Jesus bestowed his love and his grace upon his Apostles as a gift. The fundamental option, our ultimate end goal, that which we seek from the very depths and core of our being, is to experience the same love that the Apostles experienced. The Creator of all that exists, who so transcends our comprehension, who is so beyond our ability to comprehend fully, has come close to us, become one with us in the person of his Son, and loves us more than we can ever imagine.
This reality, the core of the deposit of faith that they received, was not to be hoarded, buried away, or to be shared with a select few. This living gift of grace was to be shared by the Apostles, the ones who Jesus called by name, who he hand-picked to receive his message and then sent them forth to proclaim his word. They were to protect it for the purpose of transmitting it accurately to their successors so that it would then be passed on to each successive generation who would then receive and make it relevant for their own time.
Jesus said to his Father in his farewell discourse, as recorded by John that: “I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them” (Jn 17:26). Through our participation in the love of Christ, we are perfected and conformed by his will such that we too can experience and share in the love of the Father.
The Trinity is at the heart of the Gospel, the Good News. The Trinity is a divine communion of three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have been created with a burning hunger and desire to experience this same communion. Yet why don’t we say yes to this joyous invitation? St Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae, or Summa, outlines four substitutes or temptations that we may put in place of our highest hope and good; these are wealth, honor, pleasure, and power. In and of themselves, these are not unhealthy desires, as long as God is first and we orient ourselves to them from God’s perspective.
When we assume the posture of pride, believing that we are the center of our lives and we seek wealth, power, pleasure, and/or honor for our own sake and self-aggrandizement, each will be distorted and leave us empty, or worse lead us into the crippling slavery of addiction because in and of themselves they are finite pursuits. How many times have there been reports of someone who has amassed most or all of these four, and then come to a place of such despair and emptiness that they had taken their own life?
Through a properly ordered sense of power grounded in love, defined by St Thomas, as willing the good of the other those in positions of power and privilege are called to be a voice for those for whom otherwise would not have a voice. Those with access to wealth, are to recognize that this is a gift from God, and they are to be good stewards of what they have received to help and support others, not only in the limited stance of a hand-out but as a primary means to provide a hand up. To accompany and shepherd those who do not have access such that they can arrive at the point where they can be provided with access, skills, and means to participate in the dignity of meaningful work and gainful employment.
The ultimate goal of pleasure is to embrace the Beautiful, the gift that God provides in which we can have access and enjoy the wonders of his creation. At the same time, we can be participants in the expression of creativity through the arts as well as our everyday actions by finding joy in our interactions with one another and engaging in our vocations. If honor, fame, and glory arise in the faithful, they arise not for their own sake or as to heighten the focus on self. This attention comes with the responsibility to further radiate the light and love of God so as to evangelize and draw others to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, as did Peter when he preached and three thousand came to accept the love of Christ.
When Pope Francis visited the United States the news for a week was filled with joy and hope. When St Mother Teresa accepted the Nobel Peace Prize she began her speech by saying, “As we have gathered here together to thank God for the Nobel Peace Prize” and ended with the words, “God bless you!”, Mother began and ended not with the focus on her self but on God. Each are examples of God being the source and focus to bring about the proper alignment and use of wealth, power, pleasure, and fame.
Jesus has and continues to reveal and share the love with which his Father has bestowed upon him. He invites each and every one of us to receive and live in the love that he shares with his Father such that we may experience the very presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. May wealth, power, pleasure, and honor, not be distractions or diversions to our embracing the love of God, but a means to radiate his light and to provide greater opportunities and access to others who otherwise would not have any.
God is to be our fundamental option such that we strive to open our hearts and minds daily to be filled with and experience his joy and love so as to radiate his presence to others. In this way, we are sent out to accompany others, to share with those who are in need of hope, his presence, and his healing. In serving as well as respecting, standing up for and speaking on behalf of the dignity of each person God places before us we will also experience and help others to encounter the love of the Holy Spirit and make our corner of the world a little bit better today than it was yesterday.
Photo: 2022 graduates radiating the love of Christ, one smile at a time, one person at a time