June 23, 2014

The Wedding at Cana: Mary Sets Salvation Into Motion

Mary was given the great privilege of being allowed to set into motion the events leading to the salvation of mankind.

Her son was reluctant. He asks, "What does this have to do with me?" Mary ignored him, looked at the servants and said, "Do what he tells you." Jesus did it. This is not a helpless peasant girl. This is a proud and fierce Jewish mother. Modern Catholic sensibilities have bought into the Peita mindset.

I grew up with Jewish friends. Their mothers expected them to do as they were told. The story of the Jewish mother and her seven sons in 2 Maccabees 7 is the model - a Jewish mother encouraging her sons to stay faithful and the sons doing as they are told in the face of horrible torture and death.

But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native tongue as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: "My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being. Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers. (2 Maccabees 7:27-29)

Ruth, Judith, Esther.... all the strong women of the Bible set events in motion which lead to the salvation of Israel from great harm. This is the great privilege given to Mary, that she was the one who would set Jesus' ministry into motion, knowing full well how it would end for her Son, and that it would lead to the salvation of Israel and of all mankind.

Look at the strong women of the Bible and you will find Mary in all of them. Ponder the passage above for a moment, for that is the image of Mary at the wedding at Cana.


June 20, 2014

I Ripped My Pants

It happened at Mass last night.

I have been dealing with an extremely difficult person at work - God’s way of teaching me to bear with the faults of others, as well as family issues, etc. Anyway, I was having a hectic day. Thursday nights I am sacristan for Mass and then altar server for a Novena to St. Jude which includes Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I arrived later than I like and didn’t get to pray.

Everything went well until Father walked to the ambo during the penitential rite, pulled out the lighter we keep there, and lit the altar candles. I had completely forgot to light the candles.

Father started dressing the altar, turns to me and says, "Tim, will you get me some purificators?" Yep, I forgot those too. There were none in the vestry so I had to go all the way to our other vestry by the chapel to get some and got back in time for the Sanctus, handed them to Father and then knelt.

I almost missed ringing the second bell at the consecration. I rang the first bell fine, zoned out and missed the second bell. Doh!

And here is the best part….

During the benediction, Father exposed the Blessed Sacrament and as everyone was singing O Salutaris I stood to get the Thurible for Father. I felt my pants leg get caught on the heel of my shoe as I stood and felt the seat of my pants let go. RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP!!! Good thing I was wearing a cassock and surpice.

So I'm standing there singing O Salutaris with a giant hole in my pants under my cassock. I'm half horrified at the thought of my pants being ripped and half trying not to laugh at the thought of the Spongebob Squarepants "I Ripped My Pants" episode.

I apologized to Father about the candles and purificators later in the vestry (still wearing the cassock) and he was most gracious, but I'm sad now. These were my altar server pants for four years. They were worn threadbare but had a permanent smell of incense that wouldn't wash out. There was even a "My Pants Smell Like Incense" thread on Catholic Answers about these pants. My buddy says that I should cut out the worn knees as relics but something about venerating my pants doesn't seem right.

Anyway, I'm going to miss those pants. They were like a friend who shared all the special liturgical moments with me. Black Dockers martyred for Jesus.


June 19, 2014

And the Word Became Text

Michael Casey OSCO, author of the definitive work on Lectio Devina titled "Sacred Reading", wrote a paper for the Benedictine Oblates World Congress which took place in Rome during October 2013. In it he describes the heart of Lectio...

We are, perhaps, familiar with the hodie of the liturgy. Today Christ is born. Today Christ is risen. Today Christ ascends into heaven. In our liturgical celebrations we are not simply commemorating past saving events, but we are actualising them, activating them, making them present and accessible today. We are entering into the process of salvation. The timeless economy of salvation is being realised for our benefit today.
The practice of lectio divina is a prolongation of the reception of the Word proclaimed in liturgy. In a way similar to the liturgy, when we receive God’s Word in lectio, it is as though God were speaking directly to us today. It is not merely an inspiring word from the past that still has the power to touch us, to guide us and to move us to good living. It is God’s unique and empowering Word addressed to us at this moment and in this situation in which we find ourselves. This is more than mere reading; God is at work in us. The Holy Spirit is as active in our reception of the inspired Word as in its original composition. This is why Saint Jerome wrote, “We cannot arrive at an understanding of Scripture without the aid of the Holy Spirit who inspired it.”

June 05, 2014

The Number of the Beast

666 has to do with emperor worship.

John wrote Revelation to seven Churches in Asia minor. These were being persecuted because they refused to participate in emperor worship. Emperor worship was a huge problem at the time. The city of Pergamum in Asia Minor was the regional center of emperor worship and it was particularly difficult for the Church there. St. John notes the difficulty they are having in that particular city.

And to the angel of the church in Per'gamum write: `The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; you hold fast my name and you did not deny my faith even in the days of An'tipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells." (Revelation 2:12-13)

Temple to Emperor Trajan - typical
City of Pergamum, Asia Minor

Emperor worship was the main problem in the Book of Revelation. Those who did not participate in emperor worship were barred from commerce, shunned from society, arrested and sometimes put to death. Antipas (in the passage above) had been appointed Bishop of Pergamum and was martyred by burning on the altar in one of the temples to the Emperors.

Slaves used to be marked on the forehead or right hand by their owner. A mark or name on the forehead was a sign of ownership. 666 represents the emperor. Some would bear the mark of the emperor while Christians would be marked with the name of Christ on their forehead.

saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads." (Revelation 7:3)
they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads; (Revelation 9:4)
Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)

ST. Paul calls himself a "slave of Christ" and notes that he had been marked. The mark on the forehead has to do with slavery and ownership.

The passages above are key to the overall meaning of the Book of Revelation. The followers of Christ with the name of God on their forehead are persecuted now. That persecution is temporary however, and if the followers of Christ persevere to the end they will be rewarded. The followers of the emperor will be destroyed in the end. That's the whole point of the Book of Revelation. It is a message of hope for persecuted Churches.

And St. John challenges us to ask ourselves who's name is on our forehead. Is God's name on our forehead? Is Jesus' name on our forehead? What name do we bear on our forehead? Who owns us?