Sunday, January 27, 2013

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

The Law 

In today's first reading from the Nehemiah chapter 8, we hear about Ezra the priest reading the book of the Law to the people of Jerusalem. 

First, let's take a look at the historical context of this passage. The event described here took place after the Babylonian exile. The Jews had returned to Jerusalem and were in the process of rebuilding their city and their lives. It would have been very easy to get caught up in the material process of reestablishment and forget about the spiritual aspects of their endeavor. To make sure this didn't happen, Ezra reintroduced the people to God's Law. 

As our text tells us, he stood in the open place before the Water Gate near the city wall. The assembly gathered around him: men, women, and the children old enough to understand. The Law was for everyone, not just a select few, and it was crucial that all Jews heard it. 

Ezra read from the book of the Law from daybreak to midday. During these hours, he probably read large portions of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The people listened attentively, watching Ezra as he held up the scroll of the Law for the people to see. 

In response to what they were hearing, the people answered, “Amen! Amen!” They raised their arms high in the air as a gesture of praise and then fell down before the Lord with their faces to the ground in an act of worship. 

These people were not bored or tired. They cared about what they were hearing. They understood the Law's importance, even if they could not grasp all of its details. They knew that these words were the words of God, not the words of Ezra, and they responded with praise and worship. 

Ezra did his best to help the people by interpreting what he read. He probably either explained difficult parts of the Law in simpler terms or helped the people see the deeper meanings in the text. 

At midday, Nehemiah, the governor of Judea, stood up to speak to the people, who by this point were weeping, perhaps in repentance for all the ways they and their ancestors had broken the Law. Nehemiah kindly told them, “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep. Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!” 

Yes, the Law could be convicting. The people knew when they heard it that they had done wrong, that they had disobeyed God's Word. The reading of the Law reminded them of that and thereby became a cause for sorrow. But Nehemiah recognized that the Law was also a cause for joy. God was speaking to His people. He was revealing Himself, His will, and His plan for Israel. The people were receiving a great gift when they heard the Law read aloud. Nehemiah invited them to celebrate in thanksgiving, to eat and drink, to share with others, and to rejoice in the Lord, Who gave them strength to accept and at least try to keep His Law. 

Questions for Reflection 

1. Would you stand and listen to the Bible from daybreak to midday? Why or why not?

2. How do you incorporate the Bible into your daily life?

3. How do you respond when the Scriptures are read at Mass?

Friday, January 25, 2013

St. Paul's Conversion: A Reflection

St. Paul started his life as Saul, a Pharisee, someone who kept the Law of the Old Testament with great diligence. He had studied under the rabbi Gamaliel and knew the Law inside and out. 

How much time do you spend studying the Bible? How might you incorporate Bible study into your daily or weekly schedule? 

Saul honestly believed that the first Christians were breaking the Law and blaspheming God, but he judged without knowing the whole story, without listening to what the apostles were truly saying. Unlike his teacher Gamaliel, he was ready to condemn. 

When have you made snap judgments about others? How did you form your judgments? Did you seek to know the whole story? How might your judgments change if you really listened? 

Saul's zeal led him to persecute the early Church. He stood by, watched, and approved as St. Stephen was stoned to death. 

Have you ever watched someone being treated unjustly? Did you interfere, or did you stand by in silence? Why? 

Then Saul began his own violent campaign, issuing murderous threats and dragging Christians out of their homes and off to prison in chains. 

Does violence ever solve problems? Why or why not? 

One day on his way to Damascus, where he was determined to round up more Christians, Saul had an experience that changed his entire outlook...his entire life. A bright light flashed around him, and a voice cried out, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 

How does God communicate with you? 

“Who are you, sir?” Saul replied. 

Who is God to you? 

“I am Jesus the Nazorean Whom you are persecuting.” 

Saul was persecuting the Church, yet Jesus said that he was persecuting Him. Reflect on the unity of Christ and the Church. 

Saul, blinded and probably terrified asked, “What shall I do, sir?” 

What must you do to respond to Jesus? 

Jesus replied, “Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.” 

Think about a time when Jesus has shown you a clear path. 

Saul, unable to see anything, did as he was told. His bewildered companions led him into the city. 

Do you obey God so readily? 

A Christian man named Ananias lived in Damascus. Jesus called his name in a vision, and Ananias responded, “Here I am, Lord.” 

How do you make yourself available to the Lord? 

Jesus instructed, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight.” 

Reflect on your prayer life. 

Ananias was startled, for he know that Saul had been persecuting Christians. He replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to Your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon Your name.” 

Ananias knew Jesus so well that he wasn't afraid to present his concerns. Do you know Jesus that well? 

Jesus explained, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for My name.” 

What is your mission in God's kingdom? Are you willing to suffer for Jesus? Why or why not? 

Ananias obeyed. Going to the house where Saul was praying, Ananias laid his hands upon Saul and said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus Who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

Notice that Ananias called Saul, who had been a violent enemy, “my brother”. How do you treat those who mistreat you? 

Immediately something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see once again. He was baptized, ate (probably a reference to receiving the Eucharist), and regained his strength. 

Reflect on your experiences of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. 

From that day forth Saul was a Christian who spread the Gospel wherever he went, under any circumstances, and with great fervor. 

How do you spread the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

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

Witness to a Miracle 

We've all the heard story of the wedding at Cana dozens of time, so it's easy to sit back and let the words just wash over us once again. This week, try something different; look at the story from the perspective of one of the servers. 

The last few days have been wild. You've been busying from early morning until late at night preparing for the wedding. Now the day has finally arrived, and the party is going strong. You've been fetching drink after drink for the guests, and now you're beginning to notice something...the wine is running low. This could be a disaster for your master. Running out of wine would indicate poor planning and a lack of hospitality (no matter how much fault should fall on the guests for their immoderate drinking habits). Your master would be disgraced, the wedding ruined. You exchange nervous glances with the other servants, trying to think of a way to either extend or replenish the dwindling supply. 

So far the wedding guests haven't notice the potential interruption of their celebration. Except one. You've actually been watching her for a while now, this middle-aged woman with the kind face and sweet eyes. She smiled at you once, and the light that radiated from her expression felt like it was piercing deep into your heart. She's the type of person who seems to take an interest in whatever is going on around her, not in the way of a busybody, but as someone who genuinely cares about the welfare of her fellow human beings. And she has noticed the problem with the wine. 

Now, indeed, it's a real problem all right. The wine has run out. 

Fear grips your heart. You want to run and hide so that none of the guests can ask you for their next drink. For some reason, you look over at the woman, the one who seems to know exactly what is going on. She smiles at you as if to say, “Don't worry. I know what to do.” 

As you watch, she approaches a man of about thirty years of age. He's laughing and talking with several of his companions. Her son perhaps? They have similar features...and the same smile. You edge closer, knowing you shouldn't be eaves dropping, but you can't help it. You're curious. 

Her words are simple, “They have no wine.” 

The man looks up at her with an affectionate expression on his face. Yes, he is definitely her son. “Woman,” he says gently, “how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”

Huh? His hour? What's he talking about, and what does it have to do with the crisis at hand? 

You wait for the woman's response. She doesn't say anything. But there is a noticeable “eye conversation” going on between mother and son. Or perhaps “heart conversation” would be more accurate. 

Suddenly the woman smiles at her son and then turns to you. She beckons you to come to them, and you do it immediately. For the first time, you notice that some of your fellow servants are watching. They join you as you gather around the woman and her son. 

Again, her words are simple. “Do whatever he tells you.” 

You know in your heart that you will do anything this woman asks you to do, no matter what. You nod and turn to the man for further instructions. 

He merely says, “Fill the jars with water.” 

For a moment, you're confused. Then you remember the six large stone water jars usually used for ceremonial washings. You glace at the servant next to you. He shrugs and joins you in lifting the heavy jar and filling it with water. 

You carry it back to where the man is seated. You pay careful attention as you set it down so that you don't spill any, even though you can't imagine why this man would want you to fill these jars with water. As you look down at the jar, you can tell that something is different. Water isn't usually that color! Were the jars dirty? No. You had just used them earlier that day. Was the water contaminated? No. It didn't look any different when you were filling your jar. 

But whatever is now in that jar, it isn't water any more. 

The man is speaking again. “Draw some out now,” he tells you, “and take it to the headwaiter.” 

You obey. You don't know why, but you trust this man. Just his eyes... There's something so different about them. You can't put your finger on it. It's something deep, something serious, and yet something very full of love at the same time. 

You carry a dipper to the headwaiter. “Oh!” he exclaims. “You've found some extra wine. Very good!” He tastes the liquid, and his face registers astonishment. “Oh!” he says again. “I've never had wine like this before.” 

You look nervously at your fellow servants. The liquid in the jars is wine all right, but what kind of wine? The headwaiter beckons the bridegroom and says to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 

The bridegroom takes a sip from the dipper. “Yes! That is quite good! Exceptional in fact...I can't even describe it. Oh well, perhaps there was some oversight. It doesn't matter. Serve it now and let the guests enjoy it.” 

As you hurry off to bring more wine to the thirsty guests, you think to yourself, “No, that was not an oversight. That was a miracle.” You look toward the man and his mother. He is telling his companions something. You can't hear it from where you are. The man lifts his head, and your eyes meet. He smiles. You can't help but smile back. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Notes on the Psalms – Psalm 4

Let's take some time to look closely at the structure and vocabulary of Psalm 4, the second Selah psalm. 

The first verse offers a plea, an identification of Who God is, a statement of God's past action toward David, and two petitions. 

First we have a plea. “Answer me when I call...” “Answer” comes from the Hebrew word ‛ânâh, which means to pay attention and, by implication, to respond. “Call” is from qârâ', to cry unto, to address, and/or to utter a loud sound. There is a desperation here, an urgency. David is pleading with God in a loud voice to answer him. We can also catch a glimpse of the intimate personal relationship between David and God. David is confident in his plea. He use of ‛ânâh suggests that he believes that his prayer will be heard and that God will respond. 

Why is he so confident? There are two reasons: Who God is and what He has done in the past. David first identifies Who God is. Several translations are possible here: “O God of my right” (NRSV-CE); “my saving God” (NAB revised); “O my righteous God” (NIV and ISV); “O God Who declares me innocent” (NLT); “O God of my righteousness” (ESV and KJV); and “the God of my justice” (Douay-Rheims). From this we can discern two facts about God: 1. God is righteous, perfectly just, perfectly right, perfectly perfect; and 2. God is the One Who bestows righteousness on His people. Our righteousness comes from Him. We are made right, just, perfect, innocent, and saved only by God. We cooperate, certainly, but it is only by His grace that we are righteous. So the God Who is righteous by nature that bestows that righteousness on us by grace.

David also recognizes what God has done for him in the past. “You gave me room when I was in distress.” This seems a bit strange. What does it mean that God gave David room when he was in distress? Let's look at the Hebrew for some clues. What the Hebrew text really says is “You have enlarged me when I was in a tight place.” The word for enlarged or gave room is râchab. The word for distress or tight place is tsâr. Distress, then, according to this verse is to be too narrow, to be enclosed, to be crowded. What might we be crowded by? Physical enemies, certainly, but also spiritual enemies like sin, temptations, distractions, pride, greed, too much emphasis on material things, unhealthy relationships, and the messages of this world. All these things can crowd their way into our minds and hearts and close us up, narrow us, make us enclosed within ourselves. Then there is no room for God or His message or His love or His will. But David says that when this happened to him, when he was enclosed and narrow, God enlarged him. How? Probably by helping him get rid of all the stuff that was clogging him up as well as by pushing back his physical enemies to give him more room for action. 

So David is confident that God will answer him because of Who God is and what He has done in the past.

The king goes on to offer two more petitions: 1. Be gracious to me; and 2. Hear my prayer. Again we will turn to vocabulary to help us understand. The word for “be gracious” here can also mean “have mercy” or “show favor” or “have pity” or “be compassionate”. David is asking God to pour out His grace and all that entails, all the mercy, all the compassion, all the favors of the spirit and perhaps even of a physical nature. David also asks, once again, “Hear my prayer.” The word for “hear” this time is shâma‛. It connotates a certain intelligent hearing and the fulfillment of a request. David is asking God for a favorable answer to his prayer. 

In the second verse, David turns his attention to the people, to Israel. He pleads with them by means of two rhetorical questions: “How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?” and “How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?” These two questions suggest that Psalm 4 was written at the same time as Psalm 3 and deals with the same historical circumstances, the betrayal of David by his son Absalom, who turned the people's hearts away from their true king. David is grieving here. His people have turned their backs on him. They are misidentifying his honor, his glory, as shame. Yes, David sinned. But then he repented, and God forgave him. Will his people continue to see only his shame even after God has returned his honor? How long will they insult him and reproach him for a sin long since forgiven? Further, Absalom has been speaking vain, empty words to the people, and they eat them up, allowing them to take root in their hearts and minds. They even want more. They seek after lies. The Hebrew word for “seek after” is bâqash, which can mean beg, desire, or strive after. This word even has overtones of worship and prayer. The people are committed to hearing and believing the worst about David with an almost religious devotion! 

Verse 3 begins with a “but.” Circumstances may be bleak at the moment, especially if David is in exile at the time he is writing this psalm, but there is more in store for him. Still addressing the people, he says, “But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him.” God has made His faithful ones distinct and wonderful (from the Hebrew pâlâh for set apart). They belong to Him. They are marvelous in His sight. Further, David seems to say that he belongs to that group of faithful. He belongs to God. How does he know? God hears whenever he calls upon Him. The word for “hears” is shâma‛, which again suggests a favorable response. God always answers David's prayers. They are in a relationship. They communicate. David prays; God answers. This is constant. Whenever David prays, God hears and responds. Not just sometimes. All the time. David is confident. He knows he has something special with God, and he wants the people to know it, too.

Then David goes on to offer some good, solid, fatherly advice to his people. “When you are disturbed,” he says, “do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent.” The king understands that his people are disturbed. The Hebrew word here is râgaz, which suggests trembling, quaking, raging, and agitation. The people are all riled up, to the point of shaking with rage. So David warns them, “ not sin.” This, of course, suggests that they are likely doing just that, sinning by refusing to forgive David, by maintaining their disrespect for their rightful king, and by allowing Absalom's words to influence them. In rejecting David, they are also rejecting God. What should they do instead? They must think before they speak. David tells them to ponder on their beds and be silent. Take some time out. Think hard. Weigh the facts. Find the truth. Look into the heart and see what God might be saying. To do all these things, one needs quiet, both external and internal, and privacy (hence the reference to the bed). 

In the next verse, David gives further guidance. He tells the Israelites, “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” In David's day, worshiping God involved sacrifices of various kinds, usually animals, grain, and wine. David is instructing his people to turn their attention to the proper worship of God. Focus on Him, David insists. Worship Him in the way He wants to be worshiped. What's more, put your trust in Him. At this point in Israel's history, the people are trusting in Absalom, not God. They think Absalom will solve their problems. David redirects them. 

The king goes on to note, however, that many people have been saying, “O that we might see some good!” Sometimes this is translated as a question: “Who will show us any good?” The people are becoming dissatisfied with their lot. Perhaps they expected more from Absalom's leadership. Again, David has an answer for them...and a prayer: “Let the light of Your face shine on us, O Lord!” He includes himself in his plea, identifying with the people in their need for God's blessing, for His light to shine down on them, for Him to look their way and see them and, seeing, bless them. 

After this excited exclamation, David continues his prayer to the Lord with praise. “You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound.” This is the greatest blessing, the joy of God in one's heart. It means more than all the material prosperity in the world. Even in the midst of his hardship, David can rejoice. He can be glad. He can sing God's praise. For God has given him the ability to do so by placing within him a deep-down joy that no one can take away. 

David ends the psalm on a peaceful note. Even though his enemies plague him, he lies down and sleeps in peace each night. Why? Because God, and God alone, makes him safe. He trusts in the Lord completely. He is safe in His arms. 

Selah. Spend some time this week reading and meditating on Psalm 4, discovering in it God's message for you, His beloved child.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Little Something Extra...Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Jesus, You came to John to be baptized at the Jordon River. May all Christians recognize the greatness and necessity of the gift of Christian baptism. 

Jesus, the humble John tried to prevent You from being baptized, for he knew that he was unworthy to perform the act and that You didn't really need it anyway. May we humbly recognize our littleness and Your greatness. 

Jesus, You told John that Your baptism was part of the Father's plan, and John consented to baptize You. May we always submit to Your will and follow Your plan. 

Jesus, You went down into the water, making it holy. May we, who have been baptized in water, remain holy. 

Jesus, when You came up out of the water, You were praying to Your Father. May we pray always with love and devotion. 

Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended on You in the form of a dove. May we receive the Holy Spirit and bask in His indwelling presence. 

Jesus, the Father's voice echoed from Heaven: “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” May we always live as the children of the Father that He may be well pleased with us.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Notes on the Psalms – Psalm 3

My cousin and I recently started working on a Bible study that focuses on the selah psalms. According to this study, the Hebrew word selah is a variation of sâlâh (meaning to measure or weigh) that instructs the reader or hearer to pause and meditate on the previous verse or verses, to measure them and weigh their meaning. 

The first selah psalm is Psalm 3, in which selah occurs three times, after verses 2, 4, and 8. 

First, let's identify the context of this psalm. The inscription tells us that it is a psalm of David that he wrote and/or sang when he was fleeing from his son Absalom. This incident is described in 2 Samuel 15-18. Absalom, desiring his father's power and status, wins over the people of Israel and has himself proclaimed king. David, now an outcast, leaves Jerusalem but tells the high priest to leave the ark of God in the city. David trusts that if God wants him to remain king, He will bring him back to the city of the ark. He leaves the decision to God. This does not make his exile any easier, however. In 2 Samuel 15:30, we see David climbing the Mount of Olives, weeping and praying, barefoot with his head covered as a sign of mourning and penance. A little further on in his journey, David meets Shimei, a member of the family of King Saul, who ruled Israel before David. Shimei curses David, denouncing him as a murderer and scoundrel, and blames him for the blood of the house of Saul (Saul and his sons died violently in battle). He claims that Absalom's actions are David's fault and a punishment for his sins. David's companions are indignant, but David tells them to let Shimei alone, for perhaps God has inspired him to curse David. The king notes that his own son is seeking his life, which to him, is much worse than anything Shimei could say or do. As the story progresses, Absalom is defeated and killed, even though David had instructed his men to deal gently with his son. When the king hears of Absalom's death, he goes into deep mourning, crying out “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” No matter what Absalom has done, David still loves him.

Now let's turn our attention to the psalm's structure. It begins on a negative note. David is lamenting how many foes he has, how many are rising up against him, and although he doesn't mention it directly in the psalm, these enemies include and are led by his own son. He continues, remarking that many people have been saying to him that there is no help for him in God. Certainly Shimei would be numbered among among these, for he claims that David's troubles were the result of his own sins. But Shimei is not the only one filling the king's ears with such a negative message. Many Israelites had bestowed their loyalty on Absalom. 

Then the tone changes, for David realizes that God is a shield around him, his glory, the One who lifts up his head. God hears and answers him from “His holy hill,” from Jerusalem. The ark may remain in Jerusalem, but God does not. His presence still surrounds David.

Further, no matter what happens, David's life goes on. He sleeps and wakes in a regular pattern. There is some sense of continuity even in exile. Why? Because God sustains him. And David is not afraid. He may be grieving over his son's actions, but he has no fear. Even though ten thousands of people have set themselves against him (which probably isn't too far off considering that the sneaky Absalom had won over the hearts of the Israelites), David trusts in God Who upholds him.

Now David turns to a prayer. He asks God to rise up and deliver him. Then he notes, with graphic imagery, that God strikes all his enemies on the cheek and breaks the teeth of the wicked. This is a statement, not a prayer. David is not asking God to take those actions. He is merely stating a fact. God has done such things in the past. For instance, David's greatest enemy was Saul, and look what happened to him. David has indeed conquered enemies all around him through God's power. While David is not requesting God to do so again, he is reminding himself of God's mighty deeds on his behalf. 

Next, we see another statement of fact: “Deliverance belongs to the Lord.” God will decide whether or not to deliver David. While David is praying for that to happen, he is also resigning his will to God's will. 

David ends with another prayer: “May Your blessing be on Your people!” The phrase “Your people” typically refers to Israel. David is praying for the very people who have turned their backs on him. 

Selah. Spend some time this week reading and meditating on Psalm 3, discovering in it God's message for you, His beloved child. 

(For information on the Selah Psalms Bible Study please see

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Little Something Extra...Epiphany

The Magi's Gifts

We've all heard the story many times before. The magi came to pay homage to the little Jesus and to offer Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But what does that really mean? What is the true significance of the magi's gifts? 

First of all, we need to be aware that Matthew presents the magi's offering as worship, emphasizing Jesus' divinity through his choice of words. The Greek word for “gifts” is dōra, which is nearly always used in the New Testament for gifts and sacrifices offered to God. The Greek verb for “offered,” prosēnegkan, can suggest a formal presentation or even a sacrifice. Further, the magi presented their gifts after prostrating themselves before the Child and doing Him homage. This gesture indicated, at the very least, extreme reverence, and in the New Testament, the word for “did him homage,” proskuneō, usually indicates the adoration owed and/or given to God. 

Now let's take a closer look at the gifts themselves. Gold, the most precious of metals, is a gift for a king. Frankincense is a fragrant resin that was often burned as an aromatic sacrificial offering to God. Myrrh is also a resin, but it was used to to prepare a dead person for burial. Three gifts...three symbols...kingship, divinity, and death. 

Did the magi understand the true significance of their gifts? Did they know that they were worshiping the infant God-Man, the divine King? Did they realize that this King would die to reconcile the whole world to Himself and to His Father? 

We can't say for sure. Maybe they did; maybe they didn't. But we know the truth about Jesus, and we have the obligation and the pleasure of presenting our own gifts to Him. 

We must bring Him our gold, all our valuables, material and beyond material, all that we hold dear, our time, our talents, our money, our possessions, our loved ones, our dreams, our goals, our pleasures, everything we have. 

We must bring Him our frankincense, our praise and worship, our prayers, our time spent alone with Him, basking in His presence. 

We must bring to Him our myrrh, our sufferings, our fear and pain, our heartache when we lose a loved one, and eventually our own death. 

Today, then, let us join the magi in falling down in worship before Jesus and laying all our gifts...and our very the feet of our divine King and Savior.

Friday, January 4, 2013

My Companion Saint for 2013: St. Genesius of Rome

I have to admit it; I was a bit surprised by the saint who chose to be my companion saint for 2013. This year I used Jennifer Fulwiler's Saint's Name Generator, and who should pop up but St. Genesius of Rome! 

A couple weeks ago, I had never even heard of St. Genesius. Then I made his acquaintance through Warren H. Carroll's book The Founding of Christendom, and now he's my saint for the year! It's strange how these “God-incidences” work sometimes. 

St. Genesius was an actor in Rome during the reign of the dreaded emperor Diocletian, who issued an edict of persecution against Christians on February 23, 303. According to Carroll, Diocletian, who had never been particularly hostile to Christians, especially since his wife and daughter had Christian leanings, was bowing to pressure from co-ruler Galerius, whose domineering mother, Romula, was a priestess of a cult worshiping “wild, orgiastic mountain gods” (502-503). The emperor's edict prohibited Christians from holding public office or using the court system, banned anyone from freeing Christian slaves, and ordered the destruction of Christian churches and holy books (503). 

In the month following the edict, fires broke out at Diocletian's palace in Nicomedia. The emperor, probably encouraged by Galerius, blamed Christians and heightened the persecution. All Christians and Christian sympathizers, including Diocletian's wife and daughter, were forced to sacrifice to the Roman “gods” or suffer torture and death (Carroll 504). Christian martyrs by the hundreds courageously embraced death rather than renounce Christ. 

That autumn, Diocletian traveled to Rome to celebrate his twentieth anniversary as emperor. During one of the elaborate entertainments presented for the emperor, the actor and comedian Genesius took the stage to perform a mock Christian baptism. The idea was, of course, to ridicule the sacrament, but right in the middle of his performance, something very strange happened to Genesius. He suddenly recognized the truth of Christianity! God touched him deep within his heart, and he longed to receive the sacrament of baptism for real. Genesius proclaimed the truth of Christianity and his conversion to Christ out loud, right in front of the emperor and all the spectators. At first, no one believed him. They thought it was part of the act. As soon as Diocletian realized that Genesius meant what he said, however, the emperor was furious. He ordered the actor to renounce his new-found faith. Genesius firmly refused, even under torture. He was eventually beheaded, a Christian to the end (Carroll 504; “St. Genesius of Rome” at; “Genesius of Rome” at New Advent). 

I'm still not sure why St. Genesius chose to be my companion saint this year. God always has His reasons! I don't know yet what message the Lord will give me through Genesius, but I'm eager to get to know him better over the coming year. 

If you haven't been chosen by a companion saint for 2013 yet, please visit the Saint's Name Generator, and see whom God has in store for you!