Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Lord, save us! We are perishing!"

He said to them, "Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?"

Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will." Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: "all things are possible to him who believes." Jesus is as saddened by the "lack of faith" of his own neighbors and the "little faith" of his own disciples as he is struck with admiration at the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman.

--CCC 2610
Celebrating the Sacerdotal Year: this image of Christ the High Priest is recommended by the US Bishops for the Celebration of the Sacerdotal Year. More information may be found by clicking on this link.

Note to readers: Daily postings may be later than the usual 1:00 AM Eastern Time due to Blogspot technical difficulties. Thank you for your visit today.

(Liturgy of Week 13, Tuesday, Year I)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Oldest image of Saint Paul discovered in Rome: "I, Paul, am ... being poured out"

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.

-- 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18

The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes:

He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.
-- CCC 2015

(Photo: Image of a 1600-year-old fresco discovered in a Roman catacomb on June 19, 2009 and published by L'Osservatore Romano. It is believed to be the oldest known image of Saint Paul. More on the story here and here. Pope Benedict has also announced that what appear to be bone fragments of the saint have been discovered in his tomb at the Basilica of Saint Paul-Outside-the-Walls in Rome. More on the story here.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Do not be afraid, just have Faith."

The greatest disease or suffering, the greatest privation for the human person, is to live without faith.

In the Gospel the Lord exercises His power as God to reverse the course of nature and to restore life and health to those suffering sickness in body. As wonderful as these stories of miraculous healing may be, as much as we delight to hear them retold in our Mass this morning and to imagine the wonder and joy of those who saw and experienced the Divine power of Christ the healer, there is yet something more we need to have. We need Faith.

Disease and death have power over us because they can cause us to be fearful. Fear takes away the goodness and joy of living; fear takes away our hope. The only power that can restore hope and joy is Faith – the grace of a God that who opens a future for us despite the existence of disease, suffering and death in this world. Faith opens up a way of trust and hope because it reveals for us that disease, suffering and death will not have the last word for us and for those we love.

This is the reason why Christ says “Do not be afraid, just have Faith.” Christ gives a command in the Gospel this morning that we do not find surprising because we have heard him say it before, he tells us, “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” Have you ever wanted to tell someone who says this, “Easy for you to say.” We are tempted to respond in this way when we think that the person who is speaking to us cannot share in or understand our condition. Are you tempted to think you might have said this, or wanted to say this, to Christ if you had been there that day to witness the events we hear about in the Gospel? “Just have faith”: little words that demand great things. But was it “easy” for Christ to say this? No, it was not. Christ in his human nature experienced everything that we experience except for sin. This means that Christ the God-man needed to have Faith in his Father in the same way as He asks us to exercise this virtue.

Christ teaches us with compassion that comes from fully sharing in our human condition as well as from His divine authority as God. “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” Christ can say these words in a truly compassionate and loving way because He does not say them merely with authority. He is not only the Teacher, the one who shares the truth about Faith with us. No, what is more, He Himself is Faith, the source of Faith for all of us whom He invites today to live a new kind of life, a different kind of life, a life without fear. What does it mean to “have Faith?” It means to “have Christ”; to “love” Christ. Christ invites us to possess Him, and in having Him, having also the antidote to the temptation of fear.

There are other diseases we do not hear about in the Gospel today: the fear brought by poverty, the fear of loneliness and of old age; the fear of what the future might bring; the fear of losing one’s job or one’s home. For a priest the promise to obey his bishop and to go wherever he is sent to serve God’s people might bring a temptation to be fearful. All of these fears rob life of joy because they steal our hope.

We are invited today to possess the One who opens the way to hope as we move toward the future: Jesus Christ, who alone can promise to love us no matter what we look like, or where we live, or how much money we make. Jesus Christ fully shares our human nature so that we can share in His Divine life which never ends and which alone is victorious over all that threatens to rob us of hope in this world which is so very temporary, whether disease or suffering or death.

Christ invites us to possess Him, to open our lives to the treasure of His love. He also gives us the means of doing so: to sincerely open ourselves to His Word in the sacred Scriptures and to receive Him with Faith and love as He gives Himself to us, truly present in the Eucharist.

Let us dedicate ourselves with fervent joy to these works of love, doing in this way exactly as the Lord invites us today, “Do not be afraid, just have Faith."

(Art: Christ and the woman subject to bleeding, BOULLOGNE, Louis de, Oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

THIRTEENTH Sunday in Ordinary Time: "Do not be afraid; just have faith."

Wisdom 1, 13-15; 2, 23-24; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8: 7. 9. 13-15; St. Mark 5: 21-43

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Jesus' raising the dead to life was remarkable, and his healing of the woman afflicted with a hemorrhage was remarkable, but the prophets had also healed the sick, the blind and the lame and the prophets had also raised the dead. These raisings and healings were a return to, or restoration of, mere earthly existence. There is more!

There is something more offered to us in Jesus that sets him completely apart as the Christ. These miraculous events portend the same reality, whether coming through the prophets or Christ: eternal life. Our resurrection will be possible only in and with the divine person of Jesus Christ. We must be in bodily union with him if we wish to be raised as he was from the dead to the glorified state of resurrection.

Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: "I am the Resurrection and the life." It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood. Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life, announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the "sign of Jonah," the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day. CCC 994

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy (Publish with permission.)

(Photo by author: Italian priest and pilgrims pray at the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls.)

"He cured all the sick"

When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:

He took away our infirmities
and bore our diseases.

-- Mt 8:5-17

Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases." But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the "sin of the world," of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.

-- CCC 1505

(Holy water font in the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls symbolizes the exorcism of grace in Christ which "drives out demons" and brings healing to body and soul.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

"Lord ... you can make me clean."

"Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean."
-- Mt 8:1-4

Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as "Lord". This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing. At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, "Lord" expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus. In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: "My Lord and my God!" It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: "It is the Lord!"
-- CCC 448

(Celebrating the Year of St. Paul: German pilgrims pray before the relic of Paul's chains displayed above his sarcophagus in the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls of Rome.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Not everyone who says 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven"

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

The prayer of faith consists not only in saying "Lord, Lord," but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father. Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan.
-- CCC 2611

By prayer we can discern "what is the will of God" and obtain the endurance to do it. Jesus teaches us that one enters the kingdom of heaven not by speaking words, but by doing "the will of my Father in heaven."
-- CCC 2826

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: Romanesque cloisters of the monastery at the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls. Photo by author.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"John heralded His coming"

In those days, Paul said:
"God raised up David as king;
of him God testified,
I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;
he will carry out my every wish.
From this man's descendants God, according to his promise,
has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
John heralded his coming
-- Acts 13:22-26

St. John the Baptist is the Lord's immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. "Prophet of the Most High", John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother's womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being "the friend of the bridegroom", whom he points out as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world". Going before Jesus "in the spirit and power of Elijah", John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.
-- CCC 523

(Art: Caravaggio: St John the Baptist (c. 1604), oil on canvas (172 × 104 cm). Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"How narrow the gate"

"How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few."

The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."
-- CCC 1036
(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: the facade of the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, Rome.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Stop judging"

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,'
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother's eye."
-- Mt 7:1-5

Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching. Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light. Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God's grace as nothing be condemned. Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love. On the Last Day Jesus will say: "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."
-- CCC 678

Saturday, June 20, 2009

TWELFTH Sunday in Ordinary Time: "Teacher, do you not care if we perish?"

38, 1.8-11; Psalm 107; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41

"Teacher, do you not care if we perish?"

"Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?" (Mark 4: 38. 40)

Storms or no storms, in tempest and in peace, we must live by faith. The greatest test of faith is the confidence of belief in God through the fear brought by the terrors of darkness and the tempests of temptation. Faith is given by God precisely to sustain our weakness by divine power through the difficulties life will bring.

"Now, however, 'we walk by faith, not by sight'; (2 Corinthians 5:7) we perceive God as 'in a mirror, dimly' and only 'in part.' (1 Corinthians 13:12) Even though enlightened by him in whom it believes, faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice, and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it." (CCC 164)
"Perfect faith casts out all fear." The saints and martyrs, the witnesses, including the Apostles who feared the storm and the seas, are the ones to whom we look to learn how to be men and women of faith, even while enduring the temptations and doubts that flesh is heir to.

"It is then that we must turn to the witnesses of faith: to Abraham, who 'in hope...believed against hope'; (Romans 4:18) to the Virgin Mary, who, in 'her pilgrimage of faith,' walked into the 'night of faith' (Lumen Gentium 58; John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater 18) in sharing the darkness of her son's suffering and death; and to so many others: 'Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.' (Hebrews 12:1-2)" (CCC 165)

Faith is the gift of God, and through this virtue he enables us to call upon him in every circumstance, from desperation to joy, in tragedies and in blessings. Christ commanded us to "pray always." Prayer is the necessary means of union with God in every circumstance: "It is always possible to pray: The time of the Christian is that of the risen Christ who is with us always, no matter what tempests may arise. (Cf. Matthew 28:20; Luke 8:24) Our time is in the hands of God:
'It is possible to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop,...while buying or selling,...or even while cooking.' (St. John Chrysostom, Ecloga de oratione 2: PG 63, 585)" (CCC 2743)

"Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin. (Cf. Galatians 5:16-25) How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him?
'Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy...For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.' (St. John Chrysostom, De Anna 4, 5: PG 54, 666)
'Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.' (St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Del gran mezzo della preghiera.)

Prayer and Christian life are inseparable, for they concern the same love and the same renunciation, proceeding from love; the same filial and loving conformity with the Father's plan of love; the same transforming union in the Holy Spirit who conforms us more and more to Christ Jesus; the same love for all men, the love with which Jesus has loved us. 'Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he [will] give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.' (Origen, De orat. 12:PG 11, 452C)" (CCC 2744)

The greatest prayer, the sacramental liturgy of the Church, is the place where prayer and love meet perfectly. "In the sacramental liturgy of the Church, the mission of Christ and of the Holy Spirit proclaims, makes present, and communicates the mystery of salvation, which is continued in the heart that prays. The spiritual writers sometimes compare the heart to an altar. Prayer internalizes and assimilates the liturgy during and after its celebration. Even when it is lived out 'in secret,' (Cf. Matthew 6:6) prayer is always prayer of the Church; it is a communion with the Holy Trinity. (GILH 9)" (CCC 2655)

The best antidote to fear is the heart at prayer, confident of the mercy of God and the nearness of salvation in the sacramental life.

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy (Publish with permission.)

Tanti auguri, Archbishop-elect Augustine Di Noia, O.P.

Some indicators of the reason for our joy in anticipating the 11 July archiepiscopal ordination of Father Augustine Di Noia, O.P., at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.:

"I think the liturgy should give us a sense of the heavenly liturgy; it's about God, not us," DiNoia said.

Looking at liturgy today, Archbishop-designate DiNoia said, "The great danger is when the focus is on the celebrating community" rather than on God.

Many best wishes. Tanti auguri!

For more information, please visit The New Liturgical Movement.

St. Paul: "for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Brothers and sisters:
I must boast; not that it is profitable,
but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows),
was caught up to the third heaven.
And I know that this man
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows)
was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things,
which no one may utter.
About this man I will boast,
but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.
Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish,
for I would be telling the truth.
But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me
than what he sees in me or hears from me
because of the abundance of the revelations.
Therefore, that I might not become too elated,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness."
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Of all the divine attributes, only God's omnipotence is named in the Creed: to confess this power has great bearing on our lives. We believe that his might is universal, for God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God's power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it when it "is made perfect in weakness" (Cf. 2 Cor 12:9)
-- CCC 268

The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness," and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church." (Cf. 2 Cor 12:9, 28, 30.)
-- CCC 1508

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: ancient Romanesque Easter candle stand in the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, Rome. Photo by author.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Saint Paul: "Please put up with me."

Brothers and sisters:
If only you would put up with a little foolishness from me!
Please put up with me.
For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God,
since I betrothed you to one husband
to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning,
your thoughts may be corrupted
from a sincere and pure commitment to Christ.
For if someone comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached,
or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received
or a different gospel from the one you accepted,
you put up with it well enough.
-- 2 Cor 11:1-11

By his virginal conception, Jesus, the New Adam, ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the Holy Spirit through faith. "How can this be?" Participation in the divine life arises "not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God". The acceptance of this life is virginal because it is entirely the Spirit's gift to man. The spousal character of the human vocation in relation to God (Cf. 2 Cor 11:2) is fulfilled perfectly in Mary's virginal motherhood.
-- CCC 505

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: View of the gothic baldacchino over the main altar in the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, Rome. Photo by author.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"God loves a cheerful giver."

He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever.

The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

You are being enriched in every way for all generosity,
which through us produces thanksgiving to God.

-- 2 Cor 9:6-11

The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity."
-- CCC 1832

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: View of the campanile of the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, Rome. Photo by author.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Joy and poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity"

We want you to know, brothers and sisters, of the grace of God
that has been given to the churches of Macedonia,
for in a severe test of affliction,
the abundance of their joy and their profound poverty
overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
For according to their means, I can testify,
and beyond their means, spontaneously,
they begged us insistently for the favor of taking part
in the service to the holy ones,
and this, not as we expected,
but they gave themselves first to the Lord
and to us through the will of God,
so that we urged Titus that, as he had already begun,
he should also complete for you this gracious act also.
Now as you excel in every respect,
in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness,
and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.

I say this not by way of command,
but to test the genuineness of your love
by your concern for others.
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that for your sake he became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.

-- 2 Cor 8:1-9

In economic matters, respect for human dignity requires the practice of the virtue of temperance, so as to moderate attachment to this world's goods; the practice of the virtue of justice, to preserve our neighbor's rights and render him what is his due; and the practice of solidarity, in accordance with the golden rule and in keeping with the generosity of the Lord, who "though he was rich, yet for your sake . . . became poor so that by his poverty, you might become rich."

-- CCC 2407

NOTA BENE: The world bombards the Christian, already rich, with the lie that he is poor. "You need this, you need that; you need to look like this and you need to live here or there." Lies from the Father of Lies. You are already rich, and you will become richer when you share the treasure of Christ with the poor: those without love, without peace.


(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: View in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls of archaeological excavations to the foundations of earlier church on the site.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Do not receive the grace of God in vain."

Brothers and sisters:
As your fellow workers, we appeal to you
not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:

In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.
-- 2 Cor 6:1-10

The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them "the acceptable time, . . . the day of salvation." It inspires a holy fear of God and commits them to the justice of the Kingdom of God. It proclaims the "blessed hope" of the Lord's return, when he will come "to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed."
-- CCC 1041

Someone is attacking you, not by striking on your cheek, but rather behind your back through calumny or detraction? Then "offer no resistance to one who is evil" -- do not respond by committing the same sin, by repeating the faults of your enemy or spreading untruths, for this would only be "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." No, "do not to receive the grace of God in vain". Open not your mouth but, rather, your heart and "pray for your persecutor" offering "no resistance" by "turning the other cheek". Upon this Cross is your foretaste of glorious resurrection!

(Celebrating the Pauline Year: a flame lit by Pope Benedict and kept burning at the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the walls by pilgrims to symbolize the faith of the Church nourished by the celebration of the Year of Saint Paul throughout the world. Photo by author.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"The love of Christ compels us"

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
-- 2 Cor 5:14-21

It is love "to the end" that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life. Now "the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died." No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all.
-- CCC 616

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: sarcophagus of Saint Paul below the main altar of the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the walls, Rome. Photo by author.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

"We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,"

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
-- 2 Cor 4:7-15

Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life "in earthen vessels," and it remains "hidden with Christ in God." We are still in our "earthly tent," subject to suffering, illness, and death. This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin.
-- CCC 1420

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: 14th century wooden statue of the saint in the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the walls, Rome. Photo by author.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Such confidence we have through Christ toward God."

Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit
for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant,
not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life.
-- 2 Cor 3:4-11

Jesus unites them to the mission he received from the Father. As "the Son can do nothing of his own accord," but receives everything from the Father who sent him, so those whom Jesus sends can do nothing apart from him, from whom they received both the mandate for their mission and the power to carry it out. Christ's apostles knew that they were called by God as "ministers of a new covenant," "servants of God," "ambassadors for Christ," "servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God."
-- CCC 859

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: the abbey church at Tre Fontane. More info here. Photo by author.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"God has put His seal upon us"

Brothers and sisters:

As God is faithful, our word to you is not "yes" and "no." For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me, was not "yes" and "no," but "yes" has been in him. For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him; therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory. But the one who gives us security with you in Christ and who anointed us is God; he has also put his seal upon us
and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.
-- 2 Cor 1:18-22

The Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord ("Dominicus character") "for the day of redemption." "Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life." The faithful Christian who has "kept the seal" until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be able to depart this life "marked with the sign of faith," with his baptismal faith, in expectation of the blessed vision of God - the consummation of faith - and in the hope of resurrection.
-- CCC 1274

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: plaque in Pozzuoli, Italy, commemorating Paul's stop in what was then called 'Puteoli" on his way to Rome. "Paul of Tarsus, Apostle to the Gentiles, magnificent assertor of the truth, landed at the beach of Puteoli and here spent seven days with brethren in the Faith." Photo by author.)

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus"

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
and Timothy our brother,
to the Church of God that is at Corinth,
with all the holy ones throughout Achaia:
grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
-- 2 Cor 1:1-7

As in the prayer of petition, every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving. The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it: "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you"; "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."
-- CCC 2638

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: the church of Tre Fontane marks the traditional spot of Paul's martyrdom outside the city of Rome. Photo by author.)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Saint Paul: "You received a Spirit of adoption."

Brothers and sisters:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!"
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

-- Rom 8:14-17

Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us "co-heirs" with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life." The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God's gifts."
-- CCC 2009

(Photo by author: Steubenville students greet the Holy Father at a Wednesday general audience at Rome in the filial Holy Spirit of adoption, crying out "Papa" as they recognize in Him our vicar of Christ on earth and a sign and source of unity for the Church in the heavenly Father's divine love.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"Give God the praise and glory"

Raphael called the two men aside privately and said to them:
"Thank God! Give him the praise and the glory.
Before all the living,
acknowledge the many good things he has done for you,
by blessing and extolling his name in song.
Honor and proclaim God's deeds,
and do not be slack in praising him."
-- Tb 12:1, 5-15, 20

Certain constant characteristics appear throughout the Psalms: simplicity and spontaneity of prayer; the desire for God himself through and with all that is good in his creation; the distraught situation of the believer who, in his preferential love for the Lord, is exposed to a host of enemies and temptations, but who waits upon what the faithful God will do, in the certitude of his love and in submission to his will. The prayer of the psalms is always sustained by praise; that is why the title of this collection as handed down to us is so fitting: "The Praises." Collected for the assembly's worship, the Psalter both sounds the call to prayer and sings the response to that call: Hallelu-Yah! ("Alleluia"), "Praise the Lord!"

What is more pleasing than a psalm? David expresses it well: "Praise the Lord, for a psalm is good: let there be praise of our God with gladness and grace!" Yes, a psalm is a blessing on the lips of the people, praise of God, the assembly's homage, a general acclamation, a word that speaks for all, the voice of the Church, a confession of faith in song.
-- CCC 2589

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: This monumental statue of Saint Paul stands in the courtyard of the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, Rome. Photo by author.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

"David himself calls him 'lord' "

"...so how is he his son?"

Many Jews and even certain Gentiles who shared their hope recognized in Jesus the fundamental attributes of the messianic "Son of David", promised by God to Israel. Jesus accepted his rightful title of Messiah, though with some reserve because it was understood by some of his contemporaries in too human a sense, as essentially political.
-- CCC 439

As Jesus was teaching in the temple area he said,
"How do the scribes claim that the Christ is the son of David?
David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said:

The Lord said to my lord,
'Sit at my right hand
until I place your enemies under your feet.'

David himself calls him 'lord';
so how is he his son?"
The great crowd heard this with delight.

Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit, to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called "chrismation" in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew "messiah") means the one "anointed" by God's Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David. But Jesus is God's Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as "Christ." The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord. The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving. Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. Now, fully established as "Christ" in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until "the saints" constitute - in their union with the humanity of the Son of God - that perfect man "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ": "the whole Christ," in St. Augustine's expression.
-- CCC 695

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul. The Egyptian obelisque pictured here, now standing in Saint Peter's Square, Rome, was moved from its original spot in the circus of Nero. Saint Peter, martyred on that spot, and Saint Paul likely set eyes upon this monument as they witnessed the martyrdom of many brothers and sisters in the Faith. Photo by author.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Which is the first of all the commandments?"

Jesus replied, "The first is this:

Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these."

-- Mk 12:28-34

In response to the question about the first of the commandments, Jesus says: "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: "He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

-- CCC 2196

"Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD..." (Dt 6:4; Mk 12:29). "The supreme being must be unique, without equal. . . If God is not one, he is not God" (Tertullian, Adv. Marc., 1, 3, 5: PL 2, 274).

-- CCC 228

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul. The Apostle likely walked the Roman forum, pictured here, the center of the life of the empire and key to understanding the challenges faced by the first Christians, many of whom were martyred like Paul and the Apostle Peter for witnessing to their Faith in Jesus Christ. Photo by author.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"He is the God of the living"

As for the dead being raised,
have you not read in the Book of Moses,
in the passage about the bush, how God told him,
I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob?
He is not God of the dead but of the living.
You are greatly misled."

The Pharisees and many of the Lord's contemporaries hoped for the resurrection. Jesus teaches it firmly. To the Sadducees who deny it he answers, "Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?" Faith in the resurrection rests on faith in God who "is not God of the dead, but of the living."
-- CCC 993

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: Roman road near the forum in Rome. Saint Paul trudged the roads like this of the Roman empire in his apostolic mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Render unto God"

"Whose image and inscription is this?"
They replied to him, "Caesar's."
So Jesus said to them,
"Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God."
They were utterly amazed at him.
-- Mk 12:13-17

From the beginning of Christian history, the assertion of Christ's lordship over the world and over history has implicitly recognized that man should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Caesar is not "the Lord". "The Church. . . believes that the key, the center and the purpose of the whole of man's history is to be found in its Lord and Master."
-- CCC 450

(Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul: Mamertinum prison, Rome. Traditional place of Paul's imprisonment in the Eternal City. Photo by blog author.)

Monday, June 1, 2009

"Proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes"

He had one other to send, a beloved son.
He sent him to them last of all, thinking, 'They will respect my son.'
But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.'
-- Mk 12:1-12

Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is "given up for us," and the blood we drink "shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins." For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins:

For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord. If we proclaim the Lord's death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins. If, as often as his blood is poured out, it is poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that it may always forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always have a remedy.
-- CCC 1393

As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:

On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.

The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.

When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.

Then we all rise together and offer prayers* for ourselves . . .and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.

When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.

Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.

He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.

When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: 'Amen.'

When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the "eucharisted" bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.

-- CCC 1345