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.

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