Tag Archives: Year of Faith

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.

Throwing Stones and Casting out Snakes.

In 2 Peter 3:16 the good saint warns against misusing Scripture to our own destruction. If there are two bits of God’s Word that seem to get the most misuse it’s Christ’s words, “Jusdge not lest you be judged also,” (Matt 7:1) and the Gospel reading we had today about the woman caught in adultery.

I must admit I love the Gospel story of this woman and Jesus.

The Pharisees, who insist publically that they follow the Law and all the extra bits they have added to it and are therefore perfect before the LORD, bring a woman to Jesus, to entrap Him. They are not concerned that she has committed adultery, but rather are out to get Jesus.

As Father noted in his sermon this morning, it takes two people to commit adultery and yet they only brought one to Jesus. So the sin itself, if she was even guilty, was not the issue here.

They tell Jesus that they have caught her in the act and that the Law says she must be stoned. They are sort of correct although the Law (Deut 22:22) says both parties who have committed this horrible sin shall be stoned.

As it happens, however, Judea is under the authority of Rome and the Roman law takes all capital puncishment on itself denying the Jews any legal ability to give capital punishment. If Jesus says “Yes she should be stoned,” as per Jewish Law He would be arrested by the Romans. If He says “No, don’t stone her,” then he is nothing but a puppet of the Romans.

But Jesus is Jesus and silly traps won’t beat Him. We are never told what He writes in the dirt but He looks up and says, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

So now the Pharisees who declare themselves without sin must either start stoning the girl and get arrested by the Romans or admit publically that they are not perfect. Ouch!

Once they have all melted away Jesus speaks to the woman, “Has anyone condemned you?” She says no one has and He answers her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go on your way…” And that is usually all we hear of this story, but in fact Jesus said “And sin no more.” That is the depth of the message. He asks all of us to stop sinning. We aren’t supposed to take a piece of Scripture, strip it down and use it as an excuse to sin to our hearts content because Jesus will say “Neither do I condemn you.” If we misuse the Word of God as a way to get away with sinning then believe me, He certainly will condemn us. In fact He won’t have to, because by our own actions we condemn ourselves.

The story of the woman caught in adultery who is not condemned always reminds me of the story of Susanna the wife of Joachim who is entrapped with a false allegation of adultery by the elders. It is the child Daniel who speaks out for her. (Daniel 13:1+)

Today is also the feast of St. Patrick who brought Christ to Ireland and is famous for having cast out all the poisonous snakes. We can only pray that by his prayers and the grace God gives to Ireland and the Irish that they  will renew His presence and bring us all closer to God. It was from Ireland that so much of the Gospel was spread over the world; I can only hope, as Britain falls that we can be lifted up again and that Ireland will play a part in that. I think there may be prophecies about that.

Pope Francis and the commission to rebuild God’s house.

In all the joy and excitement last night it was difficult to work out what had made our new Holy Father choose the name Francis. We have never had a Pope Francis so there wasn’t an obvious background to the name.  As he is a Jesuit many of us, even though I wondered about St. Francis of Assisi, assumed he was naming himself after one of the Jesuit Francis’s such as Francis Xavior or Borgia.

734476_552943108069381_394843154_nBut it’s been reported (though I can’t find where the Pope himself has confirmed this) that he has taken the name Francis in honour of St. Francis of Assisi.

HIS FIRST WORDS  were a simple greeting and a request for prayers for Pope emeritus Benedict XVI (who is still much loved; perhaps instead of Holy Father Emeritus we should call him Holy Grandfather).

Giotto_-_Legend_of_St_Francis_-_-06-_-_Dream_of_Innocent_III

Pope Francis does look like he fits into the calling God made of St. Francis of Assisi, “Francis,” said God, “Go and rebuild my house, or it is falling down.”

It wasn’t long after Francis set about obeying God’s command that Pope Innocent III had his famous dream in which he saw St. Francis holding up a church that would otherwise have fallen down.

There is a lot for Pope Francis to do. Perhaps this pope with one lung will be able to build on the hard work of Bl. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI and repair the Church so she can breath with both lungs more freely. It’s not just about communion with the Orthodox churches, but help for our Eastern Rite brothers who are being savagely martyred every day in Islamic controlled countries.

In Francis we have another pope who lives simply. He had a small flat in Argentina and used the bus to get around. He has worked very hard for and with the poor under his care and I am sure he will continue to do this as Holy Father. He saw through so-called “liberation theology” and stuck with Christ and I bet he faced a lot of pressure to embrace LT even after it was exposed as purely political and often very violent.

I have a sense that this Holy Father who has embraced poverty will embrace the suffering of the Passion as St. Francis did.

It seems to me that God has quite an army; the Benedictines at the forefront with the Franciscans and Dominicans coming next and the Poor Clares, Carmelites and Jesuits. The Enclosed orders being the massive powerhouse of prayer.

Pope Francis will be installed on March 19th the feast of St. Joseph patron saint of fathers and workers.

Oramus.

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.

Manure around the Fig Tree.

It occured to me when listening to Jesus’ parable today at Mass (Luke 13; 1 – 9) that those people who see life as a set of events descibed as (sorry for the word) “Shit happens” may be experiencing the manure being dug around the fruitless figtree.

cursing-fig-tree-colorIt occurred to me that God had caused a lot of…manure… in my life and that I had   taken some time to realise that perhaps this wasn’t just “punishment” directly for sin, but because I needed to be, well, manured, to make me produce some good fruit.

We are supposed to make the most of the manure in our lives to produce some good fruit for God.

There’s another story of Jesus cursing a fig tree (shown in the Icon above). A tree that doesn’t produce fruit is eventually cursed so that it can’t. Sin makes us stupid. The less good we produce, the more of the curse we take on.

The fig tree in the parable is the faithless generation that saw Jesus and didn’t perceive him.  Jesus spent three years trying to teach them and get some good fruit from them, but they wouldn’t listen. In the following year He was crucified, died and Rose again, the Church was born – in Jerusalem and in that year Peter and John were arrested and imprisoned and St. Stephen was the first of many martyrs.

That faithless generation ended up like the Galileans and the men under the tower of Siloam as Jerusalem was destroyed and burned around them in 70 AD. This was the mini-Parousia a sign and prophecy of the Judgement of God. By this point the CHristians had left Jerusalem and the Church had her centre just outside Rome under the care of St. Linus.

So, next time you are thinking life is…manure. Just think, it could just be God trying to get some good fruit out of you. :P