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Friday, May 31, 2013

Spirituality: The Lily

According to an old belief, the first lily sprang from the repentant tears of Eve, as she left Paradise. Later, the flower became the symbol for Mary, symbolizing the purity and innocence of the new Eve, appearing traditionally in her hand or that of the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. The flower became later associated with St. Joseph, whose staff was thought to have blossomed at his betrothal to the future Mother of God.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Prayer: Elizabeth Ann Seton

O Mary, be to us indeed a mother; pit the fears and sorrows of your children in our state of long uncertainty and danger; show yourself a mother to us in the hour of our death.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Body and Blood of Christ

Corpus et Sanguine Christi Sunday
June 2, 2013
Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

The biblical roots of the Eucharist are seen in the encounter between Abram and the mysterious priest of old, Melchizedek, king of Salem. Abram gave the high priest a tenth of everything he had because Melchizedek blessed his sacrifice. The blessings of God fall from Mount Zion on high upon Abram and his descendants. Subsequently, Abram offered sacrifices and holocausts to God for his good fortune.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to the crowd about the kingdom of God and heals those who need to be cured. At the close of a long day, the Twelve Disciples ask Jesus to send the crowds away so the people can have time to find adequate food and shelter. Jesus responds differently than expected. He continually shows his friends that he is not bound by the expectations of other people. It is easy to fall into this trap, but Jesus lets his right thinking be his guide.

The disciples want Jesus to do something for them that they could easily do themselves. He does not consent to their request, but instructs them on what they are to do next. They are the ones to feed the crowd even though they do not have enough food – just five loaves of bread and two fish. The gathered men are about 5,000 and the women and children are not included in the count, but Jesus breaks them into groups of 50, which is about 100 groups. Each disciple is responsible for 416 men. This is not an easy task to organize. I like that Jesus redirects the disciples to take care of the food distribution on their own.

Far too many people heap their demands upon persons in authority. Often for a priest, the person with the demand wants him to become their agent. We hear, “Father, you get this done for me,” or “Here is the contact information; call them please.” The person walks away free from responsibility after they’ve dumped the burden on a priest. A healthy priest will say, “Thanks for your request. This is what I need you to do. Get back to me once you’ve accomplished that.” This is precisely what Jesus is doing. He is able to function as the one who blesses the meal, breaks the bread, and begins the distribution, but he gives the food to the disciples for full distribution. He stays free of becoming their agent and doing everything for them.

This story also shows that the Eucharist is first and foremost an action. Because of our practices, we sometimes forget that it is a movement where we must actively participate. The early church remembered the actions and words of Jesus and came together to remember him with a meal. Often an Agape meal was held before or after a full regular meal where companionship was shared. As the meals evolved, it was ritualized in the actions of Jesus as St. Paul tells us. We hand onto others what has been first handed onto us – in the first instance, through the Last Supper of Jesus.

In our Masses, God calls us together from our respective situations to worship as one community. It is our responsibility to bring the results of the use of the gifts God has given us and to offer them back at each Mass. We listen and sing words of Scripture and we are instructed about the application of the Gospel to our daily lives. We bring our hopes and dreams with our fears and sorrows and we give them to the priest during our offertory. The priest collects these offerings, along with the bread and wine, and presents them to the Lord.

With Jesus, the priest re-enacts his Last Supper. Through our memory, the sacred events come alive once again and it is Jesus who makes his sacrifice on our behalf whenever we ask. We ask the Holy Spirit to descend upon the bread, wine, and our gifts to make them holy so that the Eucharistic elements become the actual Body and Blood of Christ. This we believe and know to be true. Christ wants to continue to feed us just as he feed the 5,000 in Luke’s Gospel. His heart is filled with compassion for our sorrows and admiration for the people we are becoming. He and his Creating Father want to be generous to us.

After we are nourished, we return to the places in our lives where his presence sustains us until we gather once again. We come again the next week to be bolstered by his active participation in our lives and to come to know his work in our local community of faith.

Throughout the centuries, we have adopted the custom of reserving the Blessed Sacrament and adoring it at various times. Some place a great deal of emphasis on sitting silently before the Lord in worship. This is indeed a good thing to do, but the primary purpose of the Eucharist is for us to go out into the world and feed our hungry brothers and sisters. The old Anglican saying is fitting, “When the Mass ends, the service begins.” It reinforces that Mass is not just one hour on Sunday, but also a continuous part of our day. The Eucharist is always part of our lives, a continuous action, but we complete the full meaning when we “give them some food” ourselves.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The story of Barnabas is told on his feast day on Monday. It describes how he became linked with Paul. He cares for Paul as a new convert and teaches him the faith. In Antioch that year, when a large number of people are brought together, the group is called Christians for the first time. In 1 Kings, the prophet Elijah spares a starving widow and her son in a drought by providing daily flour and oil until the rains water the ground once again. Elijah prepares his case against the god Baal. His sacrificial offering is more pleasing to God than the 450 prophets of Baal. The God of Israel consumes the sacrifice of bull, wheat, water and stones while nothing happens with the sacrifices of Baal. Elijah tells the young Ahab to go up the mountain because the sound of heavy rain is coming. Ahab makes way to Jezreel by chariot, and Elijah runs ahead of him. ~ On Friday's Sacred Heart feast, we hear from the prophet Hosea about God's special love for his child, Israel. On Saturday, Elijah meets Elisha as he plows the fields and allows him to become his attendant.

Gospel: We turn to Matthew's Gospel because Mark's Gospel is the shortest one and has run its course in the cycle. We begin with Jesus noticing the crowds, walking up the mountain, and addressing his disciples with the consoling words of the Beatitudes. He encourages them to be like salt that provides taste while also preserving food and to be like a lamp that shines for all to see. He then indicates that he did not come to be a revolutionary who throws out the law, but as one who will fulfill every aspect of God's law. Central to his message is a radical view of reconciliation and love for one's neighbor. Reconciliation is that which transforms anger and evil into good. ~ Friday's feast of the Sacred Heart depicts the scene in John shortly after the death of Jesus when the soldiers learn they do not need to break his legs because he is already dead. Saturday's reading focus on the suffering of Mary as she learns early in life that Jesus is obedient primarily to his heavenly Father.

Saints of the Week

June 2: Marcellinus and Peter, martyrs (d. 304) died in Rome during the Diocletian persecution. Peter was an exorcist who ministered under the well-regarded priest, Marcellinus. Stories are told that in jail they converted their jailer and his family. These men are remembered in Eucharistic prayer I.

June 3: Charles Lwanga and 22 companion martyrs from Uganda (18660-1886) felt the wrath of King Mwanga after Lwanga and the White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa) censured him for his cruelty and immorality. The King determined to rid his kingdom of Christians. He persecuted over 100 Christians, but upon their death new converts joined the church.

June 5: Boniface, bishop and martyr (675-754), was born in England and raised in a Benedictine monastery. He became a good preacher and was sent to the northern Netherlands as a missionary. Pope Gregory gave him the name Boniface with an edict to preach to non-Christians. We was made a bishop in Germany and gained many converts when he cut down the famed Oak of Thor and garnered no bad fortune by the Norse gods. Many years later non-Christians killed him when he was preparing to confirm many converts. The church referred to him as the "Apostle of Germany."

June 6: Norbert, bishop (1080-1134), a German, became a priest after a near-death experience. He became an itinerant preacher in northern France and established a community founded on strict asceticism. They became the Norbertines and defended the rights of the church against secular authorities.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jun 2, 1566. The Professed House was opened in Toledo. It became well known for the fervor of its residents and the wonderful effects of their labors.
·      Jun 3, 1559. A residence at Frascati, outside of Rome, was purchased for the fathers and brothers of the Roman College.
·      Jun 4, 1667. The death in Rome of Cardinal Sforza Pallavicini, a man of great knowledge and humility. While he was Prefect of Studies of the Roman College he wrote his great work, The History of the Council of Trent.
·      Jun 5, 1546. Paul III, in the document Exponi Nobis, empowered the Society to admit coadjutors, both spiritual and temporal.
·      Jun 6, 1610. At the funeral of Henry IV in Paris, two priests preaching in the Churches of St Eustace and St Gervase denounced the Jesuits as accomplices in his death. This was due primarily to the book De Rege of Father Mariana.
·      Jun 7, 1556. Peter Canisius becomes the first provincial superior of the newly constituted Province of Upper Germany.

·      Jun 8, 1889. Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins died at the age of 44 in Dublin. His final words were "I am so happy, so happy." He wrote "I wish that my pieces could at some time become known but in some spontaneous way ... and without my forcing."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Spirituality: Christian view of the Resurrection

Christian Views on the Resurrection

The New Testament follows the Septuagint in translating sheol as hades (compare Acts 2:27, 31 and Psalm 16:10). The New Testament thus seems to draw a distinction between Sheol and "Gehinnom" or Gehenna. The former is regarded as a place where the dead go temporarily to await resurrection (according to some traditions, including Jesus himself), while the latter is the place of eternal punishment for the damned (i.e. perdition). Accordingly, in the book of Saint John's Revelation, hades is associated with death (Revelation 1:18, 6:8), and in the final judgment the wicked dead are brought out of hades and cast into the lake of fire, which represents the fire of Gehenna; hades itself is also finally thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15)

The Greek anastasisand occurs first in Matthew 22:23 for a total of 40 times in the Christian Bible. The first occurrence of the word in the Jewish Greek Bible (LXX) is in the negative at Job 14:12, "and man that has lain down (in death) shall certainly not rise again." Or, "will not be resurrected." That a resurrection is possible is inferred in verse 13, 14.

Peter cites Psalm 16:8: ‘Therefore, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath that he would seat one from the fruitage of his loins upon his throne, he saw beforehand and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in Ha'des nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses.’ (Acts 2:30-32 NWT)

In Luke 16:19-31 (the story of Lazarus and Dives), Jesus portrays hades as a place of torment, at least for the wicked. Jesus also announces to Peter that "the gates of hades" will not overpower the church (Matthew 16:18), and uses hades to pronounce judgment upon the city of Capernaum (Matthew 11:23).

Second Temple Judaism (516 BC - 70AD) What was the hope during Jesusʼ time for the afterlife and resurrection? There are various levels of belief. For example, the Sadducees did not believe in any kind of resurrection or afterlife whereas the Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection. The Sadducees originated from the Maccabean revolt of 167 BC and were the high priests and leaders after the were free of Greek rule. The Hasmoneans ruled as “priest-kings”, claiming both titles high priest and king simultaneously, and like other aristocracies across the Hellenistic world became increasingly influenced by Hellenistic syncretism and Greek philosophies: presumably Stoicism, and apparently Epicureanism in the Talmudic tradition criticizing the anti-Torah philosophy of the “Apikorsus” (i.e. Epicurus) refers to the Hasmonean clan qua Sadducees. Like Epicureans, Sadducees rejected the existence of an afterlife, thus denied the Pharisaic doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead.

Unlike the Sadducees, the Pharisees also believed in the resurrection of the dead in a future, messianic age. The Pharisees believed in a literal resurrection of the body. Since the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BC, prophets like Ezekiel and Daniel wrote about the themes of exile and restoration, part of an over-arching story during the times of Jesus. Yahweh had not returned to Zion, and his presence was certainly not in the Temple. The Jewish people were expecting Yahweh to be faithful to his covenant promises, to restore Israel, to return to Zion and to defeat their oppressors, namely Rome. Passages such as Psalm 19 and Psalm 74 speak of creation and covenant together. Many Jews believed that when God finally acted to restore his people, he would restore not only their land, but all of creation.

Paul (a former Pharisee) begins to go in passages such as Romans 8. Ezekiel 37, with its passage about the valley of the dry bones which acquire, sinews, flesh and ultimately breath begins to speak of a bodily resurrection. Post-biblical Judaism offers a range of beliefs about life after death. Resurrection is by no means the only option; and, when it is specified, it is not a general word for life after death, but a term for one particular belief. Resurrection is not simply a form of ‘life after death’; resurrection hasn’t happened yet. People do not pass directly from death to resurrection, but go through an interim period, after which the death of the body will be reversed in resurrection. Resurrection does not mean ‘survival’; it is not a way of describing the kind of life one might have immediately following physical death. It is not a redescription of death and/or the state which results from death. In both paganism and Judaism it refers to the reversal, the undoing, the conquest of death and its effects. That is its whole point. That is what Homer, Plato, Aeschylus and the others denied; and it is what some Jews, and all early Christians, affirmed. Resurrection refers to a life after life -a life after-death, a re-embodiment, a defiance of death in a new body.

Prayer: Thomas Merton

Prayer is the freedom and affirmation growing out of nothingness into love. Prayer is the flowering of our inmost freedom, in response to the Word of God. Prayer is not only dialogue with God: it is the communion of our freedom with his ultimate freedom, his infinite spirit.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Prayer: Augustine of Hippo

Let us rejoice and give thanks, not only that we have become Christians but that we have become Christ! Do you understand the enormous grace God has given us? Stand in awe and rejoice – we have become Christ!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Prayer: Augustine of Hippo

O God, there is a joy that is granted to those who worship you for your own sake and for whom you yourself are joy. This is the happy life, to rejoice over you and because of you.