June 30, 2019
Fr. Joseph Jacobi
Today in Luke’s Gospel we begin the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. This section of Luke where Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem is a turning point. This journey will take us from the end of Chapter 9 to Chapter 19 in Luke, stretching into the 1st part of November and covering 19 Sundays in Ordinary Time. Jesus invites us to follow him so that we might be taken up with him into glory, but first we have much to learn and he has much to teach us.
First Jesus casts out the demon of violence from among us, teaching us that there will be no “fire from heaven” to consume those who are hostile to his presence. The first teaching along the road is that hospitality has to replace hostility.
Then there are 3 encounters Jesus has with 3 would-be-followers. These encounters reveal excuses that we can and do use for staying put, excuses for not changing our life to conform more fully to His life.
The first would-be-follower is overconfident, unaware that to truly follow Jesus means being “homeless” — that disciples of Jesus never set down roots in this world. Following Jesus means we are not going to fit in any usual camp. The liberals make no sense and the conservatives make no sense— only in living the life which Jesus preaches and lives do we find the way home to lasting rest.
The second encounter can be confusing because Jesus comes across as very harsh, “Let the dead bury their dead.” But we have to understand the cultural issue at play, because there is no indication that the father of this would-be-follower is dead. Even though the culture in which this encounter takes place might suggest a son postpone his own life until a father has died, Jesus proposes that sometimes following him may mean going against cultural expectations. In no way does Jesus deny here love and respect for parents. This is about cultural expectations which hinder discipleship, not about family life.
Then the last one comes with conditions which seem reasonable, but following the way of Jesus Christ does not work conditionally. It is all or nothing. There can be no distractions and no looking back. The eyes, the mind, the heart are all focused on one thing only, making the field of this world ready for God’s harvest, so dedication and commitment are required.
St. Paul, who dedicates himself completely to the way of Christ Jesus, who commits his entire being to proclaiming the Kingdom of God, shows us what prevents us from being “all in” as disciples of Jesus Christ.
He uses the term “flesh” for those things which lead us away from life with the Lord. We usually think of “flesh” only in terms of sexual sins. but Paul is talking about something much broader and much more deadly. Flesh suggests our inborn self-interested hostility to God, our unhealthy self-reliance and selfishness.
In other words, all those attitudes and actions which enslave us, which prevent us from giving ourselves totally to Jesus and to His Kingdom. If we were to read the rest of Chapter 5, contiuing on from where today’s reading ends, we would find Paul mentioning some of these things—idolatry, hatreds, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, envy and others (Galatians 5:19-21).
St. Paul is clear—Christ Jesus has set us free from these “sins of the flesh” that we might live a new life in the Spirit. When Paul speaks of the “Spirit”, he is referring to our new self in Christ, constituted by the presence of the Holy Spirit and governed by the Spirit’s power and action in us. The Spirit grants us new abilities, new capacities for relating to the world and to other people. Once again, if we read a little further along in Chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul describes the outcomes of living in the Spirit and from the Spirit, what he calls the “fruits of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
All of these fruits of a Spirit-filled life concern love of neighbor, which is the most important part of Paul’s teaching in today’s passage from Galatians. For Paul, the whole law, which would like saying all of religious practice, is fulfilled in one statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)
Earlier in this same passage, Paul makes clear that Christ Jesus has set us free, not to do whatever we want, but to serve one another through love. We have been given, in Christ, the real meaning of freedom— to generously and joyfully and faithfully love our neighbor.
As Paul focuses on the 2nd half of the one great commandment of Jesus– to love God with all we are is the first half & to love our neighbor is the 2nd half— takes us right back to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem in the Gospel of Luke. Two Sundays from now in this journey with Jesus up to Jerusalem, he will teach us how to put this commandment into practice with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37)
To inherit eternal life we must follow the commandment to love God and neighbor, but then the question becomes: “And who is my neighbor?” The answer from Jesus is the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which is the framework to what he teaches along the road to Jerusalem. It is this parable which is the key unlocking the heart of discipleship.
In this famous parable, Jesus does not answer the question “Who is my neighbor,” because he is not going to limit our loving to any one group or class of people. Instead the Good Samaritan shows us what it looks like to “be neighbor” to someone in need, to show mercy to a fellow human being who is hurting.
We are expected to share the merciful love of Jesus with others, and not limit it to only a few. This merciful love is meant to be shared with those we like and those we do not like, with those who are in and those who are out, with those who are legal and those who are illegal. For in the Kingdom of God, all people are equal.
To follow Jesus along the road to Jerusalem means we will be challenged to live and love differently. For either the Gospel changes our mind and heart, or it is not the Gospel. For either the Gospel is good news for the poor, or it is not the Gospel. For either the Gospel changes the world, or it not the Gospel.
Following Jesus on this journey to Jerusalem is the path to life, to fullness of joy in the presence of God, the way to be lifted up with Jesus to the delights at the right hand of the Father forever.
June 16, 2019
Deacon Bill Hough
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… This is how Father starts every Mass and is a perfect start today for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
My wife, Geri, and I were in the same Catholic school when we were young. We were talking about how the nuns taught us from the Baltimore Catechism – a book that was in a question and answer format. We would have to learn the answers for our religion class.
Of course, there were the questions about the Trinity – for instance, “What do we mean by the Trinity? By the Blessed Trinity we mean one and the same God in three Divine Persons”. It would go on to ask if the three Divine Persons are distinct from one another and if they are equal to one another – The answer, of course, is “Yes”.
Then came the best question, “Can we fully understand the Trinity?” The answer is no, it is a supernatural mystery, a truth which we cannot fully understand, but which we firmly believe because we have God’s word for it.
The Church struggled with the theology of the Trinity from the beginning. But with the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, held in the fourth century, the Church affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity. This is where we get the Nicene Creed, the profession of faith we recite at every Sunday Mass.
Human words will never be enough to describe the Trinity – we have words like “consubstantial with the Father” (de la misma naturaleza del Padre) and the Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”. We need a theologian to really explain these words and even then, we might not fully understand.
But we can come to know the Trinity by the actions of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The mystery of Christ coming into the world is a perfect example. Bishop Robert Barron reminds us that this could only happen if Jesus were sent by the Father as an act of (perfect) love.
He writes that, “The Father and the Son are united in love, and this love is itself the divine life. And thus, there is a spirit, co-equal to the Father and the Son, which is the love shared between them”.
The readings for today were chosen to reveal this love and unity.
In our first reading from Proverbs, we find the wisdom of God – there at the creation of the world – who was the witness of the creative power of God at work.
St. Paul tells the Romans that we Christians can even boast of our afflictions. He explains our source of hope. The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus makes it clear that everything that the Father has is His. The Spirit then will take from Christ all that is His and will declare to His disciples the things that are coming. The Spirit will invite the disciples into this community of divine relationship – the community of the love and unity of the one God in three persons.
Jesus invites us into that same relationship today.
The word “Trinity” is not found in Scripture but is one of the most important words for us Christians. It is the word the Church uses to describe God Himself. But it is much more than just a single word. It does three things for us.
First it tells us who God is – God the creator of all things, God the Redeemer who gave us His Body and Blood to save us, and God the Advocate who is with us today to guide us to the truth.
Second it tells us what God is – merciful, gracious, slow to anger, rich in kindness and fidelity, and most importantly, a God of unbroken and eternal love.
Third it tells us who we are and how we are required to act. Each of us – every woman and man – is made in the image of God and each of us is called to be like God – to live the divine life. Our relationship with all our brothers and sisters is to be the unconditional love and unity of the Trinity.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…
June 2, 2019
Fr. Joseph Jacobi
In my homily last Sunday, I spoke about a number of different ways to understand who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the love uniting Father and Son in the unity of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit also reminds us of all Jesus said and did.
The Holy Spirit is the source of unity, the bringer about of unity in times of conflict and division, as seen from the very beginning of the Church at the 1st Church Council in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit is also the gift of the peace of the Risen Lord. As the Risen Lord breathes on the disciples in that locked upper room, he says, “Peace be with you.” He gives them the Spirit, the gift of peace which the world cannot give.
Today, as we celebrate the wonderful mystery of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into glory, the Scriptures speak about the Holy Spirit as POWER! In Luke’s Gospel, before the Lord Jesus ascends into heaven, he comforts his disciples by saying they will be “clothed with power from on high.” This language at the end of Luke reminds us of the words of the archangel Gabriel at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel as Mary asks how it will happen that she will be the mother of the Son of God. Gabriel assures the Virgin Mary: “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Lk 1:35)
This power of God, this divine power, is given so we can be witnesses to the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus. How? By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be the love of God for others. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be a source of unity and the very presence of the Lord’s peace in our world.
The Lord Jesus ascends into glory to be seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven, so that the Holy Spirit might descend in power upon the followers of the Lord Jesus. The power of the Spirit draws us home to the Father, for where the Son of God has gone we are called to follow. For by baptism, we have been joined to Him as members of His Body. The Risen Christ is the head of the Body, the Church, so that where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope.
In his human body while he walked the earth in 1st century Palestine, Jesus could only be present to a limited number of people. But now, through the powerful gift of the Spirit, He can be present to all people of all places of all times. The most basic “task” of the Holy Spirit is to make the Risen Lord Jesus present. Where the Spirit it, Christ Jesus is. By the Spirit, we are joined to Him as members of the Body are joined to the Head.
By ascending into glory and taken His place at the right hand of the Father in heaven in his glorified human body, the Lord Jesus has taken with him all humanity into heaven. He has shown us the way home.
Nothing and no one else satisfies us except for the fullness of life with God in heaven. For we have been made by God out of love, and to love we are called to return. All of our life on this earth is simply a return home to the God who made us out of love and for love forever. The Lord Jesus has prepared the way for us and shown us our destiny.
The mystery of the Ascension is not something that happened in the past, but by the power of the Spirit is happening now as we join in the procession of humanity back home to the Father’s side.
By the power of the Spirit, we have the strength to make this journey home. Our life in the Spirit is nourished as we process to the altar to be joined to the Risen and Glorified Lord in Holy Communion. As we join in this Communion procession, we come to the Lord Jesus to surrender our lives more completely into His Hands, that He might lead us home by the power of the Spirit.
So that instead of living out of fear, we can live lives of joy. So that instead of holding on to our money and material things, we can share them generously. Because we know that this earth is not our home but our lasting home is with the Triune God in heaven where we will experience the fullness of life.