We begin each Eucharist, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In fact, we begin all prayers that way. We were baptized, “In the name (not names) of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” At the end of this mass, we will be blessed in the same way. Almost all of the prayers we use at mass are addressed to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. The great Eucharistic prayer is addressed to the Father; relates the Last Supper, the passion and death and resurrection of the Son, and asks for the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Today, we celebrate in a special way the central Mystery of our faith, the Mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity. It is central to our personal and public prayer and to our faith. And yet, the very fact that we call it a “Mystery” means that we will never fully understand it. It is too rich to be grasped. It doesn’t mean that it is a puzzle to be solved like a Sherlock Holmes mystery or a Dr. House diagnosis, but a Truth to be reverenced and lived. We would not begin to contemplate such a Mystery but that Jesus Christ Himself revealed this to us. Chapter 28 of the Gospel according to St Matthew says: “ Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” God is Father, Son, Spirit. Three Persons. One God. God is one divine Nature in three divine Persons. God is not just one person. Nor is God three natures.
Someone once said: “If it’s a Mystery and we can’t understand it, why do we have to waste all this time talking about it?” Interesting question! Why do we set aside a specific Sunday to celebrate the Mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity? Let’s examine.
First, let us realize that the word, “Trinity,” never appears in Sacred Scripture. “Trinity” is what we call a construct. It is a word that the Church uses to try and capture an idea. It basically means three in unity. But, three what? And where did it come from? The OT talks about One God. Jesus talks about God as His Abba, His Father, and Jesus talks about sending the Spirit. In John’s Gospel, we read about the Father and the Son and the Spirit being one; united as one. So, to answer that first question: ”Three what?” we look to Jesus and His discussions of His relationship with the Father and Spirit and say that “Trinity” is the unity of these three. The Father, His only begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God. Now, it is hard to get our minds around that, isn’t it? Either, we think of three gods or one god but the Son and Holy Spirit are close to Him but not of the same Essence. Think Arianism!
The notion that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are unique and individual and yet are so united that they are one God is almost beyond our thought processes. (Remember: the story of St Augustine of Hippo, probably the greatest mind in the history of the Catholic Church. One day he is walking along the shore line and a little child has dug a hole and is taking his bucket and filling it with water and pouring the water in the hole. Augustine asks him what he is trying to do and he says he is trying to pour the ocean in that hole. Augustine laughs and tells him that is impossible. The little child says and so is your attempts at trying to understand the Trinity!) And, we wouldn’t or couldn’t come up with it had Jesus not revealed it to us. The very idea that our God is a Trinity of persons is beyond our human imaging!
God is a Trinity of three divine persons in one divine nature. God is love. The Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Father. The Spirit is the love between them, so real that the Spirit is a divine person. Community occurs in the Trinity and models community love for us. Take a look at our world and how messed up it is. Hatred and lack of tolerance and understanding. It plays out on our cable networks every day. Just think if we could love like the Trinity does! Strife would disappear. If God is a community, then we should be as well.
Understanding the Holy Trinity
Christmas can seem like something in the distant past. The radio is no longer playing our favorite Christmas tunes, and the decorations and trees are mostly down. Despite what the worlds doing, the Church is still celebrating the mystery of Christmas. It’s a season that extends to the Baptism of the Lord and before Vatican II it was even longer, going until Candlemas, or the presentation of the Lord in the temple.
As we near the end of the Christmas season our Gospel brings us back to where the season started, the manger in Bethlehem. I’d imagine that was a dark night, maybe even a cold night, and yet in the midst of this darkness a light shined in the sky above guiding the Magi to the true light of the world lying in a manger below.
We hear of darkness in our first reading. Isaiah told us that darkness covered the earth and thick clouds covered the people. Darkness may remind us of the darkness that covered the earth in the creation story, when the “earth was without form or void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” This formlessness and void was known as a primordial chaos, there was no order or structure to anything. Later it became associated with sin; the darkness people choose to live in separated from God.
In Genesis God spoke and brought order to this disorder, he gave life to all things, in a word he created. In our Gospel today God speaks again. Through his word he enters into the darkness of our world as an infant and as a child lying in a manger he intends to recreate or make us and the whole world into a new creation.
We see this in the story of the Magi. The Magi weren’t Israelites, they were Babylonians or Gentiles. They had come a long way to see this king born to the Jews. Usually these men are spoken of as Magi, Wise Men, or Astrologers. It’s also thought that they were kings. As kings their reaction to Jesus is very different than King Herod’s. They don’t feel threatened as if Christ came into the world to overthrow their kingdom, but they’re humbled that this newborn king of kings came to be among his people. When they arrive in Bethlehem they honor and adore him and adorn him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
There’s a painting titled “Adoration of the Magi” painted by a follower of Giotto. In this painting Jesus is on Mary’s lap, there are angels on one side of them, and two Magi on the other side. The third Magi is kneeling down in front of Jesus with his crown on the ground beside him. Bishop Barron says that “the crown laid at the feet of Jesus represents the Magi’s recognition of Jesus’ authority and kingship.”
This recognition and encounter with the Lord led to a change in the lives of these three men. We’re told that they returned to their land, they continued to be Babylonians, but they went back a different way. Like the Magi when we really encounter Jesus, we may go back to being employees as the grocery store, bake shop, bank, or wherever else we may work but we’re changed; we’re not the same when we return.
You may have heard the story of Alphonse Ratisbonne before. He was a Jew born in Francein 1814. After his brother converted to Catholicism and became a priest, Ratisbonne went the other direction by becoming an atheist and persecuting his brother. At one point in his life he wanted to travel from Naplesto Malta but got on the wrong boat and ended up in Romeinstead. In Romehe ran into a Catholic convert who knew Ratisbonne’s brother. This man, knowing Ratisbonne to be an atheist, challenged him. He asked if he would wear the Miraculous Medal and every night and morning pray the Memorare prayer. Ratisbonne agreed to do it, he figured that it couldn’t do any harm and it would prove how ridiculous Catholics were.
One day he traveled to a church in Rome, Sant’Andea Della Fratte, and in this church the Blessed Mother appeared to him. This experience led to his conversion; he was received into the Church, entered the Jesuits and became a priest. He was changed by this experience and didn’t go back the same way he had come. This experience later influenced Maximillian Kolbe and convinced Kolbe of the power of the Miraculous Medal.
Today we celebrate Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany means manifestation. Christ will manifest himself to us in different ways over the next three Sundays. Today, with the Magi, he’s manifested as the king of all nations. Next Sunday at the Baptism of the Lord he’ll be shown to be the Son of God. Finally, the following Sunday, we’ll hear about the wedding feast at Canaand the miracle of the water changing into wine will manifest Christ’s divinity.
The reason Christ manifests himself to us is because he has a plan for us to come to know the one true God, be saved from our sins, and share eternal life with him. In short you could say he manifests himself to us because he wants us to know the love he has for each of us.
St. Paul says in our second reading that this manifestation or revelation wasn’t made know to people in other generations before the time of the apostles. There is a unique manifestation of God through Jesus Christ, and this manifestation comes to us through that “lowly handmaid”, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
As the Mother of Christ, Mary’s role in salvation history is to bring Christ to the world and bring the world to Christ; something that we saw in the conversion of Ratisbonne. Like her, we have a similar role to play. Ratisbonne was an atheist, yet his story shows us that we can do things like wear the Miraculous Medal, or pray the Memorare, to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ. By going deeper into this mystery we’re transformed; the darkness of our sins begin to fade as we’re filled with the light of Christ.
Like the Magi who go back to their country with news to share of a newborn king, we become lights to the world. Christ enters the world through us and through us others are led to Him.
Perhaps today in our prayers we can stand with the Magi near the manger at Bethlehem and “gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, man in God, God in man, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body.”
If we allow this mystery to change us, if we don’t go back the same way we’ve come then it will be through us that God impacts the future generations of saints. It will be through us that he manifests himself to the world.
Is it Still Christmas?
Well, today should be the 20th Sun of OT and we should be hearing, again, from the Bread of Life Discourse, Ch 6 of John. Instead, we are celebrating a Holy Day which just happens to fall on a Sun: The Solemnity of the Assumption, Aug 15. We need to keep in mind that Sundays, “Dies Domini,” the Day of the Lord, are the center of the liturgical calendar, the foundation of the liturgical Calendar.
For the Bishops to set aside a Sunday liturgy means that whatever takes its place better be very important. And of course, it is. It is also a day that is very important to me since I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. (A little American church history) Baltimore was the first diocese in the English-speaking Americas. It was also the first Archdiocese. John Carroll, related to the signer of the Declaration of Independence who was the only Catholic to sign and the richest man in the colonies at the time, was the first Bishop/Archbishop. The first Cardinal: John Gibbons, was the Archbishop of Baltimore. It was the place where the first general Councils in our country were held and where the “Baltimore Catechism,” (remember that?), was written. The first Cathedral in English speaking America was the Basilica of the Assumption in downtown Baltimore. Designed by Latrobe who designed Wash, DC. (Keep this in mind as I talk about today’s Solemnity.)
In Nov of 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith:
“We pronounce, declare and define it to be divinely revealed dogma that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.” While it may have been the mid-20th century that this dogma was “officially” proclaimed, its origins go back centuries. We know that the feast was celebrated in the 5th century in Palestine; there were copies of homilies about it from the 6th century; the August 15th date was fixed in 6th century; it was fixed on liturgical calendar in Rome in 7th century and the universal calendar by the 8th century. It was celebrated under various names by the Greek Orthodox Church from early times. So, you see the faithful believed in the truth of this Solemnity long before the dogma was proclaimed. (Remember the name of my Basilica back in Baltimore!)
The CCC explains a concept called: “sensus fidei,” the sense of the faith.
The idea is that the “whole body of the faithful… cannot err in matters of belief.” All faithful share in understanding and handing on revealed truth. (That means you and me not just the bishops.) We share in Christ’s prophetic function in the Church by virtue of our baptism. Jesus did not leave us orphans but left the Holy Spirit to guide His Church. In relation to the Assumption, the faithful believed it and applied it to everyday life long before Pius XII proclaimed it!
There is an expression the Church has:” Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi,” “the law of praying is the law of believing.” In other words, we pray as we believe. Our great Eucharistic prayers and Presidential Prayers (Collects) at mass are full of what we believe. I urge you to listen to them closely. Often, they express what the faithful believed long before any dogma was officially declared, like today’s Mystery.
The lag between the liturgical observance and the dogmatic declaration merely shows that the liturgy doesn’t celebrate dogmas, as such. But, the best way to understand the liturgical celebration of any feast is to look primarily at its prayers and readings, and not to impose on the language of worship the subtleties of dogmatic declaration. We just remembered St John Vianney, the patron of Diocesan priests. If you read the Collects for his Memorial, they will tell you why we should use him as an example of leading a good Christian life. Or for example, today’s feast not only celebrates Mary, but also the lot of all Christians who share her faith in the Lord and who will one day share with her the joy of heaven. It is the feast of the destiny of the Virgin and our eventual destiny with her. In the Presidential Prayers, what we used to call the “Collects,” we hear how we can share her glory and reach our goal of eternal life in heaven. It is a sign that our true home is with God. It is a Feast of hope for all of us. We want to be where Mary is.
I spent over 50 years in the pews as a lay person (I am a third career priest). I always found it hard to pick up the content of the Collects. Do you remember the “Opening Prayer”? “Almighty ever-living God, who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of Your Son, body and soul into heavenly glory, grant, we pray, that always attentive to the things that are above, we may be sharers of her glory. Through… ever and ever. Amen.” What does that mean? Well, that Mary was given a special gift by her Divine Son and if we are attentive to doing the right things, we can one day be like her. The Nicene Creed ends with “the Resurrection of the Body and life everlasting Amen.” The Prayer over the Gifts reminds us that Mary was assumed into heaven and didn’t ascend; it was an act of God and a special blessing for her and should make us long for being with God like her. Then, the Prayer After Communion asks that “we may be brought into the glory of the Resurrection.” The Preface says that Mary is the image of the Church “coming to perfection.” We should yearn for the same, and gain “hope and comfort” from what Jesus did for her.
Additionally, the Assumption is the sign of God’s mercy being fulfilled. Mercy, in the Gospels, is shown not only by the forgiveness of sins but also the fulfillment of promises. The Solemnity celebrates the “great things” that God has done for Mary like lifting up His lowly servant, Mary. God is faithful to His promises. He is faithful to His promises to us, as well. Thus, the Assumption celebrates the mercy of God. Mary’s Assumption foreshadows the destiny of all “those who belong to Christ.” Salvation is the concrete realization of Divine Mercy.
In our news-dominated culture, we tend to view events historically. In this approach, the Assumption celebrates what happened to Mary in the past. Yet, liturgy does more than recall a past event; it draws us into the divine mystery where the event is present here and now.
This is the Good News contained in today’s Feast. First, Mary was taken body and soul into heaven. Second, Mary’s assumption reminds us that we too will someday join Mary in heaven. [Think Nicene Creed] Third, Mary is not only the mother of Jesus, but also our spiritual mother. She prays for us daily that we persevere in our struggle to win, as she did, the reward of eternal life. This is the Good News that we celebrate today. This is what we pray; this is what we believe! - Fr Russ Harbaugh Rector emeritus of St Faustina Shrine
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Every morning I spend a little time in the chapel at the rectory and almost every morning at least one car drives by with music blaring. But one great temptation of our world today is to busy ourselves with all kinds of things, loud music, 24hr TV/entertainment, becoming workaholics etc. It’s easy to do these things and forget to set aside quiet time with the Lord.
In the Gospel we see Martha busy herself with many things, but the Lord tells her that Mary has chosen the better part. Not to say that what she is doing is bad or to say we shouldn’t work, but He’s reminding her that there’s more to our lives than the work we do and ways to entertain ourselves. These things can be good, but we all need that quiet time with the Lord who teaches us that we are not defined by the things we do but by the Father’s love for us. And that we're not made for ourselves, but for God and His glory.
It’s the silence with our Lord that helps us reorder our lives to God and discern His will. And it’s at the feet of the Lord where we can learn about and experience God’s love for us.
See the effect of that love in the life of this family, Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Pretty ordinary family that lives in a small town of Bethany near Jerusalem. More is known about Martha and Mary than Lazarus, but we do know that all were friends of our Lord and He loved them; That’s why He wept at the death of His friend Lazarus. It’s through this small ordinary family that He performs one of His greatest miracles in the Bible, by raising Lazarus from the dead.
Now Martha and Mary weren’t always perfect, sometimes they lacked faith. Martha worked too much, probably didn’t pray enough, and though each had their shortcomings and sins, they did invite our Lord into their lives, into their home and His love transformed them; making this extraordinary family, extraordinary, raising each of them to new life.
Ask them to help us to invite our Lord into our hearts today to transform us, so that each of our lives can become extraordinary.
Jesus raises Lazarus - STS Mary, Martha, Lazarus
The devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has been around for a long time in the Church. More attention was brought to it in the 1600’s when John Eudes went around preaching about the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But it really took off after the miraculous medal apparitions to Catherine Laboure and then more recently the message of Fatima.
At Fatima, Mary appeared to the three children and said: “to save poor sinners, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart” & then at a later time Jesus told Sr. Lucia “I want my Church to put the devotion to this Immaculate Heart beside the devotion to my Sacred Heart.”
This statement was not meant to take away from attention or pride of place we should give to our Lord in our lives, but it really adds to it. No one was more united to Jesus during his earthly life than his mother; from her he received his body and blood. She was the one that nurtured and cared for him as child and suffered with him during his passion and death. It is her heart that he wishes every disciple to have, because the Immaculate Heart is the perfect heart of the disciple.
There are a few things that we can take away from the Immaculate Heart. If we look at scripture there are at least two places in the Gospel of Luke where Luke speaks about Mary’s heart. The first is just after Jesus’ birth, and the other is in our Gospel today when Joseph and Mary find Jesus in the temple. In both we’re told that “Mary kept all these things, the mysteries of her Son, & pondered them in her heart.” Her actions teach us that our interior life consists in remaining close to our Lord by continuously meditating on the mysteries of His life.
We also learn that Mary’s heart was an open heart. It was from this heart that she gave her fiat, and grace was brought into the world as Christ was conceived in her womb. Hers is a heart that is open to the will of God & fully devoted to God, and she wants us to have this same heart.
I was reading about the image of the Immaculate Heart, and someone wrote that her heart is outside her chest in the image and that Mary is pointing at it as if she wanted to give it to us; to share her heart with us, so that we can have the same virtues, the same purity and love for God that she had.
We heard about a new creation in our first reading, at Baptism we’ve each become a new creation, and in this new order of grace Mary is our mother, the mother of the Church. Her heart not only burns for love of God, but it burns for each one of her children as well, meaning all of us.
As our Mother her wish and plea to us is that all her children will repent and turn to God, and then make reparation for the sins against her Immaculate Heart and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We can do this with her help by asking Mary to give us a heart like hers; an open heart, a pure heart, a heart filled with love for God, so that as God the Father gave Jesus to us through Mary, we likewise can respond and return to him through Mary and her Immaculate Heart.
Praying the rosary and meditating on the mystery of the visitation, one thing I always think about is the charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After receiving news that she would be the Mother of Jesus & that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age, Mary she goes at once to share what she received from the Holy Spirit and to assist her cousin in her pregnancy.
As Christians this is something we’re all called to do. We go into our rooms and shut the door to pray not to remain there in isolation, away from the world, but to receive what God wishes to give us, then, go out into the world and share it with others. We see that same reception and being sent in the context of the Mass. We come to Mass to worship but also receive something from our Lord; the life and grace that He gives us in the sacrament. At the end of Mass we’re told to “Go forth,” we’re sent out into world to share what we received with others.
This is one thing the visitation can teach us, but it also reminds us that our lives aren’t our own. What we’ve been given is meant to be shared with others to help build up kingdom God, and at times to offer our lives in sacrifice to defend the freedoms we all enjoy.
Each year on Memorial Day we remember those Americans who gave their lives to defend our country. It’s a neat history. It started off known as “Decoration Day”; a day to honor those who died fighting in the civil war. People would go around with flowers and decorate the graves of union & confederate soldiers. After WWI this day was set aside to honor Americans who died fighting in any war.
We’re blessed to have these brave men and women as part of our history; people who were willing to give their lives so that their families, friends, and country could enjoy the freedoms they valued and loved.
As we honor them today, perhaps one thing we can learn from them is to be willing to lay down our lives for what we love; maybe not physically, but we can die to ourselves each day so that with Mary we can say “my soul magnifies the Lord.”
- Fr Joseph Hastings
Today we remember the first holy martyrs of the Church; those children or holy innocents Herod had killed in Bethlehem. Herod’s not so different from Pharaoh in the book Exodus. Both men had power and authority over their kingdom and lot of wealth. When God’s plans interfered with their plans rather than humble themselves and do as the Magi did, who visited the Lord and gave praise and honor to God, they felt threatened and gave into sin & death.
Pharaoh had all the males born to the Hebrews thrown into the Nile, and Herod had male children age 2 and under killed in Bethlehem. One thing we learn is that temptations, especially ones based on irrational fears, try to convince us that we’ll gain something by giving in, but in reality it takes everything away from us – and separates us from the one who gives us everything. We see a strange turn of events in the story of Herod. He thought he would secure his kingdom and his title as King by slaughtering the infants. Eventually he died, and it’s the very ones who were murdered, the infants who gained the true kingdom of heaven & whose blood bears witness to Christ.
We too called bear witness Christ by our lives. The stories of Pharaoh & Herod show us that there will be persecution and struggles along the way, but if we remain faithful to Christ and with His help resist our daily temptations then we’ll have everything because we’ll have the Lord. Today we ask the holy innocents to pray for us, that we may always be kept innocent from serious sin so that one day like them we may inherit the true kingdom of heaven.
In the Gospel Jesus is teaching the apostles what to do and not do in regards to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. For prayer he says do not do it for show, but in secret… “when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” If we take this literally it doesn’t need much translation. It means go into your room, shut the door, and pray to God where no one can see you. But there is a deeper meaning as well. Many saints and other spiritual writers often talk about the heart.
According to the Catechism: “The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. It is the place of decision, the place of truth where we choose life or death.” It is in the heart that we encounter God.
This is something that we can do throughout our day. Go into your room and shut the door, meaning go into this deepest part of yourself, the heart, where you can encounter God in the silence and be with Him. Shut the door of your senses to all the various distractions that draw your attention away from Him. This can be as easy as spending a few minutes with Him throughout the day, and if we spend time with Him in secret, He will reward us by drawing us closer to Him.
‘’Talk with God, no breath is lost. Walk with God, no strength is lost. Wait for God, no time is lost. Trust in God, you will never be lost.’’
The great test of life is to see whether we will obey God’s commands in the storms.It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage.
‘’Heart of Jesus, whose fullness we have received, thank You for Your great goodness to us today. Forgive our sins. May angels and saints praise You.’’
‘’The Bible is filled with people like you and me who had issues, but used them for His glory. Don’t let anyone make you feel you’re not worthy of being used.’’
‘’Be patient. God hears your prayers. God’s timing. Not yours.’’ Stay safe and healthy.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, having stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
‘’Lately I’ve been so worried about things that are out of my control. Help me to trust that You are working every little detail of my life.’’
"There isn't enough room in your mind for both worry and faith. You must decide which one will live there." Stay well and safe!
"Cast all your cares, anxieties, worries, and concerns, once and for all on God, He cares for you with deepest affection, watches over you very carefully."
Shrine of St Faustina of The Divine Mercy
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