April 1, 2017

April 1

April 1, 2017:  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
To love the Lord with all your heart means loving without reserve, ulterior motives, spurious interests, or seeking personal success for yourself.  To love with all one’s soul is to be willing to offer your life, an attitude that must last and embrace our whole being.  To love with all our strength reminds us that our heart is where our treasure is, and in our little gestures–assurances and signs of affection–we play out whether we'll say ‘yes’ to the Lord, or, like the rich young man, turn our back on him.

The Holy Spirit introduces us to the mystery of Christ's Resurrection
Papal Preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 4th Lenten sermon
(summary concluded from yesterday)
The Resurrection:  “mystic” significance:  The resurrection's apologetic significance establishes the authenticity of Christ’s mission and divinity.  We need to add another significance we'll call the mystic or salvific aspect.  Christ's resurrection concerns us and is a mystery “for us” because it's the basis of hope for our own resurrection.  "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised him will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit dwelling in you."
Faith in a life in the otherworld appears clearly and explicitly only toward the end of the Old Testament.  Its most developed testimony is in 2 Maccabees:  one of the seven brothers killed exclaims that after they die, “the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life.”  But this faith is rooted in previous biblical revelation and represents its natural conclusion and more mature fruit.  Certainty about God's omnipotence and about the insufficiency and injustice of earthly recompense led to this conclusion.  It appeared more evident—especially after the exile—that good people could despair without the hope of a reward after death.  In this life, the same things happen to the righteous and the wicked, whether happiness or misfortune; Ecclesiastes expresses it most clearly.
Jesus’ thinking on this issue is expressed in his discussion with the Sadducees on the woman who had seven husbands.  In keeping with the most ancient biblical revelation, the Sadducees had not accepted the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.  They speculated about the hypothetical case of a woman who married seven husbands consecutively based on the law of Moses, then ask, “In the resurrection, whose wife will she be?”  Jesus reveals, then corrects, their error, then gives the most profound and convincing foundation for faith in the resurrection, giving his opinion about the manner and fact of resurrection.  Since God identified himself as “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” and “God is the God of the living and not of the dead,” then Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still alive!  But beyond his response to them, faith in the resurrection is based on Jesus’ own resurrection.  “If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can you say there's no resurrection of the dead? But if there's no resurrection, then Christ has not been raised!”  It's absurd to think of a body whose head reigns in heaven but whose body decays on earth or ends in nothingness.  Furthermore, Christian faith in the resurrection of the dead responds to our most instinctive desire.  Paul says we don't want to be “unclothed” but “further clothed”; we don't want just our soul to go on living but our whole self, soul and body.  We don't want our bodies to be destroyed but to be “swallowed up by life” and “put on immortality.”
In this life we have not only a promise of eternal life, we also have the “first fruits” and “first installment.”  Don't translate arrabon that Paul used about the Spirit as 'pledge' (pignus) but only “first installment” or “deposit” (arra).  Augustine explains the difference:  A pledge is not the beginning of the payment but money given to certify future payment.  Once payment is made, the pledge is returned.  But a deposit is not returned when payment is complete because it's part of the payment.  If God by his Spirit has given us love as a first installment, when he brings the fullness his promise, will he take back the first installment?  No; he'll bring the fullness of what's already been given.  Just as the “first fruits” announce a full harvest and are part of it, so too the first installment is part of the full possession of the Spirit.  “The Spirit dwells in us” and assures continuity between our present and future life.  Concerning the manner of resurrection, Jesus says, “Those accounted worthy to attain to... the resurrection... cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are God's children, being children of the resurrection.”
One can attempt to illustrate the transition to the resurrected state with examples from nature:  the seed a tree springs up from, lifeless nature in winter that's revived in spring, the caterpillar that's transformed into a butterfly. “What's sown is perishable; what's raised, imperishable.  It's sown in dishonor, raised in glory.  It's sown in weakness, raised in power.  It's sown a physical body, raised a spiritual body.”  Everything about our condition in the afterlife remains a mystery, not because God wants to hide it but because—as limited as we are thinking of everything in categories of time and space—we can't portray it to ourselves. Eternity is not a separate entity that can be defined in itself; it's the mode of God’s being. Eternity is God!  To enter into eternal life means to be admitted to share God’s mode of being.
None of this would have been possible if eternity had not first entered into time.  It is in, and thanks to, the risen Christ, that we can be clothed with God’s mode of being.  Paul describes what awaits him after death as “departing and being with Christ.”  We can deduce the same from Jesus’ words to the good thief:  “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Paradise is being with Christ, as his co-heirs.  Eternal life reunites the members to the head to form one entity with him in glory, after having been united to him in suffering.
This story gives us an idea of eternal life:  Monks Rufus and Rufinus had a deep spiritual friendship; they spent their free time trying to imagine and describe eternal life.  Rufus, a builder, imagined it as a city with golden doors studded with precious stones; Rufinus, an organist, imagined it as full of heavenly music.  They made a pact that whoever died first would return the next night to reassure his friend that things were as they'd imagined.  One word would be enough:  if things were as they'd imagined, he'd say, “Exactly,” but if they were different, he'd say, “Different!”  One night Rufinus died of a heart attack.  Rufus stayed awake anxiously, but nothing.  He kept vigils for months; still nothing.  Finally, on the anniversary of his death, Rufinus entered his friend’s cell surrounded by light.  Seeing Rufinus was silent, Rufus asked, “Exactly?”  But his friend shook his head no.  Rufus cried out, “Different?”  Again his friend shook his head no.  Finally he said, “Totally different!”  Rufus understood heaven was infinitely more than what they imagined and couldn't be described.  The story is a legend, but its content is biblical.  “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived, God has prepared for those who love him.”  Symeon the New Theologian had a vision and was certain he'd gazed on God and said, “It's enough for me to be in this state even after death!”  The Lord answered, “You're too fainthearted to be contented with this.  Compared with blessings to come, this is like a description of heaven on paper... inferior to the reality, the glory to be revealed.”
When people want to cross a stretch of sea, said Augustine, they can't stay on the shore and squint to see the opposite shore but must get in a boat.  For us too, more important than speculation about eternal life is doing what will get us there.  May today be a step in that direction.
  • 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:  As God’s chosen people, we are to   “clothe [ourselves] with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  We're empowered to share passion, be gentle, show patience, forgive, and be thankful.  I struggle with the generosity needed to share the good news. Sometimes anger will blind my ability to see others as God's children, or pride causes me to say hurtful words.  God's love is everywhere.  Jesus loved and spent time with even the most 'unlovable,' but I've shut the door to opportunities to be generous.  But who am I to be selective about with whom to share the abundance?  We just need to accept the call.  We read “Bear with each other and forgive one another if you have a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  Forgiveness is part of a generous heart.  Perseverance requires a time commitment.  When you have an abundance, it's God’s abundance, and yours to share.
      Pharisees/ Schmidt-Rottluff
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Christians have more than nine lives":  The Lord informed Jeremiah "of the evil done by the house of Israel and the house of Judah."  Yet Jeremiah didn't realize "they were hatching plots against" him.  We live in a culture of death where sin is committed and even glorified.  We have enemies and persecutors.  As "God's children beyond reproach in a twisted and depraved generation," we're  in danger.  Thank God for his gifts of love, protection, victory, peace, and life....
    • Passionist:  Today's "April Fool's Day" readings speak of deception and false information.  Jeremiah's opponents are “hatching plots” against him, but he doesn't recognize it and suffers the consequences.  He prays that God vindicate him.  Even the Psalmist speaks about being pursued by enemies, cries to God, and trusts God.  In the gospel, Jesus' opponents have center stage.  The crowds wonder whether he's “the prophet” or “the Christ,” but an argument breaks out because they "know where he comes from."  Then the guards sent to arrest Jesus don't because they were dazzled by his words, but instead of being impressed by their testimony, his opponents conclude the soldiers were deceived.  One of the leaders, Nicodemus, speaks up for Jesus and the truth, but the others mock him.  Deception and treachery are all around, then and now!  Deception and not grasping the truth have dire consequences.  May we speak the truth in love....
    • DailyScripture.net:  "Reaction to Jesus' words":  Jeremiah's people opposed him because of his prophecies to them.  They plotted to silence and kill him, but he responded with meekness and prophetic insight "like a lamb led to slaughter."
    Many were divided about who Jesus was.  The armed officers were bewildered; they didn't arrest him because they'd never hear anyone like him.  The chief priests and Pharisees showed contempt, except for Nicodemus who was timid: his heart told him to defend Jesus, but his head told him not to risk it.  Who is Jesus for you, and are you ready to give him your allegiance?  To stand for him may provoke mockery, opposition, suffering, or hardship.  We can choose to believe and obey him, or follow other voices.  The costly grace and freedom, offered to those who embrace the cross, leads to joy and blessing now and forever, but cheap grace, trying to bypass the cross, leads to emptiness and futility.

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