Sunday, March 31, 2024

He is Risen! Happy Resurrection/Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, the resurrection, and the readings for March 31, 2024

Easter Sunday is a significant day in the Christian calendar, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is a day of joy and celebration for many around the world, marking the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

The readings for Easter Sunday are carefully selected to reflect the themes of hope, renewal, and salvation. For March 31, 2024, the readings begin with Acts 10:34a, 37-43, where Peter speaks of the events witnessed by the apostles, emphasizing the resurrection of Christ and the forgiveness of sins through His name. The Responsorial Psalm, Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23, echoes the joy of this day, inviting the faithful to rejoice and be glad.

The second reading, Colossians 3:1-4, or alternatively 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8, calls on believers to seek the things that are above and to live in the truth of Christ's resurrection. The sequence, Victimae paschali laudes, is a beautiful chant that tells of the Paschal lamb and the redemption it brings, highlighting the victory of life over death.

These readings are not just texts; they are a source of spiritual nourishment and reflection for believers. They serve as a reminder of the core beliefs of Christianity and the transformative power of the resurrection. Easter Sunday is a day to celebrate life, love, and the hope that comes with the belief in the resurrection.

The Resurrection of Jesus: A Historical Inquiry

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a cornerstone of Christian faith, symbolizing hope, renewal, and the promise of eternal life. It is also one of the most debated events in human history, with scholars, theologians, and historians examining the evidence for and against this miraculous occurrence. This blog post delves into the historical inquiry surrounding the resurrection, presenting various pieces of evidence that have been cited in support of this event.

The Empty Tomb

One of the most compelling arguments for the resurrection is the empty tomb. The Gospels recount that after Jesus' crucifixion, his body was placed in a tomb, which was found empty three days later. The absence of Jesus' body is significant because it underpins the claim of resurrection. If the body had been found, the claim of resurrection could have been easily refuted.

Postmortem Appearances

Numerous accounts in the New Testament describe Jesus appearing to his disciples after his death. These appearances are detailed as physical and tangible interactions, not merely spiritual visions. Jesus was reported to have been seen, heard, and touched, which suggests a bodily resurrection.

Eyewitness Testimonies

The resurrection accounts are based on the testimonies of those who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus. These individuals include a variety of witnesses, such as close disciples, skeptics, and even persecutors of the early Christian movement, who later became proponents of the faith.

Early Christian Proclamation

The rapid growth of the early Christian church is often attributed to the conviction of the resurrection. The disciples preached the resurrection of Jesus with fervor, despite facing persecution and martyrdom, which suggests they genuinely believed in what they proclaimed. The early Christians witnessed something that compelled them to lose everything, even their lives for it.  

Conversion of Skeptics

The conversion of skeptics, most notably Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle Paul, is cited as evidence. Paul's transformation from a persecutor of Christians to a leading figure in the church is attributed to his encounter with the risen Christ.

Historical Context

The resurrection narratives are set within the historical and cultural context of first-century Judea. The accounts reflect knowledge of the customs, legal procedures, and geography of the time, lending credibility to their historical accuracy.

Corroboration by Non-Christian Sources

Some non-Christian sources from antiquity acknowledge that early Christians believed in the resurrection. While these sources do not confirm the event's occurrence, they do attest to the early and widespread proclamation of the resurrection belief.

Theological Implications

Beyond historical evidence, the resurrection holds significant theological implications for Christians. It is seen as validation of Jesus' divinity, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the foundation for the Christian hope of life after death.

Conclusion

The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is multifaceted, involving historical documents, eyewitness accounts, and the transformative impact on individuals and society. While the resurrection cannot be proven in the same way as empirical scientific facts, it remains a subject of deep significance and faith for millions around the world. For those interested in exploring this topic further, numerous resources provide in-depth analysis and discussion.

The resurrection of Jesus continues to inspire, challenge, and provoke thought, remaining a central tenet of Christianity and a pivotal event in human history. Whether one approaches it from a standpoint of faith or skepticism, the resurrection invites ongoing exploration and reflection. 

Easter is not only a time for reflection but also for community and family gatherings with events for kids like Easter Egg hunts, sharing meals, and participating in church services. It is a day that transcends the boundaries of the church, affecting the cultural and social fabric of society. The message of Easter carries a universal appeal of new beginnings and the triumph of life over adversity.

As we approach Easter Sunday, let us embrace the spirit of the day with open hearts and minds, reflecting on the profound messages within the readings and the enduring hope they bring to our lives. Whether one is deeply religious, casually observant, or simply respectful of the tradition, Easter Sunday offers a moment to pause and consider the themes of rebirth and renewal that are relevant to all. 

This is why we renew our Baptismal promises.  Water is one of the substances in the universe that is indestructible. In a sense, it is an immortal substance. It simply changes form from liquid, gas, plasma, and solid.  It exists in an endless and timeless transubstantiation.  This is why water makes sense to be used to convey our new birth in Christ Jesus and eternal life.  

The Resurrection is a real thing. It really happened! Jesus truly rose from the dead.  He is truly risen as He said He would! Alleluia Alleluia!

Happy Easter to all who celebrate, and may the day bring peace and joy to your hearts and homes.


Saturday, March 30, 2024

Easter Vigil: Jesus Lights Up A Dark World

Today is Holy Saturday and the Catholic Church has its Liturgy of Light.  You can read more about the liturgy here in this older post.

The Easter Vigil, also known as the Paschal Vigil or the Great Vigil of Easter, is a significant liturgy held in traditional Christian churches to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. It takes place during the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Day. This solemn and beautiful Mass is considered the most sacred in the liturgical year.

During the Easter Vigil, people are baptized, and adult catechumens are received into full communion with the Church. It’s a time of joy, hope, and anticipation as we await the glorious resurrection.

Here’s a glimpse of what the Easter Vigil entails:

  • Blessing of the Easter Fire: An Easter fire is kindled, symbolizing the light of Christ breaking through the darkness.
  • Liturgical Readings: The vigil includes readings from the Old Testament, tracing salvation history from creation to the promise of the New Covenant.
  • Renewal of Baptismal Promises: The congregation renews their baptismal vows, reaffirming their commitment to Christ.
  • First Use of “Alleluia”: After abstaining from saying “Alleluia” during Lent, the Easter Vigil marks its triumphant return. The sound of bells is restored.
  • Eucharistic Celebration: The liturgy culminates in the celebration of the Eucharist, commemorating Christ’s sacrifice and victory over death.

The Easter Vigil with its Liturgy is supposed to reflect the Light of Christ bringing life to the Church. Jesus died on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday.  If you recall the events of Holy Thursday, after the Mass the altar clothes, candles, and crucifixes are removed.  On Good Friday, we walk into a barren church building.  It looks like a condemned building ready to be demolished.  

Without Christ, the Church is a desolate dark place without any meaning or purpose.  It is a barren wasteland with missing crucifixes, an open tabernacle with no one inside, an extinguished Sanctuary Lamp, and an undressed altar.  These aesthetics were mystically reflected greatly in the Church during the Covid-19 Coronavirus lockdown with empty pews. The Church was dark. The people were gone. Many are still gone today. Mass attendance has dropped further. 

Where are they?  Where is the faith?  The Lent and Holy Week during the lockdown is one to remember. The whole globe was forced to give many things up.  It was no longer a simple choice of abstaining from meat or chocolate or fasting.  Everyone was forced to change their habits.  Everyone was being reminded that we are indeed dust and to dust, we shall return. Covid-19 Coronavirus has led to many deaths due to complications. 

While the flu kills more, this virus seems to be more aggressive. This along with the media distortions and aloof tone of the government had forced many to panic.  No one knew what to believe. On one side you have those masking up and taking precautions and on another, we had people who thought it was all a joke and did the opposite. Then we have someone who exaggerated the precautions instigating conflicts with others just for not wearing a mask or for standing too close to them as well as those who intentionally coughed near people wearing masks or got too close to them on purpose.  On the religious side, some demanded that churches be closed and services shut down while others said there was no reason to do this.  Then there was the debate of whether to receive Communion on the Hand by force or not.  It was mayhem.

Science failed. The government failed. Even religion failed. No one knew what to do.  Medical professionals and government officials were playing a guessing game. Each day they gave contradictory information.  Then vaccines were injected into people without being thoroughly vetted.  Some only had protection up to 6 months as new variants of the virus mutated.  It was just madness what was going on.  The bishops and many others fell into the frenzy as well without ever questioning.

They blindly accepted conclusions that were not based on accurate science. Catholics have demonstrated that they are susceptible to the Milgram experiment where people blindly followed orders to shock another person simply because someone in authority told them to. Their morals, objectivity, and reasons seemed to have vanished.  This is true darkness.  The Church is indeed dark today.  The closing of parishes and suspension of Masses without strong evidence to do this is disturbing. There is no record in the history of contagion spreading via Communion or the Mass. None at all. Despite this, our bishops blindly followed commands from officials.  Even atheists who are fond of the "separation of Church and State" have gone deaf and blind as the State interferes with the Church.  What was going on? Was this the ushering in of the antichrist or the warning of Garabandal?  We cannot know for certain. However, there is indeed something on the cosmic spiritual level going on.  It made no sense to close churches while allowing liquor stores, abortion clinics, and supermarkets to remain open. 

In many areas, the latter attracts more people than Mass!  Yet, the Mass was deemed as not essential and a conduit for disease to spread.   Moreover, we see so many strange things happening in the Church. The push to normalize so-called same-sex unions as equal to that of a male and female union. The pushing of abortion, and birth control over education and healthcare.  The insistence that all adopt the nonsensical ideas of "gender ideology."  The push to limit the criminal justice system in favor of criminals. I can go on and on, but you see the same thing in the world and in your area. The world keeps getting stranger and darker.  By world, I mean societies with their social constructs and systems.  

The Easter Vigil reminds us that without Christ, the Church and the world are nothing.  Christ is the light of the world.  Covid-19 has reminded the man that he is not in charge.  Science is not in charge, government is not in charge.  Not even religion is in charge.  We need Jesus.  We need the light.  The Easter Vigil demonstrates how the light of Christ brings life to the Church. 

The liturgy tonight begins with a dark church building.  The celebrant meets the people outside with a fire. He will bless this fire and prepare the Paschal or Easter candle.  The fire is then used to light the candles symbolizing the Light of Christ.

What is light?  
Physics tells us that it is electromagnetic radiation made up of photons that are detectable by the
human eye as well as the eyes of other organisms. It is composed of many wavelengths, not all of which are capable of being detected and processed by the human eye. The human eye can only detect the spectrum of wavelengths from about 650 nanometers where red is present and about 400 nanometers where violet is detected.

Light is the fastest substance in the universe traveling at 186,282 miles per second. Light presents us with spatial and temporal information about things around us. Matter in the universe absorbs and reflects light waves.  Depending on the charges of particles in an object, light is absorbed and some of it is reflected back allowing our eyes to see the object and its color(s) when the light enters the eye into the cones which process the information in the brain.  Nothing can travel faster or as fast as it. Despite this knowledge of light, we still do not truly understand it. However, light is extremely important for life to truly evolve and progress in nature.

In Scripture, light is mentioned many times.  As a matter of fact, it is first mentioned in the third verse of Genesis chapter 1. God says "Let there be light." Prior to this, the author describes existence as dark and desolate. Darkness is something most of us do not like. When we are in the dark, we get moody, depressed, and sleepy. Our energy drains from our bodies and we feel lethargic especially during wintertime when there is less light.  Psychologists call this "Seasonal Affective Disorder" or "Winter Blues."  This goes to show how powerful light and darkness are.  They affect us in many ways. As the weather warms in spring and we see more daylight, we get cheerful and have a "bounce in our step." Light livens everything up.

Darkness may seem powerful.  It engulfs everything. However, it blinds and creates dangerous scenarios. Despite this, light is so powerful that it stands out even in the darkest area. The stars in the sky shine brightly against the darkness of the universe. These stars are light years away and despite this, their light reaches our eyes here on Earth. The light from our own sun takes 8 minutes to reach us, yet it is powerful enough to warm our planet and illuminate the material that composes it.

The Paschal candle reminds us of light.  Christ is the light.  We all walked in darkness as Isaiah 9:2 says. As I stated before, darkness is dangerous. Without light, we get disoriented and our brain has a difficult time processing spatial information by using stored memories of an environment and sounds. Psychologists call this "Sensory Deprivation" or "Spatial Disorientation."  Most of us have lived in our homes for many years and know it well.  However, this familiarity changes when we try to walk in the dark. We will stumble on things or crash into a wall most of the time.  Our souls when they are in darkness stumble as well (John 11:10).  We do not know where we are at and walk about until we fall into sin.

In today's world full of atheistic existentialism and relativism, we are getting lost in strange philosophies that push God away in favor of man's formulations of morality and his social constructions.  This is the "new god" that is blinding many societies today into rejecting the reality of life in the womb and setting aside the natural complementary union between a man and woman for counterfeit unions (2 Corinthians 4:4).  Jesus, the Light of the World (John 9:5) came into the world to illuminate humanity (John 1:4) and it still rejects this light in preference of the darkness (John 3:19).  The human being is stubborn in this way.  Evil and sin always seem to be "fun" while good and holiness is the pastime of boring people or prudes.  This is the Concupiscence in us driving us to incline towards the bad (CCC 405).

The Easter Vigil reminds us of this.  The church building is dark. We are in the dark without Christ. Despite this immense darkness, the small flame from the Paschal Candles is enough to light the way as we enter the church building.  This small flame allows us to enter without stumbling.  As the people light their candles from the Paschal Candle, the light grows more intense and we begin to see each other's faces more.  The light of Christ restores the image of God in us.  The light we receive must not be hidden, nor should we fall back into darkness for we are children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). 

We must go out into the dark world and illumine it just like each star illumines the night sky despite being small in appearance in contrast of the immense darkness of the universe.  Our Christian lives must be witness to Christ Jesus.  This is why Pope Francis has been centering his Papacy on Christian witness.  The light that we receive from Christ must not be so bright that it blinds others.  Nor should it burn them to the point of scaring them away.  We must be humble and present the light of Christ with love.

Christ is indeed the light that continues to shine even in this dark world.  He has risen!  He is with us and will return at the end of time.  Let us spend our lives on Earth bringing the light of Christ to the world.  We must have faith and not hide.  Jesus is the light of the world.  He is the Lord of death and life.  He defeated death.  Jesus commands the seas and winds, the molecules of water and wine, and the nerves of the blind, crippled, and dead. How can we believe that He has no command over viruses or pandemic events?   This is a lack of faith.  Let us believe truly in the resurrected Christ.  Christ can do all things.  Let us trust in Him and seek his light. 

Jesus, The Lamb of God

Jesus as the Lamb of God

One of the most beautiful and profound titles of Jesus Christ is "the Lamb of God". This title reveals to us the mystery of God's love and mercy, as well as the meaning of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and in the Eucharist. In this blog post, we will explore the biblical, theological, and liturgical significance of this title, and how it can inspire us to follow Jesus more closely.

The Lamb of God in the Bible

The title "the Lamb of God" is first used by John the Baptist, who proclaimed Jesus as such when he saw him coming to be baptized: "Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29). This title echoes several passages from the Old Testament, where lambs were used as sacrificial animals to atone for sins and to celebrate God's covenant with his people.

The most important of these passages is the account of the Passover in Exodus 12, where God instructed the Israelites to slaughter a lamb without blemish, sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, and eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. This was to protect them from the angel of death who would strike down the firstborn of Egypt, and to mark their liberation from slavery and their journey to the promised land. The Passover lamb was a sign of God's saving power and faithful love for his people.

The prophets also used the image of the lamb to describe the Messiah, who would be both a sacrificial offering for sin and a suffering servant. Isaiah prophesied: "Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearer, he was silent and opened not his mouth" (Is 53:7). This passage was applied to Jesus by Philip when he explained the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading it (Acts 8:26-35).

In the Gospels, Jesus is identified as "the Lamb of God" not only by John the Baptist, but also by his own words and actions. He foretold his passion, death, and resurrection as a service and a ransom for many (Mt 20:26-28). He celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples on the eve of Passover, instituting the Eucharist as his new covenant in his blood (Lk 22:14-20). He was condemned to death by Pilate at noon, the hour when the Passover lambs were slaughtered in the temple (Jn 19:14). He died on the cross without having his bones broken, fulfilling the prophecy of Exodus 12:46 and Psalm 34:21 (Jn 19:36).

The title "the Lamb of God" is also used extensively in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus is depicted as a slain lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, symbolizing his power and wisdom. He is worthy to open the scroll with seven seals, which contains God's plan for history. He is praised by all creation as "the Lamb who was slain" who has "purchased for God with his blood men of every race and tongue, of every people and nation" (Rev 5:6-14). He is also called "the King of kings and Lord of lords" who will defeat his enemies and reign with his bride, the Church, in the new Jerusalem (Rev 17:14; 19:11-16; 21:9-27).

The Lamb of God in Catholic Teaching

The title "the Lamb of God" expresses several aspects of Catholic teaching about Jesus Christ. First, it affirms that he is truly God and truly man, who became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God. He is "the Word made flesh" who dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). He is "the image of the invisible God" who reveals to us "the Father's heart" (Col 1:15; Jn 1:18).

Second, it declares that he is our Redeemer and Savior, who offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for our sins on the cross. He is "the Lamb without blemish or spot" who shed his precious blood for us (1 Pet 1:19). He is "the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for those of the whole world" (1 Jn 2:2).

Third, it signifies that he is our High Priest and Mediator, who intercedes for us before God's throne. He is "a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" who entered "into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf" (Heb 6:20; 9:24). He is "the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim 2:5-6).

Fourth, it denotes that he is our King and Lord, who has all authority and power in heaven and on earth. He is "the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David" who has conquered death and sin (Rev 5:5). He is "the Lord of lords and King of kings" who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead (Rev 17:14; 2 Tim 4:1).

Fifth, it implies that he is our Food and Life, who nourishes us with his body and blood in the Eucharist. He is "the bread of life" who gives us "his flesh for the life of the world" (Jn 6:35, 51). He is "the living bread which came down from heaven" who says to us: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn 6:51, 54).

The Lamb of God in the Church Fathers

The title "the Lamb of God" was also used by the early Church Fathers, who recognized its rich meaning and its connection with the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the sacraments. Here are some examples of their writings:

- Polycarp, a disciple of John the Apostle, wrote: "Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal high priest himself, the Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth...and to us with you, and to all those under heaven who will yet believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who raised him from the dead." (Letter to the Philippians, 12)

- Ignatius, another disciple of John the Apostle, wrote: "There is only one physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond it, Jesus Christ our Lord." (Letter to the Ephesians, 7)

- Justin Martyr, a second-century apologist, wrote: "For our God Jesus Christ was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit." (First Apology, 46)

- Irenaeus, a second-century bishop and theologian, wrote: "He is Himself in His own right God and Lord and Eternal King and Only-begotten and Incarnate Word, proclaimed as such by all the prophets and by the Apostles and by the Spirit Himself, may He be glorified by all who believe in Him." (Against Heresies,3.19.1)

- Clement of Alexandria, a second-century philosopher and theologian, wrote: "The Word itself is the manifest God, and that the hidden Father sent Him. He is the Saviour; this is His name. He came to save all by Himself; all, I say, who through Him are reborn in God—infants, children, boys, young men, and old." (Exhortation to the Greeks, 10.110)

- Tertullian, a second-century lawyer and theologian, wrote: "The blood of Christ is salvation to His people; His flesh is food indeed; His blood is drink indeed." (On Prayer, 6)

- Origen, a third-century scholar, and exegete wrote: "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world [Rev. 13:8] was destined to be slain according to that pattern and type which was shown to Abraham when he was ordered to offer up his son Isaac." (Commentary on John, 1.28)

- Cyprian, a third-century bishop, and martyr, wrote: "The Lamb without spot that taketh away the sins of the world [John 1:29] grants a release from sins." (Treatise on Works and Alms, 14)

- Athanasius, a fourth-century bishop and defender of orthodoxy, wrote: "The Lamb of God not only did this, but was also chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins, and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins." (On the Incarnation, 25)

Conclusion

Jesus as the Lamb of God

We have seen that the title "the Lamb of God" is not a late invention of Constantine or the Council of Nicea, but a biblical truth that was taught by the apostles, the early Church Fathers, and the Catholic Church throughout history. This title reveals to us the mystery of God's love and mercy, as well as the meaning of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and in the Eucharist. By calling Jesus "the Lamb of God", we acknowledge that he is truly God and truly man, our Redeemer and Savior, our High Priest and Mediator, our King and Lord, and our Food and Life. We also express our gratitude and devotion to him, who gave himself for us as a perfect offering to the Father. As we celebrate the Eucharist, let us join our voices with the angels and saints in heaven, who sing: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" (Rev 5:12).


What do you think? Post your comments on Disqus below. Be sure to follow the rules so your comment can be permitted on the forum. 


References

- Bible (New American Bible, Revised Edition)

- Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, 12

- Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians, 7

- Justin Martyr, First Apology, 46

- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.19.1

- Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, 10.110

- Tertullian, On Prayer, 6

- Origen, Commentary on John, 1.28

- Cyprian, Treatise on Works and Alms, 14

- Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 25

Friday, March 29, 2024

Good Friday: A Reflection on Sacrifice and Love

Good Friday: A Reflection on Sacrifice and Love

Good Friday stands as a poignant day in the Christian calendar, marking the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. It is a day that calls for solemn reflection on the themes of sacrifice, redemption, and the boundless love of God for humanity.

The narrative of Good Friday is steeped in the act of ultimate sacrifice. According to Christian theology, Jesus, the Son of God, took upon himself the sins of the world and suffered death on the cross. This selfless act is seen as a bridge between a just God and a flawed humanity, offering salvation to all who believe.

The love of God, as demonstrated through the sacrifice of Christ, is described as unconditional and all-encompassing. It is a love that transcends human understanding, a love that endures suffering and death for the sake of others. On Good Friday, believers are reminded of this profound love and are encouraged to respond in kind, extending love and forgiveness to others.

The cross, therefore, is not only a symbol of suffering but also one of hope, love, and new beginnings. It is a reminder that out of great sacrifice can come great love, and from death can spring life. As the world reflects on the meaning of Good Friday, it is an opportunity to contemplate the depth of God's love and the transformative power of sacrifice.

In the stillness of Good Friday, one can find a space to meditate on life's deeper questions and the nature of divine love. It is a time to consider the ways in which we can embody the selfless love shown on the cross, in our actions and interactions with those around us.

As the day concludes and the anticipation of Easter Sunday begins, the message of Good Friday lingers—a message of hope, renewal, and the triumph of love over the darkest of circumstances. It is a day to carry forward the legacy of love and sacrifice that has been passed down through generations, inspiring acts of kindness, compassion, and understanding in a world in need of healing.

Stations of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross, also known as the Way of the Cross or Via Crucis, are a series of images depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion and accompanying prayers. This devotion commemorates 14 key events on the day of Christ's crucifixion, starting with His condemnation by Pontius Pilate and ending with His entombment. The tradition of the Stations of the Cross is rooted in the practice of pious pilgrims to Jerusalem who would retrace the final journey of Jesus Christ to Calvary.

The objective of the Stations is to help the faithful make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer, through meditating upon the chief scenes of Christ's sufferings and death. It is a way for believers to literally 'walk' the path that Jesus walked, contemplating His sacrifice with love and gratitude. This devotion has been embraced by many Christian denominations and is most commonly practiced during the Lenten season, especially on Good Friday.

Each Station is represented visually with a cross and often a pictorial representation of the specific event, allowing the faithful to focus their contemplation and prayers on that moment in the narrative. The Stations can be found not only in churches but also outdoors, where they are visited in procession.

The traditional 14 Stations of the Cross are as follows:

1. Jesus is condemned to death

2. Jesus carries His cross

3. Jesus falls the first time

4. Jesus meets His mother

5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross

6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

7. Jesus falls the second time

8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

9. Jesus falls the third time

10. Jesus is stripped of His garments

11. Jesus is nailed to the cross

12. Jesus dies on the cross

13. Jesus is taken down from the cross

14. Jesus is laid in the tomb

The Stations of the Cross are a deep and enduring prayer practice for many, providing a contemplative experience that invites the faithful to reflect deeply on the profound love and sacrifice of Christ.

This ancient and traditional devotion helps us reflect on Good Friday and Christ's sacrifice and love.  God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  His Son suffered the ultimate price for humanity. Let us take today and every day to reflect on this immense love that God has for humanity.  


  

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Maundy Thursday: Christ Continues ON

Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday, is a day of profound religious significance within the Christian faith, marking the commemoration of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with his disciples. This event is pivotal as it established the sacrament of Holy Communion, which is central to Christian worship and signifies the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ.

The Last Supper, which took place on the eve of Jesus' crucifixion, is not only remembered for the act of breaking bread and sharing wine but also for Jesus' demonstration of humility and service, washing the feet of his apostles. This act prefigures the sacrificial nature of the priesthood, highlighting the role of priests as servants and shepherds to their congregations.

The priesthood in Christianity carries the responsibility of perpetuating the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, which is considered the source and summit of Christian life. Priests are seen as representatives of Christ, acting in persona Christi, to continue his ministry on Earth. The importance of the priesthood is deeply rooted in the belief that through the hands of the priest, the very presence of Jesus Christ is mediated to the faithful.

The Eucharist itself holds a special place in Christian theology. It is not merely a symbol but is believed to be the actual presence of Christ, a concept known as transubstantiation. During the Eucharist, bread and wine are consecrated and become the Body and Blood of Christ, a mystery that signifies unity with Christ and the anticipation of eternal life.

In essence, Holy Thursday, the Last Supper, the priesthood, and the Eucharist are intricately interwoven into the fabric of Christian faith, each element reinforcing the other and together forming the cornerstone of Christian worship and belief. The observance of these traditions serves as a continuous reminder of Jesus' sacrifice, his message of service, and the enduring hope of salvation for believers.

Jesus continues on via the priesthood and Holy Eucharist. He is with us until the end of time as He promised. Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist under the appearance of bread and wine. The accidents of bread and wine remain the same while the essence transubstantiates into Jesus' true presence. Jesus is also present in the person of the male priest. The priest is NOT Jesus, he represents Him. Jesus is the one acting via the male priest.  

During this Holy Thursday focus on the Mass and the readings regarding the Last Supper. See how much Jesus loves us that He remains with us in the Holy Eucharist and left us His priesthood.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Spy Wednesday: A Day of Reflection and Betrayal

Spy Wednesday, the Wednesday before Easter, is a day that holds significant weight in the Christian Holy Week. It is a day marked by the somber remembrance of betrayal, as it commemorates the day Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver. This act of treachery is what gives this day its name, as 'spy' in this context refers to Judas acting as a betrayer or informant.

The events of Spy Wednesday set in motion the series of events that would lead to the crucifixion of Jesus, observed on Good Friday. It is a day that prompts Christians around the world to reflect on themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the human condition. The story of Judas is a powerful narrative that resonates with the frailty of human nature and the capacity for sin, even among those who are closest to us.

In the biblical account, as detailed in Matthew 26:14-16, Judas's decision to betray Jesus is not just a simple act of treachery; it is a complex interplay of human emotions and motivations. It raises questions about the nature of free will, the influence of greed, and the overwhelming power of regret. Judas' actions have been the subject of theological debate and reflection for centuries, and Spy Wednesday provides an opportunity for believers to contemplate the darker aspects of the Easter narrative.

The observance of Spy Wednesday varies among different Christian denominations, but it often includes Mass or a service focused on the story of Judas's betrayal. In some traditions, the day is also marked by acts of penance or charity, as a way to counteract the betrayal with acts of love and service.

As Holy Week progresses, the events of Spy Wednesday serve as a stark reminder of the path to the cross. It is a call to introspection and examination of one's own faith and actions. For many, it is a time to consider the ways in which they, too, might have betrayed their beliefs or ideals in pursuit of lesser things.

In the end, Spy Wednesday is not just about the betrayal of Jesus; it is about the potential for betrayal within each person. It is a day to reflect on the choices we make and the consequences they hold, not only for ourselves but for the wider community. As Holy Week unfolds, Spy Wednesday stands as a poignant reminder of the cost of betrayal and the value of redemption.

For those looking to delve deeper into the significance of this day and its place within the Holy Week, further reading and reflection can be found in various sources that explore the biblical and historical context of Judas's betrayal.

Judas Iscariot: The Enigmatic Disciple

Judas Iscariot remains one of the most enigmatic and talked-about figures in Christian theology. His name is synonymous with betrayal, and his actions have been dissected and debated through the centuries. Judas was one of the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ and is known for betraying Jesus to the Sanhedrin in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The motivations behind Judas's betrayal are complex and multifaceted. The Gospel of Matthew suggests that Judas's betrayal was motivated by greed, as he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. However, the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John imply a more supernatural cause, suggesting that Judas was possessed by Satan at the time of the betrayal.

After the betrayal, filled with remorse, Judas attempted to return the money and hanged himself. The chief priests used the returned silver to buy a field, known as the "Field of Blood," to bury strangers in, which further associated Judas with the concept of blood money.

Judas's legacy is a subject of significant theological debate. Some view his betrayal as an unforgivable sin, while others interpret it as a necessary part of the divine plan for salvation. The Gnostic Gospel of Judas, considered heretical by the proto-orthodox Church, presents a different perspective, portraying Judas's actions as being in obedience to Jesus's instructions and suggesting that he understood Jesus's true teachings.

Historically, Judas' existence is widely accepted among secular historians, though some debate remains. His story is a powerful narrative that has been used to explore themes of loyalty, greed, free will, and divine providence.

Judas's portrayal has also had cultural and social implications. Since the Middle Ages, he has sometimes been used as a personification of the Jewish people, and his story has been employed to justify antisemitism—a misuse of the narrative that has been widely condemned.

The figure of Judas Iscariot challenges believers and scholars alike to consider the complexities of human nature and the profound themes of redemption and grace that are central to the Christian faith. His story serves as a reminder of the consequences of our actions and the transformative power of forgiveness.

Today we see many Judas's. They are seen in Catholics, especially clergy who use their ordained ministry to profit. How many times do we see priests refuse to say a Mass for someone just because they did not offer a Mass stipend?  How many times have we seen priests literally stalk a pastor of a parish for his stipend after saying Mass?  With the onset of social media, how many priests do we see on TikTok, Instagram, and so on making all kinds of content in order to generate money?  In more extreme cases, how many times have we seen priests "sell blessings" and other religious or sacramental acts?  How many times have we seen priests deny baptism or other liturgical functions until they received the envelope with donations?  In other moments, they may hound a family for it until they obtain it. 

We see it in Catholics in religious life who use this life to profit and to live comfortably free from secular responsibilities and work.  How many times do we see religious sisters or brothers living "in habit" without internalizing their charism?  They sit around all day simply "living the life" without it really transforming them internally.  Once the "religious life" of the day is over, they throw aside their habit, drink a beer or watch television?  How many times do we see religious sisters or brothers offer their expertise or services for money?  They charge their fellow religious or Catholics.  

Moreover, we see it in Catholics among the lay faithful who set aside their faith in favor of other things.  They prefer to go to work or another event instead of Mass.  They use their faith to make money either directly or via blogs, podcasts, and other mediums.  How many times do we see catechists, youth ministers, musicians, and others demand a salary from the Church for their skills? When did the apostles charge anyone for their ministerial work? Judas's are present among those who arrive late to Mass and leave early.  This is what Judas did at the Last Supper. He did not care for it and just left early. How many times do we see Catholics get up and leave the Mass before it has ended? 

Judas is still alive and well in the Catholic Church and in every other denomination.  We see "pastors" of "megachurches" with mansions, expensive cars, jet planes, and large salaries.  They preach a "gospel of prosperity" instead of the Gospel of the Poor that Jesus preached.  This is Judas alive and well in Christianity.  These Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Non-Catholic Christians are the Judas's of today. They inflict pain on Jesus over and over with their love of money and hypocrisy.  

Let us NOT be Judas Iscariot.  Stick with Jesus and give the silver coins away.  


Holy Tuesday: A Time for Reflection and Anticipation

Holy Tuesday, a significant day within Holy Week, invites Christians to pause and reflect on the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. It is a day that may not be as widely discussed as Good Friday or Easter Sunday, yet it holds profound lessons and moments of deep spiritual contemplation.

On Holy Tuesday, the scriptures recount Jesus' time in Jerusalem, where he continued to teach his disciples and share parables with those who gathered to listen. One of the most poignant lessons from this day is the story of the fig tree, which Jesus cursed for not bearing fruit. This act symbolizes the importance of living a life that bears spiritual fruit and the consequences of spiritual barrenness.

Moreover, Holy Tuesday is marked by Jesus' predictions of his betrayal and the challenges that his followers would face. Despite the impending suffering, Jesus spoke of glory — not as the world sees glory, but as the fulfillment of God's redemptive plan. It is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is the potential for God's light to shine through, transforming suffering into a testament of faith and hope.

Reflections on Holy Tuesday often focus on the dual themes of judgment and grace. It is a time to consider the ways in which we, like the fig tree, are called to live lives that reflect our faith. It is also a moment to recognize the grace that is extended to us, even when we fall short. The lessons of Holy Tuesday encourage believers to look beyond the immediate circumstances and see the greater purpose at work — the unfolding of God's glory through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As we approach this Holy Tuesday, let us take time to meditate on the teachings of Jesus and the profound mysteries of faith. Let us embrace the opportunity to grow in our spiritual journey, to seek forgiveness where needed, and to prepare our hearts for the remembrance of Christ's passion and the celebration of his victory over death.

For those seeking to delve deeper into the significance of Holy Tuesday, resources such as Catholic Daily Reflections offer insights into the glory of God in all things. Additionally, understanding the historical context and the biblical recounting of Jesus' teachings on this day can enrich one's personal reflection and devotion.

Holy Tuesday is not merely a historical observance but a living tradition that continues to inspire and challenge believers today. It calls us to a higher standard of faith and action, urging us to embody the love and sacrifice that Jesus demonstrated throughout his earthly ministry. As we reflect on the events of Holy Tuesday, may we find renewed strength and purpose in our walk with Christ, and may we carry the lessons of this day into every aspect of our lives.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Holy Monday: A Day of Reflection and Anticipation

Holy Monday marks the beginning of a solemn journey through Holy Week, leading up to the celebration of Easter Sunday. It is a day steeped in reflection and anticipation, as it follows Palm Sunday, the day Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with palm branches and cheers, and precedes the events of the Last Supper and Jesus' eventual crucifixion.

The significance of Holy Monday lies in its place within the narrative of Holy Week. It is a day that invites Christians to meditate on the themes of faithfulness, sacrifice, and the fulfillment of prophecy. On this day, according to the Gospels, Jesus Christ displayed his divine authority through two significant acts: the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple. These actions symbolize, respectively, the importance of genuine faith and the call to maintain the sanctity of worship spaces.

Holy Monday also serves as a reminder of the human tendency to welcome a savior with joy one day and then turn away from the very principles he stands for the next. It is a call to consistency in faith and to stand up for what is right, just as Jesus did. For many, it is a time for personal spiritual growth and a recommitment to living according to Jesus' teachings, fostering a deeper connection with God.

As we reflect on Holy Monday, it is an opportunity to consider our own lives and the ways in which we can better align ourselves with the teachings of Christ. It is a time to ask ourselves how we can be more faithful, more dedicated to justice, and more committed to the sanctity of our places of worship. Holy Monday is not just a historical remembrance; it is a living part of the Christian faith, a day that calls each believer to introspection and preparation for the days to come.

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, Holy Monday can be a beacon, reminding us of the profound journey Jesus undertook for the sake of humanity. It invites us to slow down, to ponder the gravity of the week that changed the world, and to prepare our hearts for the sorrow and joy of the Easter celebration.

As we move through Holy Week, let us carry the lessons of Holy Monday with us. Let us embrace the call to faithfulness, the dedication to sanctity, and the commitment to the teachings of Jesus. In doing so, we honor the memory of that pivotal week and open ourselves to the transformative power of Christ's resurrection. Holy Monday is not just a day in the past; it is a living part of our present, guiding us toward a future filled with hope and redemption.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Palm Sunday Reflection: Embracing the Journey of Faith

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, a time of reflection and anticipation leading up to Easter Sunday. In Year B, the readings for Palm Sunday offer a profound journey through the final moments of Jesus' earthly ministry, his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and the foreshadowing of his Passion.

The liturgy begins with the Procession of Palms, a vivid reenactment of Christ's entry into Jerusalem. The Gospel of Mark (11:1–11) recounts this event, where Jesus is greeted by crowds waving palm branches and proclaiming him as the prophesied king. This moment is both a celebration and a bittersweet prelude to the events that will unfold.

The First Reading from Isaiah (50:4–7) presents the Suffering Servant, a poignant figure of humility and obedience. This passage resonates with the character of Jesus, who, despite facing adversity, remains steadfast and unashamed, trusting in God's help and vindication.

The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 22) echoes the theme of suffering and abandonment, yet it also carries a message of trust in God. It is a powerful reminder that even in the depths of despair, one is never truly alone; God's presence endures.

The Second Reading from Philippians (2:6–11) offers a theological reflection on Christ's incarnation and his ultimate sacrifice. It speaks of Jesus' humility and exaltation, emphasizing the paradox of his divine nature and human experience.

The Passion narrative, according to Mark (14:1–15:47), is an intense and moving account that invites the faithful to walk alongside Jesus during his trial, suffering, and death. It is a story that compels introspection and calls for a response of faith and discipleship.

Palm Sunday is a day of contrasts: joy and sorrow, celebration and reflection. It invites believers to embrace the full spectrum of the Christian journey, recognizing that the path to resurrection passes through the cross. As the faithful carry their palm branches, they are reminded of the victory that lies beyond suffering, a victory made possible through love and sacrifice. Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week. Today we remember the Passion of Christ. Jesus entered Jerusalem while the people shouted Hosanna and threw Palm branches in his path.

He is the king, the Messiah, the one the Jews have been expecting for centuries.  As He enters Jerusalem, He is seen as a triumphant King. A king of the Jews.  But was He really Triumphant?  Today's events are forcing many to question this.  The closing of Churches and lack of faith by bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laity has really scandalized the image of Christ is triumphant.   Are we truly shouting Hosanna from the heart or only when things are "normal" in the world?

Hosanna is an exclamation of supplication in a moment of emotion. The Palms are a sign of victory and joy.  The people celebrated the Triumphant entry of the King of Kings into Jerusalem. Ironically just a few days later these same people will call upon Pilate to crucify Him.

Zechariah 9:9 prophesied this day. The account of the story is read prior to the procession with the Psalms and comes from Matthew 21: 1-11  In the Catholic Church, red vestments are used to symbolize the blood Jesus would shed as a result of His entry into Jerusalem.  Passover coincides with Palm Sunday this year. We should reflect on this via the eyes of our elder brothers and sisters in the old covenant. 

The first reading during Mass is from Isaiah which is connected to Jesus.  It reflects on how Jesus is a gifted speaker who spreads the Good News, yet offends many.  Because of this, He is beaten, his beard is plucked and He is mocked.  This reading is a foreshadowing of the Passion of Christ. Despite being abused by the people, Jesus returned no insult or attack.  He braved it all for the sake of all.  Today we live in a world where Christ's message is not popular.  Priests, religious, laity, and even our separated Christian brethren face all kinds of hardships just for speaking the name of Christ and what He stands for.  This is very true today when the Church is undergoing a massive trial. Many are questioning the validity of the faith and whether it is even worth believing.  

With bishops closing churches and denying the Sacraments during the pandemic lockdown, why even believe in them?  The government has even threatened the Church and ministers of all persuasions.  We must be strong and not give in to the pressures of the world and preach Christ in season and out of season (2 timothy 4:2). This means even during a pandemic. Like Christ, we must bear it all for the sake of salvation.  It may seem like God has abandoned us and this is why the responsorial Psalm begins with this phrase. This Psalm is another foreshadowing of Christ's passion.  Christ, Himself felt abandoned by the Father.  However, this is not so.  God is there present comforting Him and us as well who struggle today during this pandemic. We cannot truly know why this Covid-18 Coronavirus is happening now and why it is infecting so many people around the world. Doctors may say it is spreading because of close contact, bodily aerosols, or contaminated surfaces. But they have contradicted themselves several times. 

Scientists say the same; some even claim that the virus came from bats, is airborne, or may have been living in humans for decades, and mutated to the point it is now.  But they too have contradicted themselves. Some religious groups are saying this is the end times, a chastisement or a warning from God.  But we cannot know for sure. Lastly, environmentalists, both scientists and armchair ones are claiming that this is Earth attempting to calibrate the disorder man has caused due to global warming and overpopulation.  But again, we cannot know for sure.  Man cannot know it all. His fields of inquiry and technologies have failed.  Perhaps this is a reminder that we are not gods. We are not masters of life or this world and have to focus on the one who is the Master of all.  God has not abandoned us. We have abandoned him.  

The second reading tells us that Jesus is God but is not equal to God. What does this mean?  Does it mean Jesus is some demi-god like Jehovah's Witnesses and other sects claim?  No, not at all!  It simply means that while Jesus is God, He is also a man. His humanity is not equal to His divinity.  He was a man in human appearance with flesh, blood, pain, emotions, and so forth.  He "emptied" Himself of the infiniteness of God to take the form of a limited human being. In other words, Jesus was not this mutant from X-Men, Superman, or a Greek god displaying powers of shapeshifting.  We see movies like Superman, Brightburn, or even the show Superman and Lois which show how the characters Clark Kent or Kal-el and Brandon Bryer discover their powers.  They cannot be cut or hurt.  Jesus was not like this. He was truly man and God.  This was why He was able to die. God died! His human body died. Jesus wanted to be one of us and experience what we experience. This was why He too was tempted by the devil. He felt pain, He got sick, got cramps, got cut, bled, got hungry and thirsty, and so on.  He was one of us in all things except sin. Jesus was obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross we are told. This means that Jesus basically obeyed the laws of physics and nature. He was obedient to them!  This is why before it says that "He humbled Himself." God truly humbled Himself becoming a slave to this universe just like we are all slaves to it. None of us can defy the laws of physics. We are trapped in this "biosphere" called the universe. Because of this, He became our example and was exalted.  This is why at Jesus' name we all bend the knee and confess that He is the Lord.  He is the one the Father sent. This is why when we hear the name Jesus, we should incline our head slightly during the liturgy. It is a sign of reverence. 

Finally, the Gospel tells the account of Jesus' last supper where He instituted the Holy Eucharist.

Christ defined all the true meaning of the Passover meal by breaking bread and sharing wine which are His body, blood, soul, and divinity.  We read how Judas is there present during the meal. He sells out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  Judas is the first to leave the first Mass.

How many times do we see people leave Mass early? Perhaps we may have done it ourselves?  We are imitating Judas the betrayer when we leave Mass early.  In doing so, we make whatever we are leaving Mass for more important than Christ.  Granted, there may be emergencies we may have to attend to, but this is where faith comes in.  God will take care of any emergencies for us. Moreover, we continue reading how Christ tells the disciples how they will flee when He is arrested.  Each boldly claims that he will not leave Christ.  How many times have we been vain in thinking that we have total control of faith?  How many times have we thought that we control grace in us?  It is God who sustains our faith and nourishes us with His grace.  We only cooperate by the suspension of our free will to submit to God's will.

Christ then goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  He cries tears of blood showing the pain and anguish He was going through.  Like in last week's Gospel with Lazarus, we again see Christ's humanity.  He is one of us!  He is the perfect Adam we must imitate.

However, like the disciples, we often fall asleep when we are in His presence.  Instead of praying, we slack off and get distracted to the point of dosing off.  We must avoid this by asking God to teach us how to pray and give us the strength and demeanor to be in His presence to pray even when our human frailness gets in the way.

Lastly, we continue reading how Christ is taken to trial.  The Son of God, God Himself is treated like a criminal.  He is sentenced to be killed by way of Crucifixion.  His crime is love.  Christ came to save all, first to His own people the Jews.  Ironically, it is sometimes our own that betray us.  We must avoid being like the Jews of Christ's time who were with Him, saw His works, and still wanted no part of Christ.  Like the Jews in the desert, they saw His works and still did not want to believe as the first reading of the third week of Lent told us.  Christ is then made to go through a horrible death.  First He is made to carry a heavy cross.  Throughout the way, He is mocked, spat on, hit, and falls down three times for the sins of the past, present, and future.  He dies on the cross and is buried.  God is dead!

Today, this phrase still echoes among societies throughout the world, especially in universities teaching our youth.  Some believe philosopher Nietzsche to have coined the phrase "God is dead," but this has existed way before his own birth. Christ is nailed to the cross and dies.  The people of His time said, "God is dead."

The Son of God who performed miracles and preached the good news dies.  We know that in reality, He is still alive. Man can kill God because God allows it out of love. Today's age of secularism, atheism, and relativism shouts, "God is dead, we have killed Him!" However, God is alive and well.  He rose from the dead showing He is the God of the living and dead.  He is the one who IS; who is dependent on no one for existence.

We must not be like the Jews of the old covenant who saw and still did not believe, nor do we want to be like the Jews in Jesus' times who like their ancestors saw Christ's works yet did not believe as well (Psalm 95:9, Hebrews 3:9). They even proclaimed Him as their king by throwing palms onto His path only to reject Him and call for His execution days later, according to some scholars.  We should not be like them.  We must never lose faith nor let the world silence it.  This is important today now more than ever.  The Covid-19 coronavirus has forced many to question their faith in God.  God seems absent. The closing of Churches and denial of the Sacraments to the faithful has added to this doubt.  We read in Scripture, Tradition, the writing of the saints and heard even from Our Lady in apparitions that God protects, that Mary protects. 

However, how is this true when churches are closed and Masses are suspended due to a mere virus introduction into nature which happens naturally?  Many are seeing this contradiction.  They are also seeing the hypocrisy of saying the Church is a field hospital while shutting out the wounded and abandoning them; not to mention the call for bishops to acquire the scent of the sheep.  How is that done while hiding in rectories and episcopal mansions?  These optics are not good. They demonstrate to the world that God is dead. If the alleged successors of the apostles behave this way, then why even bother to believe?  Why even bother to be Catholic?  

As stated, we must never lose faith nor let the world silence it. Today, this is what is happening. The government was even threatening churches if they did not obey their demands while keeping abortion mills and liquor shops open.  If this is not the spirit of the Antichrist, then I do not know what is.  So as you sit home without being able to attend Mass, meditate on this. Choose your side. Jesus did triumph. Let us truly believe this.  If not, then we are just believing in Spinoza's God who is limited to the laws of physics and processes of nature.  This is not our God.  Our God has power over what He created.  This includes viruses.  Our God can protect us against anything, even viruses.  Our God can set aside the laws of nature and work miracles that defy reason, science, and imagination. 

Faith is key!  Please do not lose it due to the actions of our bishops and priests.  Please do not lose it due to the cowardice of religious and laypeople.  Please do not lose it due to the news of deaths and widespread contagion.  If you believe churches should be closed, Mass suspended and Sacraments denied to the people, then your faith is lukewarm and you do not shout Hosanna today because Christ did not triumph to you.  Trust in God.  Jesus still triumphs! Jesus has triumphed! 

Today we lift up our palms -virtual or imaginary ones- not like those hypocrites in the Gospel reading before Mass, but like those in Revelation 7:9 who see the Lamb of God, hold their palms out to Him in joy and wear clean white robes showing they are made spotless by the blood of Christ shed for all during His Passion.

This Palm Sunday, let us enter into the mystery of Christ's Passion with open hearts, ready to be transformed by the power of his love and the promise of new life.

May Christ teach us how to live and suffer in faith.  Let us shout Hosanna to the King with sincerity and remain with Him through good times and bad times until the end of time comes.    




Readings: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion | USCCB

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Tuesday, March 19, 2024

St. Joseph

St. Joseph: A Pillar of Devotion

St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ and the spouse of the Virgin Mary, holds a significant place in Christian faith. His life exemplifies humility, righteousness, and obedience to God's will. 

St. Joseph, the patron saint of the Church, of workers and protector of the Holy Family, is a figure shrouded in reverence and mystery. His life, though not elaborately documented in the scriptures, provides a framework for understanding the virtues of fatherhood and faithfulness.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are the primary sources of information about St. Joseph's life. They describe him as a 'righteous man' who followed angelic guidance to take Mary as his wife, despite the unconventional circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus.

Beyond the biblical accounts, St. Joseph's early life remains largely unknown. However, it is believed that he was a descendant of King David, which fulfilled Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah's lineage.

St. Joseph's trade as a carpenter is not only indicative of his skill but also symbolizes his role in shaping the environment for Jesus' upbringing. His dedication to his craft and his family exemplifies his silent yet significant influence.

The reverence for St. Joseph has grown over centuries, with numerous churches and institutions bearing his name. He is considered the patron saint of various groups, including families, fathers, expectant mothers, travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general.

His death is not recorded in the scriptures, but it is widely held that he died before Jesus' public ministry began. This assumption is based on his absence from biblical events such as the Crucifixion.  This is why St. Joseph is often depicted as an older man. However, the optics of this imagery is not well taken by many Catholics who believe pinning a young Virgin Mary with an elderly man is inappropriate. Moreover, logically speaking, for St. Joseph to make the trek to Egypt to flee Herod's attack on male babies would have been impossible for an elderly man.  There were no planes, cars or trains in that period. The Holy Family would have had to go on foot and with the help of an animal such as a donkey. This indicates that St. Joseph was most likely a young man himself with the stamina and ability to make such a long journey.  As for his death, life expectancy was not great in those times. People were expected to live up to 30 to 40 years. 

In exploring St. Joseph's life further, one can delve into various theological writings and interpretations that have emerged over time. These texts often reflect on his silent presence and the profound impact he had through his actions rather than words.

St. Joseph's legacy endures as a testament to living a life of integrity, humility, and devotion. His story continues to be a source of inspiration and guidance for many around the world.

Devotion to St. Joseph has been a cornerstone for many believers who seek his intercession in their lives. The Act of Consecration to St. Joseph is a prayerful commitment made by individuals to live according to his virtues. This act signifies a deep spiritual bond with St. Joseph, asking for his guidance and protection.

Among the cherished items associated with St. Joseph is the relic of his cloak. This relic is venerated by many who believe in its connection to the saint's protective powers.

St, Joseph is a model for all males and all Christians to follow. His devotion to God and Mary is shown early on. He was a pious man dedicated to his family and a man of honor who chose not to make a drama over Mary's pregnancy with a child that was not biologically his.  St. Joseph is a archetype for the Christian man and for the husband figure. 

May St. Joseph pray for us all.  

For those looking to deepen their understanding and devotion to St. Joseph, references such as "The Life and Glories of St. Joseph" by Edward Healy Thompson and "Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father" by Donald H. Calloway offer insightful perspectives on his life and legacy.


O dearest St. Joseph, I consecrate myself to you honor and give myself to you, that you may always be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me a greater purity of heart and fervent love for the interior life.

After your example, may I do all my actions for the greater glory of God, in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. O blessed St. Joseph, pray for me, that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Reflection: 5th Sunday of Lent - Following Him

Today's readings tell us that God makes things new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We must follow Christ in order to be part of this renewal. This following of Christ will not be easy. We must suffer greatly (Matthew 10:18). 

As we enter the fifth Sunday of Lent in cycle B, we are called to deepen our reflection and understanding of the scriptures. This period of Lent is a time for personal growth and spiritual renewal, inviting us to contemplate the mysteries of faith and the journey toward Easter.

The readings for this Sunday offer profound insights into the nature of sacrifice, redemption, and the transformative power of love and faith. They challenge us to look within ourselves, confront our weaknesses, and embrace the path of righteousness that leads to eternal life.

In the first reading, we encounter the promise of a new covenant, one that is written not on stone but on the hearts of believers. It speaks to the intimate relationship God desires with each one of us, calling us to a deeper communion with the divine.

The responsorial psalm echoes this theme of mercy and forgiveness, reminding us that God's love is ever-present and that we are always welcomed back into His grace when we seek reconciliation.

The second reading reminds us of Christ's obedience and humility, qualities that led Him to the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. His example serves as a beacon for our own lives, urging us to live in service to others and to uphold the values of the Gospel.

Finally, the Gospel reading brings us face-to-face with Jesus' prediction of His own death and resurrection. It is a poignant reminder of the cost of our salvation and the depth of God's love for humanity. Through His suffering and triumph over death, we are offered a path to new life.

In the first reading, we are told that God is going to start a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. This covenant will be different from the one the Israelites were used to.  Before, God showed Himself to them and brought them out of slavery. He would work His wonders before them and others, showing that He is God (Psalm 95:9). Now things will be different.  He is going to place His law in their hearts (Psalm 37:31). Here we see how God is preparing humanity for Jesus. He is setting a place in man's heart for Himself (Ephesians 3:17). This new covenant will include not only Israel and Judah but the rest of the world (Jeremiah 31:1,3-4,7-8John 11:52).  The old covenant was a preparation for the new. This is why Jesus did not come to abolish the old but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).  The old is part of the new.  It is a religious and spiritual metamorphosis. However, to be part of this new covenant, we must be pure of heart, mind, and soul. This brings in the Psalm for today.

In the responsorial Psalm, we recite, "Create a clean heart in me, O God."  We ask God for mercy and ask that He in His generosity and goodness restore His image in us by wiping clean all that exists in us that keeps us from this image (Isaiah 1:18). Only God can do this (Psalm 51:7).  God is the only one who knows us inside and out (Psalm 139:2).  He can perceive our introspection and know our temperament. We were created by Him, we come from Him (Genesis 1:27). His breath and word are what keep us in existence (Genesis 2:7Psalm 39:5Matthew 4:4). This washing of the soul brings back the joy in us. God reestablishes His friendship with us. In response, we must call others who are in sin and bring them to this spiritual laundry mat that is God's grace, so to speak (Colossians 3:16Romans 15:14James 5:20). This cleaning is done with the blood of the lamb who was slain (Revelation 12:11). His suffering redeems us. It restores us as we read in the second reading.

The second reading reminds us that Jesus prayed and offered Himself for all of us. Today's second reading is sometimes used by Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims to claim that Jesus was not god.  To them, he was either a demi-god or a prophet. The words, "he learned obedience" and "was made perfect" seem to indicate this.  However, we must understand that Jesus was both God and man (John 1:114). He had two natures and one personhood. This is called the Hypostatic union. The fact that He was God did not make His humanity any different. He experienced everything human beings experience except sin (Hebrews 4:15). Christ ate, drank, cried, experienced different emotions, thought, learned, etc. He was not some magical deity walking the Earth like Hercules fighting Titans and whatnot. For all intent and purpose, Christ lived like an "average Joe." So because of this, He learned obedience and was made perfect because His humanity was authentically human.  Since He did not succumb to any temptation and followed through with the will of His Father, Christ became the source of our salvation.  He is the new Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45).

Finally, in the Gospel, we read of Jesus' agony.  Jesus announces the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. This hour is the new beginning. The beginning of the new covenant was signed, sealed, and delivered by the suffering and death of Christ. Jesus says, "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit." Here He is referring to Himself. His death on the Cross had to occur. Jesus had to suffer to redeem us. Humanity got into trouble via sin and death, so Christ would use the image of sin (humanity) and death to save the world (Romans 5:12-18). If we are to call ourselves Christians, then we too must suffer (Matthew 16:24). Jesus reminds us, "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life." This means that we must be open to suffering and even martyrdom if it comes to that (Matthew 24:9).

This life that we live today is not what we were meant for.  Humanity was meant for so much more. The Covid 19 coronavirus pandemic has reminded us of the importance of life.  Today we are learning of the many Christians being killed. These are the martyrs of today who follow Christ to the cross. Their reward will be in heaven. Instead of focusing on the rewards of this life that wither like a crown of leaves, they focus on the crown in heaven that never withers (1 Corinthians 9:25). These Christians unite themselves to the suffering Christ. We too are united when we suffer for the faith (1 Peter 2:212 Timothy 2:12Romans 8:17). The agony of Christ shows us how Christ was truly human. This ties into what we read in the second reading regarding Jesus learning obedience and being made perfect. He suffered even before being scourged at the pillar.

Christ asks the Father to save Him from this hour. However, he did not quit and accepted what was coming. In the Mass, we join Jesus in this hour by reliving His passion, death, and resurrection. Christ has not been sacrificed again, He died once and for all peoples (Hebrews 9:28Romans 6:101 Peter 3:18). This death weakened the hold of the ruler of this world who is the liar Satan (Revelation 12:11). It is no wonder why today we see all kinds of evils and crazy ideas taking over society (Isaiah 5:20).  These crazy ideas are out there.  From so-called same-sex marriage to gender theory.  We must be on the alert with things of this world.  Satan knows his time is up so he has to pull all stops to try to deceive many (1 Peter 5:8). However, Christ, as He is lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Himself (John 3:14-15). In the end, Christ wins. We must follow Christ. As we reflect on these readings, let us open our hearts to the transformative power they hold. May this Lenten journey bring us closer to understanding God's profound love for each of us and inspire us to live out our faith with renewed conviction.  May Jesus Christ be praised!

Readings: Fifth Sunday of Lent | USCCB


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Thursday, March 14, 2024

Pope Francis 'Gender Theory Worst Danger'

Gender theory is an academic field that explores the concepts of masculinity, femininity, and queer behavior within various contexts and societies. 

It differentiates between 'sex', which refers to biological attributes, and 'gender', which encompasses the roles, behaviors, and expectations society associates with being male or female. This theory posits that gender is not an innate trait but rather a social construct learned through interaction and cultural norms.

In light of this definition, Pope Francis' recent comments on gender theory have sparked significant debate. He has labeled gender theory as the "worst danger" of our time for attempting to erase the differences between men and women, which he believes are essential to humanity's identity. The Pope's stance has been met with both support and criticism, reflecting a broader societal discussion on the nature of gender and identity.

For further reading on Pope Francis' views, you can refer to articles from America Magazine, CBC News, Vatican News, Breitbart, and National Catholic Reporter. It's crucial to engage with this topic thoughtfully, considering the diverse perspectives and sensitivities involved.


Post your thoughts below on Disqus. Be sure to follow the rules or your comment will not be permitted.


References:

: [America Magazine Article](https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2024/03/01/pope-franics-gender-ideology-vocation-247409)

: [CBC News Article](https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/pope-francis-gender-theory-ideology-1.7130679)

: [Vatican News Article](https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2024-03/pope-francis-gender-ideology-is-the-ugliest-danger-of-our-time.html)

: [Breitbart Article](https://www.breitbart.com/europe/2020/02/08/pope-francis-condemns-the-evil-of-gender-theory/)

: [National Catholic Reporter Article](https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/francis-chronicles/pope-francis-gender-theory-problem-not-solution)

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