Tag Archives: Jesus

Jesus, model teacher for instructors and catechists

September 1, 2016



Summer vacation is over, and another school year is about to begin.  Instructors are headed to their classrooms, and catechists are headed to their faith formation groups.  The main focus of education rightfully belongs on the students, but it is also a high priority to reflect on the role of those who facilitate the learning process, teachers and catechists.

In education, a teacher who is experienced, highly effective, and an expert at training new teachers is a “Master Teacher.”  Jesus explained that these attributes belong to him when he told his disciples, “You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am” (Jn 13:13).  Christian teachers who wish to excel in their ministry would be wise to take their cues from the greatest teacher of all.

Love all the students.  It is difficult to love every student.  Some resist.  Others are slow.  Peter was impulsive.  James and John wanted the best positions, the others were indignant, and they squabbled among themselves.  Jesus knew that Judas Iscariot would betray him.  The disciples had their shortcomings.  Every student does.  Yet, Jesus loved each of them, and his authentic love for his learners was the single greatest secret to his success.

Pray for your students.  Jesus prayed for his disciples, and teachers should pray for their students.  Prayer not only asks God’s grace and blessing for the students, it also has a transforming effect on the teacher’s disposition toward their students.

Ask the Holy Spirit for help.  The Holy Spirit came down on Jesus at his baptism before he began his public ministry as teacher, and the Spirit gave him wisdom, insight, inspiration, energy, and courage.  Teachers should pray to the Holy Spirit for the guidance and understanding they need to carry out their ministry.

Prepare; study before teaching.  Jesus may have lacked a formal education, but he had an inquisitive mind, and he learned from others and on his own.  Mary and Joseph homeschooled him.  He was in the custom of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath day (Lk 4:16) where he was taught by the rabbis.  He went to the Temple in Jerusalem where he sat “in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Lk 2:46).  From the way that he quoted Scripture, it is evident that he spent long hours in study and memorization with the books of the Bible.  Teachers who follow the example of Jesus do their homework.  They study before they teach, and they come to class with a well-prepared plan.

Use a variety of methods.  Jesus taught with lectures such as the Sermon on the Mount.  He was fond of storytelling with his parables.  He frequently taught large groups, but there were a number of occasions when he pulled his disciples aside for small group learning, and he also taught individuals as a tutor.  An assortment of approaches keeps learning interesting.

Be patient and kind.  The disciples were confused when Jesus taught in parables and asked, “Why do you speak … in parables?” (Mt 13:10).  Jesus did not get irritated.  Instead, he patiently explained his imagery (Mt 13:18-23; 36-43).  Many students do not comprehend the first time.  Jesus shows how to treat slower learners with extra kindness and provide additional instruction.

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Peace or division, which is it?

August 11, 2016


Holy Spirit dove

Stained glass window at St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Henning, Minnesota

Once when Jesus was speaking to his disciples, he broached the subjects of peace and division (Lk 12:51).  His words were difficult to understand.  He seemed to be in favor of peace one moment, but then he spoke about how he was a reason for division the next.  Was he speaking out of both sides of his mouth?  How can the same person be both peacemaker and a cause for division at the same time?

Jesus placed an enormous value on peace.  He proclaimed the gospel of love (see Jn 13:31-35; 15:12) and his mission was to bring peace.  He began his preaching ministry with the words, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9), and he practiced what he preached, doing everything in his power to bring cooperation, mutual respect, and harmony.  He worked to eliminate rivalries and dissension (see Mk 10:35-45).

Jesus fulfilled ancient hopes as the Prince of Peace (see Is 9:5).  When Jesus was born, the choirs of angels sang, “On earth peace” (Lk 2:14).  When Jesus would cure someone, he often would say, “Go in peace” (Mk 5:34; Lk 7:50; 8:48).  Jesus wanted the Twelve to abide by his word so there would be peace among them (Mk 9:50).  Jesus instructed his disciples that when they entered the home of a host family, they were to say, “Peace to this house” (Lk 10:5).  On the night before Jesus died he said, “Peace is my farewell to you, peace is my gift to you” (Jn 14:27), and his final words to his disciples were, “I have told you this so that you might have peace” (Jn 16:33).  After Jesus rose from the dead, his first words were, “Peace be with you” (Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19,21,26).  Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22), and Jesus, anointed by the Holy Spirit at his Baptism, was dedicated to peace.  He was an agent of peace himself, and he wants peace among families; the Body of Christ, the Church; and the nations of the world.

How is it, then, that Jesus, who was so peace-loving himself, and who wanted peace among everyone else, would also say, “I have come to bring division” (paraphrase, Lk 12:51b).  Jesus hates conflict.  So do we.  Jesus does not want arguing, fighting, or trouble.  But Jesus knew that conflict would be an unintended consequence of his ministry.  When it comes to a family, Jesus knew that his preaching would force the question, “Shall I follow Jesus?”  Some family members would follow him, others would not, and families would be torn apart.  Jesus would have preferred that the whole family would follow him together, but he was wise enough to know that not everyone not accept him, and his heart ached over the fact that some family members would reject him and that families would be divided.

The divisions are multigenerational.  Jesus referred to conflict between fathers and sons and mothers and daughters (see Lk 12:53).  In a family that disagrees over him, there are clashes over house rules, prayer in the home, Sunday Mass attendance, church weddings, vacation schedules, and many other issues.  Conversations can be heated.  Feelings often are hurt.  This is not what Jesus wants, but he realized that it would happen.

Jesus wants those who accept him to remain faithful to him, even if others in their family do not.  Where division does exist, faithful Catholics continue to love those who have gone another direction, work for family unity, keep the door open, pray for them, give good example, and try to bridge differences with love and kindness.

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Somebody’s knockin’ at your door

August 4, 2016



Somebody is knocking at your door, and that somebody is Jesus!  Jesus is not your typical visitor.  The usual guest comes at a prearranged time, but not Jesus.  Jesus gets to do whatever he wants, which means that he can come on any day at any time, either today, tomorrow, or a day in the distant future.

If we have dinner guests scheduled, there often is a mad rush to get everything ready by their arrival time.  It would look terrible if there were piles of dirty clothes on the floor, a sink full of dirty dishes, old newspapers on the living room floor, empty pop cans on the tables, and dust on the countertops.  And it would be terrible if there was nothing to offer them:  no beverages, hors d’oeuvres, meal, or dessert.  So we spring into action on a cleaning frenzy as a white tornado roars through the house, and we go on a shopping spree to be sure that the refrigerator and cupboard are fully supplied.  Then, after our guests leave, the mess gradually reappears.

Jesus wants to come over as our guest, and Jesus wants to have dinner with us, but he refuses to be pinned down when it comes to a day and time.  He is a free spirit.  He comes and goes as he pleases.  He is unpredictable.  There are some things that we know for sure, others left uncertain, as Jesus promises, “You can be absolutely sure that I will be coming over to your place, but I just don’t know when yet.”

This leaves us in a quandary.  If Jesus could come knocking anytime, it means I have to be ready all the time, which means that the house has to be clean all day, every day, and it rarely is.  There is a pile of junk here, a mess there, and while I like the house clean, I’ve gotten used to some clutter, it doesn’t bother me all that much, and I don’t want to put that much effort into cleaning.

These are all spiritual figures of speech.  The house represents each person.  The door represents the entrance to a person’s mind and heart.  The dirt and junk represents sin.  A sparkling clean house represents being in the state of grace.

Jesus is a kind and compassionate house guest.  It may seem impolite that he is unwilling to announce his arrival time, but it actually is a blessing.  His delay gives us more time to go on a cleaning frenzy, to sweep out sinful behaviors, vacuum up bad habits, and dust off rough edges.  It is time for the strongest and most concentrated cleanser, the Blood of Christ, which washes away our sins, and for the “white tornado,” the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which confers absolution and restores the sinner to the state of grace.

The delay also gives the homeowner ample time to stock the refrigerator and the cupboard, not with groceries, but with good deeds:  love shared, sacrifices made, food and drink provided, clothes distributed, strangers welcomed, the troubled visited, assistance delivered, donations and alms given, and prayers offered.

Jesus wants us to come to a “new normal” with our homes.  He would like them to be clean and well-stocked all the time, and he would like us to be so irritated with dirt when it appears that we remove it right away.  Somebody’s knockin’ at your door!  That somebody is Jesus!  He wants to come into a clean house!



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The Newborn Jesus: The Firstborn Son

December 18, 2015


NativityFLFirstborn Son.  In Luke’s description of the birth of Jesus on the first Christmas, he explained that Mary “gave birth to her firstborn son” (Lk 2:7).  In the original Greek text, Luke used the Greek word protokos, and the New American Bible translates it “firstborn son.”

The Firstborn Controversy.  The word “firstborn” has been the cause for much debate.  There are some who claim that Jesus is the first son born to Mary, that she remained a virgin until the conception of Jesus, but that after the birth of Jesus, Mary had relations with Joseph and she had four additional sons:  James, Joses, Judas, and Simon (see Mk 6:3).  The Catholic Church, on the other hand, teaches that the Blessed Mother is the “ever-virgin Mary,” a virgin before the conception of Jesus, and that she remained a virgin for the rest of her life, and that Jesus was her only son (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), No. 499).  Moreover, the Church holds that “James and Joseph, ‘brothers of Jesus,’ are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls ‘the other Mary’ (Mt 13:55; 28:1; cf Mt 27:56)” (CCC, No. 500).

Firstborn, A Christological Term.  In this context, “firstborn” does not refer to Jesus’ birth order.  Fr. Eugene LaVerdiere, a Catholic biblical scholar, believes that protokos would be better translated “firstborn of God” rather than “firstborn son [of Mary],” and that “firstborn” is a way to describe the supreme importance of his birth.  Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation” (Col 1:15); “the first born into the world” (Heb 1:6); “the firstborn of the dead” (Col 1:18; Rev 1:5), the one who has primacy over all.  “Firstborn” means that Jesus is “the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.  God from God, Light from Light, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father” (Creed, Council of Nicea, 325 AD).

Firstborn, Jesus, the New Israel.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Chosen People Israel is God’s firstborn son.  God said, “Israel is my son, my firstborn” (Ex 4:22).  Jesus is the New Israel.  Salvation came through the Chosen People Israel, and now salvation comes through the newborn Jesus, the firstborn of Israel.

Firstborn Male, A Special Jewish Designation.  Every Jewish firstborn male had the birthright (see Gen 27:7b,27-29), the right of inheritance from his father.   The first-born was entitled to a double share of the inheritance (Dt 21:17).  Jesus inherited everything from his Father, his co-equal as a Person of the Trinity.  “The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him” (Jn 3:35).  It was Jewish tradition that every firstborn male was consecrated to God (Ex 13:2,12,15).  God said, “Every firstborn is mine” (Num 3:13a).  “I consecrated to me every firstborn of Israel … they belong to me” (Num 3:13c). Subsequently, after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph brought their newborn son Jesus to the Temple, and according to the law of Moses, which stipulated that “every male that opens that womb shall be consecrated to the Lord” (Lk 2:23; see Ex 13:2,12), Mary and Joseph presented Jesus to Simeon to consecrate their newborn and firstborn son to almighty God (Lk 2:22-38).  Thus consecrated as “firstborn,” Jesus stands not only as the firstborn of Mary and Joseph, but as the firstborn of the human race, the Messiah, the Son of God.

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Jesus, the great high priest

October 7, 2015

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Jesus, High Priest, the Great High Priest Hebrew 4:14 Sacred Heart, Church, Staples, MN

Jesus, High Priest, the Great High Priest Hebrew 4:14 Sacred Heart, Church, Staples, MN

A Continuous Reading.  The second readings for Weeks 27 through 33 of Year B, the final portion of the church year, all come from the Letter to the Hebrews.  Their selection follows the liturgical principle of Lectio continua, Latin for “a continuous reading,” a series of Scripture texts all taken from the same book of the Bible in sequence.  While the first reading at Mass usually is selected to compliment the gospel, the second reading has no intended connection to either and stands on its own.  The texts chosen for the second reading are those judged most significant in a book or, as a group, work together to unfold an important spiritual concept.

The Letter to the Hebrews.  The letter itself is peculiar because so little is known about it.  For many years the author was thought to be St. Paul, but that proposition has been disproved due to differences in literary style and theological content.  It is not so much a letter as a long written homily intended to instruct and encourage.  The intended audience, “the Hebrews,” is also unclear.  Generally “the Hebrews” is another term for “the Jews,” so it may be directed to Jewish converts to Christianity, or to Jews who were contemplating conversion, or to Gentile Christians who could benefit from a better understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The Theological Thread.  A thread is a theme that is woven through a series of chapters of a book of the Bible; two or more readings on a particular Sunday, a horizontal thread; or a sequence of readings over a number of consecutive weeks, a vertical thread.  The thread that connects the seven consecutive readings from Hebrews is the priesthood of Jesus.

Week 27B, Hebrews 2:9-11.  The first passage explains the sacrificial nature of Jesus’ priesthood:  “by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb 2:9).  Jesus was perfect so his self-offering was a perfect sacrifice.  It is the work of a priest to consecrate, to make holy, and Jesus consecrates or makes every person holy before God (Heb 2:11).

Weeks 28B and 29B, Hebrews 4:12-13 and 4:14-16.  Chapter 4 goes on to explain that Jesus is a priest from whom nothing is concealed (Heb 4:13); he is all-knowing, omniscient.  He is the wise priest whose word is living and effective (Heb 4:12).  He is the “great high priest” (Heb 4:14), not only human, but a priest who came down from heaven, the Son of God, a divine high priest.  Because he was tempted and knows first-hand the struggles of the human condition, he is a compassionate priest, approachable, merciful, and helpful.

Week 30B, Hebrews 5:1-6.  Jesus is not a self-appointed priest but was sent by his Father (Heb 5:5).  His priesthood is eternal, not like other priests who serve only for a time.  It is the duty of a priest to offer sacrifice for sin.  Temple priests offered animals, Jesus offered his own body; Temple priests were sinners and offered sacrifice for themselves, Jesus was sinless and offered sacrifice for the human race.

Week 31B, Hebrews 7:23-28.  This passage repeats key points made previously about Jesus’ priesthood.  His priesthood is eternal, it “remains forever,” it “does not pass away” (Heb 7:24).  He is a priest who is “holy, innocent, and undefiled” (7:26) which enables him to make intercession on our behalf.  He is the priest who has the power to save us (Heb 7:25).

Weeks 32B and 33B, Hebrews 9:24-28 and 10:11-14,18.  These texts highlight the glorious nature of Jesus’ priesthood.  Jesus now reigns as the exalted priest in the sanctuary of heaven, seated forever at the right hand of God, revered because he offered himself in sacrifice, not multiple times, but once, to perfect and sanctify, to remove sin once and for all, so that when he returns a second time at the end of the age, he will bring the gift of salvation.

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Madonnas and memory

April 8, 2015


Raphael's The Conestabile Madonna

Raphael’s The Conestabile Madonna

Lessons in history and humanity plus drama, unconditional love and insight into one of the most difficult to understand of all diseases — Alzheimer’s — make Debra Dean’s “The Madonnas of Leningrad” a superb, satisfying read.

There’s a sampling of an art appreciation class, too, and brief, maybe too brief snatches of modern family dynamics. But those glimpses into contemporary life form the perfect background to better contrast with the values of the Russians who survived — and even those who didn’t survive — the Nazi siege of Leningrad during World War II.

Da Vinci’s The Litta Madonna

With the war there is starvation and death and ruin, to be sure, but tremendous self sacrifice, too, and life, life so valued, life so amazing, captured so well in one scene, where women who have survived the siege learn that the story’s protagonist, Marina, is expecting and, after a winter of death, line up to touch her stomach and to feel the baby kick in her womb.

A tremendous sense of irony pours from the pages. In the godless Soviet Union the invaluable art collection of the Hermitage Museum, including precious images of the Blessed Virgin and the Christ Child, is crated and trucked away to be saved from ruin or confiscation by the approaching German army.

At the suggestion of another Hermitage tour guide, young Marina, who later in life cannot remember the names of her own family members, commits to memory of all these wonderful madonnas — the Rubens, the da Vinci, the van Dyck, the Rembrandt and more — storing in her “memory palace” not only the details of the works and the stories they tell but even where they hung on the walls of the czar’s former Winter Palace.

It’s an act of mutual benefit. Not only does Marina save the memory of the art to share with those who may never have the chance to see them, but doing so gives her a reason to live, to survive at a time when bombs, cold, starvation and illness take the lives of thousands during the siege.

van Dyck

van Dyck’s The Rest on the Flight into Egypt

And, while this isn’t an outwardly religious novel, as the situation worsens for those freezing, starving, cowering from the bombs and removing the corpses of those who die each day, even a strict non-believer decides a little prayer couldn’t hurt.

“The Madonnas of Leningrad” is not a new book. Published in 2006, it garnered a number of honors. But as timely as the topic of Alzheimer’s is, you would think someone would make a movie of this terrific story.

If you choose to read the book — and even if you don’t — you’ll find images of some of the famous works of art named within at this website, along with excerpts of how they were described in the book. Start googling the paintings and you could lose several hours of your day!

Dean also mentions the Jordan Staircase in her novel. Here’s why:

The Jordan Staircase in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

The Jordan Staircase in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

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Story of Jesus perfect for 4-to-8 year olds

May 12, 2014


Jesus coverLittle children run to Jesus on the cover of this Eerdmans Book for Young Readers, a wonderful image to draw the target age group — 4-to-8 years — into the story of Jesus’ life.
Benedictine Anselm Grün’s retelling of Gospel events is true to Catholic teaching, from the visitation through the nativity and more than a half-dozen highlights of New Testament stories up through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The translation by Laura Watkinson keeps the language simple and age-appropriate, and Giuliano Ferri’s colorful artwork adds to the storytelling, bringing to life the calling of the disciples, for example, the stories of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the Prodigal Son, and the Last Supper.
Parents and teachers will find “Jesus” an excellent choice reading to children in a home schooling setting or early faith formation.

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First Friday devotion–a dialogue between two hearts

September 6, 2013


Jesus pours out many blessings on those who have devotion to Him in His Most Sacred Heart. Photo/San Antonio Abad Parish Maybunga, Pasig City.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

Jesus pours out many blessings on those who have devotion to Him in His Most Sacred Heart as part of the First Friday devotion. Photo/San Antonio Abad Parish Maybunga, Pasig City. Licensed under Creative Commons.

The Catholic Church has no lack of devotions. We can choose from dozens of novenas, prayers of thanksgiving and prayers for the intercession of the Blessed Mother or almost any saint. But whether we lack devotion–the whole point of praying the prayers—is another question.

For a long time I bypassed the First Friday devotion. When the first Friday of the month came up–like today–It just seemed like another thing to keep track of when I had enough trouble getting to Mass on time (still do) and making time for prayer.

First Friday devotion, I’ve learned, is about Jesus. He should be the main focus of our love, so a devotion that centers on Him and His Sacred Heart is set apart from other devotions, according to the Sacred Heart Legion. First Friday devotion started in the 1600s when Christ began appearing to a French Visitation nun named Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart

So what exactly is the First Friday devotion? Most simply, it calls for receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist on the First Friday of nine consecutive months in honor of His Sacred Heart. That sounds easy enough, but along with that we should have:

  • A true love of Jesus Christ and His Sacred Heart, the source of His excessive mercy, help, graces and blessings.
  • Special respect for, and veneration of, the Blessed Sacrament.
  • A desire to make Reparation for the neglect, indifference and ingratitude of the majority that results in Jesus Christ being left alone, abandoned and forgotten on our altars, never visited to offer consolation for such neglect, though He has given us the miracle of His Divine Presence in the Blessed Sacrament as a supreme gift to us in His desire to be always with us. (Acts of reparation to pray on First Friday are available to download.)

If necessary to receive communion in a state of grace on First Friday (or any day), we should go to confession before Mass.

Many graces available

The Lord offers many graces to those who have devotion to His Sacred Heart. As Pope Pius XII wrote in his encyclical Haurietis Aquas, (On Devotion to the Sacred Heart):

It is altogether impossible to enumerate the heavenly gifts which devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has poured out on the souls of the faithful, purifying them, offering them heavenly strength, rousing them to the attainment of all virtues.

Among these heavenly gifts, the Lord gave St. Margaret Mary 12 promises for those who are faithful to the First Friday devotion:

1.“I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.”
2. “I will establish peace in their homes.”
3. “I will comfort them in their afflictions.”
4. “I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all in death.”
5. “I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.”
6. “Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.”
7. “Tepid souls shall grow fervent.”
8. “Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.”
9. “I will bless every place where a picture of My Heart shall be set up and honored.”
10. “I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.”
11. “Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.”
12. “I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”

Evidence the Lord reaches out to us

The point of First Friday devotion is to show real devotion to Jesus and His Sacred Heart but the promises are an added incentive. They are evidence that the Lord is reaching out to us in our busyness and indifference.

Biographer Rt. Rev. Emile Bougaud wrote about this in his “The Life of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque,”

“Every new evidence of coldness on the part of man causes God to descend a degree in order to touch the heart from which He cannot succeed in detaching Himself.”

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Reflections on the Triduum ~ Good Friday

March 29, 2013


Good Friday always confused me.  Like many people, Catholic and non-

On The Cross Licensed under Creative Commons - Archer10

On The Cross
Licensed under Creative Commons – Archer10

Catholic alike, the question is “Why do we call it good?”

In years past one part of the liturgy has always stood out to me.  The veneration of the cross. I would sit there in awe as I watched members of our parish walk up to kiss the wood of the cross.  One woman struggled with her walker as she made her way to the cross and knelt before it.  Another woman, widowed recently , venerated the cross and wiped a tear away as she returned to her seat.  Yet another person I saw was a man suffering from Cancer and wouldn’t probably see another Good Friday.  I’ve seen these scenes over the years…. And yet we call it “Good.”

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Lk. 14:27)

“Embrace the cross!” the priest said from the pulpit, but it wasn’t his words that struck a cord with me, it was his actions.

As the priest enters into this liturgy – he lays down, prostrate on the ground in front of the altar.  It is a humbling action.  As I watched this action a phrase rung in my head.
“Bring us God!”

I pondered as to why this was my reaction to this gesture by the priest. Was it that empty tabernacle again? Or was their something more I was to understand?  I had just read Pope Frances homily from the Chrism Mass so it gave me a little insight as to why this action invoked such a strong  and strange response.  In his homily, Pope Frances instructs his priests to go out.  To go out to the people where they are suffering and to also go out of themselves.  And when they go to the outskirts:

“they [the people] feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem”, “Bless me Father”, “Pray for me”

Bring us God through the Eucharist, bring us God through reconciliation, bring us God through the word because without God we couldn’t survive the crosses of our lives.

So that is why we call it “Good.”  With this one gesture of Christ dying on the cross for us He gives to us himself so we never have to carry our cross alone.

In fact it would be impossible to.

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Two angels at the tomb of Jesus

March 28, 2013


Resurrection at St. Andrew in Fairfax revised

Resurrection at St. Andrew in Fairfax revised

A Miraculous Encounter.  On Easter Sunday morning when Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and a number of other women from Galilee went to the tomb of Jesus, they encountered “two men in dazzling garments” (Lk 24:4).

A Curious Discrepancy.  Each of the four evangelists mentions the presence of one or two mysterious figures at the tomb.  Matthew explained that “an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.  His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow” (Mt 28:2,3).  Mark reported that the women, upon entering the tomb, “saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe” (Mk 16:5).  In the Fourth Gospel John the evangelist recounted how Mary Magdalene “saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been” (Jn 20:12).  In Matthew and Mark there is one figure, while in Luke and John there are two.  Who are they?  Why is the number different?

Unique Identity.  There are multiple details that reveal the identity of the figures present in the tomb.  Both Matthew and John state explicitly that they were angels.  All four gospels say that the figures were clothed in white or dazzling garments, a sign they came from heaven, the abode of the angels.  Each delivered an announcement from God that Jesus was risen from the dead, and it is the duty of angels to serve as divine messengers.

One or Two Angels.  Modern rationalistic philosophy and the scientific method strive for factual accuracy and precision, while the evangelists use details to convey a symbolic message.  There are several plausible reasons why Luke prefers two angels to one.  Luke uses pairs throughout his gospel:  Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, the cure of a leper and the cure of a paralytic, Martha and Mary, and many others.  When it comes to the angels, it is preferable for them to work together in tandem rather than by themselves, alone.  Furthermore, when it comes to the strength of testimony, in the Mosaic Law a statement given by an individual is considered insufficient or unreliable, while the word of two gives necessary corroboration and verification (see Dt 19:15).

The Two-Figure Symbolism.  There is a strong likelihood that Luke wants the reader to make a connection between the Transfiguration and the Resurrection.  When Jesus was transfigured, two men in glory appeared with him (Lk 9:30,31), and when Jesus was raised two men in dazzling garments appeared (Lk 24:4).  Moses and Elijah came from heaven and the two figures in the tomb also came from heaven.  Moses and Elijah spoke of Jesus’ exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem (Lk 9:31), and men in dazzling garments spoke about the completion of Jesus’ exodus on earth in anticipation of his future and final exodus, his Ascension to heaven.

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