Saturday, April 30, 2011

John Paul II - A Good Word

Another great commentary on today's readings, courtesy of the Daily Gospel:

Commentary of the day
John-Paul II, Pope from 1978 to 2005
Apostolic Letter « Novo millennio ineunte », § 58 (© Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

"Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature"
Duc in altum! «let us cast out into deep waters!» (Lk 5,4). Let us go forward in hope! A new millennium is opening before the Church like a vast ocean upon which we shall venture, relying on the help of Christ. The Son of God, who became incarnate two thousand years ago out of love for humanity, is at work even today: we need discerning eyes to see this and, above all, a generous heart to become the instruments of his work... "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). The missionary mandate accompanies us into the Third Millennium and urges us to share the enthusiasm of the very first Christians: we can count on the power of the same Spirit who was poured out at Pentecost and who impels us still today to start out anew, sustained by the hope "which does not disappoint" (Rom 5:5).

At the beginning of this new century, our steps must quicken as we travel the highways of the world. Many are the paths on which each one of us and each of our Churches must travel, but there is no distance between those who are united in the same communion, the communion which is daily nourished at the table of the Eucharistic Bread and the Word of Life. Every Sunday, the Risen Christ asks us to meet him as it were once more in the Upper Room where, on the evening of "the first day of the week" (Jn 20:19) he appeared to his disciples in order to "breathe" on them his life-giving Spirit and launch them on the great adventure of proclaiming the Gospel.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rosary during the Week of Easter

Easter is such a tremendous Mystery that the Church actually takes eight days to unpack it.  That's right, liturgically, Easter continues through next Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday.  When I prayed the Rosary today I devoted all five of the mysteries to different aspects of the Resurrection accounts:

1.  The earthquake and descent of an angel to roll back the stone.  The Roman soldiers flee.  The women come to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body and are told of the Resurrection by the angel (Matthew)
2.  Peter and John, told of the empty tomb by the women, race to investigate it.  John looks in and believes, but Peter goes away wondering (John's Gospel).
3.  Mary Magdalene weeping at the tomb, asks the "gardener" where he has moved Jesus' body.  Jesus reveals Himself by speaking her name (John).
4.  On the road to Emmaus, Jesus opens the Scriptures to Cleopas and another disciple.  He opens their eyes to recognize Him in the Breaking of the Bread (Luke).
5.  When those two disciples return to tell the apostles that Jesus has been raised, the Lord then appears to the whole group (Luke).  He breathes on them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  Anyone whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.  Anyone whose sins you hold bound are held bound" (John).

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Luminous Mysteries for Holy Week

I usually pray the Rosary on the way to work in the morning, and these were the Scriptures that came to mind. As so many times before, the Holy Spirit surprised me:

Jesus' Baptism
Shortly before Palm Sunday, James and John asked to sit at the Lord's right and left hands.  His response: "You do not know whay you are asking.  Can you drink of the same cup I shall drink or be baptized in the same bath of pain as I?. . .From the cup I drink you shall drink; the bath I am immersed in you shall share..." (Mk.10:38-39).

The Wedding Feast at Cana
As we pass through trial, as we endure pain, suffering, we bring our needs to the Lord - just as Mary did for the bride and groom at Cana.  Jesus' response to Mary: "How does this concern of yours involve me?" (Jn.2:4) evokes that feeling we have that Heaven is closed to our petitions.  In those moments, Mary's advice is best, "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn.2:5).  We have to continue to live with faith in God's complete and total love for us, in fidelity to all He has asked of us.  When speaking about the End, Jesus told the Apostles, "Because of the increase of evil, the love of most will grow cold.  The man who holds out to the end, however, is the one who will see salvation" (Matt.24:12-13).  And like the Blessed Mother we will ultimately see the Lord reverse the situation; the Cross will yield to the Resurrection.  "What you have done is keep the choice wine until now!" (Jn.2:10).

Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom and Call to Repentance
Jesus moved immediately from Simon-Peter's profession of Faith and His appointment of Simon as "Rock," to the teaching that, "The Son of Man must first endure many sufferings, be rejected by the elders, the high priests and the scribes, and be put to death, and then be raised on the third day.  WHOEVER WISHES TO BE MY FOLLOWER MUST DENY HIS VERY SELF, TAKE UP HIS CROSS EACH DAY, AND FOLLOW IN MY STEPS!" (Lk.9:22-23).  All of the Apostles knew how the carrying of a cross ended.

The Transfiguration
It was "about eight days after" those words that He gave Peter, James, and John a preview of His resurrected glory (Lk.9:28). "His face changed in appearance and his clothes became dazzlingly white," and they heard the Father, "This is my Son, My Chosen One.  LISTEN TO HIM."  What does our Lord say afterward?  "Do not tell anyone of the vision until the Son of Man rises from the dead. . .The Son of Man will suffer. . ." (Mt.17:9,12).

The Institution of the Eucharist
"I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Lk.22:14).  As the Lord did so, John and James drank of The Cup that united them to Jesus' baptism of pain, "This cup is the new covenant in My Blood, which will be shed for you" (Lk.22:20).  When we share the cup we participate in Jesus' offering (1 Cor.10:16); and because of that, with St. Paul we can say, "Even now I find joy in the suffering I endure for you.  In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church" (Col.1:24).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Eucharist, Mary, and Redemptive Suffering

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Colossians 1:24).  It is a mysterious but incredible reality:  the suffering God allows into our lives, when accepted and lived with trust in his Love, become an actual participation in the sufferings of the Crucified, allowing us to be formed more truly his image – the very goal of our Faith.  And, as Paul said above, because we are "members of one another" (Rom.12:5; Eph.5:25), this grace is of benefit not just to us, but to the entire Body.  This teaching, far from casting aspersions on the efficacy of Jesus’sacrifice, proclaims its superabundance.  We believe that his sacrifice redeems us so profoundly that it transforms us from mere creatures of God into sons and daughters.  It transforms us into cells of Jesus’ Mystical Body, inserting us into the Life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the only Son. This reality is there in the theology of Paul, and unpacked for us in the teaching of the saints and doctors.  What I had never recognized before was how it was contained in Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist.

 "This is My Body …. This is My Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many."  This Body and Blood — Jesus received them from his mother Mary.  He clothed himself with her flesh, her blood, and offered Himself to the Father "in" them.  That is the mystery of redemptive suffering that the Lord wants to continue in you and me — to clothe himself with our very persons and lift our sufferings up into his own, making them part of his eternal offering to the Father (Heb.9:14).  As with Mary, he requires our consent to bring about this supernatural reality, "I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

We see Mary, fully engaged in this Mystery, there at the foot of her Son’s Cross.  Which of us parents haven’t imagined looking up and seeing our own children hanging there in the sun — their bodies ripped, blood flowing down their limbs, suffocating under their own weight.  It is the most monstrous suffering imaginable, but God allowed it into the life of his beloved Mary.  Her Son was dying to redeem the world, and her heart was pierced right along with His (Jn.19:34; Lk.2:35). Jesus was suffering there before her eyes, in the flesh he took from her; but through the chords of grace he was suffering in and through her person, gazing up at him, as well.  Through it all, the Holy Spirit maintained Mary in her fiat , "let it be to me according to your word."  The mystery of redemptive suffering spoken of by Paul in Colossians 1:24 is graphically manifested by Mary at the Cross.

I don’t see any romance in pain, and I don’t desire it; but part of reality is recognizing that God allows me to pass through it.  It is not an end in itself, but a potentially powerful means: "For Jesus’ sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Phil.3:8-11).  So I need to call out for the grace to unite my sufferings to those of Jesus, to allow him to lift me up toward his Father, "This is My Body…This is My Blood."  I need to pray each day for the grace to persevere through suffering; Jesus told us the stakes are high, "Because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end will be saved" (Mt.24:12-13).

Friday, April 15, 2011

"End Times" Recommended Reading

We're entering into Holy Week, and in the middle of it I'll be chatting with Relevant Radio's "On Call" about the End Times and a Catholic way of reading the Book of Revelation (Chapter 8 of The God Who is Love).  Why talk about the End Times during Holy Week you ask?  The Catechism explains it well:

Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. . .The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection (CCC 675-677).

In history's final days, the Church will corporately manifest Jesus' Passion before the world!  And then will come the Resurrection of the Dead.  There are some wonderful resources out there to assist us in our study:

Fr. John Tickle's The Book of Revelation: A Catholic Interpretation of the Apocalypse
Scott Hahn's CD-series The End: The Book of Revelations
Fr. George Montague's The Apocalypse and the Third Millennium: Today's Guide to the Book of Revelation

Of these final three, David Currie's book is exceptionally thorough.  It's title is Rapture, but it explores what Daniel, Zechariah, Jesus' Olivet Discourse, the Epistles of Paul, and the Book of Revelation all have to say regarding "The End."