Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Gospel Reflection Mark 10:28-31

At the end of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says “...many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.” God’s way of ordering things sometimes runs contrary to ours. And we do well to reorient ourselves. The sooner, the better. Those who are ‘last’, in the sense of not having worldly goods or pleasures, giving these things up for the sake of the Kingdom of God, or being deprived entirely because of injustice, will be ‘first’. The privation of goods now becomes seeds of abundance for later. 

Jesus asks us to trust in the cosmic justice of God. Our own sense of justice, while capable of latching onto the truly Just, is often skewed. Thus, we lean not on our own understanding when God has spoken for our benefit on a particular matter. Indeed, the Lord will render properly to each his or her due. One day everything will be properly ordered. Until then, disciples of Jesus are called to give things up for the Gospel. For some, this means committing to a religious life of poverty. For some, a life of chastity. For some, it means enduring persecution. And for others, it means a life of continual sacrifice of the self for the other. A thousand and one pangs of the soul, wrestling the ego into submission only for the battle to begin anew tomorrow. Whatever the Lord has called us to sacrifice, may the Holy Spirit strengthen us to do it with joy, peace, and hopeful hearts for a heavenly reward. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 17:1-11

Today’s Gospel reading continues with the Farewell Discourse. In these passages, from John chapters 13-17, we get a very intimate, first-hand account of the final hours of Jesus’ life and teaching. If you ever wondered what it would be like to be a ‘fly on the wall’ among Jesus and the disciples, the Farewell Discourse is a great place to start. 

In the passage today, Jesus says “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” The word ‘know’ in this verse intends to communicate a personal acquaintance or first hand experience. To have eternal life is to experience the life of God first hand. We are told in other places that this comes about through the life-giving power of the Spirit (John 3, et. al.). The mysterious and glorious interplay of Trinitarian relations is involved in each step of the Christian journey. This is but one reason why so much was at stake in the early Church over doctrinal matters concerning the nature of the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

To have eternal life is not to be a floating apparition. Eternal life is not an unending, mindless state. It is not going to someplace in the sky.  It is to have the “life of the Age’, to be a full participant in the age to come which is a remade and properly ordered cosmos. Eternal ife is a qualitatively different kind of life. It is elevated. Free from inordinate passion and malice. Free to worship and live in harmony as God intended from the beginning. 

Monday, May 22, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 16:29-33

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world." Time and again, Jesus tells His followers to expect difficulty and struggle in the world. The world is the kingdom and dominion of the fallen ones. It represents the order of those powers, principalities, people, and systems opposed to God. 

We should be wary when things are going well for us in the world. It means that either we are not doing things God’s way or that our opponents are operating in a subtle manner. We must not be fooled into thinking there is some safe quarter within the world. However, we do not need to walk on eggshells. We do not need to be anxious about when the shoe will drop. We can trudge on circumspectly. The proper attitude of the Christian life is one of the virtuous mean. 

The Christian knows their pilgrimage is a trail of tears. They know that life gives fleeting glimpses of heaven. And we know, as the Gospel today says, that Jesus has overcome the world. The system of evil and death is in its waning days. 

We cannot see far from our vantage point; thus, we cannot always see clearly how Christ has conquered. Yet, if we look closely, the signs of His victory come into focus. We see the newly baptized coming into the Kingdom. We experience the forgiveness of our sins. We nourish our famished souls in the Holy Eucharist. We elevate our souls to God when we hear the music of the heavens. We sing with the angels and saints “holy, holy, holy.” The victory of Christ is evident if we look for it by its own phosphorescent-like illumination, and not by the dingy bulb of the world. 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 16:20-23

Life is rhythmic and cyclical. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything. Weeping and laughing. Mourning and dancing. We are from the dust, and to dust we shall return. Our existence in space and time is corruptible, insofar as we are composed, the breath of God and dust, and are then subject to decomposition. Joy is vain. It slips from our grasp the moment we gaze upon it. Grief is constant. We wade through the floodwaters of this valley of tears until we are eventually overcome by the crashing waves. 

Through the storm of life, with its respites of calm and monotonously blasting gales, Jesus speaks to us. He offers words of comfort in today's Gospel passage. Comfort that does not, and cannot, come from the world of ashes and decay. The Lord says that anguish will come before a joy that is not vain. Happiness, the quietude of our wills, can be snatched away from us now. But not forever. Our hearts will rejoice when they are no longer breakable. 

The Christian message has been fraught with tension from the beginning; the already-but-not-yet. Jesus is already Lord of all, but the instantiation of His Kingdom across the cosmos is not yet fully realized. Jesus is already raised from the dead and exists incorruptibly; we are not yet like Him. Creation groans in travail. Still, Jesus promises that our longing to be with Him is like the birth of a child. Agony will dissolve into bliss. Death will be swallowed up by life. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 16:5-11

Much of what Jesus says seems counterintuitive. He tells us to turn the other cheek instead of striking back in violence. He tells us to walk an extra mile if compelled to walk the first. He tells us that it is better for Him to leave His earthly ministry than to stay. As St. Paul says, the wisdom of God is deep and rich and unsearchable. 

How could it possibly be better for God among us to leave us? Perhaps only if God the Holy Spirit then comes to dwell among His people. We are not left without the presence of God within us and among us. Perhaps only if we can understand a shred of the divine plan for human redemption, seeing that, like a flower, each flower petal is slowly opening up toward the eternal sun. The first petal must give way so the innermost buds can be nourished. We see through the glass darkly now, but later…

Jesus unequivocally tells us the Holy Spirit is a ‘He’. “...I will send Him to you…He will convict the world…” The divinity of the Holy Spirit is given to us, if even somewhat opaquely, in these passages. But not only these. The early Church prayed and thought, and prayed and thought some more, before articulating what had God revealed for the sake of furthering the Kingdom and spreading joy far and wide. 

We behold the great mystery of the inner life of God with wonder and awe. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each at work in our redemption and deification. As the Spirit comes to convict the world of sin and righteousness and condemnation, He does so in perfect harmony with the Son who gives Himself and the Father who is glorified in the Son. 

Monday, May 15, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 15:26—16:4

In today’s Gospel, Jesus again tells His disciples to expect persecution. And this even unto death. Opposition to the Kingdom of God is fierce. The hostility is often much more than we can fathom. We read about martyrdom in our time. We know we should expect ill-treatment. It comes in ways obvious and subtle. What is unique about the Christian faith, and the call to radical discipleship, is that this state of affairs must not force an inward turn. 

Instead, Jesus still calls us to love our enemies. He calls us to bless those who persecute us. There is no chip on our shoulder. The other shoe will drop. But we do not walk in trepidation. Jesus tells us He has overcome the world. If we abide in Him, we abide in the life of God, the giver of all life. If we are grafted into that life, we have a life that cannot be taken from us. We have happiness and fellowship that is not fleeting. The Holy Spirit is our constant companion and often reminds us that we are pilgrims on a journey toward something greater. 


Friday, May 12, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 15:12-17

One of the things Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading is “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” Then, He says “You are my friends,” and “I have called you friends…” There is no greater love than what Jesus does in laying down His life for us. He calls us His friends. He gives Himself up for us, and continually gives Himself to us in the Holy Eucharist because we are joined to Him in friendship by grace. 

Because of the way He was killed and how our imagination works, our thoughts can easily drift to the idea that Jesus’ life was taken. We often speak of this way when a person passes away. We say they ‘lost’ their life or they were ‘robbed’ of life. This is not the case with Jesus. 

Jesus was indeed brutally killed by Romans at the insistence of the vocal Jewish religious leadership contingent in Jerusalem. Yet, we must always recall that He willingly came into the world and willingly allowed these events to transpire. Nothing forces God to act. Nothing extrinsically compels the Son of God to take on human flesh. Nothing and no one can mandate that Christ suffer and die for the sins of the world. The incarnation of the Lord Jesus, His life, and His sacrificial death are simply the overflowing divine love. The love that exists eternally in the Triune God infuses itself into creation. There can be no greater love than Jesus laying down His life because there can be nothing greater, and therefore no greater love, than God. 

Much is made of the difference between how the Church has defined love, willing the good of the other (as other), and how the modern world has perverted this definition into a reductionist, emotivist description of the concupiscible. The absurdity of the colloquial ‘love is love’ is sharply contrasted with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. There is love, which is what Jesus does and shows, and then there is something else. 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 15:9-11

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.” Throughout the Farewell Discourse, Jesus issues several conditionals with a similar theme. For example, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Conditionals involve an ‘if/then’. When the condition is true, meeting a sufficient condition will always produce the event or outcome provided in a valid statement or syllogism. 

While it is true that God always loves us unconditionally, we choose how we respond to the outpouring of divine grace. The Christian life is a living and active response to God. God always makes the first move. While we were still yet sinners, Christ died for us. God gives us everything, including the grace and individual capabilities to say ‘yes’ to Him every day. 

What guarantees - because of the One who grants such a guarantee - that we will remain in the love of Christ is that we keep His commandments. For instance, that we love God above all and love others as we love ourselves. And that we obey the other things He teaches us through Sacred Scripture and His Holy Catholic Church. Such obedience must not be thought of in a slavish or arbitrary sense. Rather, we heed the teaching of Christ and His Church because God tells us that in so doing our joy will be complete. We can indeed be free from what truly enslaves us, which is sin. Obedience and discipline in Christ bring this freedom. 

It is for our eternal beatitude that we become who God created us to be. We also reap benefits in the here and now, by having peace with God and with our fellow man. God does not love us or guide us because He stands to gain anything. His love for us is an outpouring of the divine life, and His commandments to us are so that we may fully enjoy that life to the utmost.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 15:1-8

In today’s Gospel, we read that Jesus is the true vine. We are grafted into Him and, if we remain in Him, we will bear fruit. If we do not bear fruit, then we are cut off from Him. What fruit comes forth when we abide in Christ? St. Paul tells us “...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…(Galatians 5:22-23). 

The fruit we bear comes from our being nourished by the flowing waters of new and eternal life in Christ. By conversion, faith, baptism, continual repentance, and walking in daily humility before God, we abide in the true vine. Abiding is not meant in a passive sense, as if we are joined to the true vine and then all we do is just sit there. We must take an active role in following the Lord Jesus. The passive branch is the one that will wither away just as much as the branch that rebelliously cuts itself off. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 14:27-31

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says that He gives peace “Not as the world gives…” In the Christian context, the’ world’ typically means the powers, principalities, people, and the various ways they organize, which are opposed to God. 

When the world gives something, it does so with strings attached. The world gives with conditions. The world gives because it wants something in return. Your company gives you a raise because they want to incentivize you to keep making more money for them. You get elected to an office or chosen for a leadership position because of what people think you will do for them. 

The world gives things in a backhanded way. In a certain sense, the world does not really give at all. Because there is never a net gain of anything meaningful or lasting when we trade with the world. Two worldly powers might agree to a peaceable end to armed conflict. But this agreement will be for the sake of economic or political expediency, and will only last until one side believes it can take advantage of the other side again. A large and well-known company will sponsor a charitable event or champion some cause, not for the sake of the suffering and not for genuine justice. The company takes these ‘rational’ market actions for the sole means of increasing profit. Such a company will flit about from one cause to the next, marching to the beat of the Wall Street drummer. They only care about one thing, and it is not giving anything. After all, return on investment is not about giving. 

No, the world does not give; the world takes. Peace cannot come from any worldly source or mechanism. Nothing in creation, no matter how grand, can satisfy our deepest longing. No creature can deliver us lasting happiness. Only the unconditional, infinite, everlasting love of God can bring us happiness. Only the peace given by the Son of God can bring true peace to our lives and rest for our souls. All other paths become subtly winding roads filled with shiny objects and distractions that eventuate in our demise. Only when our souls find rest from earthly desires, selfishness, and greedy ambition can peace reign. Peace reigns from above and comes to us. As we receive it, we are transformed. Those who spurn divine peace in Christ in favor of worldly peace will, after many pulls on the rope, find only a dry well. 

Monday, May 8, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 14:21-26

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells His disciples “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” Loving Jesus is intimately bound up in doing what He says. 

Imagine a person living in feudal times pledging loyalty to a king. But every time the king issues a proclamation or promulgates a law, that person does the exact opposite or nothing at all. Moreover, the person actively works to sabotage the kingdom. He rips down official postings that contain the king's laws and penalties. He aids and abets the king’s enemies. The king would look upon these actions as disloyalty. When confronted by others, the individual professes to loyalty the king. “I am truly your subject, oh king!” he says. 

However, almost as soon as these words are spoken, the professing subject again contravenes the king's laws. Soon, he stands before the king in judgment. The subject tries to make the same defense; he really was loyal to the king in his heart, he revered the king “deep down.” He felt it. The subject argues that his disobedience of the king's laws is not evidence of loathing the king. He argues that loyalty is more than obeying rules, it is a matter of the heart. 

The wise king quickly calls out this faux duplicity of nature and equivocation of terms. The actions betray the man. There are not two selves acting, but one. The mouth speaks what is in the heart. The hands do what the heart desires. Loyalty is demonstrated in actions, not just fleeting private thoughts. Loyalty to the king means doing what the king says. The subjects cannot simply change the meaning of words out of whole cloth. They can certainly try. Yet, they will be dismayed when they hear another subject change the meaning of the word ‘hug’ to mean thumping another on the head with a blunt object. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander. 

When the Lord Jesus says “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me,” we are meant to understand that our love for Him is evidenced by our obedience. This does not reduce grace to legalism, for it is ‘all grace’, as it were. Instead, it forces us to reckon with our own moves to rationalization and duplicitousness. We cannot have our cake and eat it, too. If we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments. If we do not keep His commandments, we do not love Jesus. To some, this sounds harsh and demandingly perfectionist. When we receive grace with humility, especially through the sacraments and Church teaching, we might see that what Jesus asks is not too far beyond nor too high above us. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can become holy. If we stumble, we can receive forgiveness and the strength to press onward toward our heavenly goal. 

If Jesus is Lord and King of the Universe, then our loyalty to the King is demonstrated in our listening to what the King says and doing what He says to do. Voluntarism might raise some big-picture questions about this, but we can sidestep this problematic predication of divine action in favor of superior explanations, such as an intellectualist account. In any event, what we cannot do is redefine words to justify our actions. We show that we keep the greatest commandment by keeping the others. Not as mere blind rule followers, but as those walking in the light toward happiness. 

Friday, May 5, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 14:1-6

Today’s Gospel reading continues the Farewell Discourse (John ch. 13-17).  Jesus says to the disciples “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This of course echoes what He says elsewhere, such as in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6, we hear “do not be anxious for your life, what you will eat, and not for your body, what you will wear…” When we think about the ‘hard’ sayings of Jesus, teachings that seem very difficult, if not impossible, for us to actually do, the discourses on worry are probably near the top. I think it’s easier to love our enemies and give them the shirt off our backs than it is to quiet our anxiety. 

It’s important to note that anxiety about life is not a modern phenomenon. Jesus spoke these words to a first-century audience. In our day, we face the same problems, manifested differently. We worry about money and taxes. Our country and children. We get bombarded with inbound messages and communications, and then communications about how much we are getting bombarded with messages perpetuating the worship of material goods. We hear and think too much about ‘technology’ and all its wonders. We are inundated with the ideas of ‘progress’ we have made as a human society. Perhaps in some areas of life, there has been some progress, depending on how this term is defined, as well as the basis for comparison. Another topic for another time.  In any event, where no progress has been made at all is reducing human anxiety. Our hearts are troubled about much. The default human condition post-Fall is worry. It seems to fit with the narrative of being banished from paradise and toiling for our next meal. We sing for our supper. We worry about whether we will hit the right notes and if the audience will put bread in our jar. But Jesus comes to rectify this. In Christ, we no longer need to labor under the heavy burden of a troubled heart. 

In the direst moment before proceeding to His agony and passion, Jesus understands the concern His disciples have and reminds them to have faith. To trust in God fully is the surest path to relieve the weight of worry. Alas, like many aspects of the faith, our first thought is that this is easier said than done. It sounds like a platitude. “Don’t worry, be happy!” Who can do that? Importantly, who can actually be that way? The short answer, I think, is no one. At least no one without the help of the Holy Spirit. 

We need our minds and hearts prepared fully by the grace of God to let go of what concerns us, for it is all in God’s hands if we are truly honest. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are able to take proper stock of ourselves and realize our need for humility. In turn, this leads to a deeper realization of our creatureliness. From here, we must come to terms with how little we ultimately control. It is our zeal for control and our dissatisfaction with anything less than omniscience that drives us to worry so much. If we listen to Jesus, He speaks to us the same words He spoke to His disciples “let not your hearts be troubled.” 

When I was in grade school, we learned the old Shaker song “Simple Gifts.” I find myself surprised that the lyrics and melody come so easily to mind, and also saddened that I forget them so often. 

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,

To bow and to bend we will not be asham'd,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 13:16-20

Today’s Gospel reading comes from the Farewell Discourse of St. John’s Gospel. Jesus says many important things in John chapters 13-17. Toward the end of the passage today, after He washes the disciples’ feet, He says “whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” In this context, the verb ‘receive’ means to actively lay hold of, emphasizing the volition and assertiveness of the one taking hold. There is of course an excellent connection to our faith. Through God’s grace, we do not respond with apathy or indifference when we realize we are the Prodigal Son, that God is calling us out of the pig pen. We get up and go. 

The Catholic faith is not one of passive receptivity. It is an active, living faith. It is a faith that works through love. The Holy Spirit calls us, and we respond in penance and charity. We walk daily in humility before the Lord. We serve others as He exemplifies in the washing of the disciples' feet. 

The Son tells us that whoever receives Him receives the Father, who sent the Son. The Son tells us also that whoever receives those whom the Son will send also receives the Father. To be an Apostle means to be sent. It follows that whoever receives the Apostles receives the Son, and therefore receives the Father. We actively lay hold of the Father and the Son, in the sense of our strong ‘yes’ - through word and deed - to be participants in the Heavenly Kingdom. But this only comes about because we receive the teaching of the Apostles. Should we think the teaching of the Apostles ended when the last of this group passed from the earth? Not at all. For the Lord Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. 

So, the teaching of the Apostles continues. And this has been handed down successively from the founding of the Church until today. The Apostolic teaching is preserved and explicated through the Holy Catholic Church. To willfully deny the Apostolic succession of bishops and ordained leaders and teachers of the Christian faith is to ultimately deny the words of Jesus. Such a denial would prevent us in the most real sense possible from receiving the Son, and therefore prevent us from receiving the Father. Appealing to Scripture alone as the only preserved Apostolic teaching futilely ignores that Scripture nowhere explicitly or implicitly makes this claim, and further ignores how foreign such a concept is to the context in which the Scriptures were written. 

Thankfully, the Lord Jesus founded a Church and sent Apostles, who passed down to their successors the truths of eternal life. These truths are contained in Sacred Scripture and the magisterial teachings of the Church. Whoever receives the Apostolic teaching receives the Apostles, and whoever receives the Apostles receive the One who sent them. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 14:6-14

In today’s Gospel, we read Jesus’ very direct words “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If this was said by anyone other than the Son of God who is very God Himself, we might easily dismiss what He says. 

The world sometimes loves a lot of what Jesus said and did, but has a great struggle when He says He is the only way to the Father. The whole dying on the cross for the sins of the world thing and being raised again is also a sure stumbling block. Lots of head-scratching at this. Surely, there are many ways to heaven. Nobody has a corner on religious truth. Basically, if you haven’t murdered someone (and maybe even if you did) you’re going to heaven. We’re all going to heaven. Especially the dogs. What these sentiments represent, I believe, is a manifestation of what sociologist Christian Smith and his colleagues termed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. While this seems like a loaded term, it does quite well in describing the cobbled-together tapestry of contemporary beliefs to which many people practically adhere. Think of the ‘religion’ you’d find in a Hallmark movie and you’ll be pretty close. 

Today is the feast day of St. Phillip and St. James. Imagine going back in time and giving them a quick rundown of what some people today think Christianity is. As they toiled and endured persecution, it was not for the faith to be perturbed into a self-help program.

We can be assured that the Christian message has been polluted, or altogether eschewed, when it evinces nothing about sin, the primacy and necessity of grace in man’s salvation from hell (the consequence of sin and rejection of grace), and the means by which God provides this grace in His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, who is truly God and truly man. When Jesus says that He is the way to the Father, we can take Him at His word. Or not. But we cannot put words in His mouth. Now, a person could be skeptical that Jesus actually said these words. That’s a different argument. And it’s not that compelling of an argument, because the Christian Church has been saying the same thing since the very beginning. Different sources, different places, very early and close to the death of Jesus, and all very consistent. 

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. This does not mean that a person who never heard the name “Jesus of Nazareth” is condemned to hell. It simply means that if and when a person is saved, however the grace of God comes to them, it is by the sacrificial death of Jesus. It means that if and when a person is raised to glory on the last day, regardless of when they died or how they died, they are doing so because Jesus defeated death by His resurrection. 

The definite article (‘the’) in John 14:6 does not cause us to act in a presumptuous triumphalism. Any triumph we participate in is the triumph of Jesus. It is not our own. We live in humble reception of divine grace each day. We deny ourselves and take up our crosses. We are mere beggars, trying to show other beggars where the food is. Salvation, blessing, and happiness start and end with God. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 10:22-30

 Gospel Reflection John 10:22-30

It is fitting that on the feast day of St. Athanasius, we read the Lord Jesus say “The Father and I are one.” This is but one of many passages that were held up by the Church Fathers as they articulated and defended the divinity of the Son of God. Of course, the great churchmen were not simply proof-texting. The entire narrative theme of Scripture and the New Testament, not to mention the consistent testimony of the apostles and their successors, was that Jesus Christ was truly God with us. God the Son became man. The eternal Logos of God had come, as St. John writes earlier,  to ‘tabernacle’ among man. 

St. Athanasius was an ardent defender of the divinity of Christ. Despite many hardships, he persevered in teaching the truth of the faith and was very theologically influential at the council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Opposing Athanasius, and those aligned with him, were the Arians, so named after Bishop Arius who claimed that the Son of God was not truly God. The Arian heresy has never died out. Many people today take up his mantle, declaring the Son of God to be the most exalted creature or some other thing that is ultimately repugnant to the faith. Unitarian Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, are firmly in this camp. 

When confronted with passages from today’s Gospel reading about the unity of the Son and the Father, Arians will typically argue that Jesus could only mean the Father and the Son were united in will and purpose. Analogous to their case would be when two people are aligned in a partnership of some kind. These individuals are ‘one’ in accord. The problem with this way of understanding the text is that it creates unsustainable tension when read in the broader context of the totality of Jesus’ recorded claims and self-understanding. Mere unity of purpose in the Father and the Son would not have been that controversial, certainly not enough to get Jesus on the short list of blasphemers worthy of death. 

What the Arians continue to miss, and what St. Athanasius proclaimed, was that the divinity of Jesus Christ the Son of God, is the great mystery that Sacred Scripture and Apostolic teaching demands we affirm. By ignoring the proper communication of idioms and by foisting philosophical presuppositions that inherently limit what cannot be limited, the mystery of the incarnation - the inner life of God - is essentially reduced to a proposition that can only be contained within the creaturely mind. Arians draw a firm line on what they will accept as revealed truth and mystery, and therefore ultimately make God in the image of man. 

We affirm with St. Athanasius that the Son of God is truly God. Of the same essence as the Father. God from God. Light from light. True God from true God. Begotten not made. Every Sunday we confess our faith and give our assent to the truth given to us directly from God through the teachings of God Himself in Christ and the Apostles. 

Monday, May 1, 2023

Gospel Reflection John 10:11-18

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Too often we take this for granted. 

We see the wonderful images of Jesus carrying a single sheep and do not think that it would have been completely crazy for a shepherd to die for the flock in their care. The ordinary shepherd would not put himself in unreasonable danger. After all, such a shepherd is just doing their job. Some occupational hazards are acceptable, but nothing too extreme. If a wolf comes along or a treacherous mountain pass presents itself, the hired shepherd will only put up so much effort before turning away to save their own skin. In the end, it’s just a business proposition. 

We are not a business proposition to God. There is no cost/benefit analysis done on whether it is worthwhile to gather us when we have gone far astray. God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to be our Shepherd. He is a shepherd that not only places Himself in danger but gives His life - even for the single lost sheep over whom the whole of heaven rejoices. 

For anyone or anything else, the intrinsic limitations of creatureliness would put an upward limit on the totality of sacrifice made for the life of the sheep. For any creature, there would be a weighing of the scales to decide whether the effort would be worthwhile. But the Son of God does not operate this way. He is unbounded Love and unshackled from creaturely constraints. He can go after the one without forsaking the ninety-nine. He can lead and unite the flock of His creation. He can lay down His life of His own accord and take it up again. 

Without the Good Shepherd, we would all ultimately be lost. Forever wandering barren hillsides, fighting with each other over the last drop of water from wasted river beds. We would be chasing mirages of green pastures that would only disappear before us in delirium as we plunged off the cliff. The hired shepherds would just stand there, heckling our demise. But God…

The Good Shepherd loves us and lays His life down for us. He takes it up again to lead us. He beacons us to verdant pastures and babbling brooks of life-giving water. He walks beside us through the dangerous passes, His rod and His staff comfort us as He pulls us to freedom and life. His feet are sure, and His hand is strong. He never wavers and never stops gathering.