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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Loveable and Communicable Trinitarian God

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Homily 16.06.2019: Pro 8:22-31; Rom 5:1-5; Jn 16:12-15
Dear Friends in the Blessed Trinity,

I would like to begin my reflections on the Holy Trinity as we celebrate its feast today with the picture of the Blessed Trinity, "Svyataya Troitsa" (Свята́я Тро́ица) as it is called in Russian. This icon was painted by Andrei Rublev, which is known as “Troitsa” – Trinity.

I
My friends, the Trinity tells us something remarkable about who we are and what we ought to be. Church’s dogma tells us simply and profoundly. There is but one God. In this One God there are three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These three Persons are really distinct: The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Each of these Persons is really and truly God. And still there is but one God. In other words, there is uniqueness, there is fullness and there is completeness in the trinity

St John’s definition of God: “God is Love” (1 Jn 4:8). In the Trinity we find the perfect realisation of perfect love.

What makes God God – we call it the divine nature – the Father has it completely, the Son has it completely, the Spirit has completely. No one has anything the other does not have. The Father gives to the Son literally all that He Himself has, all that makes Him God, all that makes Him Love. And the Son is a perfect Son, because He is the perfect image of his Father.

The incredible thing is that the love with which the Son loves the Father is the selfsame infinite love with which the Father loves the Son. And this love of Father and Son, this love is the Holy Spirit. God is an eternal exchange of love.

Just as the Trinity keeps the distinction among themselves without being separated so too we have to be utterly and splendidly ourselves, develop ourselves with all the wealth of our talents and personality God has given us.

It is the only way we have of being useful to others, by bringing to them, in a gift of ourselves, what we alone can give them. Just as musical note helps the harmony only by being itself.

II

When the things are difficult to our minds to understand then the best way is to enter the world of an artist and his /her imagination. Sometimes abstract theological constructs constrain us to understand the rudiments of our faith. 

The well-known icon of the Trinity was painted by a Russian Monk Andrei Rublev in the 15th century. He lived between 1360-1430’s in the Monasteries of Moscow. This icon of the Holy Trinity depicts an embodiment of spiritual unity, peace, harmony, mutual love and humility.

Our life experience is as such that we do not understand often our own near ones. You might have heard from your friends saying, “I do not understand my mom or dad”, and the parents saying, “I do not understand my son or daughter”. Often we are mystery to our own people. This is the similar case with regard to the Holy Trinity. As a whole it’s very easy to understand what this Holy Trinity is all about, but when get down in describing it or explaining to others we find it extremely difficult.

We are baptised by invoking the names of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus commanded his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Mt 28:19).

Jesus himself invoked the names of the Holy Trinity, which would give a person a new life in the Lord. All our liturgies, be it Holy Eucharist, Sacrament of reconciliation or our personal or family prayers begin with invoking the blessings of the Trinity and so too we end them with names of the Trinity.

Now we come to the icon of the Trinity, which you see in the slide. This icon is still preserved and allowed for public viewing in the Tretekov gallery of Moscow city. This icon of Monk Andrei Rublev speaks a lot of about the Trinity. This famous icon poignantly symbolises the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

It is based on the story from the book of Genesis 18:1-15 called “Abraham and Sara’s hospitality”. The biblical Patriarch Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent in the heat of the day by Oak of Mamre and saw three men standing in front of him, who in the next chapter were revealed as angels.

The fruit of Abraham’s hospitality to these three people is a promised son to Abraham.

Three characters are sitting around three sides of a table, leaving open the symbolic possibility of the viewer joining them.

They have the same thick wavy hair, the same face. If their lips are closed, it is probably because they prefer silence to chatting and, as they know each other intimately, a glance or a gesture is enough for them to understand each other.

Each of the faces stand out as their wings.

From the point of view of composition, the three halos are inscribed in a large circle centered on the hand of the central character.
Each of the angelic figures holds a stick and the direction is right to left so too their eyes but the glow of the eyes not static but dynamic and focused.
The religious work encapsulates the mysterious relationship between the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

Even though the Christian tradition quickly saw in these three visitors of Abraham an evocation of the mystery of the Trinity: the only God is at the same time Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This hypostases or persona is revealed through their symbolic attributes, i.e. the house, the tree, and the mountain.

The starting point of the divine rule is the creative Will of God. Abraham’s house is placed above the left angel’s head. The tree can be interpreted as the tree of life, a reminder of Jesus’ death on the Cross and subsequent resurrection which opens up to eternal life.

This Oak tree is at the centre, above the angel who symbolizes Jesus. Finally, the mountain is a symbol of spiritual ascent, which humanity accomplishes with the help of the Holy Spirit.

But the God who reveals himself remains 'Unrecognizable' and, on the spiritual path, the one who claims to "know" is on the wrong path. As St. Thomas Aquinas himself says God often appears to us as “Deus Absconditus” as hidden God, concealed, unknown God, unknowability on the essence of God.

Therefore, the icon does not therefore directly represent the three divine persons (unrepresentable in Eastern spirituality), but it passes through the mediation of these three archangels, images of their Creator, to introduce us to the mysterious relationships of the Trinity.

The most widespread interpretation is that the angel on the left evokes the Father, the angel in the centre the Son and the angel on the right the Spirit.

In the Byzantine iconography Christ is depicted as Basileous, king in majesty, Pantocrator etc. Therefore it has come to suggest Christ as a mild but stern, all-powerful judge of humanity.

The Son wears the brown tunic that symbolises earth, his humanity and his given life and the blue mantle that evokes his divinity and the gold speaks of kingship of God. Placed above it, the tree that refers to the Mamre oak is an allusion to the cross, the tree of life.

Coming back to the book of Genesis 1:1-2 writes, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters...”. So too the book of Proverbs evokes similar understanding in today’s reading.

In other words, Spirit of the Lord was always at work in the works of the Father and of the Son. It is the spirit of the Lord that lead Jesus into his public ministry and the incident happens at the river Jordan when Jesus received the Baptism from St John (Mt 3:13-17).

The Son naturally turns to the Father: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was turned to God" (Jn 1:1). Above it, the architecture depicted undoubtedly evokes the "house of the Father" to the "many dwellings" of which Jesus speaks in the Gospel (cf. Jn 14:2). The angel on the right, whose coat has green reflections, evokes the Spirit who enlivens.

Their relationship is not closed; it is open to men. The cup, a reminder of the Eucharist around which they are gathered, symbolises God's great love for men, which will be fully expressed in the gift that the Son will give of himself.

III
The Russian émigré theologian Vladimir Lossky famously said “Between the Trinity and hell there lies no other choice”. He writes in his famous work “Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church", “If we reject the Trinity as the sole ground of all reality and of all thought, we are committed to a road that leads nowhere; we end in an aporia, in folly, in the disintegration of our being, in spiritual death. Between the Trinity and hell there lies no other choice. This question is, indeed, crucial— in the literal sense of that word. The dogma of the Trinity is a cross for human ways of thought” (p.66). Yes, it’s difficult but essential. Incarnation and resurrection is not possible without the work of the Trinity.

What scripture tells us, in story form is that the mystery of the Trinity is our own history: We exist because we are loved- loved by the Father through the Son in the Spirit. To grasp this you need only open yourself in faith to God’s word. Read Scripture with eyes of faith and the Trinity will no longer be difficult subject to grasp but a joy for believers.

Today we share in the rhythm of God’s own life. Christian holiness is essentially Trinitarian. We are all sons and daughters of the Father, precisely because the very Spirit that is Christ’s own is now given to us. And so today we celebrate the Eucharist with singular understanding: Inspired by the Spirit, we offer Christ and ourselves to the Father in sacrifice, cry aloud in thanksgiving: “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, almighty Father, forever and ever!” Amen.

Questions for Reflections:
1. What role does the Holy Trinity play in my life?
2. Does my uniqueness contribute in anyway for the welfare of others?

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

Trinity Sunday, 2019

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Power of the Spirit of the Lord and Its Profound Impact on Our Lady

Pentecost Sunday homily 09-06-2019: Readings: 1st Reading: Acts:2-1-11; 2ndReading: 1Cor.12:3-7,12-13; Gospel: Lk: 1:26-37
An alterpiece at Siena (1308-1311) by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319)
Today our Kalena Agrahara Church celebrates with great solemnity two feasts: One is universal feast and the other local feast.  First one is Pentecost, the coming down of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the second one is the feast of our parish, the parish, which is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Both feasts help us to manifest our faith and it's practice. Thanks to the Spirit of the Lord, who strengthens our faith and gets actualized concretely in our parish when participate in the liturgies of the universal Church.  But, first I would like to share a few reflections on the significance of the feast that the universal church celebrates today, i.e., the Pentecost.

I

The name “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word meaning “fiftieth”. It is the fiftieth since the day of Easter, the Resurrection of the Lord. The very first reading that we have from the Acts of Apostles gives a vivid picture of how the forlorn, fearful disciples who were holed up in a room for safety felt strengthened, energised, empowered, when the Holy Spirit came down upon them as tongues of fire. The Spirit of the Lord makes them to bust out of their caged room and are out among the people preaching what they have seen, heard, and touched (Acts 4:13). Instead of fear, anxiety, depression, the disciples of Jesus in his absence feel a great power entering into their bodies, minds and spirits.

In a world of powers of politics, economics, computers, man made inventions, artificial intelligence, the power of the Holy Spirit is incomparable. The damning energy of the Lord shattered Apostles history of ignorance and fear and the scripture tells us so beautifully “devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) heard a loud noise and were able to understand what these illiterate fishermen of Galilee were speaking.

The power of the Spirit is very active and alive. How could a teen-age Jewish virgin clothe God’s Son in her flesh?  Listen to an angel: “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35).

What did the Risen Jesus promise his apostles just prior to his ascension, to make their preaching effective? “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).

St Paul would preach to the Gentiles “by the power of the Spirit” (Rom 15:19). What was Paul’s prayer fro the Christians of Rome? “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rome 15:13).

The Byzantine theology speaks about God in his essence and energy.  We as His created beings only able to participate in God’s energies.  The Greek word for power and energy is “dunamies”,  English equivalent is “dynamite.”  Holy Spirit is dynamite.  It is the dynamo that led Jesus from the River Jordon to the dust and din of the Holy Land.

As Jesus himself describes in Luke 4: 18
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He has anointed me
to preach the good news to the poor.
He has sent me
To proclaim release to the captives
And recovering of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

This is the dynamo Jesus promised the apostles the night before he died: “another Counselor, to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth… He will teach you all things, bring to your remembrance all I have said to you… guide you into all the truth” (Jn 14: 16-17; 16:13).   This is the same Spirit that Jesus breathed onto his disciples.

In fact, the Acts of the Apostles is from beginning to end a story of the Spirit: the irresistible, irrepressible power of God’s presence in the apostles and their disciples, in converts Jewish and pagan, in martyrs like Stephen and persecutors like Paul.

Holy Spirit continues to act in you and in me.  The power of the Lord is upon us. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, frees us from sin and death, makes us sons and daughters of God, helps us in our weakness, intercedes for us with the Father.  It gives peace and joy that the world cannot give.
It is the Spirit of the Lord inspires to do good, make this world beautiful place for us and future generations to live.  This is the spirit that inspires so many young men and women to work for justice and peace, in his evangelizing mission, sending his sons and daughters to distant and unknown missions as missionaries to preach his word of God.

This is the spirit of the Lord makes these missionaries to live their lives learning unknown languages and communicate that message that makes them to give their life to God as martyrs. 

II

The second feast that we celebrate today is the feast of our dear parish, where every Sunday we attend the Lord’s Supper and get energised, Feast of Our Lady of Immaculate Heart of Conception.
The Gospel reading that we have is of the birth of Jesus and how Our Lady said “yes” to the Lord’s Spirit. Because she said yes, to the Lord, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word”, because of her complete yes, she has become the Mother of us, mother of the Church.

To understand better the Motherhood of Mary we should go back to the Old Testament. It is through typology we can understand and grasp Mary as Our Mother.

What is this typology? It is the way of understanding Mary from the Old Testament. How Mary of the New Testament is prefigured in the Old Testament.  This is how Early Fathers of the Church taught people the essentials of faith – St. Cyril of Alexandria, St John Chrysostom, St Augustine, St Gregory of Nyssa, etc.

In Genesis 3:15 -  God tells the Serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
It is the woman and seed will crush the head of the serpent, the evil.
It is the Our Lady of the New Testament who is a queen mother prototype of Eve.

Gen 17:16 - God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.  I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Isaiah 7:14: Prophet gives the king Ahaz a sign of Immanuel when he asked for it.  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel”.  This is accomplished in Mary.  Let’s see the text again.   Matthew 1:22–23 “All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel”.

Prophet Micha in Chapter 5 speaks of Jesus’ birth in the house of David.   Jesus will be born in the house of David.  Joseph came from the Davidic ancestry. Therefore Jesus was born in Bethlehem, where David the great king of Israel was born. 

In Mary, Isaianic oracle is fulfilled.  Queen mother was more than a protocol. In Jewish kingdoms it is not the wife of a king who took the place of honour. But the Queen Mother!  Role and office of queen mother was much more honourable then anyone in the kingdom.

Revelation 11:15 - Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices crying out in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”  Revelation 12:1 says,  “A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
Who is this woman with clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, head with a crown of twelve stars?

She is the queen of the earth, she is the queen of heaven. She is the queen mother of all.  Her royal authority is of  cosmic queenship.  It is none other than the Mother of Our Lord, Our Lady, and our mother.

Revelation 12:2 writes, “She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth”.  She continues in birthing us, labouring for us so that we may attain eternal happiness that is deigned for us.

Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel”.  Early church recognized Our Lady as “queen mother”

Therefore, my dear friends, this is our legacy, this is our faith, this is our lady,  this is our mother, this is our queen, this is our integral, indispensable part of the kingdom of Jesus. It's the Gospel of the covenant.

Therefore you cannot have Jesus as king if you do not have Mary as queen mother.

Questions for reflections:
1. Where do I demonstrate my Spirit-filled actions?
2. Where do I give witness to Jesus Christ in my life?
3. How has been my relationship with the Mother of the Lord?

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

Pentecost Sunday 2019

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Conversion: From Abortion to Pro-Life Campaigner

(Photo courtesy: Jean-Mark Arkalian)

Recently, I was awestruck by an article in The Tablet: The International Catholic Weekly published from London (Issue 23 March 2019, p.9, Vol 273, No 9294) with a title “A Prayer for Life” by Laura Keynes who happens to be the editor of The Tablet’s Living Spirit Column.  

This is a story of Keynes herself who once went through an abortion at the Marie Stopes House in Fitzrovia, Central London.  She recounts her earlier life story when she entered this clinic as a young woman who chose to terminate a crisis of pregnancy two pro-life women shouted at her, “Don’t do it luv. You are taking a life”.  As one of them holding a large Rosary at her said, “You’re taking a life!” 

Keynes who was irritated at that time asked the receptionist of the clinic “Can’t you get rid of them?”.  “We’ve tried, but they’re on public land here. Nothing we can do” was the sober reply.

Today, Keynes who is Catholic, is a mom of three.  She is a different woman.  She believes that the prayers of those two pro-life women must have played a significant role in turning her into a pro-lifer herself.  Recently, she participated in “40 Days for Life” an international campaign of prayer, fasting and peaceful vigil which ran from 6th March to 14 April.  Even though, she is unable to explain the power of prayer and grace behind her conversion, certainly, she is a converted pro-lifer. 

In her article, Keynes explains the way she participated in her first pro-life campaign, which was not necessarily well organized.  In spite of the freezing temperatures, the rain turning to sleet, she along with other four bedraggled souls made it happen on that evening.  She writes very warmly how much she was excited to participate in it in the evening hours living behind her husband, three daughters - one year, three year and four year old - all who were begging not to leave them on that precious evening.  On the way to the prayer vigil, Keynes explains how even the nature seems to have been against them with traffic getting jammed, rain splashing, wind blowing so heavily making the vigil happen was almost like a battle. 

Strangely, the vigil was held just outside the Marie Stopes House with not many attendees where once Keynes went through an abortion.  She held the placards with words “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”  This time the pro-lifers were not left with peace but with verbal attacks by the passers by.
  
The way Keynes concludes this episode is very heart warming.  As she returned from the prayer vigil, probably it must have been quite late, she found in her bedroom a little envelope on her pillow with one word in crayon:  “Mummy”.  She concludes her article with these words, “What a blessing of a word.  A scrumpled scribble inside; a child’s declaration of love for her mother.  I thought of all the women robbed of this moment, and of all the children who will never have a chance to write the word “Mummy”.  My heart broke for them.”  

I find this personal encounter of a woman with the reality very inspiring in a world where humanity does not like to listen to the inner voice.  There is always still voice crying out inside but the person will have to open the eyes, ears and the heart to the reality of humanity and life.  In our overcrowded life, finding a sacred space is need of the hour in order to cultivate a culture of life instead of culture of death.  

- Ovin Veigas, SJ

05 June 2019

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Ascension of Our Lord and Discipleship

(Photo courtesy: Jean-Mark Arkalian)
                                                          
                                                             Listen to my audio homily here

Today’s both first and the third readings are penned by St Luke (Acts 1: 1-11, Lk 24: 46-53).  If the Gospel reading is taken from the last part of St Luke’ Gospel, then the first reading is taken from the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostles.  Thus both readings, the way they are arranged symbolize ending of Jesus’ earthly ministry in a very fascinating way and begins a new chapter in the lives of his disciples through the overpowering of the Holy Spirit. 

The Acts of the Apostles speaks very movingly how the Risen Jesus was taken up to heaven. It speaks about cloud and two men in white. The imagery of cloud is found throughout the Old Testament to signify God’s holy presence. When Israel went out of Egypt, the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud (Ex 13:21). When Moses climbed Mount Sinai to stand before God, the Lord descended in a cloud (Ex 24:18). And in the New Testament, we read about the Transfiguration and the cloud from which God the Father announced Jesus as “my Son, my Beloved” (Mt 3:17). The Psalm 46 for today says “God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast” to replete with the foretelling of the Ascension. The point is that the manner of the Ascension reveals again Christ’s divinity, His relation to Father. 

Interestingly Ascension of the Lord takes place outskirts of Bethany where Jesus had great friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. And he had raised dead Lazarus and given life to him. Bethany is very close to Jerusalem. And this city of Jerusalem is a city of David, a city which accommodated the ark of the covenant and where God dwell, a city where God resided, a city which also put Jesus to death, but now becomes very part of Jesus’ ascension episode. In other words, Jerusalem is a city of divinity. The resurrected Jesus is fully divine. The disciples cannot hang on him. They listen to him; he appears and disappears.  Interestingly, even though Jesus went through the crucifixion, death and burial near Jerusalem, he did not appear to his disciples in Jerusalem but in Galilee (Mark 16:7).  At the tomb he appeared to Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary".  Now with the ascension of Jesus in Jerusalem the work of divinizing people begins there. This work is carried out by his beloved disciples. Jesus reminds his disciples what had already foretold that they “in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this” (24:47). If Jesus started his preaching ministry in Galilee and other parts of North of the country, but the ministry of the apostles begins in the South of the country from Jerusalem.  The work of disciples in giving testimony to Jesus does not end in Jerusalem or in Galilee but as the Acts of the Apostles tells us “not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth” (1:8).

The Ascension is part of what we call the Paschal Mystery. There are four inter-related parts: suffering and death; resurrection; ascension; and the sending of the Spirit. They are closely interlocked as one reality. If the resurrection says that the crucified Jesus is alive, the Ascension says that the living Jesus has entered into glory, sharing on an equal level the glory of his Father. This is expressed in many different ways in different writings of the New Testament. We have three of these viewpoints or understandings in each of today’s readings. On God’s right hand in the Letter to the Ephesians 1: 17:23 (Second Reading of today) the fact is stated with great solemnity but without saying how it took place. The author speaks of the strength of [God’s] power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named, not only in this age, but also in the age to come. 

Consider also our words in the Creed, which we profess every Sunday Mass: “He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” There is a sense of ending because the Ascension marks the end of the human physical presence of Christ amongst us - for now, at least; He promised to come again. The Ascension is both ending and beginning, one of the many “both-and’s” of Catholicism.

This brings us to consider the second offering from St Luke: his Gospel account in which we hear the sense of a beginning, the beginning of the Church. The Ascension was not the end of the Father’s work but heralded a new era in salvation history.

With the ascension of the Lord, from now on wherever there is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness…”, wherever there is truth, love, compassion, justice, freedom, beauty the Spirit of Jesus is there. While the scene in Acts takes place in Jerusalem (for Luke the focal point of all that Jesus means for the world), Matthew has the disciples back on their home ground in Galilee. For, it is in the familiarity of home, not up in the skies, that Jesus is to be found. They are at the mountain “where Jesus arranged to meet them”. This is the mountain where Jesus once revealed himself to three disciples at the Transfiguration (chap. 17) and where he touched them (“Stand up; do not be afraid.”). This is not really an ascension scene. It is understood that the Risen Jesus is already in the glory of the Father. We have here rather an appearance of the Risen Jesus, an appearance that relies on faith. So, on the one hand they worship and, on the other, they have doubts – an experience all of us can have from time to time. The emphasis here is not on the appearance of Jesus but on what he has to say to his disciples. It is in three parts – past, present and future. Jesus, source of all authority.
First, Jesus tells them that all authority of the Creator God himself, has been given to him. To commit oneself totally to Jesus is to commit oneself to God. 

Second, Jesus gives the command to “make disciples” of people everywhere. He is thus passing on much of his own authority to his disciples. Pentecost will be the confirmation of this. They are to do what he did. They will have the power to reconcile the sinful with God and with the community and to decide who are not yet ready for reconciliation and full participation in the community’s life. The community has standards to keep in order to be a living and credible witness of Jesus and his Gospel. It has a corporate right to maintain those standards. They are to teach, to heal, to break down the divisions that separate people. Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit will be the symbol of incorporation as members of Christ’s Body, as disciples of Jesus. Always with us.  

Third, the Risen and Ascended Jesus is not far away. He is with his followers and will be with them to the end of time. It is a reminder of the promise made at the very beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, before the birth of Jesus: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name will be called Emmanuel (which means, God is with us)” (Matt 1:23) and again later on, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt 18:20). 

The gift of the Spirit is not mentioned but is clearly implied by the promise of the ongoing presence of Jesus. Today’s feast then is a celebration of Jesus’ glory after his suffering and death – a glory in which we also hope to share. At the same time, we celebrate the ongoing presence of the Risen Jesus among us, a presence which calls on every one of us to be living witnesses to that presence here in our own community and to the ends of the earth.

Questions for reflections:
1. How can I be a good news to others?
2. Where can I find a sacred space in my life?


- Olvin Veigas, SJ

02 June 2019