Join Together—the Message of Jolly Pope John XXIII

According to the Nicene Creed, the first of the distinguishing marks of the Catholic Church is unity. Without unity things tend to fall apart: societies collapse, families fight, and friendships evaporate. Over the course of history the Church has undergone a multitudes of developments and faced its share of difficulties threatening union. Jesus Christ promised that in spite of the conflicts unity still would persist through the office of the papacy. Guided by the power of the Holy Spirit all successors to the original “rock” of the Church, the Apostle St. Peter, provide stability and direction to the faithful. While I have been blessed with to live witness the tail end of the prominent papacy of St. John Paul II [the Great], I recently made an effort to acquaint myself with former pontiffs from the 20th century. Most recently, I learned more about the wondrous, albeit brief, papacy of the St. John XXIII.

Two words immediately come to mind with I think of John XXIII—jolliness and unity! He was a joyfully jolly individual whose papacy promoted greater unity for all mankind.  The Italian pope declared, “The whole world is my family.” While at face value, this appears to be a simple and unimpressive statement, looking at the human conflicts currently existing in the world today and throughout history, we suddenly realize that disunity is part and parcel of human nature. Opening the world to the Catholic Church via the initiation of the Second Vatican Council, John XXIII opened the supernatural ark and invited humanity a chance assess the spiritual graces housed in the Catholic Church.

I am grateful to have discovered the positivity, and harmonious message of the pope of the Second Vatican Council. Below are several insightful and uplifting words from St. John XXII we can reflect on for the rest of the week!


“I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in.”

What unites us, is much greater than what divides us.

See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little.

“Before everything else, fidelity to the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Jesus did not found several churches, but one single Church.”

“O Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I would like to be filled with love for You; keep me closely united with You, may my heart be near to Yours. I want to be to You like the apostle John. O Mary of the Rosary, keep me recollected when I say these prayers of yours; bind me forever, with your rosary, to Jesus of the Blessed Sacrament. Blessed be Jesus, my love.”

Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.

Don’t Judge, Be Happy!

Over the course of the past month, the word judge has become a hot-button term. The allegations against newly confirmed Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh dominated the news cycle. Everyone seems to have their own opinion about the matter. Ironically, people formed a judgment on his character before analysis of the entire facts. Now, this post is not aimed at dissecting that judicial confirmation process or whether it was right or wrong that he was appointed to the Supreme Court. There are plenty of other articles, sites, and media avenues that address this issue. What I wish to highlight is that judgments form quickly, and sometimes even unconsciously.

Going to the New Testament, Jesus makes his case about judging clear in Matthew 7:1-5,

1*a “Stop judging,* that you may not be judged.b 2For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.c 3Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? 5You hypocrite,* remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

Because of our fallen human nature, avoidance of judgment is much easier said than done. St. Maria Faustina, wonderful saint and mystic who provided the world with the Divine Mercy Image, declared, “Let our judgment of souls cease, for God’s mercy upon them is extraordinary.” As a mere creation of the Creator, I cannot possible fathom the depths of the ocean of his mercy. Speaking with my brother about trials and negativity I face at work on a daily basis, he told me the following advice that lines up perfectly with the truth proclaimed by Jesus and echoed by Sister Faustina. My brother simply said, “Do not judge people ever. Just eliminate judging someone as “bad” at all times. If you stop judging, I guarantee you will be happy!”

How exactly do you begin to stop judging others? The easy answer is the following—just start! Fill your mind with something else when judgmental thoughts start to creep in. Pray the Hail Mary, place a holy icon of a saint or Jesus at your desk, or read the daily Mass readings throughout the day. These are a few small, but concrete examples of things that I did to slowly work to replace, but judgmental attitude. When all other means fail, I look to the official teaching of the Catholic Church for ways to show mercy to others.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447,”The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.”

Free yourself from the shackles of judgment, but filling your life with holy words, thoughts, actions, and works. Remember this will be a continual battle, but by relying on the guidance of the Jesus Our Savior, Mary our Comforter, and guides of the saints you are not in this journey alone. Be happy today. Don’t judge others!

Fixing Our Gaze on Golgotha

Lord Jesus Christ, I petition you as your most unworthy servant and adopted child through the waters of Baptism to hear my petitions. Please soothe the anxiety in my heart, mind, and soul over the pressures, toils, and attacks of despair the Enemy sends my way. Self-doubt and self-loathing pervades me mind throughout today. In keeping with the words of the great Doctor of the Church St. Catherine of Sienna, “Every great burden becomes light beneath this most holy yoke of the sweet will of God.” May I receive the graces from the Holy Spirit to love myself and confidently seek your Will, not for my sake but as in loving myself I make a worthy offering to you Most Holy God.

While my sins wound me and damage my relationship with myself, my neighbors, and ultimately You Most Holy Trinity, I petition for intercession from the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven to help re-orient my gaze from the gutters of the troubles of my life to gaze upward to the Cross of Jesus—crucified on Golgotha.

I recall the words from a homily by my parish priest who declared, “It is through the atmosphere of Mary that we truly are able to receive the light of the Son.” According to John 19:26-27, “When Jesus saw his mother* and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”n 27Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted his beloved disciple [and all humanity] to his mother. More important, Jesus gifts us the blessing of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well.

Despite the failings, trials, and doubts that surround us, be assured that peace and joy canbe found in uniting ourselves to Christ’s suffering in Calvary. Remembering that we are all in this pilgrim journey, towards holiness, together helps sustain me in my downtrodden times

Facts about the Assumption of Mary that We Should Assume

Catholics around the world [and throughout time] celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15th. Along with the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Motherhood of Mary this feast day is a holy day of obligation for Mass attendance. The reason for this is due to the veneration—NOT WORSHIP—Catholics hold for the Mother of God. Marian doctrines closely relate and point us to the even greater truth of the Incarnation—God becoming Man. While specifically, the feasts of Mary, Mother of God and Immaculate Conception point to the teaching of the Incarnation, the feast of the Assumption orients us to look toward the Resurrection of Jesus.

1. Assumption—Logically Flows from Being Immaculately Conceived: When I taught high school theology one of my favorite lessons involved the subject of the teachings on Mary. I enjoyed showing the interconnectedness between the various Marian dogmas. Because she was preserved free from the stain of original sin, Mary would not suffer the same type of bodily decay and separation of body and soul the rest of mankind—born into original sin—suffered/would suffer. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 966, “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”

Along with the clear connection made in the catechism, Divine Providence inspired the office of the papacy to proclaim the infallible teaching pertaining to Mary to be viewed in unity with one another. Pope Pius IX in 1854 infallibly defined Mary as being immaculately conceived and nearly a century later his successor bearing the same appellation—Pius XII—formerly declared the infallible dogma of Mary being taken into Heaven Body and Soul.

2. Assumption Hinting at the Resurrection and Destination of Heaven: Again, I will defer to the Catechism for the best explanation of the Assumption of Mary pointing to the Resurrection, “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death. [Emphasis added mine] (CCC966).

According to Saint Pope John Paul II, “In her, assumed into heaven, we are shown the eternal destiny that awaits us beyond the mystery of death: a destiny of total happiness in divine glory. This supernatural vision sustains our daily pilgrimage. Mary teaches about life. By looking at her, we understand better the relative value of earthly greatness and the full sense of our Christian vocation.” Saint Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus articulated the fact that Mary orients us to Heaven even more clearly, “it is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.” Because the entirely of Mary’s earthly life centered on obedience and love of God, she is the perfect guide to the Son and union with God in Heavenly bliss. Marian titles such as Stella Maris [Latin for Star of the Sea] and Morning Star point to the reality as well.

Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, body and soul, gives Christians hope that the promise of the Resurrection and eternal life is a gift that may be attained through the merciful gift of grace poured out through the Sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross and via our cooperation with this divine grace by obeying God’s Word. I am grateful for the gift of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Advocate in times of darkness. Please pray for us in our time of need!


“Mary shines on earth “until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (Lumen gentiumn. 68).

Resources: http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-xii_apc_19501101_munificentissimus-deus.html

Transfiguring Humanity—Reflections on the Transfiguration of Christ

Among the most bizarre, mysterious, and interesting accounts in the New Testament is the event of the Transfiguration of Jesus. The dictionary defines the word transfiguration as “a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. Common synonyms for transfiguration include:  metamorphosis, changeover, transformation, development, adjustment, and even mutation!! Growing up Catholic I have listened to the Gospel telling of this mysterious occurrence a myriad of times, however, I will provide Matthew’s version in case it has been a why since you have read and/or Mass for the Feast Day of the Transfiguration of Our Lord!

The Transfiguration of Jesus.* 1a After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.* 2*b And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. 3* And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents* here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5c While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,* then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6* When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” 8And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

1. Foretaste of Heavenly Reality: The primary purpose of the glory of Jesus shown [shone] to Peter, James, and John was meant as a means to prepare them for the glorification of God after the Resurrection and to hint at the beauty of transfigured humanity. According to Saint Pope Saint John Paul II in his 1999 homily for the Feast of the Transfiguration, “In the event of the Transfiguration we contemplate the mysterious encounter between history, which is being built every day, and the blessed inheritance that awaits us in heaven in full union with Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”

2. Humanity’s Home in Heaven: Similar to the previous point is that fact that man is on a pilgrim journey, a sojourner on Earth—whose ultimate destination is union with God in Heaven. John Paul II echoed this truth as well, “We, pilgrims on earth, are granted to rejoice in the company of the transfigured Lord when we immerse ourselves in the things of above through prayer and the celebration of the divine mysteries. But, like the disciples, we too must descend from Tabor into daily life where human events challenge our faith. On the mountain we saw; on the paths of life we are asked tirelessly to proclaim the Gospel which illuminates the steps of believers.”

I imagine the incredible letdown the Apostles must have felt in the moments after the dazzling and inexplicable event of the Transfiguration. Going back to following Jesus in an ordinary way, traveling from town to town, learning from him, and assisting the poor certainly did not compare to the splendor they witnessed on Mount Tabor. It definitely would have been challenging to transition back into that routine! Heck, Peter even desired to stay in the holy place when he declared, “If you wish, I will make three tents* here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

Coming out of Sunday liturgy, I leave with a similar wonder and awe as the inner circle of Jesus received on that original Transfiguration event. Housing the Real Presence of Lord after reception of the Eucharist provides me incredible peace and patient strength. In a way, we all undergo a momentary transfiguration—a foretaste of Heavenly reality in the Mass. Going back to our worldly affairs, we quickly lose sight and memory of our close encounter with God. May we continue to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us with clarity and strength on our pilgrimage toward Heaven!

Siphoning Sanctity? Reconciling Mark 5:21-43’s Peculiar Passage with Reality

little peculiar gif.gif

Having taught high school Old and New Testament in the past and being a cradle Catholic, the newness of the Good News found in the Bible sometimes gets taken for granted. During the Liturgy of the Word for Sunday’s Mass, the Gospel reading actually penetrated my theological torpor and liturgical listlessness. Mark 5:21-43 details two healing stories in one gospel proclamation. The evangelist began with a synagogue official named Jarius pleading to Jesus to save his daughter near death. On the way toward Jarius’ residence, Mark inserts a seemingly tangential telling of the woman afflicted with a hemorrhage for a dozen years! Jesus heals this poor woman and the passage concludes with Jesus raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead.

Reflecting on this passage the following questions invaded my mind:

questions

1. Why does Mark insert a seemingly random story within a healing story? Could he not simply detail the healing of the hemorrhaging woman after completing the passage on the healing of Jarius’ daughter?

2. Does this Gospel reading contain the strangest sentence uttered by Jesus: Who has touched my clothes? Is he not omniscient and all-knowing as God?

3. Power flowing from Jesus…what a peculiar way to describe the healing incident?

These questions initially perplexed me, however, when I had time to think about the passage and re-read the evangelist’s words, and interpret in light of the teaching of the Catholic Church I learned of the deeper more spiritual meaning hidden within Mark 5:21-43 and how it relates to my life today.

Christ Willing to Save All—Social Status does not matter

Sandwiched between the beginning and the end of the healing of Jarius’ daughter, Mark inserted Jesus’ encountered a woman suffering from a blood disorder. After careful review, I noticed the juxtaposition between the two individuals. Below is a chart that showing the differences in how Jarius’ daughter and the unnamed woman came to learn about Jesus.

 

Jarius’ Daughter Woman Suffering Hemorrhage
Young Older
Prestigious Family Poor
Father’s Intercedes Actively Passive Request for Healing
Saw Jesus Heard Jesus

John Paul II declared, “[O]nly in Christ do we find real love, and the fullness of life. And so I invite you today to look to Christ.” Certainly, Mark 5 demonstrates people who recognize the importance and power of Jesus.

nerd alert gif

According the evangelist, “And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’” Obsessed with superheroes, I recently received Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game from my wife for Father’s Day. Along with my passion for this geeky deck-building game, I have rented a slew of comic books from the library as well. While my fandom seems random to the discussion of Mark’s Gospel I need to provide a little backdrop to my thought process after hearing the priest read Mark 5:30, the first thought that popped into my head, “I did not know that Rogue made an appearance. Sapping or draining of power is the hallmark of that X-Men character. Marvelously [no pun intended], merely grazing the cloak of Jesus provided the woman healing that eluded doctors many years.

rogue.jpg

Joking aside, the healing power of Jesus is quite amazing. Previous consultation with doctors failed to ease the woman’s suffering. The passage that may be interrupted as a “power loss” of Jesus is not meant to infringe on his divine nature. On the contrary, Mark, like the other Synoptic Gospels, never dispute the divinity of Christ, he was utilizing language that his audience would be able to understand.

Jesus—Hope in Face of Despair:

Along with Jesus’ desire to save all humanity, regardless of social standing, Mark 5:21-43 focuses on hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. After healing the woman with a hemorrhage, Jesus arrived too late—at least that was what the crowd thought! Urging Jarius to accept his daughter’s fate the onlookers declared, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Men of little faith and tenacity would have resigned themselves to start the grieving process, yet Jesus urged the synagogue official to not be afraid.

According to Saint Pope John XXII, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” From the onset of this Gospel reading Jarius actively sought the aid of Jesus and pleaded for the return of his daughter to life when all looked hopeless as she appeared to linger in the shadow of death. Below is a link to a story about Jesus providing miraculous healing to another young daughter—prematurely born!

uniqueness

Uniqueness of the Individual:

A final thought that crossed my mind when reflecting on Mark 5:21-43 was that Jesus focuses on the present moment with grace, love, and resolve. Even on the way toward healing a prominent religious official’s child, Christ paused to listen to the needs of an ordinary, poor woman. Saint Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Do not worry about the past nor the future only concern about the need of God’s children in front of you.

This is exactly what Jesus did in Mark 5:25-34—noticing the presence of the sickly woman Christ stopped to show mercy the person in need at the present moment. As a father of three young children, my focus is frequently divided between juggling the various needs and adventures of my kids growing up. What I learned to devote my attention and time to the present moment and act with love instead of worrying about the various needs and whether it will be adequate or not. The genius of the Gospel message centers on the individual first. Siphoning sanctity cannot occur as love multiplies not divides when more and more individuals come into your life.

family circus

3 Reasons We Can Avoid Awkwardness and Apathy after the Ascension

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 675, “Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.” This Sunday Catholics across the world celebrated the feast of the Ascension. Until recently, this high feast was celebrated on a Thursday—forty days after Easter. From a traditional standpoint normally a 10 day period existed from Ascension to the Coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. Regardless, of the precise days, the main point is that for a brief period, the Apostles and early disciples of Jesus lived in a transition period from when Jesus no longer visibly existed in the similar manner that he did previously and the official descent of the Holy Spirit.

spiritual desert.jpg

Suffering from a severe dryness in my spiritual life this Easter season got me thinking: maybe I am in a transitory period myself whereby the descent of the Holy Spirit is not apparent in my life. I feel like my desert is dried up. Obviously, my situation is not exactly the same as the 1st century Christians who had to live for an awkward [and maybe apathetic] period before the official reception of the Paraclete.  Nevertheless, maybe your life is at a stage similar to that awkward week and a half—pondering the return of Christ, experiencing doubt in Divine Providence, or possibly even living in fear or distress. Reflecting on Acts 1-2 and wisdom from the tradition of the Church—through the Catechism and the saints—I came up with three methods [not really earthshattering] to avoid awkwardness and apathy in your spiritual life in the days after the Ascension!

wellspring of worship

  1. Wellspring of Worship: The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). I have probably cited this paragraph more than any other passage, yet it is vitally important to the Catholic faith. What sustained the Apostles in the early Church while waiting for the Paraclete? The body of and blood of Jesus Christ in the form of the Eucharist—it is the wellspring, the origin of worship!

Although Jesus’ physical existence did not appear the same after his Ascension, he is still present to the Apostles [and to us] body, blood, soul, and divinity in the sacrament of the Eucharist. St. Pope John Paul II mentioned the importance of this sacrament in his encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “Her [The Church] foundation and wellspring is the whole Triduum paschale, but this is as it were gathered up, foreshadowed and “concentrated’ forever in the gift of the Eucharist” (no. 5). During periods of spiritual dryness we may be able to sojourn to the spiritual oasis of the Mass.

 

mary of perpetual help

  1. Hail, Mary: Mother of Perpetual Help, Mother of Good Counsel: Josemaria Escriva declared, “Love our Lady. And she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle.” I imagine the days following Jesus’ Ascension was a perilous time for Peter and the rest of the Apostles. During the most confusing and perilous times in my life it appears that Jesus is not present—the most difficult days lands in the middle of the work week when I lack the time to attend daily Mass or ability to go to Eucharistic adoration. Here is where my devotion to Mary is key to sustaining me during the staleness of my spiritual life. Jesus augmented Mary’s motherhood in John 19:27 with a simple command, “Woman, behold your son!” This is a reciprocal relationship as a mere verse later Our Lord urged the Apostle John [who represented humanity both individually and collectively] with the charge: “Behold, your mother!”

 From my own experience, I normally contact my mom first [when my wife is not available!] after an incredibly stressful and frustrating day. This is not to downplay the role of my father, but there is something unique, almost mysterious about the ability for mother to sooth children in need. The Blessed Virgin Mary is no different. Mother of Perpetual Help pray for us. Mother of Good Counsel pray for us.

keep calm and trust in the Holy Spirit

  1. Trust in the Holy Spirit: The great scientist Isaac Asimov once purported, “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” While the first two points of his statement may be debatable, it is quite difficult to argue that turning points in life, no matter how large or small, pose a challenge for everyone. Transitioning from physically seeing the Resurrected Christ to the age of the Church would have been a tough transitory event as well!

Jesus prepared his followers of the coming of the Holy Spirit prior to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. According to Christ in John 14:15-19, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. 1I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.”

While the Holy Spirit did not formally descend upon the Apostles in the Upper Room until Pentecost Sunday, the power of the Holy Spirit allowed Jesus to be substantially present in the sacrament of the Eucharist and also guided Peter and the other Apostles in selecting a worthy replacement for Judas. Moreover, just before his Ascension Jesus repeated his promise to send another Helper to fortify his followers: “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you,g and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Although you may in a spiritual dry spell [if not now you most certainly will encounter aridity and acedia—spiritual sloth– sometime in your life!], please do not despair. Hope is always on the horizon. Through the sacrament of the Eucharist, guide of Mary, and promise of the help of the Holy Spirit we receive strength and sustenance make it past any awkward and apathetic period in our spiritual journey.  Never give up—hope in the Lord always!

never give up gif.gif

The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity (CCC 1818).