We’ve finally made it to Pope Benedict XVI. It’s not that I’ve been avoiding this Pope but there have been lots of documents that have come out over the years that are pretty unique as well. This is the first of Encyclical from Benedict XVI as well as the first of three that focus on the theological virtues Deus caritas est (about love), Spe salvi (about hope), and Lumen fidei (about faith). Lumen Fidei was written by both Benedict and Francis. As one should know the title come from the first line of encyclical God is love. It comes from the first letter of John (4:16) “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” As we have learned about in John Paul II’s Salvifici Doloris suffering is linked to love. So we looked at the suffering now it’s on to love. Sure most of the time during Lent we tend to focus on the negatives, like when we give something up but Lent is more than just this it is about trying to become a better person in general as well. Over the next couple of weeks I will be going through this Encyclical. It was written by Benedict with some direction from uncompleted writings left by John Paul II. This was signed on Christmas Day back in 2005 and came out in January of 2006. It will be an interesting look during this season of Lent
The second sorrowful mystery is the Scourging at the Pillar or the Flagellation of Christ, when Pilate had Jesus tied to a column and beaten. It can be found in found in every gospel but Luke, however Luke does have a similar event with the High Priest’s guards beating and mocking Jesus. The fruit of this mystery is Mortification which leans from the purity nature of it. The Scourging is one of the popular aspects of Christ life in art. It has been featured in Western art since around the 9th century. This has moved on to film and literature as well notably in A Clockwork Orange when our main droog Alex sees himself as the solider beating Jesus it is also a difficult scene to watch in Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. It is featured in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar as well in the song Trial before Pilate where Jesus gets 39 lashes. Once again it is a powerful song and we need to reflect on the nature of this where are we in this scene with Jesus or the ones beating him up. This is what we need to reflect upon this week.
Hey guys, it has been a while since I last took up this issue but guess what there’s been yet another shooting at a school in the United States, there have been nine since the beginning of this year and let’s not forget about those other shootings not taking place at a school. Sure the politicians have offered their thoughts and prayers but that’s about it. There has been no movement on an assault weapons ban or moratorium, a strengthening of background checks or really any great ideas in general. Trump has had quite the time with this suggesting that teachers should be armed and placed the blame on just about anything but guns. Trump pointed toward the violence in video games and movies as a contributing factor and he even he floated an idea of a rating system for movies.
Yet, looking around the world you can find places like Australia, Canada and Japan where they have the same access or more to violent media (video games and movies) and they have fewer gun deaths. I mean to get a gun in Japan, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once a month, take and pass a shooting range class getting at least a 95% on it, head over to a hospital for tests (mental and drug), which you’ll file with the police. Then it’s on to a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. After you own a gun you need to provide police with documentation on the location of the gun and ammo in your home, which must be locked and stored separately. Then yearly you need to have the police inspect the gun and every three years you need to to retake the class and exam to maintain ownership. This is a bit more involved than in the US. Sure the Second Amendment declares that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” You can take this in several directions, one that anything that looks like a gun counts, or one might say a reasonable weapon like all manual weapons are fine or even one could think of it as what the Founding Father would recognize as arms so like anything that was a single shot and/or manual repeating would be fine but automatic and semi-automatics are just plain witchcraft. There as many opinions about what this right means and it seems that everyone neglects the first part of it about the militia or as it’s know as today the National Guard. We all know the saying opinions are like asshole and everyone’s got one.
The most inspiring thing about this whole incident is the students who are all making themselves heard. It seems like the #metoo movement and hopefully it will have a similar impact. These are nice example of what can happen, but we are going to have to wait and see what all happens. I know that this problem isn’t going to solve itself over night or even in a few months but it would be nice if in the next couple of years we could see and hear less about Mass Shootings in the news.
As we pick up this Apostolic Letter as we ended the last section with a look at one of the Song of Suffering Servant from Isaiah. It’s the fourth one and it is a Messianic prophecy about Jesus John Paul II notes that it is through the Cross that Redemption is accomplished through suffering more over that human suffering is what has been redeemed For Christ, without any fault of his own took on himself “the total evil of sin”. He then looks into the New Testament and eloquently explains “If one becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ, this happens because Christ has opened his suffering to man, because he himself in his redemptive suffering has become, in a certain sense, a sharer in all human sufferings. Man, discovering through faith the redemptive suffering of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings; he rediscovers them, through faith, enriched with a new content and new meaning.” This continues with his Kingdom where we share in the suffering but it is redemption which can only be accomplished through satisfactory love. Which remains open to all love expressed in human suffering.
The sixth section looks at the Gospel of Suffering. This Gospel has been written by Mary and the Apostles through their experience of the Passion and Resurrection. Jesus was never shy that suffering would have to happen even saying that to follow you’d have to take up your cross and follow. This is the first chapter of the Gospel of Suffering and it is written on Jesus as when he is Resurrected he still bore the marks, which Thomas wanted to see. The Gospel is continually being written by those who suffer with Christ for it is in suffering where we are drawn closer to Christ, just look at anyone of the Saints and they all seem to have some suffering like Francis of Assisi who said “If we endure all things patiently and with gladness, thinking on the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, and bearing all for the love of Him: herein is perfect joy.”, or Ignatius of Loyola who said “If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint” and others who point to suffering into making them better people. The suffering become a joy through the salvific mission of Jesus. This is why Paul can write “I rejoice in my suffering for your sake” as it is only through our suffering that we unite ourselves with Christ to complete his suffering.
Pope John Paul II notes that the Parable of the Good Samaritan is surely a part of the Gospel of Suffering. As is show us how to approach things not to pass by but to stop and help out those in need even. Everyone who stops beside a person in need is a Good Samaritan, once again this is as it is uniquely put to unleash love in the human person. With so much hate in the world it would be wonderful if more people took some time to care about the other. Sure we’ve been given so many guidelines that society is crafted around the general idea that we need to do with the works of mercy. As Jesus says “what you did for the least of my brothers and sisters you have done for me.” It’s all about compassion and our redemption is rooted to suffering. The letter is nicely concluded saying “Together with Mary, who stood beneath the Cross,we pause beside all the crosses of contemporary man. We invoke all the Saints, who down the centuries in a special way shared in the suffering of Christ. We ask them to support us. And we ask all you who suffer to support us. We ask precisely you who are weak to become a source of strength for the Church and humanity. In the terrible battle between the forces of good and evil, revealed to our eyes by our modern world, may your suffering in union with the Cross of Christ be victorious!”
Let us take this Lenten season to take to heart the words of Pope John Paul II about how Suffering is linked to love. I hope that we all take this message to heart and try to bring it into a world were we continually see discord.
As we begin the Lenten Season we once again start with the Sorrowful Mysteries. The first is the Agony in the Garden it can be found in all the Gospels in different ways. Since the events covered are from the end of Last Supper and the Arrest of Jesus. The Fruit of the mystery is Sorrow for Sin as Uniformity to God’s Will.
When the Last Supper was ended Jesus took a walk to pray, he went to the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives with his apostles/disciples to pray. Peter, James and John were there and Jesus asked them to stay awake for an hour and pray with him. Jesus went off and prayed to the Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. I don’t want to take this poison. Going back to the apostles he finds them asleep and wakes them saying couldn’t you stay up just an hour. While Jesus was praying his sweat was blood and he ended his prayer by accepting it” If the cup can’t pass by let me drink of it your will be done.” After all of this Jesus recognizes that his hour to be betrayed has come.
Let us remember this during Lent we are offered several opportunities for other religious activities confession and stations of the cross seem to be at least a weekly thing along with a fish fry on Fridays during the season. If you have some time take it and go to one of these events or whatever else is offered in our local church.
Salvifici Doloris is an Apostolic Letter from Pope John Paul II which was written after the assassination attempt in 1981. It is about suffering and joy or as the title says in Latin saving passion. During Lent we will be working through this Apostolic Letter and hopefully some more. Today is the first day of Lent for the Western Church (Roman rite) some eastern rite catholic church began the season on Monday and in the Orthodox Church Great Lent begin on Clean Monday (19 February). John Paul II writes this letter to the Bishops, Priest, Religious Families and the faithful of the Catholic Church on the Christian meaning of Human Suffering. This was issued during the Holy Year of Redemption 1983-84 so it continually refers back to this.
John Paul II starts with quoting from Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians (1:24) where the idea get put forth “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Suffering has been here for all of human history, just look at Paul before he became that nice guy we all like was one of the fiercest persecutors of the faith causing all kind of suffering. Now he is rejoicing in the suffering because of Jesus. Suffering is universal it is with us all at every point on earth: in a certain sense it co-exists with us in the world, and demands to be constantly reconsidered. yet we must remember that it is through the cross of Christ comes our redemption. This is all tied together for we are all of one body. His Holiness then quotes his encyclical Redemptor Hominis saying that “in Christ we all become that way for the Church” and add on “when suffering enters his life.” Suffering is inseparable from our lives. Yet from this suffering come great things it evokes compassion, respect, and in its own way it intimidates. For in suffering is contained the greatness of a specific mystery.
In the second section the focus turns to the World of Human Suffering. There are two types of suffering physical suffering (the body hurts) and moral suffering (pain in the soul), While the Physical suffering (mental physical, emotional pain) can be eased with medication moral suffering can not. Turning to the Bible the Pope notes that it is a book filled with Suffering, looking in the Old Testament they link the moral suffering onto parts of the body, it isn’t until the Greek when suffering show up and is linked to evil. This now takes a turn in the For God made all things Good why is there evil? The Church looks at it as we suffer on account of evil which is a limitation or distortion of good. or “we suffer because of a good in which we don’t share, from which in a certain sense we are cut off, or of which we have deprived ourselves. We particularly suffers when we ought—in the normal order of things—to have a share in this good and does not have it.” We all suffer alone together (collective consciousness) in the same old anxiety ridden world that we live in and our suffering is compounded by the sins of our times, with mad men running the world.
The third section looks at the quest for an answer to the question of the meaning of suffering. The whys why do we suffer? why is there evil? Looking at the Book of Job we see this idea taken up (a couple of years ago I went through it during Lent) Job was a good just man and then lots of suffering happens to him one of his friends indicates that the suffering come from some sin. Yet, Job has done nothing wrong but God recognizes this but doesn’t do anything about it, since it was a competition between the Devil and God. Sure the Book of Job does a good job at asking the question it doesn’t answer it but points out that suffering affects all people those as punishment for sin and also the innocent. It can be seen as a test of righteousness. The Book of Job isn’t the last word on the subject of suffering but it acts as a foreshadowing of Passion of Christ. To find an answer we need to look to Divine Love.
In section four we turn to Jesus Christ: Suffering conquered by love. Jesus himself is salvific love John Paul II point to John 3:16. Now this is where it gets good breaking down the Bible. For God so loved the world that He gives, not directs or sends, but gives the world, His only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. This is remarkable as it points that the opposite of eternal life is suffering for eternity we literally perish being away from God forever. We are reminded here that we (humankind) are but dust and to dust we will return from way back in the Garden of Eden we are body and soul our Body will fade but our spirit will live forever but through Christ’s salvific mission to “blot out from human history the dominion of sin, which took root under the influence of the evil Spirit, beginning with Original Sin, and then he gives man the possibility of living in Sanctifying Grace.” Perhaps that isn’t how it will end now. Turning to Jesus in the Gospel we see how he is deep in suffering he went deep into the weeds and starts pulling. He healed the sick, consoled the afflicted, fed the hungry, brought hearing to the deaf sight to the blind, free those from leprosy, from the devil and from various physical disabilities, three times he restored the dead to life. He was sensitive to every human suffering, whether of the body or of the soul. And at the same time he taught, and at the heart of his teaching there are the Beatitudes, which are addressed to people tried by various sufferings in their temporal life.” But it is his Suffering and death on a cross that will conquer suffering.
This Lent as we enter into our churches let us raise our eyes toward the large cross with Jesus and recognize that this is a gift of love. As John 3:16 says For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him may have eternal life. Let us keep this in mind during this upcoming season and remember the joy in suffering.
Something Rotten is a musical that is a grand old love letter to Broadway musicals. It tells the story of Nick Bottom and his brother Nigel, who are desperate for a hit show in 1595 England. Since Nick hates William Shakespeare because of The Bard’s success. The patron of Bottom’s acting troupe learns that it seems like Shakespeare will be doing Richard II, the play that Nick and Nigel are working on. Their patron leaves saying they need a new show by tomorrow or he will no longer patronize them. To make a sure fire hit Nick goes to a soothsayer and it’s Nostradamus, Thomas Nostradamus, the nephew of the famous one, to find out what the next big thing in theater will be, it turns out to be a musical. Nick is convinced and tries at first but his attempt with a musical about the plague doesn’t go over well. So Nick goes back to T. Nostradamus and ask what Shakespeare’s biggest play will be, and that will be the musical, it’s Hamlet but Nostradamus misinterprets it as Omelette instead, a musical about breakfast food. That’s the main story for the first act.
This turns out to be the greatest thing ever from the audience’s perspective as there are references to just about all of musical history from Oklahoma and South Pacific to Mary Poppins and Wicked. If you are a fan of musical you are bound to have some good laughs and who would have thought that have a recipe for an omelette in a song is the best thing in the world. If you have the opportunity to go see this I would highly recommend it. In a few year I could see this being one of the popular shows done at high schools.
Today the Winter Olympics begin in Peyongchang, South Korea. Sure they actually started yesterday with some mixed doubles curling and some qualification for ski jump, as well as some other events team skating, moguls and more mixed curling earlier today, before they officially begin at the Opening Ceremony at 20:00 KST or 6 AM on the east coast. If you want to watch it live the ceremonies will be streamed live on NBCsports.com/live. It will also be broadcast in a shortened version tonight at 8pm on NBC. It is unique that they’ve scheduled the Olympics around the American audience with events in the morning airing live in the US, I think they do this regularly. Also for the first time the games will be broadcast across the US at the same time in every timezone so no more having to avoid twitter or online for those on the west coast. So here’s to the next about two and a half weeks when we get to explore some of the finest that the Winter Olympics can offer up.
SpaceX is at it again, this time launching the biggest rocket currently launched it is capable of carrying 63,800 kilograms into space. Yesterday’s launch sent Elon Musk’s Tesla into a Earth-Mars elliptical orbit and will be going there around for ages. The launch went off superbly and the only hitch in the whole launch was that two of the three reusable booster landed safely, those two were on land and the one landing at sea is an insignificant loss as it wasn’t going to be reused again. Now this I though was going to be the launch vehicle for traveling to the Moon and Mars for SpaceX however on Monday I learned about the BFR or the Big Falcon Rocket or as it seems like everyone is going to call it Big F’ing Rocket 150,000 kilograms for the reusable variant, this will match or exceed the Saturn V rocket payload of 140,000 kilograms. The BFR is expected to replace both the Falcon and Falcon Heavy rockets so this is a pretty cool thing that you can watch it on youtube.
The final Luminous mystery is the Institution of the Eucharist, you know that thing that happened at the Last Supper, it is in all the Gospels (Matt 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-39 and John 13:1-17:26) and Paul mentioned it in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:23-26). We all know this story we hear it every time we go to Mass, Jesus was gathered with his friends, Jesus took some bread blessed it and broke it gave it to his friend saying “This is my Body. Take. Eat.” Jesus then took a cup filled with wine, blessed it and gave it to his friends saying “This is my Blood. Take. Drink.” This is the institution of the Eucharist. It is repeated at every Mass so we all should know it. The fruit of the mystery is Adoration. As we move toward the season of Lent some there may be some added special events like an Eucharist Adoration or a Benediction, if you have a chance perhaps take the time and go this year. The other thing is that we all could make an effort to come to Mass a bit earlier/leave a bit later and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.