Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.”
The Father sent his Son into the world to transform it by union with himself, energizing the very dust of the cosmos with the breath of the Holy Spirit. The second person of the Trinity became an individual among individuals to lead us beyond the empirical boundaries of individuation to the authentic freedom of personhood.
Christ’s forgiveness of his enemies from the Cross tore down dividing walls and invited reconciliation with himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Love overcame the fear of death, for other persons were his very life. Jesus’ whole being cried out for the restoration of a divided, ego-centered humanity.
The permeable communion of persons in communion infinitely surpasses the society of bounded egos. One’s own good and the good of others is one and the same good. Persons conceived in the Womb of the Father are selfless like himself and good “to the bone.” When we see other persons as one with us in the same Immaculate Womb, “enemies” become children of the Father.
The Holy Spirit alone can divinize our nature so that love becomes first nature and first impulse. Confidence in the Holy Spirit’s transforming power is a first step to cooperating with divine grace.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:1-2).
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18).
The images in the Book of Genesis reappear with fresh life in the opening lines of the New Testament—a second Genesis and re-creation of the earth.
The birth of the cosmos and the birth of Christ issued forth by the same primeval Wind, Breath and Spirit beyond all worlds.
In the first Genesis, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of the earth (Genesis 1:2) and brought forth life of every kind. In the second Genesis, the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters of Mary’s womb and brought forth Emmanuel, “God with us.”
God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). Mary said, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” and Light from Light became flesh in her womb (Luke 1:38).
Mary Immaculate, like Adam Immaculate, was born stainless and pristine, but unlike Adam and Eve, she gave birth to a deified humanity by the power of the Holy Spirit. Person begot person wholly without passion, beyond the union of male and female. In the image of the Virgin Father, the Virgin Mother begot the Word in the mysterious spiration of the eternal Breath. The formless void of Mary’s earthly womb pulsated with the energetic radiance of the Logos enfleshed.
Mary’s immaculate conception and perpetual virginity introduced an absolute break in the line of biological descent ending with Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ. From henceforth, the co-heirs of Christ, born of the Spirit, have God as their Father, Origin and End. Mary, the Mother of God, is the mother of all of Christ’s brethren in their journey back to the Father.
The genealogy of persons born in the Womb of the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit begins with the Blessed Virgin Mary and continues with St. Joseph, St. Peter, St. Andrew, St. James, St. John, St. Philip, St. Bartholomew, St. Thomas, St. Matthew, St. James (son of Alphaeus), St. Jude, St. Simon, St. Matthias, St. Stephen, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Mary of Bethany, St. Mary of Clopas, St. Priscilla, St. Aquila, St. Veronica, and all the saints throughout the centuries.
The second Genesis will see the return of the cosmos back to the Source who is Three One/One Three, and the reintegration of all divisions. Persons born again in the Spirit join the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Son in the upswing back to the Trinity—the multi-personal festival of eternal love and glory.
While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you not read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry? How he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”
With hawk-eyed precision, the restless experts in the law spent their Sabbath “rest” measuring the Immeasurable and his disciples. Walking through a field was unobjectionable, but picking, rubbing, and eating grain amounted to the forbidden labor of reaping, threshing, winnowing, and meal preparation on the Sabbath.
David, Jesus pointed out, received divine sanction to consume the holy bread of the tabernacle and share it with his starving companions (I Samuel 21:1-6). Not one iota of the law was transgressed, for mercy is the spirit of the law. Without mercy, the letter of the law is dead (Hosea 6:6).
Jesus, the giver of the Sabbath, could not contradict himself by transgressing the law. By his merciful actions on the Sabbath, he demonstrated the heart and spirit of the law. What appeared to be transgression was the fulfillment of the law.
“For the just man there is no law, he is a law unto himself,” St. John of the Cross discovered in his mystical Ascent of Mount Carmel. The deified person no longer operates on the earthly plane alone, but moves in synergy with the Holy Spirit. Divine and human action are virtually indistinguishable at the top of the mount, where self-emptying and detachment have given way to radical transformation by divine grace.
As long as the law remains external, it judges and condemns persons. But when “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” true freedom becomes possible (Galatians 2:20). Deification is complete identification with the law who is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
“The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath,” declared Jesus, the Law Incarnate and gate to the deification of humankind. The person who has become one with the law “can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone” (I Corinthians 2:15).
The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.” Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” And he also told them a parable. “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.
The presence of Emmanuel (“God with us”) was a springtime in the history of the world. Jesus’ divine identity was still hidden and unknown, but as he healed the sick and preached in synagogues he became known as a reputable teacher and thus a role model in religious observance. Serious disciples of a great rabbi were expected to follow a strict regimen of prayer and fasting.
Jesus answered the somber inquirers (which included the Baptist’s disciples in Mark and Matthew) with the image of a splendid wedding. As the long-awaited Bridegroom has finally arrived, the sons of the bridechamber must rejoice and be glad.
Without giving a long theological discourse or exegesis of the Law and the Prophets, Jesus simply hinted that the very foundations of Judaism were about to undergo a seismic shift.
As the sphericity of the Earth cannot accommodate the Flat Earth theory, the revelation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bursts the skins of Abrahamic monotheism. The new wine of the Holy Spirit must be poured into human persons—the new wineskins, temple, and ark of the covenant. Communion of persons in the Trinity through Jesus Christ is the new Jerusalem.
But old traditions are hard to leave behind. Who wants to leave the comforts of the Shire and step out into the unknown?
And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
Deuteronomy 7:6-11, 1 John 4:7-16, Matthew 11:25-30
Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
“God is Love.”
Like an owl squinting in sunlight, the eyes of humankind are opened gradually to the truth of who we are as a people and who God is. “You are a people sacred to the Lord,” Moses told the Israelites. Bending to the weakness of human mistrust, God made an “oath,” a covenant with his people, though Jesus would later exhort them not to swear at all. No gap lies between a divine word and its fulfillment, after all. The oath was for Israel, not for God.
The engagement between God and his people was also very fuzzy, like a picture out of focus. The “I AM” of the burning bush was personal, but faceless. “No one has ever seen God,” and yet, “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” Jesus said.
The identity of the mysterious YHWH began to focus a little bit more as Jesus shared with his disciples the heart of the Father, and promised to send them the Advocate, the Spirit of truth.
Not only God’s identity, but Israel’s began to sharpen into some clarity. God is not only One, but Three. Israel, the precursor of the Church, is not only a people, but persons.
Moses consecrated Israel as a “sacred people,” a nation set apart. The Holy Spirit consecrated the disciples as unique persons when he descended upon each one with a distinct tongue of fire.
“Love” is not an abstraction, but a concrete reality with concrete faces—Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and each unique person baptized by the Spirit in one Body of Christ. The finite and the infinite, the created and the uncreated are united in communion in a way beyond conceptual grasp.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Anne, St. Joachim, the Holy Innocents, St. John the Baptist, St. Peter, St. John, St. James (son of Zebedee), St. James (son of Alpheus), St. Andrew, St. Philip, St. Bartholomew, St. Thomas, St. Matthew, St. Simon, St. Jude, St. Matthias, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Paul, St. Barnabas, St. Timothy, St. Titus, St. Priscilla, St. Aquila and all the saints to the present day each shine with unique splendor in heavenly communion.
The eternally young, ever-begotten Son of the Father who became the microscopically small son of Mary with a tiny beating heart invites us to become little with him. Mysteries that elude the “wise and the learned” are revealed to “little ones.”
Green is the liturgy’s color for ordinary time. Not white, the bright light of Eastertime, or red the color of blood and fire. or purple the color of penance. Green is earth’s color, color of slow growing trees and grasses, of ordinary time.
An unknown 4th century spiritual writer describes the ordinary ways the Holy Spirit works in us. “In varied and different ways” invisible grace leads us. Ordinary time doesn’t mean that every day’s the same. Sometimes we find ourselves sad at the state of things; sometimes we joyfully hold the whole world in our arms. Sometimes we feel helpless; sometimes we think there’s nothing we can’t do. Sometimes we’re brave; sometimes we escape into the supposed safety of ourselves looking for peace.
“… The soul becomes like any other human being.” Which means, I guess, that we don’t feel spiritual at all.
Far from taking us away from the human condition, the Spirit leads us by human steps in human time. Ordinary time is the natural roller-coaster of life, all right, but the Spirit leads us on.
That’s why the psalms are such wonderful prayers. They’re the great prayers of ordinary time. They take us from one human experience to another. If you don’t experience what a certain psalm describes, wait awhile–you will.
Green is the Season
Green is the season after Pentecost.
The Holy Ghost in an abstracted place
spreads out the languid summer of His peace,
unrolls His hot July.
O leaves of love, O chlorophyll of grace.
Native to all is this contemplative summer.
The soul that finds its way through Pentecost
knows this green solitude at once as homeland.
Only the heart, earth held and time engrossed,
dazed by this unforeknown and blossoming nowhere,
troubles itself with adjectives like “lost.”
The Holy Spirit descends on Jesus at his baptism in the form of a dove, the gospels say. Scholars like Luke Timothy Johnson in his commentary on St. Luke’s gospel seem puzzled by the description. What’s the explanation? “Such is the nature of symbols–all are possible,” Johnson writes.
May I hazard an explanation? Doves are regular visitors at my window and at our bird-feeder outside. I notice how confident and unafraid they seem to be, so different from the nervous sparrows flitting from place to place. As far as I can see, the doves are without the usual signs of power, sharp talons and strong wings. What’s their secret?
St. Gregory of Nyssa seems to point to a fearless love in his Commentary on the Song of Songs:
“When love has entirely cast out fear, and fear has been transformed into love, then the unity brought by our Savior will be realized, for all will be united with one another through their union with the supreme Good. They will possess the perfection ascribed to the dove, according to our interpretation of the text “one alone is my dove, my perfect one.”
A fearless, humble love, unafraid of chaos, brings peace. Is that why Noah chose the dove to go into the world engulfed by the flood and not a lion or an eagle? Such is the nature of symbols–all explanations are possible. We could use that kind of fearlessness today, couldn’t we?
Behind the Chair of St. Peter in the Vatican Basilica in Rome, the artist Bernini created a beautiful alabaster window where a steady light pours into the dark church through the image of the Holy Spirit, in the hovering form of a dove. Light is also a favorite sign of the Holy Spirit.
Day by day, the light comes quietly through the window. Day by day, the Holy Spirit dispenses light for the moment, graces for the world that is now. As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit dwells with us, his final gift.
“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?”
Both at the empty tomb and at the Ascension in Luke’s writings, two men dressed in white suddenly appear and ask, “Why?” Heaven seems to be amused in these scenarios.
Jesus defies death and now gravity as well. In the forty days between these two astonishing events he also popped in and out of spaces, walked through walls, and effected a miraculous catch of fish. In the face of such wonders, it is rather amusing that the disciples’ parting words are, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
With infinite patience Jesus redirects them to the source of true power and authority. In the space of a novena, they will receive “the promise of the Father” when the Holy Spirit will come upon them, giving them grace and strength to be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth.”
The fire of the Holy Spirit is necessary because seeing is not always believing. In the Gospel of Matthew today, the eleven disciples gathered at the mountain in Galilee saw Jesus but doubted.
Empirical evidence is apparently weak when it comes to matters of the spirit. Spirit must ignite spirit to open the eyes of the heart.
“May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,” St. Paul prays for the Ephesians, “that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call…”
Jesus will return in the same way as he ascended, we are told by the heavenly visitors. They leave us in suspense.
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.”
With the coming of the Messiah, Israel has been stretched far beyond its comfort zone. What words can express the mystery of God’s hidden, inner communion now being manifested to the chosen people?
The “Spirit of truth… will take from what is mine and declare it to you… Everything that the Father has is mine.” In these enigmatic statements, Jesus intimates that the Three Divine Persons are of one mind. The truth that the Spirit imparts is one and the same truth possessed by the Father and the Son.
Thus, the Spirit “will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.”
All time is present to the Spirit, for whom a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The new Israel, like the old, will continue its pilgrimage with the Lord one day at a time. With the gentle and patient guidance of the Holy Spirit, the mysteries possessed by the Triune Lord will be revealed in gradual steps.