Free “Courage & Hope” Zoom talk Thu, Apr 22, 7:00pm

My school, Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School in south Florida, is honored and privileged to welcome Dr. Michael Dauphinais, Professor and Chair of Theology at Ave Maria University, to our Spring Speaker Series. Due to the pandemic, this entire series is being conducted via Zoom. I invite you to learn more by checking out the flyer below. I hope this interesting and relevant talk will prompt you to sign up and join us tomorrow evening at 7:00pm.

Next month we are pleased to welcome Mike Aquilina, Executive Vice President of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, to give the final talk in the series, on the Virgin Mary in history (check out his recently published related book, that I can highly recommend, History’s Queen, here).

For previous talks in this series, see our YouTube channel here.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s event and to seeing you there! God bless.

“You are witnesses.”

TODAY’S READINGS

In the first reading (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19), as well as in the Gospel proclamation, the importance of witness is stressed. You likely know that our word martyr comes from the Greek for “witness.” When we think of martyrdom, we tend to think of those who have died for the Faith. That is fine, although it is important to make distinctions of types of martyrdom because, while we may not be asked to be killed for our beliefs, there are other types of dying that we are called to experience (see here for a fine, succinct overview).

Peter was not speaking to the members of the crowd to endear them to himself in accusing them of killing “the author of life” (just ponder that for a moment or two or a lifetime — the creator dies — willingly, purposely — at the hands of His creatures). Rather, he was speaking truth to the multitude to bring them to conversion. Also, notice that he is not vengeful but attributes their action to ignorance (a good pastoral approach, I think). What is required? Repentance. The same words that John the Baptist and Jesus used when their public ministries were introduced are among the first demands of the post-Ascension ministry of the apostles.

Now, this repentance is not a one time deal (sorry, “once saved, always saved” crowd — few tenets by self-styled Christians are more scripturally dubious than this pithy mantra). John the Evangelist tells us in the second reading (1 Jn 2:1-5a) that

The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep
his commandments.
Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments
are liars, and the truth is not in them.

1 Jn 2:3-4

This is why we must always tell God’s truth (not “my truth” or “your truth,” as if truth is subjective) in season and out of season, always with love, often assuming ignorance (it is not, properly speaking, as pejorative as we have made it out to be). (N.B.: This is a good time to review ignorance as it relates to sin, in particular the tenet that “full knowledge” is required for mortal sin.) Will there often be blow back? Well, just look around. Vitriol leading inexorably to “canceling” is widespread. But we must not be intimidated. LIfe is short, eternity is long. I find it helpful to consider what I will say to Jesus the day I meet Him when I must give an accounting of the time He allotted me in my mortality. This is why His admonition, “stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt 25:13), should be sobering.

In closing today’s Gospel passage (Lk 24:25-38), Jesus says to the apostles and other disciples, “You are witnesses of these things.” What things? Well, certainly Jesus’ whole public ministry as well as His closing ministry in the forty days following His Resurrection. But also, note that Jesus then “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” So, they can not only witness to His public acts, but they can also witness to His fulfillment of all that was promised in the Hebrew Scriptures (and more — He was God Himself!). What does this witnessing get them? Tradition has it that all the apostles were killed for the Name, save one, John, who, nevertheless, endured many severe trials in a long life but remained steadfast till the end.

We read that the disciples were “incredulous for joy” in seeing Jesus. Can we say the same in seeing Him in the Eucharist and in all persons we encounter, recognizing in them the image and likeness of God “who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4)? There’s that word again, “truth.” Saved by truth. Saved by Truth. Salvation only comes through Jesus, “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6) So, when someone asks, directly or indirectly, like Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38), be sure to “[a]lways be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Pt 3:15), not counting the cost.

(For another great Bp Barron sermon, “harping” on the Resurrection, go here.)

TWO ARTICLES

Check out these short pieces: the first for a spiritual lift using imagery I have long loved; the second for another troubling issue regarding vaccines (I continue to follow this matter closely).

REGARDING THE PHOTO

The photograph below comes from the St. Paul Street Evangelization website which has some fine apologetic materials and videos. I had hoped to be involved directly in the organization’s work, but the pandemic seems to have put a damper on this (at least for the time being).

Tracts | St. Paul Street Evangelization

God bless.

Happy Birthday, Benedict!

Of the 265 former popes, none ever completed his ninety-fourth year. So, congratulations and many blessings to Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) on his birthday today. Furthermore, in three days it will be sixteen years since he became pope. Finally, another milestone just around the corner will be his seventieth anniversary as a priest on 29 June.

Retired pope returns to Vatican after visiting his brother in Germany -  Catholic News Service
Your reaction: Pope Benedict XVI
Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has been serving the Church as a  priest since he was ordained at age 24… | Catholic popes, Pope benedict,  Pope benedict xvi
See what the future Benedict XVI asked for for Christmas when he was 7

I have over two packed shelves of his work or books about him or his theology, although his writings alone could fill a small library. So many books so little time! The one I am most looking forward to getting to (summer reading!) is Peter Seewald’s Benedict XVI: A Life (Volume I: Youth in Nazi Germany to the Second Vatican Council, 1927-1965). I just discovered the second and final volume is coming out in November so I need to have the initial tome done by then (only 463 pages of text — no sweat).

For those who haven’t read anything of his, the three volume Jesus of Nazareth series that he wrote while pope is the best place to start. Another of his writings, coming much earlier is his famous Erasmus Lecture that tells the reader much about his approach to interpreting Scripture (he is a world-class Bible scholar) — an approach I attempt to emulate.

We were blessed to have him as priest, theologian, and pope. There is no question in my mind that one day, maybe not so far off, “saint” will be added to that list.

Long live Benedict!

TODAY’S READINGS

After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.

Acts 5:40-41

This excerpt from today’s first reading (Acts 5:34-42) should give us much to ponder. We heard yesterday of the Apostles arrest by the Jewish religious leaders. Today, the verdict (substantially lightened by an impassioned speech of one of the Jews most respected teachers) is reached and the punishment imposed, as we just read.

The chance (opportunity?) to “suffer dishonor for the sake of the name” is increasing daily in this land. Are we so intent on spreading the Word that we are willing to suffer this fate as well? And can we truly say we would rejoice in it? We should. Jesus never promised us a rose garden (as the song goes) here on earth (cf. Mt 16:24-26). But he promises mansions for those who persevere in faith until the end (Jn 14:2).

Consider the wise words of Gamaliel, the aforementioned respected teacher

[I]f this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.

Acts 5:38b-39

May we never compromise on the truth (which “comes from God”) or put our light under a bushel basket for anything in this world. If God is for us who can be against? Our Father is bigger than the devil.

No one was more scorned and falsely accused than our Lord. Is the servant any better than his Master (Jn 15:20)? May each of us be the “good and faithful servant” who will be greeted on judgment day (the moment of death) with these joyous words:

‘Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’

Mt 25:21 and 23

And they are all small matters, even death itself, compared with life eternal.

—–

A final note: Today the daily readings begin working through John 6 that concludes with the Bread of Life discourse that so greatly informs Catholic theology on the Eucharist. Pay close attention to the readings and find helps digging deeper all over the internet (here is a good place to start).

God bless.

Bloody well right

TODAY’S FIRST READING (Acts 5:27-33)

As we work through Luke’s Acts of the Apostles in the afterglow of the Resurrection, we are blessed to receive a master’s course in the earliest Church. I had the privilege of lectoring at today’s Mass and the following words, taken from the Pharisee’s interrogation of the Apostles in the Sanhedrin after ordering their arrest, struck me in a new way in my proclaiming them:

[Y]ou have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.

Acts 5:28

This is quite something when you recall the words these same Pharisees put in the mouths of the frenzied crowd (cf. Mt 27:20) at Jesus’ trial in response to Pontius Pilate:

And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”

Mt 27:25

(A notable aside: These controversial words were excluded from the subtitles in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ although he has the crowd shout these words in the final cut.)

Now, of course, the Jewish mob in making this oath “invokes a curse upon itself, staking their lives to their decision” (Hahn and Mitch, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 68). Little did they know that, while these rash words would ultimately bring condemnation in the fall of Jerusalem some forty years later, this same blood was shed for the salvation of the world, including this fanatical crowd itself.

It was this consideration that reminded me of maybe my favorite image of the entire Bible in the revelation given to John of the great multitude in heaven:

[One of the elders] said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Rev 7:14

If I could commission one painting by a professional artist it would be of a lamb on a cross with blood dripping down on the soiled garments of an onlooker making every spot the droplets touch “dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them” (Mk 9:3). These words, of course, are from the Transfiguration event. And doesn’t the blood of the Lamb have the power to transfigure us from our dark, sinful ways to become “the light of the world” so that we can fulfill the Lord’s mandate that “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:14a, 16).

Lamb of God - Wikipedia
Agnus Dei (c. 1635–1640) by Francisco de Zurbaran

God bless.

Easter-ners

TODAY’S READINGS

In my last post, I discussed euphemisms for death we use today. Now, let me go back in time to add another one that I believe sheds light on this liturgical time as we close the Octave of Easter.

In ancient Egypt the dead were euphemistically called “Westerners.” Most were buried on the west bank of the Nile, presumably because the sun sets in the west. Well, it occurs to me, that we Christians are well within our rights to call ourselves “Easter-ners.” Yes, we all will become “Westerners” sooner or later due to the sin of Adam and Eve, who thought their own will superior to God, but we all have the opportunity for eternal life due to the new Adam and Eve, Jesus and Mary, due to their “Fiat!” to the Father in perfectly following His will. Today’s Gospel (Jn 20:19-31) evokes this particularly as we recall Paul’s exhortation about an indispensable part of our faith:

[I]f Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.

1 Cor 15:14

It is because of Easter that the opportunity for everlasting bliss In the presence of the Holy Trinity is ours. Here we can bring in the second reading from 1 John to find out what faith entails:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him….For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments…And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

1 Jn 5: 1, 31, 4b

It is difficult to keep the commandments; impossible without divine grace. Fortunately, the Lord provides the Spirit to help us not only to avoid sin but to go and spread the Good News, to be sent (here we think primarily of the Sacrament of Confirmation), just as He sent the apostles in the Gospel.

We cannot neglect mentioning the mercy of Jesus on this Divine Mercy Sunday. We see it immediately in the Gospel reading. Jesus does not first appear to His followers huddled in the Upper Room as angry and vengeful that His closest collaborators abandoned Him almost to a man during His recent trial, torture, and execution. Rather, His first words, said twice, were “Peace be with you,” while showing His wounds in between. Be at peace, He tells them. In my mercy I have taken on your sins and have forgiven you. Now go preach the Gospel. This message is directed to us as well. We too can find peace in the mercy of God. No sin is too great for God to forgive, just “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). Then let the world know “how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mk 5:19). Is there any greater witness than the poor soul who can speak from personal experience about this? Yet we all are called to do so because we all have benefited from the grace of His mercy (or is it the mercy of His grace?).

(Want to start an interesting personal Bible study? Look for every instance of the word “mercy” in Scripture and read the verse. Here you go. Just 236 [!] times in the RSV. Have fun!)

Lastly, we should not move past this reading without mentioning doubting Thomas. I will leave most of the exposition to Bp. Barron, whose homily for today was another outstanding one. Near the end, he brings out two points I never considered before that are lessons for today: that Thomas finds truth only inside the Church (because he was initially away from the Rock [see Mt 16:18] and the other first bishops he did not encounter Christ) and that his exclamation “My Lord and my God” is the clearest pronouncement in Scripture of Jesus’ divinity. On that last note, it occurs to me that Thomas has the fervor of converts to the Catholic Faith — they come into the Church on fire and set ablaze others.

BOOK REVIEWS

I can recommend the last two books I have completed (my reviews linked):

ONE LAST RECOMMENDATION

I came across this video geared toward educators but useful for anyone who evangelizes (which should be all Catholics). Toward the end he lists the four most common questions from young people regarding Christianity (and the reason many leave because they don’t get satisfactory answers, or any answers whatsoever):

  1. How do you know God exists?
  2. How do you solve the problem of suffering?
  3. How do you know that Christianity of all the religions is the right religion?
  4. How do you justify the Church’s sexual teaching?

It has got me thinking. How about you? How would you answer any or all of these questions from a sincere (or sneering) interlocutor?

Appearance Behind Locked Doors (panel 1)
(1308-11) by Duccio di Buoninsegna

God bless.

Laid to rest? Not exactly.

NO REST FOR THE WEARY

These days we use every euphemism to avoid saying someone has died or is dead and buried. “Passed away” or, now, “passed” (I predict, quite soon, with the continued shortening of this sentiment, it will be just “p”), “departed,” “in a better place” (are you sure?), “pushing up daisies” (to lighten things up), and, of course, “laid to rest” (I am reminded here of this Jerry Seinfeld bit).

As it pertains to Our Lord, it seems to me the latter is not the case in His instance. We say in the Apostles’ Creed, after confessing Jesus’ burial, that “he descended into hell” (better: “the abode of the dead”). If anyone deserved a rest after at least three years of challenging (to put it mildly) public ministry, culminating in brutal torture and death, it was Christ. But, no rest for the weary. Jesus used His time in the tomb to announce to all of the Old Testament saints the Good News, including that the gates of heaven would be open in a few hours and those longing for the Father would soon see Him face to face. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”: “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.” Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

634 “The gospel was preached even to the dead.” The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfilment. This is the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.

So, I imagine that Jesus, far from desiring rest, was eager to convey the imminent completion of the mission given to Him by His Father (“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit…[i]t was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” — Jn 12:24, 27b). I do not want to say that this day should not be a time of mourning, but let it not stop there for us. And it isn’t simply anticipation of the breaking dawn of Easter, either. The Gospel is being shared even this day. Like Jesus, we must not rest, until we rest in the bosom of the Lord. But, even then, God willing, let us hope to emulate the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux who desired only “to spend my heaven doing good on earth.”

ABOUT HOLY SATURDAY

Two reflections on Holy Saturday that landed in my inbox today. gratefully, and a third that appeared in the NY Post yesterday that is very relevant. I read the first and last but have not listened to the second (yet), although with its guests it is sure to be a home run.

ST. RICHARD OF CHICHESTER

Trying not to miss a chance to laud one of my saintly namesakes, this medieval man was a bishop to be emulated. His feast day is today. Read more about him here.

From the prayer card on my desk:

Glorious St. Richard, you are an outstanding example of Divine Love and Faith. Your greatest pleasure was in rendering service to others, and your charity to the poor commands great admiration. Intercede for us that we may persevere in Faith and Love and become sharers of your heavenly glory. St. Richard, Pray for Us! Amen.

LESS SPORTS

I gave up on football several years ago, basketball more recently, but have clung to my true love, baseball. It looks like that’s over, too. It is a sad state of affairs.

Harrowing of Hell (c. 1430s) by Fra Angelico

God bless.

While we wait…

Inspired by my attendance at the (somewhat different this year) Stations of the Cross at my parish, I thought I would share a few possibilities to enhance our time in anticipation of Christ’s Resurrection on Sunday morning:


I finished Thomas More’s The Sadness of Christ today (see my short review here). A verse that struck me:

[T]he hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.

Jn 16:2b

Certainly the Pharisees and scribes claimed to be defending true worship when they constantly harangued Jesus about Sabbath laws. And recall Caiaphas’s words to the Sanhedrin immediately before plotting to have Jesus killed:

{I}t is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.

Jn 11:50

The Chosen People must survive for God’s sake! But my thoughts more so turned to today’s cancel culture. Just as an attempt was made to “cancel” the politically incorrect (and inconvenient) Lord (how did that work out?), so today, killing reputations and careers has become sport for those who claim to be on the “right side of history.” Well, I, for one, would rather be on the right side of His-story. Let the secularists offer perverted worship to their gods, I will stick with the one true God in season and out of season (“as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” — Josh 24:15). Remember, there is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday.


Finally, it was sixteen years ago today (!) that our beloved John Paul II went to the Father’s house. It was just shy of a week after Easter that year after 4:00pm local time on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, appropriately. I recall going to Mass that morning and the new priest (part of the JPII Generation) crying as he anticipated the imminent death of the pontiff. A beautiful litany. Pope St. John Paul II, ora pro nobis.

How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb? | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

God bless.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (Jn 6:53)

At the morning Mass at my parish that I attended, the Gospel proclaimed was an excerpt from the Bread of Life discourse (Jn 6:51-58), appropriate for the Mass of the Last Supper to be celebrated later that day. (See the short but impactful homily here.)

In the Eucharist course I teach to men in formation to become deacons, we do a deep dive into John 6. Here are my notes on these verses:

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

[The future tense points both to the Cross (life surrendered for human sins) and to the Eucharistic liturgy (Jesus offers Himself as living bread for a starving world). (Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, eds., The Gospel of John (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible) (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 30)]

[Regarding the manna, this was a figure of this bread – Christ himself – which nourishes Christians on their pilgrimage through this world.  (The Gospel of Saint John (The Navarre Bible) (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1987), 105)]

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

[They misunderstand.  Jesus gives us not mortal flesh but His glorified humanity as it was after rising from the dead.  After all, He just called Himself “the living bread.” (Hahn and Mitch, 30)]

[The value of several commentaries: Navarre says: Christ’s hearers understand perfectly well that he means exactly what he says; but they cannot believe that what he says could be true; if they had understood him in a metaphorical, figurative or symbolic sense there would be no reason for them to be so surprised and nothing to cause an argument. (The Gospel of Saint John, 105)]

53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;

[Jesus is speaking literally and sacramentally.  If He were speaking metaphorically or figuratively, His words would echo a Hebrew idiom where consuming flesh and blood refers to the brutalities of war (Deut 32:42; Exek 39:17-18). (Hahn and Mitch, 30])

[Drinking the blood of animals is forbidden.  But Jesus is talking about imparting supernatural life – we are elevated to become sharers in the divine nature. (Hahn and Mitch, 30)]

[Once again Jesus stresses very forcefully that it is necessary to receive him in the Blessed Eucharist in order to share in divine life and develop the life of grace received in Baptism. (The Gospel of Saint John, 105-106)]

54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

[“Eats” in Greek (trogo) is used in this verse and in 56, 57, and 58.  It means to “chew” or “gnaw” (usually used in reference to animals).  In the previous verses a more common verb for eating was used.  So we have a change of focus and emphasis from the necessity of faith to the consumption of the Eucharist.  Graphic connotation adds force to His words: He demands we express our faith by eating, in a real and physical way, His life-giving flesh in the sacrament. (Hahn and Mitch, 31)]

[Love this from Aquinas: “The Word gives life to our souls, but the Word made flesh nourishes our bodies.  In this sacrament is contained the Word not only in his divinity but also in his humanity; therefore, it is the cause not only of the glorification of our souls but also of that of our bodies.” (The Gospel of Saint John, 106)]

[The profound Liguori:  “True friends wish to be united is such a manner as to become only one.”  Certainly true for Jesus and something for which we should strive. (The Gospel of Saint John, 106)]

55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

[Communion is necessary for maintaining the life of the soul.  Frequent, even daily, communion is recommended to wash away slight sins and to restrain habitual sins and to take precautions against serious sin. (MF) (The Gospel of Saint John, 106-107)]

56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

[The most important effect of the Blessed Eucharist is intimate union with Jesus Christ. (The Gospel of Saint John, 107)]

[“In John, the verb ‘remain’ (meno) designates the mutual indwelling of Father and Son, the eternal relationship between them in which Jesus invites his disciples to share (see 1:39; 14:10; 15:4-10).  By our consuming Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, he dwells within us, and we in turn share in his divine life.” (Francis Martin and William M. Wright IV, The Gospel of John (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015), 130)]

57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.

[By receiving in this sacrament the body and blood of Christ indissolubly united to his divinity, we share in the divine life of the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. (The Gospel of Saint John, 107)]

[Liguori: A suitable disposition to receive since none could communicate if worthiness was required?  But we anxiously desire to advance in the love of Jesus. (The Gospel of Saint John, 108)]

58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”

[“will live for ever” is used only once in the OT: Gen 3:22 where it relates to the Tree of Life.  Both the Tree of Life and the Bread of Life give immortality. (Hahn and Mitch, 31)]

[Just as the Israelites ate manna daily we are invited to nourish our soul frequently with his body. (The Gospel of Saint John, 108)]

[Beautiful St. Josemaria Escriva quote: “‘Going to Communion every day for so many years! Anybody else would be a saint by now, you told me, and I…I’m always the same!’  Sin, I replied, keep up your daily Communion, and think: what would I be if I had not gone?” (The Gospel of Saint John, 108)]


Finally, if Jesus meant what He said in the headline (and He did), consider what that means for the Catholic and the imperative to evangelize. For the non-Catholic, consider if and how you fulfill this requirement of Our Savior.

The Bread of Life: Why Many Disciples Walked Away | One Fold Blog

God bless you this Holy Triduum and Easter Season.

He’s got the whole world in the Palm of His hand, good reads, and more

SECOND READING

[A]t the name of Jesus
every knee should bend

Phil 2:10

There has been a lot of controversy around kneeling (really, genuflecting, to be accurate) the past few years. The simple solution, and my answer if someone should ask my stance, is that I only kneel/genuflect for the Lord. Would it not be a marvelous witness to do so every time the name of God (who is Father, Son, and Spirit) is taken in vain in our presence? Or when we walk past a church? Or when a favor is received (or even more powerfully when it is not)? This may well go a long way to make happen what should be our fervent hope that “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:11)

PALM SUNDAY

A few years back I was asked to deliver a talk specifically on the significance of Palm Sunday to a local Houston church’s young adult group. Find it here. It seems to me we don’t spend much time on the significance of this event — even the main Gospel reading covers the events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. I hope you find the paper interesting, informative, and spiritually enriching.

I was reminded, for some reason, at Mass today (delightfully, “crowded” more than I have seen in the last year), of the Black spiritual, first published nearly a century ago, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” I like the idea of a dual meaning to “Palm” Sunday: Jesus’ bodily palms and the palm fronds with which He was greeted. And, didn’t it seem that Jesus had the crowd in the palm of His hand that fateful Sunday before His Passion? Well, despite the forthcoming fickleness of many of these same folks just a few days later, He really did have the situation under control. Even when Pilate dared to say, “Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” (Jn 19:10), as if he was the source of such power that he could wield with the wave of his hand, Jesus could retort, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above” (Jn 19:11).

It is a great comfort in these troubling times that, indeed, the Lord has got the whole world in the Palm of His hand.

Also, be sure to check out Bp. Barron’s homily for today. His weekly Sunday Sermons can’t be beat.

BOOKS READ AND TO BE READ

I’ve polished off five books of Lenten reading and have just started the sixth and final one, St. Thomas More’s The Sadness of Christ, which he wrote while awaiting his execution. Standing out during this time is Mike Aquilina’s St. Joseph and His World. Find all of my ratings and reviews over the last several years on Goodreads.

I am looking forward to receiving the just ordered new book by Abp. Charles Chaput, Things Worth Dying For. Also on the way are the fourth and final volume in a phenomenal series of meditations on Matthew’s Gospel, published over the last twenty-five years, by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, as well as Roch Kerestzy’s Wedding Feast of the Lamb, that I am considering for my Eucharist course in St. Meinrad’s Program for Deacon Formation.

THE CHOSEN

Speaking of the deacon formation program, my friend, Deacon Bruce Sullivan (whose own story of conversion is fascinating), whom I taught, and who was recently ordained in Louisville, reminded me of The Chosen series. I had watched two or three episodes months ago, but plan on watching the entire first season this week. A good way to cap off Lent or enhance the Easter Season it seems to me.

THIS AND THAT

The awful mass shooting in Atlanta was another deeply saddening and troubling sign of a culture in steep decline. Additionally disconcerting was the move to entirely overlook the shooter’s own reasoning, twisted as it was, for the murders, and focus on the ethnicity of many of the victims. If there is a legitimate uptick in violence against those of Asian descent, the root causes should be explored and addressed, of course. But to dismiss the troubled young man’s own confession of sexual addiction says much about our society (especially the media). In a time in which we are obsessed with sexual immorality in the media and in politics, I am very suspicious of the prevailing narrative that disordered sexual impulses could not possibly be the reason for such a horrific crime. The prevailing “wisdom”: When anything goes in the sexual realm, how could something of this nature possibly lead to evil ends?

I present two interesting perspectives: one on Asian discrimination and another on “purity culture.”

SECULAR STUFF

Another book on the way is Victor Davis Hanson’s The Second World Wars. I was absolutely riveted by a talk of his on the book that I happened to come across. A unique approach to analysis of a war whose books could themselves fill a large library or more. I look forward to getting the details in this volume.

Image titled Make a Palm Frond Cross Intro

May your Holy Week be especially blessed.

Perfection?

TODAY’S EPISTLE

I was struck by today’s three verse second reading (Heb 5:7-9) as the formula for perfection. Jesus famously says in the gospels:

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Mt 5:48

This always seemed to me a high bar (the understatement of the year). An impossible goal? Would the Lord require this if it were not feasible? Or is it just a matter of Christ asking us to aim high so that we will do our level best knowing that we will fall short.

Leiva-Merikakis gives some helpful guidance here:

If we apply the literal Greek meaning of the word for “perfect”…we will see that what the command intends is, rather, ‘Guide your actions and attitudes by the same intention, the same finality, as your heavenly Father’s.’ Far from implying a head-breaking striving for the unattainable, we should rise from our immersion in the business of self-survival and focus our outlook from the divine point of view.

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, Vol. 1 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996), 241.

Certainly we know that we can do nothing good without grace. So we only hope to even approach this perfection with God’s help. Even so, it is a tremendous challenge to be a halfway decent person, much less spotless, in our day to day living as we strive to see through the lens of “the divine point of view.”

Here is where today’s reading from Hebrews helps us. How was Jesus made perfect? Through obedience in suffering. How did he approach suffering? “[H]e offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears.” By doing so, “he was heard because of his reverence.”

Now, as God, Jesus was perfect. But the meaning of the word used here in Greek not only can mean “to perfect” but also “to complete.” Jesus, as the God-Man had a mission to accomplish and He did so through accepting the Paschal Mystery. Imagine the “loud cries and tears” in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was about to take all the sins of all time onto Himself — unfathomable to us mere finite beings.

We are asked to imitate the love and mercy of Christ — “the divine point of view.” We are to give ourselves to a life of prayer and supplication. We are to be reverent. This is the road to perfection mapped out by our Savior. Let us unceasingly ask for the graces to complete our mission just as Jesus did.

God bless.