Sunday, January 10, 2021

Baptism of the Lord - Jesus Leads by Example

Today is the Baptism of the Lord.  The festive Christmas season is officially over and we begin to enter into the ministry of Christ as He preached and worked miracles.  There are two options for the first reading from Isaiah. The first option reading from Isaiah tells us that God's servant or His chosen one is someone He is pleased with.  This person will have God's spirit and will bring forth justice to the nations.  He will do so in peace and quiet, not "crying out, not shouting." This is of course referring to Jesus who is the Messiah. 


Despite Jesus being a great speaker, He remained silent on some occasions (Matthew 26:63Matthew 27:12-14).  This "silence" would be heard loud and clear throughout time as the faith spread throughout the world.  Silence is key in our spiritual lives.  It is in silence that we hear God speak to us. This is why I often stress that people be silent in the church. There should not be any talking in the church unless there is an emergency or an important message must be vocalized.  The church should be quiet as we sit or kneel before the Lord in the tabernacle.  The second option tells us that God is the one who gives us to drink and to eat.  He is the one that comforts us and takes on our burden. This again is referring to Christ who provides for us and helps us with our burdens (Matthew 11:28).  As this reading tells us, we must seek Him while He may be found.  Our time to seek salvation in Christ is limited. He gives us ample time to reform ourselves into the image of God.

The responsorial Psalm responds to the first reading with the words that God will bless His people. Peace is something we all look for in the world and in life. Unfortunately, it is not easy to come by. Today we see war, genocide, terrorism, etc.  It seems to be rampant; no end in sight. However, God is the one who gives us peace (Psalm 29:11, 1 Corinthians 14:33).  This is the peace we truly need now dring this alleged covid-19 coronavirus which has taken the lives of many around the world.  Despite several vaccines in existence, the virus continues to spread and has even mutated to become more contagious and virile. We truly need some peace during these trying times. Let me not get into the situation with the election in the United States and the horrendous domestic terrorism against the Us Capitol building. God will give us peace. However, we must ask for it. God respects our free will.

As with the first reading, we also have two options with the second.  The first option is from Acts and shows how Peter, the first Pope took leadership and spoke to the gathered in the house of Cornelius. Peter reminds us that God is not prejudiced.  He shows no partiality, as the text states.  God opens Himself to all people because we are all His children. This message must be told today more than ever where there are so many claims of discrimination, prejudice, sexism, and racism.  Everything is being seen in the kaleidoscope of race and alleged privilege.  This is not what God is about. We are all His children and that makes us brothers and sisters regardless of how we look. The second option tells us that believing in Christ is important.  In Christ, we see the Father (John 14:9-11). Christ is the link between humanity and God; between the creature and the Creator.

Finally, in the Gospel, we read about John the Baptist telling everyone gathered that one is coming after him who is mightier and who he is unworthy to loosen his straps on his sandals. He was of course referring to Jesus who happened to approach and seek Baptism. Why would Christ ask to be Baptized?  He has no sin yet sought it. There are many answers to this but the one that stands out to me the most is that He wanted to be part of us. By getting Baptized, Jesus gave us a "demo" of how to start the spiritual life. His Baptism opened up the doors of grace to the primitive Sacrament John used with simple water.  When Jesus entered the river Jordan, His presence sanctified the waters.  As with the Wedding at Cana, the water in the jars was just water until Jesus got involved. John's Baptism was just a simple bath until Jesus came along and transformed it into an initiation rite that removes Original Sin and restores our relationship with God which was harmed at the fall of man. In this year of St. Joseph, we should reflect on our own baptism. We should think about what took place and the effects of this important Sacrament on our lives.  

Readings:  The Baptism of the Lord | USCCB



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Friday, January 8, 2021

@RealDonaldTrump Permanently Banned from Twitter

After ignoring President Trump's tweet and claiming that his account has historical importance as a public figure when questioned why some tweets were not removed, Twitter permanently banned the RealDonalTrump account. The news came as no surprise to his supporters and many others, including myself. Twitter tweeted this:

I had predicted something like this would happen last year in November. Here is my tweet where I highlighted the original tweet: Twitter claims Trump was inciting violence and this violated their "glorification of violence" policy. To me, it seems that Twitter and other social media networks are just retaliating for Trump's attempt to remove 230 protections which made social media companies immune to litigation for what they allow on their networks. Twitter eventually went after Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and other accounts promoting QAnon content banning them all. Rush Limbaugh and a few others deactivated their accounts in protest. 

I lost a lot of followers myself, but am not sure if this is due to a purge by Twitter or if these followers deactivated their accounts in protest. In any event, the censoring of a sitting US president is disturbing. I have seen worse tweets and have been the target of very nasty content that was ignored by Twitter. As stated, this all seems personal. Twitter is retaliating. What do you think? Post below on Disqus. Be sure to follow the rules for posting. 


Source:  






Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Epiphany of the Lord: Focus on the Light!

 It is Epiphany. It comes from the Greek word "epiphainen" which means to reveal or shine upon.  This day celebrates the main revelations of the person of Christ as God and man. The main times we see this are when the Magi visit Christ (Matthew 2:1-12) which we celebrate today, at the Baptism of Christ (Mark 1:9-11) when the Holy Spirit descends on Christ and God the Father reveals Christ as His only begotten Son; the next moment is at the Wedding of Cana (John 2:1-11) where Jesus performs His first miracle due to the intercession of His Mother Mary.  In this, her last recorded words are shown, "Do whatever He tells you."  Great advice from mom right?  

In the first reading, we read of Jerusalem being told to rise up in splendor, her light has come.  The glory of the Lord shines on her. Darkness covers the earth and thick clouds the people, but God shines through. This light is of course Jesus Christ the Lord (John 8:12)!  Our world is in so much darkness. Just recently, a horrific attack took place in Florida where a mentally ill young Latino shot and killed 5 and wounded others. This perpetrator is said to have been affected by the war in Iraq. Evil is never good. Violence is never good. These affect our psychology. Human beings were not made for violence. We are the only creatures on earth without physical defenses.  Other animals have claws, venom, quills, etc to defend themselves. We do not.

This is why we need Christ the light who illumines minds and hearts keeping us away from evil and violence. The light of the world is Christ and we need to seek Him.  We need to seek Him just like the Three Kings or Magi who came from Midian, Ephah and Sheba with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh did.  These gifts represent Christ's Royalty, Divinity and death as well as the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.  The Magi represent the "outsiders" or the Gentiles, Pagans and others who are outside of God's "Chosen People," Israel. They represent all the different races coming to meet the Christ child.  All nations will adore the Lord, as we read in today's responsorial Psalm.  God is king over all the earth.  All rulers will pay homage to Him just like the Magi did.  We are the Magi of today coming before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament offering our lives.  I have always loved the Magi. They were instrumental in my conversion because they were men of science who used the stars to find Christ.  In science, we can find God as well! God's creation points to God just like the star pointed to Christ (Job 12:7-10, Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20). The late astronaut and first American in space John Glenn said after seeing the earth from space, "To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible." 

The magi found the Lord via the science of the stars, astronomy.  We know of their names as Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchior from the document Excerpta et Collectanea which is attributed to St. Bede who died in 735.  Their relics are in the cathedral in Cologne, Germany.  You can read another reflection I wrote here for January 6: http://www.sacerdotus.com/2017/01/3-kings-day-los-reyes-magos.htm. In it, I elaborate more on how the Magi represents all the outsiders. The second reading reminds us as well by telling us that Gentiles are also coheirs and part of the body of Christ. 

Christ was born for all people of all races, genders, orientations, faiths; in every time and place. He is the Savior of all!  The Gospel tells us that great story.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the magi came from the east asking King Herod where the newborn king of the Jews was. Herod did not like this because he saw himself as the king of the Jews. He asked the magi to bring him the child so he too can adore Him. They found the child via the star and saw Mary with Him.  The magi prostrated themselves and paid homage to the child and gave Him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh as prophesied in the first reading of today. Before departing, they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod.  They listened and returned home via a different route. 

The Epiphany is an awesome celebration in our faith. Many cultures celebrate it as another Christmas. Kids put hay under their beds for the camels and wake up to find the hay missing and gifts in their place. Other cultures have feasts and other celebrations commemorating the visit of the magi.  To me, the magi represent all peoples outside of Israel and academia coming to worship the Lord.  This is my personal reflection. The stars and all of nature pays homage to God and leads us to admire Him via His creation.  A few years ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he is no longer an atheist (see more here: http://www.sacerdotus.com/2017/01/facebooks-mark-zuckerberg-no-longer.html).  Even in the darkness, we see in the world today and the thick clouds that cloud the minds of atheists and others, God shines through.  Let us humbly seek Christ the Lord who is the light. Let us approach Him in the Tabernacle and Monstrance and adore Him.  The magi were the first to participate in adoration in my opinion. They sought the light!  We too must seek the light and focus on the light.  Ironically, a cosmic conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn was formed in late December into the new year 2021.  This conjunction made both planets look like the giant Bethlehem star we all see in photos, paintings, and movies.  I was privileged to see it in the Bronx and mediated on viewing it.  Many biblical scholars and astronomers believe this is what the Magi witnessed.  The idea of a star moving in the sky is possible but highly unlikely as it would distort the laws of physics.  I picture myself being with the Wise Men following the star to Christ.  Let us imitate them!  Instead of bringing gifts of gold etc, we have to bring the gifts of our holiness, love, and kindness to others.  We must offer Him our trials and suffering as well and united them to His passion. During this time of covid 19 coronavirus, we are all in a real physical, emotional, and psychological darkness. We must seek the light like the Three Kings did.   This light is of course not some astronomical phenomenon, but Christ the Lord.  O' come let us adore Him! 

Please remember to help me with this ministry which is focused on reaching out to those in the dark.  Please be generous as the Magi were and consider donating or becoming a regular donor. Any amount is useful. God can do anything with any amount.  You can donate via Paypal or www.gofundme.com/sacerdotus and become a patron on www.patron.com/sacerdotus.  God will reward you!  I have already received emails from donors who received many blessings just months after donating.  As soon as I get permission from them, I will share those emails.  I am not a businessman nor investor so I rely on God's providence and how He inspires visitors and readers to donate.  Financial means is not the only way to help. You can pray and also volunteer your talents.  God bless you and Mary keep!  

Readings:  The Epiphany of the Lord | USCCB


 

Here are more reflections from holy writers:

There is something more that must be understood about the gold, incense and myrrh. Solomon testifies that gold symbolizes wisdom when he says, "A pleasing treasure lies in the mouth of the wise." The psalmist bears witness to that incense which prayer offers to God when he says, "Let my prayer ascend as incense in your sight." The myrrh indicates the mortification of our bodies, of which the holy church speaks of its workmen who strive even unto death on behalf of God, "My hands dripped with myrrh."
And so do we too offer gold to the newborn king if we shine in his sight with the brightness of the wisdom from on high. We too offer him incense if we enkindle on the altar of our hearts the thoughts of our human minds by our holy pursuit of prayer, so as to give forth a sweet smell to God by our heavenly desire. And we offer him myrrh if we mortify the vices of our bodies by our self-denial.
Myrrh brings it about, as I have said, that dead bodies do not decompose. For a dead body to decompose is the same as for the human body of ours to become a slave to the decay of dissoluteness, as is said by the prophet: "The pack animals have decomposed in their own dung." This indicates fleshly minded persons who end their lives in the stench of dissoluteness. Therefore we are offering myrrh to God when we employ the spice of self-restraint to keep this earthly body of ours from decomposing through decadence.

— St. Gregory the Great
(540 - 604)


Source: "Forty Gospel Homilies, 10.6," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 28-29.

"Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word." Appropriately did Herod say, "Bring me word," for the one who hastens to come to Christ always brings a word of renunciation to the devil. When the priest says to the future Christian, "Do you renounce the devil?" the latter will answer, "I do renounce him." Properly therefore are the magi instructed to bring word to Herod, who realized he was taking the place of the devil. Satan knew how to corrupt a person.
"That I may come and worship him." He wants to lie but he cannot. He who feigned adoration will come that he might bow to abuse, kneel to inflict punishment, recline to do harm.… But when the clouds of treachery have passed, in the fair weather of emerging Christian faith, the magi behold again the star they had seen, preceding and leading them on. Finally they arrive at the most holy place of the Lord's birth.
— St. Peter Chrysologus
(380 - 450)



Source: "Sermons 158.8-9," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 25.



Since Herod was king, he was naturally afraid both for himself and for his children. But why was Jerusalem troubled? Surely the prophets had foretold him as the Savior, Benefactor and Deliverer who would come from above. But Jerusalem remained troubled by the same idolatrous affections that had previously caused them to turn from God precisely when God was pouring out his greatest benefits on them. While God was offering them new freedom, they were once again mindful only of the fleshpots of bondage in Egypt…
Although troubled, they nevertheless did not try to understand what was happening. They did not follow the wise men or even take any particular notice. To this extent were they both contentious and careless. This happened just when those in Jerusalem under Herod had reason to pride themselves that a king was being born among them. This had even attracted the attention of the wise from Persia. They were on the point of having everything going their way, as though their affairs were advancing toward improvement. But most did not even take notice. Amid an empire that had become so magnificent, they showed little improvement.
Jerusalem had only recently been delivered from subjugation. It might have been more reasonable for them to think, If the Persians tremble before this king now merely at his birth, wouldn't they tremble much more when he grows up? They would fear and obey him, and our situation might then be more glorious than that of the barbarians. Even if they knew nothing of mysteries or revelations but formed their judgments only on the basis of present self-interest, they surely might have thought along these lines. But nothing like this really occurred to them, so great was their dullness in prophecy and envy in human affairs.
Such dullness and envy must be rooted out of our minds. One must be more impassioned than fire to stand up against such an array. This is why Christ said, "I am come to send fire on earth, and how I wish it were already kindled." And the Spirit on this account appeared in fire.
— St. John Chrysostom
(347 - 407)


Source: "The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 6.4," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 22–23.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Mary, Mother of God: The Greatest Human Woman Ever

Today is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or Theotokos. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God.  This does not mean that God came into existence because of her.  God has always existed.  Mary is a creature of God.  She is the “handmade” of the Lord as she called herself.
Mary is called the Mother of God because her Son, Jesus Christ the Messiah is God the Son.   Since Jesus is God, then the one who gave Him flesh is called the Mother of God.

What an awesome thought.  A human female is the Mother of the Word Incarnate.  She is the Mother of God!   Since the early days of the Catholic Church, devotion to Mary has existed.  The “Sub Tuum Praesidium” is one of the earliest prayers to Mary.

This is a day of Holy Obligation in which all Catholics must treat it as a Sunday and attend Mass.   Let us take this day to recollect on Mary and her role in Salvation.   Mary was always open to life.  She said Yes to God’s will that she be the vessel in which God the Son would take on a human form.

She is a model for all women, especially those who push the disturbing idea that pregnancy and bearing children violates a woman’s bodily autonomy or dignity.  This tokophobia must be replaced with the Yes to life from the Theotokos.

Protestants have an issue with this title because they feel Catholics are giving causation to God, or that by calling Mary the "Mother of God," Catholics are making Mary the God of God.  This is just not true.  The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is biblical. In Luke 1:43 Elizabeth calls Mary the "Mother of her Lord."

The first reading gives us the blessing often used at Mass and which was a favorite of St. Francis of Assisi. In it, we read about the Lord letting His face shine upon the person being blessed. Mary as Mother of God got to see God face to face. She held Christ in her hands, fed Him, and did all the things a mother does in order to care for a child. The responsorial Psalm repeats the phrase calling to mind God's mercy. God so loved the world that He became a small baby boy. If that does not say mercy, I do not know what does. He did not come down as a warrior with a sword or machine gun. Jesus came as a defenseless poor baby boy.  All of this was planned beforehand.  The second reading reminds us of this.  God sent His son born of a woman, born under the law of man.  He did this so that we could be adopted as sons and daughters. By Christ becoming man, He became a son of Adam and Eve making Him our brother in human flesh. This is just awesome to think about! 

The Gospel tells us of this baby boy lying in a manger.  We are told that Mary kept all of the events that occurred in her heart. I would personally love to know these things. I bet they are memories with lots of emotions.  Mary was a true mother. She did all a mom does. Today's Gospel shows the humanity of Mary and Jesus as Mother and Child.  Mary is also our mother and our link to Christ Jesus (Revelation 12:17).  Mary is the greatest human woman ever.  Now more than ever as this alleged pandemic spills into the new year 2021, we need a great mother to protect us.  We call upon her via many titles, but she is one mother.  I invite you to learn about the apparitions of Our Lady of the Universe in the Bronx.  Visit www.OurLadyoftheUniverse.com.  Mary is our model. She points to Christ.  Her last recorded words were, "Do whatever He tells you (John 2:5)."  Let us take this advice to heart. 


May Our Lady pray for us and show us the way to Christ her Son.  Mary Mother of God, Pray for us!

We take refuge under thy protection, holy Mother of God:

Do not despise our prayers
in time of necessity:
but always free us
from all dangers,
O blessed and glorious Virgin.

Here are some reflections from holy writers:

The shepherds did not keep silent about the hidden mysteries that they had come to know by divine influence. They told whomever they could. Spiritual shepherds in the church are appointed especially for this, that they may proclaim the mysteries of the Word of God and that they may show to their listeners that the marvels which they have learned in the Scriptures are to be marveled at.

— St. Bede
(672 - 735)


Source: “Homilies on the Gospel, 1.7,” quoted in Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 42.



In the festivity of Christmas we read of the pastors of Bethlehem who were the first to be called to the crib, to see the new-born Child: “And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” (Lk 2:16.) Let us stop at that “found”. This word indicates a search.
 Man is a being who seeks. His whole history confirms it. Even the life of each of us bears witness to it. Many are the fields in which man seeks and seeks again and then finds and, sometimes, after having found, he begins to seek again. Among all these fields in which man is revealed as a being who seeks, there is one, the deepest. It is the one which penetrates most intimately into the very humanity of the human being. And it is the one most closely united with the meaning of the whole of human life…
 Man is the being who seeks God. And even after having found him, he continues to seek him. And if he seeks him sincerely, he has already found him; as, in a famous fragment of Pascal, Jesus says to man: “Take comfort, you would not be looking for me if you had not already found me.”

— St. John Paul II
(1920 - 2005)



Source: John Paul II, Audience on December 27, 1978



Spiritual circumcision takes place chiefly in holy baptism, when Christ makes us partakers of the Holy Spirit too. Of this Joshua, that Jesus of old, who became the leader of the Israelites after Moses, was also a type. He led the children of Israel across the Jordan, then made them stop and immediately circumcised them with knives of stone. So when we have crossed the Jordan, Christ circumcises us with the power of the Holy Spirit, not by purifying the flesh but rather by cutting off the defilement that is in our souls. On the eighth day, therefore, Christ was circumcised and received his name.



— St. Cyril of Alexandria
(375 - 444)



Source: “Commentary on Luke, Homily 3,” quoted in Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 45.


Readings:

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God | USCCB

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