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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE RANSOM FOR MANY

The Gospel according to Mark, chapter 10

WHAT MOTIVE COULD EXPLAIN THIS SEEMINGLY FOOLISH RESOLVE?

“Caiphas and the enemies of Jesus had resolved to put Jesus to death. The feast of the Pasch was approaching, and Jesus expected to attend the feast at Jerusalem. To avoid the plot of Caiphas, after restoring life to Lazarus at Bethany, Jesus withdrew to Ephraim, a village twenty miles north of Jerusalem. He remained there until it was time to start the journey to Jerusalem for the Pasch.

When Jesus started on the road to Jerusalem the Apostles were both puzzled and frightened. They knew of the enmity of Caiphas for Jesus; they had taken the sojourn of Jesus at Ephraim to mean that Jesus was seeking to avoid the traps of Caiphas. Now Jesus seemed determined to walk into the clutches of His enemies. What motive could explain this seemingly foolish resolve?

Jesus, knowing their fears, said to them, ‘Behold, we are going to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the Scribes; and they will condemn him to death and will deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and put him to death; and on the third day he will rise again’ (Mark 10:33-34).

THE APOSTLES SEEMED TO HOPE IN A GLORIOUS MESSIAS

Jesus knew that His time had come, the time appointed by His Father for Him to die. He foretold it to His Apostles and disciples. He also told them that He would come back to life again on the third day after His death. Both of these predictions were mystifying to the Apostles. They understood neither of them. Their minds were so filled with visions of Jesus as a glorious, triumphant Messias, that they could not perceive any significance in the picture of a suffering, defeated Messias, even if He were to rise again.

‘YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE ASKING FOR’

That the minds of the Apostles were blinded by their own hopes for a glorious Messias is shown by the incident which immediately followed the prediction of the death of Jesus. The mother of the two sons of Zebedee, John and James, came to Jesus and asked Him, ‘Command that these, my two sons may sit, one at Thy right hand, and one at Thy left hand, in Thy kingdom.’ Jesus, addressing John and James, said, ‘You do not know what you are asking for. Can you drink of the cup of which I drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I am to be baptised?’ Believing that Jesus would lead them to a glorious triumph, the sons of Zebedee answered, ‘We can’ (Mark 10: 35-40; Matthew 20:23).

Jesus knew that they misunderstood Him. They had not seen that Jesus was to enter His own glory only after passing through death. Hence He asked them if they were ready to drink of the chalice which He Himself had to drink, that is, the cup of misfortune and death. Even though they did not understand, their loyalty to Jesus remained firm and they answered that they were ready to drink the same cup. Jesus then told them, ‘Of my cup you shall indeed drink; but as for sitting at my right hand and at my left, that is not mine to give you, but it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father’ (Matthew 20:23).

The other Apostles who had followed the conversation became indignant at the ambition of the two brothers. Jesus took the occasion to enlighten all the Apostles on the true nature of His mission. ‘You know,’ He said to them, ‘that the rulers of the Gentiles lord over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. Not so is it among you. On the contrary, whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; even as the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20:25-28).

THE PRICE TO BE PAID TO GOD FOR THE RESTORATION OF DIVINE LIFE TO MEN, THE SALVATION OF MEN

In these words Jesus gently rebuked all the Apostles for their worldly dreams of power. If they were to be His faithful disciples, they must not seek to lord it over their fellowmen, but rather to serve them. Jesus Himself has not come into this world to rule an earthly kingdom, but rather to serve mankind. In fact, He is to give up His life as a ransom for all men. Jesus had already predicted His death three times, the last time just before the ambitious request of the sons of Zebedee. Now, for the first time, He says clearly that His suffering and death will be offered as a ransom for men. He had already hinted at this aspect of His death when He compared Himself to a Good Shepherd and said that the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. A ransom is the price paid to liberate someone, and the Good Shepherd lays down His life to save the lives of His sheep. Jesus, therefore, is saying that His life is the price which will be paid for the salvation of men. It is the price to be paid to God for the restoration of divine life to men, the salvation of men, the establishment of the Kingdom of God among men.

‘LORD, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON US’

The Apostles probably did not understand the words of Jesus, but they followed Him on His way to Jerusalem. As they drew near to Jericho, they were met by two blind men. When the blind men heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was passing by, they cried out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us.’ Though some would have prevented them from disturbing Jesus, He commanded that they be brought to Him. He asked them what they wished of Him. When they asked Him to restore their sight, Jesus, moved by compassion, touched their eyes, and immediately their sight was given to them.

Shortly afterwards, as they were passing through Jericho, a great crowd filled the street to see Jesus. One of the townspeople, a certain Zacchaeus, a rich publican, climbed a sycamore tree to be able to see Jesus. Now publicans, tax gatherers, were regarded by the people as sinners, as extortioners. It was therefore surprising to the crowd when Jesus, seeing Zacchaeus in the tree, called to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay in thy house today’ (Luke 19:5). Zacchaeus, sinner that he was, was overjoyed at the thought that the Wonderworker, Jesus of Nazareth, condescended to accept the hospitality of his house. But some of the people, probably those opposed to Jesus, murmured that Jesus did not hesitate to be the guest of a sinner. This gesture of Jesus, however, moved Zacchaeus to repentance, and he said, ‘Behold, Lord, I give one half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold’ (Luke 19:8).

THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS

Tax gatherers, publicans, worked for the Roman authorities, gathering taxes for them. For that reason, they appeared to the people as traitors of Israel. The gesture of Zacchaeus in returning the monies he had gained by his trade showed his sincere repentance. Jesus recognised this and said, ‘Today salvation has come to this house since he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost’ (Luke 19:9-10).

In these last words Jesus repeats the lesson He had already given His Apostles. He has come, not to establish an earthly kingdom but to save the souls of sinners. He will give His life for the salvation of men.

Either during or after the meal in the house of Zacchaeus, Jesus told the parable of the talents or the gold pieces. The people were looking on Jesus as a political Messias, who would restore the kingdom of Israel. Jesus knew that their hopes would be disappointed when He died an ignominious death at Jerusalem. He tried, in this parable, to correct their false hopes and lead them to a better hope.

A nobleman, He told them, went to a far country to obtain a kingdom for himself. This would probably recall to the people the history of Herod, who went to Rome to obtain from the Romans the title of King of Judea. The nobleman, before leaving, sent for his servants and gave each of them some gold pieces which they were to use to gain profit for their master. But his enemies sent a delegation after him that they did not desire him to be their king. On his return as king he sent for his servants and demanded an accounting of the gold pieces. One servant had gained ten gold pieces, another five. He rewarded them by giving them positions of power and influence. But one of the servants had been afraid to hazard the piece given him, and so he returned only this piece, without any interest whatsoever. The king took even this piece away from him because he had been a useless servant. The citizens who had opposed him he put to death.

THE MEANING

In this parable Jesus was trying to describe the relations between Himself and His own people. He was the Messias, seeking to establish His own kingdom in the world. But he was to do so only by dying, by leaving His people for a time. In His absence His enemies will work to keep His kingdom from Him. But He gives His Apostles and disciples gold pieces, the means of building up His kingdom for Him. They must work for Him, even in His absence, to build up His kingdom. Even though He Himself is absent from them, they must persevere in His interests with hope and courage.

THE OINTMENT OF GREAT VALUE

After this warning Jesus continued on His journey to Jerusalem. Six days before the Pasch Jesus arrived in Bethany. Here He met Simon the Leper, Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. While they were reclining at table, Mary took a pound of ointment, spikenard, an ointment of great value. She anointed the head of Jesus with the spikenard, and then, since there was some left over, she anointed His feet also. Judas Iscariot, one of the Apostles, the treasurer of the band of Apostles, objected to this waste. The ointment, he claimed, could have been sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor.

St John tells us that Judas said this, not because he had any great love for the poor but rather because he was avaricious and sought money for himself. It is possible that Judas, of all the Apostles, was the most interested in the establishment by Jesus of an earthly kingdom, a kingdom in which Judas himself would become rich and powerful. He may, at this time, have become discouraged at the refusal of Jesus to seek to establish such a kingdom. In such case the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, the stronghold of His enemies, would have seemed to Judas to be madness, and so he was already prepared to betray the ‘madman’ who disappointed his hopes.”

– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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OUR LORD JESUS’ COMING WILL BE AS QUICK AND AS SUDDEN AS LIGHTNING

THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND THE END OF THE WORLD

“In great sorrow Jesus brought His public preaching to a close with a solemn warning of destruction to Jerusalem. Then He sat down opposite the Temple treasury and watched the people offering their gifts to the Temple. He observed the splendid gifts of the rich. But he also observed a poor widow putting in two mites, a small sum, but all she had to live on. He called this to the attention of His disciples.

‘Amen I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who have been putting money into the treasury. For they have all been putting money in out of their abundance; but she out of her want has put in all that she had – all that she had to live on’ (Mark 12:43-44).

JESUS CHRIST’S OWN PEOPLE WILL REJECT HIM

This little incident is both a solace to Jesus and a lesson to His disciples. Jesus has come from heaven to offer men the precious gift of salvation, to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. But the Scribes and the Pharisees have rejected Him. Under their leadership His own people will reject Him and demand His death. Their unwillingness to receive Him shows, on their part, a lack of total dedication to the love of God. When Jesus sees the poor widow giving all that she has to the Temple, His heart rejoices at this example of total love of God. In pointing it out to His disciples He means to tell them once again that it is the spirit which inspires a gift that makes it valuable in the eyes of God. The rich gifts offered by the wealthy were praiseworthy. But since they were only a small part of the abundance of the wealthy, they did not symbolise so well the total gift of one’s self which God demands of every man. But by giving all that she possessed the widow showed in fact that she was totally dedicated to God.

‘THERE WILL NOT BE LEFT ONE STONE UPON ANOTHER’

After this incident Jesus and His disciples remembered His warning of the approaching doom of Jerusalem. They could not help but contrast the beauty and the solidity of the stone walls of the Temple with the sad forecast of the ruin of the Holy City. One of them said to Jesus,

‘Master, look, what wonderful stones and buildings!’ Jesus replied, ‘Dost thou see all these great buildings? There will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’ (Mark 13:1-2).

Jesus and the band of disciples went then to the Mount of Olives. There the curiosity of the disciples could no longer be restrained. Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Him, ‘Tell us, when are these things to happen, and what will be the sign when all these things will begin to come to pass?’ (Mark 13:4).

DID JESUS MEAN TO CONVEY THAT THE END OF THE WORLD WAS COMING SOON?

In the minds of the disciples there must have been great confusion. They had accepted Jesus as the Messias. Since they were Jews it was natural for them to expect the Messias to bring great glory to the Chosen People and to Jerusalem, the Holy City of God. But Jesus had just told them that Jerusalem would be left desolate and the great Temple, the centre of worship of Jahweh, would be destroyed. Perhaps they thought also that the destruction of the Temple would occur only when the Son of Man (spoken of by the prophet Daniel) came in glory to establish the final Kingdom of God at the end of the world. Of what then could Jesus be speaking? Did He mean that the end of the world was coming soon and that then His own glory would be manifested to all men?

WOULD THE GLORY OF THE SON OF MAN BE MANIFESTED TO ALL MEN SHORTLY?

Jesus, in replying to their question, spoke of both the destruction of Jerusalem and of the end of the world. But He distinguished the two events. They were not to be simultaneous, but rather separated by some interval of time. The destruction of Jerusalem would come during the lifetime of the generation of men who had listened to Jesus Himself. But the end of the world would come later, at a time determined by God the Father. When this time might be was not permitted to men to know. But it would be preceded by signs which would warn the followers of Jesus of its approach.

THE FOLLOWING THINGS TOOK PLACE BEFORE THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN THE YEAR 70 A.D.:

As for the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus first warned His disciples to beware of false Christs, men who would claim to be the Messias. These false Christs would only lead the people astray. There would be wars, and rumours of wars, He told them, pestilences, famine and earthquakes. The He added, ‘And when you see the abomination of desolation, standing where it ought not – let him who reads understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let him who is on the housetop not go down and enter to take anything from his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. But woe to those who are with child, or have infants at the breast in those days! But pray that these things may not happen in winter’ (Mark 13:14-18).

All these things took place before the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. False Messiases arose and led the people into revolt against the authority of Rome. Jerusalem was besieged. Its people suffered from famine and pestilence.

As for the disciples themselves, Jesus told them, ‘But be on your guard. For they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, a witness to them’ (Mark 13:9).

THE APOSTLES WERE NOT TO BE AFRAID

When this persecution came upon the disciples they were not to be afraid. ‘And when they lead you away to deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to speak; but speak whatever is given you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but the Holy Spirit… And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake; but he who perseveres to the end will be saved’ (Mark 13:11-13).

The disciples of Jesus are urged by Him to face persecution without fear. They will be working for God, for ‘the gospel must first be preached to all nations’ (Mark 13:10).

JERUSALEM WAS ENCIRCLED BY VESPASIAN’S AND TITUS’ TROOPS

God Himself, therefore, will speak through them, and if they persevere they will be saved.

That the first Christian community took His warning seriously is proved by the fact that the Christians there fled to Pella just before the encirclement of the city by the troops of Vespasian and Titus.

THE ANGELS WILL GATHER HIS ELECT FROM THE FOUR WINDS

The mind of Jesus then turned to the thought of the end of the world. With prophetic insight He foresaw the signs which would precede His coming as the Son of Man in power and majesty to judge the world. ‘Then,’ He said, ‘there will be great tribulation, such as has not been found from the beginning of the world until now, nor will be. And unless those days had been shortened, no living creature would have been saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Then, if anyone say to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There He is,’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, he is in the desert,’ do not go forth; ‘Behold, he is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes forth from the east and shines even to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together. But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then will all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with great power and majesty. And he will send forth his angels with a trumpet and a great sound, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other’ (Matthew 24:21-31).

‘BUT OF THAT DAY OR HOUR NO ONE KNOWS… BUT THE FATHER ONLY’

Before the world comes to an end, then, a number of false Christs will appear, seeking to lead men astray. So powerful will be the forces of evil that even the elect would be led astray except that God will shorten the time so that they may be saved. Just when the end will come Jesus does not say.

‘But of that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only’ (Mark 13:32).

Jesus does not mean that as the Son of God He is Himself ignorant of the day when the world will end. He means that this is knowledge which God the Father does not allow to angels or men, but reserves for God alone. Jesus, as the Son of God, knows the day and the hour, but as the Messias He will not reveal it to men.

OUR LORD JESUS’ COMING WILL BE AS QUICK AND AS SUDDEN AS LIGHTNING

The destruction of Jerusalem, as Jesus foretold it, would not be sudden, its approach would not be unrecognisable. Men would have an opportunity to flee from the city and escape its fate. But the end of the world would come suddenly and men will find no chance to escape.

Neither will they be able to recognise its approach clearly.

‘And as it was in the days of Noe [Noah], even so will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noe entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and swept them all away; even so will the coming of the Son of Man be’ (Matthew 24:37-39). Or, as Jesus had already said, His coming will be as quick as sudden as a bolt of lightning searing the sky from east to west.

‘TAKE HEED, WATCH AND PRAY’

Because of the uncertainty of the time of the end of the world Jesus warns His disciples to be ready at every moment for that final catastrophe. ‘Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is’ (Mark 13:33).

In several parables Jesus emphasised the necessity of being prepared for the coming of the Son of Man to judge the world. ‘As a man,’ He said, ‘when he leaves home to journey abroad, puts his servants in charge, to each his work, and gives orders to the porter to keep watch. Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or early in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping’ (Mark 13:34-36).

Or again, ‘Watch, therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come. But of this be assured, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would certainly have watched, and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore, you also must be ready, because at an hour that you do not expect, the Son of Man will come’ (Matthew 24:42-44).

Or, ‘Who, dost thou think, is the faithful and prudent servant whom his master has set over his household to give them their food in due time? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, shall find doing so. Amen I say to you, he will set him over all his goods. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master delays his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day he does not expect, and in an hour he does not know, and will cut him asunder and make him share the lot of the hypocrites. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 24:45-51).

THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH VIRGINS

Lastly Jesus made the same point in the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins. Ten virgins went out joyfully to attend a wedding. They carried lamps to light their way. Five were wise and carried also some vessels of oil to replenish their lamps if it became necessary. But five were foolish and carried no extra supply. The coming of the bridegroom was delayed. The virgins fell asleep. When the bridegroom came they arose and prepared to attend the marriage feast. But the lamps of the foolish virgins had gone out and so they were late in arriving at the feast. The door was shut. The bridegroom, not knowing them, refused to let them in.

…TO MEET JUDGMENT UNAFRAID

In all these parables Jesus was emphasising the point that His disciples should be prepared always to meet judgment at the hands of the Son of Man. ‘Watch, then, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to be, and to stand before the Son of Man’ (Luke 21:36).

No man may know when the end of the world will be. But all men must be prepared to meet it at any moment. They must watch and pray so that they meet judgment unafraid.

‘HE WILL COME AGAIN IN GLORY TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD’

This thought of the end of the world and of the second coming of the Son of Man is followed quite naturally in the discourse of Jesus by a description of the judgment of men at the end of time. ‘But when the Son of Man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory and before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the just will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and feed thee; or thirsty, and give thee drink? And when did we see thee sick, or in prison, and come to thee?’ And answering the king will say to them, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left hand, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in; naked, and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me.’ And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the just into everlasting life’ (Matthew 25:31-46).

THE JUDGMENT WILL BE BASED ON THE LAW OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

As the Son of Man, the apocalyptic figure spoken of by the prophet Daniel, Jesus will come at the end of the world to judge all men. His judgment will be based on the law of love which He so often preached to men. Those who have loved their fellowmen enough to aid them in their need will be given eternal life with God. Those who have not followed this law of love will be punished eternally in the fire of hell prepared for the devil and his angels. At the moment of judgment the secret of all history will be revealed.

THE SECRET OF ALL HISTORY WILL BE REVEALED

Jesus does not tell us the full nature of this secret. But He tells us enough for us to know that it flows in some mysterious way from the free wills of God, the angels and men. In the transcendent freedom of His will God has loved the universe enough to give it being, existence. And He has given it existence for the sake of His elect, angels and men whom He will gather from every corner of the universe to share His Kingdom with Him. The elect are those who live by the law of love, love of God and love of one another. Their love is the free choice of their own wills, echoing generously the creative act of God’s free decision to make the world. But some angels, and some men, will freely choose not to imitate the divine love; they will refuse to love [unconditionally], and in their refusal they will reject both God and all others. They will be punished by their own refusal; having rejected [unconditional] love, the secret of the universe, they must live forever in the self-corrosion of hate.

TO LOVE ANYONE IS TO LOVE HIM WHO IS THE BROTHER OF ALL

The disciples of Jesus might have wondered that Jesus mentioned only love of men as the basis for the final judgment of all men. Surely, they might have thought, men should be judged on the basis of their love for God. But Jesus had already taught them that it was God’s will that they should love all men as they loved themselves. In so doing they would be loving God Himself.

And in Jesus Himself there is an ever deeper reason why this is true. Jesus is God Himself come to earth, God-made-man. By taking to Himself a human nature, the Son of God has become the neighbour, in fact, the brother of all mankind. By His own free decision He has identified Himself with all men. To love anyone, therefore, is to love Him, Who is the brother of all. And to love Him is to love not just a man but God Himself.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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TODAY’S GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 25:1-13)

THE BRIDEGROOM IS HERE! GO OUT AND MEET HIM.

Jesus said to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.’

At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.’ But they replied, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.’ They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us.’ But he replied, ‘I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.’ So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.”

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

 
 

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ARCHBISHOP ASKS ALL OF US FOR PRAYERS

“Religious leaders, including a Catholic archbishop, have called for prayers for peace and urged government and rebel forces in South Sudan to lay down their arms and allow a tenuous ceasefire to take effect.

CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT

Fighting between forces loyal to South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, Kiir’s former vice-president, flared up on Monday, two days after the parties agreed to the ceasefire.

RENEWED CLASHES IN OIL-PRODUCING REGION

The renewed clashes in the oil-producing Upper Nile state dashed hopes for a swift end to five months of violence that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than one million people.

ARCHBISHOP’S SPEECH

Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba was among religious leaders present at the signing of the agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He said that ‘all South Sudanese have been waiting for this day for the last five months’.

GROUND ATTACKS

Despite the agreement, both sides accused each other of launching ground attacks and artillery barrages. President Kiir told crowds in Juba that government forces had been ordered ‘not to lift a foot from where they are to attack rebels’.”
– This article entitled “Sudan bishop: pray for ceasefire” was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue May 16 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 

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VAINGLORY, FLATTERY, POPULARITY: “WHAT A SAD BARGAIN, SELLING THE REWARD OF THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM FOR THE WIND OF A HUMAN MOUTH!”

HOW TO BE CLEANSED OF THE LEPROSY OF SIN ACCORDING TO THE GOSPEL

(Part I “The Meaning of ‘Leper’ and ‘Infected With Leprosy’ in the Gospels” was posted on this blog on January 14 2014.)

“ON THE THREE VIRTUES, WITHOUT WHICH NO-ONE IS CLEANSED FROM THE LEPROSY OF SIN

‘And behold, a leper came and adored him, saying: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’ [Mt 8:2]. Note that the three words ‘came’, ‘adore’ and ‘said: Lord, if thou wilt’ denote contrition, confession and faith, which are very needful for every sinner. First he should ‘come’ by contrition, ‘Come from Libanus’ [Cant 4:8], from the false glamour of worldly vanity.

OVERCOMING WORLDLY VANITY

‘He that heareth, let him say: Come’ [Apoc 22:17]. He who hears ‘the whisper of a gentle breeze’ [3 (1) Kg 19:12] in his mind, by inward inspiration, should say to the sinner ‘come’, by contrition. As Isaiah says:

‘If you seek: return, come’ [Is 21:12]

So, ‘the leper came and adored him’. Behold the humility of confession, expressed more clearly by Mark, who says:

‘He came to him, beseeching him; and kneeling down said to him: If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’ [Mk 1:40].

In this way, the sinner, when he comes to confession, should kneel before the priest, the representative of Jesus Christ, who has given him the power of binding and loosing. The one confessing should have such faith in his office that he may say to him, ‘Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’, and absolve me from my sins.

There follows: ‘And stretching forth his hand he touched him, saying: I will, be thou made clean’ [Mt 8:3]. He speaks in the imperative mood, ‘his hand turned and as of gold, full of hyacinths [Cant 5:14], and at its touch the tongue of the dumb is loosed, the ruler’s daughter is raised, the leper is cleansed of his leprosy. ‘My hand has made all these things’ [Is 66:2]. The hand bestows reward: so stretch out your hand, Lord, to bestow reward, that hand which was stretched out by the nail on the Cross. Touch the leper: whatever you touch will be cleansed and healed. Luke says:

‘When he had touched his ear, he healed him’ [Lk 22:51].

He stretched out his hand and bestowed the gift of cleansing, saying:

‘I will: be thou made clean. And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed’ [Mt 8:3].

‘He hath done all things whatsoever he would’ [Ps 113b:3]. For him, there is no gap between will and deed. Every day, the Lord does this same thing in the soul of the sinner, by the office of the priest; who should have these three things in himself, ‘to stretch out’, ‘to touch’, ‘to will’. He stretches out his hand when he pours out his prayer to the Lord for the sinner, and afflicts himself out of compassion for him. He touches, when he comforts the sinner and promises him pardon. He has the will to cleanse, when he absolves him from his sins. This is the threefold work of a shepherd, of which the Lord spoke to Peter: ‘Feed, feed, feed’ [Jn 21:15-17].

ON ETERNAL LIFE, THE ONLY REWARD EXPECTED

There follows: ‘And Jesus saith to him: See thou tell no man’ [Mt 8:4]. This is not the manner of speaking of those who blow their own trumpet when they do anything good, whose left hand knows all too well what their right hand is doing [cf. Mt 6:3]. They as it were ‘prostitute their daughter’, against the prohibition of Moses, who said:

‘Make not thy daughter a common strumpet’ [Lev 19:29].

Your ‘daughter’ is your action, and you prostitute it when you sell it to the world’s brothel for the coin of vainglory.

What a sad bargain, selling the reward of the heavenly kingdom for the wind of a human mouth!

‘See thou tell no man’: do not show what is yours to anyone. Are not God and your conscience enough for you, brother? What have you in common with the tongue of man? It condemns what it should praise, it praises what it should condemn. It casts the just man into the depths of hell, it raises the wicked to the throne of God and of the Lamb. ‘See thou tell no man.’ So Ecclesiasticus says:

‘Give no issue to thy water, no, not a little’ [Ecclus 25:34].

And Isaiah:

‘My secret to myself, my secret to myself’ [Is 24:16].

And at the word of Eliseus:

‘The woman went, and shut the door upon her, and upon her sons’ [4 (2)Kg 4:5].

And Matthew:
‘Having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret’ [Mt 6:6].

And Luke:

‘Remove not from house to house’ [Lk 10:7].

So, ‘see thou tell no man.’ Nature sets a double gate in front of the tongue, the teeth and the lips, lest the harlot who loves publicity goes out into the street, ‘talkative and wandering, not bearing to be quiet’ [Prov 7:10-11]. Close your teeth, press your lips together, lest the harlot goes out to the brothel; as Ecclesiasticus says:

‘Do not give a wicked woman liberty to gad abroad’ [Ecclus 25:34].

Then you will fulfil the command: ‘See thou tell no man.’

There follows: ‘But go, show thyself to the priests’ [Mt 8:4]. These three words and their meaning are explained in the Gospel of the ten lepers: ‘When Jesus was going to Jerusalem’ [Pentecost XIV].

ON THE TWO-FOLD OFFERING WHICH EVERY PENITENT SHOULD MAKE FOR HIS CLEANSING

There follows: ‘And offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them’ [Mt 8:4].

Leviticus says:

And the Lord ‘spoke to Moses: This is the rite of a leper, when he is to be cleansed. He shall be brought to the priest: who, going out of the camp, when he shall find that the leprosy is cleansed, shall command him that is to be purified, to offer for himself two living sparrows, which it is lawful to eat, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop. And he shall command one of the sparrows to be immolated in an earthen vessel over living waters. But the other that is alive he shall dip, with the cedar wood, and the scarlet and the hyssop, in the blood of the sparrow that is immolated: wherewith he shall sprinkle him that is to be cleansed seven times, that he may be rightly purified. And he shall let go the living sparrow, that it may fly into the field… And he shall take (or offer) two lambs without blemish, and an ewe of a year old without blemish, and three tenths of flour tempered with oil for a sacrifice, and a sextuary of oil apart… but if he be poor; and his hand cannot find the things aforesaid: he shall take a lamb for an offering for trespass, and a tenth of flour tempered with oil for a sacrifice, and a sextuary of oil: and two turtle doves or two young pigeons, of which one may be for sin, the other for a holocaust. And he shall offer them… to the priest, at the door of the tabernacle of the testimony before the Lord.’ [Lev 14:1-7, 10, 21-23].

Let us see what is the moral significance of all this.

… The ‘two living sparrows’ are the body and spirit [of the very pious] who can say with the Apostle: ‘I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me’ [Gal 2:20]. He offers these sparrows to the Lord for his cleansing. So it says in Judges:

‘O you that of your own good will offered yourselves to danger, bless the Lord; you that ride upon fair asses, and you that sit in judgement, and walk in the way’ [Jg 5:9-10].

The ‘fair asses’ are the bodies [of the very pious] who bear the burden and heat of the day, and who like asses should feed on raw and rough food. Ecclesiasticus says:

‘Fodder and a wand and a burden are for an ass: bread and correction and work for a slave’ [Ecclus 33:25]

that is, for a religious who ‘sits in judgement’ when he is under obedience to a superior, and ‘walks in the way’ Jeremiah speaks of:

‘This is the good way, and walk you in it’ [Jer 6:16]

that Way who himself says: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ [Jn 14:6].

[The very pious] should also offer the ‘cedar wood’ of poverty, the ‘scarlet’ of charity and the ‘hyssop’ of humility. The tall cedar of poverty, whose scent puts to flight the serpents of avarice and robbery, is joined to the hyssop of humility, which drives out the swelling of the lungs by means of the scarlet of a twofold charity. One of the sparrows (that is, the body) he shall sacrifice, so as to say with the Apostle:

‘The world is crucified to me, and I to the world’ [Gal 6:14]

and:

‘I am even now ready to be sacrificed’ [2 Tim 4:6].

‘In an earthen vessel’, for as the Apostle says:

‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels’ [2 Cor 4:7]

‘over living waters’, namely compunction and tears, which are ‘living’ when they are poured out upon ‘the upper and the nether watery ground’ [Jos 15:19; Jg 1:15], of which Zechariah says:

‘In that day living waters shall go out from Jerusalem’

(the heart of the penitent),

‘half of them to the east sea’

(the ‘upper watery ground’)

‘and half of them to the last sea’

(the ‘nether watery ground’) [Zech 14:8].

The ‘east sea’ is bitterness for the splendour of eternal life; the ‘last sea’ is bitterness for the sins committed by oneself, for our earthly exile, and for the sins of one’s neighbour. So [the very pious should] ‘immolate the sparrow in an earthen vessel over living waters’, by crucifying his body with its vices and desires, and pondering in bitterness of spirit the frailty of life and the downfall of our exile.

There follows: ‘But the other that is alive’, etc. The living sparrow is the spirit, which he should dip, along with the cedar-wood of poverty, the scarlet of charity and the hyssop of humility, in the blood of the sparrow (the body) which has been sacrificed on the altar of penitence. The affliction and discipline of the body (represented as ‘blood’) cleanses and sanctifies the spirit, so that it flies on the wings of contemplation, with those other virtues we have mentioned, to the field of heaven.

There follows: ‘And he shall take two lambs without blemish’, etc. The two lambs stand for meekness of soul and body; the ewe for a simple and pure intention in all one’s work; the three-tenths of flour for the threefold obedience of [superiors, equals and inferiors]; and the sextuary of oil for the six works of mercy. This is the offering which every [very pious person] should offer for the cleansing of his own sin.

There follows: ‘But if he be poor’, etc. The lamb represents innocence of life, the tenth part of the flour the perfection of eternal charity, the sextuary of oil the six works of mercy (as before), the two turtle-doves or pigeons the two-fold sighing which the sinner should emit for things done and left undone. This is the offering which [other good folk still living in the world] should make to the Lord – namely, to live innocently, to love their neighbour, to do works of mercy and to be sorry for sins of commission and omission. So let us say: ‘Go, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them.'”
– St Anthony of Padua

 
 

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30th AUGUST, GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 25:1-13)

THE BRIDEGROOM IS HERE! GO OUT AND MEET HIM.

Jesus said to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.’

At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.’ But they replied, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.’ They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us.’ But he replied, ‘I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.’ So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.”

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

 
 

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TODAYS GOSPEL READING (TAKEN FROM LUKE 7:36-8:3)

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.” Then Jesus took him up and said, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Speak Master,” was the reply. “There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?” “The one who was pardoned more, I suppose,” answered Simon. Jesus said, “You are right.”

Then he turned to the woman. “Simon,” he said, “you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, “Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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