Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Feast of the Holy Innocents: A Prayer

Holy Innocents, you died before you were old enough to know what life means, pray for all children who die young that God may gather them into His loving arms.

Holy Innocents, you were killed because one man was filled with hatred, pray for those who hate that God may touch their hearts and fill them with love.

Holy Innocents, you experienced a violent death, pray for all who are affected by violence that they may find peace and love.

Holy Innocents, you were murdered at the hands of men who probably felt they were merely following orders, pray for all who act against their consciences that they may turn to God for strength to do what is right.

Holy Innocents, your parents grieved for you with deep and lasting sorrow, pray for all parents who have lost young children that God may wrap a warm blanket of comfort around them.

Holy Innocents, those around you certainly felt helpless to prevent your deaths, pray for all who feel helpless in their circumstances that they may cling to God for courage and hope.

Holy Innocents, you did not know Jesus during your brief lives, but now you praise Him for all eternity, pray for all those who do not know Jesus that they may open their minds to His voice and their hearts to His love.

Holy Innocents, you died as infants and toddlers, pray for those who are in danger of dying before they are even born through the horrors of abortion that their mothers may recognize the sanctity of all life, turn to God for help, and give their babies a chance to live.

Holy Innocents, you who are now in Heaven, pray for all of us that one day we may join you there to bask in God's love forever.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Christmas

Christmas Meditations from the Saints

“Celebrate the feast of Christmas every day, even every moment in the interior temple of your spirit, remaining like a baby in the bosom of the heavenly Father, where you will be reborn each moment in the Divine Word, Jesus Christ.” – St. Paul of the Cross

“It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you. Yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.” – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

“Let the just rejoice,
for their Justifier is born.
Let the sick and infirm rejoice,
For their Saviour is born.
Let the captives rejoice,
For their Redeemer is born.
Let slaves rejoice,
for their Master is born.
Let free men rejoice,
For their Liberator is born.
Let All Christians rejoice,
For Jesus Christ is born.” – St. Augustine

“All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.” – St. John Chrysostom

“He made Himself a enable you to become a perfect man; He was wrapped in swaddling clothes to free you from the bonds of death....He came down on earth to enable you to rise up to heaven; He had no place in the inn so that you might have mansions in heaven. He, being rich, became poor for our sake – St. Paul says – so as to enrich us with His poverty....The tears of this crying child purify men, they wash away my sins.” - St. Ambrose

“Let Your goodness Lord appear to us, that we
made in your image, conform ourselves to it.
In our own strength
we cannot imitate Your majesty, power, and wonder
nor is it fitting for us to try.
But Your mercy reaches from the heavens
through the clouds to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child,
but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts,
the gift of eternal love
Caress us with Your tiny hands,
embrace us with Your tiny arms
and pierce our hearts with Your soft, sweet cries.” – St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Wishing You a Blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Fifth Glorious Mystery – The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth

Scripture References

John 2:1-12; Revelation 12:1

The Story in Brief

After Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven, the Blessed Trinity, with great love, crowned her as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Under this title, Mary acts as Queen Mother, Advocate, and Mediatrix to the human family.

Points to Ponder

 1. After being assumed body and soul into Heaven, Mary was crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth by the Blessed Trinity. We catch a glimpse of Mary as Queen in Revelation 12:1. Picture Mary in the splendor of her queenship.

2. Mary stands as the Queen Mother. In the ancient world, it was quite common for the king's mother to hold the position of queen in the royal household. The queen filled the roles of advocate for the people and mediatrix between the king and his subjects. Reflect on Mary as the Queen Mother.

3. Mary serves as an Advocate, interceding with her Son for the needs and longings of the human race. Ponder Mary's intercession.

4. Saints and theologians have often asserted that all graces come to humanity through Mary. They call her the Mediatrix of All Graces and explain that Jesus has given His mother Mary the right to nourish all her children with grace. Ponder Mary's role as Mediatrix of All Graces.

5. To better understand Mary's roles as Advocate and Mediatrix of All Graces, read the story of the wedding at Cana in John 2:1-12. What did Mary do at Cana? Why did she do so? What did she say? How did her Son respond? How do Mary's words and actions at Cana illustrate her queenship?

6. Mary is the Queen because she is the mother of Jesus, the divine Son of God. Reflect on Mary's loving, intimate, maternal relationship with her Son

7. Mary is also our mother. Reflect on Mary's loving, intimate, maternal relationship with her human children.

8. We owe obedience and honor to our Queen and Mother. Think about the special veneration, not worship, that we show toward Mary.

9. Even though Mary is very close to us, she also reigns in supreme dignity. Pope Pius IX explains: “More than all the angels and all the saints has God ineffable freely endowed Mary with the fullness of the heavenly gifts that abound in the divine treasury; and she, preserving herself ever immaculately clean from the slightest taint of sin, attained a fullness of innocence and holiness so great as to be unthinkable apart from God Himself, a fullness that no one other than God will ever possess.” Reflect on these beautiful words.

10. Pray the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary before beginning the Rosary. Ponder each of Mary's titles.

11. Meditate on various images of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. How do these images portray Mary? What kinds of symbolism do they use?

12. Read about some modern Marian apparitions like Lourdes, Fatima, and Medjugorje. Why does Mary appear to some of her children? What messages does she bring?

Application Questions

1. What kind of relationship do you have with Mary? How important is she to you in your spiritual life?

2. In what circumstances has Mary acted as your Advocate? How often do you ask Mary to intercede for you?

3. What are the needs and longings in your life? Will you take them to your mother Mary and ask her for her help?

4. Have you ever turned to Mary as Mediatrix to receive a special grace? Why or why not? Do you understand that the graces you receive from God come through Mary? What do you think of this?

5. How is Mary your mother? How do you respond to her mother's love?

6. How do you venerate Mary? How do you explain your veneration of Mary to others who question or criticize it?

7. Which of Mary's titles resonate most with you? Why?

8. What is your opinion of Marian apparitions? Is there a particular apparition or message that speaks to your heart?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and Adoration – Blessed Trinity, we bow before You in silent adoration as we gaze with eyes of faith upon Mary, our Mother and Queen. We bless You for the great blessings You have poured out upon her, and we adore You as we venerate her.

Praise – We praise You, Jesus, for loving us so much that You have made Your Mother our Mother. We praise You for designating her as our Queen, Advocate, and Mediatrix. We praise You as we sing her praises.

Thanksgiving – Thank You, Lord, for Mary. Thank You for sending her to us in apparitions all over the world. Thank You for her messages, her guidance, and her love, which communicate Your messages, Your guidance, and Your love.

Intercession – Lord, we lift up to You all Christians who do not have a devotion to Mary. We lift up those who do not believe that she is their Queen, Mother, Advocate, and Mediatrix. We lift up those who scoff at Mary and say that she was “just the mother” and no more. Introduce them to Your mother, Lord, so that they may see how much she loves them, nourishes them, and prays for them.

Petition – Lord, help us to grow ever closer to Mary. Inspire us to turn to her for love, assistance, guidance, and motherly care. Help us to love Your Mother as You love her.

Quotes from the Saints

“Such is the will of God that we should have everything through Mary.” - St. Alphonsus Liguori

“But the power of Mary over all the devils will especially shine forth in the latter times, when Satan will lay his snares against her heel: that is to say, her humble slaves and her poor children, whom she will raise up to make war against him. They shall be little and poor in the world’s esteem, and abased before all like the heel, trodden underfoot and persecuted as the heel is by the other members of the body. But in return for this they shall be rich in the grace of God, which Mary shall distribute to them abundantly. They shall be great and exalted before God in sanctity, superior to all other creatures by their lively zeal, and so well sustained with God’s assistance that, with the humility of their heel, in union with Mary, they shall crush the head of the devil and cause Jesus Christ to triumph.” - St. Louis de Montfort

“Mary is the sure path to our meeting with Christ. Devotion to the Mother of the Lord, when it is genuine, is always an impetus to a life guided by the spirit and values of the Gospel.” - John Paul II

“As mariners are guided into port by the shining of a star, so Christians are guided to heaven by Mary.”” - St. Thomas Aquinas

“To give worthy praise to the Lord's mercy, we unite ourselves with Your Immaculate Mother, for then our hymn will be more pleasing to You, because She is chosen from among men and angels. Through Her, as through a pure crystal, Your mercy was passed on to us. Through Her, man became pleasing to God; Through Her, streams of grace flowed down upon us.” - St. Faustina

“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.” - St. Maximilian Kolbe

“In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.” - St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence.” - St. Francis de Sales

“In trial or difficulty I have recourse to Mother Mary, whose glance alone is enough to dissipate every fear.” - St. Therese of Lisieux

“Mary has the authority over the angels and the blessed in heaven. As a reward for her great humility, God gave her the power and mission of assigning to saints the thrones made vacant by the apostate angels who fell away through pride. Such is the will of the almighty God who exalts the humble, that the powers of heaven, earth and hell, willingly or unwillingly, must obey the commands of the humble Virgin Mary. For God has made her queen of heaven and earth, leader of his armies, keeper of his treasure, dispenser of his graces, mediatrix on behalf of men, destroyer of his enemies, and faithful associate in his great works and triumphs.” - St. Louis de Montfort

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Fourth Sunday of Advent


In today's Psalm, we hear the word “covenant” twice as God proclaims through the Psalmist that He has made a firm covenant with His servant David. In the First Reading, we actually witness the establishment of the covenant when God promises David that He will establish a house, or dynasty, for him that will endure forever. We also catch a glimpse of a new covenant to be established in the future through David's heir, and in the Gospel we are invited to contemplate the beginning of this new covenant as Mary says yes to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, Heir of David and Son of God.

What is a covenant anyway? Dr. Scott Hahn defines a covenant as a sacred family bond created by swearing an oath and involving a sacred exchange of persons. In other words, when God makes a covenant with His people, He is making them part of His family. He is giving Himself to them in an intimate way by swearing an oath, and His people are giving themselves to Him in an intimate way by swearing an oath. Covenants create family relationships.

Covenants are not merely contracts or agreements between two parties. They are much more powerful. Dr. Hahn identifies seven differences between covenants and contracts that help us better understand what a covenant is and is not.

1. Determination – Covenants are determined by God before they are made while the terms of contracts are determined through mutual negotiations between humans.

2. Initiation – Covenants are initiated by oaths sworn in God’s name while contracts are initiated by promises made in the names of those signing the contract.

3. Administration – God administers covenants while human parties administer contracts.

4. Application – Covenants apply to a person's entire life and very self while contracts apply to a more limited scope of time or responsibility.

5. Obligation – Covenants require 100% commitment on both sides. They unconditional and irrevocable while contracts are conditional and require only partial commitment on both sides.

6. Duration – Covenants are permanent while contracts are temporary.

7. Motivation – Covenants are created for the exchange of persons in self-giving love while contracts are created for the exchange of property for profit.

God made several covenants with His people throughout salvation history, each of which expanded the family of God and was marked by a special sign to help people remember the covenant. For a more detailed explanation of these covenants, please read Dr. Hahn's book A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

1. God made a covenant with Adam that created a covenantal marriage and was marked by the sign of the Sabbath.

2. God made a covenant with Noah that expanded the family of God into a household and was marked by the sign of a rainbow.

3. God made a covenant with Abraham that expanded the family of God into a tribe and was marked by the sign of circumcision.

4. God made a covenant with Moses that expanded the family of God into a nation and was marked by the signs of Passover, the Tabernacle, and the Ark of the Covenant.

5. God made a covenant with David that expanded the family of God into a national kingdom and was marked by the sign of the house (dynasty) of David.

6. God made the New Covenant through His Son Jesus Christ that expanded the family of God into the international royal priesthood of the Catholic Church and is marked by the sign of the sacraments. This New Covenant fulfills and elevates all the previous covenants, which served as preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the New Covenant.

Take some time throughout this final week of Advent to ponder 1. how God has made all of history holy through His covenants; 2. how He has entered into an intimate relationship with all of us; and 3. how He has made us His family.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Fourth Glorious Mystery – The Assumption of Mary

Scripture References

Genesis 3:15; Luke 1:28; Revelation 12:1

The Story in Brief

Mary remained on earth for several years after her Son ascended into Heaven. At the end of her natural life, she was taken, body and soul, into Heaven to live in eternal joy with the Blessed Trinity.

Points to Ponder

1. Although the Assumption of Mary into Heaven is not explicitly mentioned in the Scriptures, the Church's Tradition has held for centuries that Mary was assumed into Heaven body and soul at the end of her natural life. Reflect on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. Think about how Tradition gave rise to Scripture and how the seeds planted in Scripture often bloom in Tradition.

2. Mary's Assumption grows out of her Immaculate Conception. If death and bodily corruption came about because of sin, certainly the sinless one, Mary, would not have been held by such things. Meditate on the wonderful fact that Mary was conceived without sin and remained sinless her entire life.

3. Read Genesis 3, paying special attention to Genesis 3:15. This verse is often called the Protoevangelium or first Gospel, for it promises a Redeemer born of a woman. Ponder how this verse predicts and describes Mary and Jesus. Focus especially on the word “enmity,” which here refers to a complete antagonism between the woman and the serpent and the woman's offspring and the serpent's offspring. How does this enmity illustrate the dogma of Mary's sinlessness?

4. In Luke 1:28 the archangel Gabriel called Mary “full of grace.” A literal translation from the Greek is“the one having been filled with grace.” Meditate on Mary's fullness of grace.

5. Read Revelation 12:1-6 and reflect on how Mary is depicted in these verses.

6. Even though Mary was sinless, she still relied on Jesus for her salvation. Theologians explain that the merits that Jesus Christ would win on the cross were applied to Mary beforehand in a form of preservative redemption. She was preserved from sin. Meditate on these truths.

7. Why was it so important for Jesus to be born of a sinless mother? What message does this send about Jesus and Mary and about God's salvific plan?

8. Why did Mary remain on earth for many years after Jesus ascended into Heaven? What was her role in the early Church? Ponder the suffering Mary must have experienced through her separation from her son.

9. No one knows for sure whether Mary actually died at the end of her life or whether she was assumed into Heaven without tasting death. The Eastern Church tells of Mary's dormition (i.e., her transition to eternal life through a kind of sleep) while the Western Church leans toward the idea that Mary, in imitation of her Son, did actually die. Contemplate these ideas. Which seems more likely to you?

10. A pious legend that has come down to us from the early years of the Church describes the end of Mary's life. All of the apostles except Thomas gathered around Mary's deathbed to say goodbye. Reflect on the relationship between the apostles and Mary and on the apostles' sadness at losing her.

11. According to the legend, Thomas arrived after Mary had been laid in her tomb. He wanted to see her one last time and went to the tomb to take one last look at the woman who had become his mother. When the tomb was opened, Thomas found a multitude of fragrant flowers, roses and lilies. But Mary's body was gone. Imagine the scene and Thomas' reaction.

12. Imagine Mary's arrival in Heaven and her joyous reunion with her Son.

13. Except for Jesus, Mary is the only being in Heaven who has both a body and a soul. Reflect on the significance of this. How does Mary's Assumption foreshadow the general resurrection at the end of time?

14. Meditate on Mary's great love for God and His people.

15. Spend some time meditating on one or more images of the Assumption. How does each image present the event? How does it depict Mary?

Application Questions

1. How do you view the relationship between Scripture and Tradition? Do you fully understand and appreciate the rich Tradition of the Catholic Church?

2. Do you have a strong relationship with Mary? Is she your mother? Why or why not? How might you strengthen your relationship with Mary?

3. Of which sins do you especially need to repent? Which are most challenging to you? How might you claim Mary's help in overcoming your sins?

4. Have you even been separated from a loved one by death? How does that feel? How do you cope?

5. Are you looking forward to happy reunions with those who have already passed over into eternal life? Can you imagine what those reunions might be like?

6. How do you express your longing for eternal life with God in Heaven?

7. Do you imitate Mary in your love for God and other people? How might you do so more?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and Adoration – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we bow down before You in silent adoration as we contemplate the great graces You gave Mary and as we meditate on her Assumption into Heaven. We bless You for the wonders of Mary, for she magnifies You, dear Lord.

Praise – Jesus, we praise You for Your saving power. We praise You for applying that power to Your mother at the moment of her conception that she might be a sinless vessel fit to bear You, her God and her Son. We praise You for assuming Your mother body and soul into Heaven that she may stand as a sign of hope for all of us who await the fullness of eternal life.

Thanksgiving – Jesus, thank You for Mary, Your mother and our mother. Thank You for her sinlessness that shows us how to love and her assumption that gives us reason to hope that we, too, will one day be with You in Heaven body and soul.

Intercession – Jesus, we lift up to You all Christians who do not have a relationship with Mary. We lift up those who do not understand or believe that she is their mother who loves them and prays for them. Introduce them to Mary, Lord, that they may know her and love her.

Petition – Holy Trinity, we pray that we might follow Mary more closely. We pray that we may love as she did, open our hearts to You as she did, and surrender ourselves to You as she did. We pray that someday we may with You and with Mary forever in Heaven.

Quotes from the Saints and Popes

“The Apostles took up [Mary's] body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, He commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, she rejoices with the Lord's chosen ones.” - St. Gregory of Tours

“Today, in union with the whole Church, we celebrate the triumph of the Mother, Daughter and Spouse of God. ...We are now happy that Mary, after accompanying Jesus from Bethlehem to the cross, is next to her Son in body and soul, glorious forever. … But don’t forget: if God exalted his Mother, it is equally true that he did not spare her pain, exhaustion in her work or trials of her faith. A village woman one day broke into praise for Jesus exclaiming: 'Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nourished you.' Jesus said in reply: 'Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.' It was a compliment to his Mother on her fiat, her 'be it done.' She lived it sincerely, unstintingly, fulfilling its every consequence, but never amid fanfare, rather in the hidden and silent sacrifice of each day. … To become Godlike, to be divinized, we must begin by being very human, accepting from God our condition as ordinary men and sanctifying its apparent worthlessness. Thus did Mary live. She who is full of grace, the object of God’s pleasure, exalted above all the angels and the saints, lived an ordinary life. Mary is as much a creature as we are, with a heart like ours, made for joy and mirth as well as suffering and tears. Before Gabriel communicates to her God’s plan, our Lady does not know she has been chosen from all eternity to be the Mother of the Messiah. She sees herself a humble creature. That is why she can acknowledge, with full humility, that 'he who is mighty has done great things' in her.” - St. Josemaria Escriva

“The Assumption is the culmination of the struggle which involved Mary's generous love in the redemption of humanity and is the fruit of her unique sharing in the victory of the Cross.” - Pope John Paul II

“It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God's Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.” - St. John Damascene

“You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.” - St. Germanus of Constantinople

“As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him.” - St. Modestus of Jerusalem

“For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” - Pope Pius XII

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Third Sunday of Advent

Three Little Verses, Three Big Commands

Today's second reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians packs three big commands into three little verses.

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

These three verses are easy to read. They flow smoothly off the tongue or through the mind. But when we actually try to follow the three commands contained in these verses...well, there we run into some difficulties. Let's begin by taking a look at what God, Who is writing through St. Paul, requires of us.

1. Rejoice always. – The Greek word for “rejoice” here is chairō. It is a verb that can mean “to be delighted or pleased”; “to be glad”; “to rejoice”. Here we find it in its imperative form; it is a direct command. Are we to be joyful only when we feel like it? Only when we are happy and everything is going well? Nope. We are to rejoice, to be glad, always, constantly, at all times.

2. Pray without ceasing. – We are to be in contact with God constantly. The Greek word for “without ceasing” is adialeiptōs, which also means “without intermission” and “incessantly” or “assiduously.” In other words, we're not to pray only when we need something or when times are tough. We are to communicate with God continually and devoutly.

3. In all circumstances, give thanks... – Everywhere and at all times, we are to give thanks to God. He gives us all we have and all we are. The least we can do is give Him thanks. The Greek word for “give thanks” is eucharisteō. Look familiar?

How are we to obey these commands? How are we to be joyful when we feel sad, pray when we are busy, or give thanks when everything seems to be going wrong?

Perhaps our first step toward obeying these commands is to realize that we can't do so on our own. We need God's help. We need to ask God to remind us everyday of the many reasons we have to rejoice, especially during the Advent and Christmas seasons when we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Who came to save us from our sins and open the way to Heaven for us. We need to ask God to help us focus our minds upon Him throughout the day until we learn to speak to Him naturally as a friend by our side. We need to ask God to help us count our blessings and thank Him for them even when we feel as though we may not have any.

Obeying these three big commands requires effort, focus, commitment, and plenty of help from God, but it's the worthwhile work of a lifetime with fruits that will carry over into eternity.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances, give thanks.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Third Glorious Mystery – The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Scripture References

Acts 2:1-42; John 14:15-31

The Story in Brief

For nine days following Jesus' Ascension into Heaven, the disciples gathered together to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, they were together in one place. A noise like a strong, driving wind filled the house, and tongues as of fire rested on each of them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as they Spirit inspired them. Jews from all over the world were gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Hearing the commotion, they flocked to the house where the disciples were. The crowd was amazed for each person heard the disciples speaking in his own language about the great deeds of God. Peter stood up and preached a sermon, explaining to the crowd how Jesus, the Messiah, fulfilled the prophecies contained in Scripture and how He suffered, died, and rose again and was now pouring out the Holy Spirit. He invited the Jews to repent and be baptized that their sins may be forgiven and they may also receive the gift of the Spirit. Three thousand people were baptized that day, and with the rest of the Christian community, they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and prayers.

Points to Ponder

1. The descent of the Holy Spirit took place on the Jewish feast of Pentecost. For the Jews, Pentecost followed fifty days after the post-Passover sabbath. It was commonly known as the “feast of weeks” or the “feast of harvest of the first fruits” and commemorated both the harvest and the end of the Paschal season. At Pentecost, the Jews also remembered God's giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, which occurred fifty days after the Israelites left Egypt. Reflect on how the Christian Pentecost both fulfills and elevates the Jewish Pentecost.

2. On Pentecost, the disciples were all together in one place praying. Why did Luke make a point to mention this? What is the significance of this kind of gathering? Note that many saints have commented that the nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost constituted the first novena (nine days of prayer).

3. The Holy Spirit arrived with a sound like a violent wind. Meditate on this. Why would the Spirit choose to manifest through the sound of wind? Remember that the word “spirit” in Greek is pneuma, which derives from the Greek word pnoē, which means “wind” and is used in Acts 2:2.

4. The sound of the wind filled the entire house where the disciples had gathered, and it must have been quite loud. Why did the Spirit manifest Himself so dramatically?

5. Luke tells us, “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.” What is the symbolism of fire? Think especially about fire's purifying, warming, and enlivening qualities.

6. Reflect on the fact that each of the disciples received the Holy Spirit individually, as symbolized by a tongue as of fire resting on each one of them.

7. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? What do you think the disciples experienced internally at that moment?

8. The disciples experience of the Holy Spirit did not remain internal. They began to speak out loud in other languages, for the Spirit gave them the ability to do so. This seems like a strange miracle. What might it signify?

9. Luke makes a point of telling his readers that there were Jews from all over the world in Jerusalem at the time. He even lists many of the nationalities present on that Pentecost. These Jews gathered around the house where the disciples were. Apparently, they had heard or seen something that caught their attention. They were bewildered because each of them heard the disciples speaking in his own language. Picture this scene. How would you have felt if you had been part of the crowd?

10. Many saints and scholars have identified the miracles of language as the reverse of the Tower of Babel. Re-read the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, and reflect on this idea.

11. The crowd heard the disciples speaking about God's deeds of power. Meditate on these great deeds. Which ones would the disciples, or rather the Holy Spirit speaking through the disciples, have emphasized on Pentecost?

12. Some members of the crowd were amazed by what they were seeing and hearing. Others scoffed and said the disciples were “filled with new wine.” Reflect especially on the later group. Why did they refuse to be amazed by what they saw and heard?

13. Look at Matthew 9:17, and think about the idea of being “filled with new wine.” Might the scoffers have hit upon the truth in a way they didn't even understand? The disciples certainly hadn't been drinking alcohol, but were they actually filled with a very special kind of new wine?

14. Carefully read and ponder Peter's message to the Jews. Consider his proclamation of how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies by His life, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension.

15. Peter further proclaimed that Jesus, the crucified Messiah, was raised up, exalted at God's right hand, and had poured out the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Re-read John 14:15-31, and meditate on how Jesus had kept His promise.

16. Ponder the Holy Spirit. Who is He? What is His role in Christian life? Refer again to John 14:15-31. Also spend some time examining EWTN's pages about the Holy Spirit.

17. Meditate on each of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. Read the article “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” by Fr. William Saunders for more information on the seven gifts.

18. Ponder the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. According to the Baltimore Catechism, these twelve fruits grow in our souls out of the seven gifts of the Spirit.

19. The Jews were “cut to the heart” by Peter's sermon. Why? What does that mean?

20. The Jews asked Peter and the other apostles what they must do. Reflect on their need to respond to Peter's message.

21. Peter replied, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Ponder the great gifts of repentance, Baptism, forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit.

22. Peter continued, assuring the crowd that God's promises were for them, for their children, for all who were far away, and indeed for everyone called by God. What promises was he talking about?

23. Peter testified with many other arguments and exhorted the crowd to save themselves from this corrupt generation. The Greek word for “testified” means to solemnly bear witness and to attest to the truth. The Greek word for exhorted means to call to one's side. The Greek verb for “save” here is actually passive, “be saved.” Peter was calling the crowd to join him in following Jesus Christ. Ponder Peter's testimony and exhortation.

24. Three thousand people were baptized that day. Ponder this great work of the Holy Spirit.

25. The new Christians joined the rest of the Christian community. They all devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, fellowship, the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist), and prayers. Meditate on these early Christians and their devotion. How is our modern Christian life similar and different?

Application Questions

1. How important is it to you to gather and pray with other Christians? What are the advantages of sharing one's faith and prayer with others?

2. How is God trying to get your attention today?

3. Are you on fire with the Holy Spirit? Why or why not? How might your life be different if you allowed the power of the Spirit to set your heart aflame?

4. Do you need to be purified in your attitudes, thoughts, words, and/or deeds?

5. Have you ever been filled with the Holy Spirit (think especially about your baptism and confirmation)? Were you conscience of it at the time? What did it feel like? How did you respond?

6. What is your current relationship with the Holy Spirit? Does the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity play a major role in your life? Why or why not?

7. What deeds of power has God performed in your life? Are you properly amazed by them?

8. Have you encountered scoffers who sneer at Christianity? How do you respond to them?

9. Do you believe that Jesus always keeps His promises? How has He done so in your life?

10. How are the seven gifts and twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit present and active in your life? In which areas do you need to ask the Holy Spirit to increase His gifts and fruits?

11. Have you ever been “cut to the heart” by something you heard or read? What were the circumstances? How did you feel? How did you respond?

12. How do you testify to Christ and exhort others to join you in following Jesus?

13. How do you devote yourself to the apostles' teaching, fellowship, the Eucharist, and prayers in the Christian community?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and adoration – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Blessed Trinity, Three-in-One, we bow before You in silent adoration as we contemplate the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We adore You for Your great power and love that fills the whole world and all of us.

Praise – Holy Spirit, we praise You, for You are our Breath of life. Holy Spirit, we praise You, for You are our Advocate. Holy Spirit, we praise You, for You are our Comforter. Holy Spirit, we praise You, for You are our Guide. Holy Spirit, we praise You, come to us.

Thanksgiving – Holy Spirit, thank You for filling our hearts with Your power and love. Jesus, thank You for pouring out Your Holy Spirit upon us. Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be our Savior and the Holy Spirit to be our Advocate.

Intercession – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we lift up to You all those who lack faith and those who scoff at Christianity. Touch their hearts and change them. We lift up to You all who are hearing the Christian message for the first time. Open their minds that they may understand and their hearts that they may assent to You. We lift up all those who have abandoned their Catholic faith. Teach them the truth and bring them home.

Petition – Holy Spirit, please pour out upon us Your great gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. Please help us to continually bear Your fruits of charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. Increase all of these in us, Holy Spirit.

Quotes from the Saints

“'And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit' (Acts 2:3-4). They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives luster to the soul. This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles. And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads. A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift.” - St. Cyril of Jerusalem

“But as the old Confusion of tongues was laudable, when men who were of one language in wickedness and impiety, even as some now venture to be, were building the Tower; for by the confusion of their language the unity of their intention was broken up, and their undertaking destroyed; so much more worthy of praise is the present miraculous one. For being poured from One Spirit upon many men, it brings them again into harmony. And there is a diversity of Gifts, which stands in need of yet another Gift to discern which is the best, where all are praiseworthy." - St. Gregory Nazianzen

“Was it upon the twelve that it [the Holy Spirit] came? Not so; but upon the hundred and twenty. For Peter would not have quoted to no purpose the testimony of the prophet, saying, 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams' (Joel 2:28). 'And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.' For, that the effect may not be to frighten only, therefore it is both 'with the Holy Spirit, and with fire. And began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance' (Mt. 3:11).” - St. John Chrysostom

“Jesus tells us that His holy Disciples will be more courageous and more understanding when they would be, as the Scripture says, Endowed with power from on high (Luke 24:49), and that when their minds would be illuminated by the torch of the Spirit they would be able to see into all things, even though no longer able to question Him bodily present among them. The Saviour does not say that they would no longer as before need the light of His guidance, but that when they received His Spirit, when He was dwelling in their hearts, they would not be wanting in any good thing, and their minds would be filled with most perfect knowledge.” - St. Cyril of Alexandria

“...For as of old on the fiftieth day after the Sacrifice of the Lamb, the Law was given on Mount Sinai to the Hebrew people, now delivered from the Egyptians, so, after the Passion of Christ, in which the True Lamb of God was slain, on the fiftieth day after His Resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and upon the people who believed (Acts ii.3); so that an earnest Christian might know beyond any uncertainty, that the sacred rites of the Old Testament had served as foundations for the Gospel, and that by this same Spirit was the Second Covenant laid down, by Whom the first had been established.” - St. Leo the Great

“Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all "fulness of blessing," both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment.” - St. Basil

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.” - St. Augustine

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Second Sunday of Advent

A Strange Figure in the Wilderness

In this week's Gospel reading, we meet John the Baptist, who appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. He was a strange figure, clad in camel's hair and a leather belt and surviving on locusts and wild honey.

Since both Matthew and Mark emphasize John's apparel and diet, these details must tell us something important about the Baptist. Let's take a closer look.

John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist. This was the clothing of lower class workers like shepherds and camel drivers. Camel's hair fabric, which was also used to make tents, was cheap, course, rough, and prickly, but it was also sturdy and would have stood up well to a life in the wilderness. John's rough leather belt kept his garment in place and probably served other practical purposes during his time in the desert.

John's simple, course garment and belt revealed his humility and asceticism. He wasn't dressing to impress anyone. He wasn't looking for comfort or worldly wealth. In fact, he preferred not to be distracted by such things. His focus was elsewhere, and by denying himself the pleasure of fine clothing, he kept his attention firmly centered on his prophetic mission.

This brings us to another point about John's rough apparel; it was the clothing of a prophet. In 2 Kings 1:8, the prophet Elijah is described as a “hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist.” Elijah was probably wearing a camel's hair garment similar to that of John. Remember that before John was conceived, the archangel Gabriel appeared to his father, Zechariah, to announced that the son to be born to him would come in the “spirit and power of Elijah” to prepare the way of the Lord (Luke 1:17). John was the last Old Testament prophet, the heir of Elijah, the one who would proclaim God's plan to the people and help them prepare for the Messiah. John's garments, then, were a physical sign of his important role.

During his ministry, John the Baptist survived on a diet of locusts and wild honey. Most modern readers are probably repulsed by the idea of eating locusts, but they were a common food in the ancient world, and the poorer classes of Israel ate them frequently. They were easy to obtain, sometimes too easy when they swarmed and destroyed farmers' crops. They were considered clean under the Jewish Law (see Leviticus 11:21-23), and they were actually quite nutritious because they were packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals. People usually ate locusts roasted, sun-dried, or salted. John supplemented his diet with the wild honey that was deposited between rocks and in the hollows of trees by wild bees.

Locusts and wild honey certainly did not make up a huge, sumptuous feast. This was sparing food but enough to stay alive and physically strong. Once again, John's focus was elsewhere. He didn't have time to pay much attention to himself or what he ate. He was too intent upon announcing the imminent arrival of the Messiah and helping the Israelites prepare their hearts and minds to greet Him when He finally appeared.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Second Glorious Mystery - The Ascension

Scripture References 

Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:6-11 

The Story in Brief 

Jesus appeared to His disciples for forty days after His Resurrection. On the day of His Ascension, the disciples gathered together. They asked Jesus if the time had come for Him to restore the Kingdom to Israel. He replied that it was not their place to know the times set by the Father, but they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit and be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. When He finished speaking and blessing His disciples, He was lifted up before their eyes. A cloud took Him from their sight. While they were still gazing intently at the sky, two men in white robes appeared and asked them why they were standing there looking up toward Heaven. They then promised the disciples that Jesus would return. 

Points to Ponder 

1. Jesus appeared to the disciples over the course of forty days and spoke with them about the Kingdom of God. During this time, He proved to them that He was alive, risen from the dead. What is the Kingdom of God? Why did Jesus appear for forty days? 

2. At the end of the forty days, the disciples gathered together with Jesus. Think about how assembling as a community was already important to the disciples. 

3. The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when You will restore the kingdom to Israel?” What kind of kingdom did they envision? Was their vision of the kingdom different from that of Jesus? 

4. Reflect on Jesus' response to His disciples: “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority.” Think especially about mystery. 

5. Jesus promised the disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them and that they would be witnesses to Him throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Ponder the power of the Holy Spirit. 

6. Reflect on how Christianity has indeed spread to the ends of the earth. 

7. What does it mean to witness to Jesus? 

8. According to Luke's Gospel, Jesus lifted up His hands and blessed His disciples before He ascended. Reflect on the meaning of this gesture. 

9. After He had spoken, Jesus was lifted up before His disciples' eyes and a cloud took Him from their sight. Envision the scene. 

10.Why did Jesus ascend to Heaven in a visible way? He could have simply disappeared. Remember that even in His risen state, Jesus is still fully God and fully Man. Remember also that He accommodates Himself to His disciples. 

11. Jesus both ascended to Heaven by His own power and was lifted up by His Father. Why is this not a contradiction?” 

12. The disciples stood in awe, gazing up toward the heaven. Picture them. Note that the Greek word translated here as “gazing” suggests looking steadfastly and even stretching or straining one's eyes in order to see. 

13. Suddenly two men in white robes appeared beside them and asked, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” Think about the implications of this question. Why did the two men ask it? Do the disciples have to redirect their gaze now that Jesus has ascended into Heaven? How so? 

14. The two men continued, “This Jesus, Who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way you saw Him go into heaven.” Ponder these words, which provided both reassurance and a promise to the disciples. 

15. Who were the two men in white robes? 

16. In the Creed, we say that Jesus “ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” What does it mean for Jesus to sit at the Father's right hand? 

17. Jesus ascended into Heaven as the God-Man. He ascended into Heaven with a glorified human Body. Ponder this awesome truth. 

18. Imagine the welcome Jesus received in Heaven. 

Application Questions 

1. How do you understand the Kingdom of God? In what ways are you already living in the Kingdom? 

2. How important is it to you to assemble with other Christians? 

3. How good are you at accepting mystery? 

4. How is the Holy Spirit working in your life? Do you have a relationship with the Holy Spirit? 

5. In what ways are you a witness to Jesus? How might you extend your witness? 

6. How would you have responded to the Ascension if you had been standing in the disciples' place? 

7. Have you ever stood in awe of something God did in your life or someone else's life? What was that experience like? 

8. Have you ever been in a situation in which you had to redirect your gaze? What were the circumstances? 

9. Is Jesus Christ the King of your life? 

10. Do you look forward to the time when you will be in Heaven with Jesus? 

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer 

Blessing and adoration – Dearest Jesus, we bow before You in silent adoration as we contemplate You seated at the right hand of the Father. We fall before You there in wonder and awe, knowing that although You are fully human like us, You are also fully divine, and You reign with Your Father and the Holy Spirit in Heaven. 

Praise – Jesus, we praise You for Your ascension. We praise You for being completely awe-inspiring. We praise You for Your glorious reign as King of the universe. 

Thanksgiving – Thank You, Jesus, for Your promises. You promised to send the Holy Spirit down upon Your disciples, and You did. We thank You for sending the Spirit down upon us. You promised to come back again from Heaven. We thank You ahead of time, Lord, because we believe that You will keep Your promise. 

Intercession – Lord, we lift up to You the missionaries who work to spread Christianity to the ends of the earth. Guard them and guide them, Lord. We lift up those who are outside the Church and do not understand the importance of gathering with other Christians. Touch their hearts, Lord, and bring them home to Your Church. 

Petition – Lord, please give us the strength and courage we need to be Your witnesses to the ends of the earth. Please enkindle within us a strong appreciation for mystery. Help us to realize that we need not understand everything in order to have great faith. 

Quotes from the Saints 

“Christ is already in that place of peace, which is all in all. He is on the right hand of God. He is hidden in the brightness of the radiance which issues from the everlasting throne. He is in the very abyss of peace, where there is no voice of tumult or distress, but a deep stillness--stillness, that greatest and most awful of all goods which we can fancy; that most perfect of joys, the utter profound, ineffable tranquility of the Divine Essence. He has entered into His rest. That is our home; here we are on a pilgrimage, and Christ calls us to His many mansions which He has prepared.” - Venerable John Henry Newman 

“Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.” - St. Augustine 

“I answer that Christ’s Ascension is the cause of our salvation in two ways: first of all, on our part; secondly, on His. On our part, in so far as by the Ascension our souls are uplifted to Him; because...His Ascension fosters, first, faith; secondly, hope; thirdly, charity. Fourthly, our reverence for Him is thereby increased, since we no longer deem Him an earthly man, but the God of heaven; thus the Apostle says (2 Corinthians 5:16): “If we have known Christ according to the flesh — `that is, as mortal, whereby we reputed Him as a mere man,’” as the gloss interprets the words — “but now we know Him so no longer.” On His part, in regard to those things which, in ascending, He did for our salvation. First, He prepared the way for our ascent into heaven, according to His own saying (John 14:2): “I go to prepare a place for you,” and the words of Micheas (2:13), “He shall go up that shall open the way before them.” For since He is our Head the members must follow whither the Head has gone: hence He said (John 14:3): “That where I am, you also may be.” In sign whereof He took to heaven the souls of the saints delivered from hell, according to Psalm 67:19 (Cf. Ephesians 4:8): “Ascending on high, He led captivity captive,” because He took with Him to heaven those who had been held captives by the devil — to heaven, as to a place strange to human nature. captives in deed of a happy taking, since they were acquired by His victory. Secondly, because as the high-priest under the Old Testament entered the holy place to stand before God for the people, so also Christ entered heaven “to make intercession for us,” as is said in Hebrews 7:25. Because the very showing of Himself in the human nature which He took with Him to heaven is a pleading for us. so that for the very reason that God so exalted human nature in Christ, He may take pity on them for whom the Son of God took human nature. Thirdly, that being established in His heavenly seat as God and Lord, He might send down gifts upon men, according to Ephesians 4:10: “He ascended above all the heavens, that He might fill all things,” that is, “with His gifts,” according to the gloss.” - St. Thomas Aquinas 

“But you will say, How does this concern me? Because you also shall be taken up in like manner into the clouds. For your body is of like nature to His body, therefore shall your body be so light, that it can pass through the air. For as is the head, so also is the body; as the beginning, so also the end. See then how you are honored by this beginning. Man was the lowest part of the rational creation, but the feet have been made the head, being lifted up aloft into the royal throne in their head.” - St. John Chrysostom 

“It has always seemed logical to me that the most holy humanity of Christ should ascend to the glory of the Father. The ascension has always made me very happy. But I think that the sadness that is particular to the day of the ascension is also a proof of the love that we feel for Jesus Christ, our Lord. He is God made man, perfect man, with flesh like ours, with blood like ours in his veins. Yet he leaves us and goes up to heaven. How can we help but miss his presence?” - St. Josemaria Escriva

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Little Something Extra...First Sunday of Advent

God's Awesome Deeds

In today's first reading, the prophet Isaiah longs for God to act in the world:

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,
while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.

Isaiah hopes for some dramatic action from God. He envisions the heavens splitting apart and the mountains trembling as God descends to earth. He desires God to perform great deeds beyond anything Israel had ever dared to dream.

And God did.

He didn't tear through the heavens or cause earthquakes when He came down to earth. But He certainly performed an awesome deed beyond anything His people could have hoped for or imagined.

He took on human flesh in His mother's womb. He became a tiny human baby.

During Advent, we anticipate the coming of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas. We prepare our hearts to welcome our God, Who dared to take on human flesh and become like us in everything except sin.

A Note on the New Translation

In the new translation of the Nicene Creed, we encounter one of those big, scary, theology words: consubstantial.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.

Consubstantial means “of one and the same substance, essence, or nature” ( It is a direct translation of the Latin word consubstantialem.

Back in the fourth century, the Church needed to define exactly Who Jesus is. A priest named Arius was teaching that Jesus, the Son of God, was not truly God but rather an extraordinary, unique creature. His teaching appealed to many Christians, and they began to abandon the orthodox faith. The bishops called a council at Nicaea in 325 to clarify the Church's teaching on Jesus' divinity.

They condemned Arius' position and proclaimed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is homoousios (Greek) or consubstantialis (Latin) or consubstantial with the Father. Jesus is truly God. He is of the same substance, essence, and nature as the Father. He is not just an extraordinary, unique creature. He is fully divine.

The big, scary, theology word consubstantial, then, reminds us that Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be God.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The First Glorious Mystery – The Resurrection

Scripture References

Matthew 27:62-28:20; Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-53; John 20:1-21:24

The Story in Brief

Jesus is risen! On the third day after the crucifixion, He rose from the dead. An angel rolled away the stone blocking the tomb's entrance and announced to Jesus' female disciples that their Lord had risen. Jesus appeared to several of these women, to Mary Magdalene, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to a group of disciples who were hiding from the Jews. Eight days later, He appeared again to the disciples, this time relieving the doubt of the apostle Thomas, who had declined to believe until he placed his fingers into the wounds on Jesus' hands and his hand into the wound on His side. Jesus appeared to His disciples again as they were fishing in Galilee and provided them with a miraculous catch. After a breakfast on the shore, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” When Peter replied to the affirmative, Jesus commanded Him to care for His sheep. Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He commissioned the disciples to baptize all nations in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and to spread the Gospel. He promised to be with them always.

Points to Ponder

1. Take a few minutes to ponder the silence of Jesus' tomb.

2. The Creed tells us that Jesus descended into hell (i.e., into the realm of the dead). Some of the saints elaborate on this to describe Jesus as speaking with the saints of the Old Testament and preparing them to go with Him to heaven now that He had opened heaven's gates. Picture the scene, and imagine the conversations between Jesus and the faithful of the Old Testament.

3. Matthew tells us that the Jews requested Pilate to place a guard of soldiers by the tomb, for they were afraid that someone might steal Jesus' Body. Pilate provided the guard and told them to make the tomb as secure as they could. They set the guard and sealed the stone at the tomb's entrance. Ponder how the Jews' paranoia actually served as a testimony to the truth of Jesus' Resurrection.

4. Jesus rose on the first day of the week, which is the day after the Jewish sabbath and our Sunday. Several theologians have pointed out that this indicates the new creation Jesus established, for God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, the sabbath. Now, on the eighth day, Jesus introduces a whole new creation. Reflect on these ideas.

5. Early in the morning, several of Jesus' female disciples went to the tomb. They knew that there was a heavy stone in front of the entrance, and they may even have known about the guard. They must have realized that they would have a difficult time getting into the tomb, but they went anyway. Meditate on the women's faithfulness and courage. What did they intend to do at the tomb?

6. In Matthew's account, an angel descended from heaven with a great earthquake. The angel rolled away the stone and sat just above it. He was dressed in white and glowed like lightning. The guards started shaking and fainted. Why did the angel appear in such a dramatic fashion?

7. The first words out of the angel's mouth were “Do not be afraid.” These words are repeated 365 times in the Bible, one for each day of the year. Why are they so important that we need to hear them that many times?

8. The angel continued, “I know that you are looking for Jesus Who was crucified. He is not here; for He has been raised, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay.” Jesus is risen! By the time the angel spoke with the women, He was no longer in the tomb. Think about that. Jesus rose from the dead. Death could not hold Him. He is victorious.

9. Mark's account also speaks about the women encountering the angel, who is described as a young man dressed in a white robe. The angel is sitting in the tomb on the right side. What is the significance of the right side?

10. St. Luke tells us that two men in dazzling clothes met the women at the tomb. The women were terrified of them, but the angels asked them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Why does Luke describe two angels? Ponder the fact that Jesus is alive and risen.

11. St. John informs us that when Mary Magdalene saw that the tomb was empty, she immediately ran to get Peter and John. Ponder Mary's urgency.

12. Each of the Gospels presents a slightly different description of the Resurrection events. Why is that? How might the variances among the accounts actually increase the evangelists' credibility, not to mention the sense of mystery surrounding the Resurrection? Take a look at the New Advent article on the Resurrection for an interesting harmonization of the Gospel accounts. For a much more detailed explanation, see the Tekton Education and Apologetics website.

13. The angel sent the women back to the disciples to announce the Resurrection and let them know that Jesus was going ahead to Galilee. Reflect on how these women became evangelists to the disciples. How might they have felt in this role?

14. At least some of the disciples did not believe the women's words, which seemed like an “idle tale.” Think about the disciples' hesitancy to believe. What were they thinking and feeling?

15. Peter and John did, however, listen to Mary Magdalene enough to understand that Jesus' tomb was empty. In fact, according to John's account, Mary may have left the tomb before hearing the the angel's message, for she was rather panicky and announced, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Reflect on Mary's words and state of mind at the time. What might she have felt when she saw the tomb empty?

16. Peter and John hurried to the tomb. They saw the burial cloths lying empty and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head rolled up in a corner by itself. They did not understand yet, but they began to believe. Think about the relationship between faith and understanding.

17. Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. Now it was her turn to see the angels, who asked her why she was weeping. “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him,” she replied. Ponder Mary's heartbreak.

18. Then Mary saw Jesus. She didn't know Who He was. Why not?

19. Mary begged the Man she thought was a gardener to tell her where He had laid her Lord that she might go and take Him away. Jesus said one word to her: “Mary.” Visualize this exchange.

20. Then Mary knew. She turned and cried how “Rabbouni!” How did Mary know Jesus at that point?

21. Jesus told Mary not to cling to Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father. Why didn't Jesus want Mary to cling to Him? Might He be telling her that she has to learn to relate to Him in a new way, a way that would be both the same and different?

22. Ponder Mary's joy in the Resurrected Jesus.

23. The other women also had an encounter with Jesus, according to Matthew's Gospel. They fell down before Him and worshiped Him. He told them not to be afraid and to go and tell His brothers to go to Galilee. These women knew that Jesus had been dead. Now He was standing before them. Reflect on what they might have been thinking and feeling

24. Reread the story of the Emmaus road disciples in Luke 24:13-35. Why were they leaving Jerusalem and heading to Emmaus? What were they thinking and feeling? Why didn't they recognize Jesus? What kinds of things did Jesus tell them when He interpreted the Scriptures for them? Why did they recognize Jesus when He took bread and blessed it? What is the significance of this action? Ponder how the disciples' hearts burned within them when Jesus spoke to them. The disciples returned to Jerusalem immediately. Why?

25. Jesus did not wait until the disciples went to Galilee to appear to them. Why did He choose to appear earlier than He first said?

26. The disciples had the doors locked because they were afraid of the Jews. Why were they afraid? Jesus came to them anyway. How did they feel when they saw the risen Jesus? What did He look like? What proofs did He give them of His resurrection? Ponder Jesus' resurrected Body and the disciples' response.

27. Jesus greeted the disciples with “Peace be with you.” What is this peace that Jesus brings?

28. Meditate on doubting Thomas and his proclamation of faith. Think about Thomas' doubt, his demand for physical proof, Jesus' patience with Thomas, and Jesus' promise that those who have not seen and have believed will be blessed.

29. Reflect on the miracle in Galilee. The disciples decided to go fishing. Why? Why didn't they recognize Jesus at first? What was the significance of their miraculous catch? Why did Peter jump into the water and start swimming for shore? What was the significance of the breakfast? How did they come to understand that Jesus was with them?

30. Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” Ponder this conversation. Why did Jesus ask three times? What does it mean to care for Jesus' sheep?

31. Jesus commissioned the disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with You always, to the end of the age.” Ponder Jesus' words and the mission they command.

Application Questions

1. Have you ever felt like there is nothing you can do for someone you love? How did that make you feel?

2. What makes you afraid? How do you conquer your fears?

3. What does Jesus' victory over death mean to you? How does it affect your life?

4. Has God ever done anything dramatic in your life? What?

5. Do you ever look for the living among the dead? Is your attention focused on things that will not bring you true life and happiness? How might you change that?

6. In what ways are you an evangelist to the world around you? How might your spread the Word of God even more?

7. Are you ever hesitant to believe in God or in the teachings of the Church? In what circumstances? How do you overcome your hesitancy?

8. How do you respond to grief?

9. When have you had trouble recognizing Jesus in your life?

10. Do you ever cling to the ways of the past instead of moving forward into the present and toward the future? How might you let go and surrender yourself to God?

11. Are you joyful in your faith? Why or why not? How might you increase your joy?

12. Have you ever felt your heart burn within you as you read the Scriptures or received the sacraments? What was the experience like?

13. Do you spend time reading and meditating on the Scriptures daily? Why or why not?

14. How do you experience the peace of Jesus?

15. Have you ever been a “doubting Thomas”? Why or why not? If you have been, what changed your heart and mind?

16. How are you called to care for Jesus' sheep?

17. What kind of relationship do you have with the risen Jesus?

18. Do you remember that Jesus is with you always?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and Adoration – Risen Jesus, we bow before you in silent adoration as we contemplate Your victory over death in and through Your Resurrection. We join with the disciples in wonder and awe as we greet You Who once were dead but now are alive.

Praise – Jesus, we praise You for Your glorious resurrection. We praise You for the empty tomb. We praise You for the message of the angels. We praise you for Your appearances to Your disciples. We praise You for that wonderful walk to Emmaus. We praise You for the miraculous catch and the breakfast by the shore. We praise You for being You, our risen Lord.

Thanksgiving – Jesus, thank You for our faith. We thank You, of course, for Your Resurrection and for Your victory over death, a victory that becomes our victory, too, when we surrender ourselves to You in faith, hope, and love.

Intercession – Jesus, we lift up to You all those who doubt. Touch their hearts, Lord, and soften them to accept the faith You are all too ready to give. We lift up those who grieve. Comfort them, Lord. We lift up all bishops, priests, and deacons, Lord. They have a special responsibility to care for Your sheep. Give them strength, courage, faithfulness, and especially love.

Petition – Jesus, strengthen our faith. Help us to encounter You, our risen Lord, and to see You in the events of our lives and in our neighbors. May we always recognize You especially in the breaking of the Bread, and may the words of the Scared Scriptures always make our hearts burn within us.

Quotes from the Saints

“He rose again after three days, to signify the consent of the whole Trinity in the passion of the Son; the three days' space is read figuratively, because the Trinity which in the beginning made man, the same in the end restores man by the passion of Christ.” - St. Augustine

“And, behold, there was a great earthquake. Our Lord, Son at once of God and man, according to His twofold nature of Godhead and of flesh, gives a sign one while of His greatness, another while of His lowliness. Thus, though now it was man who was crucified, and man who was buried, yet the things that were done around show the Son of God.” - St. Jerome

"He said not 'rolled,' but rolled back; because the rolling to of the stone was a proof of death; the rolling it back asserted the resurrection. The order of things is changed; The Tomb devours death, and not the dead; the house of death becomes the mansion of life; a new law is imposed upon it, it receives a dead, and renders up a living, man. It follows, And sat thereon. He sat down, who was incapable of weariness; but sat as a teacher of the faith, a master of the Resurrection; upon the stone, that the firmness of his seat might assure the steadfastness of the believers; the Angel rested the foundations of the Faith upon that rock, on which Christ was to found His Church. Or, by the stone of the sepulcher may be denoted death, under which we all lay; and by the Angel sitting thereon, is shown that Christ has by His might subdued death." - St. Peter Chrysologus

“According to the mystical meaning, by the women coming early in the morning to the sepulcher, we have an example given us, that having cast away the darkness of our vices, we should come to the Body of the Lord. For that sepulcher also bore the figure of the Altar of the Lord, wherein herein the mysteries of Christ's Body, not in silk or purple cloth, but in pure white linen, like that in which Joseph wrapped it, ought to be consecrated, that as He offered up to death for us the true substance of His earthly nature, so we also in commemoration of Him should place on the Altar the flax, pure from the plant of the earth, and white, and in many ways refined by a kind of crushing to death. But the spices which the women bring, signify the odor of virtue, and the sweetness of prayers by which we ought to approach the Altar. The rolling back of the stone alludes to the unclosing of the Sacraments which were concealed by the veil of the letter of the law which was written on stone, the covering of which being taken away, the dead body of the Lord is not found, but the living body is preached; for although we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. But as when the Body of our Lord lay in the sepulcher, Angels are said to have stood by, so also at the time of consecration are they to be believed to stand by the mysteries of Christ. Let us then after the example of the devout women, whenever we approach the heavenly mysteries because of the presence of the Angels, or from reverence to the Sacred Offering, with all humility, bow our faces to the earth, recollecting that we are but dust and ashes.” - St. Bede

“A twofold feeling possessed the minds of the women, fear and joy; fear, at the greatness of the miracle; joy, in their desire of Him that was risen; but both added speed to their women's steps, as it follows, And did run to bring his disciples word. They went to the Apostles, that through them might be spread abroad the seed of the faith. They who thus desired, and who thus ran, merited to have their rising Lord come to meet them; whence it follows, And, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail.” - St. Jerome

“[Mary Magdalene] sought the body, and found it not; she persevered in seeking; and so it came to pass that she found. Her longings growing the stronger, the more they were disappointed, at last found and laid hold on their object. For holy longings ever gain strength by delay, did they not, they would not be longings. Mary so loved, that not content with seeing the sepulcher, she stooped down and looked in: let us see the fruit which came of this persevering love: And sees two Angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain...” - St. Gregory the Great

“Consider the mercy of the Lord, how for the sake; of one soul, He exhibits His wounds. And yet the disciples deserved credit, and He had Himself foretold the event. Notwithstanding, because one person, Thomas, would examine Him, Christ allowed him. But He did not appear to him immediately, but waited till the eighth day, in order that the admonition being given in the presence of the disciples, might kindle in him greater desire, and strengthen his faith for the future. And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be to you....And first He rebukes him; Then says He to Thomas, Reach hither your finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither your hand, and thrust it into My side: secondly, He admonishes him; And be not faithless, but believing. Note how that before they receive the Holy Ghost faith wavers, but afterward is firm. We may wonder how an incorruptible body could retain the marks of the nails. But it was done in condescension; in order that they might be sure that it was the very person Who was crucified.” - St. John Chysostom

"Let us then reverence the gift of peace, which Christ when He departed hence left to us. Peace both in name and reality is sweet, which also we have heard to be of God, as it is said, The peace of God; and that God is of it, as He is our peace. Peace is a blessing commended by all, but observed by few. What then is the cause? Perhaps the desire of dominion or riches, or the envy or hatred of our neighbor, or some one of those vices into which we see men fall who know not God. For peace is peculiarly of God, who binds all things together in one, to whom nothing so much belongs as the unity of nature, and a peaceful condition. It is borrowed indeed by angels and divine powers, which are peacefully disposed towards God and one another. It is diffused through the whole creation, whose glory is tranquility. But in us it abides in our souls indeed by the following and imparting of the virtues, in our bodies by the harmony of our members and organs, of which the one is called beauty, the other health." - St. Gregary of Nazianzus

“And because what He had laid upon them was great, therefore to exalt their spirits He adds, And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. As much as to say, Tell Me not of the difficulty of these things, seeing I am with you, Who can make all things easy. A like promise He often made to the Prophets in the Old Testament, to Jeremiah who pleaded his youth, to Moses, and to Ezekiel, when they would have shunned the office imposed upon them. And not with them only does He say that He will be, but with all who shall believe after them. For the Apostles were not to continue till the end of the world, but He says this to the faithful as to one body.” - St. John Chysostom

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ The King

The Shepherd King

When someone says the word “king,” what do you think of? Do you picture an elaborately-dressed and bejeweled ruler sitting on a stately throne and delivering powerful political and military decrees? Or perhaps you think of some of the modern European monarchs who aren't much more than figureheads in their countries?

The Jews of Jesus' day were expecting a king. They thought their Messiah was going to be a powerful political and military ruler who would free Israel from foreign domination. They certainly were not looking for the kind of Messiah-King that God actually sent.

What do you think of when you hear “Christ the King”?

Today's readings paint a portrait of the kind of king that Jesus is for God's people. Let's take a look at some of our King's characteristics.

First Reading – Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17

Our King is a Shepherd Who tends His flock with loving care. He tends us Himself. He rescues those who are scattered and lost. He provides nourishing pastures and quiet rest. He binds up the injured and heals the sick. He also judges between the sheep. Some of them, the sleek and strong, He will even destroy.

This last statement seems out of place, doesn't it? Why will this good, caring Shepherd destroy some of His sheep? One commentator explains that sleek and strong sheep are those who “are full of themselves, lifted up with pride, conceited with their riches or righteousness, and despise others, whom they thrust with side and shoulder, and push with their horns.” The Hebrew word for “destroy” here can point to death, but it could also indicate bringing to nought or overthrowing. Could it be, then, that the Shepherd King is overthrowing those sleek, strong sheep in order to humble them? And when they are humbled, might they perhaps be better able to appreciate the nourishing pastures and quiet rest their King provides?

Psalm 23

Today's psalm continues to describe the Shepherd King. He offers us rest in green pastures. He refreshes our souls, guides us along right paths, nourishes us at a table that He spreads before us, anoints us with oil, and provides us a house in which to dwell with Him.

Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28

Our second reading offers us a slightly different picture of Jesus Christ as King. Here we see the risen Christ Who puts all His enemies under His feet, in a place of subjection. He even destroys death. And when He is finished, when He has won His final victory, He will hand His kingdom over to His Father, and God will be all in all.

Gospel – Matthew 25:31-46

The Gospel reading returns our attention to Jesus, our Shepherd King. Now, however, we see Jesus performing His role as judge of His sheep and separating them from the goats. He places the sheep on His right, in a place of honor, for they were the ones who acted compassionately toward their neighbors and thereby acted compassionately toward Him. They are welcomed into eternal life. The goats He sends away to eternal punishment, for they ignored the needs and pains of their neighbors and thereby ignored Him. They have condemned themselves by their failure to love, by their failure to imitate their caring, loving, gentle Shepherd King.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery – The Crucifixion

Scripture References

Matthew 27:33-56; Mark 15:22-40; Luke 23:32-49; John 19:17-37

The Story in Brief

Jesus was crucified on Calvary or, in Hebrew, Golgotha. The soldiers stripped Him, nailed Him to the cross, and lifted Him up to die a slow, excruciating death by suffocation. They cast lots to divide His clothes, particularly His seamless tunic. Pontius Pilate ordered a sign placed above Jesus' head. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Jesus was crucified between two criminals. At first they joined the crowd in taunting Jesus, but then one of them had a change of heart. He admitted his crimes and testified to Jesus' innocence. He begged, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” Jesus' mother, St. John, and several women stood near the cross. When Jesus saw His mother and St. John, He said to Mary, “Woman behold your son. He said to St. John, “Behold your mother.” As Jesus approached His death, He cried out “Eli, Eli lema sacbachthani”and said “I am thirsty.” After He had taken a little wine, He cried out in a loud voice, “It is finished!” Then He gave up His Spirit. A nearby soldier pierced Jesus' side with a lance, and blood and water flowed out. The soldier loudly proclaimed Jesus' innocence, even going so far as to call Him the Son of God. Joseph of Arimathea claimed Jesus' Body and buried Him in a new tomb.

Points to Ponder

1. Jesus was crucified on Golgotha, which means the Place of the Skull in Hebrew. The site was also called Calvary from its Latin name. Meditate on the name Golgotha. Keep in mind that Golgotha or Calvary is the traditional site of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22.

2. Golgotha was outside the city gates. What does that symbolize?

3. When Jesus arrived at Calvary, He was offered wine mixed with gall and/or myrrh to drink. The Jews had a custom of offering a person about to be crucified wine mixed with gall or myrrh (both mean something bitter) that would intoxicate the person and help dull the pain of crucifixion. Jesus tasted the wine but refused to drink it. Why? What does this refusal tell us about Jesus?

4. The soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross. They elevated the cross and left Him to hang there, dying a slow, painful death by suffocation. Ponder Jesus' agony.

5. Now reflect on why Jesus freely suffered such agony.

6. The soldiers cast lots to divide Jesus' clothes. This action fulfilled a prophecy in Psalm 22:8. Jesus was wearing a seamless tunic that had been woven in one piece. The soldiers did not wish to tear it. Picture the soldiers as they focused on dividing up Jesus' clothing. Also meditate on the symbolism of the seamless garment.

7. There seems to be a discrepancy between Mark's and John's Gospels about the time at which Jesus was crucified, but this seeming contradiction can easily be explained. Read and reflect on Steve Ray's article “How Long Was Jesus on the Cross”.

8. Pontius Pilate ordered an inscription to be hung over Jesus head that read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. These were the languages of the known world at the time, so Pilate intended the message to reach everyone. The Jews were far from pleased. They told him, “Do not write, 'The King of the Jews' but 'This man said, I am King of the Jews'.” Pilate refused: “What I have written I have written.” Think about the significance of this inscription. Why were the Jews upset by it? What might have been Pilate's motives for writing it and refusing to change it?

9. As He was being crucified, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Ponder these words.

10. Jesus was crucified between two criminals. The Greek word Matthew and Mark use to describe these two indicates that they were violent thieves who used force to rob people. Luke uses an even stronger word that suggests that they were workers or authors of evil. Think about the significance of Jesus being crucified between these two men.

11. Matthew and Mark portray the two criminals as taunting Jesus. Luke goes further to describe how one of them had a sudden change of heart. As his fellow thief derided Jesus and said, “Are You not the Messiah? Save Yourself and us,” the converting robber admitted that he was getting exactly what his deeds deserved. He testified that Jesus had done nothing wrong, and he humbly requested, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus must have looked at him with love when he replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Picture this scene of repentance and forgiveness. What brought about the thief's change of heart? What did he mean when he spoke of Jesus' kingdom? How did the thief feel when he heard Jesus' words of comfort and promise?

12. The crowd mocked Jesus as He hung on the cross, taunting Him and telling Him to save Himself and come down from the cross that they might believe in Him. Why does the crowd do this? What message does this send about the nature of faith?

13. Several faithful women, including Jesus' mother, stood near the cross. Imagine what they might have been thinking and feeling.

14. Jesus' beloved disciple, St. John, was standing by the cross with Mary. When Jesus saw them there, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” Jesus gave His mother as a mother to the whole human race at that point. Ponder this beautiful truth.

15. As He approached His death, Jesus called out “Eli, Eli lema sacbachthani,” which means “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Meditate on Jesus' sense of abandonment.

16. Jesus then said, “I am thirsty.” Was His thirst merely physical or something more?

17. Someone soaked a sponge is sour wine and held it up for Jesus to drink. Reexamine Dr. Scott Hahn's ideas about the Fourth Cup and ponder the significance of this action.

18. Darkness covered the whole land until three in the afternoon when Jesus died. Why?

19. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “It is finished!” and breathed His last. Reflect on Jesus final words. Meditate on the death of the God-Man.

20. When Jesus died, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This was the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies, God's dwelling place, from the rest of the Temple and, indeed, from the world. What is the meaning of this?

21. The earth shook at the moment of Jesus' death. Rocks split. Tombs were opened. Ponder these events.

22. One of the Roman soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a lance as He hung dead on the cross. Blood and water poured out. Many saints have explained that the blood and water symbolize the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism. They also say that the Church was born from Jesus' side as He hung dead on the cross, just as Eve was born from Adam's side as he slept. Reflect on these ideas.

23. The same soldier loudly proclaimed Jesus' innocence, even announcing that He must be the Son of God. Why did this man have such a complete change of heart so quickly?

24. Pilate released Jesus' body to Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph wrapped the Body and laid it in his own new tomb that had been hewn from the rock. Nicodemus brought a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes to perform the Jewish burial customs. These rites had to be abbreviated because of the approaching sabbath. They rolled a large stone in front of the tomb's opening and went away until after the sabbath. Meditate on the loving care with which Jesus' disciples carried out His burial.

25. Mary Magdalene and at least one other woman remained sitting opposite the tomb. Why? Ponder their lonely vigil.

Application Questions

1. What do you feel when You think about Jesus being nailed to the cross and then hanging there, left to die?

2. Do you understand that Jesus did all of this for you, suffered all of this for you? How might your life be different if you reflected on this point more often?

3. How do you handle your pain? Do you unite it with Jesus' sufferings?

4. Is Jesus the King of your life? How so? How might you allow Him to reign over you even more?

5. Are you able to forgive those who hurt you?

6. When have you felt the kind of humble repentance that the thief expressed on the cross? How do you think Jesus responded to you?

7. Is your faith strong? Do you expect God to provide signs in order for you to believe?

8. What is your relationship with Mary? Is she your mother?

9. Have you ever felt abandoned by God? What were the circumstances? How did you respond?

10. What do you believe about the Catholic Church? Why?

11. Have you ever lost someone you loved? How did that feel? How did you cope with it? Did you turn to Jesus for help?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and Adoration – Dearest Jesus, we bow our heads in silence adoration as we contemplate You on the cross. We fall before You as we meditate on Your suffering and death. We offer our lives to You, Who gave Your life for us.

Praise – Jesus, we praise You as we contemplate You on the cross. We praise You for Your great, self-sacrificing love. We praise You for Your courage, Your humility, and Your strength. We praise You for Your willingness to suffer to save us, for Your commitment to doing Your Father's will no matter what the cost. We praise You for the cross, dearest Jesus.

Thanksgiving – Jesus, thank You. It seems too little to merely say it, especially after Your great suffering and death on the cross. Please help us to live our thanks, to express it in our lives through love of You and our neighbor.

Intercession – Jesus, we lift up to You all those who are suffering. Hold them close to You and comfort them, Lord. We lift up to You those who are watching their loved ones suffer. Give them strength, courage, and compassion, Lord. We lift up sinners. Give them a repentant heart, Lord. We lift up those who behave in a cruel, taunting way. Change their hearts, Lord. We lift up those who are grieving, Lord. Wrap them up in Your loving arms.

Petition – Jesus, please give us strength in suffering, compassion for those in pain, repentance for our sins, and comfort in our grief. We join the repentant thief in praying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

Quotes from the Saints

“Such is the place of the cross, set up in the center of the earth, that it might be equally free to all nations to attain the knowledge of God.” - St. Hilary

“This which was now done to Christ had been prophesied in the Psalm, They parted my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. It proceeds, And sitting down, they watched him there. This watchfulness of the soldiers and of the Priests has proved of use to us in making the power of His resurrection greater and more notorious. And they set up over his head his accusation written, This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. I cannot sufficiently wonder at the enormity of the thing, that having purchased false witnesses, and having stirred up the unhappy people to riot and uproar, they found no other plea for putting Him to death, than that He was King of the Jews; and this perhaps they set up in mockery.” - St. Jerome

“Two thieves were crucified with him, one on the right hand and one on the left, that in the figure of His cross might be represented that separation of all mankind which shall be made in His judgment. The Passion then of Christ contains a sacrament of our salvation, and of that instrument which the wickedness of the Jews provided for His punishment, the power of the Redeemer made a step to glory.” - St. Leo

“Because the Lord had said, Pray for them that persecute you, this likewise He did, when He ascended the cross, as it follows, Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, not that He was not able Himself to pardon them, but that He might teach us to pray for our persecutors, not only in word, but in deed also. But He says, Forgive them, if they should repent. For He is gracious to the penitent, if they are willing after so great wickedness to wash away their guilt by faith.” - St. John Chrysostom

“Now our Lord being truly the Savior wished not by saving Himself, but by saving His creatures, to be acknowledged the Savior. For neither is a physician by healing himself known to be physician by healing himself known to be a physician, unless he also gives proof of his skill towards the sick. So the Lord being the Savior had no need of salvation, nor by descending from the cross did He wish to be acknowledged the Savior, but by dying. For truly a much greater salvation does the death of the Savior bring to men, than the descent from the cross.” - St. Anthanasius

“A most remarkable example is here given of seeking after conversion, seeing that pardon is so speedily granted to the thief. The Lord quickly pardons, because the thief is quickly converted. And grace is more abundant than prayer; for the Lord ever gives more than He is asked for. The thief asked that He should remember him, but our Lord answers, Verily I say to you, This day shall you be with me in Paradise. To be with Christ is life, and where Christ is, there is His kingdom.” - St. Ambrose

“Mary the mother of our Lord stood before the cross of her Son. None of the Evangelists hath told me this except John. The others have related how that at our Lord's Passion the earth quaked, the heaven was overspread with darkness, the sun fled, the thief was taken into paradise after confession. John hath told us, what the others have not, how that from the cross whereon He hung, He called to His mother. He thought it a greater thing to show Him victorious over punishment, fulfilling the offices of piety to His mother, than giving the kingdom of heaven and eternal life to the thief. For if it was religious to give life to the thief, a much richer work of piety it is for a son to honor his mother with such affection. Behold, He says, your son; behold your mother. Christ made His Testament from the cross, and divided the offices of piety between the Mother and the disciples. Our Lord made not only a public, but also a domestic Testament. And this His Testament John sealed a witness worthy of such a Testator. A good testament it was, not of money, but of eternal life, which was not written with ink, but with tile spirit of the living God: My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Mary, as became the mother of our Lord, stood before the cross, when the Apostles fled and With pitiful eyes beheld the wounds of her Son. For she looked not on the death of the Hostage, but on the salvation of the world; end perhaps knowing that her Son's death would bring this salvation, she who had been the habitation of the King, thought that by her death she might add to that universal gift.” - St. Ambrose

“When now nought of suffering remains to be endured, death still lingers, knowing that it has nothing there. The ancient foe suspected somewhat unusual. This man, first and only, he found having no sin, free from guilt, owing nothing to the laws of his jurisdiction. But leagued with Jewish madness, Death comes again to the assault, and desperately invades the Life-giver. And Jesus, when be had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. Wherefore should we be offended that Christ came from the bosom of the Father to take upon Him our bondage, that He might confer on us His freedom; to take upon Him our death, that we might be set free by His death; by despising death He exalted us mortals into Gods, counted them of earth worthy of things in heaven? For seeing the Divine power shines forth so brilliant in the contemplation of its works, it is an argument of boundless love, that it suffers for its subjects, dies for its bondsmen. This then was the first cause of the Lord's Passion, that He would have it known how great God's love to man, Who desired rather to be loved than feared. The second was that He might abolish with yet more justice the sentence of death which He had with justice passed. For as the first man had by guilt incurred death through God's sentence, and handed down the same to his posterity, the second Man, who knew no sin, came from heaven that death might be condemned, which, when commissioned to seize the guilty, had presumed to touch the Author of sinlessness. And it is no wonder if for us He laid down what He had taken of us, His life, namely, when He has done other so great things for us, and bestowed so much on us.” - St. Augustine

“Nor without meaning has one Evangelist spoken of a new tomb, another of the tomb of Joseph. For the grave is prepared by those who are under the law of death; the Conqueror of death has no grave of His own. For what fellowship has God with the grave. He alone is enclosed in this tomb, because the death of Christ, although it was common according to the nature of the body, yet was it peculiar in respect of power. But Christ is rightly buried in the tomb of the just, that He may rest in the habitation of justice. For this monument the just man hews out with the piercing word in the hearts of Gentile hardness, that the power of Christ might extend over the nations. And very rightly is there a stone rolled against the tomb; for whoever has in himself truly buried Christ, must diligently guard, lest he lose Him, or lest there be an entrance for unbelief.” - St. Ambrose