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THE BIBLE STORY OF THE SACRIFICE OF ABRAHAM, OUR FATHER IN FAITH (GENESIS 22:1-18)

The faith and obedience of Abraham is proved in his readiness to sacrifice his [only, long-longed for] son Isaac. He is stayed from the act by an angel.

After these things, God tempted [1] Abraham, and said to him: Abraham, Abraham. And he answered: Here I am.

He said to him: Take thy only begotten son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and go into the land of vision: and there thou shalt offer him for an holocaust upon one of the mountains which I will shew thee.

So Abraham rising up in the night, saddled his ass: and took with him two young men, and Isaac his son: and when he had cut wood for the holocaust he went his way to the place which God had commanded him.

And on the third day, lifting up his eyes, he saw the place afar off.

And he said to the young men: Stay you here with the ass: I and the boy will go with speed as far as yonder, and after we have worshipped, will return to you.

And he took the wood for the holocaust, and laid it upon Isaac his son: and he himself carried in his hands fire and a sword. And as they two went on together;

Isaac said to his father: My father. And he answered: What wilt thou, son?

Behold, saith he, fire and wood: where is the victim for the holocaust?

And Abraham said: God will provide himself a victim for an holocaust, my son. So they went on together.

And they came to the place which God had shewn him, where he built an altar, and laid the wood in order upon it: and when he had bound Isaac his son, he laid him on the altar upon the pile of wood.

And he put forth his hand and took the sword, to sacrifice his son.

And behold an angel of the Lord from heaven called to him, saying: Abraham, Abraham. And he answered: Here I am.

And he said to him: Lay not thy hand upon the boy, neither do thou any thing to him: now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake.

Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw behind his back a ram amongst the briers sticking fast by the horns, which he took and offered for a holocaust instead of his son.

And he called the name of that place, The Lord seeth. Whereupon even to this day it is said: In the mountain the Lord will see.

And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, saying:

By my own self have I sworn, saith the Lord: because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake:

I will bless thee, and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea shore: thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies.

And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice.

[1] Chap. 22. Ver. 1. “God tempted”, &c. God “tempteth no man to evil”, James 1.13; but by trial and experiment maketh known to the world, and to ourselves, what we are, as here by this trial the singular faith and obedience of Abraham was made manifest.

 

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THE TEARS OF ST MONICA

THE TEARS OF ST MONICA

“Tears are the heart’s blood. This is a beautiful thought of Saint Augustine’s, which he applies to his mother. ‘My God” he cries “my mother’s tears, this blood of her heart, which flowed night and day, rose to thee in sacrifice for me’.

‘The soul’, said the ancients, ‘is in the blood’. It carries at least part of life; it rolls with our impressions, our thoughts, our desires, our sorrows, our joys, our hopes; for in reality man’s blood is not merely a scarlet liquid which circulates in his veins and constantly repairs his forces. Tears are also a form of blood, and when they rise, they contain as it were drops from the heart, which thus fall to the ground.

 

O Christian souls, you, like Saint Monica, have dear ones, to whom you cling with all your strength! Have you not often shed tears for them before the Lord? And did you not feel that those tears were the very blood of your inner nature, and that this blood, the shedding of which so tore your heart, was like a sacrifice, a veritable martyrdom? Oh! do not regret it; rejoice in this sacrifice; this it was, perhaps, which restored peace and piety in your family. Continue to pray, to shed tears before God. Each one of these drops is taken up by angels, and when they reach the throne of God, Heaven knows what metamorphosis they have undergone in the transit – they are all changed into pearls, whose price serves to purchase the redemption of those who are dear to you.

 

One day a poor woman was weeping in a church for her sins. A Bishop who was on the altar saw a dove collecting her tears in order to bear them to heaven.”

– Laverty&Sons, Leeds, 1905

 

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WHY IS THE HOLY MASS SO IMPORTANT FOR THE WHOLE WORLD?

The Meaning of the Mass

“The Holy Mass is the One and Only Sacrifice of the New Testament. In the Mass Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the ministry of the priest, offers Himself – His Body and Blood – to God the Father. This offering is made under the appearances of bread and wine. It is a mystical immolation made in an unbloody manner.

By a sacrifice is meant an oblation of something in which a notable change is wrought and offered to God alone in witness of the supreme honour and reverence that man owes Him as his Creator, Master, Beginning and End.

God, our Creator, Master, our Beginning and End

The Sacrifice of the Mass was instituted by Our Lord Himself. In instituting it He left His Church a Sacrifice by which the bloody Sacrifice offered on Calvary should be renewed to the end of time, and the merits of that Sacrifice might be applied in behalf of the living and the dead for for the remission of sins.

The Sacrifice of the Mass was instituted by Our Lord Himself

The separate consecration of the bread and the wine in the Mass represents the actual separation of the Body and Blood of Our Lord in His Death on the Cross.

The Mass is not, however, a mere representation of the Sacrifice of the Cross. It is, in all truth, the actual Sacrifice of the Cross that is renewed on the altar [for the spiritual act is outside and above the material concepts of time and space]; for the Victim offered is the same – Christ on the altar offering Himself through the ministry of the priest, even as on the Cross He offered Himself. The only difference consists in the manner of offering. Through the Sacrifice of the Mass God bestows on us the graces that were merited for us by Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross.

The Mass is offered for four purposes:

a) To adore God. That is why it is called the Sacrifice of Praise.

b) To thank God. That is why it is called the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

c) To obtain grace and benefits. That is why it is called an Impetratory Sacrifice.

d) To satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against Him, and make reparation to Him. That is why it is called a Propitiatory Sacrifice.

Although the Mass may be offered in honour of Our Lady, the Angels and the Saints, it is offered to God alone, since supreme dominion, which the Sacrifice of the Mass implies, belongs to God alone.

The Mass belongs to God alone

Since the Mass is the heart and soul of the Church’s worship, it is not offered for the benefit of the celebrant only, but for all the faithful, both living and dead, and in an especial manner for those whom the celebrant commemorates in the Mass.

The Mass may be offered for some particular person, either living or dead, and also for some particular intention.

Active participation

The best way of assisting at Mass is to unite with the celebrant in offering the Divine Victim to God, vividly recalling Our Lord’s Sacred Passion and Death on the Cross, and uniting ourselves to Jesus by sacramental or, at least spiritual communion .”

– Fr Gebhard, 1952

 

 
 

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A PRAYER TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN FOR HOLY COMMUNION

O most Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of gentleness and mercy, I, a miserable and unworthy sinner, fly to thy protection with every sentiment of humility and love; and I implore of thy loving-kindness that thou wouldst vouchsafe graciously to be near me, and all who throughout the whole Church are to receive the Body and Blood of thy Son this day, even as thou wert near thy sweetest Son as He hung bleeding on the Cross. That, aided by thy gracious help, we may worthily offer up a pure and acceptable sacrifice in the sight of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.

 

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“THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE TO LEAVEN WHICH A WOMAN TOOK…” (Mt 13:33)

“‘The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened’ (Matthew 13:33).

QUALITIES VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE

The Church, the kingdom which Jesus established in the world for the salvation of men, is endowed with many qualities, some visible and some invisible. It is visible in its hierarchy, in the distinction which exists between the Pope, bishops and priests and laity: the Pope, bishops and priests who teach the message of Jesus to the world and administer the sacraments whereby the grace of Jesus is communicated to men; and the laity who receive and believe the message and accept the sacraments whereby they are saved. But the Church is invisible in the grace which it communicates to men. The sacraments which communicate grace to men can be perceived by the senses of men, but the grace which they impart, since it is a share in the very life of God Himself, is as invisible as the divine life. Thus it is that the Church, which is a visible organism, visible in its hierarchy and its membership in this world, visible in the preaching and professing of the Gospel, visible in its sacraments and divine worship, is also through the grace it imparts invisible like leaven hidden in flour. The hidden leaven, however, does produce a visible effect: the loaf of bread into which it raises and expands the flour. Similarly the grace of God, which is the life of the Kingdom of Jesus, though it produces chiefly a spiritual invisible effect, also produces visible effects in the world of men, a raising and an expansion of the knowledge and the conduct of men. It is this latter effect of the life of the kingdom on the life of the world that we shall now briefly consider.

THE EFFECT OF THE LIFE OF THE KINGDOM ON THE LIFE OF THE WORLD

In the first place the Kingdom of God on earth, through the action of the Holy Spirit, thhe source of life, has raised the minds of men from ignorance to truth. It is through faith, the power to believe which the Holy Spirit gives to men, that men know the basic truths which explain the meaning of existence. Moved and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church teaches men that there is one supreme God, Whose life is so intense that it is shared in its ineffable unity by three divine Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This Triune God is absolute, infinite Love, and from the generosity of this Love there flows the creative act whereby God creates the world, gives existence to all that has been, is or will be. In this same infinite generosity God calls His intellectual creatures, angels and men who are created in His own image and likeness, to share most intimately in His own Trinitarian life, to live as children and friends with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But this call is to be answered freely by angels and men, for God has generously given them the freat gift and power of individual freedom.

TO CONVEY THIS GRACE TO MEN, JESUS CHRIST ESTABLISHED HIS KINGDOM ON EARTH, HIS CHURCH, THE ONE, HOLY, ROMAN, CATHOLIC CHURCH

Unfortunately some of the angels, through pride, rejected the divine call and have been condemned forever to the loss of the promised vision of God, a loss which is the principal element of the hell to which they have been condemned. One of them, their leader Satan, moved by the hatred and envy of good which sin engenders, seduced Adam and Eve, the first human beings. In Adam and Eve the whole human race lost the divine grace which would have ultimately brought all men to the blessed vision of God. But God, because of His infinite love and mercy for men, determined to give men another chance. In the fullness of time He sent His own Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, to save men. The Son of God became man, incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who thus became the Mother of God. This incarnate God, known in human history as Jesus the Christ, both Son of God and Son of Mary, gave to the world the message of hope and salvation whereby men are freed from ignorance of their own destiny, of the true meaning of their existence. By His saving death on the Cross, a death which He offered freely to His Father as a payment for the sins of men, He won from the Father the return of divine grace to men, the grace which enables men to share in the life of God in this present world and to grow into the vision of God which is their true destiny after death. To convey this grace to men, to inform men of the divine message of hope and salvation, Jesus established His kingdom, His Church, the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic Church [Mt 16:18]. The Church exists in the world as a visible sign of God’s call to men to share in His divine life [Mt 5:14-16;17-18], to escape from the monotonous, frustrating misery to which mankind is bound if it will not answer the call of God’s love. It is in and through the Church, in union with Christ, Who is the Head of His Body [Col 1:18; 1 Cor 12:12], which is the Church, that men offer to God the one true sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus [Mk 14:22-24; 1 Cor 10:16]. It is by uniting themselves with the sacrifice of the Body and the Blood of Jesus on the Cross, a sacrifice which is perpetually re-presented to God and to the world in the sacrifice of the Mass, that men offer to God the worship of adoration, thanksgiving, petition and reparation for sin which is alone pleasing to God. It is through the Mass and the sacraments, whose efficacy stems from the Cross, that God blesses man’s worship with the gift of His grace, molding men into the likeness of Jesus, His well-beloved Son, so that through this likeness they may be acceptable to God and may share in His life.

DOWN THROUGH THE AGES OF TIME THE CHURCH BRINGS THE MESSAGE OF JESUS CHRIST AND THESE MEANS OF SALVATION

Down through the ages of time, such time as it is still allotted to man, the Church will bring this message and these means of salvation. If men will heed the divine call and live in God’s grace, they will be rewarded with the vision of God, in which man’s true happiness is alone found, and at the end of time they will rise gloriously from the tomb to live forever even in the body. If they will not heed the call or remain faithful to it in God’s grace, at death they will forfeit forever the vision of God and at the end they will rise ingloriously in the body to suffer eternally even in the body.

THOSE WHO HEED THE CALL OF JESUS CHRIST SHARE IN HIS DIVINE LIFE

Those who heed the call of Jesus and enter into His kingdom in this world form with Him one Body, His Church. They live with Him, in Him and by Him. The bond of their union with Him is not only the external profession of faith by which they give their allegiance to Him and to His message but it is also the invisible bond of grace and charity by which they share in His divine life and by which they live in union with Him, with His Father and His Holy Spirit, and with one another in the Communion of Saints, which is His Church.

THE FINAL RESULT OF THAT LEAVENING ACTION WHICH THE CHURCH, THE KINGDOM OF GOD, IS NOW EXERCISING

At the end of time Jesus, the Son of God to Whom God the Father has given all judgment, will come with His angels and His Apostles to judge all men. When by His judgment the good have been separated from the wicked, then will all men see the true final dimensions of His kingdom. Then will all men and angels see the final result of that leavening action which the Church, the Kingdom of God, is now exercising, partly visibly and partly invisibly, in this present world.

LIVING SERENELY IN THE MIDST OF THE BEWILDERING AND FRUSTRATING COMPLEXITIES OF SINFUL HUMAN HISTORY

This, all too briefly and inadequately, is a summary of the great truths which God reveals to the world in and through His Church, His kingdom on earth. Those who receive it humbly and lovingly in faith are enriched intellectually, immeasurably beyond those who will not accept it. Through the revealed word and the incarnate Word of God they have learned the secrets of the innermost core of being, of existence. Though they live in the midst of the bewildering and frustrating complexities of sinful human history, they know, in faith, that beneath all apparent contradictions and beyond all hopelessness there lies the one Truth and Love which is God, the foundation of hope. In the golden age which flourishes in each civilisation which comes to be in human history, they are not so beguiled by the beauty and perfection of the world man has made as to forsake the God Who is the Author of man’s perfection. In times of barbarity and decadence, such as come at the decline of all purely human civilisations, they are not so disheartened as to hate and reject, or to hopelessness and despair. Armed with the saving Truth of God, with the knowledge of the hope-engendering Love of God, the member of Christ’s kingdom lives serenely in the midst of the calm or the turbulence of human history, knowing that the God Who underlies and permeates all history will in His own good time manifest the meaning of it all.

THE CHURCH IN THE WORLD

The Church, of course, is primarily interested in transmitting to men the knowledge of the divine revelation which Jesus, her Founder and Head, has entrusted to her. But, as a kingdom founded on universal charity, on love for all men and for all that is truly human, she has in the course of history interested herself in the discovery and transmission of all true knowledge.

In the beginning, as was natural, her interest was chiefly in theology, the application of human reason to the proper understanding of divine revelation and of the Sacred Scriptures (the Bible) in which the story of God’s revelation is contained.

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH COMPILED AND TRANSMITTED THE BIBLE

In the case of Sacred Scripture it is the Church herself who preserved these inspired books for the world. As early as 382 A.D. A Council of Rome under Pope Damasus drew up the list of the books of the Old and the New Testaments. The list was reaffirmed by the third Council of Carthage in 397, by Pope Innocent I in 405 and by Pope Gelasius I in 495. It was not until 1546 at the Council of Trent that the Church, faced with the attempts of some of the ‘Reformers’ to remove from the Bible texts which could not be reconciled with their new doctrines (Luther [threw out books ‘clashing’ with his brand new doctrine including] the Epistle of St James which said, ‘So also, faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself,’ a statement which contradicted Luther’s teaching that faith alone was necessary for salvation), reaffirmed both the divine inspiration of the Bible and the list of books of the Bible which the Church had accepted from the beginning.

A FULLER UNDERSTANDING

The first traces of this effort can be seen in the works of the early Christian apologists, especially Justin the Martyr and Tertullian. Justin, a pagan philosopher converted to Christianity, sought, even if not quite correctly, to show that the human wisdom of the pagans had been anticipated by and even perhaps drawn from the divine reveltions contained in the Bible. Tertullian, with a mind more legal than philosophical, sought to give more precision to the terms in which the Christian mysteries were to be affirmed. In the middle of the second century A.D. We find a theological school functioning at Alexandria in Egypt, a famous centre of Greek and Jewish learning. In the middle of the third century a new theological school was founded at Antioch. From this time on, the Church has never lacked schools of theology and theologians. Before the breakdown of the Roman Empire the Church had produced the enduring theological works of the Great Cappadocians, Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa, and in the Western Church the powerful theological understanding manifested in the works of the great St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in Africa.

LEARNING AND EDUCATION IN THE MONASTERIES

Even after the collapse of the empire in the face of the barbarian invasions of Europe and Africa, and in spite of the disruption of the Christian world by the Mohammedan conquests, ecclesiastical study and learning did not cease. Christian monks, especially the Benedictines, a monastic order founded at Monte Cassino in 529 by St Benedict, preserved in their monasteries copies of the books of the Bible, of the works of the Christian apologists and theologians, and even the works of pagan writers. They conducted schools for the education of the young and the training of clerics for the service of the Church and the civil authorities. In the seventh century Irish monks conducted schools in Ireland and sent teachers to the Continent to conduct schools there. Under the great Emperor Charlemagne a nnew impetus was given to learning by the founding of his famed Palace School under the guidance of a group of scholars drawn from all Europe. During the Carolingian Renaissance under the successors of Charlemagne interest in learning increased. The study of theology was furthered by the reintroduction of the use of Aristotele’s Logic. A new interest in classical Latin literature led even to a revival of works of poetry.

A GREAT SYNTHESIS OF ALL THEOLOGICAL LEARNING

By the twelfth century theologians were well on their way to a great synthesis of all theological learning. Peter Lombard composed his ‘Four Books of Sentences,’ in which he tried, with great success, to organise systematically all theology. Efforts such as this came to greater success in the thirteenth century, especially in the masterful Summa theologiae of St Thomas Aquinas, a theological synthesis whose influence has lasted until the present time.

MODERN ERRORS, RELATIVISM & CO.

After the Golden Age of Scholasticism (as it came to be called) in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, theology and philosophy declined in quality until the attacks of the ‘Reformers’ on the authority of the Church brought on a revival. At first, as circumstances dictated, the efforts of theologians. Were devoted to a defence of the Church as God’s mouthpiece in the world. But a more serious danger soon threatened the leavening action of the Church in the world. Under influence of the philosophical errors of Descartes, Locke, Hume and Kant, philosophy was corrupted and fell into the decadence of relativism, the theory that since nothing is absolutely true then anything and everything, even contradictory propositions and contradictory religious doctrines, can be simultaneously true. Moreover (according to relativist theory), since contradictory views can both be true, even in matters of religion, there can be no exclusively true divine revelation recognisable as such. According to this view then all religions are equally true or none is true, and since (as they say) there can be no rational justification of any particular religion, the ultimate foundation of any religion would have to be purely subjective and emotional.

ETERNAL TRUTHS

This is the modern religious error which the Church, the teacher of mankind, faces. Against it the Church at the Vatican Council reaffirmed its belief in the power of the human mind to discover the existence of God and to recognise as divine the revelation which the Church is divinely commissioned to teach to the world. This particular struggle is not yet over; the Pope and bishops and the philosophers and theologians of the Church are still labouring to effect a reconciliation of the spirit of the times with the eternal truths of God’s revelation.

THE CHURCH INITIATED EDUCATION FOR THE COMMON PEOPLE, A THING HITHERTO UNHEARD OF

As we have already suggested, the Church has not only fostered the pursuit of theological knowledge. She has also preserved and promoted general knowledge. The classical works of paganism, literary, historical, scientific, philosophical and theological, were preserved by the Church through the so-called Dark Ages of medieval Europe. They were learned and taught in conjunction with religious knowledge. Though for centuries learning was the privilege of the nobility or of the wealthy, the Church was always interested in the instruction of the poor. For centuries clerics of the Church were among the most learned men of their times, and the Church was always solicitous to give clerical training to the children of the poor. The great medieval universities (such as the Sorbonne at Paris and Oxford) were founded under the aegis of the Church and staffed by clerics of the Church. The Council of Trent in the sixteenth century urged the foundation of elementary schools. Great teaching orders, such as the Jesuits, the congregations of teaching brothers and sisters, have been founded to give the benefits of education to all. Like her Master, Jesus, the Church strives to bring to all men the truth which will make them free.

LIKE HER MASTER, JESUS, THE CHURCH STRIVES TO BRING TO ALL MEN THE TRUTH WHICH WILL MAKE THEM FREE

The leavening work of the Church has not been restricted to the field of knowledge. Through her influence and example the moral tone of mankind has also been elevated. In the pagan and corrupt world in which the Church was born, she appeared as the champion of a highly elevated moral code. She reprobated not only sinful external actions but even sinful internal desires and decisions. Not only was adultery forbidden, for example, but even the sinful lusting of the heart after forbidden impurities. Not only was chastity in marriage inculcated, but virginity (for both men and women) was extolled. As a consequence of original sin human beings are all too prone to forget God in the pursuit and enjoyment even of legitimate pleasures such as those of marriage. As an example of true dedication to God, man’s true destiny, the Church holds up to the eyes of the world its celibate priests, its consecrated monks and nuns. By their practice of virginity they are an example to the world of the utter dedication to God which is the fundamental duty of all men. Besides, by their faithfulness to their dedication they prove to the weak, the timid and the ungenerous that the grace of God, purchased by the Blood of Jesus, can really set men free from the tyranny of the devil, the world and the flesh. Moreover, from the beginning the Church has taught the world that heroic virtue is possible, not through human justice but through the supernatural charity, the supernatural love of God and man which God gives to men with His grace. Sin has begotten discord and hatred in the life of humanity. Grace and charity will not only restore men to union with God but also enable men to live in harmony and love with one another.

SAINTS OF THE CHURCH

The Church appeared in the world of men preaching this high moral ideal. Over the centuries it has succeeded in realising this ideal in varying degrees. On the level of the individual person it has had from the beginning startling successes. In the first three hundred years of its existence thousands of Christians publicly manifested their dedication to God to the extent of giving up their lives for Him during the Roman persecutions of Christianity. The leavening vitality of the Gospel, its power to lead men to prefer God to all else, is all the more noticeable in the fact that the early Christian martyrs are found not only among the nobility and the military forces (who might be expected by reason of their breeding, position or training to be brave in the profession of their faith) but also among the women, both rich and poor, and children. These early martyrs were the first Christian saints. Their example of preference for God even over life itself has been imitated by all the martyrs for Christ down to the present time.

THROUGH THE CENTURIES

Even in times and places where the Church has not been actively persecuted, the Church has never been lacking in examples of men and women totally dedicated to the love and service of God and man. From St Martin of Tours (the first non-martyr to be recognised as a saint by the Church) to St Maria Goretti in this present time (a young girl who preferred death to loss of chastity) the history of the Church shows a procession of saints choosing God rather than the seductive pleasures of the world. In addition to the canonised saints of the Church, from the very beginning of her life on earth the Church has inspired countless thousands to forswear the pleasures of the world and its power for the love of God in monasteries and convents.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD ONLY

In a world corrupted and debased by the indulgence of the flesh St Mary Magdalene and St Augustine give testimony to the power of God to convert and save the sinner. In a world torn by restless human ambitions and the marches and countermarches of military conquest, St Benedict and St Scholastica forsake worldly ambition for the peace and the love of God. In a world beginning anew to love money and wealth overmuch St Francis of Assisi gives up all his worldy possessions to the poor and embraces his Lady Poverty for the love of God and man. In a world in which nationalistic aims are seeking to divide and conquer the Church of Christ St Ignatius founds the Society of Jesus to defend and spread the Kingdom of God universally among men. In a world in which misguided men were trying to find God outside His own Church, insisting that no intermediary be interposed between the individual and God, God raised up a St Teresa of Avila and a St John of the Cross to show that true unity with God is to be sought in the fruitful bosom of His Church.

SOCIAL MORALITY IS RAISED THROUGH THE CHURCH

But it is not only in the lives of individual saints that the power of the Gospel has been manifest. Through the influence of the Church social morality in general has also been raised to higher levels. Even though the ignorance and weak wills of men have made the process slow and uncertain at times, the Gospel of Jesus has brought great benefits to mankind. From the beginning the Church has made no distinction between slaves and freemen. Over the centuries this has gradually led to the abolition of slavery in Christian nations. The Church’s doctrines and its reverence for Mary, the Mother of God, has likewise led many nations to raise the position of women in society. In a truly Christian society they cannot be regarded as either the slaves or the playthings of men. Even the horrors of war were mitigated under the influence of the doctrine of Christ. In the Middle Ages (the great ages of faith thus far in the history of the world) the Church even induced men to practise the Truce of God, whereby they abstained from battle on certain feast days. In modern times with the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution the Church has fought for the rights of both capital and labour, for the right and necessity of labour unions to exist and to function for just wages. In large part the present world, even when expressly anti-Catholic, is living under the influence and heritage of the great elevation of morals brought to the world by the preaching and practice of Christian moral doctrine.

Of course the Church has not been completely successful in elevating the moral conduct of all men, even of all those nominally members of the kingdom of God. Nor does she ever expect in this present world to be completely successful. Jesus has told her more than once that she will always count among her members good and evil men. The Church He has told her is like a net which brings up both good and bad fish, or a field in which both good grain and weeds will grow. It is God Who will separate the good from the evil and manifest His judgement at the end of the world. So the Church is not dismayed at the scandalous behaviour of some Christians, even though at times they be in high places, perhaps as in the cases of some few Popes, even in the highest place of all. In spite of all individual defections the Church continues to preach Christian morality to the world.

TODAY’S TOTALITARIANISM

Today the Church faces the horror of totalitarianism, a godless totalitarianism which denies God, rides roughshod over the dignity of individuals, reduces men to statistics. Almost alone in the world she still cries out that God gave Himself on a Cross for the salvation of all men and that therefore each human being is in himself of inestimable value, a child of God, a brother of Jesus the Christ.

UNTIL THE END

How this present struggle of the Church with the power of the devil and the bad will of men will be resolved we cannot at present see. But, whether the Church grows or diminishes in the present world, it still remains true that she will be until the end a leaven in the world, secretly or openly building up the kingdom of heaven until it reaches the stature already determined by God. At the end of time with the general judgement of God the true proportions of the kingdom, the full extent of the leaven of the Church, will be revealed in the final Kingdom of God.”
– Martin J. Healy, S.T.D., 1959 (headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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THE DIVINE PLAN FOR THE SALVATION OF ALL MEN

THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: JESUS’ LAST DISCOURSE

“Toward the close of the Last Supper there took place the famous last discourse of Jesus to His Apostles before His death. The discourse is both tender and mysterious. Jesus seems to be trying to lead His Apostles to a deeper understanding of the spiritual life which He has come to give them. He has foreseen and has foretold to them their desertion of Him in His hour of trial. He offers them words of consolation and of hope. But the hope is based on the acceptance of profound doctrines on the essence of God and on the divine plan for the redemption of man.

‘LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED’

Jesus begins with a word of consolation: ‘Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house there are many mansions. Were it not so, I should have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and I will take you to Myself; that where I am, there you also may be. And where I go you know, and the way you know’ (John 14:1-4).

HE WHO SEES JESUS SEES ALSO THE FATHER

The Apostles did not understand Jesus. Thomas objected, ‘Lord, we do not know where thou art going, and how can we know the way?’ (John 14:5). Jesus replied, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would also have known My Father. And henceforth you do know Him, and you have seen him’ (John 14:6-7).

THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE

Again Thomas is mystified and he asks to be shown the Father. Jesus replies that he who sees Jesus sees also the Father. Then Jesus repeats what He had said on a previous occasion; He and the Father are one. While being distinct Persons, they are nevertheless both God, the one true God. Hence he who sees Jesus sees also the Father, for the Father is in His Son and the Son is in His Father.

JESUS TELLS THEM THAT THIS DOCTRINE IS A DIVINE REVELATION

Jesus then tells them that this doctrine is a divine revelation from the Father, a revelation guaranteed by the wondrous works, the miracles which the Father works through Jesus. If the Apostles will believe in Jesus because of these works, then they themselves will perform even more wondrous things, so that the Father may be glorified in Jesus.

‘IF YOU LOVE ME KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS’

Following this promise Jesus makes an even greater, though more mysterious promise. ‘If you love Me,’ He says, ‘keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you shall know Him because He will dwell with you, and be in you’ (John 14:15-17).

THE HOLY SPIRIT

Jesus returns several times throughout His discourse to this theme of the ‘Advocate,’ the ‘Spirit’ whom He and the Father will send to the Apostles. ‘But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you’ (John 14:26). ‘But when the Advocate has come, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me’ (John 15:26). ‘It is expedient for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he has come he will convict the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of justice, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; and of judgment, because the prince of this world has already been judged. Many things yet I have to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will teach you all the truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he will hear he will speak, and the things that are to come he will declare to you. He will glorify me, because he will receive of what is mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are mine. That is why I have said that he will receive of what is mine and declare it to you’ (John 16:7-15).

FULL OF MYSTERY

The words of Jesus are full of mystery. The ‘Advocate,’ the ‘Holy Spirit’ of whom He speaks is evidently a Person distinct from the Father and from Himself, for the Father and the Son send Him to the Apostles. Moreover Jesus must depart and go to the Father in order to send the ‘Advocate’ to the Apostles.

THE SPIRIT OF LOVE AND TRUTH

The ‘Holy Spirit’ is the Spirit of truth. He will teach the Apostles all things, reminding the Apostles of all that Jesus Himself has taught them, and even revealing to them the things that are to come. He will glorify Jesus, the Son of God, because the things which He will speak He will have received from Jesus, Who received them from His Father.

THE CENTRAL MYSTERY OF THE GODHEAD

The Holy Spirit is a Person distinct from Jesus and from His Father. At this moment Jesus does not make it clear just Who this Person is. But, after His resurrection, when commissioning the Apostles to make disciples of all nations, Jesus commands them to baptise men ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19).

Here the Spirit is put on a par with the Father and the Son. He is, therefore, God, just as the Father and the Son are God. At the Last Supper, then, Jesus is speaking to the Apostles of the great central mystery of the Godhead: the one true God is three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, all three Persons equally God. The Son has received the Godhead from the Father, for all the things which the Father has are the Son’s. Since the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (John 15:26), and since He has received from the Son all the things which the Father has (John 16:14-15), it follows that He has received the Godhead from both the Father and the Son.

JESUS’ INTRODUCTION TO THE DOCTRINE OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

In these mysterious words Jesus introduces the Apostles to the profound doctrine of the Most Blessed Trinity. The doctrine, rather the revelation of this truth about the mysterious depths of the inner life of God, is indeed a great gift to men. If it is a great good to know even the least grain of truth about God, surely it is a magnificent privilege to know the secret of the inner Trinitarian life of God.

A MAGNIFICENT PRIVILEGE

But in the context of the last discourse Jesus does not insist on the intellectual benefits of a knowledge of the existence of the Trinity. Rather He offers the knowledge of the Trinity as a means of consolation and encouragement. Even though Jesus Himself is to leave the Apostles and return to His Father, His going will not leave the Apostles orphans, for if they love Jesus and keep His commandments, the Father and the Son will come to them invisible and dwell in them. Moreover the Holy Spirit will also come to them and ‘be’ in them (John 14:17 and 23).

The Apostles, therefore, are not to be ‘troubled’ or ‘afraid’ or ‘scandalised’ (John 14:27 and John 16:1). Jesus will leave them for a time, not only at His death but even at the time of His ascension to His Father. His followers will be hated and persecuted by the world, even as Jesus Himself was (John 15:18-25).

Nevertheless Jesus will leave to His Apostles ‘peace,’ not the kind of ‘peace’ which the world can give but a true peace, a peace of soul founded on the presence of the Trinity in themselves. Even though Jesus will have left them for a time, they will have the testimony of the Spirit of truth Who will glorify Jesus. The world will persecute the Apostles, even kill them in the name of God. But they will give their own testimony to Jesus, for the Spirit will testify through them. They need not fear or be troubled, for the victory – a victory in the spiritual order, the order of eternal truth – is already won. The devil, the prince of this world, is already judged (John 16:10). He has already lost the struggle against God for the souls of men. His actions against Jesus Himself, which are soon to lead to the death of Jesus on the Cross, can only make known the great love which Jesus has for His Father. ‘But he (the prince of this world) comes that the world may know that I love the Father, and that I do as the Father has commanded me’ (John 14:31).

INNER AND OUTER PEACE OF SOUL FOUNDED ON THE PRESENCE OF THE TRINITY

These words are consoling, not only because they reveal the Trinity to mankind but also because they make clear the divine plan for the salvation of men. Because of sin – the sins of men and angels – the devil is the ‘prince of this world,’ ruling men to their destruction. But God the Father sends God the Son to save men. He accomplishes this by laying down His life – His human life – for men. The devil, and men led by the devil, will bring about the death of Jesus; but, in so doing, they will be unconsciously bringing to fruition the plan of God, for the death of Jesus will mean the salvation of men, those men who become the disciples of Jesus. And thus will the Father be glorified. ‘In this is my Father glorified, that you may bear very much fruit, and become my disciples’ (John 15:8).

THE NEED TO BEAR MUCH FRUIT TO QUALIFY AS A GENUINE FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST

Men will be led back to God, back to the Father through union with Jesus. ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he will take away; and every branch that bears fruit he will cleanse, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither; and they shall gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they shall burn. If you abide in me, and if my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done to you. In this is my Father glorified, that you may bear very much fruit, and become my disciples’ (John 15:1-8).

STRENGTHENING THE FAITH, LOVE AND HOPE

This union with Jesus will be the work of the Holy Spirit, Who will come to give testimony to Jesus. Jesus Himself will return to His Father and send the Holy Spirit to do this work.

These details of the divine plan to save men Jesus reveals to the Apostles at the Last Supper. He does so in order to console them and strengthen them in their faith in Himself. ‘These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have affliction. But take courage, I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).

‘I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD’

Since union with Jesus is the means of salvation, it is most fitting that Jesus concludes His last discourse to the Apostles with a prayer to His Father, a prayer whose chief request is for the establishment of this union of men with Jesus.

JESUS PRAYS FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE UNION OF MEN WITH HIM

Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come! Glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee, even as thou hast given him power over all flesh, in order that to all thou hast given him he may give everlasting life. Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ’ (John 17:1-3).

JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS APOSTLES

Then Jesus prayed for His Apostles: ‘I pray for them; not for the world do I pray, but for those whom thou hast given me, because they are thine; and all things that are mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep in thy name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one even as we are. While I was with them, I kept them in thy name. Those whom thou hast given me I guarded, and not one of them perished except the son of perdition, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled’ (John 17:9-12).

LASTLY JESUS PRAYED FOR ALL THOSE WHO WOULD COME TO BELIEVE IN HIM THROUGH THE PREACHING OF THE APOSTLES

Lastly Jesus prayed for all those who would come to believe in Him through the preaching of the Apostles. ‘Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those also who through their word are to believe in me, that all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory that thou hast given me, I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them and thou in me; that they may be perfected in unity, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and that thou hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given may be with me; in order that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world. Just Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have made known to them thy name, and will make it known, in order that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them’ (John 17:20-26).

THE CONCLUSION OF THE LAST SUPPER

At the conclusion of this prayer for the union of men with God through Jesus, the Apostles and Jesus concluded the Last Supper with a hymn. Then Jesus and the Apostles left the upper room where they had celebrated the Pasch.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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“TOTALLY SACRIFICING ONESELF FOR THE HOLY CHURCH” – ST JOZEF BILCZEWSKI

“John Paul II beatified Jozef Bilczewski in 2001 and Benedict XVI canonised him four years later.

Jozef was born in 1860 in Wilamovice in southern Poland and attended secondary school in Wadowice, the future birthplace of the Polish pope. He was ordained priest in Krakow by Cardinal Albino Dunajewski. He received a doctorate in theology from the University of Vienna and eventually became professor of dogmatic theology at the John Casimir University of Lviv.

Throughout his academic career he devoted himself to scientific work and his exceptional intellectual abilities were recognised by Franz Joseph, the Emperor of Austria, who presented Fr Jozef to the Holy Father as a candidate for the vacant Metropolitan See of Lviv. On December 17 1900, at the age of 40, he was named Archbishop of Lviv of the Latin Rite.

After accepting his new role, he summed up his pastoral plan as ‘totally sacrificing oneself for the Holy Church’. He placed a great emphasis on devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and receiving Holy Communion. In a pastoral letter to priests he invited them to take part in two priestly associations: the Association for Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Association of Aid to Poor Catholic Churches. He was also an advocate of unity, harmony and peace, and dedicated himself to the cause of social justice. He also placed a lot of emphasis on priestly vocations.

During the First World War he was outspoken in promoting the infinite love of God, capable of forgiving every type of sin and offence. He reminded his flock that they must obey God’s commandments, particularly that of brotherly love.

He died on March 20 1923 and was buried in a Lviv cemetery known as ‘the cemetery of the poor’.

In June 2001 the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints recognised as miraculous the healing of a nine-year-old boy’s third-degree burns after he asked Archbishop Bilczewski to intercede for him.

The beatification ceremony took place in the Archdiocese of Lviv on June 26 2001 during Blessed John Paul II’s visit to Ukraine.”
– This article was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue March 14 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 

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