Tag Archives: Bible

Love one another…how?

Yesterday’s Gospel was St. John telling us how Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34)

Father D picked up on the fact that Jesus said this was a “new commandment” and said how new was it when throughout Scripture God has tried to get people to love one another? It was a good question.

Jesus said it was a new commandment because of how He wanted us to love. Having set His example in washing their feet and then feeding them with His Body and Blood (because God is not constrained by time – but that’s another issue) and Judas has left to do his dirty deed.

Jesus then says He is giving them a new commandment, that they love one another – not in the comfortable sense of love but as HE has loved them. In the Greek St. John uses the word “agapete” (from agape) for Greek has more than one word for love depending on what kind of love was being spoken about.

Agape love is the giving love that in Latin is charitas which in English we call charity – that is giving. Charity in it’s real meaning has a much deeper meaning than dropping a few unneeded coins in a box. Agape-charity is sacrifice. We give something we need (or think we need) for the sake of another.

This is the love that demands we forgive our enemies and love them and pray for those who persecute and damage us.

Jesus suffered hugely for love of us and poured out every last drop of blood for us. When He calls the disciples to do the same He means it. There is no way on earth we could obey that commandment.  We are naturally selfish and self serving. Surely He’s asking way too much of us!

Thankfully the context for this otherwise impossible commandment is that He has just provided the Eucharist, the soulfood that gives us what we need to be able to obey that commandment.

In English we bandy the word “love” around in such a way that we often forget what it means in different circumstances. Jesus knows exactly what He is saying when He uses the word love and if we are going to love the way He wants us to, we had better be sure we get to grips with His meaning of the word, rather than what we would rather it meant.

De Profundus…

I admit it; I’m a sucker for conversion stories.  I love the story of a man who sits down with an elderly Catholic priest and hears the story of a marriage where the wife is a good and holy woman, but the husband is an athiest. Every day the wife prays for her husband but throughout their marriage he remained atheist. Felix Lesseur was set in his ways and the prayers of his wife did not move him. When she died he discovered her diary and the love and pain and prayer that she had poured out to God.

“Did he come to you this Felix?” asks the man of the priest and the priest smiles and says, “I am Father Felix Lesseur.”

Many people, including me, have asked why God will work in one person’s life by knocking them off a horse, while others seem to have to search for Him over years, sometimes seemingly in vain.

In all the conversion stories I have read, watched or listened to there is a great sense of peace, of having come home at last. For those who have come from protestant backgrounds there is always a great sense of gratitude that they had that early Christian foundation, even from those who grew up with anti-Catholic rhetoric ringing in their ears.

On the opposite side there is always some anger and hatred when people abandon the Church for a Christian-light version of religion so that they are no longer constrained by Christ’s moral law. Immoral sexual practice is almost always at the root of this whether it’s divorce and “remarriage” or some other form of adultery or  they walk away from Christ because of some Judas they have come across.

The real shameful thing about those who walk away from the Faith is those who do so because, despite being baptised they have never been taught. When we, as parents, take our children to be baptised we make a solemn oath to bring them up in the Faith. If we don’t even try we are breaking the Second Commandment for no one should stand in the Name of God and take an oath in vain.

But those who walk back or find Him are always so full of peace.

written on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul in the Year of Faith.

Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the feast day when Jesus was baptised in the Jordan by His cousin who was to lay down his life for the sanctity of marriage. Christ the Bridegroom came to be baptised to take up His priesthood from John the priest of Levi, and to begin His public ministry. In stepping into the water, Jesus did not need to be cleansed of sin, on the contrary, His Presence in the water cleansed it as He cleanses us of sin.

Christians are called by Christ to accept marriage the way God designed it. Part of the reason marriage is so holy and sacramental is because Christ is the Bridegroom to His Church. Not to mention that God created marriage when He made Adam and Eve as flesh of his flesh.

One of the questions or issues that comes up regularly when you listen to catholic call-in shows is the matter of invincible ignorance. Jesus said of those to whome He had given His message “if they hadn’t heard Me they would be innocent, but having heard Me, their guilt remains.”

If someone genuinely could not have know the Gospel and all it’s Truth, then they can be judged on natural law alone,(natural law is not the law of nature) but anyone who has heard or read the Gospel or could have and has deliberately avoided it, will have some very very serious explaining ahead of them.

It is deeply worrying when people who call themselves Christian-followers of Christ, who have access to Scripture and all that Christ teaches, and yet choose to reject that in favour of political or zeitgeist views.  It is not just that their betrayal will undoubtedly bring more persecution down on true Christians, it is that they are risking their souls.  Eternity is a very long time.

John as the friend of the Bridegroom (John 3:29) spoke out for marriage and was imprisoned by Herod, whose marriage was invalid and immoral, and was martyred. He never once went back on his word, or said, oh well we should allow it after all.

Christ the Bridegroom re-established marriage from the mess some of the Jewish authorities had allowed it to get into with Rabbi Hillel arguing for divorce for any reason. Jesus speaks of how God designed marriage from the days of Adam and Eve, and He elevated it to a Sacrament.

Woman Clothed with the Sun with the moon under her feet (Rev 12)

our_lady_of_guadalupe_4x6Dec 12th is the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Dec 9th would have been the feast of St Juan Diego but it fell on 2nd Advent Sun this year)

That God in His love and mercy has given us such a mother is wonderful all by itself, but that He allows her, sends her, to speak with us and leaves us a beautiful Icon should make us even more grateful.

While it is true that private revelation is not binding on the faithful, I think we should be cautious about using that as an excuse to ignore what God is giving us when He sends Our Blessed Mother and/or other saints to remind us of the Gospel message.

bent-crucifix-cc-odoyle81The tilma made of cactus ayate  fibre is still in great condition and the image remains clear despite some accidents; one with nitric acid and the time someone tried to blow it up. In fact despite being on open display for many years under candle flame and incense, before even a glass covering was made, the tilma image is in much better condition that the Mona Lisa and is only 12 years younger than Leonardo’s famous painting. The great crucifix that was bent right over by the explosion is now on display. The glass covering of the tilma remained in tact.

On Dec 12th 1531 Juan Diego was sent to the barren cold top of Tepayac Hill where he gathered an astonishing harvest of big castellan roses that had suddenly appeared there.

StarThe Icon shows a woman dressed as royalty, but with her head bowed as one in service. The black ribbon that hangs under her prayerful hands shows that she is pregnant. More than that, thanks to some study of the stars on her mantel we see she is carrying the constellations from that very date. She wears the crown of stars (Corona borealis) and under her hands (invisibly) is Leo showing that she carries the Lion of Judah and above that over her heart is virgo saying she is a virgin.

There were more scientific studies that show the eyes of the Icon have the reflections of a real eye showing the bishop and Juan Diego in her eyes. The minute and realistic distortions of the images in her eye show something so accurate that no artist could have done this.

At the time the Indians understood the image better than the Spanish did. They read graphics like words. The tilma is as packed with information about her. She wears the cross of the Christians and the robes of a princess. She is robed in the sun and stands on the moon, so she is greater than their gods, but she bows her head with the cross on her neck and therefore is accepting a God greater still.

Up until this point the missionaries in Mexico and surrounding areas were having a tough time converting the native peoples. Their work was hampered by the unChristian behaviour of many of the Spanish and Portuguese settlers who, feeling that Rome and her rules was far away, took slaves and spent more time chasing gold than seeking the kingdom.

But after the apparition and the miraculous image was left, millions of people learned about how much God loved them and how He had even given them a Mother and they were baptised.

It was this image that was taken into the battle of Lepanto and her prayers that gave victory on the Feast of the Holy Rosary 1571.

I love the way God sends His mother at times of crisis. He sends her and raises up some ordinary person like St. Juan Diego or the children of Fatima, Lourdes, La Salette and so on. Mary appears clothed in the sun at a point where in Europe the book of Revelation is under attack. God has a gentle sense of humour I think.

It’s great to have a wonderful mother.

Oh no not the Immaculate Conception! What is it again?

Let’s start at the very beginning

A very good place to start

When you read you begin with A B C

It’s Adam and Eve in theology…

Ahem, yes that was really awful, but I couldn’t resist. So let’s start with Adam and Eve.

God created the heavens and the earth “all that is visible and invisible! (Nicene Creed). Then on the evening of Day 6 He created Adam out of the “red earth” (Adam means red earth) and gave him authority. How do we know Adam received authority from God? Adam named the animals. In Jewish thought, and strictly speaking this should still be Christian thought, naming is a sign of authority. Names are important, they carry meaning.

Adam doesn’t find a fit companion among the animals so God makes Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. To paraphrase St. Edith Stein; God didn’t take from Adam’s head that he might rule over her, or from a bone in his foot that he might trample her underfoot, but from a bone close to his heart that he might love her.

Now, I have a little theory on this – take it or leave it. I think God took the rib from Adam’s right side, nearest his heart to make Eve. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

I would like to believe that Adam bore a scar on his right side where the rib had been taken.

Adam named his bride Eve, the mother of all that live.

Adam and Eve sinned and God cursed Satan. “I will put enmity between you and the woman…you will bite at her heel and (he/she/they/it) will crush your head.” (There’s still a discussion on the proper translation of the word s’he it; I tend to lean towards the word “she” and I’ll explain why).

With the curse, God gave the Promise of a Saviour.

Then there’s the whole of the Covenant testaments as God made new Covenants with Noah, Abraham, Jacob/Israel and then Moses. Gradually God trains His Chosen people and reveals Himself a little more along the way.

Types of Mary occur through Scripture. Jael who put the tent-peg through the head of the enemy, (jdg 4:21) then Judith who beheaded the enemy (Jud 13) and an unnamed woman who dropped a massive stone block on the head of the enemy coming to attack Jerusalem. (can’t remember where this is in Scripture)

Then there’s the importance of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark is the great sign of God’s Covenant with Israel. It is made beautifully with gold, and more gold lining the inside.  The Ark contained the Law that God gave to Moses – His Word written by His hand; some manna- the bread from heaven and the rod of Aaron the High Priest.

So the groundwork is laid.

Now to the story of how Mary came to be conceived.

In the Protoevangelium of James we find Joachim and Anna who are good, saintly people but have never been blessed with a child. This theme is also found in the Old Testament; Sarah was barren until Isaac was given her, Rachel was barren until Joseph and Benjamin; Hannah was barren until Samuel…and so on.

The elders of the Temple gave Joachim a hard time because having no children seemed like a punishment from God.

After much heart ache and prayer, finally God sends an angel to tell Joachim that his wife will bear him a child. In this case, unusually, the promise is a daughter.

So Mary was conceived.

Some people have asked “how”? They are asking if she was conceived in the usual way, or miraculously. It is generally agreed that Mary’s conception happened in the usual way. Let’s not forget that God invented sex. Adam and Eve were built physically as people are today.

So why ask if Mary was conceived miraculously? It goes back to Adam and Eve.

Back in the Garden Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. They were man and wife. It doesn’t seem they had relations at this point. In fact from rabbinic tradition, it would have been proper to wait until Adam had made the sacrifice to claim his bride. Adam didn’t make the sacrifice – he ate the fruit instead. The tree of life remained untouched.

Then Adam and Eve covered themselves and we all know they covered up the sexual. life giving parts because they had consumed “death” with that fruit.

As a result sex between married couples will always be less than it could have been and brining forth life more difficult.

Blessed Catherine Anne Emmerich’s visions do suggest a miraculous conception of Mary. but there have been a number of issues with the recording of her visions – as someone else did it . Some man whose name I can’t remember.

Anway. Mary is conceived. So what makes her conception “immaculate”?

God, her saviour, fills her with grace just as He had done with Eve. She is the Second Eve, as her Son will be the Second Adam. She still has free will, just as Eve did, but she retains her sinlessness. The Second Adam will embrace the Tree of Life, as the first Adam did not, and He will pour out His Precious Blood for His Bride the Church. Mary is a model of the Church, the Bride. And of course the last pouring out of Blood an water comes from the side of Christ, between His ribs and I believe He was pierced on the right side for the vision of Ezekial saw water flow from the right side of the Temple and Jesus had already equated Himself with the Temple. God is neat.

Why does she need to be without sin?

It is said that strictly she didn’t “need” to be sinless but it is fitting she should be. It is also one of those things God would do. He’s good like that. Just as the inside of the Ark was of purest gold before it received the word of God, the Bread from heaven, and the symbol of priesthood – so Mary is purest gold before she can conceive the Son of God being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.

She is the Ark of the New Covenant.

This is another reason she remains ever virgin. Just as no one would empty the old Ark and put a couple of good books in there, so no one could enter the womb that bore Jesus because, like the place in the Temple that was the Holy of Holies, no one but the High Priest could enter.

When she bears the Word of God, Satan does get his head stomped on.

Understanding the role of Mary means spending a lot of time with Scripture and the teachings of the Fathers. Once we get to understand her, fully human and utterly saved and loved, and loving she will point us to her Son, fully human and fully Divine. That is her primary role – to point us to Her Son.

I heard a very angry man on Catholic Answers who was absolutely furious at the notion of Mary being sinless. Personally I rather like the fact that God really is that generous towards His mother.

Advent 1: Going up to the mountain of the Lord

advent1After Sunday’s Gospel where Jesus gives a pretty full-on warning and promise about His Second Coming, the readings begin to unpack the fulness of that promise.

The New Covenant wasn’t just between God and Israel (You shall be My people and I shall be your God Jer.30:22) but now the gates are open wide and all the nations will come to gather at the mountain of the Lord. (Is 2:3)

What are we waiting for?

We await the shoot that will spring from Jesse and bring a much looked for peace to the nations of the earth. They will all come under the one Lord Jesus Christ who brings light out of the darkness of death and leads us on the path of peace (Benedictus of Zachariah Lk 1:68 said every morning in Lauds)

Where is this mountain?

I wonder about the symbolism of the mountain. John, in his vision of Revelation talks about the city built on Seven Hills and the argument has gone back and forth about whether that’s Jerusalem with it’s seven hills (Olivet, Acra, Moriah, Bezetha, Scophes, Ophel and Zion other lists have slightly different names). The Seven Hills of Rome (Quirinal,Viminal, Capitoline, Equiline,Palatine, Caelian and Avetine).

It’s an interesting coincidence that both this cities were built like this and John probably wanted readers to see the “twin” natures. One city crucified Our Lord and the other was busy crucifying the members of His Body – Nero did some truly hideous things in his slaughter of Christians.

Seven is an important number in Jewish faith. It is the number of the Days of Creation and it is the number for swearing and oath. It is from this we get the word Sacrament, which as Dr. Hahn points out means literally to “seven ourselves” when we bind ourselves to a holy oath – of which there are seven and therefore seven ways that God in His generosity pours out His graces on us.

Adam and Eve were made on the sixth day, but the Sabbath was then made for them (the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mk 2:27). But when they sinned they fell back to “working” instead of resting in the Lord and were people of the sixth day, longing for the Messiah.

Jesus is crucified on an eighth hill, just outside Jerusalem (Calvary to the Romans, Golgotha to the Jews). Peter is crucified on an eighth hill across the river from Rome. (Vatican)

Jesus rises on the Sunday which in the Holy week is day 8. He rises on the first day and remakes it. We are children of the eighth day. This is the day that the Lord has made (Ps 118:24)

When we ask Him to come, Marana tha, we are asking for glorious Christ to be heralded by the angels. He will come to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end (Creed).

Towards the return of the king

We are galloping, full tilt, to the end now. Next Sunday is the feast of Christ the King and the liturgical year goes out with a bang. I don’t think we should pass over these last weeks so quickly and easily always looking at Advent again. Wait a minute and concentrate on the story now. If you pray the Office the story has been getting more epic by the day. We’ve seen the Maccabees “world end” battle and the miracle of the one days worth of oil lasting 8 days so that the Hanukkah lights could be lit. We’ve seen Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great statue and with the 20/20 vision of hindsight we know that the feet of iron and clay was Rome and the little stone was Christ and the mountain is His Church.

We saw the writing on the wall which Daniel interpreted and then the rise of Darius the Mede. (silver on the statue).

Finally it is Darius who allows the remnant to return and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

Daniel then receives another vision, another prophecy, while he stands on the banks of the Tigris. Daniel 12 tells us of the strange things he sees and the role of St. Michael as the guardian of Israel. In the vision of Daniel there is the hint that Michael will also be the angel of the Church (the New Israel) when the time comes.

It seems that just about all Bible prophecy has more than one fulfilment. So when the maiden conceived and bore a son, Hezekiah was born and then much later Jesus.  There are plenty of other examples.

This prophecy is layered. It was terrible in that others with Daniel, who didn’t see the prophecy sensed it and ran away.  One of the lines that stands out in this is verse 11;” From the time when the daily sacrifice (or perpetual sacrifice in a literal translation) is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up there will be 1290 days.

I think the general view is that at the end of the end times the Mass and Divine Liturgy, which is the perpetual sacrifice, “The Lamb who stands as though slain” (Rev) will be banned. It will remain illegal for three and half years and for three years the abomination will stand and then Christ the King returns.

The two men in Daniel’s vision might be Enoch and Elijah but I haven’t read anything on that so I can’t say.

The question that bugs me is this. The number of days are part of the prophecy and could be allegorical or metaphorical. Does the banning of the perpetual sacrifice have to happen in one foul swoop? Or could it be the historical ban on the Mass and Divine Liturgy that has happened all over the world for the last 500 years or so? Wherever tyrannical Governments have had power of the Church both east and Western Rites, and in Communism over the Orthodox Churches, the Mass and Divine Liturgy has either been made illegal outright, or heavily leaned on to make it almost impossible to attend.

In England you can still visit houses with hiding holes where priests and Mass things were hidden from the soldiers under the full scale persecution from the time of Henry VIII, worse under the dreadful Elizabeth and continued under the Stuarts and of course the horrible Cromwell. But Britain is by no means the only country where the perpetual sacrifice was banned. Japan, Vietnam, all the Eastern block countries. North Korea, China and of course Hitler had so many thousands of priests killed to stop Mass in Poland and surrounding areas.

In the north of Russia the Orthodox lost entire monasteries where the priests and monks were murdered, sometimes by being tied up and left to starve to death.

Underground churches and secret Liturgies have been going on against the cruel boot of government interference throughout the last five or six hundred years.

Is there going to be a time when the Sacrifice is banned throughout the world at the same time? Possibly. We can’t say, once we’ve looked at history, that it couldn’t happen can we?

The death of Judas Maccabees and the feast of Pope St. Leo the Great

Saturday was the feast of Pope St. Leo the Great.  He truly earned his title of “great” as he walked among the rubble of the dying Roman Empire and held tight to the Culture Christ had given His Church, and held back the tide of destruction from the Huns.

If you can get your hands on a copy of Louis de Wohl’s great historical novel Attila or the earlier version “Throne of the World” I recommend it. de Wohl knew his history very well indeed.

Attila was coming after Rome. He  was an ambitious cruel and soon gathered a reputation for his willingness to wholesale slaughter. Attila was no different from any other despotic leader. They all lack imagination it seems to me.  No wonder evil looks to banal. It has no colour.

Leo is most famous for his meeting with Attila in which he persuaded the Hun leader to leave Rome alone. Many people try to make out that Leo didn’t really “win” this concession and I am sure Leo would agree.  He had some powerful help. While famine and disease had left Rome very weak, and should have meant easy picking for the Huns, they also faced the prospect of fighting on empty stomachs.

Leo was well used to spiritual and political battle by the time he met Attila. He had stood his ground against many members of the Church who cut themselves off from her, running after various heresies such as Nestorianism, Pelagianism, Manichaeism  and more. With those who dared to call themselves followers of Christ, being only too willing to rush off after any old golden calf. In the light of this maybe Leo didn’t see Attila as such a big problem.

juxtaposed against the feast of this saint was the story of the last stand of Judas Maccabees. In Divine Office the continuing story of how a remnant of Israel stood against the tyranny of Syria and Persia.

Just as Leo faced a threat of tyranny while many of his fellow Christians prefered an easy life than the cross of Christ, so Judas faced the battle as many of his men gave up and refused to trust in God. Judas went out with his remnant and died a hero.

Judas and Leo stood up against a pagan aggressor who believed in the right of power over the weak; survival of the fittest. The Old Covenant Peoples faced a head on assault at the point when they seemed the weakest, having mostly apostasised already, but in the end we remember the Jews and the valiant courage of Judas Maccabaeus over whoever that Syrian leader was.  It isn’t a fairy tale ending. Our greatest heroes have often had to carry the cross and die on it.

But Jesus warned us very clearly, with the politically incorrect words,  “Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Fear rather the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

So many people say they are Christians but don’t believe a word Jesus said. They have their golden calf and that will do them fine.

God has always allowed people like Antiochus Epiphanes and Attila the Hun to rise up because we are so darned daft we keep inviting them. Be He is merciful and He always gives us Leo the Greats and Judas Maccabaeus’. Thank God for that.

And Jesus said “Do not be afriad.”

Why not use UNIVERSALIS for the Year of Faith

Y of Faith: the fight for freedom of religion and conscience.

Divine Office at the moment is going through the Book of Maccabees, telling the story of what happened to the Jews after the time of Alexander the Great. The Scripture’s aren’t too enthusiastic about Alexander, showing him as a rapacious war maker. His empire is divided on his death and the divisions lead to more war.

Then from this mess arose Antiochus Epiphanes (215 to 163 BC) , a man whose level of evil knew no bounds. He went after Jewish religious practices to begin with, chipping away at their rights to practice their faith in freedom.

Slowly he tightened the screws until he demanded all should worship him as a god-manifest (hence the name he took Epiphanes) and the Temple was desecrated, the “abomination of desolation” set up there. From the ashes of a pretty large apostacy, Judas Maccabeus and his brothers stand up for freedom of faith and trust in God.

I think anyone who has done more than five minutes studying Scriptural typology will know that Antiochus was a type of Antichrist.

The whole story of the two Scriptural books of Maccabees is a great lesson for us. It’s not just the way the Jews lived through the wholesale persecution; the apostacy of so many and the powerful strength and faith of the few. It is the story of horror and death that leads to the bright lights of Hanukkah.(8 to 16th December this year).

No one can forget the strength and courage, the enormous  grace of the mother who was forced to watch her seven sons tortured to death. Not one of them gave in to their pagan torturers, but faced death, encouraged and strengthened by their mother.

Jesus referred back to this story and the prophecies of Daniel when He told us what to look out for in the end times. Of course we’ve been living in the end times since the Resurrection. We are children of the Eighth Day. Nevertheless we know the Eighth Day will come to an end. (Will a ninth day dawn? I’ve never quite got to grips with that.)

At the mini Parousia we saw the first fulfilment of Christ’s prophecy of the end of the world. In 70AD the world of the Old Testament was destroyed and there has been no Temple, no sacrifice for the Jewish people since that terrible time.

Ends come and go. The people who love God get persecuted, hounded, murdered and generally given a hard time. We have a whole load of history to go with Scripture and Tradition. I think when the time comes for the generations, countries and cities to be judged even the Canaanites and Aztecs will get an easier ride than us over whether they knew the wholesale human slaughter they were into was not advisable. Remember their cultures are long gone.

The Church has stood for over 2000 years. She will be there when Christ comes to claim His Bride.

Marriage, oneness and sacrifice – from yesterday’s readings.

Yesterday’s readings were about marriage. I love the way the three readings went together so clearly. First we heard how God took a rib from Adam and made Eve who was “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” so that marriage from that day forward was that

a man would leave his parents and become one flesh with his wife

This is how God designed marriage. One man, one woman become one flesh.

The next reading was from the letter to the Hebrews and describes how Christ suffered and poured Himself out for the Church. As St. Paul teaches, Christ is the head and the Bride, His Church is the Body and they are “one flesh”. As the Bridegroom Christ gave every last drop of Himself for her sake.

Christ and His Church are One.

The final reading was from Mark’s Gospel where the Pharisees try and trick Jesus by asking about divorce. In this Gospel they ask if it allowed for a man to divorce his wife. St. Matthew adds the detail of “for any reason” as the Pharisees had apparently been discussing the teachings of Hillel the rabbi who allowed divorce for the most trivial reason (much like no fault divorce).

Jesus points out that Moses only allowed divorce in the second law he gave Israel (God gave the first law in the Commandments) because Israel was stiff necked and unteachable.

God says He hates divorce (Hosea??) and Jesus adds that God designed marriage from the beginning to be between one man and one woman and they leave their parents and become one flesh.

No valid marriage can be ended by men.  Marriage is a reflection of the Bridegroom Christ and His Bride the Church. It is why families are called domestic churches.

Those who have split Christ’s body have broken His command and forgotten His prayer that “they should be one.”

Jesus then goes on to welcome the children and insist that children should be welcomed.  They teach us to remain innocent for the Kingdom of Heaven.

In today’s Divine Office St. Paul points out that child bearing can help bring a mother to heaven.

When God calls two people to marriage, He expects them to accept His life in their life and all the little lives He might wish to send. He is life, not barrenness. Children are gifts even when they are part of our cross.

If you ever forget that love is about sacrifice and that it hurts, look at a crucifix. Even the “cleaned up” ones show Christ suffered for us. Thank God He will never ask any of us to suffer to the depth that He did.

And while I’m talking about Christ’s crucifixion; don’t forget to pray for those brave Catholic souls who have endured crucifixion over the last few weeks. There’s a photo going around of an unamed martyr crucified by “Islamists”.

Annuciation; questions about Mary.

It’s forty weeks to Christmas!

This is the feast of the Annunciation when the Archangel Gabriel came to the virgin Mary and told her that she would have the Son of God. He called her “full of Grace,” and she gave her “Fiat”, that is, her consent to whatever God wanted of her.

The first question that often gets asked at this point is ‘how come she gets away with asking how this will be, when poor old Zachariah is struck dumb for 40 weeks (or 41 if you add the 8 days after John’s birth). God isn’t fair is he?’

The answer is that Zachariah, standing in the Holy of Holies before an angel of the Lord says he doesn’t believe it can happen. His wife is beyond child-bearing age. His lack of faith is punished with dumbness and he therefore cannot give the blessing to the people that the High Priest was supposed to give. That must have caused some consternation at the time.

Mary however is asking how she is going to get pregnant. Now this looks like a really silly question when you consider she is betrothed (more than engaged but less than married) to Joseph. The general tradition is that she had made an oath to God to remain His handmaid and therefore a virgin all her life. She wondered if she was somehow to be released from the vow, or if there was some other way she could become pregnant with the Messiah.

Gabriel then explains what will happen- which of course keeps her vow in tact.  It is this that helps St. Augustine and other father’s to see that she had made such a vow. It was very fitting that this should be so. She is now called to be the Mother of God Incarnate and she accepts the call.

OK, you might say, but what about the “brethren of the Lord”?

Of course there is nothing at all in either Scripture or tradition that suggests that Mary had other children than Jesus. There is a tradition based from the Evangelium of James that St. Joseph had children from a first marriage, but even that has not taken off a tradition throughout the Church.

The brothers of the Lord we see are the sons of Mary and Cleopas and of Mary Salome and Zebedee. There is a traditional family tree that shows how Mary Salome and Mary of Cleopas were related to Mary the Blessed Mother and therefore all their children were “brethren”. As Fr. Mitch Pacwa SJ and others who know both Aramaic and Hebrew point out, there is not set of words for extended family and so even today people will speak of uncles and cousins as brothers and sisters.  (I actually think this is a rather lovely aspect of these languages).

It hasn’t been easy to extrapolate who the father’s of all the James mentioned in Scripture might be. the biggest question has been over whether Mary of Cleopas was married to Alpheus before Cleopas or where Alpheus is simply another name Cleopas held (Much as St. Matthew was also called Levi). There has never been a tradition that Mary had other children. But could she have?

Mary has a special role in Scripture. She is called to be the Christ bearer, the Theotokos in Greek. As Christ is the second Adam so she is the second Eve, born without the loss of Grace – original sin – incured by the sin of Adam and Eve. Mary does have free will, just as all have from the time of Adam. She remains true to God though, freely choosing not to sin as she freely chose to give her Fiat to the angel.

In carrying the Christ child she is the second Ark of the Covenant. Only she is more holy than the first Ark. She carries the God Incarnate inside her whereas the Ark of the old Covenant carried manna, the tablets of the Law and Aaron’s staff (symbol of his priesthood). All these are precursors, types and symbols of what Mary and Jesus really are.

The Ark of the Covenant is the holiest object known in Israel. It was so holy that no one but the High Priest could touch it, and we all remember the story of two men who touched the Ark and immediately dropped dead.  No one could touch what was consecrated so completely to God.

So Mary could not have had other children as there is no way Joseph would have dared have children with the woman who was the Mother of God, Ark of the Covemant. She had received her child from God, by being covered with the Holy Spirit. She belonged completely to God then.  Her womb had been the place for the Incarnation and was therefore sacred so it would not be fitting for another child to dwell there.

The question over Our Lady’s perpetual virginity began around the 4th century and was answered by St. Jerome.

I think the root of the constant questioning of her perpetual virginity these days is based not only in a profound lack of Scriptural knowledge but in a loss of the understanding of the sacred – what is holy and set aside. Worse still I think the constant harping about her virginity is based in a bizarre view that sex is the be all and end all of life.  And a subtle, but nevertheless very present, undermining of the belief in the Incarnation itself.

The Bride and the Temple. (pt I)

The Cleansing of the Temple by Ippolito Scarzella !550-1620

In reply to the admittedly rather pompous What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD?) logo thing, many people say, “Get angry and turn over a few tables.”  But in the satisfaction of a clever, and likely justifiable response, we mustn’t lose sight of what Jesus was up to when He made a whip, and threw out the money changers.

There are a number of alternative readings for today, and the alternative Gospel reading is about Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. At first it seems the two readings have absolutely nothing in common, but when we look a bit closer, and go a bit deeper, we are returned to the repeating theme of Jesus as the Bridegroom.

I know, I do have a great interest in Christ as Bridegroom, but the theme is so strong throughout Scripture both Old and New Testament, that I think we need to look at it.

The Temple is built on the model of a man and a garden; it was the place where Israel would call God Adonai (Beloved husband). But Israel blew it and was scattered among the gentiles and the Temple was destroyed. By the time Jesus comes to the Temple there is only Judea, made up of Judah (Jesus’ Tribe) and Benjamin, with some Levites (Jesus also had the Levitical priesthood in His family) and a few scattered Israelites, here and there. The new Temple is magnificent, perhaps not as magnificent as Solomon’s but pretty stunning nevertheless. If we look at it through the eyes of typology, Solomon was a type of Christ as he built the Temple and a type of antichrist when he abandoned it for the gods of his numerous wives.

Herod the Great was an actual antichrist as he actively sought to kill the baby Jesus. His temple may have been magnificent on the outside, but with holy of holies was cold and empty.

But it was still God’s house and people came to pray there. The court of Israel would be full of Jewish men and the court of women would have the women and children behind the grill. beyond that was the court of the gentiles, where those who were not Jewish but had a love of God could come and pray. Even so there were signs warning the gentile worshipper he could not move further into the temple on pain of death. So the court of the Gentiles was all he had. And it was in this court that the money changers and animal sellers had set up their market.  If you want to make people quite sure they are not welcome, fill up their prayer space with cacophony and animal poo. There was undoubtedly some dodgy dealing going on as well.

Jesus was angry. As the bridegroom seeing His bride mistreated or turned to prostitution, He cleaned house for her.  There is even some speculation that He may have done this more than once. Just as the wives are sweeping and cleaning house ready for Passover, so Jesus does the same, making space for the Gentiles to be welcomed home like the prodigal son.

The authorities of the Temple; those who sit in and around the seat of Moses, with the priesthood God gave them in the desert after the Golden Calf incident – are standing firm against the Bridegroom. They may not have made a golden calf like their ancestors, but they have a huge one in their soul.

Jesus speaks His prophecy before them. “Tear down this Temple,” He said of Himself, “And in three days I will raise it.”

The priests mutter and shout about this, pointing out that the building has taken more than a generation to build. And yet when we reach the Passion we hear them complain to Pilate that Jesus had promised to rise from the dead; so they understood Him very well. Even so, they rejected Him.

Solid as a rock.

While Papa Beni – (pope number 265)is out there in Madrid preaching up a storm while standing in the midst of one, (how very apt),  the reading today is about Christ’s plans for His Church.

Jesus has the twelve standing around Him and his asks “Who do people say I am?” (I don’t think this is one the I AM statements, it being a question, but I could be wrong). The apostles come up with some answers. We could come up with even more and fat worse answers. Some say He is Nice Man, Push over Jesus, Therapy Jesus, Accepts-me-as-I-am-and-doesn’t-want-me-to-change-Jesus. Ditch-your-cross-Jesus and Blind-Eye-Jesus. I am sure there are others out there.

Then Jesus asks them “Who do you say that I am?”

Simon the fisherman, brother of Andrew announces, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Now, to be fair, Simon is not the first person to have recognised who Jesus is. Even if we put aside Our Lady, there is still Nathaniel of Cana. But at this moment, God’s chosen moment, Simon speaks up and Jesus acknowledges the truth of the matter, and that God has inspired Simon.

He then does something very God-like. He changes Simon’s name to Peter – or rather to Cephas the Aramaic form of the name. It survives in some Bibles in this form, presumably because even in the Greek it was written in the Aramaic. [God tends to change the name of those He has chosen to do something big-or to form a Covenant with, such as Abram to Abraham and Jacob to Israel]. They are standing in the shadow of the massive rock at Caesarea Philippi, upon which is perched the pagan temple that Herod had so thoughtfully had built to further his political career.

“You are Peter,” says Jesus, “And upon this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the Underworld will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of Kingdom of heaven, whatsoever you bind on earth is bound and whatsoever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven.” (Take a look at Matthew 16:13-20 if you didn’t get to Mass today)

Now, if you were at Mass, or like me, had to do the readings at home, you will have noticed that the first reading is from Isaiah 22:19-23. This reading is the pre-shadowing of what happens between Jesus and Peter.

First of all the old master is dismissed for being corrupt, just as the old priesthood will be dismissed. Then  King Hezekiah who is a type of Christ as he is the immediate fulfilment of Isaiah prophecy that a child would be born – called Eliakim to be his deputy, or Prime Minister. He is entrusted with the robe of authority and receives the keys of the Kingdom. He may open and shut and it will be as he says as he is the peg in the firm place.

But, you might ask, what about those protestants who insist that only Jesus is the rock?

It’s plain from the text and the history of the Church that Jesus isn’t the only rock. Not only is Peter the rock too, but we are told that the Church is the firm foundation, the rock.  However, Jesus is the rock that underpins all of His Church – He is the corner-stone. Even Herod’s pagan temple was built on a rock, which would not have been a firm rock if it hadn’t been formed out of the great rock of the earth.

I have come across some amazing contortions by those who refuse to accept the Scripture as it is written. One woman told how her father insisted Jesus was pointing at Peter when He named Him, but at Himself when he was somehow not handing over the authority.

Then there are those who say Jesus never intended Peter or the apostles to hand on their authority. History, however shows very clearly that they did and that this makes sense in that Christ is a King who continues to rule His Kingdom so there is bound to be more ministers for the Kingdom as there is for any kingdom.

Peter’s first act of binding was at the Council of Jerusalem around the year 50 when he said gentile converts did not need to come to Christ through the Mosaic laws of circumcision and kosher food. He said “Baptism now saves you.”

Holy Week; The Four Last Things.

As Holy Week approaches I thought I would look at the Four Last things; death, judgement, Heaven and hell. I think Holy week lends itself to these. On the Saturday before He enters Jerusalem, Jesus shows His power over death by raising Lazarus. On the Second day of the week, Jesus cleanses the Temple passing judgement on those who prevented prayer in the holy place., and on the Temple itself. We catch a glimpse of hell on Spy Wednesday when Judas sells Jesus and again when he hangs himself. We see Christ bring Heaven to earth on Thursday as He gives Himself in the form of bread and wine. His love and Passion give us a chance of Heaven.  We then see the price of sin on Friday and the harrowing of hell- opening the gates of Heaven on Holy Saturday.

Something odd has happened to Christians where they fear death, avoid suffering and resent those who are chosen by God to carry the extra burden that they have refused to carry.  Those who refuse to serve, face spending eternity with the one who first refused to serve. But many Christians no longer believe in hell and certainly do not believe anyone goes there. As the Church has never said who is there, they argue this means no one is.  Jesus spoke strongly in warning about hell. Many saints have received visions, or even been taken to see hell. They have never found it empty.

To reach heaven we must obey God in all things. We must take up our cross and be must serve, even when, or especially when, we find it inconveniant.  It may seem hard. But St Teresa of Avila wisely noted that what seems easy at first soon leads to misery as we slide ever faster down hill, but what seems difficult and daunting at first, becomes a light task under His care and grace as we climb ever closer to Him. I often wonder when we say the Confitior at Mass whether it is sins that are done, that get us into trouble, or those things we did not do, those words we did not say, that we will find needs purging.

Meanwhile I have found this well read audio of St Therese of Lisieux’s The Story of a Soul. It’s a good recipe for getting to heaven :)

Why did Jesus weep?

Today’s Gospel reading was about the raising of Lazarus. In the middle of this story comes the Bible’s shortest verse, “Jesus wept.” What was He weeping about? The people around Him at the time thought He wept for Lazarus, but from our viewpoint, we know that can’t be true. He knew He was going to raise His friend and He would shuffle out of the grave before all those people. What was He weeping for? I think I may have a few ideas. I am not sure what other’s think on this, but this is my t’pence worth.

He wept for Judas and for Jerusalem. You see, Mary ran from her house where she was sitting shiva for her brother. She gets up and rushes to Jesus as soon as she hears He is in the vicinity. She throws herself down at His feet – and John reminds us this is not the first time she has wept over the feet of Jesus.

The twelve are with Christ as He comes to Bethany, and there is little doubt that Judas sees Mary at the feet of Jesus. How angry he had been when she had “wasted” all that wealth and beauty on the Lord. From that moment he had planned to hand the Lord over to His enemies. Just like the Judases today who even phone radio shows with the SAME QUESTION, he resented the cost of worshipping the Lord, God and Saviour, “Why doesn’t She sell it and give the money to the poor?”[she being Mary and the Church] they ask. Of course, like Judas, they have no real regard for the poor, they just hate the wealth given to the glory of God.

Did Jesus weep for all the Judases that over the next 2000 years and more would pretend to be His disciples, when in fact they only wished to serve themselves?

Did He weep for all those people who would observe the raising of Lazerus, just a week before Jesus Himself would be crucified and that despite all the time He had spent with them, it really would take a miracle of this magnitude before many of those present would deign to believe?

Perhaps too, He wept for all those who, even in the face of this miracle STILL refused to believe. For those who would rush back to Jerusalem, horrified by this resurrection and more eager than ever to have this Jesus of Nazareth put to death.

Perhaps He wept for all of us, who in whatever way, have turned from Life to death because we are daft enough to prefer the darkness of the tomb.

It’s just two words “Jesus wept,” but those are words that are sword to the heart of all of us.

Home education and family: Free booklet and lesson for Lent.

click pic for link

Lent is fast approaching (Ash Wednesday 9th March) so I have written this booklet as a study and lapbook pack. [click on the picture to go to link]. It’s available at That Resource Site and on my page there.

There are 72 pages with blank sheets so you can print the whole thing back to back. [If you prefer to only print the lapbook pages that should work fine too].

click pic for link

Via Dolorosa means road of sorrows and I decided to begin with the importance of Mary’s Fiat at the Annunciation and move onto the sorrowful mysteries from the Seven Sorrows chaplet and then through to Holy Week which I have written up one day at a time. Hope you find it useful.

I have also done a Little Lesson for children to learn the Our Father in Latin.

I have coloured the cards to help visual learners.

I note that K has placed it under Montessori catagory and actually I think that’s about right. It does have that sort of method, so it should suit kinesetic learners too. Have fun.

A Mystery of joy and sorrow.

I remember being told in great detail during my studies for the MA that mystery comes from the word mysterion (or something like that) and means “veiled” or something similar. I can’t remember the whole thing.

Today is the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord. It’s an interesting little insight in Jewish Law of Torah and Mizvah. From our standpoint the laws seem very strange indeed, and as much of it is in the priestly book of Leviticus they cannot be so easily explained as the Mosaic second law of Deuteronomy which he had to write to as the people just couldn’t keep the Law without some extra help.

So in accordance with Lev 12:4 Mary had stayed separated for forty days. (For a girl it was 80). On the 8th day Jesus had been circumsised into the Law and now on the 40th day she and Joseph went to the Temple to obey the rest of Lev 12 which demanded a ransom to redeem the first born son.

God of course has a sense of humour. The only other thing that could have it’s first born redeemed was a donkey. Yes, God is telling us what we are :)

The veiled moment in the Temple is that while Mary completes all that the Law requires for sinners, she has no sin. She presents her Son for redemoption but He is the Redeemer. Luke tells us that Anna of the tribe of Ashur was there. Scott Hahn points to the significance of this. Remember that at the time of Christ Israel is scattered. Judea is land to the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and the Levitical priests, but the rest of the tribes are outside of this. The prophecy of the Messiah is that He will restore Israel, so Anna’s presence is a veiled reference to this.

When you say the rosary this even is a Joyful Mystery (the 4th) and we tend to contemplate on the wonder of the arrival of a beautiful baby and all that He means to us and what joy He brought to those around him.

But when you say the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows it is the first Mystery you contemplate, for Simeon speaks to Mary and says “And a sword shall pierce your soul also…” Mary will share in her Son’s Passion. Can you imagine a greater pain than watching your child being tortored to death? Like the mother in Maccabees Mary will stand firm in her love and faith,she will take up her cross as her Son demands and she will suffer greatly.

It makes our crosses seem a little lighter doesn’t it?

Heal me! I’d go back…promise!!

I managed to get to Mass today and I am grateful. I managed to sit through it all and come out at the end without feeling like I wanted to curl up and die; and I am grateful for that.

The Gospel reading was about how Jesus healed the ten lepers and sent them to show themselves to the priest at the Temple. Only one, a Samaritan, returned to say thank you.

Father preached about giving without condition. He pointed out that Jesus healed all of them, even the nine that didn’t come back. He was happy that they had been healed.

He then told us the story of an old woman he was called to advise who had just come into a large amount of money. She didn’t need the money at all, and so had decided to divide it between members of her family and give a substantial sum to a dear friend who had always been there for her and was now going through chemo for cancer.

Continue reading

Water From the Right Side and Destruction of the Temple

longinusTodays READINGS were pretty powerful-don’t you think?

I remember some time ago listening to someone phone into a Catholic radio programme and ask about the depiction of the crucified Christ. Which side, he wanted to know, should the lance wound be? The answer was that it didn’t matter.  It was one of the few occasions when I have disagreed with the answer given.

Ezekial sees the water flowing from the RIGHT side of the temple. The water is the water of healing-living water- that flows out to the sea and so all the nations are nourished by it. I wonder if Ezekial knew that this wonderful prophecy meant. Did he see the signs that meant the Messiah was coming?

Continue reading