Friday, March 30, 2012
Palm Sunday: The crimes of despising another or betraying a friend, and all sins, are healed in the betrayal and rejection of Jesus Christ
one who is eating with me."
There are some injuries that so deeply rend the fabric of human existence, that are so terrible to contemplate or experience that even the thought of them can result in a gut-wrenching kind of physical sensation of revulsion. This can be the case whether we are the perpetrator or the object of such injuries and the sins which provoke them.
The act of despising another human person because of their weakness, or for whatever reason, is profoundly anti-human and does violence not only to the person so despised but at the same time violates the humanity of the one who thus turns away from authentic compassion and brotherly love. Despising another reveals a deep form of self-rejection in the human person for it is one's own humanity which is in fact rejected when one despises one's neighbor. The betrayal of a friend is also an act deeply violating both to the one rejected and the one who chooses to turn away from the bond.
We are all human beings: our experiences of temptations or weaknesses, though different for each one of us, are in some way shared by all of us. When one of us despises another because of his or her weaknesses or the ugliness of marred humanity because of the effect of sin, it sunders us from the other person in a very deep way, causing an injury that wounds us to the heart and marrow of our existence. When we have shared the close bond of friendship, whether within the family or beyond it, and that relationship is broken in a way that seems beyond all repair this, too, can cause deep and lasting effects which are like a wound to the person, causing lasting impairment to the spirit and mind.
In this Holy Week, beginning with today's Palm Sunday procession and Mass, we accompany Jesus Christ again through his physical, visible suffering on the streets and hills of Jerusalem. Though he suffered and died 2,000 years ago, He tells us that His Passion continues today because of sin: "when you reject them, you reject Me."
We see in the Body and Blood shed by Christ the price that is paid, the act of love made necessary by the only One who is capable of repairing what has been broken by our sins, whether visible like the broken, beaten and crucified body of Jesus Christ or the invisible kind of evil which is a hidden corruption.
" ... he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."
In the rejection and murder of Jesus Christ is found both the story of and the answer to each and every instance of human betrayal and discord, for "by his wounds we are healed". It is in the betrayal of Jesus Christ which results in the sacrifice for sin that all sins now must find their healing, for only in Jesus Christ is God's mercy made available for each of us. This happens in the most intense way in the Church through the sacramental life. On our altars now is consecrated, offered and received the same Jesus Christ who died on the Cross 2,000 years ago. He is present again to involve us and our wounded sinfulness in His Divine embrace which binds us up and makes us whole again.
"It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate's cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas' betrayal - so bitter to Jesus, Peter's denial and the disciples' flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly." (CCC 1851)
Sin and death will not have the last word.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
and shall name him Emmanuel
Mary gave her consent in faith at the Annunciation and maintained it without hesitation at the foot of the Cross. Ever since, her motherhood has extended to the brothers and sisters of her Son "who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties." Jesus, the only mediator, is the way of our prayer; Mary, his mother and ours, is wholly transparent to him: she "shows the way" (hodigitria), and is herself "the Sign" of the way, according to the traditional iconography of East and West.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Fifth Sunday of Lent B: "The days are coming when I will make a new covenant": the Passion of Jesus Christ at work in the Church and the world
The signs of the times urge us to find an answer to understanding the many events, people and things that compete for our attention in the life of our families, our communities and the world. The HHS mandate and the work of the Bishops urging us to assist in the effort to rescind it, the conflicts of the world that find their way into our Church with controversies surrounding a priest's decision to deny Communion to a woman at her mother's funeral Mass, the drive to use the name "marriage" to describe styles of living that are indeed not marriage, the fight for religious freedom, the killing of Trayvon Martin, these and many other events create a sense of being sometimes overwhelmed and urge us to seek a hermeneutic key for understanding and interpreting them, making sense of them.
In the new covenant which God reveals through the Blood of His Son we have an answer. There is a new movie getting a lot of attention. "The Hunger Games" celebrates death: the death of young people who are set upon each other for the entertainment of their parents, the elders in society. The Passion of the Lord which we will follow closely in the life of the Church in these coming days is the very opposite of this: the Father gives Himself completely over to His children in the Son who make sport of Him, mock Him, and put Him to death. Through this injustice God brings perfect justice, that of Divine love, into the world through a "new" covenant: that of the Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
"The nuptial covenant between God and his people Israel had prepared the way for the new and everlasting covenant in which the Son of God, by becoming incarnate and giving his life, has united to himself in a certain way all mankind saved by him, thus preparing for 'the wedding-feast of the Lamb.' " (CCC 1612)
How does the new covenant in the Blood of Jesus Christ help us to interpret and understand the signs of the times?
God must be given complete freedom to save the world and, thus, any eclipsing of the freedom of His Church is a strike against the mission of the Son which comes to the world through the Church. The color of Trayvon's skin is completely irrelevant to the injustice of his death if indeed he was unarmed: he is created like every human person in the image of his Creator and God says this enough reason in itself to call for respect for the right to life and justice. The HHS mandate forces the Body of Christ to pay for moral evils such as artificial contraception, abortion and sterilization which violate the truths about human dignity revealed by the Divine Person Jesus Christ in the new covenant. The denial of holy Communion to manifest public and unrepentant sinners itself is a call to salvation, a medicinal application of God's law to call even Barbara Johnson and Maryland Governer Martin O'Malley and others who should be denied the Sacrament wherever they present themselves for such, as they by their own words and actions have set themselves against Jesus Christ and the Church through which He comes to us and saves us today.
And what is Jesus Christ doing now for the working out of the new covenant? In the life of the Church He continues the work of salvation as His vicar on earth, Pope Benedict XVI, reaches out in compassion and love by visiting the people of Cuba and Mexico. And they in turn are reaching out in faith to be with him as they come out in great multitudes in witness of the Faith. We are here in the house of God to keep the Lord's Day holy together in the solidarity of Faith which is the grace of the new covenant by which we work out our salvation in fear and trembling.
Our hunger for salvation is no "game". And God who is most sincere in love feeds this hunger through the new covenant with the Body and Blood of His Son Jesus Christ who is one with the Father through the Holy Spirit.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
searcher of mind and heart,
Let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause!
The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.
Infanticide, fratricide, parricide, and the murder of a spouse are especially grave crimes by reason of the natural bonds which they break. Concern for eugenics or public health cannot justify any murder, even if commanded by public authority.
-- CCC 2268
Friday, March 23, 2012
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
The book of Revelation of St. John, read in the Church's liturgy, first reveals to us, "A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne": "the Lord God." It then shows the Lamb, "standing, as though it had been slain": Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one "who offers and is offered, who gives and is given." Finally it presents "the river of the water of life . . . flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb," one of most beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Fourth Sunday of LentB: "Polluting the Lord's temple" through sin, man and woman discover joy and mercy in Jesus Christ "lifted up" on the Cross
Incidents in the "temples" which are our churches and the sins of hatred and intolerance in society reveal a world in conflict with God and His law. The phenomenon of the imprisonment and enslavement of human persons, in particular young people, has become more visible to millions of people through the Kony video which has been viewed many millions of times.
Also, we who are Catholic, are becoming more and more aware that there is now a massive societal movement underway on a number of fronts by committees, individuals and governments to declare Catholic faith and life illegal and to demand that the Catholic Church continually redefine itself down to accommodate whatever demands by whomever, wherever and whenever. A woman who does not agree with God's plan for marriage between one man and one woman has demanded the removal from the Catechism of a paragraph that she deems personally offensive. Another woman recent;y approached a priest in the sacristy prior to her mother's funeral Mass to reveal that she was living a sinful life and approached him for Communion at the Mass although he had asked her not to do so. His decision to refuse the Sacrament has caused suffering for him and for the Church when it appears that he was trying to do the right thing by God.
The world still flirts with and falls in love with sin, attempting to substitute the worship of idolatry in place of Jesus Christ who is the Sole savior. Jesus Christ lifted up on the Cross is the answer to the sins of man and woman that prevent their salvation.
"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."
What does it mean to "believe in Jesus Christ"? We have already learned that two steps are necessary in order to make a beginning in the way of Jesus Christ. The first of these is repentance for sin. Repentance, true sorrow for sin, requires an honest assessment of our lives in the light of God's holiness made visible in Jesus Christ and sorrow for the ways in which our lives are in conflict with Jesus Christ's example.
"The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man."(CCC 1989)
Repentance of the heart and mind is expressed outwardly in conversion, a "turning" away from sin and what leads to sin and a turning toward the Lord and holiness of life. Baptism is the first step through God's initiative.
But how do we persevere in the way of conversion which enables us to lead a life of repentance through holiness? We do this in the Church of Jesus Christ which is the place of faith where Jesus Christ Himself guides and directs us, as baptized members of His Body.
It is in the Church that Jesus Christ is "lifted up" on His Cross for our salvation, in particular through the Church's liturgy of holy Mass. "The Church's faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles - whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine [5th cent.]). The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition." (CCC 1124)
Simply by celebrating and living the sacramental life, beginning with Baptism which is the door to the other Sacraments, we live as Jesus' Body, to the praise of God's glory.
Thus it may be said of us "But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God".
seek and you will find
Friday, March 16, 2012
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2012
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Third Sunday of Lent B. "Remember to keep holy the sabbath day": holy silence expresses zeal for the Father's glory in His house of prayer
Yes, the noise of enthusiastic conversation, words of sympathetic concern or neighborly inquiry after health and family are kind, humanitarian and appreciated but they are not the only means of expressing regard for or serving the well-being of others.
In the house of the Lord, especially as most of His people gather on the Lord's day or its vigil, it is perhaps silence which is the best of all options for expressing solicitude and care for the well-being of neighbors.
Why is this? For the reason that in the house of the Lord prayer comes first, prayer is needed by everyone and the prayer of holy Mass for which we prepare in silent meditation is the most perfect and necessary of prayers and the gift of the Lord's Body and Blood is the greatest of gifts for which we give thanks in silent adoration after the conclusion of mass.
"Contemplative prayer is silence, the 'symbol of the world to come' or 'silent love.' Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the 'outer' man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus." (CCC 2717)
Everyone needs prayer and helping to provide the best conditions for a recollected mind and heart for the sake of effective and wholehearted prayer is the greatest of gifts in the Lord's house which is, above all other things, a house of prayer.
Has the custom of holy silence become so neglected that there is almost no corporate memory of it among our Catholic people? Perhaps this is true, but it is never too late to do the right, necessary and salutary thing.
"Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." Now, thankfully I do not see parishioners roving from pew to pew selling Avon or other home improvement products during Mass. And the only things on the tables near the door are those necessary for worship: the bread and wine for the Eucharist and the bulletins. No need to overturn those.
But there are other things which can make the Lord's house akin to a marketplace and among these are avoidable noises such as unnecessary or superfluous conversation and the ringing of cell phones.
Lent might be a good opportunity to, for example, begin the habit of leaving one's cell phone in the car as the sign of a desire to give more radicall and fully give oneself over to prayer and worship at Mass. Asking a friend to step outside, in warmer weather of course, to chat after Mass might give those neighbors who wish to do so the opportunity to more recollectedly offer a thanksgiving prayer following Mass, as the Church has long urged us to do. With perseverance, encouragement and practice this can become a common sign of regard for others for more and more of us. The extraordinary form Mass group has a long-established practice of providing a social time with coffee and donuts after Mass on most Sundays of the year. This option is certainly available after all of our Masses in order to make visits possible with those we do not normally see outside of church events.
The Lord loves us, He who "did not need anyone to testify about human nature" because "He himself understood it well". In His love He urges us to take what we need for our good. Yes, the Lord who shared in our human nature perfectly needed prayer, prayer aided sometimes by silence. And he knows we need it also.
Oh, and those friends you see only at church and with whom you would like to visit: Why not catch up by inviting them over to your home or to stop at a nearby restaurant to break bread together after Mass?
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
Friday, March 9, 2012
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
-- Matthew 20, 17-28
Jesus' redemptive death fulfills Isaiah's prophecy of the suffering Servant
-- CCC 601
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
-- Matthew 23:1-12
Jesus is the "Servant", wholly consecrated to the work He will accomplish in the "baptism" of His passion ...
-- CCC 565
Monday, March 5, 2012
-- Luke 6, 36-38
The fifth petition begs God's mercy for our offenses, mercy which can penetrate our hearts only if we have learned to forgive our enemies, with the example and help of Christ.
-- CCC 2862
Sunday, March 4, 2012
We, too, are disfigured by sin in ways we often cannot see but the consequences of which are far more terrible: alienaton from the eternal life and love of God.
The Church proposes for our meditation on this Second Sunday of Lent the gospel of the Lord's Transfiguration. His heavenly glory as God is briefly perceptible by the Apostles before a cloud takes it away. The men and women wounded by war cannot hide or escape their physical disfigurements but, rather, often leave family, friends and other visitors astounded by a transfiguration of their spirits by which they focus on, and take encouragement from, what they have rather than what they do not.
We, too, must learn to keep ur eyes fixed upon Christ by faith while the cloud conceals in this world the heavenly glory He promises to share one day forever with us. We take courage from our faith in the One who rose from the dead after He bore Hs cross as we here and now bear our own.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! Amen.