A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Monday, March 31, 2008

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae

The Annunciation by Luca GiordanoEt concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum; benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Ecce ancilla Domini,
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Ave Maria...

Et Verbum caro factum est.
Et habitavit in nobis.

Ave Maria...

Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genitrix.
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Gratiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut, qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem ejus et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.
R. Amen.

* * *

V. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
R. And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.

Hail Mary, full of grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord,
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary...

V. And the Word was made flesh,
R. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary...

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Your Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

Today, delayed six days because of the Octave of Easter,
the Church celebrates
the Solemnity of the Annunciation

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

His mercy endures forever

The great Pope John Paul the second, servant of God, designated today, the Sunday after Easter, as Divine Mercy Sunday.

Some of today’s readings continue the recounting of the great events following Easter: in the Gospel (John 20:19-31), the appearance to Saint Thomas the Apostle one week after the resurrection; and in the first reading (Acts 2:42-47), the wonders of the apostolic community in the months following the resurrection.

But the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, together with the second reading (1 Peter 1:3-9) and the Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24), focus on the great motivation and result of Christ’s resurrection.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who in his great mercy
gave us a new birth to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

As for the Psalm, it begins with a repetition of that wonderful phrase: for his mercy endures forever.

Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

The repetition of this phrase occurs elsewhere in Scripture, most especially in Psalm 136, which recounts God’s works from creation to Israel’s arrival in the Promised Land, repeating “for his mercy endures forever” literally every other phrase.

Praise the Lord, for he is good:
for his mercy endureth for ever.
Praise ye the God of gods:
for his mercy endureth for ever.
Praise ye the Lord of lords:
for his mercy endureth for ever.
Who alone doth great wonders:
for his mercy endureth for ever.
Who made the heavens in understanding:
for his mercy endureth for ever.

At one point, however, this litany takes a sudden turn that may be disturbing to many ears.

Who smote great kings:
for his mercy endureth for ever.
And slew strong kings:
for his mercy endureth for ever.

We may believe we have a pretty good idea of the qualities of mercy and many of us would not include regicide among them.

The word translated in these Psalms as mercy is the great Hebrew word Hesed, which is also translated as loving-kindness.

So, did God have no loving-kindness or mercy to these kings?

Obviously, the death of these kings was a work of mercy on behalf of the children of Israel, for these kings were a threat to them. Thus these events were yet another example of how the mercy of God has been with his people throughout the ages.

But of course, the children of Israel have not enjoyed God’s mercy at every moment. Indeed, just this past century, their descendents were imprisoned and massacred by the millions by Nazis and others.

What happened to the mercy of God?

The way to an answer, for both of these questions, lies in this very same phrase: for his mercy endures forever.

The mercy of God is not just for a moment or for a day or even for a lifetime. The mercy of God endures forever. Even when his mercy may seem for a moment (or even for a lifetime) to have vanished from the earth or we might even think people are receiving God’s wrath instead of his mercy, we need to remember that his mercy endures forever: God’s mercy will indeed shine forth in time and in eternity and it will endure forever.

In the meantime, may you and I do the best we can to manifest the perfect mercy of God, exemplified in the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, here and now: in our words, in our attitudes, in our actions, and in our faithfulness.

Give thanks to the Lord,
For he is good,
For his mercy endures forever.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

It is impossible for us not to speak

The message of today’s readings is unmistakable.

In the Gospel (Mark 16:9-15), we hear the clear and powerful command of Christ:

Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.

In the first reading (Acts 4:13-21), the Apostles are told not to speak of Christ.

Saint Peter and Saint John, however, are clear in their response:

Whether it is right in the sight of God
for us to obey you rather than God,
you be the judges.

It is impossible for us
not to speak about what we have seen and heard.

In today’s world there are many people and forces tell us not to spread the Gospel, not to try to bring people to Christ.

In some places, the totalitarianism of political correctness forbids it.

In some places, laws and violent men forbid it.

To be sure, we need to be prudent, but the command given by Christ to the Apostles and the logic enunciated by Saints Peter and John are binding on us as well.

Indeed, very recently, Saint Peter’s successor gave a dramatic example of following this command and this logic: within days of being implicitly threatened by one of the world’s most notorious men of violence, Pope Benedict XVI baptized a high profile Muslim.

Whether it is right in the sight of God
for us to obey you rather than God,
you be the judges.


Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Come, have breakfast

He has risen from the dead.

He has taken away the sin of the world.

He makes breakfast.

The scene in today’s Gospel (John 21:1-14) has many interesting elements: one could write an entire book about the many symbolisms and other aspects of this passage.

One of these aspects is our Lord’s simple, mundane invitation to the disciples:

Come, have breakfast.

Doctors and dieticians constantly remind us that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” – it gives us the nutrition we need to begin our day.

The same is also true in the spiritual life: our days can be so full of challenges, we need to start our days on the right foot spiritually.

Yes, we can be very busy in the mornings, rushing to get everything ready, but we need to start the day right. That includes a spiritual breakfast: if only a moment or two of private prayer and reading a verse of two of Scripture.

The Lord Jesus says to us: Come, have breakfast.

No other name

In today’s first reading (Acts 4:1-12), Peter pulls no punches in talking about Jesus.

There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.

Nothing else is in the same league as God becoming man, dying and rising from the dead.

This reaffirms the necessity of our efforts as Christians to proclaim Christ and to help lead others to Christ.

Even if we believe that Christ’s saving power is somehow at work in those who - through no fault of their own - do not really know him, we must be diligent in making clear to them and to everyone the truth about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For there is no other name by which we are to be saved.

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.
(Philippians 2:10-11)

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thursday, March 27, 2008


People are ignorant.

They do not really know what is going on and they do not seem to be in a hurry to learn. They just want to get through the day and to enjoy their lives. They do not seek to know what is truly right or wrong: only what works for them.

The people’s leaders are ignorant.

They are not deep thinkers, except when it comes to strategizing to increase and maintain the power of their “side”. They do not seek to know what is truly right or wrong: only what works for them.

And so it is that Saint Peter in today’s first reading (Acts 3:11-26), the Blood of Jesus probably still visible on the rock of Golgotha, says to the people of Jerusalem:

You acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did.

Saint Peter’s point in saying this, of course, is to bring the people out of their ignorance: to help them recognize Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and for them to accept him and the truth he brings.

Saint Peter’s successors have continued this effort through the millennia: to break through the self-centered complacency and ignorance of people and their leaders and to proclaim loudly the truth that comes from Christ.

Few of Saint Peter’s successors have been more skilled in this task than Pope Benedict XVI: a truly deep thinker who seeks only to illumine what is truly right and wrong as well as to increase the knowledge of God in all people.

The people of the United States will have a special opportunity to benefit from this ministry of the Successor of Peter when the Holy Father comes to Washington and New York in just a few weeks. All of us should pray for his safety during this trip and also that people will be really open to learning from him: listening fully and reading fully what he says, not just latching onto the sound bites and negative spin that may come through the usual media outlets.

You and I, of course, are by no means free of ignorance ourselves. Too many of us are coasting through life with just what we learned years ago and perhaps also with snippets of things we have read or heard from time to time.

All of us must rise above our complacency and the pressures of day-to-day life and open ourselves ever more to seeking and receiving more fully of the truth that comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

As you go along

Today’s readings offer two of the most evocative incidents from the time shortly after the Resurrection of Christ.

In the Gospel (Luke 24:13-35), we have the wonderful story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

And it happened
that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.

Only later do they realize what had happened to them.

Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way
and opened the Scriptures to us?”

So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the Eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised
and has appeared to Simon!”

Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them
in the breaking of the bread.

In the first reading (Acts 3:1-10), probably less than a few months after the Resurrection, Peter and John are making their way into the Temple for mid-afternoon prayer when they come across a man crippled since birth: a chance encounter that results in a dramatic and powerful moment.

When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple,
he asked for alms.
But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said,
“Look at us.”

He paid attention to them,
expecting to receive something from them.

Peter said,
“I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you:
in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean,
rise and walk.”

There are many lessons to be found in these wonderful passages, but one common element is good for us to remember: in both cases, these people were simply going about, doing normal things, when there was an unexpected opportunity of grace.

The two disciples were just walking down the road when all of a sudden the Risen Lord Jesus Christ was with them, teaching them, and lighting a fire in their hearts.

The two Apostles were just heading into services, just like any of us walking into Church for daily Mass, when all of a sudden the Holy Spirit moves them to help a person in need with the power of the Risen Christ.

As you and I go along the rest of this day and all of our normal activities, may we be continually sensitive and open to whatever opportunities with which the Lord presents us to feel his presence and to share with others the grace we have received.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at A Catholic Canadian.

The greatest generation

In different cultures and at different times throughout history, the young generation – the one just coming of age – thinks itself better the generation that came before it.

The concept of a “generation gap” was amplified and re-amplified among the generation that began to come of age in the second half of the last century in the United States and other places: generational narcissism and ageism rang loudly throughout the dominant culture.

Later, the younger generation usually recognizes the great worth of the generation that went before it – just in time for the tables to be turned on it as a newer generation starts asserting itself in the world.

There seems to be a generation gap battle cry in the words of Saint Peter in today’s first reading (Acts 2:36-41), as he says, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

Saint Peter, of course, is not speaking of the baby boomers or Generation Xers and he is certainly not speaking of what a news reader famously called “The Greatest Generation.”

Nor is Saint Peter speaking only of the elite ones of that time and place who were responsible for our Lord’s crucifixion.

To be sure, the individuals who plotted Christ’s death were indeed corrupt, but the corrupt generation from which we need to be saved is not isolated to a particular point in history.

The root of the word translated here as “generation” is shared by the word generally translated as “to be born”.

It is this word that John uses in the beginning of his Gospel (1:10-13):

He was in the world,
and the world was made through him,
yet the world knew him not.
He came to his own home,
and his own people received him not.
But to all who received him,
who believed in his name,
he gave power to become children of God;
who were born,
not of blood
nor of the will of the flesh
nor of the will of man,
but of God.

This passage illustrates perfectly the truest and most serious “generation gap”.

The greatest generation is of God.

The generations of this world are all in some ways corrupt.

We should not live our lives based on where or how we were physically born.

We should not live our lives based on desires and the will of the flesh.

We should not live our lives based on the will of man: personal preferences, peer pressure, or popular opinion.

By the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – crucified and risen - we should live our lives based on God.

Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Not abandoned

Sometimes we may feel trapped.

Sometimes we may feel alone.

Sometimes we may feel ourselves to be in a darkness that will never lift.

But Christ is risen.

Indeed, he is risen.

The message of Easter reminds us that the walls that we may feel around us are not as strong as we think or fear.

The message of Easter reminds us that we are never alone and that we will never be alone.

The message of Easter reminds us that no darkness is so great that the light of Christ will not penetrate it.

This message is emphasized repeatedly in today’s first reading (Acts 2:14, 22-33), taken from the Church’s first public proclamation of Christ’s resurrection – uttered by Saint Peter himself.

You will not abandon my soul to the nether world.

Saint Peter here is quoting Psalm 16:10: a prophecy fulfilled in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from the dead.

God did not abandon Christ to the netherworld. Christ is risen.

Neither will God abandon his faithful ones, no matter how dark and hopeless we may feel.

Christ is risen.

Indeed, he is risen.

We are not abandoned and never will be.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Pope's Easter Vigil Homily

"Brothers and Sisters,

"In his farewell discourse, Jesus announced his imminent death and resurrection to his disciples with these mysterious words: ' go away, and I will come to you', he said (Jn 14:28).

"Dying is a 'going away'. Even if the body of the deceased remains behind, he himself has gone away into the unknown, and we cannot follow him (cf. Jn 13:36). Yet in Jesus’s case, there is something utterly new, which changes the world. In the case of our own death, the 'going away' is definitive, there is no return. Jesus, on the other hand, says of his death: 'I go away, and I will come to you.' It is by going away that he comes. His going ushers in a completely new and greater way of being present. By dying he enters into the love of the Father. His dying is an act of love. Love, however, is immortal. Therefore, his going away is transformed into a new coming, into a form of presence which reaches deeper and does not come to an end.

"During his earthly life, Jesus, like all of us, was tied to the external conditions of bodily existence: to a determined place and a determined time. Bodiliness places limits on our existence. We cannot be simultaneously in two different places. Our time is destined to come to an end.

"And between the 'I' and the 'you' there is a wall of otherness. To be sure, through love we can somehow enter the other’s existence. Nevertheless, the insurmountable barrier of being different remains in place.

"Yet Jesus, who is now totally transformed through the act of love, is free from such barriers and limits. He is able not only to pass through closed doors in the outside world, as the Gospels recount (cf. Jn 20:19). He can pass through the interior door separating the 'I' from the 'you', the closed door between yesterday and today, between the past and the future.

"On the day of his solemn entry into Jerusalem, when some Greeks asked to see him, Jesus replied with the parable of the grain of wheat which has to pass through death in order to bear much fruit. In this way he foretold his own destiny: these words were not addressed simply to one or two Greeks in the space of a few minutes.

"Through his Cross, through his going away, through his dying like the grain of wheat, he would truly arrive among the Greeks, in such a way that they could see him and touch him through faith.

"His going away is transformed into a coming, in the Risen Lord’s universal manner of presence, in which he is there yesterday, today and for ever, in which he embraces all times and all places.

"Now he can even surmount the wall of otherness that separates the 'I' from the 'you'.

"This happened with Paul, who describes the process of his conversion and his Baptism in these words: 'it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me' (Gal 2:20).

"Through the coming of the Risen One, Paul obtained a new identity. His closed 'I' was opened. Now he lives in communion with Jesus Christ, in the great 'I' of believers who have become – as he puts it – 'one in Christ' (Gal 3:28).

"So, dear friends, it is clear that, through Baptism, the mysterious words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper become present for you once more. In Baptism, the Lord enters your life through the door of your heart. We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another. He passes through all these doors. This is the reality of Baptism: he, the Risen One, comes; he comes to you and joins his life with yours, drawing you into the open fire of his love. You become one, one with him, and thus one among yourselves. At first this can sound rather abstract and unrealistic. But the more you live the life of the baptized, the more you can experience the truth of these words.

"Believers – the baptized – are never truly cut off from one another. Continents, cultures, social structures or even historical distances may separate us. But when we meet, we know one another on the basis of the same Lord, the same faith, the same hope, the same love, which form us. Then we experience that the foundation of our lives is the same. We experience that in our inmost depths we are anchored in the same identity, on the basis of which all our outward differences, however great they may be, become secondary.

"Believers are never totally cut off from one another. We are in communion because of our deepest identity: Christ within us. Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close (cf. Eph 2:13).

"The Church expresses the inner reality of Baptism as the gift of a new identity through the tangible elements used in the administration of the sacrament. The fundamental element in Baptism is water; next, in second place, is light, which is used to great effect in the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil.

"Let us take a brief look at these two elements. In the final chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews, there is a statement about Christ which does not speak directly of water, but the Old Testament allusions nevertheless point clearly to the mystery of water and its symbolic meaning.

"Here we read: 'The God of peace … brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant' (13:20). In this sentence, there is an echo of the prophecy of Isaiah, in which Moses is described as the shepherd whom the Lord brought up from the water, from the sea (cf. 63:11). Jesus appears as the new, definitive Shepherd who brings to fulfilment what Moses had done: he leads us out of the deadly waters of the sea, out of the waters of death. In this context we may recall that Moses’ mother placed him in a basket in the Nile. Then, through God’s providence, he was taken out of the water, carried from death to life, and thus – having himself been saved from the waters of death – he was able to lead others through the sea of death.

"Jesus descended for us into the dark waters of death. But through his blood, so the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, he was brought back from death: his love united itself to the Father’s love, and thus from the abyss of death he was able to rise to life. Now he raises us from death to true life.

"This is exactly what happens in Baptism: he draws us towards himself, he draws us into true life. He leads us through the often murky sea of history, where we are frequently in danger of sinking amid all the confusion and perils. In Baptism he takes us, as it were, by the hand, he leads us along the path that passes through the Red Sea of this life and introduces us to everlasting life, the true and upright life.

"Let us grasp his hand firmly! Whatever may happen, whatever may befall us, let us not lose hold of his hand! Let us walk along the path that leads to life.

"In the second place, there is the symbol of light and fire. Gregory of Tours recounts a practice that in some places was preserved for a long time, of lighting the new fire for the celebration of the Easter Vigil directly from the sun, using a crystal. Light and fire, so to speak, were received anew from heaven, so that all the lights and fires of the year could be kindled from them.

"This is a symbol of what we are celebrating in the Easter Vigil. Through his radical love for us, in which the heart of God and the heart of man touched, Jesus Christ truly took light from heaven and brought it to the earth – the light of truth and the fire of love that transform man’s being. He brought the light, and now we know who God is and what God is like. Thus we also know what our own situation is: what we are, and for what purpose we exist.

"When we are baptized, the fire of this light is brought down deep within ourselves. Thus, in the early Church, Baptism was also called the Sacrament of Illumination: God’s light enters into us; thus we ourselves become children of light.

"We must not allow this light of truth, that shows us the path, to be extinguished. We must protect it from all the forces that seek to eliminate it so as to cast us back into darkness regarding God and ourselves.

"Darkness, at times, can seem comfortable. I can hide, and spend my life asleep. Yet we are not called to darkness, but to light. In our baptismal promises, we rekindle this light, so to speak, year by year.

"Yes, I believe that the world and my life are not the product of chance, but of eternal Reason and eternal Love, they are created by Almighty God.

"Yes, I believe that in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, in his Cross and resurrection, the face of God has been revealed; that in him, God is present in our midst, he unites us and leads us towards our goal, towards eternal Love.

"Yes, I believe that the Holy Spirit gives us the word of truth and enlightens our hearts; I believe that in the communion of the Church we all become one Body with the Lord, and thus we encounter his resurrection and eternal life.

"The Lord has granted us the light of truth. This light is also fire, a powerful force coming from God, a force that does not destroy, but seeks to transform our hearts, so that we truly become men of God, and so that his peace can become active in this world.

"In the early Church there was a custom whereby the Bishop or the priest, after the homily, would cry out to the faithful: 'Conversi ad Dominum' – turn now towards the Lord. This meant in the first place that they would turn towards the East, towards the rising sun, the sign of Christ returning, whom we go to meet when we celebrate the Eucharist. Where this was not possible, for some reason, they would at least turn towards the image of Christ in the apse, or towards the Cross, so as to orient themselves inwardly towards the Lord. Fundamentally, this involved an interior event; conversion, the turning of our soul towards Jesus Christ and thus towards the living God, towards the true light.

"Linked with this, then, was the other exclamation that still today, before the Eucharistic Prayer, is addressed to the community of the faithful: 'Sursum corda' – 'Lift up your hearts', high above the tangled web of our concerns, desires, anxieties and thoughtlessness – 'Lift up your hearts, your inner selves!' In both exclamations we are summoned, as it were, to a renewal of our Baptism: Conversi ad Dominum – we must distance ourselves ever anew from taking false paths, onto which we stray so often in our thoughts and actions.

"We must turn ever anew towards him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We must be converted ever anew, turning with our whole life towards the Lord. And ever anew we must allow our hearts to be withdrawn from the force of gravity, which pulls them down, and inwardly we must raise them high: in truth and love.

"At this hour, let us thank the Lord, because through the power of his word and of the holy Sacraments, he points us in the right direction and draws our heart upwards.

Let us pray to him in these words: Yes, Lord, make us Easter people, men and women of light, filled with the fire of your love.


Not understand

In this morning's Gospel (John 20:1-9), Peter and the beloved disciple run to the empty tomb.

The beloved disciple’s reaction seems very simple: “he saw and believed”.

But the very next words in this passage are these:

For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

The disciple saw, the disciple believed, but the disciple did not understand – at least, not fully.

He would come to understand a little more very soon, when the risen Lord Jesus himself came and ate and drank with him and the other disciples (as Peter relates in this morning's first reading – Acts 10:34a, 37-43): demonstrating the corporeal reality of the resurrection.

Christ is not a ghost or a pure spirit nor is his resurrection a figment of wishful thinking or visual hallucination: Christ rose from the dead and lives bodily, albeit in a new and glorified way.

Even now, nearly two thousand years later, we ourselves do not yet understand the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness.

To be sure, we know much more than the beloved disciple did on that first Easter day. He and the other Apostles would learn much more in the days after the resurrection and especially when they were endowed with the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and they would tell us much of what they learned in the deposit of faith they handed on to us – none perhaps as eloquently as the beloved disciple himself, who is traditionally identified as the source for the Gospel and letters of Saint John.

That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked upon
and touched with our hands,
concerning the word of life

(the life was made manifest,
and we saw it,
and testify to it,
and proclaim to you
the eternal life
which was with the Father
and was made manifest to us)

that which we have seen and heard
we proclaim also to you,
so that you may have fellowship with us;
and our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
(1 John 1:1-3)

The resurrection of Christ, of course, is critically important to all of us, for we are to share in that same resurrection, and yet for all that the Apostles knew and experienced, there is yet much that we do not yet understand: that remains mysterious and hidden in the infinite wisdom and love of God, as we hear in one of the Epistles provided for this morning's celebration (Colossians 3:1-4):

Your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Saint John’s simple words echo this same point beautifully in 1 John 3:1-2 – the very same letter quoted above – we know much and yet there is so much more that we have yet to know.

See what love the Father has given us,
that we should be called children of God;
and so we are.

The reason why the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.

Beloved, we are God's children now;
it does not yet appear what we shall be,
but we know that when he appears
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.

The mystery of the resurrection may frustrate some of our analytical minds, but openness and faithfulness to the mystery of resurrection in Christ is fundamental to living a true Christian life, as Saint John indicates in the very next verse:

And every one who thus hopes in him
purifies himself
as he is pure.

Saint Paul says very much the same thing in the reading from Colossians:

Seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above,
not of what is on earth.

Christ is risen.

Indeed he is risen.

We may not yet fully understand
the power of that resurrection in all its glory
but may we embrace the mystery of his bodily resurrection
and live that mystery today and every day:
not letting ourselves become mired in this world
but continuing to walk through this world
in resurrection hope,
focused on the things of heaven
and on making manifest in this world
by our deeds, by our words,
and most of all by the grace of God
the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
risen from the dead.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Endless Love

Many years ago, there was a popular song called “Endless Love” – a very sweet and very melismatic duet of romantic love.

It is easy to be cynical about this song, even if one is not instantly allergic to soft rock or romantic ballads, for the world overflows with the wreckage of loves that the lovers had truly felt would last forever.

Rare indeed in our world today is a love between two people that lasts from youth until old age and death and yet even then it may seem hyperbole to call it “endless”.

Speaking of “endless”, tonight’s readings – especially if all of them were read in their entirety – may have seemed endless to some in the congregation (and even perhaps to some in the sanctuary) and yet these readings present to us – in great beauty and in wonderful detail – a love that is truly endless: God’s love for his people, God’s love for us, God’s love for you and me.


These readings take us on an amazing journey through this truly endless love, beginning at the very beginning (Genesis 1:1-2:2):

In the beginning,
when God created the heavens and the earth…

We hear the care with which God created the world and everything in it. We hear the mindboggling honor given to us in our own creation:

God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And we hear God’s contentment in us and in the world he had created.

God looked at everything he had made,
and he found it very good.

And we know that, despite what we as individuals and as a race have done to ourselves and to the rest of God’s creation, deep down the goodness of God still dwells in all things – somehow, somewhere – needing God’s redemption.


The story of that redemption begins to be heard in the second reading (Genesis 22:1-18) in the account of Abraham and the near death of his beloved son Isaac.

On a basic level, this reading demonstrates that obedience and faithfulness are still possible “in this crazy, mixed up world”.

On more profound and so much more wonderful levels, this reading foreshadows the ultimate act of love and redemption: foreshadowed in Abraham’s words “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust” and foreshadowed by Abraham’s willingness to offer his son.

It does not take much imagination or scholarship to see these words and deeds fulfilled in God the Father’s gift of his only Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice would take away the sins of the world and lead to the glory of the resurrection (indeed, Hebrews 11:19 tells us that Abraham’s near-sacrifice was an act of resurrection faith).

No matter how dark and hopeless the world may sometimes seem, faithfulness is still possible through the power of God’s love and grace.


The power of God’s redemption is revealed with unprecedented drama and majesty in tonight’s third reading (Exodus 14:15-15:1) as Moses parts the Red Sea, as the People of God are rescued in a way that was unimaginable, and as hatred and arrogance drive the forces of Pharaoh to their own destruction.

We have all heard this many times before and we have all seen that great scene in that movie with Charlton Heston. It is easy to forget, therefore, what it must have been like for the people of Israel on that night.

They are in a strange place, with no familiar landmarks. There is a dark cloud around them, making it impossible to see the massive army they know is out there, within moments of coming to kill them all. Suddenly they are face-to-face with a large body of water that cuts off any hope of escape.

None of them could ever have imagined what happened next.

They would be saved by what was up to then the most earthshaking surprise in history.

God’s power to save his people is stronger than human reckoning and the wisdom of his plan for our salvation is deeper than any human being could ever imagine.

All we need to do is to be faithful, to be loving, to be truly wise, and to trust – no matter what.


In the fourth reading (Isaiah 54:5-14), God’s redemption is expressed in ways that are intense, intimate and personal.

For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.
In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
I hid my face from you;
but with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the LORD, your redeemer.

We all seek love. Some of us think we have found our “endless love” and some of us have been devastated by love.

Tonight’s fourth reading reminds us of the love that is truly endless: the “enduring love” of God.

We may experience times of pain. We may even (God forbid) experience of wrath (brought about by our own sin, as individuals and as a race).

But the power of God’s love is always there, calling us back: calling us to experience the intimacy for which truly we were created, intimacy with infinity itself.

The ultimate, the perfect, the enduring, the true endless love that God has for us – for you and for me.

May we never be afraid of opening ourselves to the powerful and tender, mysterious and pure love of God.


Tonight’s fifth reading (Isaiah 55:1-11) spreads before us a wonderful and diverse banquet of forms and means by which God’s redemptive power comes to us.

All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!

You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!

It reminds us of how hopeless it is to find real and lasting fulfillment in the things of this world.

Why spend your money for what is not bread,
your wages for what fails to satisfy?

Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.

Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.

Again and again, God rings for us the dinner bell of grace, calling us again and again to turn away from evil, selfishness and hollow pleasures, and to turn back to him.

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked man his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.

We may think ourselves intelligent, proud of our technological prowess even as we recognize in our heart of hearts that technology, science, and The Latest Thing have not made us happier – indeed, sometimes quite the opposite.

God offers us true wisdom and eternal happiness.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

And then, quite fittingly in the midst of this long set of readings, the Prophet reminds us of the power of God’s word.

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

May we always take the time – each day and each week – to seek the Lord, to partake of his goodness (especially in the Sacraments), to read his Word, and to open ourselves to the grace and the wisdom that only he can give.


The role of God’s wisdom as a vehicle for his redeeming power becomes even more explicit in tonight’s sixth reading (Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4).

The metaphor here is not one of eating and drinking, but of location.

The prophet Baruch writes from the awful exile of Babylon, in the dusty land we now today as Iraq.

The people of God are literally in the wrong place.

How is it, Israel,
that you are in the land of your foes,
grown old in a foreign land…?

The metaphor is very apt for many of us.

How is it that we are where we are in our lives?

How did we let our lives take us so far off track?

Had you walked in the way of God,
you would have dwelt in enduring peace.

Learn where prudence is,
where strength, where understanding;
that you may know also
where are length of days, and life,
where light of the eyes, and peace.

May we reach out to Christ, the eternal Wisdom of God.

May he teach us spiritual and emotional prudence.

May God make us truly wise.


The seventh reading (Ezekiel 36:16-17a, 18-28) vividly describes the need of the People of God for redemption - their sin and their punishment – but also vividly describes the redemption that God promises.

As mentioned before, our lives and our sins have brought us to a place where we should not be.

I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.

We have let ourselves be soiled – in our thoughts, in our feelings, in our words, and in our bodies.

I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.

We have deadened our conscience and our true feelings of compassion.

I will give you a new heart
and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.

I will put my spirit within you
and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.

God can bring us home: spiritually and in every way.

You shall live in the land I gave your fathers;
you shall be my people,
and I will be your God.


How will God do all this for us? How will God redeem us?

Tonight’s eighth reading (Romans 6:3-11) lays it out for explicitly: by dying and rising in Christ through baptism.

Are you unaware
that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?

We were indeed buried with him

through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.

All we have to do, therefore, is live that way and think that way – by the power of his grace.

If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.

We know that Christ, raised from the dead,

dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.

As to his death, he died to sin once and for all;
as to his life, he lives for God.

you too must think of yourselves
as being dead to sin
and living for God in Christ Jesus.

What makes all of this possible is described in the final reading: the powerful account in the Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew (28:1-10):

And behold, there was a great earthquake;
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.

His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.

The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.

Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here,

for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead,
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”

A powerful surprise – more powerful and more surprising than the parting of the Red Sea – and that was not all.

Then they went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold,

Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet,

and did him homage.

God made us in his image, gave his only Son to die for our sins, raised him from the dead and gave him back to us.

Christ rose from the dead to redeem us, to free us from sin, to restore our broken consciences, to give us the food of eternity and the cleansing water of everlasting life, and to lead us into the fullness of wisdom and light.

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”

Christ is risen.

Indeed, he is risen.

May we kneel before the risen Christ, may we open our hearts and lives to his redeeming power, and may we spread his truth everywhere, by our words, by our deeds, and by the endless love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Revelation of overwhelming power

Near the beginning of today’s reading of the Passion (John 18:1-19:42), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ displays a revelation of overwhelming power: in the simple words “I am”.

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.

In saying “I am” our Lord was applying the most sacred name of God to himself: a name that has been interpreted to mean the Eternal One and the foundation of all existence.

Truly a revelation of overwhelming power.

Near the end of the reading of the passion, however, is an even more overwhelming revelation of power, as our Lord dies on the cross.

In this account of the Passion, John describes the death of Christ with absolute simplicity, without recounting some of the amazing occurrences recorded by the other Gospel writers, but the power of what Christ reveals goes far, far beyond any of those most amazing things.

In his death is the most overwhelming revelation of power: power that takes away the sin of all the world and all time, power that opens the gates of heaven, power that frees humanity from darkness - the power of God's compassion and love.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You
Because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Station Churches of Lent have come to an end, but today, on this Good Friday, it is good to call to mind yet another Church involved with stations: the Stations of the Cross, the last stations of which are within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

There, just beyond the arch to the left,
is where our Lord died.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You
because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

There will be blood

In movies, blood is the stuff of fear, of horror, of anger, and even of perversion.

In reality, blood is the stuff of life – blood is sacred.

Tonight’s readings remind us how sacred blood can be.

In the first reading (Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14), the blood of the Passover lamb is a symbol of God’s protection

Then, with the whole assembly of Israel present,
the lamb shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight.
They shall take some of its blood
and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel
of every house in which they partake of the lamb.
…the blood will mark the houses where you are.
Seeing the blood, I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.

The true Lamb of God, of course, is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who shed his blood on the cross to protect us from the evil we have brought upon ourselves as individuals and as a race and also to give us new and everlasting life.

This is what we celebrate tomorrow: on that most precious and wonderful day known as Good Friday.

This is also what we celebrate every week and even every day, as Saint Paul reminds us in tonight’s second reading (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) – the first written account we have of that most special of nights and of what we celebrate this very night:

I received from the Lord
what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus,
on the night he was handed over,
took bread,
and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said,
“This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it,
in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread
and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord
until he comes.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your life, your grace, your blood.

Wash away our sins
and make us live forever
in your name, dearest Lord Jesus

Let the oppressed go free

In recent days, there has been much discussion regarding the long-time friend and pastor of a very high-profile political candidate and the pastor’s controversial statements that he and his defenders characterize as “liberation theology” or “the social gospel.”

The words of our Lord in the Gospel reading provided for today’s Mass of the Chrism (Luke 4:16-21) seem to exemplify a “social Gospel.”

He unrolled the scroll
and found the passage where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Without getting into the specific ideas of any particular theologian or preacher, there are two extremes in interpreting Scriptural passages such as this.

One extreme focuses on a purely social, economic, and/or political interpretation of such passages: focusing on physical poverty, lack of healthcare, and oppression.

The other extreme spiritualizes such passages entirely: focusing on spiritual poverty, the need for spiritual healing, and spiritual oppression.

The truth, as often happens, lies in the middle, or rather, embraces both sides.

To be sure, the spiritual dimensions of our faith are primary – freedom from earthly oppression is worse than useless without freedom from sin and spiritual oppression – but we dare not close ourselves off from the concrete application of our faith.

James 2:15-17 gives us the classic reminder of this latter point:

If a brother or sister is ill-clad
and in lack of daily food,
and one of you says to them,
"Go in peace, be warmed and filled,"
without giving them the things needed for the body,
what does it profit?
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

We need to keep both aspects in mind as we live our lives and strive to follow more perfectly in the footsteps of our Lord, repeating in our minds the verses from Isaiah our Lord reads in this morning’s Gospel – in both their practical and spiritual dimensions.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Since this Gospel is for the Mass of Chrism, this is especially important for priests.

No priest dare forget the practical applications of these verses in his preaching and in his actions.

But of course no priest dare forget the spiritual dimension of these verses: especially because of the very, very special ministry entrusted to them, for no glad tidings, no proclamation of liberty, no recovery, and no letting free is more powerful than when the priest says this:

"God, the Father of Mercies,
through the death and resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to Himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;

through the ministry of the church
may God give you pardon and peace
and I absolve you from your sins... "

"Deus, Pater misericordiarum,
qui per mortem et resurrectionem Fílii sui
mundum sibi reconciliavit
et Spiritum Sanctum effudit
in remissionem peccatorum,

per ministerium Ecclesiae
tibi tribuat
et pacem
et ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis... "

May all of us seek true liberation in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, body and soul.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran

Today's Station Church... for the third time during this season of Lent.. for it is here that the Bishop of Rome begins the celebration of the Triduum, and the end of Lent, with the celebration of Holy Thursday Mass at his Cathedral and the washing of the feet.

May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who washed the feet of his disciples, bless you and me with abundant graces during this Triduum, so that we may follow our Lord as faithful servants.

Holy Thursday & Priesthood

Today, on Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Holy Chrism is celebrated (although many dioceses celebrate it earlier in the week for practical reasons) at which Holy Chrism and other sacramental oils are blessed and at which priests rededicate themselves to their ministry. After the homily the bishop speaks to the priests:

"My brothers,

"Today we celebrate the memory of the first Eucharist, at which our Lord Jesus Christ shared with his apostles and with us his call to the priestly service of his Church.

"Now, in the presence of your bishop and God’s holy people, are you ready to renew your own dedication to Christ as priests of his new covenant?"
Priests: "I am."

"At your ordination you accepted the responsibilities of the priesthood out of love for the Lord Jesus and his Church. Are you resolved to unite yourselves more closely to Christ and to try to become more like him by joyfully sacrificing your own pleasure and ambition to bring his peace and love to your brothers and sisters?"
Priests: "I am. "

"Are you resolved to be faithful ministers of the mysteries of God, to celebrate the Eucharist and the other liturgical services with sincere devotion?"
Priests: "I am. "

"Are you resolved to imitate Jesus Christ, the head and shepherd of the Church, by teaching the Christian faith without thinking of your own profit, solely for the well-being of the people you were sent to serve?"
Priest: "I am."

(Then the bishop addresses the people:)

"My brothers and sisters, pray for your priests.

"Ask the Lord to bless them with the fullness of his love, to help them be faithful ministers of Christ the High Priest, so that they will be able to lead you to him, the fountain of your salvation."
People: "Lord Jesus Christ, hear us and answer our prayer."

"Pray also for me that despite my own unworthiness I may faithfully fulfill the office of apostle which Jesus Christ has entrusted to me. Pray that I may become more like our High Priest and Good Shepherd, the teacher and servant of all, and so be a genuine sign of Christ’s loving presence among you."
People: "Lord Jesus Christ, hear us and answer our prayer. "

"May the Lord in his love keep you close to him always, and may he bring all of us, his priests and people, to eternal life."
All: "AMEN."

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

2008 Catholic Blog Awards

Best Apologetic Blog
Best Blog by Clergy/Religious/Seminarian
Best Individual Catholic Blog
Best Insider News Catholic Blog
Best Overall Catholic Blog
Best Written Catholic Blog
Most Informative & Insightful Catholic Blog
Most Spiritual Blog
Smartest Catholic Blog
What Does the Prayer Really Say?

Best Designed Catholic Blog
Best Group Blog
the new liturgical movement

Best New Catholic Blog

Best Political/Social Commentary Catholic Blog
AmericanPapist: Not Your Average Catholic!

Funniest Catholic Blog
The Curt Jester

Congratulations to the winners - most especially to Father Z

Best wishes to all the nominees and all who proclaim the teaching of Christ's Church in cyberspace.

My humble thanks to those who voted for this blog.

Kudos to Joshua LeBlanc who hosts these awards

Pray for the preacher

The Holy See has announced that the Holy Father will not be physically walking all of the Stations of the Cross this Good Friday.

The reason is quite understandable. He is almost 81 years old and the ceremonial obligations of Holy Week are daunting, even for the youngest of pastors in the smallest of parishes: the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and Eucharistic Procession on Holy Thursday, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, increased numbers of confessions, the monumental celebration of the Easter Vigil, and then very full Masses on Easter Sunday.

In addition to these events, the Holy Father must also celebrate the solemn Mass of Chrism and then give important messages in many languages at his Urbi et Orbi on Easter Day.

It is interesting that, at the very end of this overflowing schedule of ceremonies, comes the opportunity – for young priest and venerable Pope alike – to preach to more people than at almost any other time of the year.

On Easter morning, the weary priest looks out at a congregation swelled mightily by an influx of people who rarely come to Church except on Christmas and Easter. On Easter Day, a sound bite from the Holy Father’s Urbi et Orbi will be broadcast and printed by nearly every media outlet in the world.

Parochial Vicar or Pontifex Maximus, as they face so great an opportunity, the words of today’s first reading (Isaiah 50:4-9a) provide great strength to those who must proclaim the word of God:

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.

As we approach our own celebrations of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during the Triduum, may we remember to pray with extra fervor for the preachers among us: especially for the Holy Father and most especially for the local clergy who we will hear preach in the next few days.

Pray that the Holy Spirit may train their tongues and through these preachers may plant in the hearts of the people – especially those who do not usually come or listen – a word of grace that will rouse them.

May you and I also heed the words of today’s first reading in our own lives, so that we may be faithful and effective instruments of God in what we say and do – no matter what.

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
And I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
My face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival is online at Aggie Catholics.

The Basilica of St. Mary Major

Today's Station Church...
for the second time in the season of Lent... and it is appropriate that the Station Church circuit comes here on the day before Holy Thursday, so that we can begin our celebration of the Lord's passion, death, and resurrection with the same mind and heart as that of Mary, the Sorrowful Mother of our Lord, so that we may share in the joy of the resurrection.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

You cannot follow me now

The disciples follow Christ. That is what it means to be a disciple.

In today’s Gospel (John 13:21-33, 36-38), Christ tells his disciples, “You cannot follow me now...

In that specific situation, our Lord is primarily speaking of his suffering and death, which he is about to undergo and which we celebrate in a very special way this week.

Most of them indeed would suffer and die as the Lord did, but the Lord was not calling them to that – not at that time.

Where I am going,
you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later.

Our Lord’s words should serve as a reminder to us as well that we are called to follow him, not necessarily in accordance with our personal preferences, but in the path that he specially marks out for each of us – not according to our own schedule, convenience, or “feeling it is the right time” but according to his will, his plan, and his call.

Guide me, Lord Jesus, and strengthen me in the path you bid me to follow.

Santa Prisca

Monday, March 17, 2008

Saint Praxedes

Reality check

In today’s Gospel (John 12:1-11), the chief priests are not just planning Christ’s death, they are also planning to kill Lazarus too, because “many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.”

They really don’t get it.

They really don’t know who and what they’re dealing with.

Jesus raised to life and perfect health a man who had been dead and rotting in the tomb for four days.

No amount scheming or maneuvering can overcome that kind of power. It’s not even close.

Of course, even the Lord’s closest disciples didn’t get it either. In the reading of the Passion that we heard yesterday (Matthew 26:14-27:66), one of the disciples tries to defend Christ with a sword.

Our Lord gives his disciple a reality check.

Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father
and he will not provide me at this moment
with more than twelve legions of angels?

But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled
which say that it must come to pass in this way?

As we begin this Holy Week (and as we continue through the normal stresses of our lives) may we remember always that the power of God and his plan for our eternal happiness is far, far greater than any of our hopes and fears.

As today’s responsorial psalm (# 27) reminds us

Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What are you willing to give me?

So says Judas Iscariot to the chief priest in the long form of today’s reading of the Passion (Matthew 26:14-27:66).

He is interested in knowing what he can get in exchange for betraying Christ.

All he cares about is what is in it for him. All he cares about is material gain.

As we hear a little later in this narrative, Judas would realize far too late the evil that he has done and the emptiness of what he thought he had gained.

He had looked in the wrong direction and asked the wrong people.

He would have done better to ask the same question of the Lord Jesus.

What are you willing to give me?

What would be our Lord’s response?

Actually, our Lord’s response is what we celebrate this very day and this very week.

“What am I willing to give you?” our Lord responds from the cross - in actions more than words. “This.”

The Lord gave his blood. He gave his heart. He gave his love. He gave his life. He gave everything.

And he gives us eternal life.

This,” our Lord effectively says from the cross. “This is what I am giving you….

“What are you willing to give me?”

Saint John Lateran

Today's Station Church... for the second time in the season of Lent... so we've seen it already... from its triumphant exterior...

...to its magnificent nave...

But at the far end of the church, tucked in the very center of the very back, stands a stone chair... not as ornate as one might imagine.

This is the Cathedra - the Chair of the Bishop - in the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome.

This is the Cathedra of the Pope.

For most of us, chairs are what we use to relieve our burdens, if only for a little while.

Not this chair.

This chair is itself a burden: the most fearful burden in the world, for the man who sits in it has the burden of acting and teaching and speaking as the Vicar of Christ.

At the end of all things, when Christ takes his Judgement Seat, no one will be judged more sternly than the man who sits in this chair.

May we always pray for Benedict XVI, the Bishop of Rome: that his ministry may be faithful and full of the grace, truth, and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so that at the end of all things our Lord may say to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant..."

And may you and I, by the grace of Christ, carry well the burdens God has given us to bear, so that we too may hear our Lord speak to us words of joyful greeting on the Day of Judgment.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Father who searches

One of the Gospel passages provided for today’s Solemnity of Saint Joseph (Luke 2:41-51a) does not mention the name of Joseph at all.

What the passage does tell us about Joseph (and Mary, whose name is also not mentioned in these particular verses) should resonate with any parent.

Almost all parents of twelve year olds (or even younger children) would be able to tell of at least one time when they physically lost track of their children, perhaps even in a group trip such as in this Gospel.

Perhaps, when Joseph and Mary had to make preparations for the trip home, our 12-year-old Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was with one or more of his friends and one or more of their parents (who said they would watch him). Then, as everyone was leaving, perhaps our Lord separated from them, saying something about being with his Father (which the adults would have naturally interpreted to mean he was rushing to find Joseph).

Since there were no cell phones or CB radios in those days, it would be very difficult for the different sets of parents to communicate with each other until they all stopped for the night. Then would have been the age-old dialogue of sudden parental panic: “I thought he was with you.” “No, I thought he was with you!”

Since they were already a day’s journey from Jerusalem and they would be searching as they went, especially when they were back in the city, it is not surprising that they did not find our Lord until two days later.

Most of us can only imagine the panic and terror that would engulf parents whose only child has been missing in a large and dangerous city for three days. What our Lady says when they finally find our Lord seems like an incredible understatement.

Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.

The word translated here as “with great anxiety” was traditionally translated as “sorrowing” (“thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”). The root of the original Greek word means “to cause intense pain; to be in anguish, be tormented; to torment or distress one's self”: sentiments that would be familiar to all loving parents who fear they have lost their child.

Joseph was indeed a loving parent, even though our Lord was not his natural child, and so he looked for his son with the deepest passion.

Not all of us are parents and so perhaps we do not have personal experience that resonates with that of Mary and Joseph.

All of us however, in various ways, have been God’s wayward children – and not for any truly good reason.

Christ was separated from his mother and earthly father to be with his heavenly Father.

We separate from our heavenly Father by our sins.

Yet even then and even now, our heavenly Father seeks us and reaches out to us, sorrowing and with passion.

By his grace, may we reach back to our heavenly Father, let ourselves be found by him, and never again be parted from him in the journey of our lives or when he calls us to live forever in his eternal house.

The Basilica of Saint John at the Latin Gate

“She’s pregnant.”

"Pregnant? But, I... I mean, she... I mean, we never..."

"There must be something going on you don't know about."

"I can't believe it. No, she wouldn't."

"Look, she's pregnant. There's no doubt about it. She's pregnant."

"I just can't..."

"Come on! Focus! You've got some decisions to make."

"I... what...?"

"If the child's not yours, that means she cheated on you."

"No, no, she wouldn't..."

"Hey, face reality. If you didn't do it, that means somebody else did. I know you love her, but it's obvious: she cheated on you. And you know what that means."

"I... oh, no. No, not that. I'm not letting that happen to her."

"Listen, it's the way it has to be."

"No! Absolutely not. There's got to be another way."

"Umm.... well... there's a legal thing we can do quietly. That way you can go on with your life and she can go on to... whatever."

"But she doesn't get hurt."

"No, she doesn't get hurt."

"Well, I guess... but, I... I just don't know..."

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying,

"Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child,
and shall bring forth a son,
and they shall call his name Emmanuel,
which being interpreted is, 'God with us.'"

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife....
cf Matthew 1:20-24

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Joseph
Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Solemnity of Saint Joseph is the patronal feast of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, whose baptismal name is Joseph. May God grant him a long and healthy life and richly bless his ministry.

This year, because the usual date for this solemnity (March 19) falls during Holy Week, it is being celebrated today - the nearest permissible day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, March 14, 2008

They will not triumph

The man of God was kidnapped and then murdered.

But his words, his faith and his hope would live on.

In today’s first reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13), the prophet Jeremiah is in a bad situation: a situation that will get even worse and would end in his kidnapping and death.

Yet Jeremiah’s faith and trust in the Lord are undefeatable:

But the LORD is with me,
like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble,
they will not triumph.
In their failure
they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.

Indeed, those who sought Jeremiah’s destruction as well as those who actually took his life would not triumph, but would be put to utter shame, confusion, and historical oblivion.

How much stronger should be our faith and trust in the Lord, for not only will his enemies ultimately fail within the bounds of this world, but if by his grace we remain faithful , we shall see the Lord’s absolute and total victory in eternity – no matter what.

Santo Stefano Rotondo

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kidnapped Archbishop Dead

The body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul of the Chaldeans (Iraq), who was kidnapped by terrorists on 29 February, was found today in a shallow grave outside the city. Requiescat in pace.

His kidnapping and death was widely and severely condemned by Muslims and others in Iraq as well as people around the world.

The Vatican Information Service reports:

Benedict XVI has sent a telegram to Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq, for the death of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mossul of the Chaldeans, Iraq, who was kidnapped on 29 February.

In his telegram the Pope expresses his closeness "to the Chaldean Church and to the entire Christian community", reaffirming his "condemnation for an act of inhuman violence which offends the dignity of human beings and seriously damages the cause of the fraternal coexistence of the beloved Iraqi people".

Benedict XVI gives assurances of his prayers for the archbishop "who was kidnapped just after he had completed the Way of the Cross" and invokes the Lord's mercy "that this tragic event may serve to build a future of peace in the martyred land of Iraq".

Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. also released the following declaration today:

"We had all continued to hope and pray for his release, something the Pope had requested on a number of occasions in his appeals.

"Unfortunately the most senseless and unjustified violence continues to be inflicted on the Iraqi people, and especially on the small Christian community to which the Pope and all of us are particularly close in prayer and solidarity at this moment of great suffering.

"It is to be hoped that this tragic event may once more - and more powerfully - underline the responsibility of everyone, and especially of the international community, for the pacification of so troubled a country".

The Fullness

Today’s first reading (Genesis 17:3-9) speaks of God’s “everlasting pact” with Abraham and his descendents.

In today’s Gospel (John 8:51-58), our Lord says:

Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.

God’s covenant with Abraham is everlasting, but Christ is eternal – existing with the Father and the Holy Spirit from before time and beyond time - and only in Christ can be found the fullness of God’s revelation and grace.

Again, only in Christ can the fullness be found, not in individual Christians.

All of us are imperfect, all of us fall short: even those of us who believe explicitly in Christ.

All of us need to open ourselves more and more to the grace of Christ and receive from him the fullness of God’s grace, love, and truth.

Saint Apollinaris

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A slave to sin

He is rich.

He is powerful.

He is a slave.

"Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin."

Thus says the Lord in today’s Gospel (John 8:31-42).

The slavery of sin has been on full display in the last day or two as the news has been focusing on the revelation that a rich and powerful politician has been sinning with very expensive prostitutes.

It seems likely that, for all his money and power, this man’s slavery to this sin will destroy his political life and much more.

It is certain that, no matter who we are, slavery to sin – whatever our sins may be – will destroy us forever.

Christ gives us an alternative.

May you and I let ourselves- our minds, our hearts, and our lives - be filled with the truth of Christ.

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.

Saint Marcellus

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars.

The Bishop from Bethlehem

The Holy Father has named as Bishop of Eshowe, South Africa, Father Xolelo Thaddaeus Kumalo, Financial Administrator of the Diocese of Bethlehem, South Africa.

Bishop-elect Kumalo was born in 1954 in Gogela, South Africa. He finished high school at St. Paul’s Minor Seminary in Hammanskraal. In 1976 he became a Franciscan postulant and in 1979 entered the Novitiate. After a year of philosophy studies at the Franciscan Study Centre in Wingate Park, he left the order of his own accord and was sent by the Bishop of Witbank to St. John Vianney National Seminary (affiliated with the Pontifical Urbaniana University) to continue his studies. He was ordained a Deacon for the Diocese of Witbank in 1985.

After some years working as a clerk in a steel factory, the Bishop of Bethlehem accepted him into his Diocese. As a Deacon he was sent to study at Boston College in the United States. Upon his return home, he was ordained a priest in 1991 and incardinatedi n the Diocese of Bethlehem.

After ordination, he served as a Parochial vicar from 1991 to 1993 and then as a Pastor until 1996, after which he served as Episcopal Vicar for Catechists from 1995 to 1995, Pastor and head of the John Paul II Formation Centre from 1996 to1999, Vicar General from 2000 to 2006 and Financial Administrator of the Diocese of Bethlehem since 2007.

Sign and reality

In today’s first reading (Numbers 21:4-9), Moses is told by the Lord to make the image of a bronze serpent as an instrument of the Lord's healing power.

This image would later be destroyed as part of an effort to stamp out idolatry (2 Kings 18:4).

In today’s Gospel (John 8:21-30), our Lord compares Moses’ action to his own crucifixion.

The key difference between the two, of course, is that the bronze image was just a symbol and that the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was and is the most powerful demonstration and action of God’s love and salvation.

Images and other forms of conceptual representation are important to us as human beings of flesh and blood, but we must always keep our focus fixed on the ultimate reality: God’s salvation in Christ Jesus at work in the world and extending beyond the scope of this world.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.

Sign and reality

In today’s first reading (Numbers 21:4-9), Moses is told by the Lord to make the image of a bronze serpent as an instrument of the Lord's healing power.

This image would later be destroyed as part of an effort to stamp out idolatry (2 Kings 18:4).

In today’s Gospel (John 8:21-30), our Lord compares Moses’ action to his own crucifixion.

The key difference between the two, of course, is that the bronze image was just a symbol and that the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was and is the most powerful demonstration and action of God’s love and salvation.

Images and other forms of conceptual representation are important to us as human beings of flesh and blood, but we must always keep our focus fixed on the ultimate reality: God’s salvation in Christ Jesus at work in the world and extending beyond the scope of this world.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.

New in Puerto Rico

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, this morning erected the Diocese of Fajardo-Humacao in Puerto Rico, with territory from the Archdiocese of San Juan and from the Diocese of Caguas, making it a suffragan see of the Metropolitan Church of San Juan.
The Holy Father has named as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Fajardo-Humacao Father Eusebio Ramos Morales: a priest of the Diocese of Caguas, Pastor of Most Holy Redeemer parish in Fajardo and Moderator of Caguas’ Presbyteral Council.

The Bishop-elect was born in Maunabo, Puerto Rico, in 1952. He studied science and biology at the University of Puerto Rico, earning a Bachelors degree. Before entering the seminary, he taught at a school in Maunabo. He took courses in philosophy and theology at the Central University of Bayamón, with the Jesuits in Mexico, at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach (Florida) and at the Pontifical Gregorian University where he got his License in Theology.

He was ordained a priest June 3, 1983. He would serve as the Spiritual Director and then Rector of the Seminary in Caguas, Pastor at “Sweet Name of Jesus” parish, and Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Major Seminary.

The new diocese (Latin name: Faiardensis-Humacaensis) is 574 square kilometers in size and has a population of 293,000 (of which 97,869 are Catholic). It has 21 parishes, 17 diocesan priest, 5 priests from religious orders, 3 seminarians in the major seminary, 21 permanent deacons and 5 female religious. The parish church of Saint James the Apostle in the city of Fajardo will be the Cathedral of the new Diocesei. This brings the number of ecclesiastical jurisdictions in Puerto Rico to 6.