Major Sunday Solemnities
OVERCOMING THROUGH GRACE
Readings: 1st- Rev. 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; 2nd- 1st Cor. 15:20-27; Gospel- Lk. 1:39-56
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one great Feast that celebrates victory over sin and death. Mary, at the end of her earthly life, was taken up body and soul into heaven. In Mary, we see the incorruptibility of the flesh because she dedicated herself fully to the will of God. Mary embraced the mission of salvation by consenting to be the mother of Christ.
The gospel narrates the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth following the annunciation. That encounter unfolds several theological contents for believers. The greetings exchanged by Mary and Elizabeth reveal the mystery of the greatness of God, the mystery of the plan of salvation in Christ. Elizabeth declared, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” She continued, “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Her final words to Mary were, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk. 1:45). Elizabeth was inspired by a supernatural joy. She knew that Mary was the mother of the Lord. The child in her womb reacted in an extraordinary fashion too.
What followed Elizabeth’s proclamation was the Magnificat, the great canticle of the Blessed Mother; “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. Mary acknowledged the favors and graces bestowed on her. She recognized her Blessedness in all generations as conferred upon her by God. God has shown mercy to those who fear him. In the Magnificat, we see the great attributes of God listed by Mary- faithfulness, justice, love, power, joy, and compassion for the lowly. God looked upon the humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary and lifted her above all creatures to be the Mother of his Son. Today, the church celebrates her glorious assumption; she is the Queen of angels in heaven.
The first reading gives us the image of “the woman adorned with the Sun, with the moon under her feet, and whose head is crowned with twelve stars.” That image symbolizes the Blessed Virgin Mary. The battle signifies that God planned to defeat the devil through the birth of Christ. Scripture says, “Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.” (Rev. 12:4-5) It is hard to say exactly what this image is, but it is a prophecy that pointed closely to the image of Christ. The battle with the devil was real in the life of Christ. He conquered sin and death on the Cross. Christ battled for forty days and forty nights with the devil (Matthew chapter 4). Mary’s conception was prophesied by Isaiah this way, “Behold a Virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son and shall call him Emmanuel” (Is. 7:14). This male child is the one whose reign is forever and whose kingdom shall have no end.
Saint Paul chronicles the power of Christ in the second reading. Contrasting Christ with Adam, Paul calls him the “first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” According to this passage, when Christ has destroyed every sovereignty and power, the “last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1Cor. 15:26). Obviously, there are a lot of enemies to be destroyed in this world, death being the last. Death seems to be man’s ultimate enemy. It is the enemy destroyed by the resurrection of Christ. Christ destroyed death and gave us power through his resurrection. This defeat of the last enemy means, as Paul said, “so too in Christ shall all be brought to life” (1Cor. 15:22).
I think that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary communicates to us our final destination in life, the power we have over death. It tells us of the importance of God’s grace in our life. It reminds us how much battle we do and how much strength from God we need to enable us to overcome. There are so many enemies confronting our efforts to make heaven. Monsters that we have to defeat; enemies daily wrestling to devour us, or at worst to take us away from God’s presence. Peter warns us this way, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). This is real. On individual basis, we know that we face temptations on daily basis. The eyes want to look at images that result to concupiscence of the flesh. The various salacious speeches we utter. The various poor uses of God’s name. The avarice in consumption of food and drinks. The urge to refuse to help or assist when needed.
On the part of the church, there is a constant effort to pull God’s community down. The negative attitude from some members of the church -gossips, calumnies, and aspersions which come from within. Members pitch themselves against others. Sometimes, leaders are attacked and discouraged. From outside, the church is seen as an institution that opposes the way of the world and needs to be pulled down. Different forces attack institutions like marriage, priesthood, the Eucharist, etc. These are the images of the dragon attempting to devour the children of God.
Still within, there is the dragon of the flesh pulling down those placed to lead the church. Recently, the sex abuse of children and mostly boys have kept inflicting a great wound on the church. Just yesterday, we received a letter from Archbishop Lori yesterday which started this way,
Dear Friend in Christ,
I regret that I write you today regarding a painful matter that continues to shake the faith of God’s people and undermine the Church’s mission to spread the Gospel. Earlier today, a report by a Pennsylvania Grand Jury was released, revealing a pattern of institutional failure on the part of six dioceses related to the sexual abuse of children by clergy and other representatives of the Church. The report includes the names of some 300 priests accused of abuse, as well as the bishops who led the six dioceses at the time the abuse occurred.” (This is on the internet).
It is an unfortunate situation which needs all of us to continue to offer prayers. With Saint Paul, I invite the people of God; “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me” (Eph. 6:18-19). Our Mother Mary overcame through God’s grace. We can only overcome through the grace of God. May the Blessed Virgin Mary pray for us. Amen.
“THE LORD CALLED ME FROM BIRTH…”: WHAT IS IN A NAME?
Readings: 1st- Is. 49:1-6; 2nd- Acts 13:22-26; Gospel- Lk: 1:57-66, 80
We celebrate today, the great feast of Saint John the Baptist. John is the most popular prophet of the New Testament. Of him Christ proclaimed, “Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11; Lk. 7:28).
As I read about John the Baptist’s story, I learnt that his relationship with Christ has affected the structuring of nature in the calendar of events today. When John was informed that Jesus was baptizing while he was baptizing, John said about himself, “You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him… He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:28,30). The 2018 Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word, says, “Today’s solemnity, which (in the northern hemisphere) occurs near the longest day of the year, just as the daylight is beginning to diminish, is linked to our celebration on December 24-25. Then, just as daylight is at its shortest span, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Light of the world. What we celebrate on the cosmic clock, we apply to our own lives.”
What do we learn from John the Baptist? We learn that hsi relationship with Jesus was designed by God for the fulfilment of the messianic kingdom. John’s mission was in anticipation of the inauguration of Jesus’ mission. The mystery began right from the father, Zechariah’s encounter with the angel while ministering at the temple. Zechariah lost his speech for the nine months preceding John’s birth because he doubted the reality of Elizabeth’s conception. His voice was restored as a sign of the voice which John would be to the Christ. Elizabeth, conceived by special divine intervention at an age that was biologically impossible for child-bearing. The Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth three months before the birth of John. During Mary’s visit, there was a special encounter; an exchange between the “Voice” and the “Word”. John the Baptist was said to have “leapt for joy” because Christ imparted the Holy Spirit upon him right from the womb.
When Jesus appeared on the scene, the Scriptures didn’t narrate any special incident where Jesus was introduced to John before he could identify him. That introduction took place in the womb-to-womb exchange between Mary and Elizabeth by the Holy Spirit. This made it possible for John to point to Jesus and refer his disciples to him saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29,36).
The miracle and mystery surrounding John the Baptist became obvious at his naming ceremony. In today’s gospel, we notice the confusion surrounding what name the newborn would be given. The relatives had already decided to call him Zechariah 11, after his father. The mom, inspired by the Spirit had concluded he’d be called John. The people’s reaction is, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” They didn’t know that John was a relative of Jesus. He was fortunate from birth. He was fortunate to embrace the Lord from the womb. He was fortunate because the Lord gave him his name from his mother’s womb. He was fortunate because the Holy Spirit already descended on him at conception. He was fortunate because he was going to be a voice that speaks for the Lord. John was fortunate to receive a name special, a name not chosen by the people but by God himself. John pointed to Jesus, a name which means, “the Lord has shown favor” while Jesus means, “savior” or “the Lord saves”.
The manifestation of John’s mission was great; “So, they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name”. All became amazed. Zechariah’s speech returned. Just as he spoke in the Benedictus, “The Lord has visited his people and redeemed them. He has raised up for us a mighty savior, in the house of David his servant”. All were amazed at the name which the Lord gave to John.
The prophet Isaiah tells us, “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name” (Is. 49:2). Today, I want us to reflect on our names. I want each of to believe that God consecrated you and chose you from the womb for a purpose. God knows what you’re to bear and guides your parents to a decision on your name.
My name, for instance, is Vincent. Vincent is what God knows me as. Vincent means “Invincible or Victor”. My parents knew the power in a name and were guided by the Holy Spirit to choose my name. So also, every parent, I believe. Think about the consultations you make before naming your child. Some couples conduct researches for days and months before agreeing on a child’s name. Some argue and debate before they come up with their child’s name. Sometimes they disagree, then father calls him/her something, while mother calls him/her another. Grandparents give their own name while in-laws call something even different. There is always a reason behind such going back and forth. There is something in a name. Either you name the child following a saint that you admire, your parents/grandparents that you love; a celebrity, or from a personal experience of yours. My dad named me after his one and only brother that died as a young adult. He loved him and loved his name. I believe he wanted me to help keep the memories of his beloved brother. So, I give you some challenges/assignments today:
- Find out the meaning of your name if you didn’t know it before now.
- Find out the circumstances surrounding the naming of your name at childbirth. What informed your parent(s) to call you the name that you bear?
- For couples still bearing children, do not give your children names with no reasons. Find out what the Lord wants of you for your child.
Finally, realize today, that the Lord cares for you in a special way. If he identifies you by name, then he knows you. If he knows you that much, he cares for you. Israel thought the Lord had forgotten her, almost got discouraged. But the prophet Isaiah woke them up with such a reminder, “Though I thought I had toiled in vain. And for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God” (Is. 49:4).
God knows you by name. He knows the challenges you’re going through. He knows you in your lowest moment as well as in your most excited times. Before him you’re special, you’re made glorious. Like David, he wants you to be special. Like John the Baptist, he wants you to be his voice. He has special interest in you because you bear his image. You represent him by your name. Let us ask God to make our names special; to make us a light to the nations. That way, like John the Baptist, the name of the Lord will be glorified through our names. Amen.
“We will do everything that the Lord has told us” (Ex. 24:3)
Readings: 1st- Ex. 24:3-8; 2nd- Heb. 9:11-15; Gospel- Mk. 14:12-16, 22-26.
After Moses related all the words and ordinances of the Lord to them, the Israelites responded, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us” (Ex. 24:3). Then Moses offered holocausts and sacrifices of bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. The covenant was ratified by the sprinkling of the blood on the people. Then Moses reminds them, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of his” (Ex. 24:8). The blood signified the presence of the Lord. It was a symbol of the Passover lamb.
At Sinai, the victim’s blood sealed the covenant between God and his people. Interestingly, the covenant between God and his people is characterized by sacrifice. Scott Hahn addresses the issue of Christ as the Lamb well in his book, The Lamb’s Supper. Hahn states, “As early as the second generation described in Genesis, we find, in the story of Cain and Abel, the first recorded example of a sacrificial offering. “Cain brought to the Lord an offering of fruit of the ground, and Abel brought the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions” (Ge. 4:3-4). In due time, we encounter similar burnt offerings from Noah (Gen. 8:20-21), Abraham (Gen 15:8-10; 22:13), Jacob (Gen. 46:1), and others. In Genesis, the patriarchs were forever building altars, and altars served primarily as places of sacrifice.” (The Lamb’s Supper (p.16).
The Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the New Covenant, to Jesus Christ the Lamb of God. One example is Abraham’s attempt to offer his only son Isaac. In describing the two sacrifices, Hahn says, “The similarities were many. First, Jesus, like Isaac, was a faithful father’s only beloved son. Again, like Isaac, Jesus carried uphill the wood for His own sacrifice, which would be consummated on a hill in Jerusalem. In fact, the site where Jesus died, Calvary, was one of the hillocks on Moriah’s range. Moreover, the very first line of the New Testament identifies Jesus with Isaac as ‘the son of Abraham’ (Mt. 1:1).”
But there is a huge difference: Jesus’ sacrifice is the definitive sacrifice offered once and for all. The Lamb is Jesus who died on the Cross. Scripture records how John identifies Christ and points him to his disciples: “The next day John was again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:36). That “Lamb of God” image is very strong at Mass, the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ. Hahn explains the Mass further, “No one has to tell you that. Perhaps you’ve sung or recited the words a thousand times: “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” Just as many times you’ve seen the priest elevate the broken Host and proclaim, ‘This is the Lamb of God…’ The Lamb is Jesus… He is Lord, God, Savior, Messiah, King, Priest, Prophet…” He is the one “who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God” ((Heb. 9:13-14).
The gospel records an account of Christ’s Passover with his disciples. While they are at Supper, he takes the bread and says the blessing, breaks the bread and gives it to the disciples. The same thing he does with the cup. He says to them, “Take it, this is my body. This is the blood of the covenant which will be shed for many” (Mk. 14:22-24). The body of Christ is a living sacrifice. He sheds his blood for us and offers Himself for the sins of the world. Then he says to us, “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:26). That is what we do at Mass. That is what we are gathered here to do. That is the greatest covenant we can enter into with God, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
After Moses has spoken God’s intention in the Old Testament, the people respond, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us”. And Christ tells us at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me”. Can we, like the Old Testament Israel, say, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us”? Or, how can we do everything that the Lord tells us? The answer is to take the sacrifice of the Mass as serious as we can. The Eucharist, as we know, is a sacrament, an act of thanksgiving to God for the gift of Jesus Christ. It is the source and summit of all the sacraments. The Eucharist is Holy Communion. In it, we commune with God’s holiness, and through it, we transmit same to the community of believers. It is the highest form of prayer ever.
Surely, each of us embraces God differently. We approach him in the way we know and understand best. But in the Holy Eucharist, we all receive Christ- eat His Body and drink his Blood. Christ assures us, “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger. No one who believes in me will ever thirst.” (Jn.6:35).
Do we not differ in our approach to prayer? The reason is because we feel God differently. Consider the story of the little boy who went out under the rain. The rain was heavy with storm, thunder and lightning. The mom got so scared and was worried that the thunder might harm her little boy. As she rushed out to grab her boy, she found him comfortably smiling and staring upwards at the lightening. She was so mad at him and dragged him off. This mom was curious to know what was amusing her son about the thunder and lightning. The little boy said, “Mom, God was taking pictures of me, and I had to pose well and smile as he took the shots”. You can see how differently we understand God. For some, God is scary, for others He is welcoming, and calm.
In the Eucharist, we are called to pray to God always. Our whole life is thanksgiving. Holiness, grace, and love, flow from our relationship with God. The Holy Eucharist unites us as members of the mystical body of Christ. It brings us into Holy Communion with Christ and with one another. In this communion, we become one family. We become one body (Corpus). We share the body of Christ (Corpus Christi).
On this day, we celebrate and honor the Holy Eucharist. We celebrate the Real Presence of Christ. We reverence Christ in the tabernacle. We also commune with each other by extending God’s love to others. Think of what you receive and how you receive it. Do you really do what the Blessed Eucharist commands? Do you live out God’s love and mercy? Do you live out God’s peace and forgiveness? Do you reflect God’s holiness manifested in the Eucharist? Does the Holy Eucharist really permeate your entire being? Today’s feast is a day to remind ourselves of the great benefits we have in Christ through the Eucharist. Let us ask God to help us through the prayer called Anima Christi: “Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me. Water from Christ's side, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O good Jesus, hear me. Within Thy wounds hide me. Suffer me not to be separated from Thee. From the malicious enemy defend me. In the hour of my death call me. And bid me come unto Thee. That I may praise Thee with Thy saints and with Thy angels. Forever and ever. Amen”
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Readings: 1st- Deut. 4:32-34, 39-40; 2nd- Rom. 8:14-17; Gospel- Matt. 28:16-20
The doctrine of the Trinity occupies a central place in the history of Catholic theology. Historically, the doctrine has faced attacks, but we are not going into all the history of Arianism, or Docetism today. Questions have also arisen about where we find the word “Trinity” in the Bible. What we might rather ask is, “What is the contribution of the Old Testament to the Christian doctrine of God?” We know that the Old Testament Israel professed monotheism. This demanded Israel’s unreserved loyalty. Any reference to other gods was viewed as blasphemy, hence to think about God in any “three-ness” would be unwelcome polytheism. Both Christians and Jews join in the famous Shema, Israel’s “confession of faith”: Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one” (Deut. 6:4). But do we profess three gods in the Trinity? The answer is NO. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 233) teaches, “there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son, and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity.” The Catechism goes on to say (CCC 234), “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.”
In the Genesis account of creation, God says, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26). The term “Let us,” signifies a presence beyond one person commanding the action. The “Word (dabar), is another agent of God” in the creation account (Gen 1:1-2:4a). We also see an incipient plurality within the one God expressed in most OT terms of “Wisdom,” “Word,” and Spirit.” The reality is that it is hard to figure out the word “Trinity” in the Old Testament Scriptures. But references to the Trinity abound. All we need to understand is that the Old Testament God was constantly leading the people of Israel towards a history inherently pointing towards the New Testament plan which is God’s saving power through His Son Jesus Christ. Saint Paul makes it explicit in the New Testament while concluding his letter to the Corinthians, “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:13). We use that formula at Mass till date.
In the first reading of today, Moses recalls God’s love for the Israelites in a way unknown to them; “Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes. Moses summons them to appreciate the need to commit to God’s love in return for the special privilege granted them as His chosen people.
That foreshadows the image of adoption. St. Paul writes in the second reading that God has made us sons and daughters in Christ and given us the right of inheritance as heirs and as co-heirs. What a privilege. This privilege should eliminate all fears in our lives. Through baptism we become adopted into the trinitarian love. We receive power and strength to do mission and to propagate the unity of the Trinity. Christ tells his disciples, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. He sends them out to baptize, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Christ is God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and we are heirs with him. We have great powers that come from God. We are called to evangelize, to teach others to observe God’s commandment. God’s abiding presence is with us always.
Our call to discipleship begins at baptism, and runs through the entire course of our lives. We are on a mission powered and inspired by the Holy Spirit. We are incorporated into that mission at baptism. At confirmation, we are commissioned. In the Eucharist, we are nourished. In the sacrament of penance, we are strengthened and reassured of God’s love. In marriage we are sanctified to live continuously as co-creators of God’s love. We produce more heirs for God through the bond of marriage. The Trinity is therefore central in every marriage relationship.
Talking about marriage, I remember this funny story about a couple preparing for their wedding. They sent the invitation card to the printer with the words they had chosen. The scripture text they picked was 1 John 4:18 which says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Mistakenly the printer omitted the figure 1 in the text and chose John 4:18 reads: “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband." That’s to say that marriage has gone through a lot.
Marriage embodies unity and the relational love that the Trinity portrays. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote,
“Because Spirit impregnates marriage, there is first seen in it the reflection of the mystery of the Trinity. As the Father knows Himself in His Wisdom, or Word, or Son, Who is distinct but not separate, so the husband discovers opposite to himself one in flesh with him. As the Father knows Himself in His Son, so man knows himself through the person opposite. He is present to himself in her for, thanks to sex, two persons are merged and revealed, one to the other. As the Father and Son are one in nature through the Spirit of Love that binds them, so the husband and wife find unity in sex, despite their differences, through the bond of love that makes them one.”
Marriage fulfills the divine intention for humanity as adopted sons and daughters in Christ. The Jesuit theologian, Grenz argues that God has “interior relationality” and that “the formula: “God is love,” means that the inner life of the Trinity is characterized by loving relations—and is expressed toward creatures.” It means that human relationality, including the love between husband and wife in the ecclesial community, “marks a visual, human coming-to-representation of the mutual indwelling of the persons of Trinity.” That makes us disciples of LOVE in marriage. Disciples of love are disciples of forgiveness. That’s one sure way or key to the survival of marriage relationships. Please look up to the Trinity when things get tough in your marriage. Remember the that moment when you exchanged your rings saying, “Take this ring as a sign of my love for you… “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Amen. Christ says to you today, “I am with you always, until the end of time”.
WE MUST PRAY TO THE HOLY SPIRIT FOR INNER PEACE
Readings: 1st- Acts 2:1-11; 2nd- 1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13; Gospel- John 20:19-23
Can the Spirit lead us to bad things? Or better still, how does the Spirit lead us? This is similar to the question asked by Pope Francis in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Rejoice and Be Glad, “Could the Holy Spirit urge us to carry out a mission and then ask us to abandon it, or not fully engage in it, so as to preserve our inner peace?” The pope continues, “We can forget that life does not have a mission, but is a mission” (no. 27). Life is a mission inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Today we celebrate Pentecost which is the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. It is a special feast which marks the birth of the Church. Originally, Pentecost was a Jewish holiday held 50 days after Passover. One of three major feasts during the Jewish year, it celebrated Thanksgiving for harvested crops. We witness this harvest of souls in the Acts of the Apostles in the first reading as the large crowd gathered to listen to the disciples of Jesus. “They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, ‘Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God” (Acts 2:7-12). Everyone hears everyone because all are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Surely, the Holy Spirit cannot lead us to do bad things. No one can kill and say that the Spirit led her/him to do it. Or to steal, lie, cheat, etc. No one can treat another badly and claim it is by the Holy Spirit. One easy way to know someone who is not guided by the Holy Spirit is through acts of unrighteousness and impurity. Saint Paul calls them works of the flesh: “immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, and acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like” (Gal. 5:18-21). Clearly, fleshy desires are different from the spirit. “Could the Spirit ask us to carry out a mission and then ask us to abandon it, or not fully engage in it, so as to preserve our inner peace?” That was the question Pope Francis posited. The negative spirit sustains only halfway.
The Holy Spirit fulfills its mission of guiding, leading, directing, and comforting. It leads us to complete good actions. Saint Paul writes, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord”, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). The presence of the Holy spirit is very clear, “Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were” (Acts 2:1). As soon as the disciples received the Holy Spirit, “they began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim”. The disciples bore the fruit of the Spirit because the Spirit inspired them to action. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are evident: “love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, generosity, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control”. The "fruit" is the product of the Holy Spirit's cultivation of character in a heart; a sign that the Spirit dwells in a person’s heart.
One major fruit of the Spirit is peace. Jesus gives his disciples this special gift in the gospel of today. Peace is the hallmark of his post- resurrection visit. Jesus reveals his presence to the disciples through the gift of peace. He says to them, “Peace be with you”. This gift is followed by his breath upon the disciples. He breathes life, renewal and revival into them as in creation (Cf. Gen. 2:7); “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained”. The great relationship between the peace of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit inspires us to receive the peace of Christ- “inner peace”.
Often times, we hear the saying, “As led by the Holy Spirit”. Who is led by the Holy Spirit? My answer is simple; it is the person who has peace of mind and heart, inner peace. I had a conversation with one of my friends who is a nun recently, and I asked her a question, “Are you really happy?” She answered me yes. I went further to ask her, “How can you describe your source of happiness?” She said, “If I go to bed I sleep well. I wake up, do my work. I eat good food when I am hungry. I have good friends. I derive joy in what I am called to do. I am happy to serve God because God loves me and also provides for my needs. I have peace of mind.” That last sentence stood out for me, “I have peace of mind”. That is what the Holy Spirit gives us. If you have peace of mind, you live a life devoid of worries, hatred, anxiety. You live a life devoid of selfishness, dissensions, fury, envy, rivalry, hatred, immorality, jealousy. If you have peace of mind, you forgive. If you have peace of mind, you shun rancor and acrimony. If you have peace of mind, you’ll be generous, kind, faithful, patient, and self-control.
This is what Christ said when he promised us the Holy Spirit, “But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you” (John 14:26-27).
Honestly, anyone who does not have peace of mind is in trouble. Let us use as an example, the 17 years old boy who shot and killed the students in Santa Fe, Texas on Friday, May 18. That guy has no peace of mind. He knows no rest. He lacks inner joy. He is deeply troubled. He is tortured, tormented from within, so also anyone who could commit such atrocity. No matter how you look at him- call it paranoia, pathology. Call such people sociopath, psychotic, or anything that psychology may manufacture, he lacks the peace of Christ, peace of mind. It is the same in our homes and at work. A lot of crises manifest where there is lack of inner peace. So many people lack peace of mind and so they do evil things to others. A husband who lacks peace of mind is always mean to the wife and children. A wife who lacks peace of mind is mean to the husband and children. A boss who lacks peace of mind is mean to his employees. Anyone who lacks peace of mind is in big time trouble, and puts others into trouble. Peace of mind and heart is the peace that Christ gives; it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, as Saint James says, “Anyone who chooses the world for a friend is constituted an enemy of God” (4:5).
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to bear his fruit in our hearts, to give us the peace which the world cannot give, as we pray, “Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful…”