The fourth sorrowful mystery we focus on the carrying of the cross. It is mentioned in passing in all the Gospels and is the entirety of the Stations of the Cross. The fruit of this mystery is patience. Carrying the cross is a task that we are all called to do and it take patience. Jesus calls us all in the Gospel “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” This is difficult for many of us to do denying ourselves and then taking up a cross to follow Jesus. So many of us struggle with both or either one, we need to be willing to risk everything. Pope John Paul II has a wonderful message on this for the 16th World Youth Day back in 2001 in which he reflects on this quote. John Paul breaks it down into easy pieces to deny oneself giving up one’s own plans that are trite while accepting God’s plan. He continues talking about taking up our crosses doesn’t have to mean a physical thing that leads to death but it is the ultimate sign of love that is the cross that we should bear. There is nothing else of more importance beside love and it is a lasting thing as well unlike the ephemeral nature of everything with instant gratification especially with all the social media where things don’t mean anything. As St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians (13:4-8) “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” This is how we should be living our lives, I hope that we can all strive for this simple little thing.
The second Joyful Mystery is when Mary goes and visits her cousin Elizabeth. This story can be found in Luke’s Gospel 1: 39=56. In the Western churches the feast is celebrated on 31 May and the Eastern churches celebrates it on 30 March. The fruit associated with this mystery is love of neighbor, since at the Annunciation Mary learned that Elizabeth was with child. When Mary arrived Elizabeth was about six months pregnant and Mary stayed for three months. Sure, Mary and Elizabeth were family but the general idea of love of neighbor, going out on a mission of charity, would be a wonderful thing if we could all do something like this. These are sort of outlined by the works of mercy, as how to love your neighbor. Let us all be able to stir the spirit within our neighbors like Mary did for Elizabeth when she her the voice of Mary the babe leapt in her womb. We need to bring love into the world all too often we are surrounded by hate in the world and that is never fun.
This is the final group of general letters, the past weeks we looked at James and Peter. John wrote three letters and Jude only wrote one. John’s third letter is the shortest book in the entire Bible followed by John’s second letter and Jude is the fifth shortest. So this will be a quick one.
The Letters of John might have been written by the Evangelist or at least one of his followers and it is widely believed that the second and third letters were written by a different hand than the first letter. The first letter begins with roughly the same language that we hear from the Gospel word, light in the darkness, new commandment, love, children of God and other. It’s like a distillation of the Gospel. The first letter seems to be the most general of the Johannine letters. As we turn to the other letters they are both directed to individuals John’s second letter is to a specific region and the third letter to some guy named Gaius. The second letter warns against false teachers and stresses truth and love. The third letter begins by praising Gaius for his actions in imitating good and John says that he will be coming soon. The community that John writes too is fractured as there are too many people saying what is truth. Just like that saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” as we have heard from other letters there are others preaching about Jesus and this has caused some fracturing in the community.
The Letter of Jude is a chapter long and Jude is the brother of James. Once again this stuff sounds sort of familiar as Peter’s second letter covers this same idea. Jude warns about false teachers who lead people to sin and mockers who dismiss the idea of Christ’s return. It gives the general idea that we are called to fight for our faith with love and mercy. This book is interesting as it references the Book of Enoch a book which is only used by the Orthodox Tewahedo community in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
If you have some spare time take some time and open the Bible to read. It doesn’t even have to be the upcoming readings for the week or anything like that. Pick whatever sound nice to you and read it.
Last week we looked at the first General or catholic letter from James. Now we turn to Peter who wrote two letters. Well these most likely were not written by Peter directly either by a secretary or more likely a disciple of Peter writing in his name after Peter died. The whole authorship debate is pretty crazy and don’t really want to get into it. The first letter was most likely written after the letters of Paul were a thing, the second letter might have been the last book written for the Bible as it references other letters as scripture and it uses the Letter of Jude. A rough dating of the letters are between 70-90 for the first while the second ranges between 80-130 or so.
As for the content of the letters they vary widely between the two. In the first letter it is addressed to the exiles of the dispersion, and pin points the location of the people to Asia Minor. The letter begins by talking up the Christian people as they are “God’s own people” it goes on to echo the words of the Lord from Exodus “Be holy because I am Holy” and the idea of girding the loins of your mind, now this is like getting your mind from the gutter. The general idea is that the Christians are special people but Peter tells them to behave themselves amongst the gentiles (pagans). This simply is be both a good Christian and a good citizen. The topic changes and Peter talks about the harassment of the Christians by their pagan neighbors, sure but Peter reminds them that it is only through suffering that glory can come, and he was there at the death of Jesus. Sure more suffering could come but then the glory will be better. One interesting point in this letter is that it talks about Christ after he died proclaimed to spirits in prison, some early theologian see this are a reference to the descent into the dead/Hell where Jesus preached the Gospel to those in Limbo.
The second letter is addressed to “those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with our in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” It begins by saying that followers should “become partakers in the divine nature” and that there are things that can supplement our faith with virtues and virtues with knowledge and knowledge with self control and self control with steadfastness and steadfastness with godliness and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. It goes on to condemn false teachers and that the second coming isn’t going to be coming tomorrow for to the eyes of the Lord a thousand year are but a day. This waiting also is a time for repentance therefore all Christians “Peter” suggests should look to scripture and his last letter. Christians need to live in holiness and gird the loins of ones mind.
It is interesting to read these early writings of the Church as see that some topics are still what we are struggling with. The whole be a good Christian but also be a good citizen is where many people face problems today as they are more concerned with being a good citizen no matter how it makes them look as a “Christian” just look at what’s been going on in Washington do we consider any one there is acting “Christianly” to one another the Democrats and Republican have been at each other for years slowly becoming more entrenched in their own ideologies and refusing anything else.
Next week we will be looking at the three letters of John as well as Jude’s letter.
Over the next couple of week, since we finished up Esther last week, the focus will shift to the catholic epistles. Now, these are the lesser letter and the term catholic means universal since these letter are not directed to a specific audience. They consist of the Letter of James, two Letters of Peter, three Letters of John and the Letter of Jude. This week will be James, next will be Peter’s letters and the following one will be the rest.
The letter of James is New Testament Wisdom Literature. It may have been written by James, the brother of Jesus or perhaps James the less who lead the Church in Jerusalem, but it could have just been attributed to him however whoever this James was it seems like Jude might have been his brother as well. It gets a bit confusing figuring out authorship of these letters. On to the book itself. James begins with a rather short greeting like the other letters and goes right into the message sure there are going to be trials in life but keep steadfast in your faith, that you live in. It seems rooted in love first and foremost echoing the commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. James gives an example of a richly dressed man and a poorly dressed man entering into the assembly and caring more about the one that looks better. James continues with interesting metaphors and musings about how to live life. The letter end with the idea of the sacrament of anointing of the sick. In the letter we hear that it is works and faith that justify mankind. This is at odds with the Protestant belief of Sola Fide where you just have to believe that salvation is attained by grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone for the Glory of God alone as told in Scripture alone.
Reading through this letter it seems like it would be something that I would write today so perhaps we need to hear from this book more often, as the message is one that seems to be continually in need of.
Since Kubo was nominated for an Oscar I though that I should watch this movie it’s the only film that might have had a chance to beat Disney. Kubo comes from Laika which has put out some remarkable stop motion films all of which have been nominated for Best Animated Feature but they have yet to break though and beat Disney. Spoilers to follow.
Kubo and the Two Strings is set in ancient Japan is about stories. As the film begins we have a great hook “If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem. And please be warned: If you fidget, if you look away, if you forget any part of what I tell you – even for an instant – then our hero will surely perish. ” Then we see a mother and her child trying to escape something and they wash up on shore. Time passes and Kubo is a young boy with one eye and he lives with his ill mother, Sariatu in a cave atop a mountain by a village. Everyday Kubo goes down to the village where he goes and tells the story of Hanzo, a brave samurai who happens to be Kubo’s father using origami and music. As the bell rings signaling sunset Kubo need to head home as his mother warns him that her sisters and father would come and try and steal his other eye. After hearing about the Bon festival, which is a Buddhist custom that honors the spirit of your ancestors, Kubo decides to talk to his father’s spirit however father doesn’t answer Kubo leaves angry but it’s too late as it is after dark and his aunts attack him. Kubo barely escapes with the help of his mother who sacrifices herself so Kubo can go find the magic armor that his father was looking for.
Kubo is awoken by a monkey, it is his monkey charm that has been brought to life. So Monkey and Kubo begin on their quest after a day they rest and over night Kubo dreams and a little Hanzo has been folded and came to life. Little Hanzo now leads them on the quest for the armor. As they follow Hanzo, Kubo falls and stumbles upon a giant beetle, a samurai who was cursed and was an apprentice of Hanzo. After hearing that Kubo is Hanzo’s son Beetle decides to joins the quest. They go out to look for the Sword Unbreakable, the Breastplate Impenetrable, and Invulnerable Helmet. Will they find them before Kubo is discovered by his aunts and the Moon King takes his remaining eye?
The film is about stories and memory as most of the stories that are told are memories of Hanzo. If you want to watch a film that’s gotten raves from everywhere that’s not from Disney this is where to start. It’s a simple story but it has such emotional depth and reflection upon what is family. Kubo is a great little film and if you haven’t seen it you are surely missing out.
On this day I want to do something that my high school Principal did every year on Valentine’s Day and that was to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day and told us all that he loved us. So here it goes I love you. Sure, it’s a bit corny but for all those who aren’t in relationships on this day it sort of is just a regular day. Perhaps you’ll get some candy or a card, my sister has been know to send Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Day cards, but it isn’t that different than yesterday or tomorrow. Yes it is a holiday that celebrates love and that’s what the world needs now more than ever. If you have some time and want a laugh watch the Teen Girl Squad’s Valentime’s Special because “Valentimes is serious times”, or if you want something longer I’m sure there is some romantic movie or perhaps a musical on television/streaming that is bound to entertain and remind you about love.
As we continue our way through John Paul II’s additional mysteries to the Rosary. The second Luminous Mystery we hear about the first miracle and the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. Here we have Mary and Jesus at some wedding, and they have run out of wine, which is a small problem. As the story goes Mary informs Jesus that the wine is running out he snaps back with “What concern is that to me, my time has not yet come.” Then Mary tells the servants to do as Jesus tells them. Jesus tells them to fill the empty purification jars with water and take it to the chief steward. The remarkable thing here is that Jesus doesn’t touch the water or really do anything to it yet it turns into the finest wine of the evening.
Now, Pope Benedict offers a unique observation of this miracle in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, saying that the miracle of producing a lot of wine for a wedding can be seen as a sign of the greatness of the love we find at the core of salvation history: “God lavishly spends himself for the lowly creature, man. (…) The superabundance of Cana is therefore a sign that God’s feast with humanity, his self-giving for man, has begun”. This in a way points toward the heavenly banquet where all are welcome. We also have an interesting role for Mary as it is where she always is pointing us towards Jesus. She is our signpost in life on our path toward heaven. I hope that we all can take Mary’s advice and do whatever he (Jesus) says.
Sing Street is the latest film from John Carney, director/writer of Once and Begin Again. This is the other musical which was nominated for a Golden Globe this year. Once again focusing on music but this time in the 80s in Ireland. We have a story of a boy who starts a band to impress a girl. Spoilers to follow.
The film begins at a family meeting where we meet Lawlor’s who are on hard time so they take their youngest son Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and place him in a free state-school, Synge Street CBS, run by the Christian Brothers. Conor’s older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor) rubs this in, joking about pedophilia, but also laments about the state of the family which is in a rocky state. On Conor’s first day at school he runs into trouble with the school principal, Brother Baxter, who reprimands him for not wearing black shoes as indicated in the school dress code, Conor also run into the school bully. This leads Conor to met a budding entrepreneur Darren (Ben Carolan), who has also been bullied and Conor and Darren become friends. The next morning or so meeting up before school Conor ask Darren who the girl across the street is, Darren doesn’t so Conor goes over and talks with her, she’s an aspiring model named Raphina (Lucy Boyton) Conor asks her if she wants to be in a music video for his band, she agrees.
The only problem is that there is no band. Conor and Darren go about assembling a band from the school. They start with Eamon (Mark McKenna) a multi-instrumentalist, who has all these instruments around, and round out the group with the black guy in school, and two other guys who sort of are just there to fill out the band. As they get together they begin as a cover band but after Conor brings a recording of the band for Brendan to listen to, and Brendan isn’t a huge fan as they are just a cover band and cover bands are a dime a dozen. This inspires Conor to begin writing his own music and with Eamon’s help they are pretty good at it as well. After the first song is written they film a video and Raphina shows up. With each new song the band’s style evolves while Conor and Raphina get close at the same time Conor’s home life implodes. However, the closer they get Raphina seems all to motivated to leave for London to become a famous model and one day she leaves. Conor is heart broken and can’t write or play music but Brendan inspires him to write so someone can get out of this place. Will Conor write or ever see Raphina again.
If you have a brother this is a wonderful movie to watch, even if you don’t have one or you are one it tells a timeless story of love and family. Fans of the music of the 1980s should give it a look as well as those who have enjoyed other John Carney’s movies I hope that you take the time to watch the film.
To mark the end of the Year of Mercy Pope Francis has written an Apostolic Letter, in which he reflects on the year and what we should do. Pope Francis begins by saying that mercy need to be apart of our lives, looking at the Gospel story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11) the woman by the Law of Moses should be stoned, but Jesus reminds us the intent of the Law. There is love at the heart of the Law for it is God’s Law and God is love. Pope Francis goes on to the time the woman came and washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and anointed them, Jesus says that “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47) It all comes down to forgiveness which is the most visible sign of God’s love and mercy is a concrete action of love.
The letter goes into a what can we do now that the year is over. Francis make an appeal for confession and he says that the provisions made during this Jubliee year for regular priest forgiving Abortion and the faithful in SPPX communities can obtain absolution for their sins will continue. The Pontiff continues “The Jubilee now ends and the Holy Door is closed. But the door of mercy of our heart continues to remain wide open.” Let us all remember that Mercy is available to all of us in all shapes. Pope Francis the names the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time as the World Day of the Poor. If you have some time over this upcoming holiday weekend take a look at this Apostolic Letter. Mercy is distilled down to love, let us all go out into the world filled with love for one another.