Eternal Life with the Trinity

Jesus raised His eyes to heaven, gave glory to God, and prayed for you.

Take some time and let that sink in. Jesus prayed to the Father for you. He prayed for your protection and for you to have eternal life alongside Him and the Father. Jesus wants you in heaven with Him. He loves you! Of course He has set aside a place for you in heaven.

“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (JN 17:3)

I want to point out the very radical word that Jesus is using in His prayer: “Father.” In first-century Palestine, the Jewish people believed in one God but, they falsely believed Him to be a distant God, someone who was worshiped from afar. Jesus changed all this. By God becoming human an intense intimacy was established between God and mankind through His son, Jesus. Jesus expressed the greatness of this intimacy by calling God Father. And we call Him Father as well.

In today’s Gospel Jesus is telling the Father how He carried out His will: Jesus glorified God on earth with everything God gave Him, He taught the disciples about God’s love and mercy, and the disciples have come to accept and understand the words of Jesus. Notice this subtle exchange: God gives to Jesus, Jesus gives to the disciples, the disciples give back to Jesus, Jesus gives back to God.

We not only see the intimacy between the Father and Jesus—we also see the intimacy that is called forth between the disciples AND the Father and Jesus. We are called into that holy union. We are called because we are loved, and it is the Holy Spirit that unites us in communion. The Spirit is the one to reveal to us the true revelation of Christ, the love of the Father. The Spirit is the One sent to us while we remain in this world, preparing for eternal life. Jesus knew it would be hard for us. He knew exactly how hard it would be for us because His humanity lived and experienced the hardships of the same world we live in.

Jesus fully knew that He would be scourged, ridiculed, mocked, spat upon, humiliated, beaten, stripped naked, and crucified. Even so, He asked God to glorify Him in His death so that His humanity would have the strength to carry the Cross to Calvary. “I pray for them”—this is what Jesus told the Father before His Passion because He wanted us, in our own fragile humanity, to also have strength to carry our own crosses in this world.

When you think that you are weak and defeated from the constant struggles in this life, know that it is the enemy that wants to keep you down. You are strong because you are loved by God, the Father and Jesus Christ. You are a beloved and precious child. You will succeed in carrying your cross because you are filled with the same Spirit.

In the Old Testament Jacob has a dream about a ladder that went all the way to heaven and God’s angels were going up and down on it. Climb that ladder. Just as our Father isn’t some faraway God, He is intimately close to us—heaven is close as well. The gates to heaven were opened wide with the blood of Jesus. You are called to heaven, to sainthood, to eternal life.

What is eternal life? It’s a gift from God, a gift made full by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a gift completed by our self-giving back to God. Eternal life is the perfect life in communion and love with the Trinity (CCC 1024).

Jesus Christ Has Won. Love Has Won.

Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.
O Lord, hear my prayer,
And let my cry come to you.
Hide not your face from me
In the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
In the day when I call, answer me speedily.
—Psalm 102:2–3

The responsorial psalm for today is piercing through my soul. Due to the current COVID-19 crisis in the world, how many of us are crying out to the Lord in distress, praying for a miracle? Many of us. How many of us might be feeling anxiety, fear, and loneliness? Many of us. How many of us are clinging to faith in this time of uncertainty? I hope, too, that the answer is many of us.

The last time in which I celebrated communion, I did not know it would be “the last time.” I had accepted the Body of Christ and rejoiced in a beautiful Holy Hour. I remember feeling FULL, feeling HAPPY, feeling THANKFUL. I am holding on to those feelings of peace as I obediently wait for the church doors to be opened to the public again. But, as I wait, I know that the Church is ALIVE. I know that God the Father loves all His children. I know that Jesus Christ has won.

In today’s first reading, the people of Israel were complaining about the manna bread that God had given them to eat in the desert. They had been wandering in the desert for years, only eating of the miraculous manna bread that fell from heaven to sustain their lives. Yes, they were in the hot and lonely desert. Yes, they did not have a variety of food to choose from. But the people of Israel failed to see the good within the situation that they were in; they had much to be thankful for. First, they were freed from slavery in Egypt—they had been enslaved for 400 years and God broke their chains. Second, they had food and water—the manna bread does not naturally grow in the desert; it was bread from heaven that God provided for His children to eat so they’d be nourished and remain strong. And have you heard of this rolling rock that just followed them in the desert and provided water?

As humans sometimes we tend to only focus on the bad and choose to sit with it. We neglect to acknowledge all the good that God has already done in our lives. And at times, even in the midst of living in the good of life, we fail to give proper thanks to God. The people of Israel eventually realized their sin in complaining against God and asked for mercy. God then instructed Moses to make a serpent out of bronze and mount it on a pole; anyone who had previously been ill had only to look at the mounted serpent and would be healed.

How interesting that God chose the image of a serpent to be mounted on the pole. A serpent was the creature that manipulated Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, causing the fall of mankind. A serpent, representative of sin; that is what the people of Israel looked at to be healed—their sins hung on a wooden pole. We also need to look at our own sin. We need to acknowledge our wrongdoings, acknowledge when we complain against God and ask for mercy. We need to look at Jesus Christ crucified on the cross. We need to see the Son of God sacrificed for our salvation. Look at the cross, walk towards it, lay all that is weighing you down at the foot of the cross, and let Jesus heal you.

Throughout the bad that is present in the world, we must keep faith to that which is good. Our faith tells us that the battle is already won. Jesus Christ died and was nailed to a cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Love has won.

These are very difficult and unprecedented times. The COVID-19 virus has affected all of us. But have faith, the Church remains alive. Pray and invite God into your life for peace. The people of Israel asked for prayer—I encourage you to submit your prayer intentions HERE so that, as one body in Christ, we can pray for you as well.

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Image Credit: Moses showing the bronze serpent, mounted on a pole to the people of Israel [Public Domain].

We Are All Tenants in This Life

A few weeks ago, I was teaching a group of 7th graders about ownership. We talked about land and property: the homes they lived in, the clothing they wore, the cellphones they had. At the beginning of the discussion they had given me a list of a few items they each owned. As the conversation progressed they realized that none of the property they used was actually their own. It all belonged to their parents, but as their children, they are able to enjoy these possessions. 

In the book of Genesis, God creates everything into existence. He made light, the earth, the sky, vegetation, animals, and mankind. He made everything and everything was good. As God is the creator of all things, so, rightfully, He is the owner of all things. Everything belongs to God, and we have been gifted the opportunity to be His stewards, to use all of what He has created and bear fruit.

Today’s Gospel talks about ownership and stewardship. Jesus is telling the chief priests and elders of the people the parable of the tenants. A landowner planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants. When the landowner sent servants and even his own son to collect the produce from his land, the tenants killed them. Jesus asked, “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” 

We are all tenants in this life. Everything that we have was given to us by God. Today’s society might not agree, and you may hear echoes of “this is my land,” “my body,” “I worked for this.” The truth is that the land we occupy was created by God, your body was created by God and in His image, and all your possessions have been delivered into your hands by God. It is right that we thank Him. Through His divine plan, we have been given different gifts and we must use those gifts for good: to bear fruit. If you find yourself in a position of power, use your platform for the common good. If you find that you’ve been granted material wealth, use it wisely and in consideration of those in need. If you’re a part of a ministry/group/organization in which they look towards you for leadership, be prudent in how you lead that you may lead others to the Kingdom of heaven.

As everything in our lives is a gift, it is also leased out to us—waiting for the rightful owner to come back and obtain the produce that was cultivated. Jesus warns us about being a tenant with empty hands: “the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” Whatever gift (big or small) you’ve been given from God, He wants you to use it and fully enjoy it, while at the same time producing fruits—that is, building up the Kingdom and bringing people closer to God.

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Image Credit: Parable of The Tenants by Jan Luyken [Public Domain].

The Miracle of God’s Food

Two pots were on the stove, both were empty. My grandmother had just finished portioning out dinner for everyone; a little bit of white rice and one piece of meat. Simple. There was no fancy side dish. No stewed beans. No green salad. The rice that was boiled and the meat that was cooked was measured out exactly to feed the nine people that lived under one roof. Simple. Small. Sufficient.

One night I came home with an unexpected guest. I hadn’t told my family that I was bringing my friend, and so dinner—already scarce and proportioned out—was not made to include her. Already knowing the answer would be no, I asked my grandmother if there was any extra food that she may eat. I remember seeing a quick flash of emotions in my grandmother’s eyes: shock and anger, sadness and concern.

“There isn’t any more food left,” she told me, “but we can take a little from our plates and make her a portion.”

Today’s Gospel is about the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. This miracle is so grand at showing the mighty hand of God that it’s the only one of Jesus’ miracles mentioned in each of the four Gospels. Friends, this should immediately tell you something: in our faith, community and communion are important. We attend Mass, we pray and worship as one body. We receive the consecrated Body and Blood of Jesus Christ together.

After much work, Jesus and the twelve disciples had gone into the desert to be alone and rest. The crowds of people saw them leave and followed. They went by foot, which was a longer and harder journey, and followed Jesus into the desert. They wanted to be near Jesus, to be healed by Jesus and through him know God. They wanted this so badly that they traveled to a place that was far away, isolated and alone. The disciples told Jesus to dismiss the people so that the people could find their own food. Jesus did not agree to this. For some unknown reason the disciples were not speaking with reason—God never walks away from His people. He is with them through everything. Just as God was with the chosen people of Israel providing for them in the desert for 40 years, so too God will provide for His people here and now. After wrongly suggesting that the people be dismissed, Jesus tells the disciples to feed the people themselves. Naturally the disciples question this, just as we question all the obstacles in our own lives in disbelief that we cannot overcome them. How can we possibly feed so many people? How am I supposed to do this? But something beautiful happens. The disciples give Jesus the very little food they had, five loaves of bread and two fish (now being without any food themselves) and Jesus performs a miracle.

“Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish.”
—Mark 6:41–43

How similar is this to the blessing Jesus said at the Last Supper? How similar are these words to the liturgy of the Eucharist? They are one and the same. It is the same God speaking then and now. It is the same grace and the same love. The Gospel tells us that Jesus fed 5,000 men with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Now given that approximately half the population is women, let’s double that number and add a few thousand more for the underage children. That number in your head, multiply it by two and double it again and multiply it by itself (yes, a little bit of math here). The new large number in your head, it’s still itty-bitty small compared to the love our God has for you.

I remember my grandmother taking from the very little we had and sharing it with someone she did not know. I learned a valuable lesson that day. We didn’t have much in material possessions and at times we didn’t even have enough food, but grandma’s heart was gentle when it came to feeding people. Every time I cook I am reminded of my family. Every time I cook I do so with love—because God is love—hoping that by inviting those to my home I not only feed the physical body but also help in feeding the spiritual body.

God is good. He fed the people in the desert before they entered Canaan. He fed the people throughout Jesus’ ministry. He continues to feed His people as we await for the Second Coming. God feeds us with everything we need. Give yourself completely to Jesus. Give him the little that you have and watch how he multiplies it: an overabundance of grace. God always provides. Share it with others.

Image Credit: The Multiplication of the Loaves by Musée de Valence [Public Domain]

Devout and Faithful Servant of God

“We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”

– Luke 17:10

When I used to think of the word “servant” I thought of it as a dirty word. I thought a servant was someone without any authority, someone very low in class and poor, someone who had no choice but to do the work for others. My definition and understanding of who’s a servant was completely wrong. Jesus Christ came to earth not “to be served but to serve” (Matt 20:28). As we are called to imitate Christ, we are called to be servants – that is to be devout and faithful followers of Christ.

In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus is speaking to the disciples, and to each of us, telling us that we should do what is commanded by God without complaining and without expecting to be praised. This might be difficult for many to take in as we all want to be seen and given due credit for whatever small deed we do. We attach our names to absolutely everything so the world can see; out of my kindness, out of my brilliance, out of my skills, out of my popularity I did that. On the other side of the spectrum when things aren’t to our standard we complain. We let the world know that we are not satisfied, that we are upset and angry, that we demand things to be as we want them to be. Neither of these characteristics are pleasing to God. We are servants to the Lord. What is pleasing to God is for us to follow His commands and be in accordance with His will. By doing this we show our love for God.

How can we be good servants? By serving as Jesus Christ served. We should take care of the poor, the sick, the hungry, those who mourn. We should be meek and humble. We should follow righteousness. We should be merciful and pure of heart. We should be peacemakers and stand firm in front of persecution. I learned that this is the true definition of what it means to be a servant; a devout and faithful follower of Christ.

In the catechism it states that the religious and ministers of the Church are servants of God. The pope’s proper title is servant to the servants of God. And one of the first steps in canonization of a saint is to pronounce them as a servant of God to the entire world. I mean, woah, think about that. To be a saint in heaven you will first take a title that the secular world walks all over: servant.

We are all unprofitable servants this is true. Because everything good is due to God alone. But, God is not like the man in the parable who is not grateful that his servant is being obedient. After the servant finishes plowing and tending the sheep his master orders him to serve food and drink. The servant’s work never ends and he is not rewarded. As servants of the Lord our work never ends either but, it does not end because we never stop being faithful followers of Christ! Our mission is to always preach and worship His good name. We will continue to plow and plant seeds of faith. We will continue to tend the sheep and build up the Church. The difference is that our God sees the work we do for Him and He loves us. When we enter the gates of heaven our Lord will joyously tell us “come here immediately and take your place at table”. We all have a place at His table and we will celebrate with a great heavenly banquet filled in abundance with food and drink.

Image Credit: Jesus looking over a servant [Public Domain]

Representatives of God

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is doing so much good, so many miracles and teachings that people take notice and Jesus becomes, if you may say, a popular guy. Because of his popularity Herod wanted to know who he was. Who was this person everyone was talking about? The crowds didn’t quite know exactly who Jesus was. Some thought he was John the Baptist. Others thought he was Elijah or another ancient prophet risen. They may not have gotten his name correct but, one thing sticks out, they associated Jesus with good things. In the parallel passage in Matthew, Herod says that “mighty powers are at work in him” because he resembled John the Baptist. But, it’s not Jesus who is like John.

It was John who was like Jesus.

It was Elijah who was like Jesus.

It was Moses who was like Jesus.

People knew these great prophets and knew of the good they did. The people associated the mighty works that Jesus was doing with the good works of the prophets before him because John the Baptist, Elijah and Moses all did good works that reflected God. Jesus as second person of the trinity is God.

As a young child I remember going on field trips and being told that we needed to be on our best behavior because we represented the school. As an adult I’m being told that my demeanor at meetings and conferences reflects back on my company. Recently at a Frassati meeting for our next mission trip (Jamaica 2020!) we had a conversation on how the laity set the example for the religious which we invite to mission with us. This made me stop and ponder. We are the ones to set the example. Have you thought about how your actions constitute how someone views the Church? We represent something so much greater than schools or businesses, we represent God. Jesus told us to behave in such a way that when people saw us and witnessed our good deeds they would glorify our Heavenly Father.

Look in the mirror. Do you see Jesus?

Live your life in such a righteous way that those who do not know God may come to know Him through you.

Image Credit: Stained glass window, at St.Andrew’s R.C. Church, of John the Baptist, Moses and, Elijah. [Public Domain]