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.

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Salvific Doloris: Part 1

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.

Continue reading in Part 2

Scourging

The second Sorrowful Mystery is the Flagellation of Christ, the Scourging at the pillar is one of the early parts of the Passion Narrative.   The fruit of the mystery is Purity and mortification.

This is the sixth station is the Scriptural Stations of the Cross and the fourth of the New Stations of the Cross used in the Philippines which is also based on the Scriptures but I’ll get to these during Lent. The event appears in all the Gospels but in different ways Mark and Luke have it taking place with the High Priest guards blindfolding and spitting on Jesus asking “Who hit you?”, while Matthew and John have it take place after Pilate had Jesus who had him flogged. This happens immediately before the next mystery with the Crowing with Thorns. It’s more about looking inward than outward we’ve got to forget about the things of this world as Louis de Montfort put it we need “to suffer joyfully without human consolation; to die continually to myself without respite”. Sure we in general are good at doing this in Lent with our fasting and giving something up but perhaps we should be doing this more often. Most of the time when you hear mortification your mind turns to the extremes the lashing oneself and wearing a hairshirt, yet there is joy in suffering as John Paul II points out Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow, it is supposed to be struggle. Let us all reflect on how we struggle at carrying our crosses and what we can do to try and lead a more pure life.

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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.

Palm Sunday

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 Scourging at the Pillar

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 (2015)

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.

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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.

Lesser known…

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.