.
3 Cf. Mt 6:10, 33; Lk 11:2,13.
4 Cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3.
5 Cf. Rom 10:1; Eph 1:16-23; Phil 1911; Col 1:3-6; 4:3-4, 12.
The first eight chapters of the book we call the “Acts of the Apostles,” describe the birth and the infant days of the Church in Jerusalem. It is an account which should inspire and console us. The little group of Apostles and disciples, who had lost all heart and hope on seeing Christ their leader crucified, regained confidence once they became convinced, during his forty days with them, of his resurrection. They waited ten days for the Holy Spirit whom Christ had promised them on his Ascension day. When they received the Holy Spirit they set out immediately to preach Christ, completely regardless of the consequences this would bring to them. Remember Jerusalem was still governed politically by pagan Romans who saw nothing but folly in the Christian religion. But, worse still, the religious leaders of the citizens of Jerusalem–the Jews–were still the very men who had Christ condemned to the cross, as an impostor and a blasphemer, because “he made himself the Son of God” (Jn. 19: 7).
It was not human courage that enabled the Apostles, in such surroundings, to preach Christ as Messiah, Son of God, and Savior of the human race. It was the Holy Spirit. And the result was worthy of the cause: within a few weeks, almost half the inhabitants of Jerusalem had become faithful followers of the crucified and risen Christ.
This surprising spread of the faith, something in itself humanly impossible in such or in any circumstances, should surely inspire us with gratitude and love for God’s interest in us, and his goodness to us. We still have the same faith as the first Christians of Jerusalem–we are followers of the same Christ who lived and died for us, who rose from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit with his gifts and power on the Church which he had founded. That same power and those same gifts of God’s love are with us still today in our Church, leading us kindly and gently to the end he has planned for us from all eternity.
Surely, we Christians have every reason to be grateful to God for having given us the faith. And we should show this gratitude, by our love of neighbor, as the first Christians did, and all true Christians down through the ages have done. We must share with the poor and the needy not only our temporal goods, but especially the divine gift of the true faith. There are many ways today in which we can do our part in spreading the gospel of Christ. That gospel has reached us because zealous Christians down the ages lived the faith and did their share to give it to others.
St. Stephen, one of the deacons mentioned in today’s reading, gave his life gladly for Christ a few weeks after his ordination. Stephen’s, martyrdom may have been a remote cause of preparing Saul’s conversion–Saul never forgot the incident and his own part in it. Saul became St. Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles and one of the greatest glories of the infant Church.
You may not be called on to have the honor of martyrdom, but you are called to be a saint, an honor which can be earned only by living a life of true love of God and neighbor.
Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
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.
Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
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.
R/ Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
1 Pt 2:4-9
Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings
but chosen and precious in the sight of God,
and, like living stones,
let yourselves be built into a spiritual house
to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
For it says in Scripture:
Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion,
a cornerstone, chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.
Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone, and
A stone that will make people stumble,
and a rock that will make them fall.
They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.
You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people of his own,
so that you may announce the praises” of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;1 Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”2 Christ, the “living Stone”,3 thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.4
CCC 709 The Law, the sign of God’s promise and covenant, ought to have governed the hearts and institutions of that people to whom Abraham’s faith gave birth. “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant,. .. you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”5 But after David, Israel gave in to the temptation of becoming a kingdom like other nations. The Kingdom, however, the object of the promise made to David,6 would be the work of the Holy Spirit; it would belong to the poor according to the Spirit.
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 782 The People of God is marked by characteristics that clearly distinguish it from all other religious, ethnic, political, or cultural groups found in history:
– It is the People of God: God is not the property of any one people. But he acquired a people for himself from those who previously were not a people: “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”8
– One becomes a member of this people not by a physical birth, but by being “born anew,” a birth “of water and the Spirit,”9 that is, by faith in Christ, and Baptism.
– This People has for its Head Jesus the Christ (the anointed, the Messiah). Because the same anointing, the Holy Spirit, flows from the head into the body, this is “the messianic people.”
– “The status of this people is that of the dignity and freedom of the sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in a temple.”
– “Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us.”10 This is the “new” law of the Holy Spirit.11
– Its mission is to be salt of the earth and light of the world.12 This people is “a most sure seed of unity, hope, and salvation for the whole human race.”
-Its destiny, finally, “is the Kingdom of God which has been begun by God himself on earth and which must be further extended until it has been brought to perfection by him at the end of time.”13
CCC 901 “Hence the laity, dedicated as they are to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and prepared so that even richer fruits of the Spirit maybe produced in them. For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit – indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born – all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives.”14
CCC 1141 The celebrating assembly is the community of the baptized who, “by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all the works of Christian men they may offer spiritual sacrifices.”15 This “common priesthood” is that of Christ the sole priest, in which all his members participate:16
Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people,” have a right and an obligation by reason of their Baptism.17
CCC 1179 The worship “in Spirit and in truth”18 of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any one place. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. What matters above all is that, when the faithful assemble in the same place, they are the “living stones,” gathered to be “built into a spiritual house.”19 For the Body of the risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water springs forth: incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, “we are the temple of the living God.”20
CCC 1268 The baptized have become “living stones” to be “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.”21 By Baptism they share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that [they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light.”22 Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers.
CCC 1330 The memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.
The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering. The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, “sacrifice of praise,” spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used,23 since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.
The Holy and Divine Liturgy, because the Church’s whole liturgy finds its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this sacrament; in the same sense we also call its celebration the Sacred Mysteries. We speak of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it is the Sacrament of sacraments. The Eucharistic species reserved in the tabernacle are designated by this same name.
CCC 1546 Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”24 The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be. .. a holy priesthood.”25
CCC 2769 In Baptism and Confirmation, the handing on (traditio) of the Lord’s Prayer signifies new birth into the divine life. Since Christian prayer is our speaking to God with the very word of God, those who are “born anew. .. through the living and abiding word of God”26 learn to invoke their Father by the one Word he always hears. They can henceforth do so, for the seal of the Holy Spirit’s anointing is indelibly placed on their hearts, ears, lips, indeed their whole filial being. This is why most of the patristic commentaries on the Our Father are addressed to catechumens and neophytes. When the Church prays the Lord’s Prayer, it is always the people made up of the “new-born” who pray and obtain mercy.27
1 Cf Mk 3:16; 9:2; Lk 24:34; I Cor 15:5.
2 Mt 16:18.
3 I Pt 2:4.
4 Cf. Lk 22:32.
5 Ex 19:5-6; Cf. 1 Pet 2:9.
6 Cf. 2 Sam 7; Ps 89; Lk 1:32-33.
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 1 Pet 2:9.
9 Jn 3:3-5.
10 Cf. Jn 13 34
11 Rom 8:2; Gal 5:25.
12 Cf. Mt 5:13-16.
13 LG 9 # 2.
14 LG 34; cf. LG 10, 1 Pet 2:5.
15 LG 10; cf. 1 Pet 2:4-5.
16 Cf. LG 10; 34; PO 2.
17 SC 14; Cf. 1 Pet 2:9; 2:4-5.
18 Jn 4:24.
19 1 Pet 2:4-5.
20 2 Cor 6:16.
21 1 Pet 2:5.
22 1 Pet 2:9.
23 Heb 13:15; cf. 1 Pet 25; Ps 116:13, 17; Mal 1:11.
24 Rev 1:6; cf. Rev 5:9-10; 1 Pet 2:5,9.
25 LG 10 § 1.
26 1 Pet 1:23.
27 Cf. 1 Pet 2:1-10.
St. Peter’s call to his contemporaries is as imperative for us today, as it was for the first Christians. We are called to be saints, in other words, our Christian vocation is a call to take our place in heaven when we end our earthly life. We all know this, but for far too many of us, it is more a subconscious than a conscious thought in our daily lives. While doing the same daily tasks, as the Christians who are striving to become saints, we waste precious months and maybe years, in which we could be storing up treasure in heaven, because we forget God and the purpose of our Christian vocation.
Listen to a simple parable: two young men at the age of twenty went to another country where wages were high, in order to earn enough to buy for themselves comfortable homes and businesses when they returned, after some years. One saved his earnings, sent home his monthly packet and had his house and business set up. The other, attracted by the pleasure and play of the foreign land, squandered his earnings and forgot the purpose which led him to that land. When both returned home, the squanderer and forgetful one realized his mistake, but to late.
St. Peter is speaking to each one of us today. We are called to be saints. We have the means of becoming saints, for Christ has made us his brothers and heirs of heaven. Our part is to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. These sacrifices consist of our daily actions, dedicated to God by our simple, morning offering. They are acceptable to God because we have been made his adopted children, through Christ becoming man. Away and above our daily actions, which God accepts, we have the weekly (or daily where possible) sacrifice of Christ, the Son of God himself, which we have the privilege of offering, together with Christ’s human representative. Just as it was the first offering of himself on Calvary which made us capable of reaching heaven, it is the re-presentation of their initial sacrifices on our altars that blesses all our worldly or daily actions and makes them of value for our eternal life.
Let us never forget it, we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, God’s own people.” What more could God have done for us? And how little he asks in return!
Are we giving him even that little? Is our home a Christian home where the love of God and neighbor reign? Is true justice the guiding rule in our dealings with our fellowman? Can our non-Christian neighbors recognize us as God’s own people?
If we can answer in the affirmative to these questions, we are building ourselves into a spiritual house. We are the true temple of God; we are on the direct road to our true home in heaven. If, unfortunately, we cannot say yes but a sad no to these questions, let us not despair–we are dealing with a Father, not a policeman. He is ever ready to welcome back the repentant sinner, remember the story of the lost sheep, and the prodigal son. If, hitherto, you have ignored the marvelous light of the faith to which God in his goodness has called you, look at it today, and resolve to live by it. It is the only light, the only answer to man’s life on earth.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 74 God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”:1 that is, of Christ Jesus.2 Christ must be proclaimed to all nations and individuals, so that this revelation may reach to the ends of the earth:
God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations.3
CCC 151 For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his “beloved Son”, in whom the Father is “well pleased”; God tells us to listen to him.4 The Lord himself said to his disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in me.”5 We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.”6 Because he “has seen the Father”, Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.7
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.”8 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!”9 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.”10 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.11
CCC 470 Because “human nature was assumed, not absorbed”,12 in the mysterious union of the Incarnation, the Church was led over the course of centuries to confess the full reality of Christ’s human soul, with its operations of intellect and will, and of his human body. In parallel fashion, she had to recall on each occasion that Christ’s human nature belongs, as his own, to the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it. Everything that Christ is and does in this nature derives from “one of the Trinity”. The Son of God therefore communicates to his humanity his own personal mode of existence in the Trinity. In his soul as in his body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity:13
The Son of God. .. worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.12
CCC 516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”15 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.16
CCC 661 This final stage stays closely linked to the first, that is, to his descent from heaven in the Incarnation. Only the one who “came from the Father” can return to the Father: Christ Jesus.17 “No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.”18 Left to its own natural powers humanity does not have access to the “Father’s house”, to God’s life and happiness.19 Only Christ can open to man such access that we, his members, might have confidence that we too shall go where he, our Head and our Source, has preceded us.20
CCC 1025 To live in heaven is “to be with Christ.” The elect live “in Christ,”21 but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.22
For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.23
CCC 1614 In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning permission given by Moses to divorce one’s wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts.24 The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”25
CCC 1698 The first and last point of reference of this catechesis will always be Jesus Christ himself, who is “the way, and the truth, and the life.”26 It is by looking to him in faith that Christ’s faithful can hope that he himself fulfills his promises in them, and that, by loving him with the same love with which he has loved them, they may perform works in keeping with their dignity:
I ask you to consider that our Lord Jesus Christ is your true head, and that you are one of his members. He belongs to you as the head belongs to its members; all that is his is yours: his spirit, his heart, his body and soul, and all his faculties. You must make use of all these as of your own, to serve, praise, love, and glorify God. You belong to him, as members belong to their head. And so he longs for you to use all that is in you, as if it were his own, for the service and glory of the Father.27
For to me, to live is Christ.28
CCC 2466 In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. “Full of grace and truth,” he came as the “light of the world,” he is the Truth.29 “Whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”30 The disciple of Jesus continues in his word so as to know “the truth [that] will make you free” and that sanctifies.31 To follow Jesus is to live in “the Spirit of truth,” whom the Father sends in his name and who leads “into all the truth.”32 To his disciples Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes or No.’”33
CCC 2795 The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father. He is in heaven, his dwelling place; the Father’s house is our homeland. Sin has exiled us from the land of the covenant,34 but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven.35 In Christ, then, heaven and earth are reconciled,36 for the Son alone “descended from heaven” and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.37
1 1 Tim 2:4.
2 cf. Jn 14:6.
3 DV 7; cf. 2 Cor 1:20; 3:16-4:6.
4 Mk 1:11; cf. 9:7.
5 Jn 14:1.
6 Jn 1:18.
7 Jn 6:46; cf. Mt 11:27.
8 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.
9 Mk 9:7; cf. Dt 6:4-5.
10 Jn 15:12.
11 Cf. Mk 8:34.
12 GS 22 # 2.
13 Cf. Jn 14:9-10.
14 GS 22 # 2.
15 Jn 14:9; Lk 9:35; cf. Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7, “my beloved Son”.
16 Jn 4:9.
17 Cf. Jn 16:28.
18 Jn 3:13; cf. Eph 4:8-10.
19 Jn 14:2.
20 Missale Romanum, Preface of the Ascension: sed ut illuc confideremus, sua membra, nos subsequi quo ipse, caput nostrum principiumque, praecessit.
21 Phil 1:23; cf. Jn 14:3; 1 Thess 4:17.
22 Cf. Rev 2:17.
23 St. Ambrose, In Luc., 10, 121: PL 15, 1834A.
24 Cf. Mt 19:8.
25 Mt 19:6.
26 Jn 14:6.
27 St. John Eudes, Tract. de admirabili corde Jesu, 1, 5.
28 Phil 1:21.
29 Jn 1:14; 8:12; Cf. 14:6.
30 Jn 12:46.
31 Jn 8:32; Cf. 17:17.
32 Jn 16:13.
33 Mt 5:37.
34 Cf. Gen 3.
35 Jer 3:19-4:1a; Lk 15:18, 21.
36 Cf. Isa 45:8; Ps 85:12.
37 Jn 3:13; 12:32; 14 2-3; 16:28; 20:17; Eph 4:9-10; Heb 1:3; 2:13.
We may well wonder at the slowness of the Apostles in seeing in Christ nothing more than a man–a great man, a man with power from God, yes, but still a mere man. That he was the Messiah, they were convinced, but their idea of the Messiah was wrong. They thought he would free Israel from foreign domination (Lk. 24: 21), and set up a new kingdom of God–a prosperous, earthly kingdom with God guaranteeing peace and plenty for all. If, therefore, he allowed his enemies to put him to death, all their hopes would be dashed to the ground. Hence, the mention of his impending death at the Last Supper filled them with dismay and despair.
But we must not judge them too harshly. Christ had indeed often claimed to be God, but his words fell on deaf ears. It was only after his resurrection that they began to understand that he had spoken literally–it was only then they believed he was indeed the Son of God, in human nature.
For us today, the Incarnation is still a mystery, but it is not the “how” that should trouble us, we know that with God all things are possible. It is rather the “why” that should cause us amazement. Why should God go to that length for our sake–mere creatures, and sinful, ungrateful creatures at that? The infinite goodness and the infinite love of God are the answer, but still an answer which is mysterious to us. For we, with our limited capacity for love, can form no idea of infinite love.
God created us “in his own image and likeness” (a very limited likeness, granted) and intended, because of the spiritual faculties he gave us, which enable us to see and enjoy truth and beauty, to give us a share in his eternal life and glory. To do this, the Incarnation of the second Person of the Holy Trinity was God’s plan. There must have been other ways of doing this, but God, we can be sure, chose the best way. Even with our limited intelligence, we ourselves can see what a perfect way this was for proving to us the infinite love, goodness and compassion of our Creator.
Sin entered the world of man, as God had foreseen, but notwithstanding this ingratitude on our part, God’s Son came in our lowly, human nature and suffered, even though sinless, all the effects of men’s sins. He suffered in our name, and because he was God, his sufferings in his human nature made infinite atonement for the sins of all mankind.
His Incarnation had made us his brothers and co-heirs to heaven. His death on the cross wiped out, and gave us the means of wiping out, our sins, so that we would be capable of possessing our inheritance.
Knowing the story of the Incarnation therefore, we know of the love and kindness of God toward us. We need not ask, with Philip, “show us the Father,” we have seen him in his riches and wisdom and knowledge of God “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable are his ways!” (Rom. 11: 33).
“What return can I make to the Lord?” All the mortifications and good works of all the holy men and women that ever lived, or will live, would not be adequate a return to God for the miracle of love he has shown toward us. But he accepts the widow’s mite, the little acts of love, the little proofs of gratitude, the willing acceptance of the crosses he sends us, to purify us. In one word, all he asks in return is that we try to live our Christian life day after day, ever thanking him for the gift of Christ and the Christian faith.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
How to Reach the Dignity of Christianity
The Church must always become anew what she already is; she must open the borders between peoples and break down the barriers between class and race. In her, there cannot be those who are forgotten or looked down upon. The wind and fire of the Holy Spirit must continually break down those barriers that we men and women continue to build between us; we must continually pass from Babel – being closed in on ourselves – to Pentecost. We continually close our doors; we continually want to feel secure and do not want to be disturbed by others and by God. And so, we can continually implore the Lord just for this, that he come to us, overcoming our closure. It is in lowering ourselves, together with Christ, that we rise up to him and up to God. God is Love, and so the descent, the lowering that love demands of us, is at the same time the true ascent. Exactly in this way, lowering ourselves, coming out of ourselves, we reach the dignity of Jesus Christ, the human being’s true dignity. In people, notwithstanding all of their limitations, there is now something absolutely new: the breath of God. The life of God lives in us. The breath of his love, of his truth and of his goodness. To his breath the Lord joins the power of forgiveness. The strength that opens up and overcomes Babel is the strength of forgiveness. Forgiveness comes from the cross; he transforms the world with the love that is offered. His heart opened on the cross is the door through which the grace of forgiveness enters into the world. And this grace alone is able to transform the world and build peace. Evil can be overcome only by forgiveness.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Prayer of St. Alphonsus Liguori
0 my God, help me to remember–
That time is short, eternity is long.
What good is all the greatness of this world at the hour of death?
To love You, my God, and save my soul is the one thing necessary.
Without You, there is no peace, no joy.
My God, I need fear nothing but sin.
For to lose You, my God, is to lose all.
0 my God, help me to remember–
That to gain all I must leave all,
That in loving You I have all good things:
the infinite riches of Christ and His Church, the motherly protection of Mary,
peace beyond understanding,
Eternal Father, your Son has promised that whatever we ask in His Name will be given to us.
In His Name I pray:
give me a burning faith,
a joyful hope,
a holy love for Jesus Christ.
Give me the grace of perseverance in doing Your will in all things.
Do with me what You will.
I repent of having offended You.
Grant, O Lord, that I may love You always and never let me be separated from You.
O my God and my All, make me a saint!