The power of grace and the president

I have mentioned in previous posts how important it is to pray for the president and I even posted a prayer that I say daily for the commander-in-chief. Much has been written by Catholics about concerns regarding the new president’s policies as they relate to Catholic doctrine (these latest pieces lay out his problematic stances as well as his problematic picks for roles in his administration). It is right to be concerned. Instead of being an exemplary Catholic in his governing he promises to cause devastating scandal, particularly in his advocacy of abortion, homosexual “marriage,” “gender” issues. and threats to religious freedom. It is heartbreaking to orthodox Catholics that the most famous American Catholic boldly rejects core teachings of the Church and has now tremendous power to cause even more damage in all the aforementioned areas, not only by action or inaction regarding these matters, but also by leading many astray or confirming yet others in their sin.

What to do? Well, we Christians know that with grace anything is possible and without it nothing is efficacious. So let us pray that the grace of the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation that Joe Biden has received will be activated in his life for the good of the country and the salvation of his immortal soul. God desires no one to be lost so we always have hope.that in even the most unlikely human circumstances, miraculous change can be effected.

I was heartened that the song Amazing Grace was performed as part of the inauguration ceremonies. My fervent hope is that it bodes well for the conversion of this administration. The first and last stanzas are well known:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I am found
Was blind, but now I see

Grace is absolutely necessary to save all of us wretches. That is why this unmerited gift is so amazing! (See this piece from today for a beautiful exposition of grace.) I have heard countless testimonies of seemingly hopeless cases in which the Lord intervened in astonishing fashion to turn lives around. So why could it not be for the president? Changing his stances to align with divine revelation would likely be a career killer but it may be what saves his soul and the souls and lives of countless others.

Thus, incessant prayer for Mr. Biden and this country is desperately needed. With prayer as a daily foundation, additional actions like writing him or congressmen, advocating via op-eds and social media, speaking to family and friends, and being active in our community, all can be done with the proper disposition and always with love.

And don’t forget to enlist the aid of the entire Communion of Saints, his guardian angel, and in particular the Blessed Mother:

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners

God bless the president and God Bless America.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (1 Cor 6:15a), the impact of authentic Catholics, and my latest reads

AUTHENTICITY

I mentioned in a previous post that I am working through Bede Jarrett’s wonderful Classic Catholic Meditations as part of my daily spiritual reading. A particular line struck me:

If every Catholic were a credit to his religion and openly professed the whole round of Faith, how the evil of the world would be cowed!

Jarrett, 147

This evil has manifested itself in a particular way in the unrest of last year that was topped this year by the recent horrifying events at the nation’s Capitol — topped not in lives lost (though this was certainly tragic) and destruction but most certainly in symbolism and intent. How did we get here? By not professing unequivocally the fullness of the truth of God. Fr. Jarrett goes on to say:

Laymen should also be keen on their religion and be able to give a reasonable account of the faith that is in them. But the strongest argument of all is a religious and edifying life as a courageous Catholic.

Ibid.

The first sentence echoes the First Letter of Peter (see 1 Pt 3:15). The second reminds me of a debunked quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach always; when necessary use words.” Jarrett tells us that both are needed: the foundation is built on being an example by living out our faith, but we must be ready to share our convictions cogently as Peter admonishes us to do. Might it take courage to do so? Yes. But it is our calling. If all Catholics — if all Christians as a whole –, lived their professed faith in deed and word, these abominations would not stand and our culture would be transformed.

I continue to fervently pray that the incoming president, a professed Catholic, embraces fully the Faith and governs and acts in accord with it, despite the cost he would incur in his political career. But his reward will be great in heaven (see Mt 5:12). And the example he would give would be an incredible encouragement to many Christians, particularly Catholics, as well as emboldening many to be outspoken in their convictions.

I have been saying this beautiful Prayer for the President of the United States for weeks now and intend to do so for the rest of my life. It is by Peter Marshall, a Presbyterian pastor who was chaplain of the U.S. Senate for a short span (1946-47) until his untimely death. I encourage you to pray it as well. And, if you are inspired to do so, pick up a pack of them and start distributing them as I have.

TODAY’S EPISTLE

“My body, my choice”? Not according to Holy Writ, per the headline. To lend even more force, Paul goes on to tell the Corinthians:

Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body.

1 Cor 6:19-20

Of course, the popular mantra with which I began this section is most associated with abortion advocates (Cardinal Dolan does a great job of explaining “Why We Catholics Are So ‘Hung Up’ on Abortion”; and, by the way, the Church’s position follows the science). They need to hear Paul’s message that we are so much more than temporal and finite creatures made of flesh and bone. Rather Christians are temples of the Holy Spirit and members of the Body of Christ redeemed by Jesus through the Paschal Mystery, and non-Christians are called to faith and baptism. So this is an especially important message for those who promote and commit abortions.

But it does not stop there. In our everyday lives, we must “glorify God in [our] body.” This directive should give us pause. Does everything we do, say, or not do, project the glory of the Almighty? “Avoid immorality,” the Apostle says. The Bible and the Church inform our conscience to know what is right. Frequent Examination of Conscience and recourse to Confession can strengthen us in the resolve to emulate the Lord. Then we can be healthy, not gangrenous, members of the Body of Christ, the Church.

GOOD READS

I just finished a little book by Bp. Joseph Strickland of Tyler, TX called Light and Leaven. I appreciated his frankness in providing in simple language profound truths and solid direction for lay people (see my review here). The key to it all: proper liturgy and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Also, I just began The Cross and the Eucharist in Early Christianity: A Theological and Liturgical Investigation. The title intrigued me so I picked it up. And because I will be once again lecturing the Eucharist course for deacon candidates, it seemed to me a good warmup for the weekend I will be (virtually) hanging out with the guys from Indianapolis next month. I always look forward to my time with these engaged and interested men of faith (and sometimes their wives).

God bless.

Body of Christ: Ascended, Yet Present | St. John's Lutheran Church, NYC

Recent NCRegister articles worth a look; Elijah and Elisha, the Baptist and Jesus and the importance of numbers

CATHOLIC NEWS

National Catholic Register pieces that I found particularly interesting as I was catching up on my reading:

  • Becerra’s Nomination as HHS Secretary Continues to Draw Fire. Xavier Becerra professes to be a Catholic but what he advocates is horrific; maybe as horrific is that his nomination comes from the next President of the United States — also a professed Catholic. This is going to be an ugly four years for Church and State.

ELISHA AND JESUS AND NUMBERS

Finishing Romans on the St. Paul Center app (outstanding — let your priest know as well and have him listen to the last episode for starters), I began Scott Hahn’s five episode study of the Gospel of Mark available there. I have studied the second Gospel quite a bit, but he brought out something fascinating when he compared John the Baptist to Elijah and Jesus to Elisha. John, of course, was called the new Elijah by Jesus. John prepared the way for Jesus. Elisha took over the prophet’s mantle from Elijah prior to the latter being drawn away by a chariot of fire. Elisha asked for a double portion of the Spirit from Elijah. And so it was. Elijah was recorded to perform eight miracles, Elisha, subsequently, sixteen. How many miracles does Mark record of Jesus? Sixteen. Scott Hahn makes Scripture come alive. I have many of his Bible studies on CD. Check them out online, via the app, or on CD. You will be enthralled.

One other thing he gets into in this study is discussion of a new Exodus with the coming of Jesus. He also talks about the importance of the destruction of the Temple in the dating of New Testament books and letters. He also mentions the seventy years that Judah was exiled after Babylon destroyed the first Temple in the late sixth century B.C. All this got me thinking about how it was seventy years from Jesus’ birth and forty years from his passion, death, and resurrection until the second Temple was destroyed. Jesus, of course, predicted this event. I need to think on this and study up on it. Looking for all instances of “forty” and “seventy” will be helpful. Just using a concordance to find numbers in the Bible can lead to fascinating discoveries. My favorite search engine to do studies for words in Scripture can be found here. Nothing fancy, but I really like the format and it is easy to copy and paste from.

IMG_3695
Elijah Taken Up in a Chariot of Fire by Giuseppe Angeli (1712-1798)

“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Lk 2:19) and on the Theotokos

TODAY’S GOSPEL

What was Mary reflecting on? All the wondrous things that happened in the last nine months, from the surprise visit of the angel Gabriel, the dreams of Joseph, the visit to Elizabeth, the journey to Bethlehem, the visit of the shepherds and their relaying the angelic message, and undoubtedly much more that she contemplated and prayed on (undoubtedly unceasingly) as she prepared for the birth of this Child and did the daily work of His upbringing.

With the mention of Mary’s heart (prayers) I am immediately reminded of Simeon’s prophecy a few verses later (“[and you yourself a sword will pierce] so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” — v. 35). Mary was intimately united with her Son’s Passion so when the centurion’s sword pierced Jesus’ heart, Mary’s heart was pierced as well. It is not difficult to imagine Mary’s life with her Son passing before her eyes at that moment and spilling out of her broken heart — a heart broken for us sinners as much as for her beloved Child.

When Mary said “Fiat!” to Gabriel, she began the process that inexorably led to Christ’s Passion and death. When she approached Jesus at Cana she set that process into overdrive, leaving us her final recorded words: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5) She did whatever God told her. She only asks that we imitate her disposition.

Mary poured out her heart for our sake. Let us learn from her. Now, she invites us to pour our heart out to her for God’s sake.

MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

Today the Church blesses us with the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Theotokos is the Greek term meaning “God bearer,” definitively applied to the Virgin Mary at the Council of Ephesus in the year 431. I thought it would be worthwhile to post some links to allow us to learn more about this awesome mystery and to provide information to those Christians and others who have difficulty with this reality or deny it outright.

The Church Fathers and the Mother of God (St. John Henry Newman goes back to the earliest writings)

Council of Ephesus documents

Defending the teaching (several articles from Catholic Answers)

Theotokos - Wikipedia

“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared.” (1 Jn 2:18) and more from 1 John

TODAY’S READINGS

We usually think of the Antichrist as a sinister apocalyptic figure who will appear just before Christ’s Second Coming. There is scriptural warrant for this, of course, not only in Revelation but throughout the New Testament and early Jewish-Christian texts. But the only place the term “antichrist” itself appears in the Bible is in John’s first two letters. The word simply means “against Christ,” so it is not confined to a single creature.

Well, per John’s words above, it seems the “last hour” is fast approaching in our society and world. A particularly appropriate reading for the last day of the calendar year. All around us sin abounds. Governments, organizations, corporations, media, even other religions, all militate against Christ to some extent or another. What is our defense? John tells us at the end of today’s first reading (1 Jn 2:18-21):

I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth.

1 John 2:21

“What is the truth?” This famous exclamation from Pontius Pilate comes when he confronts Jesus on Good Friday while considering His fate (see Jn 18:38). Spoiler alert: John gives us the answer before we get to the Passion:

Jesus said to [Thomas], “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

But John also intimates this in today’s Gospel reading (Jn 1:1-18):

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son,
full of grace and truth.

John 1:1, 5, 14

Jesus is the Truth. It is through Him that the “light” goes on for us and scatters the “darkness” of sin and deceit and immorality that is all around us. Christians profess to know Christ so we should know the truth. What does that mean for us? Jesus tells us, again in John:

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.

John 8:31-32

Authentic freedom is found only in following the truth. Not, as is popularly expressed nowadays, your truth and my truth. There is only one Truth. We must not be deceived or intimated by lies masquerading as truth in the interest of not making waves, being politically correct, or “woke” (a term I despise). We do not want to fall into this trap:

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator

Romans 1:25

When the poles are reversed, the power goes out. But we need to stay plugged in to the Power Source (see Mt 26:64 or Mk 14:62) by never giving in to the lie regardless of the cost.

(The source background in the first paragraph is the Catholic Bible Dictionary [pp. 50-51] — another must have for the Scripture lover’s bookshelf.)

COMMENTARY QUOTE WORTH SHARING

Coincidentally, I am working through a commentary that includes the letters of John (I am a huge advocate for the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture). I was struck by these lines commenting on 1 John 4:7-10, which, now that I look at them again, tie in quite well with the discussion above.

John’s insistence on the true origin of love is a reminder that all of us need to hear. We should be careful not to reverse the terms of John’s famous saying “God is love.” Yes, God is love, but not all that passed for love is therefore “God.” We cannot begin with our own safe and secret notions of love and the apply them to what God is like.

Kelly Anderson and Daniel Keating. James, First, Second, and Third John (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017), 212.

So, when we are told what “love” is by those who defy God in their speech, actions, and advocacy, be wary. Authentic love is only found in God and His revelation.

Depiction of the antichrist (1501) by Luca Signorelli (from the Orvieto Cathedral)

“[Herod] ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.” (Mt 2:16) and article

TODAY’S GOSPEL

Like me, I imagine most Christians read or listen to the story of the massacre of the children by Herod the Great in horror at the cruelty, but tempered somewhat in our minds by our familiarity with the event having come across it so many times. But, I propose here we look at the story more closely and get real with it. In fact, I recommend this approach to any episode in the Bible that has become old hat, so to speak. Put yourself in the scene in the roles of various characters. Listen carefully to what is said. Consider what is implied. Then think about what is not said or done or what could have been said or done instead.

Here is the big question that arises for me: Why did the Holy Innocents (as we call them) have to die? God warned Joseph to take his family and flee (v. 12). But why did not God just stop Herod through a dream, death or other means (e.g., the Magi return but are coy about their findings, or better, they don’t go to Herod at all but receive divine inspiration as to the newborn king’s whereabouts in a dream)? Herod in fact does die shortly after these events. Scholars seem to have settled on his death as in either 4 B.C. or 1 B.C. Jesus’ birth has been placed anywhere from 10 B.C. to 1 B.C. but I tend to be partial to around 4 B.C. The Magi likely came substantially after the birth of Jesus, thus Herod’s order to destroy children two and under in the region (or maybe he wanted to play it “safe” to be sure he killed this potential usurper to his throne). In any case, Herod was soon to die (excruciatingly as it turns out). So why not just bump up his demise? Better yet, why just not wait for the birth of Jesus until after Herod died (remember Joseph’s subsequent dream that his family could safely return after Herod’s death [Mt 2:19-20])?

Also, doesn’t it seem a bit unfair that the Holy Family was warned but not the dozens of families (estimates vary on the number of children massacred but the low double digits seems reasonable) that would be impacted by Herod’s edict? To this point, I wonder as well about the scars the parents carried for the rest of their lives having watched their children brutally slain, many likely being torn out of their arms to be dispatched. Did they ever connect this tragedy with Jesus’ during His ministry? If so, how did they feel about it?

The following verse serves to cover a lot of ground and is one way to approach this problem:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Amen, of course, to all of Scripture but let’s not stop there. Why did God deal with this matter in this way? Well, I don’t pretend to speak for the Almighty (you can thank God for that), but here are some thoughts:

  • Usually Stephen or John the Baptist are considered the first Christian martyrs, but here we have the first persons to die for Christ. Not knowingly, or willingly, yet they served as the first witnesses to the God-Man, sacrificing themselves in order to let Jesus live to fulfill His mission. Must not this story have been told for years afterward? Certainly the Gospel writer knew of it writing decades after the fact. Did he know it from little up? Or maybe Jesus spoke of it to His disciples in private?
  • There is fate worse that bodily death. These little boys had the promise of heaven upon Jesus’ death. Their baptism of blood assured them eternal happiness, a fate not guaranteed had they lived past the age of reason.
  • As for warning Herod, who says that the Lord had not done so, maybe repeatedly throughout his life? By all accounts, this pretender to the Jewish throne was quite literally mad so would likely not have heeded warnings anyway. And, certainly, God would not have ordered deception on the part of the eastern visitors (evil is never permitted to be done by us so that a potential good can come from it but God permits evil so that a greater food can come from it). The gift of free will is not something the Lord interferes with. He just asks that we align our wills with His. When we don’t, we, and sometimes the world, must deal with the consequences.

In the end, God does what He does, ordains what He ordains, permits what He permits, for His own good reasons. It is not for us to question it (as if we had a better idea than God), but to learn from it (and questions help us to do so, as we have seen). That is what this exercise we just went through helps us to do.

So, we are blessed to have these heavenly advocates that we commemorate in a special way today but to whose intercession we can appeal at any time, especially when a young child is tragically lost due to illness, accident, or intentional killing. With this last point, we can also consider what many governments allow (including our own) and what governments command (witness China) regarding abortion and even the killing of those born partially or fully. This first century crime which was later committed in writing to the Eternal Word of Scripture should have served as a cautionary tale for all generations but massacres of babies over the centuries and especially in our day dwarfs it millions-fold.

Let us again appeal to the Bible for a comforting final thought:

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

All in all, that’s good enough for me.

RECOMMENDED ARTICLE

I came across the blog entry below referred to in a friend’s post. Long, but worth the read. I was reminded of Bishop Barron speaking of “beige Catholicism.” The good bishop coined the term so I always associate it with him and agree with his characterization one hundred percent.

The Choice: Bourgeois Well-Being or Conversion to Christ: Beige Catholicism and the Challenges of the Young Priest by Larry Chapp at Gaudium et Spes 22

Massacre of the Innocents - Wikipedia
The Virgin and Child Surrounded by the Holy Innocents (c. 1618) by Peter Paul Rubens at the Museum of Louvre-Lens

“[Simeon] came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, He took him into his arms and blessed God” (Lk 2:27-28)

TODAY’S GOSPEL

Recently, in meditating upon the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, especially considering the Visitation and Presentation, it occurred to me that it seemed quite appropriate that just as had happened to Elizabeth that “at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk 1:44), so with Simeon something similar happened. This is pure speculation, of course, but imagine Simeon in discussion or in prayer and suddenly he hears this conversation:

Mary, come this way.

Yes, Joseph. Let us follow your father, Jesus my son.

Would not the voice of the Mother of God cause Simeon’s heart to “leap for joy,” especially since “[h]e came in the Spirit into the temple,” quite possibly in a special way, that day? In an instant he realizes that the encounter for which he had been waiting for seemingly endless days has now arrived. Had he prepared a little speech for that event? Maybe. But I bet that even if that was so, whatever he had planned to say was overridden by the immensity and intensity of the moment and the movement of the Spirit. How those in the temple must have been astonished! I don’t imagine the old man was reticent about proclaiming in a loud voice the Messiah he held in his arms. And did not all pay attention to his words, as we should today? This was a Savior for all peoples: Jew and Gentile alike. This babe was “destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel.” How many witnesses in the temple that day would, thirty years hence, connect the preacher who led a powerful ministry ending in death with this Child? And would they remember the words said to His mother (“and you yourself a sword will pierce”) as they witnessed her standing resolutely at the Cross? Would they not feel particularly compassionate toward this woman who watched her Son, who went about only doing good, tortured and killed?

Let us not forget to mention Anna, either. She was likely living in the temple for sixty or more years — three generations would have known of her. As a “prophetess,” I’m quite sure that it wasn’t only after the appearance of the baby Jesus that she “spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” I imagine she had been preparing temple visitors for decades for an upcoming momentous event. Undoubtedly, some thought her daft, others pitied her, and more than a few felt a combination of the two. But whatever was whispered of her was of no concern to the old lady. She had a special relationship with the Lord and she was supremely confident in His faithfulness. And when the day finally came that her prophecy was fulfilled, it would have not been an “I told you so” moment for the pious woman, but rather, “I must tell you so.” How long either Simeon or Anna lived, we do not know. But we can be sure that for the remainder of their days they did not stop praising God and telling anyone who would listen of the wondrous thing He had done in their midst in the fullness of time.

St. Simeon and St. Anna, pray for us.

FOR FURTHER READING

I have long recommended Venerable Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ and The World’s First Love as the first books (after the Gospels) on Jesus and Mary respectively I would give to anyone who wanted to know more about them. The first book has an interesting extended discussion of the Presentation that is well worth reading.

Make a resolution now to work through at least one good Catholic book a month in 2021 along with daily reading of the best Catholic book, the Bible.

Simeon and Anna - Gospelimages
Simeon and Anna (contemporary) by Jan van ‘t Hoff

“[G]ive his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins” (Lk 1:77), more on vaccines, and a new devotional

TODAY’S GOSPEL

Zechariah’s words in today’s Gospel (Lk 1:67-79) should grab our attention in a special way. Consider how he had been pondering his encounter with the angel for the last nine months (or more). How earnestly he must have wished to convey what was in his overflowing heart! He had much time to prepare for he knew that the day would come when he could pour out what had welled up in his innermost being (remember what the angel told him in the sanctuary: “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place” [Lk 1:20]).

Here is what Zechariah tel\ls us the Lord God has done: “he has visited and brought redemption to his people” (v. 68). And what about the mission of John, his newborn son: “you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways” (v. 76). How will this be done? That’s where the headline comes in. And John certainly lived this message in his ministry. Luke’s introduction of John’s public ministry describes him “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (3:3). Moreover, John’s first recorded words in the New Testament are “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2)

So far, so good. But why this approach? John uses a stark message that cuts right to the heart. No kumbaya moment here. Let’s look again to the headline. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Zechariah gives the program that God has set for John: John is to “prepare [the Lord’s] ways” (v. 76). What ways? The ways of salvation of the one who saves: the Savior, Jesus Christ. How does one see clearly those ways? By overcoming sin, which obscures the truth. What was the case then is the case now. We can only see clearly the Lord’s will for us (“[God] wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” [1 Tim 2:4]) if we eliminate sin from our lives. As is inevitable in our fallen state, sin abounds in us. But “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rom 5:20). What is the ordinary means to access this grace? The Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Confession). By all means, we should ask the Lord often to forgive us in prayer. But Jesus instituted Confession because we need Confession (read all about it in CCC 1422-1498). Take advantage often (St. John Paul II recommended monthly) of the opportunity to audibly here Christ, through the priest acting in His person, the beautiful words “I absolve you from your sins.”

MORE ON VACCINES

Two more articles on the morality of vaccines. Both are well worth reading as the commentary on this matter continues to increase as the debate intensifies.

* The Morality of the COVID-19 Vaccines by Janet Smith

* 12 Things Less Remote Cooperation in Evil than COVID Vaccines by Fr. Matthew Schneider

MY LATEST READ TO INCORPORATE AS A DEVOTIONAL

I recently became very interested to find a book that contained sermons from the early Church Fathers that followed the “new” Lectionary used at Mass. The only substantive work I found that does this is The Fathers on the Sunday Gospels edited by Anglican priest Stephen Mark Holmes. I plan to incorporate this into my regular devotional reading each Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. It arrived today so I get to start tomorrow! I am very much looking forward to diving in. I’ll let you know how it goes.

FreeBibleimages :: Zechariah is promised a son :: When God promises  Zechariah and Elizabeth a son, Zechariah has doubts and is struck dumb  (Luke 1:5-25, 39-45, 57-80)

God bless.

“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” (Lk 1:61)

This line from today’s Gospel (Lk 1:57-66) regarding the birth and circumcision of John the Baptist has long perplexed me. These words, coming from John’s family’s neighbors and friends, seem to have no precedent in the Bible. I have read the whole thing and I do not recall any instance when a child was named after a relative. So from where does this idea come?

My limited personal resources and some research did not yield much for me — either they said nothing about this line or the commentary was short and unsatisfying. But a wonderful two-volume set of the New Testament from the Daughters of St. Paul, beautifully laid out and illustrated, that I have retained for decades now, does provide an interesting exposition on this episode that I would like to share:

The law forbade Elizabeth to take part in social activities for forty days (Leviticus 12:2-4). But the circumcision, on the eighth day, could take place in the family home. It was the custom on that occasion to name the child after the grandfather, not the father. However, because Zechariah was an old man and had also been struck dumb — for which reason they feared he might not liver very long — the relatives suggested his own name. Elizabeth’s opposition astounded them, first of all because it was not customary for the mother to press her preferences. Moreover, she wanted to give the child a name that was foreign to the family. But John signifies: “God has been merciful.” Now Elizabeth and Zechariah knew that this indicated the child’s favored destiny. Their faithfulness to the angel’s words was immediately rewarded.

The New Testament 6: The Gospel According to Luke Chapters 1-7 (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1975), 171

This custom spoken of, “to name the child after the grandfather,” is given with no further explanation. Might this have been a more recent custom thus not found in the Old Testament? This commentary doesn’t explain. As for Zechariah’s age and condition, this is speculation. but a nice sentiment. It does cause me to wonder how long John’s parents lived: Did they get to see his public ministry thirty years hence? Did he strike them growing up as worthy of the role “to prepare for the Lord a people well-disposed” (Lk 1:17)? How much did they tell John about his miraculous conception, his cousin Jesus, and the role the Spirit had set out for John?

The image below is the same one used in the Bible that i referred to above.

Fra Angelico: The Naming of John the Baptist
The Naming of John the Baptist (1434-35) by Fra Angelico (Museo di San Marco, Florence)

“Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice” and a subscription recommendation

INTRO

Happy Winter! With the solstice today we have come upon the shortest day of the year. A funny expression since all days are 24 hours. Of course, we mean that it is the day with the least amount of daylight. But it is darkest before the dawn and the light of the world will be with us soon — a fitting celebration coming just as the days grow longer (and no, Christmas was not placed at this time of year to replace a pagan winter solstice holiday — see here).

SCRIPTURE

Pay attention to what happens when the Holy Spirit inspires a person (in this instance, Elizabeth) encountering the Virgin Mary (Lk 1:39-45). The Spirit of Truth has the older cousin of Mary calling her “blessed among women” and “the mother of my Lord.” Is it any wonder Catholics and Orthodox reverence Mary of Nazareth as we do? This same Spirit that inspired the entire Bible (see 2 Tim 3:16), not only has Elizabeth exclaim this greeting but He also ensures that it is contained in Holy Writ for “all generations” (Lk 1:48).

It saddens me, and most certainly must sadden Mary, now in glory with her Son as Queen, that so many of her children set her aside, don’t acknowledge her, or even have contempt for her. She was blessed unlike any person that has ever lived or will ever live by agreeing to be the bearer of the Christ. So she is the Mother of God. Properly understood this is not a problem. Even Elizabeth acknowledges her as “the mother of my Lord” (that is, adonai, the word Jews use instead of Yahweh, God’s name that is not spoken out of reverence). A woman gives birth to a person so Mary gave birth to the Second Person of the Trinity. Elizabeth knew it, Mary knew it, so “all generations” can know it.

A last, but critical, point: Mary was likely no more that two weeks pregnant when she visited Elizabeth (today’s Gospel tells us that Mary “went in haste” after her meeting with the angel Gabriel ). Even in that very early stage of gestation, Mary was truly a mom. Human life begins at conception — that’s science. Human personhood begins at that same moment — that’s Scripture. The pro-life message is clear.

Let us pray for an outpouring of the Spirit on the whole world so that all will recognize Jesus in their midst: in Scripture, in Sacrament, and in others (see Mt 25:34-40 ).

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Mary & Elizabeth -