Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Prayers today: At the name of Jesus every knee must bend, in heaven, on earth and under the earth; Christ became obedient for us even to death, dying on the cross. Therefore, to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil 2:10, 8, 11)

Father, in your plan of salvation your Son Jesus Christ accepted the cross and freed us from the power of the enemy. May we come to share the glory of his resurrection, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Stephen of Mar Saba (d. 794)

A "do not disturb" sign helped today's saint find holiness and peace. Stephen of Mar Saba was the nephew of St. John Damascene, who introduced the young boy to monastic life beginning at age 10. When he reached 24, Stephen served the community in a variety of ways, including guest master. After some time he asked permission to live a hermit's life. The answer from the abbot was yes and no: Stephen could follow his preferred lifestyle during the week, but on weekends he was to offer his skills as a counsellor. Stephen placed a note on the door of his cell: "Forgive me, Fathers, in the name of the Lord, but please do not disturb me except on Saturdays and Sundays." Despite his calling to prayer and quiet, Stephen displayed uncanny skills with people and was a valued spiritual guide. His biographer and disciple wrote about Stephen: "Whatever help, spiritual or material, he was asked to give, he gave. He received and honored all with the same kindness. He possessed nothing and lacked nothing. In total poverty he possessed all things." Stephen died in 794.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew (26.14~25)

One of the Twelve — the one called Judas Iscariot — went to the chief priests and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?" He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'" So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, He said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray Me." They were very sad and began to say to Him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?" Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with Me will betray Me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." Then Judas, the one who would betray Him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you."

Secret sin
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

In their accounts of the Last Supper, each of the four Gospels narrates how our Lord sorrowfully announced that one of his own would betray him. They all agree that Judas was there in their midst during this dramatic announcement that astonished the body of the disciples. Now, there is a textual detail that suggests how memorable this was in the minds of the disciples. Our Gospel passage today is Matthew’s account of this declaration of Jesus, which occurs early in the Supper (26:20-21). In Matthew, our Lord’s words are (in the Greek) “eis ex humon paradosei me” (one of you will betray me). In John’s account of the Supper, Christ tells the news after he has washed the feet of his disciples, which would have included Judas. The words as quoted by John (13: 21) are the same, “eis ex humon paradosei me.” In the Gospel of St Mark, which scholars generally agree is Mark’s writing of Peter’s account of the Gospel, the wording is the same: “eis ex humon paradosei me” (14:18) with the addition of “ho esthion met emou” (the one eating with me). That is to say, we have identical versions of the very words of Christ in the recollections of three of the Apostles who were at the Supper. With all three, the Greek rendering of the original Aramaic (or Hebrew) is the same. John and Peter were on either side of our Lord, and perhaps Matthew was reclining not far from them at the repast. Luke, who was not at the Supper and who reports the result of his careful enquiries, has our Lord say this: “behold, the hand of my betrayer is with me at the table” (22:21). He, not an eye-witness, differs in wording from the other three, although our Lord may have said what Luke reports as well. The point I am making here is that it looks as if our Lord’s devastating news was so memorable that the very words he used burned into the minds of those who were present. It was overwhelming and there had been no preparation for it. They had not the slightest inkling that such a thing would come to pass. The Apostles were in complete confusion, and all the while Judas kept his terrible secret. He was buried in secret, mortal sin — hidden, as he hoped, even from the knowledge of Christ.

Yes, Judas in his heart of hearts was profoundly isolated, and this is how he wanted it to be. He studiously fitted in with the others. They had no suspicion of where he stood. In our Gospel passage today from Matthew (Matthew 26: 14-25), various of the Apostles in turn asked our Lord if it were they who would betray him — presumably they meant inadvertently, or in some other inexplicable manner. Matthew reports that Judas also asked our Lord the same question — and perhaps Matthew remembered seeing Judas ask this. This fact immediately suggests that, apart from fitting in very well in the Apostolic group, even in his expressions of friendship towards our Lord Judas had seemed no different from the others. The point is that Judas was sunk in hidden sin. His descent from venial to mortal sin had been a solitary and hidden process, in which in his heart he had gradually striven to hide himself from the Saviour. We remember the first man and woman who, after they had sinned, hid from the Lord God. Judas became clouded in self-deception, thinking that what he was doing was “okay” after all. He had approached the chief priests, and perhaps his dark and terrible dealings with them gave legitimacy to his course, in his own mind. Satan was befuddling him in self-deceit and at each step, Judas deliberately chose his course. All of this was luminously clear to the all-knowing Christ. He could see the advancing tragedy of his chosen friend — his friend! He would address him as such in the Garden: Friend, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss? In our passage today, Judas thinks that Christ knows nothing of the direction of his heart and of his relations with his mortal enemies. He is seated near enough to our Lord, because in John’s Gospel our Lord reaches to him, offering the gift of a morsel. Hiding himself from the gaze of Goodness itself, he asks, Surely not I, Rabbi? Our Lord whispered plainly to him that, yes, it was he indeed. The tragedy of Judas was that he was not open with our Lord. Had he only admitted to our Lord his temptations and his secret falls!

The immortal story of Judas Iscariot surely tells us that we must bring our temptations and our sins before Jesus Christ for his light, his grace, his pardon and his direction. We must develop a hatred of hidden, secret sins. We must examine our consciences, and bring all sins to the light of the divine gaze, asking Jesus our Redeemer for his grace, his light and his pardon. Judas needed the spiritual direction of Jesus Christ, and he refused it. He needed his pardon, and he refused it. He went down the path of Satan, and reached a point where all he then did was despair. Let this be the lesson of lessons. Flee all secret sin! Bring all sin before Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Prayers today: False witnesses have stood up against me, and my enemies threaten violence; Lord, do not surrender me into their power! (Ps 26:12)

Father, may we receive your forgiveness and mercy as we celebrate the passion and death of the Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

St. Peter Regalado (1390-1456)

Peter lived at a very busy time. The Great Western Schism (1378-1417) was settled at the Council of Constance (1414-1418). France and England were fighting the Hundred Years’ War, and in 1453 the Byzantine Empire was completely wiped out by the loss of Constantinople to the Turks. At Peter’s death the age of printing had just begun in Germany, and Columbus's arrival in the New World was less than 40 years away. Peter came from a wealthy and pious family in Valladolid, Spain. At the age of 13, he was allowed to enter the Conventual Franciscans. Shortly after his ordination, he was made superior of the friary in Aguilar. He became part of a group of friars who wanted to lead a life of greater poverty and penance. In 1442 he was appointed head of all the Spanish Franciscans in his reform group. Peter led the friars by his example. A special love of the poor and the sick characterized Peter. Miraculous stories are told about his charity to the poor. For example, the bread never seemed to run out as long as Peter had hungry people to feed. Throughout most of his life, Peter went hungry; he lived only on bread and water. Immediately after his death on March 31, 1456, his grave became a place of pilgrimage. Peter was canonized in 1746.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (13.21~33.36~38)

After He had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray Me." His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask Him which one He means." Leaning back against Jesus, "He asked Him, Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish. Then, dipping the piece of bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into Him. "What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him, but no-one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. When he was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will glorify the Son in Himself, and will glorify Him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for Me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come." Simon Peter asked Him, "Lord, where are you going? Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later." Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow You now? I will lay down my life for You." Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for Me? I tell you the truth, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times!

The gaze of Christ
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

On March 15 (the Ides of March), 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated by some Roman senators, including Marcus Junius Brutus, Caesar's close friend. Caesar's last words are not known with certainty. Those most famously attributed to him are “Et tu, Brute?”, placed in his mouth by Shakespeare in his drama, Julius Caesar. Some understand Caesar’s final words as expressing shock at his betrayal, others see in them a curse and a threat. In any case, the great Caesar knew nothing of the conspiracy and, surprised at the last, went to his death at the hand of a friend. The words, “Et tu, Brute?” have come to signify betrayal by a friend. A little less than seventy years after Caesar, there was a far more heinous betrayal in a corner of the Empire. In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord addressed his betrayer as his friend. “Friend,” he said to Judas, “would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Our Lord had personally chosen Judas from among his disciples to be one of the Twelve, a patriarch of his Church, to be with him as his special companion and to be sent out with a special share in his mission. It was an extraordinary vocation to friendship with Christ, a unique choice, and Judas could have been a great saint like the rest of the Twelve. As such he would have been celebrated with his own feast day in the life of the Church till the end of time. He could have died a martyr for Christ and reigned forever with Christ in heaven. But what do we notice? In chapter six of St John’s Gospel, after our Lord made his stunning announcement of the doctrine of the Eucharist in the Synagogue of Capernaum, many of his disciples left him. Turning to the Twelve, he asked if they too were intending to go, for there was no turning back from what he had just revealed. No indeed, Simon Peter answered, for he, Jesus, had the words of life. “Have I not chosen you Twelve?” our Lord replied. “Yet one of you is a devil.” Caesar knew nothing of his betrayal, but our Lord knew his betrayer exactly.

Our Gospel today (John 13: 21-33.36-38) opens with our Lord’s expression of heartfelt disappointment, which undoubtedly was an oblique appeal to the soul of his chosen companion. “Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” An absorbing feature of this scene is that the entire body of disciples had not the slightest suspicion of the apostasy of the heart of Judas. They had no idea that one among them had given up on Jesus, let alone had entered into relations with his very enemies. Judas had been with them for the best part of three years, living with them, going out on missions with them, associating with our Lord freely and constantly. It must have been a community life of the first order with our Lord as its heart and soul. If there is one good way of getting to know a person, live with him. They lived with Judas, and yet over this period of constant association they suspected nothing. They would have known various of his faults just as they would have known various of the faults of one another. But nothing of seriousness was suspected. We read that when our Lord made his startling announcement, “His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, Ask him which one he means. Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, Lord, who is it?” Simon Peter had no idea, nor did John the beloved disciple. Our Lord had associated Peter, James and John with him in special ways, but nothing whatever was divulged to them. The complete disaffection by Judas was one of Christ’s most serious burdens. Judas attempted to disguise himself even from Christ. But his heart was in full view to our Lord’s loving and sorrowful gaze. Our Lord did not unmask him, nor expel him, nor take him to task. Undoubtedly by all sorts of discreet ways our Lord attempted to shield and dissuade him from the approaches of Satan. But Satan won, and at the Last Supper, entered him.

The story of Judas is, among other things, the story of a heart that became more and more sunk in serious sin, but which was constantly open to the gaze of Jesus Christ. Let us think of that divine gaze. No one, not even Satan, can plumb the depths of our hearts and see what is happening at bottom. Not even do we see to the very depths. But one assuredly does, and he is our brother and our God, Jesus Christ. He knows our heart through and through, and its very first starting points are laid bare before him. Let us ask him to give us a heart which right to the very foundation is good soil for the word of God, a heart that will produce a harvest with the aid of God’s grace. In a word, let us live before the gaze of Jesus Christ, always trying to please him.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Prayers this week: Six days before the solemn Passover the Lord came to Jerusalem, and children waving palm branches ran out to welcome him. They loudly praised the Lord: Hosanna in the highest. Blessed are you who have come to us so rich in love and mercy.

Almighty and ever living God, you have given the human race Jesus Christ our Saviour as a model of humility. He fulfilled your will by becoming man and giving his life on the cross. Help us to bear witness to you by following his example of suffering and make us worthy to share in his resurrection. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Hesychius of Jerusalem (c. 450)

Not only is the name of today's saint a bit hard to pronounce and spell. It's also difficult to learn about such a modest and gentle man who lived in the fourth and fifth century and who is better known in the Russian Orthodox Church. The birth date of Hesychius (pronounced HESH-us) is unclear, but we know that he was a priest and monk who wrote a history of the Church, unfortunately lost. He also wrote about many of the burning issues of his day. These included the heresy of Nestorianism, which held that there were two separate persons in Jesus—one human, one divine—and the heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ. Some of his commentaries on the books of the Bible as well, along with meditations on the prophets and homilies on the Blessed Virgin Mary, still survive. It's believed Hesychius delivered Easter homilies in the basilica in Jerusalem thought to be the place of the crucifixion. His words on the Eucharist, written centuries ago, speak to us today: "Keep yourselves free from sin so that every day you may share in the mystic meal; by doing so our bodies become the body of Christ."
Hesychius died around the year 450.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (22.14~23.56)

Luke 19: 28-40 (The Entry into Jerusalem) After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no-one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.' Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, Why are you untying the colt? They replied, The Lord needs it. They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, Teacher, rebuke your disciples! I tell you, he replied, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

The work of works
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

There are those who consider the wars flowing from the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte as being the first world war — and this was over a century prior to World War I. Ultimately it became a war between Bonaparte and his principal enemy, the British. Napoleon came to see that because of the mastery of the sea by the British, it would be impossible for him to invade England. So he launched into a continental blockade which attempted to destroy Britain’s ability to trade. The whole of the European continent, including even Russia, was to be shut off from English goods. It involved immense effort, was never fully implemented, went on for nearly eight years, and broke down at the seams. It was a tremendous project involving enormous effort internationally. For instance, England’s response to it seriously affected its relations with the United States. On the other hand, the blockade facilitated Wellington’s entry into Europe via the rebellious Spanish Peninsular, and this contributed greatly to Bonaparte’s final defeat. Ultimately it caused more harm to the Grand Empire than to England. I mention this as one example of so many spectacular projects in the history of mankind. Kingdoms and rulers have risen and fallen; lives have been lost; blood, sweat and tears have been expended, and one might be forgiven for wondering, all to what avail. George Bernard Shaw once publicly joked that it would have been better for mankind if Napoleon had never been born. Let that be the backdrop, and let the scene of history now change to the one portrayed in our Gospel passage today. It occurred on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, at the gates of Jerusalem. A man was proceeding on a colt, humbly, with no pretensions in his regal face. He was no temporal ruler, no holder of great civil power. There he slowly rode with crowds surrounding him, front and behind. They were acclaiming him as the Messiah who had come. A man in his prime, his face exuded holiness and an indefinable dignity. His eyes gazed ahead of him to the holy city which would soon be the scene of a unique drama affecting all of history to come.

Let us imagine all the projects of the world and the efforts that they have required of man — and I referred to but one of them earlier. What would any of these, or all of them together, amount to when compared with the project which this Man now entering Jerusalem had set himself? He had set himself the task, and had been sent from above for the purpose, of making up for the sin of the world. He was about to bare his shoulders to suffer for all the sins of mankind. Can anyone think of a more mammoth task? Consider the sins of one solitary individual, even, let us suppose, an individual blessed with never having committed a mortal sin of either thought, word or deed. Consider his numerous, nay countless, venial offences against God. Even if all of mankind were never to have committed a single mortal sin, consider the unending sea of venial sins perpetrated daily by mankind, sins of the heart, sins of the mind, sins of the tongue, sins of deed. Imagine being burdened with the venial sins of all mankind. But in fact we must imagine the sin of the world as involving mortal sin indeed. From the very dawn of history mortal sin has appeared on the scene, dark, hateful, rebellious, deadly. Our first parents sinned mortally, wishing to be gods in independence of the one God. If you eat of this tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will be like God, knowing (i.e., determining for yourself) good and evil. That was the temptation, and they chose it. It reflected the sin of the demons in heaven long before. Ever since the terrible beginning at the dawn of history, sin has inundated the world, and it has been deadly sin as well as venial sin. The problem of the world has been sin. Sin entered the world through one man and with sin came death, and death has spread to the whole human race. The problem the Messiah had been sent to fix was man’s separation from God. There he was, now entering Jerusalem, and by the end of that week the work would be done. It was achieved not by armies, not by trumpets, not by the fanfare of the great, but by his own absolute obedience amid unparalleled personal suffering.

The greatest thing ever done for man and the world was done by Jesus Christ. It entailed simple steps: witnessing to the truth of his person and teaching, and accepting the will of his heavenly Father that he suffer indescribably for the sin of the world as a result. He carried his cross from Pilate’s building across to the raised rock outside the city and there was crucified. It was an occurrence that veiled a profound cosmic shift, a shift from bondage to sin to a share in the life of God. If we, nobodies though we might be, follow in the footsteps of Jesus, then we shall also contribute mightily to the good of man. Let us get our priorities right, then! Ah yes, to the work!


A second reflection for Palm Sunday:

"As he was approaching the downward slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole group of disciples joyfully began to praise God at the top of their voices for all the miracles they had seen".

I remember watching a television interview with a prominent Australian philosopher who was asked if he believed in God. He said he did not because of all the evil and suffering there is in the world. If there were a God, he said, he would have arranged things differently. It was not clear whether the philosopher (Peter Singer) was asking for a world free of evil and suffering, but the good news is that God has sent his Son to deal with evil and suffering, and by uniting ourselves with Jesus, we too deal with it — in God’s way — in our own lives.

On Palm Sunday we celebrate our Lord entering Jerusalem for the holiest week of his life, the week during which he would deal definitively with suffering and sin. He dealt with sin by accepting — indeed embracing — and then bearing to the end the suffering which came to him as a result of his witnessing to the truth. Our Lord dreaded his hour of suffering, and in the Garden he sweated blood at the prospect. But at the same time he looked to it with longing, setting his face towards it like flint. He advanced towards it with firm decision because he intended to give it its new meaning. By means of his suffering he would take away the sin of the world. In the first reading we read of the suffering Servant of Yahweh, the harbinger of Christ in meekly submitting to the violence inflicted upon him. St Paul writes that God made the sinless Christ to be sin, as it were, in order to take away our sins.

There is another aspect of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. He entered Jerusalem to bear witness to the truth about his own person before the leaders of the Jews and before Pilate, which is to say before the chosen people and before the world. Before the chief priests he testified that he was the Son of the Most High, that he would be seated at his right hand, and therefore that he was equal to God. Before Pilate he said that he was born to bear witness to the truth, and in his passion he bore witness to this truth. We are called to share in his work of bearing witness to the truth about Jesus. The word martyr means witness, and martyrs are referred to as receiving the palm of martyrdom. On Palm Sunday we all receive palms above all to symbolize our resolve to bear witness to our faith in Jesus our king. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Let us resolve to bear witness to Jesus every day in every aspect of our lives, in all our thoughts, words, joys and sufferings. For if we are not ashamed of bearing witness to Jesus here on earth he will bear witness to us before our Father in heaven. Christ has shown that the suffering in the world is now the path to glory. Let us take that path.

Christ humbled himself to share our nature even to death, and because of his obedience God raised him on high. If we unite our sufferings with those of Christ in a spirit of obedience and in witness to him who is the truth, those sufferings will lead us to glory. They will sanctify us. This is the grace to seek this week and today, uniting ourselves in spirit with Jesus as he enters Jerusalem to suffer for us.


A third reflection on Palm Sunday

Scripture today: Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 21; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14-23:56

"As he was approaching the downward slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole group of disciples joyfully began to praise God at the top of their voices for all the miracles they had seen". (Luke 19:28-40)

Today we think of our Lord entering Jerusalem to undergo unimaginable sufferings for the salvation of the world. Due to our Lord’s sufferings, human suffering has a purpose, and we must recover this sense of purpose. Suffering takes many forms. For instance, it can take the form of failure. If one were to ask, from a worldly point of view, whether Christ at the time of his death was a success or a failure, what would some have said? They would have said — especially the religious leaders would — that he was a failure. The people en masse did not really believe in him, and in fact the leaders killed him. His own closest associates ran away. In fact, if there is one person in history who presents the problem of evil and suffering, it is Jesus Christ. The ancient Greeks were fatalists. Even their gods were depicted as being in the hands of fate. In our day what is the reaction to suffering? It is to do anything, anything, even the grossest evil, to avoid it. We even kill the unborn to avoid suffering. I suppose there are two main reasons why an abortion is proposed. One is the difficulty and great inconvenience entailed in the pregnancy, birth and upbringing of the child. A second reason is often that, due to scientific techniques, it is discovered that the child will have serious disabilities. The child, it is said, would have no quality of life and the quality of life for the mother too will be seriously impaired. There will be too much suffering and inconvenience. Suffering is deemed to have no purpose, and the response to it is to do anything to avoid it, even to put an end to the life in question.

Once on the ABC TV 7.30 Report, presenter Kerry O’Brien interviewed the scientist who many years ago discovered DNA, the genetic material that determines the character traits and constitution of the unborn child. Because of this discovery all sorts of genetic information is now available, enabling the parents to know what will be the physical health and constitution of the child. With this knowledge many decide to abort children who have very serious disabilities. The scientist who discovered DNA unambiguously stated that the unborn child has no rights as such, and that if it is discovered that the child will have serious disabilities, it is up to the parent to decide whether the child should live or not. That was his response to suffering. Suffering has no purpose at all. Immediately after that segment, Kerry O’Brien introduced another segment which showed a seriously disabled woman in her wheelchair. She was shown deriving great joy from her painting. Then it was explained that her disease progressively makes her a complete prisoner in her own body, and will probably eventually kill her. But she radiated happiness and joy. Moreover, she had formed a group of young women friends who had established a foundation to raise funds for research into the disease she was suffering from. They had already raised $200,000 for this purpose, and had brought out a scientist to Australia to begin the research. One of the group explained that even if this woman dies from the disease without the cure, the research will go on. But most impressive of all was the happiness, the vitality and the joy of this disabled woman. Significantly, she said that she was convinced that her disability was given to her for a reason. Her suffering had and would have a purpose.

That woman was living proof from her joyful attitude that life was indeed worth living despite her deadly disability. Further, she was establishing a foundation to find a cure for the disability from which she herself was suffering. She was bringing quality of life to others. When the cross comes, we must resolve to believe that all is in the hands of God and that he is allowing this, or even sending it, as a sign of his love. We must try to thank him for the good things as well as the bad, knowing that he gives and he takes away for our best interests. We must trust him, and unite ourselves to the Cross of Christ, asking Jesus to use our sufferings just as the Father used his to redeem the world.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Prayers today: Lord, do not stay away; come quickly to help me! I am a worm and no man: men scorn me, people despise me. (Ps 21:20, 7)

God our Father, you always work to save us, and now we rejoice in the great love you give to your chosen people. Protect all who are about to become your children, and continue to bless those who are already baptized. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.

Blessed Francis FaĆ  di Bruno (1825-1888)

Francis, the last of 12 children, was born in northern Italy into an aristocratic family. He lived at a particularly turbulent time in history, when anti-Catholic and anti-papal sentiments were especially strong. After being trained as a military officer, Francis was spotted by King Victor Emmanuel II, who was impressed with the young man's character and learning. Invited by the king to tutor his two young sons, Francis agreed and prepared himself with additional studies. But with the role of the Church in education being a sticking point for many, the king was forced to withdraw his offer to the openly Catholic Francis and, instead, find a tutor more suitable to the secular state. Francis soon left army life behind and pursued doctoral studies in Paris in mathematics and astronomy; he also showed a special interest in religion and asceticism. Despite his commitment to the scholarly life, Francis put much of his energy into charitable activities. He founded the Society of St. Zita for maids and domestic servants, later expanding it to include unmarried mothers, among others. He helped establish hostels for the elderly and poor. He even oversaw the construction of a church in Turin that was dedicated to the memory of Italian soldiers who had lost their lives in the struggle over the unification of Italy. Wishing to broaden and deepen his commitment to the poor, Francis, then well into adulthood, studied for the priesthood. But first he had to obtain the support of Pope Pius IX to counteract the opposition to his own archbishop's difficulty with late vocations. Francis was ordained at the age of 51. As a priest, he continued his good works, sharing his inheritance as well as his energy. He established yet another hostel, this time for prostitutes. He died in Turin on March 27, 1888, and was beatified 100 years later.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (11.45~56)

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. What are we accomplishing? they asked. Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, You know nothing at all! You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish. He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life. Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, What do you think? Isn't he coming to the Feast at all?

Trust in God
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

It is interesting to notice that in the Gospel of St John we are given detailed reports of the discussions about Jesus within the meetings of the Sanhedrin, including his trial. We also know the details of the discussion between Pilate and the priests. It suggests that the author of the Gospel had some special access to the Sanhedrin and ready contacts with the members of it. Putting it all together, some scholars opine that John the Evangelist’s family — Zebedee of Galilee being John’s father — was a priestly family. Be that as it may, in John’s account today the Sanhedrin, gathered in session, is shown as profoundly perplexed as to how to dominate the person of Jesus and his ministry. “What are we accomplishing? they asked. Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Their fear of the action of the Romans was a pretext they hypocritically used to justify their angry discomfort. That there was no basis for this was shown in Pilate’s own lack of concern about Jesus when he was confronted by him. But then we have the words of Caiaphas, serving as high priest that year, who rises to put their confusion to an end. He purports to resolve their moral dilemma with this principle: “You know nothing at all! You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” It was utilitarianism at its worst, doing away with the prophet for the benefit of avoiding a supposed catastrophic intervention by the Romans. But then the inspired author makes the profound point that God was the Master of history, and Caiaphas, unworthy though he was, was speaking prophetically. He did not know it, but the very principle he was setting forth would be marvellously vindicated in the event. It was indeed better that Jesus Christ die for the nation and for all of God’s children everywhere and in every time. Had Christ not died for our sins, the upshot for us would be death, for the wages of sin are death.

The words of Caiaphas and John’s comment on them (John 11:45-56) are a powerful reminder of the might of God’s providence. God bestows on man his gift of freedom. He can choose good or evil, and terrible evils have been perpetrated in the world as a result of man’s free choice. Sin and crime have proliferated from the beginning, and yet the Creator of all attains his ends. Good is drawn out of evil and that good is far greater than the evil from which it was drawn. An archetypal instance of this is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it ought provide hope and inspiration for all who are burdened with the mystery of suffering and evil. If any question were justified, it would surely have been (at the time) the perennial one. Why did God allow this to happen to Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet mighty in word and deed, whom many had hoped would bring to Israel their liberation? Why did he himself allow this to happen to him, when he had shown time and again that he could elude the machinations of his enemies? But it was not to be. The prince of this world was on his way, and the net, ever encircling, suddenly entrapped the prey. Christ was apprehended, hastily condemned and put to a shocking death. There he lay, noble beyond description in his terrible death, the expression of a king on his incomparable though lifeless face. It was a sudden and terrible end and it seemed that God had been defeated. But ah! Ah, no! God was Master of history, and to Satan’s chagrin all had been according to the divine plan. It had been better for the people that the Messiah and Son die, than that the people perish. It was necessary that the Son of Man suffer and die in order to enter into his glory, and take with him all of God’s children. The supposed breakthrough offered by Caiaphas to the confused Sanhedrin was indeed mankind’s breakthrough, but in a sense transcending all that the corrupt high priest had supposed. Without the death of Christ, men would have died without any hope of eternal life. The mighty providence of God had drawn unparalleled good out of unparalleled evil.

Let us in all our difficulties and disappointments, all our perplexities at the seeming futility of life’s efforts, gaze on the figure of the Crucified One. Let us but resolve to do God’s will as it seems to present itself before us, and trust in the power and wisdom of God. He has a reason, a very good reason, for permitting whatever he does. We must do our best for what is good — as did Jesus Christ — and then trust in the providence of God. On the tomb of Mary MacKillop in Sydney is that holy woman’s advice: Trust in God! That is what we must do, in everything.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blessed Didacus of Cadiz (d. 1801)

Born in Cadiz, Spain, and christened Joseph Francis, the youth spent much of his free time around the Capuchin friars and their church. But his desire to enter the Franciscan Order was delayed because of the difficulty he had with his studies. Finally he was admitted to the novitiate of the Capuchins in Seville as Brother Didacus. He later was ordained a priest and sent out to preach. His gift of preaching was soon evident. He journeyed tirelessly through the territory of Andalusia of Spain, speaking in small towns and crowded cities. His words were able to touch the minds and hearts of young and old, rich and poor, students and professors. His work in the confessional completed the conversions his words began. This unlearned man was called "the apostle of the Holy Trinity" because of his devotion to the Trinity and the ease with which he preached about this sublime mystery. One day a child gave away his secret, crying out: "Mother, mother, see the dove resting on the shoulder of Father Didacus! I could preach like that too if a dove told me all that I should say." Didacus was that close to God, spending nights in prayer and preparing for his sermons by severe penances. His reply to those who criticized him: "My sins and the sins of the people compel me to do it. Those who have been charged with the conversions of sinners must remember that the Lord has imposed on them the sins of all their clients." It is said that sometimes when he preached on the love of God he would be elevated above the pulpit. Crowds in village and town squares were entranced by his words and would attempt to tear off pieces of his habit as he passed by. He died in 1801 at age 58, a holy and revered man. He was beatified in 1894.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (10.31~42)

The Jews picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone Me?" "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, but for blasphemy, because You, a man, claim to be God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? If He called them 'gods', to whom the word of God came — and the Scripture cannot be broken — what about the One whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse Me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? Do not believe Me unless I do what My Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe Me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." Again they tried to seize Him, but He escaped their grasp. Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptising in the early days. Here He stayed and many people came to Him. They said, "Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true." And in that place many believed in Jesus.

Christ is God
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

One of the most fascinating movements within Anglican history was the Oxford Movement, which had its origins in the late 1820s at Oxford University, and formally beginning in 1833. Its principal purpose was the restoration in Anglicanism of orthodox Christian belief and of the authority of the Church. In the late 1820s — before the Movement formally began — there arrived at Oxford University a man by the name of Joseph Blanco White, and Newman and he became fast friends. Blanco White was a Spaniard by birth, and had been ordained a Catholic priest in Spain. He had gradually abandoned the Catholic Faith and fled to England during the Napoleonic war in Spain. By the time of his arrival in England he was virtually an atheist, but he came to embrace the Anglican Faith and was ordained an Anglican clergyman. He arrived in Oxford after many years in England and was granted a degree by the University for his publications attacking the Catholic religion. During the years 1827 to about 1830 Newman and he were close friends at the University, although soon differences in religious belief began to be evident. My point in mentioning Blanco White is that he illustrates the centrality of the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus Christ. He gradually came to look on Jesus Christ as no more than an eminent religious man, an outstanding leader of religion. He ended his days a Unitarian, and his lengthy posthumous biography was edited and published by the Unitarian minister, John Hamilton Thom. In it the story of his journey from Catholic belief to Unitarianism, which denies the divinity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity, is traced. Newman saw Blanco White’s life as a tragedy of the loss of orthodox Christian belief. At its heart was the loss of belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Newman himself went on to be England’s outstanding intellectual champion of credal Christianity, at the heart of which is the divinity of Jesus Christ.

One of the distinguishing features of the Gospel of St John is its presentation of the divinity of Jesus Christ and of the claims of Jesus Christ to be divine. I suspect that one of the purposes of John’s writing of his Gospel was to give a more fulsome emphasis to this central doctrine as present in the other three (synoptic) Gospels. There are two defining features of the Christian religion that mark it off from Judaism. The first is that Jesus is the promised Messiah, and the second is far more notable: that Jesus the Messiah is the Son of God, consubstantial with the Father. If a Christian begins to doubt this — as did Blanco White — he is on the path to the abandonment of Christianity. That Jesus Christ claimed to be the Son of God is manifest in the Gospel of St John, and our passage today (John 10: 31-42) is one of the several that could be cited to show this. We read that “The Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me? We are not stoning you for any of these, replied the Jews, but for blasphemy, because you, a man, claim to be God.” One of the distinctive features of the religion of the Hebrews was the prophetic tradition. It was a religion of prophets. Several had been called by God to speak on his behalf, and they claimed to be prophets. They knew they had been called by God to speak his word to the people, and they denounced false prophets in the process. Our Lord in his preaching referred often to the prophets before him — and to the false prophets, too. When our Lord appeared on the scene — after receiving the formal backing of John the Baptist — he was counted a prophet by the people. A great prophet has risen among us, they said, even one of the old prophets brought back to life. But Jesus Christ did not claim to be just one more prophet. His claim was utterly unique. He claimed to be God’s very own Son. This was meant in a special sense, and the leaders understood it immediately. He was God’s Son in the sense that he was divine. He was equal to God. It was for this that he died.

Let us never get used to the thought that the man Jesus Christ is God. The Christian religion is therefore like no other. Who is God? God is Jesus Christ — and he is the Father, and he is the Holy Spirit. So we adore and love Jesus Christ as the centre and heart of man’s religion. For this reason the vocation of man is to know, love and serve Jesus Christ with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and in him to love and serve our neighbour. This is what the Christian religion entails. Let us then strive every day to be true Christians!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510)

Going to confession one day was the turning point of Catherine’s life. When Catherine was born, many Italian nobles were supporting Renaissance artists and writers. The needs of the poor and the sick were often overshadowed by a hunger for luxury and self-indulgence. Catherine’s parents were members of the nobility in Genoa. At 13 she attempted to become a nun but failed because of her age. At 16 she married Julian, a nobleman who turned out to be selfish and unfaithful. For a while she tried to numb her disappointment by a life of selfish pleasure. One day in confession she had a new sense of her own sins and how much God loved her. She reformed her life and gave good example to Julian, who soon turned from his self-cantered life of distraction. Julian’s spending, however, had ruined them financially. He and Catherine decided to live in the Pammatone, a large hospital in Genoa, and to dedicate themselves to works of charity there. After Julian’s death in 1497, Catherine took over management of the hospital. She wrote about purgatory which, she said, begins on earth for souls open to God. Life with God in heaven is a continuation and perfection of the life with God begun on earth. Exhausted by her life of self-sacrifice, she died September 15, 1510, and was canonized in 1737. Shortly before Catherine’s death she told her goddaughter: "Tomasina! Jesus in your heart! Eternity in your mind! The will of God in all your actions! But above all, love, God’s love, entire love!" (Marion A. Habig, The Franciscan Book of Saints, p. 212).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (8.31~42)

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. They answered him, We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father. Abraham is our father, they answered. If you were Abraham's children, said Jesus, then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does. We are not illegitimate children, they protested. The only Father we have is God himself. Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me.

Christ and His Teaching
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

It is possible to hold to the importance of Christ, while in effect discounting somewhat the practice of his teaching. In a so-called “Christian country” where the Christian religion is the one accepted by the majority of the population, there is little open opposition to the person of Jesus Christ. To begin with, open opposition would immediately draw the fire of convinced Christians. While this does not eliminate the formal expression of anti-Christian opinion (in the way anti-Islamic opinion would be eliminated in a Muslim country), it usually results in it being expressed respectfully. In a “Christian country” Christ is respected and most people would describe themselves as Christian. But what does this mean? It very often does not mean the acceptance of and holding to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Christ is allowed and a person may count himself a Christian. But he unhesitatingly makes up his own mind as to what teachings he holds to be those of Jesus Christ, and even dismisses those that he recognizes to be of Christ but which happen to be very inconvenient. It is one result of the modern authority of private judgment. In previous eras, cultures accepted authority easily. Now, we make up our own mind — and this approach we apply to religion. In the face of all this, let us notice how our Lord describes the Christian — which is to say, the disciple of Jesus Christ. In our Gospel passage today, our Lord says, “ If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” So to be a Christian, it is absolutely critical that one truly hold to the teaching of Jesus Christ, and a holding to that teaching does not merely mean a vague intellectual acceptance — but a practical living of it. We cannot say that we hold to something if despite this we act in a way that is contrary to it. If we hold to the teaching of Christ, then as Cardinal Newman often pointed out, we must fear lest we be mistaken about it. But not many have this fear. They make up their own minds, with little apprehension lest they not be holding at all to the teaching of Jesus Christ. They do not care.

There are further implications of this, and our Lord draws them out in our passage today. To begin with, our Lord says that his teaching is the truth. If we hold to his teaching, we shall know the truth: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Our Lord is referring to an inner freedom of mind and heart at the very roots of our being. There are, then, two things which affect us at the foundations of our spirit: accepting the truth that comes from Christ, and refusing to accept it. The denial of Christ’s truth will ensnare us in sin, and by this denial we shall be enslaved. “They answered him, We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” One of the great gains of modern culture and thought is its emphasis on freedom, but co-terminus with this gain is a serious loss. It is the disassociation of freedom from truth. Freedom is considered to be the freedom to do what one likes, whereas true freedom is the capacity to do what is right — which is to say what is in accord with the truth. It takes a great deal of inner and spiritual freedom to do what is right, especially when there are great internal and external pressures to do what is wrong. For example, one’s long-standing memories may constitute a great pressure to be unforgiving. It could be extremely difficult to forgive if we remain in our memories. It takes a great deal of inner freedom to forgive when such memories crowd in upon the imagination. Our Lord tells us that truly holding to his teaching is the way forward to the truth and to freedom. This applies to hatred, bitterness, to lust, to sloth and to all the capital sins leading man to slavery and to death. If we wish to be free, we must hold to the truth of Jesus Christ, which is, as our Lord insists, what is involved in truly being his disciple.

Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the touchstone of true religion and of a true relationship with God. Our Lord tells those who claim to have God for their Father while rejecting him, that “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me” (John 8: 31-42). This is very serious for the person who actually rejects Christ’s teaching, therefore rejecting Christ Himself. It is something that each Christian must bring to the secular world of his everyday life.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

St. Turibius of Mogrovejo (1538-1606)

Together with Rose of Lima, Turibius is the first known saint of the New World, serving the Lord in Peru, South America, for 26 years. Born in Spain and educated for the law, he became so brilliant a scholar that he was made professor of law at the University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge of the Inquisition at Granada. He succeeded too well. But he was not sharp enough a lawyer to prevent a surprising sequence of events. When the archdiocese of Lima in Peru required a new leader, Turibius was chosen to fill the post: He was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area. He cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities, but he was overruled. He was ordained priest and bishop and sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst. The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population. Abuses among the clergy were flagrant, and he devoted his energies (and suffering) to this area first. He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with neither bed nor food. He confessed every morning to his chaplain, and celebrated Mass with intense fervour. Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was St. Rose of Lima, and possibly St. Martin de Porres. After 1590 he had the help of another great missionary, St. Francis Solanus. His people, though very poor, were sensitive, dreading to accept public charity from others. Turibius solved the problem by helping them anonymously.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (8.21~30)

Once more Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come." This made the Jews ask, "Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, 'Where I go, you cannot come'?" But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am, you will indeed die in your sins." "Who are you?" they asked. "Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is true, and what I have heard from him I tell the world." They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

The key to life
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

Occasionally one comes across those who do not seem to care in thinking of physical death as the absolute end of everything for a person. One fairly elderly person said to me that as far as he was concerned, death for him would be the same as it is for any animal. It would be the end, with nothing beyond it. Now, this belief is most uncharacteristic of human thought. In the main, man is and always has been religious, and religion almost always includes belief in an Afterlife. Man expects to continue in some form after death, although the views and images of the Afterlife have been legion. There is an immense difference between the Afterlife of Judaeo-Christian revelation and that of Buddhism, for instance. We all know that death must come, but this thought is assuaged by the prospect of an Afterlife — which is to say, we believe that after death, life will continue. The thought of death in an absolute sense is a shocking prospect. All this is to say that life is one of our most precious possessions, even though we usually take it somewhat for granted. If there is any threat to our life, our whole being is roused in fear and apprehension — and even animals respond in similar fashion. If a loved one embarks on a course which may mean the loss of life — as in some military campaign — then his family and friends become immensely concerned. They dread the day they might receive notice that he has lost his life. Clearly, one of the principal goals of a society is to ensure the preservation the lives of its citizens. A culture that undervalues life and allows its destruction for reasons of convenience or for trivial misdemeanours is to that extent closer to barbarism. Now, we may ask, if life is one of our greatest possessions, is there any key to its secure possession? We try to eat properly, maintain good health, and avoid unnecessary dangers such as driving recklessly on the roads. Life is a truly precious gift, and in all sorts of ways our conviction of this, and the conviction of society about this, is manifest. But we cannot hang on to our physical life indefinitely. What, then, is the key?

Our Lord in today’s Gospel (John 8: 21-30) gives us the key to attaining, holding on to, and flourishing in the gift of life. He tells us what is the ultimate threat to life. It is sin. The average person in a secular culture assumes that the ultimate threats to life are those he sees as destroying physical life. Life is threatened ultimately, he thinks, by hunger, disease, neglect, imprudence in health, and so forth. But Christ has revealed that the ultimate threat to life is sin and its consequent separation from God. St Paul writes that sin entered the world through one man and with sin came death, and death has spread to the whole human race. In our Gospel passage today, our Lord tells his hearers that they will die in their sins. This is the ultimate tragedy, to die in one’s sins, for this will bring the ultimate death — not a death that is extinction, but a dying forever, as it were. It will be an eternal separation from God. Horrible thought! It is the ultimate fate of the demons, and such is the lot of the one who does not die in God but in his sins. So what does our Lord provide as the key to the possession of life? The key to life is belief in him and in his word. “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” He was going to his Father, to life forever at the right hand of God, and he was telling his hearers that the course they were presently pursuing would lead them to death in their sins. “You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am, you will indeed die in your sins.” The one way to avoid ultimate death is to believe in the One whom God had sent. Significantly, our Lord alludes to his divinity and to belief in this fundamental doctrine. “If you do not believe that I am, you will indeed die in your sins” — the “I am” is a clear reference to the name that Yahweh God had pronounced before Moses as being his own. On a different occasion, just before he raised Lazarus from the dead, our Lord had said to Martha that the one who believes in him will live, even though he die. The key is faith in Jesus.

On a separate occasion again, our Lord was visiting the home of Mary and Martha. He said to Martha that Mary her sister had chosen the better part in sitting before him and listening to his word. The most important thing in life is to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Saviour, and to live according to his word. This belief constitutes the key to life. By means of this, death is overcome in its ultimate sense, and we live now and forever in God. Let us then take our stand with Jesus, knowing that being with him is the one thing necessary.

Monday, March 22, 2010

St. Nicholas Owen (d. 1606)

Nicholas, familiarly known as "Little John," was small in stature but big in the esteem of his fellow Jesuits. Born at Oxford, this humble artisan saved the lives of many priests and laypersons in England during the penal times (1559-1829), when a series of statutes punished Catholics for the practice of their faith. Over a period of about 20 years he used his skills to build secret hiding places for priests throughout the country. His work, which he did completely by himself as both architect and builder, was so good that time and time again priests in hiding were undetected by raiding parties. He was a genius at finding, and creating, places of safety: subterranean passages, small spaces between walls, impenetrable recesses. At one point he was even able to mastermind the escape of two Jesuits from the Tower of London. Whenever Nicholas set out to design such hiding places, he began by receiving the Holy Eucharist, and he would turn to God in prayer throughout the long, dangerous construction process. After many years at his unusual task, he entered the Society of Jesus and served as a lay brother, although—for very good reasons—his connection with the Jesuits was kept secret. After a number of narrow escapes, he himself was finally caught in 1594. Despite protracted torture, he refused to disclose the names of other Catholics. After being released following the payment of a ransom, "Little John" went back to his work. He was arrested again in 1606. This time he was subjected to horrible tortures, suffering an agonizing death. The jailers tried suggesting that he had confessed and committed suicide, but his heroism and sufferings soon were widely known. He was canonized in 1970 as one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (8.12~20)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." The Pharisees challenged Him, "Here You are, appearing as Your own witness; Your testimony is not valid." Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on My own behalf, My testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no-one. But if I do judge, My decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent Me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for Myself; My other witness is the Father, who sent Me." Then they asked Him, "Where is your father?" "You do not know Me or My Father," Jesus replied. If you knew Me, you would know My Father also." He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no-one seized Him, because His time had not yet come.

The claims of Christ
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

One of the more notorious of modern forensic inventions is the lie detector. The basis of its assumed validity would seem to be an analysis of the recorded emotions and physical reactions of the one who is speaking, reactions that are deemed to be beyond the easy control of the mind. The analysis can take different forms and can employ different kinds of data to judge the reactions of the subject. Despite margins of error, such methods are admissible in some courts of, for instance, the United States. Whatever be the extent of the usefulness of such devices, there is no doubt that in ordinary life we instinctively form impressions of the truthfulness of a person’s account by the physical manner in which he gives it. He appears calmly objective and balanced or not as the case may be, although we also take into account our prior knowledge of him and the opinion of others about him. A skilled and experienced person may well be able to form a pretty good idea of how truthful a person is, by observing carefully his manner in telling his story. His judgment that a person is likely to be truthful or lying can carry true weight. We all do this to some extent, as we must — even though we are aware that a good “con-man” (as we call him) may deceive his hearers and observers. Many issues are so unimportant that it does not matter to anyone whether the person is truthful or not, as in say, some “true story” a person tells to entertain others in conversation. But other matters are of maximum importance. The pre-eminent case of the critical importance of truth is a claim to have received a divine revelation. There have been so many such claims, and so very many of them have won the allegiance of great numbers right into the modern era. The Baha’i religion was founded by an alleged prophet, as was the Seventh Day Adventist religion. By and large the ordinary person acts and judges on instinct, on a degree of education and on common sense to determine the truth or otherwise of such claims. He is most fortunate if, by the providence of God, he is in fact raised in the truth that has been truly and objectively revealed.

This is not the moment to consider the ways a “prophet” is vindicated in his claims. Rather, with the above remarks as an introduction, I would like to draw attention to the transcendent claims of Jesus Christ and to the spiritual majesty with which he uttered them. St Jerome once wrote that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Jesus Christ. However such a statement is to be understood — and we could hardly exclude the numerous illiterates from the saving knowledge of Christ — there is no doubt that the long use of the Scriptures gives to the believer a profound conviction of the absolute persuasiveness of Jesus Christ. In particular, the daily reading and contemplation of the Gospels will convince the Christian that Jesus Christ is what he claimed to be. It is very much like growing in a long-standing friendship. In such an acquaintance, the person comes to be known. By immersing ourselves in the Gospels, we contemplate Jesus Christ and we come to know him for what he claims to be. In our Gospel today, our Lord makes a claim that I am not aware was made by any other serious and weighty individual in history. He says — and he calmly says it to the religious leaders who regarded themselves as the light of the nation — that “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12-20). No other individual in all of the inspired Scriptures, and indeed — I think I can say — no one else of consequence in human history, had the temerity to say such a thing. But Jesus Christ said this with sovereign and imperturbable assurance, all the while uttering a unique teaching backed up with incomparable holiness of life and miracles. He is the Light of the nations. This Light that is his very person bestows abundant life on the world. If man wishes to have life in abundance, eternal life, he must live in the Light that is Jesus Christ. There is so much darkness in human history! Jesus Christ has told us that He is the light that dispels the darkness. He comes from the Father; He stands with the Father; the Father is always His witness.

Let us draw near to Jesus who is the treasure and the light of mankind. He stands unique among the prophets and utterly transcends them, be they the prophets of the inspired Scriptures, or those taken to be prophets by the peoples. He is the Prophet par excellence, and far more than a prophet could be because he is none other — O marvellous a fact! — than the Lord God Himself. He, this man among men, is literally and truly God. How extraordinary a thing that the created, material universe contains such a Phenomenon. God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to be the Light of the world. By walking according to this Light, life everlasting will be ours.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Prayers this week: Give me justice, O God, and defend my cause against the wicked; rescue me from deceitful and unjust men. You, O God, are my refuge. (Psalm 42: 1-2)

Father, help us to be like Christ your Son, who loved the world and died for our salvation. Inspire us by his love and guide us by his example. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Blessed John of Parma (1209-1289)

The seventh general minister of the Franciscan Order, John was known for his attempts to bring back the earlier spirit of the Order after the death of St. Francis of Assisi. He was born in Parma, Italy, in 1209. It was when he was a young philosophy professor known for his piety and learning that God called him to bid good-bye to the world he was used to and enter the new world of the Franciscan Order. After his profession John was sent to Paris to complete his theological studies. Ordained to the priesthood, he was appointed to teach theology at Bologna, then Naples and finally Rome. In 1245, Pope Innocent IV called a general council in the city of Lyons, France. Crescentius, the Franciscan minister general at the time, was ailing and unable to attend. In his place he sent Father John, who made a deep impression on the Church leaders gathered there. Two years later, when the same pope presided at the election of a minister general of the Franciscans, he remembered Father John well and held him up as the man best qualified for the office. And so, in 1247, John of Parma was elected to be minister general. The surviving disciples of St. Francis rejoiced in his election, expecting a return to the spirit of poverty and humility of the early days of the Order. And they were not disappointed. As general of the Order John travelled on foot, accompanied by one or two companions, to practically all of the Franciscan convents in existence. Sometimes he would arrive and not be recognized, remaining there for a number of days to test the true spirit of the brothers. The pope called on John to serve as legate to Constantinople, where he was most successful in winning back the schismatic Greeks. Upon his return he asked that someone else take his place to govern the Order. St. Bonaventure, at John's urging, was chosen to succeed him. John took up a life of prayer in the hermitage at Greccio. Many years later, John learned that the Greeks, who had been reconciled with the Church for a time, had relapsed into schism. Though 80 years old by then, John received permission from Pope Nicholas IV to return to the East in an effort to restore unity once again. On his way, John fell sick and died. He was beatified in 1781.

In the 13th century, people in their 30s were middle-aged; hardly anyone lived to the ripe old age of 80. John did, but he didn’t ease into retirement. Instead he was on his way to try to heal a schism in the Church when he died. Our society today boasts a lot of folks in their later decades. Like John, many of them lead active lives. But some aren’t so fortunate. Weakness or ill health keeps them confined and lonely—waiting to hear from us.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (8.1~11)

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn He appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round Him, and He sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with His Finger. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let Him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no-one condemned you?" "No-one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. Go now and leave your life of sin.

The Law and the Sixth Commandment
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

Our Gospel passage today provides us with yet another instance of the conflict between Christ and the religious leaders — specifically, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. This conflict would culminate in our Lord’s death, by which he would redeem the world from sin. The accusations by which Jesus was condemned to death included his acting against the temple in Jerusalem, his acting against faith in the one God because he proclaimed himself to be the Son of God, and in general for his acting against the Law. Such accusations were groundless, but in our Gospel today the leaders confront our Lord with a prescription of the Law of Moses. “Teacher,” they said, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were intent on showing up Christ’s opposition to the Law of Moses. Now, elsewhere our Lord stated quite clearly that he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to complete and fulfill them. Time and again he referred lovingly to the prophets. He insisted on the fulfilment of what the Law truly required, and we remember how at his Transfiguration, Moses representing the Law and Elijah representing the prophets, appeared with him in glory. They were conversing with him about his death which he would accomplish in Jerusalem. Jesus did not abolish the Law given by God to Moses on Sinai, but rather he fulfilled it by giving to it its definitive interpretation. The issue was indeed one of interpretation. We remember how he was challenged over the matter of divorce, which Moses allowed. Christ thereupon gave his authoritative interpretation of this Mosaic permission. The allowance of divorce by Moses was merely, our Lord said, a practical regulation of the hardness of heart of the people. They would not observe the law of God as revealed in the original creation of man and woman with the vocation to be “one body,” as husband and wife. Moses regulated this sad refusal for the sake of social order. In his person, in his teaching and in his practice, Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law and gave to it its true interpretation.

The case in point in our Gospel today (John 8: 1-11) was the ancient Mosaic directive to stone those guilty of adultery (as in, say, Deuteronomy 22:22 and Leviticus 20:10). Rather than dwelling further on our Lord’s teaching on the status of this prescription, let us consider its deeper significance. It shows the seriousness of the sixth commandment, You shall not commit adultery, which in ancient times it was meant to protect. At the end of the incident described in today’s Gospel, with our Lord having rid the scene of the woman’s accusers, he told her: Go, and sin no more. He set aside the stoning, but reaffirmed the sixth commandment. Although the biblical text of the sixth commandment simply reads “you shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14), the Tradition of the Church comprehensively follows the teachings of the entire Scriptures, and considers the sixth commandment as encompassing all sins against chastity. Grave sins against chastity go well beyond adultery and include the various expressions of the vice of lust — such as the reading and use of pornography, homosexual acts, fornication, masturbation, and the social decadence that tends to undermine a culture of chastity. Very importantly, our Lord himself extended the scope of the sixth commandment and condemned adultery in the human heart. That is to say, not only must a person be chaste in deed, but also in mind and heart. This, indeed, is the foundation. Chastity is a moral virtue, a gift of God, a grace, and a fruit of the Holy Spirit to be resolutely lived and guarded. It embraces a whole life of chastity, in keeping with each person’s particular state of life, and is part and parcel of a life lived in imitation of Christ our Saviour and model. There is a further point of great importance. The Christian laity are called to evangelize the world. The world must be brought to accept Christ and his teaching. This includes bearing witness to chastity in culture and society. It means spreading everywhere the conviction that the dignity of the person requires protections for chastity in the culture and civil law of society.

One of the most notable changes in society over the last century has been the vast proliferation of media and entertainment. This has meant the spread and influence of a range of models of what it means to be human and happy. All too often these types and models have been of persons who disregard and violate a life of chastity. The battle is largely a cultural one, and the challenge is to evangelize our culture. Let us take up the work, then, and pursue it daily by word and deed.

A second reflection for the fifth Sunday of Lent

"He looked up and said, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one, sir' she replied. 'Neither do I condemn you,' said Jesus 'go away and don't sin any more.'"

Sin and grace
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

In the Gospel scene today, the Church presents us with the scene of the sinful woman and her accusers standing before our Lord. Then she is left before him, her accusers gone, herself a sinner nevertheless. Our Lord says to her, I extend my mercy and pardon to you. Go and do not sin any more. Let this scene be an image of what should be going on during Lent in our own hearts. Cardinal Newman once wrote that the foundation of authentic religion is the sense of sin. With this lively sense we more easily turn to Christ asking for his forgiveness. Let us imagine our sins being like those scribes and Pharisees, accusing us before our divine Lord, and demanding that he punish us. In fact that is just what Satan does. He tempts us to sin, gains the victory, and then becomes our accuser, our adversary before God. For that reason our Lord described the Holy Spirit as our Advocate, pleading our cause from within the very heart of God. He is the love of God himself consoling us sinners. And so we ought stand before Jesus during Lent with our sins. Our sins will accuse us, if we have a lively conscience. But if we come before Jesus admitting our sins and asking his pardon, and not simply remain with our conscience alone, we shall hear those consoling words of Jesus, “Neither do I condemn you.” All of this we are able to do and experience in every genuine act of contrition, and whenever we go to Confession.

We shall also hear him say, go and sin no more. This too should distinguish the weeks of Lent: namely, a new impulse in our quest for holiness of life. The years will pass quickly for each of us, and the question will be, how well have I used my life for the purpose for which it was given to me? Its purpose is to reach the fullest degree of love and service of God possible for me. In the second reading, St Paul says that the supreme value in his life was to know Christ and to live in him. By comparison with this all else was rubbish, he said. He sought perfection in this. There are many things we try to excel in during life: perhaps in our possessions, in our professional standing, our job, or whatever. But the one thing necessary is, St Paul writes, to know Christ and the power of his risen life in our lives, which is to say the power of grace. Saint Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises presents the retreatant with his greatest colloquy, in which God’s love and grace are prayed for. The one thing we should be praying for day by day which is absolutely and in every sense necessary, is the love and the grace of Christ. Neither life nor death, great possessions or few, health or sickness, important though these things may be in certain real respects, compare with knowing Christ as his genuine, intimate and faithful friend, and following him in his sufferings so as to share in his resurrection. St Paul says, ‘Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.’

Let us resolve during Lent to confess our sins, obtain Christ’s pardon, and to set out anew in a vigorous way towards holiness, which is nothing other than the love and the obedient service of Jesus in our everyday life. A great psychiatrist, Victor Frankl, once said that human happiness depends on a person’s having a sense of the meaning of life and living in view of it. The true meaning of life, the one revealed to us by God, is to know, love and serve Jesus as perfectly as possible. Let this Lent involve a profound renewal of our sense of the true meaning of life, which is to belong totally to Jesus.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Solemnity of St. Joseph

“He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying: ‘Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord’” (St. Bernardine of Siena).

Everything we know about the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus comes from Scripture and that has seemed too little for those who made up legends about him.

We know he was a carpenter, a working man, for the skeptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, "Is this not the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55). He wasn't rich for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24).

Despite his humble work and means, Joseph came from a royal lineage. Luke and Matthew disagree some about the details of Joseph's genealogy but they both mark his descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Indeed the angel who first tells Joseph about Jesus greets him as "son of David," a royal title used also for Jesus.

We know Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been betrothed, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary according to the law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. He knew that women accused to adultery could be stoned to death, so he decided to divorce her quietly and not expose her to shame or cruelty (Matthew 1:19-25).

We know Joseph was man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome. When the angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately and without question or concern for gossip, took Mary as his wife. When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt without question until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23).

We know Joseph loved Jesus. His one concern was for the safety of this child entrusted to him. Not only did he leave his home to protect Jesus, but upon his return settled in the obscure town of Nazareth out of fear for his life. When Jesus stayed in the Temple we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48). We also know that Joseph treated Jesus as his own son for over and over the people of Nazareth say of Jesus, "Is this not the son of Joseph?" (Luke 4:22)

We know Joseph respected God. He followed God's commands in handling the situation with Mary and going to Jerusalem to have Jesus circumcised and Mary purified after Jesus' birth. We are told that he took his family to Jerusalem every year for Passover, something that could not have been easy for a working man.

Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus' public life, at his death, or resurrection, many historians believe Joseph probably had died before Jesus entered public ministry.

Joseph is the patron of the dying because, assuming he died before Jesus' public life, he died with Jesus and Mary close to him, the way we all would like to leave this earth.

Joseph is also patron of the universal Church, fathers, carpenters, and social justice.

We celebrate two feast days for Joseph: March 19 for Joseph the Husband of Mary and May 1 for Joseph the Worker.

There is much we wish we could know about Joseph -- where and when he was born, how he spent his days, when and how he died. But Scripture has left us with the most important knowledge: who he was -- "a righteous man" (Matthew 1:18).

In His Footsteps:
Joseph was foster father to Jesus. There are many children separated from families and parents who need foster parents. Please consider contacting your local Catholic Charities or Division of Family Services about becoming a foster parent.

Saint Joseph, patron of the universal Church, watch over the Church as carefully as you watched over Jesus, help protect it and guide it as you did with your adopted son. Amen

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (7.1~2,10, 25~30)

Jesus moved around in Galilee; he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. The Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. When his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret. Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, "Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, "You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me." So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come. (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30)

Man and God One thing about our Lord is plain in the passage before us today. His person and background is well known. He is one of the people. He is a brother Hebrew to them. There is mention of “his brothers” who went up to the feast before him. They were, of course, his kinsmen presumably from Nazareth and its environs. There is a tradition that the parents of Mary had resided in the nearby cosmopolitan city of Zephoris, so some of our Lord’s relatives may even have lived there. Whatever of that, the point is that our Lord was deeply rooted in certain places and in a family network. He was very well known. That was up in Galilee, in the locality of Nazareth. Let us observe the specimen of the talk about him in Jerusalem, provided by our passage. Our Lord went up to the feast quietly and then was discovered to be teaching in the Temple. We read that “Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, "Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." The drift of it is that Jesus was one of the people, and that this was a problem. He was but an ordinary Hebrew, an artisan from Galilee — all knew who Jesus of Nazareth was and where he was from. He lacked the mystery that would be associated with the Messiah. In his origin and person the Messiah would be far, far larger than life, a figure the like of which the world had never seen. All of this was perfectly true in its way, and did reflect the general impression projected by the Scriptures. But other predictions were missed that located the Messiah as coming from the people. What these reactions and remarks illustrate was the truth that Jesus Christ was truly and absolutely a man like us. In all his human characteristics there was an individuality with the limitations which this necessarily involved. He was of a certain height, with certain features, a certain timbre of voice, a certain manner of walking, speaking, smiling. The Messiah was very much a man of a certain lineage, time and culture.

All this our Lord openly and readily acknowledges. “Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, "You know me and also know where I am from.” That is to say, I am a man just as are others, and you know me as such. But then he alludes to the tremendous mystery that is his nevertheless. “Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me." Our Lord speaks in a way that transcends the language of the prophets, though he is in the line of them. He repeatedly insists that he came from God. The prophets spoke of having been called by God for a special mission, and of having received his word which they then proclaimed to the people, despite much opposition. Not uncommonly they would refer to their place of origin and their occupation prior to their calling. But Jesus Christ speaks of himself as coming not simply from Nazareth, but directly from God. He states time and again that while many of his hearers did not know God, he knew him. Our Lord separates himself from the rest in his incomparable knowledge of God, a knowledge that he has directly because he came directly from him. “I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” Our Lord is claiming a unique relationship with God, a uniquely authoritative mission, and a unique knowledge. This singular authority was what the religious leaders could not bear, and we read that after our Lord said this, “they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come” (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30). It all constitutes yet another allusion — so frequent especially in the Gospel of St John — to his divinity. This is the wondrous thing about Jesus Christ, and it is what makes the Christian religion so striking, provided it is truly understood. This man, truly man — one whom they knew so well as almost to disqualify Jesus Christ from being the Messiah, in their mind — is the living God. We simply must not “get used” to this proposition. There is nothing like it on earth.

Let us in our mind’s eye, in spirit as it were, place ourselves among the hearers and gaze at Jesus Christ as he speaks. Observe his features, so noble, so filled with spiritual majesty, so expressive of divine love and strength. He is every bit a man as any man, indeed far more so because there is no sin in him to sully his humanity. He is, in this sense, perfectly man, perfectly human. But in the first instance he is divine. He is a divine person who has come from the Father as one sent by him. This same Jesus Christ is with us continually in his Church, in the word and Sacraments of the Church. Let us live in him then, and never be separated from him.