Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 31, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

John 20:1-9

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

tissot-saint-peter-and-saint-john-run-to-the-sepulchre-541x733They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Reflection on the gospel reading: A resurrected Jesus is really dangerous stuff.

There are people who want Jesus without the resurrection. They want to take a pen knife to the Bible and cut out the miracles and the supernatural. They want to strip away from Jesus his resurrection and ultimately his divinity. They want a Jesus who is a sort of a New Age guru who speaks to us the timeless truths of love, nonviolence, and forgiveness. People who regret the accounts of the resurrection but love Jesus’ teaching find the resurrection passages to be inconvenient because they believe they are superstitious road blocks to the recognition of Jesus’ moral genius.

The immediate challenge of this approach, of course, is that it has to ignore the sources. It does not take a lot of reflection to acknowledge that the four evangelists were absolutely fascinated with Jesus’ miracles and exorcisms and obsessed with Jesus’ passion and resurrection. For example, fully one quarter of all the words in Mark’s gospel deal directly with the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul’s epistles, which actually are older texts than the four gospels, hardly touch any of Jesus’ teaching. What rivets Paul, what Paul returns to again and again just 20 years after the crucifixion, is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The Acts of the Apostles, as we will hear time again in the weeks to come, is full of remembrances by Jesus’ disciples of the Lord’s 528401_10151313171376496_1858227878_nresurrection. Every historical source we have testifies to the fact that the disciples who claimed to have experienced the resurrected Lord were willing to die for this claim even when they had the opportunity to renounce it.

The second issue with the white washing of the gospels to exclude the resurrection is that it leaves us with someone who is pretty easy to dismiss. Jesus becomes a great saint, an important moral leader, an inspiration for a radical vision and commitment of the truth, but then we can go and get dinner, or do the wash, or pick up the kid. Jesus without the resurrection is Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, or Robert F. Kennedy: someone whose bold pronouncements about truth and justice lands him in hot water. Yes, someone to be admired, but imitated? No, much too dangerous. Great fellow, that Jesus; let’s get dinner.

A Jesus raised from the dead, however, is an entirely different order of reality. This Jesus is dangerous, because this Jesus’ vision has been ratified in a direct and unmistakable way by God. A Jesus raised from the dead is dangerous, because we are very comfortable, and a guy who pushes over tables in the temple and tells us to go, sell everything, and give it to the poor, challenges our safe and secure middle class sensibilities.

We much prefer a homogenized Jesus, a Jesus we can worship on Sunday but safely pack away into some cardboard box for the rest of the week. We can admire and ignore a Jesus stripped of the resurrection, but a Jesus whose life and message is ratified by the resurrection from the dead might just ask us to do something that challenges us and frightens us. And if we really believe in the resurrection, and the guy who was resurrected asks us to do something that puts us outside of our safety zone, just what are we to do with that?

A resurrected Jesus is very dangerous stuff.

Spiritual reading: The resurrection does not consist merely of the appearances of Jesus to his disciples after his death. Many think that these appearances in Galilee and Jerusalem are the resurrection. But they are simply to confirm the faith of the disciples. The real resurrection is the passing beyond the world altogether. It is Jesus’ passage from this world to the Father. It was not an event in space and time, but the passage beyond space and time to the eternal, to reality. Jesus passed into reality. That is our starting point. It is into that world that we are invited to enter by meditation. We do not have to wait for physical death, but we can enter now into that eternal world. We have to go beyond the outer appearances of the senses and beyond the concepts of the mind, and open ourselves to the reality of Christ within, the Christ of the resurrection. (Bede Griffiths OSB, The New Creation in Christ: Christian Meditation and Community)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 30, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 27:57-66

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it [in] clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed. But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.

The next day, the one following the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said, ‘After three days I will be raised up.’ Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ This last imposture would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go secure it as best you can.” So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Sometimes in the moments of our deepest grief shared with God, we sit, waiting and listening, only to encounter silence. There are no prophetic words, no visions, no angels–just silence. But silence does not mean absence; God is present, maybe not saying anything, but never more present. When Jesus was on the cross and experienced the deep sense of abandonment, the Father was never more present and the pathos of God was never more aroused. No one can relieve us fully of our pain–no one can truly understand it. But God meets us there–God is present in our silence. Holy Saturday doesn’t get much press. It is sort of wedged between the activities of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Perhaps we rush it and miss the poignancy of Holy Saturday, but it is really where most of us live our lives most of our days; it is comforting to know that the Creator of the universe, the all powerful God, also went through Holy Saturday, and when we go through ours, God is more than qualified to meet us there.

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

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

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

Spiritual reading: Easter, with its grace of interior resurrection, is the radical healing of the human condition. Lent, which prepares us for this grace, is about what needs to be healed. (The Mystery of Christ by Thomas Keating)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 29, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

John 18:1—19:42

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

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

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

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

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

Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed.

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

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

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

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly. Once more Pilate went out and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

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

When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your king!” They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.

Reflection on the gospel reading: We have been preparing for this day for a long time, and it is God’s Spirit who has led us to Good Friday. This is the same Spirit who has always known where it was blowing, who led Jesus into the desert, and allowed Jesus to suffer from the start. After John baptized Jesus, and Jesus went to pray and fast for forty days, the Evil One tempted him and, as the gospel of Luke describes, even had a physical power over him, transporting him to a high mountain and then to the pinnacle of the Temple. Satan mocked Jesus for his pretensions to be the Son of God, and then left him, only to return at a more opportune time. As the antiphon for the Invitatory in morning prayer has reminded us throughout Lent, “Come let us worship Christ the Lord, who for our sake endured temptation and suffering.”

Those who follow Jesus also are tempted, abused, and insulted. On the evening of his betrayal, Jesus understood that his disciple Peter would be at Satan’s mercy, and he prayed that Peter receive the gift of faith and finally persevere so he could love and serve his brothers and sisters. Then the Wisdom and Word of God, the Author of Life, was also taunted and physically destroyed on the Cross. Through Jesus, God makes Godself vulnerable, marginalized, oppressed, dispossessed, chastened, broken.

If the Spirit is to make us like Jesus, we too will inevitably be led to one form or another of the Cross. This certainty cannot comfort us or lift us up, because the cross may humiliate us, or personally wreck us, or perhaps even cause scandal for something in which we implicated. The Spirit of God gives us power to overcome evil, but this empowerment does not guarantee that we shall walk through the gauntlet without being hit or injured in some way.

Yet we Christians live in the faith that the only response which God has given to the mystery of evil is the crucified Lord. Jesus’ crucifixion and death are the promise that evil does not triumph in the end, but to experience the transformation which the Paschal mystery promises, we will need to follow Jesus into the depths of hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual reading:

Hemorrhaging from the concertina
crown, brass knuckles, scourging, cigarette burns,
lurching the last meter of Golgotha
where He must dangle three hours in urns
of japing ether, He drops His bloody tree.
Executioners rip His clothes away,
cut cards for His keepsake convict jersey.
He’s not uttered a word except to pray
for the spike drivers limbering their mauls
to fasten the scripture of agony.
He’s ready for the juice, the black hood, spalls
of sniper fire, the hangman’s ennui.
Naked upon the whorled slab he lay,
dreaming of the governor’s last-second stay.

(Joseph Bathanti, “Jesus is Stripped of His Garments”)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 28, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

John 13:1-15

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

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

Reflection on the gospel reading: We celebrate tonight the Lord’s Supper, a meal which incorporates the institution of the Eucharist as its focal point. Yet the gospel for this evening’s mass, the account of the Last Supper in John, does not describe the breaking of the bread and the offering of the cup to invoke the Lord’s continuing presence among us in his body and blood. Instead, this evening’s gospel is Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet.

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

The gospel passage says nothing about the Eucharist, but it says everything about the commitment to love and service inherent in our baptism. And love and service are the true living out of the Eucharist. To have Eucharist without living the commitment we made in baptism is not to live the Gospel. What Jesus says in Matthew, Mark, and Luke about the Eucharist, he says here too in John about the love and service inherent in our baptism: “Do this in memory of me.”

Holy Thursday: In the Christian calendar, Holy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, the day on which the Last Supper is said to have occurred. Holy Thursday is the most complex and profound of all religious observances, saving only the Easter Vigil. It celebrates the institution by the Lord of the Eucharist. Ignatian postcards29The Last Supper was also Christ’s farewell to his assembled disciples, some of whom would betray, desert or deny him before the sun rose again.

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

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

Spiritual reading: “Are you born again?” he asked, as we taxied down the runway. He was rather prim and tense, maybe a little like David Eisenhower with a spastic colon. I did not know how to answer for a moment.

“Yes,” I said. “I am.”

My friends like to tell each other that I am not really a born-again Christian. They think of me more along the lines of that old Jonathan Miller routine, where he said, “I’m not really a Jew — I’m Jew-ish.” They think I am Christian-ish. But I’m not. I’m just a bad Christian. A bad born-again Christian. And certainly, like the apostle Peter, I am capable of denying it, of presenting myself as a sort of leftist liberation-theology enthusiast and maybe sort of a imagesvaguely Jesusy bon vivant. But it’s not true. And I believe that when you get on a plane, if you start lying you are totally doomed.

So I told the truth; that I am a believer, a convert. I’m probably about three months away from slapping an aluminum Jesus-fish on the back of my car, although I first want to see if the application or stickum in any way interferes with my lease agreement. And believe me, all this boggles even my mind. But it’s true. I could go to a gathering of foot-wash Baptists and, except for my dreadlocks, fit right in. I would wash their feet; I would let them wash mine. (Anne Lamott)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 27, 2013

betrayal-kiss-judas-jesusGospel reading of the day:

Matthew 26:14-25

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

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

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

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

Saint of the day: In the middle of the night of March 26-27, 1996, seven monks of Our Lady of Atlas, a Trappist monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria, were kidnapped by members of the Islamic Armed Group (GIA), guerrillas determined to drive non-Muslims from Algeria and to impose an Islamist government. On April 18, the GIA contacted the French government and offered to free the monks in return for releasing several of its members from Trappist Martyrs of Tibhirine-1996prison, but this proposal was never considered. On May 21, the GIA announced that the monks had been executed. On May 31, their decapitated heads were found. On June 4, their bodies were brought back to the monastery and buried in a ceremony that included this intercessory prayer: “You Who by the water of baptism sanctified our brothers Christian, Luke, Christopher, Michael, Celestine, Bruno and Paul, give them in its fullness the life of God’s children.”

The families, friends, neighbors, and fellow monks gathered at this funeral had every reason to be confident in praying this prayer. There was much evidence that the monks had indeed been sanctified by the waters of baptism. They were, after all, monks of the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance, living a life of prayer and work initiated by the Desert Fathers and set forth in the Rule of St. Benedict: rising in the middle of the night for vigils and several hours of personal prayer, followed by Mass; work in the morning and afternoon, interspersed with brief prayers; meals in common, in silence or with a public reading; night prayer and a blessing by the abbot before retiring. With every aspect of the Trappist day designed to inculcate in the monk purity of heart, the monastery itself would become, in the words of Bernard of Clairvaux (founder of the Cistercians), a “school of charity.”

By all accounts, this nine-hundred-year-old vision had been well realized at the monastery of Tibhirine. Brother Luke, at age eighty-two the oldest member of the community, was a skilled physician from Lyons who had been ministering to the sick in a free clinic at the monastery for five decades. Dom Christian, the prior, was a leader of a Muslim-Christian group called Ribat es Salam (Bond of Peace) that brought religious leaders throughout Algeria to the monastery for dialogue. The guest house was usually full. Local villagers frequently came to the gatehouse for a drink of water, to use the telephone, or to dictate a letter. Sometimes they would bring olives to be pressed at the monastery mill and have the monks store the olive oil and distribute it to them as needed. The monks were trusted by the villagers. Their love of God and neighbor was imparted to others by how they lived.

The monks were aware that they would likely be killed. On Christmas Eve of 1993, they were visited by members of the GIA who demanded that they turn over their money and medical supplies and that Brother Luke come with them to treat one of their wounded. Dom Christian replied that they had no money to spare and that Brother Luke was too old to travel but that he would help their comrade as he does anyone who comes to the monastery needing medical attention. The GIA insisted that the monks meet their demands. “You have no choice,” said their leader. Dom Christian replied, “Oh, but we do.” The rebels departed that night but warned they would return.

The monks had good reason to take the warning seriously. On October 31, 1993, the GIA had ordered all foreigners to leave Algeria within a month or be killed. Early in December, four foreigners were killed; then, shortly thereafter, twelve more. And the pace of the killing accelerated after the GIA’s Christmas visit to the Atlas Trappistsmonastery, rising eventually to an estimated 1000 assassinations a week. Brothers, sisters, and priests were often the targets: in May 1994, a priest and sister were killed; in October 1994, two more sisters; in December 1994, four priests; in November 1995, one sister killed and another wounded. During this period, a dozen religious communities decided to leave Algeria, at least temporarily. But several others resolved to stay: the Jesuits, the Little Brothers of Jesus, the White Fathers, the Protestant Sisters of Grandchamps, the Poor Clares, as well as the Trappists.

At first, the monks seriously thought about leaving. But the bishop of Algiers urged them to reconsider. Their departure, he said, might cause the remaining Christians in the area to panic and discourage their peaceful Muslim neighbors. So they decided to stay, at which point their initial apprehensions gave way to a resolve to continue living their life of prayer, manual labor, hospitality, and sharing with the poor. This was their response to the violence overtaking the country. The Algerian government proposed that police be stationed in an unused building in the monastery for protection. The monks refused. No weapons would be allowed into the monastery, they said, it was against the monastic way of life. Besides, it would give the impression that they were taking sides, whereas the monks wished to remain neutral as the only way to love everyone. This was, they realized, a dangerous love.

From letters, journal entries, and minutes of community meetings during these years, we can see how the monks were gradually possessed by a readiness to offer everything. Sometimes this was expressed in a kind of gallows humor. When asked by friends in France how things were going down there, Brother Paul would write back, “my head is still on my shoulders.” Other times, their thoughts were more poetic and solemn. Take, for example, this entry in the journal of Brother Christopher, dated February 19, 1996: “Violence and bloodshed in the country again and again,” he writes, and then he asks Christ, “When will the time come to be planted at Tibhirine: planted in you, my Beloved?” And this entry on March 19, 1996, the Feast of St. Joseph: “Today is the anniversary of my consecration to Mary,” he writes, recalling his final profession. “Yes, I continue to choose you, Mary, with Joseph, in the communion of all the saints . . . Like the beloved disciple, I take you into my home. Near you, I am what I should be: offered.”

A week after writing this meditation, Brother Christopher and the other monks were taken from the monastery. So began the last leg of a journey that would end with their final “offering,” and bring them, as stated in the funeral prayer, “in its fullness, the life of God’s children.”

483712_565972983426464_1744516232_nAncient Christian teaching holds that when martyrs die, they are immediately ushered into the presence of God, in which case this funeral prayer would have already been answered. But such prayers are not superfluous. They are as much for the living as for the dead; especially when the dead are martyrs whose lives remind us of our call to live as God’s children not only in eternal life, but also here and now in this life. In this day and age, there may be no more important reminder than this. For we live in a time when the Gospel is widely regarded, even within the church, as impossible to live out, as an unrealizable ideal with no application in the real world arena of nations and empires, trade balances and global markets. Martyrs witness against this attitude. By refusing to renounce or compromise their faith to the point of death, they expose this attitude for what it is: a legitimation of the violence and acquisitiveness of the world, an accommodation to our disordered passions, a turning away from God. At the same time, they show us the possibility of turning toward God; and doing so not only in our minds and hearts, thoughts and inspirations, but in our concrete actions, in our flesh-and-blood bodies. Relatively few pursue this possibility of turning toward God, for in one way or another it leads to the cross. But martyrs are given the grace to walk the way of the cross, somehow knowing that only by uniting ourselves to the Son in His offering to the Father can we fully become what we were created to be: children of God.

From what is known of their lives and deaths, it is reasonable to regard the monks of Tibhirine as martyrs. From what has been revealed of the children of Godthat they receive this status for being peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)it is also reasonable to regard them, more specifically, as martyrs for peace. They took it upon themselves to respond to their self-declared enemies by showing them mercy and so made peace through their deaths, thereby imitating God who, while we were enemies, showed us mercy through the peace of the cross. In doing so, they show us the possibility of making peace with terrorism, true peace. Their willingness to make peace with their enemies was dramatically articulated in a letter written by Dom Christian de Chergé. He wrote it soon after the GIA announced that they would begin to assassinate all foreigners and left instructions that it was to be opened upon his death. As a text on which to meditate and perhaps discover how we may respond to the threat of terrorism with an offering of peace, it is worth quoting in full: When We Face An A-Dieu.


Letter from Dom Christian de Chergé

If it should happen one day and it could be today that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my church and my family to remember that my life was GIVEN to God and to this country. I ask them to accept the fact that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to thus brutal departure.I would ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones which are forgotten through indifference or anonymity. My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil which seems, alas, to prevail in the world, even in the evil which might blindly strike me down.

I would like, when the time comes, to have a moment of spiritual clarity which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time forgive with all my heart the one who will strike me down. I could not desire such a death. It seems to me important to state this. I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice if the people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder. It would be too high a price to pay for what will perhaps be called the “grace of martyrdom” to owe this to an Algerian, whoever he may be, especially if he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam. I am aware of the scorn which can be heaped on the Algerians indiscriminately. I am also aware of the caricatures of Islam which a certain Islamism fosters. It is too easy to soothe one’s conscience by identify this religious way with the fundamentalist ideology of its extremists. For me, Algerian and Islam are not that, but rather a body and a soul.

I have proclaimed this often enough, I think, in the light of what I have received from it. I so often find there that true strand of the Gospel which I learned at my mother’s knee, my very first Church, precisely in Algeria, and already inspired with respect for Muslim believers.

Obviously, my death will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic: “Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!” But these persons should know that finally my most avid curiosity will be set free. This is what I shall be able to do, please God: immerse my gaze in that of the Father to contemplate with him His children of Islam just as he sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ, the fruit of His Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit whose secret joy will always be to establish communion and restore the likeness, playing with the differences.

For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God, who seems to have willed it entirely for the sake of that JOY in everything and in spite of everything.

In this THANK YOU, which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you, my friends of this place, along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families. You are the hundredfold granted as was promised!

And also you, my last-minute friend, who will not have known what you were doing: Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this “A-DIEU” to be for you, too, because in God’s face I see yours.

May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.


Christian +

Algiers, December 1, 1993
Tibhirine, January 1, 1994

Spiritual reading: The glory of the Cross led those who were blind through ignorance into light, loosed all who were held fast by sin, and ransomed the whole world of mankind. (Cyril of Jerusalem)

Homily March 31. 2013 Easter Sunday Resurrection of the Lord John 20: 1-9

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on March 27, 2013

As we look at the resurrection from our time and perspective, we find it based on the faith and love we have. No where is there an actual account of the event as there were no witnesses to it. In fact, what we get is the presentation of an empty tomb. First Mary and then Peter and “the beloved disciple”. This account draws on the love Jesus had for them and the faith developed over their time with him.. Still, we are told the Beloved disciple sees and believes.

Both men experienced and saw the empty tomb and it was from there that their faith in the resurrection developed. Jesus’ resurrection was like his birth, a moment in time that was special, yet as a product of God’s love, disseminated only in a way that fit his inscrutable plan. Neither event was a big flash of news, what we would call the big Internet moment. It was an event capturing the hearts in his love of his faithful followers. His subsequent appearances all came after the empty tomb encounter. He talked with them was touched and ate. Yes he was real.

What it means is that God has worked his plan. All of us have the ability to raise ourselves up by the love of God and our faith in him. If we have given ourselves to die with him, we too will rise and share life with him. He has made it possible to reverse the effects of sin and evil. Now we can say no to them and remain faithful.

But once again, we know this only from the The love of God and the faith we have in him. Like the Beloved Disciple, we believe because of this and the profound experience of the empty tomb and the passing on of it from then to now. Christ is truly risen and present in our life and the church even today. Surely there is a constant to that love and belief, even with all the human faults and failures of the centuries since, Christ’s presence and love continues to be here in the world and among us here and now. Faith calls us to respond and listen, to see and believe, to hear and to act. Yes, Christ is Risen!

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 26, 2013

!!!-judas-LastSupperJudasPeterJesusJohnGospel reading of the day:

John 13:21-33, 36-38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint of the day: Born in 1556 as Margaret Middleton at York, England, Margaret Clitherow was the daughter of Thomas and Jane Middleton, a candle maker and the Sheriff of York for two years. Raised Anglican, she married John Clitherow, a wealthy butcher and chamberlain of the city of York, in July 1571. She converted to Catholicism around 1574. She was imprisoned several times for her conversion, sheltering priests (including her husband’s brother), and permitting the celebration of clandestine Masses on her property. During her trial in Tyburn in March 1586, she refused to answer any of the charges for fear of incriminating her servants and children; both her sons became priests, and her daughter became a nun. She was pressed to death on Good Friday, March 25, 1586 at York, England. She was canonized in 1970 as one of the Forty English Martyrs.

Spiritual reading: Flee to our Lord and we shall be comforted. Touch him and we shall be made clean. Cling to him and we shall be safe and sound from every kind of danger. For our courteous Lord wills that we should be at home with him as heart may think or soul may desire. (Juliana of Norwich)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 25, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

John 12:1-11

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.

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

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

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

Saint of the day: Felice Maria Cappello was born October 9, 1879 in the small village of Caviola di Falcade in Italy’s Dolomites. Following ordination to the diocesan priesthood in 1902, Cappello ministered in two small towns while continuing his studies, quickly earning doctorates in theology from the University 81622-01of Bologna, philosophy from the Angelicum in Rome, and canon and civil law from Rome’s Apollinare. Cappello taught canon law at the Belluno seminary for three years and soon published his first book on selected canonical questions. After being rejected for two Vatican positions that he had applied for, Cappello spent a few days at Lourdes and, after time alone in prayer one night in the deserted grotto, decided to become a Jesuit.

During his Jesuit novitiate Cappello taught moral theology and canon law at the Leonine College in Anagni, remaining there until 1920 when he was transferred to the Gregorian University. Cappello’s teaching career at the Gregorian lasted 39 years until his retirement in 1959 during which time he taught moral theology and canon law. He wrote numerous highly regarded books and articles and served as a consultor to several Roman dicasteries.

Cappello’s students remembered him fondly for instructing them to be humane in their application of law: “Principles are principles, and they remain firm and are always to be defended. But all consciences are not the same. In applying principles to consciences, we must do it with great prudence, much common sense, and much goodness. In your opinions and decisions never be severe. The Lord does not want that. Be always just, but never severe. Give the solution that offers the soul some room in which to breathe.”

cappello-e1332532765195-300x207Besides fulfilling his teaching duties, Cappello was greatly sought after as a spiritual director, hearing the confessions of his Jesuit brethren, secular priests, bishops, and cardinals at St Ignatius church, just a stone’s throw away from his residence at the Gregorian. St Ignatius church came to be known as “Fr Cappello’s church” and he in turn became “the Confessor of Rome.” Even after his retirement from teaching at the age of 80, Cappello continued his confessional apostolate and served on several commissions preparing materials for the Second Vatican Council.

Cappello fell ill on March 22, 1962. The next morning he celebrated Mass with great effort and that evening received Anointing. During his last days he frequently prayed: “Sweet Heart of Jesus!”

Cappello died March 25, 1962. His funeral Mass, celebrated at St Ignatius Church, was attended by his students from the Gregorian as well as Rome’s faithful, clergy, religious, bishops, and cardinals. They came not only to bid Cappello goodbye but to ask for his intercession. His remains were brought back to St Ignatius Church and placed near the spot where his confessional had been. An investigation into his heroic virtues commenced in 1990.

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 March 24, 2013

800px-Zirl_Parrish_Church-Jesus_entering_Jerusalem_1Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 19:28-40

Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples. He said, “Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. And if anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will answer, ‘The Master has need of it.’” So those who had been sent went off and found everything just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?” They answered, “The Master has need of it.” So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount. As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”

Reflection on the gospel reading: What we recall today is Jesus’ point of no return. The gospel passage suggests, in its recollection that Jesus predicts where the disciples will find a colt and its inference of the Hebrew scriptures’ predictions that the messiah will ride into Jerusalem on the colt of an ass, that Jesus knows exactly what he is doing. What Jesus does on Palm Sunday is the point of no return. Riding on the donkey into Jerusalem is a radical statement by Jesus about who he is: not just that he is the longed-for messiah but that the messiah is not what we at all expected.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem on the colt, his disciples sing his praises using verse from Psalm 118. When the Pharisees see and hear what is happening, they are aghast and want to put an end to it. They tell Jesus to tell his disciples to stop it. But Jesus will have none of it. He explains to the Pharisees that what is happening is so fundamental, riven so deeply into the nature of reality, that were the disciples to stop their acclamations, the stones themselves will take up the cry.

With Palm Sunday, we stand at the bridge between the rest of the year and holy week. Over the next few days we enter into the events that make us Christian–the events with which there would be no Christianity.

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

Fr. Barron on Garry Wills’s “Why Priests?”

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on March 24, 2013

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 23, 2013

pantokrator1Gospel 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?”

tabernacleReflection 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 reflection is in the area where our Lord went to await his hour. The scene now is set to enter into Holy Week.

Saint of the day: Pauline Vanier was born Pauline Archer in Montreal on March 28, 1898 and married Georges Vanier on September 29, 1921. Georges would become one of Canada’s first professional diplomats, Canada’s first ambassador to France, and Canada’s first Canadian-born French-speaking Governor General of Canada from 1959 until his death in March 1967.

The Vaniers lived in France prior to World War II. During the war, Pauline and her children fled Paris as the Nazis overran French defenses. After a harrowing retreat to Bordeaux and a water crossing to Britain, she eventually endured the 30-day blitzkrieg bombing of London. When U.S. troops liberated Paris, she and her husband, who was now ambassador to France, returned to the city. During Word War II, Pauline and her husband began attending Mass and Pauline Vanier, C.C., 1988receiving Communion daily and mediating every day. Pauline went to a Carmelite monastery each week to pray and recharge her spiritual life.

With her extensive diplomatic experience, Pauline filled the role of vice-regal consort with as much distinction as her husband filled his. Georges and Pauline Vanier created the Vanier Institute of the Family in 1965. She worked on behalf of the sick, poor, and imprisoned for the rest of her life. Pauline was the first non-political woman to be appointed to the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada. She was sworn in on April 11, 1967 as a sign of honor from Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. In July that same year she was made one of the first Companions of the Order of Canada for her humanitarian work. She was appointed the Chancellor of the University of Ottawa in 1966.

The couple had five children; her son Jean Vanier founded L’Arche, a worldwide movement to provide dignified lives to people with cognitive handicaps. She resigned as university chancellor in 1972 to join Jean in his work with L’Arche. She separated herself from all worldly attachments and became the live-in grandmother-figure for a L’Arche community near Paris. She died on March 23, 1991. The Diocese of Ottawa is investigating Pauline and her husband Georges in an effort to move their causes for sainthood forward.

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 March 22, 2013

religious-clipart-easter-free-i7Gospel 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: We have an expression in English that the proof is in the pudding. We can tell whether something is the real deal by examining it. This theme of trusting what we perceive arises several times in the gospels. In the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, Jesus tells us that we will know a tree by the fruit it bears. Later in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus asks people to believe his good works are from the Father and not Satan because a house divided against itself cannot stand–Satan cannot destroy by healing. The gospel passage we read today continues this message. If people do not want to believe what Jesus says, look at what he does. It is the goodness of his actions which demonstrate from whom he comes. Some people in this passage fail to recognize who Jesus is, because he does not fit their categories, but other ones, people from “across the Jordan,” do not have boxes to contain God, and it is they, the ones who are open to God’s surprising manifestations, who are free to recognize Jesus for who he is. We are called to an openness to the God of surprises who will prove God’s presence in ways we cannot anticipate.

Saint of the day: Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, was born on March 16, 1878 in Dinklage, Oldenburg, Germany. A Roman Catholic bishop of Münster, Germany noted for his public opposition to Nazism, Galen was ordained in 1904 in Münster, where, as a priest at St. Lambert’s, he published his Die Pest des Laizismus und ihre Erscheinungsformen (1932; “The Plague of Laicism and Its Manifestations”), deploring what he deemed the godlessness of post-World War I Germany. He was made bishop of Münster in 1933. At first, Galen hoped that the Nazis would restore Germany to the position of respect that it lost in World War I. But, disenchanted with the anti-Catholic propaganda and racism of Adolf Hitler’s regime, Galen soon became a powerful critic of the Nazis.

vitaHis opposition to the Nazis, particularly their racism and totalitarianism, began on Easter 1934 and continued unabated. He frequently complained directly to Hitler when he felt the German dictator had violated the concordat he had signed in 1933 with the Vatican. When in November 1936 the Oldenburg Nazis removed all crucifixes from the schools, Galen’s protest sparked a public demonstration, and the order was canceled. In July and August 1941, Galen preached against the general lawlessness of the Gestapo, the confiscation of religious property, and the T4 Program instituted by Hitler in 1939: a program involving the systematic murder of more than 70,000 sick, elderly, mentally retarded, physically infirm, emotionally distraught, and disabled Germans, who were an embarrassment to the myth of Aryan supremacy. In part because of Galen’s public protest, this program was formally halted, though it continued clandestinely.

Documents discovered later showed that the Nazis were close to a decision to hang Galen but decided to wait until they achieved a victory in World War II. Galen was named a cardinal on Feb. 18, 1946. He died March 22, 1946 in Münster, West Germany. On October 9, 2005, he was beatified by the church, in large part because of his role in opposing the T4 Program.

Spiritual reading: We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives, so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy and doubt, that peace and abundance may manifest for all. (Dorothy Day)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 21, 2013

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 jesus_images2-694x497glorify 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: It is easy for us to become lost in the immensity of Jesus’ great “I AM”: the proclamation of his divinity. It is dizzying to reflect that the immensity of God has become the smallness of human in Jesus. The thrill of Jesus as God can so overpower us that we do not remember the ordinariness of Jesus’ humanity. Over and over again throughout the gospels, Jesus reminds us that he is like us: that he is one of us. Like the people who speak to Jesus in today’s gospel, we have a hard time keeping humanity and divinity together in Jesus, which Fr. Richard Rohr says is the reason “why we were unable to put it together in ourselves.” Jesus is not an either-or proposition–either he’s human or he’s divine: Jesus is the proof of the Christian claim that God and humanity can occupy one and the same ground all at once, and Jesus is God’s invitation to reconcile in ourselves what is human and what is divine.

Saint of the day: Rodolfo Aguilar Alvarez was born in Mexico City on Sunday Novmber 28, 1948. Rodolfo entered the Seminary of Chihuahua on September 28, 1961. He was ordained on September 16, 1974 at the Cathedral of Chihuahua. Two weeks after his ordination, Fr. Aguilar’s bishop sent him to a suburb of Chihauhau called Nombre de Dios to serve in a parish there. In el chapoNombre de Dios, Fr. Aguilar distinguished himself through his service of the marginalized. Affectionately called, “el Chapo” (“shorty”), he walked through the neighborhood of his parish to develop a pastoral plan. He organized the Committee for Human Rights of the People of Chihuahua and encouraged his people to march on the government to secure land owned by a wealthy landowner to build a community to support their basic human dignity. His bishop initially supported him in his efforts, but complaints were increasingly lodged against the priest by local landowners that he associated with radical leftists in his neighborhood. Eventually, the bishop removed Fr. Aguilar from the parish. On March 21, 1977, El Chapo was found dead, shot to death by a bullet, in a neighborhood in downtown Chihuahua. He was 29-years-old with less than three years in priestly ministry. To this day, news articles appear in the Chihauhau press recalling the anniversary of his death.

Spiritual reading: So love God. Love a neighbor. Be a neighbor, and let us not complicate things by arguing about specifics. You know what it means to do love because some time or another you have been on the receiving end of it, but remember that knowing the right answer does not change a thing. If you want the world to look different the next time you go outside, do some love. Do a little or do a lot, but do some, and do not forget some for yourself. (Barbara Brown Taylor)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 20, 2013

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.”

crucifixion  by Renator GuttusoThey 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: Life in Jesus is not a one-time, one-day event. We don’t just get Jesus–we don’t just arrive and never need to do any more work. Jesus dares us to undertake a journey, and the invitation is the deepest meaning of our renewal each year throughout the liturgical calendar, summed up perhaps in the intense focus this renewal receives in Lent. Jesus says, “If God were your father, you would love me, for I came from God.” To see Jesus more clearly, follow him more nearly, and love him more dearly is the path into the presence of the Lord of spirits and flesh, and since that Lord has fashioned us like garments to fit the pattern of his own form, it is in Jesus and only with Jesus that can realize who we are, whether or not the name Jesus is explicit in our minds.

Maria-Josefa-Sancho-de-GuerraSaint of the day: Maria Josefa Sancho de Guerra (Maria Josefa of the Heart of Jesus) was born on September 7, 1842 in the city of Vitoria (which is in the Basque Country of Spain). She was a Spanish nun, founder of the Institute of the Servants of Jesus charity, and declared a saint in 2000. Her father died when she was seven. At fifteen, she was sent to Madrid to live with some relatives to complete here education. At 18 she responded to a religious vocation she had always felt and became a nun at the Institute of the Servants of Mary, taking the religious name of Maria Josefa of the Heart of Mary.

With consultation with spiritual companions, she decided to leave the Institute of the Servants of Mary to found a new religion congregation. Along with other colleagues who had left the Institute of the Servants of Mary, she founded in Balbao in 1871 the Institute of the Servants of Jesus; she served as the superior of the new Institute for 41 years. This new institution was founded to aid the sick in hospitals and in their homes, the elderly, children, and the homeless. The institution has grown since its first open house in Bilbao in 1871, so that when Maria Josefa died of natural causes on March 20, 1912, there were 43 houses and a thousand Sisters of the institution which she had founded. Today the Institute is in 16 countries and has nearly 100 homes.

Spiritual reading: It’s important not to love ourselves so much that we’re not willing to take the risks that history demands of us. (Oscar Romero, from the homily he preached just moments before his murder while saying Mass on March 24, 1980)

Homily March 24. 2013 Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion C

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on March 19, 2013

As today is Palm Sunday and we begin to spend time thinking of the passion of Christ, I can’t help but think of the words from Genesis where God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” We know from our faith that Jesus became a man, not a likeness or figure, but like us in every way but committing sin. He had feelings, emotions, friendships and probably some foibles that for one reason or other got people on his case so to speak as he grew up. I think who he was and why he was born and what he had to do was a growing developing process within him as he grew to his manhood. The story of him and the elders in the temple certainly showed he was becoming aware of who he was. But today in the narrative of Luke we see him in his completeness as a man, in his knowledge, his relationship to God, his awareness of what was to come and the very human abhorrence he had at the very thought of it.

What I would like to do is look at the very end of Christ’s passion and those few moments prior to his death. “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?” Recalling Genesis, the moment of passing from life to death is probably one of the most singular acts of aloneness we will ever experience, most likely the fault of sin. As prepared as we may be and even surrounded by our most loved ones, there is a passage we must make like through a void, a darkness to a new life. It is real and empty, and when people are in it they feel alone and are reaching out , backward or forward. But mostly it is aloneness, isolation or you might call it abandonment. People have experienced such things and described it in what we call near death experience. Whether it be aloneness, abandonment or passage, it is part of being human. Christ being human was not even spared of this. Christ was one of us and what he did was out of love and obedience to his Father. He was real, human, caring. What was harder even for him was that he knew what was to come. Let us today recall his death and rededicate ourselves.

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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 19, 2013


Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Reflection on the gospel: The synoptic gospels make clear that the early church people knew that Mary was the name of Jesus’ mother and Joseph was the name of Mary’s husband. They also make clear that Joseph practiced carpentry, though the carpentry he practiced was a little more specialized than our word for it suggests. He worked on door jams; we don’t have a word for this kind of specialized woodcraft, but we do know that it was a labor that received a subsistence wage. A subsistence wage means that the Holy Family made do the best they could and trusted God’s providence to provide for their need. Jesus grew up in an environment that did the best it could and trusted God to take care of the rest.

Many of the stories that come to us about Joseph result from the apocryphal gospels written in the first several centuries after the Lord’s birth. These writings are fanciful works and not trustworthy as historical sources, so it it hard to know whether they contain any traditions that had survived for centuries, or whether they were the products of the Graham Greenes of the day. One second century story is the gospel of James which suggests that Joseph was an older widower who brought to his relationship with Mary children from his first marriage.

The picture that emerges from the gospels was that Joseph was an honorable man, that he was not Jesus’ natural father but that he did everything he could to protect and nurture the child his wife bore, and that he placed his trust that God was at work in the child’s, his wife’s, and his own lives. What he understood of the boy’s mission is impossible to know, but we can be sure that what the man Jesus became was in good measure a reflection of the basic decency he experienced in Joseph, a man whom he called, “Father.”

Saint of the day: St. Joseph was a descendant of the house of David. A carpenter, he was the husband of Mary and the foster and adoptive father of Jesus Christ. A visionary who was visited by angels, he was noted for his willingness to immediately get up and do what God told him.

He is the patron against doubt; against hesitation; of the Americas; Austria; Belgium; Bohemia; bursars; cabinetmakers; Canada; Carinthia; carpenters; China; Church; confectioners; craftsmen; the Croatian people; dying people; emigrants; engineers; expectant mothers; families; fathers; Florence, Italy; happy death; holy death; house hunters; immigrants; interior souls; Korea; laborers; married people; Mexico; New France; New World; Oblates of Saint Joseph; people in doubt; people who fight Communism; Peru; pioneers; pregnant women; protection of the Church; social justice; Styria, Austria; travelers; Turin, Italy; Tyrol, Austria; unborn children; Universal Church; Viet Nam; wheelwrights; workers; and working people.

Spiritual reading: How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. . . . Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness! (Pope Francis)