Sunday, June 29, 2014

Byzantine: 3rd Sunday after Pentecost/Feast of the Holy Pre-Eminent Apostles Peter and Paul (6/29/14)

Apology


I was running low on time as I finished it, so I ran it through a quick (but not necesssarily exhaustive) heresy check and published it. Hope everything's okay in it.

Notes for Reading/Hearing

First off, the wall calendar prescribes two readings from the Apostol: one for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost and one for Ss. Peter and Paul. However, it only prescribes one reading, the one for the 3rd Sunday. Why? I honestly don't know. It might be a pastoral recommendation, or it might be that they ran out of space, or who knows? But I dug out the 2014 Typicon (Pittsburgh: Byzantine Seminary Press? 2013) and it prescribed both Gospel readings, so I'll say something on both readings. This is in conformity with the ancient Byzantine "Principle of Elongation," which basically states: "If a service only need be a certain length, but it could be even longer, let's do the longer version!"*

I really recommend reading all the readings beforehand. Otherwise, it could get confusing. Only the first of the two readings is announced, so it will end up sounding like:
This is the end of the first reading, but you don't know it because I'm not using the concluding chant. This is the beginning of the second reading, but you don't know it because it wasn't announced.
Confusing, right? So, know where one reading leaves off and another begins. Also, the 2 Corinthians reading begins with the second sentence of the verse.

Apostol: Romans 5:1-10; 2 Corinthians 11:21-12:9

Gospel: Matthew 6:22-34; Matthew 16:13-19**

Apostoly

It is interesting that the two readings from the Apostol coincide so perfectly. In the reading from Romans, we have pointed out for us in broad strokes the value of suffering and God's love for us. Then, in the 2 Corinthians reading we have the many sufferings of St. Paul depicted in more detail.

St. Paul says some mighty interesting things about suffering in the Romans reading, namely that it ultimately produces hope. But come on, what's that all about? And what right does this guy have to tell me about getting hope out of suffering? Well, let's take a look at his credentials.

First off, St. Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So there. Instant infallibility. Bam. But, it's not like he was lacking credibility on the not-divinely-inspired level either.

Lest we think that St. Paul is just saying some fluffy nonsense without ever having actually experienced any of it, we can read today's passage from 2 Corinthians and see just how much suffering he endured, both mental and physical, to say nothing of the "thorn in the flesh" with which he was afflicted (by the way, I'm totally open to the Spongebob interpretation of this passage). I doubt that many of us have been stoned or even shipwrecked once, much less going through both. And lest we think St. Paul only suffered in body, he adds his "anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I (St. Paul) am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?" (2 Cor 11:28). Just the mental exhaustion involved from his mental and physical sufferings seems like it would be enough to break most others.

However, in the case of Ss. Peter and Paul, they weren't broken. Rather, they continued on, and the Lord "preferred their sufferings and death above any sacrifice" (Kontakion of Ss. Peter and Paul). I see no reason to think that He will not prefer ours as well.

Gospels

The Gospel readings for today are almost exactly ten chapters apart. The first is from the Sermon on the Mount. In it, the main theme is trusting in God. The Apostles left the tools of their trade with which they made a living last week; now we are called to leave behind anything else which promises life, but which can never make good on that promise, and to cling to God.

To really leave all behind for the sake of Christ, we need a strong faith. Today we celebrate St. Peter, who was "truly revealed as the rock of faith and a trustee of the keys of grace" because of his confession of faith (Sessional Hymn 1 of Ss. Peter and Paul), as well as St. Paul, "the preacher of the faith and teacher of the universe" (Aposticha Doxastikon of Ss. Peter and Paul). They left all for the sake of Christ and endured great sufferings for His sake. So, we can look to them as examples and fervent intercessors when we undergo the same. 

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*Note: This is not really a principle. It is an attempt at a joke by the author.

**Note: This is the reading for Ss. Peter and Paul prescribed for the Ruthenian usage. Other Byzantine Churches may differ (I'm looking at you, Melkites).

Scripture quotations are from the RSV-2CE.

Liturgical quotations are mainly from the propers available on the MCI website, and the kontakion was from The Divine Liturgies of Our Holy Fathers John Chrysostom and Basil the Great (Pittsburgh: Byzantine Seminary Press? 2006).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Roman Corpus Christi

Today we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This great feast is the source of our grace, and through the Resurrection we see it in its true light: The Risen Lord comes to us under the guise of bread and wine, truly present in the Sacrament upon the Altar!

"'Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world."

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 
Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you. 
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day. 
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink. 
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him. 
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me. 
This is the bread that came down from heaven. 
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever."' -Jn 6:51-58

Do we believe the Word of the Lord? "Indeed the Word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two edged sword, penetrating to the division between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, able to discern thoughts and reflections of the heart." Heb 4:12.

God speaks to us today and presents rather bluntly the core truth of the Eucharist. Jesus proclaims the controversial statement about eating (gnawing, in the original Greek) His Flesh and drinking His Blood. He is not gentle with His presentation of this eternal truth. Yet, God gives it to us in this way because of its importance! This is the source and summit of the Catholic Life, and indeed, Christ desires it to be plain as day, even though the mysteries of the Eucharist could be meditated upon without end.

Why should we receive often? Christ died for us, and through His resurrection suffering was given meaning. Our own sufferings and sacrifices are worthless unless we unite ourselves to the Sorrowful Passion of Jesus. And, in the context of the Holy Mass, Christ's Passion is relived, not as a second Passion but as a partaking in the one sacrifice. Thus, when we go to Mass and unite our minds, hearts and wills to God, we can sanctify all of our sufferings and trials! Then, if we follow the Mass to its climax, the reception of the Eucharist into our hearts and souls, we are then transformed: Christ is living WITHIN us!

Taking this knowledge, along with the promise found at the end of the Gospel of Matthew: "I will be with you until the end of the age", we can then go and take the Risen Body and Blood and share Him, in a spiritual sense, with the world that hungers for naught but Love. This is our life: We come to the fount of Love, receive the overabundance, and in appreciation and gratitude to the Lord, we are enabled to go out and share that Love.

Byzantine: 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (6/22/14)

Notes for Reading/Hearing:

Today we begin the series of Sunday readings from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans and the Gospel according to St. Matthew. This will be so for more or less the next several weeks. So, because you'll only hear selections from these writings at the Divine Liturgy, I heartily encourage reading the entire works. That way you'll gain an idea of the context of the weekly reading and be somewhat more familiar with it already.

Apostol: Romans 2:10-16


Apostol

In the Apostolic reading for this week, St. Paul has just finished a discourse on how humanity basically dug itself into a hole through sin. Then, he gives us the even worse news: "[God] will render to every man according to his works" (Rom 2:6). Verses 7 and 8 outline the respective rewards and punishments for those who do good and evil. Then we have verse 9, which is the beginning of the sentence finished in verse 10. Below, the normal text is where the reading for today picks up:
There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Rom 2:9-10)
Good news: those who do good get rewarded in kind. Bad news: those who do evil also get rewarded in kind. And we've all done evil things.
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. (Rom 2:13)
The ICSB indicates that this verse applies to Jews who have the Torah, but does it not remain valid for Christians? Sure, we know the commandments, but do we keep them? This forms a big part of the next bit of Romans: the Jews, who had the law revealed to them, failed to keep it. Moreover, there were Gentiles who did keep the law: though it had not been revealed to them as it was to the Jews, yet they had the voice of conscience to guide them. So, no one is excused from following the natural law: we have it in a divinely revealed manner, but everyone has these principles in a natural way, written on his heart (CCC 1860). We can expect people to behave in accordance with the moral law, as it is not only the law for Christians and Jews, but the law for all mankind. Sure, we only expect Christians to be in church on Sundays, but we can (and do) expect everyone not to kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, etc. These are not specifically Christian: you don't have to be a Christian to know these commandments!

However, though we are accountable for following the law, we do not have the power to do it by ourselves. We need the grace of God. It is heresy (Pelagianism, to be precise) to say that by our own efforts, with no need of divine grace, we can become saints. But, the good news is, there is grace! On our own, we are lost. But we are not on our own. That is what St. Paul is building up to. Continue reading the letter.

Gospel

Last week, we heard from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapters 10 and 19. This week, we're jumping back a good deal to when Jesus was just beginning His public ministry. So, we've had the Nativity, the Baptism in the Jordan, and the temptation in the desert, and Jesus is beginning to preach.

It's interesting that the way things fall this year, we hear about St. Peter's call to follow Jesus exactly one week before we celebrate his feast. That's pretty cool, right?

After our great celebration of the Lord's victory, the Church brings us back to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, once again to hear the Lord calling His first disciples. And so here we are, beginning again the journey from the shores of Galilee, through Israel and Samaria, to Jerusalem, to the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, and to our own sainthood. Ready?

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All Scripture quotations are from the ICSB, which uses the RSV-2CE.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Liturgical Year and Christian Life

Our very first "Extra" post! This began as part of the Byzantine post for this Sunday, but kind of took on a life of its own. Here you go!

You probably know that the Byzantine liturgical year begins on September 1. However, unlike the Roman Rite's new year (1st Sunday of Advent), Byzantine new year isn't really tied to the cycle of readings. Our cycle is more tied to the readings for Pascha (look in the Apostol: that's the very first reading given).

You probably also know about the Church Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant, but just to make sure we're clear, I'll outline them. First, there's the Church Militant. That's us, living on earth. Then there's the Church Suffering, which is those undergoing purification before being admitted to heaven. Finally, there's the Church Triumphant, which is the Church in heaven. I propose that the Byzantine cycle of readings corresponds to this division.

So, the Christian generally passes through life as a member of the Church Militant, dies, is purified as a member of the Church Suffering, and then is admitted to heaven, becoming a member of the Church Triumphant.

So, what do we do as members of the Church Militant? We are to heed the Lord's call, follow Him, and be fishers of men. Moreover, we are to follow His law. This is the subject of the readings for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost. For roughly the next 30-odd weeks (give or take some feasts like the Sundays of the Forefathers and Ancestors, etc) we'll hear the Lord's teachings and doings, as well as readings from St. Paul. After this comes the season of the Triodion, which begins several Sundays before Great Lent.

During the season of the Triodion and Great Lent, we are called to purify ourselves, to really "set aside all earthly cares" (Cherubikon, Divine Liturgy). This is what happens to us as members of the Church Suffering. So, there is the link of a common theme of purification between Great Lent and the "Final Theosis" (what the West calls Purgatory). And then, once we have been purified?

That's right: Church Triumphant. And what, pray tell, are Pascha and the season of the Pentecostarion about? The victory of Christ in which we share! The Pentecostarion even draws to a close with the Sunday of All Saints (MCI, "The Pentecostarion"), that is, the members of the Church Triumphant.

So we have the cycle of readings and the trajectory of the Christian life. The cycle provides, in a way, a roadmap and a mirror, showing us where we are, where we're going, and how to get there. So, now, as we begin again this trek to the time of the Triodion and, ultimately, to the Pentecostarion, we would do well to consider whether we really are going on the journey from call, to Cross, to Resurrection and beyond.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Roman Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
June 15th, 2014


"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." John 3:16-18

Today, in the United States of America, is Fathers Day. But for Roman Catholics, that day is eclipsed, in a sense, by the great feast of the Holy Trinity. Yet, as much as Father's Day is overshadowed by the Trinity Sunday, truthfully I think that we can say that this day is given meaning through the solemnity.

Photo by Elizabeth Nguyen
Fatherhood is a unique and inexpressible role, bestowed mutually by God and Woman upon the man at the moment of conception. Saint John Paul II, in his writings "Love and Responsibility", touch on this when he speaks of the "Communio Personarum", or the community of persons within a marriage. Through the intimate self-gift of man and woman together, a new child is created, as well as the new states of life of 'motherhood' and 'fatherhood'. Yet, without a context, this splendid truth is only an isolated experience of wonder.

From God, revealed to us through today's scriptures, comes this great gift of fatherhood. We are given, as it says, a spirit within us crying out "Abba, Father". We begin as adopted sons of the Father, but He invites us to embrace fatherhood for ourselves. We see here in the Gospel a truth so profound that we can hardly grasp it: "God...loved." This is fundamental, becuase inevitably, true fatherhood is the union of love which creates another. God loved, and He spoke the world into being. God loved this world so much, He was willing to save it at any cost. This love is the foundation of fatherhood.


Photo by Elizabeth Nguyen
Here, we come to the cross of Christ. The truth of the Father's love is that He was willing to sacrifice His Son, Jesus. Like last weeks readings, we come to a crucial point: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Jn. 20:21. So, His Love was without limits, to the point of sacrificing Him who was most dear to His heart upon the cross. So too are we called to be detached from our own longings, to live not for ourselves, but to see ourselves as a gift. So in that giving of self man and woman creates child and become, in their own right, 'mother' and 'father', and in that giving of self as a gift we are called to inspire others to live no longer for themselves and their worldly posterity, but for heaven and for the salvation of souls.

The Love of the Father is the Love to which we are called, and today's feast of the Blessed Trinity celebrates the bestowal of Himself upon us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

God Be Praised! 

Byzantine: Sunday of All Saints (6/15/14)

Notes for Reading/Hearing

Today's Apostolic reading begins in mid-sentence. So, while the reading actually begins in verse 33, I included verse 32 in the link for readability. The reading as given in the Apostol (Epistle Book) will begin with "By faith [the Saints] ..."* and ends at "perfecter of our faith."

The Gospel is more complicated. It's all from Matthew, but it skips, first a few verses, then ten chapters. However, I'm don't think that actually causes a problem for reading it. It's probably more an interesting little fact than anything else.

Apostolic Reading: Hebrews 11:33-12:2a

Gospel: Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30


Apostolic Reading

The author of Hebrews names specific men from the Old Testament as examples of faith. This comes after a more detailed description of some other heroes' exploits earlier in chapter 11. Part of this is part of the reading for another feast, but you should really read the whole thing. Actually, read the entire Letter. It's just really good.

What I'd like to focus on here is the link between the Old and New Testaments. I think we may tend to separate them far too much. This reaches an extreme point in an experience I had, where one of my friends seems to have thought that the Old and New Testaments dealt with different gods. That's just a dumb idea.

But we see here that the Christian author of Hebrews is citing Old Testament figures as examples of faith, and that the liturgy goes so far as to refer to them as saints (though it would seem not indiscriminately: I have no evidence that all those named are actually venerated as saints and would not be surprised if all of them are not)! Many figures from the Old Testament have their own commemorations during the liturgical year, and if you look in the green Divine Liturgy book, you'll see that there's a common office for "Holy Prophets." Obviously, that wouldn't be the case if there was a radical disconnect between the Old and New Testaments.

And yet, as good as these saints were, Hebrews says, they didn't quite get it all (11:39). They still had to wait until "something better" came. What exactly is that "something better?" It is "the grace of believing in [God's] Son Jesus" (CCC 147), which we no longer have to wait for.

I would be remiss if I did not say a little about the "cloud of witnesses" mentioned in the reading. There's such a tendency in modern religion in general, and modern Christianity in particular, toward religion being an almost exclusively personal affair. However, this is not at all a very Biblical attitude to take. Yes, there is a personal element, but there's also the community. I do not run the race in isolation from you, nor you in isolation from me, nor we in isolation from St. John Chrysostom and St. Nicholas and St. John the Baptist and all the other saints! We are surrounded by our brothers and sisters, all urging us onward and aiding us in our struggles!


Gospel

The Gospel for today begins with some rather harsh words after the exhortation given from the Apostol. Verses 37-38 give us a nice little sledgehammer blow right in the conscience. And, there's that unpleasant little part about picking up our crosses. Who wants to do that? Yep, there's going to be suffering. What a miserable way to begin what might have been an otherwise quite pleasant Sunday morning!

But not so fast, Jesus says. There isn't just suffering: there's going to be a reward. Sure, there's our cross that we have to bear, but that's not the end of the story. Jesus bore His Cross – His precious, holy, and life-creating Cross, to be precise – and His story didn't end there. Neither does ours. Remember what we sang last Sunday? "All you who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. Alleluia!" (Galatians 3:27, replacing the Trisagion – Byzantine Liturgy).
"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his" (Romans 6:3-5).
Christ's answer to Peter also answers our own question. Okay, Jesus, I've left all this stuff. Why do this? What's in it for me? We want to know. And Jesus tells us. Yes, we lose some. Perhaps our blood will even be as a royal garment for the Church (Troparion of All Saints). Perhaps, as it is written of the saints of old, it will be said of us:
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment.They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth (Hebrews 11:35-38).
But, it will not be for nothing. We have the promise from the Lord Himself of a great reward. Onward, then!
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*This is the way it begins in The Epistles and Old Testament Readings for the Liturgical Year (Pittsburgh: Byzantine Seminary Press, 1979), the Apostol used in the Metropolia of Pittsburgh.

With the exception of the Galatians quote, all Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version, either Catholic Edition or 2nd Catholic Edition (in the ICSB), most likely the 1st Catholic. Differences between the texts are minimal.

The Galatians quote is as given in The Divine Liturgies of Our Holy Fathers John Chrysostom and Basil the Great (Pittsburgh: Byzantine Seminary Press? 2006).

I defend my use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in a Byzantine blog post with the following:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith. May it serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the kingdom!
The approval and publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church represents a service which the Successor of Peter wishes to offer to the Holy Catholic Church, and to all the particular Churches in peace and communion with the Apostolic See: the service, that is, of supporting and confirming the faith of all the Lord Jesus' disciples (cf. Lk 22:32), as well as of strengthening the bonds of unity in the same apostolic faith (St. John Paul the Great, Fidei Depositum IV, emphasis mine).

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Byzantine: Pentecost (6/8/14)

I've taken the liberty of preparing today's readings using the Beta Version of BibleGateway. Not everything on the site (either current or beta) is kosher, but it's got a copy of the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition, my current favorite Bible translation, and is useful when I need to put together readings that aren't exactly consecutive, as with the Gospel.

Apostolic Reading: Acts 2:1-11

Gospel: John 7:37-52, 8:12

Today is the Feast of Pentecost. You probably already know that. But, did you know that Pentecost was already a feast day before Christianity? It was actually a Jewish feast celebrating the spring harvest and the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. With that in mind, let's take a look at the readings.

Apostolic Reading

The Apostolic reading actually mentions Pentecost. It's the first story after the election of Matthias as an Apostle, which happens at an unspecified time between the Ascension and Pentecost. You probably know the story, so I won't bother recounting it. However, I will pay special attention to verses 5-11. This is where they're listing a whole lot of different places which all spoke different languages. There's something this should remind us of, which today's kontakion makes clear:
When the Most High descended and confused tongues, he scattered nations. When he distributed the tongues of fire, he called all to unity.
So, we see that Pentecost is a reversal of the Tower of Babel! Cool, huh? Years ago, God had come down and made people unable to understand each other. Now, He again comes down, and undoes that curse. God is gathering His People!

Gospel

The Gospel for Pentecost actually comes from a good bit of time before the event itself, on "the last day of the feast" of Tabernacles (John 7:37, 2), which is a different feast. Adding to the confusion, the reading begins in the middle of the chapter, and actually comes about ten chapters BEFORE last Sunday's reading, which was from John 17. So, I suppose one of the first questions we could ask is, what's going on here?

The reference in the reading to "living water" also calls to mind John 4, which contains Our Lord's conversation with the Samaritan Woman, whom tradition calls St. Photina. At the end of chapter 6, Jesus delivers the Bread of Life discourse, which you should really read at some point. Chapter 7 begins with Jesus in Galilee, being told to go work some miracles in Jerusalem at the feast of Tabernacles. Jesus kind of dismisses His hecklers, then goes to Jerusalem, but not as a big show-offy miracle worker. While in Jerusalem, Jesus starts teaching things, which makes the authorities mad. This prompts an argument about whether Jesus is the Messiah. The authorities send men to arrest Jesus. This is more or less where the Pentecost reading picks up. Then, after the first part of the reading, we skip over the Woman Caught in Adultery to find Jesus teaching again. So that's the context of the Gospel.

In the reading, Jesus speaks "about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive" (John 7:39), but at this point in the Gospel "the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). However, we just finished celebrating the glorification of Jesus "through his Passion and Resurrection" (ICSB note to John 7:39), so what Jesus spoke about in the reading as something yet to happen has on this day come to pass!

So we should rejoice on this day when God has called all to unity and on which we who have believed in Jesus Christ have received the Holy Spirit. A happy feast to all!

And, of course, my favorite part of the beginning prayers has been restored:
Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things, Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life, come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stain, and save our souls, O gracious One.

________________________
Liturgical quotations taken from The Divine Liturgies of Our Holy Fathers John Chrysostom and Basil the Great (Pittsburgh: Byzantine Seminary Press? 2006).

Scripture quotations taken from the Revised Standard Version – 2nd Catholic Edition.

Roman Pentecost Sunday


Roman Pentecost Sunday 2014                              JMJ

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint John:
"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 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.” Jn. 20:19-23

Here, on the birthday of the Church, we pause and reflect. What is Christ's call to these cowering men, who locked the door because of their fear of the punishments that might be their lot? He comes bringing peace, first of all.

When He greets them, He says "Peace be with you." Then Jesus shows them His wounds. Remember, it was for this reason He came, to garner these wounds. Now in His glorified body, Christ shows His disciples that He chose to retain these wounds, the marks of His sacrifice. "Peace be with you." When He repeats something within the Scriptures, we ought to listen closely. What He is going to tell us is important. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Christ was sent for one purpose alone: While all men are born to live, Christ was born to die.                       Let that sink in for a moment.
Photo by Elizabeth Nguyen
   
We are now called to die in Christ. His crucifixion was the Sacrifice of all sacrifices, and now he invites us to partake with our lives in His mission, which is the forgiveness of sins. This is what the Christian life is at its nexus.

With the bestowal of the Spirit, we are brought into union with this salvific mission. Our lives are to be transfigured through the working of the Spirit in our lives. True repentance for the forgiveness of our sins is essential in this struggle. We must break from sin! But that is only the beginning. He will only be satisfied when we are truly at peace within His heart. Our lives are restless, truly restless until we deny ourselves and follow Christ, whose path leads to the Cross and beyond.

The Father sent His Son so that we might not perish, but might have Eternal Life. So too, does Christ send us for the same purpose. Now, inspired and enlivened by the Holy Spirit, we are called to preach the Truth with the power of Christ.

God be praised!