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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on September 20, 2011

EADsupper withMMGospel reading of the day:

Luke 8:19-21

The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd. He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.” He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Luke makes clear elsewhere in his gospel, particularly in the infancy narratives, that he greatly esteems the faithfulness of the mother of Jesus. We can imply from that fact that Jesus in today’s gospel does not critique the behavior of his mother or brothers. We are to draw another lesson from this text. The gospel passage does not criticize Jesus’ family, rather it calls upon us to make a complete commitment that creates ties among the baptized which are deeper than the bonds in a family. What Jesus says in this passage is that those who hear God’s word and act upon it are his truest family.

Saint of the day: This first native Korean priest, Andrew Kim Taegon, was the son of Korean converts. His father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839 and was beatified in 1925. After baptism at the age of fifteen, Andrew traveled thirteen hundred miles to the seminary in Macao, China. After six years he managed to return to his country through Manchuria. That same year he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai and was ordained a priest. Back home again, he was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter by a water route that would elude the border patrol. He was arrested, tortured and finally beheaded at the Han River near Seoul, the capital. Paul Chong Hasang was a lay apostle and married man, aged forty-five. Christianity came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for an annual journey to Beijing to pay taxes. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly a dozen years later, he found four thousand Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were ten thousand Catholics. Religious freedom came in 1883.

Andrew, Paul, ninety-eight other Koreans, and three French missionaries were martyred between 1839 and 1867; the universal church now celebrates their witness to Christ. Among them were bishops and priests, but for the most part they were lay persons: forty-seven women, forty-five men.

Among the martyrs in 1839 was Columba Kim, an unmarried woman of twenty-six. She was put in prison, pierced with hot awls, and seared with burning coals. She and her sister Agnes were disrobed and kept for two days in a cell with condemned criminals but were not molested. After Columba complained about the indignity, no more women were subjected to it. The two were beheaded. A boy of thirteen, Peter Ryou, had his flesh so badly torn that he could pull off pieces and throw them at the judges. He was killed by strangulation. Protase Chong, a forty-one-year-old noble, apostatized under torture and was freed. Later he came back, confessed his faith and was tortured to death.

Spiritual reading: The Church is a prayer; the Church is a song; the Church is the tears of all mankind; the Church is the smile of a child; the Church picks up the last look of the dying man or woman. (Catherine Doherty)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on September 19, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to the crowd: “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Being Christian is a great light in the world. One does not hide a light. Instead, one lets it shine forth so that it may brighten the way of the people who might benefit from that light. Today’s gospel passage called us to give what we receive. It is ironic that we find what it means to be Christian by giving it away: it doubles in being halved. If we hide it, we will lose it or risk never perhaps having had it at all.

Saint of the day: Saint Januarius was a martyred bishop about whom very little is known. According to legendary sources, he died in 305 during the Diocletian persecution of Christians. 200px-SaintJanuariusHe was imprisoned while visiting incarcerated deacons at the sulphur mines of Puteoli, the modern Pozzuoli. After many tortures, including being thrown to lions in Pozzuoli’s Flavian Amphitheater, he was beheaded at Solfatara, along with his companions, who were a deacon, a lector, and several friends.

There is little known of the life of Januarius but local Neapolitan tradition says he was born in Benevento to a rich patrician family that traced its descent to the Caudini tribe of the Samnites. At a young age of 15, he became local priest of his parish in Benevento, which at the time was relatively pagan. When Januarius was 20, he became Bishop of Naples and befriended Juliana of Nicomedia and St.Sossius whom he met during his priestly studies as young boys. As Bishop of Naples, he performed many miracles. During the persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian, he hid his fellow Christians and prevented them from being caught. Unfortunately, while visiting Sossius in jail, he too was arrested. He was placed in a furnace to be cooked alive, he came out unscathed. He was pushed into the Flavian Amphitheater at Pozzuoli to be eaten by wild bears, who had not eaten in days. Yet the animals refused to eat them, instead licking their toes. Januarius was beheaded along with Sossius and his companions at Solfatara.

image_phpSlfFzKDespite very limited information about his life and works, he is famous for the reputed miracle of the annual liquefaction of his blood, first reported in 1389. The dried blood is safely stored in small capsules in a reliquary. When these capsules are brought into the vicinity of his body on three occasions in the year, the dried blood supposedly liquefies.

Thousands of people assemble to witness this event in the cathedral of Naples. The archbishop, at the high altar amid prayers and invocations, holds up a glass phial that is said to contain the dried blood of the city’s patron saint. When the liquefaction has taken place, the archbishop holds up the phial again and demonstrates that liquefaction has taken place. The announcement of the liquefaction is greeted with a 21-gun salute at the 13th-century Castel Nuovo.

orpheusSpiritual reading: The great malady of the twentieth century, implicated in all of our troubles and affecting us individually and socially, is “loss of soul.” When soul is neglected, it doesn’t just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning. Our temptation is to isolate these symptoms or to try to eradicate them one by one; but the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the soul, even our interests in it. (Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on September 18, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 20:1-16a

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In our own day, I think this gospel passage may tell a story that seems to us unjust. In the way that we think, people who work longer hours deserve more money; to us, it may seem as though the master of the vineyard has exploited labor by paying people who work an hour the same as people who work 12 hours.

But scripture elsewhere tells us that God’s ways are not our ways, and we know from our study of the gospels that the entire point of Jesus’ teaching is the necessity of that we act justly. With this background, we perhaps can start to examine this parable from a different paradigm than our usual perspective. The gospel challenges us to understand the nature of God’s justice. It is true that God is just, but we know that God is merciful, compassionate, and benevolent. God is one and indivisible, so we can assume, particularly in light of this gospel passage, that our justice and God’s justice are not the same. God’s justice looks a whole deal more like mercy and compassion than our justice does. The gospel passage isn’t a story about workers who have worked all days not getting what is their due; it is instead a story about people who come into the field late in the day being lavished with God’s love. All of us need God’s love in exactly the same measure: those of who spend our lives from our earliest days on the kingdom require God’s mercy in just the same degree as those of us who arrive late.

Spiritual reading: There are many different ways of bringing people into His kingdom. I have therefore learned to be cautious in my judgement. (C.S. Lewis)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on September 17, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 8:4-15

When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable. “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold.” After saying this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

Then his disciples asked him what the meaning of this parable might be. He answered, “Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.

“This is the meaning of the parable. The seed is the word of God. Those on the path are the ones who have heard, but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved. Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, but they have no root; they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation. As for the seed that fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit. But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage comes in Luke’s gospel immediately after Luke’s observation, which was in the gospel passage we read yesterday, that Jesus went about with his companions preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. When Luke presents the parable of the sower, he provides an example of the kind of teaching that Jesus gave to illustrate the nature of the kingdom.

Luke records the parable of the sower of the seed in much the same way that Mark and Matthew relate it, but there is a difference in nuance. While Matthew emphasizes understanding, Luke emphasizes faith and perseverance. In Luke’s account of the parable, everyone hears the word, but Luke is aware that it is possible to lose what one has received. For Luke, our faith in Jesus and the kingdom must not disappear when the Devil comes to test us or when it is choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life; instead, Luke encourages us to nurture our faith and let it bear fruit through perseverance. Membership in God’s kingdom, then, according to Luke’s rendition of the parable, consists of faith and perseverance in faith. The Church ever has taught that we should always pray to persevere to the end, so let us pray for one another.

Saint of the day: Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a remarkable woman, a “first” in many fields. At a time when few women wrote, Hildegard, known as “Sybil of the Rhine,” produced major works of theology and visionary writings. When few women were accorded respect, she was consulted by and advised bishops, popes, and kings. She used the curative powers of natural objects for healing, and wrote treatises about natural history and medicinal uses of plants, animals, trees and stones. She is the first composer whose biography is known. She founded a vibrant convent, where her musical plays were performed. Although not yet canonized, Hildegard has been beatified, and is frequently referred to as St. Hildegard. Revival of interest in this extraordinary woman of the middle ages was initiated by musicologists and historians of science and religion.

Hildegard was born the tenth child to a noble family. As was customary with the tenth child, which the family could not count on feeding, she was dedicated at birth to the church. The girl started to have visions of luminous objects at the age of tree, but soon realized she was unique in this ability and hid this gift for many years.

At age 8, the family sent this strange girl to an anchoress named Jutta to receive a religious education. Jutta was born into a wealthy and prominent family, and by all accounts was a young woman of great beauty. She spurned all worldly temptations and decided to dedicate her life to God. Instead of entering a convent, Jutta followed a harsher route and became an anchoress. Anchors of both sexes, though from most accounts they seem to be largely women, led an ascetic life, shut off from the world inside a small room, usually built adjacent to a church so that they could follow the services, with only a small window acting as their link to the rest of humanity. Food would be passed through this window and refuse taken out. Most of the time would be spent in prayer, contemplation, or solitary handworking activities, like stitching and embroidering. Because they would become essentially dead to the world, anchors would receive their last rights from the bishop before their confinement in the anchorage. This macabre ceremony was a complete burial ceremony with the anchor laid out on a bier.

Jutta’s cell was such an anchorage, except that there was a door through which Hildegard entered, as well as about a dozen of girls from noble families who were attracted there by Jutta’s fame in later years. What kind of education did Hildegard receive from Jutta? It was of the most rudimentary form, and Hildegard could never escape the feelings of inadequacy and lack of education. She learned to read the Psalter in Latin. Though her grasp of the grammatical intricacies of the language was never complete – she always had secretaries to help her write down her visions – she had a good intuitive feel for the intrintricacies of the language itself, constructing complicated sentences fraught with meanings on many levels, that are still a challenge to students of her writings. The proximity of the anchorage to the church of the Benedictine monastery at Disibodenberg (it was attached physically to the church) undoubtedly exposed young Hildegard to musical religious services and were the basis for her own musical compositions. After Jutta’s death, when Hildegard was 38 years of age, she was elected the head of the budding convent living within cramped walls of the anchorage.

During all these years Hildegard confided of her visions only to Jutta and another monk, named Volmar, who was to become her lifelong secretary. However, in 1141, Hildegard had a vision that changed the course of her life. A vision of God gave her instant understanding of the meaning of the religious texts and commanded her to write down everything she would observe in her visions.

And it came to pass … when I was 42 years and 7 months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming… and suddenly I understood of the meaning of expositions of the books…

Yet Hildegard was also overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and hesitated to act.

But although I heard and saw these things, because of doubt and low opinion of myself and because of diverse sayings of men, I refused for a long time a call to write, not out of stubbornness but out of humility, until weighed down by a scourge of god, I fell onto a bed of sickness.

The 12th century was a time of religious foment, when someone preaching any outlandish doctrine could instantly attract a large following. Hildegard was critical of such perspectives. She wanted her visions to be sanctioned, approved by the Catholic Church, though she herself never doubted the divine origins to her luminous visions. She wrote to St. Bernard, seeking his blessings. Though his answer to her was rather perfunctory, he did bring it to the attention of Pope Eugenius (1145-53), a rather enlightened individual who exhorted Hildegard to finish her writings. With papal imprimatur, Hildegard was able to finish her first visionary work Scivias (“Know the Ways of the Lord”) and her fame began to spread through Germany and beyond.

Around 1150 Hildegard moved her growing convent from Disibodenberg, where the nuns lived alongside the monks, to Bingen about 30 km north, on the banks of the Rhine. She later founded another convent, Eibingen, across the river from Bingen. Her remaining years were very productive. She wrote music and texts to her songs, mostly liturgical plainchant honoring saints and Virgin Mary for the holidays and feast days, and antiphons. There is some evidence that her music and moral play Ordo Virtutum (“Play of Virtues”) were performed in her own convent. In addition to Scivias she wrote two other major works of visionary writing Liber vitae meritorum (1150-63) (Book of Life’s Merits) and Liber divinorum operum (1163) (“Book of Divine Works”), in which she further expounded on her theology of microcosm and macrocosm-man being the peak of God’s creation, man as a mirror through which the splendor of the macrocosm was reflected. Hildegard also authored Physica and Causae et Curae (1150), both works on natural history and curative powers of various natural objects, which are together known as Liber subtilatum (“The book of subtleties of the Diverse Nature of Things”). These works were uncharacteristic of Hildegard’s writings, including her correspondences, in that they were not presented in a visionary form and don’t contain any references to divine source or revelation. However, like her religious writings they reflected her religious philosophy: that humanity is the peak of God’s creation and everything was put in the world for human beings to use. Her scientific views were derived from the ancient Greek cosmology of the four elements (fire, air, water, and earth) with their complementary qualities of heat, dryness, moisture, and cold, and the corresponding four humors in the body-choler (yellow bile), blood, phlegm, and melancholy (black bile).

Music was extremely important to Hildegard. She describes it as the means of recapturing the original joy and beauty of paradise. Hildegard wrote hymns and sequences in honor of saints, virgins, and Mary. She wrote in the plainchant tradition of a single vocal melodic line, a tradition common in liturgical singing of her time. Her music is undergoing a revival and enjoying huge public success.

It is now generally agreed that Hildegard suffered from migraine, and that her visions were a result of this condition. The way she describes her visions, the precursors, to visions, to debilitating aftereffects, point to classic symptoms of migraine sufferers. Although a number of visual hallucinations may occur, the more common ones described are the “scotomata” which often follow perceptions of phosphenes in the visual field. Scintillating scotomata are also associated with areas of total blindness in the visual field, something Hildegard might have been describing when she spoke of points of intense light, and also the “extinguished stars.” Migraine attacks are usually followed by sickness, paralysis, blindness-all reported by Hildegard, and when they pass, by a period of rebound and feeling better than before, a euphoria also described by her. It is a tribute to the remarkable spirit and the intellectual powers of this woman that she was able to turn a debilitating illness into the word of God, and create so much with it.

feather on the breath of GodSpiritual reading: Underneath all the texts, all the sacred psalms and canticles, these watery varieties of sounds and silences, terrifying, mysterious, whirling and sometimes gestating and gentle must somehow be felt in the pulse, ebb, and flow of the music that sings in me. My new song must float like a feather on the breath of God. (Hildegard of Bingen)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 8:1-3

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.

Reflection on the gospel reading: There is in this passage from the gospel of Luke a sort of joyful vision of the pilgrim Church as Jesus makes his way with his companions. We are the Body of Jesus made manifest in the world, and we go about through the various missions we receive from God proclaiming the good news of the coming of the Kingdom of God. There is here in this passage the companionship of the Twelve, who symbolize the ministries of service, teaching, and sacrament. There is here the ministry of witness by those whom Jesus has healed. There is here the ministry of those people to whom God has entrusted wealth, such as Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward, who support the Church’s work with their material gifts. There also is here the journey of all the men and women who make the Body of Christ traveling together life’s dusty paths. Jesus in today’s gospel is unafraid as he goes on his way, joyful for the companionship the Father bestowed on him, bold in his proclamation of the word that the Father has entrusted to him. Let us as Church be the same: where Jesus goes we go together.

Saint of the day: Born in 190 in Carthage, North Africa to wealthy pagan parents, Cyprian of Carthage grew up to teach rhetoric and literature. An adult convert in 246, he was ordained in 247 and became Bishop of Carthage in 249. During stcyprianthe persecution of Decius, beginning in 250, Cyprian lived in hiding, covertly ministering to his flock; his enemies condemned him for being a coward and not standing up for his faith. Writer second only in importance to Tertullian as a Latin Father of the Church, he was exiled during the persecutions of Valerian. A friend of Saint Pontius, he was involved in the great argument over whether apostates should be readmitted to the Church; Cyprian believed they should, but under stringent conditions. His position, of course, was not sustained ultimately. In the persecutions of Valerian, he was exiled to Curubis in 257, then brought back Carthage and martyred by beheading on September 14, 258 in Carthage.

Spiritual reading: Every moment and every event of every person’s life on earth plants something in one’s soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of invisible and visible winged seeds, so the stream of time brings with it the germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of all. (Seeds of Contemplation by Fr. Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 2:33-35

Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Luke in this gospel passage presents to us the paradigm of the Old Testament prophet in Simeon, a holy man who spent his days in the Jerusalem Temple and who had received from the Holy Spirit a promise that he would not die before he had seen the messiah. Simeon recognizes the baby Jesus as the Christ when Mary and Joseph present him in the Temple according to the Law of Moses. Simeon prophesies to Mary that Jesus will be the cause of the rise and fall of many in Israel and Jesus’ life will be the source of sorrows for Mary. In other words, Simeon already seems to understand that the messiah he sees in the child is not the messiah for whom Israel hopes, that is, that the nature of this messiah is someone who challenges Israel and suffers on behalf of it.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Mary’s sorrows. But this is more than a feast of sorrows; it also is a feast of the price of love. We recollect today that for Mary, as for each one of us, love often bears a price. In our identification with the one whom we love, we share both the triumphs and failures of the beloved other, and our hearts rise and fall in that identification. Mary loved her son so well that she could feel all of his joys and sorrows, and this bond between Mary and Jesus is what we recognize and celebrate today as we pray and work for openness, sensitivity, and compassion in our own selves to experience each others’ happiness and sadness.

Saint of the day: On the day that follows the Exaltation of the Cross, the church remembers the pains Mary suffered as a mother. This devotion began in the thirteenth century. The seven sorrows include:

DirectressThe Prophecy–Simeon tells Mary that a sword shall pierce her heart too.

The Flight–Mary is forced to flee into Egypt to save her beloved Son from the death decreed by Herod.

The Loss–Mary is separated From Jesus for three long days while he is lost in Jerusalem.

The Meeting–Mary meets Jesus on the road to Calvary and sees Him fall under the cruel weight of the cross.

Jesus Dies–Mary watches as Jesus dies on the Cross.

Mary Receives Jesus–Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms.

The Burial–Mary sees Jesus placed in the tomb.

Spiritual reading: The one thing she did is the one thing that we all have to do, namely, to bear Christ into the world. (The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus in this passage from the gospel makes reference to the narrative in Numbers 21:4-9. In that passage, the Israelites who have been stricken through the bites of serpents look upon a bronze serpent raised up on a post; through their gaze upon the image of the serpent, they are healed. In the same way as the bronze serpent, Jesus is lifted up on the cross. And we, stricken by the bites that are just the ordinary course of life, who look upon our Lord lifted on that cross are healed through our gaze upon the one fastened to its beams.

Saint of the day: The Feast Day of the Exaltation of the Cross traces its roots to c. 326 AD when the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine, journeyed to Jerusalem to look for the real cross. An old Jew named Judah told her that the Cross was buried under the Temple of Venus that Hadrian had built on Golgatha. Helena ordered that the Temple of Venus be torn down and the ground under it excavated. Having done that, they found three crosses. John Chrysostom (4th Century) in Homily LXXXV on John 19 stated that they suspected which cross was the real one: first from its lying in the middle (John 19:18), and second from the title written by Pilate (John 19:19).

But they still needed to dispel all uncertainty as to which, if any, was the real one. At that moment a funeral procession was passing by; Patriarch Macarius of Jerusalem suggested that they place the crosses one by one on the dead man. When they placed the first two on him, nothing happened. When they placed the third on him, he was restored to life. After that, they placed it on a sick woman and she recovered. Patriarch Macarius then raised up the cross for everyone to see and all the people sang, “Lord have mercy” with tears and joy. Empress Helena then had a silver casing made to contain the Cross.

In the early 7th Century, the Persians conquered Jerusalem and carried off the Cross to Persia. Fourteen years later, the Greek Emperor Heraclius conquered Persia and brought the Cross back to Jerusalem and placed it in the Church of the Resurrection on Golgatha. September 14th, then, celebrates both the occasion of the finding of Christ1A2the Cross by Helena, and its return by Heraclius. The Eastern Church began celebrating the Exaltation of the Cross in the 4th Century. The Western Church eventually did so also after the 7th Century.

The Exaltation of the Cross is a feast day that is not celebrated much in the West today, however. Some Western Churches celebrate Holy Cross Sunday in mid September using the Gospel lesson for the Sunday before the Exaltation of the Cross and the Epistle for the feast day of the Exaltation. But this is not commonly done. Lutherans sometimes use the Epistle lesson for the Sunday after the Exaltation for Reformation Sunday in November. In both cases, the ideas are expressed that the Cross has become more than just a piece of wood that the Lord died on. However, the Word of the Cross is not emphasized in either case as it is in the Eastern Church. In the West, both Holy Cross Sunday and Reformation Sunday are one day events. In the East, the celebration of the Exaltation of the Cross takes in two Sundays (before and after) with a major feast day in between. In addition to the above, taking up one’s cross is also the theme of the 3rd Sunday in Lent (The Adoration of the Cross) and All Saints Sunday (the 1st Sunday after Pentecost.)

Spiritual reading: The study of the cross reveals horizons so clear that they are lost in infinity. (Rafael Arnaiz Baron)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 7:11-17

Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.” This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Three times in the gospels, Jesus raises the dead. The most widely recognized account of this type of miracle is the raising of Lazarus, whose resurrection account in John’s gospel precedes Jesus’ own passion, death, and resurrection. The Gospel of John is the only gospel to report the raising of Lazarus. All three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, report the raising of Jairus’ daughter. Only Luke reports this narrative concerning the raising of the son of the widow of Nain.

This is an interesting account for several reasons. Chronologically in Jesus’ ministry, as the gospels recount it, this raising of someone from the dead is the first time Jesus performs this miracle. In this passage, when Jesus enters a town, he encounters a funeral and sees something which would be tragic in any time or place but is particularly tragic within his own culture. A widow’s only son has died, and she now grieves not only the death of her child but the prospect of life without either a husband or a son to care for her in a world that did not generally respect women. When Jesus happens on this situation, he feels compassion. No one asks Jesus to do anything; he acts completely as a response of his own heart to what he sees. Jesus immediately reacts with empathy to someone who is needy and has no one to look after her. In a way, just as the account of Lazarus’s raising precedes and anticipates Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is a parallel here in this passage with Jesus’ behavior on the cross where he commissions the beloved disciple to care for his mother.

There is another interesting detail in this account. At this point for the first time, Luke refers to Jesus as “Lord,” a title reserved for God himself. In a sense, Jesus reveals himself as Lord, certainly in the power of what he does, but most particularly when love moves him to act. With us it is the same then: we are most like God when we encounter need, are moved to do something, and use the power we have to do something about it.

Saint of the day: John was called “Chrysostom” (“Golden Mouth”) because of his eloquence. Born in about 347, the son of an army officer at Antioch in Syria. His father died soon after his birth and he was brought up by his widowed mother. She saw that he was well educated in oratory and law. He eventually became a priest of Antioch and an outstanding preacher. (Audiences were warned not to carry large sums of money when they went to hear him speak, since pickpockets found it very easy to rob his hearers — they were too intent on his words to notice what was happening.) His sermons are mostly straightforward expositions of Holy Scripture (he has extensive commentaries on both Testaments, with special attention to the Epistles of Paul), and he emphasizes the literal meaning, whereas the style popular at Alexandria tended to read allegorical meanings into the text. He loved the city and people of Antioch, and they loved him. However, he became so famous that the Empress at Constantinople decided that she must have him for her court preacher, and she had him kidnapped and brought to Constantinople and there made bishop. This was a failure all around. His sermons against corruption in high places earned him powerful enemies (including the Empress), and he was sent into exile, where he died in 407. Along with Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus, he is counted as one of the Four Great Eastern (or Greek) Doctors of the Ancient Church. The Four Great Western (or Latin) Doctors are Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great.

Spiritual reading: Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: ‘This is my body’ is the same who said: ‘You saw me hungry and you gave me no food’, and ‘Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me’… What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well. (John Chrysostom)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 7:1-10

When Jesus had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him. When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave. They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, “He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Reflection on the gospel reading: There is much that can be written about this narrative, but at its core, it is a healing story that witnesses to the power of the faith of a Gentile, a man who belongs to a nation that Jesus’ people generally hold in lowest esteem: so much so that they deem them to be “unclean.” Yet Jesus says plainly in this gospel passage that he has not found such faith as the centurion’s in all of Israel. The reading reminds us that God can reveal Godself in surprising ways; for this reason, we cannot reject anyone as unfit to manifest the life of God to us. This text teaches us that God can call any individual to show forth God’s life to others.

Saint of the day: Guy of Anderlecht was born in poverty about 950 in Anderlecht, Belgium. He was trained in religion by pious parents. For many years he embraced poverty as God’s will for him. He cared for the poor and sick in his teens. A tradition exists that when he worked the fields, an angel would sometimes man the plow so that Guy could pray without distraction. He hung around the local church so much the priest made him the sacristan; Guy lived in the church and often spent all night in prayer.

SaintguidonA merchant from Brussels either decided to give the boy a leg up in the world, or that Guy was a bumpkin who could be defrauded; versions of the story vary. Either way, he offered Guy a part share in a new project that could make him rich. In the first ocean-going expedition in the project, the ship sank; Guy took it as a sign that he was right to begin with and returned to his old life.

Guy walked to Rome as penance for his bout of greed, then to Jerusalem where he worked for a while as a guide to pilgrims, then back to Brussels. Though he never joined any order or house, he vowed chastity and devoted most of his time to prayer and his work as a sacristan.

After his death, many miracles were attributed to his intercession. An annual festival grew up in the area around his grave, with most of the activities involving horses and the people who work with them. Guy died in 1012 at Anderlecht, Belgium of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: Man must respond to this call to live in peace with all his brothers and sisters in the One Christ. (Fr. Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 6:43-49

Jesus said to his disciples: “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We come to the end of Luke’s account of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. In today’s gospel passage, Jesus speaks to the dispositions that make a good disciple. Jesus calls for authenticity, that is, that our virtuous exteriors reflect good and gentle interiors. Jesus certainly asks of us faith (“Lord, Lord”), but if faith does not produce good deeds, it is just, as Paul tells us in First Corinthians, a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. Jesus desires that we be steadfast and singlehearted like a house built against the day of ruin. Authenticity, faith, good works, and perseverance then are the roots of discipleship, and to these ends, let us aspire.

Saint of the day: Nicholas of Tolentino’s middle-aged parents, Compagnonus de Guarutti and Amata de Guidiani, were childless until a prayerful visit to a shrine of the original Saint Nicholas at Bari, Italy. In gratitude, they named their son Nicholas. Nicholas was born 1245.

He became an Augustinian friar at age 18 and studied under Blessed Angelus de Scarpetti. He was a monk at Recanati and Macerata and saint-nicholas-of-tolentino-04was ordained at age 25. A canon of Saint Saviour’s, Nicholas had visions of angels reciting to the city of Tolentino; he took this as a sign to move to that city in 1274, where he lived the rest of his life.

He worked as a peacemaker in a city torn by civil war. He preached every day, worked wonders, and visited prisoners. He always told those he helped, “Say nothing of this.” He received visions, including images of Purgatory, which friends ascribed to his lengthy fasts. He had a great devotion to the recently dead, praying for the souls in Purgatory as he traveled around his parish, often late into the night.

Once, when severely ill, he had a vision of Mary, Augustine, and Monica. They told him to eat a certain type of roll that had been dipped in water. Cured, he began healing others by administering bread over which he recited Marian prayers. The rolls became known as Saint Nicholas Bread, and are still distributed at his shrine.

One account suggest Nicholas resurrected over one hundred dead children, including several who had drowned together. Legend says that the devil once beat Nicholas with a stick; the stick was displayed for years in the his church. A vegetarian, Nicholas was once served a roasted fowl; he made the sign of the cross over it, and it flew out a window. Nine passengers on ship going down at sea once asked Nicholas’ aid; he appeared in the sky, wearing the black Augustinian habit, radiating golden light, holding a lily in his left hand; with his right hand he quelled the storm. An apparition of the saint once saved the burning palace of the Doge of Venice by throwing a piece of blessed bread on the flames. He died September 10, 1305 at Tolentino, Italy following a long illness.

Spiritual reading: The Holy Spirit makes Christ present as the pivotal point of all our relationships. They become “celebrations” of the reality of Christ. Our friendships become a celebration of the evidence that the ultimate reality that constitutes our happiness exists, that it has become human flesh, that it is Jesus Christ, the event of Christ . . . . True friendship is expressed in the way friends help each other to celebrate the presence of Christ and accept the condition that makes it operate in us, the path of sacrificial love. There is no other way. We cannot do it alone. (Lorenzo Albacete)