This week, as we continue our examination of the seven Sacraments, we will take a closer look at the Sacrament of Confirmation.
The Catechism places Confirmation after Baptism because this Sacrament is the completion of the graces received at Baptism. “For ‘by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed’” (CCC #1285). So, the graces received at baptism are fortified by the graces received in Confirmation in order to strengthen the faithful in their call to evangelize and defend the Faith.
Confirmation was instituted by Christ Himself and uses physical means to communicate heavenly realities, which, if you recall from last week, are the two defining components of a sacrament. Jesus promised an outpouring of the Holy Spirit many times to His disciples. These promises came to their fulfillment on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended upon the upper room and empowered the Apostles to go out and proclaim to the thousands gathered “the mighty works of God” in their own languages. Then those who were converted also received the gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC #1286). Further, there are three New Testament scriptural references (Acts 8:15-17, Acts 19:5-6, Hebrews 6:2) in which the Apostles apply the laying on of hands – imparting the gifts of the Spirit – after Baptism. This illustrates that the teaching they received from Jesus was to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation following Baptism, in order to complete and fulfill the baptismal graces (CCC #1288). The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, thereby, go hand in hand.READ MORE
Today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I will take this opportunity to begin a six-part series on the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, beginning with Baptism and combining Marriage and Holy Orders later.
Let’s begin with the technical definition of a sacrament found in the glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “an efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit.” Another way of understanding the sacraments is to think of them as methods by which Jesus gifted us an opportunity to participate in the divine life through material and earthly things, and by which we receive actual graces according to the particular sacrament. Because we are physical and spiritual beings, God communicates heavenly realities to us by way of visible creation. “As a being at once body and spirit, man expresses and perceives spiritual realities through physical signs and symbols. As a social being, man needs signs and symbols to communicate with others, through language, gestures, and actions. The same holds true for his relationship with God” (CCC #1146). In simple terms, God comes down to our level in the sacraments and speaks to us in our own human means of communication.READ MORE
Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, which is the day the Magi finally arrived to worship the child, Jesus. During Advent we discussed the Magi and their importance as a representation of Jesus coming to save the entire world and not just a select few. This week, I would like to focus on the actual journey the Magi embarked upon to find Him and how we all imitate that journey as we continually seek out Jesus in our own lives.
The first point to make is that, in order to set out on a journey toward Jesus, we have to make a choice. The Magi first engaged their intellects to examine the evidence available to them, particularly the Nativity Star, and then engaged their wills to set out to see where that evidence would lead them. While it is possible to set out on some journeys with no rhyme nor reason other than seeing where the wind takes you, it cannot be so on a journey to Jesus. The Magi had a goal – an end – and they made a decision to set out and reach that end. We are called to emulate the Magi in this sense. We are called to see the things around us that point us to Jesus, evaluate them, and make a conscious decision to use those things to lead us on a journey with a concrete, ultimate end: heaven.
Now, just because the Magi had an end point to their journey, it does not mean that they had a direct, straight, and uninhibited path to the end. If it was easy and direct, it might be considered a stroll. However, the word journey tends to evoke images of hills, valleys, road construction, detours, losing one’s way, faulty GPS, running out of snacks, and vehicle trouble. Of course, the Magi did not have to suffer through many of the modern inconveniences I mentioned, but they certainly had their fair share of difficulty, as something is always bound to go awry if one travels for any significant length of distance to reach an end. To embark upon a journey implies taking on some risks. Psalm 121 is often referred to as the traveler’s psalm and calls to mind some of this risk, but also reminds us from where our strength comes as we endure what lies between us and our goal. Psalm 121 begins, “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Right away, the speaker sees the obstacles right in front of him, the hills, but keeps his eyes on the top, the goal. He does not look at the certain arduousness of the coming journey, beginning at the base of the hills. Rather, he affixes his gaze upon the goal and recognizes from where his strength and help will come, which is God.READ MORE
Today, as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, we will take a look at the gift God has given us in our own families and how they are reflections of God’s love and inner life.
In 2018, our very own Bishop Olmsted wrote a letter to his flock called, Complete my Joy: An Apostolic Exhortation to the Husbands and Wives, Mothers and Fathers of the Diocese of Phoenix. He wanted to highlight the unique role the family unit has in God’s redemptive plan and to offer us encouragement in our family vacations. Due to the nature of family life, which is rooted in love and communal life, he posited that “Family is likely where we will feel the deepest joys as well as the deepest pain.” (#2). Whatever ups and downs we experience in our family life, they can all be used for our ultimate good and contribute to our own personal healing and the mission of our family in the world overall.
The first point to make is that families are a reflection of the Divine Trinity. God is three persons in one God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This a communal union that exists only in perfect love as the three persons give and receive continual love between one another. Humans were made in the image and likeness of God and were therefore created for love. We are meant to love and be loved and our love produces fruit, both in the procreative act of bringing about children and by the light our love puts out into the world as it reveals God’s love. “As the concrete image of God to the world, every family – your family – is, by its nature, a communion of love and life.” (#10).READ MORE
As we enter the fourth week of Advent, we will look at the final group of people called to adore the infant Christ, the magi. There is a lot of mystery surrounding the magi. Who they were, where they came from, and what their belief system was, is not explicitly explained in Scripture or taught by the Magisterium. In the Acts of the Apostles, there is a reference to a magus (the Latin singular of magi) named, Simon, who was a practitioner of magic. However, this could apply to many cultures and philosophical belief systems. There isn’t even a clear indication of how many there were, but early Church fathers say three, which is likely influenced by the three gifts Jesus received – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Tradition gives them the names Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.
Despite all the mystery surrounding the magi, we don’t need any more information about them than what we have, to understand who and what they represent in the context of coming to adore Jesus as the Savior of the World. Matthew tells us they were “wise” and when they saw the star announcing His birth, they followed it to go and worship Him (Mt. 2:1-2). In Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict XVI tells us what it means to be a wise man who sets out to find Jesus. To be wise is to seek TRUTH – truth in philosophy, truth in science, and truth in religion. It is to step out of your own narrow perspective of truth as you have defined or accepted it and to seek truth as it actually is. To be wise is to seek the fullness of truth and understanding. Benedict also states that the magi would not have set out to seek Jesus had they not been a “people of inner unrest, people of hope, people on the lookout for the true star of salvation.” In other words, had they been satisfied with their own idea of truth and spiritual practices, they would have had no inner pull or desire to seek out the Newborn King. Think of all the people in your life who always seem to be seeking more. The Catechism affirms this, telling us, “The desire of God is written in the human heart because man is created by God and for God, and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” (CCC #27). In other words, the soul is wired to seek out the truth and will never truly rest until it rests in God. The magi were wise, in that they were willing to humble themselves to receive and adore the real truth, as opposed to continuing to seek it in things that contained but a sliver of truth.READ MORE
This week we will look at the third group that was invited to come adore the infant Jesus in the flesh – the shepherds. The angels, who had already existed in a state of perpetual adoration of God, rushed out to joyfully proclaim the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in the fields. I find that the shepherds are the most easily relatable characters in the nativity story, in terms of their coming to adore Jesus. Sometimes it can be more difficult to identify with Mary, Joseph, and the angels because they were all fittingly endowed with spiritual gifts that the rest of us simply are not. However, the shepherds, the simple workers in the field, are more representative of us ordinary human beings.READ MORE
Last week, we reflected on what it meant for Jesus’ parents to adore Him, not only as their Son, but also as their Lord, and how we are invited into that intimate familial love and adoration of Jesus. This week we’ll look at what it means to adore Jesus from the perspective of another group of beings, the angels. Earlier this year I wrote a piece about the nine choirs of angels and their various roles in the adoration of God and their service in growing His kingdom. If you missed that catechesis and would like an in-depth look at angels, you can find it on our parish website blog, dated June 28, 2020. For this reflection, however, it is enough to know that angels have deep knowledge and understanding of who God is, and as a result, remain in constant adoration of God.
Our guardian angels have been working our entire lives to helping guide us toward God and away from the temptation of sin – whether we listen or not! Imagine their rejoicing when the time came for the Savior of the World to be born in human flesh as the antidote to our ongoing corruption. For all of the time, they have had direct knowledge of the goodness of God, and now, we too could have a heightened and more advanced knowledge of that goodness as well. The honor given to St. Gabriel the Archangel to announce to Mary that she would conceive and bear God’s Son must have been a completely humbling experience, but more importantly, it was an act of adoration through obedience. You see, St. Gabriel adores God so deeply, that it would compel him from the very depths of his being to agree to announce the coming of Jesus to the people of the world so that they could adore Him as he does. We can imitate St. Gabriel and understand that our obedience to God’s will is an act of adoration and that by adoring Him through our words and actions, we are announcing His ever-presence in our world.
On the night of Jesus’ birth, there were also the angels who announced it to the shepherds in the field (more on the shepherds next week). Read this verse from Luke, Chapter 2, and try to imagine the scene:READ MORE