CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 15, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 24:13-35

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his Body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Reflection on the gospel: The gospel passage from today’s lectionary affords us a chance to revisit one of the truly great narratives of the scriptures. In just a relatively brief passage, Luke reviews for us the kernel of Christian life.

Luke employs a literary conceit throughout his gospel to make a central theological point: where the other gospels have Jesus throughout his ministry moving back and forth between Jerusalem and Galilee, Luke’s gospel has Jesus on a continuous single journey toward Jerusalem. For Luke, Jesus’ entire ministry is prelude and progress toward the single goal of what happens at Jerusalem in the Lord’s suffering, death, and glorification at Passover.

In today’s passage, the two disciples are walking away from Jerusalem, that is, they are walking away from the entire goal of Jesus’ mission. But in an immense irony, they meet Jesus on the road, even though they do not recognize him. This “stranger,” Jesus, explains to them all the scriptures that foretold how the Messiah would have to suffer before he entered his glory. At the conclusion of the journey, Jesus makes as if he will go on, but the disciples invite him to spend the night with them. During supper, Jesus breaks bread and blesses it, and the disciples recognize him in the breaking of the bread.

How often in our lives do we walk away from Jesus only to encounter the Lord in some stranger we had not factored into our equations? How often do we find the Lord because we offer hospitality to someone we meet on the road? And when we break open the scriptures and break bread at our sharing in the Eucharist, is not our Lord there to be found?

Spiritual reading: For by the sacrifice of his own body he did two things: he put an end to the law of death which barred our way; and he made a new beginning of life for us, by giving us the hope of resurrection. (On the Incarnation by Athanasius)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 14, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he had told her.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The accounts of the resurrection in John’s gospel continuously contrast three groups of people:

1. There are those who have seen the resurrected Lord with their own eyes and believe because of the evidence of their senses.

2. There are those who have not seen the resurrected Lord with their own eyes but all-the-same believe.

3. And there are those who have neither seen nor believe.

In today’s gospel, Mary begins her trek to the tomb in the third category: she has not seen the Lord, and she does not believe. But by the end of the passage, she has seen and she believes. At this point, she carries the message about her experience back to the disciples who then, based on Mary’s testimony, become members of either the second or the third categories. Thus it was that on the first day of the resurrection, the whole pattern of the spread of the Christian message was born.

The gospel we read today was written about 70 years after the death and resurrection of the Lord; some scholars have speculated that at that time, there probably were about 7,500 Christians in the world who celebrated the mystery they had received in about 50 different communities, most of which were in the eastern portion of the Roman empire. If those assumptions are correct, there were an average of 140 members in each of the Christian communities that existed in 100. Now, 70 years after the Paschal events, it is phenomenally improbable that there were even a dozen people left alive in the world who had seen the risen Lord; in other words, it is highly likely that far less than 0.002 percent of the very small number of believers who lived in 100 had seen the Lord in the way that Mary Magdalene saw him on that first day of the week. But there were still a good many people left who, though they themselves had not seen the resurrected Lord, knew someone who had seen the resurrected Lord.

When the evangelist wrote the Gospel of John, Jesus’ admonition at John 20:29, “Blessed are the ones who have not seen and have believed,” was an important observation for a tiny community with aspirations to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Indeed, we almost might as easily apply Jesus’ words not to the incredible faith in the resurrection but instead to the incredible faith that so tiny a community’s message would overcome so many hurdles to spread to the four corners of the earth. Does it not seem likely that so profound a faith in the power of the message to overcome so many daunting hurdles had resulted from the power of the witness of the men and women who announced to the Christians who lived in 100, “I have seen the Lord.” In other words, the testimony those first Christians bore was compelling indeed and gave rise to a powerful faith in the destiny of the religion of the second, third, and fourth generations of Christians.

The same message still has power. We do not know the result of what it is that we do. We must do what we feel called to do confident that what Gamaliel said two millenniums ago rings as true today as it did when he first spoke the words, If our purpose is of human origins, it will fail. But if it is of God, no one will be able to stop us.

Spiritual reading: But now the power of Easter has burst upon us with the resurrection of Christ. Now we find in ourselves a strength which is not our own, and which is freely given to us whenever we need it, raising us above the Law, giving us a new law which is hidden in Christ: the law of His merciful love for us. Now we no longer strive to be good because we have to, because it is a duty, but because our joy is to please Him who has given all His love to us!

Now our life is full of meaning! … To understand Easter and live it, we must renounce our dread of newness and of freedom! (Seasons of Celebration by Thomas Merton )

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 13, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 28:8-15

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce the news to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had happened. The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’ And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.

Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage from the gospel places Mary Magdalene at the tomb on the first morning of the week. All four gospel accounts put Mary Magdalene at the scene, though the synoptic gospels have her in the company of other women, and John’s gospel puts her there alone. We see an element in this narrative that we see over and again throughout the resurrection accounts, that when the resurrected Jesus encounters the women, he tells them, “Be not afraid.” This is an admonition that bears repeating. Our brains are hardwired for survival, and fear is a very basic and particularly strong response in our emotional repertoire. It’s wholly able to short circuit anything we’re doing as the neural mechanisms hijack our higher functions to ensure we remain safe and sound in our persons and psyches. The gospel asks us to take risks, to believe things that make our lives inconvenient, risk embarrassment for the name of Jesus, take care of others before we see to our own needs, and even prefer the faith to our own lives should a situation demand it. The gospel is often inconvenient, and it sometimes is a fearful burden. The resurrected Jesus offers himself as proof that we need not be afraid, that we can go about our lives with its many inconveniences confident that the outcome already is known, knowing that even if suffering is implicit in the passage toward the end, the final frame in our stories already is evident in the pattern of Christ’s own suffering, death, and resurrection.

Spiritual reading: Faith in the resurrection of Christ never misleads us, and hope in our own resurrection never deceives us, because God the Father both restored our Lord to life and will restore us to life too by virtue of his power. (Homily on the Gospels by Bede the Venerable)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 12, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 20:1-9

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen, even as he said! Alleluia! Happy Easter to you!

I always have loved best the resurrection accounts in the Gospel of John. There is something immediate and present in them, something of, “I was right there, and this is what it was like.” The account we have in this morning’s gospel compares and contrasts the respective experiences and reactions of Peter and the beloved disciples to the empty tomb. When Peter enters the tomb this morning, he experiences a loss: the body of the Lord is missing. He experiences a loss because he sees the empty tomb through the prism of his grief. But as a counterpoint, when the beloved disciple enters the tomb, he sees and believes, because he perceives the empty tomb not through the prism of his grief but through the prism of his love for Jesus.

The Lord whom we now celebrate in the Easter narratives is the living Lord who is the same now as he was on the first day of resurrection. The Lord whom we know through our communities, our prayer, the word, and our service is the resurrected Lord: we are entering familiar turf. Let us then strive to love the Lord, for blessed are we, just like the beloved disciple that first Easter morning, who have not seen yet believe, because we see the empty tomb through the prism of our love for Jesus.

Easter: The main sources which directly attest the fact of Christ’s Resurrection are the four gospels and the Epistles of Paul. Easter morning is so rich in incident, and so crowded with interested persons, that its complete history presents a rather complicated tableau. It is not surprising, therefore, that the partial accounts contained in each of the four gospels appear at first sight hard to harmonize. But whatever exegetic view as to the visit to the sepulcher by the women and the appearance of the angels we may defend, we cannot deny the evangelists’ agreement as to the fact that the risen Jesus appeared to one or more persons.

According to Matthew, he appeared to the holy women, and again on a mountain in Galilee; according to longer versions of Mark, he was seen by Mary Magdalen, by the two disciples at Emmaus, and the Eleven before he ascended into heaven; according to Luke, he walked with the disciples to Emmaus and appeared to Peter and to the assembled disciples in Jerusalem; according to John, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalen, to the ten Apostles on Easter Sunday, to the Eleven a week later, and to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. Paul (1 Cor 14:3-8) enumerates another series of apparitions of Jesus after his Resurrection; he was seen by Cephas, by the Eleven, by more than 500 brethren, many of whom were still alive at the time of the Apostle’s writing, by James, by all the Apostles, and lastly by Paul himself.

Briefly, therefore, the fact of Christ’s Resurrection is attested by more than 500 eyewitnesses, whose experience, simplicity, and uprightness of life rendered them incapable of inventing such a fable, who lived at a time when any attempt to deceive could have been easily discovered, who had nothing in this life to gain, but everything to lose by their testimony, whose moral courage exhibited in their apostolic life can be explained only by their intimate conviction of the objective truth of their message. Again the fact of Christ’s Resurrection is attested by the eloquent silence of the Synagogue which had done everything to prevent deception, which could have easily discovered deception, if there had been any, which opposed only sleeping witnesses to the testimony of the Apostles, which did not punish the alleged carelessness of the official guard, and which could not answer the testimony of the Apostles except by threatening them “that they speak no more in this name to any man” (Acts 4:17). Finally, the thousands, both Jews and Gentiles, who believed the testimony of the apostles in spite of all the disadvantages following from such a belief, in short the origin of the Church, requires for its explanation the reality of Jesus’ Resurrection, for the rise of the Church without the Resurrection would have been a greater miracle than the Resurrection itself.

Spiritual reading: Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day;

you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. (Easter Homily by John Crysostom)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 11, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 16:1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.'” Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel reading comes from the vigil Mass for Easter. There is no Eucharist celebrated during the day on Holy Saturday, and hence, the lectionary does not prescribe a gospel appropriate for Jesus’ time lying in the tomb. Of the four accounts of the resurrection in the four gospels, Mark’s account, the oldest one, is also the most spare. Indeed, the multiple endings that we find for the end of the gospel seem to be a reaction by early Christians to the fact that the gospel never introduces to us the risen Jesus but only offers a narrative about the empty tomb and a young man dressed in white who announces the Lord’s resurrection. Some scholars believe that this was Mark’s original ending, that the rich symbols of the empty tomb and an angel who announces the Lord’s resurrection were enough narrative to satisfy Mark’s original audience. Other scholars see the ending as highly problematic: the women run away from the tomb, afraid of both what they have seen and what they have heard. Clearly, their silence could not have been the end of the story, since today we are reading the narrative, and at least one of the women eventually talked about what she had seen and what she had heard.

Holy Saturday: Tradition says that the holy souls awaited the Redeemer in the land of the dead. Faith teaches us that the Lord’s redemptive act on the cross reaches out to touch and transform all people of every time — past, present, and future. During his time in the grave, the Tradition tells us that the Lord descended among the dead to meet the souls awaiting the Savior in the land of the dead. His descent among the dead, which was an important theme in the liturgies of former ages (though far less pronounced a theme in our own time), brought to completion the proclamation of the gospel and liberated the souls who had long awaited their Redeemer.

The Tradition suggests that the gates of heaven were now open, and these souls entered everlasting happiness at last to enjoy the vision of the Lord of Spirits and the flesh. This is the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men and women of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption. An ancient homily of the early Church for Holy Saturday captured this event:

The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and He has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. . . . He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, He has gone to free from sorrow the captives of Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. . . . “I am your God, who for your sake have become your Son…. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”

Spiritual reading: Easter, with its grace of interior resurrection, is the radical healing of the human condition.

Lent, which prepares us for this grace, is about what needs to be healed. (The Mystery of Christ by Thomas Keating)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 10, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 18:1—19:42

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered. Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.

Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.” He said to them, “I AM.” Judas his betrayer was also with them. When he said to them, “I AM,” they turned away and fell to the ground. So he again asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill what he had said, “I have not lost any of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”

So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas first. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus. But Peter stood at the gate outside. So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in. Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire that they had made, because it was cold, and were warming themselves. Peter was also standing there keeping warm.

The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his doctrine. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”

One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed.

Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was morning. And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?” They answered and said to him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” At this, Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.” The Jews answered him, “We do not have the right to execute anyone,” in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled that he said indicating the kind of death he would die. So Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this one but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

And they struck him repeatedly. Once more Pilate went out and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this statement, he became even more afraid, and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” Jesus did not answer him. So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, “If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your king!”

They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,” in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says: They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. This is what the soldiers did. Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and that they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled: Not a bone of it will be broken. And again another passage says: They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom.

Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.

Reflection on the gospel reading: For thousands of years, human beings offered to God holocausts of cattle, sheep, goats, and birds. God in Jesus makes humanity divine and on this Friday ends all the sacrifices of old as God offers sacrifice to God’s creation in this lamb God sacrifices to us at Passover.

Good Friday: Good Friday is the most somber day of the entire year. A silence pervades, socializing is kept to a minimum, things are done quietly; it is a day of mourning; it is a funeral. The Temple of the Body of Christ is destroyed, capping the horrors of the Babylonian Exile first begun on Septuagesima Sunday. Traditional Catholics wear black, cover their mirrors, extinguish candles, keep amusements and distractions down, and go about the day in great solemnity.

Jesus was put on the Cross at the very end of the third hour (the time between 9 and noon), and almost the sixth hour. He died at the ninth hour:

Mark 15:25, 33: And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him… And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole earth until the ninth hour.

Because Jesus was on the Cross between the hours of noon and 3:00 in the afternoon, these three hours today are considered the most holy hours of the day. A devotion called “Tre Ore” or “Three Hours’ Agony” is often held at this time; if not, you can do it yourself by meditating on His Passion — reading the Gospel narratives of the Passion, making the Stations of the Cross by yourself, praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, praying the Litany of the Passion, and so on. Draw the curtains, take the phone off the hook, turn off televisions and radios, quiet your environment and yourself, and meditate on what Christ has done for you. At 3:00, “The Hour,” he died: the atmosphere should be as if you are standing next to the deathbed of your father who died a moment ago.

Catholics also focus their attention on Mary this day and tomorrow, Holy Saturday, empathizing with the pain she endured.

Though a somber atmosphere will last until the Easter Vigil, after “The Hour” (3:00 PM) passes, it eases a bit, and life can go back to a “somber normal” until after Vigil of Holy Saturday when Eastertide officially begins.

No Mass is offered today (or tomorrow until the Vigil in the evening); instead a liturgy called the “Liturgy of the Presanctified” is celebrated where we consume Eucharist from Holy Thursday’s Mass.

Spiritual reading: I believe it to be a great mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it . . .

We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in his opinions and so inflammatory in his language that he was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever his peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference. (Dorothy Sayers)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 9, 2009

Carry the gospel with you:

John 13:1-15

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and yook off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We enter now into the Three Days, the Triduum, the axis point in the liturgical calendar, the fulcrum on which swivels the 40 days of Lent on one side and the 50 days of Easter celebration on the other. Today is Holy Thursday. Some churches call Holy Thursday “Maundy Thursday.” “Maundy” is an English form of the Latin word mandatum, a word that means, “commandment.” This suggestion of a commandment comes from a verse in John’s gospel that follows immediately after the text we have read in today’s gospel, the passage at John 13:34 that says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” So some churches have called this day, Maundy Thursday, because of Jesus’ commandment that we are to love, and the unique ritual action of this liturgy that we celebrate at this evening’s Mass, the washing of feet, similarly bears the name, the Mandatum.

John’s gospel is unique among the four gospels in its omission of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, but this omission does not mean that the Last Supper is devoid of any sacramental import in John’s mind. Some liturgical scholars believe that footwashing likely had its origins as a rite of initiation in the community of the Gospel of John before the gospel was written. For that community, the footwashing was probably an initiation rite much like baptism is and has been for Christians for a very long time now. For the community of the Gospel of John, the footwashing may have been more like baptism as we know it than as the reminder of service that we typically see in it. One of the ways that historians who study Christian worship can tell that something was happening in a church is a law against doing that very thing. (Why should we bother to write a law unless there are people doing the very thing we wish them not to do?) Church laws against initiation by washing feet occur as late as the fourth or fifth centuries of Christianity.

If indeed the community of John’s Gospel had at one time brought people into its embrace by footwashing rather than through baptism, this rite we celebrate tonight at the beginning of the Triduum harkens back to an ancient initiatory practice. With the rite of baptism that the Church celebrates at the Easter vigil to initiate new members into the community, the whole liturgical thrust of the Three Days is our renewal as baptized members of the Body of Christ. Then as we enter into the mysteries of the Triduum, let us be renewed in our baptismal commitment and rededicate ourselves to a life of proclamation of the gospel, service to the poor, and love for one another.

Holy Thursday: In the Christian calendar, Holy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, the day on which the Last Supper is said to have occurred. Holy Thursday is the most complex and profound of all religious observances, saving only the Easter Vigil. It celebrates the institution by the Lord of the Eucharist. The Last Supper was also Christ’s farewell to his assembled disciples, some of whom would betray, desert or deny him before the sun rose again.

On Holy Thursday morning there is a special Mass in Cathedral Churches, celebrated by the bishop and as many priests of the diocese as can attend, because it is a solemn observance of Christ’s institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper. At this “Chrism Mass” the bishop also blesses the Oil of Chrism used for Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the sick or dying.

The evening Holy Thursday Liturgy, marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the sacred “Triduum” (“three days”) of Holy Week, which culminates in the Easter Vigil, and concludes at Vespers on the evening of Easter day. The Mass begins in the evening, because Passover began at sundown; it commemorates our Lord’s institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. It also shows both the worth God ascribes to the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water (a symbol of baptism) in the Mandatum, washing, commemorating Jesus’ washing the feet of his apostles, as well as in the priest’s stripping and washing of the altar. No Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection.

Spiritual reading: I was once wondering why our Beloved is so fond of the virtue of humility. Without it ever having occurred to me before, this thought suddenly came to me:

It’s because God is supreme truth. To be humble is to walk in truth. (Interior Castles by Teresa of Avila)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 8, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.'” The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospels make clear to us that Jesus had many enemies, but it was not these who openly opposed him who betrayed him: it was one of the people who was closest to Jesus, one who walked with him on long dusty roads, saw him work his miracles, heard him proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God to the poor, and witnessed his compassion toward the sick. Today’s gospel reading tells us that when Jesus told his disciples that one among them was about to betray him, each one doubted himself and herself; each one asked Jesus, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” In other words, in a secret place in their hearts, all of them understood their own capacities to turn on the Lord. Judas, who of course knew what he was going to do, also chimes in, “Sure it is not I, Rabbi?” And though he asks the same question that the others asked, his question rings with the falseness of concealment of conscious intentions. We too who are baptized into the Lord have walked with Jesus, seen the miracles he works in broken lives, heard the good news, and understood his compassion, and yet each of us is well-aware of his or her own capacity to betray Jesus. Let us pray, as Jesus taught us, that we not be put to the test.

Saint of the day: In Western Christianity, the Wednesday before Easter is sometimes known as “Spy Wednesday,” indicating that it is the day that Judas Iscariot first conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for thirty silver coins. This event is described in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-12, Luke 22:3-6. The story as Matthew tells it is redolent with references to a passage in the prophet Zechariah (11:11-13).

The Sanhedrin was gathered together and decided to kill Jesus, even before Pesach if possible. In the meantime, Jesus was at a gathering in Bethany. Here he was anointed by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, with very expensive ointment of nard. Judas, we are told, was indignant about this; the oil could have been sold to support the poor. Judas went to the Sanhedrin and offered them his support in exchange for money. From this moment on Judas was looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

Judas’s betrayal, of course, when it comes, comes in the form of a kiss. After Jesus and several disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray after the Last Supper, Judas identified his master to the guards who accompanied him with a kiss on the Lord’s cheek.

Spiritual reading: How am I to know the will of God? Even where there is no other more explicit claim on my obedience, such as a legitimate command, the very nature of each situation usually bears written into itself some indication of God’s will.

For whatever is demanded by truth, by justice, by mercy, or by love must surely be taken to be willed by God. (New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton)

Joe Diele’s homily on Palm Sunday

Posted in church events by Mike on April 7, 2009

Joe preaches at the Church for All People in Brooklyn last Sunday:

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 7, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 13:21-33, 36-38

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor. So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

When he had left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter said to him, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The reading from the gospel today speaks about two betrayals, Judas’s and Peter’s, and by inference, it speaks of a third betrayal, our own. Jesus predicts that one of the 12 will betray him to the authorities, and the Beloved Disciple asks Jesus who will turn on him. Jesus answers, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it,” and he offers to Judas a sign of friendship, a small portion of food. In the moment that Jesus tells Judas to do quickly what he plans to do, Judas makes his fateful choice and leaves the Lord and his friends.

The evangelist in the gospel often contrasts light and dark, and he poignantly observes at the departure of Judas that, “It was night”: darkness has settled in and about the Lord and his companions. And yet in this moment, Jesus still can say that the time has come for Jesus to be glorified. This is the very theme that I have tried to relate over and again the last several weeks, that God reveals Godself in the darkest moments. Even in the moment of betrayal, even at night, even when all is apparently lost, God is there, doing what God does, transforming the moment and making it something entirely new.

There is a second betrayal that the gospel addresses. This betrayal is Peter’s, Peter who brashly suggests he is prepared to die with Jesus when Jesus knows that Peter is not at all prepared to make such a sacrifice. Because this story appears in each of the gospels, Peter certainly in later years must have spoken of the incident over and over again: it obviously made a deep impression that Jesus knew Peter would betray him a certain number of times before a certain specific event. Peter doubtless told the story to make clear the importance of conversion and repentance and the Lord’s openness to receive back to himself those who betray him.

And so it with us as we move to the conclusion of our Lenten journey: we too repent over and over again of the same sins, hoping never to do again those things that over and over have injured our connection to God, and Jesus, over and over again, receives us back. Even when night descends on us, when the gloom of self-accusation and guilt is thick about us, let us dare to know, even with perfect confidence, that God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and ask the Lord that he will help us as we stumble along our way. Let us hope and believe that God stands by us to glorify us even in our betrayal.

Saint of the day: Henry Walpole was a English Jesuit martyr who was born at Docking, Norfolk in 1558. He was the eldest son of Christopher and Margery Walpole. He was educated at Norwich School, Peterhouse, Cambridge, and Gray’s Inn. He was converted to Catholicism by the death of Blessed Edward Campion. Henry Walpole went by way of Rouen and Paris, to Reims, where he arrived in July 1582 and in April 1583, he was admitted into the English College, Rome.

In February 1584, he entered the Society of Jesus and soon after went to France, where he continued his studies, chiefly at Pont-à-Mousson. He was ordained a priest at Paris in December 1588. After acting as chaplain to the Spanish forces in the Netherlands, suffering imprisonment by the English at Flushing in 1589, and being moved about to Brussels, Tournai, Bruges, and Spain, he was at last sent on the mission in 1590. He was arrested landing at Flamborough, and imprisoned at York. The following February he was sent to the Tower, where he was frequently and severely racked. He remained there until, in the spring of 1595, he was sent back to York for trial. Condemned, he was executed on April 7, 1595.

Spiritual reading: Remember: if you want to make progress on the path and ascend to the places you have longed for,

the important thing is not to think much but to love much, and so to do whatever best awakens you to love. (Teresa of Avila)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, religion, scripture by Mike on April 6, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 12:1-11

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel reading for Monday of Holy Week sees Martha, Mary, and Lazarus throw a party in the Lord’s honor. Just as Lazarus’s resurrection has foreshadowed Jesus’ own resurrection, now at this party comes Lazarus’s sister Mary’s turn to presage an event in Jesus’ life, that is, the death of the Lord.

In today’s passage, Judas critiques Mary’s action as callousness toward the poor, but Jesus sees in Mary’s act something different than Judas sees. Where Judas sees selfishness, Jesus sees love: prescient of his coming death as a criminal, Jesus recognizes that as one who is to be executed infamously, his body will not receive an anointing. Jesus sees in Mary’s anointing something Mary almost certainly does not see, the preparation of the Lord’s body for death.

We might recall also that it is in John’s gospel that Jesus washes his disciples’ feet to model for them a lesson of service. We can wonder whether Jesus modeled his example to his disciples cognizant of Mary’s example to him just several days earlier. And in any event, Jesus here and at the Last Supper makes clear that in our service to one another we die with him on the cross and join our love to his in the pascal mystery we have begun to commemorate.

Saint of the day: Marcellinus of Carthage died 413. As tribunal secretary to Emperor Honorius in Africa, the married Marcellinus and his brother, the judge Apringius, were sent to Carthage to preside over a meeting between Catholic and Donatist bishops. At the end of the conference, Marcellinus ordered the Donatists to return to the Catholic faith and with his brother Apringius enforced his decree with severity.

The angry Donatist sought revenge. Before Marinus, the general in charge of quelling the insurrection, the Donatists accused the brothers of conspiracy in the rebellion led by Heraclius. Marinus had Marcellinus and Apringius peremptorily executed at Carthage, an action for which he was later reprimanded by the emperor.

Saint Augustine dedicated his greatest work City of God to “My dear friend Marcellinus.”

Spiritual reading: I have never seen you, my Lord God, or known your face. What shall I do, Highest Lord, what shall this exile do, banished far from you as he is? What should your servant do, desperate as he is for your love yet cast away from your face? He longs to see you, and yet your face is too far away from him. He wants to come to you, and yet your dwelling place is unreachable.

He yearns to discover you, and he does not know where you are. He craves to seek you, and does not know how to recognize you. Lord, you are my Lord and my God, and I have never seen you. You have made me and nurtured me, given me every good thing I have ever received, and I still do not know you. I was created for the purpose of seeing you, and I still have not done the thing I was made to do. (Proslogion by Anselm)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 5, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 12:12-16

When the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel.” Jesus found an ass and sat upon it, as is written:

Fear no more, O daughter Zion; see, your king comes, seated upon an ass’s colt.

His disciples did not understand this at first, but when Jesus had been glorified they remembered that these things were written about him and that they had done this for him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: We now enter into Holy Week where we remember, in the deepest sense of the word, the events of the Lord’s passion and death. We should reflect on this week as a unity. It is a time in which we celebrate Jesus’ victory as we enter into his suffering. The gospel reading at the commencement of Mass today includes words of Hosanna, words of praise for the triumph of Jesus, but as the week unfolds, we come to understand that inherent in the victory that Jesus presents to us is abject suffering. Jesus comes riding on an ass: his royal entry into Jerusalem is as one who in humility and gentleness submits to the acclaims of the crowds, crowds who are unaware that the one they acclaim comes prepared to sacrifice himself so he may give paradoxical witness that in the most profound weakness lies the glorious entry of God into ordinary human affairs.

The entry of God into our human history is a recognition that among its many joys, life often is hard. We all know that it contains really terrible personal experiences, like cancer, alcoholism, bankruptcy, the death of a parent or child, or a loveless marriage. But there also are ordinary experiences that simply make us dull and listless. We can become deadened with the sameness of everything. Unending chores can weary us, and even what makes us happy eventually can grow stale. We may sense that our closest friends are still distant. We may grow sad as the new grows old, the days pass by, the bills come and luck does not, life goes on, but friends die. The victory of God in the suffering of Jesus is that these extraordinary and ordinary sufferings that ubiquitously afflict our human condition, no matter how much they may weigh us down, God indeed transforms with the promise of what comes beyond the cross. We must go through it to get through it, but the promise of Holy Week is that, if we trust in God, all will become new again.

Spiritual reading: When Jesus bids a man come, he bids him come and die. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian whom the Nazis executed)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 4, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him.

So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel reading follows immediately upon the raising of Lazarus in Bethany, a short walk from Jerusalem, and it prepares us to enter into the mysteries of Holy Week. News of what Jesus has done is traveling fast, and many believe in him as the result of the signs he works.

Today’s gospel is full of ironic statements where the actors say something at a basic level that is filled with a deeper meaning. Rather than dare to dream that something wonderful is happening here, the Sanhedrin meets to raise the complaint, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” The irony, of course, is that everything that frightened them actually did occur within just a few decades. Caiaphas, the high priest, plots Jesus’ death saying that it is better that one man should die than let the nation perish, but the evangelist is aware that Caiaphas’ banal statement has a much deeper meaning, that Jesus dies for his people and in a still deeper way, Jesus dies for all people everywhere in all time.

Jesus senses the depth of the threat that faces him, so he goes away to a remote place to remain secure until the hour is ready. The picture of the arid land fixed in today’s gospel reading is where our Lord went to await his hour. The scene now is set to enter into Holy Week.

Saint of the day: A member of a wealthy, pious family, Gaetano Catanoso was born in February 1879 in Calabria, Italy. He was ordained a priest on September 20, 1902 and served as a parish priest.

He established a Confraternity of the Holy Face in his parish, which spread through a newsletter he launched in 1920. He founded the Poor Clerics to encourage priestly vocations. He transferred to Santa Maria de la Candelaria in Reggio Calabria, Italy in 1921. There he revived Marian and Eucharistic devotions, improved catechesis, and worked for observance of liturgical feasts. He worked for cooperation among local priests to provide missions by preaching and hearing confessions in each others parishes. Saint Gaetano was spiritual director for several religious institutions, a prison, hospital, and seminary for decades.

He founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Veronica (Missionaries of the Holy Face) in 1935 to teach, offer perpetual prayers, and work with the poor; they received diocesan approval in 1958. He died April 4, 1963 of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: I have seldom if ever heard anyone confess destructive gossip as a sin. Yet, if I remember my moral theology correctly, broadcasting someone’s faults is justifiable only if they constitute a danger to the community.
Trying to retract something you wish you hadn’t said is like trying to catch feathers in the wind. (Rev. Michael Becker, a letter to Commonweal magazine)

Labor as Love

Posted in Uncategorized by Rev. Larry Hansen, BCC, CT on April 3, 2009

I serve as Chaplain and Volunteer Coordinator at Legacy Hopewell House Hospice, an inpatient facility in Southwest Portland, Oregon. At my health care system’s recent employee appreciation event I witnessed a moving moment in a video that I saw during dinner. In the middle of a series of humorous interviews with our CEO, one of our technicians was asked about his work. He replied that he had always thought that he merely repaired medical equipment. But one day in the Pediatric ICU, he was repairing an electronic monitoring machine of some kind that was hooked up to an infant who was being held by its mother. The woman looked up at him and said something like, “You’re saving my baby’s life.” The technician was reduced to tears as he relayed the story, because he had understood, perhaps for the first time, the deeper meaning of his labors, that he was helping to give the gift of life itself. He was far from the only one in the room who became misty-eyed as he told his story.

This story has stuck with me ever since, because I want people to know that whatever you’re doing to serve others in your work, there is probably a deeper meaning to your duties than you may realize. As our former volunteer Denise Belanger has written so eloquently, “Each act, no matter how seemingly small, mundane or trivial is part of the whole, and the whole includes everything–the imperfections, the raw humanity, the mundane, the profound.”

Wishing you all the best during this coming Holy Week and Easter Season. . . .

Fr. Larry Hansen

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 3, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 10:31-42

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, You are gods”‘? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Then they tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power.

He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained. Many came to him and said, “John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true.” And many there began to believe in him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s reading, we have a contrast between those who refuse to recognize the power of God that works in Jesus and those who understand that something unprecedented indeed is at work in the man. The ones who are privileged in their social context refuse to look beyond their narrow categories to see the signs that God gives, but the ones who enjoy less privilege, the ones who live beyond the Jordan, do not have rigid categories that attempt to put God in a box. This latter group consults its experiences and says, “Something is true here that was not true elsewhere.” It is these ones who have the freedom to believe in Jesus.

Saint of the day: Mary of Egypt was born in about 344. Beautiful, spoiled, cynical, disenchanted, rich child who was the center of her family’s pride, she repaid them by running away at age 12. Mary ran to Alexandria where she worked as a dancer, singer, and prostitute for 17 years. She took ship on a pilgrimage to Palestine, hoping to ply her trade among the pilgrims, and then in Jerusalem.

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, she moved with the crowds to the church, looking for customers. At the church door she found herself repelled, unable to open the door; she was overcome with remorse for her life and exclusion from the Church. She repented, and asked for Our Lady’s guidance; a voice told that to find rest, she should cross the Jordan River. The next day she crossed the river, wandered into the desert, and took up the life of a hermit for nearly 50 years as penance.

She lived on herbs, berries, and whatever came to hand. She met Saint Zosimus of Palestine. She once told him to come back exactly one year from that day; when he did, he found she’d died; he dug her grave. Zosimus later wrote a biography of her, and her life was a popular story in the Middle Ages. Mary died about 421 in the desert near the River Jordan of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: If what most people take for granted were really true—if all you needed to be happy was to grab everything and see everything and investigate every experience and then talk about it, I should have been a very happy person, a spiritual millionaire, from the cradle even until now…What a strange thing!

In filling myself, I had emptied myself. In grasping things, I had lost everything. In devouring pleasures and joys, I had found distress and anguish and fear. (Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 2, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 8:51-59

Jesus said to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.

Reflection on the gospel reading: In John’s theology, Jesus is the Word of the Father. The Prologue of John’s gospel calls Jesus “the Word,” and observes that the Word is pressed right up alongside God, and the Word itself is God. This term, “word,” is used twice in today’s passage, and there are clear ties between this passage and the Prologue. In today’s reading, which continues the exploration of Jesus’ identity, Jesus talks about the benefits to those who keep Jesus’ “word,” that is, Jesus’ instruction. Jesus says such persons will never see death. Why will this happen? Because Jesus, this passage tells us, knows the Father and keeps the Father’s word. Expressed in another way, Jesus has received instructions directly from God that Jesus, in turn, transmits to us, and this instruction, because it comes from God, leads to life: Jesus expresses what is on the Father’s mind–he is precisely the Father’s word to us.

Here, as in the Prologue, a very powerful claim is made concerning who Jesus is. Jesus uses the term “I AM” to characterize his identity. As we saw several days ago, the term, “I AM” is how the Jews understood God to describe Godself to Moses, and Jesus uses it here to explain his relationship to Abraham, who “came to be.” The Prologue similarly distinguishes the Word from “all that came to be.” In this passage, “came to be” again appears and once again distinguishes Jesus, the Word, from what is created. This is a powerful passage in John’s explanation of Jesus’ identity, and it leaves little room to understand Jesus as anything but divine.

Saint of the day: Francis was born at Paola, Italy and was educated at the Franciscan friary of San Marco there. When he turned fifteen, he became a hermit near Paola. In 1436, he and two companions began a community that is considered the foundation of the Minim Friars. He built a monastery where he had led his eremitical life some fifteen years later and set a Rule for his followers emphasizing penance, charity, and humility, and added to the three monastic vows, one of fasting and abstinence from meat; he also wrote a rule for tertiaries and nuns. He was credited with many miracles and had the gifts of prophesy and insight into men’s hearts. The Order was approved by in 1474 with the name Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi (changed to Minim Friars in 1492).

Francis established foundations in southern Italy and Sicily, and his fame was such that at the request of dying King Louis XI of France, Pope Sixtus II ordered him to France, as the King felt he could be cured by Francis. He was not, but was so comforted that Louis’ son Charles VIII, became Francis’ friend and endowed several monasteries for the Minims. Francis spent the rest of his life at the monastery of Plessis, France, which Charles built for him. Francis died there on April 2nd and was canonized in 1519.

Spiritual reading: How easy it is to denounce structural injustice, institutionalized violence, social sin! And it is true, this sin is everywhere, but where are the roots of this social sin? In the heart of every human being.

Present-day society is a sort of anonymous world in which no one is willing to admit guilt, and everyone is responsible. We are all sinners, and we have all contributed to this massive crime and violence in our country. Salvation begins with the human person, with human dignity, with saving every person from sin. And in Lent this is God’s call: Be converted! (Oscar Romero)