Friday, March 29, 2013

The Cradle, the Cross, and the Charity of Christ

“At the end of our lives, we shall all be judged by charity.”
~St. John of the Cross

On Palm Sunday, Our Lord was hailed and honored by the entire city of Jerusalem, with hails of “Hosanna to the Son of David” ringing in his ears. Before the week was ended, He manfully and meekly allowed Himself to suffer a most terrible Passion and Death on the Cross. As we continue to meditate during Holy Week, we must never forget that the whole Life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, is the Perfect Example of How to Carry the Cross.

“God was under no obligation to assume our nature and to save us. He became Man of his own free will…that He might redeem us from all iniquity…To the eternal observer, the interval between the sufferings of Christ’s Nativity and the ignominies of His Passion, seems to have passed partly in the calm repose of domestic seclusion, and partly in the wondrous triumphs of His public mission. But to the reflecting mind which penetrates beyond the surface, the life of Jesus Christ, from its beginning to its close, presents but one continued martyrdom. His Divine Heart was ever ‘mourning within Him, its sorrow above all human sorrow’ (Jer. 8:18).”

From the first moment of His Incarnation, Our Blessed Lord had ever before His eyes the prospect of His approaching Agony and Death. It was present to Him, not vaguely and uncertainly – as future pain and suffering are to us now – but vividly and distinctly, as at the actual time when He suffered. Never for a single moment was it absent from His thoughts…Every moment of His life, Jesus suffered and merited grace and help for us – 'He loved me and delivered Himself up for me.’ ‘Forget not the kindness of thy Surety, for He hath given His life for thee,’ is a word addressed to us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus loves us to recognize and realize His love for us. It is in His Sacred Passion that He specially desires to be remembered by us.”

What are our own dispositions toward the Cross when we ourselves are asked to carry it? Do we accept it, as Christ did, with a charitable love toward God and our fellow man? We might be surprised to think of possessing charity toward God but, lest we forget: “Charity is the virtue by which we love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and by which we love our neighbors for the love of God.”

Charity, as the Church teaches, is not a “feeling.” We don’t necessarily “feel charitable” even when we are charitable. Rather, charity is a virtue, but we will not possess that virtue, or any other, without accepting the graces God sends us and without directing our Free Will to use them as God intended. Charity, the highest virtue, is always directed first toward God and second, to our fellow human beings because God created them, loves them, and wills their (and our) eternal salvation through the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Charity is what moved Jesus Christ to be “conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary” and became Man – the Son of God Who offered His entire Life, and Death, as the Eternal Sacrifice to an offended God and His lost people. “The charity of Christ presses us” – in other words, it urges us to follows His Holy Example.

Love, says St. Frances de Sales, naturally inspires reciprocation – not to mention gratitude. Imagine a king of great majesty bestowing his affections on a peasant, a love so great that the king willingly offered his own life to save that of the peasant’s. This is what Christ the King has done for each one of us. Our Lord Himself said, “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down is life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Christ died to offer us Redemption, but it is up to us to attain salvation. If we love God, why is it we cannot die to self, suffering with the sinless Christ, and offering it all to Him - not only for ourselves but for other sinners?

The offering of our daily duties and trials to God possess merit only because we are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. St. Paul explained this when he taught, “If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immoveable from the hope of the Gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His Body, which is the Church.” (Col.1:23-24) As the Douay-Rheims Bible footnote explains: “There is no want in the sufferings of Christ in Himself as Head: but many sufferings are still wanting, or are still to come, in His Body the Church, and his members the faithful.”

We are called "the faithful" because we are members of the Mystical Body of Christ – the Catholic Church, the One and Only Church of God. We hope to become saints by working out our salvation in fear and trembling, just like all the Saints throughout the ages who have followed Christ in His Passion did before us. We, too, suffer – sometimes in great ways, sometimes in little ways. But what do we “do” with our suffering? Do we gripe and complain? Or do we remember that all that we suffer – every headache, every pain, every annoyance, every disappointment, every difficulty, every worry, every embarrassment and humiliation - can be offered in sacrifice to God, in reparation for our own sins, for other sinners, for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and for the needs of the Church?

Even with all of our good intentions, we will still fall. “Even the just man sins seven times a day.” If a just man can commit 49 sins a week, how many sins do we commit? But we will not despair when we remember Christ’s example.

The sinless Christ fell three times as He carried the Cross – laden with the offenses of our repeated sins, He fell. And each time, He gathered the little strength left to Him, and He picked up His Cross and continued on the Sorrowful Road to His Crucifixion…and His Resurrection. We, who are not sinless, must do the same for love of God, Who will give us the strength to carry on.

When we examine ourselves honestly, we will discover our repeated failings. We will truly know all of our “interior and exterior dispositions in regard to the Cross of Christ” and ask ourselves, “Shall I not embrace the Cross of Christ? Shall I not devote myself, without stint or reserve, to the service of my Lord and Master, sparing no effort, however irksome or fatiguing, that will fit me to work more efficiently for Him? Such devotion will do great things for Our Lord, and [we] will discover the secret of the best and highest kind of happiness which is attainable upon the earth. There never was a greater need and opportunity for showing devotion, and proving our love for Our Lord.”

During these last days of Holy Week, may we not forget to make a thorough examination of conscience, followed by a good Confession, and practice charity, the highest virtue, as we offer all that comes our way in reparation to Jesus through Mary. In this way, we will not only live a “Holy Week” with Our Lord, but a holy life.

The Betrayal: Ecce Homo!

"...dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"
   ~Luke 22:48

To men, the arrest of Jesus is the opening scene of the Passion. In this mystery, we can feel how much the Heart of Jesus is wounded by treason on the part of His own. What audacity to approach the Divine Person of Jesus, under the very eyes of the Apostles, and betray Him with a kiss! What malice and callousness to give the signal for the terrible process of torture to begin! How cruel, to use a kiss as a sign for delivering the Master to a terrible martyrdom and death!

Our Lord is betrayed by one of His own Apostles. He is bound with tight, hurting cords, struck on the face, mocked, insulted, slandered, and beaten. The Good Shepherd, who is also the Lamb of God, allows Himself to be led to the slaughter. The Apostles at first rise up to defend Him but...He does not allow it. Instead, He performs one of His last Miracles – that of healing the soldier’s ear, struck off by a sword, and He admonishes His Apostle, “Put up again thy sword into its place: for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matthew 26: 52)

The Church is the Bride of Christ and the faithful reflection of His Spirit. She always behaves in this manner to the world, which persecutes, reviles, and despoils, always with the aim of curtailing her freedom. She has always met its cunning and violence with the same temper and principles. She does not resort to sword and club; her power lies in the Will of God, in suffering and endurance. When she is fettered, she continues to bless and do good to those who injure her. The bonds she bears for Christ are her most beautiful, precious adornment, her sign of ultimate victory. Her cry, when persecuted by men, is ever, “But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Corinthians 2: 15-57)

In His Passion, Jesus showed us all the degrees of charity and humility we should imitate. Humility is a real reparation and compensation to Our Lord for all our cowardice and meanness in His service, and we should be careful not to miss them. Humiliation always atones for our failures in humility – e.g., if we take correction badly, we can humble ourselves by admitting how little virtue we have and acknowledge that fault.

When we are constrained from doing something we wish to do, we can remember Our Lord, put in prison and bound by ropes and chains, knowing that more suffering is to come.

When we are mocked, and our words and actions judged wrongly, especially by those who have no intention of being fair, we can remember Jesus before Caiphas, His mock trial, and His unjust condemnation.

When we are tired and exhausted, we can remember how Jesus was dragged from Annas, and then to Caiphas, and on to Pilate, to Herod, and back to Pilate.

When we fall by sin, we can remember that Christ fell three times, in pain and exhaustion, on the Way of the Cross. Yet even as we take comfort in the Cross, we can never forget that we are also the reason for the Cross.

We do not like to think that, like Judas, we can also truthfully say, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” (Matthew 27:4) Unlike Judas, however, we should say what David said to God: “I have sinned exceedingly in doing this: I beseech thee take away the iniquity of thy servant, for I have done foolishly.” (Paralipomenon 1: 21-8) To save us from our sins, God sent His only Begotten Son, the Most Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace.

“Ecce Homo!” – Behold the Man!  Those are the words which Pilate would later say on this day, hoping that the sight of the battered man would arise compassion and mercy. But it was not to be.
On this Good Friday, let us not only watch one hour with Jesus, not only direct our souls to stay with Him on His way to the Cross, but wholly unite ourselves with Him on the Cross. For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

In the Garden of Gethsemane

“My soul is sorrowful unto death; stay you here and watch with Me.”
   ~Matthew 26: 38

Human nature shrinks from suffering and dreads it, but not one of the sons of men was ever so sensitive as Our Lord, Jesus Christ, or had sufferings to endure in any way comparable to His. St. Ignatius teaches us in contemplation to study not only the outward person, but also the inward thoughts; we are allowed to try in our poor way to find out, if we can, what were the chief objects that are presented to Our Lord’s soul which awakened His fear, sadness, and heaviness of heart.

Spiritual writers answer: (1) Fear is awakened by His oncoming Passion; (2) Oppression and most weary tediousness is awakened by the sight of all the opposition He shall encounter from men and devils in His work of redeeming those He loves so much; (3) Sorrow unto death is caused by the sign of sin: sin past, sin present, and sin to come; the offense, the displeasure, the dishonor, the ingratitude, the malice, the treason and treachery all heaped upon Him by sin.

During the Agony in the Garden, Our Lord anticipated all the coming agony of His Passion. He allowed His human soul to feel in all its intensity each detail of the unspeakable suffering that was now close at hand. All His life, the Passion was distinctly present to Him but, in the Garden, it was allowed to take possession of His soul. Now the fear was mortal.

When darkness invades our own souls, we should remember that none is like the deep, black darkness that spread over the Sacred Soul of Jesus. Where should we have gone in our hours of sorrow and agony and weakness had there been no Gethsemane? How generous is Christ’s love for us!

“All that I can do I will do for them” was His motto through life. When the hour had come, He did not what benefited Him but what would help us most: To be like us in all things, except sin, He would meet suffering and death. To be like us in all things, this was His rule from first to last: that having shown Himself like us, He might win us to be like Him, ready to say in the hour of trial, “Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from Me; but yet not My will, but Thine be done.” (Luke 22: 42)

“My soul is sorrowful unto death,” Our Lord so piteously mourned. And what was the relief? It was prayer, just as He had admonished the Apostles: “Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

Our Lord knew that in all desolation and distress, the best and only plan is to throw ourselves upon the almighty and all-tender Mercy of God. There is no imperfection in asking to be delivered from something we can hardly endure, otherwise Christ would not have asked to be delivered from His Chalice of Suffering. Here is the impeccable, all-holy human will swaying in the tempest, but still ever clinging to the Divine.

In our darkest hours, we, too, can repeat those words with Jesus, for He taught us by His word and His example. Yet we must remember the act of resignation which leaves everything in the hands of God: “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”

The Passion of Christ teaches us what real love means. Once more, we are taught the lesson that “Love is proven by deeds.”

The secret of Our Lord’s desire to suffer was His Love…but it was not the suffering itself for which Christ longed. No, it was the result of that suffering - for that joy that was set before Him – for which He endured the Cross.

Like Him, when we suffer, we suffer for a reason but, unlike Him, we may not know why. Still, like the Angel who comforted Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, He comforts us: “So also you now indeed have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you.” (John 16: 22)



Holy Thursday: If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments

"If you love Me, keep My commandments."
~ John 14:15

The Last Supper combined the Old Testament’s ceremonies, which are now superseded forever, with the New and Eternal Covenant. The Paschal lamb, which lay pierced by a spit in the form of a cross, preceded the institution of the Blessed Eucharist. The sacrificial lamb served as a mere figure-type for Jesus Christ while the flat bread with bitter herbs prefigured  the Eucharist, which is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, both Sacrifice and Sacrament.

On this holy night, Jesus gave us Himself, through the power He bestowed upon the Apostles so that the Eternal Sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist would be daily given. He made many promises and prophecies to encourage the Apostles so they would afterward remember His words and know that He knew all things. He warned of the betrayal soon to come, not for His own sake but as a final attempt save Judas from the suicidal despair that led to the eternal damnation of his soul.

He taught the Apostles once more, when they argued who would have first place in the kingdom of God.

He washed their Feet, as an example to them, the hierarchy of the Church, to practice the virtues of charity and humility and to always remember that the only purpose of the priestly vocations is the salvation of souls.

He spoke to Peter, so that the first Pope would later remember that when he failed, he would truly repent and truly be forgiven;  he would learn a bitter lesson that would lead him to the next stage of his spiritual conversion, and inevitably Peter, as his special office decrees, would strengthen the other Apostles: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” (Luke 22: 31-32)

He spoke again of His forthcoming suffering, because He also wanted to restore the peace of the Apostle’s souls: “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. I go to prepare a place for you…. And I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you also may be. And wither I go, you know, and the way you know.” (John 14: 1-4)

St. Thomas, always questioning, said: “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” And Jesus answered, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh to the Father, but by Me. If you had known Me, you would without doubt have known my Father also: and from henceforth you shall know Him, and you have seen Him.” (John 14: 5-7)

St. Philip was not satisfied, so he said: “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus, sounding astonished, said to him, “Have I been so long a time with you; and have you not known Me? Philip, he that seeth Me seeth the Father also. How sayest thou, Show us the Father? Do you not believe, that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you, I speak not of Myself. But the Father who abideth in Me, He doth the works. Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? Otherwise believe for the very works' sake. Amen, amen I say to you, he that believeth in Me, the works that I do, he also shall do; and greater than these shall he do. Because I go to the Father: and whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My name, that will I do: that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask Me any thing in My name, that I will do. If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14; 8-15)

Our Lord, Jesus Christ prepares a place for all of us - “that where I am you also may be” - but we must keep His commandments. All that He said on the night He was betrayed came from the depths of His Most Sacred Heart. All of His suffering life and His bitter Passion and Death will be offered for this end. He took on our human nature to save us, but nothing will satisfy Him unless we remember and live by this Truth: If He wishes us to be with Him now in poverty, in labor, in suffering, in charity and humility, it is only because it is His will “that where I am you also may be” – with Him forever in Heaven.

Holy Thursday: Three of Christ’s Many Virtues

“In the head of the book it is written of Me
that I should do Thy Will, O God.”

   ~Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews, 10:7
  On the night we know as Holy Thursday, Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist. Earlier in the day, He had called the disciples and told them to prepare the Paschal Lamb. He mysteriously told Peter and John of a man who would meet them near the city gate; He instructed them to follow this man into his house and there prepare the meal.
This command reveals three of Jesus’ many virtues: His loving and willing Obedience; His wise Prudence; and His utter Poverty.
Our Lord’s obedience to all that was required of the Jewish Pasch is the perfect example of the obedience we now owe to His Church and Her laws.
Our Lord’s prudence made itself manifest because He did not want to give Judas, who probably would have performed such duties as a rule, any immediate opportunity to betray Him. Jesus willed that enough time was allowed to institute the Sacred Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, as well as all else that transpired in the Cenacle.
Our Lord’s poverty is once more revealed, because He had no place of His own with which to celebrate the Pasch. He gave all that He had to save souls, by preaching the “Good News,” telling the people that “the kingdom of God is at hand,” and working miracles, not for sensational reasons, but for the Glory of God.
And so - the Lamb of God ordered the preparations that marked the beginning of His own Sacrifice. On this final night of His earthly life, Our Lord was still attempting to save a soul. He did not show anger with Judas or expose him, but instead He attempted every means to save him. Imagine being in the daily Presence of Jesus and yet look for a way to betray Him!
To be a loyal disciple and Apostle of Christ was the only means that would have saved Judas from his evil inclinations – if only he had not trifled with the grace of his vocation.
What a terrible tragedy to lose a vocation – to let the spirit of the world have entrance to a heart that has given itself to Our Lord. It is Our Lord’s will and desire in calling persons to any special vocation that they live the supernatural interior life – not the natural, material, carnal life of worldly people.
St. Ignatius tells us to imitate the Angels so that we can be like God's angels on earth. By daily uniting ourselves to the suffering and Sacred Heart of Jesus, we will better keep our wills in conformity with God's, seeking His Glory, and not ours.

Holy Thursday: Why the Lamb of God?

"Behold the Lamb of God, behold He Who taketh away the sins of the world."
~John 1: 29

Before Our Lord suffered, He celebrated the Jewish rite which, above all, foreshadowed His own sacred sufferings. The Paschal Lamb was an exact figure type of Him, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Almighty God, the Father, gave the Paschal lamb as the figure-type to the future Messiah and the means to deliver His people from their cruel bondage in Egypt. The lamb’s blood on the doorposts of the people’s houses caused the avenging Angel to “pass over” and leave those within unharmed…

The Jews annually remembered the night that God released them from the slavery of Egypt and spared their lives as the Angel of Death passed over the land. The Paschal lamb was drained of the last drop of its blood. With it, there were also bitter herbs, unleavened bread, wine and water.

The promise of the Jewish Pasch is completely fulfilled in Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who has released us from the bondage of sin with His Most Precious Blood. Like the Paschal Lamb, the Lamb of God gave His Life as a sacrifice, His Blood pouring and trickling from Him until He was drained of It. The last drops of His Most Precious Blood gushed forth with water when His Most Sacred Heart was pierced by a lance. How can we ever thank Him? How can we ever love Him enough?

The little lamb endures meekly. It never murmurs against its lot, or struggles against those who lead it here and there, unlike swine, who grunt and grumble at every attempt to control them. None was ever so submissive as the Lamb of God --- “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O my God.” Christ, Our Lord, was telling His Father: I am ready to do it – I long to do it! Can we echo those words?

The name by which St. John the Baptist first greeted Jesus was that of “Lamb of God.” From this we learn the prominent features of Our Lord’s character ---the gentleness, meekness, simplicity, and guilelessness of the Lamb. This is what made Him so attractive; His sweetness drew all to Him. Our Jesus is just the same now. In Heaven, He is still the Lamb: still gentle and loving as ever. With what confidence we ought to approach Him and tell Him of all our love, all our difficulties, and more.

All of the beautiful, winning gentleness and sweetness of the Lamb of God is not merely natural. It is the Divine Charity manifesting itself in the Sacred Humanity.

Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Mary all of Mary’s children must excel in these virtues, since they are bound to be close imitators of Christ. God will give those virtues to us if we persevere in seeking them and practicing them. "Grace perfects nature;" God’s almighty Grace can make us gentle and meek.

The office of the Lamb of God – the work He was sent to do – was to “take away” the sins of the world. Meekness possesses a wonderful power – “the meek shall possess the land.” Meekness takes away sin. To bear reproaches meekly is one of the best means of expiating our own sins and those of others. Meekness wins for sinners the grace of repentance. Meekness obtains God’s peace for our souls.

When we contrast our hearts with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Lamb of God, do we find that we are trying to imitate Him to the best of our ability?

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Before the Passion: The Judas Factor

In the world you shall have distress, but have confidence; I have overcome the world.
~John 16:33

Before the Passion...

The Great Council of the Sanhedrin had decided to arrest Jesus. In regard to the time, it was probably on Wednesday that the council assembled. It may have been “at the hour when Our Lord assured His disciples that He would be crucified, on the Feast of the Pasch: ‘You know that after two days shall be the Pasch, and the Son of Man shall be delivered up to be crucified.’

“The meeting place of the Council was not, it would appear, the assembly room in the Temple, but the palace of Caiphas the High Priest, because the decision was kept secret, and all care was taken to avoid attracting attention.”

“Nevertheless, the Sanhedrin seemed to have been represented in every essential point, for the three classes – chief priests, ancients, and scribes – of which it was composed, are mentioned. It was, therefore, an official session. The subject of the deliberations was no longer whether or not to put Jesus to death – that had been decided upon long ago, but the manner in which is was to be accomplished - whether openly by force, or secretly by crafty surprise. The occurrences of the last few days, the complete defeats by which Our Lord has put His enemies to shame, His increasing influence – all of this urged them to sudden action.”

“As we know, their decision was that the arrest was to be secretly, by craft.” Their plan was to surprise and take Our Lord, but when and how they could best do it was their dilemma.

They had decided that Jesus’ execution was not to take place on the feast day, but after the Pasch was over. “This was because they feared the people. At the Paschal season, there were multitudes of people in Jerusalem, and the crowds were much inclined to disturbances and tumult. Our Lord had many adherents among them, especially among the excitable Galileans.”

So the Sanhedrin feared only resistance and risk, especially if the Romans would be forced to interfere. “For this reason, the arrest must be made whenever it could be done best, but secretly, and the sentence was not to be passed until after the feast days, when the people had dispersed. Such was the decision of the Council – and such their dispositions for the great feast. They feared – not God, but the people.”

And then, suddenly, a boon - Judas, apostle of Jesus Christ - went to Our Lord’s enemies.

“What will you give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?” What a terrible question Judas asked of the Sanhedrin! “To put Jesus into competition with Self! Judas had entertained the thought of the betrayal of Our Lord for a long time. No one suddenly falls away from faithfulness to Jesus – “it is neglect in little things which gradually leads to a serious fall.”

How did Judas come to such a resolution? What were the causes? As Meditation on the Passion explains it:

1. “The fundamental cause was probably the shallowness, untrustworthiness, and superficiality of his character. He seems to have been a man of no depth or moral stamina.”

2. “The second cause was his worldliness, ambition, and avarice. One can scarcely conceive of his ever having had any idea of the Kingdom of the Messiah other than that which the majority of Jews entertained – a temporal king, a temporal kingdom. Judas allowed himself to be wholly influenced by a worldly spirit – the same spirit which is directly opposed to the spirit of Jesus Christ.”

The world is Our Lord’s enemy and therefore the enemy of the Catholic Church and all Her members. The world is composed of those who center their happiness in earthly things, who detest and shun poverty, suffering and humiliation while they worship wealth, pleasure, and personal dignity, esteeming these as the only treasures worthy of man’s ambition, and deliberately sacrificing their souls in order to attain them.”

Our Lord Himself formally excluded the world from His last solemn prayer for His disciples on the night of His Passion. He predicted, too, that as the world had hated and persecuted Him, so would it persecute and hate His followers. If we really desire a place near Our Lord, we must, like Him, engage in an unceasing conflict with His mortal foe. Jesus Christ is light, and the world is darkness; and as light and darkness cannot exist together – because one casts out the other – so neither can Our Lord and the world be one. When the spirit of the world gets entrance into the human heart, Our Lord is cast out and rejected. And in proportion as the Holy Spirit of Our Lord gains ground in the soul, the spirit of the world is cast out and rejected.”

‘If any man love this world, the charity of the Father is not in him’ ” (John I: 2:15). Judas’ downfall is a sad confirmation of this great principle – i.e., that Jesus Christ and the world are mortal enemies. By generous, persevering efforts to rid ourselves of everything savoring of the worldly spirit, we shall make solid, genuine advance in sanctity. To triumph over the world is not the work of a moment, but of a lifetime. Therefore, we must follow faithfully in the footsteps of God’s servants, the Saints, by generous fidelity in lesser trials, by which we merit Divine Help in greater ones.”

3. The third cause of Judas’ fall was unbelief. Gradually, he lost the faith he first had. Loss of faith is the usual result of worldliness.

4.The fourth cause was weariness and discomfort of the life led by Our Lord and the Apostles. Judas loved his own ease and comfort. He grew tired of the life He led with Jesus – one of poverty and constant labors and journeys. He was especially tired of Jesus’ personal disinterest as He labored for others.

Judas was absolutely selfish, and so “he had acquired the habit of thieving from the purse that Our Lord entrusted to him. He tried to make use of his position for worldly gain. The enthusiastic love and devotion of the other Apostles, much less His followers, must have annoyed Judas. How exaggerated and extravagant they must have seemed to him, until at least he took a positive dislike to the presence and Person of Jesus. This dislike to the Person of Jesus showed itself plainly when Magdalen anointed Our Lord’s Sacred Feet at Bethany. The unbelief, irreverence, and callousness of Judas on this occasion almost stun us.”

5. “A last cause - which, however, was also at work in all the other influences – was the influence and seduction of the devil, which grew more powerful the more Judas gave way to unbelief and passion. And thus it was that his diabolical resolution to abandon Jesus became matured. Under these circumstances, Judas wished to see Jesus’ plans thwarted and the company of the Apostles dissolved, that he might be freed from all the inconveniences – and he thought he might as well gain a little something by it, too.

“How mean, cowardly and disgraceful was this act of Judas – he, an Apostle, a friend of Jesus, a member of His family! Judas’ conduct meant no small slight shame, and no small pain to the tender, loving Heart of Our Lord. And Judas took this step quite of his own accord. He hastened to the priests himself, and he asked, in the most shameless and unblushing manner, what they would give him for his treachery. Judas knew well the men he had to deal with, and yet he promised to deliver Our Lord Jesus - his Master, his Benefactor, his God and greatest Good – for the price of killing a slave.

“And to whom does Judas sell Our Lord? To His worst and most bitter enemies who lie in wait to devour Him. Judas delivered Our Lord to all the tortures of His Passion and Death. Self-interest, avarice, ingratitude, cowardice, faithlessness, hard-heartedness, and cruelty are all included in Judas’ act. And oh, what pain, what deep humiliation, it brought to our dear Lord and Savior!”

What a terrible thing for a Christian to be the slave of worldly principles, of a selfish spirit, of human respect! Our Lord declared expressly and positively that He would die on the feast, and by a violent death. The Son of God knows the counsels of God and the hearts of men. No on can work against God, not even in secret. His Providence guards His own. He watches over His faithful servants – not a hair of their heads can be touched without His permission. Nothing can happen without the permission of God.”

Jesus had his Judas. And since the servant is no better than his Master, as Our Lord taught, it stands to reason that Christ’s Bride, the Catholic Church, will always have Judases in Her midst, and that we, members of the Church Militant, children of the Bride, and members of the Mystical Body, will also suffer from “the Judas Factor” in our own lives.

Here we have serious matter for reflection – God wills that we know, love and serve Him, but if we wish to rightly and justly serve, we must get to know ourselves. “Self-knowledge is a most necessary step to the knowledge and love of Jesus – no one is safe until well grounded in self-knowledge. If Judas had known his own evil nature, he might have been saved. He would have distrusted and dreaded himself and clung to Jesus, Who would have saved him, for He loved Judas and called him to be His disciple with the sole view of saving him.”

But Judas used his free will to thwart the tender, merciful designs of Jesus – and no one can be saved against his will. “What a terrible lesson is here given! Like Judas, we also have our evil dispositions – our weaknesses, which, unless known and fought against, will lead us to very serious consequences.”

What have we to say to our Divine Lord? What graces do we ask of Him? What thanksgiving do we make? What reparation, sympathy, and love do we have to offer the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus?

Sweet Jesus, Savior of my soul, deign in Thy Goodness to hear my petitions, strengthen my will to give Thee my best, and give it fearlessly and with all the love of my heart.

Mother of God, my mother, help me to remember that a ‘valiant lover standeth his ground in temptation and yieldeth not to the crafty persuasions of the enemy.’

Have pity on me, Lord Jesus, have pity on me according to the mercy of Thy loving Heart. The thought that I am yet be made holy, that I can yet become a true and loyal disciple of Thy Heart, encourages me. Help me, O Jesus Most Merciful, and give me courage. Behold, dear Lord, now I begin!”

“O Mother, I have need of Thee!”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope of Surprises: The Rosary and His First Homily

The Pope who prays the 15 decades of the Rosary
(properly called the Psalter) said in his first papal homily to the
 College of Cardinalsand others attending the Mass:
 "When we walk without the Cross, when we build
without the Cross, and when we confess Christ
without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord:
we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes,
but not disciples of the Lord."


Pope Francis once said that he prays “the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day” and began the practice around 1985, following the late Pope John Paul II's lead. As Cardinal Bergoglio, he prayed with John Paul II, later stating: “That testimony did not get forgotten in an instant. From that time on I recite the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day.

That is a very pleasant and edifying surprise. A few more surprises were in store when, during his first Mass celebrated with the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel on March 14, 2013 at 5 p.m., Pope Francis gave a spontaneous seven-minute homily.  Although he had no prepared text, the theme of his homily (which follows the Gospel) was three-fold: camminare, edificare, confessare (to walk, to build, to confess  - as in “confess the glory of Jesus Christ and His Cross”).

How remarkable are the ways of God when one considers the two following readings and the Gospel of “Missa pro Ecclesia” (“Mass for the Church”) are excerpts from the Book of Isaiah (2:2-5), from the First Letter of Peter (2:4-9), and from the Gospel according to Matthew (16:13-19). These three selections speak of the last days, “the mountain of the house of the Lord” and the “top of mountains” (in Scriptural symbolism, a mountain is a kingdom; either earthly or spiritual, and Jerusalem – like Israel – are figure types for the Catholic Church), the judgment of God, the revelation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and Christ’s establishment of the papacy. They are included below and come from the Douay-Rheims translation of the Holy Bible.

Isaiah 2:2-5: And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go, and say: Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall come forth from Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people: and they shall turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Peter 2: 4-9: For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but delivered them, drawn down by infernal ropes to the lower hell, unto torments, to be reserved unto judgment: And spared not the original world, but preserved Noe, the eighth person, the preacher of justice, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly. And reducing the cities of the Sodomites, and of the Gomorrhites, into ashes, condemned them to be overthrown, making them an example to those that should after act wickedly. And delivered just Lot, oppressed by the injustice and lewd conversation of the wicked. For in sight and hearing he was just: dwelling among them, who from day to day vexed the just soul with unjust works. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly from temptation, but to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be tormented.

Matthew 16:13-19: And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

Francis’ First Papal Homily: Spontaneous

In these three readings, I see that there is something in common: it is movement.

In the first reading, movement in walking; in the second reading, movement in the building up of the Church; in the third, in the Gospel, movement in confession.

To walk, to build up, to confess.

To walk. “House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and be without reproach. To walk: our life is a journey and when we stop it is no good. To walk always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that irreproachability which God asked of Abraham, in his promise.

To build up. To build up the Church. Stones are spoken of: the stones have substance; but living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. To build up the Church, the bride of Christ, on that cornerstone which is the Lord himself. This is another movement of our lives: to build up.

Third, to confess. We can walk as much as we wish, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, it is no good. We will become a humanitarian NGO, but not the Church, bride of the Lord.

When one does not walk, one halts. When one does not build on stone what happens? That happens which happens to children on the beach when they make sand castles, it all comes down, it is without substance. When one does not confess Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the expression of Léon Bloy: "He who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.” When one does not confess Jesus Christ, one confesses the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon.

To walk, to build/construct, to confess. But the matter is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in confessing, at times there are shocks, there are movements that are not properly movements of the journey: they are movements that set us back.

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who has confessed Jesus Christ says to him: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it. I will follow you with other possibilities, without the Cross."

When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we confess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that everyone, after these days of grace, should have the courage, truly the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord; to build up the Church upon the Blood of the Lord that was shed upon the Cross; and to confess the only glory: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will move forward.

I hope for all of us that the Holy Spirit, through the prayer of the Virgin Mary, our Mother, may grant us this grace: to walk, to build up, to confess Jesus Christ crucified. So may it be.

Although the Pope's homily was brief, a great part of it serves as a reminder of these words by St. Peter: “Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (First Epistle of Peter 2:5) and the inspiring Apostolic Exhortation to the Clergy in Pope St. Pius X’s Haerent Animo (1908).

Pope Francis did, however, make one reference to the extremely controversial Leon Bloy, who was a French poet, essayist, convert, a man who refused to work, and an eccentric with a passion for prostitutes (co-habiting with two prostitutes in succession - after his supposed conversion to the Faith, Bloy planned to marry both - not simultaneously, of course - but never did. Yes, Leon Bloy was capable of writing a few truthful things -  but even a broken clock is right twice a day.)

Surprising? Yes. Perplexing? Definitely. This is only conjecture on my part, but perhaps that is why Pope Francis made a brief yet direct reference to Bloy, a man who could at times write eloquently of the Faith but during his lifetime refused to accept the Cross. Be that as it may, there is no doubt whatsoever that the new Pope gently yet firmly admonished the entire hierarchy when he said:

“When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we confess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”

May we pray much for the Holy Father.