Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sharing in God's Threefold Love

From the Catholic Liturgy for Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018. Readings: Rom. 8:14-17, MT. 28:16-20. Theme: Sharing in God’s Threefold Love

This Sunday is called in the liturgy, Trinity Sunday, a time for us to ponder the #1 central dogma of Christianity:  that the One True God is a plurality of persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a was made know by Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, when he came among us.  And the words we heard him speak in today’s Gospel about this mystery of the Trinity is where we find it most clearly taught, it is also where we come to know their names. We won’t find any explanation in the Scriptures of HOW this can be true…but we DO find in them WHY it can be true. Once we accept the word of Scripture that says, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8) then it can begin to make a bit of sense to us that there must be more than one Person who is Divine. The reason being that love is relational. It happens only within a communion or fellowship of persons.  

And so, we see how fitting it is that our Faith teaches us that the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father, and this mutual love, being divine, is so perfect and so powerful that it brings forth yet another person, the Holy Spirit.  And even more-so, this divine love goes out of itself and spills over to others, and so the Scriptures teach us that the God who is love reaches out to us.  The Trinity brings us into their threefold love relationship and enables us to actually share in it.  Our intimate relationship with the Trinity begins with Baptism.
It completely changes us from the inside out and elevates us from being simply creatures of God and makes us the very children of God. We see this beautifully proclaimed in today’s second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which reminds us that we live in a family-relationship with the Trinity through the Holy Spirit of Love, the Spirit of our Adoption.  Jesus taught us to call God the Father Abba – which in his Aramaic language doesn’t just mean Father but actually means the much more affectionate title of Daddy or Papa.  Never before or since, in any of the world religions has God been spoken of in such personal and intimate terms. 
Now, imagine what this means for each one of us when we accept and live the truth that we have been made real members of the family of the Trinity.  

It means that through Baptism you and I become totally new persons. We are reborn, rejuvenated from the inside out by being washed completely free of sin and filled with the life and love of the Trinity which we call grace. Even more-so, there is no distinction between us and Christ the only begotten Son. This is why the Church teaches that when a person comes up out of the baptismal font, God the Father says to him/her what he said to Jesus in the Jordan River, “you are my beloved, I delight in you.”

It means that through Baptism you and I are given a fresh start, a totally new life in God’s eyes. No matter what we may have done in the past, no matter what our sins and selfishness may have been like, it is all gone and forgotten. Baptism washes it all away and the good news is that the Sacrament of Confession gives us this very same total-forgiveness and fresh start if we happen to sin seriously after our baptism.

It means that through Baptism you and I enjoy forever an irrevocable relationship with each Person of the Trinity. God is forever our Abba-Father. Jesus is forever our Brother who remains by our side no matter what. And the Holy Spirit is forever our bond of love with the Father and the Son, as well as with all others who are the adopted into the family of God.  Elsewhere in his Letter to the Romans St. Paul reminds us that absolutely nothing in creation can separate us from this love-relationship with God. This is why we Catholics never ever tire of reminding ourselves that we share in God’s threefold-love by beginning and ending every prayer in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The 3 P's of the Ascension

From the Catholic Liturgy for Ascension Sunday, May 13, 2018. Acts 1:1-11, Mk 16:15-20. Theme: The 3 P’s of the Ascension

Jesus’ parting words, his farewell instructions that we heard in today’s first reading are vitally important to us today.  He spoke of God’s Promise of the Holy Spirit, of the power the disciples would receive once the Spirit fell upon them, and how they would give witness to Him with this power once the day of Pentecost came.  Those very words are spoken to each one of us as well and we can make them real and meaningful in our lives as Christians, if we remember those three key terms: Promise, Power, Pentecost.

PROMISE.  In the Old Testament God Promised  that one day he would pour out and immerse his people in the Holy Spirit, and that this immersion would make us spiritually new people, with a new way of living, a new way of looking ta life, a new way of being and loving. That’s what Jesus was referring to when he said, “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  The word ‘baptized’ means “to be immersed in something, to be spiritually cleansed, purified and made new.”  That happened to each one of us at our baptism and is meant to be lived out every day, if our hearts are open and eager for this Promised Gift.

POWER. We all know what power means. It is the ability, energy and strength to do something beyond our normal capacities.  So, why will the Holy Spirit give us this power? What are we supposed to do with it?  We find the answer in Jesus’ words that we are to be His witnesses. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives those who trust in Him the ability to work signs and wonders in His Name, so as to show how faith in Him can change lives. He tells us this in today’s Gospel when He says at his Ascension that signs will accompany those who believe…they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover….”
PENTECOST.  Jesus said that this power and witness mission would take place on and after the day we call Pentecost, which is the third P to remember, because Jesus wants each one of us to have a personal Pentecost in our own lives. He wants to make God’s Promise real in each of our lives.  He wants to pour out the power of the Holy Spirit in each of our lives.  He wants to make each one of us his witness among those with whom we live, work and socialize.

Perhaps you have trouble believing that this Promise and this Power apply to you and to me? Maybe it all sounds too incredible or like something reserved just for canonizable saints? That’s what Andrew Laubacher thought as well. He grew up in Ventura and was a typical southern California guy. He attended Catholic grade school then begged to be sent to public high school so that he would not have to “deal with” Catholic rules.  He was a surfer, partier, and in trouble with the law. But Andrew had a conversion experience on a retreat and his experience that I am going to share with you happened just a few years ago when he was 22 years old.  He now travels the world as a musician and lay Catholic speaker giving witness to Jesus Christ.  Let me tell you his true story. You can confirm this story online and visit his website if you wish

(If you want to hear the story you need to listen to the audio homily)

Because of those 3 P’s (Promise, Power and Pentecost) Andrew’s life has been totally changed, utterly transformed.  Jesus now wants to do the same for you and for me…and through today’s liturgy he calls us to spend this coming week between today’s Ascension Sunday and next week’s Pentecost Sunday in prayer and pondering, asking for that baptism in the Holy Spirit and opening our hearts to the power that it brings for his glory and honor.