In his First Letter to the Corinthians (1:1-3), St. Paul takes us to visit, so to speak, a “Spiritual Art Museum.” Our visit to this unusual museum invites us to look inside ourselves and admire the divine beauty and preciousness that we carry around in our hearts; it is a beauty made of grace and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ.
This visit is necessary because, routinely, we are so wrapped up in a thousand different things, and thoughts, and plans, and worries, and nagging miseries that we tend to overlook the very same awesome beauty and preciousness that St. Paul saw in the Community of Corinth some 2000 years ago.
As it is, whenever we go to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation we have to confess how, due to neglect, the spiritual beauty inside us, has been tarnished or even, alas, maybe wiped out altogether by our pursuit of many things that were truly detrimental.
This pause is, clearly, God-sent or, more specifically, Spirit-sent.
As it is, an hour a week in church is not enough to keep alive in us the awareness of the peace and grace that God has poured into our hearts. The world that seeps in through our senses might be too intense and too strong to give to our inner spiritual beauty sufficient impetus to transform our outlook on life and to inspire us to soar above daily doldrums.
The task which I, as a priest, feel called to carry out for the benefit of all of us is the same one carried out by John the Baptist: to point us toward the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and to make him known, not to Israel, but to all of us, the New Israel, the Church. Concretely, what does this task involve? It can be broken down as follows:
First of all, to tell you that the ugliness, the darkness, the pettiness, the grinding doldrums that affect our lives and keep our soul from shining, are taken away by the blood of the Lamb, by the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. There are no other ways. We should live each waking moment with the awareness that we are very precious and that we are loved by our God to the point of shedding his blood for us.
Secondly, my task as a priest, continuing the mission of John the Baptist, is the one of firing myself up enough to inspire us to toss aside all the gloom, the negative thoughts, the dashed hopes and broken dreams, so that we may all believe that the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts to make all things new. This can be a cliché, a catch phrase or it can truly mean that the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to set us free from whatever was holding us captive and filling us with frustration and bitterness.
The third part of my mission as a priest, today, is the one of reminding all us that we are called to be holy. I ought to tell you that holiness is the beauty of the soul; and, therefore, that it is not the privilege of a chosen few but the supernatural result of being washed clean in the blood of the Lamb and of being filled with the renewing energy of the Holy Spirit.
At this point I must add a significant clarification: we might live with the erroneous notion that the saints lived dull and mortified lives. Holiness has nothing to do with renouncing anything that generates genuine joy, and a lot to do with tossing aside anything that generates counterfeit, cheap, low quality, fleeting joy.
I am certain that you know what I mean. The joy generated by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those washed clean by the blood of the Lamb can withstand any trial, any challenge, any test that pops up along the way.
Let me add another thing to convince those among you who are not yet sold to this concept. It doesn’t take a whole lot of disappointing things but just very minor discomforts to spoil the life of those who insist on finding their joy elsewhere. So a simple test can prove to us whether we live as if called to holiness or are, in fact, distracted and slowed down by a thousand different minor things. This simple test asks us whether we have allowed the blood of Christ to remove some of the grime built up on our soul to let it shine in all its beauty or if we still grope in very, very dimmed light. To do this, we need only assess the level of genuine joy stored in our hearts, provided that such joy has been tested and proven genuine by the trials of life.
Today, I acted as a modern-day John the Baptist pointing out to you Jesus, the Lamb of God whose blood purifies us, sanctifies us and enables us to soar above the debased aspects of life.
Today, I have reminded all of us that genuine joy is generated in us by the Holy Spirit.
Today, I have invited us to contemplate the supernatural beauty of a soul aspiring to holiness.
However, I know for certain that too many people are still very sad and frustrated and groping in darkness. Hence, I suggest that when you see me holding up the Host and the Chalice of Christ’s Blood while saying:
“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who called to the Supper of the Lamb” you would ask the Lord to let you contemplate the beauty of your soul inhabited by the Holy Trinity and inspire you to make Jesus known to many others.