The Demanding Life of a Little Trinity

Mt Whitney CA
Mount Whitney, CA

In our first reading at Holy Mass for the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, we hear the Wisdom of God, the Word of God—we hear Him testify that He brought about the making of all things, with the Almighty Father. [Spanish]

When the Lord established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; when he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; when he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; then was I beside him as his craftsman.  (Proverbs 8:27-30)

This is the eternal Son of God speaking, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. All three Persons of the Trinity brought about the creation of the universe. And of all the works of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the greatest is man. Divine Wisdom says, “I found delight in the human race.” The Lord crowned the world by making us human beings “with glory and honor, putting all things under our feet” (Psalm 8).

The woods around St. Joseph’s church in Martinsville, Va., harbor a large family of wild turkeys, not to mention many deer. These animals know that tall, two-legged creatures enter and emerge from the building at regular intervals.

But do the animals know that it’s a church? Do they know that the Lord Jesus dwells in the tabernacle? Do the turkeys and deer cross themselves with their wings or their hooves every time they pass in front of the door?

No. The turkeys and the deer don’t know about God, His Son, heaven, good and evil, truth and falsehood, friendship, love, or faithfulness.

Rocks are rocks. Cement is cement. Tree are trees. Cows are cows. But we human beings are like “little trinities.” God is spirit. He knows Himself. He loves Himself. Our spiritual dimension shows forth the mystery of the triune God. 1. We have immortal spiritual souls. 2. We know the truth.  3. We love what is good.

cotton candyThe Creator has made us little less than a god. We are like Him. I have recently grown obsessed with a plan to climb Mount Whitney, in California, the tallest peak in the continental US. Someday I will do it. But that’s actually nothing compared to the spiritual nature that every human being has. By seeking the truth and loving what is good, we human beings—wherever we find ourselves—we stand on the mountaintop of the world, knowing God and loving Him above all things, and loving our neighbors for His sake. And yet… We carry on like ignorant sinners.

God made us the kings and queens of the universe, to rule over all creatures with serene good judgment. But instead we sell ourselves short and enslave ourselves to lesser creatures, especially these little chunks of cheap metal and plastic called cell phones. The Lord prepared the kingdom of truth and enduring beauty for us. But instead we take the express train to the land of cheap thrills, easy money, empty calories, and passive entertainment. We are little trinities. But instead of knowing the truth and loving what is truly good, we watch t.v. and love cotton candy.

Now, here are a couple questions: If the human race had never sinned, would we have to walk by faith to get home to God, or would we be able to see Him the whole time? Or: If we had never sinned, would it be easy to resist temptation? Would it be easy to live for God above all things?

Moot questions, my friends! We human beings have done what we have done, and God has done what He has done. We fell away from Him. We fill the airwaves with salacious nonsense. We choke the atmosphere with exhaust fumes. We stand idly by, while evil people do evil things all over the place. God rightly imposed the punishment of death upon us, and the only remedy is…

To be the little trinities we were made to be, we cleave to the truth of God. By faith. We seek what is truly good–by a long, hard struggle of faith.

Not easy—but it’s the way it is. And doesn’t it make sense? Doesn’t it really make sense that we quasi-gods would attain salvation by heroic faith? Being the most dignified and splendid creatures on the earth comes at a price.

vitruvian-manDoesn’t it make sense that the kings and queens of this little realm would know the great Master of the higher kingdom not by seeing Him with the same eyes we use to see cantaloupes and beach umbrellas, but by finding Him in the dark, secret core of our souls?

Doesn’t it make sense that we who are destined to wear the gold medal in heaven would win the victory not by goofing along at an easy pace, but by pushing ourselves to the limits of endurance and discovering that there is more in us than we thought?

The truest things are the invisible things, and the best things are the hardest ones to get. We are not our true selves by being satisfied with easy answers or mediocre spiritual lives. We are little trinities—made for the big Trinity, and nothing less.

Cats can have their bowls of tuna fish; dogs can have their bones to gnaw on.  We human beings need to seek and find the unseen God.

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Dew of Heavenly Truth

Mare and foal

Come, Holy Spirit! On our dryness pour your dew. [Spanish]

The Lord Jesus died on the cross. On the third day, He rose again. He remained on earth for forty days. He ascended into heaven. Our Lady and the Apostles prayed. Then Christ poured out the Holy Spirit.

Sunday we conclude the Easter season, which is the same thing as springtime. We Christians celebrate spring by celebrating the Lord Jesus’ Easter mysteries, over the course of fifty days.

The sequence of events that we remember every Easter season—it teaches us why the Lord Jesus became man and conquered human death. He did not do it for His own sake. After all, before He became man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, He already enjoyed undying life. From all eternity, He is true God from true God—one eternal God with the Father.

So Christ did not need to rise from the dead for His own sake. Rather, He rose from the dead for us. He rose from the dead to be the first-fruits of our resurrection.

So: two fundamental, unseen facts of life. 1. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The Apostles saw Him, and we believe the testimony the Apostles left behind. 2. We believe that, in the end, we will rise again, too, like Christ rose again.

El Greco PentecostUnseen truths of faith. We believe the fundamental facts of our lives; we do not see them. We believe in the final consummation of the world, the coming of Christ the Judge, eternal glory for the just, and eternal damnation for the unjust.

And we live by our faith in this as-yet-unseen future.  What we do see, however—what we see when springtime comes every year—it gives us a sign of the unseen consummation to come. The springtime we see gives us a sign of the eternity we do not yet see.

Let me explain. Every spring, the earth brings forth new life. What was dead rises again. What had gone down into the soil as a seed emerges as a living flower. The unseen power of nature brings about an annual resurrection of everything that is green and fragrant. The fauna, too, are renewed. Chicks hatch. Horses foal. All the species of the animal kingdom get resurrected by nature’s power.

Now, if we are going to try and understand Pentecost, we have to ask ourselves: What is the great secret ingredient of the annual resurrection of Mother Nature, of the earth? What makes spring spring?

The answer is, of course: Water. Water makes the springtime resurrection of nature’s life occur. The sky pours water onto the soil, and the moistening dew wakes the sleeping power of life. Water revives the earth.

Everybody with me so far? Now of course we are greater than all the plants. We are greater than all the animals. God made the other creatures for us. The other creatures sustain us; we cannot do without them. But they live small and fleeting lives, compared to ours.

We human beings need more than the water of the annual spring rains. Because God does not cultivate us nor breed us just for annual regeneration. We are not little creatures that cycle through simple annual routines in order to provide food for higher creatures. Tomato plants go through an annual cycle so that we can eat them. Worms go through an annual cycle so that we can bait fish hooks with them.

Holy Spirit dove sunWe, however, are not food for any other creature. No—we are the ultimate fruit of the earth. We are the reason why the earth exists. God cultivates us to bear our fruit once and for all. Our springtime is the eternal day, when everything is fulfilled, time is complete, the devil is altogether subdued, and eternal glory fills the earth. The fruit of the human race will be ripe when the new Jerusalem descends like a bride from heaven, and God is all-in-all.

To come out of the earth and flower on that day, we need water of an altogether different kind than the plants and animals need. Nature has her annual resurrection by water every spring. But for our eternal resurrection, we need the dew of truth. We live by the water of life which flows from the Heart of Christ in heaven. We are watered not just by H20 water, but by the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is the day of life-giving rain for Christian souls. So we pray.  Lord, rain down your holy dew on us! We are the seeds you have sewn in Your garden.  Turn on Your garden hose, and water us down with Your heavenly spiritual gifts—until the gullies and rivulets in our souls are gushing with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. We want puddles and puddles of Your dew in our hearts. Rain down Your grace on us, O God. Send Your Spirit.

fishing1

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PS. The Interfaith Council of Martinsville-Henry County invited me, along with other Jewish, Muslim, and other Christian leaders, to speak at a meeting on Sunday afternoon: The American Heritage of Religious Freedom: Are There Limits to Free Speech Regarding Other Faith Traditions?

I collected information from the Catechism, and from the documents of Vatican II, to prepare a little talk. If you’re interested, please come–3pm Sunday at the Islamic Center, 17125 Al Philpott Hwy, Martinsville.

Or you can read my notes by clicking HERE.

The Constitution

Chris the priest

Today at Holy Mass, we read the conclusion of Christ’s “priestly” prayer. He ministers as High Priest of all creation, offering Himself, the Eternal Word, in union with His human flesh and blood.

All Christians share in Christ’s priesthood. We all find communion with God, and with each other, by offering ourselves to the heavenly Father along with the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus.

We base our entire lives on this offering of ourselves with Christ. It gives our lives their true meaning. Our participation in Holy Mass situates us in the universe properly. It makes prayer possible. One Christ, Head and members, glorifying the Father with the eternal and infinite sacrifice of love that Christ revealed on the cross.

Now, for this offering to occur, Christ instituted the sacred priesthood of the altar. He chose from among His disciples those who would minister at the celebration of the Eucharist. Those who would stand in His place, to bring about the union of the Head and the members of the Body of Christ. The sacred priestly ministry of the altar.

priestMy dear Protestant mother and I have been locked in argument lately about this. The sacred priesthood, conferred by the laying on of hands through succession in office, going back to the Apostles. The indelible sacramental mark that makes a man a priest.

We Catholics rightly recognize that in the upper ranks of the hierarchy, a false sense of superiority has produced a class of arrogant and detached men, men who seem incapable of governing the Church honestly and effectively.

So a lot of people rightly question the whole idea of a sacred priesthood. The whole idea that Jesus Himself chose from among His whole flock a “clergy,” a group of men who stand apart, consecrated shepherds, with a unique authority. Why not just have a ‘democratic’ Church?

Now, the building is on fire, to be sure. But that doesn’t mean that the basic idea of the foundation is wrong, or even really changeable. The Son of God did, in fact, start the sacred priesthood of the New Covenant at the Last Supper. He did so in order to make it possible for all of us Christians to exercise our baptismal priesthood as members of His Body. And He made the celebrant at Mass the shepherd.

Certainly there’s a better way to do this, better than the dispiriting mess we’re living through now. But we could search high and low, combing the Scriptures and the countless tomes of learned theology, and we will never a find another, better “constitution” of the Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave us our “Constitution” when He walked the earth, when He celebrated the first Mass, when He breathed the Holy Spirit upon the original Apostles.

Our task is to serve Him, to obey Him, to trust Him. To offer ourselves to the Father, in union with Him.

Temporal Kisses from Eternity

Lord Jesus ascended into heaven. He won His race. He fought His fight. He completed His pilgrimage. [Spanish]

He made human life make sense. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the title character calls mankind a “quintessence of dust.” Fitzgerald concluded his tragic Great Gatsby: “We beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens

The insoluble problem of human existence. Human mortality. Human dissatisfaction with our lot. The problem has no solution. Except Jesus Christ.

Maybe you have heard that a new kind of atheism has hit the streets. The first school of 21st-century atheism directly confronted our Christian faith in God. Tried to prove it irrational. This older 21st-century atheism insisted that science can account for everything, that the Bible is incoherent, and that we don’t ‘need’ God anymore, since we human beings have figured everything out. Or we can use Google to figure it out, if we haven’t already.

That’s the old 21st-century atheism. The new-and-improved kind actually revives the atheism of Karl Marx. According to this new school of atheism, religion isn’t bad because it’s wrong. Whether religion is right or wrong doesn’t matter. Religion is bad because it’s distracting.

The new atheism turns hope for heaven on its head. Reality as we know it now is better than eternity with God. We experience love and joy and communion with beauty now precisely because it’s all temporary. If it were eternal, it wouldn’t be what we love, and rejoice in, now.

This seems to me like “Wallace Stevens Atheism.” He wrote poems which expressed this sense: what we have now, temporarily, is everything. A sunset ravishes us with its beauty because, in ten minutes, it will end. This new 21st-century atheism comes at the denial of God poetically, rather than scientifically.

Now, the Second Vatican Council taught us: We must try to understand atheists. Trying to understand them purifies our faith and helps us focus on God as He actually is, rather than as we feebly imagine Him to be.

Lord Jesus completed His human pilgrimage by ascending–in His human body and soul–to God, to the heavenly Father.

We do not say that temporal life here on earth means nothing. We do not say that the invisible God is all, and everything visible sucks. No. Christ came from the bosom of the Father. The universe springs from His eternal Wisdom. By becoming man, the eternal Word of God drew His creation into the mystery of His triune love. God lived a human life, like ours, to redeem our human lives from oblivion.

chicken-panang
chicken panang

The new, poetic atheism has no interest in the origin of things. Things like a blue heron on the wing, arcing along a creek in the breeze. Or the smell of curry cooking in a panang sauce. Or the pitter-patter of a gentle rain while you’re sitting on the porch.

But failing to acknowledge the eternal origin of such rhapsodies–that robs them of their genuine beauty. Visible created things shine forth the beauty of their as-yet-unseen Creator. A gazelle loping across the savanna isn’t beautiful because its run is temporary. It’s beautiful because, in its temporariness, it communicates a message from eternity. Such lovelinesses serve as a short-term love-notes to us from Beauty Everlasting, Who loves us long-term.

Lord Jesus made it possible for us to receive love from our heavenly Father during this temporary pilgrimage. Then He ascended into heaven. God forbid that we would betray our teacher and leader by claiming to know now what heaven will be like. We don’t. Nor do we presume that we will get there. We could fall. Only by the mysterious grace of God do we progress toward the goal.

But, by the same token, we hope with every fiber and long with every corner of our hearts to reach the celestial mansions where Jesus now reigns. Our Christian joy during our pilgrimage relies on our knowing that we make a pilgrim way now. We strive forward through passing time. Towards something permanent. That’s what we mean by “pilgrimage.”

That goal, mysterious as it is–beyond us as it is; impossible even to imagine—that goal certainly involves the fulfillment of all the gifts that the Father gives us now. Their fulfillment; not their betrayal or nullification. When God is all in all, heaven won’t destroy the earth. Heaven and earth will be one.

So we strive day by day. In heaven–please God we get there–we will rest. Now beauty and happiness come in fleeting foretastes—foretastes of the unseen God. In heaven–please God we get there–all beauty and all happiness will be now and only now. And now will not pass away.

Visitation-Day Homily

pieta

Let’s think of two moments in Our Lady’s life, the two moments when she received the Christ.

The first immediately preceded the Visitation. The Blessed Mother left to visit her cousin Elizabeth right after the Archangel Gabriel announced God’s plan to become man in Mary’s womb. And she conceived her child, by the Holy Spirit.

The second time Our Lady received Christ: right after Lord Jesus’ death, when Mary received His Body in her arms.

The poor—those who, humble and meek, rely solely on God’s mysterious plans, who await the justice, not of men but of the Messiah—they are, in the end, the great achievement of the Holy Spirit’s hidden mission. (From the Catechism, para. 716)

God scatters the proud, casts down the mighty, and lifts up the lowly. He fills the hungry with good things. He remembers His promise of mercy to Israel.

MagnificatBlessed Mother received Christ with utter humility. She received Him on His terms, not hers. She trusted Him with her entire being, even at the moment of His death.

Mary represents all the faithful of ancient Israel. Through all the trials and tribulations of the Old Covenant, they stayed faithful to God. They longed for the Promised Land.

Mary represents all the faithful of the Church. God has fulfilled in her everything that we believe and for which we hope.

And she represents all of creation. In her Magnificat, Our Lady lifts everything up to the Creator, praising His merciful faithfulness.

God loves with tender kindness. Whenever we think of our Lady, that is what we see and know—God’s tender love. She held Him in her lap on Christmas. And she help Him in her lap on Good Friday. And she held Him in her arms on Easter Sunday morning, too.

Our Blessed Mother represents all of us poor souls who live by the simple faith that God is good.

No Pauline Letter to the Athenians

E0702 KLENZE 9463
Acropolis & Areopagus by Leo von Klenze

We read at Mass: St. Paul traveled from Athens to Corinth. (Acts 18:1)

In Athens, Paul had found reverence for “The Unseen God.” He pointed out: This is the true God, the Almighty, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth. Totally beyond us. Greater than anything we can perceive.

Now, tourists still visit Athens—for good reason. To see the Acropolis, a relic of the sublime aesthetic and intellectual achievements of the ancient Greeks.

But where in the New Testament, in the sequence of St. Paul’s letters, do we find his letter to the Athenians?

Paul had proclaimed to them something that they chose not to believe. The Unseen God has revealed Himself. He became man, died, and rose from the dead in the flesh. What we could never have deduced about the Unseen God, He has taught us Himself–by pouring out His Holy Spirit. The Spirit strengthens us and lifts us up, to believe in Christ.

The unseen God loves us. Loves us as His children. Has a plan for us. Wills to share His own divine life with us.

We do not see Jesus, but we know Him. His Spirit unites us with Him. His Spirit is God, the ineffable Life of all that lives, the ineffable Light of all that beautifully shines. And He mercifully pours that Godliness of God into our hearts. To bring about a friendship that transcends our powers to describe.

The Mandate and The Basics

The Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything. (John 14:25)

These are the words of our Lord Jesus, to the Apostles, at the Last Supper. He was explaining to them what would happen after He ascended into heaven. [Spanish]

That was the beginning of the Catholic Church. The Lord Jesus had taught the Apostles many things while He was on the earth. He would teach them other things from heaven. As He promised, after He ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit to guide His Church.

In our first reading at Sunday Mass, from the Acts of Apostles, we read St. Luke’s account of the first Church Council. The situation was this: The Apostles had gone out from Jerusalem to preach the Gospel. In the surrounding countries, both Jews and non-Jews came to believe.

circumcison knifeNow, some of the first non-Jewish Christians had heard–from somebody–that they were supposed to keep the Law of Moses. The uncircumcised non-Jewish men, who feared God but also feared pain, were not sure that they wanted to. Baptized into Christ, yes. But minor surgery in a particularly sensitive area? Really?

So the Apostles gathered back together again in Jerusalem to try to deal with this honest question. They prayed and debated. Then the Council composed a letter, to be read aloud to confused Gentile Christians in Syria.

As it turned out, the uncircumcised men had nothing to fear. It is not the will of God that adult men who seek Baptism also have to be circumcised. It is not necessary. The Lord Jesus shed all the blood that needed to be shed.

Confusion had arisen because: Someone had told the Gentile converts otherwise. As we heard the Apostles’ letter say, “Some of our number went out without any mandate from us and upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind.”

This is a crucial sentence. The Apostles condemned those who taught their own doctrines without any mandate from us.

To teach the true religion, the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ himself–to teach God’s religion—that requires a mandate.  No one can give himself authority to teach the Gospel or preside over the sacraments.

As the Lord Jesus explained, the Holy Spirit governs the Church. And He gives the mandate to teach and preside, through St. Peter and the Apostles, and their successors in office.

Kyle O'Connor

Now, a non-Catholic might say “Look here, popish brother. My mandate is this here Holy Bible.”  Fair enough. We Catholics love the Bible, too.

But we reply, “Dear Brother, if you please: Open the Bible; give the New Testament a thorough read. Lord Jesus never handed anyone a book. He never handed anybody a Bible and said, “This is your mandate. Set up shop for yourself.”  He never did that.

Christ chose His Apostles, consecrated them at the Last Supper, gave them the sacraments, and sent them on their mission. As the Apostles were performing their sacred mission, they wrote the New Testament. The Church came first, the written gospels second.

That said, the New Testament certainly remains our unfailing guide to the true doctrine which originated with Christ. Just like the New Testament would not exist, had not the Church written it, the Church cannot endure without constant, prayerful study of the New Testament. But without the living mission of the Church, the Bible is a dead letter. The New Testament is not an independent book. It is a family heirloom of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Maybe some will remember two seminarians we had here, back in the summers of 2013 and 2014. Excellent, inspiring young men. On Saturday, bishop will ordain them priests.

Kyle and Dan will become priests in a scandal-plagued Church. I did, too, sixteen years ago yesterday. Takes a certain kind of guts, to become a priest under these circumstances. Or a certain kind of faith. Or a certain kind of lunacy.

Dan MolochkoWe poor priests find ourselves caught between two poles. On the one hand, people who read widely know: the Catholic Church in the U.S. may not survive. The McCarrick Affair has destroyed what little trust we had in the hierarchy.

One the other hand, our bishops and pope basically carry on as if we were at Situation Normal. ‘McCarrick? What McCarrick? What cover-up? What catastrophic betrayal of trust? Who? Us?’

God never promised that any particular parish, or diocese, or even whole nation of dioceses, would survive forever. But He did endow his one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church with an indestructible center of gravity, which will survive until He comes again in glory.

The New Testament. Our Creed. Our sacraments. Our prayers. Our way of life, based on the Ten Commandments.

Back when I studied in the seminary, clinging to the basics of the faith was regarded as backwards, déclassé, retrograde. But I think time has proven the wisdom of clinging to the basics. For dear life.

Let’s cling. And march on.

The College of Lying Cowards

Gregory installation

“I have called you friends,” says the Lord. (John 15:15)

Sixteen years ago today, I had an explanation in my mind for the state of the Church in America. Over the course of last summer, 2018 quickly became the worst year in the history of American Catholicism. But before that, 2002—the year before my ordination—held the title.

We had learned just how many millions upon millions upon millions of dollars the Catholic bishops of the USA had paid out in hush-money, to cover up crimes.

As I knelt to be ordained, I thought I had a plausible explanation for this. A Romanian-priest friend of mine had pointed out to me: In Romania, people would never hold the diocese responsible for the crime of a single priest. They would hold the priest himself responsible.

In America, my thinking went, dioceses had to contend with the deep anti-Catholic prejudice of our country. The typical American conceives of the Catholic Church as a suspicious foreign enterprise. So American courts treat the Church unfairly. The bishops really had no choice but to pay big settlements.

After all, we all knew too well how much anti-Catholicism this country harbors. During 2002, the lampoonists of press and screen had open season on Catholic priests. Everyone refrained from any caricature of Muslim leaders, for fear of a cruel backlash after 9/11. But you could mock Catholic priests en masse, as twisted sexual perverts, with total impunity. Just like you can now.

McCarrick ordinationToday, however—sixteen years later—I know different. We all know that anti-Catholicism does not explain the endless settlements paid by dioceses in sex-abuse cases.

The revelations of the past year have taught us: the bishops did not make all those payments to protect the victims, or the Church—or because prejudice stacked the legal deck against them. The bishops paid the hush-money to protect themselves. They had everything to lose, if the truth about their dereliction of duty came out. The bishops paid to “protect” people from scandal—not scandal about the sins of priests, but scandal over their own incompetence as enforcers of ecclesiastical law.

One bridge spans the sixteen years I have been a priest: the cover-up of the crimes of the very man who ordained me. His successor in office, Donald Wuerl, knew fifteen years ago that McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians and young priests. This past Tuesday, Wilton Gregory, the newly arrived successor in Washington, praised Donald Wuerl as “above all, a true Christian gentleman.”

But let’s imagine a true Christian gentleman, reading the sworn testimony of one of McCarrick’s victims, in the fall of 2004. Wouldn’t a true Christian gentleman, in Donald Wuerl’s place, think to himself: I need to see justice done here. I have a duty to this poor soul. May God help me to do right by him.

Instead, Wuerl obsequiously sent the whole thing to Rome and washed his hands of it. In the Vatican, they masterminded the McCarrick cover-up. And Wuerl has hidden behind the supposed virtue of filial obedience to the pope ever since.

Lord Jesus calls us His friends. Friends don’t let friends betray what they supposedly stand for. Friends don’t let friends cover up crimes of sexual abuse—even if one of those friends is a Cardinal, or even the pope.

On Tuesday, Donald Wuerl strode in last, at the end of the procession, when his successor was to be installed. The end of the procession is, of course, the place of honor. Fitting that Cardinal Wuerl took that place. He presides, with unique distinction, over the College of Lying Cowards that sat there in their miters in the Shrine on Tuesday.

…Sixteen years in, and this is the priest you have, my dear ones! Let’s keep loving God and His Christ together, one day at a time. Jesus reigns. The One to Whom we must answer, when everything is said and done, is He.

Old And New

Behold, I make all things new. (Revelation 21:5)

This is what the One who sat on the throne in heaven said, according to the vision of St. John. We read this in our second reading at Sunday Mass. [Spanish]

Christ our King speaks to us from His throne of victory. He says to us, ‘My children, you have grown old. Sin and worldliness have exhausted you. You can barely lift up your eyes to see the sunlight. But, behold!’ He says, ‘I make all things new!’

fatherThe world is old. Only God really knows just how old it is. There was a moment when God said, “Let there be light,” and it was “the beginning.” That was a long, long time ago.

Many generations have come and gone since then. Many nations and peoples have had long histories, and then vanished. The Tutelo and the Catawba stalked deer with bow and arrow right where our little church sits. They did it for centuries. They never watched television.  They never even heard of the Mueller Report or baby Archie.

Can we imagine all the bones of all the generations of our dead ancestors buried in the soil of the earth? Think of how deeply buried the oldest bones must be!

So, we see: The world is old. The good Lord speaks to us about a serious problem that we have. Our world is so old, it’s disturbing for us to think about it. Kind of like how disturbing it is for me to think about how old many of my undershirts are.

The world is much, much older. We start to worry: Is this world of ours just going to give out on us, one of these days?  How much use and abuse can it take?

And, listen—we know some beautiful young people. But let’s face facts: It’s not just the world that is old. Many of us are kinda old, too.

I used to be able to play a mean game of basketball. I could even dunk. But then I had to retire. I am too old to play basketball. It got to be too dangerous. I could still score sometimes, but for every twenty or so points I would score, I would sprain something. My ankle, my hand. My ego. Basketball is fun when you’re young. When you’re old, it is just plain dangerous.

We get old and worn out. We start to wonder if we really have the energy to deal with things. When I was a kid, I never understood how my dad could say, on a sunny evening, “I would love to toss the football with you, son, but I am just too tired.”

But then you get old, and you understand. You think to yourself things like: ‘Washington Redskins have a new young-phenom starting quarterback. We’ve been down this road before. I can’t take another fizzle like RGIII. I don’t think I have the strength.’

Old and tired. It happens. But the Lord Jesus says to us: ‘Children, behold.  I make all things new.’

behold-i-make-all-things-new

Remember the movie, The Passion of the Christ? In the movie, when the Lord Jesus carries the cross to Calvary, the Blessed Mother says to St. John, “Get me close to Him.”

St. John leads her past the crowd. The Lord falls under the weight of the cross. His mother runs to comfort her son. She weeps with pain as she caresses His bloody face. She sees that His strength is completely spent.

But then He opens His eyes and gazes at her with blazing power. He shoulders the heavy cross again. He whispers to her, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Our Sunday gospel reading comes from the account of the Last Supper. Judas had left the Upper Room and stolen out into the night to betray Christ. Knowing all that was about to take place, the Lord Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified.”

Christ made all things new by submitting Himself to every violent blow that the sinful world could land on Him. He did not flinch. He did not turn away.

The broken, old world raged against the anointed One and beat Him to the point of utter exhaustion. But He did not collapse. He did not fall away from His Father. Instead, He made an offering.

The broken, bruised, and exhausted Son of God lifted up all His pain—lifted up His very death–to heaven, and said, “Father, I offer You my body, my blood, my soul. I offer You the divinity We have shared since before the world was made. I offer it all, everything I have, every last drop—I offer it in sacrifice to atone for all the sins of mankind. Accept it, and forgive. Give the world a fresh start. Give the human race a chance to start over, to be young again.”

Then He breathed His last.

Until the third day. Then He began to breathe again. He rose from the dead. He made all things new.

The Word of God + Eric Clapton

Palermo Pantocrator Christ priest

All four gospels have two parts. Part I of each gospel covers everything before the Passion. Part II recounts the Passion and Resurrection.

The verses of St. John’s gospel that we read at Holy Mass today conclude his Part I. They serve as a kind of ‘closing argument,’ so to speak, about Who Jesus is.

He is the eternal Son of the eternal Father. He is God made man. He speaks not a human opinion about God; rather, He is God revealing Himself to us human beings.

We find ourselves struggling always to navigate between two possible deadly traps. On the one hand: talking about God without any discipline or restraint. As if we could know that God “wants” this or “doesn’t want” that. As if we could know that God “likes” this or “doesn’t like” that. The world abounds with preachers and other well-meaning people who try to domesticate the awesome, unfathomable majesty of the Creator. And the absurdity of a human being claiming to understand God—it’s enough to push a sober skeptic over the line into atheism.

On the other hand, God has not left us in the dark about Himself—about His plan, His will. No. He sent His only-begotten Son. The words Jesus has spoken are spirit and life. The Redemption He brought about is real. He lives and reigns, and He shares His grace with us through the means that He Himself established. We didn’t make it all up–the sacraments and the New Testament.

Which brings us to an interesting twist in the verses that we read at Mass today. At first, the Lord refers to His words, in the plural. But then He changes to word, singular, when He refers to the final judgment.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains this:

Christ revealed Himself in His sayings. He announced Himself. He, therefore, is the word that He spoke.

God has spoken. His one and only eternal and infinite Word. Jesus Christ.

PS. Back in 1986, I listened to Eric Clapton’s August so many times that I wore out the tape in the cassette. But I was holed-up in a monastery when this incredible event occurred in 1996. I never knew about it, until a friend alerted me…