Love One Another, as Christ has Loved You

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(Note 1)

Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero

Love One Another as Christ Has Loved You (cf Jn 13:34)

“‘Teacher which is the great commandment in the law?’ … the savior answered the question by referring to the scripture passage that commands the perfect union of all our desires in God.  Yet for fear that an ignorant person might suspect that binding all of our love together into our love for God would leave none for our neighbors, he added the second precept to the first, carrying the love of neighbor to its perfection by again showing that the law commands that we ‘love our neighbor as ourselves’ and using the word neighbor instead of the word friend that is in the law (cf Lev 19:18 in the Douay-Rheims), because the more general word neighbor extends our charity to all those who share in our common nature, as the Son of God had already explained in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29).”  (Note 2)

“Not only is the Decalogue contained in those two precepts, but ‘all the law and the prophets’ (Matt. 22:40), for God here teaches us not only our external duties, but also the inner principles by which we ought to act, which is lave.  The one who loves lacks in nothing towards the one whom he loves.  And he instructs us gently, not obliging us to read and to understand the entire law — which the weak and the ignorant would not be able to do — but instead reed ing the whole to six lines.”  (Note 3)

“Let us adore eternal truth in this admirable abridgment of the law. … When, to give my mind its suitable exercise, I read the rest of your Scriptures, then to precepts will be the thread that leads me through all the difficulties of that profound book.  They will resolve and untangle every difficulty.”  (Note 4)

“love does not live on words, nor can it be explained by words — love is proved in deeds. … Never think that a small action done to your neighbor is not worth much.  it is not how much we do that is pleasing to God, but how much love we put into the doing.  That is what the good God looks for — because God is love and God made us in the divine image to love and to be loved.”  (Note 5)

The readings and meditations today are about love 00 it is what carries throughout all of the teachings of Jesus.  Love, then love some more.  Bossuet says that Jesus sums up all of the law and teachings of the prophets in the lines of love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.  But we also see in the scriptures where Jesus says, “love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34).  I think that defines the love we are supposed to have better than loving your neighbor as yourself.  Quite often we don’t love ourselves.  Think about all the times we are upset with ourselves and abuse ourselves — drugs, alcohol, regret, remorse, up all night crying, cutting, loss of self esteem and self worth.  When Jesus tell us to love one another as he has loved us, he is telling us to love like God loves us.  I think since he said it to his disciples, he was making a particular exhortation to the church, especially when he says, “by this all men will know that you are my disciples” (Jn 13:35).  This is an exhortation that the church has lots of difficulty with — and by “the church” I mean its members because we are the church, the body of Christ, the disciples of Christ.  We often times don’t love our neighbor, or even our fellow disciples of Christ.  We treat them with no love, we hurl insults at them and treat them without dignity 00 the very thing the church is so adamant about protecting.  Even if they sin, they still deserve dignity and love.  We are all sinners, do we note want and deserve love and dignity, too?

Love one another, as Christ has loved you — that is our responsibility as disciples of Christ.  Don’t refuse to do it and hide behind judgment for sin.  It is not our place to make that judgment.  We can say the sin is bad, but we have no authority and no right as disciples of Christ, inheritors of His great love, to hate the person who is sinning.  If that were the case, then God would hate us — and we know that He doesn’t.  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass… .”  Judging a sinner and treating him or her with disdain is not forgiving them.  And if we do not forgive them, then we, too will not be forgiven.  It’s all about love.  We have to give it to receive it.  If we deny dignity to our fellow man, deny love to our fellow man because we do not like their sin, then God will deny His love to us.

Love one another as Christ has loved you.

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Notes:

1.  Bishop Robert Barron to Mailing List, “Lenten Gospel Reflection (03/24/2017)”, personal e-mail (24 March 2017).

2.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 92-93.

3.  Bossuet, Meditations, 93.

4.  Bossuet, Meditations, 94

5.  Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Love is Show [sic] in Deeds”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 24.

Love and Serve

Saint Turibius of Mogrovejo

Love and Serve

“When I am bombarded on the evening news with earthquake, flood and fire, it is too much for me.  But neither was Jesus adequate to the situation.  He did not fee all the poor, only a few.  he did not heal all the lepers, or give sight to all the blind, or drive out all the unclean spirits.  Satan wanted him to, but he didn’t.  That helps me. If I felt that I had to conquer all the ills of the world I’d likely sit back and do nothing at all.  But if my job is to feed one stranger, then the money I give to world relief will e dug down deeper from my pocket than it would if I felt I had to succeed in feeding the entire world.”  (Note 1)

For some reason, I am having trouble writing today, so this is going to be stream of thought, almost like a journal entry.

Bossuet’s meditations were not very inspiring today, but the one from Renewing Our Discipleship was, and I quoted it in it’s entirety.

We all want to change the world, we all want to be the next great person who founds a larger and more powerful organization for helping the poor.  Whatever we do, we want it to be big, we want to put our name on it and say to the world, “look what I did!”  And then blow our trumpet and receive our reward in this temporal realm.  For the rest of us, we just want to help, but we become so overwhelmed because it seems there is so little we can do to help that we do nothing.  But nothing doesn’t help.  Doing something, no matter how small, is doing something.  It reminds me of the quote from “The Lord of the Rings” when Galadriel says, “even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”  We just have to want to do something and then — do something!  Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “there are many people who can do big things, but there are very few people who will do the small things.”  (Note 2)  And how right she is.  I myself have trouble doing the small things, and I think Lent is supposed to help remind us of our duty to help our fellow man wherever we can.  The rice bowl offering, giving up something (coincidentally that thing you give up, you’re supposed to take the money/time spent on it and donate it to the poor); almsgiving, fasting and prayer.  They all tie together.  We just have to remember that and then do our part. And then, when Lent is over, we remember that we still have to do our part.  It’s a never ending cycle, because life is a never ending cycle (aeveternity), and we have to continue on, helping others as much as we can and caring for them.  Start small, start at home, and then work towards helping others.

God is love and we reflect his love when we care for our fellow man.  “Love one another as I have loved you,” Christ said (Jn 13:34).  And he loved us so much that he died for us.

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Notes:

1.  Madeleine L’Engle, “Salvation — One Person at a Time”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 23.

2.  Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World (New York: MJF Books, 1997), 43.

Obedience and Morality

Feast of Saint Nicholas Owen

Obedience and Morality

“Suffering restores order.  Punishment for sin is the rule.  You come to order through suffering, just as you stray by sinning.  Sin without punishment would be the worst disorder, as the disorder not of the man who sins but of the God who does not punish. … But if the threats are to be accomplished, the promises will be as well.”  (Note 1)

“More morality, the Ten Commandments, return to standards, attention to ethics—that’s what we hear a lot today.  But individuals will be moral, not because they’ve learned what is right and wrong from lists of sins and virtues, but because the’ve been impelled by visions and ideals, or, better yet, to that person, Jesus Christ, to God.  It’s not a matter of know-how, but of know-why or better, believe-why.”  (Note 2)

Today’s readings are about obedience to the law.  Not necessarily in the way you think at first, though.  Yes, obedience, buy why obedience?  We refer to God as our Father, so let’s use the allegory of parenting.  We tell our children “No!” when they attempt to do things that could injure them or others, such as, “No, don’t put that fork in the electrical outlet!”  They don’t understand why yet, because they haven’t learned about electricity.  But we, as parents, demand their obedience to the rule of not putting forks in electrical outlets.  The children may think it’s unfair, or that their parents are being mean, but as they grow and learn, they’ll obtain wisdom and know why they shouldn’t stick forks in electrical outlets (and then will torture their own children with it).  But obedience had to come before the understanding and the wisdom.  It is the same in morality and obedience to God.  We learn to be obedient — thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery — before we can obtain wisdom as to why these are important precepts.  The second quote today from Renewing our Discipleship is accurate in its assessment: we’re not moral because of that list of sins and virtues.  Though that list was the beginning and was formative of our morals and virtues. “Thou shalt not commit adultery”: we look at it from the aspect of marriage mostly, but we overlook the aspect of rape.  We know rape is wrong, we know this because it is a violation of the inherent dignity a person has as a human being.  We don’t understand that dignity when we are taught to follow the rules — to be obedient.  But from that obedience will come wisdom, the wisdom and understanding of why we have that moral precept.  Nine times out of ten it boils down to human dignity, but to know that only comes with wisdom, and wisdom only comes from an initial obedience.  This sounds strikingly like the earlier conversation on belief, grace and faith, and how they all work together.

Belief, Grace, Faith

:

Trust, Obedience, Wisdom

That’s something you won’t find on the GRE…

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 86-87.

2.  Don Talafous, “Living Up to God’s Love”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 22.

Forgive me, as I Forgive Others

Feast of Saint Enda

Forgive Me, as I Forgive Others (Mt 6:12)

“The first gift too offer to God is a heart that is cleansed of all coldness and of all unfriendliness towards our brother.”  (Note 1)

“It is something worthy of our reflection that God has made the pardon that we hope for from him depend upon the pardon that he commands us to give to those who have offended us.  Not content to have constantly inculcated this obligation, he has placed it in our own mouths in our daily prayer, so that should we fail to pardon, he will say to us what he said to the wicked servant: “I condemn you out of your own mouth!” (cf. Luke 19:22).  You asked pardon from me, promising to pardon in return.  You have pronounced your own sentence when you refused to pardon your brother.”  (Note 2)

“Before forgiveness there are really two burdens:  one person is carrying the burden of guilt and the other person the burden of resentment.  Forgiveness sets both parties free.  Only with true forgiveness can we be released from all our tensions, grudges, resentment and thoughts of vengeance.  Going over my own failures somehow makes it much easier to forgive others.”  (Note 3)

“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.  Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Mt 18:21-35 (RSV))

Today’s readings are all about forgiveness – forgiving your brother as you seek forgiveness from God (cf Mt 6:12).  In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells Peter that we should forgive our brother seventy times seven times.  Jesus isn’t being literal with his number — he doesn’t want you to tick off the times you’ve forgiven your brother and when you reach 490, that’s it.  He was being allegorical and meaning for you to ALWAYS forgive your brother, regardless of how many times you have forgiven him.  The parable of the unforgiving servant that follows this exhortation is an allegorical representation of our duty to forgive as laid out in the Lord’s Prayer (the prayer that will condemn us from our own mouths, according to Bossuet).  We are the unforgiving servant and the king is God.  If we do not forgive our brothers, God will not forgive us.

This forgiveness is an act of contrition based on the love we have for our brother.  On EWTN this morning during mass, the Father spoke of contrition in two terms, though I don’t remember the words he used.  Regardless, I’ll dub them a pure and an impure contrition — the meaning it conveys is sufficient.

An impure contrition is a contrition we make out of fear of hell and punishment.  We forgive our brother because we are afraid if we don’t, we’ll go to hell.

A pure contrition is a contrition we make out of love for God and our fellow man.  We don’t do it because we fear hell, we do it because we love God and our brother.

This is something I definitely need to work on, not just a pure contrition, but forgiveness for my brother.  I still have a long ways to go …

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 81.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 83.

3.  John Powell, SJ, “Forgiveness Needed”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 21.

Suffer in Silence, Suffer for Christ

Saint Cuthbert

Suffer in Silence, Suffer for Christ (cf Mt 26:63)

“Few people like to suffer, and to suffer in silence in the sight of God alone.  And if it is rare to find those who like to suffer, it is still rarer to find those who suffer without trying to tell the world of it.  It is silsence, however, that sanctifies our crosses and our afflictions and greatly increases their merit.  If you find it difficult to suffer your crosses and defeats, bring Jesus to mind.  Amid an infinite number of persecutions and sorrow he endured in the presence of his wicked judges, before whom he was so falsely accused and slandered, he responded not at all.” (Note 1)

This is kind of reminiscent of yesterday where I spoke of happiness coming only from God, and if our beings are suffused with Jesus, we would be happy because nothing could make us unhappy.  We will still suffer, all humans suffer, it is part of life.  It’s how we suffer that is important.  I remember the protestant church has a saying, “Let go and let God,” and it very accurately sums up our suffering.  We endure the suffering silently, and offer it to God.  If we are suffused with Him, we won’t be bothered by the suffering, it is an imitation of our Lord’s passion.  I don’t believe God is saying if you suffer from a disease, offer it up in silence without getting treated.  I believe he wants you to get treated — he did create doctors and medicine, after all.  But offer the suffering from the disease to God in silence — before, during and after treatment. He knows what your heart needs and will provide it.

Not the most uplifting today, but, hopefully helpful – if to no one else, at least to me.

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 77.

This is, Indeed, the Savior of the World

Feast of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“This is, indeed, the Savior of the World”  (Jn 4:42 (RSV))

“What does it mean to add to such faith genuflections, bows, prostrations, or any manner of exterior adoration expect to pay outward witness to what is in our heart?”  (Note 1)

“It is then with good reason that we join the exterior to the interior adoration of the Eucharist, that is, that we join sign to sentiment and testimony to faith.” (Note 2)

The [woman meeting Jesus at the well] reinforces the idea, recurrent in scripture, that splendid events to interest the daily routine — at the well, not the synagogue; in the office, not the church; in the kitchen, not the temple.  It’s good news that supposedly ‘unhallowed’ ground is sacred.” (Note 3)

“And we know that this is indeed the savior of the world.”  (Jn 4:42 (RSV))

“…because the soul, once it is lighted up with the divine fire, in no way looks to earthly values and standards, cares neither for its own glory nor its shame, but only for that flame which holds and consumes it.”  (Note 4)

“Only God can make you happy.”  “Human will always fail you, God will not.”  (Note 5)

I had thoughts on this, fleeting, as my memory has become of late, but I can say I remember back so many years ago when I thought the best thing I could do with my life was to become a Saint — and I don’t remember where that thought went and how / why I strayed from it, but I did.  i need to reclaim it for myself, for Joya — grant me that Grace, Father.

I remember sitting on the quarterdeck standing watch in Newport News at the administration building for the PCU John C. Stennis.  My work center supervisor was the Officer of the Deck and I was the Petty Officer of the Watch.  We were talking, I don’t remember exactly what about, but it ventured into life and how we lived it what we were doing etc.  I don’t remember what I was saying, other than my work center supervisor just said, his voice dripping with incredulity, “You want to be a saint.”  I had never thought of it until he verbalized it,  Now I realize that it is what we should all should be striving for — a saint is just someone who is in heaven.

Jesus was offering the Samaritan woman happiness — a happiness that can only come from God, because God, Jesus, is suffused throughout your being.  I talked about it earlier in the sort of beatific vision (lower case, not THE), and how if we have that vision, that happiness of God in us, we wouldn’t worry about anything, couldn’t worry about anything because the love of God that permeates our being is incomparable to anything we could ever experience in this life, so nothin in this life could take its place, surpass it, or even make us want the trappings of this life over the life that God has waiting for us.  Granted, we all fall short, but the important thing is to keep going, to keep picking ourselves up when we fail, asking for forgiveness and being truly repentant, and then continuation on towards THE Beatific Vision.

At mass today, Fr. Peter, as I quoted, said, “only God can make you happy.”  It reminded me of my philosophy undergrad classes when we spoke of eudaemonia — the good life, or, from the Greek, having a good spirit following you.  I was thinking that good spirit that follows you is the Holy Spirit — and the goodness he brings you is the happiness of God.  We receive his graces as the water that quenches the eternal thirst, the water Jesus promised to the Samaritan woman — the water of Happiness that comes from God … and is God.

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 74.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 75.

3.  Kathy Coffey, “God’s Surprising Presence”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 19.

4.  Saint Thomas Aquinas, “The Conversion of the Woman at the Well”.  Magnificat, Vol. 18, No. 13 (2017), 290-291.

5.  Fr. Peter’s Homily, 19 March 2017, 0830 Mass, Resurrection Catholic Church, Jacksonville, FL.

The Prodigal Son

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

The Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32)

“‘Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ No, says the Lord, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of any one; so turn, and live’ (Ezek. 18:23, 32).” (Note 1)

“‘as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children,’ so God has had pity on us….” (Note 2)

“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (Luke 15:11-32 (RSV))

Today’s readings and meditations are on the “Prodigal Son”.  I’ve always found this parable interesting because I always felt pity for the faithful brother who saw his brother live in sin, squander everything, come crawling back to be met with open arms and a feast and celebration.  It always made me want to say, “What the…?!”  I’m sure that’s what the faithful brother was saying/thinking.  He did everything right, and here his his brother, who squandered everything and did everything wrong — yet his father threw a lavish feast for him — seriously?!?!

As much as we want to question it, this is a story of grace and God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.  We can be — are, actually — awful people.  We sin everyday, some more than others, but we all sin, nonetheless.  Even with God’s grace we sin.  But, we overcome that sin, revive mercy and forgiveness for that sin when we cooperate with God’s grace by acknowledging our sins, confessing them and being truly repentant.  We are the prodigal son who returns every time we go to confession.  And God is the Father who throws a celebration with a feast to welcome us back into his loving arms.  We always try to be the faithful brother, but we always fail — but we are always welcomed back — the’s the Old Testament reading for today, “He will again have compassion upon us, he will tread our iniquities under foot.  Thou wilt cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”  (Micah 7:19 (RSV))  Thank God for his mercy.

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 71.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 72.

Salvation is From the Jews

Feast of Saint Patrick

Salvation is from the Jews (Jn 4:22)

“Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

‘The very stone which the builders rejected

has become the head of the corner;

this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. But when they tried to arrest him, they feared the multitudes, because they held him to be a prophet.  (Matthew 21:33-46 (RSV))

I really don’t have any quotes to post form the mediations today, but I did want to quote from today’s scripture reading, at least the gospel.

The Old Testament reading is about Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers.  We all know the story of Joseph:  sold into slavery by his brothers, goes to Egypt, tells Pharaoh what his dreams mean, becomes a high muckity-muck, and brings his father and family to Egypt to survive a coming drought.  Something evil happened — because men have free will and chose evil (the men here being his brothers) — and God used the evil to make something good (see CCC 312).

The New testament reading is even more fascinating when you look at the parable and its meaning.  The landowner is God, the vineyard is Israel.  The servants of the landowner sent to collect payment were the prophets.  Finally, God sent his Son, Jesus, and yet they still killed him.  But our salvation came from that heinous crime.

So many Christian denominations have issues with the Jews and believe that there is a supersessionism where Jesus and Christianity have superseded the Jews, and they are now an irrelevant religion.  That could not be further from the truth.  “Salvation is from the Jews,” Jesus said (Jn 4:22).  Christianity is nothin more than a branch grafted onto the olive tree that is Judaism.  Our existences are intertwined, and Christianity, without Judaism, would be a religion without a root.

For more information, see this article by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, the Declaration Nostrae Aetate, and the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium.

Lazarus and the Rich Man

Blessed Torello of Poppi

Lazarus and the Rich Man (Lk 16:19-31)

“God enabled Jeremiah to do what Jesus Christ would one day command:  ‘Pray for those who persecute you’ (Matt. 5:44).” (Note 1)

“This is why we see the same prophet, when he sees the evils that he has predicted come to pass, is far from being joyful — as he would have been had he wished for them to suffer — but is instead brought to tears by the sight of their disaster.”  (Note 2)

“All of humanity must translate the parable of the rich man and the beggar into contemporary terms of economy and politics, in terms of all human rights, in terms of relations between the First, Second and Third worlds.  We cannot stand idly by when thousands of human beings are dying of hunger.  Nor can we remain indifferent when the rights of the human spirit are trampled upon, when violence is done to the human conscience in matters of truth, religion and cultural creativity.  We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom if, in any place, the Lazarus of the 20th century stands at our doors.  In the light of Christ’s parable, riches and freedom mean a special responsibility.”  (Note 3)

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord.’ … Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.’  … The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?  I the Lord search the mind and try the heart, to give eery man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jer 17:5, 7, 9-10 (RSV))

“”There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Laz′arus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Laz′arus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz′arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Laz′arus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’” (Lk 16:19-31 (RSV))

Today’s readings are interesting.  I am not as versed in the book of Jeremiah as I am the New Testament, but we can see Jeremiah’s time as a prophet as someone allegorical to Christ — at least according to Bossuet.  Here is the introduction to the Book of Jeremiah from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website:

“The Book of Jeremiah combines history, biography, and prophecy. It portrays a nation in crisis and introduces the reader to an extraordinary person whom the Lord called to prophesy under the trying circumstances of the final days of the kingdom of Judah. Jeremiah was born, perhaps about 650 B.C., of a priestly family from the village of Anathoth, two and a half miles northeast of Jerusalem. He was called to his task in the thirteenth year of King Josiah (Jer 1:2). Josiah’s reform, begun with enthusiasm and hope, ended with his death on the battlefield of Megiddo (609 B.C.) as he attempted to stop the northward march of the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco, who was going to provide assistance to the Assyrians who were in retreat before the Babylonians.

“Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, fell in 612 B.C., preparing the way for the new colossus, Babylon, which was soon to put an end to the independence of Judah.

“The prophet supported the reform of King Josiah (2 Kgs 22–23), but after the death of Josiah the old idolatry returned. Jeremiah opposed this as well as royal policy toward Babylon. Arrest, imprisonment, and public disgrace were his lot. In the nation’s apostasy Jeremiah saw the sealing of its doom. Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem (598 B.C.) and carried King Jehoiachin into exile (Jer 22:24).

“During the years 598–587, Jeremiah counseled Zedekiah in the face of bitter opposition. The false prophet Hananiah proclaimed that the yoke of Babylon was broken and a strong pro-Egyptian party in Jerusalem induced Zedekiah to revolt. Nebuchadnezzar took swift vengeance; Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 and its leading citizens sent into exile.”  (Note 4)

We see that Jeremiah prophesied during a time when Israel — Judah — was once again turning away from God and thus was, once again, being sent into captivity.  Jeremiah’s tears are for the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.

The New Testament reading, the story of Lazarus, is one of my favorites.  here we have a poor beggar who desires to eat the scraps from the rich man’s table — the implication being that he desires it, but it doesn’t come to pass. Instead, he is hungry, begging of food and covered with sores that the dogs lick.  He dies and goes to heaven with Abraham.

The rich man eats sumptuously every day and ignores Lazarus at his door.  It’s interesting here, too, that Jesus names Lazarus, but not the rich man.  Lazarus means, “whom God helps” (Note 5), a direct correlation to the faith that of Lazarus in the parable.  He is poor, sick, hungry, covered in sores, but he still believes his help is from God.  Piety at its finest.

The rich man is not named, has all the finer things in life and ignores the poor at his doorstep, even so much as to not give them scraps from his table.  A sure lack of virtue.

In these two contrasting characters, we have a parable that sums up the previous two days’ readings — Sound No Trumpet and Serve, Not Be Served.  Lazarus was unable to do anything but serve and praise God, and he did it faithfully (whom God helps).  The rich man served no one but himself, ignored the poor and wore the finest of all garb.  He sounded his trumpet before men and failed to serve anything but his ego.  He received his reward on earth, and his eternal reward was the reward of hypocrites.

Let me just make a couple of clarifications:  it is not a sin to be neatly and poverty, in and of itself, is not a virtue.  Wealth is given by God and must be used to help your fellow man, which means you must first care about your fellow man.  The rich man’s sin wasn’t that he was rich, his sin was that he was indifferent to his fellow man and refused to serve them.  Lazarus begged outside of his door for just the scraps from his table, but was denied even that.  The rich man did not serve others — but, with his fine garb and sumptuous meals, made it a point to ensure everyone knew he was rich.

Lazarus, from the implication of his name, though poor, destitute, hungry and sick, maintained his faith and service to God.  Thus his virtue and righteousness.  His virtue wasn’t in his poverty, it was in his response to poverty — to rely on God and trust him.

I read through this story and can’t help but think of the luxury car drivers who flaunt their wealth while ignoring their fellow man.  They treat everyone else on the road as though they are an inconvenience and a burden to them.  They sound their trumpets and they refuse to serve their fellow man, essentially being indifferent to them, much the same as the rich man in the parable.  As frustrated as I get with them, I still have to remain patient and pray for them.

In the end of the parable, each man goes to his reward, just in different places.  The rich man seeks respite from his anguish, is denied, then asks for Lazarus to go to his family and warn them.  Abraham says they have Moses and the prophets, if they won’t listen to them, really would they listen to one who rose from the dead?  Much like the BMW drivers and our God who rose from the dead…

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 63.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 64.

3.  Pope St. John Paul II, “Lazarus Stands at Our Doors”  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 16.

4.  New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, D.C.:  Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, 2010), accessed at:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bk=Jeremiah&ch=.

5.  M. G. Easton, “Lazarus,” at Bible Study Tools (16 March 2017), at http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/lazarus/.

Serve, Not Be Served

Saint Louise de Marillac

Serve, Not Be Served (cf Mt 20:28)

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(Note 1)

“So it is that we cannot endure in others the vice that we have in ourselves; we are sufficiently keen sighted to levy reproof, but too blind for self-knowledge and self-correction.”  (Note 2)

“It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:25-28)”  (Note 3)

“It means we must change our desire for power and search for ways to serve.  We show that we are his followers when we have begun to think like him, choosing service not honor, and act like him, not lording it over others but doing whatever it takes to make their lives better.”  (Note 4)

The largest human failing seems to be troubling our brother over the speck in his eye, ignoring our inability to really see it and help because our vision is blocked by the plank in our own eye (cf Mt 7:1-5).

Today’s readings and meditations are God’s call for us to serve our fellow man.  We are not to be his detractor, his judge or his lord, we are to be his servant.  It’s a very tough call, we see ourselves asking questions about hat every day:  should I give this panhandler money, he’s just going to buy alcohol with it; Should I give money to this homeless person, he’ll probably just buy drugs with it; and many others.  As Fr. Peter said, it should not be our concern what the panhandler on homeless person does with the charity we provided, our call is to provide the charity, our call is to pick them up, feed them, wash their feet, soothe them and help them carry on with love and with a blessing from God.

How many of us keep looking for more and more positions of temporal power?  We seek to become managers and bosses, not because we feel we can help more people or do more good in that position, but because we want the power, we want others to serve us, we want to feel important.  Power, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, especially when that power is used for the good of everyone and the person in power sees himself as being in that position to help people.  But, we all know the adage power corrupts.  Not only know it, we experience it daily, not only seeing it happen around us, but falling into the trap of power’s corruption ourselves.  We use our positions for personal gain or to punish our adversaries, or to force our will on people.  Sometimes we do it unwittingly and other times we do it intentionally.  either way, we’ve ceased serving others and serve ourselves.  We shackle ourselves to the punishment of receiving our glory here on earth, vice in heaven.  Given the options, I’d rather have my glory in the aeveternity vice my short mortal existence.

And, yes, I know I need to work on it.

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Notes:

1.  Bishop Robert Barron to Mailing List, “Lenten Gospel Reflection (03/15/2017)”, personal e-mail (15 March 2017).

2.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 59.

3.  Bossuet, Meditations, 60.

4.  Steve Mueller, “Seek Service Not Status”  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 15.