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MINUTE MEDITATION: THE MERCIFUL HEART OF JESUS

MINUTE MEDITATION: THE MERCIFUL HEART OF JESUS

HE GIVES HIS LIFE TO SNATCH US, HIS CHOSEN SHEEP, FROM THE DEATH OF SIN AND OF HELL.

Tender and compassionate, immense and truly incomprehensible is the pity of the Heart of Jesus for our miseries.

It was pity which made Him descend from heaven to earth, to work so many prodigies of mercy and compassion on our behalf. Like a good shepherd, He gives His life to snatch us, His chosen sheep, from the death of sin and of hell. Lamb of God, He exposes Himself to the rigours of divine justice, that we may be spared. Mediator between God and man, He consents to be abandoned, that we may be received into the friendship of His Heavenly Father.

And all this mercy, all this compassion, is living still in the Heart of Jesus. How He grieves to see so many perishing, or exposing themselves to perishing eternally! “O men,” He cries to them, “my poor children, why do you perish thus? Rather return to Me and live.”

“Return to Me and live.”

And when at length, contrite and humbled we return to Jesus, oh! with what tender mercy and compassion He welcomes us, embraces us, and re-establishes us in our rights! And – prodigy truly incomprehensible! – He even forgets our iniquities, so that, banishing from His Heart all resentment and all idea of vengeance, He seems never to have suffered the smallest injury at our hands.

– From: Laverty & Sons (eds), 1905

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IF GOD BE WITH US, WHO IS AGAINST US? (RM 8:31)

ON CONFIDENCE

How essential the spirit of holy confidence is in the spiritual life St Ignatius makes very plain in his book of Spiritual Exercises, where he is at pains to give us elaborate rules as to what our conduct should be in the time of what he calls “desolation”. This state of soul he describes as “the darkening and troubling of the mind, the prompting to things base and earthly, a certain uneasiness resulting from a state of agitation and temptation, and including diffidence, without hope and without love: as when the soul finds itself all weary, tepid, sad, and fancies itself separated from God”. And though the Saint does not hold a certain amount of desolation hurtful for the soul, yet, as in the matter of scruples, he deprecates a too deep-seated and long-continued state of despondency and discouragement as being one that detracts from the service of God, and robs it of all its spontaneity and generosity.

The thought of past sins which have darkened our existence

This spirit of diffidence and dejection arises in many cases from the thought of past sins which have darkened our existence. Closely connected with this source of temptation is the constant uneasiness and fear which many, even pious souls, entertain in regard to their confessions. It is true that they regret their misdeeds, that they have done penance for them, that they have had recourse times without number to the sacrament instituted for the remission of sins. Still they are restless, ill at ease: they rack and torture their souls as to the integrity of their former confessions. They would seem to be unaware that one honest effort made once for all, however imperfectly, is all that that is required of them; that forgotten sins, many perhaps of a serious nature, are as truly forgiven as those they have actually mentioned; that there is no obligation to confess sins of which they are not certain, that it is better even not to enter into the circumstances attending our transgressions unless they be such as to change their theological species.

Am I profoundly sorry for each and every sin I ever committed? Really?

Others worry over the dispositions with which they have received the sacraments in the past, especially over their contrition, which they imagine has never been sincere or really felt, as if feeling sorry was a necessary part of their dispositions, and not rather the will to be sorry. The first is not always in our power, however much we may desire it. The second, the act of the will, is always possible, presupposing of course the influx of divine grace; and even were that act slack and remiss, if it were there at all, it is enough with the sacraments to destroy all sin.

Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred (Eccles. 9:1)

And yet some of these timorous souls seem to have reached the conclusion that they have never repented as they should, that they cannot shake off the burden that oppress them, and that their case is desperate beyond redemption. If only they could have the assurance that all the terrible past is cancelled, if only they could make a fresh start, with a clean slate before them, they imagine that the path of duty would be rendered smooth and the service of God become pleasant and comforting. In the present order of Providence, however, it has not seemed good that we should possess such an assurance. In our own interest and as an incentive to further effort, it is well that the great affair of our salvation should be shrouded in some obscurity; and accordingly the Holy Spirit tells us that “man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred” (Eccles. 9:1), not indeed that we can form or judge of our present state in the eyes of God, but that we cannot attain to any absolute, infallible certainty concerning it. Still we are far from being forbidden to entertain that inward moral certainty that usually guides us in the affairs of this life and which should be abundantly sufficient to make us walk in the way of the Lord in perfect peace and tranquillity of soul. “For the Holy Spirit giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:16). Nay, to be troubled and uneasy, to doubt of our forgiveness after we have done our best and made an honest effort to be reconciled to God by the means He has appointed, is nothing short of injurious to His goodness: it is to disbelieve His plighted word: “Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven.” It is in a way to reproduce the final crime of the traitor apostle, in whom were found all the elements of true repentance, acknowledgement of sin, sorrow, restitution, all save one, the most indispensable of all, namely confidence and hope. “Son,” said Our Lord to the man sick of the palsy, “be of good heart, thy sins are forgiven thee” (Matt. 9:2). We may take these words as addressed to ourselves. Short of a revelation, which we cannot expect, we have every reason to trust that we have to put away the past. We should be acting foolishly and falling into the toils of the tempter, were we to give ourselves over to anxiety, and doubt the assurance of Him who says: “I am he that blots out thy iniquities for my own sake, and I will not remember thy sins (Is. xIiii 25).

Is secret pride at the bottom of all this?

There are others, and many religious among them, who allow themselves to be disheartened, not so much perhaps at the thought of their past delinquencies, as because of the present failings and shortcomings which they detect in themselves. By the mercy of God, they may be habitually preserved from serious faults; but instead of realising that in this very fact they have a signal assistance of the special care which Providence is exercising over them, they dwell on the minor faults into which they are continually falling. They experience thereat a sense of humiliation: they are disappointed with themselves: they expected better results from their efforts; and accordingly they are ever finding fault with their corrupt nature, inclined to think that all their spiritual exercises are useless, their good resolutions of no avail; that they will never improve; that they are not pleasing in the sight of God, and that all their exterior observance is but hypocrisy and make-believe. Thus their whole life is one unbroken chain of restlessness, fear, and despondency, from which they derive no manner of profit or merit but rather cause God to keep aloof and withhold His help, since such feelings, far from honouring Him, are really offensive to Him. They are derogatory to His goodness and contrast with the wonderful patience He displays in bearing with our many defects. This spirit of dejection, moreover, often proceeds from a root of secret pride. It is not the offence to God contained in every sin, grievous or venal, which the proud man really heeds. What he considers is the loss of self-esteem, the fact that he has lowered himself, the shame of discovering so plainly his own weakness and impotence. He is astonished to find himself at fault after relying so much upon his own strength; and hence he is vexed, disappointed, disgusted with himself. A man of truly humble soul, on the other hand, hates his failings and sins for the sole reason that they are displeasing to God; but he is not surprised or taken aback because of a relapse. He knows only too well and he acknowledges freely the infirmity of his nature: he expected no better from his waywardness. In consequence he does not lose heart, he looks to God for more efficacious assistance on the next occasion, and thus actually rises from his defection stronger and more acceptable to His Maker.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 Jn 1:8)

We must learn to bear with ourselves, even as God bears with us: we must possess our souls in patience, for we cannot avoid all faults. “If we say that we have no sin,” says St John, “we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). We should no doubt labour to diminish their number and the deliberation with which they are committed, but it must be done gently. We may be sorrowful but not dismayed at their recurrence, and should nurture in ourselves the full confidence that little by little God will detach our hearts from the vain things of earth, and purify us more and more from such stain as we cannot altogether avoid in this world.

When we find our path beset with crosses, when misfortune seems to dog our steps, and one sorrow or affliction succeeds upon another…

The most usual cause of discouragement, however, from which we suffer takes its rise in the disappointments, hardships, and discomforts of life itself. It is when we find our path beset with crosses, when misfortune seems to dog our steps, and one sorrow or affliction succeeds upon another, when all our efforts end in failure and time brings with it no relief – it is then especially, perhaps, that we are tempted to abandon our trust in God, to doubt His providence, to think Him harsh, insensible, forgetful of our welfare. Now we are all liable to the law of suffering, sometimes acute and enduring, but whatever be our trial, it is undeniable that in all such cases a spirit of distrust only serves to intensify and to aggravate the evil.

The crosses of our own making are ordinarily more painful by far than those that are sent to us from above

The inner self-torture which springs from dissatisfaction and rebellion is a heavier burden than that which God would lay upon us, and crosses of our own making are ordinarily more painful by far than those that are sent to us from above. It is often because we brood upon them that our trials assume such proportions; it is because we are faint of heart that we feel them so keenly; it is because we fear “where there is no fear”, because we are slow to place our trust in the strong arm of the Lord that they crush and tear us to pieces.

…They are the clouds that gather round the base of the mountain but leave the summit radiant in everlasting sunshine

Samson once met a lion in his way, and though he was unarmed, he closed with the furious animal and overpowered it. A few days later on passing by the spot he found a honey-comb in the dead lion’s mouth. So it is that if we are brave, and face our difficulties with unflinching faith, we shall issue triumphant and find nothing but sweetness in the task. A truly confident soul, indeed, lives upon this earth in a kind of paradise. It may be sorely tried, assailed by the fierce blasts of temptation or tossed upon the waters of many tribulations; but these trials do but affect the outer man, the lower nature, the senses and the appetites; they cannot reach the higher spirit, the will and the understanding in which the true man consists. They are the clouds that gather round the base of the mountain but leave the summit radiant in everlasting sunshine: they are the waves that ruffle the surface of the ocean but disturb not the profound calm and tranquillity of the great deep below. It is that confidence that explains the serenity, the sweetness, the unutterable peace of many holy souls with whom we have sometimes been brought into contact. It is that confidence and love which in the case of certain saints has transformed the nature of things and rendered pleasant what was bitter and made them fall in love, as it were, with suffering itself, which caused St Teresa to cry out: “Either to suffer or to die,” and St Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, “Not to die but to suffer,” and St John of the Cross, when asked what reward he would have for his labours, “None other, Lord, than to suffer and to be condemned for thy sake.” It is that confidence that sustained the great Apostle of the Gentiles in the midst of the untold hardships of his mission – “in many labours, in prisons most frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often” (2 Cor. 11:23). He could say, “I speak the truth in Christ that I have great sadness and continual sorrow in my heart” (Rom. 9:2), and could yet utter the triumph, “I am filled with comfort, I overflow with joy in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. 7:4), “for I know whom I have believed and I am certain that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him, against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). And we, too, have every reason for reposing our trust in Him whom we daily call our Father.

Putting our trust in Him whom we daily call our Father

The spirit of evil indeed is ever busy whispering in our ears that God is a stern and severe Lord and that we can live much more happily without Him. But in reality to look upon Him as a hard and unmerciful task-master is as untrue as it is blasphemous: it is as if we should say white is black or that light is darkness. The very essence of God is goodness. There is no creature so lowly, so insignificant that God does not care for it with the tenderness of a Father. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father” (Matt. 10:29). What is there that is held of less account than a sparrow? Men despise it, but God cares for it: He provides it with food, He clothes it against the winter, He protects it in face of its assailants. And yet it is but a sparrow, a thing of no value or import. And shall He not care for man, the masterpiece of His hands, for man who is His image, who is His child? “Fear not,” says our Saviour in words of everlasting comfort, “ye are better than many sparrows.”

The pledge and proof that God has been watching over us and directing our steps

We are His children and His compassion is greater than that of any earthly parent. Is it not He who has imparted to so many millions of parents, and of wicked parents too, so tender a love for their offspring? And does He not possess what He has given them in such abundance? Nay, is it not He who addresses to us the almost incredible words: “Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Is xlix 15). We have only to look upon our past to see how gently and lovingly God has led us by the hand, in spite of much frailty, in spite of many infidelities, and perhaps most serious sins. Is not our baptism into His one true Church, the sacraments we have received, the life, the health we have enjoyed, the many other blessings given us, the many helps afforded us in difficult and trying moments, is not such a long chain of benefits of every kind, the pledge and proof that God has been watching over us and directing our steps with unfaltering solicitude? Is the source sealed or dried up from which so many blessings have flowed to this day? He who has been with us in the past will be with us in the future and “if God be with us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31). When the servant of Eliseus came to inform his master how a vast army with horses and chariots was in view, the Prophet replied: “Be not afraid, for there are more with us than against us.” We have with us the saints and the angels, the Queen of Heaven, God Almighty Himself, and against us, those who cannot move hand or foot without His sanction.

I know that I may count upon His love and His mercy

St Therese of Lisieux said, as we may read in her autobiography, “Even if I had on my conscience all the sins that could be committed, I should lose none of my trustfulness. With my heart broken in repentance, I should go and throw myself into my Saviour’s arms… I know that I may count upon His love and His mercy.” Let us pray to the Saint that we too may share in her confidence. “The voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the just” (Ps 142:15).

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, S.J., The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL (Mt 5:7) – HOW MERCIFUL DO WE NEED TO BE?

Blessed are the merciful

“You probably would feel quite offended if someone were to describe you as a cruel person. Yet, can you truthfully say that you never have caused unnecessary pain to another? You never have harshly criticised another, humiliated another or made cutting remarks to another? If you can answer, ‘Never’ (or even ‘Seldom’) to all such questions, then you are indeed close to the heart of Christ. ‘Blessed are the merciful,’ He has said, ‘for they shall obtain mercy.’

Vigilance, lest power corrupt in us the spirit of mercy

Few of us are so accomplished in this matter of mercy that we can afford to assume that we are included in our Lord’s blessing. Those of us who are in any position of authority, such as employers, supervisors, officials, teachers and religious superiors, have particular need to be vigilant lest power corrupt in us the spirit of mercy. It is so easy to be caustic towards those who cannot strike back.

Having others ‘at our mercy’

Failure in mercy is not confined, of course, to persons explicitly in positions of authority. There are many ways of having others ‘at our mercy’. We have the upper hand, for example, any time we enter a store or a restaurant. Since the customer is always right, clerks, waiters and managers must bear with our discourtesies in silent helplessness.

Often we inflict the deepest pain upon those we love

Often we inflict the deepest pain upon those who are bound to us by love. A husband snarls at his wife or a wife screams at her husband. Sometimes parents excoriate their children out of all proportion, making a capital offence of what is, at worst, a minor misdemeanor.

Venting our anger on the next best person

More often than not, the reason why we are grumpy or snappish toward another is because we have bottled-up feelings of resentment or frustration which press for ventilation. A teacher who has just been reprimanded by his principal, for example, will land like a charge of dynamite on the first pupil who steps out of line in the least degree. Nine-tenths of our temper explosions really do not belong at all to the hapless person who is rocked by our anger. Our victim simply happens to be the nearest and most defenceless object upon whom we can discharge our emotional pressure.

Reacting savagely to minor annoyances

Sometimes it is nervous fatigue or physical distress (such as a headache) which causes us to react savagely to minor annoyances. Like a sick animal, we growl and bare our teeth at anyone, however innocent, who happens to cross our path.

A gentleman never gives pain

Cardinal Newman has described a gentleman as one who never gives pain. A gentleman bears his own inner hurts and tensions with fortitude and does not visit them upon others. It is an infallible sign of a small mind and a weak character when a person is discourteous toward those over whom he has some advantage.

There are times, of course, when a person in authority must administer an admonition or a rebuke. Yet, even this can be done with gentleness and tact. It is so much better to say, ‘You are doing a fine job, George, but there is one small thing which I feel I should call to your attention,’ than to shout, ‘You stupid fool! See what you’ve done!’…

Our Lord Jesus singled out the virtue of mercifulness for special attention

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ It is no wonder that Jesus singled out the virtue of mercifulness for such special attention. This is the one virtue above all others which characterises Himself. His patience, His allowance for human weakness, His compassion, His quickness to forgive – all combine to give us confidence as we pray to Him, ‘Lord, have mercy!’

The people whose lives touch ours have enough suffering already. It is inexcusable if we add to their hurt by our discourtesy, ill-temper and vindictiveness. If we cannot be gentle, patient and forgiving toward one another, then Jesus has a right to ask, ‘What price My crucifixion? Was it, then, all in vain?'”

– Fr Leo J. Trese, One Step Enough

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Words of Wisdom

 

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DISTRACTIONS DURING PRAYER? HOW TO MORTIFY NOT JUST THE FLESH, BUT THE BRAIN AS WELL

How to stay joyful and serene when things ‘go wrong’

“To preserve our cheerfulness amid sicknesses and troubles is a sign of a right and and good spirit.

A man should not ask tribulations of God, presuming on his being able to bear them: there should be the greatest possible caution in this matter, for he who bears what God sends him daily does not do a small thing.

They who have been exercised in the service of God for a long time, may in their prayers imagine all sorts of insults offered to them, such as blows, wounds, and the like, and so in order to imitate Christ by their charity, may accustom their hearts beforehand to forgive real injuries when they come.

Let us think of Mary, for she that unspeakable Virgin, that glorious Lady, who conceived and brought forth, without detriment to her virginity, him whom the width of the heavens cannot contain within itself.

The true servant of God acknowledges no country but heaven.

When God infuses extraordinary sweetnesses into the soul, a man ought to prepare for some serious tribulation or temptation. When we have these extraordinary sweetnesses, we ought to ask of God fortitude to bear whatever he may please to send us, and then to stand very much upon our guard, because there is danger of sin behind.

One of the most excellent means of obtaining perseverance is discretion; we must not wish to do everything at once, or become a saint in four days…

A man should not so attach himself to the means as to forget the end; neither must we give ourselves so much to mortify the flesh as to forget to mortify the brain, which is the chief thing after all.”

– St Philip Neri

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Words of Wisdom

 

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TODAY’S GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 18:21-19:1)

(Week 19 of the year: Thursday)

DO NOT FORGIVE SEVEN TIMES, I TELL YOU, BUT SEVENTY-SEVEN TIMES.

Peter went up to Jesus and said, “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?” Jesus answered, “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

“And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. ‘Give me time,’ he said, ‘and I will pay the whole sum.’ And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt.

“Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. ‘Pay what you owe me,’ he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, ‘Give me time and I will pay you.’ But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?’ And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”

Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and he left Galilee and came into the part of Judaea which is on the far side of the Jordan.

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 
 

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THE MYSTERY OF THE SUFFERING MESSIAH

JESUS ‘STRICTLY CHARGED HIS DISCIPLES TO TELL NO ONE THAT HE WAS JESUS THE CHRIST’ (Mt 16:20) – WHY?

“Peter had acknowledged openly that Jesus is the Christ [Mt 16:15-19], the Messias. Immediately after this acknowledgement Jesus promised to make Peter the rock on which He would found His kingdom. This remarkable series of events must have brought great joy to the disciples of Jesus. Now at last they knew: Jesus was the long-awaited Messias, the Christ who would rescue His people; Jesus was the Christ Who would establish the kingdom of God on earth, and He had already chosen Peter to be the foundation stone of that kingdom. Surely they must have thought the Kingdom of God is at last at hand; this is the moment when God will begin to bring to pass the triumph of His people in the world.

WHY THIS SECRECY?

But at this moment, when they were confidently expecting Jesus to prepare His triumph as the Christ, He ‘strictly charged his disciples to tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ’ (Matthew 16:20). But why this secrecy? If Jesus is the Christ, why not publish this news abroad as swiftly as possible, from village to village, from town to city, from the plains to the mountain-tops? The sooner God’s Chosen People knew the Christ was come, the sooner would they rally to His banner and expel the hated Roman legions which kept them in subjection.

GOD’S PLAN, AND NOT OF HUMAN DEVISING

The reason which Jesus gave for secrecy must have mystified the disciples even more.

‘The Son of Man,’ He told them, ‘must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and Scribes, and be put to death, and on the third day rise again’ (Luke 9:22).

Could the Messias sent by God to establish the triumph of His people be rejected by the chief spiritual leaders of the people? If the Christ is to suffer and die, where then is His triumph? Jesus, it is true, also said that He would rise from death on the third day, and if that were true, no doubt His resurrection would be a triumphant vindication of His message to men. But such a resurrection was in itself a mysterious thing and, besides, Jesus did not enlighten them at once on the meaning of His resurrection. Peter with his usual impetuousness refused to accept the idea that the Christ would suffer and die.

‘Far be it from thee, O Lord,’ he said, ‘this will never happen to thee’ (Matthew 16:22).

If he had known or been able to recall the mysterious words of Isaias [Isaiah] about the Suffering Servant of Jahweh, if he had the spiritual insight necessary to identify the glorious King-Messias with the Suffering Servant, he might not have been so impetuous. But his mind was still filled with dreams of the glory of the Messias and he could not reconcile this picture of suffering, rejection and death with his dreams. Jesus, however, rebuked him in strong terms:

‘Get behind me, satan, thou art a scandal to me; for thou dost not mind the things of God, but those of men’ (Matthew 16:23).

In God’s plan, mysterious though it may be, the triumphant Christ must also be a rejected, suffering Christ. Peter, preoccupied with visions of an earthly triumph, did not see the depths of the divine plan. The stern rebuke of Jesus reminds him that the plan is God’s and not of human devising.

‘LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS, AND FOLLOW ME’ (Mk 8:34)

Turning from Peter to the rest of His disciples and the crowd, Jesus tells them that all men must follow Him in His suffering if they would be saved. ‘If anyone wishes to come after me,’ He says, ‘let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me’ (Mark 8:34). Of what value are earthly glories in comparison with the salvation of one’s own soul? ‘For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?’ (Mark 8:36). A man must be prepared to lose his earthly life for the sake of Jesus and the gospel of salvation which He brings to men. If he is ashamed of a suffering Messias, ashamed of the words of Jesus, when Jesus returns as the Son of Man to judge all men then Jesus will be ashamed of him. Lest this reference to the last judgement by the Son of Man seem too remote to a people so accustomed to expect a glorious Messias, Jesus goes on to say, ‘Amen I say to you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death, till they have seen the kingdom of God coming in power’ (Mark 8:39). In these words Jesus foretold what later came to pass, that within thirty or forty years His kingdom had been established throughout the Roman Empire; not a worldly Kingdom, but the Kingdom of God in the hearts of those who had accepted Jesus as the Christ.

THE TRANSFIGURATION

Peter and the disciples did not understand the words of Jesus, but they remained with Him. Six days later Jesus took three of His Apostles, Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There, perhaps to reassure their faith in Him, He allowed His glory to be manifested to them. His face became radiant and His garments began to shine, white as snow. Then Elias [Elijah] and Moses appeared there and began to talk with Him about His suffering and death at Jerusalem.

‘THIS IS MY BELOVED SON…’ (Mt 17:5)

Now Jesus had already told the Jews that Moses had spoken of Him, and the Jews were expecting Elias to come as the forerunner of the Christ. Their appearance here, then, on the occasion of the transfiguration of Jesus was a sign from heaven that Jesus was the expected Messias. Peter, not quite knowing what he was doing but anxious to keep these heavenly visitors here with the Christ, said,

‘If thou wilt, let us set up three tents here, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias’ (Matthew 17:4).

But just then a radiant cloud enveloped them all in its midst, and they heard the voice of God from heaven saying to them,

‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him’ (Matthew 17:5).

And looking round they saw no one but Jesus.

THE SIGNIFICANCE

The transfiguration of Jesus on the mountaintop could have been pregnant with meaning for the Apostles. They had accepted Jesus as the Christ, and there on the mountain in the radiant countenance and garments of Jesus they had been allowed to see the glory of the Christ. Moreover, Moses and Elias, two great prophets and heroes of their people, had come to give testimony to the identity of Jesus as the Christ. But the mystery of Jesus still remained, for though He appeared to them in glory, still Moses and Elias spoke to Him of His approaching suffering and death. How could glory and humiliation be reconciled?

And what about Elias? Was he not to be the forerunner of the Christ? Why then did he leave? Why were they asked to listen only to Jesus, God’s beloved Son? Filled with a sense of awe, but still wondering, they asked Jesus about Elias. Jesus replied to them that Elias had already come in the person of John the Baptist. Elias would not come in person; he was only the prototype of John the Baptist. And the Baptist had already been put to death for preaching the gospel of repentance. So also would Jesus, the Son of Man, be put to death.

MANIFESTATION OF DIVINE POWER

On the following day, after they had come down from the mountain, the crowd brought to Jesus a boy who was possessed by a devil. Apparently the father of the boy had asked the disciples of Jesus to expel the demon. But they had failed to do so. Jesus spoke to the father of the boy, saying,

‘If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him who believes’ (Mark 9:22).

The father cried out, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:23). Thereupon Jesus rebuked the devil and left the boy.

The disciples, who had been unsuccessful in their attempt to relieve the boy, asked Jesus why they had not been able to expel the demon. Jesus told them that it was due to their lack of faith and to the fact that this demon could be cast out only by prayer and fasting.

This further manifestation of divine power must have strengthened the faith of the disciples in Jesus. But Jesus, for His part, cautioned His disciples once again that He must suffer and die and rise again on the third day. But they, believing in Him as they did and faced with these displays of His power, did not understand what He meant.

THE GREATEST IN HIS KINGDOM

Following this miracle Jesus went with His disciples to a house in Capharnaum where He continued instructing them in the nature of His kingdom. While on their way there the disciples had been discussing with one another which of them was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Their discussion of this topic shows that they were still thinking of the kingdom of Jesus as a worldly kingdom. Jesus had already said that He would make Simon Peter the rock of His kingdom [Mt 16:17-19]. Perhaps some of the other Apostles were wondering why he should have been chosen for this honour in preference to someone else. Certainly they were all wondering what position each should occupy.

Jesus took this occasion to teach them that humility would be one of the characteristics of the members of His kingdom. Taking a little child into His arms, He said to them,

‘Unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever, therefore, humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such little child for my sake, receives me’ (Matthew 18:3-5).

HUMILITY IS ONE OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MEMBERS OF CHRIST’S KINGDOM

The lesson is given affectionately buy clearly. In the kingdom of Christ the Apostles must be like little children, not priding themselves on position or power, but humbly serving others, ready to see the Christ Himself in all the ‘little’ ones of the world and receiving in love all the ‘little’ ones of the earth as if they were Christ Himself.

‘DO NOT FORBID HIM’

John, still remembering that Jesus had just cast a devil out of a boy, interrupted and said: ‘Master, we saw a man casting out devils in thy name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us’ (Luke 9:49).

Jesus replied, ‘Do not forbid him, because there is no one who shall work a miracle in my name, and forthwith be able to speak ill of me. For he who is not against you is for you’ (Mark 9:38-39).

In these words Jesus taught the Apostles the lesson of tolerance. Even though a man might not yet be a member of the kingdom, following openly after Christ and Peter as did the other disciples, if he had enough faith to invoke the name of Jesus to work miracles, he was already on the right road; he would not speak evil of the Christ.

‘FLEE FROM SIN’

After this reply to John Jesus went on to speak of the evils of scandal. Those who give scandal, that is, those who by their words or actions lead others into sin, will be severely punished; it were better for such a one ‘if a great millstone were hung about his neck, and he were thrown into the sea’ (Mark 9:41).

As for the disciples themselves, they must flee from scandal in the actions of others. If they would enter into everlasting life with God, they must flee from sin. On this point the language of Jesus is very strong. If a hand or a foot or an eye should be to them an occasion of sin, He tells them, they must rather cut it off or pluck it out, rather than fall into sin. It is better to enter into life with God maimed or blind rather than to descend into the everlasting fires of hell.

THE SON OF MAN HAS COME INTO THIS WORLD TO SAVE ALL MEN FROM SIN

This thought of the final end of man, either heaven or hell, leads Jesus to emphasise once again the nature of His mission. He has come into this world to save what was lost, that is, all mankind. Speaking again of the ‘little’ ones of the world, He says,

‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you, their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father in heaven. For the Son of Man came to save what is lost. What do you think? If a man have hundred sheep, and one of them stray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the mountains, and go in search of the one that has strayed? And if he happens to find it, amen I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that a single one of these little ones should perish’ (Matthew 13:10-14).

The Son of Man has come into this world to save all men from sin.

THE POWER TO FORGIVE SIN

This in turn leads Jesus on to the thought of the forgiveness of sin. He has already claimed to have the power to forgive sin. If any of your brethren sin, He tells His Apostles, go to him and try to correct him. If he will not listen, then take one or two more with you and try again. If he still will not listen, let the Church speak to him; and if he will not hear the Church, then let him be put out of the Church. Then Jesus speaks the words which give to all His Apostles the power to forgive sin, ‘Amen I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven’ (Matthew 18:18).

In this way Jesus gives to the other Apostles a share in the power which He has already promised to Peter.

The power to forgive sin is a tremendous power indeed, but Jesus goes on to say that the prayer of His kingdom or Church will be able to accomplish anything.

‘I say to you further, that if two of you shall agree on earth about anything at all for which they ask, it shall be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together for my sake, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:19-20). Though Jesus speaks only of two or three, He means by those words to speak of His Church. For He is speaking in the context of His discourses to His Apostles on the nature of His kingdom. In that kingdom or Church, of which Peter is to be the head, and in which all the Apostles will possess the power to forgive sins, then whenever the members are gathered together in the name and for the sake of Christ, God in heaven will hear their prayers. The prayer of the Church, that is, of all those who profess allegiance to the Christ under Peter and the Apostles, will be all powerful.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD THEY FORGIVE SOMEBODY THEIR SINS?

Peter, meanwhile, had been intrigued by the question of the forgiveness of sin. How often, he was wondering, should they forgive a man his sins. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Clearly to Peter seven was an upper limit to the forgiveness of sins. But Jesus replied that he must forgive his brother even to seventy times seven, thus intimating that God placed no upper limit on the forgiveness of sins; a man was to be forgiven as often as he would listen to the Church and repent of his sins.

THE PARABLE OF THE UNMERCIFUL SERVANT

To enforce this point Jesus then told the parable of the unmerciful servant. The kingdom of heaven, He said, is like a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. It was discovered that one of his servants, that is, one of his more important ministers, had defrauded him of ten thousand talents, that is, over several million dollars. Since he had not enough money to pay back this enormous debt, the king ordered him, his wife and children to be sold as payment. The minister begged for mercy, and the king not only released him but forgave him the debt. Sin is as enormous in its moral guilt as the sum stolen by the king’s minister was financially great. But God forgives sin as generously as the king forgave his servant.

But the parable does not end here. Jesus goes on to say that the servant who had been forgiven went out and found another servant who owed him an insignificant amount of money. Instead of extending to his fellow servant the kind mercy he has himself received from the king, the unmerciful servant had him thrown into prison until the debt was paid. On hearing of this ungenerous act the king then handed the first servant over to the torturers until the debt was paid. Sternly Jesus points out the lesson: ‘So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if you do not forgive your brothers from your heart’ (Matthew 18:25). As God’s mercy and generosity to sinners is infinite, so also the mercy of His Church must be infinite.

THE MERCY OF GOD’S CHURCH MUST BE INFINITE

If we couple this point with the injunction of Jesus to cast out of the Church the unrepentant sinner, the meaning becomes clear. In the kingdom of heaven, in the Church of the Christ, no one is to be a scandal, a cause of sin to another; no one is to be scandalised, that is, led into sin by another; all must avoid sin to save their souls and enter life everlasting. But if anyone sin, then he must repent; if he repents, the mercy of God is infinite. But if he will not repent, he must be cast out so that his sinfulness will not be a scandal to others. This does not mean that the unrepentant one may never be forgiven. It does mean that he cannot be forgiven or readmitted until he has repented.

JESUS HAD EMPHASISED THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF HIS KINGDOM

In these discourses with His Apostes Jesus had emphasised the spiritual nature of His kingdom. The goal of His kingdom is entrance into the everlasting life of God. To enter the kingdom men must accept Jesus as the Christ, the Messias, the beloved Son of God. They must believe His words. They must believe in His glory, but they must also believe in His suffering and death and in His resurrection. They must accept the mystery of a Messias Who is both triumphant and humiliated. To remain in His kingdom they must avoid all sin. Peter will be the ruler, the key-bearer of the kingdom, but the Apostles will share in his power under him. Especially will they be able to forgive the sins of men, thus admitting them or, as the case may be, re-admitting them to the Kingdom of God.

THEIR FAITH IN HIM PERSEVERED

The Apostles did not comprehend the full meaning of all that Jesus told them. They were still in need of further instruction from Him. In fact they would not reconcile their dream of a triumphant Christ with Jesus’ prophecy of the suffering Christ until after Jesus had suffered and died. But for the moment their faith in Him persevered and so they continued to follow Him, in darkness, it is true, but still in hope.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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“THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES TO MEET US AND KINDLES FAITH IN US”

“On … Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, let us prayerfully reflect on some of the words contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Holy Spirit.

‘The HOLY SPIRIT comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son.’ (Section 683).

‘The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the plan for our salvation. But in these ‘end times’, ushered in by the Son’s redeeming Incarnation, the Spirit is revealed and given, recognised and welcomed in a person. Now can this divine plan, accomplished in Christ, the firstborn and head of the new creation, be embodied in mankind by the outpouring of the Spirit: as the Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.’ (section 686)

The Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles which she transmits, is the place where we know the Holy Spirit:

• In the Scripture he inspired;

• In the Tradition, to which the Church Fathers are already witnesses;

• In the Church’s Magisterium, which he assists;

• In the sacramental liturgy, through its words and symbols, in which the Holy Spirit puts us in communion with Christ;

• In prayer, wherein he intercedes for us;

• In the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up;

• In the signs of apostolic and missionary life;

• In the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation (section 688).”
– From “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris” (June 2014)

 

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