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.

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