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!

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