Friday, February 22, 2013

Meditation on the Third Station of the Cross: Jesus Falls

I am continuing with meditations on the Stations of The Cross. You can read my prior meditations here and here. We are now up to the Third Station: Jesus falls for the first time.

At this point in his Passion, Our Lord is a mass of bruises, cuts and wounds over His entire Sacred Body. He has a crown of thorns on His Precious Head, from which blood is dripping into his eyes. He no doubt has internal injuries as well. He is suffering from dehydration and shock. He has just been handed the Cross upon which He will bring salvation to the world. He has kissed and embraced this instrument of His death, which will become the greatest symbol of love our world has ever or will ever see. He picks up His Cross and actually manages to carry it a short distance. The weight of it proves too much in his weakened state and He falls.

All of this describes the physical state of Our Lord. But the physical suffering endured by Jesus is only one part of His Passion. There is far more happening in the Passion of Christ than His broken and torn body.

St. Francis tells us that it was not the physical weight of the cross which caused Christ to fall, but our sins which He was carrying:
Our dear Savior, carrying the cross, was so weakened by its heavy weight as to fall exhausted to the ground. Our sins and misdeeds were the heavy burden which oppressed Him: the cross was to Him light and sweet, but our sins were galling and insupportable.
We have been called to a hard and difficult way, and one for which our own strength is not enough. Jesus teaches us that because of our human frailty and our sinfulness, we will sometimes feel overwhelmed and even periodically overcome, and sometimes we will fall. That is when we must turn to the Sacraments of the Church and the grace contained therein to be cleansed and purified of the sin which causes us to fall. As sin is eradicated in our lives, we will find there is no burden too heavy to bear. As St. Francis said, the heavy weight of the cross was not the cause of Christ's fall, but it was the heavy weight of our sins which He bore on our behalf. It is this same heavy weight of sin that causes us to fall.

Proverbs 24:16 says:
For a just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again: but the wicked shall fall down into evil.
Falling is not the problem. It is not getting back up that will destroy us. As long as we turn to the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, Guide and Comforter, He will supply us with the grace and strength we need to overcome the sin and the obstacles in our way. Our role is to never give up, never quit. We must never allow discouragement or despair to set in. We should try to remember our Lord in His Passion, so physically weak yet never stopping, driven by His great love for mankind.

If we truly love God and by extension, mankind for whom He died, we will never be defeated by the sin which causes us to fall. Sin is very deceptive. Our sin can cause us to believe that it is the Cross, the instrument of salvation given to us by the Lord, which is weighing us down and causing us to fall. That is a diabolical lie. The Cross will never cause us to stumble and fall. Galatians 6:14:
As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.

The Cross is not only not the source of our fall, it is what will keep us from stumbling in the first place. When we fall, it means we have let go of the Cross. To move away from the Cross is to move away from Christ. To move away from the Cross is to allow pride, that first and great sin of Satan, the foundation of all other sin, to enter in. The suffering of the Cross keeps us grounded and humble and dependent upon our Savior.

Light and truth have come into the world through the Cross. We cannot stumble when we walk in the light. But for those who wish to remain in darkness, away from the Cross, St. Paul said this:
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. (I Cor. 1:18)
Like Christ, we may look weak and foolish to the world as we follow the Way of the Cross. Christ said to St. Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." II Cor. 12:9. St. Paul replied, "That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Our Lord was never stronger than during His Passion when He was defeating sin and death. Like our Lord, when the world views us as weak and humiliated is actually when we are the strongest.

When you, like our Lord, feel that you have been drained of all your physical, mental and emotional strength and have no defenses left against the world, when each step is more painful than the next, when you feel that you can barely stand up, that is when you will be the most valuable tool in the Hand of the Lord. As Jesus Christ taught us in His Passion, that is the time that our Lord can do His mightiest works in you. "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

St. Francis reminds us of what our role is in the way of the Cross in this prayer from the Third Station:
O my Jesus, Thou didst bear my burden and the heavy weight of my sins. 
Should I, then, not bear in union with Thee, my easy burden of suffering 
and accept the sweet yoke of Thy commandments? 
Thy yoke is sweet and Thy burden is light: 
I therefore willingly accept it. 
I will take up my cross and follow Thee.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Real Reason Pope Benedict XVI Abdicated

It has been almost a week since we first got the shocking news that Pope Benedict XVI was abdicating the Papacy. I've been mostly sitting back and watching the reactions of others. Some are struggling with grief, anger and fear as expressed in Hilary White's article on Lifesitenews :
Since Monday, I have struggled even to understand my own feelings. These have ranged, honestly, from shock to a kind of dread not only at the ominous question of what happens now, what is coming next, but at the very great strangeness of breaking of this ancient precedent. How can it be right? And why now, when the world seems to be sinking into an unimaginable darkness?
Then there are the traditionalists engaging in conspiracy theories, such as Chris Ferrara writing for the far right Remnant. Ferrara printed the Pope's entire resignation message and then began to look for clues as to the Holy Father's "true motivation". The following is a partial quote from Pope Benedict XVI's statement:
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
From the above statement, Ferrara manages to find yet another opportunity to condemn the Second Vatican Council and Blessed John Paul II, with the implication that Pope Benedict XVI's resignation is actually supportive of Ferrara's statements:
Consider: Benedict might have been wrestling with the propriety of raising John Paul to the altars of the universal Church and declaring Paul VI a beatus, thus placing his papal imprimatur on what he himself, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, described as a post-conciliar “process of decay”—a process only Pope Benedict has done anything to reverse since the Council. Yet, Benedict was also under tremendous pressure from “conciliarist” forces to perform both acts in order to shore up the collapsing credibility of the conciliar aggiornamento. At this very moment, the trickle of traditionalist critiques is becoming a torrent of criticism by respectable theologians of the mainstream, as the “spirit” of the Council wanes while its disastrous effects become too obvious to explain away any longer.
It stands to reason that if Benedict were at all committed to the idea of “Saint John Paul II the Great” and “Blessed Paul VI,” he would have remained in office at least long enough to perform the necessary papal acts. Yet he has left office, in a purely discretionary manner, just as those acts were slated to occur—during the ironically designated “Year of Faith” that is taking place in the midst of the “silent apostasy” that is our inheritance from the previous two pontificates.
Or perhaps, even if this was not the Pope’s conscious intent, the Holy Ghost has intervened by prompting him to abdicate rather than inflicting further damage to the Church by acceding to the Council’s canonization via improvident acts of the Magisterium.
Ferrara completely condemns the Second Vatican Council and Blessed John Paul II, and claims that the real reason Pope Benedict is abdicating is to avoid "inflicting further damage to the Church" through "improvident acts of the Magesterium." Ferrara sets himself totally outside of Church authority when he makes such condemning statements. He should know as a Catholic that the Magesterium is guided by the Holy Spirit and cannot mislead the Church. No one should give any credence to Ferrara's statements or any that echo similar sentiments.

Then there is Michael Voris, who is not as radical as Chris Ferrara, but still reads his own feelings into the Pope's resignation and brings in his usual theme of the war within the Catholic Church being the cause of all the problems we face. Voris happily takes this as another opportunity to condemn the hierarchy of the Church. He is not nearly as critical of Pope Benedict XVI, but he still manages to make some absurd statements:
But during [Pope Benedict XVI's] pontificate .. one thing that caught him off guard was the hostility among many of the world’s bishops to his move toward a more traditional faith for the worldwide Church. Even so far as the restitution of the Tridentine Latin Mass .. observers report that Pope Benedict was shocked that so many bishops around the world opposed his desires and worked almost openly to thwart them.
. . .
The internal strife in the Church between the orthodox and the heterodox has had to take its toll on the Holy Father.  It would be difficult for a young vigorous man to navigate these waters.  
Michael seems to have forgotten that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 24 years before being elected Pope. He dealt with errant bishops and priests on a regular basis. It is possible, even probable, that he was more aware of the "internal strife in the Church" than his boss, Blessed John Paul II.

But then Voris actually goes on to contradict his statement that "Benedict was shocked" at the behavior of bishops, saying that the Holy Father was actually very aware of the "turmoil in the Church":
When Joseph Ratzinger was elected the 264th successor to St. Peter back in April 2005, he said in his first homily as Pope, “pray for me that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.” He knew very well the turmoil in the Church from errant pastors and ravenous wolves in sheeps’ clothing.
So which is it, Michael?   Did the Pope know or didn't he?

Michael then gives us what he sees as the necessary qualifications for the next Pope, which is someone who is basically ready to go to war against the Church, or at least certain parts of Holy Mother Church:
And now .. we must turn our attention and prayers to the NEXT successor of St. Peter .. and pray earnestly that the Holy Spirit will send another in the mold of Benedict .. one familiar with the struggle [but I thought it took Pope Benedict by surprise?], who knows the intrigues and the players, who loves tradition and understands the need for the liturgy to continue to reveal the Divine Majesty and not be a mere Catholic looking protestant type service.
A Papa who understands that the bold clear truth must be spoken in a world darkened not just by evil in general, but by evil men who make evil choices who must be confronted, and defeated, both inside and outside the Church.
The Holy Father on a wheeled platform
Did anyone ever consider that maybe, just maybe, the Pope told us exactly why he is abdicating and that there is no secret message or conspiracy behind his actions? Consider the fact that in a couple of months he will be 86 years old. If he was still a Cardinal, he would no longer be eligible to vote for the next Pope because he is too old, being past 80 years. If he had been a regular bishop instead of Bishop of Rome, he would have already been too old to serve when he was elected Pope at age 78. Bishops have a mandatory retirement age of 75. He has a pacemaker and has been told by his doctors that he cannot fly anymore, severely limiting his role in our modern world. Those who have been close to him say he is very physically frail. He even has to use a wheeled platform to get to the altar at St. Peter's.

Pope Benedict stated his reasons for abdicating the papacy in a very succinct and clear statement:
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
We really don't have to parse each and every word to find the "real meaning" behind his resignation. Pope Benedict XVI is bluntly telling us that he is too old and sick to be Pope.
I think the reason so many have a hard time with this is because we witnessed Blessed John Paul II continue his papacy to his death despite being much more infirmed than Pope Benedict XVI appears to be. So, we think, if JPII could do it, why can't our current Holy Father?

Pope Benedict XVI was right next to Blessed John Paul II, and he saw up close how incapacitated JPII had become. It would seem that from the very time Pope Benedict was elected, he was signaling to the world that he would step aside if and when he felt he had become incapacitated. In 2010, he made this statement:
“If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign,”
We live in one of the most evil times in the history of the world, and as always happens when evil is in power, the Catholic Church is in the cross hairs. Right here in my own country, the United States, the State now sees the Church as the enemy, standing opposed to abortion, same sex marriage, contraception, and a myriad of other evils promoted by the State. We need a physically strong and robust man in the Papacy who can stand up and lead the church, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through these tumultuous times.

Pope Benedict XVI, as has been pointed out by many, is showing great humility and sanctity by telling the world that he is no longer fit for the Papacy, and as a great act of love for the Church, he wants to step aside to allow the Holy Spirit to choose someone else. Pope Benedict XVI will now go into a life of intense prayer, which may be an even greater and more valuable service to the Church than he performed in his role as Pope.

One lesson that should be be apparent from the 2000 year history of the Catholic Papacy is that while the Vicar of Christ, as the visible head of the the Ark of Salvation for the world, is the most important person on the earth, he is also the most dispensable person in the world. He can and will always be replaced. The Pope is really nothing more than a kind of front man, as are all of our bishops and priests. The real Head of the church is Jesus Christ, and as he told us, He will never leave nor forsake us. And He has sent the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us from the evil one, who cannot touch us as long as we stay within the authority of the Church.

I find the words of Pope Benedict XVI very comforting:
"Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer."
May God bless and protect Pope Benedict XVI as he enters this final phase of his life. He has been a wonderful, loving father to the Church,

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