Thursday, June 26, 2014

Love is the Author and Finisher of Our Faith


On the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul


     How could Peter be so rightly convinced in his heart that Jesus was truly the Son of God, but then after Jesus' arrest, swear up and down that He didn't even know Jesus? After Peter made his profession of faith in reply to Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus tells the Apostles that because He is "the Son of the Living God," His life is about doing the Father's will, and to fulfill that mission, He must allow Himself to be arrested and put to death. That's when Peter protested, saying that God should instead forbid such things from happening.  

Statue of St Paul in front of St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Italy.
     What Peter's lack of understanding about Jesus' identity and mission tells us about his faith-- and about ours as well-- is that faith is not a learned skill or personal attribute, but is totally a gift from God.  As it is a gift, we do not deserve it, and as it comes from God, we cannot understand it without His help. So how are we then to respond to this gift?  By humbly saying "thank you," taking possession of it as our "pearl of great price," and then asking God to show us what His purpose and intention is for this gift of faith in our lives. Peter had readily received the gift of Jesus from the Father, but still had his own idea of what the right purpose of that Gift should be.

     As we consider and celebrate the lives of Peter and Paul on the occasion of this solemnity, we might be struck by how greatly different these two men were from one another. Peter was an uneducated fisherman, but one could easily imagine him with a tendency to contemplation, as fishermen have much time on their hands to think about other things while waiting for the right conditions and the right fish.  Having to often act on the spur of the moment by profession, we can also understand his impetuous nature and speech. Paul, on the other hand, was highly educated, steeped in the letter of the Law, and calculating by nature. But as the Lord does with all of us--because He knows us better than we know ourselves-- Jesus knew exactly the right method and the perfect moment for capturing and converting their stubborn hearts.

     Faith is not only a call to trust God for everything, but is also a call to mission. As did Peter and Paul, as we also make our journey of formation and maturity in the faith, we find that we also come to love the God who has given us the gift of knowing Him, and as this love matures, we find ourselves wanting to serve Him. As we pray in one of the Mass' Eucharistic prayers, "our desire to praise You is itself Your gift," so we must also remember that the work God has given each of us to do is HIS work, not ours.  And if we truly love Him, there is nothing that He could ask us to do that we would not say "YES" to-- just as Jesus said yes to the Father in all things, even as He went to the cross.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Love the One You're With

     On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrated the culmination, cause of, and reason for what we do every day as the Body of Christ. Jesus' saving death and resurrection reconciles us to the Father, and the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit, which the Father and the Son lovingly lavish upon us, all make it possible for us to become and to live as true sons and daughters of God.  Just as St. Peter writes in his second letter, we now "share in the Divine Nature" of God (2 Peter 1:4).  This realization should render us awestruck and breathless! We can now be as intimate with the Father as Jesus is with Him!

Holy Trinity, fresco by Luca Rossetti da Orta, 1738–39

     We live in a world of increasing division and conflict, and where our attention to such things as our virtual email and texting relationships is keeping us from loving those who are physically with us, the ones whom God has given us to love, and who need us in the here and now. 

     As we contemplate the perfect unity of love of the Holy Trinity this Sunday, let us remember that our partaking in the Divine Nature means we are no longer our own, because we have been redeemed at a great price, and now belong to God, body and soul (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  And as temples of the Holy Spirit, we have all the power, all the grace we need to live out this calling, this blessed life of abiding in His love and of bestowing that love upon one another, here and now!  This is the true joy of the Gospel!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Come, Holy Spirit!

Fill the hearts of Your faithful,

And enkindle in them the fire of Your love!

Early depiction from the Rabbula Gospels, 6th century

Do you realize that every time we celebrate Mass, we not only experience the re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary, but we also experience the re-presentation of Pentecost?  We not only gather together as the ancient Hebrews did, in a holy place, to rejoice in the presence of the Lord among us, but like the Apostles, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we ourselves are also filled with His presence! 

The Mass is the fulfillment of Jesus' high priestly prayer, which He made to the Father on our behalf before entering into His Passion (John 17),  "that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us."  At Mass, Christ is present not only among us, in the Word and in the Eucharist, but also dwells in the priest and in us, the people, who are gathered in Christ's name and enter into communion with Him-- and therefore into communion with one another as His body!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

St. Joseph

Husband, Guardian, and Man After God's Own Heart

St. Joseph was of the house of David, and even more than was his royal father, Joseph was a man after God’s own heart-- for like the Lord His God Himself, his greatest desire was for mercy, and not sacrifice (cf Mt 9:13). His betrothed Mary's virtue seemed lost when she was found to be with child apart from him, but Joseph chose to spare her life and dignity rather than subject her to the tenets of the Law—under which he had every right to demand that the pregnant Mary be stoned as one who had supposedly committed adultery.

When God asked even more of Joseph, that he not only let Mary and her baby live, but based on the word of the Lord alone, that he consent to live as husband and father to them. Like a true son of Abraham, he gave the Lord his fiat without a word; without hesitation. But St. Joseph was not silent; he was unquestioningly obedient to the will of His God.

St. Joseph was more like Jesus and His Heavenly Father than any other man born of woman. While many may argue that no word of Joseph is recorded in the Bible, such is not the case. Like Jesus’ Heavenly Father, it was Joseph’s works which spoke for him—the greatest of which was preserving and caring for the life of the Son of God as though He were his own.