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FROM ALL ETERNITY GOD HAS PREPARED HIMSELF TO BE WITH ME NOW

God’s eye is upon me

“We are extremely unfortunate if we lack sensitivity to the intimate and active presence of God in our life. A great amount of unnecessary anxiety can afflict us if we fail to avert to the personal interest which God has in each one of us, and to the directive influence which God exerts upon us.

We have free will, but we are wise to take note of God’s directive influence

The extent to which God can participate in our lives must largely depend, of course, upon the willingness with which we submit to His guidance. Ordinarily God will respect the free will with which He has endowed us. He will nudge us often, but seldom push.

However, a person who honestly does wish and try to do God’s will, can be confident that he always is on safe ground. He always is headed in the right direction.

Always facing the right direction

A mistake which we sometimes make is to assume that God’s infinite greatness puts Him at a remote distance from ourselves. We tend to think of God much as a worker on the assembly line might think of the president of a great corporation – a far-off person whose responsibilities are too weighty to allow him to get involved in the personal problems of individual workers.

In theory we believe that God loves us and watches over us, but in practice we are not thoroughly convinced that God is totally absorbed (as He really is) in our own petty affairs.

Does God’s infinity make Him remote from me?

Oh, yes, God wants me in heaven and He will parcel out a generous portion of grace to me – whatever that may mean. But that God should keep a minute-to-minute vigil over me, disposing circumstances and events for my greatest good… well, do I really believe that? Do I live by that conviction?

God’s infinity does not make Him remote from me. Quite the contrary. It is precisely because He is infinite that God can concentrate His total attention upon each of us individually. Numbers mean nothing to God. One or a billion, it is all the same to Him.

Numbers mean nothing to God

Neither does the size of a task mean anything to Him. God may have initiated a whole chain of events, a hundred years ago, for the sole purpose of conferring some minor benefit upon me today. He could do so with absolutely no effort.

God is with us every step along the way

Factually, what happens to me today has been planned by God from all eternity. God does not change His procedures from day to day. His plan for the universe, from beginning to end, is as everlasting as God Himself. From all eternity He has taken into account the action and reaction, the cooperation and the resistance of each human will. From all eternity God has evaluated our prayers and our strivings, our obstacles and our handicaps. From all eternity God has prepared Himself to be with me right now in this present need of time.

Right now, in this present need of time

A favourite gadget encountered in science-fiction literature is the ‘time machine’. This imaginary device enables a person to move backward and forward through time; to drop in casually on the Rome of Julius Caesar, or to move forward at will into the twenty-fifth century.

Truth is stranger than fiction

Truth is stranger than fiction. We possess the power to reach all the way back into eternity. The prayers we offer today, the decisions and efforts we make today, extend back through the whole expanse of time to influence God’s eternal creative decrees. The choice I make at this moment had to be noted by God and His own plan adjusted accordingly, from all eternity.

We cannot speak of past or present with respect to God

To be strictly accurate, of course, we cannot speak of past or present with respect to God. With Him there is no past or present, only the eternal NOW. God surrounds time and contains time, even as a clock’s case contains the works. But we have to speak of God in human terms. There is no other way.

Of this we can be certain

Of this we can be certain: As long as we are trying, with reasonable diligence, to do our duty as we see it, God is working along with us. He ‘sticks His finger in’ far more often than we realise. He prepares the way for us, steers us around traps, compensates for our unavoidable ignorance and corrects for our honest mistakes. Except for sin, we never are completely on our own.

Except for sin, we are never on our own

However erratic and at times discouraging our course through life may seem to be, God is ‘gentling’ us onward to our own ultimate good.”

– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966, One Step Enough

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2015 in Words of Wisdom

 

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NO! GOD EXCLUDES NO ONE FROM SALVATION!

GOD DESIRES THE SALVATION OF ALL MEN.

“No! God excludes no one from salvation! There is no one, whom He does not sincerely wish to lead to heaven, no one whom He does not grieve to see rushing to eternal ruin.

Truly, it was an execrable blasphemy to attribute to God the intention of damning a certain number of His creatures, and crediting Him, in consequence with all kinds of manoeuvres to circumvent these poor victims, so that, constrained to do evil, they should be driven to hurl themselves into hell, for which God had created them from all eternity.

Frightful, desolating blasphemy, which the Church hastened to condemn in the most formal and rigorous manner!

Has not God Himself said, with regard to all sinners, of every class: ‘I desire not the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live?’ And does Jesus Christ exclude anyone from receiving and responding to this invitation, ‘Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you?'”
– Laverty & Sons (eds), 1905

 

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“THE HISTORY OF MAN ON EARTH IS THE STORY OF GOD’S SEARCH FOR MAN AND MAN’S SEARCH FOR GOD”

THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF FREE WILL

“If there is any point to our story it is this: Man was made for God, man the individual and man the social being. The history of man on earth is the story of God’s search for man and man’s search for God. It is a story of struggle and of conflict. This is because God in His generosity gave man the precious gift of free will. He sought man’s love, but He wanted it to be given to Him freely. Unfortunately for man, under the influence of Satan, a fallen and angelic spirit, man forsook God for God’s creature, the world. This deriliction from God caused man to fall from the high order of nature and grace in which God had established him, to fall victim to his natural ties to the world of space and time in which God had placed him. Like the man who cannot see the forest for trees, fallen man is more prone to see the infinite variety of the goods and pleasures of the created world than he is to see the great and good God Who has made the world for man and for himself.

ONCE THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE ONE TRUE GOD HAD ALMOST VANISHED FROM THE MIND OF MAN

In the course of centuries (how many we shall probably never learn in this present world) the knowledge of the one true God almost vanished from the mind of man. Men debased such gods as they worshipped to the likeness of the world or of themselves. So they worshipped the sun or the stars, lions, bulls or wolves, or gods made in the likeness of man, adulterous gods like Jupiter, lying and thieving gods like Mercury, gods voracious of human sacrifice like the Baalim of Canaan or the gods of the Aztecs.

TO PREPARE THE WORLD FOR HIS SON, THE REDEEMER, GOD BUILT UP TO HIMSELF A CHOSEN PEOPLE

But though man might desert God, God would not desert man. In the fullness of time He sent His own Son to redeem man from ignorance and iniquity. To prepare the world for His Son He built up to Himself a Chosen People among whom His Son would appear. From Abraham to Malachias [Malachi] God progressively revealed Himself and His intentions for mankind to His Chosen People. His message was not always received with generosity and understanding. But His Chosen People did come to accept Him for what He was, the one true God. By their dispersion among the peoples of the Middle East and the Roman Empire they helped to prepare the world for the coming of God’s own Son. In due time God’s Son became man and entered human history as Jesus the Christ. To save men from ignorance and error, to introduce them to the inner mysteries of God’s own Being and God’s loving intentions for mankind, Jesus revealed to the world the great doctrines of the Trinity of Persons in the one God and the Incarnation of the Second Person (Himself) for the redemption of men. His whole doctrine, as well as the treasury of divine grace which He won for men by the sacrifice of Himself on the Cross as an expiation for the sins of all men, He bequeathed to His kingdom, His Church. Since that time He works in the world in and through His Church, which is His Body, one with Him in the grace of God, for the building up of the final Kingdom of God which shall exist for all eternity. The kingdom will consist of all those who have received and retained the grace of God given them through and by Jesus.

THE POWERS OF HUMAN DISCERNMENT ARE RESTRICTED

It is the task of historians, the artists or scientists of human history to seek the causes of human history. But their powers of discernment are restricted to the proximate causes of human history. At best they can perceive only the human and sub-human factors which direct or influence the course of history. So is it that historians will tell us that families or nations or empires, civilisations and cultures, are born, grow and decline because of the ambitions of individuals or families or nations, because of the accidental talents of great men, because geography, climate or economic factors overwhelm a people or spur them on to great achievements. In these days of Freudianism and depth psychology they may even tell us that civilisations grow, flower or decline because of the neuroses and psychoses, inherited or acquired, of their great men or people.

NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

Now it cannot be denied that historians have a founded right to seek out these possible proximate causes of human history, and to some extent – how great only subsequent history and historians may be able to tell – to describe the causes underlying the particular achievements or failures of human cultures and civilisations. But to the extent – and this is important, indeed – that the tools they employ, human reason, language, science and natural philosophy, cannot make them aware of the great designs of God which truly underlie all history, they cannot describe for us the ultimate cause of history. For true history – history in the sense of the true meaning of human existence, the true plan or plot which is being woven throughout the existence of this human race – not merely a story of man’s natural achievements and failures since he came to exist here on earth.

‘GOING AROUND IN CIRCLES’?

If man’s story were merely the story of purely natural human achievement, then perhaps those men were right in the pagan world of Greece and Rome who thought that everything happened by necessity, and that everything repeated itself, whole civilisations coming into being, flourishing, dying and then later coming into existence again and repeating everything all over. Or perhaps the modern atheistic existentialists are right when they say that human nature has no meaning at all, no true history, for there is no end to the story, and man is doomed to struggle for as long as the race lasts with no hope of achieving any real destiny.

IN THE ‘SCIENTIFIC’, PESSIMISTIC VIEW MAN IS DOOMED FOREVER TO THE RECURRING MONOTONY OF ENLESS REPETITION, TO MEANINGLESS FRUSTRATION

In the old pagan view of cosmic renewals man was held prisoner in the recurring cycles of history, doomed to the recurring monotony of endless repetition. In the modern pessimistic view man is doomed forever to meaningless frustration. But it is one of the functions of Jesus the Christ, the Revealer of God to man, in fact God incarnate or revealed to man, to save mankind from intellectual or emotional errors of this kind. For as Jesus has told the world, God became man in order that men might truly become as God. Deceived by the devil, Adam and Eve sought to become godlike by their own efforts, without God’s assistance. Because of this presumption they lost the divine grace which alone made them truly godlike. But in Christ Jesus this grace is restored to men; in Christ Jesus men can again become like God. This is one of the inner meanings of the message of Jesus. Through grace men can escape from cyclic repetitions, from eternal frustration, from the limitations of time and space. Through grace men can come to participate in the very eternity of God Himself. In this way not only can individuals have a true meaningful history in that there is a true end to their story but all men, as a social unit, in the Mystical Body of Christ, His Church, can have a true end, a true destiny, a final destiny independent of time in the eternity of God. God, Who is eternal, in Christ has entered the world of time, so that man, who is by nature a creature of time, may enter eternity and find therein his true meaning.

JESUS CHRIST ALSO CAME TO SAVE MANKIND FROM INTELLECTUAL ERRORS

At death each man enters eternity. If he has rejected God through his own free will, he enters the false eternity of hell. If he has accepted God, he enters the true eternity of God. At the end of this world all mankind will have entered eternity: the false eternity of hell or the true eternity of the final Kingdom of God. As Jesus Himself has told us, at the end He as the Judge of all mankind will separate the good from the wicked. The wicked will be condemned forever to the pains of hell which was created for the devils. The good will enter the kingdom, the heaven which God created for those who freely love Him.

OVERCOMING THE RAMIFICATIONS OF TIME IN THIS LIFE

What hell and heaven may be we know only in part. Like all real endings to unfinished stories their true dimensions can only be surmised in the tantalising phrases, ‘They lived miserably ever after,’ or ‘They lived happily ever after.’

But thanks to the revelations of Jesus, a few aspects of these ultimate endings are known. Hell is the false ending to the story of man; heaven is the true ending. Now it might well be asked how any story could have a false ending or two endings, one false and one true. A literary critic judging a romance or a novel might well say that the novel had a false ending. He would mean that the author gave his story an ending which was not in accord with the nature and character of the people in the story, or an ending which did not flow from the conjunction of the people involved and the circumstances in which they found themselves. For such a critic the true ending of a story would be one which flowed either naturally or necessarily (or both) from the characters in the story and the circumstances of their lives. The true ending, he would say, is inevitable; neither the author nor the characters he creates can escape this inevitable ending.

GOD INTENDS ALL MEN TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

When we speak, then, of a true and a false ending to the story of mankind we are not using. These terms in precisely the same way as the literary critic. By a false ending to the story of man we mean an ending which God, the principal author of the stry, did not primarily intend. God intended all men to enter the kingdom of heaven. But, as the story turns out, some do not; they enter instead the eternal frustration of hell. To the extent that hell represents their own free rejection of God, it is the true, the inevitable end to their story. But since it is opposed to God’s original intention, it is also a false end to their story. On the other hand, the true end to God’s story is the kingdom of heaven. Heaven, from this point of view, represents man’s free loving acceptance of the love of God, and so it is truly the end of the story.

HELL REPRESENTS MAN’S OWN FREE REJECTION OF GOD; HEAVEN REPRESENTS MAN’S FREE LOVING ACCEPTANCE OF THE LOVE OF GOD

Now the story of mankind has two endings, one wholly true and one false, for a very important reason. It is this: the main line of the story is not one of necessity, of inevitability, but one of freedom. This is one of the great inspiring meanings of the Incarnation, the coming of God to the human race in the Person of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate among men. God, by His decision to create man, freely chose to write the story of mankind. By His decision to create man free, He freely chose to make man co-author of the story. Because man is basically free, the working out of the story is not governed by absolute necessity. God would prefer that all men should find their happy ending in the kingdom of heaven. But through their freedom men are also the co-authors of the story, and therefore, as God Himself foreknew and has told us, there will be two endings to the story, heaven and hell, the heaven which He has freely willed for all men, and the hell which some men will freely choose as their own ending.

THE STORY OF MANKIND IS BASICALLY A STORY OF FREEDOM AND THE USE OF FREEDOM

The story of mankind is basically a story of freedom and the use of freedom: the freedom which God used to create man free; the freedom which the devil used to induce man to desert God; the freedom which man used to choose or reject God; the freedom which Adam used to reject God for himself and the whole race of man; the freedom which God used to become man in order to induce man to return to Him; the freedom which men have used, are using or will use to work out the remainder of the story.

BECAUSE MAN IS FALLEN, MAN IS INCLINED TO ALLOW HIS SPIRIT TO BE FETTERED BY THE NECESSITIES OF MATTER, SPACE AND TIME

To say that freedom is the basic cause of human history is not to deny all value to those proximate causes which the historians patiently discover in the texture and pattern of human historical existence. It is true that geographic and climatic factors, that psychological and economic factors, influence the course of human events. It may even be true that in some cases these factors may prevent the proper use of human freedom and men may find themselves carried along almost helplessly by the stream of events.

If human civilisations and cultures seem to rise and fall according to some natural and inevitable rule or law of human behaviour; if, for example, as some say, civilisations rise because men are faced with a challenge to survive, and decline because in their prosperity they no longer have a real challenge and so grow weak, this is not because man is not free, but because free man is subject to the limitations of matter, of time and of space. Though his spirit, his soul, is free, it is still a spirit immersed in the world of matter, time and space. And, because he is fallen, man is inclined to allow his spirit to be fettered in its essential freedom by the necessities of matter, time and space.

MAN CAN USE HIS FREEDOM TO ESCAPE THE NECESSITIES OF MATTER, TIME AND SPACE

But, as Jesus has told us, man is still free, and he can use his freedom to escape the necessities of matter, time and space. His story is not limited to the horizons of time and space. In and by his free spirit man can transcend the physical necessities of time and space and reach the untrammelled freedom of the Kingdom of God. It is true that at times the natural currents of human history, currents caused by economic, geographical or natural psychological factors, may seem to swamp man’s freedom. But this is true only in appearance. If men are swept along by such currents it is because they weakly choose to be swept along. If they would, they could freely choose to stand against the current. This is what the Christian martyrs did; this is what all true followers of Christ can do.

MAN CAN RISE TO THE EXERCISE OF TRUE FREEDOM ONLY WITH THE AID OF GOD’S GRACE

But it is important to remember that man is fallen. His freedom is hampered by his fall, by his immersion in the inexorable flow of matter in time and space. He can rise to the exercise of true freedom only with the aid of God’s grace. But Jesus has won man this grace by His death on the Cross. It is for man to accept this grace freely, to use it freely to achieve the true ending of his story.

IT IS ETERNITY WHICH FINALLY GIVES MEANING TO TIME

Thus far in this chapter we have been speaking of the final end of man’s history, that final end which gives point and meaning to human history. Though man is a creature of time and space, the ending of his story is in eternity. Thus it is eternity which finally gives meaning to time.

‘HOW WILL IT ALL END?’

But there is another meaning to the word ‘end’ as applied to human history. By the ‘end’ of man’s story we may also mean its end, not in eternity but its end in time. And so, with the curiosity which lurks in every reader of or listener to a story, we may ask, ‘How will it all end?’ By this question we mean to ask such things as, ‘When will it end? How long has it to go? What events will mark its close?’

‘GENERAL OUTLINES, BUT NOT THE COMPLETE BLUEPRINT’

God Himself, when He spoke to men, knew that men would be naturally curious about this end of the story. He has told us something, but not all. He has given us general outlines, but not the complete blueprint.

The disciples of Jesus asked Him: ‘What shall be the sign of thy (final) coming and of the consummation of the world?’ (Matthew 24:3)

Jesus told them that the end of the world would be preceded by wars among the nations, by pestilences, famines and earthquakes, by the appearances of false Christs pretending to be Himself, by the general breakdown of morality, by the fact that His Gospel would have been preached to all the nations of the world, by tribulations greater than any from the beginning of the world, by the darkening of the sun and the moon and the falling of the stars from heaven. (Matthew 24:5-29)
SOME PEOPLE CLAIMED TO HAVE SEEN THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE RIDING IN THE SKY

St John the Apostle in his Apocalypse seems to portray the end of the world as coming after a gigantic struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good. Mankind will experience plagues and pestilences, famine and war. For a time the forces arrayed against the Christ will overcome those faithful to Christ. But in the end Christ will triumph.

As was natural, in the course of time since Jesus spoke, men have attempted to determine the time of the end of the world from these foretold signs. Some of the earliest generations of Christians, as we can deduce from some of the things written by St Paul, thought that the world was coming to an end in their time. In the twelfth century Joachim of Flora, on the basis of the Apocalypse, thought that this present world would be replaced by a world of universal love under the Holy Spirit in the year 1260 A.D. From time to time, as mankind is afflicted by wars, famines and pestilences, there are some who pretend to see the fulfilment of the prophecies of Jesus or of St John. During the first great World War some people claimed to have seen the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (supposedly heralds of the end of time) riding in the sky.

‘FOR AS LIGHTNING COMETH OUT OF THE EAST…’

If we take a serious look at the world today, it would be a great temptation to identify our times with the time of the end of the world. We live in a time of wars, either cold or shooting, among the nations of the world. Millions of people are dispossessed and landless, living in destitution and famine. Millions of people have been slaughtered in concentration camps. Atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons threaten mankind with tribulations worse than any which have ever before afflicted mankind. The Gospel has been preached to some extent to all the nations of the world. In over half the earth the members of Christ’s kingdom [have been] marked and persecuted. Certainly this age, as much as any other in the history of mankind, might seem to be the age of the end of the world.

But we must also remember that Jesus told us that no one except His Father knew the day or the hour of the end of the world: ‘But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father’ (Mark 13:32).

This is not to say that the end will not be preceded by the signs which He told us. It means only that no man can know for certain when exactly the end will come. When it does come, as He has said, it will be sudden, ‘For as lightning cometh out of the east and appeareth even unto the west: so shall also the coming of the Son of man be’ (Matthew 24:27).

GOD’S WORDS ARE NEVER IN VAIN

Are then the signs given us by Jesus useless to us? Since He is God His words cannot be in vain. After telling us the signs which shall precede the end of the world and the time of His second coming to judge all men, He tells us, ‘Watch ye therefore, because you know not what hour your Lord will come… I say to all: Watch’ (Matthew 24:42; Mark 13:37).

THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO BE READY AT ANY MOMENT

God has come from eternity into time so that men may go from time to eternity. For each man the moment of his passage is the moment of his death, and this moment he does not know. But this moment will be the end of this present world for him. At every second of his life eternity awaits him, the end of his time. For the whole world eternity waits at each second. At some second, preordained by God, the whole world will come to the end of time. There are signs which will precede this end and man can by these signs surmise when the end might be. But he cannot know for certain that the end is here. But it is not so important to know for certain when this final end of time will be. The imporatant thing, as Jesus has told us, is to be ready at any moment for our own end or for the end of the world: ‘Wherefore be you also ready, because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come’ (Matthew 24:44).

THE ENDING

This surely is a necessary conclusion from the words of Jesus. Throughout time eternity waits for man. Throughout time the love of God, the hatred of the devil and the free wills of men are writing the history of mankind. It is for each man and for all the nations of the world, with God’s grace, to write the true final ending of the story. If men freely reject God, they will write the false ending to their own story. If they freely accept the love of God, they will with God bring their story to its true ending, eternal happiness in the Kingdom of God.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959
(Headings in capitals added afterwards)

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE LAST SUPPER

WHY WAS JESUS CHRIST TO BE ARRESTED AT NIGHT, RATHER THAN IN BROAD DAYLIGHT?

“It was Wednesday, the second day before the Feast of the Passover. The enemies of Jesus were anxious to defeat Him. Having failed to discredit Him, they were now determined to put Him to death. Even though Jesus Himself had refused to accept the role of a political Messias who would lead the people in revolt against the Roman authority, the Pharisees and Scribes were apprehensive that He might stir up such a revolt during the eight days of the Paschal Feast. If He did, then the wrath of Pilate, the Roman Procurator, would direct the power of the Roman soldiery against Jerusalem. To forestall this possibility, they felt, it was necessary to put Jesus to death. But they were also afraid of the people. Many of them had manifested a belief in Jesus. If Jesus was arrested publicly, the people might stir up such a tumult as would induce Pilate to act. How could they take Jesus by stealth?

STABBED IN THE BACK BY ONE OF HIS CLOSEST FRIENDS

Their problem was solved for them by the treachery of Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve Apostles. Each day, after teaching in the Temple, Jesus withdrew at night either to Bethany or to the Mount of Olives. Judas undertook to inform the enemies of His whereabouts, so that they might take Him secretly, without causing any public tumultuous demonstration.

WHAT WAS JUDAS’ REAL MOTIVE OF HIS BETRAYAL?

The action of Judas is the most infamous betrayal in all human history. The opinions of men on the character and action of Judas have varied with their attitude toward Jesus Himself. To some, who reject Jesus as the Messias of God, Judas appears as a follower of the Pharisees. The strength of the Pharisees’ opposition to Jesus finally convinced Judas that Jesus was a seducer of the people, a man who would lead the people away from true Judaism. In betraying Jesus Judas would be doing a service to the people and to God. The nobility and purity of this motive, however, are somewhat discoloured by the willingness of Judas to accept thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

A REVOLUTIONARY?

Others would like to think that the betrayal was simply a stratagem adopted by Judas to force Jesus to manifest His power and inaugurate the political revolution which Judas desired. Since the Apostles, like the people generally, still looked for political liberation, the actions of Judas, in such a case, would be stripped of their sickening appearance. This is not, perhaps, impossible. But once again the avaricious spirit of Judas and his acceptance of money to betray His Master detract also from the sincerity of his motive.

NO DOUBTS ABOUT HIS PART IN THE EVENTS

On the other hand the one thing clear in the Gospel story is that Judas, who was avaricious, did accept money to betray Jesus. St Matthew states that it was Judas who first mentioned money, saying to the chief priests, ‘What are you willing to give me, and I will deliver him to you?’ (Matthew 26:15).

THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE WILL IN HISTORY

Probably, then, Judas was moved to his action both by disappointment at the refusal of Jesus to become a political Messias and by a love of money.
The fall of Judas is, however, a striking instance of God’s way of dealing with men and the importance of free will in history. God knows that Judas will betray his Master. Yet Jesus chooses Judas as one of the favoured twelve Apostles. This means that, at least at the beginning, Judas was a man of some good will. He could have served his Master faithfully. He could have overcome his own greed for money and power. Jesus, the Son of God, gave him the chance to achieve great spiritual glory. But neither Jesus nor His Father in heaven would force Judas to remain faithful. It was for Judas himself to impress upon history his own likeness as a man of great loyalty or a man of ignominious betrayal.

THE EMPTINESS OF HUMAN REBELLION AGAINST THE WILL OF GOD

The betrayal by Judas is also an instance of the emptiness of human rebellion against the will of God. It was not God’s will that Judas should be unfaithful. ‘Woe to that man by whom he will be betrayed’ (Luke 22:22). But yet, the betrayal will be used by God to accomplish His plan for the salvation of mankind. ‘For the Son of Man indeed goes his way, as it has been determined’ (Luke 22:22a).

WHY THURSDAY, NOT FRIDAY?

On the next day, Thursday, Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare for the celebration of the Paschal Feast at Jerusalem. From St John’s Gospel it would appear that the Sadducees were going to celebrate the Paschal Feast on Friday night that year. The intention of Jesus to celebrate it on Thursday night might be explained by the fact that Galileans, present at the feast, would celebrate it on Thursday in order not to defile the Sabbath, which would begin on Friday evening.

THE HISTORY

On Thursday evening Jesus and His disciples entered Jerusalem and went to the upper room of a house (probably the house of a friend of Jesus) to celebrate Passover. Now the Passover meal was a remembrance of the Exodus, God’s deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. It was therefore a joyous feast. The joy of the feast was symbolised by the drinking of four cups of wine and the eating of the Paschal lamb. The feast began with the blessing of the first cup of wine. After this bitter herbs were eaten after being dipped in a sauce composed of nuts, fruit and vinegar. The bitter herbs were a remembrance of the bitter oppression which the Chosen People suffered under the Egyptians. The unleavened bread eaten with the meal was a reminder of the haste with which the Jews had had to depart from Egypt; they had not time to bake leavened bread. The sacrifice of a lamb and the eating of it recalled that the blood of lambs, smeared on the door-posts, had caused the angel of death to ‘pass over’ the houses of the Israelites without bringing death to their firstborn, whereas it had passed through the houses of the Egyptians, bringing death to their firstborn. The entire feast celebrated then the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian oppression and from death.

PASSOVER CEREMONIES

After the eating of the herbs the Paschal lamb was brought to the table and the head of the family recalled to all the participants in the feast the deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. The second cup of wine was then drunk and the lamb was eaten. Then the third cup was drunk and an act of thanksgiving offered to God. This was followed by the drinking of the fourth cup and the singing of the Hallel, which was composed of Psalms CXIII, 8-18, CXIV-CXVII.

THIS WAS NOT SIMPLY AN ORDINARY PASSOVER MEAL

It was at such a Passover meal that Jesus ate with His Apostles for the last time before His death. Yet it was not simply an ordinary Paschal meal, for Jesus was soon to die for men and this last Passover of Jesus on earth was also the beginning of a new sacrifice which would replace the old Passover.

THE DEATH OF JESUS WILL INSTITUTE THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Jesus began the Passover by saying to the Apostles, ‘I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you that I will eat of it no more, until it has been fulfilled in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 22:15-16). Jesus alludes to His own coming suffering and death. The old Paschal sacrifice of a lamb heralded the deliverance of the Chosen People from slavery and death. The passion and death of Jesus will deliver the human race from the slavery of sin and eternal death. The death of Jesus will institute the Kingdom of God.

THE APOSTLES STILL LACKED UNDERSTANDING OF THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Then Jesus blessed the first cup of wine and said to them, ‘Take this and share it among you; for I say to you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God comes’ (Luke 22:17-18). Once again Jesus refers to His own approaching death which will establish the Kingdom of God among men.

This reference to the Kingdom of God excited the Apostles and they began to dispute with one another as to which one would be greatest in the kingdom. To us who know the great solemnity of the moment it is somewhat surprising to find the Apostles disputing about so vainglorious a matter at this time. But the Apostles were still worldly-minded and lacking in understanding of the basically spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus at once moved to enlighten them. ‘The kings of the Gentiles,’ He said to them, ‘lord it over them, and they who exercise authority over them are called Benefactors. But not so with you. On the contrary, let him who is great among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant. For which is the greater, he who reclines at table, or he who serves? Is it not he who reclines? But I am in your midst as he who serves. But you are they who have continued me in my trials’ (Luke 22:25-28).

THE MEANING OF THE WASHING OF THE FEET

Then Jesus rose from the supper table and girded Himself with a towel. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of His Apostles. Simon Peter at first refused to let Jesus do this for him. Jesus said to him. ‘What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter’ (John 13:7). Peter replied, ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered, ‘If I do not wash thee, thou shalt have no part with me’ (John 13:8). Peter then allowed Jesus to wash his feet.

After Jesus had washed the feet of all the Apostles He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If, therefore, I the Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed shall you be if you do them. I do not speak of you all. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled,

‘He who eats bread with me has lifted
up his heel against me.’

I tell you now before it comes to pass, that when it has come to pass you may believe that I am he. Amen, amen, I say to you, he who receives anyone I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me’ (John 13:12-20).

By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus, Who was the Lord and Master of the Apostles, sought to teach them the lesson of humility. What makes the lesson even more impressive is the fact that Jesus washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, even though He knew that Judas was about to betray Him.

WHO IS IT?

Then, while they were eating, Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me’ (Mark 14:18).

The Apostles began to wonder which one it might be. Peter asked John who it might be. John asked Jesus. Jesus replied to him, ‘It is he to whom I shall dip the bread, and give it to him’ (John 13:26).

Jesus then dipped bread and gave it to Judas. Then He said to Judas, ‘What thou dost, do quickly’ (John 13:27). Judas departed to betray Jesus. None of the others, except perhaps John and Peter, understood what was taking place. Some thought that Judas was going to execute some errand for Jesus.

‘THIS IS MY BODY’

After the departure of Judas the paschal lamb was brought to the table and the second cup of wine was served. Then Jesus took bread in His hands, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the Apostles, saying, ‘This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Then He took a cup of wine, blessed it and gave it to them, saying, ‘All of you drink this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 22:19; Matthew 26:27-28).

AT THIS POINT JESUS HAD DEPARTED FROM THE USUAL PASSOVER CEREMONIAL

This was the most solemn act of the Last Supper. It was not simply a usual part of a Passover meal. At this point Jesus departed from the usual Passover ceremonial. Jesus had already promised to give His followers His own Body to eat and His own Blood to drink. Now He fulfils this promise. At His words bread really becomes His Body and wine really becomes His Blood. Moreover the Body and Blood which Jesus thus offers the Apostles are the Body and Blood which will be separated in death on the Cross at Calvary. This is the Body which shall be given for men and the Blood which shall be shed for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is offering His Body and Blood, His life as a sacrifice for the salvation of all mankind. In so doing He is making a new covenant, a new contract between men and God: ‘this is my blood of the new covenant.’ It was customary among the peoples of the Middle East to seal a covenant in blood. Jesus is now sealing a new covenant between God and man by His own Blood shed for the forgiveness of the sins of all men.

‘DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME’

In addition, this is not a rite to be performed just this once. Jesus intends that this sacrificial offering of His Blood shall continue until the final establishment of His kingdom at the end of time. ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ He says. And St Paul tells us, ‘For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he comes.’ St Paul referring, of course, to the second coming of Jesus at the end of time to judge all men and institute the eternal Kingdom of God.

THE NEW COVENANT

By telling the Apostles to repeat His own actions in turning bread into His Body and wine into His Blood and to offer this Body and Blood to God as a sacrifice, Jesus made the Apostles priests, empowered by Him to offer the sacrifice of His Body and Blood, and empowered to pass on this tremendous gift to those who would succeed them in the Kingdom of God on earth.

Jesus blesses, or consecrates, the bread and the wine separately. Thus He symbolises by this ritual and mystical separation of His Body and Blood the actual separation which will take place on the next day on the Cross. At this moment Jesus is, if we may so speak, beginning the inauguration of the new pact between God and men which will be sealed on Friday by the actual shedding of His Blood, the offering of His human life for the sins of men.

UNTIL THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS

But this Body and Blood, made mysteriously present under the appearances, the sign of bread and wine, made thus present by the words and the power of Jesus, are not only a sacrifice offered to God. They are also a sacrament, a sacred sign instituted by God to give grace to men. For the Body and Blood thus present under the sign of bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Son of God, the Author of Grace. This is what Jesus meant when He said, ‘He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him’ (John 6:55-57).

‘HE THAT EATETH MY FLESH AND DRINKETH MY BLOOD ABIDETH IN ME AND I IN HIM’

Nor did Jesus, in instituting what we now call the Eucharist, the sacrament and sacrifice of His Body and Blood, cater to any gross cannibalistic understanding of His promise and His action. The eating of His flesh and the drinking of His Blood minister not to the grossly material nourishment of men’s flesh, but rather to the spiritual nourishment of their souls. By receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus His followers attain spiritual union with Him and, through Him, with His Father in heaven.

THE NEW COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND MEN

In instituting the Eucharist Jesus had begun a new covenant between God and men. That covenant He was to seal on the next day with His Blood. Judas had already gone to make the arrangeements for His betrayal into the hands of His enemies. Jesus knew that the end of His earthly life was near. But He also knew that His apparent humiliation in death was to end in the triumph of His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. So He said to the Apostles, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and, as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so to you also I say it now’ (John 13:31-33).

THE FRUIT YOU WILL BE RECOGNISED BY

But before He ascends to heaven Jesus gives His Apostles a new commandment, a new rule of life, a rule which will enable men to recognise them as the disciples of Jesus: ‘A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: that as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:34-35).

Because of His love for all men Jesus is about to shed His blood as a propitiation to God for the sins of men. As He Himself had said, no man can have greater love for a friend than to lay down his life for the friend. This is the love which Jesus now commands His followers to exercise toward all men. This all-embracing Christian love will be the distinguishing mark of the follower, the disciple of Jesus.

After giving this wonderful but difficult commandment of love the mind of Jesus turns in sorrow to the thought that His Apostles will fail Him in His hour of trial. ‘You will all be scandalised this night because of me,’ He said; ‘for it is written, ‘I will smite the shepherd, and the flock will be scattered’ (Matthew 26:31). Jesus applies to Himself the prophecy of the prophet Zacharias, ‘O sword… Strike the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered’ (Zacharias [Zechariah] 13:7).

But immediately He gives them a note of hope: ‘But after I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee’ (Matthew 26:32).

‘ALL SHALL BE SCANDALISED’

The Apostles, still not understanding that Jesus must die for the sins of men, and still trusting in His power, protest that they will not desert their Master. Peter is especially vehement in his protestation: ‘Even though all shall be scandalised because of thee, I will never be scandalised’ (Matthew 26:33). Jesus sadly rebuked him for his presumption, saying, ‘Amen I say to thee, this very night, before a cock crows, thou wilt deny me thrice’ (Matthew 26:34).

But Jesus also knows that Peter and the Apostles will repent their failure and will return to Him in faith. And so He says to Peter, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:31-32).

JESUS PRAYED FOR PETER

Why Jesus chose as His Apostles men who would fail Him in His hour of trial is a question which only God can answer with certainty. What is clear to us in the Gospel story is that Jesus knew that the eleven Apostles would repent of their failure and be all the stronger for it. To make certain this turn of events He prays for Peter. He has already promised to make Peter the foundation stone of His Church. Now He prays that Peter, in spite of his failure in the crucial hour of Jesus, will retain his faith and so be able to strengthen the faith of the others. Because Jesus is the Son of God, the prayer will be heard. The faith of the Apostles will be steadfast because the faith of Peter will be firm.

Peter, even in the face of the warning of Jesus, was obdurate in protesting his courageous loyalty. ‘Even if I should have to die with thee, I will not deny thee’ (Matthew 26:35). The other Apostles joined with him in the same resolution.

DIFFICULTIES AHEAD

Jesus had tried to warn them of their own weakness. They would not listen. He tried once again. He reminded them that when He first sent them out to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God they had lacked nothing, they had been well received in the countryside. But now everything would be changed. He Himself would be regarded as a criminal. He referred to Himself the prophecy of Isaias [Isaiah], ‘And he was reckoned among the wicked.’ His followers would also be so regarded. Catering for the moment to their fiery Galilean spirit He said to them, ‘Let him who has no sword sell his tunic and buy one’ (Luke 22:36).

Jesus was not counselling His Apostles to spread the Kingdom of God by the sword. But He was trying to impress upon them the difficulty they would face in retaining their loyalty to and their faith in Himself.

The Apostles, however, took up the reference to a sword literally and bravely replied, ‘Lord, behold, here are two swords’ (Luke 22:38). What were two swords against the Temple guards or against the Roman might? But Jesus, knowing that His kingdom would grow by grace and faith and not by the sword, replied indulgently, ‘It is enough’ (Luke 22:38).”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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6th MARCH, GOSPEL READING (LUKE 9:22-25)

ANYONE WHO LOSES HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE, THAT MAN WILL SAVE IT.

Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.”

Then to all he said, “If anyone wants to be follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?”

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

 

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6th MARCH, RESPONSORIAL PSALM (PSALM 1)

R. Happy the man who has placed
his trust in the Lord.

1. Happy indeed is the man
who follows not the counsel of the wicked;
nor lingers in the way of sinners
nor sits in the company of scorners,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord
and who ponders his law day and night. (R.)

2. He is like a tree that is planted
beside the flowing waters,
that yields its fruit in due season
and whose leaves shall never fade;
and all that he does shall prosper. (R.)

3. Not so are the wicked, not so!
For they like winnowed chaff
shall be driven away by the wind;
for the Lord guards the way of the just
but the way of the wicked leads to doom. (R.)

ACCLAMATION

A pure heart create for me, O God,
and give me again the joy of your help.

 

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6th MARCH, BIBLE READING (DEUTERONOMY 30:15-20)

SEE, I SET BEFORE YOU TODAY A BLESSING AND A CURSE.

Moses said to the people: “See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin on you today, if you love the Lord your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws, his customs, you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own. But if your heart strays, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into other gods and serving them, I tell you today, you will most certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists, and on this depends your long stay in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob he would give them.”

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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