Lord willing — and He was (and is)

TODAY’S GOSPEL

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

Mt 7:21

The opening verse of today’s Gospel is my go to line for the “once saved, always saved” crowd. It seems to me that Jesus could be no clearer about the demands of discipleship than He is right here. And there are countless examples from His own lips throughout the Gospels backing up this admonition. There will be those who try to eisegete out of Paul a refutation of what is plain from Jesus’ own teaching, but don’t you believe it.

So basic to a Catholic understanding of how to read Scripture are three concepts. Let me take them directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church which got these touchstones from Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation:

The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.

112 1. Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.

113 2. Read the Scripture within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (“. . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church”).

114 3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith. By “analogy of faith” we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation.

The first criterion is most applicable here. Anyone who tries to pit one verse against another, one book against another, or one sacred author against another, is not adhering to authentic biblical scholarship.

Its clear teaching on this and so many other matters is just another reason to love the Catholic faith.

JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU

I am on Day 22 of a little spiritual retreat based on the fine new book Jesus, I Trust in You by Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, S.V. This is a lovely little volume filled with great stories, deep wisdom, and thoughtful questions.

Anyway, today the author speaks of the Wedding Feast at Cana, drawing out allusions to Jesus and Mary as the New Adam and the New Eve. But when she mentions Mary’s words, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5) my thoughts went somewhere they haven’t before.

Some have contended that Jesus’ response to Mary’s statement to Him that there is no more wine was a rebuke (Jn 2:3). There are plenty of commentaries that say otherwise, but one need not be a Bible scholar to know that the sinless Jesus, who kept the commandments perfectly, would never dishonor His mother, who was herself sinless.

But, more to the point I wish to draw out, doesn’t it seem a bit odd that after Jesus’ response, Mary says those five words with no further discussion? It seems very likely to me (and this is my new thought on the matter) that this was not the first time Mary uttered these words or, at least, similar ones to these. Mother and Son lived together for thirty years. No other parent or child were ever closer or knew each other more intimately. The God-Man created His own mother. The mother, the Woman of prayer, was perfectly attuned to her Son’s will. I suspect as the years went on that the understanding between the two was so great that little had to be vocalized in their interactions.

I imagine the short recommendation in question was Mary’s response to friends and neighbors looking for advice, seeking the solution to a problem, or unburdening their troubles in the home of the Holy Family. She knew Jesus could and would help those in need — especially of th request came from her. So, these last words recorded in Scripture of the Blessed Virgin are a fitting sign off for those of us who are closely acquainted with Our Lady.

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Advent begins

TODAY’S GOSPEL

I have never gotten too caught up in end times speculation. In His long answer to the disciples’ question, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt 24:3) Jesus includes these words:

But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son,* but the Father alone.

Mt 24:36

Jesus words here have always been sufficient for me.

Quite some years ago, a Catholic preacher’s words made an impression on me that I will never forget: We don’t know when the end of the world will arrive, but we know the end of our time in this world most assuredly will come; so, be prepared! Would it be that we all live our lives with that thought in mind.

All that being said, I was struck by today’s Gospel (Lk 21:25-28, 34-36), especially the following verses:

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.

vv. 34-35

The Lord’s first two examples are not surprising, but He adds daily anxieties, as well. Uh-oh. I’m sure I am not alone in falling into this trap. Certainly, we all have responsibilities that we must attend to. And sometimes deadlines, unexpected events, and myriad other issues, do cause us to get caught up in temporal matters. But, these must not cause us to lose our peace our alter our priorities and focus regarding eternal matters. God first. If we don’t set aside time for the Lord, how can we expect everything else to work out (I’m speaking primarily to myself here)?

We don’t necessary connect anxiety and drowsiness, but Scripture sure does. Anxiety and its associated grief are said to be the cause of Jesus’ three closest collaborators inability to keep watch with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Lk 22:45). Jesus admonished these men who were unable to spend an hour with Him (see Mt 26:40). Is He not doing the same to those of us who don’t set aside at least a few minutes during which we give time to Him to dedicate our day and life to the One who made us and sustains us?

Advent is a great time to start, or to renew, this obligation.

ADVENT RESOURCES

I realize there are bundles of excellent Advent resources, and I will be taking advantage of a few, but here are two that are particularly worthwhile:

A great new resource worth listening to each Sunday of Advent: https://stpaulcenter.com/the-word-of-the-lord/

As always, Bp. Barron’s weekly sermons are recommended: https://youtu.be/vNAwrhRjiok

MY READING

Aside from a couple of booklets with daily reflections, I have added two books especially for Advent:

The first I began reading when it initially came out, but never finished (I have read the two subsequent volumes), so what better time to start from the beginning and polish it off then during Advent?

The second was recommended in an article a few years back so I thought, with “Advent” in the title, why not tackle it this December?

God bless.

Agony in the Garden (c. 1460) by Andrea Mantegna

Eucharistic Sacrilege

The article below was submitted to Homiletic & Pastoral Review for publication. I was given the understanding that it would appear before the upcoming USCCB General Assembly (starting Monday, November 15) during which the bishops plan to develop a statement on the EucharistThe Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church. Since it has not been published (yet?), I thought it important to post it now in anticipation of the bishops’ gathering (if HPR does run it, I will post the link).
Since writing this piece over three months ago, I have certainly heard more about the concern over sacrilege in this matter (most notably from Cardinal Burke), but I still strongly believe this message cannot be over-emphasized or too often repeated. Thus this contribution.

Much has been written about the political implications of the current controversy regarding the reception of Holy Communion by public figures who are outspoken in their advocacy of abortion.  Of particular note in this area have been politicians — most prominently, the President of the United States.  There has been serious concern, as well, regarding the scandal to the faithful that would be caused by allowing such persons to receive the Eucharist.  The political implications should be irrelevant.  Giving scandal, on the other hand, is not at all irrelevant – it is a real worry for the Church.  But both these matters deal with the horizontal dimension of faith, that is, with human persons; vitally important, to be sure, but not the whole story — by a long shot.

Precious little attention has been explicitly placed on the vertical dimension of the Blessed Sacrament, that is, what unworthy reception of Holy Communion means to God.  Let us attempt to provide a little balance here by taking this aspect of Eucharistic theology into account.

Now, I do not mean to say that there has not been wide acknowledgement of what (or better, Who) the Eucharist actually is.  Certainly, a significant point has been raised concerning the lack of belief among many Catholics in regard to Church doctrine on the Eucharist, which tells us that it is “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” therein (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1374, italics in the original).  This deficit of belief, or at least of understanding, among Catholics should be a grave concern to orthodox believers and needs to be addressed, to be sure.

Rather, I mean to focus here, not on any concern about offense given to politicians, or the very real concern of offense given to the faithful, but on offense given to God.  Why this has been widely neglected, or at best given short shrift, by Catholics is puzzling.  The primary reason that this whole matter is so important is because of what the Church declares about the nature of the Eucharist, explained above.

Receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is a grave offense against God.  Scripture is clear on this matter: “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.  A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29).

Regarding the implications of unworthy reception of Holy Communion, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, as well: “Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God.  Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us” (2120, italics mine).

Jesus was willing to lose all His followers for the sake of the Eucharist (see Jn 6:22-71).  Confecting the Eucharist was the last act of His ministry, coming immediately prior to His Passion and death (see Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25; Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11:23-25).  The post-Resurrection episode given the longest treatment in the Gospels, commonly referred to as “The Road to Emmaus,” ends with Jesus once again confecting the Eucharist (see Lk 24:13-35).  Is it any wonder that the Church calls the Eucharist “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11 as cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324)?

So, if our blessed Lord was willing to do all this to give us Himself, really present, “whole and entire” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1377), in this august Sacrament of Sacraments, promising to “be with [us] always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20), what hesitation could the bishops, the shepherds of the Church, possibly have in ensuring, to the best of their ability, that He not be profaned by unworthy reception of the Eucharist?

This should be a wake-up call to all believers.  Unrepentant public grave sinners and those who are outspoken in their defiance of core doctrines of the faith they profess to hold by advocating for, or even advancing the cause of evil, of course should not approach the minister of Communion; but neither should anyone conscious of committing grave sin.  All such persons “must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1385).  And they must publicly renounce positions they have espoused that are contrary to the most central doctrines of the Faith.

Is it not enough that the God-Man took on all the sins of the world for all time, suffering and dying so that we might have the opportunity for eternal life?  Must insult be added to injury by defiant reception of this same Person in Holy Communion by those who have cut themselves off from the life of grace or who have been openly hostile to Church authority on these matters?

When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane all His closest collaborators quickly abandoned Him.  Let us not repeat this shameful behavior today.  May we have the courage and strength to defend the Lord against all those in our day who are willing to heap blows upon Him once again through defying His body, the Church, through pride and arrogance, while embracing, promoting, and even legislating, all manner of wickedness.

The Kiss of Judas by Ary Scheffer

St. Dominic redux

Today we remember St. Dominic on the day that is normally celebrated as a Solemnity in his honor. But because it is a Sunday we do not this year. I know St. Dominic, in his humility, is happy to be supplanted by the “little Resurrection” that is our every Sunday celebration. I posted about him on August 6, the anniversary of his death, but his feast day has been moved around a bit because his heavenly birthday falls on the Feast of the Transfiguration (another event he is surely pleased to defer to). Just note this quote about the great Spanish saint from today’s National Catholic Register:

A contemporary of St. Dominic claimed, “I never knew a man so humble or who had more detachment from the things of the world. He received abuse, curses, or reproach not only patiently but with joy, as though they were precious gifts. No persecution troubled him. He went about serene and intrepid in the midst of dangers and never turned out of his way through fear.”

A good plan of life for anyone, wouldn’t you say?

I have read well over a dozen books on Dominic and Dominicana, and I could recommend many, but if you are interested here are two fantastic ones to begin with:

SaintDominic.jpg
Santo Domingo de Guzmán (1670) by Claudio Coello

God bless.

St. Dominic’s 800th birthday in heaven

“The Death of St Dominic,” Convent of San Esteban, Salamanca, Spain; photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.
Today — August 6, 2021 — marks the 800th anniversary of the death of St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order. Since the Thomistic Institute is an apostolate of the Order, that makes today a very important anniversary for all of us. We wanted to share with you the beautiful story of the death of this great saint, taken from the testimony of an eyewitness, Bonaventure of Verona, the prior of the Dominican priory in Bologna where St. Dominic died. It was taken down under oath as part of St. Dominic’s process of canonization in 1233.
An account of the death of St. Dominic According to Bonaventure of Verona, an eyewitness
[Dominic came to the Order’s priory in Bologna] around the end of July . . . .  Brother Dominic came back greatly fatigued because of the excessive heat. Although he was very tired, he spoke with the witness [Bonaventure of Verona], who was then a new prior, and brother Ralph for a great part of the night concerning affairs of the Order. Since the prior wanted him to sleep, he asked brother Dominic to go and rest and not rise for Matins during the night. The holy man did not acquiesce to the suggestion but entered the church and prayed throughout the night. Moreover, he was present at Matins. . . .  It was obvious that he then began to weaken in the illness which sent him to the Lord.
 
[W]hen Dominic fell sick he did not want to lie on a bed, but on a woolen sack. He had the novices called to him and, with the sweetest words and a lively zeal, encouraged them and exhorted them to good. He so patiently sustained this illness and others that he always seemed to be cheerful and agreeable.
 
While Dominic was seriously ill, they carried him to a healthier place, [the monastery and church of] St. Mary of the Hills. When he believed he was dying, he called the prior and brothers. About twenty brothers went there. . . . After they assembled about him, lying a full length, he began to preach and delivered a very good and moving sermon. He believed that they then anointed him. He then heard from some that the monk who was rector of [St. Mary of the Hills] said that if [Dominic] died there he would not permit him to be carried away but would have him buried in the same church. . .  Blessed Dominic . . . replied: “God forbid that I be buried except under the feet of my brethren. Carry me outside to die on the road so that you may bury me in our own church.”
 
Then he was taken up and carried back to the [Dominican priory] church of St. Nicholas in Bologna, although it was feared that he might die on the way. After an hour there, he had this witness [Bonaventure] called and said to him: “Prepare yourselves.” And when the prior and the other brothers had solemnly prepared themselves for the commendation of a soul and had gathered about him, Dominic said to the prior and brothers: “Wait a little while.” While waiting, the prior said to him: “Father, you know how you leave us desolate and sad. Remember to pray for us to God.” The blessed friar Dominic with hands raised to heaven, prayed: “Holy Father, Thou knowest how I have freely remained steadfast in Thy will, and have guarded and kept those whom Thou hast given me. I recommend them to Thee. Keep and guard them.” And the witness said that he had heard from the brothers that when they asked him concerning themselves he answered them: “I will be more useful and fruitful to you after death than I was in life.” Then, after a short interval, Dominic commanded the prior and brothers: “Begin.” And they solemnly began the office for the commendation of a soul. And, as he believes, the brother, Blessed Dominic himself said the office with them, because he moved his lips. While the office was being said, he gave up his spirit. They firmly believed that the spirit left him when these words were said: “Come to his assistance, ye Saints of God, come forth to meet him, ye Angels of the Lord: receiving his soul: offering it in the sight of the most High.”
St. Dominic died at the Dominican priory of St. Nicholas, in Bologna, at six o’clock in the evening, on Friday, August 6, 1221. He was fifty-one years old.
Prayer to St. Dominic
Glorious St. Dominic,
what a wonderful hope
you gave to those who wept for you
at the hour of your death,
promising that after your death
you would be helpful to your brethren.
 
Fulfill, Father, what you have said
and help us by your prayers.
 
You shone on the bodies of the sick
by so many miracles,
Bring us the help of Christ to heal the sickness of our souls.
 
Let us pray.
O God, who have enlightened Your Church by the eminent virtues and preaching of Saint Dominic, Your Confessor and our Father, mercifully grant that by his prayers we may be provided against all temporal necessities, and daily improve in all spiritual good. Thorough Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

***Taken from an email from the Thomistic Institute of the Dominican House of Studies. Find lots of great content here.

Another excellent post from a fine journal worth reading: https://www.dominicanajournal.org/help-us-by-your-prayers/

St. Dominic, Hound of the Lord, pray for us.

God bless.

Weakness, strength, amazement, and America

TODAY’S READINGS

Paul (2 Cor 12:7-10) says:

I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

v. 10

Can we say the same? Do we believe Jesus’ words, “My grace is sufficient for you” (v. 9a), when we encounter any of these difficulties? Let us pray for Confidence in God, that He means what He says. In a culture that militates against the truth, we must remain steadfast, regardless of the consequences.

—–

The Gospel (Mk 6:1-6) concludes with these words of Jesus’:

He was amazed at their lack of faith.

v. 6

Jesus is “amazed” infrequently in the Gospels. In fact, only twice this word is used to describe a reaction Jesus had (see a previous post here). Briefly, elsewhere He is amazed by an extraordinary act of faith by a Gentile, and here by an extraordinary lack of faith by His kinsmen. Let it be found that we are found to embrace the best of both worlds, kinsmen (for the baptized are children of God) who have extraordinary faith.

Bp Barron has much to say about the readings, especially on being a prophet and apostle, both of which all the baptized are called to be in virtue on that very Baptism

QUOTABLE

From time to time, as I have done in previous posts, I will simply quote from something I have read that day that I found particularly thought provoking while adding just a brief comment.

[A]nyone who really has faith has had some sort of experience of God’s love for him; he has received an invitation to divine friendship. If the believer has forgotten this experience, if he now seriously doubts God’s love for him, is it not because he has failed to reflect frequently upon the favors he has received from divine love? Is it not because he has not responded deeply enough in appreciation, in thanksgiving?

Paul Hinnebusch, O.P., Dynamic Contemplation: Inner Life for Modern Man (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1970), 127.

It has finally gotten through my thick head recently to actually offer more consistent prayers of thanksgiving for all the blessings I have received in life. Fr. Hinnebusch offers a reminder we sorely can use.

—–

He who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.

Prov 18:17

I actually heard someone mention words to this effect in an opening statement in a debate; I did not realize it came from the Bible until today as I again work through Proverbs (I have read the Bible in its entirety but apparently this verse did not make an impact at that time).

The point is well-taken. If someone challenges your faith or beliefs, and it sounds reasonable, do not stop there. Rather, clarify the matter with a trusted resource. Do not be led astray. But also, stand corrected, if that is the case. What matters is getting to the truth.

THE COUNSEL OF TRENT

I am a huge fan of Catholic Answers. It is my go to apologetics site, and I have often encouraged others (Catholic and otherwise) to go there to get the real scoop on questions regarding the Faith.

Well, I recently came across one of its fine young apologist’s (Trent Horn’s) YouTube channel called, cleverly, The Counsel of Trent. I am absolutely hooked. He takes on everything without fear, pulls no punches, but does it an engaging and understandable way.

I’ve watched several recently, all excellent, but may I recommend you start with the following video that came out just a few days ago and is extremely timely, yet deals with an issue that Catholics have (at least to some extent) been cursed with at least since 1960:

6 Tactics of Pro-choice Catholic Politicians

As with all his apologetic videos, Trent does a great job dismantling all the arguments that offend against Catholic teaching. You may want to take notes for this one — or at least bookmark it for future reference. In any case, subscribe!

(By the way, my colleague at the University of St. Thomas, Randall Smith, had an article come out today dealing with this matter. Worthwhile for all believers to read and ponder.)

WAR AND INDEPENDENCE

I just finished Victor Davis Hanson’s tome called The Second World Wars. Good stuff! See my short review here.

—–

Finally, last but not least, a tribute to America, 245 years old today.

Some trivia on July 4. And an interesting short article on the history of the parchment.

A note from President Calvin Coolidge on the country’s 150th anniversary. A key quote:

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Pres. Calvin Coolidge, Address at the Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Jonah Goldberg, whose podcasts I often enjoy, turned me on to this one.

God bless America!

Happy Anniversary, Fr. Benedict!

Today is the seventieth(!) anniversary of the priestly ordination of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger). It seems providential that his ordination was on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles (find here the beautiful work of Michelangelo honoring both men in the Pauline Chapel next to the Sistine Chapel [backstory]) since he was a successor of Peter (as pope) and one of the greatest biblical theologians since Paul. Both, certainly, have guided and assisted in his long ministry.

In the latest biography on the pope emeritus (I can’t wait to get to it and the final part coming out in November), the author alerted me to his homily as pope ten years ago today in which he reflected on his ordination to the priesthood. An excerpt of that homily:

According to the liturgical practice of that time, these words conferred on the newly-ordained priests the authority to forgive sins. “No longer servants, but friends”: at that moment I knew deep down that these words were no mere formality, nor were they simply a quotation from Scripture. I knew that, at that moment, the Lord himself was speaking to me in a very personal way. In baptism and confirmation he had already drawn us close to him, he had already received us into God’s family. But what was taking place now was something greater still. He calls me his friend. He welcomes me into the circle of those he had spoken to in the Upper Room, into the circle of those whom he knows in a very special way, and who thereby come to know him in a very special way. He grants me the almost frightening faculty to do what only he, the Son of God, can legitimately say and do: I forgive you your sins. He wants me – with his authority – to be able to speak, in his name (“I” forgive), words that are not merely words, but an action, changing something at the deepest level of being. I know that behind these words lies his suffering for us and on account of us. I know that forgiveness comes at a price: in his Passion he went deep down into the sordid darkness of our sins. He went down into the night of our guilt, for only thus can it be transformed. And by giving me authority to forgive sins, he lets me look down into the abyss of man, into the immensity of his suffering for us men, and this enables me to sense the immensity of his love. He confides in me: “No longer servants, but friends”. He entrusts to me the words of consecration in the Eucharist. He trusts me to proclaim his word, to explain it aright and to bring it to the people of today. He entrusts himself to me. “You are no longer servants, but friends”: these words bring great inner joy, but at the same time, they are so awe-inspiring that one can feel daunted as the decades go by amid so many experiences of one’s own frailty and his inexhaustible goodness.

One other quote from Benedict, from the same book:

[A]t the moment when the old archbishop laid his hands on me, a bird, a lark perhaps, rose from the old cathedral high altar and trilled a little song of joy. That was like an encouragement from above. It is good. You are doing the right thing.

Peter Seewald (trans. Dinah Livingstone), Benedict XVI: A Life (Vol. 1), (London: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2020), 247.

Yes, you did the right thing, Fr. Benedict, and you still are.

Here are a few other places to read and see more about his ordination:

Father Joseph Ratzinger, chaplain in the parish of St. Martin in the Moosach district of Munich, celebrates Mass in a mountainous area near Ruhpolding in July 1951 after having been ordained a priest June 29, 1951. (CNS photo/KNA)

No pope has lived longer than him, yet still I exclaim, “Long live Benedict!”

God bless.

Life from death, death into life

TODAY’S FIRST READING (Wis 1:13-15, 2:23-24)

God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.

But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.

Wis 1:13, 2:24

A great pro-life message from the aptly titled Book of Wisdom. God made man to live in harmony with Himself and with others. Through the temptation of the devil to pride, our first parents fell (Gen 3) and we inherited the effects of their decision.

Well, clearly, Satan is still at work today. And “his company” is working overtime to destroy innocent life. Make no mistake, our culture of death is the work of the Evil One with plenty of willing associates on this planet in his organization.

He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.

Jn 8:44b

This liar and murderer has always envied God and His human creation and he uses some of these same humans to advance his cause. Beelzebub is laughing at the defiance of human beings, especially those who call themselves Christians, toward God. But remember,

it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment

Heb 9:27

Take heed!

TODAY’S GOSPEL (Mk 5:21-43)

The passage proclaimed today about the raising of Jairus’ daughter “interrupted” by the healing of the woman with the flow of blood is so rich it is hard to know where to begin. I will offer some thoughts, but I encourage you to dive in yourself and take a slow stroll through these verdant pastures (some Bible study aids if you’d like).

Note that Jairus is mentioned by name. I always take notice when a figure appearing only in one episode in Scripture is actually named. For one, this lends authenticity to the account — here is someone that the first hearers of the Gospel could have spoken to directly or, if he was no longer living then, to his family or acquaintances (and most scholars believe that Mark was the first Gospel account to be written, although there is growing dispute over this). As a “synagogue official” he had status and was prominent, at least in his town (likely Capernaum, additionally significant as Jesus’ base of operations during His early public ministry, which was on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, across from Gerasa from where Jesus just came [per Mt 9:1]).

Mary Healy makes another point about Jairus: “This man’s humble posture…is remarkable in the view of the fact that Jesus’ last visit to a synagogue ended with a plot to kill him (Mark 3:6)” (The Gospel of Mark [Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture] [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008], 105). Not caring what anyone thinks, he prostrates himself before this prominent healer, desperate to do anything to save his daughter who is at the point of death.

Jesus’ interrupts this episode to deal with a woman with a hemorrhage. As he walks with Jairus and the rest of the crowd, this long-suffering lady touches Jesus’ clothing (her ritual impurity is eliminated by Jesus’ purity) which immediately has Jesus looking around for who did it. She (notice she goes unnamed – maybe because she represents all of us?; later legend has her as the Veronica of the Stations of the Cross) comes forward, “in fear and trembling,” now healed. Why does Jesus look for her? I believe because He needed to deliver a message: “Daughter, your faith has saved you.” This message was for her benefit, to be sure, but it was also for the entire crowd and for everyone who has ever heard or read this passage. It is faith that saves. It is not a magic trick that causes healing and He does not due it to impress. Remember how Jesus could not heal in His hometown: “And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith” (Mt 13:58)? Fear and trembling are out; faith is in. Then, like her, we can “go in peace.”

Remember “daughter” and note the length of her illness: twelve years.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. Immediately after this healing, news comes that the little girl has died. Everyone is ready to give up, but not Jesus. He disregards the message and again speaks of having faith. I can’t help but be reminded of the Lazarus story (Jn 11:1-44). There, upon hearing of His friend’s serious illness, Jesus purposely delays His return and then upon arriving at Lazarus’s tomb says, “I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe” (v. 15). Here, also, we have Jesus demanding faith when apparently all others have given up. He then encounters not mere skepticism, but actually ridicule, for speaking of the girl’s condition as “sleeping.” He puts all the doubters out and then raises up the girl (of twelve). Then He tells them to give her something to eat (she is well and she is not a ghost!) and to not let anyone know of this — I wonder how that turned out.

As an aside, I love the imagery of Jesus “pu[ting] them all out.” Do you ever wonder what that looked like? Was it as stern verbal rebuke from our Lord? Maybe just a look? Or opening the door and waving them out? Could it have been a gentle, but firm, escort? If there was anytime that the Messiah was annoyed, and He had plenty of situations in which that could have been the case, it was this one. I’ll bet the room emptied out in short order. (Although a good point is made by Michael Pakaluk: “It is not clear they even knew who he was. A man walks in, apparently without good information, and says something which seems foolish [The Memoirs of St. Peter (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 2019), 93]. Maybe I should be more sympathetic.

Now, regarding “daughter” coming up in both situations, this certainly serves to tie the two stories together (Leroy Huizenga writes, “Right when Jesus is speaking words of benediction to the woman, calling her “daughter,” the group informs Jairus his daughter is dead, and the reader is to imagine the two utterances of “daughter” occurring at the exact same time. [Loosing the Lion (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road, 2017],152), just as the “twelve years” does (more on that next). Our deacon said at Mass today that the scene with the woman was the only time Jesus referred to someone as “daughter.” Then there is the daughter of Jairus. It seems to me that this clearly shows that, at any age, both of the afflicted were children of God — He cares for us from the moment we come into existence. He hears our prayers and the intercessory prayers of our loved ones. No one, regardless of age or circumstance, escapes the Almighty’s loving care and compassion. All may ask for healing, all may receive healing.

As for the twelve years brought to our attention in both cases, this also serves to tie the stores together. (Here, I will again remind readers of the value of searching out instances of a number throughout Scripture to potentially gain additional insights into the passage in question.) The twelve year mark brings a drastic change in both lives. For one, a return to full health, and for the other, at that precise moment, an early death. What one other significant event has ties with twelve years in all of the Bible? The only insight we have into Jesus’ formative years: the finding in the Temple. Might Jesus have been thinking about His own parents’ concern and worry for His well-being just as Jairus fervently expressed for his little girl? Might that not have pulled at His heartstrings all the more? What joy He must have felt when the girl arose and fell into the arms of her father! I can certainly imagine Jesus giving a big hug to His parents as they left the Temple together as a family.

Let me close with these words, again from Huizenga (page 155):

The two stories are tied tightly together, then. Both Jairus and the woman are desperate, coming to Jesus in the face of impossible odds, throwing themselves at his feet. The sandwiching of these stories involves deep dramatic effect, but Mark has done more. He has stitched the stories together. Each female is called “daughter.” Each has ritual impurity: menstrual impurity in one case, corpse impurity in the other. The girl is twelve years old, and the woman has suffered twelve years. Might the same demon be at the root of the suffering of each? And might “twelve” — the number of the Apostles — suggest that the Church is the mediator of healing? And both women are restored to fullness of life by Jesus’s power, which conquers here the power or death and its demonic source, the devil.

  • For wonderful insights into this passage, I urge you to listen to Bp Barron’s homily. His exposition of the “interruption” and his insightful speculation as to the disposition of both main characters is not to be missed.

TURBULENCE IN THE CHURCH IN AMERICA

Allow a bit of a segue here, please. The hemorrhaging “woman actually touched Jesus…not only with her hand but with the faith she bore in her heart….When we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we obtain this physical contact through the sacramental species. We too need to enliven our faith if these encounters with our Lord are to redound to our salvation” (The Navarre Bible: St Mark [Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1992], 102).

A fine piece by the intellectual Robert Royal first encouraging, then discouraging, on what stands to happen in our land as a result of the bishops’ forthcoming document on the Eucharist.

Pray fervently for the bishops. As for me, if there is one thing I would tell them regarding this matter (although it applies to all their decisions impacting their flock): Remember, one day you will be standing alone in front of the Lord to give an account. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task “to preach the Gospel of God to all men,” in keeping with the Lord’s command. They are “heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers” of the apostolic faith “endowed with the authority of Christ.”

CCC 888

And what does Scripture say about teachers?

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly,

James 3:1

WOULDN’T IT BE NICE

I’ve been on a bit of a Beach Boys kick since watching a short interview with Brian Wilson. A version of Wouldn’t It Be Nice, a cappella, allows the group’s talent to shine even more brightly. Brian Wilson wrote this at age 23 (the members ages ranged from 19 to 25 here but they actually put out their first single five years earlier!). How can it not brighten one’s day?

https://dominicanes.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/yelena-cherkasova-christ-raises-the-dauther-of-jairus1.jpg

God bless.

I am not worthy

(With apologies to Wayne and Garth.)

TODAY’S GOSPEL (Mt 8:5-17)

One of my favorite Gospel passages was proclaimed at today’s morning Mass. It is the very familiar episode of Jesus’ encounter with the centurion whose servant is very ill. I have written about this before (I encourage you to follow the links and watch the video).

Just one thing to add, that came to me upon hearing it this morning. That is, that I never before connected this passage with the verse that has been my tagline for many years now, Luke 17:10 (also, the inspiration for the name of this blog). Now, I’m quite certain that the centurion did not have the same sentiment as the Luke passage, but the Roman’s approach adds to our appreciation of unworthiness. None of us are worthy to have the Lord come to us (particularly in Holy Communion, immediately before which we now [since 2010] recite this soldier’s words verbatim save for one word). But with the Lord’s word, we become worthy. It is important to remember that it is God’s initiative, not ours, in providing us His Body and Blood.

This is why I cringe when those who don’t know better, or are simply careless, including Catholics, speak of “taking” Communion. No. We receive Communion as an undeserved gift of the Church, the Body of Christ. For those who are in the state of mortal sin, the word of the Lord must first come through the ministry of the ordained presbyterate in which we hear the priest pronounce the words of absolution, in persona Christi, after a good Confession.

Let this be a lesson and a reminder to us all as we prepare to approach the minister of Holy Communion. And for those politicians who believe they are entitled to receive the Eucharist, pay heed. (More on this soon.)

(For an interesting little Bible study, contrast this passage with this episode as relayed by Luke [7:1-10].)

One more past post, one of my favorites, regarding Jesus reaction to this man who approached Him.

YOUTUBE FUN

I have enjoyed watching old episodes of Password (the original series) on YouTube. I watched a whole week’s worth from 1966 in one sitting, with Peter Lawford (an amazing player) and Barbara Eden (still going strong today just a few weeks shy of 90). A congenial host, great guests, fun banter, and a neat concept make for good watching.

Also, the Archive of American Television is an ongoing project capturing entertainers of many stripes speaking of their careers providing really cool stories and interesting insights, particularly into their past series and co-stars. It’s wonderful that they capture them later in life before they pass away, as a number of those interviewed already have.

YouTube is ruining me for TV.

The Mighty Miracles Of Jesus: Jesus Healed The Centurion's Servant | Osprey  Observer
Still from Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth

God bless.

The narrow path, More is more, clean is funny

TODAY’S GOSPEL (Mt 7:6, 12-14)

Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few.

Mt 7:13-14

These words of Jesus, in the last chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, should give us pause, to say the least. The Lord does not mince words here. He asks us to reform our lives constantly. There are many temptations to take us off the straight and narrow path that leads to life. We must keep our eyes on the prize (remember Mt 5:29).

God our savior…wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.

1 Tim 2:4

How does this square with the verses at top? Free will is the answer — we are able to accept or reject the Almighty. But, God gives the baptized access to graces that He is most willing to pour out on us if only we are receptive. As for the non-Christian, God can work out their salvation as well, although He calls us to evangelize to make that process easier (see CCC 847 and Dominus Iesus, 22).

As far as the ongoing controversy, which has reemerged with some intensity, regarding how many will be saved, or even the possibility that all are ultimately saved, I would point you to two videos and at least one related book:

The bottom line, I think both men would agree on, regarding universal salvation: Don’t count on it.

(THOMAS) MORE IS MORE

Today is the feast day of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, two brave men, who stood, essentially alone, in the face of the tyranny of King Henry VIII who had the audacity to declare himself head of the church in England. For their bravery, and for the cause of religious freedom, both paid with their heads. We need their courage today..

For Lent, I read More’s last book, The Sadness of Christ (my review), written from imprisonment in the Tower of London. Good reading any time of year.

CLEAN IS FUNNY

For some uproarious clean adult humor, check out Ryan Hamilton (a YouTube clip). I just got a note today from him that he is back on tour. Very funny, I laughed a lot at his Netflix Original special, Happy Face, that we happily came across in the midst of the pandemic.

God bless.