Venturing out for a walk on a beautiful spring morning, my heart swelled at the sight of lilacs, pink tulips, trees laced with spring green buds while wispy clouds floated across the clear blue sky. My soul could not be contained, and sang, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
When encountering beauty so stunning, love so pure, or truth so profound, one’s heart bows in silence or lifts in praise of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This Sunday, we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday, a mystery foundational to our faith. Everything that is, has been, and ever will be, has been poured forth from the wisdom of God. Everything—the foundation of the earth—the establishment of the heavens—the entire human race—came to be and is held together through the mystery of the Trinity. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
We are wise to open each day with a doxology, a hymn of praise glorifying God. Spanish cellist and composer, Pablo Casals, reflected deeply on the importance of doxology: “Each day I am reborn. Each day I must begin again. … I go to the piano and I play two preludes and fugues of Bach. ... It is a benediction on the house. … It fills me with the wonder of eternity, with the incredible miracle of God.” When my mind is cluttered or my heart burdened, I need only raise my eyes to the morning sky and praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Immediately, God’s love pours forth and I begin anew.
At mealtime, bedtime, and before leaving for school or play, we bless our children (now grandchildren) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit as a reminder of their baptism—the day on which they became sharers in the divine life. On that special day, they each became adopted children of God—“a delight to the Father.” Each time we enter Church we bless ourselves with baptismal water to remember our true worth. As young people dip their fingers into the saving font, they remember, “I belong to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”.
We were created to give God glory and are nearest to our true selves when praising Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As parents, grandparent, we name grace in the domestic church by leading our children in praise each day, by blessing them in the Sign of the Cross, and by reminding them of their beautiful, true, and eternal worth through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We name grace by bringing our children to worship the Triune God, font of all wisdom and truth.
The mystery of the Trinity can never be fully understood nor adequately explained, but only experienced through the grace of Jesus Christ. Each day, the Eucharistic community gives glory to God by praying the powerful doxology: “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.” Each morning and evening, the Church lifts our hearts in praise: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. Alleluia!” Now, that’s good news!
How do you praise God each day? When do you bless your children/grandchildren?
The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
In this Sunday’s readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension, Jesus “raised his hands and blessed them” before He “was taken up to heaven.” Jesus’ final act, final gift, was His blessing. No longer would Jesus be in the flesh to heal, forgive, love, and bless. Once ascended, the disciples were to be His hands and His feet to carry on His mission. Once blessed, they were strengthened to be a blessing for others in the name of Jesus.
We long to know ourselves as accepted, forgiven, loved, favored—blessed—just as we are. According to Rev. Ronald Rolheiser, “Hunger for our father’s [God’s] blessing is perhaps the deepest hunger in our world today.” Then, and only then, are we able to fulfill our mission as witnesses to Christ by healing, forgiving, sacrificing, encouraging, and serving others. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, disciples are “called to be a 'blessing' and to bless” (n. 1669).
The blessing a child receives from God, most often through parents and grandparents, proves critical for recognizing oneself as blessed. We name grace—God’s blessing—by blessing our children through word and action: “You are loved.” “You are a gift from God.” “God has great plans for you.” “You make a difference.” “You are forgiven. Start again.” “God bless.” When blessing is withheld, children can be wounded and unable to move forward in a positive way. When blessed, children become a powerful blessing for others ~ for a lifetime.
My friend, Becky, blesses all she meets with her joy and attentiveness. On Sunday mornings she takes Communion to nursing homes and shut-ins. This past winter, my father had surgery and was blessed, each Sunday, when Becky brought Jesus’ healing presence.
Twenty years ago, Karol Rae, former pastoral associate in my home parish, invited me into ministry. Karol Rae calls forth and affirms the gifts and talents of those she encounters. Karol Rae lives as a blessing with her encouraging presence, and often traces the sign of the cross on your forehead before departing.
My nine-year old granddaughter, Gemma, is big sister to baby brother, Johnny. When Johnny cries, Gemma gently caresses Johnny and sings, “I hear you. I see you. I love you.” Gemma lives as a blessing for family and friends with her tender presence.
Becky and I have often reflected on the blessing we received from our parents, which was rich and deep enough to carry us through a lifetime—no matter what. I continue to receive my ninety-two year old father’s blessing, his greatest and lifelong gift. Recently, when helping him with a simple chore, he smiled and remarked, “Your mother would be so proud of you.” Blessed.
Abraham Joshua Heschel reflected on our true nature as created in the image and likeness of God: “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” Life—our very being—is a blessing, yet we must know we are blessed to embark on mission.Each time we are blessed at the conclusion of Mass, we are empowered by Christ to live as His blessing for others. “Why are you standing there, looking at the sky?” What are you waiting for? With Christ’s blessing, we have the power to be a blessing—even to the ends of the earth! Now, that’s good news!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who have blessed and strengthened their children to live as a blessing!
5th Sunday of Easter
Torn and faded, the decal for the Year of Jubilee in 2000, Jesus Christ, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, Forever pressed onto our front screen door, continues to proclaim to all who enter that Christ dwells in our home—our domestic church. Though the decal declares faith, only our actions testify to its reality.
This Sunday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles recounts how Paul and Barnabas, “had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27) by laying down their lives for the Gospel and for one another. As parents/grandparents, we open the door of faith to our children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends by the way we follow Jesus’ commandment, day in and day out: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
Pope Francis wrote in the recently published document, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love): “The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures. In that variety of gifts and encounters which deepen communion, God has his dwelling place.” Thousands of gestures name grace—Christ’s presence--in the domestic church: a smile, a hug after a hard day at work, a listening ear instead of surfing Facebook, reading a book to your child instead of watching your favorite program, serving dinner to the family and to a downtrodden neighbor, praying together at bedtime…. thousands of loving gestures opening the door of faith.
Yet if you’re like me, loving one another is often most difficult with those who you bump elbows with daily. How irritated I get with the cupboard door left open, half full glass of milk forgotten on the counter, toothpaste dried on the sink, unworn clothes tossed into the laundry pile… and the list goes on. How easily my ego is bruised and my spirit fills with anger, impatience, and self-pity. When tired and lacking in prayer—gratitude and love—how quickly the Pedersens deteriorate into the Bickersens.
Only when we consciously invite God to dwell in our hearts can our homes become what God intended: a place of deep communion, a mutual sharing of love, a source of joy. During the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis encourages each of us to walk through a Door of Mercy as “a way to experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.” As we receive but a drop of God’s mercy, how much more easily we can shower others with gestures of love, forgiveness, patience, tenderness, and care—all the grace of God.
Our daughter and spouse recently had their fourth child, John Francis Leo. Little Johnny was born into a wild, crazy, and sometimes messy household. Johnny sleeps in his parents’ bedroom, as there is little extra elbowroom in the house. But when they open the door, one is greeted by happy, playful, children, blessings and love. The joy in their home is palpable, for they love one another.
Soon we will be replacing our battered front door and the decal along with it, but I pray in this new Jubilee Year of Mercy, our home will continue to serve as a door of faith for our children, grandchildren, friends and strangers. May we welcome others as they enter into our homes through a door of mercy. May they recognize Jesus as we strive to love one another—yesterday, today, and tomorrow—forever. Now, that’s good news!
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.