May The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you!

"May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you". This is the salutation which brings us toward Salvation. [2 Corinthians 13:14]

To All the saints — The Christians of Macedonia or Philippi, from which the Apostle Paul wrote this epistle. In the primitive Church a saint and a Christian were the same thing; for the Christian religion calls every person to be holy.

Last week, at the beginning of the celebration of the sacrament of Holy Mass, as celebrant I gave the prescribed salutation, and my mind was immediately taken hold of and flooded by that certainty that, nowhere else, could we find a salutation which could be more fitting to a person’s heart; a salutation —which I believe would be— more yearned for by the heart’s of each one of us, a salutation more fitting to our innermost and deepest needs.  Priests often reflect —well I do anyway— upon the words which we speak at Mass, and I do not believe that there could be anything more suitable, satisfactory and more yearned for and joyful to the heart’s of every person to whom it is addressed, that event in which the celebrant’s words of salutation, could not be any more uplifting, than during the commencement of the sacrament of Mass. Nothing could be more compelling, decisive and salubrious for a person, than the authenticity of the words ‘May the Grace of of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God be with you…’ 

I was struck by the certainty of these words as I spoke them. And I thought to myself, thinking about this morning’s celebration with all of you: that I would not be able to, nor would I want to say these words unless I actually meant them and that I would be willing to embrace each and every person present here today, in the same manner and with the same sincerity of words in greeting, because a greeting towards one’s brother’s and sister’s should never be lukewarm, it should always be given enthusiastically, full love, and meaningfully, otherwise they are simply worthless empty words; totally meaningless.

Our Church, as a general rule, by using this great expressions of greeting with which St Paul addresses all the communities, Paul begins with the words we use in our liturgical celebrations, words which are essential for both our souls and minds, and therefore these words are vital to our continued existence as followers of Christ. 

The Presence of Him, without whom our lives would be a void and and full of desolation: it would be a life lived without purpose, without reason. “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. Only within these words of greeting is our entire life fully considered and embraced, each of us is fully embraced for the person that they are. Everything that comprises of whom we are, everything we hope for, everything that we could ever need within our lives are present within these few words. They are the real Presence which has already revealed Itself to us through this greeting. A Presence which always comes to welcome us, and desires to live in our life, to always walk beside us. 

It is Gods whole being which is invested in us through His greeting. It is to God’s whole being that we are invited to enter into so that He invests in our lives completely, so that He may be in our life, so that He can decide with us at every moment of our lives. There is no other Presence that our heart’s expect to welcome in such a manner, and therefore there could never be any words truer and more applicable to each member of humanity: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. 

There is no need for us to enunciate this perfect formula either in a dogmatic nor in a theological manner. It is simply a formula which derives from Saint Paul the Apostle —and subsequently by the Church— to address the communities and individually toward each one with such a joyous pronouncement of salutation. 

There is only the need for us to confirm this Event, which is of the essence, owing to the fact that it is essential for our lives, essential for our hearts and for the salvation of every person in this world. 

The expressions may differ somewhat from place to place: but all of them convey this quintessential Event, bringing a trial to the life of each and every one of us so that it can be met and gathered in the embraced of our Lord, lived in the presence and in the company of our Heavenly Father, which is radically imbued and set apart through God’s love for us; the Father revealing Himself in the presence of Jesus Christ through His grace and the continued endeavours of the Holy Spirit.  

The most precise formula is “the Lord be with youDominus vobiscum”. On the one hand, this meaningful expression, concretely affirms the presence of God to us; whilst on the other, we receive an invitation to freedom for each and every one of us enabling Him to open up which further allows Him to be invested through His omnipresence, which is always ablaze with love toward all of humanity. We yearn for this infinite love to nourish and quench our hearts. Our hunger and thirst, which always and only seek Him for sustenance. 

The infinite Love which created us from absolutely nothing at all, and without justification, loves us unconditionally for all of eternity, revealing Himself through the presence of His only Son, Jesus, whom saved us through His own sacrifice; that infinite Love of God which reveals itself in the presence and in the love of our Saviour and which invests us permanently in the actions of the Holy Spirit and in the life and communion of His Church.

His Love is with you, it is with me, it is with all of us. Lord be with me now and at every hour, for even the briefest instant without fail. Let it be the event which allows Him into our lives so that He may decide with us and within us, so that everything we do or act upon is accomplished through one God the Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. [Ephesians 4:6]

In all its different expressions, however, this salutation calls for and forces each of us to remind ourselves of our creation, of our deepest need, and therefore to that Essential on which all of the greatest affirmations of life depend. In fact, within the sacrament of the Mass these words are the prelude which opens our hearts for our encounter with Christ within the Eucharist, making us realise our bond to His presence.

That He greets and welcomes us in such manner is a definitive sign and fraternal custom within which we sustain ourselves, our awareness of being here, of our journey and of our fellowship within His Church. And it is the stimulus toward the freedom of each one of us moving towards the presence of our Lord whom just like a pauper, advances to welcome us, burned only by a desire to speak to each heart and draw them all into His love. This is why I recognise it as an essential in welcoming you all by greeting you all in the same manner as The apostle Paul and the Church welcomes us as a community to partake in the liturgy. 

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">The desire to immediately awaken the heart of each one of us to that Presence, which alone is capable of revealing ourselves to ourselves, of being sufficiently correlated to the vast needs of the heart, by acknowledging the whole and absolute aspect of our needs. The desire to immediately awaken the heart of each one of us to that Presence, which alone is capable of revealing ourselves to ourselves, of being sufficiently correlated to the vast needs of the heart, by acknowledging the whole and absolute aspect of our needs.

This is a Presence without whom not only life has absolutely no meaning, one without we would not exist and which would render us incapable of living constructively, causing us to become incapable of anything at all: when we are lost to our faith, it extinguishes itself, we delude ourselves to the point of depression, caused by the weight and tyranny of those false, delusional, destructive, overambitious and stubborn attempts to allow us to “be” and to make us happy and fulfilled.

I was encouraged to pursue my sudden need by the presence of by a brother religious, a secular Canon and friend with his wife whom I’ve known for more years than I can remember, I bumped into them quite by chance this morning at Canterbury Cathedral as normally he would be at his own parish. He is one of those whom asked me at the beginning of this year, to come nearer to our dialogue with my own testimony. Moved by the surprise of this chance meeting —I’d not seen them for almost 19 months—, I found myself wondering what I would have wanted for him and his family and what I could give witness to, particularly in the dramatic and touching experience he and his wife experienced at the birth of their first son recently. It was at that moment that I was moved by my own words of greeting, which made this hermit become aware —as I have previously mentioned— of the certainty that there couldn’t be a more crucial, unshakeable and valuable event, not only toward each other but for all of humanity. I was being given the opportunity to open up and share my whole heart with both of them through those simple yet uplifting words: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”.

This is not a “spiritual” welcome which has been reduce to the ranks of a mere “spiritual” gesture. But it is a greeting which conveys and affirms the Presence, where we allow ourselves to be confronted. This happens entirely within the sacrament of the Eucharist. A celebration with the intention of representing everything, the truth of everything, I mean absolutely everything; this is the only event which allows us to become competent, where it is possible for us to exist, to be alive and face anything that we may have to face, it allows us to know who and what we are and what has occurred to us. We are purposed for the presence of God.

This presence of God with us from the start of our day —and perhaps without even knowing it— makes us long for —just as a doe would yearn for a stream of pure water, even more so than the deserts and the arid lands hunger for a source of water; like a loved one who pines and cry out for for their beloved, just as a child who awaits for the watchful smiling eyes and embrace of their mother’s arms. 

May the very presence of God within us and which we so deeply yearn for accompany us to live life, be our souls companion within every moment and aspect of our lives, even the most considerable ones, which time and time again assail and strike us down. 

Fixing my gaze upon my friends John and Patricia this morning, I thought of the things that I know they have experienced throughout the years, everything that I would have liked to uphold in this meeting and what they themselves have shown and shared in their own testimonies had suddenly become easily understandable. Everything that makes our stay here, our belonging to that fellowship, to essentially follow our paths reasonably. All that which matters and qualifies our friendship as a summons to serve, to be sustained and validated by us as mutual witnesses. All that which is fervent, loved and capable of being trusted, we are called upon to witness with our own lives and within the life of this world.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you, and bring you toward Salvation.

Concluding Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 by Fr. Ugo-Maria

These are the last three verses of the second letter to the Corinthians. This is a rather severe missive, since several problems had been laid on the table, in particular the presence in Corinth of some of Paul’s opponents who diminished his authority. In the second part of the letter he therefore sees himself forced to make his own apology and to remember the difficulties and trials that he had to endure to proclaim the Gospel to the Corinthians. At the end of the letter (13:1) he announced that he would come to Corinth to settle these matters in person and to redirect the community toward the faith and under his authority. In the meantime he sends some recommendations to the community, the last of which is the reading of this solemnity. It is a small life program that can be useful for believers at all times. The passage was chosen for the particular final blessing, in which the persons of the Trinity and their particular attributions (grace, love, communion) appear.

Lectio: Finally, brethren, farewell. Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.

After sternly admonishing them, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to joy. There is a joy that comes from belonging to Christ and Paul has directed them back toward true and sincere adherence. Joy is a basic attitude that continues even in the face of persecutions and the loss of initial enthusiasm. It still urges them to perfection, in the sense of returning upon the right path. In fact, they had allowed themselves to be led astray by Paul’s detractors. He invites them to have courage with the verb παρακαλέω parakaleoto call to or for, to exhort, to encourage— (from which the term Paraclete also derives, attributed above all to the Holy Spirit), which has an extremly vast semantic sphere, within which the meanings of encouragement and exhortation are also found. Paul continues by guiding the Corinthians toward harmony, to peace, recalling the liturgical formula (May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you) that God loves those who live in harmony and peace.
12-13 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The kiss of peace (combined with an embrace) is a liturgical gesture, which still remained in our assemblies as a sign of peace. It is a concrete gesture with which peace and the desire to overcome grudges, hatred and desires for revenge are expressed. The title saints defines the believers, those who belong to a Christian community. They are called saints because God has set them aside for himself, so that they too may be holy like Him. The saints in this verse, greeting the Corinthians, are the believers of the region where Paul is writing the letter, probably Macedonia.
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. This blessing with which Paul concludes his letter differs from those commonly used by him. Usually he takes his leave by invoking only the grace of Jesus Christ. Here the blessing is tripartite. The grace (χάρις-charis) of the Lord Jesus Christ indicates the gift of salvation that Christ gives to his Church. God’s love and goodwill (ἀγάπη-agapé) is what he manifests with his salvific action. The communion of the Holy Spirit (κοινωνία-koinonia) is not so easy to interpret. It literally means a partnership but can also mean the participation of believers in the Holy Spirit, a fellowship in the spirit, contributory help, participation, sharing in, communion, koinōnía –is a feminine noun– properly, what is shared in common as the basis of fellowship (partnership, community).
In closing we meditate:

  1. Let us take these few lines as a program for our lives, especially the exhortations in verse 11.
  2. What does it mean to live in peace with everyone, to exhort one another?
  3. Do I feel the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Spirit upon me?

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