Gospel reading of the day:
As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John and approached the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them. Immediately on seeing him, the whole crowd was utterly amazed. They ran up to him and greeted him. He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.” He said to them in reply, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.” They brought the boy to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions. As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around and foam at the mouth. Then he questioned his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He replied, “Since childhood. It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!” Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up. When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private, “Why could we not drive the spirit out?” He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus invites us in this gospel passage to plug into God’s life. The disciples try to cast out a demon which possesses a boy but they fail entirely. They are perplexed by their failure and ask Jesus why they could not drive out the demon. Jesus replies that some demons can be driven out only by prayer. There are many things we can accomplish in our lives on our own, but the things which go to the heart, the things which heal our wounds, the things which cast out our demons are spiritual. It is not we who do the work but God who does the work. Jesus spent long hours in prayer before he tackled God’s work; we can hardly expect to do less.
Saint of the day: Born in 1380 in Italy, Bernardine of Siena was a Franciscan. Priest, itinerant preacher, and theological writer, his preaching skills were so great, and the conversions so numerous, that he has become associated with all areas of speaking, advertising, and public relations. Bernardine’s charismatic preaching filled the piazzas of Italian cities. Thousands of listeners flocked to hear him and to participate in dramatic rituals, which included collective weeping, bonfires of vanities, and exorcisms. In the Franciscan tradition, he was a renowned peacemaker who tried to calm feuding clans and factions in the turbulent political world of the Renaissance. His preaching visits would often culminate in mass reconciliations, as listeners were persuaded to exchange the bacio di pace, or kiss of peace.
Bernardino was sensitive to the demands of secular life and tried to negotiate between Christian ethics and a conflicting code of honor that stressed retaining face in a public world. He argued that the catalyst of civil discord in the urban setting was malicious gossip, which led to insults, and, too often, vendetta by aggressive males. His surprising allies in his peacekeeping mission were the women who comprised the majority of his audience. He died in 1444 at Aquila, Italy.
Spiritual reading: The union of my soul with God is my wealth in poverty and joy in deepest afflictions. (Collected Writings by Elizabeth Seton)
Gospel reading of the day:
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.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit as our Advocate whom Jesus promised. Jesus has left us with an Advocate who is good, loving, powerful, and loyal on the one hand, but wild, dangerous, unpredictable, fierce, demanding, and unyielding on the other. Because the Spirit loves us (indeed, is the very love of God for us), the Spirit comes to shatter our idols and asks from us the gift of nothing less than our total selves.
Each year, Pentecost invites us to wonder at the Spirit’s outpouring on the Blessed Mother and the apostles. The feast remind us that the Spirit comes to give us peace and strength, light and joy, wisdom and discernment. The Holy Spirit, in other words, comes to make us like Jesus.
But there is more to Jesus than his peace, strength, light, joy, wisdom, and discernment. There is also his suffering. The Spirit comes to annihilate all the evil spirits that afflict us, and the cost to us may not be a small one. If the Spirit molds us into Jesus, the Spirit must lead us in one way or the other to the cross.
The cross may be personally destructive. It may humiliate us and prove scandalous to those who see what happens to us. The Spirit vanquishes evil, but the only truly efficacious banishment of evil we have as an exemplar is the example of our crucified Lord. To follow Jesus may require us to go to the very depths of hell to battle the demons that afflict us and our worlds.
Pentecost reminds us that the Spirit comes to speak to us truths we may not want to know and invite us to walk along paths we may not wish to walk. In our most conscious and attentive moments, perhaps we ought to be afraid to ask for the Holy Spirit because the redemption we receive may not be the redemption we want. The Spirit may ask of us to live the scandal of the cross in a way neither we nor those around us may understand. Yet, as Christians, we ultimately share the hope of the resurrection, and whatever abyss the Spirit may invite us to traverse, we also know that God in the end shall right all things and that all shall be well.
Spiritual reading: Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian activities, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ’s sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. (Saint Seraphim of Sarov)
Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year C – Trinity Sunday
Today’s readings, aside from having the earliest references to a Trinity, all deal with truth and falsehood. The people in Jesus’ time, as we have been seeing as we move through the Gospels of Luke and John, are all about honor. It was important to them to maintain their honor above all else. We have seen how this has played out in Jesus’ relation to his Father and giving honor to the the Father. But it is just as important to note that the Mediterranean person in Jesus’ time would do anything to maintain his honor – even lie. This is a very foreign concept to us, though I guess if we read the news, many people do it. So, as Americans, even if we don’t particularly value honor, we do seem to put a lot of effort into finding out the ‘truth’ of things. Our media is truth happy – always trying to discover and uncover the truth about everything. And God help the person who has been hiding something!
So, if we don’t particularly value honor, we do seem to value truth. So when Jesus says in the Gospel today: “when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth,” it is an important aspect of the Spirit for our society to consider. The truth today that we are considering and celebrating is the truth about who God is.
The whole concept of the Trinity is, of course, a mystery, and we will never really understand it. Tons of paper have been used to try to explain it, and the Catholic church has developed a theology around it over the years that attempts to explain the unexplainable, but understand that this process started from the earliest times of the Church. It is not something that somebody just dreamed up. St. Paul, whose writings are the earliest we have of Christian literature wrote in Romans, which we read today, about the workings of the Trinity, and talks about the specific jobs of God, of Jesus and the Spirit, but he probably did not have the understanding that we have today in our catechisms and theology.
In Romans today Paul shows how the the glory of God is reflected in the peace that Jesus brings and the love that the Spirit brings. Paul, not really a theologian, was never particularly concerned how any of this was possible or fit together, but was more concerned about the effect of the Trinity on our lives. The Trinity brings peace, brings love, and hope. It affects us by giving us endurance to trials, allowing us to prove our characters and live in hope of something better. It is what allows us to form community and to sustain community.
In the Gospel of John we see one of the earliest formulations of Trinity. Jesus speaks to his disciples and lets them know that he has so much to tell them but until the Spirit comes into them, they won’t be able to understand it, or it may even frighten them so they can’t bear to hear it. But when the Spirit comes, they will know and understand. And what the Spirit lets them know is that which Jesus wants them to know, because the Spirit and Jesus are one. But also, Jesus and the Father are one – “everything the Father has is mine – he says. And it is from this that we have developed the theological understanding of Trinity.
Truth is not always easy. That is why Jesus says that at this point before his Ascension, the Apostles would not be able to bear it. It is not always easy for us to tell the truth either. Sometimes we hold off telling the truth until such a time as the hearer can bear it or when we can not fear to tell it. But it is only in truth that we can be truly free and be totally in the Spirit.
I always find that this particular Sunday is one of the hardest Sundays to preach on. The whole concept of the Trinity is difficult – though central to the Christian’s beliefs. But I always ask myself the question – how can I help people apply the Gospel of the day in their own lives. How can I preach the Good News in a way that it can be lived out in our lives. The practical applications of the Trinity in our lives is difficult to come to grips with. Jesus himself was less concerned with formulating a theology of religion than he was of having people love each other, care about each other, and show that in their actions. So, I would like to suggest that that is the model of the Trinity as well, that can be a model for how we live our lives. The Father so loved us, his creatures, that he became one of us, humbled himself to show that love, becoming a servant to redeem us. As Son, God sent the Spirit to continue and sustain that love he felt for his creatures, so that we could experience that love and express it ourselves to others.
In our own lives, we can never be afraid to humble ourselves in the service of others, to love others so much that we are willing to suffer for them, to give of ourselves for those needier than ourselves, and to give the gift of ourselves, our love and support so that others know we care about them. If we live our lives caring less for ourselves than for others we will honor God, and we will be fulfilling all the mandates of Christ, and be living in the Spirit. The is how the concept of Trinity can be meaningful in our lives. And this is the Good News I can bring to you today!
Fr. Ron Stephens, St. Andrew’s Parish, Warrenton, VA.
Gospel reading of the day:
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?”
It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount that the single hearted are blessed because they will see God. This particular beatitude attaches a characteristic, single heartedness, with an outcome, seeing God. It suggests that if we pursue God, we will find God. It is often hard to keep our eyes on the ball and stay focused on the task before us. In today’s passage, Peter apparently exhibited a certain preoccupation with what was going to happen to someone else. While the Lord is talking to Peter about Peter, Peter seems to want to change the subject. He effectively says, “Hey, Lord, what about that guy over there?” And our Lord replies, “Peter, never mind that guy over there. What happens to him is not your concern. Pay attention to what I am telling you: you, Peter, are to follow me.”
Saint of the day: Eric IX of Sweden was King of Sweden from 1150. Eric did much to aid Christianity in his realm and was responsible for codifying the laws of his kingdom, which became known as King Eric’s Law (also the code of Uppland). He led a victorious expedition against the marauding Finns and persuaded English bishop Henry of Uppsala to remain in Finnland to evangelize the Finns. Eric was killed and beheaded near Uppsala by rebelling Swedish nobles in the army of Magnus, son of the King of Denmark, who had invaded his territory, on May 18. Though never formally canonized, Eric was long considered the Patron of Sweden.
Spiritual reading: If we are to be pilgrims for justice and peace, we must expect the desert. (Dom Helder Camara)
As we sit in our new church facility on some Sunday mornings, a blowing wind will surround the building with a low whistle-like sound rolling over the interior. The Holy Spirit? I think not. What the apostles heard was a driving loud wind from above that filled the house and drew a large crowd to see what happened. Much like a neighborhood today peeking out or running to see anything strange or unusual in the neighborhood or like the people who slow up to stare at mishaps on the highway. As a crowd gathered on that first century morning, the Holy Spirit filled that house and filled each of the inhabitants in a unique and in similar ways. Suddenly, these men were understood in many languages and each was given gifts for the good of the Church to enable the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus promised His Spirit came and kept his message alive and continues it today. The gifts his Spirit brought were for all. Each and every believer in his or her faith has the Spirit and shares in proclaiming Christ. While certainly the Apostles and leaders of the church have a charism or gift of leadership, but that gift includes the discernment of the Spirit requiring many and varied things from them and their fellow believers. As the Spirit filled and invigorated all Jesus’ followers that day, so it fills us all today to go out and spread His word. His teaching is not in a box or in some secret club. It is for all who will listen and believe.
The Gospel today reminds us also that Jesus in giving His Spirit to the Apostles gave them the gift to forgive sins. Think of that for a moment. The power to forgive your sins. How many times in the Gospel did we hear Jesus say “your sins are forgiven?” A power Jesus used Himself. No matter how much we fail and sin we can be forgiven. Each time we celebrate Eucharist together, our sins are absolved as we begin if we dispose ourselves to receive this absolution. From Jesus himself the church through its ministers forgives your sins.
Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit, began a new age in salvation, The age of the church. We have Christ’s Word, His Sacraments. His Spirit who will be with us always.
After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In this passage Jesus contrasts the difference between life before and after a commitment to him. At the core of the passage is the question Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” It is the question which Jesus asks me today. It is the question which Jesus poses to you today. “Do you love me?” Jesus asks the question knowing that it is the decisive question, the question that goes to the essence of why we are alive. The real answer to the question decides every other issue in our lives: what we do when we get up in the morning, what we read, how we treat one another, our relationship to the needy, what we do before we go to bed at night. In the passage, Jesus contrasts the two kinds of people in the world. There are people who dress themselves and go where they want and there are people whose lives lead them to let someone else dress them and lead them where they do not want to go. In other words, people who do not love Jesus live lives on their own terms, and people who love Jesus follow the radical promptings of the Spirit. I suppose a good many of us are somewhere between those two extremes, and so Jesus continues to ask today, “Do you love me?”
Saint of the day: A Romanian Orthodox prince born in 1873, Vladimir Ghika converted to Catholicism in 1902. An ardent contemplative and active on all fronts, in diplomacy, charity and the apostolate, he became a priest, then a prelate in 1931. While still a layman, the Prince obtained two doctorates in Rome, in philosophy and theology. His writings harmoniously blend the poetry of an oriental spirit with theological rigour. He died a martyr in Romania in 1954 and his writings have been a real influence on the foundation of our Religious Family. His beatification process has just been opened. Born in a palace in Constantinople on Christmas Day, 1873, he was the grandson of the last sovereign of Moldova. A Romanian Orthodox prince, of French origins through his mother, he received a refined education, which put him in touch with the internationale elite. During his brilliant studies in Toulouse and Paris, he converted to Catholicism in 1902.
His conversion saw the beginning of his intense missionary and charitable work. Among other things, he founded the house of the Daughters of Charity in Bucharest and helped all the poor people that Providence placed in his way. As a layman, he consecrated a large part of his life to prayer and his doctrinal formation. In Rome, he obtained from the Dominican university his licence in philosophy and doctorate of theology in 1905. Pope St. Pius X persuaded him not to become a priest for the time being, because of his aged mother. But the saintly pope had appreciated the qualities of the Prince and encouraged him to develop his apostolate as a layman, as his prestige was so great among his Orthodox brothers.
World War One saw him struggle with all sorts of misery, as well as diplomacy. In 1923, at the age of 50, by special permission from Pope Pius XI who had a great reespect for him, he was ordained priest. He devoted himself with unimaginable activity to the service of all souls. Catholic or Orthodox, rich or poor, mystics or blasphemers would be the friends of this shepherd of royal blood, indefatigable traveler, traversing up to a quarter of the planet to help a single soul…”Don’t try and do a great work on your own,” he wrote, “but be a tool of happiness.” He took this “happiness” into the “zone rouge” of the Parisian suburb where he installed himself in a little railway shed on waste ground in Villejuif. His heroism and his gentleness did miracles, leading to the foundation of the parish of Villejuif. Cardinal Verdier, archbishop of Paris, appreciated the qualities of his “Prince Vincent-de-Paul” and put him in charge of the foreigners’ church in the rue de Sèvres, responsible for refugees of all races and ranks. An admired writer, imitated as a spiritual director, he renewed his acquaintance with Parisian high society which could help him in his new task: Maritain, Claudel, Mauriac, H. Bordeaux, Francis Jammes, Bergson and Fr Garrigou-Lagrange would have been among his closest friends.
Monsignor Ghika founded a “Fraternity of Saint John”, which he installed in the Abbey of Auberive in Haute-Marne in 1926. This religious family of priests, sisters and lay people developed rapidly. But unhappy circumstances put an end to the community in just four years. Whatever his supernatural qualities, the Prince was not a born organiser! This setback was the heaviest burden the Prince had to bear in his entire life. World War Two found him in Romania. The terrible bombardment of Bucharest in 1944 showed his heroic devotion. Communism was installed in Romania in 1948, and King Michael invited Mgr. Ghika to follow him into exile in Paris. But audaciously, Mgr. Ghika continued to celebrate Mass publicly in Bucharest, comforting, converting and baptising. In 1952, at 80 years of age, he was arrested and disappeared into oblivion in the Julava prison. He died a martyr on May 17, 1954. A decree of martyrdom was promulgated on March 27, 2013.
Spiritual reading: If you can’t pick yourself off the floor spiritually, the solution is an attitude of gratitude. You must begin to recount all the good things in your life and thank God for them. This always uncovers a spring of joy in the soul. Being thankful is the best medicine. (Taylor Marshall)
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus continues in today’s gospel his priestly prayer for the unity of his followers. This subject, of course, is a touchy one for those of us who share in modern times the one baptism of Jesus Christ. Various rifts over the course of the history of the Church have splintered us into different traditions. In light of this experience, we might despair and be tempted to believe that Jesus’ prayer has failed and failed badly at that.
But I, for my part, do not believe Jesus’ prayer has failed. The truth about God is very large indeed, and it seems impossible to me that any one narrative about God comprehends the truth about God. God has made all of us in God’s own image, and yet we all exhibit many differences. This fact suggests to me that the truth about God requires many different narratives to explain it. God needs God’s many churches to provide homes for the many narratives that attempt to explain the truth about God and appeal to the hearts of all of those of us who would believe. So I say, rejoice in our Christian plurality, for in it, we draw closer to the one true God.
Saint of the day: Ivan Ziatyk was born on the day after Christmas 1899, in the hamlet of Odrekhova in southeastern Poland. He was the younger of two sons born to Maria and Stefan Ziatyk; his older sibling was named Mykhailo. The family were Ukrainian Rite Catholics. Stefan Ziatyk died when Ivan was 14 years of age.
In his late teenage years, Ziatyk decided to follow his calling from God and prepare for the Catholic priesthood. He entered the Ukrainian Catholic seminary in Przemyśl where he spent time studying Christian spirituality, philosophy, theology together with the history and Liturgy of the Ukrainian Rite Catholic Church. He was ordained to the diaconate and then priesthood in 1923. In 1925, Father Ivan returned to the seminary where he lectured in dogmatic theology as well as serving as spiritual director for the next ten years.
For some time Father Ivan had desired to live a more austere life and, in 1935, made the decision to join the Redemptorists. As a priest, he spent a year in the novitiate located near Lviv in western Ukraine, making his first profession in August 1936. During his first year as a Redemptorist, Father Ivan lived in the monastery dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ivano-Frankivsk (then called Stanislaviv) before moving to another monastery in Lviv, where he was both assistant superior and treasurer. Then, in 1938, he was appointed to teach dogmatic theology at the newly-opened seminary in Holosko on the outskirts of present day Lviv. In 1941, Father Ivan was made superior of the monastery dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God in Ternopil where he served before taking up the same position at Zboiska in 1944. As well as being superior at Zboiska, he was engaged in the education of teenage boys interested in becoming Redemptorists.
After the Second World War the Soviet regime renewed its oppression of Christian denominations; as Ukraine was part of the U.S.S.R. its people also suffered but for a unique reason. The Soviets sought to abolish the Ukrainian Catholic Church by merging it with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which was considered easier to control since it was state-sanctioned and did not acknowledge the spiritual leadership of the Bishop of Rome. All the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church (also known by some as the Greek Catholic Church) found themselves placed under arrest in early 1946. Members of the Redemptorist order were gathered at the monastery in Holosko and placed under virtual arrest for the next two years as their activities were constantly monitored by the secret police. The members of the community were also subjected to periodic interrogation. Father Ivan came under particular scrutiny as he had become responsible for the leadership of Ukrainian Catholics. When Archbishop Joseph Slipyj was arrested, he delegated the Belgian priest Joseph De Vocht to lead the Church. After De Vocht was expelled in 1948, Father Ivan took over.
Father Ivan was arrested in January 1950. At the end of his show trial (something not uncommon at that time) he was found guilty of “spreading the Catholic Faith among the nations of the whole world and of making all Catholics” and “cooperating with anti-Soviet nationalistic organizations and anti-Soviet propaganda.” He was sentenced to ten years hard labor. Ziatyk served time in prison, first at Zolochiv in western Ukraine and then at Ozernyi prison near Irkutsk in Siberia. Like many other priests and religious who were imprisoned by the Soviet regime, Father Ivan endured frequent interrogations, various deprivations, and torture to persuade him to renounce his faith in Christ or at least abandon his Catholicism and convert to the state-sanctioned Orthodox Church. He refused to comply.
On Good Friday 1952, Father Ivan was drenched in water and beaten unconscious before being left outside in the Siberian cold. As a result of his injuries, he died a few days later and was buried. Father Ivan Ziatyk was officially recognized as a martyr and beatified in 2001.
Spiritual reading: My apostolate must be one of goodness. I must make people say when they see me: “This man is so good that his religion must be good.” If someone asks me why I am gentle and good, I must reply, “Because I serve one which is much better than I am. If only you knew how much better my Master, Jesus, is.” I want to be so good that people will say, “If that is the servant, how, then, is the Master?” (Charles de Foucauld)
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, Jesus continues his prayer to the Father. He asks the Father that his apostles, and by extension, that we, may completely share Jesus’ joy. He does not ask that we be removed from the world; instead he ask that God will shelter us from its evil influences. In doing so, Jesus asks the Father that we be dedicated to the truth.
A word about truth perhaps is in order. As I see it, truth is like a diamond. It has many facets. When you hold it up to the light and turn it, the light glances off the diamond in different ways; it is ever the same diamond, but it is perceived in different ways according to the place where the one who perceives stands. So we should not be too certain of our own truths as being the fullness of revelation. None of us is large enough to see what God sees. So it is that we live in an age that is increasingly comfortable with diversity. We pray with Jesus that in the midst of our diversity of cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, and practices, we always may recognize and honor, as Paul says to us in Ephesians, that there is but one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. I profess that the truth is Jesus Christ, the Word of God spoken in our hearts: how that one truth plays out in individual lives is still unfolding as the mystery of all our lives unfold.
Blessed be the God who keeps us in our diversity in God’s own truth.
Saint of the day: Isidore the farmer was born in about 1070 in Madrid. He was a pious farmer who was married to Saint Mary de la Cabeza. Their son died young; and they became convinced it was the will of God that they not have children; they lived together chastely the rest of their lives engaged in good works. Accused by fellow workers of shirking his duties by attending Mass each day and taking time out for prayers, Isidore claimed he had no choice but to follow the highest Master. One tale says that when his master came in the morning to chastise him for skipping work for church, he found angels plowing the fields in place of Isidore. Miracles and cures reported at his grave, in which his body remains incorruptible. He died on May 15, 1130 of natural causes.
Spiritual reading: Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. (M. Scott Peck)
Gospel reading of the day:
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.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: We read this gospel yesterday, and through a coincidence of the Sunday and weekday readings, we read it again today. It gives me opportunity to say a little more about love.
I am now 53. When I was a young man in his early 20s, I hit a very rough patch in my life, and I often was tempted to despair. Frankly, I often succumbed to the temptation without putting up any fight. I had had quite a good education for someone my age, but everything I had learned to that point, all this history, philosophy, and classical languages, was nothing the world was much interested in paying to have from me. I was fairly destitute, and I lived in something of a hovel: in fact, I think the government might have condemned the house if officials had had a reason to seek it out. One Friday night, I lay in my bed in the shambles I called home, full of melancholy, utterly disheartened, indulging an immense self-pity.
In the dark of my room, I felt this incredible warmth which was love coming down towards me on my bed. It had a shape, a weight, a force, and a purpose. I knew this shape, this weight, this force, this purpose was God, but I resisted the approach with everything in me. I threw the whole weight of my discouragement at this love which pressed insistently at me. But I was powerless: there was nothing I could do to not be loved. Love’s approach to me was like a man who brushes dust from his jacket. There was no violence; I never lost my freedom; but I couldn’t resist. God’s approach against all the despair I could muster was effortless. What could I do but give up and let love enfold me.
God’s love for you.
God’s love for me.
God’s love for Jesus’ mother.
God’s love for the crack addict in the alley.
God’s love for the hermit in the desert.
God’s love for the male prostitute in the hustler’s bar.
God’s love for the martyr walking to the gallows.
God’s love for the murderer on death row.
God’s love for the baby in the crib.
It is all the same love.
It is profligate and unfailing and gentle and unyielding. God loves all of us exactly the same. God loves everyone, no exceptions. God loves each one as though each one was the only one. God can’t help it: God would not be God if it were not so.
So it must be with us, for as John of Cross wrote, In the evening of our lives, we will be judged on love alone. Love profligately. Love without fail. Love gently. Love without yielding.
Saint of the day: According to Acts 1:15-26, during the days after the Ascension, Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (about 120 of Jesus’ followers). Now that Judas had betrayed his ministry, it was necessary, Peter said, to fulfill the scriptural recommendation: “May another take his office.” “Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22). They nominated two men: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. They prayed and drew lots. The choice fell upon Matthias, who was added to the Eleven. Matthias is not mentioned by name anywhere else in the New Testament.
Spiritual reading: The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. (Thomas Merton)
The disciples said to Jesus, “Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 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.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus tells us that in this world, we will have trouble, but that we should have courage because he has conquered the world. But Jesus has promised us that a day will come when he will wipe away every tear. When sorrow surrounds us, and we despair for our troubles, let us still remember that he already has borne the cost and, in this time in between, this already but not yet, what we are watching is how God wins God’s victory. Jesus already has conquered the world, and our troubles are shadows in the bright glow of his ultimate triumph.
Saint of the day: Juliana of Norwich was born in England in about 1342. Almost nothing is known of her early life; we don’t even know if she was from Norwich or chose to move there. She was a recluse under the direction of Benedictine monks in Norwich, England. A mystic, visionary, and writer, she was illiterate and dictated to a scribe. Her book, Revelations of Divine Love, which contains sixteen revelations she received while in an ecstatic trance, is still in print. Juliana meditated, spoke, and wrote on the power of love of evil, Christ’s Passion, and the nature of the Trinity. In her early 60s she shut herself in complete seclusion at Conisford, Norwich, and never left again. She died in about 1423.
Spiritual reading: God, of your goodness give me yourself, for you are enough for me, and I can ask for nothing which is less which can pay you full worship. And if I ask anything which is less, always I am in want; but only in you do I have everything. (Revelations of Divine Love by Dame Juliana of Norwich)