My Last Writings as a High School Apologist / Evangelist
|Marian Reflections, February - May 2004 by A
High school was a great time for me. Christ has been showing me to Himself and walked with me the whole time. I promised Him I would give Him a gift before my high school is over. My gift is the writings you are about to read which, hopefully, will bring you closer to Him. I have written what I can and only He can decide what He will do with it. I pray that He will bring you closer to Himself. The writings you will read are really a Mariology. I pray that she too will guide you to her Son. I hope that through her, you will see the face of Christ.
Also, as you will probably see, there may be some grammatical errors. This is because I have not edited it. This will show that God works with man even though he has many flaws.
May His Sacred Heart, through the Immaculate Heart, give you the faith of the first century Christians, the faith of martyrs, the faith all Catholics need today.
Mary and Islam 2/14/04
The Qu'ran says, "O Mary! Allah has chosen you and purified you - chosen you above the women of all nations." This is paralleled in the Gospels when it says, "Hail, full of grace!...Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb" (Luke 1:28, 42). It is apparent that both Catholics and Muslims honor Mary. We believe that Mary was purified by God, was made Immaculate. In fact, she is called "Maryam" which literally means "the pure one." She is blessed among and above all women. But why all this praise and honor?
"...blessed is the fruit of thy womb."
Mary is called to be "blessed" and Immaculate because of the child she was about to bring forth to the world. "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:31-33). The Qu'ran speaks similarly of this: "Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah." And elsewhere: "O Mary! truly an amazing thing you have brought!" The praise and honor of Mary is always associated with her relationship with Christ. She is the mother of Jesus, the mother of the Redeemer, the mother of the Word of God. Christ is the servant of God, the one whose obedience will make many righteous. It is through the Person of Christ of which Mary becomes "full of grace" and "pure."
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord"
When Mary heard the news from the angel, she said, "How can this be, since I have no relation with a man?" The angel responded by saying that God will overshadow her and nothing is impossible with Him. Mary responded: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." This is an act of submission, an Islam. Catholics and Muslims both believe that we should trust God with all our hearts praying "thy will be done." Self-abandonment to the Divine Providence is the only way we can achieve what we all want: happiness. Only God can give us happiness. An "Islam" is the shortcut to happiness, to truth, to find all the answers to all the questions.
"Christ Jesus, the son of Mary"
Muslims believe that Jesus is a prophet. But he is the only prophet to be called the son of his mother. The prophets are usually referred to as sons of their fathers. But with Jesus, he is referred to as "the son of Mary." This is very unusual and it is probably not an accident. Jesus must be someone who is very special and unique out of all the prophets. Could it be that this man is greater than man? Could it be that Mary is praised so highly because there is something more in Christ than a prophet? Let us not try to answer this right now. Let us keep on praising Mary and pray that somehow, she will lead us to the truth of her son.
Marian Reflections 2/28/04
The Angel said to Mary, "Hail, full of grace." It is then said that she was greatly troubled at that statement: "she was greatly troubled at what was said" (Luke 1:29). Mary was a faithful servant of the Lord throughout her life since the very instant of her existence. She was, as the angel said, "full of grace." The Greek means that she is perfected in grace and continuously in grace. When we came into existence, we came into a community of sinners. It was only when we were baptized in which we became a part of the community of the saints participating in the Life of Christ: the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. Mary however came into existence in grace. She was already a saint. In a sense, she was already the Church. Only four people came into existence in the state of grace: Adam, Eve, the New Adam, and the New Eve. Though we are become in the state of grace after baptism like Mary, she had a greater amount of grace; she was "full of grace." In the words of Pope Pius IX:
It can be said that she is The Believer in which other believers participate in her virtues. It is therefore appropriate to call her the "model," the "archetype," or "icon" of the Church. All our virtues and surrender to God's will is in some say related to Mary's fiat. It is her fiat in which all our faith and good works are rooted in for if there were no fiat there would not have been a Christ. And it can also be said that since she is the model for every believer, the more we become closer to Christ, the more Marian we become.
The first word of the Angel was "Hail." This shows that she was greater than the angels. This was a radical new thing since men usually revered angels because they knew they were greater than them. St. Thomas Aquinas gave three ways how angels are greater than men: in dignity, in closeness to God, and fullness of splendor of grace. Mary exceeded all the angels in all these three things. She exceeded angels in dignity because she was "full of grace", exceeded them in closeness to God because she was the Mother of God, and exceeded them in fullness of splendor of grace because she participated in the resurrection in the most perfect manner, the Assumption. We should also note that the Angel called her "full of grace." This is the only time in Scripture in which an angel greets a person with a title. The angel did not call her by her name, but "full of grace." Our names usually identify who we are; "full of grace" identified who Mary was.
It was also said that "she was greatly troubled at what was said." The handmaid of the Lord she was, she was a type of person who considers others before her. She followed God's Word throughout all her life, but she did not know that she was Immaculately Conceived or "full of grace."
She was probably also troubled at what was said by the Angel, "He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High..." (Luke 1:32). Any person would be troubled by this statement. As Hans Urs Von Balthasar once pointed out, how can a Jewish girl understand this statement? How can Yahweh have a son? Mary here now have gained a meditation on the mystery of the Trinity. In other words, Mary was trying to understand the mystery of God Himself, the mystery of the Trinity. Mary understood the messianic concepts and the drama of salvation behind the statement of the angel, but it takes many ponderings in order to get the full understanding of it.
Another instance when Mary did not understand something was when the 12 year old Jesus was lost in the temple. It is said, "But they did not understand what he said to them" (Luke 2:50). This misunderstanding was not that because she did not know who Jesus was. She completely knew who He was since the Angel told her before. Her misunderstanding is not a difficulty than it is a mystery. From the moment of the Annunciation, Mary was filled with mysteries. She was filled with the beauty of the birth of her Child, the joy from the visitation of the shepherds, and what Simeon had told her. She knew that there was more meaning in these things that they appear.
At the temple, Mary asked, "Son, why have you done this to us?" Jesus answered, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" These questions are not really difficulties, but mysteries. Difficulties can be solved with philosophy and theology, but in order to "solve" a mystery, it takes obedience and submission. Sometimes, when we ask God questions, He answers with a question, like when He was in the temple, and the way to get the answer is to be silent and let Him come to you just as Mary stood in silence while Jesus came home with them. All types of mysteries can only be answered by an abandonment to Christ, letting Christ work through you. Mysteries like the mystery of suffering for example, can only be answered by a fiat: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done according to your word."
Marian Reflections 3/5/04
"...do not be afraid to take Mary....into your home." (Matt 1:20)
We read in St. Luke's Gospel that "Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth" (Luke 1:39). This is right after she heard the Good News that "the child to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35) and that "the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:32-33).
This revelation of God is different from all other revelations in the Old Testament. God, who is Love, is a Being who keeps on giving; He gives the gift of Himself. In the Old Testament, He reveals Himself through the mouths of the prophets. Now, through Mary, He reveals Himself in flesh. It is through her that He unites Himself with each one of us, to humanity. God is in His nature a gift, and when Mary received this Gift, she recognizes that a gift is meant to be always given. She would give the world the greatest gift, God Himself.
So she visits Elizabeth to share this Gift. She tells her the good news about what she has heard. She is the first evangelist. The very first person she evangelizes the Gospel to was her relative, Elizabeth, a family member. This tells us that God, Who is Love, starts at home, starts at the family. God knows that the family is the most fundamental unit of society. It is more fundamental that the Church and State because without the family, there would be no Church or State. This gives us the message that our evangelization should start at home. Like Mary, we should reveal Christ to our families first. This will bring joy to the family, something which is lacking in this world.
As my friend Selwyn Duke once said, "You know the world is in bad shape when the only thing that isn't becoming more nuclear is the family." And the only thing which will make the family more nuclear is the radiant face of Christ which we must all mirror. Mary is always a mirror of Christ. In the words of Hans Urs Von Balthasar, "her heart is the true napkin of the legendary Veronica." The more we become mirrors of Christ, the more joy the family will have. As my spiritual director once said, "Christ is Joy that we must en-joy." It is no surprise then that the infant St. John the Baptist "leaped for joy" in his mother's womb.
Mary is also the hope for the pro-life community. In fact, she is the person who gave Life to the world. Mary is there when Elizabeth needed comforting. How terrible would it be for a pregnant woman to have a husband whom she cannot communicate to! A pregnant woman needs support and encouragement--the encouragement to become a good mother. A great woman that she was, Mary came to Elizabeth to comfort her. Elizabeth was then filled with the Holy Spirit and her infant leaped for joy (Luke 1:41). She then learns a profound truth that the world has forgotten. She says, "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43)
Notice how Elizabeth calls Mary "the mother of my Lord." Though Christ was not yet born, Mary was already a mother. Motherhood begins when life is entrusted in a woman's life. God entrusted Mary His own life, making her His Mother. In this culture of death, we must pray to Mary, asking her to comfort all the pregnant women. We must pray that she visits them as she visited Elizabeth, giving them comfort and most of all, showing them the way to Christ. In the words of Cardinal John Henry Newman:
The Canticle of Mary: The Poor Woman Sings
After Elizabeth tells Mary "Blessed are you who believed...", Mary says, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." Mary empties herself, knowing that she is blessed because "The Mighty One has done great things" for her. In the words of Hans Urs Von Balthasar,
Mary is a poor woman whom God has lifted. The more she becomes poor, the more God lifts her. She does not want anything but God. And this is what it means to be "poor in spirit." To be poor means to set a road for yourself to walk on to the way to the Father. And that road must be the road which Christ walked on. There are no shortcuts or coffee breaks. Sometimes, there are times when there are ways which appears to get us closer to Christ in a "safer way" or something which will delay our pilgrimage. There may even be things which will attract us and make us lose our focus. But this is not the way to the Father.
There is only one road and there may be bumps along the way, but we must resist the temptation of losing our focus. Our focus must always be walking on that road. We must leave those attractions and shortcuts behind. No matter how great those things seem they are, we must resist them. We must be poor. Mary was a poor woman who walked along that road and she can help us walk along that same road. St. Therese of Lisieux said:
God gives the poor strength. He knows that the road is not always easy. The poor that walks along that road knows that God gives them gifts which will encourage them to keep walking. The poor can say with Mary, the poor woman, "The Mighty One has done great things for me." But sometimes, we tend to lose our focus because of those gifts. Our focus becomes not the Giver, but the gift. God then stops giving us these gifts which seem to attract us towards Him. The soul then becomes "dry." It seems like we do not feel God the way we used to anymore. But this is necessary so that our focus should be the Person, not the "feeling" or experiences we have. As Mother Angelica said, "Only through the pain of dryness-where we decrease and He increases-can we begin to love God in the way He wishes us to love."
Mary had dark nights or "dryness" as well. But her dark nights were very mysterious. God's gift to Mary was Himself; she was His mother. So to take away her gifts would be to take away her Son. God sent Jesus to stay in Jerusalem in the temple without her knowing it. Mary was then in pursuit of her Son. Her focus is always on her Son and she never lost that focus. She yearned for Him, looking for Him everywhere. She then found Him and asked, "Son, why have you done this to us?" This is the prayer of the suffering Christian. Whenever it seems like God has abandoned us or when things are not going the way they should, we ask: "Why?" Christ Himself asked this question. He "cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)
There are just some things which we, the poor, cannot understand. But God never forsakes us. God always answers our prayers and comes to us when we need Him. "He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them" (Luke 2:51). Though we might not understand everything, we still know the answer to everything. The answer is Christ. We might not understand how Christ is the answer to everything, but we know He is the answer. There are some things which we cannot answer. The only answer is letting Christ come to us, and like Mary, to keep all these things in her heart. Christ is the richness of the poor: He always lifts up the lowly. In the words of Mother Angelica, "If our dry spell causes us pain, increases our thirst for God, makes us strive for virtue, and during prayer, makes every other thought outside of God distasteful to us, then we can assume the dryness we experience is of God. God is calling us to a higher form of prayer and a deeper union with Himself."
The Canticle of Mary: The Eucharistic Attitude
We read in St. Luke's Gospel, "Haill, full of grace! The Lord is with thee." We see that the Lord is with her. They already have a communion with each other. His love and her love becomes "their" love. But their communion is different from the angels and us. Their communion is that of Mother and Son. Nothing is more profound of a communion than that of Mother and Child. God was literally "in" her. Along this great communion, she was also in communion with the Holy Spirit: "The holy Spirit will come upon you." And to the Father, she was "the handmaid of the Lord."
In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: "with her are the Lord the Father, the Lord the Son, and the Lord the Holy Ghost--in a word, the Holy Trinity. Indeed of her we sing: 'Noble resting place of the Triune God.' 'The Lord is with thee' are the most praiseladen words that the Angel could have uttered; and, hence, he so profoundly reverenced the Blessed Virgin because she is the Mother of the Lord and Our Lady."
After receiving Christ, she goes to Elizabeth. She already had a mentality of "communio theology", proclaiming the Gospel to Elizabeth so that she would also rejoice in her savior. It may be that St. John the beloved Apostle learned this "communio mentality" from Mary when he wrote:
What St. John wrote Mary did in action. It could be that what St. John wrote is his version, in a more theological way, of the Incarnation. What St. Luke wrote in a historical way, St. John wrote in a theological way. But whatever type of writing they did, it was the actions and experience of Mary which they wrote about.
Mary then said, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." This is what we should do whenever we receive communion. Our soul must proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Pope John Paul II says:
And finally, Christ Himself comes down to us in poverty. He becomes poor just as we must become poor. In fact, to be "poor in spirit" is to unite ourselves with Him. John Paul II said it best:
Genius of Woman 3/28/04
It is not difficult to see that there are many problems today. But the greatest problem we have is how much the families have crumbled. As my friend Selwyn Duke once said, "You know the world is in bad shape when the only thing that isn't becoming more nuclear is the family." I think that one of the causes is feminism, which is a product of secularism, its cause. Back then, before secularism poisoned society, people believed in virtues such as temperance, justice, fortitude, and prudence. Ancient philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle believed that in order to achieve the summum bonum or the greatest good, one must be virtuous. But when secularism started to become popular, it made man believe that the greatest good is material.
As Alice Von Hildebrand said,
This was the beginning of the destruction of families. Men did not appreciate women because they did not recognize the acts of virtues women did. How can they? Virtue is not a material thing; it cannot be seen. Since man became materialistic, they did not give the proper respect and honor to their wives and other women. Women were to them "inferior" because they were materialistic. This then caused the battles of the sexes. Women rose up and told men that they too can be materialistic; they too can be "successful." It was adopting this secularist mentality which made it seem like the traditional view of women was that they were "inferior." The acts of virtues women did at home and at the workplace were not materialistic. And by having this materialistic mentality, it became "inferior."
The feminist did nothing but accept the errors of men. They equated "equality" with doing a man's work. Feminism is nothing but women masculinized. The result of this is that men treated women like they would treat a man. Fulton J. Sheen said it best, "Once woman became man's mathematical equal, he no longer gave her a seat in a bus and no longer took off his hat in an elevator." Even worse, women began to look down on virtues of tenderness, gentleness, kindness, patience, selflessness and self-giving. In other words, they lost recognition of their "genius", the genius of woman or the feminine genius.
Back then when there were more communists in Russia than American professors, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, "The level of civilization is the level of its womanhood." I have hope in this fallen world because I believe that woman has a genius all her own and she can change the world by manifesting it. Women have the power because they can change men; they have the control to make men noble. Sheen said, "When man loves woman, it follows that the nobler the woman, the nobler the love; the higher demands made by the woman, the more worthy a man must be." Just think about it. If women did not dress so promiscuously, men would not treat her as an instrument for pleasure.
For a woman, dressing up showing their belly buttons and cleavage might simply mean that they want to be recognized, but for a man, that means a lot more than that. It saddens me how many times I have heard girls tell me that they have been hurt by their boyfriends whom they call "jerks" because they did not give them the proper respect that they needed. It saddens me how many times girls were hurt because they had sex with whom they think was their "beloved", but the relationship did not go as well as they hoped for and now they feel used. Mostly, it saddens me when there is such a thing as "unwanted pregnancy" and then to leave the child inside a trashcan in an abortion clinic. One of the cruelest things in the world is to label a person, no matter how small, "unwanted" or "unfit." What saddens me more is that these labels came from women. Growing up with what my mother taught me, I would not expect women justifying murdering a person in the name of "choice."
My hope rests on women. If they start to manifest their genius, then this world will become a world which respects human life. This is because one aspect of the feminine genius is to recognize persons as persons. Women have the genius to recognize the dignity and sanctity of human life. They have a capacity to accept the person, not just as individuals, but persons. The difference between individuals and persons is that individuals are replaceable and persons are not. For example, if I was at the store and was to buy apples, I can say, "No, this one is bad. Give me another." But you cannot say this about persons. Every person is unique and has dignity all his own.
A woman can recognize persons as persons because they can see through things. They can see past the bodies. They can "see" dignity in each person; they have in-sight. If you notice, this aspect and other aspects of the feminine genius make up what it takes to be a mother. Every woman ought to be a mother either physically or spiritually. She has the capacity to give herself for the other, to nurture, and to suffer with others. Men have trouble holding a baby, but women do not. Their gentle arms shows that they were made to hold a child. When a mother just finished giving birth and holds the baby in her hands, she sees that the baby is naked; the baby does not have jewelry, money, clothes, or any material thing, but she still sees the beauty in him.
A mother sacrifices her time and her bodily strengths when the child wakes up late at night and she has to take care of him. A mother teaches her child to walk without her hands and to pick him up when he falls. A mother is usually the person the child goes to when he is afraid; her arms is his "place of safety", believing that his mother will never abandon him and will protect him. Motherhood requires a sincere giving of self, to sacrifice our wants for the good of the other. It puts primacy on love of the other. Motherhood is the reason why houses are called homes and it is also the reason why love starts at home.
No, I am not saying that women should not work. What I am saying is that wherever women go, they should manifest their feminine genius. What I am also saying is that a woman is first and foremost a mother. Yes, feminism might have brought women who can go to the moon, who can become owners and CEOs, who can be as good as Michael Jordan, and who can be presidents. But how many families are broken? How many people need help because they lacked the love they needed when they were young?
A woman can be all those things, but so can man. However, there is one thing a man cannot be. A man cannot be a mother. Maybe we would not have so many abortions and broken families if we gave mothers the honor and respect they deserve. In fact, I am definitely sure that we would not have this abortion-holocaust if we acknowledged the virtues of motherhood. This is because motherhood entails the choice of life; women are essentially pro-life. The only way this world will get better is if we have a pro-life mentality, which we learned from mothers. This Brave New World is not forever new. It will come to pass. It will come to pass because of the feminine genius. This is the same genius which taught a Wise Man to say, "Behold, your mother."
Mary at the Foot of the Cross 4/3/2004
The scene is Calvary. Jesus is dying on the Cross and His mother is weeping. At His sides were sinners. Just like His ministry, He came to be with sinners. He wanted to be a part of everyone. He would walk and eat with sinners. And now, at the time of His hour, He dies with sinners. He suffers with us. As St. Thomas Aquinas said:
His mother also suffered. There is nothing like seeing your son suffers. She suffers because the person on the Cross was her son, it was her other self. To her, He was still her 'baby.' Every mother has the 'genius' of seeing her child as if he was still a little boy. Her child never gets old. She always remember the times when she fed him, spent nights giving him comfort, teaching him how to talk and how to walk, and just the joy of seeing him grow to be a man. But now, here was a Mother who sees her Divine Child suffer. She was there when He said, 'I thirst.' She could not turn to anyone else. At Cana, she turned to Him because they ran out of wine.
Now, it was He who needed drink and she could not turn to anyone else. She was helpless. And the worse thing a mother can be in a situation in is when her son is in need of help and she cannot do anything to help him. She was truly 'poor in spirit.' Mary, who was a mother, used to be the one who does the talking. She was the one who gave Him orders. But now, she was silent in tears. She was in reverent awe. And there is nothing more painful than to see your mother suffer. I think that of all the pains Jesus suffered, the most painful thing He had to endure was to see His innocent mother suffer, to see His mother weep. She did not have to go through this suffering. But she wanted to. A mother's heart always follows his son. Even if it is a Sacred Heart she has to follow, she will do it. She will do it because she is a mother.
Jesus said to Mary, 'Behold, your son.' This means that she will have to take every disciple of her son to be her son. She will look at each one of us the same way she looked at her son. And like the beloved disciple we will have to take her to our homes. Whenever Jesus finished a miracle, He told the healed to back home and preach the Gospel, to preach what they have witnessed. But the miracles He performed were for the body. Now, at the Cross, He heals the soul. He cleanses us from our sins. We know what to do. We need to go home and sin no more. We need to go home and preach what we have witnessed. We need to preach the Good News. We will not go home alone. We will go home with our Mother. There is no one who witnessed the Crucified One better than Mary did. She witnessed it from the viewpoint of a mother.
The Catholic Church has the fullness of truth because she has Jesus' mother as her witness. She saw Him pay for our sins. She saw how much He loves us. There is no ally than Mary for she has in her heart the crucified face of Jesus, which is the greatest weapon against evil. We are told that we are in battle. We are told that 'the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keeps God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus' (Rev. 12:17). But our weapons are not swords, guns, or atomic bombs. Our weapon is this and only this: the Crucified Christ. This is the way to 'bear witness to Jesus'. We are to bear witness to Jesus just like her mother did. She held her dead Son in her arms. She, who is the true Imitation of Christ, then says, 'Father, behold, your Son.' The only way to win the battle is to love Jesus the way Mary did because, in the words of Aquinas, a mother's love is the greatest (ST, II-II, q. 27 a. 1). This is the true meaning of 'You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind' (Luke 10:27).
My Triduum Thoughts 4/8/04
Blessed are they who mourn: to suffer with others
Jesus endured all human suffering. He suffered with us and for us. What does this mean? Think of the sufferings people are going through. Think of the four year old child who is going through chemotherapy. Think of the pain and suffering he has to go through at such a young age. Think of the poor who can barely live. They lack food and shelter. They don't have the things we take for granted such as our soft sofas, cushioned chairs, and our beds. Think of people who lost a family member. Everything we thought of as important seems meaningless when we see the evil and suffering going on in our everyday lives. Our material possessions and things like our anger towards other people for whatever reasons or how our football and basketball teams are doing become meaningless. We know that there are many things much more important than these little things. Our hearts become heavier and we are left mourning for them. How can we ever put on a smile anymore? 'Blessed are they who mourn,' Christ said.
St. Thomas Aquinas said, 'He suffered from friends and acquaintances, as is manifest from Judas betraying and Peter denying Him.' What does this feel like? Ever had that feeling of loving someone and then found out that they don't love you back? It is as if your heart has been pierced. Christ suffered on the Cross and his friends left Him. It's like saying, 'I love you' and never getting the response of 'I love you too'. What kind of suffering did our Lord go through when He saw that His friends were not there? These people are the people He spent His time with, ate with, and loved. He did miracles and taught His Father's Words to them. He gave His total Self to them and now, at the time when He needed them, where are they?
Aquinas also said that Christ suffered 'in His reputation, from the blasphemies hurled at Him; in His honor and glory, from the mockeries and the insults heaped upon Him; in things, for He was despoiled of His garments.' How can people do such things? How can they do such a thing to their Savior? How can persons, whom God created in His own image as good and beautiful, do such a harsh thing? Christ always saw others as good just like His Father created them in the beginning. People have dignity and are very sacred. People are too good not to be loved. Yet, why don't they love? Why don't they love the One who loves them the most?
Christ, Mary, and the Modern World
In a world filled with a materialistic and sexual mentality, there is still suffering. There is still evil. We cannot avoid these problems. How can we have joy in spite of these things? We can become modern and have a materialistic and sexual mentality, but this would only be ignoring those who suffer. Will having sex and buying the best things we can buy free us from the sufferings in this world? Will it heal those who suffer? Should we forget about these people, to forget about them since we can't do anything anyway?
We are faced with problems in the world. And we are always looking for solutions. But, as Gabriel Marcel said, life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived. The way to live out the mystery of suffering is to live in Christ. We are to follow Him wherever He goes even if it means following Him to Golgotha. How are we to follow Him? The answer is to follow St. John, the beloved disciple. St. John was the only Apostle to be at the foot of the Cross. How did he get that strength?
Christ gave the beloved disciple two things and He gives them to anyone who also wants to be like him. The first is His Eucharistic Heart. At the Last Supper, when He gave His Body for us, the beloved disciple leaned on to Christ's breast. He had a longing for His Sacred Heart. It tells us that we are to follow Christ, we are to long for the Eucharist. And isn't longing for the Eucharist lead us to the Mass, which is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice?
Christ also gave St. John His mother. We read, "Woman, behold your son. Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother'" (John 19:29). We know that the disciple is John. But here, we see John uses the word disciple. This means that whoever is a disciple must take Mary's hand. We see that no one directly came to the cross. Who would? Note that the Spirit has not yet arrived, and they see Jesus carrying His cross. Would you follow Him? You probably would be humiliated and not know what you are doing. So you see the mother, and go to her instead. This means that in order for one to carry the cross, you need to take the Mother with you. And Mary will not refuse because Jesus told her that she would take our hands too. So if anyone wants to come to Jesus, to come to the cross, we must come to her as well. We would not know the way if our mother does not give us the way or guide us.
How can we ever put on a smile when we know that there is suffering in the world? How are we to put on a smile and at the same time, suffer with others? The answer is the Cross. When we follow Christ to the Cross, we see that at this moment in history, He puts light in suffering. He puts new meaning in suffering. Pope John Paul II says:
It is in light of the Cross that we can have hope in suffering. Yes, we are suffering, but we can still have peace. It is through the Cross that we can say, 'For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him. The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the Lord will offer praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever! (Psalm 22:25-27)' Or, in the words of Mary, God will lift up the lowly and the hungry will be filled with good things. Maybe we can smile in spite of suffering in the world. Maybe the way to suffer with others is to give them a smile, to give them hope, to show them that suffering is temporary. This is because I believe that a smile in the context of Christ's suffering on the Cross is the shadow of the Risen One.
Happy Easter! 4/11/04
His tomb is empty. He is risen! St. Paul writes to the Corinthians of what is probably the first creed of the Church:
"Christ died for our sins"
This is what the Church believed. This is what we believe now. It is not simply a statement of faith, but a statement of fact. The Church was there when He died, buried and the saw the Risen One. Our Blessed Mother and St. John, the beloved disciple, was there when He died. They saw Him suffer. They heard His cry. They saw the blood and water from His side. They were there when they crucified my Lord. Christ could not have made it from all the beatings He received. He was truly dead. And He died for me. He died for you.
"He was buried"
It has been admitted by the majority of scholars that the burial of Jesus is a historical fact. This led us to Holy Saturday, when Christ descended to hell. It was when He went down to see Adam. They met each other and they probably looked the same. Adam meets the New Adam. Adam sees Christ and he probably saw the perfected 'version' of himself. Adam becomes new through the New Adam.
From the minute Christ died to Holy Saturday, there was darkness. There was an eclipse. There was no light. But like an eclipse, the moon is still there. Christ, the Sun, was not visible, but Mary, the moon, was still there for comfort.
"He was raised"
We know that the Catholic faith is true because we know His tomb is empty. 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' He is risen! Let us seek Him. This is the playfulness of the Christian life. St. Thomas Aquinas said that play is 'the pleasure derived from such actions is directed to the recreation and rest of the soul'. And it is through and in the Risen Christ where we find our rest. Is not Sunday the day of rest? It is like playing 'hide and seek'. We looked at His tomb and He is not there. He is 'hiding'. We must seek Him. We must seek Him in the poor, the unborn, our enemies, and especially under the appearance of bread in the Liturgy. When we have dark nights like Holy Saturday, when we can't find Him, we may even 'cheat' and ask His mother where He is. She will then point to the place where He is hiding. And when we find Him, we say 'There you are!' and joy fills our hearts. 'Let the children come to me....for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.' He is risen! Play!
Trust and Mercy, Divine Mercy Sunday 4/18/04
Our Blessed Mother said, "May it be done to me according to your word." Her fiat, her Islam, is what brought Life to the world. "I trust in you" was already written in her heart. It was written in her heart because she knew that God is kind and merciful: "His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him." Not only did she trust our Lord, she also taught it. She said, "Do whatever He tells you." We are to do whatever He tells us because we know, because just like in Cana, that "the hungry he has filled with good things."
No matter how many sins you have, no matter how many times you do it, God is always merciful. As St. John Vianney said, "Our sins are nothing but a grain of sand alongside the great mountain of the mercy of God."
The essence of the Church, Cardinal Ratzinger said, is that Jesus sat at the table with sinners. Christ said, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do." And who in this world is not in some way sick? Sick because of anger? Sick because of pride? Sick because of false zeal? Sick because of selfishness? Sick because of our suffering? Sick because of being oppressed? We all need the Divine Physician. Christ said with His firm gentleness: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest in yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light" (Matt 11:28-30).
Sacrament of Reconciliation
I'm about to meet Jesus. I will be on a trial and will have to testify. I will have to testify on what I have done wrong. What happened? Why did I do it? Will I do it again? Will I try not to do it again? And then, with the confidence in the Almighty, I will say what my parents taught me to say when I did something wrong: I'm sorry. Then, because of God's mercy, through His priest, He will say "I absolve you from your sins." Confession is truly the only trial where one can plead guilty and go away innocent.
The Liturgical Life
Like Mary, who trusted God because of His mercy, we are to have a Liturgical life. We read at the annunciation: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:30-33). At the Liturgy, like Mary, we are to listen to God's Word. We are to listen to His voice, with open ears, for He has "the words of eternal life." And like Mary, we are to receive the Body of Christ. Like Mary, we are to say our fiat, our "Amen." We see that Mary had a glimpse of the Mass. First, there was the Liturgy of the Word, the Word of God proclaimed by an angel, and then the Liturgy of the Eucharist, where Mary receives Christ. And like Mary, our souls must proclaim the greatness of the Lord and rejoice in our Savior.
Jesus, I trust in you
To whom shall I go? There are so many problems in this world. I also have problems of my own. There is just too much to handle. The only way to the rid of the ugliness of the world is to come to Calvary, to the Beautiful Ugliness of Christ: blood and water flowed out from His side. If you are afraid of God's mercy, it is because you have worldly fear. Do not be afraid. Turn your worldly fear into holy fear, a reverent awe because you have experienced Beauty itself: "His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him." With St. Augustine, let us say "Our only hope, our only confidence, our only assured promise, Lord, is Your mercy."
Third Week of Easter: Reflections on John 21 Part 1 4/24/04
'Simon Peter said to them, 'I am going fishing.'' Peter was going to do what his profession was. He was going to do what he does best: fishing. However, he did not realize that he was going to catch a different kind of fish. He was going to catch the Fish, the Risen One—the Fish who will fill Peter's true desire: not hunger for food, but hunger for love. God knows our true hunger and He will not let His children remain in that hunger. To the hungry, in the words of Mary, He has filled with good things (Luke 1:53).
'Jesus said to them, 'Children, have you caught anything to eat?'' Christ calls His disciples 'children.' Every disciple of Christ is a child of God. Every disciple is the Father's gift to Him (John 17:24). Earlier, He told them, 'I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father' (John 15:15). Our relationship with Christ is that of familial friendship. But what does a familial friendship consist of? 'You are my friends if you do what I command you' (John 15:14). It consists of doing what He commands of us.
We then read: 'So he said to them, 'Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.' So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.' Without the Lord, they caught nothing. With the Lord, they caught more than they needed. God gives us what we need and sometimes, even more. 'Jesus said to them, 'Come, have breakfast.'....Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish.' Christ invites His disciples to 'come' to Him and He in return 'came over.' There is a mutual 'coming,' a mutual giving of one's self for the other. We see a 'communio' between Christ and His disciples, the Church. But before there was a 'communio,' obedience was required. Christ told them to 'Cast the net over the right side of the boat' and to 'bring the fish.' Each order was fulfilled. In consequence, a 'communio' was formed. This teaches us that in order to receive Christ, in order to come to the Table of the Lord, one must obey Him.
This brings us back to Mary. Mary said, 'I am the handmaid of the Lord.' The consequence of Mary's obedience, her fiat, is communion with Christ. With the fiat of Mary, Christ became flesh. He was born on Christmas day. And with Peter and the other disciples' fiat, the New Body of Christ will be born. With Mary's fiat, she brought about the physical Body of Christ. With the Church's fiat, she brought about the Mystical Body of Christ. It is through obedience which will bring us to Christ and through which Christ will come to us. And which we will soon see, this "communio" between Christ and His Church will be a "communio of love."
Third Week of Easter: Reflections on John 21 Part 2 4/25/04
Christ ate with His disciples. We read: 'Jesus said to them, 'Come, have breakfast.' And none of the disciples dared to ask him, 'Who are you?' because they realized it was the Lord.' They did not need to ask who they ate with because they knew it was their Master, their Shepherd: '....whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out....he walks ahead of them and the sheep follow him....'(John 10:2-4). The Good Shepherd said, 'Come' and they follow. The word 'come' means for the disciples to follow Him. It also means to 'have breakfast' or 'come dine'. To follow the Lord is to dine with Him, to eat at the Table of the Lord. Back then, to eat at the same table means to be a member of the family. Christ ate with sinners. He associated Himself with sinners so that sinners can become members of His family. This, Cardinal Ratzinger said, is the essence of the Church.
We read: 'none of the disciples dared to ask him, 'Who are you?''. St. John Chrysostom comments: 'For they no longer had the same boldness, nor were they so confident, nor did they now approach Him with speech, but with silence and great fear and reverence, sat down giving heed to Him' (Homilies on the Gospel of John, LXXXVII). When the Lord was gone, they feared that the Jews would persecute them because they followed a 'false messiah.' After seeing the Risen Lord, the fear of men became the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). St. John Chrysostom also comments that they did not 'approach Him with speech, but with silence and great fear and reverence.'
This teaches us that in order to 'sit down' with the Lord, we must show fear and reverence. Every time we go to Mass, we should not expect to be entertained. Active participation does not mean how much movements or dancing we can do. It does not mean how loud we can clap our hands or how much we can beat the drums. Active participation means acknowledging the presence of the Lord, to be fearful and silent for 'Behold, the Lamb of God' is present. It means we are to give reverence; we kneel for every knee shall bend in the name of the Lord (Romans 14:11).
We then read: 'When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?'' Jesus calls His disciple by name. Every person in His eyes is a 'somebody', an irreplaceable individual who is beautiful. Peter answers by saying he loves Him. Jesus then replied by saying, 'Feed my sheep'. He did this three times. Christ then told him how he would die. St. Augustine comments:
We also see here how Christ orders him three times to take care of His sheep. This tells us that in order to love Christ, we must obey at His commands. It is through obedience in which we will love Christ. And we are to love Christ and remain in Him because like Peter, we cannot do anything: 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing' (John 15:5).
We also know that this is the famous chapter in which Christ gave Peter the authority over the Church. In the words of St. John Chrysostom: 'Jesus putteth into his hands the chief authority among the brethren' (Homily LXXXVIII on the Gospel of John, 1). He also said, 'And if any should say, 'How then did James receive the chair at Jerusalem?' I would make this reply, that He appointed Peter teacher, not of the chair, but of the world' (ibid). This office is a universal office. This was hinted when it said that they caught 153 fish, which is a universal number according to St. Jerome. We also read that the net was not torn. This means that the Church will always be one and will never be 'torn'; hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Peter was to do what Christ had just done: to feed His sheep. It will always be His sheep. Since Christ is the eternal Shepherd while Peter is the created Shepherd, it is to be rooted in love: 'I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep' (John 10:11). The Church is a 'communio of love.'
This also means that if we are to eat at the Table of the Lord, we must in the net of St. Peter. The fish that were part of the meal were the ones that were in the net. So too, if we are to follow the Lord, we are to be in that net; we are to be with St. Peter. A communio of love is only possible in a communio with St. Peter. To be with St. Peter is to be 'members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit' (Ephesians 2:19-22). This communio of love is also Marian. For what other person did the Spirit dwell in?
We must also remember that there are different roles in the Church. The pope is not necessarily the holiest of all Christians. The beloved disciple was not the pope. The beloved disciple was St. John, 'the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper'. He was also the one who followed Christ all the way to the cross. He was the one to whom Jesus said, 'Behold, your mother': the son of thunder becomes the son of the Silent Witness. He was also the one who wrote the chapter I am commenting on right now. His Gospel is the best out of all gospels. It emphasizes on loving Christ. And to love Christ is to give one's total self for Him, even if it means we are to die for Him like Peter did.
Peter's hunger was more than hunger for food. It was hunger for love. He was trying to catch fish, but he wanted a bigger Fish. And when Christ stood at that shore, he saw him and 'jumped into the sea'. He jumped, yearning for Christ. The Person whom he denied three times was there in his presence again. His three denials brought him tears of sadness and his three statements of love brought him tears of joy.
Reflections on the Poor 4/27/04
MaryH at Ever New Blog made me think about the poor. An expert on the poor, Mother Teresa said, "The poor do not need our sympathy and our pity. The poor need our love and compassion." This is because, as she also said, "The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread." We are created by God not only for money and pleasure, but to love and be loved. All persons need love. This includes the poor. Contrary to what Margaret Sanger said, the poor is not "unfit." No person is ever "unfit." Every person is sacred, created in God's image and likeness.
Instead of trying to wash away the the poor on this earth, we are to wash them with the grace of God. We need not to think of a way to get rid of material poverty, but spiritual poverty, to get rid of the richness in arrogance. Now, this is easier said than done, especially when I am not materially poor. It is easy for me to talk about how material possessions do not matter when I have the things I need. "It's easy for you to say! You have food, clothing, and a home!" Yes, it is easy. But this also means it should be easy for me to freely give things to others who are less fortunate.
Maybe it isn't that easy. Those who are materially rich are usually spiritually poor. The only way to help the poor is to become spiritually poor. We must humble ourselves, lose one's self for the other. The paradox of man is that he strives to be rich and he will only attain this by becoming poor. How can we be poor? By looking at Christ. By looking at the Poor Man at the Cross, deprived of everything. Christ always had a special place in His sacred heart for the poor. Why shouldn't He? It is a poor heart after all. Blood comes out of it because it is crowned with thorns; blood, which gives life to the Heart. It drips. It keeps on dripping as if it will never end. It is emptying itself of all the "life" it has and it is an everlasting emptying, an everlasting pouring out of blood. The Sacred Heart of Christ is Eternally Poor.
By contemplating on Christ, we ought to become poor as He is poor. The Sacred Heart of Christ tells us we must empty ourselves for the sake of the other. It means we must keep on giving ourselves for others, especially those who need love: the poor. By loving, it does not mean we become Mother Teresa. It means becoming self-giving person. It does not mean we have to feed thousands and thousands of people. It means giving a hand to someone who needs a hand. It means giving hope to the hopeless by a simple smile. "We can do no great things; only small things with great love." It simply means to be there for somebody. As Mother Teresa said,
Will this truly change the world? Definitely. "Jesus, I trust in you." We trust Him because in the words of His Handmaid: "He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty."
We must also honor Our Blessed Mother. She was there when Christ was beaten and humiliated. She was there when He carried His Cross. She was there standing at the foot of the Cross where no friend of His except John followed Him. She was there when His hands and feet were covered with nails. She was there when He said His last words. She was there--there to hold her dead Son's body: poor woman.
Thoughts for Mother's Day 5/9/2004
Is it better to be love or be loved? St. Thomas Aquinas says that it is better to love than be loved. Why? It is 'because a mother, whose love is the greatest, seeks rather to love than to be loved' (ST II-II, q. 27 a. 1). Aquinas uses the example of a mother's love to prove that it is better to love than be loved. He uses a mother's love because it is the greatest kind of love. It is the greatest kind of love because it is a kind of love which demands both body and soul: the whole person. It demands the giving of one's self for the other. Mothers were the first people to exist for the other.
A mother's life revolves around her child. Her child is her universe. This starts at the prenatal period. At this period, she has to be fully conscious of what she does to herself because everything she takes in affects her child. Whatever she does to herself, she does to her child. She and her baby are 'one.' She exists with and for the other.
Motherhood takes on a new meaning in Mary. The best way this can be shown is in the Revelation of John. St. John says, 'She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth' (Rev. 12:2). Mary was 'with child'. The child is not like any ordinary child. The child is the Eternal Child, the Eternal Son. The child is Christ. Mary can literally say, 'I no longer live, but Christ who lives in me.'
Then we read that she 'wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.' Mary, like all mothers, suffers for the other. But Mary's sufferings or 'pain' is that of a different kind. Mary's pain is the thoughts of the many hearts which will be revealed to her (Luke 2:35). She knew from the Annunciation that she will bring the Savior to the world. The whole world, the whole community of sinners depends on her. While giving birth, she thought about sinners, who are all of us. She gave birth and 'wailed aloud' for all of us. In other words, this is the first instance a person suffers for the salvation of others. God gave Mary a glimpse of how it is like to suffer for the salvation of others. He gave her the grace to experience how He will redeem man. It is sort of funny. Man will never know how much a woman suffers during birth. And he will also never know how much Our Beloved Savior suffered on Good Friday.
Marian Approach to Islam 5/30/2004
One of the biggest problems today for the Church is how we should approach Muslims. Before continuing, I have to point out that I am in no way an expert on Islam. I am just giving an opinion on what I think we should do as Catholics in order to approach Muslims.
My perception of Muslims is that they have a hard head. This is not a bad thing. They do not like to make compromises. They believe in all their minds and hearts that Islam is true. Not only do they believe this, they practice what they believe. They are the most religious people on earth. How as Catholics are we supposed to approach them? Jesus Christ told us, 'Go and preach to all nations.' This is a vocation of every Catholic. Every Catholic, if he is obedient to Christ, must present Christ to each and every person he meets.
The approach I favor is the Marian approach. This means we will evangelize with Mary's help. Mary is the model and icon of any believer. If we are going to match Muslim religiosity, we will have to show them the most religious, devout Catholic who ever lived. This is the Blessed Virgin Mary. I will make this bold assertion: the Blessed Virgin Mary is the more 'Muslim' than any other Muslims. By Muslim, I mean one who practices 'Islam', submission to God. Her first 'Islam' is at the annunciation. By her word, the Word became Flesh. From the beginning of her existence, she obeyed God. If we Catholics are ever going to persuade Muslims of our religiosity, we will have to become like Mary, being obedient to God's Word. If we Catholics are ever going to persuade Muslims of our religiosity, we will have to become like Mary, who followed and gave submission to God all the way up to the Cross.
The Marian Approach is this: A true 'Islam,' like Mary, is carrying our crosses all the way to the Cross. Muslims deny the Cross. They do not believe that Christ died. But we Catholics do and we have to show the importance of what happened during that day on Calvary.
We Catholics also need to regain the faith we once had. I mean that we need to have the faith of the first century Christians. We need to be ready to die for Christ. What do I mean by being ready to die for Christ? I do not mean that we should bomb buildings. Being ready to die for Christ does not mean being ready to murder those who do not believe what we believe. By being ready to die for Christ, I mean giving our whole totality for Him even unto death. Christ always wanted His followers to surpass those who think they are good like the Pharisees.
He tells us, 'You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense do you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect' (Matt. 5:43-48). We Catholics need to be perfect. We Catholics need to be perfect in order to be like our Father. Yes, God is our Father. Our God is an intimate God. Our God is not only Almighty, but loving. He loves us so much that even He would die for us. This is the kind of example we also have to follow. Being ready to die for Christ does not mean that we are to murder other people, but, like Christ, die for each other for the sake of their salvation. Self-sacrifice means a Jihad against our self for the good of the other.
No other person followed this philosophy better than Mary. As the mother of Christ, the hearts of many were revealed to her. She knew that she would suffer somehow in some way when Simeon told her that a sword will pierce her. God's Word is a sword (Heb 4:12). But it is not like any kind of sword. It is not a weapon against our neighbor, but for ourselves. So the battle is on. Are we ready? We better be. We should prepare. We should prepare to be like Mary, ready for swords to pierce our hearts.
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