On Life in the Spirit: The Gift of the Father Through Christ

Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the First Sunday after Trinity, 2021

Entering today into the Sundays after Pentecost and Trinity, the overall emphasis in the long season where the liturgical color is green is living the Christian life. From Advent through Pentecost and Trinity, the emphasis is on Christ’s Incarnation—and that Incarnation is the whole of His becoming Man for our salvation, the whole of His becoming Man spans the whole narrative of Him in the world, that is, spans from the Annunciation to His Nativity, through the years growing up, into His Baptism which initiates the period in which He called disciples to Him, an emerging parish of 120 disciples with a focused and rigorous leading of Twelve who were to celebrate and teach His Sacraments—and His Incarnation continuing on through His blessed Passion and precious Death, His mighty Resurrection and glorious Ascension, finally reaching its fruition at Pentecost and the Coming of the Holy Ghost.

The Incarnation of Jesus properly understood begins in the Annunciation to Mary and reaches fruition at Pentecost—Pentecost being the true birth of His Body from the womb of the Upper Room gone boom, and we being His Body are born in Pentecost, and that is the Day of the Lord in which the Church lives until the Second Coming. To regard the Paschal Mystery as merely part of history is a grave misunderstanding, even a heresy. The Day of the Lord knows no calendar time, for it is already nearly two thousand years long. The Day of the Lord which began on Pentecost, it is better to say, in fact includes within it all calendar time, all time as reflected by clocks and watches, includes within it all times and seasons, all revolutions of the sun, moon, and stars.

This is why it is called the Paschal Mystery. It is all incomprehensible. Yet “mystery” in the Church means both incomprehensibility and participation; the Mystery of Christ is always a participation in the incomprehensibility, and a participation in Him that demands humility, reveals hope to us, renews our inner nature, transforms our mind, illumines our hearts, increases love, and invites us to always be listening. These are characteristics of Christian life, and they elaborate upon what Saint Paul directs us in Rom 8:14—to be led by the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit of God—the Holy Ghost—Who leads us into the Mystery of Christ: leads us deeper and deeper as our prayer life grows and as humility pervades our entire being. It is the Spirit of God Who demands humility, reveals hope to us; it is the Spirit of God Who renews our inner nature and transforms our mind; it is the Spirit of God who illumines our hearts, increases love, and invites us to always be listening. It is by the Spirit of God that we throw off living according to the flesh (selfishness, self-centeredness) and learn how to see the world and ourselves with the eyes of spirit and to live with the gift Christ gives us.

The gift Christ gives us, His Body, ultimately is the Father. We are able by Christ to receive the Father. Through the Sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, Confession, and the rest), and through our meditation with and through Scripture; through our corporate life ordered by the Liturgy, and through our personal devotion rooted in the Jesus Prayer of the Heart and corporal and spiritual acts of mercy toward others—through all of that, we more and more receive the gift of Christ, as revealed by the Holy Spirit: and that we behold all the attributes of the Father in the Son. This is why immediately following the Gospel lesson and the homily, we say together in the Nicene Creed: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” Having been taken up in the Mass again as Christ’s Body, and having been blessed as His Body through the transfiguring word of Scripture, we are able to approach the Father (in the power of the Holy Spirit and through Christ), to behold together the Father, Him Who is incomprehensible, the maker of all; yet He Who is made known through the Son, for His dwells in the Son, and the Son dwells in Him. And they dwell in us and abide in us together as we abide in Christ’s Word.

And so all of this begins to outline the tall order which is the real and authentic Christian life. And yet our Lord from the beginning was able to show His disciples that examples already existed; examples who showed how to live the Christian life; that is, how to live one’s life so as to be led by the Holy Spirit. When disciples told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside,” Jesus taught his disciples to imitate His Mother Mary and the close disciples (which is what “brothers” means here). They are owed no special recognition merely because of biology (in the case of Mary) or mere proximity to Jesus. Rather, they are examples because they are following the will of God—they constitute the first emergence of the Communion of Saints—and anyone one who follows the will of God imitates Our Lord’s mother and brothers, and in some sense can be spoken of being like them, or even being them with respect to imitating their humility and obedience to God. And so as imposing as the Christian life may be (and it certainly has never demanded anything less than total conversion of one’s life), the Christian life is never one reserved only for the spiritual elite. It is a life the entrance to which is open to all who desire God, and through that desire, open oneself and one’s heart, choosing of their own free will to listen for His guidance.