The Church Enlivened

In these past few weeks we have just celebrated three important solemnities of our Holy Church: The Solemnity of Pentecost on May 31, the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity on June 7 and the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ) on June 14.  These Solemnities together allow us to reflect on some important aspects of what we are to be as the Church of God and how then we can be living our lives as better, more dedicated and faithful Catholic Christians.

We oftentimes refer to the Solemnity of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church.  As we reflect on the reading for that Sunday from the Acts of the Apostles we can see how the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Apostles caused a drastic change in them.  The reading from the Acts of the Apostles begins with “they were all together in one place.” (Acts 2:1)  We must remember that they were hiding themselves away out of fear.  Some of their fear was certainly removed after encountering the Risen Christ, but somehow things were not yet complete.  We now know with hindsight that the presence of the Spirit of God was needed in their lives to drastically change them, draw them out of this fear and let the work of the Church begin.  Although the reading from Acts does not specifically say so, we know that once they received the Holy Spirit, they went out into the streets and began to preach “about God’s deeds of power.” (Acts 2:11)  They did so in a variety of languages that many others could understand.

With some reflection on this scene of the Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit, we know that we too have been the recipients of that same Spirit, through our Baptism and Confirmation, through our life of prayer and the reading of Scripture, and through our joining together into one Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit is being poured out upon us.  As St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)  And while we may not be able to proclaim the wonderful works of God’s in various languages as the Apostles miraculously did, there are certainly ways in which this action hits home for us.  Each and every one of us has certain groups within which we live and move and work.  They might begin with our own individual families; but there are others as well: the group of people that we work with; others who might share an interest with us; the group of friends that we meet at the gym every week, and many others that each individual can think of.  We can think of each of these groups as having their own “language,” in terms of what sort of things they do together and what sort of things they enjoy.  It is here that we, as disciples of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, are called to bring the message of Christ to others, speaking the “language” that they do, and showing them that Christ can be known there.

And we may then turn our attention to what exactly that message should be.  It is here that we look to the teaching of the next Solemnities.  During the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity this year we read from the Gospel of John which speaks of the love of God.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17)  This is the message that we, as Catholic Christians, must be living and putting into action within our lives.  I know that many of you have probably seen those signs that were once popular at sporting events that just read, “John 3:16.”  We have here the teaching of John 3:16.  And probably more important than putting it on a sign is putting it within our hearts.  In fact if we think back to the quote above we remember that this love of God, shown in the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ, has now been poured into our hearts through the sending of the Holy Spirit. 

And as Catholic Christians we are called to show forth this love of God, to all of the others we come into contact with, by uniting ourselves to Jesus Christ and then openly following His way in the world.  As disciples we are to pattern our own lives on that of Jesus.  This is mentioned in the Preamble to the Constitution of the Polish National Catholic Church: “The most fervent desire and prayer of this Church is to emulate Jesus Christ in fulfilling obligations toward God, family, nation and society.”  As we said above this is to speak, in a variety of ways or “languages,” to these groups showing them the love of God through the person of Jesus Christ.

Lastly we may ask ourselves, how then can we grow closer to Jesus and follow His way, especially when we see that so much of the world today seeks to draw us away from it?  This point brings us to reflect on the third of the Solemnities, that of Corpus Christi.  Within this Solemnity we focus our attention on the Holy Eucharist and how that relationship and connection to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ allows us to grow closer to Him and pattern our lives on His.  When we receive Holy Communion, we unite ourselves with Jesus by receiving His Body and Blood.  We take unto ourselves all that He is and pray that it will be reflected in our own lives as well.  Our Lord said “My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink.  Those who eat My flesh and drink My blood abide in Me and I in him.” (John 6:55-56)  We are sustained by the presence, the example and the very life of Jesus and through this Holy Communion, Jesus abides with us and we with Him.  We become more and more like Jesus, ever stronger disciples, ever stronger witnesses to His way in the world, and ever stronger examples of His love for all people.

We see that these three Solemnities allow us to become better, more active and stronger Catholic Christians as they point the way for us to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in the world today.  This is important for us to remember both as we are now entering into the time of the Church in our liturgical seasons.  The season of Ordinary Time, where green vestments are worn, is the liturgical season where we take our strong belief in the Holy Trinity and strengthening ourselves with the Eucharist to then work to make ourselves better and stronger disciples of Jesus by following His way.  During these Sundays we will be following the teachings, the miracles and the healings of Jesus and through them we seek to live and share those teachings, to do great and wonderful things for others and to be people who bring healing to ourselves and to our communities.

It is also important that we keep all of this in mind as we are returning to our corporate worship after many weeks of quarantine and having to be separated.  I hope that during this time apart we have been able to reflect on at least a few aspects of what we are as the Body of Christ, the Church.  First and foremost, I pray that we understand the vital nature of our time together in worship and our gathering to worship Almighty God and receive our Lord in Holy Communion.  As we are now returning to these things we see how much we have truly missed them and how very important they are in our lives.  But I also hope that we have seen that our religious and spiritual life also does not end following that hour of worship and the reception of the Holy Eucharist.  During these past many weeks, I have seen truly miraculous, good and holy things happen within our Church throughout the country.  I have seen our communities of faith come together to help those who are in need, both within the parishes and for the wider community.  I have seen many individuals reach out in acts of loving kindness for those who needed some encouragement or comfort.  I have seen our pastors find new and wonderful ways to preach the Word of God and do the work of ministry for their parishioners and for our entire Church.

But then I ask myself the question, if we can do all of these great things while separated and during quarantine, can’t we do much greater things now that we are back together and fully living out the mission of the Church?  I know that we can.  We can take all of the great ministries, teachings and good works that were done for several weeks and continue this work.  Sure, it might not be exactly the same as it was during quarantine, but it doesn’t need to be.  It might in fact be something even stronger, even better, because now the Church is once again worshiping and acting together.

My brothers and sisters, members of our Holy Church, we have just come through this time of the Solemnities and through this time of quarantine, and we have done so full of faith and in the knowledge of Christ, His love, His way and His work.  Let’s not allow any of this to diminish in the weeks and the months to come.  Let us instead, be the Church that goes forth as the Apostles did to spread the message of the love of God.  Let us instead, remain strong in our belief in the Holy Trinity, as we acknowledge the God, Who created us, Who loves us and Who continues to sanctify us.  Let us instead, unite ourselves in the Holy Eucharist and in prayer, to grow ever closer to Jesus and accomplish His work in our world, building up the Kingdom of God.  We can certainly do these great things, because Jesus has promised us that He will be with us always, until the end of the age.

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