Zeal For Our Own Houses: Lent, Purifications, and Keeping Our Souls Upright

J.M.J.

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My dear friends,

Tomorrow, March 8th, we’ll hear one of the more unsettling Gospel readings of the liturgical cycle. St. John relates the happenings for us (Jn. 2:14-17):

Jesus found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of chords and drove them all out of the temple area, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves He said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a market place.’ His disciples recalled the words of Scripture: Zeal for your house will consume me.

Jesus-Picture-Driving-Out-The-Money-Changers-And-Merchants-From-The-Temple

The temple referred to here is, of course, a physical building, and Christ here is attempting to cleanse it of those who would use it improperly. But this reading, coming as it does during Lent, that penitential time of the Church’s calendar, makes me think of a second, and much more important, type of temple: human persons.

 I have such a difficult time remembering that my body and soul, really and truly, constitute a temple of God.  Being in God’s grace does not just mean that one is “without mortal sin,” or that one is “kinda, sorta right with God.” Being in the state of grace means the real, genuine, and personal indwelling of God within the soul. Our Lord said to His disciples, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our dwelling with him” (Jn. 14:23). This wasn’t some kind of nice figure of speech that has no real effect on reality—it’s a genuine assurance, a real sign of God’s love for each person individually. The person who follows God is not just given a ticket to heaven when he dies, but rather, he receives the true indwelling of the Three Divine Persons in his soul.

Not only the soul, but the body, too, constitutes a temple. “Do you not know,” St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you? You are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore, bear and glorify God with your bodies” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

“You are not your own.”

It’s hard to remember that, isn’t it?

The passage from John’s Gospel quoted above says that “zeal for God’s house” consumed Our Lord as He drove everyone from the temple. If we, too, human persons, are temples, then what is Lent but a time to drive damaging vices, corruptions, and influences from ourselves? Zeal for the physical temple consumed the Lord Jesus, yet any physical temple is destined for decay.  The human soul, however, is a temple which will last forever, either in heaven or hell, depending on whom we have followed in our time on earth. The human body, too, the temple of the Holy Spirit, will be resurrected at the end of time, to add either to our glory and happiness in heaven with God, or our torment in hell apart from Him.

Part of the idea behind the customary Lenten sacrifices that Catholics take on is that they might be an aid in purifying the soul, quelling vices, and bringing one closer to God. But without a zeal for the soul as God’s temple, they can become an arbitrary chore that might as well not be taken on. Are you performing a sacrifice this Lent out of a sense of obligation, or do you truly want to grow closer to God through this offering? Is there some vice you want to eradicate? Perform your sacrifice with the mind of Christ in this Gospel: get a whip, knock over tables, and drive out that which makes your relationship with God a kind of contract, but not a relationship of personal and genuine love.

Let zeal for your house, for your temple, consume you.

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May God bless you all, and have a holy Lent.

“…Then the Son Himself Will Be Subject to Him…” — Explaining 1 Corinthians 15:24-28

J.M.J.

For better or for worse, some passages of Scripture are just confusing. I’m sure you’ve all had times where you’ve mulled over the meaning of some Bible verse, wondering why in the world the Good Lord couldn’t have had the inspired author write more clearly.

One of those passages is 1 Corinthians 15:24, 25, & 28, verses which are frequently employed by those who don’t believe in the Divinity of Christ: “He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet…then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to [God the Father] … When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will be subjected to the one who put all things beneath Him, that God may be all in all” (NASB).

Does this not sound like the Son will reign for a time, and then stop reigning, give everything to the Father, and undergo voluntary subjection to the Father? Doesn’t it imply, almost, an inferiority of the Son? Well, it seems to. But there’s a lot to be unpacked here, so let’s take it piece by piece.

We’ll start with the issue of the Son “handing over the kingdom”, then go into the issue of His subjection to the Father, and finally, we’ll address the problem of Him “reigning until” He has subjected all things. In the first respect (that of Christ handing the Kingdom over to Father), it’s helpful to turn to three particular verses from the Gospel of John. Early on in there, John the Baptist says (3:35), “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” Then in John 16:15, Christ Himself says to the Apostles, “All things that the Father has are Mine”; and finally, in His prayer to the Father, He says, “All that is Yours is Mine, and all that is Mine is Yours” (17:10).

We need to bear this principle in mind: all that is the Son’s is the Father’s, and all that is the Father’s is the Son’s. What does this mean with regard to the Son “handing over the Kingdom”? It means that, although the Son gives it to the Father, the Father, having “given all things into Son’s hand” out of love for the Son, does not seize it for Himself, however much He would have a right to do so, but instead gives it back to the Son, due to the infinite and selfless love between the two. Furthermore, because “all things that the Father has” are the Son’s, then even though the Son gives the heavenly Kingdom to the Father, He does not lose it Himself, because as long as the Father has it, the Son has it in equal measure. Either way, the Son does not lose the Kingdom or cease to rule over it by giving it to the Father.

Now, let’s look at the issue of the Son “being subjected”, shall we?

There are several ways to answer this, but for the moment, we’ll stick with the most commonly-used one. Many who comment on difficult Christ-centered passages of Scripture use the following principle to interpret them. Some of you are probably familiar with it already, but it’s good to bear in mind whether you’ve heard it or not. As mentioned by St. Augustine in his work On the Trinity, “[T]he Son of God is both understood to be equal to Father according to the form of God … and less than the Father according to the form of a servant which He took” (Book II, Chapter I). Now, we do want to be careful here, so that we avoid Nestorianism. The Son is not two persons, one divine, one human. He is one divine Person, who has taken to Himself a human nature. Although He is a divine Person, however, He still has, in His human nature, all the “attributes” of humanity (except sin), attributes which include inferiority to God.

With this principle in mind, that the Son is equal to the Father as God, but less than the Father as man, let’s consider it more deeply. St. Paul writes that Christ “became obedient” in His “humbled” nature (Phil. 2:8). So one of the primary arguments you’ll find to explain the Son “subjecting Himself” is that He is subjected as man, and that’s what the passage is getting at. This might seem too simple at first glance, but with further inspection, it actually makes a lot of sense, as we’ll see, and it isn’t just a weak attempt to explain the verse. So how does this work?

St. Paul says in the context of the verse above that Christ humbled Himself and became obedient in that form He took “as a servant” (2:7). Well, we know that Christ kept His human nature, His “servant” and “obedient” nature, even after the Resurrection, and has it even now in Heaven. So  it actually makes perfect sense to say that He would still be obedient and subservient in this form, for as long as He has it (which will be forever). Yes, He is equal to God. Yes, the Father’s kingdom is going to be the Son’s, since the Father gives it to the Son as much as the Son gives it to the Father, as I hopefully demonstrated above. Thus, there should be no question for us about the inferiority of one Divine Person to another, and we shouldn’t think that one Divine Person possesses the Kingdom of Heaven while another is without it. And yet, precisely because He is permanently man, and thus permanently obedient, the Son will always be subservient as man (though not as God), and will always be “subjected” to the Father according to that subservient nature.

St Augustine had somewhat similar explanation for this issue. He said it’s possible that the passage was written this way in order to show that the Son does not give up His “subjected” nature of humanity, that it does not go away at the end of time, but that He is now, forever, man as well as God, inferior as well as equal, to the Heavenly Father (De Trinitate, Book I, Ch. 8).

Finally, there comes the issue of what seems to be the “temporary” nature of the Son’s reign, thanks to the word “until” (“He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet”). The first thing I’d like to do is point out something that the infallible voice of God the Father says to the Son, according to St. Paul: “But to the Son, God says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice'” (Hebrews 1:8, emphasis mine). If God Himself says the Son will reign forever, that should give us pause in interpreting any verses that seem to run contrary to this idea. Something to remember here is that, many times in Scripture, the word “until” will be used in such a way that it doesn’t mean “up to a certain point, but not after that”. For example, in Genesis 28:15, God says to Jacob, “I will be with you and protect you wherever you go, and I will bring you into this land, for I will not leave you until I have done as I have said” (emphasis mine). Would anyone say in this case that God is going to depart Jacob after He has done as He promised? Or, from the New Testament, there is the statement concerning Joseph that he did not “know Mary” (i.e., engage in marital relations with her) until she gave birth to Jesus (Matt. 1:25). But this does not by any means imply that Joseph and Mary did anything of the sort after the birth of Christ. Indeed, the stance of the Catholic Church in this regard, as well as that of John Calvin and Martin Luther, has been to interpret the word “until” in such a way that it doesn’t imply that the consummation of their marriage occurred later (you can read Calvin’s commentary here, and many sources from Luther on the matter are quoted here). In any case, the use of the word “until” concerning the reign of the Son does not, by any means, imply that His reign is going to end.

With all this said, I hope I’ve been helpful in some way with regard to this passage. God bless and keep you as we approach Christmas.

 

Quick Theological Musings: #1

NB: Unless I can think of topics for longer posts, there will be…..well, who knows how many more posts similar to this on various topics in the near future. Sometimes quick little posts like this end up far more interesting than longer ones anyway. Have fun reading!

“…and immediately there came out blood and water.” – John 19:34

One of the great things about Sacred Scripture is that there’s never just one rigid way of looking at things. An area where this is especially noticeable is in the quote I gave just above. 

The first reaction of . . . most anyone . . . is going to be, “Okay, Jesus seemed dead, and to be sure He was dead, they thrust a lance into His side, and water and blood came out. Cool story. Kinda random too. But hey, John felt like including that, I’m good with it.”

Understandable. Quite so. But as with everything, there’s more to it than that. 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a proposal. Let’s pretend for the remainder of this post that in the Gospel, water is a symbol of the human and that two things, wine and blood, are symbols of the divine.

I think it’s no mistake, for example, that in John’s Gospel, the wedding at Cana immediately follows John the Baptist. John had his own preliminary baptism with water (which, again, we’re going to say is a symbol of the human), while the miracle at Cana, turning water into wine, symbolized the true baptism which Christ brought with Him: the lifting up of the human (water) to the divine (in this case, wine) which was the ultimate goal of the Redemption and which would be the goal of the baptism He would shortly preach about. With this in mind, that the wedding at Cana symbolizes baptism, I also don’t think it is a mistake that Our Lord begins preaching about this baptism almost immediately after the Cana miracle (Cana is the second chapter of John, the mention of baptism is the third chapter). 

Now I also said blood was a symbol of the divine. We are told that when Our Lord had His Sacred Heart pierced with a lance, blood and water came out of the wound.  If we keep rolling with this idea that water is the human and blood (or wine) is the divine, then this begins to really come together into something neat.  When the Blood of Christ came out with water on the Cross, it was a symbol of the new union between God, the Creator, and man, the Created. Up until that moment, only blood came out of the wounds of Jesus, but now, the purpose of His life accomplished and the Divine Goal fulfilled, there was union—and thus, as a way of saying, “Look at the reunited state of God and man!”, the Scriptures tell us that “immediately there came out blood and water.”

Have a good summer. I’ll post next whenever I can. God bless you all, in the meantime.

On Angels: Part 3: Demonic Abilities and Limitations (Heavily Belated)

Hello, readers, and happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans!

This post is incredibly late, but I either a) had school or b) wanted to do something else with my free time. But at last, I have the time and motivation to conclude what I began months ago, and hopefully, with this out of the way, can post on this blog concerning other topics. So, when I last posted, I said that the next post would go into demonic power (and by extension, the power of all angels). Let’s do this, then!

The Power of Demons In and Of Itself

First, I want to go into the power of demons considered by itself, without any external restraints placed upon it. A primary thing you should realize is that, because demons are angels, they have all the powers God gave to angels. God did not withdraw their angelic abilities when they sinned, thinking that because they’re now evil, they don’t deserve to be powerful. No, their angelic powers remained, which means that they’re a great deal more powerful than humans. What is the extent of demonic/angelic power? It varies. But even the lowest angel is intensely more powerful, whether intellectually or otherwise, than a human person. I assume, though, that you’d like a basic list of powers possessed by all angels, regardless of rank, so here you go (and since we’re referring in this post to demons, the list will as well; just know that it applies to good angels unless otherwise noted):

  • Demons have vastly superior minds compared to humans. In Fr. Francis J. Remler’s excellent book How to Resist Temptation, he says that demons know more about the material universe and the expansive cosmos than scientists could know in a million years. In the same book, he says that although demons cannot read our minds as God can, they are nevertheless able to have a generally-correct idea of what we’re thinking at a given moment (Fr. Remler compared it to having a friend whom you know so well that you can “read him like a book”—you don’t know exactly what he’s thinking, but can guess pretty well).
  • Demons have a great deal of power over the material world and the people in it. I recommend you read Part 1 for more on that, but I do have something else to add to the stuff listed over there. In Theology For Beginners, Frank Sheed says that “…angels could, so powerful as they are, destroy our material universe if the mightier power of God did not prevent them” (Chapter Two: Spirit, pg. 15).
  • Demons, as with the good angels, have wills that are unobstructed by emotions. Because of this, they are able to think far more decisively and clearly than humans. There’s no question of how a given thing makes them feel at a particular moment; they’re not one moment happy, another moment sad. They know what they want and they act accordingly.
  • Specifically with regard to demons, the temptations they give to man would at least almost always induce him to sin if he were not given God’s grace to combat them.
  • Demons can appear as good angels, as a saint, or even as Our Lord Himself! This is why one must be very, very deliberate and careful if he claims to have seen a vision from Heaven.

Limits on Demonic Power

Notice that I said previously, “I want to go into the power of demons considered by itself, without any external restraints placed upon it”. That means that there are, in fact, limits on what demons can know and do.

For example, Matthew and Mark’s gospels are at one in agreeing that the angels do not know when the end of the world will be (Mt. 24:53, Mk. 13:32: and just for the record, when it says the Son does not know, it is another way of saying He was not sent to tell us; He and the Holy Spirit do know when it is, because They share the divine intellect that is God the Father’s).

Another limitation placed on demons is that they cannot force us to sin. They can tempt us, and indeed they can tempt us very greatly, but they cannot make us sin. That’s ultimately up to us. Further, demons are prevented by God from tempting us beyond what we can handle. That’s not to say that temptations sent our way won’t be intense, but simply that, with God’s aid, we will be able to handle whatever temptations we encounter, no matter how bad they are.

Yet another limitation on demons is that they are bound to obey a direct command made by God. Note that whenever Christ tells a demon to leave a possessed soul in the Gospels, it listens to Him. This makes sense, since He created all the demons, but it’s still worth noting. I say the demons are bound to obey a direct command for this reason: you might say, well, they didn’t obey God when He gave them the choice between Heaven and Hell. The key difference is that when God offered the demons eternal life, He did not say, “You MUST love Me”, but rather, gave them the chance to do so or not, at their own peril. In the case of the demons, He definitely ordered them to get out, and they did, despite whatever protests and blasphemies they made first. Further, I say they’re bound to obey a direct command from God (as opposed to others) because the Scriptures record instances where men were unable to do cast out demons (Mt. 17:19-20). I’ll admit that on this last point, I may be oversimplifying the situation. It could be that demons must obey anyone who possesses the authority of Christ, but I honestly am not sure. I’d gladly accept pointers here.

There are two final limitations on demonic ability or knowledge that I can think of. The first was one placed on Satan by God in Job 1:12, where the former was not permitted to harm Job. The last and more interesting one appears within the Gospels. It would seem to some degree that Satan was unaware that Jesus Christ was the Only-Begotten Son of God and Redeemer of the world. During Satan’s temptation of Christ before His public ministry in Matthew 4, Satan kept saying, “If you are the Son of God, do yadda yadda yadda…”, going so far as to ask Our Lord to worship him. Now the question is, if Satan did know Who Christ was, wouldn’t he know that asking such a thing was not only pointless but even impossible, considering that God is incapable of sin? The only reason I can think of that he would even bother with the series of temptations is that he was honestly unsure about Our Lord’s identity. This is St. Thomas Aquinas’ take on it as well, who said that demons “can be misled with regard to supernatural matters; for example, on seeing a dead man, they may suppose that he will not rise again, or, on beholding Christ, they may judge Him not to be God” (Summa Theologica I:58:5).

In conclusion, it’s all very intriguing, isn’t it? Perhaps we’ll know more in the next life. In the meantime, I hope these posts have not been too shallow regarding their treatment of these issues, but if you have anything else you’d like me to write about, let me know. Once again, my apologies for taking so awfully long with this.

Happy Thanksgiving and God bless you and yours,

—Michael

Wearing Old Clothes Again

There was a long time where I would continually make blog posts related to Christology, defending the Catholic view of Our Lord, often from the Scriptures. I’m not doing that specifically right now, but I am doing something very similar, almost making it feel like I’m dressed in old clothes. The only difference is, I’m not here to prove that the Son is God. I’m here to prove that about the Holy Spirit, which can be considerably more challenging. Nevertheless, there is evidence for His identity as God in the Bible, and I’d like to share it with you. Besides, He’s hardly spoken of directly (as opposed to mentioned indirectly, which happens very often–such as when a person speaks of the Father or the Son; He is inseparable from Them, after all).

One immediate difference between a Scriptural defense of the “Catholic” Christ and a Scriptural defense of the “Catholic” Paraclete is that, in the Latter’s case, one must start by proving that He is, in fact, a Person, not simply an active force. Only when someone has shown that adequately can he go on to prove that the Holy Spirit is God. Another difference is that the defender can’t go to one specific book of the Bible and find a treasury of evidence (such as the Gospel of John or the Book of Revelation in Christ’s case), but must explore bits and pieces of the whole New Testament. With that said, we may begin.

 

–The Holy Spirit as a Person–

 

Unfortunately for the nonbeliever, if that’s true, he can no longer go around saying, “The Force be with you”. He needn’t become depressed, however, for wishing God’s company on a person is immeasurably better than wishing the company of a force. Now then, what evidence is there that the Holy Spirit is a person?

There’s no simple passage for this, but if we look all throughout the New Testament, we’ll be able to make a list of qualities and actions He has and does, respectively, which either hint or necessitate that He is a person. For example:

  • He can be blasphemed (Matt 12:31)
  • He shares a name with the Father and the Son, both of Whom are persons (Matt 28:19)
  • He’s lied to (Acts 5:3)
  • He searches all things (1 Cor 2:10)
  • He teaches and reminds (Jn 14:26)
  • He speaks, something which a force can’t do (Acts 8:29, 13:2; Rev. 2:17, 29; 3:22)
  • He gives gifts (1 Cor 14:1)

Simple reasoning tells us that, were He a force, He couldn’t do many of these things. A force can’t be lied to, for example. A force can’t speak. With that in mind, we can prove the next thing: the Holy Spirit is not only a person, but a Divine Person, one of three.

 

–The Holy Spirit as Divine–

A blatant proof of this point comes from the fact that, when a person lies to the Spirit, he lies to God (Acts 5:4). A second proof is that the Holy Spirit searches not only all things, but even “the deep things of God” (1 Cor 2:10). Only God can search the deep things of God, for only God is omniscient. And if Paul’s assertion is correct, then the Spirit, too, is omniscient and therefore God. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will be with us forever (Jn 14:16). Only God is everlasting. To recap, then, He has at least two definitively divine qualities:

  • omniscience
  • eternity

Furthermore, He is a Person. Who can an eternal and omniscient person be besides God? No one. Such a person couldn’t exist otherwise.

 

God bless,

Michael

 

On Revelation – Part 1: Jesus is Our God, Unmistakably

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your eyes! I’m going to make at least two posts about the Book of Revelation (also called the Apocalypse of St. John), the first of which–this one here–will show that this book makes Christ God in no uncertain terms. The next post, Christ willing, will attempt to answer the question of “Who is the woman?”. Then the third, if there is one, will have to do with the Mass and other Catholic-isms shown in the book.

The vision St. John received is nothing short of amazing.

I’ll show that the Son, Jesus Christ, is the one, true God. Starting with chapter 1…

“‘I am Alpha and Omega,’ says the Lord God, Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).

It is rather unclear whether the speaker here is Jesus or the Father. The argument to say that this is not referring to Jesus goes like this: “Just earlier, the statement of ‘Who is, and was, and is to come’ was applied to the Father specifically (verse 4), so this must refer to Him specifically, too”. But I say, look at the phrase “Who is to come”. We are told in the previous verse that Jesus will be seen “coming in the clouds”. Coincidence? I think not. Even if this is not referring to Christ, but to the Father, it is still certain evidence for Christ’s divinity. Why? Because Christ does directly call Himself “Alpha and Omega” later on in Rev. 22:13. Alpha and Omega = Lord God and Almighty according to verse 8, so if Christ, too, is the Alpha and Omega, then He, too, is “Lord God” and “Almighty”!

“Alpha & Omega” is a title due to Almighty God alone

Moving down a little farther, three striking things occur when John sees Jesus: 1) John describes Jesus as having a voice “like the sound of many waters” (1:15), 2) John “falls at His feet, as though dead” (1:17), and 3) Jesus calls Himself “the First and the Last” (also 1:17). Let’s look at each of these.

Jesus having a voice “like the sound of many waters” looks like a reference to Ezekiel 43:2: “I saw the glory of God coming from the east, and His voice like the sound of many waters”.

John “falling at His feet as though dead” was a reaction which probably arose from the belief that the one who looked upon God would die.

“First and Last” is synonymous with “Alpha and Omega”, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and also references Isaiah 44:6: “This is what the Lord says, Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and the last. Apart from Me there is no God”.

Pretty blatant, huh? Jesus is directly claiming to be the one God! Moving on…

The Lamb has things said of Him which can only be said of God.

In chapter 4, verse 11, those surrounding God’s throne say, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive honor and glory and power“. Twice in chapter 5, a similar thing is said to or about the Lamb, i.e., Jesus. Firstly, in verse 9, the Lamb is told, “You are worthy, O Lord, to take the book and to open the seals thereof” and secondly, in verse 12, it is said that “The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power and divinity and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and benediction“. The second statement is strikingly similar to what was said to the Father above. Coincidence? Again, I think not.

But wait! There’s more! Chapter 5, verse 13, says that “to Him that sits on the throne (the Father) and to the Lamb be benediction and honor and glory for ever and ever”! There is no way that Jesus could just be a man or an angel or some “subordinate deity” when He is the object of perpetual worship along with the Father. No way at all.

Twice in Revelation, Christ is called “the Lord of lords”, in chapter 19, verse 16, and chapter 17, verse 14. This is a reference to Deuteronomy 10:17: “For the Lord your God is the God of gods, and the Lord of lords”. For a third time, coincidence? I think not.

He is “over all things, God, blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5)
Despite what modern Arians want you to think, it is absolutely senseless to call Christ our Lord “a god”.

Arius clearly hadn’t read this stuff, I guess.

God bless,

Mike

Wherein Cushions Are Theological

They are “inane, worthless, meaningless, boring, and have no bearing on the story as a whole. They’re pointless details”. So say they. What do they–the ambiguous they–speak of in such terms? Details in Scripture such as John the Baptist eating locusts, Jesus sleeping on a cushion (as opposed to wood), the hour of a day, etc.. At the risk of sounding arrogant, to people who look at Sacred Scripture on the surface only, such things are just unnecessary filler. They might as well not be there.

“Whoa….That is one FAT book….I mean, that is a really fat book….Seriously, how could God have that much to say???? Pfff, must be all those petty details. He’s really into those.”

But wait! As Yoda would say, “Look deeper you must! There are no things unnecessary, only things unnecessary in your mind!”

Oh….Come to think of it, I don’t remember Yoda saying that. Whatever, though. The quote works. Let’s roll with it. It can be a secret between you and me and Lucasfilm will never hear about it.

Let’s take the statement that John the Baptist eats locusts (I’m sure his breath was great, especially in the morning). To most, this is an unnecessary–and possibly grotesque–detail, and all people can do is wonder, “Why on Earth is that in there? Thanks for the image.” Well, consider how gross that is. John, “filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15), renounced the world. He was willing to eat gross food if it meant the furthering of his spiritual well-being. Just like any saint, he was probably practicing mortification. I doubt he ate locusts because they were a favorite on the dinner menu.

Bon appétit!

 

Then there’s that seemingly pointless declaration from Mark 4:38 that Jesus was in the boat, get this, not only sleeping, but sleeping–that’s right–on a CUSHION. Crazy! Man, He’s wild.

But seriously. Why’s that tidbit included?

Look at the context: there was a storm. The apostles were nervous, not at ease, while Jesus was asleep, on a cushion. Cushions are soft and used to sleep well and relax. A sign, if you will, of tranquility. In this case, a sign of Jesus’ tranquility and calmness despite the storm outside. He kept His cool and something as random as a cushion can help to illustrate this point.

Anyway, just a thought. Don’t brush stuff like this off when you find it. Give it some thought.

God bless,

This guy

The Woman We Love

All things were made for the only-begotten Son of God (Colossians 1:16). The Father has prepared for Him a wedding banquet (Matthew 22:2) and created man to partake in His celebrations. Had this gone as planned, the whole of creation, in Heaven and Earth, would sing His praises eternally, and God would be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). Unfortunately, the plan was messed up, starting with Satan and continuing with Adam & Eve. The creature rebelled against the Creator, and hope seemed lost.

Such was the sad state of man, as he became devoured by the beasts of rebellious passions.

Now what? The Holy Trinity, perfection by Itself, could have certainly left the human race in its sin. God created man, but He doesn’t need him by any means. He made him out of nothing, and didn’t need to make him at all. However, “God is love, in Whom there is no darkness” (1 John 1:5). Love Itself, desiring only what is best for all things, decided on a Plan B, so that sin would not be the final outcome. The Bridegroom, for Whom all things were created, Himself the spoken Word which brought order to the universe at creation, decided to once again bring about order by “emptying Himself, taking the form of a servant” and “becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross” so that He might “make all things new” (Philippians 2:7-8, Revelation 21:5).

The Father and Holy Spirit, agreeing with the Son’s plan, addressed Satan with the following statement: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. She will crush your head, and you will strike at her heel” (Genesis 3:15). [Note, most Bibles render it that He, the seed, will crush the head. Both are acceptable, however].

God, the master logician, determined that if sin was brought about by a woman, it must be undone by a woman. This woman would be sinless, since enmity would exist between her and Satan. Her seed, too, would be sinless for that same reason. It makes sense, really, that she would be sinless. Because in the plan of the Three Persons, God the Son, God the Orderer, would be the One to condescend to human frailty. Only a sinless mother would be at all fit to bear God for nine months, and raise Him in childhood and adolescence. If the incarnate Son really was “like us in all things but sin” (Hebrews 4:15), then He would have to obey the same commandments we do, specifically, honoring His mother, which involves obedience. If she were sinless, she would be perfectly attuned to the Father’s will, and so the Son could obey her perfectly in all things.

There was another reason that the woman, destined to be the mother of the Son, would need to be sinless. The Son, Who would make a new creation by His “Plan B”, would become a new Adam. Yet Adam and Eve go together, so if there was to be a new Adam, there would also need to be a new Eve. The two would be in utter contrast to the first Adam and the first Eve. The first sinned; the second would be sinless. The first brought death to the world; the second would bring life. The first Eve was brought forth from Adam, yet that order would be reversed in the case of the second Adam and second Eve. The second Adam would be brought forth from the new Eve, so as to fulfill most perfectly God’s prophecy.

This woman, this new Eve, is Mary. Isn’t she wonderful?

Behold the handmaid of the Lord, the one whom, as Elizabeth did, we call His mother.

God bless,

Mike

Awesome, Awesome, Awesome, Awesome Homily by the Holy Father on the Eucharist

See title.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This evening I would like to meditate with you on two interconnected aspects of the Eucharistic Mystery: the worship of the Eucharist and its sacredness. It is important to take it up again to preserve it from incomplete visions of the Mystery itself, such as those which were proposed in the recent past.

First of all, a reflection on the value of Eucharistic worship, in particular adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is the experience that we will also live after the Mass, before the procession, during its development and at its end. A unilateral interpretation of Vatican Council II has penalized this dimension, restricting the Eucharist in practice to the celebratory moment. In fact, it was very important to recognize the centrality of the celebration, in which the Lord convokes his people, gathers them around the twofold table of the Word and the Bread of life, nourishes them and unites them to Himself in the offering of the Sacrifice. This assessment of the liturgical assembly, in which the Lord works and realizes his mystery of communion, remains of course valid, but it must be placed in the right balance. In fact – as often happens – the stressing of one aspect ends up by sacrificing another. In this case, the accentuation placed on the celebration of the Eucharist has been to the detriment of adoration, as act of faith and prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus, really present in the Sacrament of the altar. This imbalance has also had repercussions on the spiritual life of the faithful. In fact, concentrating the whole relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus only at the moment of Holy Mass risks removing his presence from the rest of time and the existential space. And thus, perceived less is the sense of the constant presence of Jesus in our midst and with us, a concrete, close presence among our homes, as “beating Heart” of the city, of the country, of the territory with its various expressions and activities. The Sacrament of the Charity of Christ must permeate the whole of daily life.

In reality, it is a mistake to oppose celebration and adoration, as if they were in competition with one another. It is precisely the contrary: the worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament is as the spiritual “environment” in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. Only if it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this interior attitude of faith and adoration, can the liturgical action express its full meaning and value. The encounter with Jesus in the Holy Mass is truly and fully acted when the community is able to recognize that, in the Sacrament, He dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to his table, then, after the assembly is dismissed, stays with us, with his discreet and silent presence, and accompanies us with his intercession, continuing to gather our spiritual sacrifices and offering them to the Father.

In this connection, I am pleased to stress the experience we will also live together this evening. At the moment of adoration, we are all on the same plane, kneeling before the Sacrament of Love. The common and ministerial priesthoods are united in Eucharistic worship. It is a very beautiful and significant experience, which we have experienced several times in Saint Peter’s Basilica, and also in the unforgettable vigils with young people – I recall, for example, those of Cologne, London, Zagreb, Madrid. It is evident to all that these moments of Eucharistic vigil prepare the celebration of the Holy Mass, prepare hearts for the encounter, so that it is more fruitful. To be all together in prolonged silence before the Lord present in his Sacrament, is one of the most genuine experiences of our being Church, which is accompanied in a complementary way with the celebration of the Eucharist, listening to the Word of God, singing, approaching together the table of the Bread of life. Communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go together. To really communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to hear him and to look at him with love. True love and true friendship always live of the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter is lived profoundly, in a personal not a superficial way. And, unfortunately, if this dimension is lacking, even sacramental communion itself can become, on our part, a superficial gesture. Instead, in true communion, prepared by the colloquy of prayer and of life, we can say to the Lord words of confidence as those that resounded a short while ago in the Responsorial Psalm: “O Lord, I am thy servant; I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid. / Thou hast loosed my bonds./ I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving /and call on the name of the Lord” (Psalm 115:16-17).

Now I would like to pass briefly to the second aspect: the sacredness of the Eucharist. Also here we heard in the recent past of a certain misunderstanding of the authentic message of Sacred Scripture. The Christian novelty in regard to worship was influenced by a certain secularist mentality of the 60s and 70s of the past century. It is true, and it remains always valid, that the center of worship is now no longer in the rites and ancient sacrifices, but in Christ himself, in his person, in his life, in his paschal mystery. And yet, from this fundamental novelty it must not be concluded that the sacred no longer exists, but that it has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, incarnate divine Love. The Letter to the Hebrews, which we heard this evening in the Second Reading, speaks to us precisely of the novelty of the priesthood of Christ, “high priest of the good things that have come” (Hebrews 9:11), but it does not say that the priesthood is finished. Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15), established in his blood, which purifies our “conscience from dead works” (Hebrews 9:14). He did not abolish the sacred, but brought it to fulfillment, inaugurating a new worship, which is, yes, fully spiritual but which however, so long as we are journeying in time, makes use again of signs and rites, of which there will be no need only at the end, in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will no longer be a temple (cf. Revelation 21:22). Thanks to Christ, the sacred is more true, more intense and, as happens with the Commandments, also more exacting! Ritual observance is not enough, but what is required is the purification of the heart and the involvement of life.

I am also pleased to stress that the sacred has an educational function, and its disappearance inevitably impoverishes the culture, in particular, the formation of the new generations. If, for example, in the name of a secularized faith, no longer in need of sacred signs, this citizens’ processions of the Corpus Domini were abolished, the spiritual profile of Rome would be “leveled,” and our personal and community conscience would be weakened. Or let us think of a mother or a father that, in the name of a de-sacralized faith, deprived their children of all religious rituals: in reality they would end up by leaving a free field to so many surrogates present in the consumer society, to other rites and other signs, which could more easily become idols. God, our Father, has not acted thus with humanity: he has sent his Son into the world not to abolish, but to give fulfillment also to the sacred. At the height of this mission, in the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood, the Memorial of his Paschal Sacrifice. By so doing, he put himself in the place of the ancient sacrifices, but he did so within a rite, which he commanded the Apostles to perpetuate, as the supreme sign of the true sacred, which is Himself. With this faith, dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate today and every day the Eucharistic Mystery and we adore it as the center of our life and heart of the world. Amen.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Male and Female He Created Them

Often, when it comes to finding a Biblical argument against homosexual practice, the Old Testament will be used extensively. The homosexual (or the one who sees no problem with homosexuality) usually says that since the Old Law is no longer binding, so the arguments against homosexuality are no longer binding. He or she will then go on to say that homosexuality is only mentioned once or twice in the New Testament, and only “very obscurely” (this actually isn’t true; there’s no obscurity, but I digress), and in light of that the Christian should be more tolerant.

One of the anti-homosexual arguments I’ve seen used many times is the fact that Lord created humans “male and female” (Gen. 1:27) and said precisely that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Yes, it is true, this passage is from the Old Testament. But we need to consider a few things before it’s brushed off as worthless.

“The law,” St. John tells us in the first chapter his gospel, “was given by Moses. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

Jesus Christ, we know, is the “Word become flesh” (John 1:14), the Word that “was with God and was God” (1:1). Do you see what’s happening here? Let’s rephrase the above quote from John. It’s as if he said, “The law was given by Moses. Grace and truth came by God.”

Now, I think, the distinction is clearer. It was not a law, but simply God Himself, not able to be misinterpreted or added to, Who declared “it is not good that man should be alone”. He said this before any law even needed to be established, since original sin had not yet entered the world. God declared man and woman’s need for each other at a time someone could view the world and “see how good it was”. Even if someone can’t find a convincing argument from any other place in the Bible, this one is very strong.

God, not just the Mosaic law, declared heterosexuality to be His desire for mankind. Who can argue with God?

His blessings to all,

Michael