(In many dioceses, the Solemnity of the Ascension is celebrated today. If you celebrate the Ascension in your diocese today, see the reflection from the previous Thursday.)
Consecrated in the Truth
Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year B)
“Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” John 17:17–19 (Year B)
What does it mean to “consecrate” something or someone? Consecration is, of course, a very familiar term within our faith. We speak of the bread and wine being consecrated and becoming the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus our Lord. The consecration of the mere earthly substances of bread and wine transform them into God Himself. Thus, “consecration” is a powerful word.
Another familiar use of this word is in reference to those women who have been called by God to enter religious life so as to dedicate themselves to God as spouses of Christ. They become “Consecrated Religious” through their solemn lifelong vows. They are dedicated, taken out of the world and presented to Christ in a unique way.
Among the laity, there are many who have consecrated themselves to our Blessed Mother, or to the Sacred Heart, or to our divine Lord through some other special form of devotion. In all of these cases, to “consecrate” is to dedicate, set aside and make holy. Another translation for the word “consecrate” above is “sanctify.”
To “Sanctify them in the truth” is to make them holy by the truth. This is Jesus’ prayer in the above-quoted passage. This line comes from Jesus’ beautiful High Priestly Prayer in which He prays to the Father for His disciples and for all who will eventually become His disciples—and that includes you! Jesus’ prayer is not only effective as a prayer, it is also effective as a lesson on holiness. How do we become holy? Simple. We allow the Word of the Father to consecrate us in truth. In other words, we allow God’s holy Word to engage us, challenge us, change us, call us from sin, point us to Heaven and transform every aspect of our lives. God’s Word is the Truth, and we will become holy if we are transformed by this Truth.
In what ways do you need the Truth, spoken by the Father in Heaven, to engage you? What are the truths of our faith that you especially need to know, accept, profess and believe? One of the best ways to answer this question is to commit yourself to an in-depth, prayerful reading of the Word of God. By prayerfully reading the Scriptures, you will open yourself to all that God wants to reveal to you. And as the voice of God speaks to you through His Word, you will be invited to change. His Word will combat the confusion and lies of the world and the evil one and set you upon the path to holiness, to true sanctity and interior consecration.
Reflect, today, upon the transforming power of the Word of God. Reflect upon how fully you have allowed His Word to speak to you, call you out of the world, set you apart for holiness and direct you toward Himself. Engaging the Word of God must become your daily spiritual food, and it must paint for you the picture of your glorious life to which you are called.
My Jesus, Word of the Father, You are Truth Itself. You are the Living Word Who has come to set us free. Give me the grace I need to listen to Your holy voice and so that Your Truth will engage me in the depths of my soul, transforming me into the person You have called me to be. I open myself to You, dear Lord, and to all You wish to say to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Peace? Or the World?
Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” John 16:33
What did Jesus tell His disciples that produced the “peace” of which He spoke? He is especially referring to His entire Last Supper Discourse from which we have been reading. The words spoken throughout this discourse are meant to give the disciples, and us, “courage” and the ability to conquer the trouble imposed upon us by the world.
Throughout Jesus’ discourse, He especially points to the unity He has with His Father and the fact that if we stay united with Jesus, we will also be united to the Father. He spoke of Himself being the vine and us the branches who must remain firmly attached to Jesus. He spoke of this being possible only by the coming power of the Holy Spirit Whom He will send. And He spoke of the hatred that the world has for all who remain firmly grounded in the Truth. Therefore, if you are one who seeks to remain deeply rooted in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit and separated from the deceptions of the secular and un-Christian world, then Jesus is clearly speaking to you.
In this passage above, Jesus identifies one gift that will help us on this journey. This particular gift is the gift of His peace. Peace is the ability to remain calm and focused in the midst of any and every “trouble” we encounter. The trouble that Christians will especially face are the various persecutions of the world when we live in accord with the Truth. And though there are many moral truths presented clearly by our faith that the world attacks, there are also other forms of troubles we will encounter within the world today.
One of the most manifest troubles inflicted upon many by the world comes in the form of constant visual, auditory and mental stimulation. Our world is a noisy world. Modern electronics, the mass media, commercials, radio, Internet, social media and so many other parts of our daily life have the subtle effect of distracting us, stimulating us, and stealing away the peace of Christ.
Consider, for example, the idea of entering into the silence of a retreat for a day, or two, or longer. How would you handle turning off your smartphone, tablet, computer, television and radio for an extended period of time? Would you go through a form of withdrawal? Many today would indeed find this difficult. And the reason for this is that the “peace” of which Jesus speaks is slowly dwindling in the lives of many. Instead of God’s peace, we are filled with constant noise, commotion and activity. This is the “world” attacking us and stealing the peace God wants to bestow.
Reflect, today, upon the exceptionally important truth—that Jesus wants you to know His peace in your heart. And He wants that peace to sustain you. Reflect upon the interior battle that may take place within you between the world and the peace of Christ. Who is winning that battle for your soul? Is there more of the world or more of the peace of Christ reigning within you? Seek out the peace that only Jesus gives, and, as you discover His peace, you will also discover the source of that peace: Jesus Himself.
Lord of all peace, You have called us out of the world so that Your peace will abide within us, sustaining us, giving us courage, wisdom and strength. I open my life to You, dear Lord, and pray that the many distractions and commotions imposed upon me by the world will begin to cease. May I always hear Your gentle voice and follow You to the place of silent repose found only in You. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Glory of God
Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. John 17:4–5
Saint Ignatius of Loyola bases his spiritual masterpiece, The Spiritual Exercises, on one basic premise: Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. This is the essence of what Ignatius calls the “Principle and Foundation” of our lives. In other words, our goal in life is twofold: First, we must seek to give God the greatest glory possible by our lives. And second, the effect of this singular focus is the salvation of our souls.
In the Gospel passage quoted above, Jesus speaks of the fact that He perfectly fulfilled His human life on earth by glorifying the Father in Heaven. He did this by accomplishing the work that the Father gave Him to fulfill.
If you are looking for purpose in your life or if you are trying to discover the meaning of your life, then look no further. Jesus’ words above offer the ideal “principle and foundation” for your life. This message of our Lord could be broken down into three lessons.
First, the Father truly does have a plan for your life. Are you seeking to discover that plan? Knowing that there is a divine plan for your life is the first step in fulfilling it. If you do not know God’s plan, it will be difficult to fulfill it. So do you seek to discern this plan each and every day?
Secondly, when you do discern what God wants of you in your daily life, you must accomplish His will. Sometimes we fall into the trap of trying to fulfill only a portion of what God wants of us. The problem with that approach is that we may actually accomplish “a portion” of God’s will. But that’s not enough. We must aim for perfection. We must strive for the complete fulfillment of the will of God in our lives.
Thirdly, if we can truly accomplish the daily will of God for our lives, then our lives will not only glorify God in every way possible, but we will also be blessed to share in God’s glory. To share in God’s glory is to share in God’s very life. It means that God will be alive in us and we will become partakers of the joys of Heaven. And it will begin here on earth. Why would we settle for earthly “joys” and earthly pleasures when we are called to share in delights that are beyond what we could ever imagine in this world?
Reflect, today, upon Jesus’ act of perfectly fulfilling the will of the Father in His human nature. Even though our Lord was divine, He was also fully human. He, therefore, perfectly understands your human struggles and weaknesses. He knows what you go through, and His humanity is the model for you to follow in life. Reflect upon His human life and the way in which He lived in union with the will of His Father day in and day out. Commit yourself to this unwavering mission of fully accomplishing the will of the Father in your life and you, too, will share in the glory of our Lord.
My glorified Lord, You now share in the full joy and glory of Your Father in Heaven with Your human nature. By doing so, You invite me to not only imitate Your life on earth but to also share in that same glory in Heaven. Give me the grace I need, dear Lord, to accomplish all to which the Father calls me to do. May my life fully imitate You in every way so that I may also share, one day, in Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.
Rejecting the evil one
Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
“I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One.” John 17:14–15
Unfortunately, the evil one is real. He is the highest of the fallen angels who retain their natural spiritual power given them at their creation. God created all angelic creatures with the purpose of serving His holy will. The Scripture reveals that there are nine levels or “choirs” to which these angelic creatures belong. Among the fallen angels, the highest of them directs the others, and he is traditionally given the name Lucifer or “the devil.”
One of the natural spiritual powers that these fallen angelic creatures retain is the power of influence and suggestive thought. They were created to be messengers of God’s truth to us; but, in their fallen state, they seek to communicate confusion and lies instead. Therefore, it is very helpful to understand the way the evil one and the other fallen angels communicate to us so that we can reject their lies and listen only to the voice of God.
In his rules for the discernment of spirits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola explains that when a person is going “from mortal sin to mortal sin,” the evil one and the other demons continually propose to their imagination the “apparent pleasures” and “sensual delights” that they obtain from their sin as a way of keeping them firmly controlled by that sin. However, when a person is “intensely cleansing their sins and rising from good to better,” the evil one and the other demons act in a contrary way. They will “bite, sadden and put obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, that one may not go on” in their pursuit of holiness. God and the good angels will act in the opposite way. For those immersed in sin, God and the good angels will use “the opposite method, pricking them and biting their consciences through the process of reason” so as to draw them away from sin. And when a person is, in fact, growing in holiness, God and the good angels will “give courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations and quiet, easing, and putting away all obstacles, that one may go on in well doing” (See mycatholic.life/ignatius).
These spiritual lessons on the discernment of spirits are of great value and will assist you on your daily struggle with sin and your daily pursuit of holiness. Understanding the deceptions of the evil one and discerning the promptings of grace given by God bring clarity to our daily lives and direction to all of our actions. The good news that is revealed by the Scripture passage above is that our Lord is fully aware of the working of the evil one, has prayed for you, and will assist you as you seek to combat these lies and deceptions in your life.
Reflect, today, upon the importance of learning how to discern both the voice of God and the lies of the evil one. Work to discern the voice of God so that you may follow Him more faithfully. And seek to discern the lies of the evil one so that you will not be influenced by him and can directly reject him. Commit yourself to a more rigorous discernment of these spiritual experiences in your life and allow this prayer of Jesus to direct you into His holy will.
My all-powerful Lord, You have conquered the evil one and provide all the grace I need to overcome his lies and deceptions. Open my mind to discern Your voice and give clarity to the voice of the evil one so that I may choose You with my whole heart and reject all that the evil one tries to say to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Gestures of Love
Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” John 17:20–21
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been continually reading from Chapter 14–17 of John’s Gospel. These chapters contain Jesus’ Last Supper Discourses and provide us with Jesus’ last sermon, so to speak. Chapter 17, which we have been reading this past week, presents us with Jesus’ final prayer for His disciples and for all of us “who will believe” in Him through the preaching of the disciples. Each time we read from Chapter 17, the Lectionary begins the reading with the phrase “Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying…” That line is an adaptation of Chapter 17:1 but is used to introduce the various parts of the prayer of Jesus each time it is read at Mass.
It’s interesting that Jesus would look up to Heaven when He prayed. Of course, Heaven is not physically in the sky, because Heaven is a spiritual reality. The Father is not located in some place in the sky but is omnipresent, meaning, present all places and all times. And yet, Jesus raises His eyes upward when He prays to the Father. There is a great lesson in this.
Our physical disposition is important, at times. For example, when someone we owe respect to enters a room, we usually rise and greet them. It would be disrespectful to remain lounging on a bed or sofa in that case. And at Mass, we do not sit back with legs crossed during the Consecration; rather, we kneel in adoration. And when we greet someone for the first time, we do not look at the floor; rather, we look them in the eyes.
Jesus’ act of “Lifting his eyes to heaven” was not done because He thought He might see the Father in the sky; rather, it was done out of respect and love and as a way of acknowledging the dignity of the Father. This should teach us about our own bodily disposition and the message we communicate to others, especially to God in prayer.
When you pray, what do you do? Though you can pray at any time and while in any disposition, it is an excellent practice to speak to God not only by your words but also by the disposition you take. Kneeling, raising hands in prayer, falling prostrate before your Lord, sitting upright with attentiveness, etc., are all ways in which you communicate to God your love.
Reflect, today, upon this image of Jesus praying. Gaze at how attentive He would have been as He lifted His sacred eyes upward as a physical gesture honoring the glorious, all-powerful Father in Heaven. Try to imagine Jesus’ devotion, intensity, respect and burning love. Imitate this holy gesture of prayer and attentiveness to the Father and remind yourself of the importance of expressing your love in bodily form.
My most holy Father in Heaven, I do join Your Son, Jesus, in lifting my eyes, my heart and my whole life to You in honor, love and respect. May I always be attentive to You and always show You the devotion due Your greatness. My dear Jesus, thank You for Your love of the Father in Heaven. Give me the grace I need to imitate You and Your perfect love in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.” John 21:18–19
On this, the third time that Jesus appeared to His disciples, Jesus enters into a threefold discourse with Peter. Each time that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, Peter responds that he does. And Jesus responds back each time, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.” The passage quoted above concludes Jesus’ discourse with Peter using very powerful language. Jesus tells Peter that when he grows old, “someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” This was Jesus’ way of saying to Peter that he would ultimately express his love of Jesus by dying for Him. As we know, tradition states that Peter was ultimately crucified. And at Peter’s request, he was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy of dying in the exact same way Jesus died.
As we consider this conversation between Jesus and Peter, it is clear that Jesus’ understanding of love is very different from the way many others understand it today. Jesus was not only telling Peter that he would die for Jesus, but Jesus was clearly offering His approval of this act of love Peter would one day offer. Most often when we love someone, we would do all we can to keep them from any such fate. In fact, when a loved one suffers, we often will do all we can to look for a way to relieve them of that suffering. So which approach is most loving?
Clearly, Jesus sees suffering differently than most of us. For Jesus, suffering is not opposed to love when the suffering is freely embraced for a higher purpose. Suffering in and of itself is of no value. But when suffering is embraced sacrificially out of love for another, it is able to take on tremendous power. And when Jesus offered His clear support to Peter who would one day die out of love for Jesus, Jesus was focusing upon the eternal merit that would be won by Peter’s cross. The fact that Jesus did not shy away from Peter’s future sacrificial suffering is one of the clearest signs of Jesus’ more perfect love for Peter.
Reflect, today, upon your attitude toward the sufferings that your loved ones endure. Do you find that your primary goal is to rid them of their sufferings? Or do you understand that even their sufferings have the potential to become a source of their own holiness and the source of grace for others? Strive to see suffering as Jesus sees it. Look at the sacrificial love that is made possible when your loved ones unite their sufferings to the Cross of Christ and try to commit yourself to the mission of helping them embrace that sacred gift of love.
My most compassionate Jesus, in Your great love for us all, You desire that we unite our sufferings to Your Cross so that all suffering shares in Your redemptive love. Give me the grace I need to not only embrace my own sufferings in life out of love for You but to also help those whom I love to live sacrificially by embracing the crosses they carry out of love. Jesus, I trust in You.
A Holy Awe
Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter
It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written. John 21:24–25
As we conclude our Easter season, we are given the conclusion of the Gospel of Saint John to ponder. Recall that John’s Gospel has been a central focus throughout the Easter Season. Therefore, if you have been prayerfully reading the Gospel for Mass each day for the past several weeks, then you have truly immersed yourself in this holy Gospel.
The Gospel of Saint John is much different from the other three Synoptic Gospels. John’s language is mystical and symbolic. John presents the seven miracles as the seven “signs” that reveal Jesus’ divinity. Jesus is identified as I AM, the Son of the Father, the Vine, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Eternal Word, and more. John points to the Crucifixion as Jesus’ hour of glory in which He takes up His throne of the Cross for the salvation of the world. And John’s teaching on the Eucharist is truly profound.
John states that the reason he wrote his Gospel was so “that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). John clearly loved our Lord and understood Him, not only by personal experiences while Jesus was alive on earth but also through a profound level of prayer in his later years. And this depth of understanding and mystical knowledge is communicated in such a way that the reader is easily drawn into John’s prayerful understanding.
As John concludes His testimony about Jesus, he states something worth pondering. He states that Jesus did so many things that were not recorded by him or others, that if they were all written down, the whole world would not contain the books that would be written. First of all, everything that was written down could be the source of prayerful study for a lifetime. John’s Gospel alone could never be exhausted of its meaning. But then consider this final line of John’s Gospel and try to take it as a literal statement for a moment. If that statement were literally true, that the whole world could not contain the books that would record all that Jesus did, then this fact should leave us with a holy awe. In fact, the reason this must be true is because what Jesus did within each and every mind and heart He touched is truly indescribable. Volumes upon volumes could not thoroughly describe it. His divine action of saving souls, rescuing people from sin and death, and pointing them to eternal life is more than our feeble minds can fully comprehend.
Reflect, today, upon the holy Gospel of Saint John. As we do conclude this Easter Season and our reading of John’s Gospel, allow yourself to sit in awe of the infinite activity of our divine Lord in the lives of those who have turned to Him. Consider every movement of grace in their lives that has been accomplished with such care and love by our Lord. Reflect upon the fact that for eternity you will be contemplating the Eternal Word made Flesh, the Messiah, the Great I AM, the Son of the Father and every other name given to Him Who is our God and King. Saint John loved our Lord and understood Him deeply because he spent his life prayerfully pondering all that Jesus did. Continue to commit yourself to this holy pondering so that you will be drawn more deeply into this contemplation with holy awe.
Jesus, Messiah, You are truly beyond comprehension in Your beauty, glory and holiness. You are God from God and Light from Light. You are the Great I AM, and all the books in the world could not properly describe the depth of Your greatness. Fill my mind and heart with the gift of deep spiritual insight so that I, like Saint John the Evangelist, will be continually drawn into a holy awe of You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Come Holy Spirit!
Pentecost Sunday (Year B)
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:2–4
Happy birthday! Today, as we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we also celebrate the birth of the Church. Thus, today is a celebration of your membership in the life of the Church. As a human institution, the Church has always suffered on account of the sins of Her members. This sad truth is something that we are increasingly aware of today. But the Church itself is the Spotless Bride of Christ. It is the Body of Christ on earth, in Heaven and in Purgatory. Those of us on earth are members of the Church Militant. Those in Heaven are members of the Church Triumphant. And those in Purgatory are members of the Church Suffering. But all of us are united under Christ our Head as members of His holy Body the Church.
We profess our faith in the Church every Sunday. We profess that we believe in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” What exactly does this mean? First, it means that by the power and working of the Holy Spirit, those who profess faith in Christ are united as “one.” This oneness is a spiritual union that will endure for eternity. It is unbreakable and restores us to the life we were created to live. That is, a life of union with God and others, a communion of humanity with God.
As one family, the Church is also “holy.” Holiness is another way of saying that we are made whole by the blood of Christ, sharing in His redemption. By His mercy, our sins are forgiven and we become children of the Father in Heaven, sharing the eternal life of the Son.
The word “catholic” refers to the truth that the offer of salvation is given to all. It is a universal calling given to all people who will accept this gift. God did not come to save only a few but all, and many will accept this gift of salvation.
We are “apostolic” in that God chose to establish His Church through the mediation of His Apostles. They were uniquely called to become instruments by which the saving Truth is proclaimed and the grace won by the Cross is distributed. The work of the Apostles continues today through their successors, the bishops, and those who are co-workers with the bishops, the priests. Sinful though they may be, God uses them, nonetheless, to bestow His grace and truth upon the world.
As a member of the one Body of Christ, you are also invited by God to enlarge His family through the sharing of the Gospel and by your life of deep prayer. You are called and sent, and this takes place by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we especially celebrate today.
Reflect, today, upon the incredible privilege it is to be invited to be a member of the Family of God, the Church. And reflect, also, upon the important duty you have to extend that invitation to others. Pray to the Holy Spirit, asking for an increase in His seven-fold gifts in your life so that You can help share the saving message of the Gospel to those whom God wants to reach through you.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, Who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ our Lord. Amen. Jesus, I trust in You.
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Fear of the Lord: With this gift the Christian becomes keenly aware of anything that may hurt his/her relationship with God. There is a holy “fear” of hurting this relationship, and grace is given to avoid these things at all cost.
Wisdom: With this gift the Christian is given a special grace to “ponder divine realities” in his/her speculative reason. We are able to see the big picture and know how best to be an instrument of peace and harmony in our world.
Understanding: This is the ability to have a supernatural assurance of the matters of faith. Life makes sense. We can make sense of the deeper parts of revelation, make sense of suffering and understand those things that tempt us to doubt. With this gift we come to see how everything in life can work for good in accordance with God’s plan.
Knowledge: With this gift the Christian knows, more in the practical intellect, what God’s will is in this or that situation. We know how to live, how to discern God’s will and what decision to make in our daily life. It also enables us to learn from our past mistakes.
Counsel: With this gift the Christian sees him/herself as a link in a chain which makes up the entire Church. God uses each one of us to help and support one another on our journey. We know what to say and how to act so as to do our part to build up one another.
Fortitude: Simply put, it is a firmness of mind and spirit to do good and avoid evil. It’s a sort of Christian courage. The Gospel will call all of us to a radical life of love. Fortitude gives us the strength we need to follow through.
Piety: This gift enables us to first reverence and love God, but also to see the dignity of one another and reverence each other as children of God.