March 11, 2016

March 11

March 11, 2016:  Friday, 4th week, Lent

  • 'Pierced hearts' suspenders:  God is close to the brokenhearted (psalm)
  • 'Bony person' tie pin:  God watches over all the just person's bones (psalm)
  • 'Hands' tie:  Evildoers:  "If the just one is the son of God, God will deliver him from the hand of his foes" (1st reading); No one laid a hand on Jesus... (gospel)
  • 'Clock' tie bar:  ...because his hour had not yet come. (gospel)
  • 'Eyeball' pin:  "Their wickedness blinded them" (1st reading)
  • Purple shirt:  Lenten season


Papal preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 4th Lenten sermon
Of issues treated in Gaudium et spes—culture, economy, social justice, peace—the most relevant and problematic is marriage and family.  Family life is being attacked and threatened from all sides.  Gaudium et spes treats the family at great length, repeating traditional Catholic doctrine, newly emphasizing the mutual love between spouses, now recognized as a primary good in marriage alongside procreation.  The document focuses first on the positive achievements in the modern world, then on the problems and dangers.  I'll follow the same method, while taking into account the changes of the last half century.  We'll start from God’s plan for marriage and family, then see what biblical revelation can offer us as a solution to current problems.
Marriage and family in the divine plan and in the gospel of Christ 
Genesis has two accounts of the creation of the first human couple, one in the Yahwist tradition, one in the later “Priestly” tradition in which the man the woman were created simultaneously (not one from the other), both linked to the image of God.  The primary purpose for their union was seen as being fruitful and filling the earth.  In the Yahwist tradition, the woman is taken out of the man; the creation of the sexes is seen as a remedy for the man's loneliness.  The unitive factor is emphasized more than the procreative.  They're open about their sexuality.
Poet Claudel re why we have 2 sexes:  "Man is so proud!  There was no other way to get him to understand his neighbor, to get him to understand the dependence, the necessity, and the need of another besides himself except through the existence of this being different from him."  To open oneself to the opposite sex is the first step in opening to our neighbor until we reach the Other, God. Marriage begins with humility, recognizing dependency and creaturehood.  Falling in love is a radical act of humility:  “I'm not enough; I need you.”  If the essence of religion is the feeling dependent on God, then human sexuality is its first school.  We can't understand the Bible if we don't take the fall into account.  The dominance of the man follows from his sin, not God’s plan.  The Bible is a divine-human book:  its authors are God and men, and it describes God's faithfulness and our unfaithfulness.  Compare God’s plan for marriage and family with how it worked out:  Cain's son took two wives.  Abraham and Jacob have many wives.  Moses sanctions divorce.  David and Solomon have harems.  The departure from the ideal is also visible in Israel's concept of marriage.  Deviation from the ideal involves two key points:  marriage becomes a means, not an end.  The Old Testament considers marriage a structure of patriarchal authority oriented to the perpetuation of the clan; in this context levirate marriage, concubinage, and polygamy can be understood.  The ideal of shared life between a man and a woman based on a personal and reciprocal relationship takes second place to the good of offspring.  The second deviation from the ideal concerns the woman's status as subordinate to the man instead of being his companion endowed with the same dignity.
Prophets Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and the Song of Songs, help keep God’s original plan for marriage alive.  Adopting the union of man and woman as a reflection of the covenant between God and his people, they restore mutual love, faithfulness, and indissolubility to first place.  Jesus also accomplishes this recapitulation.  The Pharisees tested him:  "Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife?" / “What God has joined, let not man put asunder.”  Jesus rebutted their casuistry by going to the heart of the issue, referring to both accounts of marriage, taking from each but emphasizing communion of persons.  He reaffirms faithfulness and the indissolubility of marriage above the good of offspring, which people had used to justify polygamy, levirate marriage, and divorce.  Even in the case of divorce, Jesus puts men and women at the same level.  Jesus affirms God intervenes in every marriage.  The elevation of marriage to a “sacrament,” a sign of God’s action, begins with Jesus’ teaching and is part of his reference to how things were from the start.  John Paul II defined marriage as “the primordial sacrament.” (continued tomorrow)
  • Wis 2:1a, 12-22  The wicked: “Let's beset the just one; he's against our doings, and seeing his ways is a hardship.  He professes to be a child of the Lord.  If he really is, God will deliver him, so let's torture and kill him to see.”  Their wickedness blinded them to God's counsels and the reward of the innocent.
  • Ps 34:17-21, 23  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted."  The Lord confronts evildoers but hears, protects, and rescues the just.
  • Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30  The Jews were trying to kill Jesus.  Some said, “Isn't he the one they're trying to kill?  He's speaking openly, but they say nothing.  When the Christ comes, no one will know where he's from. but we do know where Jesus is from.”  Jesus:  “You know me and where I'm from, but I didn't come on my own.  You don't know the one who sent me, but I do and he's true.”  They tried to arrest him, but his hour hadn't yet come.
    • Creighton:  "The unruly heart of peace":  The folks in the 1st reading concede their corruption and want to destroy the one who won't play their game.  We can justify our lives by demonizing our opponents.  Saints are sinners who find their way home.  Jesus is unruly, not hobbled by fear or authority.  We need companions to sustain us and light to grasp the world's tricky troubles....
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Will we see him?"  As many didn't recognize Jesus in his time, many don't now, but we will if we're committed to him.  "He is found by those who don't test him, and he manifests himself to those who don't disbelieve him"  "You shall find the Lord when you search with your whole heart and soul."  Make a total commitment to God by renewing your baptismal promises; then see Jesus in a life-changing way.
    • Passionist:  In Jesus' time many believed the Messiah would appear supernaturally or suddenly come out of a hidden place.  Jesus didn't pass this test because the crowd could trace Jesus’ human origins.  But they didn't know his divine origin.  Few recognized Jesus at his birth, during his public ministry, on the cross, at his resurrection, and on the way to Emmaus.  How are we to recognize him?  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and those who are crushed in spirit he saves."  And our best example of this brokenness is Jesus himself.  May we make our journey in a spirit of brokenness.  Are we prepared to recognize the Messiah who comes to us “secretly”?
    •  "His hour had not yet come":  Fear can rob us of courage and will to do the right, but Jesus met opposition and threats with grace and determination to accomplish his Father's will.  "Our Lord had the power to lay down his life and take it up again.  But we can't choose how long we'll live, and death comes to us even against our will.  Christ, by dying, has already overcome death.  Our freedom from death comes only through his death.  To save us Christ had no need of us, but without him we can do nothing.  He gave himself to us as vine to branches; apart from him we can't live" (Augustine).  Religious authorities tried to stop Jesus because they didn't accept his claims and demands.  We have to be either for or against him.  May we allow his word of truth to free us from our blindness, pride, and ignorance....
      • Aengushermit, martyrology co-author, poet

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