This week the readings come from Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117; the Letter to the Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13; and Luke’s Gospel 13:22-30.
The readings focus on salvation this week we begin with Isaiah where we basically have salvation for all people from Tarshish, Put, Lud, Mosoch, Tuba and Javan. If you have a great memory and remember that these names are descendants of Noah congratulations. The Noahic Covenant is still in effect and all people of all nations are in on the deal (that God will not flood the world to destroy everything. The focus shifts in the epistle where we hear that following the Lord isn’t easy as it requires discipline as those who the Lord love he disciplines. Sin is bound to happen but it is better to sin and repent on earth compared to suffering in the afterlife. This idea lead into the Gospel where Luke has Jesus warning us that “some who are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” It a peculiar saying in a world where we care about whoever comes out on top, we’ve spent the past two weeks doing this at the Olympics and in November as those in the US decide between Donny and Hillary. Yet these result really don’t matter as we should care more about the least of our brother and sister than we do about the rich and powerful. As Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day and Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have pointed toward in Catholic Social Teaching , the poor (the least in the world) are the most important people in the world. We are a church of the poor.
This week the readings come from the prophet Zechariah 12:10-11, 13:1; Psalm 63; Paul’s letter to the Galatians 3:26-29; and Luke’s Gospel 9:18-24.
The main thing to realize from the readings this week is the active role that we all need to take in our faith lives. As Jesus points out in the Gospel we need to take up our crosses and follow him. To the apostles he asks “Who do people say I am?” How would we answer this question if posed to us. Do we suffer with the Messiah or would we rather forget about it and only remember the happy part. We all live in between peaks of joy and valleys of despair. When we are in despair we remember the peaks of joy and try to get back there, so to could be said with faith. We tend to focus on Easter and being an ‘easter people’ for so much time that we can forget about the tragic events that lead to it. Sure we remember the whole Passion at each and every celebration of the Eucharist, but all to often we hear about the good thing people overcoming struggles, helping those in need. We should struggle with our crosses because if we don’t it seems meaningless Jesus carried the weight of the world on his way to die and what minor problems do we have compared to that.
This week’s reading come from Luke’s Gospel 19: 28-40, Isaiah 50: 4-7, Psalm 22, Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2: 6-11 and Luke’s Gospel 22:14-23:56.
Yes, this week we have a bunch of readings and we the congregation has a part during the later Gospel reading. We hear about suffering this week but it all begins with Joy. One would expect that Holy Week would be all about the solemnity that ends the week but we begin with the joy of the entrance into Jerusalem with the crowds shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” and spreading out their cloaks over the road. These same people would most likely be in that crowd of people at the end of the week who are clamor for Barabbas to be released and shout “Crucify him” when Pilate asks what to do with Jesus. We are the crowd cheering for Christ when he arrives but we all end up like Peter and denying that he knows Jesus even though there are people around him saying I saw you with Jesus. Sure the heart of the Mass is the Last Supper but we live our lives like it’s Good Friday/Holy Saturday not knowing what will happen to Jesus. Often times we keep our religion a secret doing about an hour on Saturday or Sunday and then forgetting about it over the week. We need to live our faith our in the world, Jesus taught us how to do this through the works of mercy. In this Year of Mercy we should be reminded of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Dives in Misericordia which says “Jesus Christ taught that man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but that he is also called to practice mercy towards others.”
The fruit of the Mystery is Mortification and Purity.
When most people hear the word mortification they jump to the self flagellation and wearing of hairshirt like the albino in The DaVinci Code. It could also be like putting a pebble in your shoe and walking around with it. Pope John Paul II, wrote an Apostolic Letter on Suffering, Salvifici Doloris, in which he wrote “Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but he states: “Follow me!”. Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my Cross”. On the other side Purity is also a fruit of the mystery and we need to strive to be pure if we want to follow the Lord. Confession is a major help in keeping us pure.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a very clever film it was an indie film that I doubt many people saw. It won best the prize for US Grand Jury film at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Spoilers to follow.
It tells the story of Greg a high school senior who has tried to make his way through without ruffling any feathers in any cliques, he’s around but basically invisible. Greg hangs out with his “co-worker” Earl and they make bad parody versions of films (400 Blows becomes 400 Bros, Fellini’s 8 1/2 becomes Ate 1/2 (of my lunch). Greg’s Mom tells him that he should go visit a girl Rachel, his former childhood friend who has been recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Leukemia. Greg and Rachel at first don’t want this friendship to work out, but they eventually decide that they like each other. I liked it since it’s not your typical movie as there is no big romance story line it’s just friendship which we are worrying about. Sure it’s got some sad moments but it’s also got some funny ones as well. If only there were more films like this about high school showing it for what it’s worth for everyone else, sure the athletes get the films made about their magical seasons but what about everyone else in the school. So Greg is convinced by the girl he has a crush on to make a film with Earl for Rachel.
If you went to or going to high school it is a nice film to pick up and watch remembering that we need to be visible in our lives and even if it is in difficult situations. Dealing with people who are dying is a unique aspect of life and isn’t really looked at in film other then the elderly, sure we had this film and The Fault in Our Stars but young people dying isn’t often seen or dealt with in film. If you are a fan of film this is a definite watch as there are several film reference that are so absurd.
This week the reading focus on the end times as we near the end of the Liturgical year. We begin in the prophet Daniel which is apocalyptic literature. Daniel tells us that Michael, the archangel, will come at a time of great distress, and the dead will rise and those whose names are written in the book “shall live forever while those other will be in everlasting horror and disgrace.” and the wise who lead others to justice will be like the stars in the sky. Looking at this bit of the future we could just about say that it’s anytime especially with the recent events in Paris and Beirut, it seems like the world has constantly been in distress over the past almost twenty years. However turning to the psalms we are given some hope when we sing that “You are our inheritance, O Lord.” Even though we are constantly living in trying times if we but remember that we have the Lord on our sides.
As we make our way to the Epistle we continue our reading from Hebrews today we hear that Jesus has taken his seat forever at the right hand of the Father. Since Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice all those that follow him can join in the eternal glory of heaven. Finally as we make our way to the Gospel we hear from Mark of how Jesus described the Last Judgement. The sun will darken, the moon will not give light, and the stars will fall from the sky. Then the Son of Man will come on the clouds in power and glory and he will send out his angels to the four corners and gather the elect. The story then changes and Jesus talks about fig trees saying that in the spring when the branches are tender and sprout leaves you know that summer is coming. Jesus tells the disciples to watch for the signs like this. This next part is where things usually go fishy when you look at the Bible as a credible source since Jesus says “This generation will not pass away until all the things have taken place, Heaven and Earth will pass away, but the words will remain forever” Then comes the Father is the only one who know the day or the hour when this will happen. It’s been a couple of generations since these words were first uttered and the Earth is still here. That is unless you consider each and everyday as a brand new creation. The readings today are all meant to remind us that there is no need to fear the end of the world, since Jesus offered himself for all of mankind as the perfect sacrifice so we are all able of salvation. Perhaps we could take some time over the next to weeks and reflect on how our relationship with Jesus and our Heavenly Father. Have we been as attentive to the needs of those around us looking specifically at the works of mercy. As we near the end of this year let us begin this upcoming year with a renewed spiritual life. Also this week it would be wonderful if we all could keep those in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and Japan who have been affected by recent tragedies in our prayers.
Crispin and Crispinian (circa Third Century)
Most of us have heard of Saint Crispin, there’s that famous speech from Shakespeare, but who exactly is Crispin. They, Crispin and Crispinian, are twin brothers who were born to a noble Roman family. They fled to Soissons to get away from persecution. In France they preached to the Gauls and made shoes at night. From their shoes they earned enough to live comfortably and aid the poor. The governor heard of them and had them tortured and thrown into a river with millstones around their necks. They both survived but were eventually beheaded by Diocletian. Or Crispin and Crispinian could have been from Kent somewhere near Canterbury, but after their father died for displeasing the Roman Emperor their mother persuaded that they flee to London. The brothers made their way but stumbled upon a shoemaker’s workshop in Faversham and decided to stay there. The English version of the story has no information about how they were martyred.
Pope Evaristus (died c. 107)
Evaristus was the Fifth bishop of Rome. Evaristus was originally a Hellenistic Jew on his father’s side from Bethlehem. He divided Rome up into titles, or parishes these have grown to the Titular Church that Cardinals are given when they become Cardinals. Evaristus also appointed priest to these Churches and appointed seven deacons for the city.
Chiara Badano (29 October 1971 – 7 October 1990)
Chiara is a member of Generation X and is proof that regular people can still become saints. I felt compelled to mention Chiara Luce, her nickname given by Chiara Lubich, even though she is only a blessed since a couple weeks ago I read about her and felt that her words are something that we need to hear in the world today. Chiara was born in a small village in Italy and her parents had waited and prayed for her to come for eleven years. Chiara got involved in the Focolare Movement in Italy at nine. The Focolare Movement was started by Chiara Lubich in 1943. In 1988 her life was changed dramatically as Chiara felt a twinge in her shoulder while playing tennis and it turned out to be osteogenic sarcoma, a rare and painful bone cancer. When Chiara heard this she simply declared, “It’s for you, Jesus; if you want it, I want it, too.” This is remarkable as all that Chiara wanted was to be married to Jesus, and at her funeral she got her wish. Before Chiara died she told her mother “the young people…young people…they are the future. You see, I can’t run anymore, but how I would like to pass on to them the torch, like in the Olympics! Young people have only one life and it’s worthwhile to spend it well.” I hope that many young people take up the torch of Chiara and live always with a light that radiated from within from a heart full of the love of God.
Ingravescentiubus Malis is the last encyclical of Pope Pius XI and it focuses on the Rosary. Pius XI begins by calling back to a couple of his previous encyclicals Mit Brennender Sorge (On the Church and the German Reich) and Divini Redemptoris (On Atheistic Communism) saying that “there is no remedy for the ever-growing evils of our times except a return to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to His most holy precepts. However, Pius continues that any real student of the Church should know that often time we have turned to the Virgin Mother when times get tough and the victory won through her brought a return to tranquility. Pius even mentions Our Lady of Victory who if you remember last week it was Pope Pius V who urge Europeans to pray the Rosary. As we pray in the Memorare, Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Pius XI notes the “Faithful of every age, both in public misfortune and in private need, turn to Mary, so that she may come to their aid and grant help and remedy against sorrows of body and soul. And never was her most powerful aid hoped for in vain by those who besought it with pious and trustful prayer.”
So to fight the problems in the world we should turn to Mary our Mother and ask for help and pray the Psalter of the Virgin or Breviary of the Gospel and of Christian life, or the Rosary which Pope Leo XIII wrote volumes on. Pius then does an overview on the Our Father and Hail Mary. Pius continues by saying that “if men in our century, with its derisive pride, refuse the Holy Rosary, there is an innumerable multitude of holy men of every age and every condition who have always held it dear. They have recited it with great devotion, and in every moment they have used it as a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight, to preserve the integrity of life, to acquire virtue more easily, and in a word to attain real peace among men.” Pius urges fathers and mother to pray the Rosary with their families. These words could have been written last month and would have the same relevance. We need to get down on our knees and pray to our Blessed Mother.
This week we hear about taking up our crosses and following Jesus. We begin in Isaiah once again this time hearing from the Third Servant Song. It begins by asking the Lord to open our ears so that we may hear and continues saying that “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheek to those who pluck my beard, my face I do not shield from buffets and spitting.”Several times in this reading Isaiah say that The Lord is my help. It is because of this ridicule that the Lord is our help, we as Christians experience the same abuse as Jesus did before the cross but we are given strength knowing that Christ endured and so can we. Making our way back to the letter of James we skip a few verses from last week and continue with James asking us “What good is faith without works?” This is basically the classic fake St. Francis quote “Preach the Gospel at all time, use words sparingly”, it boils down to the idea that if you are a person with good faith, you are more apt to do some good deeds as well, James uses the idea of someone who has nothing to wear and no food to eat, and we aren’t going to say to them “keep warm” or “eat well” people of faith are going to need to do something here.
Turning to the Gospel of Mark we hear a connected story. Jesus asks his disciple “Who do the people say that I am?” they reply that “Some say John the Baptist, other Elijah, and still other one of the other prophets.” They Jesus turn the question of them asking “Who do you say that I am” Peter answers “You are the Christ”. The Jesus tells them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly, die and on the third day rise again. Peter isn’t to happy about this and he rebukes Jesus, Jesus then spins around and rebukes Peter saying “Get behind me Satan”. Then they gather a crowd and Jesus tells everyone whoever wants to follow me must deny themselves take up their cross and follow. It’s rather simple to get into heaven it will take some work since you are going to have to face some struggles people will scorn and mock you for what you do but as long as you continue doing good deeds you’ll have a good shot.
As you can guess from the name of this Sunday we honor the Trinity this weekend. Since the season of Easter ended last week we no longer begin in Acts, but turn back to the Old Testament for the first reading. This week we begin in Deuteronomy, which is a second telling of the law, Moses has many speeches and today we hear one, Moses says to the people Ask throughout the ages has anything like this (escape from Egypt, God choosing a people) happen before. Moses then says that “This is why you must know and fix in your heart that the Lord is God of the heavens above and the earth below and there is no other.” Later in Deuteronomy we hear the Shema (Hear, O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is one) which sums up this idea rather quickly. The Lord is one and there is nothing above him.
As we turn to the letter of Paul to the Romans, we shift gears and are talking about the spirit. Paul tells us those who are led by the Spirit of the Lord are children of God. So that we may all cry out “Abba Father!” The last line I think is the most important the Spirit bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God and therefore heirs like Christ if only we suffer with him so that we will be glorified with Christ. Through the Spirit we know that we have to suffer to gain the joys of the kingdom.
Finally we reach the Gospel and it’s Matthew’s commissioning of the apostles/disciples. Jesus told the disciples to meet him on a mountain in Galilee. When they got there Jesus approached and says “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Jesus tells the disciples to teach all people about him. This is the Trinity; Father, Son and Spirit. All to often we forget about the triune nature of God, and just focus on one aspect of the trinity. C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity says “If you think of the Father as something ‘out there’, in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you into another son, then you have to think of the third Person as something inside you, or behind you.” I hope that we can all recognize the trinity working in our lives this week.