Thursday, April 24, 2014

Benedict XVI reflects on the Canonization of John Paul II

 In a rare interview, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recalled his close friendship with Blessed John Paul II, saying that the pontiff’s sanctity and deep spirituality were apparent during his life.

“In the years in which I collaborated with him, it was ever clearer to me that John Paul II was a saint,” said Benedict XVI during an interview with Polish journalist Wlodzimierz Redzioch, which was published April 20 in the Spanish newspaper “La Razon.”

“Naturally, his intense relationship with God, being immersed in communion with the Lord, needs to be taken into account above all,” the former Pope said of his predecessor.

Benedict XVI, who served under Pope John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the Polish pontiff courageously “embraced his task in a truly difficult time.”

“John Paul II did not ask for applause nor did he look around worried about how his decisions were going to be received. He acted based on his faith and his convictions, and he was also willing to take hits,” Benedict recounted. “The courage for truth is, in my view, a primary measure of holiness. Only by looking first at his relationship with God is it possible to also understand his unfailing pastoral determination.”

In this sense, he recalled the decision of the future saint to confront head on the spread of liberation theology in Latin America.

“Both in Europe and in North America, the common view was that it was about supporting the poor and that therefore it was a cause that ought to be approved outright. But that was an error. Poverty and the poor were undoubtedly addressed by Liberation Theology but from a very specific perspective,” Benedict XVI explained.

Liberation Theology used the Christian faith and transformed it “into a kind of political force. The religious traditions of the faith were placed at the service of political action. In this way, the faith was profoundly alienated from itself and true love for the poor was thus weakened as well. It was necessary to oppose such a falsification of the Christian faith precisely out of love for the poor and service to them,” he continued.

The situation in John Paul II’s native Poland – ruled at that time by Communism – “had showed him that the Church should truly act for freedom and liberation not in a political way but by awakening in men, through the faith, the forces of authentic liberation,” Benedict XVI said.

During the interview, the Pope Emeritus underscored that his collaboration with John Paul II “was always marked by friendship and affection,” on both an official and personal level. “The Pope was very versed in contemporary German literature and it was very beautiful (for both of us) to seek out the right decision together on these things,” he said.
 
Benedict XVI recalled that each Tuesday, the two would discuss the catechesis for the Wednesday audience. “Through the catechesis, the Pope decided to offer over time a catechism. He chose the themes and had us prepare brief preliminary considerations to be developed later (…). Here also the theological competence of the Pope became apparent. But at the same time I admired his willingness to learn.”

The retired pontiff also noted “three encyclicals of particular importance” issued by John Paul II. The first is “Redemptor hominis,” in which he offered his personal synthesis of the Christian faith. The second is “Redemptoris mission,” in which he examined “the relationship between inter-religious dialogue and the missionary task.” The third is “Veritatis splendor,” in which he addressed moral problems in a way that continues to be relevant today.

“The encyclical ‘Fides et ratio’ was also very significant, in which the Pope strived to offer a new vision of the relationship between the Christian faith and philosophical reason. And lastly, it is absolutely necessary to mention ‘Evangelium vitae,’ which developed one of the most fundamental themes of the entire pontificate of John Paul II: the intangible dignity of human life, from the moment of conception,” Benedict XVI added.

The retired Pope also said the spirituality of his predecessor was characterized “by the intensity of his prayer, which was profoundly rooted in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.”  

“All of us were aware of his great love for the Mother of God. To give everything to Mary meant being, with her, totally for the Lord. Just as Mary did not live for herself but for Him, so also he learned from her and from being with her a complete and rapid devotion to Christ.”

“My memory of John Paul II is filled with gratitude. I couldn’t and shouldn’t try to imitate him, but I have tried to carry forward his legacy and his work the best that I could,” Benedict XVI said.

Pope Francis: There are “bat-like Christians” who prefer the shadows to the light of the Lord

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said there are Christians who are afraid of the joy of Christ’s resurrection and who instead prefer sadness and staying in the shadows just like bats. The importance of Christians being joyful, rather than sad or fearful, was the focus of the Pope's reflections during his homily at Thursday's Mass celebrated in the Santa Marta residence.

Taking his cue from the gospel reading of the risen Christ appearing before his disciples, Pope Francis began by noting how instead of rejoicing over his resurrection, the disciples were struck by fear instead of joy.

“This is a Christian’s disease. We’re afraid of joy. It’s better to think: Yes, yes, God exists, but He is there. Jesus has risen and He is there. Somewhat distant. We’re afraid of being close to Jesus because this gives us joy. And this is why there are so many ‘funeral’ (mournful) Christians, isn’t it? Those whose lives seem to be a perpetual funeral. They prefer sadness to joy. They move about better in the shadows, not in the light of joy, like those animals who only come out at night, not in the light of day, who can’t see anything. Like bats. And with a little sense of humour we can say that there are Christian bats who prefer the shadows to the light of the presence of the Lord.”
But, the Pope continued, Jesus through his resurrection, gives us joy, the joy of being Christians and following him closely, the joy of travelling on the path of the Beatitudes.

“So often, we are either upset by this joy or fearful or we think we have seen a ghost or believe that Jesus is just a way of behaving. ‘We are Christians and so we must behave like this.’ But where is Jesus? ‘No, Jesus is in Heaven.’ Do you talk with Jesus? Do you say to Jesus: ‘I believe that You are alive, that You are risen, that You’re near me. That You will never abandon me’? A Christian life should be this: a dialogue with Jesus, because – this is true – Jesus is always with us, always there alongside us with our problems and our difficulties, with our good works.”
Pope Francis concluded by noting how many times we Christians are not joyful because we are afraid! We’re Christians who have been defeated by the cross.

“In my country there is a saying that goes like this: ‘When you get burnt by boiling milk, later when you see a cow you start crying.’ These people were burnt by the drama of the Cross and said, ‘No, let’s stop here. He’s in Heaven: that’s all well and good. He is Risen but it’s better that he doesn’t come again because we couldn’t handle it.’ We ask the Lord to do for all of us what he did for the disciples who were afraid of joy: to open our minds: ‘He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures;’ Let him open our minds and help us understand that He is a living reality, that He has a body, that He is with us,that he accompanies us and that He has won. We ask the Lord for the grace to not be afraid of joy.”

Fr. Robert Barron on The Meaning of Easter

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Call to Prayer for China

The following comes from the AsiaNews:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In May 2007, Pope Benedict XVI released a Letter to Chinese Catholics, in which he asked that May 24 each year be celebrated as a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. He chose May 24 because it is the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Shrine of Sheshan (佘山) in Shanghai.

The local Church, in response to His Holiness' exhortation, will be holding a Mass on Friday 23 May at 7.45 pm at St. Bernadette's Church to pray for this intention.

However, such a day of prayer for China is more than just a single event to be celebrated and then forgotten. Rather, it is to spur us on to show concern for the spiritual well-being of the mainland Chinese.

Indeed, it is our duty as Catholics who have received the gift of faith in Jesus who is the Light in the world, the Way, the Truth and the Life to share Him with those who are seeking for the fullness of truth, life and love.  

What else can the Catholic Church in Singapore do in response to the Pope's call? We must reach out to migrant Chinese particularly, by showing them our genuine love and concern. We could also support and participate in charitable projects for the poorer parts of China, and bring the Gospel of Christ to those who have not yet heard of Him.

However, after all that is said and done, the gift of faith in Jesus as the Saviour of humanity is brought about not just by witnessing in word and deed, but faith is the work of the grace given by the Holy Spirit.   Only the Holy Spirit can enlighten and convict the hearts of people and move them to faith in Christ. So besides evangelisation through proclamation and good works, we must pray fervently for their conversion as well.

I invite you to pray individually and as a family, so that you are conscious of the great number of souls in China that need to receive the Good News of our Lord. I encourage you as a community, whichever organisation or ministry you are actively participating in, to pray constantly for the Church in China. In a special way, you can use the following prayer which Pope Benedict VI has composed.
Together with you in prayer,

Archbishop William Goh


Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan
Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians",  the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection. 
We come before you today to implore your protection. 
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide themalong the paths of truth and love, so that they may always bea leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens. 
When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth,you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womband thus to begin in history the work of our redemption. 
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,standing beside your Son, who died that we might live. 
From that moment, you became, in a new way,the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faithand choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross. 
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyedwith unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.  
Grant that your children may discern at all times,even those that are darkest, the signs of God's loving presence. 
Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love. 
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,and of the world to Jesus. 
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love. 
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built. 
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and forever. Amen!* Archbishop of Singapore

A Prayer for Peace by Pope John XXIII


Lord Jesus Christ, who are called the Prince of Peace, who are yourself our peace and reconciliation, who so often said, "Peace to you," grant us peace. Make all men and women witnesses of truth, justice, and brotherly love. Banish from their hearts whatever might endanger peace. Enlighten our rulers that they may guarantee and defend the great gift of peace. May all peoples of the earth becomes as brothers and sisters. May longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always over us all.

Saint of the day: George


The following comes from the Women of Faith and Family:

We need a patron of chivalry, a hero saint who will show us an example of how to defend the Church, protect the poor and vulnerable, and meet martyrdom with courage.  In these days when being an active and committed Catholic means standing against many of the everyday ideas and assumptions prevalent in our communities, we need a champion  of  personal valour, of standing up to be counted,  a person who will show us what it is to exert true Christian leadership.



Enter Saint George.  He was a soldier in the early years of the 4th century, serving in the Roman Army.  His ruler was the Emperor Diocletian.  George was a Tribune -- a rank about equivalent to today's Colonel. He was also a Christian, and, for several years, this apparently posed no problem. At this point there were several Christian communities within the Roman world. Christians were beginning to make their influence felt and as they were good citizens, honest, trustworthy, and loyal, they were more than tolerated by the Empires rulers.

But Diocletian grew envious. Where once he had been content with the loyalty of his subjects in temporal matters, now he wanted more. He sought the loyalty of their minds and souls. When this was not forthcoming, he grew savage. An edict against Christians was drawn up and copies posted in public places. George, as a leading citizen, took responsibility for tearing down the one in his locality -- an open act of defiance against an unjust law. He was arrested, tortured, and eventually martyred. He died on April 23rd, 404, which that year happened to be Good Friday.  It is said that red roses bloomed on his grave.

All these events took place in the territory we today call the Middle East, then part of the Roman Empire. The story of George's valor spread across the Christian world. We know that there were churches in Europe dedicated to him at an early date, including a couple in Britain, the land where he was later to become a popular saint. But what really made him famous were the events of several centuries later -- the Crusades.  English soldiers fighting in the Middle East learned about this soldier-saint and were impressed. His courage spoke to them. He was one of their own. This was a saint they could value and understand.

They took back his story to England -- as other soldiers were taking it back to their lands across what was then Christendom. His story became identified with their own -- the red cross on a white background that marked the crusader.

In England, Saint George became patron saint of an order of chivalry -- the Order of the Garter. To this day, this is still conferred by the Sovereign in honor of God, Our Lady, and Saint George on those deemed to have served their country in some outstanding way.

Catholics in England have long honored Saint George. As with other saints, he was somewhat downplayed at the Reformation. But English Catholics continued to honor him.  They were persecuted for their faith for years after the Reformation and unable to attend Mass openly or teach their Faith publicly to their children.  No wonder a hero martyr saint appealed to them.

When, finally, some freedom was granted, one of the first Catholic churches to be built in London was dedicated to Saint George. Today, its successor still stands in Southwark, on the south bank of the Thames -- Saint George's Cathedral.   It has seen many major events -- from a tragic bombing in 1941, which destroyed the original Pugin building (the cathedral was rebuilt in the 1950s) to a Papal visit in 1982 when Pope John Paul II met and blessed thousands of sick people who had been gathered there to greet him in a massive national pilgrimage.

Saint George's continues to thrive: it now serves a very multi-racial area, and its liturgy includes a robed choir who sing a beautiful Latin Mass each Sunday, which is well attended by a mixed congregation proud of their church and of their Faith.

This year, a team of Catholic publishers and representatives from major Catholic organizations from across Britain will be holding a national Catholic Book Fair on the Saturday nearest to Saint George's Day as part of the Saint George's Day celebrations.

We need Saint George today. We need his example of courage. Legend says he slew a dragon -- or, in some versions of the story, that he tamed it and brought it to the service of the Christian community. In this latter version, the dragon is seen as the pagan Roman Empire, which eventually came to be subdued by the Church.

Saint George was a manly saint -- a hero, a soldier, someone who knew he must use his strength and courage in the service of what is right. A martyr's life is a paradox: through death he brings life to the Church. What seems to be a failure ends in glory.  Because of Saint George's sacrifice, the Faith survived to be passed on to countless people in lands he never even knew existed. If we met him today -- if our young Christian men, who so badly need heroes, met him -- we would know that we shared the same Catholic Faith and in the Sign of the Cross we would be in unity. May we beg through his intercession in Heaven that we may have something of his courage.

Saint George, pray for us!

A Biblical Walk Through the Mass

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pope Francis on Pope John XXIII


Fr. Tom Rosica on the Canonization of John XXIII & John Paul II

The following comes from Fr. Rosica at Salt and Light:
Theories abound as to why Pope Francis decided to canonize both John XXIII and John Paul II on April 27. Some imagine that this was a politically strategic move on the part of Francis to unify a divided Church and to reconcile the divisions that exist among the Roncalli fans and bearers of the “spirit of Vatican II” and the Wojtyla disciples of a robust, doctrinaire Pope. They reduce the lives of these two great men to be the adventures of a progressive pope who dreamed up the Council and a conservative pope who put the brakes on the speed of its implementation. Nothing could be further from the truth, and such thoughts usually reflect the machinations of those who have yet to understand the Petrine Ministry of unity and the Call to Holiness that lies at the foundation of our existence as Catholic Christians.

The church doesn’t beatify or canonize people and use them as banners or standards under which groups can assemble and march, nor does she ever raise up for us role models who are arrows or weapons to attack others for ignorance, error and sin. Rather, the church offers the lives of outstanding women and men such as Angelo Roncalli and Karol Wojtyla to present to us models of holiness.

Yes, John will be forever linked to the dream and convocation of the Ecumenical Council we now know as Vatican II, and John Paul II will be forever linked to a new era of a truly global Church that took its message from the home office on the Tiber to the ends of the earth.

But even more than those historical factors, John XXIII and John Paul II modeled for us the call to holiness and reminded us, by the simplicity and joy of their Gospel-rooted lives, that we, too, are called to be saints. The Church is the “home of holiness,” and holiness is our most accurate image, our authentic calling card and our greatest gift to the world. It describes best who and what we are and strive to be.

That a person is declared “Blessed” or “Saint” is not a statement about perfection. It does not mean that the person was without imperfection, blindness, deafness or sin. Nor is it a 360-degree evaluation of a particular pontificate or of the Vatican. Beatification and canonization mean that a person lived his or her life with God, relying totally on God’s infinite mercy, going forward with God’s strength and power, believing in the impossible, loving enemies and persecutors, forgiving in the midst of evil and violence, hoping beyond all hope, and leaving the world a better place. That person lets those around him or her know that there is a force or spirit animating his or her life that is not of this world, but of the next. Such a person lets us catch a glimpse of the greatness and holiness to which we are all called, and shows us the face of God as we journey on our pilgrim way on earth.

Angelo Roncalli was a man of international reach before he was pope. His preparation for the papacy was international in scope. He worked at the peripheries of Roman Catholicism, meeting with grace and peace the hostile challenges of both Orthodox Christianity and Islam, long before the buzz words of ecumenism or interreligious dialogue were the order of the day. Roncalli’s mission was personal, human; he excelled in using his own, innate common sense, understanding, and warmth so mightily evident to all and his priestly ministry flowed from his deep humanity.

From the very beginning of his priestly, episcopal and Petrine ministry, Roncalli taught us to see goodness in others, to love people and to hope beyond all hope when situations indicated otherwise. He won over the world, in many similar ways that Pope Francis is doing now because of his unabashed simplicity and genuine goodness and humor. He showed us that far more than realizing every project and program, we must dream bold dreams, nurture them, and hand them on to future generations.

In the life of Karol Wojtyla, holiness was contagious. Pope John Paul II was not only our Holy Father, but a Father who was and is holy. On April 2, 2005, he died a public death that stopped the world for several days. When the throngs of people began chanting “Santo Subito!” at the end of Pope John Paul II’s funeral mass on April 8, 2005, what were they really saying? They were crying out that in Karol Wojtyla, they saw someone who lived with God and lived with us. He was a sinner who experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness. He was the prophetic teacher who preached the Word in season and out of season. He looked at us, loved us, touched us, healed us and gave us hope. He taught us not to be afraid. He showed us how to live, how to love, how to forgive and how to die. He taught us how to embrace the cross in the most excruciating moments of life, knowing that the cross was not God’s final answer.

Why pray to the saints?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the Spiritual Life

“The ideal of spirituality is to be found in the first and last words of Our Lord’s public life. The first word of His public life was: ‘come’ (John 1:39; Mark 1:17; Matthew 4:18). The last word was ‘go’ (John 20:21; Mark 16:20; Matthew 28:19). The disciple first comes to absorb His Truth, to become inflamed with His Love; then and then only, he goes to accomplish his mission. Both words are summarized in the summary of the call of the disciples: He called the men He wanted; and they went and joined Him….these He would send out to proclaim the Gospel (Mark 3:14). Unfortunately today, we have too many ‘go-goes’ and not enough ‘come-comes.’ The proper balance is found again in the story of Martha and Mary which follows in the Gospel the Good Samaritan. In the latter, social service is praised. But in the story of Martha and Mary, it is suggested that we are not to become too absorbed in serving, that we have become too absorbed in serving that we have no time to sit at the food of Jesus and learn

His lessons.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Those Mysterious Priests)

C.S. Lewis and Catholic Converts

The following comes from the Catholic World Report:

On November 22, 1963, at 2:30 pm central time, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. An hour earlier, across the Atlantic, C.S. Lewis had died at his home in Oxford. A few short hours later, in Los Angeles, the English writer Aldous Huxley, author of the dystopian classic Brave New World, would also die. This strange and somewhat morbid coincidence would later inspire Peter Kreeft to write Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley. 

The media coverage of Kennedy’s assassination totally eclipsed the deaths of Lewis and Huxley, whose passing went almost entirely unnoticed at the time, much as, many years later, the passing of Mother Teresa would go largely unnoticed in the wake of the death of Princess Diana.
Today, 50 years on, as the dust of time settles on the memory of that momentous day, it is intriguing to see how the inexorable passage of time has affected the respective reputations of Kennedy, Lewis, and Huxley.

There is no doubt, of course, that the anniversary of the assassination will once again overshadow the lesser-known anniversaries of Huxley’s and Lewis’ deaths. It is, however, ironic that Kennedy is best known to posterity for his death as opposed to his life, the tragic and violent nature of the former eclipsing the achievements of the latter. Although the more educated will no doubt be aware of JFK’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis or perhaps his symbolically charged visit to West Berlin, and the more sordidly-minded will be reminded of his alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe, it’s a sobering fact that he is probably associated in the public consciousness more with Lee Harvey Oswald than with Nikita Khrushchev. As for Huxley, there is no doubt that his authorship of Brave New World has earned him a place in the literary canon, but he has written precious little else that has survived the test of time. Lewis, on the other hand, seems to go from strength to strength. Today, fifty years after his death, his global readership dwarfs the readership that he enjoyed in his own lifetime. His classic children’s story, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is one of the top ten bestselling books of all time, and it would be no exaggeration to say that there is now a whole C.S. Lewis industry generating millions of dollars in sales of his books and in the merchandising of ephemera connected to the film and television adaptations of his life (Shadowlands) and his work (The Chronicles of Narnia).

A lesser known but nonetheless powerful part of C.S. Lewis’ legacy is the impact that he has had on the conversion of countless numbers of people to the Catholic Church. This is indeed an astonishing phenomenon considering that Lewis never became a Catholic himself, unlike many other literary converts, such as John Henry Newman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, and Graham Greene, to name but an illustrious few. Although the reading of Catholic authors, such as Chesterton, and the friendship with Catholics, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, played a crucial role in Lewis’ conversion from atheism to Christianity, he was never seriously tempted to cross the Tiber into the welcoming arms of Mother Church. And yet, in spite of the residual anti-papist prejudice that he inherited as a Belfast Protestant, many of the core beliefs he embraced as a “mere Christian” placed him decidedly on the Catholic end of the theological spectrum. He believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which he referred to as the Blessed Sacrament; he practiced auricular confession; he vehemently opposed female ordination, condemning in forthright terms the danger of having “priestesses in the Church”; he declared his belief in purgatory and in the efficacy of praying for the dead; and, last but not least, he crusaded against the errors and heresies of theological modernism. It is perhaps, therefore, not so surprising that C.S. Lewis has ushered so many people into the Catholic Church.

The great American literary convert Walker Percy, commenting on the numerous converts who had come to Catholicism through the writings of Lewis, remarked that “writers one might expect, from Aquinas to Merton,” are mentioned frequently as influences, “but guess who turns up most often? C.S. Lewis! – who, if he didn’t make it all the way, certainly handed over a goodly crew.”(1) Here is an overview of some of the “goodly crew” to whom Percy alludes, those who have been influenced on their paths to Rome by C.S. Lewis. As the present author owes his own conversion, in part, to the works and wisdom of Lewis, it is gratifying to know that he is but one of many whom Lewis led Romewards.

Beginning with prominent British converts, the most famous is Leonard Cheshire, who attained position number 31 in a BBC poll in 2002 to find the 100 Greatest Britons of all time. He was also listed in 1993 as one of “the 20 outstanding Christians of the 20th century”, alongside John Paul II, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Simone Weil, Oscar Romero, Edith Stein, Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Padre Pio, Albert Schweitzer, Desmond Tutu, John XXIII, Teilhard de Chardin, Jackie Pullinger, Charles de Foucauld, Malcolm Muggeridge, Mother Teresa, and, last but not least, C.S. Lewis.(2)

Cheshire, who was received into the Catholic Church on Christmas Eve in 1948, was the official British observer of the dropping of the atom bomb on Nagasaki in 1945, an event which led him to a deep skepticism about the future of modern civilization. It was in this frame of mind and heart that he found himself receptive to the works of Lewis, whose broadcast talks for the BBC were being published at this time. Grappling with the problem of evil and sin, Cheshire had been particularly impressed by The Screwtape Letters, which he described as “a rather good introduction to the Faith” and as “very compelling.”(3)

Dr. Scott Hahn: Liturgical Worship as Spiritual Warfare

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hallelujah by The Digital Age


Pope John Paul II Inspired a Generation of Priests


In his 27 years as Pope, there was a spike in the number of religious vocations.  There is an entire generation that grew up with John Paul II...seeing his trips and listening to his speeches from afar or even up close. But for many priests, seminarians and religious, John Paul II was much more than the head of the Church. He was the one person who personally sparked their vocation.

Pope John XXIII: A Reflection of Fr. Thomas Rosica


The Promise of Easter

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

The serpent’s bite was a deadly one.  The venom had worked its way deep into the heart of the entire human race, doing its gruesome work.  The anti-venom was unavailable until He appeared.  One drop was all that was needed, so potent was this antidote.  Yet it was not like Him to be stingy.  He poured out all he had, down to the last drop.  The sacrifice of His entire life, poured out at the foot of the cross – This was the Son’s answer to the Problem of Sin.
Three days later came the Father’s answer to the Problem of Death.  It was equally extravagant.  For Jesus was not simply brought back to life like Lazarus.  That would be resuscitation, the return to normal, human life, with all its limitations.  Including death.  Yes Lazarus ultimately had to go through it all again . . . the dying, the grieving family, the burial.  Jesus did not “come back.”  He passed over, passed through.  His resurrection meant that he would no longer be subject to death.  Death, as St. Paul said, would have no more power over him.
You may say that physical death was not the worst consequence of sin, and you’d be right.  Separation from God, spiritual death, is much more fearsome.  But enough with the talk that physical death is beautiful and natural.  It is not.  Our bodies are not motor vehicles driven around by our souls.  We do not junk them when they wear out and buy another one (that’s one  problem with the reincarnation idea).  Rather, are bodies are an essential dimension of who we are.  Our bodies and immortal souls are intimately intertwined, which makes us so different from both angels and animals.  Therefore death separates what God has joined.  So it is natural that we rebel against it and shudder before it.  Even the God-man trembled in the Garden.
So Jesus confronts death head on, for our sake.  The Roman Easter sequence, a traditional poem/song stretching back into the first millennium, highlights the drama:“Mors et vitae duello, conflixere mirando.  Dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus.” (“Death and life dueled in a marvelous conflict; the Dead Ruler of Life reigns Alive!”)  Gandalf the Grey who sacrificed himself to take out the Balrog, returns as Gandalf the White (Tolkein heard this sung for many Easters before he wrote The Lord of the Rings).
“He descended into Hell” of the Apostle’s Creed means that Jesus endured the wrenching of body and soul for our sakes and came out the other side endowed with a new, different, glorified humanity.  How does the Bible describe it?  Well, Mary Magdalene did not recognize the Risen Christ at first, until He called her by name.  The disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize him either.  But doubting Thomas shows us that his wounds were still evident.  And though he could pass through locked doors, he proved he was not a ghost by asking for something to eat.  Paul describes it as a “spiritual body” in I Corinthians 15, which sounds like an oxymoron to me.  But we have to take off our shoes here, realize that we are on holy ground, and that we do not have words adequate to describe the awesome reality of the new humanity he has won for us.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi blessing


Easter Sunday: Pope prays for peace in Ukraine, Venezuela and Syria. He asked the for an end to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria.