Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on September 22, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: An English bishop of the 13th century, Richard of Wyche, wrote a prayer in which he asks Jesus, “May I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.” Like this prayer, the gospel passage that we read today suggests that there are different ways of seeing who Jesus is.

The Herod about whom we read today was the son of Herod the Great, about whom much has come down to us through sacred and secular histories as well as in the archeological record. Herod the Great, of course, is the king in Matthew’s gospel whom the magi visited and who, for fear of his throne, put to death all the boys of Bethlehem under the age of two. Herod the Great in his will provided that his kingdom be divided among his four sons, so Herod the Tetrarch who appears in today’s passage is a ruler of a fourth part of the kingdom of his father. “Tetrarch” actually means, “ruler of a fourth part.”

In today’s narrative, Herod the Tetrarch has been hearing quite a bit about Jesus and the wonders he works. Herod is a superstitious man, and like his father before him, he fears Jesus. But Herod also is curious about him and wants to see him, perhaps so Jesus can perform some “magic” for him.

One moral to this gospel passage is that there are different ways to see Jesus. There is the wrong path, that is, the way that Herod wants: to perceive the Lord with neither faith nor hope and think about him much the way we might be amused by the tricks of a trained animal. And there is the way that Richard of Wyche: to look into life and each part of the world to see, love, and follow the Lord.

Saint of the day: Today the Church remembers the 233 martyrs of Valencia, Spain, referred to collectively as Jose Aparicio Sanz and 232 companions, beatified in 2001. Scholars believe that in the early months of 1936 more than 10,000 priests, brothers, nuns, and Catholic lay persons were killed in the Spanish Civil War, as combatants attempted to wipe out what they saw as the Catholic resistance. The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) pitted the government, supported by communists, anarchists, socialists, labor groups and other secular causes, against a Fascist movement, which endeavored to enforce an authoritarian Spanish society. Eventually, the Fascists prevailed. In the course of the horrible and bloody conflict, many Spanish Catholics died for the faith.

The martyrs were men and women of all ages and states: diocesan priests, men and women religious, the fathers and mothers of families, young lay people. They were killed for their faith in Christ and their active membership in the Church. The written material collected in support of the beatification ran more than 4,000 pages. Before dying, all of them, as stated in the canonical processes for their declaration as martyrs, forgave their executioners from their heart. For example, seminarians who were shot left behind a note scrawled on a chocolate wrapper: “We die forgiving those who are taking away our life and offering it for the Christian ordering of the world.”

Various anecdotes illustrate the courage and faithfulness of the martyrs of Valencia. Father Jose Aparicio Sanz served as archpriest in his native village of Enguera, Spain, in the archdiocese of Valencia. As the Spanish Civil War continued in the autumn of 1936, forces of the anti-Catholic Popular Front arrested Father Aparicio and imprisoned him together with fourteen other diocesan priests in a jail at Mislata. From October 5 through Christmas of that year, the incarcerated priests spent their time repeatedly praying the rosary and reciting other devotional prayers. On December 29, 1936, the forty-three-year-old Father Aparicio was brought to a location known as Picadero de Paterna to be executed along with approximately thirty other prisoners. Among the others put to death for the Catholic faith was the thirty-three-year-old curate of Father Aparicio’s parish of Enguera, Father Enrique Juan Requena. Another of the martyrs was Jose Perpina Nacher, a twenty-five-year-old married layman who had worked as a lawyer and a telegraph operator.

The elderly María Teresa Ferragud was arrested at the age of 83 along with her four daughters. These four daughters were nuns who had sought refuge in their mother’s home. On October 25, 1936, the feast of Christ the King, María Teresa asked to accompany her daughters to martyrdom. The executioners wanted to kill the mother first, but she told the militia, “I want to know what you are going to do to my daughters, and if you are going to kill them, shoot them first with me being the last one.” Then she said to her daughters, “My daughters, be faithful to your celestial Husband and do not believe in the flatteries of these men.” She also told them, “My daughters, do not be afraid. Death is only a question of time.” One by one, her daughters were killed. When the executioners came to her, they asked her, “Old woman, are you not afraid to die?” Maria Teresa told them, “All my life I wanted to do something for Jesus, and now I’m going to be left behind? Kill me for the same reason you killed my daughters. I am a Christian.” After killing her, the executioners said among themselves, “This is a true saint.”

The young Francisco Castelló y Aleu, 22 years old, a chemist by profession and a member of Catholic Action, realizing the gravity of the situation, did not want to hide but to offer himself as a sacrifice to God and his companions; he left three letters, written a few moments before his death, to his sisters, his spiritual director, and his fiancée. These letters testified to his strength, generosity, serenity, and happiness. A 23-year-old newly ordained priest, Germán Gozalbo, after many humiliations and abuses, was shot only two months after celebrating his first Mass.

Spiritual reading: Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day. (Richard, Bishop of Chichester)

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