Sunday, May 29, 2016

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 5, 2016

First Reading Commentary
In our life of serving God, we often do not understand why God allows things that seem hurtful or disastrous to us.  Certainly the death of a loved one is a time of extraordinary grief.  It is during these times that we are susceptible to think that God has abandoned us or perhaps is punishing us for some sin of our own doing. 

Saint Augustine says that the widow in this Reading is convinced that punishment presupposes an offense.  But like Lazarus, this son’s death was for the revelation of the greater glory of God.  Elijah’s tone exhibits complete confidence in God.  Elijah stretching out three times upon the child prefigures the Most Holy Trinity.  This stretching out also intimates cooperation with God by warming the child.  This posture also prefigures the condescension of Jesus in taking upon Himself our human nature in order to give us life.  It is in witnessing this miracle that the widow has a thorough conversion experience.

Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul writes about his former way of life as a Pharisee.  The Pharisees prided themselves for having great zeal for the ancient traditions.  Paul says that his zeal was above the norm, above that of his contemporaries.  This is a wonderful personality type to be granted from God the grace of conversion.  For as we all know, Paul took that great zeal of his and applied it to his conversion experience and led others to conversion and strengthened many in the Christian faith.  But Saint Paul tells us that his conversion did not come by the usual means: the grace of the Holy Spirit received through other human instruments.  No, his came through a revelation of Jesus Himself.  Such a revelation is perhaps why Paul did not immediately consult with the other apostles.  He spent three years proclaiming the word of God before consulting with Peter.  Paul was very confident because of our Lord’s direct revelation to him, and as Saint John Chrysostom tell us, it was out of respect for Saint Peter that he visited him.
Gospel Commentary
Nain is part of Galilee and is a couple of miles from Mount Tabor.  The Venerable Bede teaches us that it is no accident a large crowd is present to witness this remarkable miracle.  This clearly is the work of Divine Providence.  This deceased man is being carried out of the city because the burial places were out of the precincts of the city.  There was a multitude of people following this funeral procession and there was also a multitude following Jesus; and it was our Lord’s intention that they would meet together to witness what He was about to do. 

Jesus raises this man from the dead by His own power and by His own command: “Young man, I tell you, arise!”  There is only one Voice that can be heard by the dead, and that Voice is the Voice of God, as Jesus is One and the Same. 

Saint John’s Gospel tells us what Jesus said concerning this: “Amen, I say to you, the hour comes and now is, when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God; and they who hear shall live” (John 5:25).  Jesus, unlike Elijah in the First Reading, is the Voice which speaks to the dead.  Elijah is a voice who calls out for help to the One Who has the only Voice which the dead can hear. 

Unlike the dead, we hear many voices; and it is often the loudest or most persistent voices that get our attention.  Those voices, however, do not have the words of everlasting life.  For this reason time must be given to the interior life where the Voice of God speaks not to the ears but to the heart; not in shouts but in gentle whispers; not in deception but in love and truth.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - May 29, 2016

First Reading Commentary
King David, speaking under divine inspiration, proclaims Melchizedek’s priesthood as a type of that of the Messiah when he says: “You art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 109 [110]:4).  Saint Matthew’s Gospel assures us of David’s divine inspiration (cf. Matthew 22:43).  When taking into consideration the nationalistic exclusiveness of the ancient Hebrews, David’s statement is astounding and perhaps even scandalous because Melchizedek was not Hebrew. 
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews considers Melchizedek’s priesthood greater than that of Aaron (cf. Hebrews 7:1-11).  His sacrifice of bread and wine is a prefigurement of Christ’s Sacrifice.  At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the gifts of bread and wine.  The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ.  Thus in the offertory thanks is given to the Creator for bread and wine.  The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, a prefiguring of her own offering (cf. CCC 1333).
Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul says: “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.”  This may have been a revelation from Christ but for certain what he received was indirectly through the other apostles. 
“This is My Body that is for you.”  The best literal translation of this is: “This is My Body which is on your behalf.”  And then what follows is: “This is the new covenant in My Blood.”  The word “covenant” is from ancient Greek and literally means “contract” or “agreement”. 
Saint John Chrysostom points out that when Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist, if He meant it only to be a symbol, it would be a waste of time for Saint Paul to even mention it, since a symbol would not be critical for our salvation.  And since Saint Paul never seems to be one who wastes time, feels the need to write about this subject, as he obviously understood it as the Real Presence. 
“For as often as you eat this Bread and drink the Cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”  Saint Paul, by making this statement, delineates that the Mass and the Sacrifice on Calvary are connected.  The Council of Trent teaches us: “Christ, our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer Himself to God the Father by His death on the altar of the Cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption.  But because His Priesthood was not to end with His death, at the Last Supper He wanted to leave His beloved Spouse the Church a visible Sacrifice by which the bloody Sacrifice which He was to accomplish once for all on the Cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.”  To say that Our Lord’s Sacrifice is re-presented at each and every valid Mass, means that the Sacrifice is eternal, that is, ever-present.
Gospel Commentary
The feeding of five thousand men is the only miracle that is recorded in all four Gospels.  The Gospel writers obviously saw the symbolism intimated by Jesus which He would later make a reality when He instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. 
Before multiplying the loaves and fishes Jesus healed those who needed to be cured.  This may be foreshadowing the mandate to be cleansed and absolved of mortal sin before approaching the Blessed Sacrament. 
Jesus instructed His disciples to have the crowd sit in groups of fifty.  Since this seems like a formality, Our Lord was obviously teaching us something beyond the miracle itself.  Otherwise, why would the seating arrangements be all that important?  Most of the early Fathers agree that Christ is offering a meal to these five thousand men but He is also showing us that soon there would come the offering of not only a meal but THE MEAL: Christ’s most precious Body and Blood. 
Saint Thomas Aquinas writes: “Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in His Divinity, He assumed our nature in order that by becoming Man He might make men gods.  Moreover, when He took our flesh He dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation.  He offered His Body to God the Father on the altar of the Cross as a Sacrifice for our reconciliation.  He shed His Blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin.  But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us forever, He left His Body as Food and His Blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of Bread and Wine.”

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Most Holy Trinity - May 22, 2016

First Reading Commentary
It is Wisdom that proclaims this Reading to us.  God used Wisdom as the Master-builder in the creation of the universe.  Wisdom is also the infallible Source for the order which rules and governs the universe.  In this Reading, Wisdom presents itself as a Creature working alongside of God.  Actually, it is better to say that Wisdom is a Divine Being that existed before anything or anyone was ever created. 

There’s two ways to look at this.  First, Wisdom would seem to be intrinsic to God.  Secondly, however, Wisdom is also represented as something distinct from God and coming from Him.  Although this Reading doesn’t absolutely define Wisdom as a separate personality, it may be hinting at the truths that are to be revealed later: namely that God is more than one Divine Person.  This truth was revealed to us when Wisdom was made Incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ. 

This Reading closes with the words: “I found delight in the human race.”  When God created the universe He saw that everything was very good (cf. Genesis 1:31), but He delighted most in His own Image.  The human person alone is created in His Image.  We alone have understanding and a soul capable of virtue. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up this Reading with these words: “The revelation of creation is inseparable from the revelation and forging of the covenant of the One God with His people.  Creation is revealed as the first step towards this covenant, the first and universal witness to God’s all-powerful love” (CCC 288)

Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul quickly reminds us that we have peace with God; but this was not achieved by anything of our own doing.  This was made possible by the saving works of Christ.  To boast in the hope of the glory of God is to look forward to the glory that is to come: eternal life, everlasting happiness and the beatific vision.  Paul does warn us, however, that our hope will be tested in this life by afflictions; but as long as we cling to that hope, Saint Paul assures us that hope does not disappoint.  For this reason Paul exhorts us to rejoice not only in the hope of future glory but also during these times of tribulation because trials strengthen hope. 

Saint James teaches us: “Consider yourselves happy indeed, my brethren, when you encounter trials of every sort knowing well enough that the testing of faith breeds endurance” (James 1:3).  Hope is the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul that enters where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.  Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation.  It affords us joy even under trial (cf. CCC 1820). 

Finally, Dom Augustin Calmet encourages us with these words: “God, having showered upon us the blessings of faith, charity, patience and fidelity, we cannot but have the greatest confidence that after this pledge and assurance of His good will towards us, He will finish the work He has begun, and bring us to His heavenly Kingdom.”

Gospel Commentary
Jesus still has many things to teach His Church; more than could possibly be taught in the little time He had left with His apostles.  For this reason, Jesus promises the Spirit of Truth Who continues to this very day to guide the Church to all truth.  With all the worries and concerns we have in this life, determining whether or not the Church teaches the Truth should never be one of those concerns.  It must be so because Christ declares it; and if it weren’t so, the great Paraclete would have to relinquish His title as “the Spirit of Truth”. 

During his interrogation of Jesus, Pontius Pilate asked our Lord: “What is truth?”  Truth not only comes from our Lord but Truth is our Lord.  Today’s highly secularized culture would have us believe otherwise.  We can hold fast to the Truth through frequent meditation on Scripture, especially the Gospels, regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and listening to the truth as the Holy Spirit reveals it to the Church, mainly through the reading of papal encyclicals and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 

As the Son glorifies the Father, so the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son by revealing and teaching the commonality of the Father and the Son.  Jesus also reveals to us in this Gospel that the Son has the identical Nature of the Father and they are both One and the same God.  And by saying the words: “I told you that He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you” teaches us also that the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity proceeds from both the Father and the Son and that the Holy Spirit likewise possesses all of God’s perfections because He is equally along with the Father and the Son, One and the same God.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pentecost Sunday - May 15, 2016

First Reading Commentary
Shavuot, a Jewish festival mandated by the Law of Moses is the root of the Christian celebration of Pentecost.  Shavuot commemorates the day when on Mount Sinai the Torah was given to the Jewish people.  In Scripture it is called the "festival of weeks" (cf. Exodus 34:22 & Deuteronomy 16:10).  It is also labeled the "feast of the harvest" (cf. Exodus 23:16) and the "day of firstfruits" (cf. Numbers 28:26).  Pentecost or "Pentekoste," the transliterated word from the Greek, means "the fiftieth" and is linked to Shavuot because Pentecost arrives fifty days after Easter and Shavuot recalls the Torah being given on Mount Sinai fifty days after Israel's departure from the land of Egypt.  It is actually during Shavuot "when the time for Pentecost was fulfilled". 

Blessed Columba Marmion wrote: "The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of tongues of fire in order to fill the apostles with truth and to prepare them to bear witness to Jesus.  He also came to fill their hearts with love.  He is the Person of Love in the life of God. He is also like a breath, an aspiration of infinite Love, from which we draw the breath of life.  On the day of Pentecost the Divine Spirit communicated such an abundance of life to the whole Church that to symbolize it ‘there came a sound from heaven, as of a violent wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they [the apostles] were sitting.’  The Holy Spirit came to remain with the Church forever.  This is the promise of Jesus Himself.  He dwells in the Church permanently and unfailingly, performing in it without ceasing, His action of life-giving and sanctification.  He establishes the Church infallibly in the truth.  It is He Who makes the Church blossom forth with a marvelous supernatural fruitfulness, for He brings to life and full fruition in Virgins, Martyrs, Confessors, those heroic virtues which are one of the marks of true sanctity" (Les Mysteres du Rosaire). 

To expound a little on Blessed Columba's thoughts about the tongues of fire preparing the apostles to bear witness to Jesus, the image of tongues perhaps more specifically points to the power that would be prevalent in the apostles' preaching.  Also coming to mind is a statement made by Saint John the Baptist: "He [Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Luke 3:16). 

Our liturgical text reads that the tongues "parted" which means that before the parting they were together indicating the unity the Holy Spirit would give to the Church; and then by parting intimates the dispersion of the Good News to all nations and peoples.  The universality of the Church is revealed by the many nations and languages present and yet all understanding the proclamations "of the mighty acts of God". 

Acts 1:14 indicates that the Blessed Virgin Mary was present in the Upper Room.  If there was ever a time the ancient world needed a mother's assurance and love, this was it.  Jesus is no longer physically present to the apostles.  It was surely a stressful time; but they were all "persevering with one mind in prayer" (Acts 1:14).  Perhaps it was the Blessed Virgin Mary who opened their hearts to prayer.  She did, after all, exemplify trust in God at the Annunciation: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). 

Saint John Paul II shared these words: "In the atmosphere of expectation that prevailed in the Upper Room after the Ascension, what was Mary's position in relation to the descent of the Holy Spirit?  Having already had a unique experience of the effectiveness of such a gift, the Blessed Virgin was in a condition to appreciate it more than anyone; indeed, she owed her Motherhood to the mysterious intervention of the Spirit, Who had made her the way by which the Savior came into the world.  Unlike those in the Upper Room who were waiting in fearful expectation, she, fully aware of the importance of her Son's promise to the disciples, helped the community to be well disposed to the coming of the Paraclete.  Thus, while her unique experience made her ardently long for the Spirit's coming, it also involved her in preparing the minds and hearts of those around her.  It was appropriate that the first outpouring of the Spirit upon her, which had happened in view of her divine Motherhood, should be repeated and reinforced.  Indeed, at the foot of the Cross Mary was entrusted with a new Motherhood, which concerned Jesus' disciples.  It was precisely this mission that demanded a renewed gift of the Spirit. The Blessed Virgin therefore wanted it for the fruitfulness of her spiritual Motherhood.  While at the moment of the Incarnation the Holy Spirit had descended upon her as a person called to take part worthily in the great mystery, everything is now accomplished for the sake of the Church, whose Image, Model and Mother Mary is called to be.  Thus Pentecost is also a fruit of the Blessed Virgin's incessant prayer, which is accepted by the Paraclete with special favor because it is an expression of her Motherly love for the Lord's disciples.  Responding to the prayer of the Blessed Virgin and the community gathered in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit bestows the fullness of His gifts on the Blessed Virgin and those present, working a deep transformation in them for the sake of spreading the Good News.  The Mother of Christ and His disciples are granted new strength and new apostolic energy for the Church's growth" (L'Osservatore Romano, June 4, 1997).

Second Reading Commentary
What Saint Paul is trying to impress upon us is that "different kinds of spiritual gifts" or "different forms of service" or "different workings" should not cause division.  We are a great diversity of people called to unity. 

The physical body and its "many parts" is useful imagery for trying to understand the Mystical Body.  Saint Paul uses the word "different" three times in this short Reading.  We are all different – in fact, we are all unique.  No two people are exactly the same.  God produces spiritual gifts in each of us and calls us to service for the sake of the entire Mystical Body. 

Saint Ambrose very directly taught: "Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's Presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with His sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed His pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts" (De Mysteriis).  The need to guard anything suggests that it could escape or be taken away. 

Our Savior tells us that whosoever shall drink of the water which He gives, it shall become a well of water springing up unto everlasting life (cf. John 4:14).  Saint Paul tells us in the Reading that this drink is the Spirit.  Once again, Saint Ambrose continues with that thought and adds: "This well is clearly the grace of the Spirit, a stream proceeding from the living Fount. The Holy Spirit, then, is also the Fount of eternal life" (ibid.).

Gospel Commentary
Our Lord's appearance through locked doors might seem like forced entry and thus incompatible with Love.  But God knows our hearts, therefore, our Savior not only loves with a boundless love all those who are on the other side of the door, but He also knows that they love Him and it is out of fear that the doors are locked. 

In the spiritual life perhaps there are aspects of it in which we have locked the doors of our hearts.  Sacramentally, here are some common things that are said: "I can't go to Confession and tell Father what I have done – what will he think of me?"  Or, "The priest is just a man, what do I need him for?  Can't I just go directly to God?!" 

Back in 1947 there was a rather humorous movie titled: "Life with Father".  The film centers on a turn of the century upper class family in New York.  The eccentric husband and his wife are the parents of five sons.  It is discovered early on in the film that the father had never been baptized.  From that point on his family keeps gnawing at him to get baptized even though he is dead set against it.  In the end when he finally agrees or actually is kind of tricked into it, as the mother gathers up her five children in order for the family to hop on a horse and carriage and head off to church to get their father baptized, the father asks somewhat angrily, "Must the children witness this indignity?"  The sacraments were instituted by our Savior; and as far as entertaining thoughts of: "There must be another way," only Jesus knows.  Even the father in the film in his wishful thinking boldly said: "They can't keep me out of heaven on a technicality!"  All we know by means of Scripture and Tradition is how Jesus architected the dispersing of grace and our Lord's specific design for reconciliation is revealed in this Gospel: "Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." 

When adult baptism is seen as undignified or the many excuses that arise for avoiding Confession, perhaps it is a sign that there are hearts with locked doors.  And it doesn't mean that God is loved less because of our excuses or fears of embarrassment or the fear of emptying ourselves to a priest.  The more attention that one gives to the spiritual life, the more one realizes that we're all in a war zone.  The battle for the human soul is waged all around us nonstop.  The third chapter of the Book of Genesis tells us that the serpent is the craftiest of all; and original sin has already inflicted us with a disease that is adamant about being in control of everything ourselves.  Knowing that, it's quite convenient for the serpent to bombard us with the thought of: "Did God really say…?" (Genesis 3:1). 

Jesus touches us through His Holy Spirit and challenges us to meditate on "His Hands and His Side".  This is Almighty God Who stands before us with these Wounds.  From a human perspective, shouldn't our Lord feel undignified or embarrassed?  A deep absorption into these Wounds, however, will undoubtedly disclose that love is the reason for them – and love conquers all.  In this Gospel the apostles get that.  Don't forget they love Him too as we love Him; and what should have been a room full of uncomfortable looking faces staring at this marred Man, instead there was rejoicing.  Since they love Jesus, if the doors of their hearts locked Him out because of the shame of abandoning Him, Jesus, because there is mutual love, is able by His Divine Power to go through those locked doors.  In our own fears of embarrassment, shame, mockery or just the struggle to surrender our will to God, all of which can make fulfilling the mission of being sent an obstacle, as long as Jesus is loved, He will in His own time appear through those locked doors.  If we're willing to keep fighting the good fight in this life full of distractions and temptations, the day will come when we will close our eyes to this world and finally gaze upon the Face we have been seeking our whole life and He may say: "Peace be with you."  And then what will follow is an undeniable assurance that this Peace will remain with us uninterrupted for all eternity.  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ascension of the Lord - May 5, or May 8, 2016

First Reading Commentary
Saint Luke is the author of the Acts of the Apostles; and so, when he begins this book with the words, "In the first book," he is referring to the Gospel of Luke. 

Theophilus is probably someone that Luke knew personally but the name "Theophilus" means, "friend of God" or "one who loves God" which may indicate someone of honor or who was held in high esteem. Such a title, however, could be given to any devout person which may very well indicate Luke's intention of having this book read by all the faithful.  In Luke's Gospel, he "dealt with all that Jesus did and taught."  And at the conclusion of his Gospel he mentions our Savior's Ascension (cf. Luke 24:51) which means that the Ascension of our Lord in the Acts of the Apostles is not breaking news.  Theophilus and the rest of Luke's readers are already aware of this phenomenal event.  Saint Luke concludes the first sentence of this Reading with the words "He [Jesus] was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen."  It's a rather mysterious statement and no one knows with any certainty what he meant.  The most accepted explanation among scholars is that Christ formed the Church and He set up a governing authority to run His Church; and the decisions that would be made by the governing authority would be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, the apostles, the governing authority of Christ's Church, were somehow, by means that only God can explain, given the grace and experience of the Holy Spirit's guidance upon them even before our Redeemer's departure.  Regrettably, some English translations avoid the difficulty of this verse by suggesting that our Lord's instructions to the apostles through the Holy Spirit followed His Ascension.  While that may be more intelligible, it is, however, unfaithful to the Greek text. 

Our Lord's appearance to a relatively small amount of people after His Resurrection has always raised red flags among skeptics.  It's moments like these that great credence must be given to the Catholic teaching that Scripture and Tradition are the rule of faith – and not Scripture alone.  For example, there's no mention in Scripture of Jesus ever appearing to His Blessed Mother.  To entertain such a thought as being true would be ridiculous.  There is, however, a tradition in the Church which states that Jesus not only appeared to her, but she was first on the list.  Perhaps the Evangelists were protecting her, plus any written testimony involving her about her own Son's miraculous Resurrection would likely rouse even more suspicion for the skeptics.  Scripturally, Jesus did not make His Resurrected Presence known to the masses although Saint Paul does record that Jesus was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:6).  One could only speculate on the reason(s) why Jesus chose not to make His Presence known to larger crowds; and speculate, many scholars have done throughout the centuries. 

The third sentence of this Reading begins with the words: "While meeting with them."  The exact meaning of the Greek words is a bit hazy.  Our liturgical text's translation is more in common with the classical or Hellenistic Greek; but when Saint Jerome was translating the Scriptural texts into Latin he chose the Latin word "convescens" which indicates that Jesus was "eating" with His apostles.  This very different rendering of the Greek actually predates Saint Jerome in the West and may go back as far as the second century.  This interpretation made its way to the East in the third century and is present in the writings of Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius and Theophylactus.  The baptism with the Holy Spirit of which our Lord speaks is a reference to Pentecost. 

The spiritual life is a tremendous battle even to those who walked, ate and were taught by Jesus; and the question to our Savior about restoring the kingdom to Israel clearly shows a belief in the expectation of a temporal kingdom.  It also is indicative of humanity's comfort zone with the physical life – trusting more in what can be perceived with the physical senses.  In our own weakness perhaps we can find comfort at the expense of the apostles who were not always on the same page as Jesus but, nevertheless, loved infinitely by Him.  Jesus gives the apostles their spiritual mission of being His witnesses.  Interestingly, the Greek word "martus" is used which does mean "witness" but analogically it also means "martyr" which most of the apostles literally were.  Certainly our Lord's call to be witnesses "to the ends of the earth" is not strictly limited to the apostles.  The Church is very aware of this which is why she calls every Catholic to the mission of evangelization. 

When Jesus began His Ascension, eventually a cloud took Him from the sight of the apostles.  Here we are today with our physical eyes still looking at the cloud – the guise of bread and wine which hides our Lord's true appearance. 

Saint Cyril of Alexandria, in his second letter to the Corinthians, writes about how those who possess the Spirit are rich in hope of the resurrection.  He even goes on to write that possessing the Spirit means being immune from the corruption of the flesh.  That sounds like a bold statement but what he is really talking about is not being confined to the physical world with all its corruption and its obstacles. 

In a homily by Pope Saint Leo the Great he says so beautifully that the day of Christ's Ascension is when our poor human nature was raised up beyond the highest heavenly powers to the very Throne of God the Father (cf. Sermo II de Ascensione).  The Holy Spirit instructs us in the Letter to the Hebrews to lay aside every weight and sin surrounding us and run patiently to the fight proposed to us but always keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus (cf. Hebrews 12:1-2).  What this Scripture text and these saintly men of God cited previously are speaking of is a deep spirituality - and one that every Christian ought to pursue.  How sad it is that Catholics can go through life and never pierce through the cloud – never are able to experience an intimate union with Jesus even after many years of receiving Him in the Eucharist.  If only showing up for Mass on Sunday within itself constituted a deep, transforming prayer life - but it doesn't.  If only showing up at Mass just in the nick of time or even late without any preparation time spent at the Master's Feet would be sufficient to have an intense encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist – but it isn't.  If only a passionate love affair meant that only one Person needs to be truly in love and make all the sacrifices – but it doesn't.  Being in love and desiring a close union with our Savior means trying to pass through the cloud and follow Him daily.  It was deep prayer, silence, and a strong devotion to Saint Joseph that kept Blessed Andre Bessette in Eucharistic Adoration for hours upon hours and he would sometimes need to be retrieved by his brothers in order to fulfill his daily duties with his religious community.  Obviously Blessed Andre was able to see beyond the cloud or the veil of bread and truly know what it means to love and experience Divine Love.  Saint Leo, in the aforementioned homily, said that the visible Presence of our Redeemer has passed over into the sacraments.  Indeed, but surely it is not the desire of our Lord to never again be perceived or experienced in an invigorating manner.  Our spiritual selves are called upon to gaze at the God we cannot physically see.  This requires passing through the cloud, pushing aside the clutter of life and all that weighs heavily upon us. 

Saint Augustine said: "Hodie Dominus noster Iesus Christus ascendit in cælum; ascendat cum illo cor nostrum"  - "Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with Him" (Sermo de Ascensione Domini).  If our hearts are to ascend beyond the cloud to an intimate meeting with Jesus in the liturgy, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, offered this gem when he wrote: "Only within the breathing space of Adoration can the Eucharistic celebration indeed be alive. . . Communion and Adoration do not stand side by side, or even in opposition, but are indivisibly one."  When the gaze is heavenward, the soul will ascend toward heavenly things.  For Jesus said that He will draw all things to Himself (cf. John 12:32).
Second Reading Commentary
Saint James elaborates on the fruits of wisdom: "The wisdom that is from above, first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation" (James 3:17).  Anyone having such qualities surely possesses a most blessed knowledge of the Lord. 

The eyes of the heart portion of this Reading points to something similar to what was covered in the First Reading: exercising the spiritual life and coming to the knowledge of the glory that awaits us by keeping our gaze fixed on the prize and being in awe of the greatness of Almighty God.  This is a deep absorption in prayer which many of the saints have attested leads to a wonderful closeness with our Lord.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that "by prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom" (CCC 2632). 

This can be a difficult Reading to follow because much is covered in a lengthy sentence.  Think of it as a blessing - something you would bow your head to as these words are being prayed over you.  It's mind boggling that in this vast universe each and every one of us is crucial.  Jesus in His humility willed that He would be incomplete without His Mystical Body.  Humanity has been raised up higher than all of God's earthly creation to be participants in Christ's work of redemption.

Gospel Commentary
This is the conclusion of Saint Luke's Gospel in which he very quickly summarizes the death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Since this is a quick summary, it may indicate that Saint Luke had every intention of returning to this subject, which of course he did in the Acts of the Apostles. 

The text seems to reveal that the forgiveness of sins in Christ's Name was first to be preached to the Jews and then to all other nations.  The apostles and their successors carry out this ministry of reconciliation, not only by announcing God's forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith, but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism (cf. CCC 981). 

Saint John Chrysostom expresses great joy as he writes: “What a glory this is for us!  Our Head is clothed with everlasting glory; so shall we, His members, receive a share in His eternal Kingdom.