Tag Archives: Mary

Cana Update[1]

I am always brought up short by the strange encounter between Jesus and his mother at Cana. Jesus has already begun His public ministry, He’s been baptized, been to the desert, and is traveling around the country preaching with an entourage of His first disciples. He and his followers arrive at the wedding of friends and as the party is getting going, one of those “Opps” of life happens to the groom, the guests have imbibed all his wine. Mary gets wind of the embarrassment via the guest grape vine and informs Jesus.

Perhaps that all she intended to do, inform Him. Perhaps she hadn’t thought beyond that except that something needed to be done to help her friends. If this is the case, then Jesus enigmatic reply could be interpreted as an invitation to greater belief, to faith: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come. [2] [Jn 2:4] In other words, “Does your concern about the embarrassing situation of our friends affect the Kingdom which I have come to establish? Does it pertain to the Father’s will? There is a time and a place Providence has assigned for all things. The hour of my revelation of myself as the Messiah is not now.”

The response He invites from Mary is one of complete faith in God and trust in His guidance of Her. Perhaps this is a Mother-Son moment when He is sincerely asking for Her guidance. Her lesson to Him is that this concern does actually affect Him, as Elizabeth’s need affected her and as the concerns of all affect each of us. She may realize, though perhaps only peripherally, that all concerns need to be His concerns, all needs His needs, not just on a human level, but on His Savior level, His Kingship level, His Divine level. Perhaps this is the “Ah-Ha” moment when she knows He must realize the full import of His being connected with every other human being by virtue of His very Incarnation. Perhaps this is what He later would formulate in His parable on the Last Judgment: whatever you…[do] for one of these least brothers of mine, you…[do] for me. [Mt 25:40] Perhaps He needed to grok the depth and the encompassing reality of the 2nd Great Commandment: Do to others as you would have them do to you, [Lk 6:31] and that this included Him on the Divine level as well as the human level.

Mary’s answer: “Yes, this does affect You both as my Son, a fellow human being, one who is truly empathetic to all the vagaries and vicissitudes of live, the manifestations of the effect of sin in the world, of which lack and need, deprivation, running out of things, is always a sign. Your Father so loved this crazy, mixed up world with all its foibles that He gave us You so that we might believe in You and not perish but have eternal life, [Jn 3:16] Of Him, You will tell us do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’… Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. [Mt 6:31-33] You and the Father are one. [Jn 10:30] Show us the Father’s love here and now. You will talk the talk later, now walk the walk.”

How does she join Him in bringing about His first miracle? This is same way every believer who has ever “preformed” a miracle joins Him. No human actually “performs” a miracle. God does the performing; humans only express their explicit faith and trust in God to do so and thus are instruments through which God chooses to work. Every miracle not performed directly by Jesus is performed through the faith and instrumentality of a person requesting Jesus intercession and believing absolutely that He will intercede. The human person gives him/herself up to God and invites God to work through him/her; she/he transforms her/his self into God’s instrument.

Mary is not trying to override His or the Father’s timing of His hour, but, as with the Finding so many years before, she has explicit faith that, given her explanation, Jesus will do “the right thing.” She doesn’t press Him. She doesn’t define what He is to do, but she has an explicit faith that He will know what to do. Thus, when she says to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you,”[Jn 2:5] she lets go and lets God. Her statement is another way of saying what she says with her whole life, in her dormition, her assumption and even as she is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth: May it be done to me according to your word. [Lk 1:38]

Obedience, then, comes back to its root meaning, “to listen to.” It’s not so much doing as being, as listening, as following, as joining in the yolk next to Jesus. To hear and let it be done to me, to have faith and trust in God, in whatever His eternal Now brings for my next step. It is to pick up one’s cross daily and to follow the Word, strap on His burden, take on His yolk and walk the world’s roads to the Calvaries of today with Him. It is to listen and hear the Spirit’s whispers of guidance and inspiration, to follow the promptings of one’s true heart, to the love of God and our fellow man to which we are called by our very nature as familial members, not just of the human family but of the very familial Body of Christ. We would not be here if it were not for God’s creation and we would not be human without accepting our place in the family of humankind and thus our relationship to all others.

Jesus obeys, Mary obeys, we obey, I obey. Listen, listen, listen and allow it to be done onto me. This is our calling, this is our “vocation,” this is our purpose in life. Amen. Alleluia!!!


[1] As with all my writings, I explain things in the way they make sense to me. In doing so, I often blindly wander into minefields of explanation into which scholars, saints and angels wisely do not venture. Therefore, take all I write not just with a grain of salt but with a whole mine of it. Please, please, please consider that I am just me, one very finite, very myopic, often very confused and mistaken man. I am often wrong. However, God guarantees the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Thus, if anything that I write contradicts or in any way conflicts with what the One, Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church has stated or defined, I profoundly apologize to my readers for misleading them, to the Church for contradicting our infallible Faith, Scripture and Tradition, and I beg God to have mercy on me, forgive me and write straight the crooked lines your wayward servant has written. I beg the forgiveness of all and ask for your prayers that I might have the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to see aright once again.

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Hereafter, NABRE.

Mary tells all…the Resurrection

My son is alive!!! Jesus is alive! So that’s what He meant by “after three days, I will rise from the dead.”[1][Mk 8:31, 9:31; Mt 17:23, 27:63; Lk 18:33] I saw Him early that Sunday morning. I had been crying, hoping, waiting, and suddenly, there He was. We hugged, and kissed and cried…and hugged. I held Him as close as I had when He was a baby, and again on Friday, when they took Him down from the Cross and laid his lifeless body in my arms…but now He was back…alive!!! I was overjoyed. He was really here. All in white, bright, dazzling white [Lk 9:29], just like the boys described Him on the mountain. But He was also just like Friday, but the wounds were somehow glorious, amazing, wonderful now.

Then, He had to go. I knew everyone was looking for Him. Even when he use to preach and teach, He was always telling the boys: Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. [Mk 1:38]

I asked Him to please see Peter. That poor boy was absolutely devastated; not only had he deserted Jesus when He said He wouldn’t [Mt 26:33,35], not only had he swore he would lay down his life for Him [Jn 13:37]; but then he denied he even knew Him three times, just as Jesus had predicted. [Mk 14:72] Peter’s been inconsolable ever since. Jesus said He knew and would see him after reassuring the other women.

Later, He appeared to the rest of the group. Even though Peter, I, Mary, and the boy’s mothers [Mt 27:56,61;28:1] told them we had seen Jesus, they kept saying the story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe us. [Lk 24:9-11] But then, suddenly, locked doors and all, He was right there and they could see Him and touch Him. I think seeing Him eat in front of them finally convince them He was for real. [Lk 24:36-43]

Of course, dear Thomas, he wasn’t there that Sunday. He refused to be convinced in spite of the fact that all of us told him. Finally, when he saw those glorious holes in my Son’s hands and that gaping gleaming wound in His side, when my Son was right there, standing and talking to him, Thomas was convinced. He even said what I had known all along from Gabriel, from the beginning, from being His mother, that my Son, my Boy, was not only their Jesus; He was also their Lord and their God! [Jn 20:28]

As usual, He is his own Man. He kept telling us that He is in each of us, even the least of these [Mt 25:40-45] Perhaps that’s why sometimes some of us didn’t recognize Him. Even Mary Magdalene who loved Him more than many, even she was fooled early that morning, thinking He was a gardener. Only when He said her name, did she know Him. [Jn 20:15-16]

The most wonderfully humorous appearance was to two of our newcomers. So fervent they were before the crucifixion, and then, when he died, they were completely devastated.[Lk 24:17] Jesus told me about it later. They didn’t recognize Him at all at first; after His Resurrection, He was different somehow…it was as though we needed to adjust our eyes to see Him. They were just so distraught that when my Son, the teaser, pretended not to know what was going on, they lit into Him as if He were a simpleton: Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?[Lk 24:18] Then they poured out their version of who He was, their great expectations of Him, what had happened to Him. They even admitted that they hadn’t believed the women from our group and some of those with us [Lk 24:22,24] that said that He was not in the tomb.

My Son is very patient. He pointed out that they needed to study the Neviʾim[2]: You are slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?[Lk 24:25-26] Well, anyway, after He enlightened them by pointing out where our prophets foretold His suffering, death and resurrection, they wanted Him to stay. So, He joined them for dinner. You must understand that my Son has a unique way of blessing the food. When He did this ritual, they finally recognized Him.

According to those two, He then disappeared. Since He came back, He does that, all of a sudden appear and then equally amazingly disappear. I think He is seeing as many people as possible since He loves them all and knows they all want to see Him. I know once, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once [1Cor 15:6].

Now He is going to leave again. He’s homesick, in a sense. Recently, he’s been saying things like I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father. [Jn 16:28] I guess it’s time for him to return to Him. He said once: I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. [Jn 6:38] He’s done that; he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Now, it’s time that God greatly exalt him. [Phil 2:8-9]

He has been warning us, telling us that he will be leaving from early on[3] but particularly recently at the Passover Supper when He said: My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you….Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered [him], “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” [Jn 13:33,36

We thought, after His crucifixion, that perhaps He was referring to persecution and death. But then, He spoke about His Father’s house…in which there were many dwelling places. He said He was going to prepare a place for us: And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where [I] am going you know the way. [Jn 14:3-4]

I recall that He said He had to go in order to send us a helper: I am going to the one who sent me…. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you….When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. [Jn 16:5,7,13] My Son was a great one for Truth, perhaps because He got questioned so often if what He was saying was the Truth. But, as He himself said of Himself and I knew to be true from the moment I conceived Him, I am the way and the truth and the life.[Jn 14:6]

He made it very clear; He came from the Father…into the world.[Jn16:28a], the same Father, who is the Lord God, the “Most High” to whom Gabriel referred[4], the same Father to whom Jesus referred long ago in the Temple when Joseph and I found Him[5], the Father to whom He constantly referred in His teaching as being the One whose will He was carrying out[6], whose actions He was mirroring on earth[7], whose unconditional love he as here to show us[8], but now, He is leaving the world and going back to the Father. [Jn 16:28b] Even His disciples said, “Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech.[Jn 16:29]

Even though He was leaving us in the world, he was very concerned about our safety and prayed to the Father: And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to youI do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. [Jn 17:11,15]

Then it was time for Him to return to His Father. He stayed with us over a month after His death. In a sense, I think He was of two minds, His human nature wanted to stay, but His divine nature wanted to go. He always ultimately followed His divine nature; that was His lode stone, His unerring compass that always was true, was loving, always what His Father wanted and therefore He wanted. I think that he also realized that by staying, He could only be in one place at a time, with one group of people at a time. And He could not send His Spirit. By going to the Father, He then was able to dispense His Spirit everywhere.

Since His death, we travelled to Galilee and back, and now we’re here in Jerusalem again, in the same place we held the Passover. From here, he lead us out to His favorite place, the Mount of Olives near Bethany,[9] He blessed us as He usually did, reminded us to stay here in Jerusalem until He sent the Spirit[10], and that we were to baptize in the names of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sin[11] and teach everyone to do all that He commanded us.

Then He just went up into the sky until He was covered by a cloud. We were so amazed we just kept watching…and finally two angels appeared there with us and broke the spell and told us that He would come again in the same way…

They say: “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” but for us, for some reason, we were all giddy with joy. He was here. He promised to be with us always. He is coming again. We knew the Son of God, and He proved it himself. We touched Him, held Him, heard Him, ate with Him. And He taught us so much, not only by His words but more often by what He did. Some of our family thought He was mad[12], but He was just being my Son. Headstrong, focused, deliberate,…and yet loving, caring, understanding.

Well, I look forward to living in one of those “dwelling places” He mentioned. But, in the meantime, I have to look after my “new” son, John [Jn 19:26] and, of course, the “boys.” I think Jesus gave me them so I wouldn’t miss Him so much…kinda like caring after Him again, these “least ones.” Besides, I have a feeling that this Spirit Jesus is sending is going to change everything….

To be continued…..

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] The Hebrew Bible is organized into three main sections: the Torah, or “Teaching,” also called the Pentateuch or the “Five Books of Moses”; the Neviʾim, or Prophets; and the Ketuvim, or Writings. It is often referred to as the Tanakh, a word combining the first letter from the names of each of the three main divisions.

[3] I will be with you only a little while longer, and then I will go to the one who sent me. You will look for me but not find [me], and where I am you cannot come. [Jn 7:33-34] I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come. [Jn 8:21] The light will be among you only a little while. Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overcome you. [Jn 12:35]. See also OT predictions of his departure: Dt 4:29; Prv 1:28; Is 55:6; Hos 5:6.

[4] Lk 1:28,30,32.

[5] Lk 2:49.

[6] Jn 4:34; 5:30; 14:10, etc.

[7] Jn 5:9; 8:28.

[8] Jn 3:16,17.

[9] Acts 1:12; Lk 24:50.

[10] Lk 24:49.

[11] Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47.

[12] Mk 3:21.

My New Year’s Resolutions: Boundaries and “unto’s”

My Two New Year’s Resolutions

My NYR’s this year are boundaries and “unto’s”. My very patient, astute, loving, caring, and wonderful wife pointed out that I have real problems with boundaries…or lack thereof. I have been thinking about that ever since and she is absolutely right. I have a major problem with boundaries, thinking that I control much more than I do, that I should control much more than I do, that I am responsible for much more than I am, that I can do much more than I can…note the theme of “more”…thus the key to this effort is restricting my boundaries to reality…not imagination, not jealous fantasies, not envious illusions, but reality.

Practically speaking, it means watching myself ever moment of the day and pulling myself back in when my inflated ego wants to “take over,” wants to go tiptoeing through the tulips of life, snatching, grasping, clutching, envying, desiring, coveting, without regard to God or others. God has given very specific gifts to me, has a very personal plan for me, wills a very specific future for me, and I tend to go barging out of those specificities, rejecting them right and left, thinking I know better, forgetting my dependence on Him, my supposed love for Him, my obedience to Him, my allegiance to Him. Rather stupid and objectively ridiculous on my part!

And, as if that weren’t bad enough, by disregarding these lovingly set boundaries, these personally tailored limitations, I spill over, unwanted, unbidden, into the lives, the personal, private domain, the responsibilities, the delights, the revealing of the gifts of everyone around me. Now if this happens to sound like trespassing, major time, and, if I ask that I be forgiven my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me, then what I am dealing with here is not just a psychological quirk, a minor foible, an inconsequential idiosyncrasy, but the other translations of ὀφείλημα, opheilhmata, i.e. “debt,” or “sin.”

I keep reminding myself that I am restricted to now, not then,…to what is, not what was or will be; and that I am restricted to here, not there, this, not that: not that person’s wealth, that person’s power, that person’s gifts, that person’s entity…not in that place, that position, that role, that otherness. That email is not mine to read, that letter is not mine to open, that task is not mine to take on, that problem is not mine to solve, that responsibility is not mine to assume…that is not mine to do, say, be.

I am no gentle giant. Oh, I may think myself to be. But a friend who was truly a gentle giant was memorialized yesterday…and in comparison with him, I am a pigmy, not a gentle giant. However, that’s ok. God loves me just as I am, warts, sinfulness, and all. He sees right through all my facades and hugs me anyway, perhaps even because of them, since He realizes that I wouldn’t be me without them. He’s very patient and will help me and wait for me to shed them one by one.

This latest boundary-less-ness is the latest onionskin of habitual sin that has surfaced. A lot of drawing circles around my feet and saying to myself: stay in that, that’s where you are, that’s were God wants you, that’s where you need to stay.

This boundary-less-ness exacerbates my other resolution-ary flaw: controlitis. By imagining myself in control of my life, I place myself on a pedestal, make pretenses of power, and puff up with pride. Rather stupid and idiotic, if I examine the underlying reality…that, in reality, when it comes right down to it, I control nothing, that I am totally dependent on God for everything, that the only thing that I do control, my free will, is so overgrown with the moss and debris of cultural, social, status, fear-driven overlays that it staggers to even exist, let alone exert itself. The very thought of choosing against these worldly forces for a moral right, a truth, a belief, a divine reality, throws my psyche into cataclysmic confusion and consternation.

I think this is at least part of what Jesus was referring to when he was talking about the difficulty of the rich to get into the kingdom of God: Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”[1] The NABRE explains it this way: “since wealth, power, and merit generate false security, Jesus rejects them utterly as a claim to enter the kingdom. Achievement of salvation is beyond human capability and depends solely on the goodness of God who offers it as a gift.”[2] If these “things,” this power, wealth, and achievement, so cloud my mind and possessing them so dominates my will, I can do little to nothing to clear the way for “the goodness of God” to offer the gift of salvation. Only God can first clear away this detritus, this junk, this sinful clutter and then lead me to choose to be open to Him, to join Him in the work of salvation.

Control is possible only to the degree that it conforms with God’s plan, God’s will, God’s providence. After that, as the saying goes, if I want to make God laugh, so I expound on my great “plans.”

This brings me to my second resolution…although that is an inaccurate term to describe these inspirations of the Spirit…more like “incorporations” in the original meaning of that term, to bring into one’s body, to make one’s own, to personalize and customize it to fit me…the second resolution, the “unto’s.” Instead of control, the Divinely endorsed approach to life is the “unto’s.” I have dwelt on these before: Mary’s “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” [Luke 1:38] She calls herself God’s δούλη, a female slave. Pretty radical debasement.

But I think she understood, she got it, she could grok the true relationship that we have with God: He calls the shots, we carry them out. But it is even more radical than that…He not only calls the shots, He creates the environment in which the shots are called, He provides everything necessary to implement the shots, in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), our literal existence, the sine qua non without which we would not even be, let alone be able to “move” and “carry out.” I are totally, utterly, and completely not only helpless, but non-existent without Him. So, thus, He creates me, He gives me everything I need to do His will, He tells me His will, He gives me the grace to carry out that will, He watches over me and keeps me in existence as I choose whether or not to carry out that will, He holds me up as I act on His will, and, in His providence, He provides the ultimately good outcome of my actions, regardless of whether in this specific action. I choose to do or not to do His will. [Rom 8:28].

What I must choose is not really to initiate a action independent of His will, but I must choose to open myself to the cascade of gifts, of caring, of love, of events that are tailored just for me, to help me to achieve my greatest happiness.

The wonderfully wondrous, serendipitous thing about such openings is that they simultaneously place God in the driver’s seat [where He is anyway but I just choose to ignore, forget, and shunt aside Him, at least in “my world”, by the idol of me “in control] and they, thus, focus attention on God, show God to be the All-Caring Father that He is, and makes Him “worthy,” owed in gratitude, in my eyes to receive glory and honor and power [Rev 4:11], “for Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever,” as we say. They encourage and motivate me to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. [Lv 19:18; Dt 6:5; 10:12; Jos 22:5; Mt 19:19; 22:37–39; Lk 10:27; Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; Jas 2:8…repetitive redundancy, da ya think? Maybe the Holy Spirit wishes to bring it my attention[3], to bring it my attention, to bring it my attention…you can lead a horse to water…]

Looking at “unto” in a different light as God’s will for me now, it is the nexus, the center and link of me to God, the point where “the rubber meets the road.” I have often looked for God’s will in the wrong places: both as something in the future and/or as a goal which I must strive to attain. Both of these are much too complicated for normal practical implementation. While there is certainly an already-but-not-yet quality to much of Jesus revelation, e.g. the Kingdom, His presence, the sacrifice of Calvary, even the redemption of the world, the will of the Father is a much more tangible, omnipresent reality, revealing itself each moment of my life. It is not way up there, but right here, right now, in this room, at this computer, with these thoughts, at this word, this letter, this…is the Father presenting Himself to me right now and loving, nurturing, urging me to open myself to His will in this moment, to let Him be done unto me in this eternal second.

I have the option to say “no” to Him, to refuse his ministrations, to refuse to cooperate with His will and, while the overall progress of His providence inexorably proceeds according to that will, my acceptance, cooperation, and participation has been temporarily [let’s hope not permanently] side-tracked onto my private, personal “idolization express” to isolation, death and destruction.

It’s not always easy to open myself to God’s “unto” at this moment. Jesus made that extremely clear when, literally sweating blood, He asked His Father: Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.[Mk 14:36; see also Mt 26:39; Lk 22:42] “Note the complete obedient surrender of the human will of Jesus to the divine will of the Father.”[4] This is the ultimate “unto”, the complete surrender to the Father, in spite of His knowledge of exactly what was going to happen to Him.

I can only speculate what is going to happen to me, yet this is the “unto” that the Father asks also of me, of each of us. To allow Him to control my life, to give me what I need and not what I want, to have Him do unto me what He wills and not what I will, to live and die according to His plan and not my meanderings. A tough and constant tussle with my will,…a perpetual continuous ongoing decision to serve by “only” standing and waiting for Him to reveal the next moment. But I guess since Jesus, Son though he was,…learned obedience from what he suffered, [Heb 5:8] I should expect or, rather, actually want no less, an imitation of Him, denying my will, myself, taking up my cross as He did, daily, and following Him to death and glory.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] NABRE footnote on Mark 10:23-27.

[3] In fact, He follows the Deuteronomic rendition with these words: Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. [Deut 6:6-9] While the NABRE note on these signs states: “these injunctions were probably meant merely in a figurative sense,” phylacteries and mezuzah are still used by observant Jews.

[4] NABRE footnote for this verse in Mark.

Excursus during a Cold: Shared Suffering

I don’t get it. At least not as I would like to. (a) How can suffering be accepted as good? And (b) How can my suffering be connected with that of You, Jesus, and offered up for the salvation of the world? Does not compute! Please show me.

  • You said For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [Mt 7:8][1] Well, I’m asking, seeking, knocking.
  • You said: Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you. [Mt 13:11] This is certainly one of those mysteries…why You had to suffer and die to redeem us.
  • You said: If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Well, suffering is certainly taking up my cross.
  • Paul writes: The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. [Rom 8:16-18] “Only if we suffer with You so that we may be glorified with You.” You seem to make suffering a sine qua non!
  • Peter writes: But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. [1Pet 4:13] While You have him qualify the type of suffering: whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name. [1Pet 4:16], I’m suppose to rejoice exultantly at something that is repulsive to the flesh.

Perhaps that’s at least part of the answer: it may be repulsive to the flesh, but it is to be embraced by the spirit in obedience to You, Father, who have placed it in my life at this time, to give witness to my belief and adherence to You, Jesus, the answer, the reason for living, the Truth, the ultimate sine qua non!

This “obedience” thing seems to be the major reason. Such obedience seems, at least on the surface, like the Charge of the Light Brigade, “Some one had blunder’d: Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do & die, into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.” [2] But You don’t blunder. All You do is ultimately for my greatest happiness….Is the obedience of suffering a bloodless, though suffering, martyrdom, in the original sense of the word: “witnessing,” actively, passively, witnessing to You, to Your wisdom, to Your love shown in ways I don’t understand but accept? You certainly placed this here, now, for me to endure. Help me understand.

Certainly You didn’t exempt Yourself or Your loved ones from this ordeal. I’m rather sure Mary would have opted out of unwed motherhood by an unbelievable father. And Joseph would have preferred to have his espoused presented without child. They both would have preferred that the teenage Jesus not have gone off on his own and left them frantically searching for three days. You, Jesus, would probably have preferred not to have been cast out into the desert by the Spirit, the same casting out of exorcism and the money changers from the temple. I’m sure it would have been much easier for You to have a place to lay Your head. I’m sure not only that You could have had that cup pass from You, but also that You would not have had to have had such sure and detailed knowledge of exactly the torture You were to undergo so long in advance…what a recipe for sleepless nights! I’m sure Stephen would have preferred not to have been stoned, Paul beheaded or Peter crucified. But in all these instances, the answer is the same: not my will but Yours be done. [Lk 22:42; Mk 14:36] A deep trust, a deep faith, an adamantine belief that Your way, God, was the best way, the only good way, the true way, the way that lead to their greatest happiness and the happiness of the world.

Perhaps another part of the answer is Your training me, helping me, forcing me to let go of my need, my craving, my addiction to controlling everything that happens in my life….and, by my personal ludicrous and vaguely malicious interpretation of the 2nd great commandment, everybody else around me. It’s a type of self-idolizing, actually disobeying the 1st great commandment: “I’m perfect, I know everything, I am god, at least for this corner of the world, and therefore what I say goes.” However, when the rug is pulled out from under me by illness, injury, disaster, etc., You force me to refocus, reevaluate, reestablish communication with You, the source of all help, all healing, all love. Maybe that’s why so many of us become ill just before we die; You want to get our attention, to reconnect, to help us reprioritize before it is too late, to remind us that we are going to be meeting with You soon for our end-of-lifetime evaluation and, if we need to make any adjustments, forgive others and be reconciled with You and they, this is the only time to do it.

I may wander away again, reconstruct my fallen idol of self-sufficiency, let you fade into the background, but for the moment, You are center stage, my Hope, my Savior. I just need Your help to realize, to accept and to retain You there always. Sniffle, sneeze, cough, drip, wheeze, expectorate, sigh. Amen. Alleluia!!!

 

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1854, http://www.nationalcenter.org/ ChargeoftheLightBrigade. html#sthash.1NIf3a5r.dpuf

Angels

12 and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. [1]

What were these two aggelous,  “messengers,” a word which we have adopted from the Greek and converted into “angels,” doing there?  Certainly, if we leave it at “angels” as we have come to conceive of angels, little cherubs fluttering around the feet of God and Mary, discerning their purpose becomes even more difficult. This rather cutesy pie innocuous portrayal of angels may be artistic license, but it doesn’t capture the essence of angels as we see them portrayed in Scripture.

Granted, here they seem rather “nice chaps,” but elsewhere in scripture, they can be very intimidating and dangerous, e.g. the angel of death (2 Samuel 24:15; I Chronicles 21:15; II Kings 19:35) and the four horsemen (Rev 6:1-8), not to mention Michael (Dan. 10:13, 10:21 and 12:1; Jude 1:9; Rev 12:7-9) and the legions on which Jesus could have called during his passion (Mt 26:53).

This post-Resurrection appearance is more in line with Raphael’s [Tobit 12:15[2]] and Gabriel’s (Lk 1:19[3] and Lk 1:26) demeanor.  Did you notice how they didn’t appear to Peter and John who just returned home, but all of a sudden, they are there for Mary Magdalene…In Matthew, there is only one angel who rolls the stone out of the way before talking to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary; in Mark, the stone is already taken care of and the one angel is again sitting and he speaks not only to these two, but also to Salome.  Here we have them at the foot and head of the place where Jesus body had laid.

The Church Triumphant, so named, not because they lord it over us on earth, but because they have successfully kept the faith, they have borne their cross here on earth and were faithful to the end and by Jesus, are justified and are with Him in heaven, the Saints, in union with the Angels who were faithful to God, are much more involved in our lives than we think. Many choose to believe that they (a) are figments of our imagination; (b) like demons, are dusty remnants of past beliefs (and thinking this of devils is an even more disastrous error); or (c) if they do exist, they have no impact nor relevance in our lives….wrong!  Never, never underestimate the intercession, the assistance, the watchfulness and the warnings of angels.

Being constantly on vigil for their evil opposites is equally true:  never, never underestimate the deceit, treachery, wiles and lies of devils.  Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. [1 Pet 5:8]

To ignore Angels and Saints denies ourselves the benefit of two of God’s great gifts.  For we are definitely connected with them; He not only made us not only a little while lower than the angels (Heb 2:5; see also Ps 8:6), also He commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. (Ps 91:11; applied by the Satan to Jesus: Lk 4:10).  The angel’s job is to pray for mercy for those who will repent — and God answers the angels’ prayer.(Job 33:24-25)

Jesus certainly knew that we have help from angels.  Just as angels came and ministered to Jesus after his temptation (Mt 4:11) and again during his agony in the Garden (Lk 22:43), so angels minister to us and keep us from harm.   He also explicitly warned us not to mess with those for whom they care or the Father will hear of it: See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father. [Mt 18:10]  And remember, while He was referring specifically to children, He has just warned us that unless we become like children, we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven, [Mt 18:3] and later He will remind us that our status after death is determined by how we treat “the least of these, my brothers” and sisters. [Mt 25: 40,45]

Both the Angels and Saints rejoice over the conversion of sinners; they are concerned with our salvation. I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance…In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Lk 15:7-10)

The prayers of the saints are also most important in our lives. Just as Abraham prayed for Sodom (Gen 18:16-33) and Moses interceded for Israel (Ex 32:11-14), so we are told that the Saints fall down before God as they present our prayers to Him as golden bowls full of incense (Rev. 5:8; 8:4)  The mandate we are given on earth, that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,…this is good and pleasing to God our savior, (1 Tim 2: 1,3) continues in heaven.

We have confirmation of this from our tradition, the Magisterium.  Vatican II stated in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness…. [T]hey do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus…. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped. (No. 49)

Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks to this To the offering of Christ are united not only the members still here on earth, but also those already in the glory of heaven. In communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. (1370)

Jesus, thank You for angels and saints who, because they love You, and they love us also and, following Your lead, care and pray for us.  We need all the help me can get!  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] …though in Enoch 10:4–6, he is definitely not the healing angel

[3] …note here, too, that Gabe shuts up Zachariah for doubting his message, though only for a short time.

Staying Outside

11 But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb[1] Jn 20: 11

You have to give it to John.  He is a master story teller.  He may not have the conciseness and immediacy of Mark, nor the traditional bent of Matthew, nor the gentile perspective of Luke, but he has a sense of imminent presence, of personal, human love of Jesus that only he portrays.

Poor Mary, the boys have gone and she is left seemingly alone, bereft of her Jesus.  She weeps,  she stays, she weeps, she bends, she weeps.  The reality of His absence, His bewildering, excruciatingly painful agony and death, His leaving her, is just so literally unbearable.  She must weep to shed, tear by solitary tear, her overwhelming sorrow, her crushing sense of loss, the immense emptiness that threatens to engulf her.

She has not gone in, she has not seen, she could not bring herself to acknowledge that not only was He gone, but someone has taken Him and she will not even have the closure of caring for Him in death.

Distraught, completely undone, she stands there frozen in time, hoping against hope that this nightmare will reverse itself and that at least His body will be recovered, returned, redeemed.

“What else can I do?  Let me at least look inside.  Maybe there’s a clue to where they have taken Him.  Maybe Peter and John missed something that will help bring Him back.  Maybe,…”

She creeps forward, anxious and afraid, anticipating the worse, praying, pleading for a miracle…some tiny crumb of hope to which she can cling.   The low entrance slopes down into the cave.  “I don’t want to look…”

That’s often me: I don’t want to look.  Jesus seems gone from this God-forsaken world.  Have you noticed how graft and bribery are the reasons behind almost every indictment, every protest, every scandal, regardless of the country about which the story is unfolding.  How the gap between the obscenely rich and the abjectly poor is not only widening but the numbers of the downtrodden is geometrically rising.  How we have consumed our way into climate chaos which will effect generations to come.  How, in spite of the slippery slope of morality which is lauded as the norm in our all-pervasive media, the call for repentance, for metanoia goes unheeded.

God, only you can save us from the sin-filled world which we have created here on your wondrous earth.  We do not even know how badly off we are.  We desperately need Your mercy, the mercy we pray for daily through the body and blood, soul and divinity of Your Divine Son…indeed, please, please have mercy on us and on the whole world.  In You is our only, our true and lasting hope.  Mary, pray that we realize our sinfulness and seek the salvation of Your Son.  May His resurrection from His suffering and death on the cross be our beacon, our promise, our reassurance of His Love and reinforce our faith in His power to overcome.  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

The First Day

1 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.[1] Jn 20:1

On the first day of the week: this is a pebble that will start an avalanche, the appearances, and particularly Pentecost sets the stage that the Lord’s Day, the Day Jesus rose from the dead and the Spirit descended…on that day, the first Christians and we celebrate.  The Sabbath, the last day of the first creation, is past; the Lord’s day, the first day of the new creation, is come. It is First Day, that East-er Day, the Paschal, Day, the Pass-over Day, the Day when death is no more.

Mary of Magdala, from whom seven demons had gone out, is at least one of the first to come to the tomb early in the morning. Matthew has her accompanied by the other Mary [Mt 28:1], probably Mary the mother of James and Joseph [Mt 27:56] which he mentioned a few verses earlier.  Mark confirms this other is the mother of James, though He does not mention Joseph; he does, however, add Salome [Mk 16:1]  Luke doesn’t mention names until much later but identifies the group: The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. [Lk 23:55-56]

We only find out who they were when, the first day, after they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. [Lk 24: 1-5, 9-11]…So here we have Joanna.

John may mention only Mary Magdalene because, later in the chapter, Jesus appears to her in the garden near the tomb. For the dedication, love and adoration of Mary Magdalene, please pray for me.

…came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark. I cannot grasp the full impact of Jesus’ Resurrection without contemplating it in the midst of a cemetery.  There, surrounded by tombstones, surrounded by the dead, I get a true sense of exactly what a revolutionary incredible but true occurrence this was when Jesus rose, complete and alive, everlasting, in bodily form, from the dead.  Very, very, very Divine.  Only He who gives us life could have given Jesus life again, and in a heavenly form.  I thank You, Father, for raising Jesus from the dead as the “first fruits” of the new creation.  Creation can now, through Jesus, reach its fulfillment.  We can become what we were created to be, eternal beings, in, with, and through You.

Without eternal life to which to look forward, this existence would be the Sisyphusian rat race into oblivion that many believe it to be.  Suicide would be not only a viable option, but perhaps a preferable one.  As Paul so bluntly put it, without the Resurrection, if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all. [1 Cor 15:17-19]…BUT, now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. [1Cor 15:20]  This is the bedrock of our faith, the foundation of our belief, the hope of our existence.  This is “my Lord and my God” as our Savior, Lord, Redeemer, and Raiser from the dead. Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” [1Cor 15:54-55]

But what Mary was faced with at this juncture is not the Risen Jesus, but an empty tomb…that’s a shocker.  Her mind spins with all temporally plausible explanations…the body was taken away by…the Jewish Authorities…Pilate… Joseph of Arimathea…grave robbers…revolutionaries….???

She probably knew the Jewish authorities had sealed the tomb and had had guards…where were the guards…maybe they knew something.

For the times of hurt, pain, confusion, lack of understanding, no natural explanations…Lord, hear our prayer.

Early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. I often come to Your tomb in early morning, while it is still dark.  I see the stone removed from the tomb and think I have lost You, that I have lost touch with You, that I will not be able to find You.  That I don’t know what “they” have done with You.

I completely forget Your last words to us: And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. [Mt 28:20]  I completely forget that You said: I have told you this while I am with you. Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. [Jn 14: 25, 23]  I do not believe Paul: I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. [Gal 2:19-20]

I have the hubris to think that I know better than You, God; that what I see and hear and touch is all there is…yet in doing this, I do not even believe what You have shown us through science, that we are made up of molecules and atoms and that there exist spaces between atoms that are relatively so large, I could drive the proverbial Mac Truck between them…that I am not the solid entity that I believe myself to be, but a conglomeration of DNA molecules which You have miraculously united into what I euphemistically call “me.”

To my ranting and raving, my temper tantrums, You are continually saying: Don’t be afraid.  You admonish me to stop judging by appearances, but judge justly. [Jn 7:24]

Please remind me of Your presence when I feel You have abandoned me, when I do not realize that You are carrying me and that’s why I can’t see Your footprints.  Please give me courage to face the next moment, the next minute, the next hour, this day, believing that there is purpose to my blindness, my deafness, my bewilderment…that these are part of Your plan, these are truly blessings that will ultimately lead to my greatest happiness.  Cue me that I’ve “got it!”

Mary, Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours.  The great “unto” again.  Let go and let God.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.