Fourth Sunday after Easter—10 May AD 2009
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of Lights,
with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.”
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
The readings today speak eloquently of the gifts that come
down to us from God the Father. What might these gifts be? Most
obviously, one of them is the Holy Ghost. Another is unalterable truth.
Another, appropriate to the month of May is the Blessed Virgin. And, since
today is Mothers’ day, we ought to acknowledge that our mothers are among the
precious gifts we have from almighty God.
There is no exaggeration in choosing this last gift.
Our mothers have given us the most precious gift possible—the gift of life,
without which every other conceivable gift would be nothing more than a
theoretical possibility. For most of us, there is no one more responsible
for our early intellectual and moral formation. We generally learn our
first words and our first prayers from our mothers. We learn the basics of
what is right and what is wrong from our mothers. We learn to love and be
loved from our mothers. All of these things are essential to living a well
adjusted life in society, and to growing in the spiritual life.
Often, what our mothers do for us comes with some sacrifice
on their part. Sometimes it is the sacrifice of material necessities and
luxuries, made so her children will have these things even if she has to go
without them herself. Sometimes it is more of an intellectual sacrifice,
when a woman has to spend her time considering cartoon characters and stuffed
animals rather than the pursuit of loftier matters. Sometimes it is the
sacrifice of a social life that could be more full in a circle consisting only
of adults. Hopefully we learn to make our own sacrifices in imitation of
Today, and every day, we ought to acknowledge the good
gifts we have received in our mothers. Visit them or at least speak with
them on the phone as frequently as you can. Pray for them always,
especially if they are no longer with us in this life.
Let me remind you too, that this appreciation may well
extend beyond our natural mothers. We ought not to forget any of the
people who had formative influences on us, even if they are not our mothers.
Sometimes other people have to step in and help out when mom cannot do all of
these things—they must be appreciated as well, perhaps even more. All of
these folks are among the “good gifts” which “come down to us from the
Father of Lights.”
The Gospel today speaks of another “gift coming down from
the Father of Lights,” and that is the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost
is our “advocate”—that is to say that the Holy Ghost is sent to us in
order to preserve us from the evils of the world. We often refer to the
Holy Ghost as “God the Sanctifier” (as opposed to God the Creator and God
the Redeemer—the other two divine Persons of the Trinity.) He is the
sanctifier in that He dwells in the souls of those in the state of grace, making
them radically holy, and strengthening them against temptations to fall from
When I was a boy, I can remember priests speaking of the
Holy Ghost as “the forgotten Person of the Trinity.” It was just
easier to form an image of Jesus Christ in one’s mind. Even God the
Father could be thought of as an old man with a long white beard. The
concept of pure Spirit is difficult for human beings who are accustomed to
dealing with tangible things—and picturing the Holy Ghost as a dove didn’t
help all that much either. Today, among the Modernists, the situation is
reversed, with some of them claiming to speak in strange tongues attributed to
the Holy Ghost, and to work miracles in His name. Much of this is self
delusion; some of it may be the work of the evil one.
Yet, we all ought to look down within our souls to find the
Holy Ghost. He dwells there as long as we avoid serious sin. It is
something like visiting our Eucharistic Lord in the Tabernacle—but something
that we can and should do with great frequency.
Among the perfect gifts which come down to us from the
Father of lights we must include the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Mother of
Jesus Christ, true God and true man, has been given us to be our Mother—in
addition to, over and above the woman we praise today as our natural mother.
Mary is tangible—easy to picture. She should be a
role model to us in all we do. A model wife and mother; an example
of humility, patience, and long-suffering. She is the perfect human model
of devotion to Almighty God. Mary was given to us while her Son hung on
the Cross to be our own Mother. She is our Mother in good times and in
bad. She is always willing to intercede for us with her Divine Son.
And, just like our natural mothers, we should never allow
her to become forgotten and a stranger to us. In good times and bad times
we ought to invoke her name in our daily prayer—indeed we have a prayer
composed for us in her honor by one no less than the Archangel Gabriel.
And we have taken that angelic prayer and blended it with meditations on her
life and that of her Son—the Holy Rosary ought to be the daily prayer of
Yet another among the perfect gifts which come down to us
from the Father of lights is Truth. The Son has declared Himself to be
“the way, the life, and the truth.” The Holy Ghost is the “Spirit
of Truth.” With the “Father of Lights, there is no change nor shadow
of alteration.” As Catholics we are unique in that our God has deigned
to tell us about Himself. Through Moses and the Prophets of the Old
Testament; through His only begotten Son in the New Testament, God has revealed
Himself to us. He has told us about Himself so that we may know and love
Him. He has told us about His moral law so that we may obey Him. He
has given us the perfect Sacrifice so that we may worship Him. None of
these things are speculation—they are immutable truths which we have received
from God Himself—the God in Whom there is “no change nor shadow of
In the collect of today’s Mass—the prayer chanted just
before the Epistle—we are urged to be “one will”; each one of us to be
grateful for all of the gifts which come down to us from the Father of Lights.
I’ve mentioned just a few of them this morning—unquestionably there are
others—today we will be content to acknowledge and give thanks for our
mothers, for the Holy Ghost, for the Blessed Virgin, and for God’s Truth.
We are urged in the prayer to love what God has commanded, and to desire the
things which He has promised through divine revelation. And finally we are
urged, “among the constantly changing allurements of the world,” to set our
hearts “where true joys are to be found.”
And those “true joys” are none other than the “good
and perfect gifts from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom
there is no change nor shadow of alteration.”