Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 16, 2011

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: Born in 1844 in Lourdes, France, Bernadette Soubirous was the oldest of six children in a very poor family headed by Francois and Louise Casterot. She was hired out as a servant from age 12 to 14 and served as a shepherdess. On February 11, 1858, around the time of her first Communion, she received a vision of the Virgin. She received 18 more visions in the next 5 months; in one vision, she was led to a spring of healing waters. She moved into a house with the sisters of Nevers at Lourdes where she lived, worked, and learned to read and write. The sisters cared for the sick and indigent, and Bernadette was both of these, sick and indigent. When Bernadette was age 22, the sisters admitted her into their order. Always sick and often mistreated by her superiors, she died on April 16, 1879 in Nevers, France. A prayer for Mary’s aid was on her lips as she slipped away.

Spiritual reading: Nothing is anything more to me; everything is nothing to me, but Jesus: neither things nor persons, neither ideas nor emotions, neither honor nor sufferings. Jesus is for me honor, delight, heart, and soul. (St. Bernadette of Lourdes)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 15, 2011

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: César de Bus was born in February 1544, at Cavaillon, Comtat Venaissin (now in France). At 18, he joined the king’s army and took part in the war against the Huguenots. After the war, he devoted some time to poetry and painting, but soon made up his mind to join the fleet which was then besieging La Rochelle. Owing to a serious sickness, this design could not be carried out.

Up to this time, de Bus had led a pious and virtuous life, which, however during a sojourn of three years in Paris was changed for one of pleasure and dissipation. From Paris, he went back to Cavaillon. Upon the death of his brother, a canon of Salon, he succeeded in obtaining the vacated benefice, which he sought for the gratification of his worldly ambitions.

Shortly after this, however, he returned to a better life, resumed his studies, and in 1582 was ordained to the priesthood. He distinguished himself by his works of charity and his zeal in preaching and catechizing, and conceived the idea of instituting a congregation of priests who should devote themselves to the preaching of Christian Doctrine. In 1592, the “Prêtres séculiers de la doctrine chrétienne”, or “Doctrinaires”, were founded in the town of L’Isle and in the following year came to Avignon. This congregation was approved in December 1597. Besides the Doctrinaires, de Bus founded an order of women called “Filles de la doctrine chrétienne” and later the Ursulines (not the major congregation of that name); it died out in the 17th century.

Five volumes of his “Instructions familières” were published (Paris, 1666). Fr. de Bus died on April 15, 1607 at Avignon.

Spiritual reading: I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ. That is why, in preaching, I say “we lepers;” not, “my brethren.” (Father Damien of Molokai)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 14, 2011

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: Marguerite d’Youville was born on October 15, 1701 in Quebec. She was the daughter of Christophe Dufrost de Lajemmerais, who died in Marguerite’s youth, and Renee de Varennes; niece of Laverendrye, who “discovered” the Rocky Mountains. Educated by the Ursulines, she married in 1722 at age 21 to an adulterous M. de Youville. Marguerite was the mother of three children. One of her children died, but both sons who survived to adulthood became priests. At the age of 29, she became a widow in 1730. To minister to those even poorer than herself, she took over the operation of a failing hospital and made it both a success, and became a beacon to those who were outcast. She founded the Sisters of Charity (the Grey Nuns) in 1737 from those who worked at the hospital; the congregation’s rule received diocesan approval in 1755. She was the director of the General Hospital in Montreal, which was taken over by the Grey Nuns. Today the sisters work throughout Canada, the United States, Africa, and South America. She died December 23, 1771 of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: You must be the change you wish to see in the world. (Mahatma Gandhi)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 13, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 8:31-42

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, Jesus dares us to undertake a journey, and the invitation is the deepest meaning of our Lenten renewal. Jesus says, “If God were your father, you would love me, for I came from God.”

To see Jesus more clearly, to follow him more nearly, to love him more dearly is our given path into the presence of the Lord of Spirits and the Flesh, and since that Lord has fashioned us like garments to fit the pattern of the Lord’s own form, it is in Jesus and only in Jesus that our truth and freedom can be realized.

Saint of the day: Margaret of Castello was born in 1287 in Italy. Born blind, lame, deformed, hunchback, of tiny stature, when she was six years old, her noble parents walled her up beside a chapel; she could not get out, but could attend Mass and receive the Sacraments. After 14 years of imprisonment, her parents took her to a shrine to pray for a cure. When none occurred, they abandoned her. She became a lay Dominican, and spent her life in prayer and charity. When she died on April 13,1320 of natural causes, the townspeople thronged her funeral, and demanded she be buried in a tomb inside the church. The priest protested, but a crippled girl was miraculously cured at the funeral, and he consented.

Spiritual reading: I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. (C. S. Lewis)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 12, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world.” They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.

So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.

Reflection on the gospel: In today’s gospel, Jesus twice uses the words, I AM, to describe himself. The discussion of what God said to Moses when Moses asked God for God’s name is a little complicated, but what the Jews understood God to have said is, “I AM,” and in today’s gospel, Jesus uses those very same words about himself. In other words, Jesus in the gospel passage is making a very strong claim about his own identity. Jesus tells his listeners that when they lift the Son of Man up, they will know this is the truth about Jesus, that, as Jesus says later in John’s gospel, “The Father and I are One.” Being “lifted up” in today’s passage, of course, refers to Jesus’ being lifted up on the cross. Jesus is telling us that it is in his suffering that we will come to recognize his glory. Today’s gospel goes once again to the paradox of Christianity, that there is in suffering, the revelation of God’s glory. And what is true about Jesus, that God reveals Godself in suffering, is true also about us, who have been baptized into him. Our suffering is not empty: God sees it and fills it with God’s own infinite meaning.

Saint of the day: Sabas the Goth and his companion died in 372. The account of the martyrdom of Saint Sabas was recorded in a letter soon after his death at the hands of a Gothic ruler north of the Danube. Saint Jerome tells us that King Athanaric of the Goths began persecuting Christians in his tribe about 370. Sabas, converted to Christianity in his youth, was lector to the priest Sansala, apparently at Targoviste in modern Romania.

We are told that Sabas exemplified the Christian virtues of obedience and humility, and that he loved to sing the divine praises in church and decorate the altar. His desire for chastity was so great that he refrained from even speaking to women unless it was absolutely necessary. Most of all, Sabas loved the truth.

Sabas denounced the practice of some Christians of pretending to eat meat offered to pagan gods though in reality it had not been sacrificed to the gods by arrangement with some officers. He said that they had renounced the faith by their pretense. For this, he was forced into exile but later was allowed to return.

During another persecution the following year, some Christians swore that there were no Christians among them. Sabas loudly proclaimed his Christianity. After his first arrest, he was released as an insignificant fellow, owning nothing but the clothes on his back, ‘who can do us neither good nor harm.’

Just before Easter 372, the persecution was renewed. Atharidus and his troops broke into the lodgings of the sleeping Sansala, bound him, and threw him on a cart. They pulled Sabas out of bed without allowing him to dress and dragged the modest saint naked over thorns and briars, forcing him along with whips and staves. At daybreak Sabas said to his persecutors: “Have not you dragged me, quite naked, over rough and thorny grounds? Observe whether my feet are wounded, or whether the blows you gave me have made any impression on my body.” His body bore no bruises or abrasions, which enraged his tormentors, causing them to rack him on a make- shift devise.

Sabas refused an opportunity to escape when the mistress of the house in which they were lodged overnight, untied him. He spent the rest of the night helping the woman to dress victuals for the family.

The next day he was hung upon a beam of the house, and offered and refused meats that had been sacrificed to idols. One of Atharidus’s slaves struck the point of his javelin against the saint’s breast with such violence that all present believed Sabas had been killed. But he was unharmed. At this, Atharidus declared that Sansala should be dismissed, but Sabas must be drowned.

On the banks of the river, the officers wanted to let him go. Overhearing them, Sabas asked why they were so dilatory in obeying their orders? Then he continued, “I see what you cannot: I see persons on the other side of the river ready to receive my soul, and conduct it to the seat of glory: they only wait the moment in which it will leave my body.”

Thereupon he was tied to a pole and held down in the Buzau (Mussovo) River until he was dead; ‘This death by wood and water,’ says the correspondent, ‘was an exact symbol of man’s salvation,’ i.e., symbols of baptism and the cross. When he was dead, they drew his body out of the water, and left it unburied: but the Christians of the place guarded it from birds and beasts of prey.

Junius Soranus, duke of Scythia, a man who feared God, sent the body to Cappadocia. A letter was sent with these relics from the church of Gothia to that of Cappadocia governed by Saint Basil, which contains an account of the martyrdom of Sabas, and concludes thus: “Wherefore offering up the holy sacrifice on the day whereon the martyr was crowned, impart this to our brethren, that the Lord may be praised throughout the Catholic and Apostolic Church for thus glorifying his servants.”

Spiritual reading: By confronting us with irreducible mysteries that stretch our daily vision to include infinity, nature opens an inviting and guiding path toward a spiritual life. (Saint Thomas More

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 11, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Even many of the most conservative scholars accept the evidence that this passage in John’s gospel was not written by the evangelist John’s hand. It seems to have been a short story floating around in the ancient world, one with the ring of great authenticity, that editors decided to fix inside one of the four gospels. Though editors chose to insert the passage into John’s gospel at the start of what is now chapter 8, there are many scholars who believe it might have been a better insert for Luke’s gospel. Luke’s writing betrays his preoccupation with Jesus’ compassion, and this story certainly points to Jesus’ tenderness.

I think the story touches us for many reasons. We all are aware that human sexuality is a place of particular vulnerability in the human psyche. Any of us can reflect on her or his sexual behavior at different points in our lives and wonder, “Where did that come from?” This narrative demonstrates Jesus’ understanding and compassion for this area of weakness, and there is a hint, in his advice to the scribes and pharisees, that Jesus recognized it was a universal weakness. The narrative indicates that Jesus believed there were ideals for this arena of our behavior, and we should strive to live up to them, but it also suggests that Jesus recognized that rigid legalism around sexual mores, including punitive attitudes, is an inadequate response to such profound human weakness. I think it is fair to say that only those among us who are without failure in this area of our lives ought to be quick to condemn those whose failure unfortunately becomes public. Hypocrisy, not adultery, seems to be the sin that preoccupied Jesus when the woman caught in adultery was presented to him.

Saint of the day: Anyone who reads the history of Eastern Europe cannot help but chance on the name of Stanislaus, the saintly but tragic bishop of Kraków, patron of Poland. He is remembered with Saints Thomas More and Thomas Becket for vigorous opposition to the evils of an unjust government.

Born in Szczepanow near Kraków on July 26, 1030, he was ordained a priest after being educated in the cathedral schools of Gniezno, then capital of Poland, and at Paris. He was appointed preacher and archdeacon to the bishop of Kraków, where his eloquence and example brought about real conversion in many of his penitents, both clergy and laity. He became bishop of Kraków in 1072.

During an expedition against the Grand Duchy of Kiev, Stanislaus became involved in the political situation of Poland. Known for his outspokenness, he aimed his attacks at the evils of the peasantry and the king, especially the unjust wars and immoral acts of King Boleslaus II.

The king first excused himself, then made a show of penance, then relapsed into his old ways. Stanislaus continued his open opposition in spite of charges of treason and threats of death, finally excommunicating the king. The latter, enraged, ordered soldiers to kill the bishop. When they refused, the king killed him with his own hands.

Forced to flee to Hungary, Boleslaus supposedly spent the rest of his life as a penitent in the Benedictine abbey in Osiak.

Spiritual reading: We all suffer for each other, and gain by each other’s suffering; for man never stands alone here, though he will stand alone hereafter; but here is he is a social being, and goes forward to his long home as one of a large company. (Blessed John Newman)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 10, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 11:1-45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to him saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” hen Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: It is said that it takes us some time after the moment of death to realize and accept that we really are dead. Perhaps we understand that our consciousness is still operating after some momentary lapse but in a different medium. Or perhaps the problem is that it only slowly dawns on us, though it is hard to grasp how, that death is not what we thought it meant. So if we are dead, it’s a different way of being dead than we had imagined before we died. Is death really not extinction, then? Just a transition? And if so what is it a transition to?

We can’t say what happens. Therefore, if we want to deepen the meaning of our experience, it is best to focus on this life evolving rather than on a second life beginning. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead the people ridiculed him. All the elements of death were there, the grief, the disruption of normality, and the physicality of the absence. Yet Jesus walks into all this with his own tears for one he loved and reaches out in his love into the unknown and restores what was dead to life.

What does it tell us? It won’t tell us anything significant unless we connect to our own deaths. Not the death of the last breath but the deaths of loss, disappointment, or physical and emotional affliction that puts us out of the reach of others. If we can remember these experience of death – or even those moments where we really let go of our thoughts, images, and emotions and became poor in spirit then we may see a thread of luminous clarity running through the darkness. That thread begins to glow with a new force and brilliance until we see past and future in completely new ways.

The tragedies of life and the mundane practices of Lenten disciplines contain the same truth – the hand of love reaching into us when we feel most finished.

Spiritual reading: The eyes of the Lord are rays of light who lighten those who are in the darkness and the shadow of death. The tongue of Christ is full of life for everyone whom death has conquered. The hands of Christ are restorers of life, with which he aids all and sets them on their feet. (St. Athanasius)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 9, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 7:40-53

Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”

So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” Then each went to his own house.

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, the controversy about Jesus’ identity that has dominated the readings this week continues. What Jesus does and what Jesus says make many believe that he is the messiah, but some raise the objection that Jesus is a Galilean, either ignorant or inattentive to the facts that, as Matthew and Luke make clear, Jesus was from David’s line, born in Bethlehem of Judea. Each of us labors under a burden of bias. Our biases are not entirely bad; they help us to navigate common experiences without a lot of reflection. But sometimes, we are so stuck in our stories that we are unable to accept new data that challenges the way we have conceptualized something. We, too, like the Pharisees can be so convinced that we know who Jesus is that we are unable to move beyond our stories to embrace new evidence. For this reason, we need to pray to be open to the movements of the Spirit, the evidence of the scriptures, and experiences we encounter as members of our parish communities, for the evidence of Jesus as Jesus is in all these things.

Saint of the day: Casilda of Toledo, who died around 1050, is venerated as a saint of the Catholic Church. Her feast day is April 9. According to her legend, St. Casilda, a daughter of a Muslim king of Toledo (called Almacrin or Almamun), showed special kindness to Christian prisoners by carrying bread hidden in her clothes to feed them. Once, she was stopped by Muslim soldiers and asked to reveal what she was carrying in her skirt. When she began to show them, the bread turned into a bouquet of roses. She was raised a Muslim, but when she became ill as a young woman, she refused help from the local Arab doctors and traveled to northern Iberia to partake of the healing waters of the shrine of San Vicente, near Buezo, close to Briviesca. When she was cured, she was baptized at Burgos (where she was later venerated) and lived a life of solitude and penance not far from the miraculous spring. It is said that she lived to be 100 years old.

Spiritual reading: Pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. (The Didache)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 8, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Jesus moved about within Galilee; he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel goes to the question of who Jesus is. All of us who spend our time reflecting on this question recognize that the person of Jesus creates confusion for many people. In today’s gospel, for instance, the people know that their religious leaders seek to arrest and kill Jesus, yet they see that Jesus freely goes where he will and says what he wants. We Christians believe that Jesus is the Word of God; Jesus would not be Jesus were he not to speak. In the gospel, Jesus says, “I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” In speaking this way, Jesus causes his listeners to become angry, but the gospel tells us they could not arrest him. God had a plan, and Jesus’ time was not yet. In this time of Lent, let us renew our attention to this question of who it is that we serve and pray to God that we may enter ever more deeply into a knowledge and love of the very image of the Father in whose name we have been baptized.

Saint of the day: Born in 1751 in Cuvilly, France into a family of well-to-do farmers, young Marie Rose Julia Billiart showed an early interest in religion and in helping the sick and poor. Though the first years of her life were relatively peaceful and uncomplicated, Julie had to take up manual work as a young teen when her family lost its money. However, she spent her spare time teaching catechism to young people and to the farm laborers.

A mysterious illness overtook her when she was about 30. Witnessing an attempt to wound or even kill her father, Julie was paralyzed and became a complete invalid. For the next two decades she continued to teach catechism lessons from her bed, offered spiritual advice and attracted visitors who had heard of her holiness.

When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, revolutionary forces became aware of her allegiance to fugitive priests. With the help of friends she was smuggled out of Cuvilly in a haycart; she spent several years hiding in Compiegne, being moved from house to house despite her growing physical pain. She even lost the power of speech for a time.

But this period also proved to be a fruitful spiritual time for Julie. It was at this time she had a vision in which she saw Calvary surrounded by women in religious habits and heard a voice saying, “Behold these spiritual daughters whom I give you in an Institute marked by the cross.” As time passed and Julie continued her mobile life, she made the acquaintance of an aristocratic woman, Francoise Blin de Bourdon, who shared Julie’s interest in teaching the faith. In 1803 the two women began the Institute of Notre Dame, which was dedicated to the education of the poor as well as young Christian girls and the training of catechists. The following year the first Sisters of Notre Dame made their vows. That was the same year that Julie recovered from the illness: She was able to walk for the first time in 22 years.

Though Julie had always been attentive to the special needs of the poor and that always remained her priority, she also became aware that other classes in society needed Christian instruction. From the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame until her death, Julie was on the road, opening a variety of schools in France and Belgium that served the poor and the wealthy, vocational groups, teachers. Ultimately, Julie and Francoise moved the motherhouse to Namur, Belgium. Julie died there in 1816. She was canonized in 1969.

Spiritual reading: I ought to die of shame to think I have not already died of gratitude to my good God. (Julie Billiart)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 7, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews: “If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us that God witnesses to Jesus’ ministry through the testimony of John the Baptist, Jesus’ works, the Father’s own testimony, and the words of Scripture. The Baptist’s testimony and the record of Jesus’ life call us to believe in the Christ that the Father reveals to us in the Scriptures. It is easy for us to project our hopes and ideas onto Jesus like some giant Rorschach test, but perhaps we should ask ourselves whether we are open to the Jesus whose radical presence was nothing of the peace of amiable indifference, the Christ not of our invention, but the Lord as truly he reveals himself to us.

Saint of the day: Complete dedication to what he saw as God’s will for him dominated the life of John Baptist de la Salle. In 1950, he was named him patron of schoolteachers for his efforts in upgrading school instruction. As a young seventeenth-century Frenchman born in 1651, John had everything going for him: scholarly bent, good looks, noble family background, money, refined upbringing. At the early age of 11, he received the tonsure and started preparation for the priesthood, to which he was ordained at 27. He seemed assured then of a life of dignified ease and a high position in the Church.

But God had other plans for John, which were gradually revealed to him in the next several years. During a chance meeting with M. Nyel of Raven, he became interested in the creation of schools for poor boys in Raven, where he was stationed. Though the work was extremely distasteful to him at first, he became more involved in working with the deprived youths.

Once convinced that this was his divinely appointed mission, John threw himself wholeheartedly into the work, left home and family, abandoned his position as canon at Rheims, gave away his fortune and reduced himself to the level of the poor to whom he devoted his entire life.

The remainder of his life was closely entwined with the community of religious men he founded, the Brothers of the Christian School (Christian Brothers, or De La Salle Brothers). This community grew rapidly and was successful in educating boys of poor families using methods designed by John, preparing teachers in the first training college for teachers and also setting up homes and schools for young delinquents of wealthy families. The motivating element in all these endeavors was the desire to become a good Christian.

Yet even in his success, John did not escape experiencing many trials: heartrending disappointment and defections among his disciples, bitter opposition from the secular schoolmasters who resented his new and fruitful methods, and persistent opposition from the Jansenists of his time, whose moral rigidity and pessimism abut the human condition John resisted vehemently all his life. Afflicted with asthma and rheumatism in his last years, he died on Good Friday at 68 and was canonized in 1900.

Spiritual reading: What is nobler than to mold the character of the young? I consider that he who knows how to form the youthful mind is truly greater than all painters, sculptors and all others of that sort. (St. John Chrysostom)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 6, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 5:17-30

Jesus answered the Jews: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.

“I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel passage follows immediately upon yesterday’s in which Jesus healed the sick man at the pool of Bethesda on the sabbath. Jesus characterizes his actions within the context of his relationship to the Father. It is connection to the Father that fuels and justifies his actions. We too must strive to be men and women infused with the life of God who gain strength by the power the Father gives us to become both prayerfully reflective and charged with Godly power.

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 christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 5, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 5:1-16

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel Jesus poses to a man who had been very ill for 38 years the same question that he poses to us, “Do you want to be well?” The man protests he does want to be well but his impediments prevent him. Jesus reaches beyond the man’s weakness into the depths of his being and bids him to be well. There are things that are with us that resist change and have resisted change a long time. We need to reach beyond them out to the Lord who stands ready to lend us aid if only we will let him.

Saint of the day: Seventh of the eight children of Matthias Höss and Lucia Hoermann, Maria Crescentia Hoss was born in Bavaria in 1682. A Franciscan tertiary nun in 1703, she was admitted to the convent at Kaufbeuren at the request of the town’s Protestant mayor. Mistreated by her new sisters for her lack of a dowry, her holiness overcame their hostility, and she won them all over. She served as the convent’s porter and, between 1726 and 1741, as its director of novices. Reluctantly, she served as the superior of her house from 1741 until her death in on Easter Day in 1744.

Spiritual reading: From all such thoughtless people and their gossip, deliver me, Lord, for I do not want to fall into their hands nor do as they do. Let my lips speak only what is true and honest and keep my tongue from all sly speech. What I am unwilling to tolerate in others I must, by all means, avoid doing myself. (The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 4, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 4:43-54

At that time Jesus left [Samaria] for Galilee. For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place. When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves had gone to the feast.

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While the man was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. He asked them when he began to recover. They told him, “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.” The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he and his whole household came to believe. Now this was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from Judea.

Reflection on the gospel reading: When a man comes to Jesus in this passage of the gospel asking for the healing of his son, Jesus complains that people are looking for signs and wonders. But the man who has come to him persists in his faith that Jesus can do this for him, and Jesus gives the man what he wants. Today’s gospel reminds us of the need to persist in prayer and believe in Jesus’ power to set right that which is broken.

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)

A Lenten Reflection on Perspective

Posted in christian, inspirational, religion by Rev. Larry Hansen, BCC, CT on April 3, 2011

Hallowed Ground

In the Presence of the Dead

Jo McGowan

While visiting my sister Mary and her husband recently in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I saw a beautiful cemetery and asked Mary to pull the car over so I could take a photo. It was f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g. I cannot remember ever having been so cold, but perhaps my years in India have dimmed my memory or my resilience.

The wind tore in off the Atlantic. When I stepped out of the car, it cut through my coat and gloves and nearly lifted me into the air. I was sure my camera would freeze. But the picture I got captured something of the cold loneliness, finality, and grey certainty of death, and also the youth of so many of those who died in the nineteenth century: the child lost at two, the wife at twenty-seven.

The Harding and the Batson gravestones even counted age in months as well as years. In those days, before antibiotics and vaccinations, a simple fever or a cough that hung on could raise fears of death and awareness of the precariousness and preciousness of each day.

That cemetery is today prime property: overlooking the sea, on a main road, with views in all directions, close to town yet not crowded. My sister and brother-in-law once hoped to buy a place with even a glimpse of the ocean, but there was no way they could afford one. So the cemetery seemed not just an anachronism but something of a joke. At Portsmouth prices, what a waste of space! Such a perfect setting for a hotel, an expensive restaurant, even a park, if one insists on being public-spirited. But a cemetery, strewn with awkwardly shaped tombstones, where even a picnic seems inappropriate? Let the dead bury the dead. Land is for the living.

But I don’t think so. These days, now that I’m past middle age and on the downward slope myself, I am ever more mindful of the need for reflection, the need to be forced to stop, to pause, to consider, to contemplate, to recognize that this life is fleeting and charged with meaning only if we have something meaningful to offer.

It is so easy to get lost in the daily details, in the job, the kids’ achievements, the bills to be paid, the friends to impress. It’s so easy to think that the promotion I can get only by working twice as hard is more important than that elderly aunt who just wants to tell the same tired old stories again and again. It’s so tempting to believe that the recognition we get for our writing or our sales or our good taste in clothes, books, or household design is the real thing and worth striving for. It’s so much easier to invest in life insurance and health care than to acknowledge that ultimately we have zero control over when, where, or how we will go.

Crouching in that cemetery, trying vainly to protect myself from the knife-like wind, I understood vividly that just as it was for Martha Batson (fifty-two, my exact age) or Mary Harding (twenty-seven: oh, my life when I was twenty-seven—so full of promise and possibility!), this life is my only chance. It has to count. It has to mean something.

There is a reason that we create memorials to our dead, that we hallow the ground in which they lie, that we “visit” them, even though we know they aren’t there. It is because we know they are both our ancestors and our torchbearers. They came before us and they go before us, leading the way, showing the path. They remind us of who we are and where we are going. In the finality of their tombstones, their names—etched years or even centuries before—call us to order. They make us pause on the treadmill and ask ourselves the eternal questions.

I love cemeteries for the lives they hold and the promise they proclaim. I love them because they invite us to be conscious of each passing moment, as if it could be our last. As if it could really be our last. And I love them for the way they remind us that while this life is the only one we have, it is also the gateway to the eternal mystery of the life beyond.

Martha Batson. Mary Harding. And I. Do everything in view of eternity. There is really no other way to live.

(Published in Commonweal magazine, April 8, 2011 issue, submitted by Fr. Larry Hansen, Cana House, Portland, Oregon)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 3, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 9:1-41

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is, “but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

Reflection on the gospel reading: We read today about a vision that changes lives. This is a sightedness that obsessively, dangerously, undeniably reaches into the very core of our beings. This is a seeing that of itself makes us entirely new.

I have read that one of the Dalai Lama’s heroes is a Belfast man who, when he was a boy coming home from school one day, was shot and blinded for life by a British soldier. When Richard Moore returned home from the hospital, his mother took him aside to tell him two things. First, that he would never see again, and secondly, that he must never hate the British. Moore grew up to found a charity for children suffering from violence and conflict. He presents for us a living witness to what the teachers of non-violence, people like the the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, insist: that it is possible, however impossible it may seem, to transcend the instinctive reactions of hatred and revenge that arise and usually master us after we have suffered at the hands of others.

The most important way of achieving what seems impossible is to see it. Once seen and experienced anything, however out of reach it appears, the vision we have enjoyed enters the realm of possibility. To see in this way we have to close our eyes to the illusory images that are in truth forms of spiritual blindness. Though Richard Moore lost his physical eyes, the eyes inside his spirit perceive reality with a clearer vision than many of us enjoy who benefit from the play of light on our retinas.

When in today’s gospel Jesus heals the man blind from birth, he is not working at the physical level alone. With his sight restored, the man comes to see with a clarity and vividness that fills him with the courage and decisiveness that only the truest vision of reality can awaken in us.

We are invited to open our eyes to receive a vision. And this vision will inspire in us an animating faith. As our faith deepens, our vision becomes clearer; and when we see vividly enough, we recognize that we have already changed our direction. The actual instant of change, like that of a resurrection from the dead, is always hidden in the moment when the degree of vision reaches the critical point. We can never see God as an object but only by a participation in God’s vision of us that, as we sometimes too reluctantly admit, is not the end of the story but part of an infinitely larger picture than we can imagine.

So what is the vision that opens our interior eyes to God’s vision of us? The vision is Jesus. Obsessively, dangerously, undeniably Jesus.

Spiritual reading: Violence as a way of achieving justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. (Martin Luther King)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 2, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 18:9-14

Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity, greedy, dishonest, adulterous, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage today is about prayer. But even more specifically it is about our attitudes in prayer. We may be tempted to come to God as people without need and dependence, as people who feel justified and meritorious, or we may come to God as people who recognize our complete reliance on God’s mercy. The scripture we have here makes clear which of the two God accepts and which of the two God rejects. No matter what good we may do or produce in our lives, all of us are sinners wholly dependent on God’s mercy to lift us up and save us. In this spirit we should approach the God in whose hands rests our salvation.

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)