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?