March 12, 2016

March 12

March 12, 2016:  Saturday, 4th week, Lent

  • 'Lamb' tie bar:  Like a trusting lamb led to slaughter... (1st reading)
  • 'Egg' tie pin:  ...I didn't realize they were 'hatching' plots against me (1st reading)
  • 'Tree' pin:  Let's destroy the tree in its vigor (1st reading)
  • 'Hearts' suspenders:  God searches hearts, saves the upright of heart (1st reading)
  • 'Lion' pin:  Save me lest I become like the lion's prey (psalm)
  • 'Shield' pin:  God is a shield before me (psalm)
  • 'Abacus' tie pin: a 'division' arose because of Jesus (gospel)
  • 'Hands' tie:  No one laid hands on Jesus (gospel)
  • Purple shirt:  Lenten season
Pope Francis audience
As we draw near to Easter in this Holy Year of Divine Mercy, we reflect on the Lord’s gesture of washing his disciples' feet.  In this humble act Jesus tells them, and us, to do the same for one another, giving a clear example of his new commandment of love.  Just as he laid down his life for us, so ought we to lay down our lives for one another.  Jesus shows us that love is service–lowly, quiet and hidden–of others, especially those in greatest need.  By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus invites us to acknowledge our failings, pray for one another, and forgive each other.  He shows us that to be “merciful like the Father” means to follow Jesus along the path of humble service.
Papal preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 4th Lenten sermon, continued from yesterday
What the biblical teaching says to us today
“Scripture grows with those who read it” (Gregory the Great).  It reveals new implications that come to light because of new questions.  Today new challenges about marriage and family abound.  We're facing a storm about the biblical plan for sexuality, marriage, and family.  The Council's new approach involves dialogue and self-criticism, not confrontation; we need to apply it to the discussion.  The criticism of the traditional model that's brought us to unacceptable proposals began with the Enlightenment and Romanticism that opposed the view of marriage, offspring, society, and the Church and viewed too little in its subjective and interpersonal value.  Everything was required of future spouses except that they love and choose each other.  The Enlightenment saw marriage as a pact between people; Romanticism saw it as a communion of love.  Vatican II accepted this perspective when it recognized the mutual love and assistance between spouses as a primary good of marriage.  "The human body, with its sex, masculinity, and femininity... is not only a source of fruitfulness and procreation.   It includes the nuptial attribute, the capacity of expressing love, love in which the person becomes a gift and so fulfills the meaning of his being and existence" (John Paul II).  Benedict XVI:  “The close connection between eros and marriage in the Bible has practically no equivalent outside the Bible” (Deus caritas est).  A serious wrong to God is to consider everything about love and sex wicked in which God is unwanted, as if Satan created the sexes and were the specialist in love.  We don't accept the conclusions some draw, e.g. that eros is enough for marriage, but our rejection becomes stronger and more credible when combined with recognizing the fundamental goodness of sexuality together with healthy self-criticism.
Christians have contributed to the negative vision of marriage that modern western culture has rejected.  Augustine and Aquinas cast a negative light on spouses' physical union, considered as the means of transmission of original sin:   spouses should use sex for procreation but only “with regret”and because there's no other way to provide citizens and Church members.  Another modern position we accept concerns the equal dignity of the woman in marriage; it's at the heart of God’s plan and Christ's thinking, but it's been disregarded.  The call for equality has led to crazy proposals like abolishing the distinction between sexes and replacing it with subjective “genders” (masculine, feminine, variable), or freeing women from “the slavery of motherhood” by arranging for new ways to give birth.  Our choice of dialogue and self-criticism gives us the right to denounce these plans as inhuman, contrary not only to God’s will but also to the good of humanity.  Putting them into practice on a large scale would lead to catastrophes.  Our hope is that common sense, plus the natural desire for the opposite sex and the instinct for parenthood that God put in human nature, will resist these attempts, dictated more by men's belated sense of guilt than genuine respect for women. (to be continued)
  • Jer 11:18-20  Lord, you showed me their doings; I hadn't realized they were plotting against me.  I trusted you; let me see your vengeance.
  • Ps 7:2-3, 9bc-12  "O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge." I'm innocent; save me. God is just; he saves the upright.
  • Jn 7:40-53  Some heard Jesus and said, “He's the Prophet,” “He's the Christ,” or “The Christ won't come from Galilee; Scripture says he'll come from Bethlehem.”  A division arose.  Pharisees / guards: “Why didn't you bring him?” / “No one has spoken like him.” / “Have you been deceived?  Have the authorities believed in him?”  Nicodemus / Pharisees: “Does our law condemn someone before we find out what he's doing?” Prophets don't come from Galilee.”
    • Creighton:  Accepting a hard truth can take time and force us to reorganize, conform ourselves to a new idea, and be changed.  The crowd's division about Jesus’ identity became a division among the Pharisees and their guards; they faced a new truth, a new experience that would change their lives.  How could they go on in their present mode of life?  Contrasted with the guards' confusion is their masters' self-deception; use their theological and legal knowledge against Jesus.  They argue from authority, not trying to challenge Jesus' words, but Nicodemus, also a Pharisee, objects that nobody should be condemned before being properly assessed.  The Pharisees ignore his point and respond that no prophet can come from Galilee.  We were made for truth.  St .Thomas Aquinas said truth is “the formal object of the intellect;” we were created to naturally respond to truth.  How often have I heard something unsettling but with an attractive element I couldn’t ignore?
      Pharisees/ Schmidt-Rottluff
    • One Bread, One Body:  "In the 'Nick' of time?"  Nicodemus is introduced as a Sanhedrin member who came to Jesus at night, then referred to simply as "the man who came to him."  After Jesus' death, he came to bury him and is referred to as "the man who had first come to Jesus at night."   But Nicodemus was a coward; the Pharisees' taunts silenced him.  He wasn't at the cross but came afterward with Joseph of Arimathea to take away Jesus' body; John may have included Nicodemus in, "Many, even among the Sanhedrin, believed in Him, but they refused to admit it... for fear they might be ejected from the synagogue."  Nicodemus probably eventually came to Jesus and was begotten from above by water and the Spirit and entered God's kingdom.  His providing a generous 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes for Jesus' burial may indicate both his guilt and conversion.  Give your life to Jesus, now.
    • Passionist:  This week's gospels show strong confrontation and criticism from religious and political leaders towards Jesus’ compassionate acts of healing in public and on the sacred Sabbath.  Prominent, powerful people recognize “no one ever spoke like him.”   Even today, virtue and compassion are labeled as ineffective, but in Jesus the qualities fascinated, invited, attracted, and challenged.  Jesus “brought his human powers and capacities to fulfillment as the Spirit prompted him.  He was fully alive, an admired and loved human being because he was loving, just, courageous and unpretentious....  He changed everyone; some loved him, others hated him” (Donders, With Hearts on Fire).  May our daily activities channel Jesus' healing power within and around us....
    •  "Reaction to Jesus' words":  Jeremiah's people opposed him because his words didn't sit right with them; they plotted to "cut him off from the land of the living."  He responded with meekness and prophetic insight "like a lamb led to slaughter."  Jesus' message and signs caused division:  some believed him a prophet, some Messiah, and some neither.  The armed officers sent to arrest him returned empty because they never heard anyone speak like him.  The chief priests and Pharisees reacted with contempt.  Nicodemus' reaction was timid, wanting to defend him but not take the risk.  Who is Jesus for you?  To stand for him may lead to mockery, opposition, suffering, or hardship, but the Lord rewards those who suffer for his sake.  May we choose to live for God's kingdom of peace, joy, and justice rather than pursue the world's kingdom; may we obey and believe him and not follow opposing voices....

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