7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER (Year C). (Acts 7: 55-60/ Ps 97/ Rev 22: 12-14. 16-17. 20/ Jn 17: 20-26)
My dear Friends in Christ:
The section in today’s gospel is widely regarded by some scripture scholars as the high priestly prayer of Jesus. This prayer is situated before the Passover and the Last Supper, and following our African culture, where we pay attention to the last words of a person, it is important that we reflect deeply on the words of Jesus in this prayer.
The centre point of Jesus’ prayer in today’s gospel is unity. He says “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one”. The importance of unity among the followers of Christ cannot be overemphasised. Indeed, we read that the early Christians were of one heart and one mind (Acts 4: 32) and this unity went a long way in the advancement of the Church.
Due to this unity, when they prayed, the prayer was accompanied by clear signs of response from God, like when the Apostles were released from incarceration and the many miracles they worked.
Unity is a certain mark of true disciples of Jesus, who as a person in the Triune Godhead, has already given us the example of unity, as it exists between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Consequently, the more united Christians are, the more we succeed in showing that we are following in our Master’s footsteps.
As true disciples it is imperative to demonstrate unity in faith and unity in Christian witness. Our baptism implies that we have been chosen and consecrated for this mission, both internally within the Catholic church, and externally, among the Christians.
There are often real and present obstacles to this unity. And to overcome these, we all need to work and to pray. As difficult as it might be, unity is still possible, since we have been consecrated in the truth by the Master himself.
PENTECOST SUNDAY (Year C). (Acts 2: 1-11/ Ps 104/ Rm 8: 8-17/Jn 14: 15-16. 23b-26)
My dear Friends in Christ:
The Pentecost day we have been preparing for is here with us this Sunday. Today, we celebrate our special anniversary of when we first received the Holy Spirit in our lives at our reception of the sacraments of initiation, as well as other times when we request God’s grace in a special way. This is the birthday of the Church, as the first reading shows us that this was the day when the Apostles and the disciples of Jesus were sufficiently embolden to break out of their hiding place, and engage the peoples with the good news of the resurrection of Jesus. They were able to do this with the power of the Spirit.
On a day like this, we are invited to reflect on our understanding of the Holy Spirit, especially of the images that we use to associate this Divine person. In today’s first reading, Luke and his source described the appearance of the Spirit on the disciples, using the expression tongues of fire. This description is indeed very popular, but we must not lose sight of the fact that Luke was trying to describe the indescribable, and in the circumstances, these were the best words he could use.
This image of the Spirit does not exhaust the reality of the 3rd person of the Trinity. There are other images of a different character, like Elijah that encountered a gentle breeze (1 Kings 19: 12) or the Spirit descending on Jesus in the form of a dove (Jn 1:32). However, some of us choose to remain stuck with the image of fire (and the association with violence that this entails) to the detriment of other images of the Spirit, and other manifestations that a spirit-filled life can assume. This makes us feel the Spirit only exists in places that ‘violently’ attest to its presence, and blinds us to the myriad of situations and places where the Spirit also dwells and works.
Today, as we pray for the renewal of the Spirit in each and every one of us, let us remind ourselves that we certainly have the Spirit in our lives as persons, and communally in our Church. The Spirit manifests itself in different ways, not only in the working of miracles and healing of persons, which all the same abounds in the Catholic Church.
The Spirit of God is felt just as powerfully when we make good decisions, when we practice the virtues of prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude; when we forgive offences suffered; when we carry out the corporal and the spiritual works of mercy. Indeed, the Spirit prompts us to do the good things that we do.
Today, we pray for a strong renewal of our appreciation of the presence of the Spirit in our lives, and our eagerness to keep Jesus’ commandments, so that the Spirit continues to abide with us and in us.
MOST HOLY TRINITY (Year C). (Prov 8: 22-31/ Ps 8/ Rm 5: 1-5/Jn 16: 12-15)
My dear Friends in Christ:
On Trinity Sunday, we are faced with one of the deepest mysteries of our faith, the mystery of the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On a day like this, the dilemma is to focus too much on the theological teaching of the mystery, which often times, to the non-Theologian, can be quite dry. The fact is that the Trinity is a mystery better experienced than rationally explained.
At the heart of the mystery is the love that serves as the glue that binds together the three persons in the Godhead. As a result of this love, we can better appreciate the fact that the mystery of the Trinity shows us that God is a community. The God we serve is a community of Father, Son and Spirit, sharing the same Godhead, co-equal in dignity. The Trinity speaks to the relationship of God the Father, with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
This mystery is evident in our practical Christian lives. In obedience to the command of Jesus in Matthew 28: 19, we are baptized in the name of the Trinity. When we step into the Church, and at the beginning of our prayers, we make the sign of the Cross. In concluding our liturgical prayers, we use the doxology, which addresses the prayer said to the Trinity. Even in our private devotions and prayers, we give glory to the Trinity, and so forth. These are different ways in which we live out the mystery of the Trinity in our lives. But there remains an even greater way.
We are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26), and this has implications for the way we live. Now, since this God is a community, one of the implications of our origins, is that we have to learn to be in constant relationship with others.
What makes it possible to live with others, to live in community is love. Paul’s hymn to love in 1 Cor 13 is rich in its description of the different dimensions to love. In those words, we see how we can show that we really love, and in that manner, how easy it will be to live with others. The challenges that hinder us from living with others are surmountable to the one who really loves. Because love will make it easier to forgive, to forbear, to make excuses for the other, to place the other’s interests at par with one’s interests, and so on. Indeed, these qualities are indispensable for effective community life.
Today, we pray to our Triune God, whose nature teaches us the importance of community, for the grace to love in such a manner that we will find it less difficult to live with one another.
MOST HOLY BODY & BLOOD OF JESUS (Year C). (Gen 14: 18-20/ Ps 110/ 1 Cor 11: 23-26/Lk 9: 11b-17)
My dear Friends in Christ:
The weeks after Pentecost Sunday are rich with celebration of feasts in the Church, and today we are celebrating the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Right from the beginning, the early Christians considered the Eucharist to be of the utmost importance. We read in Acts 4: 42, that the believers devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. The breaking of bread here is the technical term that they used to refer to the Eucharist.
Based on such illustrious history, we understand that our identity as Catholics finds its deep meaning in the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist, the true Body and Blood of Jesus. Take some time to reflect on these words, that the bread and wine which with we celebrate the mass, is the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We may not appreciate the import.
After two years of catechism, I had to test the candidates for baptism and first Holy Communion in my little Church. One question I asked most of them (in varied forms) runs thus: “If you go to a
Pentecostal Church where they are having communion service, and you are invited to join and you do. What you receive there and the communion we receive in the Church, is it the same? It will interest you to know that an appreciable number answered in the affirmative, leading to fresh classes obviously.
Besides classes, it takes the gift of Catholic faith to accept the two miracles associated with Transubstantiation, viz, that after consecration, the substance of the bread and wine used for the Eucharist become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. And, the accidents of the bread and wine remain for our benefit, to make our reception of Jesus palatable. But the reality remains; what we receive is Jesus, such that when we look at the host, we are looking at Christ.
This means that when we receive Jesus in the sacrament, we become living tabernacles in the real sense of the word. We can better do this when we take care to receive the sacrament worthily. Receiving it worthily involves a lot of things, especially confession and a firm purpose of amendment to avoid the sin that clings so easily, and makes us more unworthy of this great presence within us.
Look at the host! It is really Jesus. Do your utmost to provide him a fitting dwelling, in the living tabernacle that is you.