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.

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

God’s will be done!

Mt 7:21-23

“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in yur name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'”

Jesus is very clear hear about what it takes to enter the kingdom of heaven. We must do the will of the Father. We can pray. We can call ourselves Christians. We can exercise the gifts that he gives us and do so in his name.  None of that will matter if we are “doers of evil.”  Heaven is not for those who perform mighty deeds, show up at prayers services or the mass, or rattle off words of prayers. Heaven is for those seek and do the will of God.

God’s will – this alone matters. It should be the driving force in our life. We should tirelessly, day in day out, moment by moment, decision by decision, seek and follow the will of God. This is our path to heaven. This alone, will make us happy.

Reflection

I think of myself as a Christian.  What does that mean?  Would others think of me as a Christian based on my actions?

Prayer

For the next three days, as often as you think of it, pray this prayer throughout your

walter_ciszek_sj_-_he_leadeth_me

day:  God’s will be done! 

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.

Jesus will come again

Matthew 24:42-44

Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

We profess our faith every time we pray the Creed.  We can think of the Creed as the most basic “list” of all that we believe. Each Sunday we say :

He [Jesus] ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his Kingdom will have no end.

Jesus will come again. This world will end.  When Jesus returns, he will have power over all things and every one. Every single person will be judged, and there will be no tolerance of sin, death and evil. Those who refuse to accept Him and His Kingship will be eternally damned, but those who are honest and humble will acknowledge their guilt, apologize, and accept Jesus’s mercy and forgiveness. To these He will give eternal happiness and an everlasting share in His Kingdom.

Do we love as Jesus commands?

Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Everything that we believe, all that the Church teaches us about how to live is summed up in and based on these two great commandments. Jesus is the Lord of Love, and if we wish to follow him, we must love as He commands. This command requires such complete and utter selflessness. The perfect example of this humble submission to the law of love is Jesus himself. His love lead Him all the way to the cross, where He suffered and died for us. He is our model and our proof that Love exists. In Him, and from Him we find strength to overcome our selfish inclinations.

Are you envious because I am generous?

Jesus told his disciples this parable:

Matthew 20:1-16

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.

Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’So they went off.

And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,beginning with the last and ending with the first.’

When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour,and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’

He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’

Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


Commentary

         Envy is sadness over the good that another receives. Instead of being happy for the good of another, or content with what we have, we believe that we are deprived of something that is due to us.  In this passage, the laborers who were first chosen, given in to envy.:

…when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour,and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’

            Notice a few things. They are looking at what the others received instead of peacefully awaiting their own compensation. They “grumble” against the landowner, even though they were fortunate to be chosen in the first place. What if they had been waiting all day and had never been hired? Clearly the landowner saw some good potential in them from the very beginning. And what is it that they say to him? “…you have made them equal to us,” They clearly did not respect the others and were affronted that the landowner would treat them as equals.

          Despite their envy and lack of charity toward the landowner and toward the other workers, our Lord gently rebukes them and warns them to not let this sentiment grow and give way to further sin:

‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go.

And then He reminds them that all that they have received, all that each laborer has received, both the opportunity to work and the recompense for work well done is from Him.

For Contemplation

When we are tempted by envy, we make look at the Lord and all the good that he does with us, in us and for us and say “Thank you!”