The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, June 7
Mt. 28: 16-20
“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
A Solemnity is the highest liturgical rank of a feast in the Church calendar. In addition to the movable feasts like Easter and the feast of Pentecost, fourteen solemnities are celebrated in the universal Roman Catholic Church. Among them is the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity that we celebrate today. This solemnity is sometimes referred to as a “devotional” or “idea” feast. It is far more speculative than some of the other solemnities and as such it is seemingly more difficult to make many practical applications from it for our daily living. But they are there. This feast of the Holy Trinity has been around in the Church in one way or another from the 4th and 5th centuries, and from the 14th century it has been a yearly celebration in the calendar of the universal Church.
The Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three persons in one God – has been and always will be one of the mysteries of theology. The word mystery sometimes means that we cannot understand something. Others define it as something that is endlessly understandable. We can go on and on and on understanding it and never exhaust it or bring it to completion. One of these attempts to understand it is using the shamrock to explain it: three leaves on one stem.
In our Gospel for today the eleven disciples went to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them to go. And when they saw him (Jesus) they worshipped him. For the first and only time in the Scriptures, we see the disciples worshipping Jesus. They bowed before him, prostrated themselves before him. They saw Jesus as he was, they saw him as the God of all to be worshipped.
To me this worshipping of Jesus by the disciples is a very practical point for each of us. We are to worship this God who is a mystery to us and yet reveals himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and invites us in our Baptism to be submerged into this august family of the Godhead. We are the children of God!! What else is there for us to do before such a God but to fall down and worship, adore him? This is one of the main problems in the world today. The great majority of the people in the world today believe in God or say they do. Many believe his words to us from the Scriptures to be his inspired words and try and follow them. Many go to church religiously every Sunday in one religion or another. But how many are truly worshipping him, bowing down before him? Even the small signs of doing so have disappeared from our rituals performed in church. Whatever happened to genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament when we enter church? Why do we not kneel anymore when we pray to God? How many of us put God in charge of our lives in surrendering our wills and lives to his care and control?
This is what it means to believe in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons in one God – our God as he has revealed himself to us.
Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, June 8
Mt. 5: 1-12
The Gospels for Ordinary Time now take us to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, probably the best known and most quoted part of Matthew’s Gospel. It runs from chapters 5: 1 to 7: 28. There is a similar sermon in the Gospel of St. Luke, the Sermon on the Plain, in Luke 6: 17-49. Matthew in making his setting a mountain makes Jesus a Moses-like figure, but one, of course, who exceeds Moses as Teacher.
Much has been written about the eight Beatitudes found in today’s Gospel. Volumes have been written on each one of them. They show signs of being both Wisdom and Prophetic literature. Matthew makes eight parallel statements of blessing, happiness and promise. The eight beatitudes are really a road map to happiness and peace in our lives. Space here does not permit treating each one of them individually right now. I do encourage all of us to take time to read the Beatitudes today, a time of reflecting upon them and making a practical point or two on how we can fit our lives into following them.
I would also like to recommend the purchase of a Commentary on the Scriptures. There are many of them on the market at not too great a price and they are invaluable for our proper understanding of the Scriptures. These are available on-line for both the Old and New Testaments. It is a good way to go if you love the Scriptures as I have come to love them. They are indeed rich in the Wisdom of God.
Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, June 9
Mt. 5: 13-16
Our Gospel for today continues the Sermon of the Mount with a double metaphor. Jesus tells his followers (and that includes us) that we are the Salt of the earth and the Light of the world. Note the emphasis on the word “You” in Jesus’ words: You are the salt of the earth, You are the light of the world. The word “You” can be taken either as singular or plural. I prefer to read the Scriptures using the singular meaning and applying the Scriptures to my own spiritual life.
Jesus first tells me: “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt was of great necessity in the ancient world. We read in the Book of Sirach (39: 26): “Chief of all needs for human life are water and fire, iron and salt.” Salt was used for seasoning food, for preserving it and for purification. To eat salt with someone signifies a bond of friendship and loyalty (maybe the reason for using salt around the top of the margarita glass?). The application for us is that we are to preserve, purify and judge and draw out the flavor, the savor, of God’s love for the world. Salt can lose its taste by being diluted or dissolved. The message Jesus is giving us here is not to let our faith become diluted or dissolved by hard times in our lives or in the lives of others we love or to water down our faith with the various rationalizations we are so fond of using for enjoying the seeming pleasures of the world.
“You are the light of the world.” This metaphor is easy to apply to our own spiritual lives. As such we are all to be an influence to those who choose the darkness of worldly idols. Light allows us to see clearly where we are going and what we are about.
Both of these metaphors in today’s Gospel affect our good works as the disciples of Jesus and point to the Father who is to be glorified by all. Are we salt? Are we light? These are good questions for our reflection time today.
Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, June 10
Mt. 5: 17-19
“Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill.”
Jesus sets us straight on the law in our lives today and its observance. He tells us he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Soon in the Sermon on the Mount we will encounter the “antitheses” and these will give us a beautiful example of how Jesus fulfills the law.
Jesus, of course, was a devout Jew and as such he followed the law, he was a keeper of the law. He does not replace the law anywhere in the Scriptures nor does he ever break the law even though he is occasionally accused of this by the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus does, however, bring the law to its intended purpose and challenges us in so doing.
We too should be observers of the law, both the civil law and the church laws, which are for our own benefit. We should be careful to observe these laws carefully and thoughtfully. Our children and others are watching us, you know, and when we cut corners and water down the laws we are not exactly giving them good examples. We teach more by our example and the way we truly live than by all the words and good intentions in the world. We all know this. Let’s ask Jesus today for the strength to do it.
Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, June 11
Memorial of St. Barnabas
Today’s Gospel selection tells Jesus’ disciples and us who follow him how to travel, how to approach people, what to say and what to do, and how to handle rejection. This Gospel was chosen to be read on this feast of St. Barnabas. Barnabas is known mainly as being a disciple of St. Paul, or maybe it was the other way around.
Barnabas was originally named Joseph. He is reported in Acts as having sold all his property and giving the proceeds to the Apostles for the young Christian community. The Apostles named him Barnabas and he lived in the Christian community in Jerusalem. He persuaded the community in Jerusalem to accept Paul and later brought Paul to Antioch and Syria. He was a cousin of John Mark, the proposed author of the first Gospel. Later on he separated from Paul and nothing more is heard of him after this. There are many other details of his life from tradition including an apocryphal Epistle of St. Barnabas that is no longer attributed to his authorship. He is believed to have been stoned to death in Salamis around the year 61. Obviously he experienced rejection as a disciple but did not let this stand in his serving Jesus and dying for his faith in him.
St. Barnabas, pray for us.
Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, June 12
Mt. 5: 27-32
In today’s Gospel we encounter the 2nd and 3rd “antithesis in Matthew’s Gospel. The word “antithesis” is defined in the dictionary as the placing of a sentence against or in opposition to another to which it is opposed to form a balanced contrast of ideas. Wow! Figure that one out! You will recognize them in Matthew’s Gospel where they usually take the form of: You have heard ……. But I tell you……. They are usually challenges to us to carry the law we have heard to a higher level, e.g. You have heard that you are to love those who are good to you…… but I tell you love your enemies also. There are six of these statements in Matthew’s Gospel.
Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, every one who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery.” The rather graphic metaphors that follow about tearing out one’s eye or cutting off a hand tell us of the seriousness of the sin of lust in our lives.
The third antithesis builds on the second just given above, adding to it that divorce is to be regarded as a form of adultery. The reasons for permitting divorce are found elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel (19: 1-12). Here it is simply prohibited on the grounds of either sexual misconduct or adultery or marriage to a close relative, which was against the Jewish law.
In this modern day and age where pretty much anything seems to go regarding sexual matters, it would do us all well to reflect on whether or not we have carried this challenge of Jesus to a higher level of chastity in our own lives, especially regarding what we watch on TV and look at on the computer screen. Let’s all dare to examine this honestly for our reflection today.
Saturday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, June 13
Feast of St. Anthony of Padua
St. Anthony of Padua, whose Memorial we celebrate today, is one of the shining lights of the Franciscan Order. I could go on and on about what I have read about him and his accomplishments but I intend to keep this brief. Most of us are aware of the custom of praying to St. Anthony for the return of something we have lost, but there is far more to St. Anthony than this. Personally, I have yet to discover where this custom came from.
Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal near the end of the twelfth century. He was born in 1195 and died in 1231. He was a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi, who was born in 1182 and died in 1226. Anthony was originally ordained a priest as a member of the Canon Regulars of St. Augustine, but in 1221 he joined the Franciscan Order to devote himself to spreading the Gospel in Africa and hopefully to die a martyr’s death there. On the way to Africa the boat was blown off course by a storm and Anthony landed in southern Italy. And the rest, as they say, is history. He went on to have a great career as a teacher of theology, a preacher of great renown, and a very holy person.
Anthony was the first member of the Order that St. Francis recruited to teach theology to the other Friars. Francis did this because he saw in Anthony a learning that did not distract him from the Gospel life of a Friar Minor and who would not allow his disciples to go that route either. His sermons are noted for the learning and gentleness with God’s people. Anthony died in Padua in 1231 at the age of 36.
St. Anthon of Padua, pray for us.