X Domingo Ordinario

El pecado crea la división. Podemos ver eso en nuestra primera lectura de la Caída de Adán y Eva. El pecado crea división entre Adán y Dios. Antes del pecado, Adán y Dios están descritos como caminando juntos en el Paraíso. Ahora, cuando Adán escucha la voz de Dios, él se esconde de Dios. Y cuando Dios le encuentra, Adán culpa a Dios. “La mujer que me diste por compañera,” él dice, como si fuera la culpa de Dios por poner a Eva en el jardín y llevar a Adán al pecado. El pecado crea división también entre Adán y Eva. Ellos era creados para ser unidos. Pero ahora son divididos. Cuando Dios le pregunta a Adán, él la culpa a Eva inmediatamente para su pecado. Él no la llama “mi esposa” o “Eva,” pero “la mujer,” como si ella era una extranjera o una invitada molesta. Como escuchamos después de esto en el Libro de Génesis, pecado crea división entre humanos y el resto de la creación. Lejos de ser un paraíso tranquilo, pecado crea animosidad entre nuestros primeros padres y la creación que Dios creó para ellos. Y el pecado crea división entre Adán mismo. Él se esconde, lleno de vergüenza y oprobio. Él no está en paz consigo mismo, sino que está dividido en su interior.

El pecado crea división. Esto era verdad para nuestros primeros padres, y es la verdad hoy. El pecado todavía crea división en el mundo. Por supuesto, el pecado nos separa de Dios. En lugar de siguiendo al camino de Dios que nos guie a la amor, feliz, y cumplimiento, el pecado nos pone en nuestros propios caminos que en la final nos guie a dolor y tristeza. El pecado también crea división entre personas. Podemos ver esto en nuestra sociedad. Las personas son divididas por los pecados de orgullo, enojo, y avaricia. Las personas son divididas por los pecados del racismo, prejuicio, e intolerancia en todos de sus formas. En la política, en el negocio, y en las interacciones diarias, las personas se parecen más intento en creando división y edificando muros que creando la unidad y edificando puentes. Más tristemente, aun dentro de nuestra parroquia yo he encontrado división. Nuestra parroquia esta bendecida para tener tantas personas diferentes con muchos historias, regalos, y experiencias. Pero en lugar de celebrando esta diversidad hermosa, se puede convertirse en un fuente de división, de “nosotros” contra “ellos,” si nosotros permitidos que el pecado para conducir una cuña entre nosotros.

El pecado también crea una división dentro nuestra propia persona. Tan frecuentemente en el confesionario, yo encuentro a personas que son superadas con vergüenza, culpa y autoaversión. Aun en el confesionario, en el sacramento de misericordia y compasión, ellos son tan preocupado con sus propias acciones pecaminosas que ellos no pueden ver el amor de Dios Omnipotente. Tantas personas son convencidas que ellos son tan roto e imperdonable, que sus pecados los definen como una persona. El pecado lleva a las personas a la adicción y la falta de libertad. En estas y tantas otras maneras, el pecado crea división.

Así como el pecado crea división, Dios crea unidad. Sobre todo, Dios quiere reunirnos a nosotros con sí. El mensaje entero de Cristo es sobre como Dios quiere traernos entre mejor comunión consigo mismo. Esto es la razón porque Dios es tan misericordioso y generoso con nosotros, para unirnos a nosotros consigo mismo. Dios quiere ser unido con nosotros aquí y ahora en la tierra y siempre en el cielo.

Dios quiere también para unirnos entre nosotros. Piense de los dos mejores mandamientos que Jesús nos da: “Amarás al Señor con todo tu corazón, y amarás a tu prójimo como a ti mismo.” Dios quiere que seríamos unidos en amor uno al otro. Como Jesús dice en el evangelio hoy, “el que cumple la voluntad de Dios, ése es mi hermano, mi hermana y mi madre.” Dios quiere para unirnos todos en una familia de amor. Esto nos une no con Cristo solamente, pero también el uno con el otro. Como miembros de la Iglesia, somos llamados para ser instrumentos de la unidad en el mundo. Para ser instrumentos de la unidad, no podemos aislarnos. Si solo me relaciono con personas que se parecen a mí, hablan como yo, y actúan como yo, no puedo ser una fuente de unidad. Para ser una fuente de unidad, necesitamos ir fuera de nuestra zona de confort para edificar puentes. Especialmente en la Iglesia, deberíamos ser un lugar donde todas personas sienten bienvenidos. Para alejar a las personas o decirles, explícita o implícitamente, que no son bienvenidos en la Iglesia es un pecado grave. Para crear división o desunión en la Iglesia es un pecado grave. Como Jesús dice en el Evangelio hoy, “Si un reino está dividido en bandos opuestos, no puede subsistir. Una familia dividida tampoco puede subsistir.” Si nuestra Iglesia o nuestra parroquia está dividida, fallará.

Y así como Dios quiere unirnos a nosotros consigo mismo y uno al otro, Él quiere unirnos dentro de nuestra propia persona. Por su gracia y misericordia, Él nos restaura a la santidad y la integridad. Dios quiere restaurarnos a la salud y la cordura, donde no estamos atados por el pecado pero viviendo en gracia y libertad.

Nuestro Dios crea unidad, porque Él mismo es una unidad perfecta de Padre, Hijo, y Espíritu Santo unidos. Como enseño el Papa San Juan Pablo II, la Eucaristía es el sacramento de la unidad. En la Eucaristía, somos unidos con Dios, y mediante Dios unidos entre nosotros. En la Eucaristía, somos hechos completos. Al celebrar esta Eucaristía, debemos examinarnos a nosotros mismos: “¿Dónde necesito una mayor unidad con Dios, con otras personas y dentro de mí?” Si nuestros propios pensamientos, palabras o acciones han creado división, pidamos perdón a Dios. Que esta celebración de la Eucaristía nos dé la gracia de ser constructores de puentes, creando una mayor unidad en nuestro mundo dividido.

 

 

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Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sin creates division. We see that in our first reading in the Fall of Adam and Eve. Sin creates division between Adam and God. Prior to this, Adam and God are described as walking together in the garden. Now, when Adam hears God’s voice, he hides from Him. And when God finds him, Adam blames God. “The woman whom you put here with me,” he says, as though it is God’s fault that Adam and Eve sinned. Sin also creates division between Adam and Eve. They were created to be united. But now they are divided. When God questions Adam, he immediately blames Eve for his sin. He doesn’t refer to her as “my wife” or even as “Eve” but as “the woman whom you put here with me,” as though she were a stranger or an unwelcome guest. As we hear right after than this in the Book of Genesis, sin creates a division between humans and the rest of creation. Far from being a peaceful paradise, sin creates animosity between our first parents and the creation that God made for them. And sin creates division within Adam himself. He hides himself, filled with shame and guilt. He is not at peace with himself but is divided within.

As this was true of our first parents, it is still true today. Sin still causes division in the world. Of course, sin divides us from God. Rather than following His path that leads to love, happiness, and fulfillment, sin places us on our own paths that ultimately lead to pain and sadness. Sin also creates division among people. We see this so much in our society today. People are divided by the sins of pride, of anger, and of greed. People are divided by the sins of racism, prejudice, and bigotry in all its forms. In politics, in business, and in simple day-to-day interactions, people seem more intent on creating divisions and building walls between people than building bridges and creating unity. Sadly, even within our own parish, I have encountered division. Our parish is blessed to have so many different people with different backgrounds, gifts, and experiences. But rather than celebrate that beautiful diversity, it can become a source of division, of “us” versus “them,” if we allow sin to drive a wedge between us.

Sin also creates a division within our own self. So often in the confessional, I encounter people who are overcome with shame, guilt, and self-loathing. Even in the confessional, in the sacrament of mercy, they are so focused on their own sinful actions that they cannot see the love and mercy of Almighty God. So many people are convinced that they are broken and unforgiveable, that their guilt defines them as a person. Sin leads people to addiction and a lack of freedom. In these and so many ways, sin creates division within people.

While sin is a source of division, God seeks to create unity. Above all, God wants to unite us to Himself. Christ’s whole message is about how God wants to bring us into union with Him. That’s why God is so merciful and generous to us, in order to unite us with Himself. God wants to be united with us here and now on earth, and forever in heaven.

God also wants to unite us to each other. Think of the two great commandments that Jesus gives us: “Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” God wants us to be united to each other in love. As Jesus says in the Gospel today, “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” God wants to unite us in a family of love. This unites us not just with Christ, but also with each other. As members of the Church, we are called to be instruments of unity in the world. In order to be instruments of unity, we can’t isolate ourselves. If I only ever associate with people who look like me, talk like me, and act like me, I can’t be a source of unity. To be a source of unity, we have to go outside our comfort zone in order to build bridges. Especially in the Church, we should be a place where all people feel like they are welcome. To push people away or to tell them, either explicitly or implicitly, that they are not welcome in the Church, is a grave sin. To create division and disunity in the Church is a grave sin. As Jesus says in the Gospel today, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” If our Church or our parish is divided against itself, it will falter.

And just as God wants to unite us with Himself and with one another, He also wants to make us united in ourselves. By His grace and mercy, He restores us to holiness and wholeness. God wants to restore us to health and sanity, where we are not bound by sin but living in grace and freedom.

Our God creates unity, because He Himself is a perfect unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit united. As Pope St. John Paul II taught, the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. In the Eucharist we are united with God, and through God united with one another. In the Eucharist, we are made whole. As we celebrate this Eucharist, we need to examine ourselves, “Where do I need greater unity with God, with other people, and within myself?” If our own thoughts, words, or actions have created division, let us ask God for forgiveness. May this celebration of the Eucharist give us the grace to be bridge builders, creating greater unity in our divided world.

Most Holy Trinity

According to legend, one day St. Augustine was trying to understand the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. How can God be Three Persons and One God? He went for a walk along the beach to clear his head. Along the way, St. Augustine passed a child who had dug a hole in the sand. The child was using a shell to scoop water from the ocean, then running back and pouring it in his little hole, then running back to the ocean to get more water. The great saint asked the child, “What are you doing?” “I’m trying to put the ocean in this hole,” the child replied. St. Augustine laughed. “You can’t do that!” he exclaimed. The child grinned. “I’ll put all the ocean in this hole before you understand the Trinity.”

The Trinity is, according to the Catechism, the central mystery of the faith. It is the mystery of who God is in Himself. Everything else that we believe as a Church ultimately rests on that reality. Yet, despite being the central mystery of the faith, it is also the hardest to comprehend. How can God be three distinct persons and yet only one God? More than a few theologians, seminarians, and grade school religion students have gotten frustrated about the apparent incomprehensibility of the Trinity.

But the fact that we cannot completely understand the mystery of the Trinity is to be expected. We are talking about the nature of God Himself. But God is unlike everything we know or experience. Everything we experience is finite; God is infinite. We encounter things that are material; God is immaterial. We encounter things that are subject to dimension and time; God is beyond such things. The little boy in the legend will never be able to put the ocean in the hole because the hole is too small and the ocean is too big. Likewise, we can never completely understand the Trinity, because our minds are too small and God is too big. If we could completely understand God, it would mean that we had shrunk God down so that He could fit in our minds. Anyone who claims to perfectly understand the Trinity must be mistaken.

So, as we celebrate Trinity Sunday, what can we say about the Blessed Trinity? We know from Divine Revelation that there is only One God. There are not three Gods. This one God is Three Divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As the Catechism states: God is one, but not solitary. The three Divine Persons are really distinct. They are distinct in their relations of origin: the Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten by the Father, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. These Three Persons are all God and equal in divinity. They are equally omnipotent, equally infinite, equally eternal. There was never a time when the Father existed without the Son or the Father and Son without the Holy Spirit. Inseparable in what they are, they are also inseparable in what they do. But, within the single divine operation each shows forth what is proper to him in the Trinity.

Confused yet? You should be. Again, the fact that the Trinity confuses us is to be expected, because God is bigger than us. It should make us happy that we cannot completely understand the Trinity, because that confusion reveals to us just how grand and awesome God is. This is why the souls in heaven can spend eternity contemplating the mystery of God and never get bored, because God will always remain bigger than us.

Now in case all that theology was a little much for you, let’s make this a little more down to earth. Genesis tells us that we were created in the image and likeness of God. But the God in whose image we were created is a community of persons. And we were created in the image of this God who is a community of love. This means that we were created for community, created for relationship, created for love. Our relationships are, in some weak and very imperfect way, a reflection of the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We were created for love. And, in particular, we were created for Divine Love. In baptism, we were baptized as Our Lord instructs in the Gospel, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We were baptized into the mystery of God’s love, the perfect divine love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The word “baptism” means “immerse.” By our baptism, we are immersed in the life of the Blessed Trinity. We were made to share in the mystery of God’s life and love. Every time we pray the Our Father, we are entering into the mystery of the Trinity. Who can truly call God “Father” except the Son? And yet, as we hear in our second reading today, we have been given the Holy Spirit to bring us into the divine relations so that we too can call God “Father.” And not just “Father,” but “Abba, Daddy.” We are called to have such an intimate relationship with God that we call Him “Daddy.”

We are invited into the very heart of the Trinity, into the mystery of One God in Three Persons, into the Divine Relationships of Love. We are invited into that relationship, but do we take up the offer? Do you have a relationship with God? Do you have a real relationship with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit? By our baptism, God has called us into relationship with Him. Don’t neglect that call. It only happens one way: prayer. Every day, take time to talk with the Blessed Trinity. It doesn’t have to be long; it doesn’t have to be formal. Just five or ten minutes every day is a great place to start. Surely none of us can claim that we are so busy that we can’t make five to ten minutes for God. We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Let us dedicate ourselves to growing in our relationship with Our God, who is Himself a relationship of love.

 

Pentecostés 2018

¿Qué es tu rol en la Iglesia? Yo pienso que para muchos católicos, tendrían dificultades para responder esa pregunta. Si yo preguntaría, “¿Qué es el rol de los sacerdotes en la Iglesia?” o “¿Qué es el rol de los obispos?” la mayoría puede responder. ¿Pero qué es el rol de los fieles laicos en la Iglesia? Para demasiados católicos, ellos ven su rol en la Iglesia como tan mínimo.

Pero escuchen como la Iglesia describen el rol de los laicos. En el Concilio Vaticano Segundo, la Iglesia enseña dogmáticamente, “incumbe a todos los laicos la preclara empresa de colaborar para que el divino designio de salvación alcance más y más a todos los hombres de todos los tiempos y en todas las partes de la tierra.” Escuchen de nuevo. “Incumbe a todos los laicos,” a cado uno de ustedes, “la preclara empresa de colaborar para que el divino designio de salvación alance más y más a todos los hombres de todos los tiempos y en todas las partes de la tierra.” Sí yo pregunto “¿De quién es la empresa de alcanzar el divino designio de salvación?” la Iglesia dice que la respuesta no es los obispos, o los sacerdotes, o los hermanos o hermanas religiosos; es los laicos. Todos de ustedes. Su rol en la Iglesia es para extender la salvación de Dios a cada persona. Como dice el Catecismo, “Los fieles laicos,” eso es ustedes, “se encuentran en la línea más avanzada de la vida de la Iglesia.” Ustedes son llamados para ser la línea más avanzada de la Iglesia. No yo. No los obispos. Ustedes. Mi rol en la Iglesia es aquí, predicando, celebrando los sacramentos. Es el rol de los laicos, de ustedes, para tomar lo que sucede aquí y difundirlo por todo el mundo.”

Podemos ver esto hoy en Pentecostés. Sabemos la historia del primer Pentecostés. Nueve días después de la Ascensión de Jesús, el Espíritu Santo descendió sobre los discípulos, y, llenos de Su gracia, ellos empezaron para predicar. Pero cuando la mayoría imaginan el Pentecostés, ellos solo imaginan los doce Apóstoles, y quizás María. Pero inmediatamente antes de esto en los Hechos de los Apóstoles, se nos dice que no solo estaban presentes los Apóstoles y María, pero ciento veinte personas estaban allí. Todos de ellos fueron llenados del Espíritu Santo. Todos predicaron el Evangelio. No solo era los Apóstoles, los primeros obispos, que estaban proclamando la Buena Noticia, pero el grupo entero. Como Pentecostés es el nacimiento de la Iglesia, esas ciento veinte personas son los primeros miembros de los laicos en la Iglesia. Y desde el principio, ellos están cumpliendo el rol del Consejo Vaticano Segundo dice es el rol de los laicos: extender el divino designio de salvación a todas personas.

El descenso del Espíritu Santo en Pentecostés es el fundo del sacramento de Confirmación. Levanten su mano si han recibido la Confirmación. Adelante, no seas tímido. Para todos nosotros que han recibido la Confirmación, hemos recibido el mismo don del Espíritu Santo que la Iglesia recibió en Pentecostés. De nuevo escuchamos del Consejo Vaticano Segundo: el sacramento de la Confirmación los enriquece [a los bautizados] con una fortaleza especial del Espíritu Santo. De esta forma quedan obligados aún más, como auténticos testigos de Cristo, a extender y defender la fe con sus palabras y sus obras.” Si has sido confirmado, tu eres, en virtud del sacramento, “obligado a extender y defender la fe con tus palabras y tus obras.” Eso es lo que sucedió en la Pentecostés. Los fieles recibieron al Espíritu Santo, y salieron y predicaron la fe. Si has sido confirmado, que es la mayoría de nosotros, has recibido el mismo don del Espíritu Santo, y tienes la misma llamada para predicar la fe a todas personas.

Desafortunadamente, demasiados católicos no entienden completamente su rol en la Iglesia. Demasiados católicos piensen que es el rol de los obispos y sacerdotes para predicar y para difundir el Evangelio, y que los laicos solo necesitan ser presente y poner dinero en la cesta. Ustedes son la línea más avanzada de la Iglesia. Se les ha encomendado la tarea de difundiré la fe entre todas las personas. Esta tarea no puede ser relegado a los cleros o a solo un grupo en la Iglesia. Cada miembro de los fieles, en virtud de su Bautismo y Confirmación, comparte esta tarea. No puede ser un espectador católico. No puede sentarse en el banquillo.

Como celebramos esta gran fiesta de Pentecostés, yo invito a todos a preguntarse, “¿Cumplo mi rol en la Iglesia? ¿Extiendo y defiendo la fe con mis palabras y mis obras? ¿Me veo a mí mismo como la línea más avanzada de la Iglesia?” Nuestro arzobispo nos ha pido hoy en esta fiesta de Pentecostés para celebrar la Ceremonia de Puesta en Marcha de Evangelización. Esto rito está destinado a recordarnos que todos nosotros, por nuestro Bautismo y Confirmación, son llamados para ser evangelistas. Oramos para que nos inspire a todos a tomar más en serio nuestro papel en la Iglesia y el llamado que compartimos para difundir el Evangelio.

 

 

Pentecost 2018

What is your role in the Church? I think for many Catholics, they would have trouble answering that question. If I were to ask you, “What is the role of priests in the Church?” or “What is the role of the bishops in the Church?” most Catholics could give an answer. But what is the role of the lay faithful in the Church? For far too many Catholics, they see their role in the Church as pretty minimal.

But listen to how the Church describes the role of the laity. In the Second Vatican Council, the Church teaches dogmatically, “Upon all the laity, therefore, rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all men of each epoch and in every land.” Let me repeat that. “Upon all the laity,” upon each and every one of you, “rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all pen of each epoch and in every land.” If I were to ask “Whose job is it to extend God’s plan of salvation to all people,” the Church says that the answer is not the bishops, or the priests, or the religious brothers and sisters, it is the laity. All of you. Your role in the Church is to extend God’s salvation to every person. As the Catechism states it “Lay believers,” again, that’s all of you, “are in the front line of Church life.” You are called to be the front line of the Church. Not me. Not the bishop. You. My role in the Church is here, preaching, celebrating the sacraments. It is the role of the laity, of you, to take what happens here and spread it to the whole world.

We see that today in Pentecost. We are all familiar with what happened at the first Pentecost. Nine days after Jesus’s Ascension, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, and, filled with His grace, they went out and began to preach. But when most people picture Pentecost, they only picture the twelve Apostles and Mary. But immediately before this in the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that not only were the Apostles and Mary present, but one hundred and twenty people were there. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. All of them went out and began to preach the Gospel. It was not just the Apostles, the first bishops, who were proclaiming the Good News, but the whole group that had gathered there. As Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, those one hundred twenty people are the first lay members of the Church. And from the very beginning, they are filling the role that the Second Vatican Council states as the role of the laity: extending God’s plan of salvation to all people.

The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the foundation of the sacrament of Confirmation. Raise your hand if you have been confirmed. Go ahead, don’t be shy. For all of us who have received Confirmation, we have been given the same gift of the Holy Spirit that the Church received on Pentecost. Again we turn to the Second Vatican Council: “by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are […] enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.” If you have been confirmed, you are, by virtue of the sacrament, “obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.” That is what happened at Pentecost. The faithful received the Holy Spirit, and from that they went out and preached the faith. If you have been confirmed, which most of us have, you have received the same gift of the Holy Spirit, and you have the same call to go preach the faith to all people.

Unfortunately, far too many lay Catholics do not fully understand their role in the Church. Far too many Catholics think that it is the role of the bishops and priests to preach and to spread the Gospel, and that the laity are just here to show up and put money in the basket. You are the front line of the Church. You have been tasked with spreading the faith to all people. That task cannot be pushed off onto the clergy or to a select group. Every member of the faithful, by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, shares that role. Being a Catholic is not a spectator sport. No one gets to sit back and let other people carry the weight.

As we celebrate this great feast of Pentecost, I invite everyone to ask themselves, “Do I fulfill my role in the Church? Do I spread and defend the faith by my words and deeds? Do I see myself as the front line of the Church?” Our Archbishop has asked us today on this feast of Pentecost to celebrate an Evangelization Commissioning Ceremony. This rite is meant to remind us that all of us, by our Baptism and Confirmation, are called to be evangelists. We pray that it will inspire all of us to take more seriously our role in the Church and the call that we share to spread the Gospel.

 

Ascension of the Lord

Most of us have probably heard the term, “culture of death,” popularized by Pope St. John Paul II. Usually, this term is used to refer to a mindset that supports things like abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, the use of human embryos in research, and economic and political positions that exploit the weak and marginalized. Those things are all part of the culture of death; but there is something deeper at work in the culture of death.

What is death? Simply put, death is the separation of body and soul. Our body and soul were united at our conception. At death, they are separated. The culture of death is a culture that separates body and soul. And our culture has that in spades. Our body is an essential part of who we are as a person. As such, our body has an intrinsic value. But, in so many ways, our culture pushes the message that our bodies are without meaning, or that we need to reshape and refashion our bodies to give them the meaning we want them to have. We deny that our bodies are intrinsically part of who we are and feel that we need to give them our own meaning. The most common form of this in our society is the feeling that my body doesn’t look the way that I think it should look in my head, so I need to refashion it so that it meets my image. Millions of cosmetic procedures are performed in the United States every year. Name a body part and there’s someone you can pay to have it remade according to your desires. In less extreme ways, how many people use makeup, piercings, tattoos, tanning, diet, or exercise to try to make their body in their own image? I’m not saying that those things are inherently wrong in themselves, but they can be pursued wrongly. If we look at our body and say, “This is wrong, and it is up to me to give it new meaning so it expresses who I am,” we are separating our body and soul. We are denying the value that God gave our bodies when He created us. And we are playing God, because we are saying that it is our job to re-unite our body and soul.

Our society separates body and soul in other ways too. Certainly in the way it treats sex, as though it is something that can just involve the body and not the soul. The objectification of the body by lust, separating it from the soul and using it simply for pleasure. Or the notion that my body can be one gender and my soul another. This is why the Church for much of its history has not allowed cremation, as it was seen as a denial of the value of the human body. Even now, the Church allows cremation but also stresses that the cremated remains should be interred in the same way and with the same respect that we would show a body.

From the very beginning, the Church has fought against those who would try to separate the soul and body or deny the value of the body. In much of ancient Greek thought, the soul was seen as good, but the body was seen as bad. The body was a regarded as something that imprisoned or trapped the soul, as something that limited the soul. Death was the soul finally becoming free from the body. That is why the truth of the incarnation and resurrection caused such scandal for the Greeks. There was a group in the early Church called the Docetists who even taught that Christ did not actually have a body but only appeared to have a body. There have been many throughout history who have denied the truth of the bodily resurrection of Christ. In all of this, there is a denial of the value of the body and its intrinsic union with the soul.

Against this culture of death, this separation of body and soul, we have today’s solemnity of the Ascension. This entire Easter season, we have been celebrating the fact of Christ’s bodily resurrection. When Our Lord took on our human nature, He assumed a human body and a human soul. At His death, that body and soul were separated, just as happens at our death. But that separation was not to be permanent. And so, in the Resurrection, the two were reunited. Now, we celebrate Our Lord’s ascension into heaven. Even as He ascends to the right hand of the Father, He does not leave behind his body. His body also ascends. Christ did not leave His body behind when He ascended into heaven, because His body is part of His human nature. This reminds all of us that our bodies, too, are part of who we are.

Today’s feast reminds us of the true value of the human body. It isn’t just an object. It isn’t a prison for the soul. It isn’t a bad thing. Our bodies are good. Nor are our bodies something that it is up to us to give whatever meaning we want it to have. They were created by God, and, from the moment of our conception, united to our souls. God has given them meaning and purpose. It is our bodies that are washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation in confirmation, and fed with the Bread of Life, the very Body of Jesus Himself. As Christ in His glorified body ascends into heaven, that is our human nature, body and soul, that ascends. That is why we profess every Sunday in the Creed that we believe in the resurrection of the dead. Though at death our bodies and souls will be separated, God does not desire that separation to be permanent. Our bodies and souls were made to be united, and in the final judgement, will be reunited once more, so that we all will share in the glory of Christ’s resurrection and ascension.

As we celebrate Christ’s ascension into heaven in His glorified body, we should examine how we treat our own body and the bodies of those around us. Do I see my body as a fundamental part of who I am, as something that God has united with my soul and imbued with meaning, or do I think it is up to me to refashion my body according to my image and give it the meaning that I want it to have? Do I treat other people’s bodies as an intrinsic part of who they are as a complete person, or do I treat their bodies as objects? As we celebrate the Ascension, we see revealed the true dignity and value of the body and its union with the soul. May the glory of this feast counter the destructive message of the culture of death in our world.

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter

A wise man once said, “All you need is love. Bah ba da ba da.” And while John Lennon is not the best role model for living according to the Gospel, in this instance, he and Christ would agree. As Our Lord says in the Gospel today, “This I command you: love one another.” The whole of the Gospel can be boiled down to one command: love. As St. John says in our second reading, “Everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” The sign of whether or not we are true followers of God is whether or not we love.

But there is a very important difference between John Lennon’s proclamation that “Love is all you need” and Christ’s proclamation, “This I command you: love one another.” Lennon was a figurehead in the free love movement, which advocated love without consequence or regulations. Lennon’s ideal of love was something that didn’t cost me anything, that didn’t put any restrictions on me or require any sacrifice. Christ’s definition of love is very different. “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The kind of love that Christ commands us to have isn’t free.

We always have to remember that when Christ speaks of love in the Gospel, He is not speaking of a feeling or a sentiment. Love is not about attraction. Far too often, we say, “I love this person” when what we really mean is “This person makes me feel good.” It isn’t actually the person that we love; it is the good feelings that they cause us to have. We love people for what they give to us.

Christ commands us to love as He loves us. He loved us by giving His life for us. As Christ was hanging on the Cross, I doubt He was having warm, fuzzy feelings. His love is self-giving. It is sacrificial. It is a love that holds nothing back. Christ didn’t love us because of what He gets from us. He is God; there is nothing that we can give that adds anything to Him. Christ loves us not for what He receives but what He gives.

That is what true love is. For a Christian, “I love you” does not mean “You make me happy;” it means “I am willing to sacrifice of myself for your good.” That is what Christ means when He commands us to love one another as He loves us. He is commanding us to give of ourselves completely for each other. He is commanding us to sacrifice for the good of other people. He is commanding us to be willing to die for others. When Christ tells us “Love one another,” He doesn’t just mean “be a nice person.” He means be a martyr. Christianity is not an encouragement to be decent; it is a command to be saints. We are called to love enemies as well as friends; family as well as strangers, and to love all of them with the very love of Christ.

All too often, we can forget that. We water down the Gospel and the commands of Jesus into something more palatable. We hear Christ tell us, “Love one another,” and we turn it into a Hallmark card with roses and pretty cursive writing, as though love was nice and pretty. Love isn’t nice, and it isn’t pretty. Love is the Cross. Love is bloody and raw and painful. Love means giving until it hurts and never counting the cost. Christian love is not safe, and it is not free. It costs us everything, and promises us nothing but the Cross. There are no half-measures in Christian love.

When Christ tells us, “Love one another as I have loved you,” He is setting the bar really, really high. All too often in our faith life, we settle for being kind people, or for being nice people, or for being caring people, and we think that is the extent of what Christ calls us to. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love every person with a love that is willing to go to the Cross and die for them. That is what Christ calls us to. And that is really hard. To love everyone – family, friends, strangers, even enemies – with the love of the Cross is impossible on our own.

So God comes to our aid. As St. John says in our second reading: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” We learn to love by being loved. This is true on a human level. Children learn to love by being loved by their parents. That is why people who come from situations where their parents or guardians were unable to love them properly often struggle to love others later in life. Likewise, in order to love like Christ, we first have to receive His love. We will never be able to love other people with the love of Christ unless we have first experienced deeply the love that He has for us.

Think of a little child in their parent’s arms. They don’t do anything; they just receive the love of their parents. They don’t try to earn that love. They don’t even do much to return that love. They just receive. We need to do the same with God. At every moment, the Blessed Trinity is pouring infinite love upon you. But we think that we have to earn that love or work for it, when all God wants us to do is receive. God wants us to receive deeply His infinite, unconditional, self-giving love. Like a little child, our first task as a Christian is simply to let ourselves be loved by God. How often is our prayer just a rote recitation of memorized prayers or rattling off a list of petitions, rather than a profound experience of the deep love of God? Right here, right now, in this very Mass, the Most Holy Trinity is loving you with an all-consuming love. Experience that. Don’t just sit here passive and unmoved. In this Mass, experience the love of God. There’s no better place to do so. As you receive Jesus in this Eucharist, experience His abundant, self-giving love for you.

Christ tells us to love one another as He loves us. But that means we first have to know how He loves us. I can’t love someone else with the love of Christ unless I have experienced the love of Christ. May we all grow daily in our knowledge of God’s amazing love for us, so that we can be sources of that love in the world.