Saturday, May 5, 2012

Meditation on the First Glorious Mystery - The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead

Today, May 5, is the First Saturday of the month.  As I have reported in other posts, the First Saturday of the month has great significance to Catholics.  When Our Lady appeared to the three children of Fatima in 1917, she made a request for special devotions on the First Saturday of the month:

It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it may be formed at the next Confession, occasion to go to confession being taken at the first opportunity.
I have been making it a practice to post my meditation on the Rosary here. I have posted about the fourth Sorrowful Mystery - the Carrying of the Cross,  and the first Sorrowful Mystery - Jesus' Agony in the Garden.  Today, since we are now in the Easter season, my post is about the first Glorious Mystery - the Resurrection of our Lord.

When Christ died on that first Good Friday, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that he was dead.  There was barely an ounce of blood left in his body, he was beaten to such a bloody pulp that he was hardly recognizable as a human being.  There was no part of his body that was not wounded.  His tormentors had pushed a crown of thorns into his head so that parts of his brain were even showing.  As a final wounding, even after he had died, one of the Roman soldiers thrust a sword into his heart, from which blood and water poured forth.  When Jesus was finally taken down from the Cross and placed in his Loving but Sorrowful Mother's arms, there was no mistaking that he was dead.  When the few remaining disciples placed Jesus' body in the tomb, they knew they were leaving a lifeless body.  Our Lord was gone.

So after a series of events early Sunday morning following the crucifixion, including the appearance of the angel telling the women Jesus had risen, and Mary Magdalene actually meeting the risen Lord, the disciples were still incredulous.  How could our Lord be alive when he had been so brutally murdered?  But when they saw the wounds in his hands, feet and side, they knew it was true.  The impossible had happened.  Our Lord had conquered death.  Christ had become the victor over man's greatest enemy - sin and death - and through Jesus, we are all victorious.  As I Corinthians 15:5 says:  "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"

Now Christ's statement in Matthew 10:28 - "And fear not them that kill the body, and cannot kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell" has real meaning for us.  We need no longer be afraid of physical death, because it has no power over us.  Christ has conquered death for us.  We are now able to comprehend Jesus' statement recorded in John 11:25 - "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live."  We know that, though our body will die, we will still live through Jesus Christ.  We can spend eternity with the One who created us and conquered the sin and death that threatens to destroy us.  Now that Our Lord has rendered death meaningless, there is nothing left for us to fear.  Almost.

Despite Christ's great defeat over death, there is one enemy that can still rob us of Christ's victory. Christ has conquered death, he has opened the doors to eternal life in heaven with the Trinity, and all the angels and saints.  But that last obstacle standing between us and the eternal reward which Christ offers to us is none other than ourselves.  Satan is standing close by trying to snatch it away, but the only power he has over us is what we give him.  The decision is now completely up to us.  We can either say yes to Jesus and to life, or we can say yes to Satan and to death.  No one can make that decision for us.  Will we rise with Christ, or will we fall with Satan? 

By rising from the dead, Christ said we are no longer victims.  He has given us the means to overcome death and sin.  No one will go to heaven or hell by accident.  We will each choose our own eternity. 

Here it is wise to look to our Blessed Mother.  We are in the same position that she was when she was asked by the angel to consent to become the Mother of God.  Christ has risen from the dead and now asks us to become his brothers and sisters in eternal life.  Just as it was up to Mary to say yes or no, it is up to each of us as to how we will answer our Saviour.  That is the meaning of the resurrection.  Christ told us that wide is the way that leads to destruction, and narrow is the path that leads to life.  Which will we choose? 


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jesus Is the Temple of God

Solomon's Temple Foreshadowing Christ
Pope Benedict XVI gave us another wonderful message in his Wednesday audience on May 2. In this message, he spoke of Stephen, the first martyr, and focused on Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin given just before he was stoned to death. The Holy Father shows us, through Stephen's speech, that Jesus is the center and focus of all of history. Everything leads up to Jesus, and everything flows from Him. Jesus, sitting at the right hand of the Father, is literally the temple to which all men must go. The temple built by Solomon is but a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, "who is the new temple, who inaugurates a new worship and who replaces the ancient sacrifices with his self-offering on the Cross", as Pope Benedict tells us in his message.  In the Old Testament, the Temple was the place where the priest went to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people.  It was where the Holy of Holies was, the place that God resided.  The Vicar of Christ in this message shows that this was all a prefigurement of Jesus Christ  Christ is now the sacrifice for our sins, he is the temple where we worship.  The religion of the Israelites in the Old Testament prefigured Christianity, but the reality is utterly unlike anything the world has ever known.  Our God, our Creator, has made himself a sacrifice for us and the temple at which we worship.  Worship starts with Him and ends with Him.  Our Salvation starts and ends with Him. Jesus Christ truly is the "Alpha and Omega", the "Beginning and End."
Dear brothers and sisters,
In the most recent catecheses, we have seen how in personal and communal prayer, reading and meditation on Sacred Scripture open us to hear God who speaks to us, and infuse us with light in order that we may understand the present. Today I would like to speak about the witness and prayer of the Church’s first martyr, St. Stephen, one of the seven who were chosen for the service of charity to those in need. At the moment of his martyrdom, as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, the fruitful relationship between the Word of God and prayer is again revealed.

"Destroy this temple; in 3 days I will raise it"
Stephen is brought into court before the Sanhedrin, where he is accused of having declared that “Jesus … will destroy this place, [the temple], and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us” (Acts 6:14). During his public life, Jesus had in effect foretold the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Yet, as the Evangelist John notes, “he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” (John 2:21-22).

St. Stephen Before the Sanhedrin
Stephen’s address before the tribunal, the longest in the Acts of the Apostles, expands precisely upon this prophecy of Jesus, who is the new temple, who inaugurates a new worship and who replaces the ancient sacrifices with his self-offering on the Cross. Stephen wants to show that the accusation made against him of subverting the law of Moses is unfounded and to illustrate his vision of salvation history, of the covenant between God and man. Thus, he reinterprets the whole biblical narrative, the itinerary contained in Sacred Scripture, in order to show that it leads to the “place” of God’s definitive presence, which is Jesus Christ, particularly His Passion, Death and Resurrection. [Everything leads to Christ and from Christ, the "Beginning and the End."]
Radiant Face of Moses
Stephen also interprets his discipleship of Jesus within this perspective, following him to the point of martyrdom. Meditation on Sacred Scripture thus allows him to understand his mission, his life, his present circumstances. [The Holy Father is showing us the importance of meditating on scripture, for it was through studying and meditating on scripture that Stephen came to understand and accept his mission and martyrdom] In this, he is guided by the light of the Holy Spirit, by his intimate relationship with the Lord, so much so that the members of the Sanhedrin saw that his face “was like that of an angel” (Acts 6:15). This sign of divine assistance recalls the radiant face of Moses as he descended from Mount Sinai after having encountered God (cf. Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Corinthians 3:7-8).

God comes to Moses in the Burning Bush
In his address, Stephen begins with the call of Abraham, a pilgrim to the land indicated by God, which he possessed only as a promise; he then passes on to Joseph, who was sold by his brothers but was assisted and liberated by God, to finally reach Moses, who becomes God’s instrument to liberate his people but who also meets many times with rejection by the same people. What emerges from these events narrated by Sacred Scripture, which show Stephen’s devout hearing, is God, who never tires of going out to man even though he often meets with obstinate opposition, and this is true in the past, the present and the future. Therefore, he sees in the whole of the Old Testament the prefiguration of the coming of Jesus himself, the Son of God made flesh, who -- like the ancient Fathers -- encounters obstacles, refusal and death.
In his meditation on God’s action in salvation history, by emphasizing the perennial temptation to reject God and His action, he affirms that Jesus is the Righteous One announced by the prophets; in him, God himself has made himself present in a unique and definitive way: Jesus is the “place” of true worship. Stephen does not deny the importance of the temple for a certain period of time, but he underscores that “God does not dwell in houses made with hands” (Acts 7:48). The new, true temple where God abides is His Son, who put on human flesh; it is the humanity of Christ, the Risen One who gathers the nations and unites them in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.  [No temple built by man can contain God, only Jesus Christ can be the true temple]
Icon known as "Made Not By Hands"
The expression of the temple as “not made by hands” is also found in the theology of St. Paul and in the Letter to the Hebrews; the body of Jesus, which he assumed in order to offer himself as a sacrificial victim for the expiation of sins, the body of Jesus is the new temple of God, the place of the presence of the living God; in Him, God and man, God and the world are really in contact: Jesus takes upon himself all the sin of humanity in order to cast it into God’s love and to “burn it” in this love. To approach the Cross, to enter into communion with Christ, means entering into this transformation. This is what it is to enter into contact with God, to enter into the true temple. [The only true temple is Jesus Christ Himself.  This is where we must enter]
Stephen's Vision of Jesus at
Right Hand of the Father
Stephen’s life and words are interrupted suddenly when he is stoned, but his martyrdom is the fulfillment of his life and of his message: he becomes one thing with Christ. Thus, his meditation on God’s action in history, on the divine Word, which in Jesus finds its complete fulfillment, becomes a participation in the same prayer of the Cross. [Through prayer and meditation on the scriptures we, too, can become "one thing with Christ."]  Before dying, in fact, he exclaims: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59), taking as his own the words of Psalm 31 (verse 6) and following the last words of Jesus on Calvary: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Lastly, like Jesus, he cries out in a loud voice before those who are stoning him: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Let us note that, if on the one hand the prayer of Stephen harkens back to Jesus’, it is addressed to someone different, because the invocation is addressed to the Lord; that is to Jesus, whom he contemplates glorified at the right hand of the Father: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God” (verse 55).

Dear brothers and sisters, St. Stephen’s witness offers us several pointers for our prayer and for our lives. We may ask ourselves: where did this first Christian martyr find the strength to face his persecutors and in the end to attain to the gift of himself? The answer is simple: from his relationship with God, from his communion with Christ, from meditation on the history of salvation, from seeing God’s action, which in Jesus Christ reached its summit. Our prayer, too, should be nourished by listening to God’s Word, in communion with Jesus and his Church.
A second element: St. Stephen sees the figure and mission of Jesus prefigured in the story of the relationship of love between God and man. He -- the Son of God -- is the temple “not made by hands” where the presence of God the Father becomes so close that it enters into our human flesh, in order to lead us to God -- in order to open to us the gates of Heaven. Our prayer, then, should be a contemplation of Jesus at the right hand of God, of Jesus as Lord of our, or my, daily life. In him, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we too can address God, we can make real contact with God, with the faith and abandonment of children who turn to a Father who loves them infinitely. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider the speech which Saint Stephen, the first martyr, delivered before his death. Stephen’s words are clearly grounded in a prayerful re-reading of the Christ event in the light of God’s word. Accused of saying that Jesus would destroy the Temple and the customs handed down by Moses, Stephen responds by presenting Jesus as the Righteous One proclaimed by the prophets, in whom God has become present to humanity in a unique and definitive way. As the Son of God made man, Jesus is himself the true temple of God in the world; by his death for our sins and his rising to new life, he has now become the definitive “place” where true worship is offered to God. Stephen’s witness to Christ, nourished by prayer, culminates in his martyrdom. By his intercession and example may we learn daily to unite prayer, contemplation of Christ and reflection on God’s word. In this way we will appreciate more deeply God’s saving plan, and make Christ truly the Lord of our lives.
As St. Stephen said "God does not dwell in houses made with hands."  If we are to be one with Christ, we must rise about the material and mortal and dwell in the Spiritual Temple which is Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Liberal Media Love Affair With Nuns

I have posted very favorably in the past about the New York Times, despite their reputation as the most liberal, secular, humanistic newspaper in the United States.  Well, today they lived up to their liberal reputation with not one but two editorials decrying the Pope over his "mistreatment" of liberal nuns.  For background on this issue, according to speroforum.com:
After a four-year “Apostolic Visitation,” during which the condition of female religious communities in the United States was assessed, the Vatican released a Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). LCWR is an “association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States” – or, at least, of a good percentage of them.

For decades, US Catholics have been concerned about the direction many Catholic women religious have gone. Donna Steichen’s Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism was published in 1992; Ann Carey’s Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Orders came out five years later. It is no secret that new vocations to the older, established communities are rare, that many professed religious have abandoned those communities, and that among those who remain, there are a startling number who promote anything and everything except Catholicism. The newer, traditional communities, by contrast, are vital, growing, and passionately committed to Church teaching.

Shortly after Easter, the Vatican assessment of the LCWR confirmed what the laity have been averring for so long, namely that “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregation in other parts of the world.” The Vatican looked at three particular “areas of concern,” citing “problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal, errors” at LCWR assemblies, policies of dissent, and a prevalence of “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic Faith.”
According to the actual document released by the Vatican:
Addresses at the LCWR Assemblies. Addresses given during LCWR annual Assemblies manifest problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal errors. The Cardinal offered as an example specific passages of Sr. Laurie Brink’s address about some Religious “moving beyond the Church” or even beyond Jesus. This is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also a serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life. Such unacceptable positions routinely go unchallenged by the LCWR, which should provide resources for member Congregations to foster an ecclesial vision of religious life, thus helping to correct an erroneous vision of the Catholic faith as an important exercise of charity. Some might see in Sr. Brink’s analysis a phenomenological snapshot of religious life today. But Pastors of the Church should also see in it a cry for help.
Jeanine Gramick: co-foundress of
the homosexual, lesbian

activist organization
New Ways Ministry.
Policies of Corporate Dissent. The Cardinal spoke of this issue in reference to letters the CDF received from “Leadership Teams” of various Congregations, among them LCWR Officers, protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons, e.g. letters about New Ways Ministry’s conferences. The terms of the letters suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.
Radical Feminism. The Cardinal noted a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR, including theological interpretations that risk distorting faith in Jesus and his loving Father who sent his Son for the salvation of the world.  Moreover, some commentaries on “patriarchy” distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture.
The LCWR was completely stunned, and many in the liberal mainstream media and other liberal arenas are running to the defense of these nuns, saying that all the nuns want to do is help people and the Vatican are just a bunch of sexist misogynistic bigots who care nothing about women. 

Leading the pack of defenders of the LCWR is The New York Times.  Here is the always dependable Maureen Dowd, who never misses an opportunity to bash the Church.  Maureen just can't understand why the Church is so upset with nuns who thumb their noses at Church teachings and insist on following their own rules.  Maureen uses the pedophile scandal to say that the Church has no right to criticize the nuns and discipline them for disobedience.  This will always be the mantra for all who want to destroy the Church, and the enemies of the Church have been and will continue to use it every chance they get.

What is most interesting about Maureen Dowd's editorial is that everything she writes about her now beloved nuns bolsters the Vatican's report on them and their radical disobedience to church teachings.

Bishops Play Church Queens as Pawns 
By MAUREEN DOWD


WASHINGTON

IT is an astonishing thing that historians will look back and puzzle over, that in the 21st century, American women were such hunted creatures.

Even as Republicans try to wrestle women into chastity belts, the Vatican is trying to muzzle American nuns.  [With liberals, it is always ultimately about sex.]

Yet the nuns must be yanked into line by the crepuscular [I had to look this word up.  It means:  of, pertaining to, or resembling twilight; dim; indistinct], medieval men who run the Catholic Church.

“It’s not terribly unlike the days of yore when they singled out people in the rough days of the Inquisition,” said Kenneth Briggs, the author of “Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns.” [Liberals just love to use the word "Inquisition" when it comes to the Catholic Church]  
How can the church hierarchy be more offended by the nuns’ impassioned advocacy for the poor than by priests’ sordid pedophilia? [This is such a bogus, worn-out argument.  Let's ignore one crisis in the church because something else is happening over here.  So what if nuns are leading people into spiritual oblivion.  They're just trying to "help" people.]

How do you take spiritual direction from a church that seems to be losing its soul? [In some instances, Maureen has a point here, but not for the reason she would like.  Too much of the Church hierarchy has ignored dissidents throughout the last 50 years, and now the chickens have come home to roost, and we all have to deal with the disastrous consequences.]
It has become a habit for the church to go after women. A Worcester, Mass., bishop successfully fought to get a commencement speech invitation taken away from Vicki Kennedy, widow of Teddy Kennedy, because of her positions on some social issues. [Some "social issues"?  Like abortion and contraception and same sex marriage?] And an Indiana woman named Emily Herx has filed a lawsuit saying she was fired from her job teaching in a Catholic school and denounced as a “grave, immoral sinner” by the parish pastor after she used fertility treatments to try to get pregnant with her husband. [Maureen knows this is condemned by the Church as inherently evil.  Gimme a break!] 
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York recently told The Wall Street Journal that only “a tiny minority” of priests were tainted by the sex abuse scandal. But it’s a global shame spiral. The church leadership never recoiled in horror from pedophilia, yet it recoils in horror from outspoken nuns. [Again, the church is reaping the terrible consequences of ignoring the dissidents within her own midsts over the past decades.]   
In Philadelphia, Msgr. William Lynn, 61, is the first church supervisor to go on trial for child endangerment. He is fighting charges that he may have covered up for 20 priests accused of sexual abuse and left in the ministry, often transferred to unwitting parishes. [What does this have to do with nuns who flaunt church teachings and refuse to conform to the Magesterium?] 
Somehow the Philadelphia church leaders decided that the Rev. Thomas Smith was not sexually motivated when he made boys strip and be whipped playing Christ in a Passion play. Somehow they decided an altar boy who said he was raped by two priests and his fifth-grade teacher was not the one in need of protection. [Again, this has nothing to do with the discipline of dissident nuns.  To use Maureen's argument, why in the civil world should we go after white collar crime when there are murderers out there?]
Instead of looking deep into its own heart and soul, the church is going after the women who are the heart and soul of parishes, schools and hospitals.  [Is that why all of these "parishes, schools and hospitals" are closing?  I guess these women have lost some of their "heart and soul".]

The stunned sisters are debating how to respond after the Vatican’s scorching reprimand to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the main association of American Catholic nuns. The bishops were obviously peeved that some nuns had the temerity to speak out in support of President Obama’s health care plan, including his compromise on contraception for religious hospitals. [Yes, Maureen, the bishops were a bit "peeved" that the nuns are going against the Church and against their own bishops.]

The Vatican accused the nuns of pushing “radical feminist themes,” and said they were not vocal enough in parroting church policy against the ordination of women as priests and against abortion, contraception and homosexual relationships.  [You know, Maureen, these are the rules of the Church, and for good reason, which you will always refuse to admit.  If the nuns don't like the way the Church is run and the Magesterium, they are always free to leave.  They are not free to destroy souls.]

In a blatant “Shut up and sit down, sisters” moment, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, noted, “Occasional public statements by the L.C.W.R. that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.”   [Again, Maureen, you and the nuns are free to go off on your own and ignore what the Church teaches.  But the nuns are not free to break their vows and still be nuns.]  
Pope Benedict, who became known as “God’s Rottweiler” when he was the cardinal conducting the office’s loyalty tests, assigned Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to crack down on the climate of “corporate dissent” among the poor nuns.  

When the nuns push for social justice, they’re put into stocks. Yet Archbishop Sartain has led a campaign in Washington to reverse the state’s newly enacted law allowing same-sex marriage, and he’s a church hero. [Maureen, do you give any thought at all to what you write?  What does one have to do with the other?]

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic lobbying group slapped in the Vatican report, said it scares the church hierarchy to have “educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue.”

She told NPR that it was ironic that church leaders were mad at sisters over contraception when the nuns had committed to a celibate life with no families or babies. Given the damage done by the pedophilia scandals, she said, “the church’s obsession, at times, with the sexual relationships is a serious problem.” [This nun proves that she has no concept of church teaching and does not belong in the position she occupies.  Why wasn't she booted out long ago?]

Asked by The Journal if the church had a hard time convincing the flock to follow its strict teachings on sexuality, Cardinal Dolan laughed: “Do we ever!”  [Our "let's not offend anyone" Cardinal strikes again.]

Church leaders behave like adolescent boys, blinded by sex. That’s the problem with inquisitors and censors: They become fascinated by what they deplore. 
The situation with the nuns, who have gotten so deeply involved in "social justice" and gone off the deep end spiritually is a prime example of what our Holy Father spoke of on Wednesday, April 25 in his weekly audience and which I posted here.  The Holy Father said that unless prayer is at the center of our lives, unless we give first place to prayer, we become the sounding brass and tinkling cymbal spoken of in I Corinthians 13, works with no substance of love.  As the Holy Father said:  " Without daily prayer faithfully lived out, our activity becomes empty, it loses its deep soul, it is reduced to mere activism, which in the end leaves us unsatisfied."  One can only surmise that the Pope may well have been thinking of these poor unfortunate nuns when he made that statement. 

I truly fear for Maureen Dowd's soul, and certainly for the souls of all these dissident nuns.  We need to be praying for these people.  We can sit around and criticize them, but what they really need are our prayers so that they will repent and turn away from the devil, who seems to have them firmly in his grasp. 

Pray for all souls

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