Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord

The final Sorrowful Mystery is the Crucifixion of the Lord and focuses on the death of Jesus. It can be found in all the Gospels and it is mentioned several times in the Letters as well. This can also be found in some other non-Biblical books like Tacitus and Josephus as well as in the Babylonian Talmud, it is also mentioned in the Koran where Jesus isn’t Crucified but raised by Allah unto heaven.  So Jesus carried the cross and we have the Stations of the Cross which highlight these events, eventually getting to Calvary or Golgotha where he was stripped from his clothes and offered wine mixed with myrrh or gall to drink. Jesus was hung between two thieves with a sign saying Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.

The fruit of the mystery is Perseverance in faith, grace for a holy death and Forgiveness. This has quite a few fruits. We touch on the Cardinal Virtue of Fortitude as well as the Gift of from the Holy Spirit. It’s pretty great let us all pray for a holy death. As well as the courage to ask for forgiveness of all that we’ve done wrong in our lives to others and what not.

Crowning with Thorns

In this third week of Lent we look at the third sorrowful mystery the Crowning with Thorns. This was another event surrounding the Passion narrative. It can be found in three of the Gospels Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:17 and John 19:2-5. The soldiers who just scourged Jesus made a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head mocking him as the King of the Jews. The fruit of the mystery is Contempt of the world (moral courage).  This is a bit with the Intimation of Christ as you look at it, the world continually wants us to ignore anything that cares about religion or really anything but the things of the world. Let’s all take some time to reflect on what role religion plays in our lives, do we make time for it more than an hour on Sunday. It’s sort of like the show Living Biblically based on the book A Year of Living Biblically, sure there are lots of rules in the Bible but it’s like how all to often we tend to be more focused on our electronic devices than on other people and diminishing the experience of going to such events. To put it in other terms it’s like going to a sporting event and not watching the game in front of you but worrying about the outcome of the Battle of the Ironclads (Monitor vs Merrimack) and who benefited the most from the results of the Battle.

Scourging at the Pillar

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.

Salvifici Doloris: Part 2

In the first part we looked at the first half of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris. In the first part things were defined and questions asked and answered. Here is the rest

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.

Passion of the Christ Sequel?

It looks like there is a new sequel coming soon and an unexpected one as well. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mel Gibson and writer of Braveheart, Randall Wallace, are working on a sequel tentatively titled The Resurrection of the Christ? This seems like it’s a ready made film although it seems there needs to be a lot pulled from devotional writings on the Resurrection or have the story include the Ascension and/or Pentecost just to fit the two hours of a typical movie. The Passion was a phenomenon as it hit at the right time and everyone jumped on it, including the very unlikely source of South Park. Evangelicals are bound to go see the film and it seems likely that many other Christian faith communities will go out in groups to see it and if this ever does get made it will be a new part of the annual event of watching The Passion during Lent. It is pretty remarkable for The Passion to still be the highest grossing R-rated film in US history even after a dozen years, Deadpool has made it close and beaten it out Worldwide but that is just crazy. If Gibson and Wallace make the film it’s bound to be something that people go see, the  biggest question is if the film will capture some of the same energy behind it like The Passion had.

AD: The Bible Continues

So on Sunday night NBC aired the first episode of the follow up miniseries by the folk who made The Bible. If you remember back to 2013 The Bible was a huge ratings success for the History Channel and NBC wanted to cash in on the success so they ordered A.D.: The Bible Continues. They were right about the show so far, the first episode had about 9 million viewers From reviews I read they consider this a cross between House of Cards, Game of Thrones and the Bible. The first episode is something that we’ve already see in The Bible, the Passion specifically the whole trial before the High Priests and Crucifixion and ends with the Resurrection. So I was disappointed with this first episode, since I really though it was going to just be like Acts of the Apostles the TV show. One of the interesting things about the show is the focus on women in the first hour we have the wives of Pilate and Caiaphas and the Marys (Mother, Magdalene) from other reviews of the series it seems like women will have a large role in the show. Sure I will most likely tune in for the rest of the episodes but hope that the story move a bit faster or at least get Jesus up into Heaven by the end of the first half of the next episode, since episode three is about the events of Pentecost. If you liked The Bible miniseries when it aired you are most likely already watching this.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

There is a chance that we can get two Gospels today one at the beginning before the processional and the regular one, it all depends on how the parish handles the event. In the first one we hear Mark or John’s account of the entry into Jerusalem. I will only be talking about Mark here today. The story is basically the same across the gospels Jesus and his disciples are approaching Jerusalem and Jesus send two into the village to get a colt for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem on. Jesus tells them that there will be a tethered colt and you should take it and if anyone asks “Why are you taking the colt” answer “The Master has need of it.” So the two went into the village and came upon a colt and while they were untying it they were asked “Why are you taking the colt” and they responded just as Jesus had told them to. They brought the colt back and after placing their cloaks on it Jesus rode it into the city and the people on the side of the road we shouting Hosanna, and waving palms branches and placing their cloaks and branches on the road. The big part of this reading is that we are taking the place of the crowds I know that some communities rent a donkey\colt for this weekend and have a huge spectacle. This participation continues later on as well.

In the Mass proper we begin with a the prophet Isaiah and we hear one of the Servant songs. It is the third one (Is 50:4-9) and we hear the servant described for us, the servant has a well trained tongue, and he give his whole self, my back to those who beat me, my cheek to those who pick my beard, and he has set his face like flint knowing that he will not be out to shame. Christians like to associate the servant with Jesus while Jews take the servant as a metaphor of the Jewish people.

In the letter to Philippians we hear a Christological hymn, which was perhaps even sung by the early Church, sort of like how the Psalms are sung. This is the most famous of the Christological Hymns and there are several others. The  hymn hits all of the big parts about who Jesus is. We hear in the hymn how Christ Jesus chose humility and emptied himself becoming obedient even until death on a cross, and because of this at the name of Jesus every knee should bend. Scholars believe that the words were not originally Paul’s and he just wrote them down. The key aspect of this reading is that to attain heaven we hear that we need to humble ourselves.

Turning to the actual Gospel reading we have Mark’s account of the Passion of Christ. This is that one time of the year when we all get to participate in reading the gospel, We all know the story but to be quick. There are fourteen scenes we begin with the chief priests and scribes looking for ways to arrest Jesus and in Bethany while at Simon the leper’s house a woman comes in and anoints Jesus. The scene changes to Judas approaching the chief priests and offering to help get Jesus. We are on to the events on the first night of Passover and the Last Supper. Jesus once again sends to disciples into town and says there’s a room and just say the master needs it and get everything ready for Passover. Jesus arrives and while they were eating Jesus took bread blessed it broke it gave it saying “this is my body” then he did the same with the wine saying “this is my blood.” After this they went out to the Mount of Olives, and Gethsemane where Jesus asked them to sit here while I pray. Jesus prayed that three times asking that the cup may pass from him, the disciples fall asleep and Jesus wakes them saying he comes the betrayer. Judas shows up and kisses Jesus so the crowd knows who to arrest. Jesus is brought before the high priest and Peter follows at a safe distance. The priests claim that Jesus blasphemed and Peter denies knowing Jesus three times.

Jesus is then brought before Pilate when Pilate tries to understand why they want Jesus dead. On Passover there was a tradition in releasing one prisoner so Pilate brought out Barabbas and Jesus then he had the crowd decide who to same they chose Barabbas. Jesus is crowned with thorns and beaten by the soldiers. On the way to Golgotha, Simon the Cyrene is forced to help carry the cross, Jesus is crucified with two others. On Calvary passersby jeered as Jesus asking you saved so many other why can’t you save yourself? Jesus then dies on the cross darkness covers the whole land and the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two. Jesus is then taken from the cross and placed in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, and they rolled a big stone in front of the tomb.

As we begin this Holy Week let us remember the servant in the first reading and how Jesus in the second are both described. We must be able to humble ourselves and be willing to give all of ourselves for something greater than us. Humility is one of the biggest thing that the world need more of there are too many egos floating around in the world today who thing they are better than everyone else, but we are all the same. Let us all try to be a bit more humble this week and not brag about doing it. I hope that we all can take some time this week and reflect on the Passion of Jesus and ponder what role we would have played if we were there, would we be in the crowd shouting for Jesus to die, just a bystander who gets wrangled into helping or that guy who just happens to have an empty tomb.

Institution of the Eucharist

So the Last Supper rolls along and Jesus takes some bread blesses it and breaks it then takes some wine blesses it and shares it with his friends. “This is my Body, This is my Blood, do this in memory of me” Jesus says. At every Mass we remember the Last Supper and the priest sort of acts it out blessing the bread and wine and then giving it to those gathered.

For so many of us the Eucharist feast at a mass is that time when we get up and form a line to get the wafer and then we go back to our seats, with no real connection to the celebration of the eucharist at all. I hope that during this upcoming season of Lent we all can try and focus on the celebration of the Eucharist as the event it is meant to be. The priest, deacon or Eucharist minister says “Body of Christ” and we say “Amen” this has a deeper meaning than it lets on. I once heard that this is a conversation not only saying “Body of Christ” and “it is so” but it’s stating that we are the Body of Christ or something like that.  This is one of the reason that I watch other people recieving communion, since it is a celebration of how we are all one in this meal.

Lesser Known Saints

This week we have a handful of female saints and brothers.

Josephine Margaret Bakhita, FDCC. (ca. 1896- 8 Feburary 1947)
Josephine is a Canossian sister from Darfur, Sudan. Around 1877 she was taken into slavery by Arabs slave traders. The trama of this event was so much that she forgot he name so she was given on by the slave traders Bakhita, meaning lucky, and she was converted to Islam. As a slave one of the most horrific things that happened to her was she was tattooed with a razor and salt and bore a total of 114 scars on her body for the rest of her life. In 1883 Bakhita was bought by an Italian who was very kind to her. Eventually she was given as a present to the Michielia family, friends of the Italian and she became the nanny of their child. Then the story get even weirder, the family wants to open a hotel in Sudan and so they sell all of their things in Italy but before everything is ready so Bakhita and the Michielia’s daughter were sent to live in a Canossian convent. When they returned to retrieve Bakhita and their daughter Bakhita refuses to leave and it goes to court.  So in January of 1890 she was baptized with the names Josephine Margaret and Fortunata and in 1896 she became a Canossian. As a sister the people of Schio, Italy felt much better with her and consider her a saint who help protect the town from the horrors of World War II. Pope Benedict uses Bakhita as an example of Christian Hope in his Encyclical Spe Salvi.

Austrebertha  (630–704)
I only mention Austrebertha because of one of the legends associated with her as that is about a much as we really know about her. The story goes that one day while she was looking for the donkey that carried the Monks laundry to the convent Austrebertha ran into a wolf. The wolf admitted killing the donkey and begged forgiveness. Austrebertha forgave the wolf but now the wolf was commanded to take over for the donkey and delivery the laundry, the wolf did so for the rest of its life.

Catherine de’ Ricci, TOSD (23 April 1522 – 1 February 1590)
Alessandra Lucrezia Romola de’ Ricci  was a Dominican Tertiary Sister. It seems she was destined to become a sister of some sort, her Aunt was the Abbess of the Benedictine school she went to growing up. Here she was a very prayerful person and developed a deep devotion for the Passion.  She joined the Third Order Dominicans and took the name Catherine after the famous TOSD  from Siena, was Catherine was given a habit by her Uncle. As a novicate she began to experience ecstasies which would incapacitate her at first this frightened the other sisters and many questioned her sanity. However when they learned it was spiritual in nature they quickly changed their minds and by 30 Catherine became the Prioress. As Prioress she advised many people and was widely sought after. Her devotion to the Passion grew throughout her life and it is claimed that she bore the stigmata and would bleed like she was being scourged. It is also said that when Catherine was deep in prayer a coral ring would appear on her finger which represented her arraignment to Jesus.

Anne Catherine Emmerich (8 September 1774 – 9 February 1824)
Anne Catherine is only a blessed but she gets mentioned for being the visionary who is best known for her visions of the Passion of Christ. Mel Gibson used this as one of the sources in the movie The Passion of the Christ. Anne was from a poor farming family and had nine brothers and sister. As a child she was drawn to prayer and excelled in it. Anne wanted to join a convent but couldn’t afford to, but in 1802 along with her friend Klara Söntgen they both joined an Augustinian convent. Anne thrived in the convent and followed the rules as strict as could be, but often times she was in a great deal of pain. When the convent was suppressed Anne found refuge in a widow’s house. In 1813 Stigmata began to appear on her, many thought that it was a fraud. While having the stigmata she was visited by many people one of them was the poet Clemens Brentano.  Brentano listened and wrote down her visions, which he put into books. Now we know that Brentano fabricated much of what he said were visions from Anne.

Finally we reach the boys of the week, I’ve written earlier about them as well
Cyril (827-14 February 869) and Methodius (815-6 April 885)I am a big fan of Cyril and Methodius as they are brothers who were born Constantine and Michael. Their first mission together was to evangelize the Slavs and in 862 they began. They developed the Cryllic and Glagoltic alphabets to help bring religion to the Slavic people. They are the patron saints of unity between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic. I hope that some day in the future this schism is some how healed.

The Crucifixion

The final sorrowful mystery is difficult for some to truly grasp the whole idea of it. Ultimately it is an act of love but all to often we tend to focus on the sadness of the event. Jesus suffers and dies for all of us no matter who we are we have been saved through Jesus. Love is the base of our life and faith, without it there is nothing. This recent synod of Bishops they have been talking about “non traditional” couples and divorce. The media has gone mad over this changing view of homosexuality in the church, I however do not see this changing view, I know of many homosexuals who are active in the church and all that jazz. Even Pope Francis said before “Who am I to judge.” If Jesus were alive today he would most likely be with the homosexuals and other fringe group in the world. trying to spread the message of love to all people.

We can take the role of Jesus in the world today and step up showing love to others. It reminds me of something Tertullian observed, he said that the pagans would note “See how these Christians love one another.” We need to become these people once again all to often we do the bare minimum in our faith lives going to mass on Sunday and then forgetting about it until the following week. We should be spreading the message of Love that we hear from the gospel and preach it without words. The Crucifixion is the ultimate sign of love and we are all to aspire to it, to lay down ones life for a friend, or really anyone else.