When the officials had brought the apostles in to face the Sanhedrin, the high priest demanded an explanation. ‘We gave you a formal warning’ he said ‘not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us.’ In reply Peter and the apostles said, ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had him executed by hanging on a tree. By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel. We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’
This so infuriated them that they wanted to put them to death.
John the Baptist said to his disciples:
‘He who comes from above is above all others;
he who is born of the earth is earthly himself
and speaks in an earthly way.
He who comes from heaven
bears witness to the things he has seen and heard,
even if his testimony is not accepted;
though all who do accept his testimony
are attesting the truthfulness of God,
since he whom God has sent
speaks God’s own words:
God gives him the Spirit without reserve.
The Father loves the Son
and has entrusted everything to him.
Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life,
but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life:
the anger of God stays on him.
God gives him the Spirit without reserve.
How many of us have ever given someone something precious of our own, wholeheartedly without any reserve? Several friends of mine have young children, and I recall watching on as their children were encouraged to share their toys. There is often a lot of cajoling and persuasion involved. But one thing is for certain, the little ones usually give up their grip on the toy when they actually feel assured of their parents’ love. The tenderness and security in mummy’s and daddy’s cuddles and tone of words is the balm comforting them that letting go of the toy in possession will be replaced by something far better — love from mummy and daddy.
A child usually learns to give and share from a young age, but not all children learn so in the same way. As we grow up, many of us have given up many precious things of ours to people who did not reciprocate our love and sacrifice. These could be gifts, trust, promises, one’s feelings, body, affections, etc… Over time, we grow disillusioned about the value of giving wholeheartedly, since it usually ends in heartbreak. So we turn to taking. Taking seems to be the more powerful act. We start to calculate the risks and benefits, we evaluate people and relationships by how much they are willing to give in to us. We are afraid to lose, afraid to be hurt, and naturally choose self-protection for survival. Hearts become hardened over time, and actually everyone loses without even realising it.
In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist shares with his disciples the unconditional love of the Father: ‘since he whom God has sent speaks God’s own words: God gives him the Spirit without reserve. The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to him.’ I am humbled again to think of how our Heavenly Father suffers repeated blows when we wilfully deny His love for us in the person and sacrifice of Christ. And yet, this love is still continuously offered up for us in the Eucharist at every celebration of Mass.
God does not withhold His mercy and love for us, it is we who choose to remain in our far country when we reject His healing grace. ‘Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him.’ This may read like God pronounces anger on being rejected. Yet on closer reflection, this Holy anger is one that we have provoked by our sins and transgressions against Him.
Those of us who have received the gift of Baptism, are enveloped within this Faith family. We need to do all we can to reject Satan’s lies and the sins he tempts us to. I know of some people who feel and act as if it is a privilege for God that they attend Mass each week. It is a tiresome chore and there is no true thanksgiving in their hearts. Indeed, this mindset is often the first of many falls from grace. The Host is not a mere symbol. The Eucharist is Christ’s flesh and real Presence manifest in transubstantiation at the priest’s Consecration. At every Mass, God is giving unto us His Son and Christ is offering up His body and blood for us, freely and with no reservation — only that we profess true and contrite belief.
Like the little child who learns to share and give, when we give up our unbelief, intellectual pride, and selfishness and entitlement to God’s unreserved and Holy sacrifice, we receive far more than just His pure love. We receive eternal life and our soul’s salvation. Our Heavenly Father and Holy Mother are the loving parents whispering and cajoling us into realising what greater treasures are in store if and when we surrender our wills and live within His covenantal love.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: We pray for those in our Catholic brethren who do not yet fully believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist even as they receive this Eucharistic sacrifice, that they may come to the realisation and turn to true adoration and faith.
Thanksgiving: Jesus, I trust in You! Jesus, I trust in You! Jesus, I trust in You!