Is the Trinity
practical?

“But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

Sometimes we think of the Trinity as three gods who get along really well and never argue or disagree. Of course, that would be incorrect – there is but one God, not three. We believe in One God in three different Persons.

Neither is the Trinity just three manifestations of God; God showing up in different costumes. This is modalism. Modalism says that there is one God and He appears as the Father and then as the Son and now as the Spirit. Rather, God is three Divine, Eternal and Distinct Persons.

The Trinity is also uncreated and eternal. The Father did not create the Son or Spirit. The Father is not “the main God” and the Son or Spirit some inferior god or that the Father created the Son and Spirit before anything else.

So the truth of the Trinity is not saying there are three different gods or three different manifestations of God or that God the Father created some lesser, inferior gods. Scripture and Church Tradition are consistent in teaching that there is One God existing in Three Eternal Persons, One God in unity, eternally existing in three Persons, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit – equal in nature, distinct in person, and subordinate in duties.

Beyond the technical explanation of what the Holy Trinity is or is not, what is the practical application of the Trinity for us?

St. John states: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. John identified himself in his writing as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He knew that when we begin to understand God’s love, like he did, when we see God in the way He really is, we experience life differently and we live differently.

When we come to understand the unity in Trinity of the Father, Son and Spirit we can better appreciate and understand what it really means. He did not need us, but created us as an outpouring of His love. He wants only that in knowing Him we come to pour out that kind of love each day. The mutuality, love, unity, self-subordination, and perfection of God flowing from love is not just a fact of the Trinity but more so a call to us. Knowing is not enough. The Trinity calls us to compassion for those who don’t know love and a desire to share that love and life. It is our living life in the Trinity.

Now
what?

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.”

Of all the questions the disciples must have had, the one on their minds between the Ascension and Pentecost resonates best: I saw the crucifixion, I saw the risen Lord, I saw Him ascend into heaven, now what?

Pentecost was an annual event in Israel. It is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew word for the Festival of Weeks commemorating God’s giving of the Ten Commandments forty-nine days after the Exodus. It is also called the Festival of Reaping and Day of the First Fruits.

What beautiful imagery to answer the question of: What is next?

God chose this day to send forth the Holy Spirit to infuse us with His new and living Spirit. The Jews were commanded to count the days and weeks after the Exodus as an expression of their anticipation and desire for the giving of the Torah. We are no longer beholden to Torah Law as a teacher – pointing to all our wrong acts and thoughts, and prescribing a remedy, but are made strong, powerful, and free in the Spirit by our profession of faith and belief in Jesus. We have a different kind of longing, anticipation, and desire. The Spirit prompts us to declare our faith and then infuses us with His gifts changing us radically so that we only desire to live in Christ and live in His glorious kingdom.

What was next was that through the infusion of the Holy Spirit the entire world is offered this opportunity for freedom. No longer beholden, one would be free if they chose to follow the prompting of the Spirit. One could hear of Jesus through those Apostles, the sent, who have already been made strong, powerful, and free by the Spirit. They could not only hear, but join in and be made co-heirs in Jesus sharing fully in the Spirit’s gifts.

God chose this day because it was the day of reaping. Passover marked the end of the season of the grain harvest with the reaping of wheat in the Land of Israel. In ancient times, the grain harvest lasted seven weeks and was a season of gladness. It began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Passover.

The Spirit is given so every season will be a season of harvest. Jesus told us: “So ask the Lord who gives this harvest to send workers to harvest his crops.”

Two thousand years later the Spirit prompts us to go and reap and bring in the many. What now? Rejoice, live in Jesus, proclaim Him, and gather His harvest. The Holy Spirit is in us and with us for exactly this work.

Faith and
courage.

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: ‘Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me’

It is a pretty exclusive deal to belong to Jesus. It requires more than just showing up. It requires a leap of faith and active courage.

The leap of faith is to do what Thomas failed to do after Jesus rose from the dead. To say I believe in You Lord. I welcome you into my life. I am Yours first and foremost. I am sorry for the wrongs I have committed. I trust in You Lord.

Courage is required for that, and even more so to keep at it, to live it out in front of friends, family, and the rest of the world.

Jochebed was Moses’ mother. She was one of God’s chosen people and more importantly a godly woman who stood with God and or her faith with courage.

Jochebed lived in a totally hostile environment – a slave, under subjugation who was forced without mercy to do bitter work. In the face of that she did not allow herself to surrender to hopelessness.

We would think the last straw came when Pharaoh ordered the killing of all of Israel’s first-born male infants. For Jochebed, that included her son Moses. Resistance would mean her death or a life in prison at best. But as a godly woman she was determined to resist and counter the evil pressures of Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s government, and anyone who went along with Pharaoh’s plan. She refused to go with the flow. She refused to consider her own life, comfort, convenience or safety. She refused to bow.

Jochebed, fearing God more than man, made a decision that, though it put her in great jeopardy, proved to be the decision that saved her nation. By seeking to preserve Moses’ life she saved Israel’s future lawgiver and the leader of the Exodus. She gave Moses everything she could during those first few months and then gave him up when she couldn’t hide him anymore. Certainly, after placing him afloat in the Nile she figured she’d never see him again, but she entrusted her child’s life and hers’ into God’s hands. She acted in faith and with courage and received back more than what she gave.

It was a mother’s love, faith and courage that saved her child from a cruel death and preserved him to bless the world. All godly moms do that. They trust in God and leave a legacy of faith and courage so that the world will be blessed in us.

Let us remember the godly women in our lives and be thankful for their example of faith and courage. More than that, let us live up to that faith and courage, and Jesus’ prayer for us, by our very lives.

Still on the early newsletter streak – one day early once again.

Be satisfied with what you have.” Our moms didn’t want us to be jealous or covetous of others. Instead they wanted to focus us on our blessings – what we have – and most especially on all that God has done and has in store for us. Good lessons for life of course given out of love. Don’t chase after empty things – focus on what is really important: faith in God Who brings all things to perfection. With Him we have family, community, true knowledge, and our work is blessed even if the world doesn’t see it. The explicit promise in our being “satisfied with what you have” is God’s provision for us. God will reach to the last grain of sand and the remotest star to bless us. I will never run away from you He promises. During this month we consider the depth of God’s provision. Even if the entire world has abandoned us, even if our mom were to reject us, God remains at our side.

Also in our newsletter, great thanks for support of our annual Basket Social, reflections and family prayers for the Year of Reverence, Mother’s Day and a very full month of activities. Check out our Holy Mass for healing, bible study, and so much more…

You may view and download a copy of our May 2016 Newsletter right here.

Who is really
welcome?

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

Is the Holy Faith exclusive and unwelcoming? This is an important question and a challenge.
We know that Jesus sets forth what seems to be requirements for those who would follow Him, who would enter the kingdom. A lot of people think that makes up a list of requirements.

Let’s look at this a little deeper starting with an understanding of what requirements are. Going to the dictionary we find two ways of looking at the term: Requirement: a thing that is needed or wanted. Requirement: a thing that is compulsory or necessary.

Of course, if the Church were a social club we might have dues and membership requirements. If we were a sports club, we would have athletic skill requirements. If we were a music group, we would have talent requirements. We do not have any of those as Church.

Does the Church have things that are needed or wanted? Certainly, but that is not prerequisite. We do not screen based on needs or wants. Rather, we trust that whatever is wanted or needed will be provided. Does the Church have things that are compulsory? We might think baptism, the other sacraments, avoidance of sin. There too, they are not prerequisites. Rather, they are the means through which we grow deeper into relationship with God.

Requirements seem practical and organized. They seem to provide structure and can even be reassuring, but we would be very wrong in reducing God to a set of requirements: if you do x then you have a guaranteed ticket to heaven, paradise, etc.

Instead of requirements, Jesus spoke of love. Love changes our understanding. Love is never a response to requirements. Rather, love is a response to love. God didn’t wait for us to love him before He loved us. God’s love precedes and enables our love – He welcomes us. God then further responds to our love by entering into a unique, personal, intimate, affectionate, caring, and committed relationship welcoming those who respond to Him in love.

The thing to notice is that loving Jesus is not the same as keeping requirements (the Law as old Israel understood it). Love is an opening, a welcome. Love precedes and gives rise to a relationship that will last forever and out of which we seek to do what is asked of us: keeping the great commandment of loving God and each other. The call to feed, house, clothe, and visit.

For those who love and follow through on that love the promise awaits, the new, eternal and glorious heaven where we will live in love forever – totally welcome.

Living His
promises.

Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”

Christians are sometimes referred to as ‘People of the Promise.’ The Easter Season is a wonderful time to focus on what that means.

Throughout Old Testament history we hear the promises made to Israel’s leaders. God made specific promises to Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and Moses as well as others.

Abraham would have descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky. Jacob received a similar promise. Joseph had dreams that indicated his future ennoblement. He didn’t have direct assurance that it would happen, yet lived a life of patient endurance sustained by his belief in the promises of God made to his fathers. Even in the midst of struggles Joseph lived uprightly and he came to save his father, brothers, and his people. Moses received the promise of freedom in a land flowing with milk and honey.

These are but shadows and precursors to the ultimate promise that David would receive. God told him through the Prophet Nathan that his house and kingdom would endure forever and that his throne would be established forever.

In the coming of Jesus, the One who would did all in accord with His Father’s will we receive the finality of all of God’s promises. Jesus’ promises to us relate to the far future and to present life on earth. Some are conditioned upon our placing our faith in him and some on other conditions such as obedience, prayer, and humility.

John saw the promise of the kingdom, what it would really be like for the faithful. This isn’t a promise given to everyone, but to those who are the baptized faithful, the ones who stand strong in doing Jesus’ will. For those who, even in the struggle, keep their focus on God. We can rejoice in that promise. That beautiful kingdom, that New Jerusalem, is ours in the ages to come.

The key is to keep our eyes on the prize, on the promised Jerusalem (not the earthly one). Jesus left us with the command (one which can be a struggle). That is, we are to love one another as He loved us. It can be difficult at times, it can require will power and the courage to forgive – but in the end His promises are so well worth our effort.

Who is the
shepherd?

“It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.” The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord. All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region.

In the Old Testament Israel is at the center of the stage. Everything we read about is focused on Israel. There is a similar focus in the New Testament. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman, “Salvation is from the Jews.” As he sent out the seventy-two to spread the Gospel He told them “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Yet there are examples throughout both the Old and New Testament of salvation and glory coming to those who were outside Israel. In God’s kingdom all found welcome. Those examples were given through strangers and outsiders who encountered God’s people – Israel. As such, we see Israel as being key to God’s salvific work. Israel, the nation that came from the loins of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was to be the light to the world. It was meant to show the way toward God.

John saw the great multitude that is to surround God’s throne. People from every nation, race, people, and tongue will be with God forever. How does that come about?

Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” That is what He meant, that we have gifts and joy to share. Following Him does not mean that we remain mere sheep. As Israel was to step up and act as light and shepherd to the world – and fell short in doing so at Antioch – so we now have the chance and opportunity. Our destiny is laid out for us. Once we hear His voice, and allow it to touch us and change us, we follow in being His shepherds.

Jesus, of course, is our Chief Shepherd. He is the one we all follow. What we have to resolve to do is to be practical shepherds, spiritual leaders, and Christ following examples every day. We need to lead those who are lost and in need. We need to lead people to God, not by taking control from God, but by sharing His joy, the promise of eternal life.

In the Old Testament Israel was at the center of the stage. Someone still has to point people to God, has to offer them the gifts that we have been given. As New Testament people, people of the Gospel, let us be the ones to shepherd and spread His gifts around.

Witnessing to Jesus
without fear.

When the captain and the court officers had brought the apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name? Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.” The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them.

Last week we heard of John’s witness. His witness to new life in Jesus was recorded near the very end of the apostolic era. Today we see a glimpse into the beginning of that era.

The apostles had recently experienced the infusion of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. They never asked – What was that? The first thing they did was to stand on a balcony and proclaim the coming, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. They spent the weeks and months ahead preaching, not to gather followers, but to share the saving work of Jesus. They wanted everyone to know about God’s wonderful gift of freedom and Jesus’s glorious gift of friendship, the very same friendship He offered to them at the seashore. The apostles did not preach themselves as some sort of new leadership. They did not point to themselves as having anything to offer – they offered what they had – their witness to Jesus Christ crucified, raised, and ascended.

Today we will welcome Vincent John into the family of Christ. What we hope and pray is that in his life he will see each of us witness strongly to Jesus crucified, raised, and ascended. Hopefully, he will never see any one of us putting ourselves before the proclamation of Jesus. Hopefully, he will see and find in the Church his new and eternal family. Hopefully, he too will take up the mantle of witness so that his children and his children’s children will know Jesus as friend and savior – the One Who offers complete freedom.

Together with Vincent we have this great opportunity, but it comes with what might be seen as a problem… Jesus’ witnesses will not go without worldly assault. There is a cost to accepting Jesus. This arrest marks the third time they had been apprehended. Soon Stephen would be chosen, would proclaim and witness, would be arrested and would be martyred. The apostles’ greatest witness is that opportunity in Jesus is greater than any challenge. It is why they lived fearless lives.

Vincent, as we have all done, takes on the opportunity and challenge. His is the call to witness to the promise of God’s friendship and freedom, which is greater than any fear. That is the real glory isn’t it? The reward is that all of us have complete power and assurance in Christ. No fear in us because of Him. Ours is fearless life forever!

Witnessing to Jesus
without fear.

He touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.”

John, Jesus’ beloved Apostle, is exiled on a Greek island. He’d been cut off from His community. They tried to kill him repeatedly without success. If they couldn’t kill him, at least they could send him far away and shut him up. That didn’t work either. While on this far away rock Jesus comes to John. He gives him a command. Write what you see so that your witness will be preserved. The words of your mouth and the writing you undertake in my Holy Name cannot be silenced. To reinforce this Jesus showed up in the fullness of heavenly glory.

For nearly eighty years, John had traveled the world, proclaiming the saving action of Jesus. He met the resurrected Jesus on that awesome Sunday. That gave him more than just power and the ability to speak and write. It gave him the gift of joy. No matter where he would end up, no matter where he would go, he had Jesus – and a clear path to eternal life.

Many heard him. He wrote his witness and sent letters. Because of his witness some believed. They came to Jesus by faith. Many others walked away or outright rejected the message.

The question of Jesus has perplexed generations. Encountering and believing in Jesus was even difficult for the Apostles. The whole group thought that they had seen a ghost. Thomas couldn’t see it. To this day Jesus is accepted by few and rejected by many.

Jesus showed forth His power over nature, sickness, and death itself. His resurrection attests to His Divinity, and we embrace Him. Yet many are like a judge in a court who has heard an open-and-shut case and then reaches a verdict exactly opposite from the facts. Everything about Jesus was astounding, astonishing, humanly inexplicable, marvelous, superhuman, supernatural, and Divine. Many saw it all and still refused Jesus. Is it any wonder then that “Jesus marveled at their unbelief?” How can one be exposed to such an infinite number of convincing credentials and witnesses and walk away?

Like John we have the gift of faith and the power of Jesus in us. We have witnessed amazing things. Hearts and lives are changed, peace comes, healing is made real, and death is no more. The tomb is empty! Joy is ours. Jesus has changed our lives as He changed Thomas’. Like the Apostles, the sent, we have these great gifts and a heart to share them. Never fear witnessing to Him and all these amazing things. Rejection cannot overcome the joy we have. Let us remain steadfast and take Jesus’ word to heart: “Do not be afraid.”

Back on the early newsletter streak (at least one day early this time).

April and we are filled with Easter joy. But what happens when life becomes challenging, when we are confronted with something really serious and maybe even dangerous? Can we find joy there? This month we reflect on the lives of martyrs – and these aren’t just people who lived in ancient times. We have a host of new martyrs all over the world. Yet they stand strong and resolute. Not fearful, not shrinking away – but joyous because nothing the world does to them or takes from them is more valuable than the joy they have in Jesus. We have that same joy. Reflect, rediscover, and be joyous!

Also in our newsletter, important news on our annual Basket Social (note the new location), CONVO 2016, Kurs, national workshops, and ways to increase reverence in your current marriage.

You may view and download a copy of our April 2016 Newsletter right here.