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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

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

Using Our Gifts

Let's take a few minutes to review today's Gospel reading. Jesus tells us a parable about a master who, before setting out on a journey, gives coins to three of his servants. The first servant, who receives five coins, makes good use of his gift. He earns five more. The second servant, who receives two coins, also puts the money to good use and earns two more. The third servant receives only one coin. He does nothing at all with his gift; he merely buries it in a hole in the ground.

When the master returns, he calls his servants to him and asks to see what they have accomplished with the coins he had given them. He is pleased with the first two servants, compliments them on their faithfulness, and promises to give them greater responsibilities (i.e., a higher status). But when the third servant shows up with just his single coin, the master is furious. “You wicked, lazy servant!” he exclaims.

This might seem a little extreme to us. The servant doesn't lose his money. He doesn't waste it foolishly or throw it away. He just buries it. So why is his master so upset?

He's upset because gifts are meant to be used. They are designed to bring about some good in the life of the receiver. The master wants his gifts to be fruitful for his servants, but that requires some effort on their part. The first two servants make the effort and reap the rewards. The third does nothing.

The master really doesn't even expect that much out of his servants. He asks the third servant, “Should you not then have put my money in the bank?” At least it would have earned some interest that way, and the lazy servant wouldn't have had to do much at all.

In the end, because he refuses to use his gift, the “useless servant” is deprived of that gift and tossed into the darkness outside his master's house.

This parable can give us some insight into the Catholic doctrine that both faith and good works are necessary for salvation. God gives us the great gift of faith in His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ. This faith can indeed save us but only if we actively accept it and use it. Like the master in today's Gospel, God expects His gift to bear fruit. He expects us to use our faith, to live it, and to bring it to bear on the world around us. If we merely bury our faith somewhere deep in a hole inside us and leave it there, we will end up living like we don't have it at all. Our faith will do no good to us or to anyone else, just like the lazy servant's coin does no good to him or his master.

The Letter of James emphasizes this point: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (2:14-17).

Questions for reflection:

1. How am I living my Christian faith? Am I making God's gift of faith fruitful in my life? How? Am I more like the two active servants or the lazy one?

2. What other gifts has God given me? How am I using those?

3. Am I neglecting any of God's gifts? Have I buried them away? How might I dig them up, dust them off, and put them to use?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery – The Carrying of the Cross

Scripture References

Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26-31; John 19:17

The Story in Brief

When the soldiers led Jesus out to be crucified on Calvary, they made Him carry His cross. He had been so badly wounded and was so exhausted that He fell three times along the way. The soldiers compelled Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus carry His cross so He would not die before He reached the scene of crucifixion. Along the way, Jesus met His mother Mary. He encountered Veronica, who compassionately wiped His bloody, sweaty face, and He left His own holy image on the cloth she used. He also spoke with some of the women of Jerusalem who were lamenting His fate. Finally, Jesus reached Calvary. He was about to die for our sins.

Points to Ponder

1. The Biblical account of Jesus carrying His cross is very brief, but the Church's Tradition offers us further details and insights through the Stations of the Cross. Take a few minutes to look over a few Stations of the Cross websites (like the ones at EWTN and Creighton University) and ponder the following.

2. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us that the Roman soldiers compelled Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus' cross. John emphasizes that Jesus carried the cross Himself. Both these these statements can be true if we think about how Jesus would have been very weak during His walk to Calvary. He perhaps started out carrying His cross and then required assistance from Simon. Picture Jesus carrying His cross. Remember how wounded He already was from the scourging and crowning of thorns.

3. What was Simon of Cyrene's response was when he was forced to carry the cross with Jesus?

4. Mark mentions that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. This reference suggests that Simon's sons were well-known in the early Christian community and probably Christians themselves. Ponder the significance of this.

5. The Stations of the Cross tell us that Jesus fell once before Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service. Reflect on Jesus' pain and weakness as He fell to the ground beneath the heavy cross. Remember that Jesus was carrying the cross on account of our sins and falls.

6. Jesus met His mother Mary as He walked toward Calvary. Meditate on this meeting. Picture the expressions of the Son and the mother. Imagine what they might have said to one another. What was Mary feeling as she saw her Son's pain? What did Jesus feel as He gazed on His mother?

7. Consider the behavior of the crowd that lined the streets as Jesus walked by. Imagine the range of responses the Jews and Romans had as they looked at Jesus. Some probably abused Him as a criminal. Others may have felt sorry for Him. Were His followers mixed in with the crowd? What were they thinking when they saw Jesus?

8. According to the Stations of the Cross, a woman named Veronica wiped Jesus' sweaty, bloody face with a cloth. Picture Jesus' Holy Face. Consider Veronica's courage as she flaunted the Roman soldiers to approach Jesus and minister to Him.

9. When Veronica looked at the cloth she had used to wipe Jesus' face, she discovered an image of Jesus. What a reward for her kindness and care! Try to picture what the image on Veronica's cloth might have looked like. Note also that the name “Veronica” means “true icon” and was probably assigned to the woman after the incident along the way of the Cross. That incident probably became the defining moment of her life. It was enough to give her a new name.

10. Jesus fell a second time, but He got up again and kept going despite His pain. Ponder His courage.

11. Luke tells us that some women were in the crowd, beating their breasts and wailing for Jesus. They were clearly distressed at seeing Jesus so mistreated. Reflect on both their internal thoughts and external actions.

12. Read Jesus' response to the women in Luke 23:28-31. His words were mysterious. They suggested a time of trial and probably pointed to more than one future event, including the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and perhaps even the end times. Meditate on Jesus' words.

13. Jesus fell one more time as He neared Calvary. By this time, He would have been exhausted, but He got up and continued on His path to the cross. Ponder Jesus' complete self-surrender.

14. Walk with Jesus along the Way of the Cross. Place yourself next to Him and journey with Him on the path to Calvary.

Application Questions

1. How do you take up your cross and follow Jesus? What are the crosses in your life? How do you respond to them? Do you join your personal Way of the Cross to Jesus'? How might your life be different if you did so more often?

2. Are there any sins that you need to confess? Do you struggle with any particular sins? Do you take them to Jesus and ask for help?

3. When have you fallen in your life? What did those falls feel like? When you fall, do you get up and keep going? Why or why not?

4. Do you share your pain with others? Do others share their pain with you? What are those experiences like? How do you help other people carry their crosses? How do you comfort those who are in pain?

5. How do you think you would have responded if you had been part of the crowd that was watching Jesus as He carried His cross to Calvary?

6. What are the defining moments in your spiritual life?

7. Are you a courageous person? Why or why not?

8. Do you weep for the world and for the people around you? Does your prayer include intercession for the whole world?

9. Have you surrendered you entire life, your entire self, to God? If not, will you do so?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and Adoration – Lord Jesus, we bow before You in silent adoration as we contemplate Your way of the cross. We adore You as we watch You struggle in pain and exhaustion. And You did it all for us that we might be with You in Heaven forever. We love You, Jesus.

Praise – We praise You, Jesus, for Your courage. We praise You for surrendering Your entire Self to the Father. We praise You for carrying Your cross for us. We praise You for Your tremendous love.

Thanksgiving – Once again, Lord, how can we thank You enough? You suffered unspeakable pain and anguish for us when You carried the cross. You taught us how to carry our own crosses, and You walk right along with us when we must. How can we ever thank You enough?

Intercession – Jesus, we lift up to You all those who must carry their crosses. We lift up those who are in pain. We lift up those who must stand beside those who suffer and comfort them. We lift up those who mourn. Hold them all in You loving arms, Lord.

Petition – Jesus, please accompany us as we carry our crosses. Please give us courage and perseverance, and please never leave us alone. Please give us compassion for the suffering around us that we may comfort them and help them carry their crosses.

Quotes from the Saints

“ they went out, they laid hold of Simon, but when they drew near to the place in which they would crucify Him, they laid the cross upon Him that He might bear it. Simon obtained not this office by chance, but was brought to the spot by God's providence, that he might be found worthy of mention in the Scriptures of the Gospel, and of the ministry of the cross of Christ. And it was not only meet that the Savior should carry His cross, but meet also that w e should take part therein, filling a carriage so beneficial to us. Yet would it not have so profited us to take it on us, as we have profited by His taking it upon Himself.” - Origen

“...since this Simon is not called Be a man of Jerusalem, but a Cyrenian, (for Cyrene is a city of Libya,) fitly is he taken to mean the nations of the Gentiles, which were once foreigners and strangers to the covenants, but now by obedience are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. Whence also Simon is fitly interpreted 'obedient,' and Cyrene 'an heir.' But he is said to come from a country place, for a country place is called 'pagos' in Greek, wherefore those whom we see to be aliens from the city of God, we call pagans. Simon then coming out from the country carries the cross after Jesus, when the Gentile nations leaving pagan rites embrace obediently the footsteps of our Lord's Passion.” - St. Bede

“For no one else accepted to bear the cross, because the wood was counted an abomination. Accordingly upon Simon the Cyrenian they imposed as it were to his dishonor the bearing of the cross, which others refused. Here is fulfilled that prophecy of Isaiah, Whose government shall be upon his shoulder. For the government of Christ is His cross; for which the Apostle says, God has exalted him. And as for a mark of dignity, some wear a belt, others a head dress, so our Lord the cross. And if you seek, you will find that Christ does not reign in us save by hardships, whence it comes that the luxurious are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” - Theophyl.

“Christ therefore bearing His cross, already as a conqueror carried His trophies. The cross is laid upon His shoulders, because whether Simon or Himself bore it, both Christ bore it in the man, and the man in Christ. Nor do the accounts of the Evangelists differ, since the mystery reconciles them. And it is the rightful order of our advance that Christ should first Himself erect the trophy of His cross, then hand it down to be raised by His martyrs. He is not a Jew who bears the cross, but an alien and a foreigner, nor does he precede but follow, according as it is written, Let him take up his cross, and follow me.” - St. Ambrose

“A large multitude indeed followed the cross of Christ, but with very different feelings. For the people who had demanded his death were rejoicing that they should see Him dying, the women weeping that he was about to die. But He was followed by the weeping only of women. Not because that vast crowd of men was not also sorrowful at His Passion, but because the less esteemed female sex could more freely give utterance to what they thought.” - St. Bede

“By these days He signifies the time of the siege and captivity which was coming upon them from the Romans, of which He had said before, Woe to them that are with child, and give suck in those days. It is natural, when captivity by an enemy is threatening, to seek for refuge in fastnesses or hidden places, where men may lie concealed. And so it follows, Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For Josephus relates, that when the Romans pressed hard upon them, the Jews sought hastily the caverns of the mountains, and the lurking places in the hills. It may be also that the words, Blessed are the barren, are to be understood of those of both sexes, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake, and that it is said to the mountains and hills, Fall upon us, and Cover us, because all who are mindful of their own weakness, when the crisis of their temptations breaks upon them, have sought to be protected by the example, precept, and prayers, of certain high and saintly men.” - St. Bede

“They compel Jesus to bear the cross, regarding it as unholy, and therefore avoiding the touch of it themselves. And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha, where they crucified Him. The same was done typically by Isaac, who carried the wood. But then the matter only proceeded as far as his father's good pleasure ordered, but now it was fully accomplished, for the reality had appeared.” - St. John Chrysostom

“Great spectacle, to the profane a laughing-stock, to the pious a mystery. Profaneness sees a King bearing a cross instead of a scepter; piety sees a King bearing a cross, thereon to nail Himself, and afterwards to nail it on the foreheads of kings. That to profane eyes was contemptible, which the hearts of Saints would afterwards glory in; Christ displaying His own cross on His shoulders, and bearing that which was not to be put under a bushel, the candlestick of that candle which was now about to burn.” - St. Augustine

“He carried the badge of victory on His shoulders, was conquerors do. Some say that the place of Calvary was where Adam died and was buried; so that in the very place on where death reigned, there Jesus erected His trophy.” - St. John Chrysostom

Sunday, November 6, 2011

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

End Times

As the end of the liturgical year approaches, the Church directs our attention toward the end times, especially toward Jesus' second coming and the resurrection of the dead that will accompany it.

Paul offers us a glimpse of the end times in today's second reading, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Remember that Paul was writing to the Thessalonians because his time with them had been cut short by an attempt on his life. They had questions that he was addressing in his letter, and one of the biggest ones was “What is going to happen at the end?”

Take a moment to reread Paul's answer. “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

This sounds both exciting and mysterious, doesn't it? We can turn to the Catechism to help us understand Paul's words. Paragraphs 988-1004 explain the Church's teaching on the end times.

“We firmly believe,” the Catechism begins, “and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and He will raise them up on the last day” (989).

The Catechism anticipates our questions: 1. What is rising from the dead? 2. How do the dead rise? 3. Who will rise? 4. When will the dead rise?

1. The Catechism reminds us that when we die, our souls separate from our bodies. Our souls go to meet God while our bodies decay. Rising from the dead refers to a reversal of this separation. Our souls and bodies will be reunited through the power of Jesus' own Resurrection (997).

2. How will this happen? Remember that when the Risen Christ appeared to the disciples on Easter Sunday, He appeared in His glorified Body. This glorified Body was still His own Body, but it was changed. We, too, will have glorified, “spiritual” bodies at the resurrection of the dead. This remains a mystery to us now, but we believe that it will happen to us because Jesus has promised us a share in His Resurrection (999-1000).

3. The Catechism tell us that all the dead will rise. The good will experience a resurrection of life, and the evil will experience a resurrection of judgment (998). As Paul says, those who are still alive at the end will be caught up to the Lord to be with Him always. We can expect that they, too, will receive glorified bodies.

4. We don't know when the end will come. Jesus says that no one knows the day or the hour, but we must stay alert and watch constantly for His coming so that we will be ready to greet Him with joy, wonder, and love.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Third Sorrowful Mystery – The Crowning of Thorns

Scripture References

Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; John 19:2-5

The Story in Brief

Before Jesus was crucified, the Roman soldiers decided to have a bit of “fun” at His expense. They gathered around Him, stripped Him, and clothed Him in a reddish purple robe. They made a crown of thorns and forced it onto His head. Then they put a reed in His right hand. They knelt before Him in mockery, saying “Hail, King of the Jews.” They spat on Him and struck Him. When they had finished, they dressed Him in His own clothes and led Him away to be crucified.

Points to Ponder

1. Before the Roman soldiers crucified Jesus, they tortured Him by crowning Him with thorns and mocking Him as “King of the Jews!” Why would the soldiers do such a thing?

2. Matthew and Mark say that the soldiers, probably the leaders, gathered the whole cohort around Jesus. Try to picture the various soldiers. Do you think they all participated in this cruel mockery? Or were there some who were appalled?

3. The soldiers stripped Jesus. Remember that He was badly wounded from the scourging. Consider His pain as His wounds were torn open.

4. Think about the humiliation Jesus suffered when He was forcibly stripped. Remember that He could have stopped all of this at any point, but He chose not to.

5. The soldiers dressed Jesus in a robe. Matthew tells us that it was scarlet while Mark and John describe it as purple. The Greek words used by Mark and John both refer to a reddish purple that could easily resemble a faded scarlet. More to the point, ponder the significance of these colors. Why would Matthew tell us that the cloak was scarlet? What does the color scarlet make you think of? Why would Mark and John identify the color as purple? Why did they choose a different focus? What does purple signify? Recall that purple dye was generally quite expensive and used for clothing of the elite classes.

6. Ponder the crown of thorns. The thorns the soldiers used were not the small thorns we encounter on roses. They were long, tough, and sharp. Some authors have suggested that the soldiers may have pushed the thorns through an old basket and placed that on Jesus' head. In any case, these thorns would have caused Jesus great agony as they were forced into His scalp.

7. The soldiers placed a reed in Jesus' right hand. Why did they do so?

8. The soldiers then mocked Jesus, kneeling before Him in false veneration and saying “Hail, King of the Jews.” Picture the scene. Reflect on how much this mockery must have hurt Jesus. He loved these men. He came to save them, too.

9. Consider the irony here. Jesus is a King, the King of the entire universe. Those mocking Him didn't know that, of course. They didn't realize that they should have been falling on their faces before Jesus in adoration. Instead, they laughed at their cruel jokes.

10. The soldiers went even further than nasty words and false bows. They spat on Jesus. They snatched the reed from His hand and hit Him on the head with it. What is your response to this kind of violence?

11. After the soldiers had tired of their abhorrent game, they stripped Jesus of the robe and put His own clothes back on Him. Then they led Him away to be crucified. Ponder this final scene.

12. In John's Gospel, Pilate presented Jesus to the crowd one more time while He was still wearing the crown of thorns and the robe. This is not contradictory to the other Gospels. John simply chose to include an event that the others, for whatever reason, don't mention. The crowds rejected Jesus and called for His crucifixion. Meditate on Pilate's actions, Jesus' appearance, and the crowd's response.

13. What does the crowning of thorns reveal to us about Jesus? Consider His silence in the face of the soldiers' cruel mockery and physical abuse.

Application Questions

1. Have you ever seen or been part of a crowd that was being cruel to another person? What did it make you feel like? Did you do anything to stop it?
2. Have you ever been abused and mocked? How did you respond? Where did you turn for help?

3. Is Jesus Christ the King of your life? Why or why not? What difference does it make in your life when Jesus is in command?

4. Do people or things sometimes take Jesus' place as King of your life? Why? What are they? How might you put these people or things in their proper positions?

5. Is there any mental or physical pain that Jesus can't understand? Do you bring your mental and physical pain to Jesus? When you do so, is that pain easier to bear? How so?

6. Do you value silence in the face of abuse? Why or why not?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and Adoration – Jesus, we bow our heads in silent adoration as we contemplate You wearing the crown of thorns and the robe of mockery. We know that You could have stopped the whole thing at any moment, but You didn't because You were doing it all for us. We love You, Jesus.

Praise – We praise You, Jesus, for Your great courage, patience, and love in the face of such cruelty as You experienced during the crowning of thorns. We praise You for loving us so much that You willingly suffered this kind of brutality.

Thanksgiving – And we thank You, Lord. We can never thank You enough for what You have done to save us. You experienced pain beyond telling, both physical and emotional. But You never complained. You love us that much, Lord, and we can never thank You enough.

Intercession – Jesus, we lift up to You all those who are experiencing physical and/or mental abuse. Please wrap them up in Your love, comfort them, and give them strength. We lift up their abusers. Touch their hearts, Lord, and change them. We lift up those who are too afraid to stand up for those they see being mocked and abused. Fill them with courage, Lord, so they may do what they know is right.

Petition – Jesus, please give us the strength to bear all of our sufferings and to unite our pain with Yours. Please help us to imitate You when we are mocked and abused and not lash out at our abusers but continue to love them and pray for them.

Quotes from the Saints

“He had been styled King of the Jews, and the Scribes and Priests had brought this charge against Him, that He claimed sovereignty over the Jewish nation; hence this mockery of the soldiers, taking away His own garments, they put on Him a scarlet cloak to represent that purple fringe which kings of old used to wear, for the diadem they put on Him a crown of thorns, and for the regal scepter give Him a reed, and perform adoration to Him as to a king.” - St. Jerome

“What should we henceforth care if any one insults us, after Christ has thus suffered? The utmost that cruel outrage could do was put in practice against Christ; and not one member only, but His whole body suffered injuries; His head from the crown, the reed, and the buffetings; His face which was spit upon; His cheeks which they smote with the palms of their hands; His whole body from the scourging, the stripping to put on the cloak, and the mockery of homage; His hands from the reed which they put into them in mimicry of a scepter; as though they were afraid of omitting aught of indignity.” - St. John Chrysostom

“The Lord having taken upon Him all the infirmities of our body, is then covered with the scarlet colored blood of all the martyrs, to whom is due the kingdom with Him; He is crowned with thorns, that is, with the sins of the Gentiles who once pierced Him, for there is a prick in thorns of which is woven the crown of victory for Christ. In the reed, He takes into His hand and supports the weakness and frailty of the Gentiles; and His head is smitten therewith that the weakness of the Gentiles sustained by Christ's hand may rest on God the Father, who is His head.” - St. Hilary

“But instead of the diadem, they put on Him a crown of thorns, wherefore it goes on, And platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head. And for a royal scepter they give Him a reed, as Matthew writes, and they bow before Him as a king, wherefore there follows, And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! And that the soldiers worshiped Him as one who falsely called Himself God, is clear from what is added: And bowing their knees, worshiped him, as though He pretended to be God.” St. Bede

“For instead of a diadem, they put upon Him a crown of thorns, and a purple robe to represent the purple robe which kings wear. Matthew says, a scarlet robe, but scarlet and purple are different names for the same color. And though the soldiers did this in mockery, yet to us their acts have a meaning. For by the crown of thorns is signified the taking of our sins upon Him, the thorns which the earth of our body brings forth. And the purple robe signifies the flesh crucified. For our Lord is robed in purple, wherever He is glorified by the triumphs of holy martyrs.” - St. Bede