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Monday, September 27, 2010

Pentecost: Why were there 120 Jews in the Upper Room?

by Lawrence Fox
In those days, Peter stood up among the brothers - a group numbering a hundred and twenty... (Acts of the Apostles 1:15).

Ascension to Pentecost

Prior to Jesus’ ascension to the Father, he instructed his apostles to return to Jerusalem, to pray, and to wait for the promise of the Father. As Jesus ascended to the Father, his apostles looked intently into the sky and waited. Suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them, “Men of Galilee,” they said, “Why do you stand there looking into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back to you in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

And so these “Men of Galilee,” return to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, which was a Sabbath day’s walk from the city of Jerusalem. When they arrive in Jerusalem, they then go up stairs to a room where they were staying – a room large enough to hold 120 brethren. This room is the large upper room in which Jesus and the apostles gathered on Holy Thursday to celebrate together the Passover (Last Supper) and the room in which the Eucharist was instituted by Jesus Christ.

“As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters and say to the owner of the house. ‘The teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, all furnished, Make preparation there” (Luke 22: 7-12).

It is from this large upper room that the apostles and Jesus walked to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday. There was a very young lad who followed them to the garden wearing nothing but a linen garment. And when he was grabbed by a guard, the lad ran off naked leaving only the linen cloth (Mark 14:51). Some speculate that this young lad was Mark the human author of the Gospel - who is the only one who records the embarrassing event.

Of these “Men of Galilee” there were the remaining 11 apostles:
• Simon, son of John, who was given the name of Cephas (Aramaic) by Jesus. Cephas which means rock is translated as Petros in Koine Greek. The English rendering of Petros is Peter. In the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles, St. Paul addresses Simon as Cephas and not Petros, which I believe maintains the true significance and meaning (ROCK not stone or pebble) as derived from the Aramaic expression and as intended by Jesus Christ. You wouldn’t know that from the English translations.
• James and John the sons of Zebedee both identified by Jesus as the “sons of thunder.”
• Andrew the brother of Peter.
• Philip who was from the town of Bethsaida as were Andrew and Peter.
• Thomas also known as Didymus (the twin).
• Bartholomew also known as Nathaniel and who was identified by Jesus to be a true Israelite without guile.
• Matthew also known as Levi and the son of Alphaeus.
• Simon the Zealot.
• James the son of Alphaeus.
• Judas (Jude) son of James and also known as Thaddaeus (from which we get St. Jude Thaddaeus).

There was also present a man identified as Joseph also known as Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and there was Matthias. The person missing was of course Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus and subsequently hung himself and did not write a gospel as certain Gnostics profess.

Jesus by choosing the twelve apostles to his inner circle of disciples demonstrated that his mission was to shepherd all of Israel. The twelve apostles represented the twelve tribes of Israel. In fact, the symbolism is so much so, that when the twelve tribes of Israel are identified in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 7: 5-8), the original tribe of Dan – one of the 12 sons of Jacob – is missing and is replaced by Manasseh, a son of Joseph. The tribe of Dan persecuted the tribe of Judah. Here in the large upper room, Judas - one of the original twelve - is replaced by Matthias.

Of all the many women that were present, St. Luke specifically identifies Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I believe in doing so Luke is not minimizing the other women but emphasizing Mary for the following reasons:

1. Mary is an integral character within the diptych that he is painting which shows on the one side the dedication of the New Testament Temple (the Church) and on the other side the dedication of Old Testament King Solomon Temple.

2. Mary is a source for the Pentecost story (birth and infancy narrative of the Church) as she is a source for Jesus’ birth and infancy narrative.
In the realm of speculation, the other women could have been Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary the sisters of Lazarus, Joanna, and Mary, the Mother of James the younger and Salome, and Mary the wife of Clopas, and maybe Rhoda the servant girl.
Since I am sticking my neck out, the other brethren may have been Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Zaccheus, Bartimaeus the Son of Timaeus, James the younger and Joseph and brothers to Salome and possible John (Mark).

For nine days leading up to Pentecost, the apostles constantly prayed together in accord (as with one voice) with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus and his brothers which St. Luke says was about 120.

I asked myself a number of times, what is St. Luke attempting to signify by this number 120?

120 Priests and Solomon’s Temple
King David wanted to build a Temple so God would no longer dwell in a tent but in a great and magnificent building of stone. I suppose there was an element of self-importance in King David’s words since God gently reminded him that everything even his very life was given and preserved by God and that He (God) had no need of a house. Still, in absolute humility, God tells King David that he was not to build a temple for his hands were covered in blood but that his son would build the Temple. I suppose this should be a quick reminder that while God permitted King David to execute wars to defend his people Israel, eternal piece is not gained by the shedding of another man’s blood. In that sense the blood of all men is like Abel’s blood calling out to God for justice from the earth. Jesus’ blood speaks with more eloquence than Abel's. And Jesus' blood brings justice and mercy together to embrace and to kiss.

King Solomon at this point represents a “type” of Christ in that King Solomon (a son of David) builds an earthly temple made by human hands, and Jesus (a son of David) builds a heavenly temple not made by human hands (Hebrews 8:1). This brings me to my first understanding of the number 120.

In the second Book of Chronicles (Paralipimonen), the temple in Jerusalem is constructed and the young King Solomon is overseeing the dedication of the temple and there is assigned 120 Priests to perform the required rituals of purification. Into the temple and the inner sanctuary of the Holy of Holies comes the Arc of the Covenant. The only thing which remains in the Arc of the Covenant are the two tables of Moses, seemingly representing the Laws of Moses. (It once contained manna and the rod of Aaron)

As the assembled are singing God’s praises with cymbals, lutes and harps, the 120 leave the Holy of Holies and the cloud of the Glory of the Lord (the presence of God) fills it,
and the priests can no longer minister in the inner sanctuary lest they die touching God's presence in the cloud of glory (2 Chronicles 6: 1-18).

After a long prayer, King Solomon then asked the following question to the people assembled: “Will God indeed dwell with men upon the earth? If the heaven and heavens above the heavens will not suffice thee, what then is this house that I have built?” (II Chronicles 6:18).

The answer is YES and much more!

Couple of things to correlate: Solomon’s Temple and the Large Upper Room

In the Temple there were 120 priests leading the people and praising God while waiting for God to dwell in the Holy of Holies. In the Upper Room there are 120 brethren praising God and waiting for the Promise of the Father, The Holy Spirit to come down upon them.

In the Temple 120 priests are trumpeting, singing, praising God with one voice. In the Upper Room the 120 brethren are praying with one voice (one accord).

In the Holy of Holies is the Ark of the Covenant which is a “type” in the Old Testament. In the Upper Room there is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the “anti-type” of the Ark of the Covenant. An "anti-type" is a theological expression meaning not the "type" but the real thing.

In the Temple, the Glory of the Lord fills the Holy of Holies.
In the upper room, the Glory of the Lord (the Holy Spirit) rests upon each of the 120 brethren in the form of tongues of flame.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1).

Note to the perplexed: Jesus promised to send the Paracletos, the Comforter, and the Gift of the Father upon his disciples. This promise was fulfilled by the descent of God’s Holy Spirit upon the 120 Jews in the upper room on Pentecost in Jerusalem. This remains the Church’s infallible experience and God’s historical fulfillment. The Islamic argument that this promise was later fulfilled by the person of Mohamed is another lamentable demonstration of complete ignorance of the Gospels and church history.

In the Old Testament, the priests could not minister while the Glory of the Lord was in the room. Only one priest, once a year could enter the Holy of Holies. With the death of Jesus on the Cross, the curtain in the Holy of Holies is torn asunder making way for God’s Cloud of Glory to rest upon the 120 brethren in the upper room. With the descent of the Holy Spirit upon those present in the upper room, they become the temple of the Holy Spirit, members of the Mystical Body of Christ and through them Christ’s Universal (Catholic) Church is manifested to all of humanity.

As you come to him (Jesus) the living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him, you also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4).

With this said, it is possible that St. Luke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit identifies these 120 Jews with the dedication of a New Temple (the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ) not made by human hands but by the Person of Jesus Christ? A wider Diaspora (Dispersion and Exile of the Jews from their homeland) is coming to an end. Now both Jew and Gentile are being gathered by Jesus Christ into one place to fulfill the prophecy of Ezekiel:

I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed. I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a new heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Ark of the Covenant
St. Luke - who is painting a picture of these events on Pentecost - is picking up from where he left off when he wrote the orderly accounts in the Gospel. Going all the way back to chapter one, there are several events which have their pattern in the Old Testament (which I believe he assumes the reader knows) and which completes the painting of the Pentecost story.

In the Old Testament, after the people of Israel entered the desert, God commands Moses to build a sanctuary so that He could appear among the people (Exodus 25:8). And in this sanctuary, there would be set aside an inner tabernacle separated by a curtain, and within this tabernacle would be the Ark of the Covenant, an altar, candlesticks, and various other furniture all patterned upon the instructions which Moses received up on the mountain. The Ark of Covenant and the carrying poles were to be made of incorruptible wood and gilded with gold inside and out. After the sanctuary was assembled and the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the tabernacle, the cloud covered the tabernacle and was filled with the glory of the Lord. And by day there was a cloud and by night a fire to show God’s presence amongst his people (Exodus 40: 31).

St. Luke in the Gospel recounts the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary that God’s Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the most high God would overshadow her and she would conceive in her womb the Son of God (Luke 1:35).

Jesus, who is the Living Law of God, the Bread of Life which came down from Heaven, and the new High Priest, would be conceived and be carried in Mary’s womb for nine months. And even after giving birth, the Spirit of Jesus would remain in her mind, heart, and soul as a pattern for her whole life. When Mary pondered the words of Jesus and treasured them in her heart, Jesus was carried in her womb.

In the Old Testament, when King David recovered the Ark of God from the house of Aminadab, he thought to bring it to his own house. But since one of the bearers of the ark dies after touching the ark (He tried to prevent it from falling off the cart), David is afraid to bring it home. King David -- taken back by the event -- asked: “How does the ark of the Lord come to me?” He decides instead to take the Ark into the House of Abeddara (variation on Obededom) the Gethite. And the Ark remains in the House of Abeddara the Gethite for three months (2 Kings 6: 1-12). David identifies the Ark as “the Ark of the Lord” and not “the Ark of the Covenant.”

Mary -- carrying the Incarnated Word in her womb -- approaches the house of Zacharias. Elizabeth hears her voice. The babe leaps in Elizabeth’s womb and she is filled with the Holy Spirit and says to Mary: “How is it that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” “For the moment your voice reached my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed the words spoken to her by the Lord would be accomplished in her” (Luke 1:41-45). Elizabeth addresses Mary as “the Mother of my Lord” and not “my relative.” Mary enters the House of Zachariah and stays for three months (Luke 1:56).

The New Ark of the Covenant: Mary, Mother of Jesus
In the Old Testament, God overshadows the Sanctuary and the Ark of the Covenant which contains the two tablets, God’s Word written on stone. In the New Testament, God the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary and she conceives in her womb the living and eternal Word of God.

King David filled with a natural fear of the Lord that day speaks to the Ark of God with the words: “How does the Ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth filled with Holy Spirit rejoices and speaks to Mary who is carrying the Word of God, “How does the Mother of my Lord come to me?”

King David dances (leaps) before the Lord who dwells in the Ark of God. John the Baptist leaps (dances) in Elizabeth's womb as Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice.
The Ark of the Lord stayed in the House of House of Abeddara the Gethite for three months. Mary stayed in the House of Zachariah for three months.

Mary as Source
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.(Luke 2:19).

St. Luke when addressing the Most Excellent Theophilus records in Luke Chapter 1:1:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things which have been fulfilled amongst us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the WORD. Therefore since, I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly
account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

St. Luke states that he carefully investigated everything. St. Luke twice mentions that Mary treasured and pondered events surrounding the life of Jesus (2:19, 2:51). I believe this is meant to say something about the veracity of the infancy stories and that Mary is his source. For how else would St. Luke know that Mary pondered and treasured these things unless Mary told him? Besides, who else was an eyewitness from the beginning except Mary?

St. Luke was not present during the events of Pentecost but records in some detail the events surrounding the infancy of the Church. When he is an actual witness to an event such as when he accompanied St. Paul he uses the first person plural, "we," unlike the infancy narrative of Jesus and Pentecost.

Looking at Luke's language, we can conclude that Mary was a source for the Pentecost story (the birth and infancy narrative for the Church) as she was a source for Jesus’ birth and infancy narrative. This explains why the apostles and Mary are named. Mary identifies the apostles and St. Luke identifies Mary to the reader.

I recognized one other event in Sacred Scripture in which someone is identified as pondering mysteries and that is Jacob, who is pondering the words of Joseph, his son. Joseph revealed his dream of the moon and the stars bowing down before him to Jacob and his brothers, and Jacob was a little perturbed that his son would have a dream in which even his father bowed down to him. But his father pondered the saying (Genesis 37:11). I conclude there that Jacob is the oral source of Joseph’s dreams as captured in the Old Testament.

• New Testament Quotes: Revised and New International Version (NIV).
• Old Testament Quotes: Septuagint as translated by Sir Lancelot C. L.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


By Susan Fox

“No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon”
(Luke 16:13)

Lake Quinault Lodge in Washington State used to have the best Tempura Salmon I’ve ever tasted.

I often sat at their picture window overlooking the tranquil Lake Quinault, and enjoyed conversation with my husband and mother while eating this incredible dish.

But one year – when the lodge was acquired by a large corporation – the salmon changed. It clearly did not taste as good as it used to. When I asked why, I was told that they used to buy their salmon from the local Quinault Indians. They thought the Quinault Tribe was charging too much money and they could get inferior salmon somewhere else, so they completely sabotaged the quality of the food in order to cut costs – not to mention selfishly ignoring the local businessmen, the Indians.

Little did I realize that I was experiencing the fruits of “serving” mammon.

This is the crux of today’s Gospel: The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. (Luke 16:10)

The large corporation that took over Lake Quinault Lodge was serving profit at the expense of their customers, a form of idolatry and a lack of charity. Also it was short-sighted as once you ignore the customer, the profit very often disappears.

I put “serving” into italics because I used to think the Scripture referred to choosing mammon (idolatry) and not God. Hence, when an individual “desired” something that was not God --- brownies, clothes, ice cream, shopping, a beautiful person of the opposite sex, they were choosing mammon. They were idolaters.

And so any list of innocent desires became a form of idolatry. This is what is known as “scruples” – seeing evil where there is none.

I had forgotten the full context of today’s Gospel reading. The rich man had a steward – a servant – who was squandering his property. He was stealing from him. So he fired the steward and demanded an accounting from him. The steward very craftily called in the master’s debtors and cut their debts in half so that he might be welcome in their homes after he was fired.

The master thought this was acting prudently in a worldly sense.

But he gives us this discernment principle: “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon”
(Luke 16:13)

Wait. This was a revelation to me. We are not talking about choosing innocent pleasures in moderation. We are talking about working for and pleasing two separate and very demanding masters. That would be like having two husbands!

Is my life lived to serve the glory of God and the salvation of souls? Or is my life lived to serve profit, pleasure and idolatry? This is the choice we are given. And in the context of serving God there can be many innocent pleasures enjoyed.

But worrying about our "desires" when we are "serving" God, can lead to discouragement and exaggerated anxiety -- the two chief obstacles to holiness according to Jesus' words to St. Faustina (Diary of St. Faustina).

Think about St. Francis of Assisi – the son of a wealthy cloth merchant who lived in the Middle Ages. Francis dreamed of becoming a noble knight who would accomplish fantastic deeds and bring honor to his family. He entered the war between the Italian cities of Assisi and Perugia with high hopes for glory, but the reality of war and imprisonment made him long for a better purpose in life.

Going back for a second assignment in warfare, he was given a new suit of armor, sword and shield by his father, but meeting a knight with very poor armor, he impulsively gave him his new suit, believing he had more right to it as he had earned it in battle.

Then that night Francis had a vivid dream. He was in a hall full of armor with colored banners hanging from the walls. He heard a voice ask him, "Francis, who is it better to serve, the Master or the Servant?" He answered, "The Master". The voice then said, "Go back to Assisi and all this will be yours." It was such a powerful dream that Francis acted on it and went back home.

In time, the same voice asked him to “Rebuild my Church.” And so Francis found that he was serving the Master (God) and not the servant (earthly authority). He had made a finer choice of masters. He really couldn’t serve both. And thus he gave up wealth and privilege to become the beloved figure of poverty and love for Christ that we all admire today. That whole hall of armor and colored banners became his. It is the glorious company of men and women who have followed him into poverty and service of Christ in the succeeding years – the Franciscans.

And that is the real meaning of today’s gospel. If a life is at the service of profit and selfish pleasure, then indeed it is serving the cold dish of mammon. But a life lived for God and others is not an idolatrous life.

So enjoy the brownies in moderation and just be faithful in little things.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Stumbling Block For Some and Folly For Others: The Holy Cross

by Lawrence Fox
We proclaim Christ – yes, Christ nailed to the cross: and though it is a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Greeks, yet to those who have heard his call, Jews and Greek alike, he is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 23-24).

St. Paul tells the Church in Corinth that the cross of Jesus Christ is received in various ways by people depending upon theological and cultural foundations which may at times create openness or ignorance, and limit or enhance a person’s receptiveness to God’s Grace; “..If today you hear God’s voice harden not your heart..."Psalm 95.

St. Paul is identifying two such extremes of resistance to the message of the Cross: “God would not ask the just man to die” and “Justice is built from strength; Might makes right.” We still have variants of these philosophical views with us today which prevent many of us from seeing God’s Wisdom, Mercy, and Justice in the Cross of Jesus Christ. But as St. Paul writes: “God’s folly is greater than man’s wisdom.”

There is an even deeper mystery here, for the cross of Jesus Christ can be a stumbling block for all people under trial and persecution; in other words, we are all tempted by the desire for justice as was the Sanhedrin under Roman occupation. Trial and persecution can drive a wedge in a person’s heart preventing the soul from grasping the virtue of forgiveness, or hearing the message “love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you.”

Caiaphas the High Priest of the Sanhedrin said it best: You know nothing at all. Do you not realize that it is better for one man to die, then for a whole nation to perish (John 11:49).

But a soul receptive to God’s grace is able through trial and persecution to live the virtue of forgiveness, and hear the message “love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you.”

As St. James writes:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance…Blessed is the man who perseveres under trail because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who live Him (James 1: 2, 12).

As for the issue of folly, what St. Paul seems to be saying is that the cross of Jesus Christ is incomprehensible for all people who live and think like the world and are under the influence of the devil; in other words, we are all tempted by status, success, efficiency, and the basis of indifference “to seek the common ground.”

“The fool has said in his heart there is no God,” so says the psalmist. Therefore humility, virtue, goodness, sacrifice, suffering, and laying down one’s life for his friends are ideas that seem foolish; and Christians whose manner of life gives Exaltation to the Cross of Jesus Christ are seen by the world as very foolish indeed.

Jesus before He died prophesied that when (He) the son of man is lifted up, He would draw all men to himself (John 12:32). Jesus Christ who said “heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away,” must be drawing all men to himself and all men in some fashion are hearing his call. And yet as then and today, a remnant are standing beneath the cross with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Beloved Disciple, and the Women, while some of us are still dragging our feet, some of us are running away from the cross, and some tragically live in a culture which prevents them from knowing that Jesus actually died on the cross for their sins and on the third day rose from the dead.

Events in the Old Testament as “Types”

I want to consider three (3) events in the Old Testament which I will identity as “types” since they prefigure the Cross of Jesus Christ: 1) the sleep of Adam, 2) Moses and the Bronze Serpent, and 3) God commanding Moses to speak to the Rock. There are of course many more “types” in the Old Testament which prefigure the Cross of the Jesus Christ: 4) Isaac carrying the wood of sacrifice on his back while being led by his father Abraham up Mount Moriah, 5) the Passover in Egypt when God commanded the people of Israel to place the blood of the unblemished lamb on their door posts and the angel of death would pass-over, and 6) Elijah the Prophet stirring the bitter waters with his wooden staff and making the waters drinkable.

In the first event from Genesis we find the story of God casting a deep sleep upon Adam and drawing from his side a rib and forming Eve from the rib. In doing so, Eve became the companion (helpmate) and bride of Adam. Church Fathers identified this event as a “type” that prefigured Jesus’ very deep sleep (death) on the Cross and from his side came fourth water and blood (Baptism and Eucharist) which gives birth and life to His bride the Church. “This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the Church” (Ephesians 5:33).

The expression of death and sleep were used synonymously in the Old Testament and by Jesus.

For example: And David slept with his fathers and was buried in the City of David (III Kings 1:52).

When the word came to Jesus that his friend Lazarus was dead, Jesus told his disciples that “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” The disciples took Jesus literally and said that if he was asleep let him sleep. Jesus explained to them plainly: “He is dead.”

In the Office of the Reading for September 14th, there is the writing by St. Andrew of Crete which states: If he had not been nailed, the streams of everlasting life would not have welled from his side, that is both blood and water, for the cleansing of the world; and the record of our sins would not have been canceled.

From the Book of Revelation, St. John sees the Lamb of God slain on the altar and under the altar the souls of those beheaded for the Word of God and the testimony which they maintained (Revelation 5: 9). As part of the temple sacrifice, the blood of the lambs and goats would pour forth and collect beneath the altar. The imagery here in the Book of Revelation is that the Blood of Christ (The Lamb of God) which poured forth from his side became the strength and life of the martyrs. In turn, the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of the Church which is the Bride of Christ.

St. John captures this event in the Gospel with something of an exuberance (it is true it is true!!) so it reads to me. The soldiers therefore came and broke the leg of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus and those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scriptures would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

St. John is quoting twice from the Old Testament: Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10.
Church Fathers see in John’s advocacy 1) that Jesus truly died on the cross 2) that blood and water truly poured from his side 3) and that Jesus’ manner of death fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. (When the Gospel of John was written there was a false movement that attempted to latch on to Judaism and Christianity and that movement was Gnosticism. Various strains within Gnosticism denied the death of Jesus Christ.)

Run to Jesus on the Cross and in the Blessed Sacrament and let Him be the spouse of your Soul!

In the second event from Exodus we read the story of how the children of Israel grumbled against Moses about their wandering in the desert and their disgust with the food they received (manna in the morning and quail in the evening). God sends upon the children of Israel serpents which bite them and many of them become ill and die (Numbers 21:4-10). The children of Israel cry out to Moses and ask Moses to intercede for them. Moses intercedes and God commands Moses to fashion a brass serpent on a staff. God tells Moses that those who are bitten by a serpent and look up at the fashioned brass serpent will be healed; “and it came to pass then whenever a serpent bit a man, and he looked on the brazen serpent, he lived.”

It seems that this was not a onetime deal. Just as God fed the people of Israel with manna for 40 years in the desert, the brazen serpent staff served as a medical station for the people of Israel.

What an obscure event to say the least and apart from the Cross of Jesus Christ it would remain obscure. God seemingly commands Moses to violate the Second Commandment to fashion an image of a creature so that the people may look upon it and in doing so be healed. With a little bit of imagination, we can consider a person about to die from such an illness and being told to gaze at the fashioned serpent. That person would not simply look at the brass serpent but probably make a good act of contrition and a good act of faith and hope. In other words, God maintained his people throughout the journey with bread from heaven (manna) a “type” of the Eucharist, and the fashion serpent on the staff a “type” of the Exaltation of the Cross. But what else does the fashioned serpent represent: 1) the scandal of sin 2) God is able to bring life from death.

For the apostle states: “He who knew no sin was made to be sin for the life of the world.”

Look at Jesus on the Cross and in the Blessed Sacrament and be healed!

The third event is a little more tedious and rooted in both Jewish written and oral tradition. The people wandered in the desert and were in need of water. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take thy rod and call the assembly, you and your brother Aaron and speak to the rock before them and it shall bring forth it waters and you shall bring forth for them the water to drink out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and the cattle. And Moses took his rod that was before the Lord, as the Lord commanded. And Moses said to them “Hear me you disobedient ones: must we bring you water out of the rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his rod twice and much water came forth, and the congregation drank, and their cattle. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed me to sanctify me before the children of Israel, you shall not bring this congregation in the land which I have given them” (Numbers 20:6-13).

St. Paul in his Letter to the Corinthians writes that this spiritual rock accompanied the people of Israel in the desert and that this rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10: 1-5). St. Paul in essence identifies this rock which was struck by Moses (two times) with the Person of Jesus Christ. Note: Throughout the Old Testament God is identified as Rock.

God remember, asked Moses to speak to the Rock so that water would come forth for the people. Moses in anger strikes the Rock (two times). St. Paul by identifying Jesus as the rock captures a new “type” in as much as the Rock is struck by Moses (who represents the Law); then again by the Sanhedrin representing the Law of Moses when Jesus -- the Rock -- was condemned to death. Remember it was the Sanhedrin that stated to Pilate: “We have a law, and according to that law he (Jesus) must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God” (John 19:7).

In the Book of Numbers, when the Rock is struck out of disbelief and strife, water flows forth to give life to the people of Israel. And again in the case of the cross, Jesus is struck out of disbelief and strife. And blood and water come forth redeeming the world; which we read from the Gospel of St. John.

Mark captures in his Gospel that when the Roman soldiers (out of disbelief and strife) were mocking Jesus, “again and again and struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him” Mark 15: 19. While “again and again” normatively means many, the (two times) use of the expression reflects Moses striking the Rock (two times) with his rod. Again we find God demonstrating his power to bring good from something evil. God asked Moses and Aaron to speak to the Rock. Mark shows the Romans mocking him and at the cross the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him amongst themselves (Mark 15:31).

Speak kindly to Jesus on the Cross and in the Blessed Sacrament and comfort Him!

The fourth event comes from the crucifixion itself. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother there and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby he said to his mother: “Woman here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time forward on, this disciple took her into his home (John 19:25).

Note: The four women standing beneath the cross represent an admissible and valid testimony in a juridical proceeding at that time. In other words, we do not only have St. John’s testimony to the events, we have the testimony of the four women.
St. John – the brother of St. James and son of Zebedee - already had a mother. Jesus as such is not conferring a task of care but confirming a relationship within the body of Christ between his mother and the beloved disciple, one that the disciple can have confidence in.

Origen writes: “A disciple cannot comprehend the mysteries of the Gospels unless they like St. John first lay their head at the breast of Jesus (reference to last supper) and take Mary into their home” (reference to the events at the cross) – (Quasten Volume II page 81).

St. John Chrysostom writes: “Have you seen the wonderful victory? Have you seen the splendid deeds of the cross? Shall I tell you something still more marvelous? Learn in what way the victory was gained and you will be even more astonished. For by the very means by which the devil had conquered by these Christ conquered him, he defeated him. Listen how it was done. A virgin, a tree and a death were the symbols of our defeat. The virgin was Eve she had not yet known man, the tree was the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the death was Adams’ penalty. But behold again here was have a virgin and a tree and a death those symbols of defeat which become symbols of victory. For in the place of Eve there is Mary, in the place of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil there is the tree of the cross (the tree of life); in place of the death of Adam, the death of Christ (Liturgy Volume III page 529).

In a number of references in the New Testament, you find Jesus speaking of His Mother in a way which seems abrupt or harsh to the modern listener. For example: “Who is my mother and my brother?” “Why were you searching for me everywhere?” "What is this matter to you and to me, my hour has not yet come?”, “Rather blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.”

Some mistakenly latch on these sayings in order to argue, that Jesus purposely intended to mitigate any solidarity between his disciples and Mary his Mother. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

God the Father revealed to Mary through the devout Simeon that her Child was destined to cause the rise and fall of many in Israel and would be a sign spoken against and that a sword would pierce her heart (soul) so that the hidden thoughts of many would be exposed (Luke 2:34). When God asked Mary to be the Mother of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (through the power of the Holy Spirit), God was asking Mary to share in Jesus’ whole Life, Death, and Resurrection. Jesus spent 30 years hidden in the house of Mary and Joseph and then 40 days in the desert as a means of preparing for the hour of His death.

Jesus was also preparing Mary for the hour of His death. This preparation we identify in the spiritual life as the Precautions.

God the Father revealed to Mary that a sword would pierce her heart so that the hidden thoughts of many would be exposed. I often wondered what the dynamics of that statement were: "hidden thoughts exposed." It was not until I came across the following three writings that I think I now understand.

The first is from the Book of Leviticus which describes in detail the various forms of sacrifice which are meant to atone for the various forms of sins: public, private, ignorance, deliberate, serious, and not so serious. In Leviticus 4:27-5:1 we read that an unblemished female lamb or goat be sacrificed for sins which were performed unwillingly and seemingly privately (not known). If the sacrifice of the male unblemished lamb or goat was a “type” of Christ, what was the “type” of the female unblemished lamb or goat?

The second is from the writings of Bishop Melito of Sardis (second century) about the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. This is he who was flesh in a virgin, whose (bones) were not broken upon the tree, who in burial was not resolved into the earth, who rose from the dead and raised man from the grave below to the heights of the heavens. This is the lamb that was slain, this is the lamb that was silent, and this is he that was born of Mary the fair ewe (Quasten Volume 1 page 244). So the Bishop of Sardis sees Mary that fair ewe as a type in the Old Testament.

The third is from the writings of St. Paul to the Church in Corinth. Praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all Comfort, who comforts us in all out troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort flows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort (2 Corinthians 1: 3-7).

While meditating on these three writings I came to understand that Mary was predestined and called by God the Father, preserved and sanctified by God the Holy Spirit, and prepared by God the Son to be the mother and source of comfort for the Mystical Members of His Body. When Mary stood beneath the cross of Jesus and the sword pierced into the heart of Jesus, her heart was pierced as well. And the great gift of Redemption which flowed from the Heart of Jesus entered her heart so that she too could share this gift with others who are not afraid to take Mary into their homes (hearts). Mary’s suffering and prayers, opens the hidden hearts of men so they see and Exalt in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Listen kindly to Jesus on the Cross and in the Blessed Sacrament as He calls you the Beloved Disciple to Take Mary as your Mother!

The Cross and Unbelief

When the disciples were with Jesus on their way to Jerusalem, Jesus said to them: “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise” (Mark 10:32-34).

I mentioned before that there was a false movement that attempted to latch on to Judaism and Christianity and that movement was Gnosticism. Various strains within Gnosticism denied the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is because Gnosticism rejected faith and the idea the eternal creator could have anything to do with the material creation. The material creation was the result of demiurges and one of the demiurges came to redeem mankind but not by flesh and blood and sacrifice, but by conveying a secret knowledge (gnosis). Gnostics generally believe that the “god” of the Old Testament was a demiurge and not a benevolent one. As such Gnosticism is anti-Jewish as well as anti-Christian. From the very beginning, the Christian Scriptures was the Old Testament; the difference being that the Old Testament was now interpreted based upon the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. With the writing of the epistles and then gospels, the Canon of Catholic Christian Scripture included both the Old and the New but never the Gnostic revelations.

Ignatius of Antioch third Bishop of Antioch (died 107 AD) wrote in his letter that the docetic (Gnostic) sect denied the death of the Lord Jesus. Their denial was based upon the belief that Jesus did not really have a mortal substance. Ignatius while being taken to Rome to suffer martyrdom for his faith in Jesus Christ writes the following to the Church at Philadelphia:

And suffer He did, verily and indeed; just as He did verily and indeed raise Himself again. His passion was no unreal illusion, as some skeptics aver who are all unreality themselves. For my own part, I know and believe that he was in the actual human flesh, even after his resurrection. When he appeared to Peter and his companions, he said to them, Take Hold and me, touch me, and see that I am no bodiless phantom. And they touched him then and there and believed for they had contact with the flesh and blood of reality with him
(Staniforth page 101).

Basilides (120 – 145 AD), a prominent Gnostic, writes that Jesus was not crucified but made Simon of Cyrene take His place: "Wherefore he himself did not himself suffer death, but Simon, a certain man from Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross in his stead; so that this latter being transfigured by him (Jesus) that he might be thought to be Jesus, was crucified through ignorance and error while Jesus himself received the form of Simon and standing by laughed at them" (Quasten page 258).

Such a tale promotes the concept that sorcery and deception are compatible with the nature and will of God.

St. Mark in his Gospel identifies this Simon of Cyrene as the father of Alexander and Rufus. The reference to a father in relation to sons, strongly suggests that the readers are aware of Alexander and Rufus (they are Christians). This is a possible case since we find St. Paul, when writing to Rome, mentions Rufus.

Gnostic influence is still with us in a very prominent manner through the faith of Islam.This Gnostic teaching that Jesus did not die on the cross made its way into the Qur’an: Qur’an 4:155-159: They denied the truth and uttered a monstrous falsehood against Mary. They declared: “we have put to death the Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of Allah. They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought that did. Those that disagreed about him were in doubt concerning his death, for they knew about it was sheer conjecture; they were not sure they had slain him. Allah lifted him up to his presence; He is mighty and wise. There is none among the people of the Book but will believe in him before his death; and on the day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them.

This is understandable since within Mohammad"s extended family there were Gnostics. His uncle was a Nestorian (Gnostic Christian). A number of Gnostic followers were force out of the Byzantine Empire as a result of secular leaders becoming enforcers over religious disputation. As such, a number of Gnostic followers headed further east into Arabia. As a result of this Gnostic teaching the cross of Jesus Christ is a scandal in Islam and an impediment to understanding the Gospels.

Look at Jesus on the Cross and His Mother beneath the Cross and ask them to convert the hearts of all men and especially the people of Islam so that one day all men may Exalt the Cross of Jesus Christ.

• New Testament: Zondervan Parallel New Testament & New International Version (NIV)
• Old Testament: Septuagint Sir Lancelot Brenton
• Maxwell Staniforth, Andrew Louth Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers
• Joahnnes Quasten: PATROLOGY Volume: 1 and Volume 2
• N. J. Dawood: Koran
• Hugh J. Schonfield

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Forgive us our trespasses -- Please!

By Susan Fox

“I will rise and go to my father.” (The Prodigal Son, Lk 15:18)

Last week, I watched a rerun of the PBS series Inspector Morse. I wasn’t paying too close attention until Morse was standing at the altar of an Anglican Church begging a female character to forgive someone.

She responded, “I cannot forgive him. I want to be forgiven, but I cannot forgive him.”

My ears perked up. It was a sort of an anti-Our Father for in the prayer Jesus taught us, now called the “Our Father,” we pray “Forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.”

I wonder how many times we recite that prayer without realizing the implications. We really can’t expect God to forgive us our sins if we are not willing to forgive our brother his sins.

And yet very often that is exactly what we expect.

Today’s Gospel readings were all about forgiveness, repentance and intercession.

One thing you learn in the Book of Revelation is that Satan and his evil spirits are accusers.

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night.” (Rev. 12:10)

Judging and accusing is a satanic activity. Satan literally spends his time before the throne of God trying to make God hate us because of our sins. He might as well save his breath because while we were still in our sins and unrepentant, God so loved the world, He sent His Only Son to die for us!

In today’s reading, Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14, Moses shows us the role of good Christians -- the saints. Our role is to intercede or plead for sinners. The Israelites have just made the golden calf and are worshiping it. God seems to want to destroy them. He asks Moses’ permission to go ahead and make a great nation of Moses and his children, but eliminate the rest of the Israelites.

"I see how stiff-necked this people is,” continued the LORD to Moses. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.

But Moses pleads instead for God’s mercy on the Israelites, reminding Him of his promises to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel to make of them a great nation. Saints try to think like God and that means when they are persecuted, they pray for their oppressors.

So the LORD relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.

That is always the role of the saints-- to pray for others, to pray for the dead, to pray for sinners, to pray for our enemies and friends! To pray, pray, pray with our hearts. The whole purpose of the Divine Mercy Chaplet is to pray for God’s mercy on the world – all peoples whether good, bad or indifferent. It doesn’t matter. When St. Faustina was given the chaplet to pray, she saw a terrible angel about to wreck destruction on the world. She prayed and prayed to God to spare the world, but her words accomplished nothing until she was given the words of the Divine Mercy Chaplet: “Eternal Father I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world!”

Suddenly, with those words the angel of destruction was turned back and unable to complete his mission. Why? Because Faustina was uniting her intentions to the intentions of the Holy Mass -- the intentions of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ on Mt. Calvary. Christ’s sacrifice on the altar of Calvary has infinite everlasting value!

At today’s Mass, we also read the story of the Prodigal Son, (Lk 15:1-32). The priest who gave the sermon on this Gospel reading urged us to be like the father in the story – to be waiting and watching for the repentant son and go out to meet him and welcome him. The father is the figure for God the Father Who so loved us He gave His only Son. He is the figure for the Christian warrior intercessor, who putting on the mind of Christ, prays for his enemies.

But the story of the Prodigal Son also gives us a clue as to how we can forgive our enemies. For it is not an easy thing to do especially when you are hurt. Put yourself in the place of the younger son. Having taken his inheritance and squandered it, he wakes up and remembers that the lowliest servant in his father’s house has more to eat than he does.

Coming to his senses, he says to himself: I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers." So he got up and went back to his father.

While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was moved to compassion. He embraced him and kissed him, killed the fatted calf and put a ring on his finger. Do you realize that God the Father welcomes you the same way every time you turn to him?

Even if you haven’t been wasting your inheritance on wine, women and song, God still welcomes you in the midst of your persecutions, trials and sufferings.

I remember once coming home to visit my mother, and my step father treated me like the dirt under the carpet. It was a very depressing experience. But while I was suffering through this, God the Father reminded me that when I came to His house, He would give me a fine coat, put a ring on my finger and kill the fatted calf for a nice meal. In short, I was welcome at my Father’s house! Suddenly, my step father became my brother, whom I could forgive, and God the Father became my true Father. And the Kingdom of God became my true home in this life and the next. I was standing in my brother’s house, not my Father’s house, and what a difference that realization made!

Understanding who we are in relation to God heals us so we can forgive. God the Father delights to be among men. “Your heaven, My creatures, is in paradise together with My chosen ones, because it is there that you will contemplate Me in an everlasting vision and will enjoy eternal glory. My heaven is on earth with you all, O men! Yes, it is on earth and in your souls that I look for My happiness and My joy.” (God the Father to Mother Eugenia Elisabetta Ravasio in an approved apparition of the Catholic Church).

So turn to Him often. Make your soul a resting place for the Father -- where He can put up His feet, smoke a cigar and in fact find His delight with you. Then you will find the courage to forgive and intercede.

The world needs prayer not more accusation. After all, that is the devil’s job.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

St. Bernadette and the Immaculate Conception

by Lawrence Fox

While at work, I received a phone call from a concerned mother who confided that her child’s cognitive skills were
St. Bernadette
tested and the results were less than promising. “My child is several years behind a normal child of the same age and her condition may not improve,” she said.
What could I say? My response was honest: “Know that your child will never offend God the way I have offended God with all my intelligence.”

I then had the wits to say: “Give your child the Miraculous Medal and together develop a relationship with St. Bernadette, a young strong spirited girl who loved God with her whole heart, mind, and soul and whose obedience remains the instrument through which great comfort and healing are brought to many souls.”

Praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we received from God. For Just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows (2 Corinthians 1:3-6).

St. Bernadette was born in Lourdes, France, on January 7, 1844. She was a deeply honest, strong spirited and hard working girl. Her father was a miller by trade but in order to remain employed worked at various odd jobs. Her mother worked doing laundry for neighbors and picking crops in order to manage additional support for the family of five children. As a very young girl, St. Bernadette cared for the smaller four children, and helped in their moral and religious training. St. Bernadette endured along with hard work, respiratory problems her whole life.

St. Bernadette as a young girl was gifted with several visions of "a “Beautiful Lady” as she relates in her memoirs at the rock of Massabeille beginning on February 11, 1858. St. Bernadette received persecutions and humiliations as a result of these visions. And as St. Margaret Mary of Alocoque explains: “In that great fear which I have always had of being deceived among the graces and favors I received from my sovereign Lord: here are the marks which He has given me whereby to know what comes from Him and comes from Satan, self-love or some other natural movement…these favors and particular graces will always be accompanied in me be some humiliation, contradiction or contempt from creatures.”

The servant is not above the master and St. Bernadette was misunderstood by neighbors and her family, who feared the local authorities: the impudent students of the French Revolution demanding “fraternity, liberty, & equality” for the atheistic masses but no room for God and His Catholic Church. St. Bernadette received a request from the "a “Beautiful Lady” to return to the rock of Massabeille every day for fifteen days.

During one of the visions, St. Bernadette requested from the “Beautiful Lady” – at the request of the Parish Priest Dean Peyramale – her name. The “Beautiful Lady” responded, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

This revelation was beyond the imagination of the young St. Bernadette, who never related to anyone that the “Beautiful Lady” was the Blessed Virgin Mary. It seems that the St. Bernadette was not sure who the “Beautiful Lady” was and the Blessed Virgin Mother never confided as much to her; instead allowed the Church judge the revelation to her.

Jesus prayed: “I thank you Heavenly Father for revealing these things to the little ones and keeping them from the wise and the learned.”

The Parish Priest Dean Peyramale, who was very skeptical of the authenticity and the holy origins of the visions, asked St. Bernadette if she understood the words or if she heard them from someone else in another conversation or alike. St. Bernadette responded with a negative on both counts: she did not know what they meant, and she had never heard the expression “Immaculate Conception.”

The priest’s doubts and resistance were removed and from that moment forward became her arch defender.

The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854 several years before the visions at Massabeille.

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege or almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human Race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin (Ineffabilis Deus).

The Blessed Virgin Mary waited for the Catholic Church to Proclaim the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Her actions are reminiscent of the disposition of St. John the Evangelist when running to the empty tomb of Jesus Christ - and although reaching it first - did not enter until Peter first entered.

John deferred to Peter out of Love for Jesus Christ the miracle of the resurrection and the empty tomb. John saw this deference in the Blessed Mother who sought to remain hidden within the Mystery and Glory of Her Son Jesus Christ. Now that the Bride of Christ (the Church) proclaimed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – the spouse of Mary – the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Mary asked for permission to comfort the Church with a special vision to St. Bernadette and a continuous sacramental of healing.

The location of the visions is well known in Catholic circles as the Grotto in Lourdes, France. There remains in Lourdes, a spring of flowing water which is a sacramental of healing – as evidenced by many written testimonies of healings and the crutches and wheel chairs left behind at the site.

St. Bernadette entered the order of the Sisters of Charity, where she hoped to remain hidden from curious attention. St. Bernadette -- so it seems -- received the gift of prophecy and used this gift to encourage her fellow sisters. The Lord continued to prune and protect St. Bernadette through those He brought into her path, including those strict members of the order. Suffering and humiliation preserved St. Bernadette from the sin of pride - due to her many revelations - and increased in her the virtue of a single hearted love of God and neighbor – the whole of the Law.

To keep me from being conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-9).

St. Bernadette died on April 16, 1879. Her body placed in a casket, and buried near the chapel of St. Joseph in the convent grounds. When the casket was unearthed in 1908 as a result of a commission responsible for the examination of Bernadette's life and character, it was found to be intact and

uncorrupted. Pope Pius X conferred the title of Venerable upon her on August, 1913. Her beatification was completed on June 1925. Today, the un-corrupted body of St. Bernadette lies in a glass coffin within the convent Chapel.

St. Bernadette’s life and un-corrupted remains are God’s visible mark and declaration to the sanctity of the little saint, the historicity of the vision, and the infallibility of the Dogma concerning Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

St. Bernadette’s love of God and obedience to the requests of the Blessed Virgin Mary, are the instrument through which great comfort and healing are brought to many souls.

This brings me to another story as told by a Mr. Noah Lett on the Journey Home program on EWTN. In his story, Mr. Lett related how as a young child he was lead to a belief in God and His Son Jesus Christ. He advanced in grace and eventually became a clergyman within the Lutheran Church, and related that one day while entering through the doors of his rectory; he was translated to the tomb of St. Bernadette. Mr. Lett knew nothing about St. Bernadette. Standing before the un-corrupted body in the glass coffin in the convent chapel, he heard a voice ask the following question three times, “Noah what do you see?” Noah attempted to answer logically on two (2) occasions but remembers that on the 3rd count through a gift of knowledge responded: “I see that the sacraments of the Catholic Church give what they promise.” Mr. Noah Lett is now a Catholic and to hear him speak is a treasure to say the least.

My wife stood by the incorrupt body of St. Bernadette on one of her pilgrimages, and all she could think about was this was the place that Noah Lett had stood when he was bi-located from his Lutheran rectory to France.

Going back to the episode of the mother’s young child, we know that through Baptism, confession, and reception of Holy Communion her child lives as a temple of God’s Holy Spirit, a precious stone in the edifice which Almighty God is erecting upon the foundation of the Apostles, with Jesus being the corner stone.

The sacraments of the Catholic Church give what they promise for they were instituted by Jesus Christ and administered by the Catholic Church His Bride, which shares with all her children the Promises of Jesus Christ.

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the Name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you and know that I am with you always to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28: 19-20).

And Jesus breathed upon them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit, the sins you forgive are forgiven and the sins you retain are retained” (John 20:22).

“Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6: 54).

We see as in a mirror darkly, the mind of God who reveals His providence, His justice, mercy, and goodness over all of creation at every moment in time and eternity. God in his infinite Wisdom deigns to dwell in such little souls - which the Worldly Wise can only measure, quantify, and then categorize. “God confuses the proud in their deepest thoughts,” said Mary to Elizabeth.

We know that God bring all things to good for those who love him. This truth is born out in the lives of the saints, which all of us by God’s grace regardless of our physical capabilities or limitations are called to imitate.

The story of St. Bernadette is beautifully presented by three (3) movies that I am aware of:

• Song of Bernadette

• Bernadette distributed by Ignatius Press

• Passion of Bernadette distributed by Ignatius Press

Rent and enjoy them and see that God is truly glorified in His saints.

Beautiful comment on this piece:

by "Grace:"

I was very surprised recently when a friend, whom I know to be very devoted to Mary, told me that she doesn’t care much about apparitions.  Even allowing that she may have overstated, it still shocked me that a serious Catholic might not have some attention to spare for all the earthly visitations that Our Blessed Mother has been making during the long centuries since she was assumed into Heaven.  Is it because my friend is a cradle Catholic?  Perhaps.  Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe---these were part of the air one breathed growing up, at least for older Catholics.  Apparitions, for them, might seem ordinary, nothing to get excited about.  But that was not the case for me.  As a little Protestant girl growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s, I heard no rumor of these amazing appearances of the Mother of Jesus, except for one--Lourdes.  The father of a friend of mine had built a small Lourdes grotto for his daughter in their back yard, and she had ornamented it in a lovely fashion with flowers and moss and shells.  I was enchanted by it, and secretly envious, wishing that my church was one that encouraged backyard construction projects.  Not long afterwards I saw a movie about Lourdes on TV—the Song of Bernadette—and learned a little about the event that had inspired the miniature grotto. But apart from the movie I never heard anyone talk about Lourdes or its meaning, and was not entirely sure what to think about the matter.  I was aware that Hollywood often exaggerated things, or distorted them; perhaps the whole thing had been made up.  I heard little more about Marian apparitions until I became a Catholic at the age of 23. 

At last I was free to learn about our Blessed Mother and take full delight in every Marian shrine I came across, free to cherish a devotion to her as Our Lady of Lourdes, free to honor her under any or all of her many titles.  My childhood instincts had been right on the money; it was entirely appropriate to be envious of my little Catholic friend.  In addition to a very cool yard ornament, she had had access to a wealth of spiritual riches such as I had never dreamed of.  Among them was the knowledge that the Mother of Jesus had been coming to earth to visit her children and to instruct them in the paths of holiness.  Of course, not everyone got to see her, but enough people encountered the visible proofs of her manifestations so as to leave no reasonable doubt.  The spring at Lourdes has provided miraculous cures for untold numbers of people, the miraculous tilma of Juan Diego may still be seen in Mexico, and over 70,000 people, atheists and skeptics included, saw the miracle of the sun at Fatima in 1917.  I learned that the list of apparitions goes on and on, showing her great love for us as our spiritual mother.  This is all part of the Evangelium.  God is our Father, Jesus is our brother, and He  gave us Mary to be our spiritual mother as He was dying on the cross, which means the Church is really one big family, and we are all the adopted children of God.  Spectacularly good news.  

Why, then, do we so seldom hear about apparitions at church?  Yes, I know they are “optional” and add nothing to the deposit of faith, but they help demonstrate it.  How better to demonstrate the Communion of the Saints, one of the articles of the Apostle’s Creed, than by having Our Blessed Mother come to earth and beg us to turn to her Son for our salvation?

And yet the Church’s ministers rarely talk about the apparitions, and few people outside the church know about them anymore.  This is a tragedy.  I think the apparitions have a great, untapped potential to bring people to Jesus Christ, which is, after all, Our Lady’s aim in visiting us.  So, if we want to take part in the New Evangelization, we should talk more about the Marian apparitions, not attempt to downplay them, as some people have done, with the mistaken idea that we shouldn’t “offend” people by mentioning the Blessed Virgin.  That is why I am so grateful to Lawrence Fox for his fine piece on Bernadette and Lourdes, which I have read several times.  Lay Catholics can accomplish a lot of good by using the social media to increase knowledge of Marian apparitions, not for their own sake, but because they have been the conduit of God’s grace for so many people.   From Lawrence I learned about Noah Lett, another Protestant who was converted by an encounter with St. Bernadette and the miracle of Lourdes.  Thank you, Lawrence!  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Adam was a White Man from Baltimore

by Lawrence Fox

People come to me from time to time with stories of woes within their relationships.

Well, that was the situation before they both put their hands to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
• Adam: “Eve, this marriage thing is wonderful.”
• Eve: “Honey, look at the tree in the center of the garden!”
• Adam: “What tree, my love?”
• Eve: “Oh the one that the talking snake is pointing out?”
• Adam: “Talking snake? I named all the animals in the garden and I do not remember a talking snake.”
• Eve: “Well then, you missed one.”
• Eve: “He is hissing something about being equal with God.”
• Adam: “I don’t know. I came out of the dirt, but your origins are more nobler.”
• Eve: “Thank you for the compliment, but don’t you want to know good from evil?”
• Adam: “This talking snake sounds like trouble and good for nothing.”
• Eve: “Sigh, sigh, sigh”
• Adam: “Okay, I will listen to what it has to say.”
• Adam: “Speak up, snake.”
• Snake: “I already gave the woman the skinny. The deal is that you put your hand to the tree and you will be like God.”
• Adam: “Sounds too easy. Besides I have to work this garden, and God seems to have to work everything else. Not sure I want more work.”
• Snake: “I will throw in an AC/DC and Black Sabbath record.”
• Adam: “Decisions, decisions. Honey, what do you want?”
• Eve: “Oh! Oh! I want the red one over there!”
• Adam: “Too high!”
• Eve: “Okay the green one down below!”
• Adam” “Got it and here you go!”
• Eve: Bite. “Hmm, I feel strange.”
• Adam: Bite. "Hmm . . . You look really great!”
• Eve: “Adam you are looking at me kind of funny.”
• Adam: “.” “.”
• Adam: “Sorry, must be the start of a mid-life crisis.”
After the tree and fruit incident, Adam and Eve start to forage and decide to open a clothier store.
• Eve: “These fig leaves are kind of ruff to work with and not much color variation.”
• Adam: “Well it is a little awkward for me too. Besides you already have six outfits hanging on the branch over there.”
• Adam: “Where is that snake anyway, it would make a great necktie.”
• Eve: “How’s this look?”
• Adam: “I thought the first one looked great!”
• Eve: “I did not like the way it made my hips bulge.”
• Adam: “Oh.”
• Eve: “What about this one.”
• Adam: “Hmm, too green”
• Eve: “They are all green.”
• Adam: “Oh.”
• Adam: “I am hungry.”
• Eve: “We just ate a little while ago.”
• Adam: “I forgot, not much of a meal. The effects were okay.”
• Eve: “Adam, you are just a white man from Baltimore.”
• Adam: “I hear company -- someone calling our names in the cool of the evening.”
• God: “Adam, why are you mulling around in the vines?”
• Adam: “I noticed I was missing some accouterments. You did not tell me about cover.”
• God to Adam: “What accouterments? You put your hand to the tree which I forbade you to touch?”
• Adam: “That woman you placed in the garden tempted me.”
• Eve: “So that is it, Adam, you are playing the blame game.”
• God to Eve: “I see you have six green outfits. What is your excuse?”
• Eve: “The slithering necktie over there tempted me!”
• God to snake: “For that you are going to crawl on your belly and eat dirt and someday the woman is going to smash your head.”
• Snake: “I will throw in an AC/DC and Black Sabbath record, ‘If you give me 3 steps, give me 3 steps Mister and you won’t see me no more.’”
• God: “Here is some leather outfits just fitted for the both of you. Free of charge.”
• Eve: Squealing, “And they are not green!”
• God: “Well you are going to have to leave the garden and rough it outside.”
• Adam: “Sounds terrible, where are we going to live?”
• God: “Well there is an HOA a couple of miles down the road. The dirt is no good, only produces weeds.”
• Adam: “Please don’t tell me a bunch of talking snakes operate the place?”

Adam and Eve are now parents, gardeners, and sheep herders.
• Adam: “Looks as if we will be having another wedding to attend down the road.”
• Eve: “Yes, our third daughter is finally leaving home in search of another brother.”
• Adam: “What is it with Cain and Abel -- they never seem to get along?”
• Eve: “Ever since I taught Able how to barbecue, Cain has been really jealous. All he does is burn portions of his crops.”
• Adam: “He needs anger management classes.”
• Eve: “If you just laid down the law around here, he would listen better."
• Adam: “Sorry, I'm not very good at the law thing. All I do all day long is sweat from my brow.”
• Eve: “Here he comes now, say something to him.”
• Adam: “Look if you would just be nicer to your younger brother Abel, I will throw in an AC/DC and Black Sabbath record.”
• Cain: “Where’s the flint and stubble, I have something to burn.”
• Abel: “Hello everyone!! Well I just barbecued another unblemished goat and the smoke is rising very very high!!”
• Cain: “UGGGGG. I cannot take this anymore.”

Adam and Eve Living in Retirement
• Adam: “Well, life has sure had its ups and downs and some very sad moments.”
• Eve: “Yes, some decisions did not turn out so well.”
• Adam: “Eve, I am sorry for all my shortcomings. Do you forgive me?”
• Eve: “I do and that is okay. We both have them.”
• Eve: “Besides, we know there will be a great, great, great, grand daughter who is going to smash that necktie of a snake.”
• Adam: “What is your greatest memory?”
• Eve: “When God introduced me to you, Adam, and you reacted with such enthusiasm.”
• Eve: “What is your greatest memory?”
• Adam: “Yes, that was great moment. I suppose the other great moment was just after I ate the fruit from the Tree and you looked so…..”
• Eve: “Adam, you will never change. You will always be my White Man from Baltimore.”