Mustard Seeds and Fathers
By Father Peter Iorio
I want to tell you a story about George. George used to work for one of the largest law firms in the world.
Several years ago, a colleague and George were driving home from a Cub Scout pinewood derby competition…While the van-full of boys played and laughed in the back seats, the coworker cleared his throat and broached a difficult subject.
“George, you are making a big mistake by leaving the law firm. Do you realize that?” He was referring to George’s decision to give six months’ notice of his resignation. “It’s not like you can just do whatever you want,” the man continued. “You have five children. You have a duty to give them the best life possible and to send them to the best universities they can get into. You are shirking your duty.”
George replied. “It wasn’t my idea. I never intended to cut back to less than twenty hours per week. My daughters pleaded that I quit.”
It was true. For the last two years that he had balanced twenty hours per week as a lawyer with an equal amount of time serving men dying of AIDS and cancer. This was a dramatic change from his life as a lawyer who lived on airplanes, opening accounts all over the country and working eighty to ninety hours a week.
But then the Gulf War hit. His part-time legal work suddenly exploded, and soon George was back to his old schedule.
About six weeks after he started working over time again, his sixth-grade daughter disappeared from school: she simply wasn’t there one afternoon when we went to pick her up. They looked for her for over two hours and finally contacted the police. Later she was found by a friend walking alone on a roadside, crying. Her explanation was simple: “Dad, when you were gone all the time, it didn’t matter. But now I’ve gotten used to you being here, and I can’t take it. I want you to quit being a lawyer.”
First he tried to get his ninth grade daughter to talk some sense into her younger sister, but it didn’t work. She agreed with her completely.
Then he put it all down on paper for them to contemplate – to show them just how stiff the economic consequences would be: George made clear what money made by his lawyer’s job would pay for – your own clothes, car, gas, insurance, yearbooks, prom, college, trips, etc. It didn’t matter. His daughters wanted their daddy.
As his colleague was bringing the van to a stop at a red light, he said impatiently, “Look. You’re shirking your responsibility!” A few moments passed before George said gently,”I disagree. And I bet, in your heart of hearts, that you do, too.”
Today we hear the famous parables of spreading seeds on the ground and hidden under the earth brings forth a rich harvest. Jesus also exalts the mustard seed. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” When I was in the Holy Land in February, as we were driving along the Dead Sea, our guide pointed out the mustard plant. It really was a huge bush, which I liken to the size of a crepe myrtle, although without flowers.
How does God tend to work? What does the building up of the Kingdom typically look like? From the very small to the very great—and usually by a slow, gradual process. God seems to operate under the radar, on the edge of things, Quietly, clandestinely, not drawing attention to himself. God’s kingdom is quietly advancing, unnoticed usually, inevitably.
CS Lewis asked, how did the son of man come into the world? The answer: Quietly, in a dusty forgotten corner of the Roman Empire, sneaking, as it were, behind enemy lines. God did not and does not come as a great hero or a powerful king or leader. God enters the world humbly, quietly.
And when the Son of God was growing up, he was basically unknown as he grew in wisdom and grace. He lived simply in the family with Mary and Joseph teaching him and caring for him.
The Christian story continues with numerous examples of the advancement of the kingdom of God. Just when you think it is going to die out, the kingdom keeps coming back, maybe like those weeds that keep growing and keep spreading.
From quiet unnoticed beginnings, great things emerge. Bishop Barron calls it the mustard seed principle.
It is easy to look at the big picture, of all the terrible and troubling things that are happening in this world. It is more difficult to see as God sees. We remember what St. Paul says in the second reading today: as Christians, we walk by faith and not by sight. My friends, the kingdom of God is advancing whether you see it or not. The kingdom of God is within you and among us. Do not despair. Have hope and stay the course. Be patient and trust God. And yes, do your part to cultivate the seed of God’s Kingdom within you, nourishing it with the sacramental life and doing small acts of love in the family and with every neighbor you encounter.
George, whose story I told about leaving his lucrative job as an attorney to spend more time with his family trusted God enough to know that the fruits of his vocation as a father would come about through the quantity of special time hidden in family life. On this Father’s Day weekend, we wish all of our fathers, grandfathers, godfathers and those like fathers to us a special thank you. We will ask God to continue to bless you at the end of Mass.
To Tell the Truth
By Father Pete Iorio
Maybe you have had a situation like this in the family. Mom gets and finds a broken lamp on the floor. She does not need to ask how. She knows her children have been playing in the house in ways forbidden to them. More than likely, mom also knows the culprit before she evens starts her detective work.
Mom approaches the most likely suspect –– and asks, “How did the lamp get broken?” First response is usually the claim of ignorance, “I don’t know.” Mom knows better and persists, “Who did it? Did you?” The second response tries to deflect the blame, “No, Jimmy (the little brother) did it!” Mom’s third interrogative requires a new tactic, “Are you telling me the truth?” Knowing he is not, the third defense is sure: “He made me!”
Young people, I especially encourage you to build your lives on a foundation of truth. It will serve you well as you grow into adulthood. Remember that the truth is much more valuable than a lamp. Truth telling is important for all relationships.
In the first reading from the book of Genesis, we see that no one accepts blame for evil. The man blames the woman, and the woman blames the serpent. It is important to note that the serpent is not the devil. The book of Genesis tells us that “the serpent is the most cunning of all the animals that God created.”
So the serpent represents the Tempter. We can think about the serpent today as money, power, riches, greed, oppression and ignorance or indifference of the needs of our brothers and sisters. And as in the history of the Fall, today no one accepts blame for evil. WE think of all the excuses given by those who committed crimes. They say that it is because of poverty, abuse suffered from childhood, a mental state, pressures from a job, the injustice of the court system. But the reality is that each one of us is culpable for the evil that we do. God has given us the freedom to choose, and many times, we choose evil.
In the Gospel, we encounter the theme of evil as well. There are people wanting to hear Jesus that they follow him to his house and don’t let him eat. But there is another group, scribes, masters of the law, who are bothered by his teaching and cures and they have arrived from Jerusalem to confront him. This second group cannot or does not want to hear that Jesus is truly acting with the power of God. This group only believes that they alone are capable of interpreting the will of God. Jesus was not following their way. Jesus preached compassion and inclusion and put himself in contact with those that the masters of the law considered sinners. So they bullied him.
The scribes blaspheme him, charging that he is possessed by Beelzebul. You know, in cases like this, the basic problem is always the fearful ego. Ego-addicts know that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. If you want to protect the ego and its prerogatives, you must oppress and demoralize those around you.
There is a very unsubtle version of this method: you attack, put down, insult, and undermine those around you. This is the method of the bully. But the religious version is much subtler and thus more insidious and dangerous. It takes the Law itself—especially the moral law—and uses it to accuse and oppress. “I know what’s right and wrong; I know what the Church expects of us; and I know that you are not living up to it.”
And so I accuse you; I gossip about you; I remind you of your inadequacy. Mind you, this is not to condemn the legitimate exercise of fraternal correction or the office of preaching and teaching. But it’s a reminder to not be sucked into the slavery of ego addiction. We must stay alert to this and avoid it at all costs.
In that time, in the mentality of the scribes, Satan takes possession of individuals: the sick, sinners, deaf, lepers and many more. They want to avoid contact with Satan so they avoid contact with such persons. But Jesus teaches that God is more powerful that Satan. Jesus seeks out such persons to cure them and reintegrate them into the human community. Jesus sees them as children of a compassionate and merciful God. He knows that God loves them and extends his power to include them once more in the family of God.
We have a gift in the sacrament of reconciliation. The priest – in the person of Jesus Christ – lovingly hears the honest truth about a person’s sins.
Christ never fails to offer us love and mercy, which is forgiveness. This restores us to right relationship with God and also members of His Body, the Church.
By Deacon Don Griffith
A mystery of sacrifice. As we heard in the gospel, At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity , a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us(SC 47). The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory—It atones for sins. (CCC 1366).
A mystery of presence. As many of you know, I was not raised catholic. When I attended Mass, the priest would say The mystery of Faith and the people would reply with various responses- but usually with Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. We no longer say that acclamation, but for me at that time, I thought yes, every Christian believes that He died, that He rose, and that He will come again and that’s a part of the mystery of faith. But after reading Mysterium Fidei, which was about the Eucharist, I was intrigued, and then learning that these ancient words are part of the words of consecration in the extraordinary form of the one Roman Rite, and through much prayer and Fear-especially the first time I knelt before Our Lord in the Adoration Chapel eventually, with God’s help, I came to understand that the priest in saying these words is not just giving us a cue to respond, but he proclaims the mystery being celebrated and expresses his wonder before the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding. (Sac Car 6). It is a great mystery for we believe something other than what is perceived “That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that ‘cannot be apprehended by the senses,’ says St. Thomas, ‘but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.(CCC1381). In his hymn he says Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived; How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed; What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do; Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true. St. John Chrysostom says “Let us submit to God in all things and not contradict Him, even if what He says seems to contradict our reason and intellect; let His word prevail over our reason and intellect. (Myst Fid 17). St. Thomas tells us a man by the name of Berengarius was the first to deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He was given an oath to profess to correct his error. This was about 1079. From the Apostles to the Fathers through Apostolic Succession to our day by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has always been the catholic faith.
A mystery of communion. Listen to the words of the Eucharistic prayer III- the other prayers carry a similar request: grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ. This is a fruit of communion. St. JPII says Those who feed on Christ in the Eucharist need not wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life: they already possess it on earth, as the first-fruits of a future fullness. The pledge of the future resurrection comes from the fact that the flesh of the Son of Man, given as food, is his body in its glorious state after the resurrection. With the Eucharist we digest, as it were, the “secret” of the resurrection (EE18). It may be the case among some of us in an ecumenical marriage or who may on occasion attend the protestant services of friends or family or they attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and we encounter perhaps the difficulty that arises between an open communion and a closed communion. I have experienced it in my own family. It may sound odd that the sacrament of love and sign of unity not be offered to everyone. As we hear in the Scriptures- there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, as also there is one bread, one cup, one bride, one body, one church. The celebration of the Eucharist, however, cannot be the starting-point for communion; it presupposes that communion already exists, a communion which it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection. The sacrament is an expression of this bond of communion both in its invisible dimension, which, in Christ and through the working of the Holy Spirit, unites us to the Father and among ourselves, and in its visible dimension, which entails communion in the teaching of the Apostles, in the sacraments and in the Church’s hierarchical order. Also, I remind you that even if there is an open communion at a service where we are visiting, Catholics may not receive communion in those communities which lack a valid sacrament of Orders (EE 46). I say this to you to confirm you in your Catholic faith and out of love and respect for our separated brothers and sisters who have a right to our witness to the truth (EE 46). I have tried to give some beginnings on which to meditate and enter more deeply into the great inexhaustible mystery of the Eucharist: a mystery of sacrifice, a mystery of presence, a mystery of communion, a mystery to be believed, a mystery to be celebrated, a mystery to be lived.(Sacramentum Caritatis, Compedium on the Eucharist).
Being the Body of Christ
By Deacon Mike Jacobs
After Pentecost we celebrate Trinity Sunday. This reminds us that the Holy Spirit came to form us into a community which is in the image of the Trinity. We all share in the one divine life of God and we are called to become one in understanding, love and desire as the Father, the Son and the Spirit are one. We are a Church called to be a spiritual community, one whose primary focus is on achieving union of mind and will and heart with God and with each other.
Then we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi. This reminds us that the Holy Spirit is sent to form us into a sacramental community, which means much more than just a community which gives and receives divine life through the seven sacraments.
Life given through a sacrament is always divine life given through a human action – a physical act of the Body of Christ on earth. God can give grace without using any human instrument, just by enlightening our minds with truth and moving our hearts by love. But when God gives grace through the sacraments, it is always through the words and gestures of Christ’s visible, the human body on earth. In the Church Jesus continues to speak with a human voice, to touch with human hands, to be present to us humanly, interacting in flesh and blood. To be a sacramental Church means to be the Body of Christ on earth and to accept what it means to be and to live as his Body.
The key to this and to all the sacraments is the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. All the other sacraments either prepares us to receive the Eucharist and its graces — as Baptism, Reconciliation and Confirmation do — or they strengthen us to live as Eucharist ourselves; that is as the Body of Christ offered and given for the life of the world. Matrimony and Holy Orders empower us to “die to ourselves” in love by a committed sharing of all that we are, like bread that is broken, in the community of family or of Church. Anointing of the Sick empowers us to face the trials of sickness and death as Jesus himself did. The sacrament of the sick either overcomes sickness by healing it as Jesus did in his ministry or overcome death by strengthening us to surrender to it in triumph as Jesus did on the cross.
The effect of Eucharist is to “change us into what we receive” (St. Leo the Great). And what we become is the Body of Christ specifically offered in love and sacrificed for the world. Four times before Communion Jesus is presented to us in the Eucharist as the “Lamb of God” the victim offered to take away the sins of the world. It is this Jesus which we deliver ourselves to become when we receive him in Communion. The Eucharist “is daily before our eyes as a representation of the passion of Christ. We hold it in our hands, we receive it in our mouths, and we accept it on our hearts.” (St. Gaudentius)
To be a Eucharistic Church is to be a Church of priests offering themselves in Christ and with Christ as victims for the life of the world. This is something we do, not just when we physically die, but every day, every time we die to our own gratification, our own preferences, our own desires, to give ourselves in love and service to others. More deeply we “die to ourselves” when we die to our fears, our compulsions, to all that holds us back from the total sharing of ourselves with others in love. As the Body of Christ, sharing in his mission on earth as sharers in his divine life, we share with other people our faith, our gifts of ministry, and our material resources. We give expression to the faith, the hope, and the love that are within us by grace. We let Jesus continue to express himself humanly in and through our human actions. This is what it is to be the Body of Christ and to be offered as Eucharist for the life of the world.
When I see your great Majesty hidden in so small a thing as the Host, I cannot but marvel at your great wisdom. If you did not conceal your grandeur, who would dare to come to You so often, to unite with Your Majesty as soul so stained and miserable? Be forever blessed, O Lord! May the angels and all creatures praise you for having deigned to adapt your mysteries to our weakness, so that we might enjoy Your treasures without being frightened by Your infinite power? Otherwise, poor, weak creatures like ourselves would never dare to approach You. “How would I, a poor sinner, who have so often offended You, dare to approach You, O Lord if I beheld You in Your Majesty? Under the appearances of bread, it is easy to approach you, as a king disguising himself. If You were not hidden, O Lord who would dare to approach you with such coldness, so unworthily and with so many imperfections?
“Besides, I cannot doubt your real presence in the Eucharist. You have given me such a lively faith that, when I hear others say they wish they had been living when you were on earth, I laugh to myself, for I know that I posses you as truly in the Blessed Sacrament as people did then and I wonder what more anyone could possibly want.” (St Teresa of Avila)
By Deacon John Hackett
As I prepared my homily today on this Body & Blood Sunday concerning the Eucharist Meal, my mind drifted back to 2 different scenes I had enjoyed in the past – each one very different in character, yet basically the same.
In one, (from an old “Touched by an Angel” TV show), eyes once again lit up with youth, reflecting the glow of candlelight. I watched liver-spotted hands embrace across a sea of white linen. The man said, “Imagine…we’ve been married fifty years, and I am still as excited as the first time I took you to dinner.” And on another occasion, at another meal, this time after one of my young son’s baseball games as hands grabbed hot dogs and buns. Teammates pushed each other around as they grabbed for the ketchup and mustard. There were noisy smacks & much conversation as the sun was going down. “You know, there’s nothing quite like a barbecue after a game like that,” said the coach.
As I look back, I think the philosopher Epicurus was right: “It is not what we eat, but with whom we eat – even when alone – that makes all the difference. Eating is more importantly an opportunity for the union of souls. When we feast, even on simple food with those we love, somehow we become closer, part of one another. Not long ago me and another member of a parish I was serving in at the time, sat down at table for “sweets” with another family of the parish at their home. It was just simple food…but it was so much more than that.
And when we break bread with strangers, they are no longer alien to us. Those with whom we eat transform us as much, if not more than the food we eat, into something life-giving. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus is doing on an even deeper level in Mark’s gospel today and at every Eucharist we celebrate? Mark takes that meal which defines the Hebrews, (the Passover), and fractures it only to reconstitute it again with new meaning. The God who drew the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt now desires to free all women and men from sin and fear of death & to establish an unprecedented covenant of life, a new family, with all who believe in God.
But now notice on what level Jesus makes this offer. He offers his disciples more than the opportunity to eat with him; he insists on inviting them, inviting us, to “eat himself.” Remember…While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them and said, “’Take it; this is my body. …This is my blood.’” He desires so deep a union with those with whom he eats that he proclaims Himself the very food we eat, the very drink we drink.
You know, we all hunger and thirst for that deep inside. So intent is Jesus’ love for us that he gives his flesh for the life of the world. No distance is allowed. Those who eat this bread and drink this cup really and truly partake of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus who offers Himself as food that we may become one in him. As St. Paul proclaims: “We, many though we are, are one body for we all partake of the one loaf.” Understanding what Jesus offers, (understanding why we have gathered around this altar to celebrate today), conjures up at least three consequences.
First, unlike any other meal, the food we share in the Eucharist does not become us, we become the food! Where is the body of Christ today, if not enfleshed in our bodies? Where is the blood of Christ, if not pulsing though our veins? When we say, “amen” to the Eucharistic minister when he declares: “Body of Christ,” are we not actually saying, “Yes, this is who I am. This is who we are”? When we drink his blood,
are we not recognizing the ways in which our lives flow, one into the other in love? Unfortunately we won’t when we celebrate this sacrament, until we realize that we become its very mystery.
But that consequence brings us to two further truths. First, when we celebrate this sacrament we unite ourselves with Christ in a sacrifice of absolute adoration to the Father. We enter through the gates of Calvary into a perfect tabernacle wherein we have received redemption. – the future is now. Our offering is greater than the praises chanted by the choirs of angels and the intercessions pled constantly by the saints. For we join them in Christ to present God to God in a worship that unites all creation in praising the glory of God.
And such worship entails a final consequence. Like the Lord Jesus, we then offer ourselves as saving bread for one another. Like Jesus, we pour forth ourselves as live-giving blood for each other’s sake. When the bread is broken we are broken so that we may nourish one another. As Oswald Chambers, the famous devotional writer so aptly declares: “We become broken bread and poured out wine” for the other. When the cup is poured so that all may drink, we are poured out in lives of loving service. There is no holding back, no putting reality into safe categories from which we can stand back as silent observers. This meal insists that our lives be spent in giving life to each other and to the world we touch. It was none other than St. Augustine who famously declared about the Eucharist:… “It is your own mystery that you receive. Say amen to what you are!”
Now Augustine was in no way denying the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic. But for him the consecration of the bread and wine was but one half of the mystery; the other half, (the transformation of people), was what especially concerned him, drawing upon St. Paul’s comment in 1st Corinthians: Paul says: “We, being many, are one bread, one body.” Augustine was fascinated by the dual meaning Paul gave the term “Body of Christ”…That body was, on the one hand, the people of God, and on the other hand, the Eucharistic bread. Thus Augustine could assert bluntly: And I quote: “The mystery that you are lies there on the table; it is your own mystery that you receive.” For Augustine the Body of Christ was simultaneously: sanctified people and sanctified bread. He encapsulated this in one of his most memorable aphorisms: Be what you see, and receive what you are
In his Easter Sermon, 227, St. Augustine exhorts: “If we receive the Eucharist worthily, we become what we receive.” And in receiving Christ, we become one body in him, and through him, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Through receiving the Eucharist, we enter into a unique and personal relationship with the Trinity and with one another, the Body of Christ. We become what we eat.
So there you have it. In ending, say amen to what you are: The body of Christ. The blood of Christ. And if you, (and me,) have eaten rightly, we will become the food, (the body & the blood), we share here today!
Divine Circle Dance of Love
By Father Peter Iorio
Did you see the royal wedding last weekend? An event like that seems to catch the attention and fascination of us Americans. I did not get up before the crack of dawn on Saturday, May 19 to watch it, but I did go to the Internet and watch the sermon which was delivered by Bishop Michael Curry, an African-American Episcopalian from Chicago. It is definitely worth 14 minutes to watch. First of all, it was interesting to see the coming together of cultures-the prim and proper very elegant English royalty and their reaction or lack thereof to the fiery preaching style of the African-American. Very different from what they are used to in the Archbishop of Canterbury. Bishop Curry did evoke smiles and laughter in response even if he didn’t get a vocal “Amen” from anyone in the crowd. Most of all, it is worth looking at because the message is right on. He preached on the power of love. Not just sentimental love that brought a man and woman together in holy matrimony, but the fire of God’s desire to be intimately involved in our world.
I mentioned last weekend but not to you all at the 10 am Mass that “dynamis” is the Greek word for “power.” In our language, we have the word “dynamite” which is powerful stuff that causes a reaction. We have the word “dynamic” which indicates someone or something who has the power to be able to cause a reaction. Bishop Curry is a dynamic public speaker as you can see the power in him when he speaks because he moves around and is able to evoke changes of people’s hearts and minds.
My friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the very nature of God: dynamic, powerful and this essence is captured in a seemingly very bland theological term –“The most holy Trinity.”
Trinity describes the very heart of the nature of God. And yes, God is love! In order to have love, you need a plurality of persons. And Love has power. Love is dynamic; it is not static. Love is all about relationships. We believe in one God and there are three persons in this one God.
That is what brother Elias Marechal, a monk at the monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia wrote: “The very mystical Cappadocian fathers of the fourth century who lived in what is now eastern Turkey developed highly sophisticated thinking on what we call the Trinity. They depict the trinity as a round dance: an infinite current of love streams without ceasing, to and fro, to and fro, to and fro: gliding from the father to the son, and back to the father, in one timeless happening. This circular current of Trinitarian love continues night and day… The orderly and rhythmic process of subatomic particles spinning around and round at immense speed echoes it’s dynamism.” God is not a distant, static monarch but a divine circle dance. In Greek the word is Perichoresis. “Peri” means “around.” A periscope rises from a submarine and allows you to look around from beneath the waters. “Choresis” means “dance.” Choreography is the presentation of dance.
This divine dance of the three persons of the Holy Trinity is not closed. It is open for everyone. It is inclusive. This is the image of God that is imprinted in every human being, made in the image and likeness of God. We are meant to be in relationship.
Our Gospel for Trinity Sunday is taken from the very end of Matthew’s Gospel. The risen and glorified Lord speaks to the new Israel of the Church: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This is not an ordinary prophet speaking. This is the very Word of the Father, the exact replica of the Father’s being. Jesus then tells them to go forth and to do the work of gathering in, of drawing people into the very dynamics of the divine life.
And this divine dance is embedded in creation itself. God is the life force of everything. God is not standing on the sidelines, always critiquing which things belong and which things do not belong. The Trinitarian model always reveals God as involved in all of human life.
The triune God allows you, and impels you, to live easily with God everywhere and all the time: in the budding of a plant, the smile of a gardener, the excitement of teenager over a new girlfriend or boyfriend, the tireless determination of a research scientist, the pride of a mechanic over his hidden work under the hood, the nuzzling of puppies, the tenderness which birds feed their chicks, and the downward flow of every mountain stream. And yes, this God is found even in the suffering and death of those very things. How could this not be the life energy of God? We often see movies and books about Jesus. A few years ago, a book and subsequently a movie came out called The Shack. It depicts this essence of God who is Trinity.
Mystery is not something that you cannot understand-it is something that you can endlessly understand. There is no point at which you can say, “I’ve got it.” Always and forever, mystery gets you!
Our speaking of God is a search for analogies and metaphors. All theological language is an approximation, offered tentatively in holy awe. That is the best that human language can achieve. Mystery is the realm of transcendence and we must maintain a fundamental humility before the Great Mystery. That is why we Catholics love ritual which is divine action/participation in the divine dance which does not use precise words that always enlighten the mind, but we are invited to participate in the divine dance of life. Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between three-a circle dance of love.
In the Trinitarian God, we live and move and have our being…So let us go forth in the power of God’s love and become more aware of our relatedness to one another and to all of God’s dynamic Creation.
The Spirit Gives Us Power to Overcome Fear
by Father Peter Iorio
We have always done it this way. Have you ever heard that phrase? Have you ever said that phrase to someone expecting that the “tried and true” way of the organization is the way it will always be done, and God forbid you try to change it? I will always remember what Sister Madeline told me about 27 years ago. These are the 7 deadliest words in the convent: We have always done it this way.
By acknowledging that change is inevitable, we can at the same time appreciate the value of ritual which roots us to sacred truth and also to be open to transformation.
Today we celebrate God the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Pentecost means fifty and today is the fiftieth day after the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Pentecost is recognized as the Birthday of the Church because the disciples went forth to all parts of the world to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ Risen from the Dead, thus establishing His Church.
In the second reading for this evening, Paul acknowledges that the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. [In the Gospel the disciples are locked in a room because they are afraid.] What is our weakness? When it comes to weakness in faith, I submit that a weakness of most humans, most Christians is fear.
Fear is a weakness that keeps us isolated, closed in on ourselves. Fear stifles growth.
A priest friend of mine said that he did not know whether he could do prison ministry. He was afraid he would not be good at it; that the inmates would not accept him. I shared with him what I learned about the courage to try something new as I responded to God’s call at different times of my own life.
As I reflect on my own faith journey, I realize that I was a very fearful person. I still am to a degree. The Holy Spirit gives me the courage to respond to God’s will. I felt called to the priesthood when I was in high school. I am basically a shy person by nature and I feared getting up and speaking in front of people. I was afraid that I could not minister as a priest to so many different kinds of people since I was inexperienced. And God said: Do not be afraid. I am with you.
So just after my first two years in a parish and getting used to priestly ministry, the bishop asked me to go to teach and minister in a Catholic high school. I did not feel that I could relate to teens and also how would the faculty who taught me at that school relate to me as a colleague? Once again, I prayed through my fears and did that ministry for four years. Then I got a call to work in the seminary to teach young men how to be priests. I was only six years ordained. What did I know? Through a powerful retreat experience, God told me through the Scriptures and a simple homily at the retreat house, that I needed to be fearless and faithful like Abram and go to a new land and ministry that God was showing me.
There are other examples that I shared with my priest friend, and he appreciated the insight. And I hope you get the picture. When God calls you to something new and unknown, do not be afraid. Trust that your life is not about you. Trust that God, the Holy Spirit is inside you and on your side. The Holy Spirit transforms our lives …helping us, always to live in a fuller way, a deeper way, a richer way. Each one of those experiences helped me to grow and to do Christ’s work. I am humbly grateful to God for those experiences. They were not always easy, but through the challenges, the Body of Christ was being built up. Through these experiences, my confidence (literally “with faith”) grew stronger.
When Paul speaks of the Spirit, he uses the Greek word “dynamis” which is power. We have the word dynamite, which is pretty powerful stuff. If someone is dynamic, they don’t put you to sleep but motivate others to do something for the good.
I believe by experience that there is power in sharing our personal stories. No matter who you are, God the Spirit is present in you. If the dynamic power of God is in you, then your life is a witness just as the first apostles witnessed to Jesus. I just spent the last two days at the Holy Friendship Summit, Healing the Heart of Southern Appalachia. We heard great speakers talking about the opioid crisis and how to work together as Christians to address it.
One of the themes that came out repeatedly is that there is a stigma (a type of fear) in our churches. People, good Christian people are afraid and sometimes judgmental of our brothers and sisters in crisis. We do not reach out to them in love as Christ commands us to…Remember “we have always done it this way.” What touched my heart the most was to hear the personal stories of three people who had the courage to tell the story of their lives and the power of transformation through Christ.
Each in some way had hit bottom, even serving time in jail. One young man had a sports injury and got addicted to the narcotics prescribed for pain after surgery. He was vulnerable enough to tell his story and encourage us to reach out to people like him. I know that there have been funerals in this very church of parishioners who have died from opioids. In the first letter of John 4:18 it says: “there is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out all fear.” God the Holy Spirit is Love that casts out fear and empowers us to bring healing and companionship and hope to others who have little or no hope.
One speaker gave a great talk on a life that flourishes. He said that two elements are needed in a person for a life that flourishes. One comes from strength and the other weakness. He said the first element is authority: a capacity for meaningful action. And the second may be shocking because we consider it weakness, but it is vulnerability: exposure to meaningful risk. If you have high vulnerability and high capacity for meaningful action, your life is flourishing. This is based on the life of Christ. It is a paradox of opposites. We like the authority part, but we are not so sure of being vulnerable. Authority without vulnerability leads to control and exploitation. The worst case scenario is withdrawal which is low authority and low vulnerability.
[What strikes me in the Gospel (Sunday) is that there was no spirit yet because He was not yet glorified. That glorification would only come after his suffering and death on the cross. Christ’s glorification indicated by his “glorious wounds” happened in his resurrection. So too for us… if we review our life stories, and they are all different, if we pay attention this pattern of glorification: suffering and then rising to new life is present.]
This Mass for the Feast of Pentecost refers to different languages and the power of the Spirit that breaks down barriers of incomprehension. One of the God given gifts that I have is the ability to speak 4 languages and bits and phrases of a few others. Once again, God is calling me to be courageous and work towards the unity of the Body of Christ right here in this parish.
We call the Church the Body of Christ. Paul says that we are all members of the Body. We have different gifts/functions and all are needed. The body is not whole until all of the members are present and active. When one member suffers, we all suffer. When one member rejoices, we all rejoice. Those of you in Christ renews his parish experience Church in this way, a living dynamic Body of Christ with many members who are very different. You are not afraid to be vulnerable and share your stories. There is no stigma in past sins. The Holy Spirit is at work creating you anew, helping you to flourish and to have holy friendships in Christ.
The Holy Spirit is alive and bringing forth changes. Let us not be afraid to say YES to God wherever Christ is inviting us to do something new to build up His Kingdom of Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Self-control, Chastity, Generosity, Modesty, Patience and Goodness.