Sunday, April 15, 2012

Where Did That Health and Wealth Gospel Go?

Jesus appearing to St. Faustina
Today in the contemporary Liturgical Calendar, it is Divine Mercy Sunday, a beautiful day given to us through the diary of St. Faustina, a Polish nun to whom Christ appeared in the 1930's to announce his great message of Divine Mercy.  In her diary, St. Faustina wrote these words of our Lord:
My image already is in your soul. I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy. I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy.
This day was instituted by Blessed John Paul II in 2000 when St. Faustina was canonized.  It is a wonderful feast day with many blessings attached to it.
But I am concentrating today on the readings from the Traditional Breviary.  The Gospel for the Traditional Calendar today is from John 20:19-31In this passage, the apostles are hiding out from the Jews in fear of their lives a week after Christ's crucifixion, even though most of them have seen the risen Christ.  One who had not seen the risen Christ at this point was Thomas, Doubting Thomas as we call him.  Christ appears and Thomas now believes and utters those words that lay people still utter at the consecration in the Holy Mass:  "My Lord and My God!"
19 Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews: Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them; Peace be to you.

20 And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands, and his side. The disciples, therefore, were glad, when they saw the Lord.

21 He said therefore to them again; Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you.

22 When he had said this, he breathed on them, and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

23 Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose you shall retain, they are retained.

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples, therefore, said to him; We have seen the Lord. But he said to them; Unless I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days, his disciples were again within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said; Peace be to you.

27 Then he saith to Thomas; Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands, and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side: and be not incredulous, but faithful.

28 Thomas answered, and said to him; My Lord, and my God.

29 Jesus saith to him; Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.

30 Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

31 But these are written that you may believe, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name.
As we were reminded at the Mass I attended yesterday, this day also marks the institution of the Sacrament of Confession, as noted in verses 22:23:
When he had said this, he breathed on them, and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost:  Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose you shall retain, they are retained." 

There is yet another lesson from this passage that St. Augustine brought out and which was used in the readings for the Traditional Breviary.   In verse 21, Christ said to the Apostles:
As the Father hath sent me, I also send you.
This is a very short statement packed with tremendous meaning, as was everything Christ said.  St. Augustine gives us an excellent explanation, and it is not in keeping with the world's understanding of what it means to be a Christian:
Christ Instructing Apostles
Then said Jesus unto them again : Peace be unto you ; as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. That is, As my Father, who is God, hath sent me, who am God, even so do I, who am Man, send you, who are men. The Father sent the Son, whom he appointed to be made man for the redemption of man. Him he willed to send into the world to suffer, albeit this Jesus whom he sent to suffer was the Son whom he loved. And the Lord Jesus sendeth his chosen Apostles into the world, not to be happy in the world, but, as he had been himself sent, to suffer. As the Father loveth the Son and yet sendeth him to suffer, even so doth the Lord love his disciples, albeit he sendeth them unto the world, to suffer therein. And therefore it is well said : As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. That is, Even though I send you into the wild storm of persecution, I do love you all the same ; yea, I not only do have a love for you ; but I love you with a love like unto that wherewith the Father loveth me, who sent me into the world to bear agony therein.
In our modern world, we are far too often taught that to be a Christian means to enjoy the great physical blessings of God, i.e., health and wealth.  How many times have we heard, God wants you to be happy!  He doesn't want you to live in poverty and suffer.  In fact, if you are not physically blessed, that means you are doing something wrong and you must be a great sinner!  Well, that is not what our Lord said, and not what the great saints of the Church have told us. 

The Grotto at Lourdes
The greatest saints in the Church all suffered in this life.  One prime example is St. Bernadette, the visionary at Lourdes, which is renowned for all those who have been healed there.  Yet, St. Bernadette suffered terribly in her short life.  From a short autobiography of St. Bernadette:
Even from her earliest years at Nevers she had been a victim of a tubercular condition of the right knee, but this developed into an abcess in 1877, which left her in constant and agonizing pain. In 1879 she became much weaker, was hardly able to eat and became quite emaciated. She was also tormented by painful sores on all her limbs. On 28 March she was anointed for the fourth and final time, dying on 16 April.
Her comment was that the healing at Lourdes was for others, not for her. Was she bitter about this? The following are quotes from this beloved saint:
It is so good, so sweet and above all, so beneficial to suffer. 
I'm happier with my crucifix on my bed of pain than a queen on her throne. 
O Jesus and Mary, let my entire consolation in this world be to love you and to suffer for sinners. 
O Jesus, I would rather die a thousand deaths than be unfaithful to you! 
I must die to myself continually and accept trials without complaining. I work, I suffer and I love with no other witness than his heart. Anyone who is not prepared to suffer all for the Beloved and to do his will in all things is not worthy of the sweet name of Friend, for here below, Love without suffering does not exist.


I shall spend every moment loving. One who loves does not notice her trials; or perhaps more accurately, she is able to love them. 
O my Mother, to you I sacrifice all other attachments so that my heart may belong entirely to you and to my Jesus. 
I shall do everything for Heaven, my true home. There I shall find my Mother in all the splendor of her glory. I shall delight with her in the joy of Jesus himself in perfect safety. 
From this moment on, anything concerning me is no longer of any interest to me. I must belong entirely to God and God alone. Never to myself.
Are we willing to suffer for the Kingdom of God?  There is no easy road to heaven.  Our Lord was the example for us, just as St. Augustine wrote:
The Father sent the Son, whom he appointed to be made man for the redemption of man. Him he willed to send into the world to suffer, albeit this Jesus whom he sent to suffer was the Son whom he loved. And the Lord Jesus sendeth his chosen Apostles into the world, not to be happy in the world, but, as he had been himself sent, to suffer.
Our first Pope wrote in I Peter 2:21-23:
For to this you have been called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps.  Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:  Who when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly. 
And in I Peter 4:12-13:
Dearly beloved, think not strange the burning heat which is to try you, as if some new thing happened to you: But partaking of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that also in the revelation of his glory ye may rejoice with exultation.
Let us take up our Crosses, rejoicing and thanking Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, as we follow him into the Kingdom of Heaven.

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