EVERY passage in the history of our Lord and Saviour is of unfathomable depth, and affords inexhaustible matter of contemplation. All that concerns Him is infinite, and what we first discern is but the surface of that which begins and ends in eternity. It would be presumptuous for any one short of saints and doctors to attempt to comment on His words and deeds, except in the way of meditation; but meditation and mental prayer are so much a duty in all who wish to cherish true faith and love towards Him, that it may be allowed us, my brethren, under the guidance of holy men who have gone before us, to dwell and enlarge upon what otherwise would more fitly be adored than scrutinised. And certain times of the year, this especially, call upon us to consider, as closely and minutely as we can, even the more sacred portions of the Gospel history. I would rather be thought feeble or officious in my treatment of them, than wanting to the Season; and so I now proceed because the religious usage of the Church requires it, and though any individual preacher may well shrink from it, to direct your thoughts to a subject, especially suitable now, and about which many of us perhaps think very little, the sufferings which our Lord endured in His innocent and sinless soul.
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It is easy to be discouraged. All we have to do is to make a fair and honest assessment of today’s culture from the news to pop culture. The evidence of a fallen world abounds and if we are honest and look ourselves the picture doesn’t look any better. We are fallen creatures in constant need of conversion, prayer and growth in faith, hope and charity.
As our culture becomes more and more secularized and the memory of a Christian West starts fading into the history it will become more and more difficult to abide by the side of the everlasting man. As Cardinal Francis George said:
“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square”.
Yet many people who quote him often forget to quote what he says next:
“His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”
A time may come when Christianity will be brutally persecuted in the West, but it will not be the end. It will only be a new beginning. History has proven this over and over again from the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire to the persecution Orthodox Christianity by the Arian heretics during the early centuries of Christianity; from the persecution of the Catholic Church in England during the revolt of King Henry VIII to the brutal persecution of the priesthood during the French revolution, the Church has always emerged to pick up the pieces and stand for Truth and the Light of Christ.
A few weeks ago the teens from my parish were confirmed in their Catholic faith through the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation. That is the laying of the hands and the infusion of the Holy Spirit into their hearts:
“Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit”.
“Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, instruction about baptisms and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And we shall do this, if only God permits”.
Confirmation is one of the most beautiful modern rite of passage. It is an opportunity for teens not only to learn about their Christian faith but also to take ownership of their Faith. The catechism of the Catholic Church explains it very beautifully:
“Confirmation…gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross…”
CC paragraph 1303
This is a call to boldly confess the name of Christ and to never be ashamed of the Cross. This can be especially hard for Christians today because it is such a counter cultural statement to profess the sanctity of life, the beauty of chastity as a single and as a married person, to defend the poor, the weak and the dying and to promote the reference to that which is holy.
God gives us the graces to accomplish all these things through the Holy Spirit. The question is:
What are we going to do with the Graces that God has given us?
There can only be two answers to this question: either we take these graces seriously and become saints or ignored them and become indifferent. Indifference always leads to death.
Indifference implies certain a level of understanding, for you can’t be indifferent about things that you know. For Christian indifference mainly arises out of willful ignorance because people are afraid of genuinely committing to understand because they know what it will demand of them. After all Jesus said:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. He gave us everything and yet we are hesitant of giving anything back.
These are tough words! But he also said talking to Peter, who was sinking in the middle of a storm:
“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
He is speaking to you and me today as he was speaking to his disciples:
Be not afraid of your own weakness because He will be there to strengthen you.
Be not afraid of your own ignorance because He will be there to enlighten you.
Be not afraid of your own impurities because He will be there to purify you.
“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
He also says:
Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.* And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
He promised us to be with us until the end of the age!
He is really there in the Holy Eucharist, His Body, His Blood, His Soul and His Divinity. Just waiting for you!
He is there when we go to Confession; when the Priest says: “I absolve you of your sin”. That is Christ telling you: “I absolve you of your sins”.
He is there preaching the gospel to all nations through His Church.
He is there in the silence of your heart. When you say: father, please show me the way because I don’t know.
“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
This is how we are able to boldly proclaim his name and never be ashamed of the Cross because he is always going to be with us!
As we look forward to the Week that changed the world, let us look at Him on the Cross, look at his tortured body, at his pierced holy hands, at the wound in his chest from which blood and water pour for the salvation of the world…and listen, just listen to him…
He yearns for you.
He did it for you.
How can you be afraid?
In an age where manliness is objected and detracted and man has forgotten how to be a real man our society is in dire need of a real man. Yes, that boisterous, industrious, adventurous, let’s go, make it happen, take-charge type of men. Throughout the history of salvation, there have been many models of true manhood, some of them less perfect than others but all of them obedient and docile to the will of God. That is what true manhood really is: to fulfill the vocation that God has placed in your heart and become a Saint in the process.
One of the great models for sainthood that we find in the bible is the humility and obedience shown by St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. Although there is relatively very little recorded about St. Joseph in the Gospels, we know that he was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19) and that every single time he submitted his whole life to the will of God: take a pregnant teenager as your wife, checked; abandon the place of your youth and emigrate to a foreign country, checked; start all over again by returning the holy family to the promise land, checked; protect the Word incarnate and teach him about God’s commandments and human labor, checked; all in true humility and obedience. What a man’s man!
Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of this great Saint. Patron of the Universal Church and in his honor I would like to ask you to pray for another man who is about to start a great journey in the service of God and his Church by entering the seminary to become a priest next fall. His name is Richard Sullivan and he is an amazing young man who like St. Joseph is saying an unconditional yes to the Lord. Pleas visit his blog Age of Discernment and discover in his writing a great love for Jesus, a great love for Mary and great love for the body of Christ through extraordinary love in ordinary things:
I hope you keep him in your prayers and take a look at his many posts that are full of whimsical observations about life and deep love for NorbertinesJesus.
Help him get to seminary:
St. Joseph, patron saint of the Universal Church pray for us!
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work,
too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.
St. Augustine of Hippo
The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis.
These are the names of the 21 Coptic martyrs killed in Libya:
1. Milad Makeen Zaky
2. Abanub Ayad Atiya
3. Maged Solaiman Shehata
4. Yusuf Shukry Yunan
5. Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
6. Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
7. Somaily Astafanus Kamel
8. Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
9. Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
10. Girgis Milad Sinweet
11. Mina Fayez Aziz
12. Hany Abdelmesih Salib
13. Bishoy Adel Khalaf
14. Samuel Alham Wilson
15. Worker from Awr village
16. Ezat Bishri Naseef
17. Loqa Nagaty
18. Gaber Munir Adly
19. Esam Badir Samir
20. Malak Farag Abram
21. Sameh Salah Faruq
Their last word was a last act of defiance against evil and last act of Faith, Hope and Love: “Ya Rabbi Yasou,” or “My Lord Jesus.”
Are we willing to say those words when temptation knocks at our door, when we see the poor and suffering in our neighbors or when we are called to stand up for our Faith no matter the consequences?
Lets pray that during this lenten season we may grow in faith and fortitude to be that witness of Christ love to others.
St. Ignatius of Antioch pray for us!
Names taken from the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles:
Family of the Coptic Christian martyred by Islamic terrorists.
Don’t fall into indifference but be steadfast in your prayers for those who are being persecuted in the middle east for professing the name of Christ and those who opposed such extreme acts of human cruelty. May God keep them and protected them and may their life be a light to the world.
Who are the Coptic Christians:
Quote taken from:
I had no right.
But words kept coming like ghosts creeping from shadows past.
Shifting thoughts shuffling through words
all wasted in a swift breath.
There is no right way to break a heart.
You try to hide the weight of thoughts in your eyes
but they can’t lie, for I have seen them cry.
If only I could…
But there is no time to waste
Youth is watching you pass by
In time Truth will heal.