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The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, c. 1512
Transcription of Homily
Translation of the Epistle for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.
Dearly beloved, every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration. For of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be some beginning of his creatures. You know, my dearest brethren. And let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger. For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God. Wherefore casting away all uncleanness, and abundance of naughtiness, with meekness receive the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
Continuation of the Holy Gospel According to St. John.
At that time Jesus said to His disciples: I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: Whither goest thou? But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart. But I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment. Of sin: because they believed not in me. And of justice: because I go to the Father; and you shall see me no longer. And of judgment: because the prince of this world is already judged. I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall show you. He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shall show it to you.
The saving words of the Gospel.
But you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth.
In the name of the Father and the Son, Holy Ghost. Amen.
We began this Mass with the introit Cantate Domino canticum novum; Sing to the Lord a new song, I believe it’s Psalm 79 [Ps 96 (LXX 95)]. St. Augustine says that whenever the Psalmist refers to the new song, he’s speaking about the life of grace, the new creature that we become through the infusion of grace in baptism, which is lost through sin and regained through Confession. James refers to being new creatures in his Letter that we heard today. Also, James speaks about gifts. When you read James’s letter, it’s a wonderful gem of spirituality, the gift is Christ. The gift is Christ. He is the gift of the Father to us.
And that, in a certain sense, is an interpretive key for what our Lord is saying in the Last Supper Discourse in which He speaks about His departure and the imminent coming of the Holy Spirit. I have to go or the Paraclete… Paraclete that’s a legal term; advocate, somebody who stands by you, somebody who intercedes for you or speaks for you. If I don’t go He can’t come. And of course, they don’t understand what He’s meaning. They don’t understand where this is going. And, as the Lord recognizes, it causes them no little sorrow. And, nonetheless, this sorrow does not have the last word because they don’t understand what He means. They don’t understand much of anything that He said or done yet.
And we see this as a repetition. It’s almost like a refrain in the Gospels before Pentecost. Our Lord says something and it’s a revelation for the Apostles, but they don’t quite catch everything, and they don’t understand it in this context, or they’ll see a miracle it says, and then they believe, but how many times do they believe. It’s like each time it’s being renewed it’s being deepened. It seems to be weakening and then growing again. There are all of this fluctuation, this instability, so to say, a spiritual emotional psychological instability. Why? Because the Holy Spirit hasn’t come yet.
And so, they’re seeing the sacred humanity of our Lord. They’re seeing what He does. They’re hearing what He says and they’re about to lose Him. He says that, and there’s sorrow, and then, you can imagine, there must have been a tremendous grief. That even in light of the Resurrection, between the Ascension and Pentecost, that first novena, there must have been some real grief and sorrow; missing our Lord tremendously. And then, what happens? The Spirit of Truth comes. The Spirit of Truth.
So what’s happened?
Now, as a result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, our Lord’s presence is much more prominent than it was when He walked the earth in His sacred humanity. Our Lord now takes up residence in the souls of His followers through the life of grace and this is the new song. This is being made a new creature.
He’s called the Spirit of Truth. Truth is a precious commodity. In Greek, the word is ἀλήθεια. You know in Greek when a word often begins with ἄ, álfa. It’s often a prefix, a negative prefix. So it means not. So, in your Greek Mythology, you probably read about the River Lethe, one of the five rivers in the Underworld, right, that surround Hades. And the River Lethe is the river of oblivion, of forgetfulness. If you were to drink of that river, well, goodbye memory. Well, ἀλήθεια, that means it’s not forgotten, it’s not uncovered, it’s not disclosed. The truth is something that manifests itself of itself. It’s not something that a parliament of men vote on and determine. There are things that simply are. That is the true. It was true, it is true, it will always be true. It’s manifest like a mountainside. It just imposes itself on the landscape. That is what is true. And nonetheless, the truth is not a fruit of a syllogism. It’s not something that we decide on, we vote on. The truth is a Person and He calls Himself that. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the Alpha and the Omega and we’re gonna understand that self-definition.
When we hear the word truth in Hebrew, emet (אֱמֶת), which is made up of three letters. The first letter of the Hebrew “alef-bet”, the Hebrew “alef-bet”, so alef (א).Then the middle letter (מֵ), of all of the letters in Hebrew it’s the very central letter of the “alef-bet”. And then the last letter of the Hebrew “alef-bet” (ת). Emet (אֱמֶת). So three letters, beginning, middle, end. You know, and in Hebrew letters have a numerical meaning, they also have a conceptual meaning. So alef, the first letter of the Hebrew “alef-bet”, means one, numerically, it also means God. Interestingly, when you take alef out of emet, the word for truth, you’re left with met, (מֵת), which is the Hebrew word for death. When we extract our Lord, when we attempt to exercise Him from our world, from our lives, what happens? We’re left with death, stagnation, frustration. So truth, then is not a concept. It’s a person.
It’s a Divine Person who suffers no change. As Paul says in the Letter to the Hebrews, He is the beginning and the end of our faith, the Alpha and the Omega. Our Lord says it about Himself in John’s Apocalypse. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning of the end, He encompasses all reality. That’s why He’s also called Logos. Logos is a fascinating word, means word it also means intelligibility. Means meaning. And so when the Word becomes flesh, this is the mind of God taking upon Himself human nature. The mind of God all of a sudden incarnate in front of us, that’s the sacred humanity that they experienced. And so Christ then becomes the interpretive key for everything.
If we don’t see things, events, our lives, even our passions and our impatience, in the context of Jesus Christ we don’t see them properly. Everything, says Paul in his Christological hymn in Colossians the First Chapter, it is a beautiful hymn, Everything was created in Him through Him, for Him. Everything was created in the Logos for Christ and in Him.
If you remember Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, the beautiful fresco, and God the Father, who looks a little like Poseidon, or Zeus, He’s stretching out His finger, and there you see on the other extreme, is Adam also receiving from the digitus Dei, from the finger of God, which is the Holy Spirit, His existence. The Father is wearing a burgundy cloak. And if you look at the cloak, it’s the shape of a brain, a human brain, and within that cloak, you see Eve in the crook of the arm of the Father. You see all of these faces behind Him. And at the other end of the other hand, is the sacred humanity of Christ. In other words, everything fits in the mind of God. That’s why God has one idea, better said He is one idea.
And in fact, when you look at the hierarchy of angels, there are no two angels that are alike. When you look at the hierarchy of angels, the higher up you go in the hierarchy of angels, the less ideas they have, because the more ideas their one idea encompasses. And that’s why, you know, sin fragments us, it breaks us apart.
When you look at Thomas Aquinas’ treaties on virtues, treaty on vices, there are many more vices than virtues. Why? Because vice leads to vice and we start to break apart. Whereas the Truth, Christ, and our cooperation with Him, the life virtue, brings about an integrity, a cohesion. Cardinal Ratzinger said Logos, that is reason, meaning, everything is there. There is a link with reason, a relationship with meaning, since reason, the meaning, and Christ are one and the same thing. Rationality and meaning, which are there before and after Christ, adequate to Christ as a whole of the part and He is the all of it found previously in the universe, and its separate parts. And so Christ then is the rational principle for all that is. He is truth.
And once the Disciples received the Spirit of Truth, they start to understand everything that He said previously. It’s starting to make sense not because, ‘Oh, I got it now,’ they learned something new. There wasn’t a missing piece of information. The interpretive key now dwells within them. And so they’re able to understand. They’re receiving the truth in a totally different way through the prism of Christ. So Faith is not something we see, it’s not an object that we point to. It becomes a lens through which we see everything. It is basically seeing through the eyes of Christ. But as long as we’re in this world, we have a degree of darkness, twilight.
That’s what makes our faith virtuous, because faith comes from hearing not from seeing. And so there has to be trust there. And so, the Holy Spirit brings with Himself, the light of faith. And you know, it says in the Psalm that your words are a lamp for my footsteps, right? It’s a lamp, it’s not a high-beam. So it’s just enough to see what the next step should be. And therefore we have to trust and it’s a relationship of trust. He comes to us He dwells within us, not just simply to make us tabernacles like this tabernacle here in front of us, but for us to cooperate with Him. Living tabernacles of the truth, of the way, of the life. The One who is, and always will be.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, Holy Ghost. Amen.