NINTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
The Essence of the Most Holy Trinity
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (Year B)
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19–20
Of all the great feasts we celebrate within the Church throughout the year, today’s Solemnity presents us with a Mystery that is so deep and transcendent that our eternity will be spent in perpetual contemplation. The Trinity, the life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will never get old, never be fully understood, and will be the cause of our everlasting adoration and joy. Though the Church has used philosophical concepts to explain the Trinity, no human concept or description will ever fully explain Who God is. Though we can point to some general truths about God, we will never be able to fully depict the inner essence, depth, beauty and omnipotence of the Trinity.
As we consider that fact, it’s important to understand that the Trinity is not first a theological mystery we try to define. Rather, the Trinity is first a communion of Persons we are invited to know. We do not primarily come to know God through intellectual deduction. We come to know God through prayerful union with Him. Though theology is exceptionally useful and important, the essence of God is beyond any and every philosophical concept we can define.
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are Persons. And as Persons, they want to be known. And they want to be known primarily through a life of deep and intimate prayer. Praying to One Person, of course, is praying to all, since they are One God. But we are, nonetheless, called to a relationship of love with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And though our feeble minds may not be able to fully comprehend the essence of God, He will draw us deeper and deeper into a knowledge of Him if we let Him.
Prayer often begins by saying prayers, by meditating upon Scripture, and by listening. But true prayer is something much deeper. True prayer is contemplative prayer that ultimately leads to divine union. Only God can initiate this form of prayer in our lives, and only God, through this deep form of prayer, can communicate Himself to us as He is. Some of the greatest mystics of our Church, such as Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Ávila, explain in their mystical theology that the deepest knowledge of God does not come through concepts or images. In fact, if we wish to obtain a knowledge of God in His essence, we must allow Him to purge every concept of Who He is so that the pure light of His essence can be poured forth upon our minds. This knowledge, they say, is beyond knowing “about” God. It’s the beginning of a knowledge “of” God.
Reflect, today, upon the Most Holy Trinity. As you do, say a prayer to God asking for a deeper and more intimate knowledge of Him. Ask Him to communicate to you His divine love and to open your mind and heart to a deeper understanding of Who He is. Try to humble yourself before the great Mystery of the inner life of God. Humility before the Mystery of God means that we know how little we know about Him and how little we know of Him. But that humble truth will help you move closer to the deeper relationship of love to which you are called.
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, please draw me into a relationship of love with You Who are one God and three divine Persons. May the mystery and beauty of Your life become more known and loved by me each day through the gift of transforming mystical prayer. Jesus, I trust in You.
Joy at the Presence of the Lord
Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, May 31
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Luke 1:39–42
The beautiful feast we celebrate today depicts two miraculous pregnancies. One came about by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. The other was the miraculous conception in the womb of a woman who was advanced in years. The Scripture passage quoted above presents us with the initial encounter of Mary and Elizabeth as they greeted each other upon Mary’s arrival. Mary had traveled a long distance to be with her cousin for the last few months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. And upon greeting Elizabeth, another miraculous event occurred. The baby in the womb of Elizabeth, Saint John the Baptist, “leaped for joy.” Thus, even prior to his birth, John began to fulfill his unique mission of preparing the way for the Lord. He did so at that moment by inspiring his own mother, Elizabeth, with a knowledge of the divine presence of the Savior within the womb of Mary.
Consider, especially, the conversations that these two holy women would have shared during their months together. Though we are given only a small insight into their initial conversation from the Scriptures, we can be certain that this was but a small sampling of what they would have discussed in much prayerful detail. In particular, their conversations would have contained a mutual sharing of the spiritual gift of joy.
Joy is much more than an emotion. It is spiritual in nature. It is not only an experience of something fun, it’s the experience of realizing the action of God in your life. Seeing God at work in wonderful ways leads to gratitude and rejoicing. This joy produces a strength and energy that is contagious and uplifting.
We must all strive to see the hand of God at work in our own lives so that our focus upon His divine actions will produce joy also. We need joy. We need to be strengthened by this gift so that we will be encouraged and strengthened as we daily strive to fulfill His will.
Reflect, today, upon the witness of joy that these two holy women give us. Know that you are called to share in the same joy as you humbly turn your attention to the ways in which God has blessed you. If you find that you lack joy in life, then consider where you allow your mind to wander throughout the day. Do you dwell on the past, on hurts, on problems and the like? If so, these thoughts will undoubtedly lead to depression and possibly even despair. Try to turn your mind to the action of God in your life. See the many blessings you have been given and savor those divine actions. Doing so will lead you to rejoice with Saint Elizabeth and our Blessed Mother.
My holy infant Jesus, as You dwelt in the sacred womb of Your own dear mother, Your presence caused much rejoicing in her heart and in the hearts of Elizabeth and John. Help me to see Your presence in our world and in my life so that I, too, will be filled with the joy of You constantly coming to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Combating the Deceptions of the World
Tuesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
“Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” Mark 12:14–15
These Pharisees and Herodians were sent to trap Jesus in His speech. These men were very politically minded and loved to pick sides and find fault with others. They were self-righteous and cared little about the salvation of souls. So they came to Jesus with what appeared to be an innocent question. They appear to presume that Jesus would voice opposition to paying the census tax to Caesar, and, if He did, they were ready to report Him to the civil authorities. They didn’t care about the truth; they only cared about trapping our divine Lord. When they brought the Roman coin to Jesus with the image of Caesar on it, Jesus spoke that profoundly wise line, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Clearly, if these hypocritical religious leaders would have come to Jesus with humility and sincerity, Jesus would have responded to them much differently. But because they came only to trap, twist and destroy our Lord, Jesus puts them in their place with an act of divine wisdom. He doesn’t show support for paying the census tax, nor does He speak against it. Therefore, this Gospel passage ends with the line: “They were utterly amazed at him.” “Amazement” is the right response. Therefore, in a sense, we can learn from these hypocritical religious leaders. Whenever we come face-to-face with the profound wisdom of God, we should experience awe and holy amazement.
Of course, the amazement they experienced was on account of Jesus thwarting their evil trap. But even though that is the case, we can learn from this that the wisdom of God can never be outdone. God’s wisdom silences the foolishness of the age and reveals the hidden malice behind that evil.
Have you ever been confronted by the trickery of the secular “know-it-alls” of our age. Have you ever been challenged by another, had your faith directly attacked, or your moral convictions called into question? Most likely, if you have chosen to live your faith openly and with confidence, you may have felt the attack of another. For those who lack a deep faith and a clear gift of divine wisdom, such trickery can cause confusion and anxiety. You may find you do not know how to respond and feel trapped by the erroneous “wisdom” of the age. In that case, what do you do? The only answer to the false doctrines and deceptions we will all encounter within the growingly secular and atheist world is the answer that comes from divine wisdom. By ourselves, none of us is wise enough to combat these errors. Therefore, our only recourse is to continually turn to the wisdom of God.
We turn to the wisdom of God through prayer and sacred study. Our prayer opens our minds to the clear voice of God Who speaks pure truth. And sacred study, especially of the Scripture, the teachings of the Church and the lives of the saints, will help to clarify God’s voice and dispel the confusion the world tries to throw at us. In the end, if we are not immersing our minds in the true wisdom of God, we will be unprepared for that which we encounter within the world.
Reflect, today, upon your need to be filled with divine wisdom so as to navigate the trickery and foolishness of the world. Acknowledge that you are not wise enough on your own to cut through the confusion of life. Pray for the gift of wisdom and allow our Lord to bestow it upon you.
Lord of all Truth, You are wise beyond all worldly wisdom, and You thwart the trickery of the evil one. Open my mind, dear Lord, to Your holy Truth so that I may be able to navigate through the challenges of life. Bestow Your wisdom upon me, dear Lord, so that I may follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Wisdom of God
Wednesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and put this question to him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers…” Mark 12:18–20
And these Sadducees then go on to present to Jesus a long and unlikely hypothetical scenario in which this woman eventually married all seven brothers after each one died. And at the conclusion of their hypothetical situation, the Sadducees ask Jesus, “At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be?” Of course, Jesus offers them the correct answer and then also states something interesting. He tells the Sadducees that they “are greatly misled.” Just prior to this conversation with the Sadducees, the Pharisees had presented their own question to Jesus in an attempt to trap Him. The difference seems to be that the Sadducees had more sincerity in their pursuit of the truth whereas the Pharisees were more obsessed with their own authority and power.
The Sadducees were considered the more traditional of the religious leaders, in that they accepted only the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, as authentically revealed. They also did not accept the afterlife or the resurrection of the dead because they believed that the Torah did not explicitly teach those things. The Pharisees not only accepted the Torah but also the rest of what is contained in the Old Testament. The Pharisees also accepted what was referred to as the “tradition of the elders,” which meant that they paid much attention to the scrupulous multiplication of laws and regulations that other Pharisees devised, and they sought to impose those man-made laws upon the people.
In this Gospel passage, the problem with the Saccuccees seems to be scrupulosity and rigidity in their approach to the faith. They clearly relied upon human reason, and they applied their human reason to the Torah. And though human reason and logical deduction are helpful and necessary in life, they attempted to solve every matter of faith by their own effort by narrowly and rigidly interpreting the Torah. They did not allow themselves to be open to the deeper wisdom of God that floods one’s human reason when one is attentive to divine inspiration and revelation. Instead, they were black and white in all of their deductions and practices. This rigidity left them “greatly misled.”
In our own lives, we can also become greatly misled when we use the gift of our human reason in a rigid and narrow way. We must never overly simplify the faith, and we must never think that we will easily be able to arrive at all the answers by our own effort. Our constant goal must be to allow our minds to become fully immersed in the deepest wisdom of God and all that He has revealed. The teachings of the Church will guide us, keeping us on the straight path, but it will be the voice of God, speaking to our minds in a real and personal way, that will help us to understand the depth and breadth of God’s Will, His Truth, and Wisdom.
Reflect, today, upon any tendency you have to be like these Sadducees. Are you rigid? Or narrow minded? Do you allow yourself to be misled into thinking you have all the answers? If so, seek humility. Humble yourself before the awesome mysteries of Heaven. Use your mind to probe the truths that God has revealed and be ready to be drawn deeper and deeper into the life of God Himself.
My Lord of infinite wisdom, You are Truth Itself and You continually reveal Yourself to us. Give me the humility I need to always be open to all divine Truth in my life so that I will come to know You and Your holy will as You desire. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Gift of Understanding
Thursday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions. Mark 12:34
Finally, we have the witness of one of the religious leaders, a scribe, who got it right. The passage above is the conclusion of the interaction with this scribe who asks Jesus which of all the commandments is the first and greatest. Jesus gives the twofold answer that we are to love God above all, with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. The scribe then responds to Jesus’ answer by saying, “Well said, teacher. You are right…” And then Jesus compliments this scribe with the quoted passage above.
Recall that almost all of the Pharisees were continually rebuked by Jesus because of their self-righteous arrogance. The Sadducees were also chastised but often to a lesser degree. And now we have a scribe who outshines them all. The scribes were primarily functionaries who copied or created various liturgical and legal documents. Some of the Pharisees were also scribes. And most of the time, when Jesus condemned the Pharisees, He also condemned the scribes. But this scribe is different. This scribe appears to not only be interested in Jesus’ answer but also manifests “understanding” of what Jesus said to him. Don’t underestimate the importance of this gift of understanding.
In order to truly understand that which our Lord speaks to us, we must be open. And openness requires humility. Humility is a virtue that is contrary to a “know-it-all” attitude. It’s a disposition of mind and heart that listens to God speak, hears what He says, comprehends all truth by the gift of grace, and prayerfully submits to that truth. Humility enables us to look beyond ourselves for the answers to the most difficult questions in life. It enables us to turn to the one and only source of truth, Jesus Christ Himself. And the fruit of this humble openness is the gift of understanding. It’s an understanding of the mysteries of life which is beyond our natural intellectual capacity. The grace of God is able to teach and form the humble soul and fill it with clarity of vision and an acceptance of the deepest truths.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus’ words to this scribe. “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” Does Jesus also speak these words to you? Have you humbly sought out the answers to the many questions of life by turning to our Lord? More specifically, are you able to look at your life and rejoice in the fact that God has also given you His gift of understanding? If not, then look within and consider which questions you most need to bring to Jesus. Place them before Him and then listen, be open and be ready to respond when He speaks. Hearing and responding to our Lord will result in our Lord saying these same words to you.
My Lord of all Truth, You look upon the humble souls with graciousness and mercy, and You reveal to them the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. Please give me the gift of humility, dear Lord, so that I may always turn to You with every question in life. Fill me with the gift of understanding so that I may know how to love and serve You more faithfully each and every day. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday, June 4, 2021
A True Image of Christ
Friday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
As Jesus was teaching in the temple area he said, “How do the scribes claim that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said: The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet.’” Mark 12:35–36
At the time of Jesus’ ministry, the Jews understood that the Messiah would come from the line of David. Furthermore, many thought that the Messiah would simply be a nationalistic leader who would lead the Jewish nation out of the oppression of the Romans. Thus, they reduced the Messiah to a descendent of David who would set them free in a more political way.
In the passage above, Jesus gives clarity to this common understanding of the Messiah as the “son of David.” The Messiah would not only descend in human form from David’s ancestral line, He was also David’s “Lord.” Jesus shows this by pointing to Psalm 110 in which David refers to the Messiah as his Lord. And though this subtle distinction may not at first seem to be that important to us today, Jesus clearly makes an intentional effort to teach this.
One key lesson we should take from this passage is that we must work diligently to have a correct image of Jesus. Though today we may not see our Lord as a nationalistic leader who came to set us free from political oppression, we can often form other erroneous images of Him. For the Jews at that time, the idea that the Messiah was also the “Lord” of King David was new. This points to the divinity of the Messiah and His eternal nature. Jesus gives this subtle clarification and “The great crowd heard this with delight.” We also must work to delight in a clear and correct understanding of Who Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God and Son of Man truly is. So Who is He?
To answer this question, first consider how you see Jesus in your life. Jesus is your friend, a wise teacher, an inspiring personality, a kind soul, a merciful leader and a model for us all. But He is also so much more. To pick only one image of Who Jesus is and to then give that one image excessive focus in our lives is an error similar to the error that many of the Jews had at the time Jesus taught them.
The “so much more” is the part we must focus on as we consider the identity of our Lord. We must see Him as God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. As God, He is to be worshipped and adored. And though He was God from all eternity, He also took on human flesh, uniting humanity with divinity. And as a human, He permitted Himself to die so that He could rise in His human nature. This way, if we unite ourselves to Him through a total surrender of our lives, then we will also die in our sin but then rise with Him to new life. In so doing, we are given the gift of eternal salvation and are enabled to share in the eternal life of the Most Holy Trinity. Though much more could and should be said about the identity of our Lord, this slight glimpse into His life should help us to avoid the trap of limiting Who He is in our minds and hearts.
Reflect, today, upon the image you have of Jesus. Look for ways that you may unintentionally limit His greatness and glory in your mind and heart. Try to expand that image of our Lord that you have and be open to all that He desires to reveal to You about Himself. The more you do so, the more you, too, will be filled with “delight” as the Person of our Lord is more clearly revealed to you.
My infinite and glorious Lord, You are so far beyond our understanding and comprehension, yet You invite us to come to You so that we may know You more fully. Give me the grace I need, dear Lord, to shed the erroneous and limited images of You that I have, so as to come to know You as You are. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Freedom to Give All
Saturday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Mark 12:41–42
As soon as Jesus saw this widow contribute her “few cents” worth of coins, Jesus was moved with love. He immediately used this as an opportunity to teach a lesson to His disciples. He called them over and explained that this poor widow had contributed more than anyone because “she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
Our Lord judges generosity far differently than the world. What does it mean to be generous? Generosity certainly applies to how you use your money. But it also applies to your time, energy, commitment, and every other aspect of your life. To be generous, according to Jesus, is to give all you have, your “whole livelihood.”
You accomplish this goal when you make God and His holy will the central and most important part of your life. You can hold nothing back from Him! Does this mean that if you want to strive for perfection, then you must give away all you own? Perhaps the best answer is both “Yes” and “No.” The answer is “Yes” in the sense that we must become completely detached, on an interior and spiritual level, from everything that is not part of God’s perfect will. The answer is “No” in the sense that, for most people, it is part of His holy will that you own a house, a car, other possessions, and do enjoy other material comforts with your family and friends. The key is the interior detachment and the central focus upon the glory of God and the total service of His holy will. Love of God and neighbor, and freedom from selfishness, will be the guiding factors in these decisions.
With that said, there are certainly some who live in excess and indulgence in our world and, as a result, are deeply attached to their extravagant lifestyle. And there are some who are physically poorer who are just as attached, interiorly, to that which they do not have. For example, what if this poor widow, instead of giving her last few cents, sat in the Temple area watching as the wealthy put in large sums of money and allowed herself to grow in jealousy and greed. This interior attitude would have been in stark contradiction to the generous and trusting spirit she acquired through her total generosity. True generosity is a fundamental disposition of our lives. It means that we have chosen to imitate our Lord through a total self-giving of ourselves to His holy will. And that does include seeing all that we possess as belonging to Christ for the service of His holy will.
Reflect, today, upon whether material possessions and wealth possess you more than you possess them. Are you controlled by desires for more and struggle with disordered attachments to the things you do have? Are you able to make love of God and love of neighbor the central focus of your life and use all that you have, in accord with God’s will, for those purposes? Reflect upon the generosity in the heart of this humble and poor widow and allow our Lord to teach you how to be generous through her holy witness.
My generous Lord, You bestow upon us all good things. You enrich our lives with Your love and mercy which are the true treasures we must seek. Fill my heart with the same generosity exemplified by this poor widow so that I, too, will imitate the total self-giving that she lived in imitation of You. Jesus, I trust in You.