Thursday, May 31, 2012

O Daughter Jerusalem

Mother of my Lord.

"Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" says Elizabeth. Elizabeth is surprised that Mary should come to her. Who am I, she says, that the Mother of God should come to me! In exclaiming this, Elizabeth shows great humility, for she recognizes that something great and mysterious is happening. Mary has no ordinary child, but she carries in her womb a single person who is both man and God. This is why she calls Mary "Mother of my Lord." Jesus is one person who is both human and divine. He isn't part human and part God, but He is fully both. Mary has one child, and this child is both fully man and fully God; hence, she can truly be called the mother of God, the mother of our Lord.

Most blessed

Mary, pregnant with the baby Jesus, is carrying the Son of God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity. This privilege belongs wholly and solely to Mary, and for this reason "all generations will call [her] blessed." Elizabeth is quick to realize this when she says, "Most blessed are you among women." Most blessed, she says. There is no woman greater than the virgin Mary. She outstrips all the rest. St. Thomas Aquinas would go so far as to say that not even God could create a woman more perfect than Mary.

Mary is most blessed on account of her Motherhood. Having predestined Mary to conceive the Incarnate Word, God lovingly prepared his Mother. He made her a fit dwelling place for Himself. By preventing her from contracting any stain of sin, He saved her by her Immaculate Conception. Mary was conceived without sin so that she could be a fitting house of the Lord. God wasn't forced to do this; it wasn't necessary. God gave Mary this great gift by His own free choice. It was purely on account of His love for the blessed Virgin that He prepared her to be His mother.

Marvelous Joy

This blessed woman, the Mother of God, is a cause for joy. The infant in Elizabeth's womb, St. John the Baptist, leapt for joy when he heard Mary's greeting. Judging by Elizabeth's humble and gracious greeting it surely isn't a stretch for us to believe that Elizabeth was also filled with a great joy in being in the presence of Mary.

However, more important is God's own response to Mary. This is what the first reading is about. Daughter Zion is a title that most fittingly is applied to Mary. Jerusalem and Zion are both types which point to the blessed virgin. Consider the passage from Zephaniah, "O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear." Mary, most fully, had the Lord in her midst. Mary, most fully, had no misfortune to fear, for God had turned all sin away from her. None of her enemies could touch her. Zephaniah continues, "He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals." God, Himself, sings and delights in Mary.

In Mary, there is much to delight. She is most blessed among woman. She is the Lord's lowly servant. She exalts the greatness of the Lord. She believes in the Word that is spoken to her by the Lord. These virtues are real causes for joy, and in whomever these are found God rejoices. Today, therefore, let us also join God and sing joyfully and rejoice in Mary who brought to us the LORD into our midst.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Word of God

Redemption comes from the Word of God. This Word was first proclaimed to our ancestors in the faith: Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac. The Lord revealed His statutes to them in a way that He had not for any other nation. He elected them and invited them to share a new life with him. The Psalmist says, "He has proclaimed his word to Jacob, his statues and his ordinances to Israel. He has not done thus for any other nation."

However, the Word of God was not ever understood. Even when He clothed Himself in flesh and spoke to us, the disciples didn't understand. They were afraid when approaching Jerusalem. They didn't understand what Jesus meant when He spoke up his upcoming death and resurrection. They certainly wanted to the glory of the coming Kingdom! However, it's not clear that they're willing to suffer it yet. Jesus asks them if they are willing to be baptized with which He is baptized and to drink of the chalice with which He will drink. They respond, "we can!" Yet, we know that in a short while their actions will demonstrate that they couldn't.

In our own lives that's also the case! Yesterday, I wrote about the need for daily penance. Maybe we thought that was a great idea, which is good! But it is not enough to just think that Christianity is a great idea, we actually have to live it. For this the Word of God is necessary. "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of the field; the grass withers, and the flower wilts; but the word of the Lord remains forever." My brothers and sisters, we are flesh and we are like the grace. We have many grand ideas and good intentions of serving the Lord, but we let them whither in our hearts. We think, "I will help my brother!" But never do. We think "I will share the Gospel with my co-worker!" But never do. To overcome this, we need an imperishable seed to be planted in our hearts. This seed has been planted in us by our baptism, but we must also let it grow. By His death and resurrection, Christ Jesus planted His word in us which is living and effective. It transformed the disciples so that James and John indeed were later able to drink the chalice of the Lord. Turn your eyes inward to this grace which you have received and begin to love one another intensely from a pure heart.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We Have Given up Everything

Every Christian is called to direct every action of their lives by the love of God. Everything we do should be done for the sake of the Gospel. This may mean that we suffer persecution. Our families may dislike us. Our friends might leave us. People might mock us or just simply ignore us. To this Jesus says, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age." In this present age, we will receive more than what we lost.

Another way this is accomplished is through the life of penance. Penance for our sins is a habit that most of us avoid. We dislike discomfort and avoid any sort of pain; however, penance should daily be part of our lives. It's a real way of giving up everything and following the Lord Jesus like St. Peter and the other Apostles. Maybe we're giving up an hour of sleep for a night, maybe taking a cold shower, or fasting from a meal.

Why make these sacrifices? We sacrifice these comforts to the Lord not because they are evil, but it's a way of being holy: entirely set apart for God. It's a way of reminding ourselves that God alone can satisfy our hearts, and these comforts are not God. By doing penance we set ourselves apart from the world, and generously make ourselves available for the Blessed Trinity. Our God is a God who will not be out done in generosity. If you want to see the Lord's blessings—especially the highest of blessings, a union with the Lord Himself, then offer Him your entire self. Hold nothing back. Capture every thought to be directed to God in some way. "Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, Be holy because I am holy." If we give up our lives, everything that is ours, to the Lord, then even in this life, we will be richly rewarded.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I revealed your name

"I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world" says Jesus to His disciples. Jesus, the only Son of God, has revealed the Father in a way that no one else ever could. He reveals Himself particularly to those whom he has elected in His mercy and love, not by any merits of our own. This election is the promise of seeing and knowing God as he actually is. The three points for today: revelation, election, and destination.


No one is fully able to comprehend God except God Himself; hence, the only Son completely and entirely reveals the Father. In speaking the Son, the Father says everything there is to say about Himself because the Son has the same essence, the same power, the same wisdom, the same goodness as the Father. Everything that the Father has, He gives to the Son, except for His Fatherhood, and everything that the Son has, the Father also has except for his Sonship. In this way, the Son can truly reveal to us who the Father is. Moreover, no one else is able to surpass the revelation of Christ Jesus. The Muslim and the Mormons both believe in revelation after Christ, but as Christians who believe in the Divinity of Jesus, we cannot believe their stories. No one could reveal God better than God Himself! It is the Son, alone, who reveals the name, the identity, of the Father.


Jesus particularly reveals the Father's name to those given to Him by the Father. We call this election. In the Gospel today, Jesus says, "I revealed your name to those whom you gave me…" Before all time, God selected us and gave us the grace to respond in love to the invitation of the Father. God selected us not because we loved Him, but because He loved us. This is critical because salvation is a gift, and act of mercy, not something God owes us. On our own, we wouldn't be owed anything but an eternity of suffering. That's why rely on God's mercy, His initiative in choosing us and gracing us with revelation. We don't go around boasting of our good works because anything done apart from God's grace isn't worth boasting about. It is to us lowly sinners that God has given an intimate knowledge of Himself.
"A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance; you restored the land when it languished." That bountiful rain is God's grace which heals our infirmities and is the result of God's choosing to save us. We should experience bountiful rain in the reception of the Eucharist and Confession. In the Sacraments, we should being experience God's love and mercy changing our lives. It should be like a bountiful rain because we are God's inheritance. We are the people He has claimed as his own portion.


It is out of the world that the Lord calls us. Once we were a languishing land, but once we received that bountiful rain of revelation, and accepted it in faith, we are restored. We are called out of this world filled with sin and suffering into new life, an eternal life. In today's Gospel, the Lord tells us what this eternal life is: "Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ." This is eternal life, that they should know you. This might not sound so exciting at first, having knowledge doesn't exactly thrill us. When we think of knowledge, we immediately think of knowing facts: dates, places, monuments, and scientific stuff. This isn't the sort of knowledge that Jesus has in mind. The knowledge he is referring to is the deeper, more intimate knowledge that two spouses have of each other. When two friends have a profound knowledge of each other, the memory alone brings joy to the heart. Or consider the joy you feel when you give your friend a gift that you know he will love. It is that knowledge which lies at the root of your joy. The grasp of who that person is the depths of his heart, that brings joy.

That deep intimate knowledge of a friend, my brothers and sisters, is the knowledge that Christ Jesus promises to us. We are called; we are predestined to an intimate knowledge of the Triune God. God Himself! No one is more beautiful, more good, or more true than limitless, infinite God. It is this sort of knowledge that St. Paul was willing to die for. He said, "Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course." The earthly life has many goods in it. God has indeed made a fine creation, but it pales when it is compared to the Creator Himself. Today, when we come before this holy Eucharist, stop… consider what you are uniting yourself to, and set your hearts again on the eternal destiny revealed by God Himself to those whom he has called out of the world.

God arises; his enemies are scattered

The Psalmist says, "God arises; his enemies are scattered, and those who hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so are they driven; as wax melts before the fire." On Pentecost, which is quickly approaching, the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit who proceeds as a gift to the Apostles. By the sending, God arose. He scattered their enemies by casting out all their fear. He gave them the power and the faith to preaching to the nations, and so Satan and all of his minions fled before them. When the Holy Spirit comes three types of gifts are given.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

If you consider the soul to be like a boat, the virtues are like oars. By rowing, a boat can make progress, but not very quickly. This is how it is with virtues as well. We row, but we do not progress in the spiritual life very quickly. Hence, God has equipped all of us, in the Sacrament of Confirmation especially with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the first reading, St. Paul baptizes some of those who were in Corinth and then immediately laid hands on them. That should sound familiar! After we are baptized, the hands of a bishop are laid on us and we are anointed by the Holy Spirit. So it was with the Corinthians; the Scriptures tell us that "when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them." In Confirmation, we are equipped with the Holy Spirit to testify to the Lord and bring the Gospel to the whole world. If we return to our boat analogy, the virtues are the oars, but the Gifts of the Spirit are the sails. These sails dispose our souls to be docile and to be moved by the Holy Spirit. If we open ourselves to these gifts by single minded devotion to the Lord God, we will be moved more and more by divine inspiration. By such movement, we quickly approach the shores of our homeland in heaven.


By the charisms (things like speaking in tongues, healing, prophesying, teaching, administration, and others) we are equipped to do extraordinary works, displaying the power of God. Unlike the gifts of the Holy Spirit, possession of these gifts does not make us holy. A person who can perform miracles isn't necessarily holy. Their gift is meant to be shared with others to build up the Church.

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit

As we rely more and more on God's grace, put our charisms to good use, and live more by the Gifts the Spirit, we transform our lives and begin to experience the fruits of our labours. This includes peace: the experience of having our lives rightly order to God. Peace is like a well-oiled machine which smoothly and efficiently accomplishes its goals. We also find joy in doing the work of the Lord. We experience patience, humility, and self-control. If we are following the path of the Lord, God will scatter our enemies and fill us with these fruits. The war that rages in our hearts will be replaced with peace and serenity. And this is the purpose of Christ's teachings for us. Let me end with a quote from the Gospel, "I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On that day you will not question me about anything.

"On that day you will not question me about anything," says the Lord. Throughout our lives, we often find ourselves questioning the providence of the Lord. In our pride, we find ourselves tempted to question the Lord's prudence as if His own designs weren't more marvelous than our own. The truth is that we're not always going to see what good is going to come out of those trials and those sufferings, yet the Lord has given us ample reason to put our faith in Him and His providence.

The Problem of evil

Often, trials crush people's faith. If God is so loving and so powerful, why doesn't He put an end to all of this suffering? He must be either not so loving or not so powerful! That's a tough question for Christians to answer. It's not about whether God is the cause of evil but whether He should let evil be at all. At this point we reach the unsearchable mind of God. God doesn't give us a clear answer to why He should allow evil. However, the Lord does something just as good for us: He joins us on the Cross. When we suffer the Cross, we know the Lord is nearest because it is through the death of Christ that we can draw near to the Most High. In light of the Pascal mystery, suffering and death take on a new meaning. Jesus compares it to the mother who is giving birth. She suffers in her labor but when the child arrives, she forgets the pain because of her joy.

In Labor

We too are in labor. We toil and sweat in the world facing the daily onslaught of temptation. We suffer in innumerable sorts of ways: some tiny, some very big. But in the same way that labor brings about the mother's joy, our suffering will bring about our joy. "Blessed are the sorrowful, for they shall be comforted." "Blessed be the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." There is going to be a great reversal of the world at the end of time in which the Lord will cast down the mighty from their thrones and lift up the lowly. While you suffer now, soon when you see the Lord, "your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you." No one will take your joy away from you. The good Lord directs our hearts to Hope. We Hope, sure hope, that the Lord will come and save us from our misery and bless us with eternal life. This world is coming to an end, and we will clap for joy. Even now, we can begin to "shout to God with cries of gladness, for the LORD the Most High, the awesome is the great king over all the earth."

God is trustworthy.

It is the Lord God who is king of all the earth. It is Him who guides the world. He is a good, gentle shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep. People deny His goodness and His gentleness and they think it is foolish to trust in a God who has made such a wreck of a world. And I say, that there is more to the world than they know. If Jesus Christ was willing to give up His own life and suffer the weight of all the sins of the world, how is this not proof enough that God is trust worthy? Yes, you have questions and the Lord is not yet giving us straight answers. He doesn't explain all of His ways to us, but in the Cross and resurrection, He has given us ample reason to trust Him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

But your grief will become joy

God's ways are not our ways. What we think is wise is not what God thinks is wise. When Jesus foretells that the disciples will grieve, but that their grief will become joy, He foretells His death and resurrection. At the foot of the Cross (or scattered through the city) and at the death of Jesus, the disciples wept, grieving the death of the Messiah, the one they thought would set Israel free from her enemies all the days of their lives! However, Jesus consoles them saying "your grief will become joy" for He knows already that He will be raised from the dead. God's ways are not our ways because the Lord Jesus knows the full reality of the world and its destiny.

Knowing reality

Prudence is a virtue that is often misunderstood. We think of the woman who scrupulously watches over her money or the man who selfishly tends to his own needs are taken care of before he looks to the benefit of others. But this is not prudence: the prudent person is the person who acts in accordance with reality. He responds rationally to the concrete situation he is actually in. We can see this in Saint Paul. The Jews were obstinate in rejecting the Gospel, so "he shook out his garments and said to them, 'Your blood be on your heads! I am clear of responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'" St. Paul sees reality as it is. The Jews will not convert, so he moves on. This is an act of wisdom on his part: being able to discern when to stay and preach and when to move on. This isn't always clear! It takes careful prayer and thinking. It requires discovering what the real situation is-knowing reality.

The Gift of counsel

In Baptism and especially in Confirmation, we are given a gift of the Holy Spirit: the gift of counsel in order to assist us in making prudent decisions in conformity of the reality of our situations. This gift is a particular disposition in our souls which make us apt to receiving the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who will guide us in making the prudent decisions because we limited human beings struggle to know the world as it actually is. We quickly make rash judgments about our neighbors (which are sinful!) and are ignorant of many circumstances that have bearing on our decisions. However, the Holy Spirit can really guide us by the gift of counsel.

In a similar way, Jesus counseled the disciples today to help them understand the reality of the mystery of the Cross. His suffering and death seemed to be the end of Israel's hope for the coming of God's kingdom according to our limited way of knowing. However, in reality, the Cross is a great cause of joy for us! By the shedding of the blood of the Lord, our sins were wiped away and the Lord has created new, pure hearts for us.

Our daily crosses pose the same challenge to us. When our projects at work fail, or supper didn't turn out the way we thought it should, or our children are rude and noisy, we quickly find reason for grieving. We complain, get angry, and loose the peace of our souls. I recommend praying for the gift of counsel in order that you might gain a glimpse of the divine perspective that our suffering has real redemptive value. Contrary to our wisdom suffering has meaning and purpose and works for the good of those who love God. True prudence accepts this suffering because it unites one to the Cross. Our grief becomes our joy.

Everything that the Father has is mine

Interpreting and understanding the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas requires knowing how he structures his texts. In the Summa Theologica, he gives an account of all of theology in an ordered manner. This order reveals that St. Thomas had an organic view of the mysteries of the faith in which everything was interconnected.

Exitus Reditus

In the Summa, St. Thomas follows an exitus-reditus pattern. He begins with the one God; then discusses the procession of the persons of the Trinity followed by the processions of creatures. He then considers how creatures image God, and ultimately how they return back to him by intensifying that image through growth in virtue assisted by grace. Today's Scripture readings concern this feature.

Divine Processions

"Everything that the Father has is mine." In the Creed, we call this reality consubstantial. The Son has everything that the Father has: the same power, goodness, wisdom, and limitlessness. It's not just that they have equal power as if there were two, separate powers, one possessed by the Son and the other by the Father, but that they share the same exact power which is the principle of all their actions. The Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son, and we believe that this gives us a glimpse of what the inner life of the Trinity is like. Because the Spirit is sent by the Father and Son, He proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Creaturely Processions

Creatures also proceed from God. However, while creatures only imperfectly resemble God, the Son and the Spirit perfectly resemble the Father. There is no greater or less than in God, for the Father and the Son and the Spirit all share the same power. God created us, His creatures, solely because of love. St. Paul writes, "The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. God did not create us because he needed us in any capacity; rather he created us for His own sake.

God created us and now gives life to everyone among the whole human race. He remains close to us, so that we may find him. In God we have our being and movement. He is always guiding us with his providence. In a way similar to His gift to His Son, the Father also shares with us "because he will take from what is [Christ's] and declare it to you."

This is what we call grace: it is a share in the life of the blest Trinity. What once belonged only to the Son has been made available to us by the sending of the Holy Spirit, who guides us into all truth. By grace, we become more perfect images of the Father, lacking in nothing. We more perfectly imitate the Son's procession from the Father by following Christ's command to "be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect." The Father creates us, and we return to Him by being more closely united to his Son. By this mysterious working of the Holy Spirit, everything that both the Son and the Father have becomes available to us.

So, we can see St. Thomas's exitus-reditus pattern. From the Father processes the persons of the Trinity. From the Triune God processes all the creatures of the Earth. Rational creatures then return back to God by His grace which is the cause of our future glory in Heaven.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Come before him with joyful song

Not everyone in the world is for Jesus Christ. Not everyone who says that are for Jesus Christ is actually for Jesus Christ. The Lord says, "because I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you." What was it that the Lord commanded us to do yesterday? He commanded to us to lay down one's life for another. This is the law of love, and if the world hates us, they are not obeying the law of love laid down by Lord Jesus. Jesus also explains to us that the world hates us because it hated him first. He says "If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first." Today, I want to write about three things: persecution, the Truth, and our mission. Our mission is to joyfully suffer for the sake of the Truth.


It is a reality that the Church will face persecution. The people of the world, that is those who cling to evil, do not love the light of truth. Hence, it cannot love the Lord Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. Therefore, they persecute the Lord's Church just as they crucified the Lord Jesus for speaking the truth. I would go so far to say that if you are not enduring persecution for your faith, then there might be something wrong in the way you are living the faith. Christ tells his apostles, "No slave is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." We are not above the glorious, King of Heaven, the Lord of Lords! He has raised us up to friendship with him, but we are still not His equals; hence, we should expect persecution in our lives.

The Truth

Persecution for the faith comes from speaking the faith which is the Truth. Many claim to be suffering for the faith, who really aren't being persecuted, because they aren't preaching the Truth. If someone is imposing penalties on you for evil actions and spreading heresy, you are not being persecuted. You are being disciplined. There is a real difference. The prisoner who is locked up in jail isn't being persecuted if is guilty! He is being punished, hopefully justly and mercifully. Persecution happens to those who love the faith and the Lord Jesus and boldly stand up to defend it. People who claim to be persecuted for supporting homosexual marriages, abortions, woman's ordinations, and the abandonment of doctrines cannot claim to be persecuted when they face penalties from the hierarchy. They are not based on the Truth which God given to us in the Scriptures, the Tradition, and faithfully interpreted by the Magisterium.

But, the Truth which we proclaim, given to us by God Himself, a God who cannot lie to us, is a saving truth. It is the truth that sets us free. Christ proclaims the truth about how human beings out to love our lives. He proclaims the dignity of every person, no matter how small. This truth is communicated to us through our doctrines! Our doctrines communicate to us the saving reality of Christ's life on earth and our future destiny in Heaven. And if this Truth saves, if it sets us free, and Christ gave this truth for the whole world to share, then we ought to share it out of love for our brothers and sisters!


If we love the Lord Jesus, whose kindness endures forever, then we need to stand by Him in proclaiming the Truth. The Jews crucified Christ because He claimed to be God and He would not back down. We also need to boldly proclaim that truth to the World today. Just like the world did not receive His word then, but persecuted Him, so will the world do to us. However, remember! Remember that "he made us, his we are; his people, the flock he tends." The Lord is our shepherd who is near to us. We might be afraid when facing the anger of our families or the ridicule of our co-workers. However, remember how close the Lord is to you and that He has counted you among his friends. "Serve the LORD with gladness come before him with joyful song." Your joyful witness in the face of persecution for the truth will reap a great reward for you in Heaven, a seat high among the angels. This is our mission: to give joyful witness to the Truth of Christ. This is a mission of joyful witness because despite any persecution; the Lord is near.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

You are my friends if you do what I command you

The Psalmist says, "For your mercy towers to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the skies." What a beautiful image: to the heavens and to the skies, such is the mercy and the faithfulness of God. And why should he say such things about God? It isn't obvious to everyone that God's mercy is so great or that His faithfulness is so tall. They think that God is mean and that he is cruel, so they would never think to praise the Lord. So why is it that we praise the Lord?

You are my friend

The Lord says today "You are my friends… I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing." The Lord is our friend and He proves it to us by telling us about Himself. The mark of a true friendship is that you communicate with one another! You see, in sending the Lord Jesus, God has revealed Himself to His fullest extent. There is nothing more for God to say hasn't already been said in His Word. Jesus Christ is God's Word and the Word, being God is the fullest revelation of the Father. God speaks to us this Word even now. Though his body is taken up into Heaven, His revelation of the Father is brought down to us through the Scriptures. The Sacred Scriptures are the Lord's word, breathed out as a loving whisper to nourish us and sustain us here on earth. He also speaks to us through our Tradition. He can hear Him speaking in the homily to us through the priest as the Gospels are authoritatively proclaimed. We hear him at the moment of consecration saying "this is my body" and "this is my blood." The Lord speaks to us because he has claimed us as friends.

Love and obligation

Our friendship with the Lord, like any friendship, is built on love. The Lord has chosen us and loved us and died on the Cross for us and then rose from the dead so that we might have life with Him. He has given us ample reason to return his friendship and his love! And if we return his love, this naturally implies some obligations. In our natural relationships, if we love someone, we instinctively hate anything that is not good for them. How could you claim to love your spouse or your children if you don't hate any evil that befalls them? You couldn't. Loving someone entails defending them from harm! Now, while the Lord, Himself in His divinity and glorified humanity cannot suffer, he sees it as an evil when His many sons and his daughters do not love one another.

Therefore, he gives us the command: "Love one another as I love you." This law makes explicit what we should already know by nature though He raises it to a supernatural degree. The Law of Love is the Law of the Christian, and what does it entail? It commands us to love as He has loved us. How has he loved us? He laid down his life for us. Hence, Jesus follows up his command saying "No one has greater love that this, to lay down one's life for one's friend." Such a love is a supernatural love because no earthly good can be found in death. It is a love that entirely surpasses our understanding. The Lord Jesus Christ had this love for us, and He expects this love to reign in our lives.

"My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast." It requires a steadfast love to be able to lay down one's life. It requires us to look to God and remember that "his mercy towers to the heavens and his faithfulness to the skies." For if His mercy is great and His faithfulness reaches to the skies, he will gives us a greater life than what we have laid down. The Lord will not be out done in generosity! Too great is His faithfulness and too great is His mercy to abandon us in death. No, the Lord promises us that if we do what he commands, we will be His friends. The friends of God, my brothers and sisters! The friends of God. That heavenly friendship is worth laying down one's life.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I am the Vine you are the Branches

Today, we hear that Saint Paul ran into some problems while he was preaching. There were many Jewish Christians who wished to cling to the Old Law and did not understand its relationship to the New Law. It was difficult and hard for them to understand the changes. Therefore, Paul went to Jerusalem to speak with the Apostles, that is the authorities, to sort this issue out. The question is still relevant to us today! We might not cling to Mosaic Law, yet because this controversy reveals to us the importance of the New Law, it will be worthwhile for us to examine it. For without the grace of God and we can't make any progress in the spiritual life. Let us, now look at the differences between the Old Law and the New Law.

Old Law

In the Old Law, God gave lists and lists of commandments and sacrifices for sin. However, they never pleased God. Why? Too often, the Jews failed to grasp and obey the Law. The Law condemned exterior actions: adultery, murder, profaning the Sabbath, failing to observe ritual sacrifices, and much more; however, it gave no power to actually follow the Law. For this reason it was incomplete: imperfect. The Law which was good for them, as St. Paul says elsewhere, only lead to further sin and inspired further hatred for God. You see, apart from God, it is impossible to please the Lord. We quickly fall into sin even after attaining to some virtue, and even if we persevere in some virtue, we still fall into grave and mortal sin.

A miserable plight we creatures are in! The Jews knew this especially because they saw the Law; they knew the Law and the requirements for pleasing the Lord, yet they found that they could not keep the Law.

New Law of Grace

This is because they needed God's grace. In the New Law of the New Covenant, God's grace is finally given in abundance to his people! It is available to all people in Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Confession, and all the sacraments. His mercy, his help, and his love are always available to us by these means because they graft us onto Christ Himself! The Gospel says, "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." That is, unless you remain in the vine, Christ Jesus, our Savior and our Hope, you will not bear good fruit. By good fruit, the Lord means good works: justice, generosity, self control, gentleness, kindness, and everything else. By clinging to Christ and remaining in him, the sap of the vines courses into our lives. This sap is the Lord's grace, a participation in His own life which changes our hearts.

It is for this reason that the Old Law became obsolete and St. Paul did not want to subject the Gentiles to it. While the Old Law could not change our hearts, the New Law does! The Old Law was imperfect because it could not make us love God. The New Law is perfect because by it we lack nothing needed to love the Lord. While the Old Law was entirely exterior, lacking the power to transform the human heart, the New Law is interior and transforms the human heart, making it bear much fruit.

This fruit makes us pleasing to God. By it we become his disciples: faithful until death. And, the Lord has promised. He has sworn an oath--and because He is God we know that this promise is true. The Lord has promised that if we remain in Him, "ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you." My brothers and sisters, ask the Lord and settle for nothing less than the best: Heaven. The beatific vision! Ask for the Heavenly Kingdom, my brothers and sisters, for yourselves and for your neighbors. Ask for all of us that "we will go up to the house of the LORD." That we might enter into the Heavenly Jerusalem and set our eyes on the Lord.

Do you see why it was so important for St. Paul to confer with the disciples on this matter? It touched on grace, for if we were still bound to the Old Law we would not have grace and we would not have the promise of salvation. Praise the Lord for the Gift of the New Law! Because we can now remain in the Lord, the vine, and bear much fruit.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The World Must know that I love the Father

In today's Gospel, Jesus declares that "the world must know that I love the Father." As it is for Christ, so it must be for us! We must show the world that we love the Father! This love, a deep and abiding love, full of confidence should come from within and be natural to us. Christ Himself is wanting to give this love and the Holy Spirit is inspiring it in our hearts. We must, therefore, learn to recognize this love and today's readings give indicate two ways of doing this.

The Cross
When Christ says that the world must know that he loves the Father, he is alluding to the Crucifixion. It is there, laid out on the Cross that the Love of Christ is poured out for the whole world! It is there, in obedience to the Father, that Christ gave up his life. Love for life did not hold him back! Rather, by sacrificing his life in love, he demonstrates that the Father's love is better than life.

St. Paul also demonstrates this love for the Father. Jews from Antioch and Iconium came to where Paul was staying, stoned him and drug him out of the city, supposing he was dead. The Jews thought that St. Paul was dead! Do you see what St. Paul suffered? But he was no lunatic! To St. Paul, this was nothing compared to the love that he had found in Jesus Christ! If only we had that same love! We also should be willing to suffer with Christ, and so show our love of the Father to the whole world. When St. Paul recovered from near death, what did he do? He didn't give up on his mission from God. He persevered. He did not think that God had abandoned him during this trial. Rather, he got up and entered the city again! Do you see the courage that he had? This courage comes from grace.

At the end of the first reading, St. Paul shares his thankfulness for all that God had done. Despite all of his trials, St. Paul is thankful that he had been called into the Church of Christ, which we call the Catholic Church. He comes back and shares what God had done with them. That is, he gave the credit for his mighty works to God. He proclaimed to the disciples that Father's love for him and that he loved the Father in return. Despite all of his sufferings, nay because of the Father's faithfulness in his sufferings, St. Paul only grew ever closer to the Father. Undoubtedly, knowing the everything works for the good of those who love God because God has the whole world under his providence, St. Paul gave thanks to the Father for Everything that happened to him, just as the Psalmist told us today, "Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD, and let your faithful ones bless you!"

We, my brothers and sisters are also the works of the Lord. Works in progress for sure, but also some of His finest master pieces! He is forming you and shaping you into the image of the Son, so today, today! Let yourself be led by the Spirit into a deeper appreciation of the Cross. I said appreciation, for the Cross should lead you to thankfulness! By the Cross, God has honored you by enabling you to share in the Crucifixion of Christ, his humble obedience, his humble thankfulness, His great love. The world must know that we love Father. Amen.