Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bad Examples

The Scriptures offer an abundance of specific instructions about what we must do to live a good life that is pleasing to God. Sometimes, however, the Bible also teaches us by showing us what not to do.

Today's first reading and Gospel present two bad examples: the corrupt Levites and the proud scribes and Pharisees. In the first reading, the prophet Malachi scolds the Levites, and in the Gospel, Jesus chastises the scribes and Pharisees. Both Malachi and Jesus point out the many flaws of these religious leaders, give them a much-needed lesson in humility, and offer them a chance to change.

The First Reading: Malachai 1:14b – 2:2b, 8-10

The Levites were the priests of the Old Testament. Their job was to teach the Law, give the people an example of holiness, and offer the prescribed sacrifices in the Temple. Apparently, they also assumed the role of judges in conflicts between the Israelites.

In this reading, God, though the prophet Malachai, lodges several complaints against the Levites:

1. they have turned aside from the way of holiness;
 2. they have caused others to falter and grow weak through bad advice or lack of proper instruction;
 3. they are not keeping their side of the covenant (i.e, they are not giving themselves to God in loving service); and
 4. they show partiality in their decisions (and perhaps take bribes?).

The Levites had already been punished for their misdeeds. The people who were supposed to look up to them as examples of holiness now look down on them with contempt and derision.

These wayward Levites will be subject to further chastisement if they do not turn away from their wickedness. “I will send a curse upon you and of your blessing I will make a curse,” God threatens through Malachai. Remember, though, that when God punishes, He does so to lead stubborn hearts and minds to repentance and conversion.

What must the Levites do, then, if they are to follow God's will? They must listen to God, take His words to heart, give glory to His name, change their ways, behave as children of the one God, remember that they are brothers of the people they are to serve, keep the covenant, be faithful to each other, and practice humility.

The Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12

The scribes and Pharisees were the teachers of the Law in Jesus' time. They were supposed to be compassionate and loving leaders who taught by word and holy example.

In the Gospel, Jesus lodges numerous complaints against the scribes and Pharisees:

1. they do not practice what they preach;
 2. they place burdens on the people, but they do not help them carry those burdens (i.e., they create an excess of rules regulations, but they do not help the people fulfill them);
 3. they are proud; and
 4. they do good works only to be recognized and approved by others.

What will to happen to the scribes and Pharisees if they refuse to change their ways? Jesus warns, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.”

What, then, must the scribes and Pharisees do to please God? They must discover humility, remember that God is their Teacher, Father, and Master, become servants to others, and live in unity with their brothers and sisters.

If the Levites, scribes, and Pharisees had only listened to the Word of God and changed their ways (and perhaps some of them did), these bad examples who show us how not to live might have become our fellow travelers along the path to God.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Second Sorrowful Mystery – The Scourging at the Pillar

Scripture References

Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:16, 22; John 19:1

The Story in Brief

Judas led an armed crowd to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus, Who was subsequently brought before the high priest and council, Herod, and Pontius Pilate. Peter, who was standing in the courtyard waiting to hear the results of the trials, denied Jesus three times exactly as Jesus had predicted. The Jews called for Jesus' crucifixion, but Pilate was unwilling. He offered to release Jesus according to the custom of the Jewish feast, but the Jews chose Barabbas instead and continued to insist that Jesus be crucified. Pilate finally gave in, symbolically washed his hands of the matter, and turned Jesus over to the Roman soldiers to be scourged and executed.

Points to Ponder

1. Because the actual scourging of Jesus at the pillar takes up only one verse in Matthew, Mark, and John and receives two brief references in Luke, you may wish to spend some time meditating on the events leading up the scourging. Carefully read Matthew 26:47 – 27:26; Mark 14:43 – 15:15; Luke 22:47 – 23:25; and John 18:1 – 19:6, and ponder some of the points below.

2. Think about the scene of Jesus' betrayal. Consider the following: how the crowd comes to arrest Jesus with swords and clubs; Judas' betraying kiss; Jesus' response of “Friend, do what you are here to do”; the crowd's reaction when Jesus said “I AM”; the meaning of “I AM”; the altercation between Peter and the high priest's servant; the healing of the servant's ear; Jesus' acceptance of His arrest so that the “Scriptures be fulfilled”; and the disciples' desertion

3. Meditate on Jesus' trial before the high priest. Consider the following: the false testimony against Jesus; Jesus' silence in the face of the accusations; Jesus' testimony of “From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven”; the high priest's verdict; and the abuse Jesus receives at the hands of the Jews

4. Ponder Peter's denial of Jesus. Consider the following: the reasons for Peter's denial; Jesus' prediction and response; Peter's violent outburst; and Peter's remorse.

5. Think about Jesus' trial before Pilate. Consider the following: the Jews' accusations; Pilate's questions to Jesus; Jesus' silence in the face of His accusers; the dream of Pilate's wife; Jesus' words to Pilate about the kingdom in John's Gospel; the Jews' choice of Barabbas; Pilate's fear; Pilate's verdict of “not guilty”; how Pilate caved in to the Jews when they implied that if he were to let Jesus go, he would be betraying Caesar; the Jews' claim that they had no king but Caesar and their cries to crucify Jesus; and how Pilate washed his hands of the matter and declared himself innocent of Jesus' blood.

6. Reflect on Jesus' trial before Herod in Luke's Gospel. Consider the following: why Luke includes this scene; Jesus' silence; the mockery and abuse Jesus endured; and how Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate dressed in an elegant robe.

7. Ponder the manner in which Jesus was scourged. Roman soldiers lashed Him repeatedly with a whip that probably had at least two “tails” tipped with metal balls. The Jews limited their scourgings to thirty-nine lashes, but the Romans did not. For more detailed information about the scourging, see this website. Please be warned; it contains disturbing material.

8. Reflect on Jesus' extreme pain, and remember that He suffered that pain because of our sins.

9. Consider how strong Jesus' love was. He loved His tormentors even as they scourged Him. And He loves us even when we sin.

10. Is there any pain that Jesus cannot understand?

11. Remember that Jesus could have stopped the scourging, and the entire Passion, at any point. He was and is God. But He chose to suffer it for our sake, to save us, and bring us home to Heaven to be with Him forever. Ponder this amazing truth.

12. Place yourself in the sandals of those who witnessed the scourging. What did they see? How did they react?

Application Questions

1. How have you betrayed Jesus throughout your life? Have you repented of your sins and confessed them? Do you understand that Jesus forgives you and loves you even when you do betray Him?

2. How do you respond when you are falsely accused by someone?

3. In what ways have you, like Peter, denied Jesus? How did you feel afterward?

4. Have you ever been influenced to do something you knew was wrong? Have you ever followed the crowd instead of your conscience? Why did you do so? How did you feel afterward?

5. Do you truly realize, do you truly understand, what Jesus endured for you?

6. How should you respond to Jesus' self-giving love?

7. Do you realize that Jesus completely understands your pain? How might this realization change your relationship with Him and your view of the sufferings in your own life?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and Adoration – We bow our heads in silent adoration before You, our suffering Jesus. We adore You and we bless You, for You suffered unspeakable pain and anguish for our sake. How can we ever truly grasp Your wondrous love for us, Lord?

Praise – Jesus, we praise You for Your great courage and love. You stood silently before Your accusers and allowed Yourself to be abused and scourged. You could have stopped it all at any moment, but You chose to continue out of love for us. May Your praises ring out in Heaven and earth, Lord Jesus!

Thanksgiving – Lord, how can we ever thank You enough? You were betrayed, denied, and abused by the ones You love. You suffered for us. You bore the pain and anguish of our sin. And You did it all willingly that we may be with You in Heaven forever. How can we ever thank You enough, Lord?

Intercession – Lord, we lift up to You all those in pain. Comfort them and strengthen them, Lord. We lift up those who even today do not recognize You as the divine Son. Touch their hearts that they may know You, Lord. We lift up those who are tempted to bow to the will of the crowd instead of following their consciences. Give them courage, Lord. We lift up those who are physically abused. Hold them closely in Your arms and protect them, Lord. We lift up their abusers. Change their hearts and ways, Lord.

Petition – Jesus, help us always to remember that no matter what we must suffer, You are always there beside us, and You understand fully what we are going through. Help us to turn to You for strength and courage and self-control. Forgive us our sins, Lord as we fall before You in sorrow and repentance.

Quotes from the Saints

“It should be known that Pilate administered the Roman law, which enacted that every one who was crucified should first be scourged. Jesus then is given up to the soldiers to be beaten, and they tore with whips that most holy body and capacious bosom of God. This was done that we might be delivered from those stripes of which it is said, Many stripes shall be to the wicked. ” - St. Jerome

“See the Lord is made ready for the scourge, see now it descends upon Him! That sacred skin is torn by the fury of the rods; the cruel might of repeated blows lacerates His shoulders. Ah me! God is stretched out before man, and He, in whom not one trace of sin can be discerned, suffers punishment as a malefactor.” - St. John Chrysostom

“When the Jews had cried out that they did not wish Jesus to be released on account of the passover, but Barabbas, Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him. Pilate seems to have done this for no reason but to satisfy the malice of the Jews with some punishment short of death. On which account he allowed his band to do what follows, or perhaps even commanded them.” - St. Augustine

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Affliction and Joy

In 1 Thessalonians 1:6, St. Paul tells his readers, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit...”

Affliction and joy seem incompatible, don't they? Yet St. Paul deliberately links them together as part of the Christian experience of receiving the Word of God.

A brief word study will help us delve into depths of St. Paul's meaning.

The Greek word for “receiving” is dechomai. It means taking something to oneself, accepting it, and even embracing it. There is a highly personal aspect to this word, which in the Greek suggests a firm decision of the receiver's will to accept and retain the object presented. When people receive the Word, then, they make a deliberate decision to take that Word into themselves and to embrace it in the depths of their being.

The Greek for “word” here is logos. Remember that logos is often used to refer to Jesus Christ Himself, the Logos, or Word, of God and the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. When St. Paul speaks of “the word” in this verse, he is certainly referring to the Gospel message that he preached to the Thessalonians, but he is also suggesting, at a deeper level, Jesus Christ, the Word of God.

St. Paul says that his readers have received the Word in great affliction but with joy from the Holy Spirit. The Greek word thlipsis can be translated as affliction, pressure, oppression, distress, or tribulation. Where does this affliction come from? Remember that the Thessalonians were experiencing persecution from the Jews. They were certainly being pressured to abandon their Christian faith and were oppressed socially, economically, and maybe even physically. Many Christians still face such afflictions today.

Affliction and tribulation, however, can never extinguish the joy that comes with truly receiving the Word of God. The Greek word for “joy” is chara, which can also denote gladness and delight. St. Paul reminds us that this joy comes from the Holy Spirit. It is beyond natural joy or joy in created things. It is a God-given joy, and therefore, it is stronger and more powerful than any affliction or tribulation that Christians might experience in the world.

Questions for Reflection:

* Think about the ways in which you are invited to receive the Word of God, both the Gospel message and Jesus Christ.

* How open is your heart and mind to the Word of God?

* Have you embraced the Word through a deliberate decision of the will?

* How has this made a difference in your life?

* How might you more fruitfully receive the Word?

* Think about the mix of affliction and joy in your own life as a Christian.

* Have you experienced oppression and tribulation because you are a Christian?

* How did you handle those situations?

* In what ways do you experience God-given joy as a Christian?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The First Sorrowful Mystery – The Agony in the Garden

Scripture References

Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46

The Story in Brief

When the Passover Meal turned First Eucharist was complete, Jesus and His disciples walked out to the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus told some of the disciples to wait in a certain place, but He took Peter, James, and John with Him. He began to be sorrowful and troubled and asked the three to stay awake while He prayed. He fell to the ground and said, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not what I want but what You want.” When He returned to the disciples, He found them asleep. After warning them to stay awake and pray that they may not come into the time of trial, He went back to His prayer and said nearly the same words. Once again, He returned to find His disciples asleep, and once again, He prayed. While He was praying, He was in so much anguish that His sweat became like blood. An angel came to Him and gave Him strength. When He returned to the disciples for the last time, He told them to get up, for His betrayer was approaching.

Points to Ponder

1. Consider the setting of this mystery. The name Gethsemane means “oil press.” Gethsemane was a garden located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus and the disciples visited there often. Picture the scene, the darkness, the vegetation, and think about the significance of a garden. Remember that Adam made a choice in the Garden of Eden. Jesus made a choice in the Garden of Gethsemane. Reflect on the difference between their choices.

2. Jesus told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Ponder the significance of Jesus' prayer and of prayer in general.

3. Jesus took His inner circle, Peter, James, and John, with Him. Why these three?

4. He began to be grieved and agitated. Jesus was fully human. Reflect on His sorrow. Why was He grieving?

5. The Greek word for “agitated” is adēmoneō. It means to be in anguish, to be troubled, and to be in a great state of anxiety. Picture Jesus in that state, when He was at His most human. No wonder He can understand all our anxiety and distress. Why was Jesus in anguish? Did His human nature recoil at the thought of the cross, or where there other reasons?

6. Jesus said, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with Me.” The word for “I” here is really “My soul,” which can connotate “Myself” in the Greek. Think about the identification between the self and the soul that Jesus used here.

7. Jesus was deeply grieved even to death. This is strong language. Jesus was encompassed with grief and exceedingly sorrowful. He was about to take the weight of the sins of the whole world and all its people of all times onto His shoulders. He was grieving for sinners. Some mystics have said that, in the garden, Jesus could see all the sins ever committed, all the sins being committed, and all the sins to be committed. Meditate on this burden, which was so much greater than that of the physical cross.

8. Jesus asked the disciples to remain close and stay awake with Him. Why? Did He desire human companionship? Did He want the disciples to understand why He was going to the cross? Did He have more than one motive?

9. Jesus moved a short way away from the disciples, threw Himself on the ground, and began to pray. The words literally mean “fell on His face.” Think about Jesus' humility.

10. Luke says that Jesus knelt down. Why is there a difference in word choice between Luke and the other evangelists? How does Luke's wording capture different aspects of Jesus' act?

11. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not what I want but what You want.” Ponder how these words express the relationship between Jesus and the Father. What is the cup to which Jesus refers? In Hebrew, the cup was sometimes a metaphor for a lot or portion. Meditate on Jesus' self surrender. His human will was struggling, yet He surrendered to His divine will, which is identical to the will of the Father.

12. In Mark, Jesus also reminded the Father that “for You all things are possible.” This is a good lesson for us. God can do all things, but He does not will all things. Meditate on God's will.

13. When Jesus returned to Peter, James, and John, they were sound asleep. Imagine how they must have felt when Jesus caught them.

14. Ponder Jesus' question: “So, could you not stay awake with Me one hour?”

15. Jesus continued, “Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial...” What might He be referring to? What trials would the disciples be likely to encounter?

16. What did Jesus mean by “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”?

17. Jesus prayed in nearly the same way a second time. “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Meditate on the repetition of prayer. Why? God heard the first time. Could prayer be more about changing us than changing God?

18. Jesus came back and once again found the disciples asleep. Their eyes were so heavy. They didn't know what to say to Jesus. Luke adds that they were sleeping because of grief. Think about the disciples' state of mind at this point. Meditate on Jesus' response to them.

19. Luke tells us that an angel from heaven appeared to Jesus and gave Him strength. Some translations say “comfort,” but the Greek word, enischuō, means to strengthen or invigorate. Why would Jesus need strength from an angel? What kind of strength would the angel give to Jesus? Recall that He was fully man as well as fully God.

20. Luke emphasizes the depths of Jesus' agony. “In His anguish He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.” Ponder the intensity of this moment.

21. The word “agony” can suggest combat. Some mystics describe Jesus as contending with the devil, who was trying to tempt Jesus into giving up His redemptive mission. They portray the devil as questioning Jesus' identity, mission, and ability to save the world. Consider this idea.

22. Jesus prayed a third time using the same words. He then returned to the disciples, who were once again asleep. Jesus asked them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?” How come the disciples still couldn't stay awake, even after being lightly scolded by Jesus twice before?

23. Jesus continued, “See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See my betrayer is at hand.” Jesus once again spoke of “the hour.” What did He mean? Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him. He went out to meet it. He had prayed, and He was now prepared. His betrayer, Judas, was close by.

Application Questions

1. What kinds of choices are you making in your life? Are your choices more like Jesus' or more like Adam's?

2. How often and in what ways do you pray?

3. Do you understand that when you are in a state of grace, you are a member of Jesus' “inner circle”? How would a constant recollection of this change your life?

4. Do you turn to God when you are sorrowful, troubled, and in anguish? How have you felt His presence at those times?

5. Do you realize how much sorrow your sins bring to Jesus? How might such a realization make you less likely to commit sin?

6. Are you attentive during prayer? Or do you get distracted? How might you limit your distractions during prayer?

7. What do you believe about the nature and purpose of prayer?

8. How does your prayer change you?

9. How hard is it for you to imitate Jesus and say to God “yet not what I want, but what You want”?

10. How are you at accepting God's will even when it is not your will?

11. Can you stay awake with Jesus for one hour? What does staying awake with Jesus mean to you?

12. Have there been times when you are “sleepy” in your spiritual life? What are those times like? How do you overcome them?

13. How do you handle the trials in your life?

14. When and in what situations has your spirit been willing but your flesh been weak?

15. Do you have a relationship with the angels? How do the angels influence your life?

16. How have you struggled with the devil? Do you rely on Jesus to strengthen you?

17. Are you prepared to meet trials in your life? How might you become more prepared?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and adoration – Dearest Jesus, You sweated blood for us in the garden. You suffered tremendous anguish on account of our sins. We bow our heads in silent adoration, Lord, as we recognize Your unwavering, unending love for us.

Praise – We praise you, Jesus, for Your courage. Even though You are God, You are still Man, and as a Man, you had to battle with the devil. But You won! You conquered him in the garden; You conquered him on the cross; and You saved us from his clutches. We praise You, victorious Jesus.

Thanksgiving – Jesus, we thank You for showing us that You can and do understand all our trials, both physical and mental. In the garden, You experienced extreme distress and sorrow. We thank You for accepting Your Father's will even in the face of that pain and choosing to go to the cross for our salvation.

Intercession – Jesus, we lift up to You all people who are experiencing fear, grief, sorrow, distress, and affliction. Hold them close to You, Lord, and calm their hearts. Wrap them in a warm blanket of Your love that they may feel and know Your understand, gentle care.

Petition – Jesus, please give us strength in our hours of fear and anguish. Inspire us to turn to prayer when we are in need and always to surrender to Your will when we must drink from the cup of suffering.

Quotes from the Saints

“But seeing that prayer is the sending up the understanding to God, or the asking of God things fitting, how did the Lord pray? For His understanding needed not to be lifted up to God, having been once united hypostatically to God the Word. Neither could He need to ask of God things fitting, for the One Christ is both God and Man. But giving in Himself a pattern to us, He taught us to ask of God, and to lift up our minds to Him. As He took on Him our passions, that by triumphing over them Himself, He might give us also the victory over them, so now He prays to open to us the way to that lifting up to God, to fulfill for us all righteousness, to reconcile His Father to us, to pay honor to Him as the First Cause, and to show that He is not against God.” - St. John Damascene

“I suppose that there are some who offer here no other cause of His fear than His passion and death. I ask those who think thus, whether it stands with reason that He should have feared to die, who banished from the Apostles all fear of death, and exhorted them to the glory of martyrdom? How can we suppose Him to have felt pain and grief in the sacrament of death, who rewards with life those who die for Him? And what pangs of death could He fear, who came to death of the free choice of His own power? And if His Passion was to do Him honor, how could the fear of His Passion make Him sorrowful?” - St. Hilary

“Our Lord therefore sorrowed to prove the reality of the Man which He had taken upon Him...” - St. Jerome

“He is sorrowful, yet not Himself, but His soul; not His Wisdom, not His divine Substance, but His soul, for He took upon Him my soul, and my body.” - St. Ambrose

“As being God, dwelling in the body, He shows the frailty of flesh, that the blasphemy of those who deny the mystery of His Incarnation might find no place; for having taken up a body, He must needs also take up all that belongs to the body, hunger, thirst, pain, grief; for the Godhead cannot suffer the changes of these affections. - St. Bede

“But what means His bending of knees? of which it is said, And he kneeled down, and prayed. It is the way of men to pray to their superiors with their faces on the ground, testifying by the action that the greater of the two are those who are asked. Now it is plain that human nature contains nothing worthy of God's imitation. Accordingly the tokens of respect which we evince to one another, confessing ourselves to be inferior to our neighbors, we have transferred to the humiliation of the Incomparable Nature. And thus He who bore our sicknesses and interceded for us, bent His knee in prayer, by reason of the man which He assumed, giving us an example, that we ought not to exalt ourselves at the time of prayer, but in all things be conformed to humility; for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” - St. Gregory of Nyssa

“It is indeed impossible for the soul of man not to be tempted. Therefore he says not, Pray that you be not tempted, but, Pray that you enter not into temptation, that is, that the temptation do not at last overcome you.” - St. Bede

“There were, I conclude, two ways in which this cup of Passion might pass from the Lord. If He should drink it, it would pass away from Him, and afterwards from the whole race of mankind also; if He should not drink it, it would perhaps pass from Him, but from men it would not pass. He would fain therefore that it should so pass from Him as that He should not at all taste its bitterness, yet only if it were possible, saving the righteousness of God. If it were not possible, He was rather willing to drink it, that so it might pass from Him, and from the whole race of mankind rather than against His Father's will shun the drinking thereof.” - Origen

“That by His second prayer He might show Himself to be very man. It goes on: And when he returned, he found them asleep again; He however did not rebuke them severely. For their eyes were heavy, (that is, with sleep,) neither wist they what to answer him. By this learn the weakness of men, and let us not, whom even sleep can overcome, promise things which are impossible to us. Therefore He goes away the third time to pray the prayer mentioned above.”- Theophyl

“Having concluded His third prayer, and having obtained that the Apostles' terror should be corrected by subsequent penitence, He goes forth undaunted by the prospect of His own Passion to meet His pursuers, and offers Himself voluntarily to be sacrificed. Arise, let us be going; as much as to say, Let them not find you trembling, let us go forth willingly to death, that they may see us confident and rejoicing in suffering; Lo, he that shall betray me draws near.” - St. Jerome

“But He prays, that the cup may pass away, to show that He is very man, wherefore He adds: Take away this cup from me. But remembering why He was sent, He accomplishes the dispensation for which He was sent, and cries out, But not what I will, but what you will. As if He had said, If death can die, without my dying according to the flesh, let this cup pass away; but since this cannot be otherwise, not what I will, but what you will. Many still are sad at the prospect of death, but let them keep their heart right, and avoid death as much as they can; but if they cannot, then let them say what the Lord said for us. - St. Bede

“Now every art is set forth by the words and works of him who teaches it. Because then our Lord had come to teach no ordinary virtue, therefore He speaks and does the same things. And so having in words commanded to pray, lest they enter into temptation, He does the same likewise in work, saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me. He said not the words, If you will, as if ignorant whether it was pleasing to the Father. For such knowledge was not more difficult than the knowledge of His Father's substance, which He alone clearly knew, according to John, As the Father knows me, even so have I known the Father. Nor says He this, as refusing His Passion. For He who rebuked a disciple, who wished to prevent His Passion, so as even after many commendations, to call him Satan, how should He be unwilling to be crucified? Consider then why it was so said. How great a thing was it to hear that the unspeakable God, who passes all understanding, was content to enter the virgin's womb, to suck her milk, and to undergo every thing human. Since then that was almost incredible which was about to happen, He sent first indeed Prophets to announce it, afterwards He Himself comes clothed in the flesh, so that you could not suppose Him to be a phantom. He permits His flesh to endure all natural infirmities, to hunger, to thirst, to sleep, to labor, to be afflicted, to be tormented; on this account likewise He refuses not death, that He might manifest thereby His true humanity.” - St. John Chrysostom

“Many are shocked at this place who turn the sorrows of the Savior to an argument of inherent weakness from the beginning, rather than taken upon Him for the time. But I am so far from considering it a thing to be excused, that I never more admire His mercy and majesty; for He would have conferred less upon me had He not taken upon Him my feelings. For He took upon Him my sorrow, that upon me He might bestow His joy. With confidence therefore I name His sadness, because I preach His cross. He must needs then have undergone affliction, that He might conquer. For they have no praise of fortitude whose wounds have produced stupor rather than pain. He wished therefore to instruct us how we should conquer death, and what is far greater, the anguish of coming death. You smarted then, O Lord, not from your own but my wounds; for he was wounded for our transgressions. And perhaps He is sad, because that after Adam's fall tile passage by which we must depart from this world was such that death was necessary. Nor is it far from the truth that He was sad for His persecutors, who He knew would suffer punishment for their wicked sacrilege.” - St. Ambrose

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians

For the next five weeks, our second reading will come from St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians. As we listen to this letter, it might help to know some background information about it – who, when, where, how, why, and what.

Who wrote the letter to whom?

*St. Paul wrote the First Letter to the Thessalnians. This might seem obvious, but Pauline authorship has been doubted and even denied by some scholars who practice super-critical, rationalist analysis. Therefore, it merits restating that the Church's Tradition has always firmly maintained that Paul wrote this letter. His authorship has also been attested to by such early Church fathers as St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, St. Clement of Alexandria, and Origen.

*St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica. Today called Salonika, Thessalonica was important city in Macedonia, a busy port on the Aegean Sea, and a trade center between Rome and its eastern provinces. It had a large Jewish population, a synagogue, and a good number of converts to Christianity.

When did St. Paul write the letter?

*St. Paul wrote his First Letter to the Thessalonians in the winter of 50-51 A.D.

Where was St. Paul when he wrote?

*St. Paul was in Corinth at the time of composition.

How did the letter come to be to written?

*Paul had visited Thessalonica on his second missionary journey. He taught in the city's synagogue for three Sabbaths, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus, the Messiah. Although he successfully converted many Thessalonians to Christianity, some of the Jews resented him and his message. He was forced to flee the city without finishing his work of instructing the converts, who subsequently experienced severe persecution by the Jews.

Why did St. Paul write?

*Concerned about the Thessalonian converts, St. Paul sent his colleague Timothy to check on the situation. Timothy reported that the Thessalonians were keeping the faith even during persecution but did have some questions that were bothering them. Paul wrote to encourage the Thessalonians to stay strong in faith and love. He also continued his instructions in the faith and especially addressed their questions, which were primarily about life after death and Jesus' second coming (the Parousia).

What are the letter's primary themes?

*St. Paul stressed several themes in his letter: 1. the proclamation and reception of the Gospel with love through the power of the Holy Spirit; 2. St. Paul's gentle, pure, upright, and hardworking methods of evangelization; 3. an exhortation to love and holiness even during persecution; 4. a life of purity and self-control that is pleasing to God; 5. Jesus' second coming and the equality of status between those who have already died and those still living at the time of the Parousia; 6. watchfulness in faith, hope, and love; and 7. mutual encouragement in Christian living.

Sources: Antonio Fuentes' A Guide to the Bible and The Navarre Bible: Thessalonians and Pastoral Letters

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Fifth Luminous Mystery – The Institution of the Eucharist

Scripture References

Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23; John 6:22-59; John 13:1-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

The Story in Brief

On the night before He died, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples. At supper, He took bread, blessed it, broke it, and give it to His disciples with the words, “Take, eat; this is My Body” (see Matthew's version). Afterward, He took a cup of wine, gave thanks, and said, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” He added, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Points to Ponder

1. Meditate on the setting of the First Eucharist, which was Jesus' celebration of the Passover with His disciples. Read over Matthew 26:17-25, Mark 14:12-21, and Luke 22:7-13. Why did Jesus choose Passover as the setting for the First Eucharist? Consider the Passover symbolism of sacrifice and deliverance and how Jesus, as the Lamb of God, was the new Passover Lamb. You may also wish to read and meditate on the article “The Hunt for the Fourth Cup” by Scott Hahn.

2. Re-read Matthew 26:17-25, Mark 14:12-21, and Luke 22:7-13, and think about how the disciples prepared for the Passover meal. Jesus gave the disciples specific instructions, and the disciples found everything just as He said it would be. Try to picture the scene, and reflect especially on the disciples' obedience to Jesus, the title “Teacher,” and Jesus' words, “My time is near.”

3. Just before the meal, Jesus predicted that one of His disciples would betray Him. Picture the scene. What kind of atmosphere did this prediction create? Why did Jesus make it right before the First Eucharist?

4. Jesus blessed the bread first. Why? What is the significance of the bread?

5. Deeply ponder Jesus' words. “Take, eat; this is My body.” “This is My Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

6. Jesus broke the sacramental Bread, now His Body, and gave it to the disciples. Meditate on this highest of self-offerings.

7. Jesus then took the cup and gave thanks (Greek eucharisteō). Ponder the significance of wine and of giving thanks.

8. “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Reflect carefully on every word.

9. Think closely about the variation of Jesus' words in Luke: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My Blood.”

10. Meditate on the meaning of a “covenant” and on its requirement of complete, self-giving love.

11. Jesus was not being symbolic in His words. He is really present in the Eucharist, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Ponder this great truth and great mystery

12. Jesus said that He would not drink from the fruit of the vine again until the day when He would drink it new with the disciples in His Father's kingdom. What does He mean?

13. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul recounts the First Eucharist in the context of a warning against abuses that were occurring with regard to the Sacrament. Paul reminds his readers, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord' death until He comes.” Carefully read and consider Paul's words.

14. Reflect on Paul's admonition about eating and drinking the Lord's Body and Blood unworthily, his warning against unbelievers partaking in the Eucharist, and his call to examine oneself before receiving Holy Communion.

15. Why doesn't St. John describe the Institution of the Eucharist in his Gospel?

16. Carefully read and ponder John 6:22-59. Reflect on Jesus as the Bread from heaven and the Bread of life. Meditate on Jesus words: “Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” Consider the Jews' reaction and Jesus' response: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh....Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat My flesh and drink My blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink. Those who eat My flesh and drink My blood abide in Me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats Me will live because of Me....”

17. Jesus' teachings in John 6 were difficult for the Jews to accept. Many of His disciples abandoned Him, but He didn't call them back and tell them that He was merely speaking symbolically. Why not?

18. In chapter 13 of his Gospel, St. John relates how Jesus washed the disciples' feet during the Last Supper. Read this account and ponder Jesus' words and actions. Think about how Jesus assumed the role of a servant. Also consider Peter's attempt to resist and Jesus' response to Peter. Reflect on how Jesus was modeling servanthood for His disciples who were to imitate Him. Think also about how this event relates to the actual institution narrative.

19. Take some time to read the Catechism's sections on the Eucharist. Also explore the wonderful resources at the Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration website. Make a list of what strikes you most about the Blessed Sacrament and spend time reflecting on those points. The more time and effort you put into learning about Jesus' awesome gift, the more you will grow in your spiritual life and the deeper your Rosary prayer will be.

Application Questions

1. What do you really believe about the Eucharist? Do your beliefs match the Church's teaching? If not, are you willing, through study and prayer, to learn more about the Blessed Sacrament and come to accept that the Church's teaching is in fact Jesus' teaching?

2. What kind of effort are you making to better understand and appreciate the great gift of the Eucharist?

3. How are you obeying, or not obeying, Jesus?

4. Do you trust in Jesus' words and promises even when they seem impossible or you don't understand them?

5. How do you offer yourself to Jesus?

6. How do you give thanks to God for all that He has given you and especially for the Eucharist?

7. Do you attend Mass at least on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation? How do you behave at Mass? Do you give your full attention or are you distracted? Do you truly understand what happens in the Mass? How might you grow in knowledge, attention, and devotion?

8. Do you believe that Jesus is really and truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Eucharist? How do you live that belief? How does it affect the way in which you receive Jesus in Holy Communion and experience the great gift of the Eucharist?

9. Are you receiving the Eucharist worthily?

10. How do you prepare your heart to receive Holy Communion? How might you improve your preparation?

11. In what ways are you a servant to other people? How might you grow in your servanthood?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and adoration – Lord Jesus Christ, we stand in awe at Your total self-offering of great love, and we bow our heads in silent adoration before You, Who are really and truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist.

Praise – Jesus, we praise You in your awesome greatness and in Your gentle humility. We praise You under the forms of Bread and Wine. We praise You Who have given Yourself as our food and drink in the Blessed Sacrament.

Thanksgiving – Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for giving us Your very Self, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Holy Eucharist. Thank You for being our Bread of life that has come down from Heaven that we may have eternal life and never be hungry and thirsty again. Thank You for abiding in us and allowing us to abide in You in a very special way when we receive You in Holy Communion.

Intersession – Lord, we lift up to You all those who receive the Eucharist unworthily. Touch their hearts, Lord, and bring them to repentance and to a full and deep belief in Your Real Presence. We lift up to You, too, those Who are outside of full communion with the Catholic Church and therefore do not have the benefit of receiving You in such an intimate way. Bring them to the fullness of faith, Lord Jesus.

Petition – Jesus, please increase our attention and devotion at Mass, and help us to delve ever deeper into the riches of the Blessed Sacrament. Prevent us from ever receiving You unworthily, and help us to better prepare our hearts to receive You every time we approach You in Holy Communion.

Quotes from the Saints

“The Lord committed His Body and Blood to substances which are formed a homogeneous compound out of many. Bread is made of many grains, wine is produced out of many berries. Herein the Lord Jesus Christ signified us, and hallowed in His own table the mystery of our peace and unity.” - St. Augustine

“This bread before the sacramentary words, is the bread in common use; after consecration it is made of bread Christ's flesh. And what are the words, or whose are the phrases of consecration, save those of the Lord Jesus? For if His word had power to make those things begin to be which were not, how much rather will it not be efficacious to cause them to remain what they are, while they are at the same time changed into somewhat else. For if the heavenly word has been effectual in other matters is it ineffectual in heavenly sacraments? Therefore of the bread is made the Body of Christ, and the wine is made blood by the consecration of the heavenly word. Do you inquire after the manner? Learn. The course of nature is, that a man is not born but of man and woman, but by God's will Christ was born of the Holy Spirit and a Virgin.” - St. Ambrose

“The Lord invites His servants to set before them Himself for food. But who would dare to eat his Lord; This food when eaten refreshes, but fails not; He lives after being eaten, Who rose again after being put to death. Neither when we eat Him do we divide His substance; but thus it is in this Sacrament. The faithful know how they feed on Christ's flesh, each man receives a part for himself. He is divided into parts in the Sacrament, yet He remains whole; He is all in heaven, He is all in your heart. They are called Sacraments, because in them what is seen is one thing, what is understood is another, what is seen has a material form, what is understood has spiritual fruit.” - St. Augustine

“He gave thanks to instruct us after what manner we ought to celebrate this mystery, and showed also thereby that He came not to His Passion against His will. Also He taught us to bear whatever we suffer with thanksgiving, and infused into us good hopes. For if the type of this sacrifice, to wit, the offering of the paschal lamb, became the deliverance of the people from Egyptian bondage, much more shall the reality thereof be the deliverance of the world. And gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it. That they should not be distressed at hearing this, He first drank His own blood to lead them without fear to the communion of these mysteries.” - St. John Chrysostom

“He Himself also breaks the bread, which He gives to His disciples, to show that the breaking of His Body was to take place, not against His will, nor without His intervention; He also blessed it, because He with the Father and the Holy Spirit filled His human nature, which He took upon Him in order to suffer, with the grace of Divine power. He blessed bread and brake it, because He deigned to subject to death His manhood, which He had taken upon Him, in such a way as to show that there was within it the power of Divine immortality, and to teach them that therefore He would the more quickly raise it from the dead. There follows: And gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.” - St. Bede

"Nor doubt that this is true; for He plainly says, This is my body; but rather receive the words of your Savior in faith. For since He is the Truth, He lies not. They rave foolishly then who say that the mystical blessing loses its power of sanctifying, if any remains are left till the following day. For the most holy Body of Christ will not be changed, but the power of blessing and the life giving grace is ever abiding in it. For the life-giving power of God the Father is the only-begotten Word, which was made flesh not ceasing to be the Word, but making the flesh life giving. What then? since we have in us the life of God, the Word of God dwelling in us, will our body be life-giving? But it is one thing for us by the habit of participation to have in ourselves the Son of God, another for Himself to have been made flesh, that is, to have made the body which He took from the pure Virgin His own Body. He must needs then be in a certain manner united to our bodies by His holy Body and precious Blood, which we have received for a life giving blessing in the bread and wine. For lest we should be shocked, seeing the Flesh and Blood placed on the holy altars, God, in compassion to our infirmities, pours into the offerings the power of life, changing them into the reality of His own flesh, that the body of life may be found in us, as it were a certain life-giving seed. He adds, Do this in commemoration of me." - St. Cyril

"It was a thing worthy of Him, Who came from God, and went to God, to trample upon all pride; He rises from supper, and laid aside His garment, and took a towel, and, girded Himself.; After that He pours water into a basin, and began to wash His disciples' feet, anal to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. See what humility He shows, not only in washing their feet, but in other things. For it was not before, but after they had sat down, that He rose; and He not only washed them, but laid aside His garments, and girded Himself with a towel, and filled a basin; He did not order others to do all this, but did it Himself, teaching us that we should be willing and ready to do such things." - St. John Chrysostom

Please consult the Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association website for an abundance of quotes from the saints about the Blessed Sacrament.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Revisiting the Twenty-Third Psalm

How many times have you read, heard, and prayed the Twenty-Third Psalm? This familiar text glides smoothly through our minds...and sometimes in one ear and directly out the other.

How often have you taken the time to really meditate on the Twenty-Third Psalm? Have you stopped to think about what the words and phrases really mean? Have you tried to make this beautiful psalm your own and apply it to your life?

Let's take a few minutes this week to revisit the Twenty-Third Psalm, take a closer look at it line by line, and discover what God is trying to say to us through this well-known passage. The following questions will help you get started.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
- What does a shepherd do for his sheep? What does God do for us? How is God your shepherd?
- How does He fulfill all your needs? Do you trust Him to do so?
- In verdant pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me; He refreshes my soul.
- What kind of emotions and environment does this scene suggest to you?
- How does God give you rest and refreshment?
- What must you change in your life so that you can better accept the tranquility and comfort God is offering to you?

He guides me in right paths for His name's sake.

- How is God guiding you today? Are you accepting His guidance or resisting Him?
- Do you trust Him to lead you along the right path throughout your life? Or do you try to find your own way?

Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.

- Are you walking in a dark valley right now? How so? Are you fearful?
- Do you truly believe that God will protect you? How have you experienced God's protection?
- Do you realize that God is always at your side? How would your life be different if you constantly remembered His presence?
- What does “courage” mean to you? How has God given you courage? How is He giving you courage now?

You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

- How does God nourish you? Do you truly appreciate the nourishment He gives you through the Scriptures and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist?
- How have you experienced God's lavishness in your life?
- How do you express your thanksgiving for God's great gifts?

Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.

- Do you believe that God will make everything work out for your good? How has He done so in the past? How is He doing so now?
- What does it mean to you to dwell in the house of the Lord?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Fourth Luminous Mystery - The Transfiguration

Scripture References

Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36

The Story in Brief

A few days after Jesus foretold His death and resurrection and commanded His disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Him, He led Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain to pray. The three disciples were sleepy but still awake when, suddenly, Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone brightly, and His clothes became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared next to Jesus and talked with Him about what was to happen shortly in Jerusalem. Peter, overcome with awe, asked Jesus if he could make three tents, one for Him, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. He hardly knew what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed the group, and a voice rang out, “This is My Son, the Beloved, with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him!” (see Matthew's version). The disciples were so frightened that they dropped to the ground. Jesus came over and touched His terrified disciples, telling them, “Get up and do not be afraid.” When the disciples arose, they saw no one but Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered His disciples not to tell anyone about their experience until after He was raised from the dead.

Points to Ponder

1. Consider the timing of the Transfiguration. Matthew and Mark tell us that it took place six days after Jesus foretold His death and resurrection and commanded His disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Him. Luke says about eight days. Why do you think the accounts differ? Some fathers and scholars point to different ways of reckoning time. Luke includes “bookend” days, and Matthew and Mark don't. Others focus on the symbolism of the numbers. The number six might symbolize the fullness of creation, for God created the world in six days. The number eight might symbolize the Resurrection, which occurred on the eighth day (or the day after the Sabbath) in Jewish reckoning and pointed to the new creation. In any case, reflect on God's perfect timing.

2. Think about Peter, James, and John, Jesus' inner circle among the apostles. Why did Jesus take only the three of them up the mountain? Carefully consider the wording here. Jesus took them with Him. Jesus was in the lead. The Greek word for “took” is paralambanō. It has connotations of taking someone or something near to one's self, into a relationship.

3. Matthew and Mark emphasize that Peter, James, and John went up the mountain alone with Jesus. Mark uses the word “apart.” Why would the evangelists make sure to point out this separation from other people?

4. Luke emphasizes that the group went up on the mountain to pray. He is the only evangelist to mention such a purpose. What does this added detail bring to the story of the Transfiguration?

5. Ponder the Transfiguration's location on a high mountain. How was the Transfiguration a “mountain top” spiritual experience for both the disciples and Jesus?

6. Matthew and Mark both use the word “transfigured” to describe Jesus' appearance. Luke uses “altered” or “changed.” Why? Keep in mind that Luke may be focusing on the otherness of Jesus during the Transfiguration, for the word he uses strongly connotates a distinction. Matthew and Mark's word is used only four times in the Gospels, twice to describe Jesus and twice to describe transformations in His disciples. What is significant about this?

7. Meditate on the changes in Jesus. His face shone like the sun, according to Matthew. Luke tells us that the appearance of His face changed. Jesus' clothes became dazzling white. Mark adds that they became whiter than anyone on earth could bleach them. The light seemed to be coming from Jesus' very depths. His divinity, purity, and glory were shining through.

8. Think about Moses and Elijah. Many scholars say that they represent the law and the prophets . Imagine their conversation with Jesus. Luke adds that they appeared in glory and were speaking about the “departure” that Jesus would accomplish in Jerusalem.

9. Reflect on Peter's chatter. He wanted to make three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Some authors have suggested that Peter's words express his recognition that Jesus was the Messiah Who fulfilled the expectations of the Feast of Tabernacles. During this feast, the Israelites constructed tents in memory of their time in the desert and in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah.

10. Luke adds that Peter didn't even really know what he was saying because the disciples were sleepy yet still awake. How does this detail point to an experience that was not a dream but something far out of the ordinary?

11. Ponder the bright cloud that overshadowed the mountain. This was the Shekinah or glory cloud that indicated God's presence. We have allusions here to creation and Mary's annunciation. Luke adds that the group on the mountain actually entered the cloud. This was something new. In the Old Testament, people did not enter into the Shekinah; they would have died if they had. But because Peter, James, and John were with Jesus, they could and did enter into the very presence of God.

12. Reflect on the words of God the Father: “This is My Son, the Beloved; with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew). What do these words say about the Father, the Son, and their relationship? Ponder what it means to really listen to Jesus.

13. Consider the disciples' response to the Father's voice. They hit the ground terrified.

14. Jesus touched them and told them to get up and not to be afraid. Consider the importance of touch, and meditate on how Jesus is fully God but also fully human.

15. Think about how Peter, James, and John were alone with Jesus.

16. Jesus told the disciples not to say anything about their experience until after the Resurrection. Why?

17. Why did Jesus allow the disciples to see Him transfigured?

Application Questions

1. In what ways have you noticed God's timing in your life?

2. Do you realize that, when you are in a state of grace, you are in Jesus' inner circle? How would your life be different if you continually remembered that intimate relationship?

3. How much time do you take to be alone with Jesus, set apart with Him?

4. Have you had any mountain top spiritual experiences? What were they like?

5. How has Jesus transfigured you? In what areas do you still need to be changed?

6. How have you experienced God's presence? Have you ever been overcome by God's awesomeness?

7. In what ways do you listen to Jesus? How might you learn to listen more and better?

8. How have you experienced Jesus' calming touch?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and adoration – Dearest Jesus, on the mountain of the Transfiguration, Your face shone like the sun and Your garments became dazzling white. Your divinity shone through Your humanity. We bow our heads in silent worship, Lord, as we contemplate the mystery of You, true God and true Man.

Praise – Jesus, You are the Father's beloved Son and our beloved Savior and Brother, and You are amazing! We praise You for Your glorious revelation to Peter, James, and John, and to us, at the Transfiguration. We praise You for assuming our human nature in order to save us from our sins and bring us home to Heaven to be with You and the Father and the Holy Spirit forever and ever.

Thanksgiving – Thank You, Jesus, for the times when we catch a glimpse of just how awesome You are. Thank You for the “mountain top experiences” that we sometime enjoy during our spiritual journey. But thank You, too, for the times when all seems dark and low, Jesus, because we know that You are with us even then and that You are holding us up and teaching up what we need to know to be better followers of You and more loving people.

Intercession – Lord, we lift up to You today all people who do not acknowledge You and Your constant, sustaining presence. Please let them see You somehow, Lord, so that they may come to believe in You and know that You are truly the Savior of the world. We lift up, too, those who are frightened of You for any reason. Please open their hearts to know Your gentle, loving care.

Petition – Transfigure us, Lord Jesus. Change us from the inside out. Cleanse us from our faults. Raise us from our falls. Scour our souls that they may be white and bright and shining. Help us to always listen to You, as the Father commanded when He spoke out of the cloud, and draw us constantly into Your loving presence.

Quotes from the Saints

“Such as He is to be in the time of the Judgment, such was He now seen of the Apostles. Let none suppose that He lost His former form and lineaments, or laid aside His bodily reality, taking upon Him a spiritual or ethereal Body. How His transfiguration was accomplished, the Evangelist shows, saying, And his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment became white as snow. For that His face is said to shine, and His raiment described to become white, does not take away substance, but confer glory. In truth, the Lord was transformed into that glory in which He shall hereafter come in His Kingdom. The transformation enhanced the brightness, but did not destroy the countenance, although the body were spiritual; whence also His raiment was changed and became white to such a degree, as in the expression of another Evangelist, no fuller on earth can whiten them. But all this is the property of matter, and is the subject of the touch, not of spirit and ethereal, an illusion upon the sight only beheld in phantasm.” - St. Jerome

“There are many reasons why these should appear. The first is this; because the multitudes said He was Elias, or Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets, He here brings with Him the chief of the Prophets, that hence at least may be seen the difference between the servants and their Lord. Another reason is this, because the Jews were ever charging Jesus with being a transgressor of the Law and blasphemer, and usurping to Himself the glory of the Father, that He might prove Himself guiltless of both charges, He brings forward those who were eminent in both particulars; Moses, who gave the Law, and Elias, who was jealous for the glory of God. Another reason is, that they might learn that He has the power of life and death; by producing Moses, who was dead, and Elias, who had not yet experienced death. A further reason also the Evangelist discovers, that He might show the glory of His cross, and thus soothe Peter, and the other disciples, who were fearing His death; for they talked, as another Evangelist declares, of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. Wherefore He brings forward those who had exposed themselves to death for God's pleasure, and for the people that believed; for both had willingly stood before tyrants, Moses before Pharaoh, Elias before Ahab. Lastly, also, He brings them forward, that the disciples should emulate their privileges, and be meek as Moses, and zealous as Elias. - St. John Chrysostom

“If the transfigured humanity of Christ and the society of but two saints seen for a moment, could confer delight to such a degree that Peter would, even by serving them, stay their departure, how great a happiness will it be to enjoy the vision of Diety amidst choirs of Angels for ever? it goes on, For he wist not what to say; although, however, Peter from the stupor of human frailty knew not what to say, still He gives a proof of the feelings which were within him; for the cause of his not knowing what to say, was his forgetting that the kingdom was promised to the Saints by the Lord not in any earthly region, but in heaven; he did not remember that he and his fellow-Apostles were still hemmed in by mortal flesh and could not bear the state of immortal life, to which his soul had already carried him away, because in our Father's house in heaven, a house made with hands is not needed. But again even up to this time he is points at, as an ignorant man who wishes to make three tabernacles for the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, since they in no way can be separated from each other.” - St. Bede

“This is the Son, this the Beloved, this the Accepted; and He it is who is to be heard, as the voice out of the cloud signifies, saying, Hear you Him. For He is a fit teacher of doing the things He has done, who has given the weight of His own example to the loss of the world, the joy of the cross, the death of the body, and after that the glory of the heavenly kingdom.” - St. Hilary

“Now observe, that the cloud was not black from the darkness of condensed air, and such as to overcast the sky with a horrible gloom, but a shining cloud, from which we were not moistened with rain, but as the voice of Almighty God came forth the dew of faith was shed upon the hearts of men. For it follows, And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear you him. Elias was not His Son. Moses was not. But this is the Son whom you see alone.” - St. Ambrose

“And we must observe, that, as when the Lord was baptized in Jordan, so on the mountain, covered with brightness, the whole mystery of the Holy Trinity is declared, because we shall see in the resurrection that glory of the Trinity which we believers confess in baptism, and shall praise it all together. Nor is it without reason that the Holy Ghost appeared here in a bright cloud, there in the form of a dove; because he who now with a simple heart keeps the faith which He has embraced, shall then contemplate what he had believed with the brightness of open vision. But when the voice had been heard over the Son, He was found Himself alone, because when He shall have manifested Himself to His elect, God shall be all in all, yes Christ with His own, as the Head with the body, shall shine through all things.” - St. Bede

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Disciplining the Mind

Our world is filled with distractions. Images and information overload our senses. Several tasks demand our attention at the same time. We feel pulled in a dozen different directions, and as a result, we lack peace and concentration and find ourselves falling into a fatigue that often borders on exhaustion.

We might wonder what the Scriptures have to say to us about this very modern problem, but today's second reading from St. Paul's letter to the Philippians actually offers some pertinent advice to help us discipline our minds and cope with our hectic lives.

1. Let go of anxiety. “Have no anxiety at all,” Paul counsels. Many of us probably read that and think, “Yeah, right. No anxiety? With everything I have to do in such a short time?” Paul doesn't leave us hanging; he lets us in on an important secret to help us release our cares and worries: prayer.

2. Pray. Paul prescribes, “ prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” Pray. Pray about everything, big things: small things, important things, unimportant things. Present everything to God. Recite formal prayers, or just talk to God as you would talk to your best friend. Bless and adore God; praise God; thank God for everything and everyone in your life; present your needs and desires, and those of others, to God with confidence that He will always answer your prayers in the way He knows is best for you. Then, Paul says, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” If we surrender our lives to God in prayer, the intimate communication and relationship that results will significantly diminish our anxiety and stress.

3. Focus on the best things in life. Paul offers a long list of suggestions: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” And what is the most true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and praiseworthy “thing”in existence? God! Therefore, we must keep our minds focused on God above all else. We must, as seventeenth century Carmalite Brother Lawrence often said, practice the presence of God.

When we do these three things, when we, with God's help, discipline our minds by letting go of anxiety, praying, and focusing on the best things in life, especially on God, then, Paul concludes, “the peace of God” will be with us.

Questions for Reflection:

1. How can you apply Paul's advice to your own life and work towards disciplining your mind?
2. Do you trust that God will help you and grant you His peace?
3. What would it feel like to experience the peace of God?