A review of the past couple weeks. On the Ascension we celebrated
Jesus’ return to his Father’s side. Pentecost fulfilled Jesus’
promise that he would not leave us on our own to struggle in a
contrary world of rejection, indifference and outright hostility.
Today we continue to celebrate the gift of the Spirit’s faithful
presence in our midst. As he promised, Jesus has not left us
Did I say "a world of rejection, indifference and outright
hostility?" Yes, I did and that reality is what attracts me to
Paul’s counsel to the Roman Christians. It begins with a double
reassurance. Paul wants to make sure that, as we undergo the trials
that test our faith, we can be confident that we don’t have to go
through them on our own.
When Jesus walked among his disciples he was limited to the world
in which he lived. Now he is, "our Lord Jesus Christ," a completely
new creation, no longer restricted to place, time and culture. Nor
is he just among a small group of Christians, but he is with all of
us now. Like the communities Paul addressed, we face our own trials
and opposition from the world.
of Nazareth is the lens through which Paul interprets the Trinity.
The way someone acts gives insight into who they are. Paul tells us,
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith…." That’s
where it begins for us, doesn’t it? It is not about what we did to
please God; but that God has first been pleased with us. God, in
Jesus, has "justified" us. The term "justification" is the Bible’s
assurance that we have been put in right relationship with God.
Because of what Jesus has done for us, we are now at peace with God
How do we get this "righteousness," or "justification"? Well, we
can never earn it. Paul is quite clear about that. Instead, as he
has often said, we are set right with God through faith. But it does
not end there, in complacency. Instead, the faith we have received
urges us to respond to our neighbor as Jesus did. Where does that
take us? To the Trinity we celebrate today, not a doctrine, but a
celebration of verbs – divine verbs. God, our Creator, has in Jesus
shone the divine face of love and forgiveness on us. He has revealed
God’s unsurpassing, unlimiting and unearned love for us. He has also
gifted us with the Spirit, the life force within us, that moves us
to accept Jesus into our lives by faith and to respond to the
Spirit’s urging to be as Christ was in the world. See, it’s about
verbs – God’s doing and our responding.
Paul teaches that being put right with God and acting like Christ
in the world through the Spirit, fixes our gaze, not only on the
present world, but on the future glory we will share with God and
one another. Jesus realized that we need the reassurance our faith
gives us. So at the Last Supper he promised us his Spirit to "guide
you to all truth." Notice how frankly Paul speaks about "affliction"
and "endurance." Clear-eyed Paul knew, from the trials he underwent
for his ministry and what he saw in the suffering of Christians
where he visited and preached, that we would need guidance, strength
and endurance from the Holy Spirit.
But also note how reassuring he is about God’s love being "poured
out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given us."
Once again, there is the promise of the glory we will one day have;
we who have been gifted with the Spirit of Jesus that enables us to
persevere through trials. Paul says we have "gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand." One translation for "access" is
"safe haven or harbor." So, grace has provided us a secure place in
God’s presence as we face affliction because of our faith.
Paul’s Christian communities faced persecution from their Roman
oppressors and their own Jewish community. But more. It is clear
from Paul’s letters that Christians also suffered discord among
their own ranks – about how to interpret the meaning of Jesus’ life
for their individual and community lives.
In the context of so much pain Paul is encouraging the Roman
Christians to accept their suffering and see it as a proving ground
for their faith and a sure sign that God has not abandoned them, but
is still loving them and pouring out the Holy Spirit upon them.
We are celebrating Eucharist together today. Despite the awful
scandals our Church has endured these past two, or three decades, we
have reassurance in the Word, the Eucharist and our gathered
community that God is faithful and has not left us, but can even
enable growth during this time of testing. Isn’t that what Paul told
the Romans and is telling us now?... "affliction produces endurance,
and endurance, proven character and proven character hope and hope
does not disappoint."
While our modern minds might want it, Paul does not yield a
definition of the Trinity. It was not till centuries later, in the
face of Christological heresies, that the Church spent extended
periods of time reflecting on the Trinity. Paul was speaking to
Christians under trials to help them understand their identity and
responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ. Here and elsewhere, he
describes the basis for our faith and its consequences in the lives
of Christians. We can talk about the Trinity in quite reasoned tones
but, for Paul, the Trinity was up close, and very active each day as
our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
The Church has repeatedly taught that we are justified
not by our own works or efforts, but by the grace of the
Lord who always takes the initiative.
Francis in, "Rejoice and Be Glad: Gaudete et
love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy
Spirit that has been given to us."
Do you know the persons sitting around you in the pew at Mass
today (family members not included)? There is one thing that I know
about the Trinity--it is a loving RELATIONSHIP among Persons that
make up one Divinity. It is also a loving relationship to which we
are invited for participation. If that does not teach us about the
importance of relationships in God’s realm, nothing will.
In his Message for the World Day of Peace 2014, Pope Francis
warns, "In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, my
predecessor reminded the world how the lack of fraternity between
peoples and men and women is a significant cause of poverty. In
many societies, we are experiencing a profound poverty of
relationships as a result of the lack of solid family and community
relationships. We are concerned by the various types of hardship,
marginalization, isolation and various forms of pathological
dependencies which we see increasing. This kind of poverty can be
overcome only through the rediscovery and valuing of fraternal
relationships in the heart of families and communities, through the
sharing of joys and sorrows, of the hardships and triumphs that are
a part of human life." Meaningful relationships need love and
attention, which takes time.
Furthermore, if we do not develop relationships with fellow
members of our faith tradition, we have no hope of forming an active
community of believers who can then work together to effectively
"renew the temporal order" of the world (Vatican II Decree on the
Apostolate of Lay People). Among the tasks of lay Christians, social
action is preeminent (ibid 7). To state it another way, we
cannot ever begin to achieve justice through social action without
building loving relationships with other believers.
We live in a busy world. It is so easy to make excuses or to
compartmentalize our life in lists, like – "Go to church on Sunday,
back to work on Monday, party on Saturday." But are we really
putting God first in our lives? Are we living the life we were
created for? Because we were created for greatness. But greatness in
God’s realm is modeled in service. Jesus is our most excellent
example. We have so many outreach ministries where you can share the
love you have been given, your greatness, check them out at the
and give me a call.
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Spirit will not speak on [his] own,
will take what [he] hears,
will declare to you the things that are coming.
God is beyond our human capacity to know, but even before we
reached out to God, God had already decided to redeem the world. God
has taken the initiative, offered us grace in Jesus Christ and
through the Spirit enables us to enter into relationship with God.
So we ask ourselves:
- Do you ever pray to the Holy Spirit?
- What occasion causes you to turn to the Holy Spirit in
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an
inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Roger Blakeney #0033802 (On death row since 9/10/97)
- Marcos Mitchell #9488288 (11/4/97)
- Elrico Fowler #0134151 (11/14/97)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the
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