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(Part 36)


April 14, 2016

Today’s readings:
Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 66:8-20
John 6:44-51

I have often written about the crucial aspects of growing to holiness in the Christian life, which many Catholics are not living out. Basically these are three: prayer, the Bible and the Eucharist. There are many good people out there, but if these three are not an intimate part of their lives (intimate, not just doing these mechanically or superficially), then one cannot experience the fullness of the mercy of God.

Prayer is crucial to mercy. “Blessed be God, who did not reject my prayer and refuse his mercy.” (Ps 66:20). Prayer is our communication with God and our basic way of entering into a personal relationship with Jesus. If we do not strive to be in and develop such a relationship, then the great mercy manifested by Jesus on the cross might be for naught. God is merciful and Jesus already won for us our salvation, but if we hardly have anything to do with Jesus, especially by way of an intimate prayer life, then how can we benefit fully from his sacrifice? As mercy is an invitation to repentance, daily prayer (in fact, pray without ceasing) is crucial to moving beyond initial repentance to authentic metanoia and growing in holiness. The only way to enter more deeply into the embrace of a holy God is for us to ourselves shun sin and grow in virtue. “Had I cherished evil in my heart, the Lord would not have heard. But God did hear and listened to my voice in prayer.” (Ps 66:18-19).

The Bible is crucial to mercy. We meet Christ in and through the Bible. And St. Jerome says that ignorance of scriptures is ignorance of Christ. We say we want to be good Christians, but if we do not read and study the Bible, how will we truly know Jesus and God’s ways? The Ethiopian eunuch read the Bible, but superficially, without understanding. “Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.” (Acts 8:28b). Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30). He was humble enough to admit his limitation. “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” (Acts 8:31a). What is the reality? The Bible reveals Jesus to us. “Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:35). The Bible is all about God and His ways, in both the Old and New Testaments, and is all about Jesus. If we need to meet and know Christ, then the Bible is indispensable. And what the Bible reveals is a merciful God.

The Eucharist is crucial to mercy. God teaches us about Jesus in our prayer and through the Bible. “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” (Jn 6:45b). Such knowledge leads to belief and faith in Jesus, which in turn is what will ultimately bring us to salvation. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (Jn 6:47). Now Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. It is Jesus who sustains us through life. Mysteriously, amazingly, miraculously, Jesus feeds us with his own body and blood in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. If God sustained the Israelites in the desert with manna, but they eventually died, the food that is holy Communion is what can assure us of eternal life, which is God’s intent for us. “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.” (Jn 6:49-50). How do we fully experience the mercy of God, in appropriating the salvation and forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross, assuring us of heaven in the end? The Eucharist! “Whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:51b).

Prayer, the Bible, the Eucharist. Provisions of a loving and merciful God. You would be stupid not to accept and fully embrace these wonderful gifts.

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