31 March 2021

Maundy Thursday


An upper room had been prepared. The unleavened bread was baked. The Passover lamb had been sacrificed and roasted. Jesus was at the head of the table with His Israel, His family. He took the large piece of unleavened flat bread that signaled the opening of the Passover meal. He gave thanks to His Father for the gifts. He broke it and gave the pieces to His disciples. 

Until this point, theirs had been a Passover like any other Passover, recalling God's mercy and love to Israel when He had brought them out of slavery in Egypt into freedom, through the blood of the Passover lamb smeared on their doorposts.

Then Jesus spoke, and what He said at that moment had never before been said at a Passover meal. "Take, eat. This is my body, which is given for you." And again, after the supper, Jesus took a chalice of wine, gave thanks and then said something that had never before been said at a Passover meal, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood." And in doing this, Christ treated the Passover as if it was His own to do with as He pleased – and in fact He could, because it was and is the Lord’s Passover.

With these words, Jesus transformed the Passover meal forever. Under the outward form of the bread, He gives His body as food – the very body He received from His mother Mary; the body that was conceived in her through the Word spoken by the angel in the power of the Holy Spirit; the body that was wrapped in swaddling-clothes and laid in a manger; the body that was whipped and beaten, spit at and slapped; the body that was nailed to the cross, laid in the tomb, and raised from the dead on the third day.

And in the cup, He gives His blood. This is the blood of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. The medieval artists who depicted a chalice at the foot of the cross and a stream of blood pouring into it from the wounded side of Jesus understood the force of Christ’s words, because the blood that was shed on Calvary's cross is our drink.

Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. He was offered up for our sins on the Cross, and in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, this offering is perpetually brought before the throne of Almighty God.

It is in the context of the Upper Room, of Jesus' washing the feet of His disciples and His feeding them His body and blood, of His humbling Himself to His coming death on a cross, that Jesus then says to His disciples, "A new commandment, I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you that you also love one another." Two more times, Jesus says it in His Upper Room sermon: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." And again, "These things I command you that you love one another."

Of what things does Christ speak? What is new about this so-called "new commandment?" It's not love – that’s not new. The commandment to love is an old one. No, what's new is in how Jesus gives His love, by washing us and feeding us. Through baptism and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – and indeed through all the Sacraments – this is how our Lord communicates His love to us. These are Christ’s mandates, His "commandments" by which we are able to love one another as we have been loved by Him. This is what Jesus is saying: "This is my commandment, that you be fed with my Body and my Blood, just as a branch is fed by the vine to which it is attached, so that you may love one another with the love with which I have loved you." "A new commandment I give to you, that you be washed by me and be fed at my table, so that you may love one another as I have loved you."

Jesus' new commandment to His disciples is to receive His love in all the ways He has to give, to be loved by Him so that His love would flow through them to one another. His love poured out for us in His death, poured into us through Baptism and through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, bears fruit as His love has its way with us. The same Body that bent down as a servant to wash the feet of His disciples, now bends our bodies down to help cleanse one another, by forgiving one another, by loving one another. He said, "By this all will know that you are my disciples, when you have love for one another."

We do not love in order to be loved by God. Jesus loved us, long before we loved Him. While we were yet sinners, He loved us and laid down His life for us. His was "love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be."

We love one another because we already are loved by God in Jesus Christ. And we now receive His love so that we can love one another as He has loved each one of us. This is the commandment given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ – and with that truth, we celebrate this Holy Night so that we can be prepared for the glory of our Lord’s resurrection.
 
O God, who in a wonderful Sacrament hast left unto us a memorial of thy Passion: grant us, we beseech thee, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of thy Body and Blood; that we may ever know within ourselves the fruit of thy redemption; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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Pictured: Gothic Altarpiece of the Last Supper, Jaume Huguet, C.1463

30 March 2021

Spy Wednesday


Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'" And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so."
-Matthew 26:14-25
Elsewhere the Gospel tells us that Satan entered into Judas, but even before this, Judas had shown himself to be dishonest and a lover of money. He kept the money box which was used for the needs of Jesus and the disciples, but he was accustomed to taking money out for himself. When the expensive perfume was used to anoint Jesus, he complained that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor – although he was more likely thinking that he could take the money himself. And now, he goes to the chief priests and asks what they would give him if he delivered Jesus to them. The bargain was struck: thirty silver pieces for the Son of God.

Could the betrayal by Judas have been because of something as common and low as his love for money? Certainly, it looks that way. There could have been other reasons – some have said that he was trying to force Christ into revealing himself as the Messiah. Some have said that Judas was jealous of all the other disciples and so wanted to do something to ruin their common life together. But if Judas betrayed Jesus for those reasons, why did he ask for money when he went to the high priests? He could have handed Jesus over to them without asking for money.

No, Judas was a lover of money, a worldly man who was looking for personal gain. As St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” And this, no doubt, was an evil act. When Judas approached Jesus in the garden, our Lord asked him, “Judas would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?” Judas had given his betraying kiss before, when he took money into his filthy hands, caressing it as a lover would his beloved.

Spy Wednesday serves as a reminder to us, too, that we can betray Christ for common, low things. We tend to think about our own wants before we think of Christ. We sometimes spend time trying to get things for ourselves while forgetting the needs of others. When we put things before what we owe to God, we’re betraying Christ. When we’re cruel or when we bully someone weaker than we are, we’re betraying Christ. When we delight in gossip, we’re betraying Christ. When we cheat someone, or when we take something which isn’t ours, we’re betraying Christ. When we use foul language, speaking filthy words from the same mouth in which we receive the Body of Christ, we’re betraying Him.

We’re horrified by what Judas did. But we need to look at our own lives, too, lest we are betraying Jesus.

O God, who didst will that thy Son should suffer death upon the Cross that thou mightest deliver us from the snares of the enemy: grant that by the merits of his Passion and Death we may know the power of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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Pictured: "The Payment of Judas" by Gerard Seghers (1591-1651)

29 March 2021

Tuesday in Holy Week


When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, "Tell us who it is of whom he speaks." So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the feast"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come.' A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward." Peter said to him, "Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times."

- St. John 13:21-38

O God, who by the passion of thy blessed Son didst make an instrument of shameful death to be unto us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Pictured: "The Last Supper" by Carl Bloch (1834-1890)

28 March 2021

Monday in Holy Week

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.  Jesus said, "Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me." When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
- St. John 12:1-11
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Pictured: "Mary anointing the feet of Jesus"
by Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)

27 March 2021

Jesus Christ: Intruder or King?


The Divine Will of God unfolds before us as we enter into Holy Week. What took place in the past is made a present reality for us.

Our Lord Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time, and as He comes, the whole city begins to churn and stir. The simple people come out to meet Him. The thoughtful, puzzled students of Scripture wonder whether this could possibly be “He of whom Moses in the law and the Prophets had written.” They wonder aloud whether this uproar that they were hearing from this crowd streaming down the Mount of Olives and pouring into the city’s eastern gate, might have anything do with the old prophecy about “the Lord coming suddenly to his temple.”

Those whom Jesus had cured of their sickness were blessing Him as they heard Him approaching. Those who had believed in Him felt their faith deepen at the sight of His triumphant entry. And those who had despised Him – well, they still did. And all they could do was sneer at Him and at this crowd of simpletons cheering Him on. As far as they were concerned, He was an unwelcome presence in their holy city – He was intruding on the Passover. In fact, it looked to them like He was trying to bring some new religion to the people – and the proof was this: “Have any of the Pharisees believed in Him?” The answer to that was, “No.” So that settled it. The temple had its traditions, and there was no place for Him there. The Roman occupiers ignored Him, hardly bothering to glance at the pathetic passing procession.

But still, Jesus came. Into Jerusalem He came. For some, He came as an unwelcome intruder; for others, He came as a triumphant king. There were those along the streets who owed to Him the straightness of their limbs and the sight of their eyes and the clear, sane reason of their brains, and they greeted Him with joy. But there were others whom He had disappointed and defeated, who felt that He had trampled on their traditions and contradicted their doctrines and spoiled their trade – and those were the ones who greeted Him with a curse.

What confusion there was in Jerusalem that day! The city was divided against itself. But even with the confusion, Jesus continued on. He claimed the city as His own, which it was. Whether the city welcomed Him or whether it cursed Him, still He went on his way, claiming it all as His own.

And as Jerusalem was, so it is with our own lives, with our own hearts. Each one of us is rather like Jerusalem was that day – we see Him at one and the same time as an unwelcome intruder and as the king whom we love – because there is something in each one of us that is saying to him, “Come in, come into my heart,” and yet at the same time saying, “Go away. I don’t want you to rule over me.

And yet Christ, whether He be king or intruder, whether He be welcomed or rejected, goes on His way, pressing on into each heart’s most secret place, claiming always that He, and He alone, is the heart’s king. This is the claim He makes on us throughout this holiest of all weeks – He is the Man of Sorrows – sorrowful because He is despised and rejected by the world; sorrowful because of our divided hearts. And yet, the struggle in any heart cannot go on forever. Every heart has to decide, just as Jerusalem had to decide. Of course, before the week was over, Jerusalem did decide – tragically so – and Christ was crucified. Hatred triumphed, and Jerusalem crucified its king.

This is what is faced by every heart this week. Just as Jerusalem had to decide, so each one of our hearts has to say finally to Jesus, “Come in” or “Go away.” He won’t go away unless you make Him go; and He won’t come into the inner temple of your heart unless you invite Him to. But our decision has to be made this week – either we walk with Him, or we turn away from Him. Either we love Him, or we ignore Him. He’ll either be the king of your heart, or He’ll be an unwelcome intruder in your life.

But really, to make our decision, all we need to do is lift up our eyes to the Love which was nailed on the cross, and when we see that, how can we choose anything else, other than to walk with Him, and to love Him, and to make Him our King?

25 March 2021

Our Lady in Passiontide


Friday of the Fifth Week in Lent is a day traditionally set aside to honour Our Lady in Passiontide, which is to remind us of the special role the Blessed Virgin Mary played in the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is day when we remember Mary as the Woman of Compassion. In our culture, compassion is often thought of as kindness, or mercy. But there is more to it. It comes to us from two Latin words (cum= "with” and passio= "to suffer”) and literally means "to suffer with." So to be a person of compassion means that we share in the sufferings of another person. It is not simply empathy, but it means that we see the other almost as an extension of ourselves.  If they are suffering, we, too, experience their pain.

This commemoration helps us to remember Mary’s sacrifice for our salvation, and also the importance of avoiding things in our own lives which would cause further sorrow to Mary, who is our Mother.

O Lord in whose Passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, the sword of sorrow did pierce the most loving soul of thy glorious Virgin Mother Mary: mercifully grant that we, who devoutly call to mind the suffering whereby she was pierced, may, by the glorious merits and prayers of all the Saints who have stood beneath the Cross, obtain with gladness the benefits of thy Passion; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

24 March 2021

The Solemnity of the Annunciation


At the Annunciation, God sent His messenger, the archangel Gabriel, to announce to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would bear the Incarnate Son of God, and it would be Jesus who would take human flesh from her, to bring salvation into the world. When Mary heard these words, she was filled with awe and wonder, and she asked for clarification: “How can this be…?” When Gabriel told her that it would be by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded by saying, “Let it be unto me according to thy word.”

That is an important phrase, “Let it be…” It takes us back to creation itself, when by the word of God, all things came into being.

In the beginning, God said “Let there be light,” and there was. God brought into being everything there was – by His word there came into being all of creation, including man himself. In fact, creation itself is the larger context for the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As God spoke His creative word in the beginning, so in our remembrance of the beginning of the Incarnation we call to mind Mary’s words, “Let it be…. Let it be unto me according to thy word.” The Virgin Mary’s words, “Let it be,” echo God’s words, “Let there be.” It is, in a way, the continuation of creation and the beginning of our salvation. God says, “Let there be…” and his word brings forth creation; Mary says, “Let it be,” and her words bring forth the Incarnate God into the world.

We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts: that, as we have known the Incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an Angel; so by his Cross and Passion we may be brought unto the glory of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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Pictured: "The Annunciation" by Arthur Hacker, 1892 

23 March 2021

Sanctified Time

I love the constant round of the liturgical year. The solemnities and feasts, the famous saints and the obscure, they all give the sense of adventure within stability. So many things to celebrate and ponder, but all within the steadiness of the Mass. In addition to the obvious - the gaining of grace - I think this accomplishes something else which is important for us.

We can become so accustomed to our surroundings that we almost stop noticing them. A view that strikes a stranger as being magnificent is scarcely seen by the person who lives with it every day. When we’ve lived with something for a long period of time it takes something or someone to especially call it to our attention. We have a tendency to miss what’s right in front of us. It becomes easy to take one’s spouse or children for granted. We neglect important friendships. They’re always there, so we slip into the habit of not noticing them as we should.

This is one of the reasons why the liturgical calendar is so important. The truths of our faith and the lives of the saints are given specific days on which we are to remember and celebrate them. We have them called to our attention.

Of course, things like the Incarnation, the Passion and Death of Christ, the Resurrection, the Coming of the Holy Spirit, and the lives of men and women which have been sanctified through the totality of Catholic truth aren’t intended just to pop onto our calendar once a year and be forgotten about the rest of the time. They’re always true, and make up the fabric of our faith. But if we don’t call them to mind specifically at particular times, there’s a danger of them simply slipping into the background of our thinking, and we might never really celebrate each of the wonderful things God has revealed to us.

22 March 2021

St. Turibius of Mogrovejo


Together with St. Rose of Lima, St. Turibius is among the first of the known saints of the New World, serving the Lord in Peru, South America, for twenty-six years.

Born in Spain and educated for the law, he became so brilliant a scholar that he was made professor of law at the University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge at Granada. He was a great success, but he was about to enter upon a surprising sequence of events.

When the archbishopric of Lima in Spain's Peruvian colony became vacant, it was decided that Turibius was the man needed to fill the post. It was generally agreed that he was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area. Turibius cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities, but he was overruled. He was ordained priest and bishop and sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst. The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population. Abuses among the clergy were wide-spread, and he devoted his energies (and his suffering) to this area first.

He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with no place to sleep, and little or no food. He made his confession every morning to his chaplain, and he would then celebrate Mass with tremendous devotion. Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was Saint Rose of Lima, and most likely Saint Martin de Porres. After 1590 he had the help of another great missionary, Saint Francis Solanus.

His people, although they were very poor, also had a sense of personal pride, and they were unwilling to accept public charity from others. Turibius solved the problem by helping them himself, anonymously.

When Turibius undertook the reform of the clergy, along with unjust officials, he encountered tremendous opposition. Some tried to "explain" God's law in such a way as to make it appear that God approved of their accustomed way of life. He answered them in the words of Tertullian, "Christ said, 'I am the truth'; he did not say, 'I am the custom."'

O God, who gavest increase to thy Church through the apostolic labours and zeal for truth of the Bishop Saint Turibius: grant that the people consecrated to thee may always receive new growth in faith and holiness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 March 2021

False witness...


It’s upsetting to most people if they find out that others have been talking about them in a bad or false way. When lies are spread around about us, it’s one of the most difficult and devastating things that can happen. It has been rightly said that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its boots on.”

At Mass on Monday in the fifth week of Lent we hear the story of Susanna, from the Book of Daniel. Susanna was a woman who loved God. She was unjustly accused of adultery by two elder judges who had tried to force themselves on her. Since adultery was a serious offense punishable by stoning to death, the law of Moses required at least two witnesses, rather than one, to convict a person. Susanna knew she had no hope of clearing her good reputation and escaping death unless God Himself intervened. God in His mercy heard the plea of Susanna, and Daniel was the instrument God used, resulting in punishment for the two elders who had given false witness.

When we consider the great damage that can be done, either by telling outright lies, or by spinning things to make someone look bad, it’s apparent just how sinful that kind of behaviour is. When it comes to saying anything about anybody, we need to think very carefully before speaking, and often it’s better not to say anything at all.

St. James in his epistle says that the tongue is only a small part of the body, but then he reminds us that a very small flame can set a whole forest on fire. That’s something for us to consider seriously when it comes to our conversations.

Don’t abuse others with your words. Don’t pass along to others what seem to be juicy tidbits about someone. That little feeling of dark pleasure which so often accompanies your judgement on someone else will return as God’s judgement upon you.

20 March 2021

Passion Sunday: Atonement


Our Lord Jesus said, “And I, when I be lifted up, will draw all men unto myself...” 

When He is lifted up upon the Cross, atonement is made. The great gulf is bridged, and mankind is once more made “at one” with God, just as we were before the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. The gates of heaven are opened to us, all through the lifting up of Christ and His death upon the Cross. 

We live in the light of the fact that Christ is “the Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,” and in “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” there was made “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” As we labour in this world in the midst of the evil which surrounds us, we know our need for a true atonement - not just a good example, but an eternal, godly, and forceful healing of our broken lives - lives which have been maimed and crippled by sin.

There is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to merit God’s love, or earn our own salvation. The purpose of seeking spiritual growth is only so that we can better serve the One who has earned our salvation for us, Jesus Christ. He was lifted up upon the Cross so that we can be lifted up to heaven. He was broken so that we can be made whole. 

The lesson we need to learn is to be learned at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ - that even though we are sinful and fall short of the glory of God, in spite of it all, God loves us with that yearning, passionate love which led Him to give Himself to be lifted up for us. And because of that, our hearts cannot help but be broken open to receive the Love which knows no rest and which never tires until it has found us, and has brought us to our true home in Christ’s kingdom.

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Pictured: "The Crucifixion" by Stevan Aleksić (1876-1923)

18 March 2021

St. Joseph


Our knowledge about Joseph is not extensive, and yet enough is known to reveal what his character was. What we know of him, we know from the Gospels, and it is there that we see him to be a man who was determined to do what is right in the sight of God, and to do it in a kindly way. He was betrothed to Mary, and according to Jewish practice, betrothal was as sacred as marriage. Because of that, any infidelity before the actual marriage were treated in the same way as infidelity after marriage: death by stoning was the punishment for such sins. By all human appearance, Joseph's beloved betrothed was in just such circumstances, and he had to act in the way that seemed best. Certainly, he was a just man, but he was a kind man, too, and surely what Mary told him made a great demand on his faith. But that is the point: Joseph was, above all, a man of faith and completely obedient to the divine will of Almighty God. When it was revealed to him that Mary was to bear the Incarnate Son of God he took her to be his wife. There was no hesitation, no consideration of what others might think or how they might judge. It mattered little to him that it was assumed he was the human father of this Child -- not that he would have encouraged others to believe such a thing, for he knew the truth -- but it was better than having people think that Mary had shamefully conceived with someone else, and so Joseph took the responsibility, knowing that one day the truth would be known, and that Truth "would make men free." It is in this very situation, brought about by God Himself, that Saint Joseph's justness and kindness are both revealed.

His justness is shown in that he was a devout servant of God, and he ordered his life according to the standard of that law which had been revealed to the Jewish nation. He sought to please God in all things, even when it meant that he would be misunderstood or even harshly judged by the world. And because justness does not exclude kindness, his response to the revelation that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit was one of deep gladness and joy, and so he took his place in God's plan without fear or hesitation. This place was not one of glory; rather, it was one of quiet reserve. Whether on the way to Bethlehem, or in the stable, or at the Child's circumcision on the eighth day, or in the Temple when He was presented, or in everyday life in Nazareth, Joseph simply was there. Loved and respected both by the Incarnate Son of God and by the Mother of God, he was a man of deep piety and gracious character.

Within Saint Paul's Cathedral in London is the tomb of its architect, and on that tomb are the words, "If ye seek his monument, look around you." How much more impressive are those words when they are used of Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. There could be no greater remembrance of Joseph's holy life, than that glorious Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ, the foster-son of the quiet, just, kind man of God.

O God, who from the family of thy servant David didst raise up St. Joseph to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son and the spouse of his Virgin Mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

17 March 2021

St. Cyril of Jerusalem


Cyril of Jerusalem loved to study the Holy Scriptures from the time he was a child, and he made such progress that he became known for his deep faith. He was eventually ordained priest by St. Maximus, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and he was given the work of preaching to the faithful and instructing those preparing for baptism. His Catechetical Instructions, which explain clearly and fully all the teaching of the Church, still exist today for us to read. His treatment of these subjects is so distinct and clear that he refuted not only the heresies of his own time, but also, by a kind of foreknowledge, he was able to expose heresies which would develop later. Upon the death of Patriarch St. Maximus, Cyril was chosen to be bishop in his place.

As bishop he endured many injustices and sufferings for the sake of the faith at the hands of the Arians. They could not bear his strenuous opposition to their heresy, and so they told lies about him, and drove him into exile. They were so violent against him that he fled to Tarsus in Cilicia, but eventually, with a new emperor and the death of many of his enemies, Cyril was able to return to Jerusalem, where he taught his people and led them away from false doctrine and from sin. If once wasn’t enough, he was driven into exile a second time under the Emperor Valens, but eventually peace returned to the Church, and the Arians were once again brought under control, so he was able to return again to Jerusalem. The earnestness and holiness with which he fulfilled the duties of being bishop were evident in the strength and holiness of the Church in Jerusalem.

Tradition states that God gave a sign of His divine blessing upon the spiritual leadership of Cyril by granting the apparition of a cross, brighter than the sun, which was seen by pagans and Christians alike. Another marvel happened when the Jews were commanded by the wicked Emperor Julian to restore the Temple which had been destroyed. They no sooner began the work when an earthquake happened and great balls of fire broke out of the earth and consumed the work, so that Julian and the Jews were terrified and gave up their plan. This had been clearly foretold by Cyril. He lived long enough to see the Arian heresy condemned, and he died as a beloved and holy bishop, eventually acknowledged to be a doctor of the Church.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that at the intercession of thy blessed Bishop Saint Cyril, we may learn to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent; that we may be found worthy to be numbered for ever among the sheep that hear his voice; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

16 March 2021

St. Patrick, Bishop and Confessor


St. Patrick is known as the Apostle to Ireland. His specific place of birth isn't known, except that it was someplace in Britain. Some claim he was born in England, others say he was born in Scotland, and still others claim he was born in Wales. Wherever his birth took place, the year was about 385, and his parents were Romans, living in Britain, because his father was overseeing the Roman colonies in Britain.

When Patrick was fourteen or so, he was captured during a raid being carried out by Irish invaders, and he was taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. During his time of captivity, he learned the language and practices of the people who held him, and even though he was among them as a slave, he began to love the Irish people.

Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty years old, and he then escaped, after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. When he reached the sea, he found some sailors who took him back to Britain, and he was reunited with his family.

The time came when he had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him, "We beg you, Patrick, to come and walk among us once more."

He began his studies for the priesthood, and he was eventually ordained. Subsequently Patrick was consecrated to the episcopacy, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland on March 25, 433, and he came upon a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted this chieftain, and he then began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message.

St. Patrick preached throughout Ireland for 40 years, working many miracles and writing of his love for God in his “Confessions.” After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring great suffering, he died on March 17, 461.

O Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Patrick to be an apostle to the people of Ireland, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: grant us, by his intercession, so to walk in that light; that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

13 March 2021

Fourth Sunday in Lent: Healing


Jesus said to Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

- St. John 3:14, 15

God had no more rescued the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt before they started to complain because the journey was difficult, and they didn’t like the food, the manna, which God provided for them. As a result of their sin they were afflicted with serpents in the wilderness. But God showed mercy, and He instructed Moses: "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”

The visible sign of the "fiery bronze serpent" being lifted up in the sight of the people reminded them of two important facts: that sin leads to death, but repentance leads to God's mercy and healing. And, of course, the lifting up of the bronze serpent on a wooden pole points to Jesus Christ being lifted up on the wooden cross at Calvary where He took our sins upon Himself to make atonement to the Father on our behalf.

The sacrifice of Jesus' life on the cross is the ultimate proof of God's love for us. The cross broke the curse of sin and death and won pardon, healing, and everlasting life for all who believe in Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of the world.

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[Pictured: "The Brazen Serpent" by James Tissot (1836-1902)


06 March 2021

Third Sunday in Lent: Zeal


The commanding figure of Jesus Christ strides into the great Temple in Jerusalem. He cleanses it, making a whip of cords and driving out the sellers of animals and the money-changers, overturning their tables and telling them, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” Christ did this because those who were buying and selling within the temple of God were not doing it for the glory of God; they were not doing it for the worship of God or for the good of man; rather, it was for dishonest personal gain and for selfish reasons.

The Church teaches us that religion is more than just the vertical dimension of the spiritual life. It’s more that simply “God and me.” Ethics and morality must be the practical expression of a true and living faith. How we conduct ourselves in the marketplace reflects our relationship with God. Certain business practices may be legal but that doesn’t ensure they are ethical. Certainly, making a profit isn’t condemned in Scripture, but accumulating great wealth by unjustly taking advantage of someone else is.

So, with the crack of a whip, Christ drove the money changers from the temple. And He did it not only because of the contempt that was being shown to the Temple – a place consecrated to God – but also because of the injustice being shown to the people who were there to worship the God in whose honour the Temple had been built. Christ was not kind and gentle that day.

When good people are faced with evil, it would seem that our Lord has given something of an example to follow. He did not limit Himself to prayer or to talk; He also did something about it. “To everything there is a season,” the Scriptures tell us, and we can see that even in the life of Christ that there was a season to make a stand against evil by taking specific action.

It was necessary for Christ to drive the money-changers out of the temple because of the evil they had brought into the lives of honest people, and because of the dishonour those actions brought to the House of God. So it is necessary at times that evil must be faced squarely by taking positive action, so that the common good might be preserved. Sometimes, for the triumph of good, the whip must be cracked, and evil must be beaten back.

Whether it be civil leaders inflicting injustice on people; or whether it be those who steal the right to life from the unborn; or whether it be the unfaithful cleric who cheats people from knowing the fullness of the Gospel and from worshipping according to the mind of the Church; or whether it be the gossip who destroys the reputation of another – we are called to stand up for the good, and against the evil.

The Gospel tells us that after Christ had cleansed the Temple, “his disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me...’” And so should zeal for the things of God consume us. Zeal is the business side of love, whether it be love of God or love of man. “Zeal,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “is the energy of love.” Zeal, as an ardent love of God, is to be shown in our lives as a desire to promote the love of God, to promote the worship of God, to promote the praise of God, to promote the glory of God. It is to be shown in our spiritual lives as we perform those Christian works of mercy and love that we have been taught by our Lord. And zeal, also, is to be shown in practical ways, as we accept our responsibility for the support and work of Christ’s Body the Church. This is one of the reasons we have places of beauty, consecrated to the glory of God – so that we can be inspired to be zealous for God and for the things of God; so that we can work for justice in this world; so that we can spread the truth of the Gospel by our words and our actions – and also, to give us a glimpse of the eternity of heaven.

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[Pictured: "Cleansing the Temple" by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890)]

01 March 2021

Be merciful. Judge not.


At that time: Jesus said to his disciples, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back."

- St. Luke 6:36-38

Our Lord gave us what we call the “golden rule,” that we should do to others what we would want them to do to us. And He taught us about forgiveness, especially in the prayer He taught us, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In this brief excerpt from St. Luke’s gospel He repeats and summarizes what we have heard from Him, saying that we should show mercy to others, just as we have received mercy from God. And not just mercy towards those whom we like – not just to close family and friends – but to those whom we don’t necessarily like, even towards those whom we see as our enemies.

Jesus isn’t saying that we must like our enemies, but He does teach us that we must love them. And what is it to love them? It is to wish them good – and not just to wish it, but actually to do what is good.

This means we need to pray for our enemies – yes, even those who are doing evil in the world. And what should we be praying for? For their conversion, that they might turn from their wicked acts.

This is what Jesus means when He tells us not to judge. He’s saying it’s not up to us to consign them to hell. We can certainly judge wicked acts as being wicked. That’s what is known as “discernment.” We can judge an act as being sinful and wicked, but it’s not our job to judge the souls of those who commit such things. That’s God’s job.

And that goes for things we experience every day. If someone is a bully, or acting unjustly, or if someone is making wrong decisions and is doing hurtful things, we can certainly judge their actions as being wrong, but our responsibility is to pray that they turn from these wrong things, and do those things that are pleasing to God.

If we seek the best for others, God will turn that around so that it will be a blessing to us. But if we curse others, or do the same bad things to them, then we bring judgement upon ourselves.

So in all things, show the same mercy and love to others as God gives to us.