Tag Archives: lent

Holy Week; Spy Wednesday. Thinking like Judas.

Lazarus had been raised from the dead. Instead of doing this on the quiet as He had with Jairus’ daughter (I suspect for her sake) Jesus had raised Lazarus in front of a crowd. The following day He is sitting in the house with Lazarus when Mary comes in and pours very expensive Nard all over his feet.

Judas says the same thing I have heard from so many people who say they are followers of Christ, “Why hasn’t this expensive stuff been sold and the money given to the poor?”

John tells us something else about this statement. Judas was not interested in the poor, he was interested in the money.

How many people who use the same words as Judas about the Church have sold their goods and given the money to the poor?

Jesus says, “The poor you will have with you always….” And sadly this is true. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor and they will still be poor when it runs out.  We need to get our priorities in the right order. We cannot serve the poor properly unless we first serve God properly. We cannot give to the poor unless we first give to God so we can receive from Him everything we need to give to the poor. And if we look at some of the most beautiful buildings and vestments in many churches we find that it was the poor themselves who donated to make sure these things were there for the proper worship of God.

St. Francis of Assisi had nothing. He and his fellow Franciscans begged for their daily bread and worked among the poor all their lives. But Francis insisted on the very best vestments, chalices and altar cloths for the Mass because God is worth it.

Jesus didn’t need nard poured over him. Mary needed to do that. Jesus doesn’t need to see His priests and deacons in proper vestments using precious items for the Mass – we NEED to see that, because we are weak and so easily forget who God is.

When the Church is stripped of her wealth, as she was in England under Henry VIII, it is noteworthy that the wealth doesn’t get near the poor, but boosts the coffers of the already rich. While Henry destroyed everything the poor were thrown out of the hospices and monastery guest houses and the sick were left without the medicinal gardens and care of the monasteries and convents. The schools that had been open to the poor were shut.

Leprosy, which the work of the religious orders had eradicated from England was re-introduced.

And most famously of all the bee-keepers of the country were left destitute.

Judas is not unique. He got his thirty pieces of silver that he longed for, but it didn’t help him or any poor person.

The first person to refuse to offer to God what was right, was Cain, and he murdered his brother. Henry VIII murdered a lot of people, but gave us wonderful saints like St Thomas More and St John Fisher among many many others.

Judas saw to it that Jesus was crucified but from that we have our Salvation.

God makes straight with crooked lines, but God help the one who has made those crooked lines.

Holy Week; Cleansing the Temple and cleansing the Church

Jesus-Cleansing-the-TempleToday we remember how Jesus arrived at the Temple to see the Court of the Gentiles had been turned into a market place. Those Gentiles who wanted to worship the LORD were therefore given no place to pray. They were not allowed into the Court of Israel on pain of death .

Jesus, who is the Light to bring the gentiles out of darkness, (as Simeon prophesied when he held the 40 day old Baby in his arms), made a whip and thrashed the money changers and the sellers out of the place.  No more den of thieves. But it is assumed that Jesus may have had to do this clearing of the Temple more than once, as the money makers didn’t take “No!” for an answer and didn’t care enough about the gentiles who wanted to worship God to allow them their space to do so.

Pope Francis is facing many calls to clean house. There was consternation and deep sadness over the sacrilegious public taking of Holy Communion by people who are very publicly and very powerfully pro-death politicians.  The call has gone out for Church Law to be obeyed on this matter, as the open disobedience  causes such grave scandal and is hardly helping those who persist in taking sacriligious Holy Communion.

parable-of-the-taresI don’t envy Pope Francis that difficult task. But Jesus told a parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like a field in which the owner planted good seed. But while  he slept his enemy came and planted weeds among the good seeds. Both seeds grew up so when the servants came to the field they found wheat and weeds growing. “Sir, didn’t you plant good seed?” they said to the owner, “Look at the weeds here.”

“Some enemy has done this,” said the farmer.

“We’ll go in a gather them up,” offered the servants but the farmer said, “No, don’t gather the weeds incase you uproot some of the wheat too. Leave them to grow together and at the end when the harvest is ready, I will send reapers to gather the weeds first and burn them, while the wheat will be gathered into my barn.”

I don’t know what Pope Francis will do, although I think he’ll have to do something. There is a line between pulling up the wheat with the weeds and losing some wheat to the strangulation of the scandal caused by murderous weeds.

The only thing for us little ones is to pray and make sure we change our lives so we are the wheat and not another weed.

From Hosanna to Crucify in less than a week

Entry_Into_JerusalemJesus wept.

He wept for Jerusalem the holy city with the Temple at it’s heart, which had turned so far from God. Jesus had just raised his friend Lazarus (a name meaning God has helped)  from the dead and now He enters Jerusalem on a donkey, through the King’s gate in a very public fulfilment of the prophecy of  Zechariah (9:9) “Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion, Shout in triumph daughter of Jerusalem. Behold your king has come to you. He is just and carries salvation. He is lowly and riding on an ass and the colt the foal of an ass.”

So Jesus comes to Jerusalem with the prophecy fulfilled to the last detail and the poeple recognise this and come out shouting for Him, their king, the son of David. Within a week they will have forgotten their palms and songs of joy and will be shouting at the Roman Procurator to “Crucify Him!”

So it will be for our new Holy Father. He has entered the Vatican to shouts of joy even from those who have shown themselves to have no heart for God. How humble he is, they cry and see how he loves the poor.

But soon there will be shouts of  hatred as they realise that yet again the Pope is, in fact, Catholic. There’s been a few of those shouts already.

Jesus calls us to rejoice, but He also insisted we carry a cross. He had to because the people He loved so much didn’t want to receive the truth.b16f1cca

As Jesus entered Jerusalem that fateful day the people singing “Hosanna!” had decided what kind of Messiah they wanted. They had their own idea of a king. Like the media today they put out the sort of things they expected the King Messiah to do. He must make reforms, get rid of the Romans,  change the Law perhaps.

But Jesus had already said He wasn’t going to change the Law, He was going to fulfil it.  The people soon tired of a man who kept speaking the truth and was doing what God wanted rather than what those who considered themselves elite wanted.

Pope Francis will face the same as the palms laid out for his inaugoration wither, so will the media’s sentimentality.  He will still be the Pope for the poor, but they will hate the fact he insists the poor have a right to be born.

I have to say, however difficult it gets for Pope Francis, and even if he must bear the wounds of Christ in the most difficult way; more difficult than his namesake St. Francis even, he does have a massive advantage. He has the prayers of his brother in Christ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. There’s also the sense that Blessed Pope John Paul II is looking down on them with his prayers. The brother popes knelt together in the chapel to pray and there on the wall was a copy of Our Lady of  Czestochowa with the Divine Child. As the original Icon has stood the test of many evil men and been victorious, there is a sign for the future- whatever it brings.

There’s an old saying that it’s easy to break one stick, but bind three sticks together and they cann’t be broken.

Lent; Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows. (Mystery 6)

Jesus us taken from the cross and placed in the arms of His Mother.

Anyone who has lost a child will remember the pain, that deep soul wrenching pain that comes with the loss. Those of us who have watched, helpless, while a child of ours suffers terribly and the sense of them leaving us is a pain that is beyond description.

Mary had watched her Son be tortured to death. Now two brave men arrive with a signed permission from Pilate that they can receive the body of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea was a relative of Jesus and Nicodemus was a friend of Joseph’s. Both these men had positions of status in the Temple and were (particularly as Pharisees) well aware of the Law.

In stepping into Pilate’s house that day before the Sabbath, which that year coincided with the Passover, they made themselves unclean. To make themselves so unclean they could not celebrate the Passover they went and took a bloody corpse down from a cross. They were so terribly ritually unclean now and yet that Precious Blood that they undoubtedly got over them did not make them unclean, but cleansed them.

St. Longinus, the Roman soldier pierces the side of Jesus so that blood and water flows out.

Jesus is laid in the arms of His Mother and she holds him as she had when he was a child.  The Pieta is a scene produced by many artists, the most famous I suppose is the sculpture by Michelangelo.

pieta1But I have to admit that it’s Mel Gibson’s scene in the Passion that I remember most vividly. You cannot look on that scene and not know that you are the one who brought it about – that He and she have suffered and drunk to the dregs the cup of suffering and all because of us.

Jesus is then wrapped in a shroud, traditionally a cloth belonging to St. Joseph of Arimathea, who is (again according to tradition) to be the first bringer of Christianity to Britain.

Jesus had said that even if a man should rise from the dead some people would refuse to believe. He told the Temple authorities they would only receive the sign of Jonah and He was in the belly of the earth for three days. But many people don’t ask “Why did He rise?” they ask “Why did He have to die like that?” Now, that’s a mystery, but I think part of the answer is that He wanted to show us just how utterly horrible sin really is. I think a lot of art has sanitized the Passion so much that we don’t get it any more.  

In seeing the horror and agony of the Passion, especially in seeing it from the point of view of a mother watching her son being whipped, beaten, forced to carry a heavy cross on a back already ripped and bleeding, having the nails hammered through him and then hung – and knowing that He became sin for us (1 Cor 5:21) we must see how dreadful sin is and we can never tire of  asking for forgiveness (and trying not to sin in the first place)

As Pope Francis has said, God never tires of offering forgiveness, it’s we who tire of asking for it. But we mustn’t. We must run the race to the end.

Lent; Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows (mystery 5)

At the foot of the cross

Having walked with Jesus her beloved Son, to the place of crucifixion, Mary stays with Him even as he is stripped nailed and hoisted up onto the cross. If ever you are tempted to see this as “ordinary” try and imagine watching your own child, or someone you love very much being tortured right in front of you while you stand by powerless to intervene.

We love our super heroes who come swooping in, often at the last minute, and save the innocent or good guy from the bad guys But here the mystery of iniquity is played out before us and it is allowed to happen. Jesus doesn’t show His power here.

Mary is not left to suffer alone. Just as Jesus had Simon of Cyrene, so Mary has those with her who are there out of love. Her sisters (that is close kin) Mary the wife of Cleopas and Mary Salome the mother of James and John (widow of Zebedee) are there as is Mary Magdalene and Salome’s son John stands with them.

But even with these kind persons the pain, the twisting of the sword in her soul, must have been something that only God’s grace could have made bearable.

Watching another suffer, has got to be one the most difficult things any of us are called to do.

While she is there Jesus, taking note of her needs but also, as He suffers for us, taking note of our needs, gives her to John and through him, us to her. “Mother, behold your son; son behold your mother.” He doesn’t call John by name because in the word son is the sonship of all of us as Mary is made our mother and we can ask her to pray for us as we are her children.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a mother on earth or not, or whether she is a good mother or a bad one because you will always have a mother in heaven who wants the very best for you. Jesus said He wouldn’t leave us orphans; in His promise we have a Father and a mother.

MaryAtFootOfCross

As I have a soft spot for Mary Salome, I can’t help wondering what she thought at that moment. We are never told, but I don’t think she would have felt that John was being taken away from her and given to Our Blessed Mother. I think she would have realised that this moment was beyond a simple bit of Jewish law ensuring a widow without a son wasn’t left destitute – it was bringing all four Mary’s closer together in their relationship with the B. Mother and St. John.

A deeper mystery still is here in this moment of the crucifixion. Christ suffers and pours Himself out; every last drop of His Precious Blood given for us. But He doesn’t suffer alone. Our Blessed Mother, John, Mary of Cleopas, Mary Magdalene and Mary Salome suffer too. They suffer with Him and their suffering is united with His.

When we contemplate the sword of sorrow that pierced our Mother’s soul, we can follow her example in uniting our sufferings with Him, so that none of our suffering, of the crosses we accept to follow him, need be wasted. (cf Col 1:24)

Lent; Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows (mystery 4)

This needs no explanation.

We’ve been asked to pray for the conclave today at 5pm Rome time. That’s 4pm UK time (at the end of the hour of mercy) and 11 am EST for the USA.

 

Lent; The Chaplet of Seven Sorrows (mystery 3)

The Losing of the Christ Child in the Temple.

I think this mystery is incredibly profound. When we read of it in St. Luke’s Gospel I think we tend to concentrate on how Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the Temple; but in this meditation we are to consider how the sword pierced Mary (and I bet Joseph’s) soul as they discovered their loss.

The sense of loss, of fear without Him must have been horrendous. They had left the Holy City and it’s Temple behind and He wasn’t with them.

In order to find Him, they had to turn around and go back. They had to go where He was most likely to be, even if they didn’t understand why He was there and even though it would have been more convenient if He could meet them somewhere else. But when you really want Jesus back in your life, you will search for Him and be happy to go where He leads you and where you know you can find Him where they liked.

In the desert when Israel wouldn’t go up the mountain to find God, they ended up making a god at the bottom of the mountain.

Jesus commanded us (we need to stop taking what Jesus said plainly as merely suggestions) that we should FIRST seek the Kingdom of God.  This has been self-edited by too many of us who remember “ask and you shall receive” as though God is a magic slot machine – prayer in, whatever we ask for out.  This is a sure way of finding ourselves walking away from the Kingdom and losing sight of Him altogether.

Then we have to turn around – the word repent means to turn around – and seek the Kingdom again. Jerusalem has been a sign or type of the Kingdom of God from the Old Testament right the way through to John’s Revelation (the New Jerusalem descending from Heaven like a Bride).

God said, “I have not said to Jacob seek me in vain,” so if we seek Him we will find Him as Christ promised, “Seek and you shall find” but we have to seek Him where He is. There is nothing in Luke about Mary and Joseph searching throughout Jerusalem or the surrounding environs. They headed back to the Temple and there He was. If we try to get to know Jesus, properly, we will know where to find Him.

Mary and Joseph had a major advantage over the rest of us. They had one Jesus in their lives and they knew Him very well. These days we have to search among so many different Jesuses before we can truly find Him. (One red flag for me is when I see something with “the real Jesus” written over it. You can almost guarantee that it’s another golden calf Jesus). Beg God for discernment. Pray and be ready to accept Him, on His terms.

Lent; Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows (mystery 2)

The Flight into Egypt.

The Gospels don’t give us an exact timeline of the infancy narratives, but you can kind of work out that after Jesus was born in Bethlehem,  He and His family stayed there for a while. He would have been circumcised there on the eighth day after birth and then Mary and Joseph took him the few miles north to Jerusalem for His presentation. Luke leaves out the rest saying when all was done they went back to Nazareth, but Matthew fills in the rest of all that was done.

The Magi came. Having read the signs properly, first, from the sky and very likely from the prophecy of Balaam which had been given to the pagans; they headed off to find the king of the Jews. Understandably they went to King  Herod in Jerusalem.

Herod didn’t want a Messiah, and to make sure there wasn’t one, he ordered all the boys under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed. The slaughter of the innocents was the result.

But an angel came to Joseph and warned him, telling him to take his little family and flee into Egypt.

Leaving their lives behind, Mary and Joseph headed off into the desert, taking our precious hope of salvation with them. The sword in Mary’s heart was not just the loss of home and extended family, and having to become a refugee, but the realisation that already people hated her beloved Son. They hated Him enough to want Him dead.

For so many of us, our journey with Christ, with the Divine Child, is through the desert. It’s a long journey of spiritual dryness where the joy of the Temple seems far behind and we feel we are facing a life in Egypt where we don’t belong, and long for home. A desert prayer life is a lesson in faith. It doesn’t feel good and there are no (or few) consolations, but we do it anyway. It’s a big sign of contradiction to “feel good Christianity” that’s for sure.

There are two lovely golden legends about this journey. The first tells us that the soldiers chased after the Holy Family. Joseph quickly led them, and the donkey off the path and hid them in a cave. But the soldiers were searching everywhere.

As the little family huddled at the back of the cave, a spider came and quickly made her webs around the mouth of the cave and a soft wind sent dust over the webs.

When the soldiers arrived they said, “These webs have been here a long time undisturbed so they didn’t come this way.” They turned and went away.

The second story tells us that along the road, not far from Bethlehem robbers came to attack the family. One of them, a young one, was so taken with the baby he said he would not steal from them and he ensured they were allowed to go on safely.

This was St. Dismas who would continue in his life of crime and get arrested. He would then be crucified on Calvary that Friday before the Sabbath and he would in his own agony, repent, accept his punishment, rebuke his fellow criminal (one of the spiritual works of mercy) and declare his belief in Jesus and His innocence. So much good done while in such terrible agony!

I hope that the faith of Dismas helped mitigate, just a little, the intensity of the sword that pierced Our Blessed Mother’s soul that day. As you can see I have a big soft spot for St. Dismas who not only picked up his cross but accepted being crucified on it too.

Lent; Chaplet of Seven Sorrows. (mystery 1)

I thought I should do something lentern, quick before it’s Easter!

The Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows is part of my daily prayer. To be honest I chose to day this instead of the rosary when my concentration got too bad to manage a rosary. This is easier. Yes, I know, not exactly a great reason…

But for Lent it’s a lovely meditation.

The first mystery is the Prophecy of Simeon at the moment of Jesus’ presentation at the Temple when He was 40 days old.

Mary and Joseph, in accordance with Mosaic Law had taken Jesus to the Temple when he was 40 days old to redeem him with the set sacrifices. Mary will have entered the purification baths as her days of postpartum impurity ended.

In the Temple at that time were two holy people, Simeon and Anna the widow of the tribe of Ashur (and Israelite).

They had awaited the Messiah for so lon and now they saw Him and knew Him.

At that moment Simeon prayed the beautiful Dunc Dimittus, said each night at Compline:

“At last all powerful Master, you may let your servant  go in peace according to Your word; for my eyes have seen the salvation which you have promised to the nations. A light to bring the gentiles out of darkness to the glory of your people Israel.”

Then he turned to Mary and made this prophecy on her role in salvation history;

“This child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign of contradiction. And a sword shall pierce your own soul also, so that the thoughts of many will be laid bare.”

God doesn’t keep us in the dark, especially when He asks something of us. Mary kept many things in her heart over the years Jesus grew up. While she certainly didn’t know the whole of God’s plan for her Son or herself, she trusted and accepted that when she gave her “fiat” to the angel she was saying yes to everything God asked of her.

We are all called to say yes to God in some way or other and Jesus Himself says that we are to take up our cross daily to follow Him, so swords in the soul will come along as part of saying yes.

The Entire Word.

It was St. Luke’s Gospel this morning, wherein Jesus fasts for forty days and is tempted by Satan.  In the very first response to Satan, Jesus reveals Himself. Satan says, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.”

“Man does not live by bread alone,” Jesus quotes Deut 8;3.  If we didn’t know the tempter was Satan would we think Jesus would do wrong in making some bread for Himself and eating it?  It doesn’t seem wrong. And yet God doesn’t create for His own sake. He needs nothing. Everything He has made He has made from His agape love. We don’t have an English equivalent to agape (Greek) although the word “passion” comes close.  Unfortunately we have reduced the word passion to meaning intense feelings; but it really means to pour out for the sake of the other. Hence Christ’s Passion is His pouring out for us.

Christ’s bread miracles are both about feeding the people, not because He is in need. But even though he feeds the 5000 with bread and fish (not bread alone) He still insists we should live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Deut 8;3 Matt 4:4 Luke 4:4).

What is the Word? John tells us “In the beginning was the  Word,… and the Word was God” (John 1:1) In Greek it’s logos, a word of meaning. Greek has so much more in it’s language on this point.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity is the entire, meaningful Word that we are to live on.

Christ gave us the Church, His Bride, His Body (in which we are His body) and the Church from the apostles (he who hears you, hears Me. He who rejects you, rejects Me) gave us the entirety of public revelation through oral Tradition (1 Cor 11.2) and written Scripture (first canonised at the Council of Rome 382 AD under Pope St. Damasus I). All of this is completed, so that we can live on every word that comes from the mouth of God, in the Holy Eucharist, where we receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Word of God; Risen, and whole.

So while we receive the Word in the form of the Liturgy and bread (and wine) we are not being fed by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God. And let us remember that the Word was what brought about creation. What He says, is. When He says “This is My Body,” and “This is My Blood” He means it.

Lent Reading; trying to be inspired.

It’s Lent and so I thought I would put out a list of books for good Lentern reading.

I’m still working through the Dairies of St. Faustina which I converted to a mobi file for my Kindle using CALIBRE, which is a free and easy to use e-book converter and manager.

I found a text file of the Catechism and I’ve made that into a pdf using PRIMO PDF. I’ve been using Primo for a long time to make the free lesson packs Kalei has been putting up on That Resource Site. Do go and take a look at what she’s got on offer for Lentern resources.

If you want to read a book on your ereader then having Primo and Calibre is a great help. I’ve transferred books to Word then to pdf and Calibre with convert them to mobi.

So I am hoping to read a lot of the Catechism throughout Lent.

I am also reading the Life of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi . I love this woman, but the book is a true penance to read. I can’t stand purple passage and this book is awash with sentimentality, flouncy, purple and elaborate extrapolations. It’s so bad, it can be difficult to find the story of Anna Maria in there – but it is there.

If you are wondering why I would deliberately read a book as astonishingly badly written as this, well, I really find her inspiring and there are hardly any books in English out there about her. I have the one by TAN publishers (can’t remember the author just now) on order – but that’s a hard copy so I will only be able to read it when eyesight allows.

I love Anna Maria because she was so ordinary in her extraordinariness. She was married, had seven children and lived a tough life. She cared for her parents when they grew old and poor. Her mother, who was a little difficult apparently, lived with them and then her daughter Sophia moved back home with her six children when her husband died.

Obviously the “big” part of Anna Maria’s story was her gift of prophecy and the “sun” she saw in which God revealed to her the things He needed her to tell others.

Anyway, apart from the penance of reading a badly written book, I’m hoping her life will inspire me to better behaviour over being ill. She had many of the same symptoms as your average FMS/ME cum dysautonomia patient, including severe migraines, black outs, pain, absolute exhaustion and the rest. She handled all this as you’d expect a holy saint to handle it – that is, not like me! So I am hoping for inspiration. (stop laughing!)

When my poor husband says he can tell how much pain I’m in, even when I, in saint-mode do not mention it – because I’m irratible and snappy that’s an epic fail!

So, hopefully Bl. Anna Maria will help me out, without me requiring yet another holy 2×4 across the soul. (So I’m a slow learner).

I am still slowly working through Les Miserables which I love. Even so, dear old Vic likes to pontificate rather pompously and go off on long pontifical-tandems to the point where you almost feel like yelling “Get back to the story!” But when he’s in the story; it’s brilliant.

As a straight forward book I’m reading a The Emperor of North America the second book in the Young Chesterton Chronicales by John McNichol. I actually bought it along with The Tripods Attack for Ronan but as you can have it on more than one Kindle at a time I’m getting to read it too.

So I have something to read for all brain states from flurble to relatively sensible.

Wed before Holy Week; Lazarus is so ill he will die.

A runner finds Jesus preaching and healing the sick. The apostles are all with Him as He is making His way to Jerusalem for Passover, although they have not realised He was on His way to Jerusalem. He is not far from Bethany, just south  of Jerusalem near the Mount of Olives.

The runner tells Jesus to come quickly to Bethany, to the house of His dear friend Lazarus as he is so ill he looks close to death.

Jesus simply doesn’t rush. He doesn’t jump up and go and see Lazarus, neither does He do as He did for the centurion’s servant and “say the word”. By the time they are heading for Bethany, He has to bluntly tell the apostles that Lazarus is dead.

In the end we know that Jesus is going to raise Lazarus before many witnesses just before He enters Jerusalem to face His Passion.

It is the only time in Christ’s public ministry where He (at first) appears not to answer a prayer – but instead seems to say no, or not answer at all. In the end there is something amazing, that no one could have expected. Perhaps we need to remember that when our prayers don’t seem to be answered.

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.

When you can’t pray it’s good to know someone else can.

Lent is about the desert really. It’s the long winding journey to the Promised Land, and it can be really, really dry. I vaguely remember a story of a sister in the convent with St Teresa of Avila who was caught trying to avoid the call to chapel. She confessed that she didn’t feel like praying, and St Teresa said neither did she, but they must do so anyway.  There are times when praying is so dry you can wonder whether the words themselves even mean anything.

The Church as always known this of course and hence she has given us Divine Office. We don’t have to try and make our own words work, when they simply aren’t going to – we can offer back to God His own Words. Much better. Thankfully when He was going about inspiring the writers of the Psalms and other Scriptures, He was offering beautiful Words that are good for the soul peace and of course soul scrubbing.

Nothing worthwhile is easy so it’s always good to persevere in prayer, but it is also quite true that we have what a friend of mine calls “seasons”. In this season with little children, ill health and lots going on, perhaps the prayers, get a bit jumbled and ragged. Perhaps they don’t even happen at all some days.

Fortunately for us we have the saints (the Church Triumphant) to pray for us. We do so every day probably, and it has occured to me a couple of times when I am just so tired, I can’t even see the words of Divine Office, much less pray them, that our friends in heaven can take up our prayer and do some of it for us.

I am not suggesting we get lazy in prayer and simply say, oh if the saints and other people are praying I don’t have to. That wouldn’t be a good idea at all. But on those really awful days, or seasons, where we just aren’t getting it together, then it’s good to know that the saints are there and of course some prayer warriors here in the Church Militant.

My Lent reading – on Dr. Takashi Nagai, A Song for Nagasaki.

Fr Paul Glynn is the author of A Song For Nagasaki which I am reading for Lent.  I have read that the cause for the canonisation of Dr Takashi Nagai is under way. I hope to see the day he is canonised.

Fr Glynn, I believe, spent a lot of time in Japan and certainly seems to know the language, culture and people well. He writes the story of the Doctor around the long history and the tales of Catholics and persecution there.

This might be made into a short film on the 26 martyrs of Nagasaki. I think one of the men crucified was a teenaged boy.

You can see the films progress and offer some support HERE at ALL THAT REMAINS

Home Education: Lent reading and soul scrubbing; and a Freebie

Lent is under way and we are plunging into the Lent term.

They will be listening to Glory Stories, which they love. I want Ronan to have a good saint book to read beside his Tom’s Midnight Garden. I think I’m going to get him to read Saint Ignatius and the Company of Jesus.

Avila will be reading some of the St Joseph books - we have a pile of them. (Some are better written than others)

There are also good LENTERN RESOURCES at That Resource Site. You might also like my new resource for the older ones and maybe even for you. THE SEVEN LAST WORDS. I am afraid it was a bit of a struggle to write, so please forgive me if there are bits in it that are a bit – how shall I put this? – fibro foggy. Perhaps you can offer up any irritation it gives you :)

Heleyna is still working through My First Bible Stories and she too will have some St Joseph Picture book stories and perhaps Amy Steedman stories such as In God’s Garden.

MY LENT READING

I am reading A Song For Nagasaki by Paul Glynn. It is the story of Dr Takashi Nagai, his journey from Shinto, through atheism to the Catholic faith, via Pascal and the beauty of Japanese poetry. But it is also the story of a man who risked so much and suffered so much to help the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War.

You can get a good overview of the amazing life of Dr Nagai from Fr. Serephim HERE and HERE.

What did the devil know?

Today’s Mass readings, for the first Sunday of Lent tell us how God made a new Covenant with Noah – a family Covenant, telling, Noah that He will establish His plan with Noah’s descendants and that there will never again be a world wide flood to destroy all mankind (and other stuff).

Then the Gospel is a quick rather taciturn explanation from Mark that Jesus went into the desert, fasted for forty days, got tempted by the devil and John was arrested.

How do these readings fit?

I wonder if we should look at this from Satan’s view point. We are told from the rabbinic tradition that on the Second Day of creation God made the angels and gave them their test. What was the test? Well, many saints and theologians believe the test was that God showed them all His plan for salvation. He showed them Christ Incarnate and His fully human and not divine mother and said, “She will be your Queen and you must serve her.” This coupled with the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity was more than Lucifer the light bearer, brightest of all the angels could take. He refused with those dark and echoing through history words “I will not serve!” (Non Serviam). With that he lost every bit of light and grace he had been given and was – with the determined help of St. Michael – thrust into hell with a third of the angels. Hell would never have needed to exist if this had not happened. Lucifer was not longer a light bearer but the Satan, the adversary, the accuser of the blessed.

Satan had one plan, to stop God’s plan. He aimed his venom at the Woman int he garden, lest she be blessed among all women. But his victory came with defeat. Then he must have worked all out to ensure that mankind turned more to him and walked further from God. Again he got a victory but as God washed it all away it was a short-lived one.

God renews the Covenant with Noah, which must have infuriated Satan and so Mankind get s a fresh start. Ham blows it in such an obscene way that the resulting son is cursed and Satan must have thought his luck was in.

Satan is of course very clever (though I have a theory he lacks imagination as evil is always so samey and banal) but he doesn’t know everything.

When Jesus started His public ministry did Satan know who He was? Or did He wonder about it and decide to go and see for himself? Not only did this Jesus not fall for any of the temptations He simply sent Satan away and Satan just had to go.

It seems pretty certain that after that not only did Satan know who Jesus was, but the rest of the devils did too and Jesus had to silence a few of them in His ministries of exorcism.

But Satan still had Herod on his side and it wasn’t long before John the Baptist was arrested.  But unfortunately for hell and it’s minions, every evil act done only helped God’s plan to evolve – as He makes straight with crooked lines.

Doing Lent – a little miracle I read about today.

As I have mentioned, this Lent I am not quite up to a great theological or spiritual reading exercise, so I am reading the children’s Vision Books.  I am just reading Our Lady Came to Fatima at the moment and have come across a little miracle that I had not been aware of before.

The great miracle of the sun on October 13th 1917 gets a whole lot of attention which is hardly surprising when so many people from so far and wide witnessed it. But this books gives another little miracle.

Ti Marto and Olympia his wife have just been to the Cova with their children, to protect them. Just before the events of the day, visitors had literally climbed over the beds in muddy boots and trampled through the little house, leaving devastation and mess behind them.

When they arrived home, they stared in wonder at their little home. It was utterly spotless. Beds made with clean, pressed sheets, the floors sparkling and rugs gleaming. No one had been in the house while they were all at the Cova, and certainly there had not been time before the Marto family got home. It seems Our Blessed Mother, who had kept house for Joseph and Jesus, had left a little favour behind for the family of her litte ones Francisco and Jacinta.

The Church has always taught that Public Revelation was complete with the death of the last apostle. She says that belief in private revelation, even those carefully investigated and approved – is not obligatory on the faithful. Nevertheless, it seems odd to me, that those who seek the truth and are faithful to Christ, would disregard the efforts He has made in sending His mother to teach us. It is something deeply sad and rather shameful that Our Mother asked for repentece and penance to avoid a second world war, and the horrors of Communisim – and she was rejected. She even warned it would “be late”, hinting that she knew what lack of response would result; but in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph; and indeed, watching the events under (about to be) Blessed John Paul the Great, that triumph is well under way.

Ash Wednesday, Lent begins.

It’s Lent. There are plenty of good Lent resources for y’all HERE and they are, of course free,

It’s time to do a bit of penance. Interestingly lots of people seem to think they don’t need to give anything up – just do a bit extra, such as reading a good book. I have to say I became very uncomfortable with this over the years because even when we are struggling a bit, we have so so much more than most people in the world. Giving something up is a reminder that we have so much. And for me at least extra reading is a treat and something that is rarely possible. hehehe.

Ash Wednesday and I might be giving up pain for Lent!

Lent has begun. We went off to Mass this morning-well, Al and I went withe the smalls, the bigs are going this evening. Ashes were duly daubed on all of us and we were instructed to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Good idea.

I now have to sort out what I’ll read and pray for Lent. Yeah, I know I should have done this ages ago, but better late than never. So. I am reading G K Chesterton’s The Innocence of Fr Brown from the collected works. Now don’t laugh, this is legit Lent reading I think-honestly. The stories always have that Chesterton insistance on reason and truth which I think is worth contemplating. I think I can learn a lot from the short little priest and his tatty umbrella.

I will also try and read the excellent Commentary on the Gospel of John by Steve Ray. It’s an excellent commentary which I read a few years ago. Time to return to it I think.

I am also going to try and do the Seven Sorrows rosary at least once a week during Lent. Now this might not seem like much, but I want to be realistic. I’ll continue with Universalis morning and night prayer which I am just about managing (not always night prayer) so once a week on the rosary is about it for me I’m afraid. Who knows by Easter I may be better at it.

picture credit

I went off to the doctors last night because of another chest infection. While I was there I decided to go for the overhaul and talked about my pretty useless pain management at the moment. He was really good. He listened to me; prescribed the antibiotic for the infection; agreed not to give me steroids at this time (I don’t like taking them unless I have to) and then when I told him about my daily pain and asked for amitriptyline to help me out. I’ve been taking a combination of Diclophenic, paracetamol and on bad days Tramadol for years and frankly it isn’t really working. Mainly because I wont take the Tramadol unless things get desperate because it makes me feel off (stoned to be blunt) and I don’t like being unsafe while home edding and taking care of the children.

I did ask for amitrip some time ago but as I was still breast feeding the doc refused. I have to say I could not see the drugs I was supposed to take were much safer but hey.

So the doc has agreed to start me on a low dose (pain doses vary from10mg to 50mg). I am to start on 10mg at night and then I can double it if it doesn’t work. I have to go back in a month for review and he even said he could get me referred to a pain clinic. Whoo hoo!! So we’ll see. Maybe I’ll be giving up pain for Lent. I certainly hope so :)

I notice the Wiki article says the drug is unapproved for pain relief, but I know plenty of people who have it prescribed for that and the GP even commended me on my request!

Give it up already! Lent is here.

Last night I enjoyed a lovely glass of wine and a small, but beautiful bar of Green and Black’s chocolate. The older three children also enjoyed their last chocolate and Josh, his last beer.

I don’t know what other parents do, or think about getting their children through Lent, but I think that from a reasonable age, say post Holy Communion, a child should be able to give something up for Lent. When the biggies were little they used to have a money box in which the sweet money they didn’t spend on sweets went for a charity of choice. I am afraid we got out of that habit, but I still insist they each give something up. They are always quite willing and although it is often difficult-that’s okay. Giving up something easy is not a sacrifice.

I know, Iknow, just how unfashionable can you get? Don’t I know that all that negative stuff about Lent is passe and we are now into positive approaches-doing something extra; just something small. Well, I did that back in the 80’s and it doesn’t work. I don’t think it’s ever physical enough somehow.

There are extra things that have to be done of course-going to receive the Sacrament of Confession for one. Nothing like huge dollop of grace to see you through.

ASH WED Home ed.

Innormal circumstances we would begin by going to Mass and receiving the ashes; but not with chicken pox. So I simply explained what we would be doing during morning prayer. Ronan asked about the ashes and I explained they were made from burning last years palm crosses. A little blessed olive oil is added and they are ready. I explained that Father would make a cross on our heads and we would think about sorry we were for our sins. I haven’t given him more information than that.

Whole persons: (This is for the older ones). Ritual is a very important part of how we express our relationships with one another, with God and as an expression of our humanity. Christ demands that we worship God with our whole minds, soul, heart and strength-with our WHOLE selves, body and soul. The wholeness of the person is a very important understanding of the Faith and one which over the years has been under attack from various heresies and pagan or secular beliefs. At the end of time we will be resurrected as Christ promised-not just be wondering around as ghosts for all eternity. Body and soul, as Catholic apologists like to say it’s ‘both and’ not ‘either/or’.

In receiving the ashes we are told “Remember Man, thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.”

Like most things in the Mass this is from Scripture; Gen 3:19 when God tells Adam the curse that goes with his sin. Death comes into the world thanks to poor old Adam and his inability to stick up for his bride Eve who also sins and Death is destroyed thanks to the Second Adam who is willing to pour Himself out for His Bride (the Church) and the Second Eve who gives her two ‘Fiats’ to God.

Ashes have been used as a sign of grief, mourning and repentance since Old Testament times. They were very much part of the pre-Temple and Temple liturgy as well as being used by people such as the appallingly treated Tamar (2Sam13-19), Mordecai (Est 4:1) Job (42:) and of course the repentant people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:6).

Then Jesus Himself speaks of repenting in sackcloth and ashes (Mat 11:21 & Luk 10:13).

So we wear the ashes- a cross on our heads because sin is death and the cross is life. We pray with our whole selves and we repent with our whole selves because we sin with our whole selves.

Lent offers quite a few opportunities to remember we are WHOLE persons who must be redeemed body and soul.

With the children I will be looking at the Stations of the Cross with this theme in mind.