We are the only ones of God's creatures who are fitted out with mouths for praising him.


Thursday, 5/1/14

Our Catholic liturgy often goes to the Book of Daniel for the song of the three young men in the fiery furnace. They called on everything in nature to bless the Lord.  They sang, “Sun and moon bless the Lord, Stars of heaven bless the Lord, Every shower and dew bless the lord, all ye winds bless the Lord.”

That was never a favorite prayer of mine. I wondered how those inanimate things could ever formulate words of blessing. My guess was that their marvelous existence itself somehow gave worship to the one who devised them. It seemed to me that we rational creatures were the only ones who could consciously praise God.

Two days ago, something, I don’t know what, prompted me to return to that thought. Right, we rational creatures are the only ones who can consciously praise God.

When I neglected my mother she would sometimes say, “I don’t know what I had you for.” Could God make that same complaint against us?

I like recalling the second part of our baptisms. The priest reminds us that by being baptized into Christ we come to share in his role as prophet and priest. After recalling that, I like going on to recalling how in Old Testament times a prophet was called a Nabi, which originally was a child’s word for his mouth.

God created us to use our mouths to do what wind and rain do in the canticle of the “Three Young Men.” We are put on earth to use our mouths for praising God.

St. John's wonderful Gospel has some slow passages.


Wednesday, 4/30/14

Today’s Gospel prompts us to note that some parts of John’s Gospel mean more to us than other parts.

The priceless parts are those that record either the great dialogues or Our Lord's, or his public actions and pronouncements.

The less valuable parts, at least for this old priest, are the long passages musing over Our Lord’s identity, and those recording tedious disputes with Our Lord's detractors. 

The great dialogues are the conversations Jesus had with Nicodemus, with the Samaritan Woman, with the Man born blind, with Peter, John, Martha and Mary. The wonderful pronouncements were those of Jesus declaring himself to be the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the source of Living Water.

Today's Gospel gives us one of those less valuable passages dealing with Our Lord's identity. It follows on the glorious dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, and it seems to be the meditation of some holy soul. He muses over the way that after the Father sent his Son into the world as its light, the world rejected that Son, preferring  darkness.

Chapters Seven and Eight of John’s Gospel also have long passages that strike us as being of less value. After giving us the great story of  Jesus forgiving the woman caught in adultery, and  giving us his pronouncement that he is the light of the world and the source of living water; those chapters become weighted down with long accounts of officials disputing with Jesus.

I am saying this to dissuade you from letting those slow passages keep you from burying yourself in John’s Gospel. When I was teaching the Eighth Grade in a Catholic School, the excitement over their imminent graduation did not keep the kids from getting lost in the beauties of John’s Gospel.

St. Catherine had familiar conversations with the Lord.


Tuesday, 4/29/14

Catherine, the twenty-second of twenty-five children of Giacomo and Lapa, was born in Sienna in 1347, the year the Black Death struck taking 80,000 citizens of Sienna. which was four times more than its population today.

Catherine, when she was seven, had been off alone one day, and when she came back to the family gathering she had a very sweet smile. When asked about it, she said she had been with Jesus, and she had promised him she would remain a virgin.

In 1954 the American poet Phyllis McGinley, wrote about how Catherine dashed the hopes her mother Lapa had for her.

Gossiping in Siena's square, the housewife, Lapa, used to say,
"My Catherine has yellow hair like the True Princess in the play.
Sure as it's June that follows May, Our Kate was born to be a belle.
The girl's a clever one, and gay, I plan for her to marry well."

Though Catherine continued to slip off to pray alone, for a time she let Lapa fuss over her. But, at age sixteen, Catherine took drastic action. Her older married sister had suddenly died, and the young widower had contracted with the family for Catherine’s hand. Catherine slipped out of the house, and she came back a bald girl who had snipped away every strand of her golden hair.

Lapa was at her wits end, but Catherine’s father, Giacomo, honored his daughter’s  sincerity, proving himself to be the understanding father of twenty-five children. He allowed Catherine to closet herself away in a tiny room where she conversed with God.

When Catherine turned twenty in 1367, she came out of the closet and began tending to the needs of the family and the poor. She continued reporting on how she was speaking familiarly with Our Lord, and her sincerity came across with many who attached themselves to her. Even priests and educated older people were calling her “Mother.” With Catherine never having learned to read and write, scholarly friends served her in writing hundreds of letters in which she kindly made Our Lord’s concerns known.

Her father came to her aid in another matter dear to Catherine. He spoke up for her at the local Dominican convent, securing for her membership in their Third Order, gaining her the right to wear their habit.

The members of her “family” who were writing her letters also gave themselves to recording dialogues between Catherine and the Lord, and someone forwarded copies of them to Dominican authorities stationed in Florence. In 1371, when Catherine was twenty-four, the Dominican Inquisitors summoned Catherine to appear before them.
They put her through a grueling inquiry, but to the surprise of her detractors, they gave their blessing to her activities. It leaves us wondering what to make of it all.


Tuesday, 4/29/14

Catherine, the twenty-second of twenty-five children of Giacomo and Lapa, was born in Sienna in 1347, the year the Black Death struck taking 80,000 citizens of Sienna. which was four times more than its population today.

Catherine, when she was seven, had been off alone one day, and when she came back to the family gathering she had a very sweet smile. When asked about it, she said she had been with Jesus, and she had promised him she would remain a virgin.

In 1954 the American poet Phyllis McGinley, wrote about how Catherine dashed the hopes her mother Lapa had for her.

Gossiping in Siena's square, the housewife, Lapa, used to say,
"My Catherine has yellow hair like the True Princess in the play.
Sure as it's June that follows May, Our Kate was born to be a belle.
The girl's a clever one, and gay, I plan for her to marry well."

Though Catherine continued to slip off to pray alone, for a time she let Lapa fuss over her. But, at age sixteen, Catherine took drastic action. Her older married sister had suddenly died, and the young widower had contracted with the family for Catherine’s hand. Catherine slipped out of the house, and she came back a bald girl who had snipped away every strand of her golden hair.

Lapa was at her wits end, but Catherine’s father, Giacomo, honored his daughter’s  sincerity, proving himself to be the understanding father of twenty-five children. He allowed Catherine to closet herself away in a tiny room where she conversed with God.

When Catherine turned twenty in 1367, she came out of the closet and began tending to the needs of the family and the poor. She continued reporting on how she was speaking familiarly with Our Lord, and her sincerity came across with many who attached themselves to her. Even priests and educated older people were calling her “Mother.” With Catherine never having learned to read and write, scholarly friends served her in writing hundreds of letters in which she kindly made Our Lord’s concerns known.

Her father came to her aid in another matter dear to Catherine. He spoke up for her at the local Dominican convent, securing for her membership in their Third Order, gaining her the right to wear their habit.

The members of her “family” who were writing her letters also gave themselves to recording dialogues between Catherine and the Lord, and someone forwarded copies of them to Dominican authorities stationed in Florence. In 1371, when Catherine was twenty-four, the Dominican Inquisitors summoned Catherine to appear before them. They put her through a grueling inquiry, but to the surprise of her detractors, they gave their blessing to her activities. 

Catherine's letters had such a great effect on the Holy Father and other monarchs that she has been declared a Doctor of the Church. 

Small Christian gatherings like the one that welcomed Peter and John are dear to us.



Monday, 4/28/14

Our first reading describes the release of Peter and John from the court of the high priest. The other disciples had been praying for them in that upper room where they had celebrated the Last Supper, and where the Holy Spirit descended on them on Pentecost. There was great joy among them all when Peter and John returned to them unharmed.

There is a startling contrast when you compare the Christian flock then and now. Then all of Christianity fit into one room. Yesterday there were two million of us filling the court of St. Peter’s and all the side streets of the Vatican.

That was a glorious turnout for the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII, but somehow small groups are more heartwarming. We find pleasure in recalling our intimate gatherings. You can add yours to mine, but let me bring back some that have been dear to me.

From 1940 to 1945 those of us belonging to the eight Catholic families on our block left our homes to gather at one or another of the Catholic houses for a Monday 7:00 P.M. block rosary for peace. The Protestants who made up the majority on our block didn’t care much for Catholics, but they liked seeing us pass by for the rosary. It was something our whole block was doing for peace.

From 1946 to 1947 I was one of eleven boys undergoing the strict regime of a novitiate. When the discipline was relaxed for Easter Week, and we gathered in our club house with no source of enjoyment but ourselves, that was more than enough for us.

You must find that you enjoy kinship with the people who attend the same Mass as you. You needn’t talk, you just feel good about being there together.

"It takes all kinds to make a heaven."



Sunday, 4/27/14

1954 saw the publication of “The Love Letters of Phyllis McGinley.” The love letters sent off by that Pulitzer Prize winning poet were addressed to her favorite saints.

The closing line to one of her “Love Letters” informed us that “It takes all kinds to make a heaven.” That line can certainly describe what is happening this early Sunday morning in Rome with the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II.

Their family lives could not have been more different. Giuseppi Roncalli was the fourth of fourteen children born to a pair of sharecroppers in northern Italy, and he carried his son-of-share-croppers-demeanor with him all his life.

Karol Wojtyla’s mother died when he was eight. His one brother, a doctor, died treating Yellow Fever patients when Karol was thirteen. That left him with just his father, a former captain in the Army of Poland, and he died in 1940 when a twenty-year-old Karol was a slave laborer in a Nazi lime quarry.    

At war’s end, the Archbishop of Krakow’ door was thrown open to a homeless Karol, and from then on Poland’s hierarchy became Karol’s family. He was at home with Poland’s literature and as a charming young priest, he drew to him clusters of young people who shared his distaste for Communism’s revolutionary ways.

Reading Giuseppi Roncalli’s journal, we see him as a wide-world priest, who recorded his joy at how people were responding to God’s inspirations in Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece.

In 1944 as war in Europe was drawing to a close, Rome was faced with a major problem in France. She had to ease out of office all those bishops who had sided with the Nazis, and she hit upon the kindly Archbishop Roncalli as the one to quietly make the changes.

Roncalli had led a double life through the twenty-nine years when as an apostolic delegate he served as the Curia’s voice in various countries. From his journal we see him marveling at the fresh ways Catholics were applying the Gospels to modern situations. However, openly he obediently used his voice only to relay Rome’s restrictions against fresh ideas.

Such obedience won him the position of Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, but then, his election as pope through his obedience into reverse. He felt he had to obey what the Spirit was telling churchmen everywhere.

While there were two hundred and seventeen cardinals at the conclave that elected Pope Francis last year, there were only forty-nine cardinals in the conclave that elected John XXIII in 1958. Insiders tell us that as the voting went back and forth then it was the nine French Cardinals who knew Roncalli’s worth who brought the election around to him.

St. John Paul II is a favorite with conservative Catholics, while Saint John XXIII is a favorite with progressives. As that lady said in her poem sixty years ago, "It takes all kinds to make a heaven."

Mark's Gospel, the shortest of the four, was strong on what counts.


Saturday, 4/26/14

Our Gospel today is from the last chapter of the Gospel according to Mark. It was composed about thirty years after the ascension of Jesus, and it was the first of the four Gospels to be written.  (The Gospels of Matthew and John were not written by Matthew and John, but by followers of those two Apostles. So, Mark’s Gospel is the only written by an actual witness to what he wrote.)

When Jesus was captured in the Garden of Olives, and he was being led to the home of the High Priest, a young man with just a sheet wrapped around him followed the soldiers leading Jesus. When a soldier made a grab at him the young man dropped the sheet, and he ran for home. Everyone agrees that Mark was that young man. He later accompanied Paul and Barnabus on their first missionary journey.

Matthew and Luke borrowed from Mark’s Gospel in writing their Gospels. As well, they beefed out their accounts with stories that were going around.

Although short on details, Mark’s Gospel is strong on what counted. He heard Jesus say, “Go out into the whole world and proclaim the Good News to every creature.”

The Good News was that Jesus had conquered death, and by adhering to him we can pass through death to life beyond.

Today's Gospel was a later addition to John"s Gospel.



Our Gospel today, from Chapter Twenty-one of John’s Gospel seems to be an addition to John’s original Gospel. The story of casting the net on the right side seems to be a retelling of the story of the great catch of fish early in Matthew’s Gospel that had Peter saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”

Let me point to the conclusion of Chapter Twenty, which immediately preceded today’s Gospel. It seemed to be the original conclusion of John’s Gospel. Verses thirty and thirty-one state:

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written here, But these have been recorded that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”

John there referred to the incidents in his Gospel as more than stories. They are all signs written to help us see two things: first that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; and secondly, through believing in him we have life.

If you assigned yourself the task of reading John’s Gospel from beginning to end; instead of just plowing through page after page, you should savor the way each story contributes to one or both of the beliefs John was emphasizing. For instance, reading from Chapter Two through Four you will see how the changing of water into wine at Cana in Chapter Two had the disciples only beginning to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Nicodemus in Chapter Three would only grant that Jesus was a holy man come from God. It took the Samaritan woman to say, “I have found the Messiah.”

Then, Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight each reveal more about how we have life through believing in him. In Chapter Six he is the Bread of Life. In Chapter Seven Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture said, ‘Rivers of living water will flow within him.’”   In Chapter Eight Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.

Hopefully John’s Gospel will strengthen in each of us a belief that will carry on to eternal life.

Today's readings tell of the New Testament's dependence on the Old Testament.


Thursday, 4/24/14

The readings today tie the New Testament to the Old Testament. In the first reading St. Peter announced. “God has brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand.” And in the Gospel, the Risen Christ said, “Everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” 

In former centuries the Church held to the belief that everything in the Old Testament was factual, only reporting what had actually taken place. But for the last hundred years she has taken advantage of what archaeological research has told us about how many Old Testament stories came about.

For instance, the story in Genesis about Noah and the Ark found its way into the pages of the Old Testament six centuries before Christ, but historians have shown us that most of that story was borrowed from the Legend of Gilgamesh that was put into cuneiform writing twenty-seven centuries before Christ. It even had the detail about that old sailor sending out first a crow, and then a dove to look for dry land.

We must recognize the human element in the composing of all the Old Testament. God fearing men, using only the information available to them, tried to compose literature that gave witness God’s hand in their lives and in  our world.

Chapter fifteen of the Church’s Constitution on Revelation states, “These books, even though they contain matters imperfect and provisional, nevertheless show us authentic divine teaching,”

Many passages in the Psalms and in the later chapters of Isaiah are of such beauty. that human artistry alone could not have composed them.   

The day's walk had wearied the two disciples, but dining with Jesus had energized them to sprinting back to Jerusalem.


Wednesday, 4/23/14

In all the Bible stories about the Risen Christ no one recognized him. I’m sure there is a lesson for us their, but I do not know what it is. Perhaps it is meant to alert us to a need to recognize him when he comes to us in different forms.

The two disciples seem to have missed Our Lord’s real message. They thought him a failure when he did not take advantage of his popularity to drive out the Romans.

Don’t you wish they could have recorded it when “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets he interpreted for them what referred to him in all the Scriptures” The two of them later said that their hearts were burning inside of them as he explained the Scriptures.

They later spoke of “how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” I don’t think that his bread-breaking had a distinctive snap crackle pop to it. For a time in the First Century was Mass was known simply as “the breaking of the bread.” Although Jesus that night had stopped short of offering a Eucharist, his words and action must have followed his ritual for the blessing at the Last Supper.

The long day’s walk had wearied the disciples, but dining with Jesus had energized them for sprinting back to the gathering of disciples in  Jerusalem.

Today's Gospel is more a matter for contemplation than for meditation.


Tuesday. 4/22/14

Jesus told Mary Magdalene, “Go to my brothers and tell them. ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and our God.’”

Jesus was there speaking very much as a human, and that is evident from his referring to the Apostles not as his inferiors, or as disciples, but rather as his ‘brothers.”

That is also clear from the way he claimed no superior relationship with the Father and with God He said he was going to one who was equally Father and God to Magdalene.

But, the scene shows him in possession of two honors he did not share with the disciples, or with Magdalene. He was the only one they knew who had conquered death. He was the only one who could announce he was going to heaven. (Saying it the way you might say you were going to Orange Park.)

There are two similar types of mental prayer open to us. They are meditation and contemplation. In meditation we do what we have been doing here. That is, we take up words of Scripture, and we prayerfully ponder over their meaning.

In contemplation we hold our attention on God, silently hoping he will somehow speak to us from this scene. Today’s Bible passage is more a matter for contemplation than meditation. 

By giving himself in death Jesus won the right to give us the Holy Spirit,


Monday, 4/21/14

We should be fond of two New Testament passages that led up to the Resurrection.  We find one of them in the Book of Revelation, and the other in today’s first reading.

Revelation, 5:12 pictured the saints and angels looking down on the dead Jesus in awe of what he had accomplished. They called out,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.”

That tells us that Jesus deserved a great reward for his heroic life and death.

The other New Testament text, linking us to that one, is today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles. St. Peter spoke of Jesus receiving that promised reward:

Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you both see and hear.  

Peter was referring to the way that Jesus on Pentecost poured out his Spirit on the disciples. It changed them from being cowards in hiding to becoming bold men who convinced the crowds.

In his lifetime Jesus had lacked the power to change men by giving them the Holy Spirit. His hands had been tied. We saw an example of that in Chapter Six of John’s Gospel when Jesus seemingly could do nothing about it when most of his disciples left him.

The two readings we are considering here today tell us how, as a reward for his heroism, Jesus received the power to infuse his followers with the Holy Spirit.

Our whole town was happy about a single lily breaking through the iron-hard soil.


Sunday, 4/20/14

I have an old Korean story for symbolizing Easter. Just fifty years ago, during the spring of 1964, I was serving my tenth year as pastor of Yang Yang, a town of mud walls and thatched roofs.

We‘d had the worst winter ever, and with people running out of fire wood and rice, the winter hung on forever. It was good for the dealers who were boosting prices out of sight.

Our church sat atop a steep hill overlooking the public school yard. Coming out from our 6:30 Mass every morning, I had made a habit of watching the struggles of a nine-year-old student with his book bag strapped to his back. While all the other kids plodded the path around our hill to the school, that little boy felt the need to climb up one side of our hill, then carefully step down the path on the other side.

One morning, I was watching the kid making his quick passage across to the down path, when I was surprised to see him stop and hunker for a bit at the edge of our yard. He then went on his way, and I went in for breakfast.

Then, at ten o’clock I had another surprise. I happened to glance out at the mailman making his passage across our yard. When I saw him stop and bend down at the spot where the little boy had stopped I walked out. He was a friendly fellow, so I asked what had caught his attention.

Running the yard’s rim there were the frozen remains of what thr year before we had dug up for a flower bed. Standing next to the mailman, I looked down on a single green sprout. It was like a single spike of asparagus, and the mailman said, “Paikhwa gotchida.” Or, “It’s a paik-hwa flower.”

Going into the house, and looking paik-hwa  up in the dictionary, I found that it was a lily.

Then, through the day I saw one person after another stopping to look at the lily. They were not so much joyous over that single lily, as over the promise it gave that all of nature would come back to life.

Holy Saturday is a time for vowing to join Jesus in a death to sin.


Saturday, 19/14

In Christianity’s first centuries their Holy Saturday rituals were centered n the baptismal pool. Where we today have the R.C.I.A. preparing candidates for the Sacrament of Baptism, the early Church had a highly structured catechumenate. While it was teaching candidates about Christianity, it was really focused on conditioning them to banish sinfulness from their lives.

Back then, while on Good Friday Christians prayed over the death of Jesus, on Saturday they focused on dying to sin with Jesus. They gathered around a pool which served both as a symbol of Christ’s grave and as their baptism pool. ( Holy Saturday was the only day in the year when they had adult baptisms.)

Each of the candidates for Baptism had been trained to take to heart those words of St. Paul’s that said Jesus saved us by his death to sin. The baptism ceremony for each of them consisted of him or her accepting the pool as a symbol of Christ’s grave, and then stepping down into it as a way of swearing to join Christ in being dead to sin.

In early Christianity people not yet baptized were not allowed to view the Mass. Then, after their baptism late on Holy Saturday night, they went to the Easter Mass at dawn.  As they were passing from the baptistery, each was met by the bishop who anointed him or her with Chrism, telling the newly baptized Christian that the anointing was  asking God to take possession of the heart that had died to sin. (That was Confirmation.)

Those of us who are old Catholics should not feel that we have no part in the Holy Saturday rituals. Rather, the whole season of lent has been a time for us to renew our baptismal vows. With sincerity and generosity of heart each of us must reject Satan and all his works.

There are a few lines of poetry that might help you in picturing the struggle between God and sin for the control of your heart.  The great Anglican poet, Father George Herbert wrote these lines.

Now, Lord, thou dost thyself immure and close
In some one corner of a feeble heart,
Where yet both Sin and Satan, thy old foes
Do pinch and straighten thee, and use much art
to gain thy thirds and little part.

We can only have a happy Easter if we have banished sin and Satan from our hearts. 

Jesus saved us by exposing his self to destruction.


Friday, 4/18/14

Speaking of the death by which Jesus saves us, St. Paul, in Romans, 6:10, wrote,  “As to is death, he died to sin.”

Since all sins are acts of selfishness, we might read that cryptic phrase as saying, “He died to selfishness.” The dearest thing to me is my self. That holds for you and your self. It held for Jesus. In contemplating Jesus on Good Friday we must sadly attend to the string of submissions by which he surrendered his dear self to abuse.

In the Garden, with his sweat becoming like drops of blood, he surrendered his self, saying, “Father, not my will but yours be done.”

That self next submitted to being left alone when his disciples all fled. It submitted to being blindfolded and mocked by the servants of the High Priest.

If you were ever spanked as a child, you might recall, as I still do, the stunning humiliation that spanking inflicted on your whole self. So, in reading about how the soldiers scourged Jesus, that childhood memory might help you know what it did to Jesus, not only to his back, but to his private self.

Added to that, was his humiliation when the soldiers laughingly turned him into the king of fools, wrapping a robe around his bleeding shoulders, and crowning him with thorns.

Through all this we must keep in mind what Matthew quoted Jesus as saying in 26:53, that at any moment he could have called on the Father, and he would have protected him with twelve legions of angels.

The soldiers, as part of preparing to crucify him, robbed that dear self of all dignity by stripping him naked for the amusement of the crowd.
    
In having his wrists and ankles nailed to the cross, the pain of it was secondary to that self’s final loss of the ability to again move and act.

When he said, “It is finished,” what was finished was a life of self-denial the like of which the world will never again witness. 

On Holy Thursday Our Lord's heart was bursting with love for his followers.


Thursday, 4/17/14

As followers of Jesus let’s look at the love he had for his followers on Holy Thursday. In Luke’s Gospel we read where Jesus said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” But if we translate literally when Luke quoted Jesus as saying, it is much stronger. Jesus actually said, “With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you.”

When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion we love him as much as we can. In his saying that he eagerly desired to be with us, Jesus was saying that he longed for the intimacy he would feel when he came to you and me in Communion. It was like a future groom longing to be one with his beloved.

What might Jesus have been feeling as he washed the feet of each of his disciples? St. John described how Jesus felt as he was taking off his outer robe, preparing to wash their feet. John wrote, “Having loved his disciples, he loved them to the end.” He handled each man’s feet lovingly.

Then, after the meal he gave his disciples the special commandment of loving one another: “This is my commandment, that you love one another.”

How much did he want them to love one another? You know the answer to that. They had t love one another as much as he loved them. That should tell us that at that moment Our Lord’s heart was bursting with love for them.

Then, how much deep disappointment did he feel when he asked, “Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”

One Apostle betrayed Jesus on Wednesday of Holy Week. The rest of them fled the following evening.



Wednesday, 4/16/14

Recalling how one of his Apostles betrayed Jesus on Wednesday of Holy Week, English-speaking Christians have always referred to this as Spy Wednesday. The next evening, after Jesus was put on trial, the Bible, speaking of the other Apostles, said, “They all fled.”

So, being truthful, we must face up to the fact that as a church we have taken some wrong turns. However, just as we stand by the families we grew up with, so, we see the Catholic Church as our family, and we stand by it, even though we do not see all of her moves as perfect.

We could take the French Jesuit Henri de Lubac as our model in having the right attitude toward the Church. Lubac wrote the first draft of some of Vatican II’s finest documents, and he was later named a cardinal; but he did not always enjoy such approval.  In 1950 the Holy Office, deeming Lubac’s ideas too radical, removed his books from Catholic shelves, and banned him from teaching in Catholic schools. On being asked if he had bitter feeling toward the Catholic Church, he gave this reply.

“Although the shock that assaulted me from without also troubled my soul to its depths, they are still powerless against the great and essential things that make up every moment of our lives. The Church is always there, in a motherly way, with her Sacraments and her prayers, with the Gospel that she hands down to us intact, with her Saints who surround us; in short, with Jesus Christ, present among us, whom she gives us ever more fully at the moments when she allows us to suffer.”

Since I was made to retire seven years ago I have been moderately busy writing. I wrote a book about the people I have dealt with through eighty years of conscious Catholic life. With that out of the way, I have been writing my take on the history of Christianity. Doing my best to be honest, I sometimes have been critical of steps church leaders have taken; but like Cardinal de Lubac, I have criticized lovingly.

I am now planning to use the internet to print my "take" on Christianity to coincide with the fifty-two weeks in the year. 

God knows the clay of which we are made.


Tuesday, 4/15/14

Jesus told Peter, “The cock will not crow before you deny me three times.” St. Luke, in his Gospel gives a fuller presentation of that scene. Let me quote what he recalls Jesus saying.

Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail, and once you have turned back, you must strengthen our brethren.

Let me tell you, that as a seventeen-year-old seminarian I was very happy to come on that verse. A severe seminary professor had told us that any boy who had committed a mortal sin should not present himself for ordination to the priesthood. Now, since boys will be boys, I was thinking I might have committed a mortal sin, and I was wondering if I should give up studying to be a priest.

Then, I came on that passage from Luke. In it Jesus said he knew that Peter was going to deny him three times; but even so, he had forgiven him in advance, and he had great work in store for Peter after he repented.

On reading what Luke quoted Jesus as saying I recalled that old expression, “God know the clay of which we are made.” I was comforted by knowing that God makes allowances for our weakness, and he does not give up on us after we slip.

That evening dinner at Bethany is a treasured memory for us.


Monday, 4/14/14

We have so often heard the story of that evening dinner at Bethany that it has become a treasured memory from our past. We imagine ourselves staring across the table at Lazarus who had been four days in the tomb.

Martha’s sister Mary had left the room, and we had wondered about that. Then, we shared the shock of all the others when Mary came back with an expensive vessel of perfumed olive oil. Everyone pulled back, making room for Mary who seemed to be on a blessed mission.

When Mary began spilling the precious oil on the feet of Jesus it was such a bizarre action in a polite society, but Mary’s intent behavior was above questioning.

Well, Judas did question her spilling the expensive oil, but no one was taken in by his feigned interest in helping the poor.

Some people rose up as Mary began wiping Our Lord’s feet with her hair, but Jesus said, “Let her be, she is doing this for my burial.”

Scholars tell us that the feet of a living person were never anointed. Mary had apparently looked so deeply into Jesus. that she, and she alone, saw how he was  submitting himself to death. That death was already on him, so Mary was not jumping the gun in anointing him for death.

In later years, as the Apostles went back over the way the house was filled with the fragrance of Mary’s precious oil, some were quoting an old saying that had Mary’s reputation spreading like a cloud of perfumed air. Others were saying that it was like the cloud of God’s presence that filled the Holy of Holies.

Matthew's account of the Passion was written to show how at every turn Jesus was fulfilling prophesies made about the Messiah.




Sunday, 4/13/14

On Palm Sunday we always have one of the long Gospel accounts of the suffering and death of Jesus. Last year we had Luke’s account, next year we will have Mark’s. And, while Matthew, Mark and Luke all give us the same wonderful story, each of them had a different way of presenting the events.

Mark set out to disprove those who said Jesus could not be the Messiah because he was shamefully put to death. Mark’s heroic account of Our Lord’s suffering presents him as the great hero who submitted himself to that shameful execution in a great act of love that saved us, crowning him as the Messiah.

Luke describes the way Jesus, after putting self-love to death in the Garden of Gethsemani, demonstrated his selflessness by refusing the sympathy of the women of Jerusalem and of the good thief.

Matthew’s account today was the answer to the Pharisees who claimed Jesus had been out to destroy the Prophets. For every movement in Our Lord’s long final day Matthew pointed out how Jesus was following the script written by the Prophets. The rent down the middle of the temple’s veil was the surrender of the Old Testament before the glory of the Messiah accomplishing his great mission.

In his Gospel John's account of Jesus leading his followers to heaven closely parallel's the story of Moses leading the people to their Promised Land.


Saturday, 4/12/14

Toward the end of today’s Gospel St. John remarked, “Now the Passover of the Jews was near.” That seems to be a simple reminder that Jesus and his disciples were approaching the great spring festival of the Passover. However, nothing is really simple in John’s Gospel. It is a beautifully crafted spiritual document.

We see a hint of its hidden depths when we note that the phrase, “the Passover was near” which we find here in Chapter Eleven, also appears toward the end of Chapter Two, and at the beginning of Chapter Six. Its reoccurrence is tied to the basic plan of St. John’s Gospel.

Although we customarily use the word Passover to refer only to the Passover meal, St. John uses it to refer to the whole Exodus story from beginning to end. Like every classic story, it has a clear beginning, middle, and end; and John earmarks each part with the phrase “the Passover of the Jews was near.”

John’s plan links Our Lord’s task of bringing us to our promised land to the task of Moses leading the Israelites to their Promised Land. He first alerted us to that parallelism in Chapter One, verses 16 and 17 where he stated, “From his fullness we have received, grace in place of grace (the leadership of Jesus in place of the leadership of Moses) because while the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth comes through Jesus Christ.     

That Passover of Moses began with God having a separate tent set up for himself, John echoes that in 1:14 when he wrote, “He set up his tent with us.” 

The Book of Exodus, Chapter 40, tells us that as soon as Moses had that tent ser up “The glory of the Lord filled it.” Similarly, in Chapter One, that verse 14 goes on to say, “and we saw his glory.”

In the middle section of the Passover of Moses God gave the people bread from heaven, he led them with a cloud of fire by night, and he gave them water from a rock. In the middle section of John’s Passover story Jesus said, “It was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven.” Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk on darkness.” Jesus said, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me.”

In the final section of is Passover story Moses sent scouts into the Holy Land to section out the land for the tribes. In John’s Passover story Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you.”