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SOLEMNITY OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES; BIBLE READING I (ACTS 12:1-11)

NOW I KNOW THE LORD REALLY DID SAVE ME FROM HEROD.

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. “Get up!” he said “Hurry!” – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, “Put on your belt and sandals.” After he had done this, the angel next said, “Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.” Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. “Now I know it is all true,” he said. “The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.”

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

 

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SOME DAYS, HE’D BE KNEELING AT THE BACK OF THE CHURCH, SAYING, “LORD, KEEP ME AWAY FROM ALCOHOL”

GOD REALLY DOES WANT TO HELP SINNERS GET TO HEAVEN

“God really does want to help sinners get to heaven. He wants all of us there. And that’s why he’s left us confession.

In confession, God’s mercy is on tap to all who need it. The people who commit the same sin again and again, can keep turning to him in sorrow and know they will always receive his merciful forgiveness. A man can commit the same sin ten thousand times, and ten thousand times turn to God with real repentance, and each time find our Lord as loving and merciful as ever. It would be awful to think that our sins could begin to exhaust God’s mercy. But they cannot. God’s mercy is infinite. Our sins, however many, are only finite in number. The finite cannot intrude into the infinite or begin to diminish it.

BRINGING US CLOSER TO GOD

Moreover, our repeated confessions slowly make us more humble, and thus bring us closer to God. Our sins will be expiated in purgatory, but our humility will be the measure of our eternal union with God in heaven. In fact, I’ve sometimes had the impression that God leaves some people with sins in order to prevent worse – the sin of pride. It’s pride that God fears more than anything to see in us. He may leave some people with a sin they hate, just to keep them from a pride that would prove fatal.

IT’S PRIDE THAT GOD FEARS MORE THAN ANYTHING TO SEE IN US

I once knew an old tramp who’d been struggling with a drink problem all his life. He told me that some days he’d be kneeling at the back of the church, begging God, ‘Lord, keep me away from it!’ and then he’d go out and get drunk again. When he was drunk he would steal, and thus he’d spend his life in and out of prison. He died with the Little Sisters of the Poor, and I used to think that this weakness had kept him holy.

He must have been a fine looking man when he was young, and I think he came of a good family. I suppose he could have done very well in a material sort of way and got rich and proud and drifted away from God and lost his soul. As it was, his weakness had kept him humble and forced him back to God and the sacraments again and again, and I really think that this is what God had allowed to bring him safe to heaven.”
– Fr Hugh S. Thwaites

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: JESUS FORETELLS THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM

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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JOHN THE BAPTIST: “HE MUST INCREASE, BUT I MUST DECREASE”

THE ROLE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST IN THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND

JOHN THE BAPTIST AND JESUS

‘THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS’

“… [T]he news of the preaching and the baptism of John had reached Jerusalem. Naturally the priests, and especially the Pharisees among them, who made such great pretensions to piety and faithfulness to God, were interested and perhaps disturbed. John himself was, of course, the son of a priest. But what was this repentance he was preaching and, above all, what was this new rite of baptism which he was administering?

‘WHO ART THOU?’

Anxious to know the answers to these questions they sent priests and Levites to question him. ‘Who art thou?’ they asked. John replied, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Art thou Elias?’ they asked. And he said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Art thou the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No’ (John 1:19-21). Then they asked him why he baptised, since he was neither the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet. John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but in the midst of you there has stood one whom you do not know. He it is who is to come after me, who has been set above me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to loose’ (John 1:26-27). Just before this he had said to them, ‘I am the voice of one crying in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord”(John 1:23).

‘BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD’

John is a man sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. The Lord Who is to come is greater than he. That is all that John tells the Pharisees. But the next day in the midst of his followers he speaks again. He sees Jesus approaching and he points Him out to his own disciples, ‘Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me there comes one who has been set above me, because he was before me.’ And I did not know him. But that he may be known to Israel, for this reason I have come baptising with water. I beheld the spirit descending as a dove from heaven, and it abode upon him. And I did not know him. But he who sent me to baptise with water said to me, ‘He upon whom thou wilt see the spirit descending, and abiding upon him, he it is who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God’ (John 1:29-34).

JOHN PREACHES REPENTANCE, BUT IT IS JESUS WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS

John, a prophet of God, gives his testimony that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God Whose way he has been sent to prepare. John baptises with water, but Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit of God. John preaches repentance for sin, but Jesus takes away the sins of the world.

JESUS’ DISCIPLES

The following day Jesus is passing by once again, while John the Baptist is standing with two of his disciples, John and Andrew. Again the Baptist says, ‘Behold the lamb of God.’ John and Andrew follow after Jesus. Jesus, seeing this, stopped and asked them, ‘What is it you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi… where dwellest thou?’ And He replied, ‘Come and see’ (John 1:35-39). In this way Jesus gained His first two disciples. Andrew went and found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messias’ (which interpreted is Christ) (John 1:41). Jesus, upon meeting Simon, changed his name to Peter. We are not told the reason for the change of name until later (see Matthew 16:17 ff.) but the action of Jesus is at least a sign of some special favour.

The following day Jesus added to the group of His followers Philip and Nathanael. Nathanael recognises Jesus as the ‘Son of God… King of Israel’ (John 1:40). Jesus rewards his faith by saying to him, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man’ (John 1:51).

In these words Jesus intimates that God will be with Him in His work as He was with Jacob at Bethel, when Jacob saw a ladder reaching from heaven to earth and the angels of God ascending and descending. Moreover Jesus refers to Himself as the ‘Son of Man,’ His favourite name for Himself. He seems to be alluding to the ‘Son of Man’ of Whom the prophet Daniel spoke, prophesying that He would come on the clouds of heaven to judge the world.

THE WEDDING AT CANA

After this Jesus and His new disciples went to Cana to attend a wedding feast. Mary the mother of Jesus was also there. Here Jesus worked the first of His many miracles. During the feast the host ran out of wine for the feasting. At the request of Mary Jesus changed water into wine. By His presence at the wedding feast and by this kindly miracle of turning water into wine for the feasting, Jesus gave the seal of His approval to the ancient institution of marriage. By the miracle, as St John says, ‘he manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him’ (John 2:11).

JESUS DRIVES THE MERCHANTS AND MONEY CHANGERS FROM THE TEMPLE

After the feast Jesus went to Capharnaum with His mother and His disciples. A few days later He went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. When He entered the precincts of the Temple He found men selling oxen, sheep and doves for the sacrifices, and money changers at their tables. The business of buying and selling, of haggling over prices, of changing money, caused a great noise and confusion, making it difficult to pray with devotion. Jesus was indignant at this profanation of His Father’s house. Making a whip of cords, He drove the merchants and money changers from the Temple. ‘Take these things away,’ he said, ‘and do not make the house of my Father a house of business’ (John 2:16).

‘WHAT AUTHORITY?’

The Jews naturally wanted to know on what authority Jesus acted in this way. ‘What sign dost thou show us, seeing that thou dost those things?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews scoffed at his answer. ‘Forty-six years has this temple been in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days?’ But, as St John the Evangelist tells us, Jesus was referring to the ‘temple of his body.’ In answer to their request for a sign Jesus referred them to the sign of His resurrection from the tomb which was to come later. But, at the moment, neither the disciples of Jesus nor the Jews generally understood this.

THE SIGNIFICANCE

This action of Jesus, while at the moment it was mysterious, was highly significant. He took upon Himself an authority which His apparent position among His countrymen did not justify. He presumed to give orders about the conduct of Temple business. He referred to the Temple as His Father’s house, as if it were His more than it was that of the Jews. When asked to justify Himself, He did not appeal to the miracles which St John indicates He was already working in Jerusalem. Rather, like the prophets of old, He appealed to a mysterious sign which was yet to be accomplished.

JESUS SPEAKS ABOUT THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM HE WOULD INSTITUTE

This action of Jesus and the miracles He was working attracted attention and many believed in Him. Others were curious and would know more about Him. One of these was Nicodemus, a Pharisee. He came to Jesus secretly at night. The secrecy of his visit seems to be that already the Pharisees were hostile to Jesus. But Nicodemus, even though somewhat fearful of the Pharisees, came to inquire further enlightenment of Jesus.

In the course of their conversation Jesus tells him that ‘unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John 3:5-6). Nicodemus did not understand these words of Jesus. Jesus was referring to the Sacrament of Baptism which He would institute. He was speaking of the spiritual, superntural life which the Spirit of God would give to men through the Sacrament of Baptism. This life of the soul is given to men only through a mystical union of men with the life-giving death of Jesus. This Jesus insinuates when he says to Nicodemus, ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting’ (John 3:14).

JOHN THE BAPTIST CONTINUES BAPTISING AT AENNON

After this Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem and went to some unnamed place in Judea. There they baptised new disciples. John the Baptist and his disciples were at nearby Aennon, also baptising. The disciples of John the Baptist became alarmed at the activity of the disciples of Jesus. They complained to John, ‘Rabbi, he who was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou hast borne witness, behold he baptises and all are coming to him’ (John 3:26).

JOHN WITNESSES JESUS’ IDENTITY FOR THE LAST TIME

In reply to their complaint John gave his last witness to the identity of Jesus. ‘No one,’ he said, ‘can receive anything, unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but have been sent before him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegrOom, who stands and hears him, rejoices exceedingly at the voice of the bridegroom. This my joy, therefore, is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:27-30).

John acknowledges that Jesus is the Christ, that is, the Messias, the Anointed One of God. Jesus is the bridegroom who will take humanity to himself as a bride. John the Baptist is only the friend of the bridegroom, who rejoices at the marriage of the bridegroom to the bride. John is not displeased because the disciples of Jesus are more successful than his own disciples. Jesus must increase; John must decrease. John has almost finished his work and will soon depart from the scene. He has prepared the way for the Lord. Jesus, the Lord, is just beginning His work. His work is still to be done; He must increase.

JOHN IS PUT INTO PRISON

Shortly after this, Herod the tetrarch, annoyed because John the Baptist had publicly reproved him for taking unto himself Herodias, the wife of his brother, arrested John and cast him into prison at Machaerus.

Upon hearing this Jesus Himself withdrew into Galilee.
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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“IN DEATH AS IN LIFE SHE REMAINED WITH THE POOR, WITH THE PRISONERS”

“A BEATITUDE WOMAN, JOAN SAWYER 30 YEARS ON”

HER STORY AND EXAMPLE CONTINUES TO INSPIRE US

“The Cross still stands there, bleak and bare near the main road to Lurigancho Prison in Lima. ‘No Mataras’, the inscription reads. You shall not kill. People come to stand or kneel there, to bring flowers, to pray. Thirty years after she was killed, Joan Sawyer, the Columban Sister from Belfast, who ministered to the prisoners in Lurigancho, is remembered.

The prison is also there, as drab, as unwelcoming, as overcrowded as when Joan walked the corridors. Lurigancho holds thousands of men, young and old, all hoping for a better life, for freedom. Men that Joan knew and loved, men who called forth the best in her, who knew that her gentleness would never fail, knew she would never give up on them.

SHOT DEAD

On that fatal Wednesday, the 14th December 1983, she was, with other pastoral workers, taken as a hostage by desperate men, hoping to escape from prison. After hours of negotiation the authorities allowed them to drive out in an ambulance but as they went the police opened fire and Joan with seven of the nine prisoner hostages, was shot dead. In death as in life she remained with the poor, with the prisoners, with her friends.

Thirty years later we remember the quiet, gentle woman and the prisoners who died with her. She was, as one of her teachers said, ”A beatitude person’. Her simple poverty, her gentleness, compassionate and peace-making ways, were the source of her strength and influence.’ Her story continues to inspire us, calls us to be compassionate, to work for justice especially for those in prison, for the poor, for those on the margins of our lives.

Joan lives on in the hearts of the poor in Lima, the people she loved, and in the hearts of all who knew her, especially the Columban family who never cease to thank God for the gift she was, and continues to be, to all of us. May she rest in peace.”
– This article was published in “Far East” (Magazine of the Columban Missionaries) issue December 2013. For subscriptions, donations and enquiries if you feel called to be a missionary please visit http://www.comlumbans.co.uk (external link) or http://www.columbansisters.org (external link).

 
 

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A PRAYER FOR PEOPLE IN JAIL

O prisoner-saint of Auschwitz, dear St Maximilian Kolbe, help me in my plight. Introduce me to Mary, the Immaculata, Mother of God. She prayed for Jesus in a Jerusalem jail. She prayed for you in a Nazi prison camp.

Ask her to comfort me in my confinement. May she teach me always to be good. If I am lonely, may she say: “God is here.” If I feel hate, may she say: “God is love.” If I am tempted, may she say: “God is pure.” If I sin, may she say: “God is mercy.” If I am in darkness, may she say: “God is light.” If I am unjustly condemned, may she say: “God is truth.” If I have pain in soul or body, may she say: “God is peace.” If I lose hope, may she say: “God is with you all days, and so am I.” Amen.

Our Father…, Hail Mary…, Glory be…

 
 

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TODAY’S BIBLE READING I (ACTS 12:1-11)

SOLEMNITY OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. “Get up!” he said, “Hurry!” – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, “Put on your belt and sandals.” After he had done this, the angel next said, “Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.” Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. “Now I know it is all true” he said. “The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.”

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

 

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