And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord…

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor. But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord who is Spirit.

2 Cor 2:12-18

Note: This is not the normal reflection on the readings of the week, targeted to young people, but rather on the return to public liturgy, and the writing is geared toward adults.

The Book of Exodus tells of Moses interceding on behalf of the Israelites. In response to Moses’ prayer, God renews His covenant with the Israelites. God promises all He will do to protect Israel and give them the Promised Land, and He instructs Moses on how the people must live and worship. After being in the presence of the glory of God, Moses physically reflects that glory and his face shines so brightly that the Israelites cannot bear to look upon him. To shield them from the blinding brightness, Moses wears a veil upon his face, that he removes only when he goes to speak to the Almighty. (Ex 33-34)

In the quoted passage, St Paul writes to the church at Corinth and teaches them, “only through Christ is [the veil] taken away.” The glory of God that the Israelites could not bear to look upon is revealed in Jesus Christ. St. John writes, “and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten Son…”(Jn 1:14) Each of the three synoptic Gospels retell of the Transfiguration when Peter, James and John witness Jesus in His glory. It was a special grace that the Apostles would see Christ in His glory. For most who observed Jesus when He walked the earth, the majesty of the Godhead was veiled in human flesh. The Divine Son took on a human nature and was a man like us in all things but sin.

In this passage, St. Paul writes, “when a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” According to the theology of the Apostle, when the Spirit is given one is reborn. He becomes a new creation. By the power of God, the Christian, this “new creation,” is capable of not only looking upon God with an “unveiled face,” but of “being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another.”

Beholding God in His glory, worshiping God, and seeing Him “as is He is” is the eternal destiny of the Christian. In Baptism, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the person is reborn in the life, death and resurrection of Christ so that he might live in eternal union with God, just as the Father and the Son are One. This communion will suffer no barriers, obstructions or veils. When Catholics attend mass and participate as the Mystical Body of Christ in divine worship, Heaven opens into space and time. Upon the altar, the priest re-presents Jesus’ eternal offering of Himself to the Father for the redemption of the world. In Holy Communion the faithful receive the fulness of God. The wearing of masks is incompatible with the intimacy and perfection of the mass.

Reflection

As Catholics, we see no conflict in faith and reason or faith and science. In fact, the Church respects the natural sciences and upholds the dignity of the human intellect.

The CDC recommends, “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” Furthermore, droplets that may carry infection “usually travel around 6 feet” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html Accessed 5/31/2020. In a church seated to 50% capacity, we ought to be clever enough that we can ensure that there is no scientific or medical reason to wear a mask when worshipping God, and that once seated in the pews we can worship Him “with faces unveiled.”

Receive the Holy Spirit. Who sins you forgive are forgiven them…

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked …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.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Jn 20:19 -23

Recall the setting for this Gospel account. The first day of the week, is the Sunday after Jesus’ crucifixion. It is the evening and the Apostles are hiding in the Upper Room, where the Last Supper took place. Having seen their Leader, in whom they trusted, and from whom they expected victory and freedom, falsely accused, beaten, and publicly executed by crucifixion, they are afraid.

The Risen Jesus passes through the locked door and stands in their midst. He encourages them, “Peace be with you.” But He is not just coming to calm their fears. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This is John’s version of the “Great Commission.” Jesus shares His mission with the Apostles. So that they might carry on Jesus’ work, He breathes on them and sends forth His Holy Spirit. “Receive the Holy Spirit…”

And what is Jesus’ work or mission, which they now must continue? “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and who sins you retain are retained.” Jesus was sent by the Father to liberate mankind from bondage to sin. Because sin is an offense against God, only God can forgive sin. So Jesus empowers the Apostles with the Holy Spirit. Commanded by Jesus Christ, and filled with the Spirit, the Apostles will carry on this mission of freeing the world from the horrors of sin.

Reflection

The Church, established by Christ, and built on the Apostles, continues this mission until the end of the world. Before returning to the Father, Jesus promised that He would remain with His followers forever. (Matt 28:20, Jn 14:18) He does this in and through the Church by the mystery and power of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, we celebrate the birthday of the Church.

Activity

Go and make disciples of all nations

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matt 28:16-20

This is Matthew’s account of the Ascension of Jesus from earth back to heaven. In his gospel, it immediately follows the Resurrection account and serves to “finish off” that story.

“And when they saw him, they worshiped him;” Worship is due to God alone. With Jesus’ resurrection from death, the eleven understood finally that Jesus is God. No one other than God has the power over life and death that Jesus had demonstrated. After having been beaten, nailed to a cross, left to die on that cross after three agonizing hours, and after having been wrapped in burial cloths, and laid in a tomb where the body remained for three days, Jesus appears, gloriously.

“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” He has been trying to tell them that He and the Father are one, and that He was sent by the Father. Now, with the evidence of the resurrection, they can grasp that Jesus has come from the Father, with all the power and authority of the Almighty.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” This is called, “the Great Commission.” The mission that the Father gives Jesus, is, in essence: “Go to sinful man. Go to the fallen earth. Redeem it. Restore it to Me for it is mine and it is to be holy and perfect.” At His Ascension, Jesus shares this mission with the eleven. They are the foundation of His Church, and to them He imparts His authority. With His authority, He commands them, “Make disciples of all nations, baptize them, teach them to observe my commandments!”

Reflection

Sometimes people think of the Church as a bunch men, in powerful positions, making a lot of rules for the rest of us to live by. Understand this, the Church is nothing, it has nothing, without Jesus Christ. All power and authority are Christ’s. The apostles, and their successors only have power and authority because Jesus Christ, who is God, gives it to them so that they can share His mission.

Activity

There are a lot of fun crafts to depict the Ascension, but I liked this easy video on how to draw Jesus:https://youtu.be/A5QgWH5GY1U.

The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.

John 14:15-18

This gospel passage is taken again from the Last Supper discourse. Jesus is speaking with the 12 before His arrest and crucifixion. Jesus uses this discourse to encourage His Apostles. He promises them, that although He is leaving, the Spirit, who is sent by the Father, will never leave them. Not only will the Holy Spirit be with them, the Spirit will dwell within them. Jesus does not explain how this will occur, but He does make one thing clear. This Spirit, whom He calls “the Spirit of truth,” is rejected by the world.

Throughout John’s gospel the evangelist makes a contrast between “the world” and Jesus Christ. In the opening prologue John writes, “The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not…and his own people received him not.”(Jn 1:9-11). Later in the Last Supper discourse, John recounts Jesus saying,”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”(Jn 15:18)

John is not speaking here of the world that God originally made and declared “good”(see Genesis 1). Rather, the evangelist is acknowledging that with the first sin, creation “fell” from grace, and ever since, humanity has been in rebellion against God. Jesus came to quash the rebellion and redeem humanity and all of creation. The forces of sin are strong and it was not easy mission, in fact, Jesus suffered terrible betrayal, torture and death to vanquish the enemy. The Resurrection is the sign of His victory. “The world” will come to an end, but He lives forever.

Reflection

“The world” which rejects Jesus and rejects the Spirit also rejects the followers of Jesus who are inspired by the Spirit. Though this might sound unsettling, Jesus exhorts us, “In the world you will have trouble, but have courage, I have over come the world” (John 16:33).

Activity

It is important to realize that being a Christian requires fortitude, which is strength, perseverance, and courage. This is a virtue that we can practice, and that God will help us to grow in. This week, read about a courageous Christian. There are many, but two you might enjoy reading about are Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Irena Sendler.

I am the way, the truth and the life…

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to Him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”

John 14:1-7

Jesus came to restore all of creation into a rightly ordered relationship with God the Father. After God created, He pronounced all of creation to be good, and of course it was, for God can do no evil. All that He does is good, beautiful, true, life-giving. But then man sinned. When man, who was steward of creation, and God’s highest creature, sinned, all of creation fell, with man, into disorder. Jesus came to redeem creation, and restore order and goodness.

In this gospel passage, Jesus is speaking to the 12 at the Last Supper. Throughout John’s gospel, John demonstrates the divinity of Jesus, he does so here is well. Jesus uses the very specific construction “I am.” For the 12, and for all Jews, “I am” recalls the one, true God revealing Himself to Moses in order to liberate the Israelites from slavery. God revealed Himself as “I am, who am.” One way to think of this is I am “being:” everything that exists, all life, all that is.

Jesus, the God-man says, “I am the way, the truth, the life.” He is signaling His divinity. As Second Person of the Holy Trinity, He is the way to the Father, He is the truth of the Father, He is Life of the Father. There is no other way or path, no other truth or ideology, no other lifestyle or life-choice that will redeem the world or repair the destruction and disorder of sin.

Reflection

It’s very common for people to say- “Speak your truth,” or “You have your truth, I have mine.” Such ideas are opposed to Jesus. Any path, any belief, any lifestyle that does not align with Jesus, the complete revelation of God, will not heal the world nor will it bring us back to the goodness of the Father.

Activity

This week, listen to the ideas that are spread around you through conversations, music, tv shows, books etc. Do they acknowledge that God alone, revealed in Jesus Christ, is the source and fullness of truth and life?

I am the door

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:7-10

This gospel is from John chapter 10, which is sometimes called the “Good Shepherd Discourse.” In the lines that come after this excerpt, Jesus explicitly says “I am the Good Shepherd.” This self-proclamation would have been important to the Jews of Jesus’ time. For one thing, the people were very familiar with sheep and shepherds. Jesus was speaking to them with imagery that was relevant and made sense to them. More importantly, for the Israelites, there was connection between shepherding and leading God’s People. King David, the great Israelite king, was first a shepherd. The prophets had strong condemnations for shepherds who lead the people of God astray. The Old Testament foretold a a “good” shepherd who would lead the people back to God- protecting them, guiding them, providing for them.

But this in these lines from John’s gospel, Jesus does not call Himself “the Good Shepherd,” that comes later. Here, He calls himself the “door” or in other translations, the “gate.” How is Jesus a gate?

I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

There is one mediator between God and man. That is Jesus Christ. There is one, and only one savior. That is Jesus Christ.

Take notice, He is not the “gate keeper” or “door opener.” To live fully and abundantly, it is not enough that He open the door. For He tells us, that we must enter into and through Him.

Reflection

The Church is the “Mystical Body of Christ.” To enjoy salvation, and the fruits of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, to have life and have it abundantly, we must enter into His Body- the Church, and then we may draw our life from Him.

Activity

Watch this video to learn more about shepherding

Who are my mother and my brothers?

His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. [For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3:31-35

Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of all. As the Creed tells us, He is :

the only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.

Nicene Creed

It is a great gift that anyone who is baptized as a Christian becomes a child of God and an heir to Heaven. In Baptism, we, or our parents and godparents, on our behalf, reject sin and profess our faith in God the Father, and in His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. We acknowledge our belief in the Holy Spirit and the holy Catholic Church. Guided by the Spirit, the Church continues Jesus saving work on earth. By Baptism, we enter this Church and become His brother or sister. This makes us destined for Heaven and eternal happiness with God and the saints.

In this passage, Jesus tells us what is necessary to remain a child of God, a member of his family, destined for Heaven.

We must do the will of God.

Do you want to be a brother or sister of Jesus? Do you want to enjoy his friendship, guidance, and care? Do you want to inherit Heaven and an eternity of happiness and peace?

Do the will of His Father.

Reflection

Do I strive to do the will of God the Father? How can I know His Will?

Activity

God reveals his will in Sacred Scripture and in the teachings of the Church. Before you go to bed tonight, look over this examination of conscience and see if you are following God’s will. http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/upload/Examination-of-Conscience.pdf

The frustrations of the Savior

Matthew 17:14-20

A man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said,
“Lord, have pity on my son, who is a lunatic and suffers severely;
often he falls into fire, and often into water.
I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Jesus said in reply,
“O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you?
Bring the boy here to me.”
Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him,
and from that hour the boy was cured.
Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”
He said to them, “Because of your little faith.
Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Continue reading

If your hand causes you to sin…

Mark 9:42-48

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

Commentary

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, than with two hands to go into Gehenna.

These are hard words! Is this really from Jesus, the one who loves us perfectly. Is this from the mouth of God? Remember as St. John tells us, God is love. How can the God, who is love itself speak this way?

It is because he loves us that he uses such strong language. Hell is real and it horrific. God does not want any of his little ones to go there. Sin is bad and if we choose it, we turn away from God and put ourselves on the path to never-ending suffering in Hell. God loves us so much, that he wants us to understand how seriously we endanger ourselves if we sin.

So does he want us to maim ourselves? NO! we are sacred and holy. But, we must understand that the damage that sin does to us, the destruction which it causes and the horrific suffering of hell are far worse than missing a hand, a foot, or an eye.

The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Matthew 16:13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”: And Jesus answered him, “blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus established a Church and He chose Peter to lead it. He says it quite explicitly here, “And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.” Today the Church, founded by Christ, celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

A feast for a chair you say?

Yes! The Chair of St. Peter represents the authority of Peter. This authority of Peter to be Jesus Christ’s Vicar on earth is revealed most clearly in this passage,”I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Peter receives a share in Almighty God’s authority. Memorize this line: Matthew 16:18.

Jesus established the Church to continue His salvific work when he would take his place in Heaven at the right hand of His Father. His authority, his grace, his redemption comes to us today, over two thousand years later through his Church. Thank God for his Church! Enjoy the feast!